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Out Bi Sinema Wins Arizona 06

Chad Griffin Departs HRC 08

How Much NYC Leeway for Reclaim Pride? 10

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S E R V I N G G AY, L E S B I A N , B I A N D T R A N S G E N D E R N E W Y O R K

REFUSING TO ACCEPT ERASURE FACING HOSTILE DC, TRANSGENDER LEGAL DEFENSE BRINGS ON NEW CHIEF Page 04, 15 VICTOR CHU

Andy Marra, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund’s new executive director.

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November 22 - December 5, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


In This Issue COVER STORY Refusing to accept erasure 04, 15

PERSPECTIVE Rake America Great Again! 14

REMEMBRANCE Friends, colleagues honor Janet Weinberg 06

FILM Unafraid of the body 22

CRIME Hate assault charge in W’burg 09 EMPLOYMENT High court weighs three LGBTQ cases 12

THEATER The trouble with Russia 23 CABARET Isaac Mizrahi’s new way to sell a book 24

Yowie! Anime NYC Returns 28

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3


COVER STORY

Refusing to Accept Erasure Facing a hostile Washington, Transgender Legal Defense brings on new chief

DONNA ACETO

At a West Village Transgender Day of Remembrance observance hosted November 19 by the Audre Lorde Project and its TransJustice initiative, Sasha Fierce talked about the difficulties of being raised a boy and expected to talk and act in a certain way and the long process of transitioning to being herself.

AUDREY GATER

Andy Marra, the incoming executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund.

BY PAUL SCHINDLER

A

t a moment when the increasingly visible transgender activist community is facing unprecedented challenges from a hostile Trump administration in Washington, a longtime legal player serving the trans and nonbinary community, the New Yorkbased Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, is welcoming a new executive director. Andrea “Andy” Hong Marra, who spent the past five years managing external communications for the Arcus Foundation and as a leader in launching that group’s multi-million dollar Global Trans Initiative, will join TLDEF effective December 3. A transgender Korean-American woman, Marra has worked with LGBTQ and social justice organizations for 15 years in a variety of capacities — including at GLSEN, GLAAD, and Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, a New York City-based empowerment group. She is currently a board member at Freedom for All Americans, which is seeking comprehensive LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections nationwide, and Just Detention International, which works to end sexual violence in

4

NATIONAL CENTER FOR TRANSGENDER EQUALIT Y

In Washington on November 19, the National Center for Transgender Equality sent the administration a message projected onto the entrance to the Trump International Hotel.

prisons around the world. Her work has won recognition from groups serving the community — such as the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and GLSEN — and beyond, including being named one of the White House’s Next Generation of LGBT Leaders during the Obama administration and as one of the 100 Most Influential Asian Americans last year. Marra is joining a group founded in 2003 that engages in impact legislation, in a lead capacity or by filing friend of the court briefs, to advance the rights of transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary Americans; provides public education and trainings; and initiated a highly regarded Name Change Project, which partners with leading law firms that provide pro bono assistance to members of the community taking a critical step in their gender transition — securing foundational personal identification that will allow them to navigate the world with dignity and in safety. “It’s a tremendous honor to join

TLDEF, especially at a time when so much is at stake for transgender and gender-nonconforming people,” Marra said. “We live in a reality where our community faces increasing hostility and our very lives are being defined out of existence. On day one, I will take the helm at TLDEF fully resolved to ensure our community can live safely, freely, and with access to opportunity. We can’t do this work alone and I look forward to collaborating with our legal partners and movement allies to protect hard-fought gains and advance equality, especially for those who have faced the brunt of violence and discrimination.” Voicing particular pride that her appointment was announced during Transgender Awareness Week, Marra, in an interview with Gay City News, pointed to two critical challenges facing the trans community: the Trump administration’s reported plan to implement a definition of gender based on genital traits observed at birth and unchanging and the possibility that the Supreme Court will take up a case this term to determine whether gender identity discrimination is covered by sex discrimination pro-

hibitions already in federal law (see story on page 12). The threatened action by the Trump administration is widely viewed as an effort by social conservatives to erase transgender identity in federal policy and even law. A potential showdown at the Supreme Court — with a newly solidified conservative majority — will determine whether the gains in transgender rights won in many lower federal courts will be sustained or reversed. The trans and non-binary community is also facing an epidemic of lethal violence, the extent of which can only be estimated. According to a report out this week from the Human Rights Campaign, at least 128 transgender people, the vast majority trans women of color, have been murdered in the US over the past five years. 2017 was the deadliest year on record, with 29 murders documented. To date this year, 22 killings have been recorded. The HRC report notes that other deaths, though not attributable to explicit violence, nevertheless can be traced to hatred, hostility, and indifference to the needs of transgender people. As an example, the reports points to the case of

➤ ANDY MARRA, continued on p.5

November 22 - December 5, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


DONNA ACETO

DONNA ACETO

At the Stonewall National Monument at Christopher Park in the West Village on November 19, members of Gays Against Guns remembered transgender people lost to violence.

At the Audre Lorde Project/ Trans Justice event, Zeely Brown plays cello while Rumi reads the names of transgender murder victims, with the crowd repeating each name.

➤ ANDY MARRA, from p.4

gotiations to accept her new position, she also won commitment for a budget line to hire a legal director for the organization, which currently has a staff of five. Still, the hard work of creating a more just society is always in need of greater resources. One clear sign of that — and of the enthusiasm of some of TLDEF’s donors — is

Roxana Hernández, a 33-year-old transgender Latina woman fleeing violence and discrimination in Honduras, who died while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In articulating her vision for TLDEF, Marra described it as “simple and broad: ending discrimination, with a special emphasis on those most affected — transgender people of color, non-binary folks, those who are gender-nonconforming, trans and non-binary youth, and other communities pushed to the margins.” TLDEF is one of a number of transgender-specific groups that have grown up in the past decade and a half to provide a laser focus on concerns specific to those outside the narrower LGB umbrella. Among the other leaders in this group are the National Center for Transgender Equality, based in Washington, and the Oakland, California-based Transgender Law Center. Leaders of both groups were effusive in their praise for Marra. Kris Hayashi, who heads the Transgender Law Center, described her as “a trailblazing community advocate,” and NCTE’s Mara Keisling, saying she was “elated” by the choice of Marra, called her “a trusted movement partner for more than a decade.” TLDEF is considerably smaller than either of the others, with a 2016 budget of under $800,000 versus more than $2 million each

for the other two. By comparison, the Human Rights Campaign, in the year ending March 2017 had a budget of more than $33 million. Marra emphasized that what is shared by all three of the transgender rights groups is a “really strong desire to coordinate and collaborate.” She voiced particular satisfaction with the results of TLDEF’s Name Change Project — which she hopes to grow nationally — and said the alliances established there with pro bono attorneys from major law firms represent a key strength of her new organization. She pointed to a letter protesting the proposed Trump administration “definition” of gender for which TLDEF secured signatures from 187 law firms. Marra also pushed back on the blanket notion that funding for transgender rights work is lagging behind the community’s growing visibility. According to the Grantmakers United For Trans Communities Initiative — a project on which Marra worked — even though only three cents out of every $100 in US foundations’ grants go toward trans-related work, the dollar value of that funding more than quadrupled from 2012 to 2016 — from $3.62 million to just below $17 million. That group estimated that more than one million Americans now identify openly as transgender. Marra hopes to tap into the emerging availability of dollars for TLDEF, first and foremost by bringing a development director on board in 2019. As a part of her ne-

GayCityNews.nyc | November 22 - December 5, 2018

the launch of an online crowdfunding campaign (at https://bit. ly/2Km3N7A) where a group of anonymous funders have pledged to match dollar for dollar up to $13,000 to help offset a portion of the cost of bringing new leadership to the group. The effort aims to raise $26,000 by Marra’s start date in less than two weeks.

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5


POLITICS

Out Bisexual Kyrsten Sinema Victor in Arizona Democratic congressmember claims seat vacated by GOP Senator Jeff Flake BY PAUL SCHINDLER

D

emocrat Kyrsten Sinema, an out bisexual, on November 12 was declared the winner in a hard-fought US Senate race in Arizona to replace retiring Republican Jeff Flake. Sinema, a threeterm member of the US House of Representatives, defeated another Arizona House member, Republican Martha McSally, after a week in which election officials there scrambled to count absentee and early voting ballots. Sinema is the first Democrat elected in an open Arizona Senate election since 1976, when Dennis DeConcini won his first of three terms. Despite the protracted uncertainty as to who would emerge the winner, the Democrat’s margin of victory was about 1.7 percentage points. Flake was both a frequent critic and a frequent target of President Donald Trump, who was triumphal about the GOP incumbent’s decision to retire. It proved a pyrrhic victory as Trump now faces a Democrat in the seat. Though Sinema was a Green Party member and anti-war activist during the early years of

T WIT TER.COM

Arizona Senator-Elect Kyrsten Sinema.

the war in Iraq, her record in the House was far more centrist and she joined the conservative House Democratic Blue Dog Coalition soon after she took her seat in 2013. Her campaign this year emphasized her hard-scrabble upbringing, including living for a short time in an abandoned gas station in the Florida panhandle.

Despite Sinema’s centrist posture and occasional support for Trump administration initiatives, McSally, herself generally a moderate — and a 2016 critic of Trump — lashed out harshly at the Democrat during this year’s race, at one point labeling anti-war comments she made 15 years ago “treason.” Sinema’s victory means that Senate Republicans will have at most 53 seats next year, pending the outcome of a runoff in Mississippi. The Senate will now have one bisexual member as well as an out lesbian, Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat who easily won reelection in Wisconsin. In the House, four new out LGBTQ Democrats — from New Hampshire, Minnesota, Kansas, and California — were elected on November 6 and will join four incumbent Democrats, including New York’s Sean Patrick Maloney, who won reelection last week. The queer community also scored victories in two statehouse contests, with the election of Jared Polis, an out gay five-term congressmember, as governor of Colorado and the reelection of out bisexual Democrat Kate Brown in Oregon.

REMEMBRANCE

Janet Weinberg’s Life Celebrated November 11 gathering highlights a longtime leader’s lifeforce BY ANDY HUMM

T

he life of lesbian leader Janet Weinberg, who died at 63 on September 1, was celebrated November 11 by her wife, State Appellate Division Justice Roz Richter, along with hundreds of her friends, co-workers, and comrades. The remembrance took place at the Educational Alliance on the Lower East Side. Weinberg served at the social services agency as executive vice president — her last post in a long line of leadership positions at non-profits including Gay Men’s Health Crisis and the LGBT Community Center. Congressmember Jerry Nadler, the incoming House Judiciary chair, called Weinberg “fearless” and “a beacon for others.” “She knew how to push public officials” just right to advance LGBTQ rights and services, Nadler said, crediting her with having “saved the Center.” Richard Burns, now the interim leader of Lambda Legal and the former longtime executive director at the Center, praised Weinberg for pressing to correct the Center’s “lack of wheel-

6

SARA KRULWICH/ COURTESY OF ROZ RICHTER

Janet Weinberg and Roz Richter in their wedding photo.

chair access,” recalling how she would corner political leaders on the issue “by blocking them with her wheelchair.” Burns said she played a central role in the creation of the New York City AIDS Memorial in the West Village. Urvashi Vaid, who formerly led the National LGBTQ Task Force, talked about her more personal connection with Weinberg, standing with

four other women who, with Weinberg and her, were part of a breast cancer support group they called “the Breasties.” “We hated the color pink and loved saying ‘fuck cancer.’” Vaid said. Marjorie Hill, executive director of GMHC while Weinberg worked there, praised her for her “unwavering compassion and determination” and recalled Weinberg successfully pressing her to offer free HIV testing at the annual AIDS Walk that draws upwards of 40,000 people in spite of the logistical hurdles to doing so. Rabbi Joanna Samuels, who leads the Educational Alliance’s Manny Cantor Center, said Weinberg “had been living on borrowed time for a very long time” but made more out of that time than anyone she knew. Alan van Capelle, the CEO of the Educational Alliance who formerly headed up the Empire State Pride Agenda, paid tribute to what a great mentor and colleague Weinberg was. She always pushed him, van Capelle said, to make sure that despite his professional obligations and duties as a father, he continued to keep his sex life with his husband alive. November 22 - December 5, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


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GayCityNews.nyc | November 22 - December 5, 2018

7


POLITICS

Chad Griffin to Depart HRC Seven-year tenure saw marriage equality prevail, belated focus on comprehensive civil rights protections BY PAUL SCHINDLER

C

had Griffin, who has helmed the Human Rights Campaign, the LGBTQ community’s leading Washington lobby group, since mid-2012, announced he plans to leave the organization in 2019. As the group’s board undertakes a search effort for his successor, Griffin said he will stay in place. In a November 15 release from HRC, Griffin stated, “I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of this incredible organization at such an important moment in the history of our movement — and our nation. The true strength of the Human Rights Campaign is in its fearless army of staff and volunteers, who are committed to ensuring full equality reaches every LGBTQ person across America, and around the world. For decades, this organization has shown the world that love conquers hate. But this year, in this election, with the future of our democracy on the ballot and the equality of future generations on the line, we proved that votes conquer hate, too.” The group’s release noted that in the wake of the 2016 election — which cemented anti-LGBTQ leadership in the White House and both houses of Congress — HRC invested $26 million in the largest grassroots expansion in its 38-year history, and in the recent midterm elections deployed 150 staff members to mobilize voters in more than 70 House and Senate races in 23 states. The group emphasized that its 480 endorsements this year reflected a more diverse array of candidates, 45 percent of them women — that figure rising to 55 percent among non-incumbents — and one third of them people of color. HRC, according to its release, focused particular attention on Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio,

8

HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN

Chad Griffin.

Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, where all six endorsed Senate candidates won and seven non-incumbent House members were elected. In all of those states except Ohio, Democrats made substantial gains over their 2016 performance.

Griffin landed at HRC after taking on the gay establisment over Prop 8 in California three years earlier. HRC, its release stated, doubled its staff, budget, and membership — that last measure ris-

ing from 1.5 million to 3 million — during Griffi n’s tenure. In its most recent federal 990 fi ling, HRC identified Griffi n’s salary for the year ending March 31, 2018 as just over $500,000. Griffi n, who is 45, arrived at HRC, the embodiment of the gay establishment, from a group that just three years earlier announced that was taking on the community’s leading legal and political organizations over the strategy for winning marriage equality nationwide. In 2009, months after California voters adopted Proposition 8, which overturned that state’s Supreme Court pro-marriage ruling, Griffi n, then a public relations professional, in partnership with director Rob Reiner and others, launched the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) to challenge the California voter initiative in federal court. AFER’s

founders announced that would serve as the vehicle that would eventually bring marriage equality to the entire nation. Other prominent advocacy groups were more cautious at that moment about the prospects for success in the federal courts, especially the US Supreme Court. Up to that point, the advances had all come in state courts and legislatures — in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and, temporarily, Maine as well as California. AFER in announcing its goals implicitly rebuked the caution of others in the marriage equality fight — and the group, in turn, faced blowback from more established players. Still, AFER’s launch was splashy, signing on two of the nation’s most prominent litigators — David Boies and former US Solicitor General Ted Olson, who had been antagonists in the infamous Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case that settled the 2000 presidential election. The litigation team proved able, winning a federal district court victory in a lawsuit that the state of California declined to defend against, leaving Proposition 8 to be defended only by the voter initiative’s proponents. That district court victory was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court. The case did not reach the Supreme Court until 2013, by which time Griffi n had joined HRC. Though the Supreme Court’s ruling sealed the fate of Proposition 8 — opening up marriage in a state with a population larger than the combined populations of all the other states that then had equal marriage rights — the decision was a narrow one: focused on the lack of standing that the initiative’s proponents had in defending it. The underlying merits of the case were not addressed by

➤ CHAD GRIFFIN, continued on p.9

November 22 - December 5, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


CRIME

Suspect Charged in Williamsburg Anti-Gay Attacks Defendant faces up to 15 years in hate crime DA Eric Gonzalez denounces BY JULIANNE CUBA

A

25-year-old man faces up to 15 years behind bars for assaulting a gay couple in Williamsburg, according to the borough’s top prosecutor, who charged the defendant with a hate crime he said has no place in Brooklyn. “This defendant allegedly assaulted an innocent couple simply because he perceived they were gay,” said District Attorney Eric Gonzalez in November 14 written statement. “Crimes that target individuals because of their sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or other identity are a threat to everything we stand for in Brooklyn.” The Queens man, Brandon McNamara, ran after the 29- and 30-year-old victims and shouted homophobic slurs as they left Lorimer Street’s Metropolitan Bar — a popular watering hole among the local gay community — a little

➤ CHAD GRIFFIN, from p.8 the high court. The more consequential rulings came in cases brought by established legal groups and players — in Edie Windsor’s challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, also in 2013, and in the Obergefell case in 2015 that fi nally settled the question nationwide. Still, the pro-equality ruling AFER won from District Court Judge Vaughn Walker in 2010 resonated in the blizzard of favorable rulings that followed Windsor’s victory three years later. Given Griffi n’s PR background and his prominent position at HRC, it is perhaps not surprising that AFER’s work was celebrated in two high profi le histories that emerged quickly on the heels of the 2013 Supreme Court’s disposal of the Prop 8 case: Jo Becker’s book “Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight For Marriage Equality” and an HBO documentary “The

NYPD

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez on Wednesday charged this 25-year-old Queens man, Brandon McNamara, with a hate crime after he allegedly assaulted two gay men in Williamsburg in September.

Case Against 8.” Even as the marriage battle continued, HRC was at the center of a high profi le debate in the community over the best route for fi nally winning nondiscrimination protections for the community on the federal level. Years earlier, the group had been battered over its decision to eliminate protections for the transgender community from the long-stalled Employment Non-Discrimination Act. With HRC now fully committed to including gender identity in any federal legislative push, the questions under debate instead focused on two other issues: the fact that ENDA only addressed employment nondiscrimination and its inclusion of religious exemption language that concerned legal groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center, as well as the National LGBTQ

GayCityNews.nyc | November 22 - December 5, 2018

Task Force. The religious exemption issue came to a head with two developments in 2014 — President Barack Obama’s executive order barring anti-LGBTQ discrimination by contractors doing business with the federal government, where advocates successfully pressed the White House not to offer any optouts, and the Supreme Court’s controversial Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed a closely held private business to successfully assert a religious exemption from the contraception access requirements for employer health plans under the Affordable Care Act. Debate on both issues mobilized fierce opposition to the religious exemption that HRC had cosigned as part of ENDA. In July of that year, in an abrupt about-face, HRC announced it would no longer accept religious exemptions as part of any nondiscrimination measure and that it was abandoning its narrow focus on employment and would

before 1 a.m. on September 23, officials said. McNamara then chased the couple down Metropolitan Avenue, before hurling both victims to the ground, knocking each unconscious, authorities said. A good Samaritan called 911 to report the incident, and paramedics rushed both men to Woodhull Hospital, where doctors treated the 30-year-old victim for a fractured and dislocated left shoulder, and the 29-year-old victim for a broken finger, according to police. The suspect turned himself into cops days later, on September 26, after authorities circulated a photo of him snapped by a person who witnessed the act, prosecutors said. Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun set the defendant’s bail at $15,000 during his Wednesday arraignment, and ordered him to return to court on January 16, according to information from Gonzalez’s office.

instead push a comprehensive measure, essentially amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to protect the LGBTQ community. The following year, the Equality Act was introduced in Congress. Continued Republican control of Congress has stymied any progress on the Equality Act, but support for it has become routine for Democrats seeking federal office, and that party will face determined pressure to pass the bill in the House in next year’s session, despite the unlikelihood that a GOP Senate would ever let it advance. In a November 15 release he termed “a personal message,” Griffi n noted, “Despite the political landscape of the last two years, we’ve gained the backing of 246 bipartisan members of Congress and over 120 companies across the country. And now, thanks to you, we have an incoming House leadership that has vowed to make passing the Equality Act their top priority.”

9


COMMUNITY

What Leeway Will City Give Reclaim Pride? Organizers of a rival 2019 civil rights march move forward with no firm OK BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

T

he coalition that has been pressing Heritage of Pride (HOP) to fundamentally alter the character of New York City’s annual Pride Parade has shifted goals and is seeking city permits to stage its own march on the last Sunday in June next year and to produce a rally in Central Park following that march. “All of this is our dream scenario,” said Ann Northrop, a longtime LGBTQ activist, during a November 14 meeting of the Reclaim Pride Coalition (RPC) that was held at The People’s Forum, a meeting place on West 37th Street in Manhattan. The RPC membership wants a march that will begin in the West Village on June 30, 2019 and head up to Central Park on Sixth Avenue where the rally will be staged on the Great Lawn. The RPC members are at the start of their organizing for next year’s events. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that mark the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. The city and HOP are predicting large crowds for next year’s Pride Parade and related events. HOP will be staging its own Pride Parade and closing ceremony on that same Sunday next year. HOP has not announced next year’s route, but it has said it wants to hold the closing ceremony in Times Square. The question this raises is whether the city will allow the RPC members to produce their own events in the way and at the time they are seeking. The RPC members began their work prior to this year’s Pride Parade with a series of demands, chief among them a reduced corporate presence in the march, a resistance contingent in the march, a ban on members of the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) wearing their NYPD uniforms or carrying weapons in the parade, and a dialing back of the event’s policing. While the Coalition secured the

10

DONNA ACETO

Ann Northrop, one of the lead organizers in the Reclaim Pride Coalition, at the November 14 meeting.

DONNA ACETO

Matthew McMorrow, an aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, fielded questions from Reclaim Pride Coalition members but did not define exactly how accommodating the city would be about their plans.

resistance contingent — having won that battle with HOP in 2017 in the first parade following Donald Trump’s election — they were generally unsuccessful with their other demands. While community groups continue to make up most of the contingents in the parade, complaints about the corporate presence are longstanding, but have become

louder in recent years with corporate sponsors being allowed to buy spots toward the front of the parade and deploy large floats and hundreds of marchers. While some RPC members had supported the Coalition having its own march this past June, it was only after that parade that members were unanimous in deciding they had to field a “Human Rights

and Social Justice March” in 2019 to express their own message, which they say is not only distinct from HOP’s message but also much closer in spirit to the 1969 Stonewall riots and to the early marches that commemorated that event. The first march came in 1970 and went from the West Village to Central Park. In later years, the marches reversed direction and eventually the march shifted to Fifth Avenue, which was seen a victory for the LGBTQ community in achieving an equal status with other communities staging parades in the city. Matthew McMorrow, who is the de Blasio administration’s liaison to the LGBTQ community, attended the November 14 meeting and spent more than an hour fielding questions and comments from the roughly 70 people who attended. “I know you submitted your applications,” McMorrow said. “We are reviewing those… We are going to accommodate all voices that are participating in Stonewall 50.” McMorrow would not be pinned down on the meaning of “accom-

➤ RECLAIM PRIDE, continued on p.11

November 22 - December 5, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


Yes you can prevent

HIV

you do deserve

DONNA ACETO

Leslie Cagan, a longtime lesbian and peace activist, speaking at the November 14 meeting called by Reclaim Pride.

➤ RECLAIM PRIDE, from p.10 modate.” That could mean that the RPC does not get exactly what it wants, with McMorrow explaining that after the city reviews the applications it may come back with alternative proposals. The city appears to be more accommodating toward HOP. McMorrow repeatedly noted that HOP is producing more than two dozen separate events in 2019. “In terms of HOP, WorldPride, we have to deal with them,” McMorrow said. “HOP is putting on 26 events.” WorldPride is a license owned by InterPride, an umbrella organization of Pride groups around the globe. There have been five WorldPride events, and the 2019 WorldPride is the first held in the US. HOP won the bidding for the 2019 license in 2015 before Trump won the White House and implemented visa and travel policies that could prevent some LGBTQ people from traveling to the US and make others decide they do not wish to come. The license requires host organizations to produce certain events, such as opening and closing ceremonies. There were two parades in 1994, the 25th anniversary of the riots. Stonewall 25, an organization separate from HOP, produced that year’s major events and had the march go up First Avenue past the

United Nations building to reflect an international theme. The march ended in Central Park. A group called Gay and Lesbian Americans (GLA) sued the city for a permit to hold a separate march the same day starting near the Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 riots, and traveling on Fifth Avenue to Central Park. Like the Coalition, GLA said the Stonewall 25 plan did not reflect its values and the city could not compel its members to join that march. While the federal judge who heard that case ultimately refused to require the city to issue a permit for the second march, the city allowed the roughly 5,000 marchers to proceed without a permit. William Bratton, then the police commissioner, stood on the steps in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral behind a phalanx of police officers as the march went by on Fifth Avenue. Bratton was joined by John Miller, then the department’s chief spokesperson and now the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism. McMorrow said that circumstances have changed since 1994, the crowds are larger, and safety is a more paramount concern. “In 1994, there were 750,000 people,” he said. “Last year, there were 2.5 million… Since 1994, we’ve had the Boston Marathon bombing, mass shootings, people driving into crowds.”

GayCityNews.nyc | November 22 - December 5, 2018

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11


EMPLOYMENT

High Court Conferences Title VII Cases Next Week Whether sex discrimination ban encompasses sexual orientation, gender identity at issue BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

L

GBTQ rights will be on the agenda when the Supreme Court conferences on November 30 to consider granting some of the pending petitions for review. The high court had originally been scheduled to consider petitions in two cases raising the question whether antigay employment discrimination violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act at its September conference, but those were yanked from the agenda after Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) wrote to the court suggesting consideration be delayed until briefing was complete on its petition seeking review of a lower court ruling against a Michigan funeral home that discharged a transgender employee. On October 24, the Trump administration, responding to ADF’s petition, asked the court to hold off deciding whether Title VII prohibits gender identity discrimination. Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco, in a filing on behalf of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), argued that the court should not now grant review of the Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from earlier this year that Harris Funeral Homes violated Title VII by discharging Aimee Stephens, a transgender employee, who was transitioning and sought to comply with the employer’s dress code for female employees. The funeral home’s owner objected on religious grounds to having an employee whom he regards as a man dressing as a woman. The EEOC itself, however, does not agree with the position Francisco put forth. A majority of the agency’s commissioners, holdovers from the Obama administration, view LGBTQ-related discrimination as a violation of Title VII, as a form of discrimination “because of sex.” If the Senate confirms a package of three nominees proposed by President Donald Trump, the political balance of the Commission will shift, and it will most likely

12

ACLU.ORG

Aimee Stephens, who prevailed at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on her claim that her firing by a funeral home because of her transgender status was unlawful sex discrimination.

FACEBOOK.COM

The late Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor whose estate won a landmark gay rights victory in his discrimination suit against Altitude Express.

embrace the position argued in the government’s brief to the court. The administration’s request to defer deciding the gender identity case came as something of a surprise, in light of recent news that a memorandum, originating from the Civil Rights Office in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is circulating in-

ternally to adopt a regulation defining “sex” solely in terms of genitals and chromosomes — thereby excluding “gender identity” as part of the definition of sex for purposes of federal law. The solicitor general’s brief argues the court should instead focus on one or both of the two sexual orientation discrimination

petitions, which seek review of decisions by the New York-based Second Circuit and the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit. In Zarda v. Altitude Express, the full bench of the Second Circuit reversed its prior precedents and ruled that sexual orientation claims are covered by Title VII, following the lead of the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit, which issued a similar ruling last year. In Bostock v. Clayton County, in contrast, an 11th Circuit threejudge panel rejected a similar sexual orientation discrimination claim, and the circuit court turned down a petition for a rehearing by its full bench. In urging a delay on the funeral home case, Francisco’s brief argues that because the Sixth Circuit ruling “relied on the reasoning of decisions (including Zarda) holding that Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination extends to sexualorientation discrimination,” resolution of the Zarda and Bostock cases “may bear on the proper analysis of the issues” raised by Stephens in the Harris Funeral Homes case. If the court grants review in Zarda and/ or Bostock, oral argument would be held sometime in the spring with a decision expected by the end of its current term in June. Since the court generally prefers to avoid deciding controversial cases, it may gratefully jump on Francisco’s suggestion. The Supreme Court has denied numerous petitions over the years raising the question of whether either the Constitution or federal law protects transgender people from discrimination because of their gender identity. But Francisco’s brief goes further than merely urging consideration of the sexual orientation cases first, arguing that even if they are not accepted for review, the funeral home petition should still not be accepted. Here the argument becomes strained, since the administration argues that the Sixth Circuit “misread” the

➤ TITLE VII, continued on p.13

November 22 - December 5, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


➤ TITLE VII, from p.12 1989 Price Waterhouse precedent barring improper sex stereotyping by employers in applying it to Stephens’ claim and also made a finding — that “gender-identity discrimination necessarily constitutes discrimination because of sex in violation of Title VII� — “inconsistent with the statute’s text and this Court’s precedent.� Francisco went on to acknowledge, “Both of those questions are recurring and important.� Given all this, why would the solicitor general be urging the high court not to take up the Sixth Circuit ruling? It may be that Francisco’s brief was improvised to cover over a difficult political transition that will eventually take place at the EEOC. Only three of the Commission’s current slots are filled — with two Democrats and a Republican — the bare minimum number of Senate-approved appointees for it to decide cases, and that number drops to two effective January 1. Since no more than three commissioners can be of the same party, Trump’s nominee package

includes Democrat Chai Feldblum, an out lesbian whose term ends on December 31 but whose inclusion has inspired fervent opposition from several Republican senators. With the Senate staying in Republican hands, should his nominations remain stalled during the lame duck Congress, Trump could propose a new package of nominees to the EEOC in January, with a different Democrat than Feldblum. A GOP-dominated Commission would undoubtedly quickly line up its position on Title VII with that of the Department of Justice, which a year ago circulated an internal memo rejecting any interpretation of Title VII and similar nondiscrimination laws that encompasses sexual orientation or gender identity claims. The DOJ may feel that it can overturn the Obama administration’s expansive interpretation of sex discrimination laws without having to win a case in the Supreme Court, through the process of gradually replacing the agency decision-makers. Not surprisingly, ADF, the antiLGBTQ litigation group representing Harris Funeral Homes, re-

sponded to the solicitor general’s brief with its own brief, filed on November 7, noting the government’s own acknowledgement that the questions surrounding the application of sex discrimination law to gender identity are “recurring and important.� If the government agrees with ADF that the Sixth Circuit decided the case incorrectly and recognizes that the nation’s appeals courts are divided on the issue, the group asked why the Supreme Court shouldn’t decide the issue. With the administration now disputing the victory that its own EEOC successfully made at the Sixth Circuit, the only party left to defend the appeals court decision is the ACLU (and its LGBT Rights Project), representing Stephens, which filed its response to the Harris Funeral Homes’ petition on October 24, arguing the court should deny the petition. Among the arguments the ACLU made was that Stephens’ case was a “poor vehicle� for addressing the ADF’s argument that Congress did not intend to incorporate gender identity and transgender status

when it enacted Title VII in 1964, since deciding that would not affect the Sixth Circuit’s judgment. Simply stated, the Sixth Circuit decided the case on alternative grounds, one of which relied on a sex stereotyping theory — that the funeral home fired Stephens for not complying with the employer’s stereotype about how a genitally-male person should groom and dress. Even if the high court concluded that gender identity discrimination was not necessarily sex discrimination, the ACLU asserted, the Sixth Circuit ruling would stand based on the stereotyping theory that numerous circuit courts have applied in transgender discrimination cases since the 1989 Price Waterhouse ruling. While the state of play on these Title VII cases — involving both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination — remains confused at the moment, what is clear is that if any of them is accepted for review, the high court can expect a barrage of amicus curiae briefs similar to the recordsetting number filed in last term’s Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

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                            +                   GayCityNews.nyc | November 22 - December 5, 2018

13


PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus PRESIDENT & PUBLISHER Victoria Schneps-Yunis

Rake America Great Again!

CEO & CO-PUBLISHER Joshua Schneps

BY ED SIKOV

FOUNDING EDITOR IN-CHIEF & ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER

his week on Facebook, a friend asked whether there was a way to block any post that referred in any way to the ignoramus who currently occupies the White House. The poor guy just can’t take any more of the incessant insanity. Me? Beyond my professional obligation to you, dear reader, I have a general tendency to wallow in my misery — to pick at scabs until they bleed. To scratch mosquito bites until they break open. To watch the news. How did that awful Mellencamp song go? “Sometimes love don’t feel like it should, You make it [beat, beat] hurt so good.” Take, for example, footage of the California fires. Most of it is difficult to watch. Whole swaths of towns are burned down to ashes, miles of forest are reduced to piles of dust, and yet I keep watching. Then Rump shows up and voyeuristic grief turns to masochistic joy. Watching California Governor Jerry Brown’s face while Rump explained his theory of forest management — not enough raking — was beyond hilarious. Brown was the very definition of stone-faced. Of course the fires have nothing to do with climate change. If only somebody had raked hundreds of thousands of acres of woods! Pretty much lost during the longanticipated midterm elections was coverage of the infamous caravan of scary immigrants slowly making their way through Mexico from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, countries not known for their low crime rates and high standards of living. Rump went so far as to call it an “invasion” before his party lost the House and he became more or less mute on the subject. A reporter from BuzzFeed News, Adolfo Flores, talked to some of the LGBTQ members of the invading forces, and what he discovered was disturbing: “Standing on the beach in Tijuana on Wednesday, Christian caught his first glimpse of the United States. The country he was hoping to call his own was partially obscured behind a metal border fence in the process of being reinforced with barbed wire

PAUL SCHINDLER

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14

T

by construction crews surrounded by US soldiers.” “Christian, who declined to give his last name out of fear of damaging his potential asylum case, was part of an LGBT contingent of the caravan that separated from the main group in Mexico City to head for Tijuana. The contingent said it faced discrimination from within the caravan in addition to the dangers that such a visible group faced on the journey through Mexico.

Why isn’t Madden telling the Amish to ditch their horse and buggies and buy Buicks? “‘We went ahead of the main caravan because we put our lives at risk on the road,’ Christian told BuzzFeed News… The gay 24-year-old from Guatemala said that someone threw a bottle at him during the caravan’s march north. When the group, which includes several transgender women, would try to hitchhike while traveling with the main caravan, drivers who were offering a lift to other members of the caravan would deny them rides or leave them stranded along desolate highways, Christian said. “The group of about 80 arrived in Tijuana on Sunday afternoon after 54 hours on the road, riding inside two buses paid for by RAICES, an immigrant advocacy organization based out of San Antonio, Texas. RAICES raised $18,000 for this LGBT contingent of the caravan and spent $6,100 for bus tickets and $4,000 for an Airbnb. The advocacy organization used the remainder of the money to send a legal team to Mexico.” Meanwhile, in the Conservative Review, the appropriately named Nate Madden took the opportunity to gloat: “Much as with the demands for near-unrestricted immigration from the Middle East, here we have another situation where two common policy positions of those on the Left

find themselves at odds. “Here’s the question: If the caravan is such a dangerous place for gay people and transsexuals [sic], why are so many on the Left so keen to let thousands of people who may treat them this way into the country on specious (if not outright bogus) asylum claims? “Sure, the open-borders crowd would find any way they can to deflect and change the subject if any of these migrants were to get drunk, drive a car, and kill or maim an American citizen, but what happens if any of them starts throwing beer bottles at pride parades? “Will those who harbor these kinds of views actually be expected to (gasp!) assimilate? But then, since calls for immigrants to assimilate and change their ways are so often decried as xenophobic and racist these days, what’s a leftist to do?” Madden’s conclusion: “One big truth in politics: Absurd policy positions only lead to further absurdities.” I don’t know where to begin, but here’s a starter: If any of the women who literally carried their babies the length of Mexico or further to make a better life for them were to get drunk and run over someone in this country, that woman would be apprehended and tried in court; if she were convicted, she would be sent to jail. That’s the way our system works. A more likely scenario is that some homegrown white nut job would take one of his many guns and shoot up a church congregation filled with immigrants. And what is this hooey about assimilation? The Amish have been here since the early 18th century; why isn’t Madden telling them to ditch their horses and buggies, step into the 21st century, and buy some brand-new Buicks? As for throwing beer bottles at a Pride Parade, I think the perps would find themselves so out-numbered that they’d turn on their heels and retreat, hopefully not before some mighty, bare-chested dykes pulverized them. Reality to Madden: We don’t put up with that shit anymore. Follow @edsikov on Twitter and Facebook. November 22 - December 5, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Guest Opinion

In NYC, Trans, Non-Binary People Will Not Be Erased BY DR. OXIRIS BARBOT & CARMELYN P. MALALIS

S

ilence = death. The phrase rings true even decades after this call to action was coined by activists. Today, forced invisibility is an equivalent threat to health and well-being. As reported in the New York Times, the Trump administration plans to change federal civil rights law to define sex as “based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” If this policy is adopted, transgender and non-binary communities in many corners of our nation, already marginalized, will face governmentsanctioned discrimination and be pushed further into the shadows. In New York City, we will not look the other way and ignore the harmful impact this hateful policy will have on the rights and health of transgender and non-binary Americans. Transgender and non-binary people across the country already face extreme stigma and discrimination, both of which lead to poor

health outcomes, lack of access to jobs and homes, and societal violence. Because they do not fit neatly into categories created by a system developed by, and for, cisgender individuals, transgender people have been excluded from services needed to maintain their well-being and health for decades. Denying the dignity of transgender and non-binary people erases them, condones discrimination, and leads to medical neglect of core elements of health and prevention. But we will fight to ensure that does not happen in New York City. Here, transgender and non-binary people are fully protected by one of the strongest anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws in the nation, the New York City Human Rights Law, which expressly protects people against discrimination based on gender identity and expression in the workplace, housing, and places of public accommodation like stores, schools, and hospitals. As a city, we will continue to vigorously support, protect, and advance the rights of transgender

and non-binary people. Just this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a landmark law to simplify the process for New Yorkers to change the gender marker on their birth certificate, without medical attestation, now enabling them to have a foundational identity document that reflects their gender identity, rather than the sex they were assigned at birth. We also added a non-binary “x” option to city birth certificates, recognizing the needs of New Yorkers who do not identify as men or women exclusively or at all. This is critical, because the most fundamental component of health equity is self-determination. We cannot hope to know the people we serve if we do not know who they are and how that shapes their health behaviors. Likewise, the New York City Commission on Human Rights has made protecting and uplifting transgender and non-binary New Yorkers a core focus of its work, including publishing a legal enforcement guidance in 2015 articulating protections against gender identity and gender expression discrimina-

tion and launching a citywide ad campaign in 2016 affirming every individuals’ right to use the bathroom according to their gender identity and expression. Everyone deserves to live a life of dignity and respect. Recent gains in societal acceptance has translated into transgender and non-binary people increasingly portrayed in the media and even running for public office. This move by the Trump administration would violate their rights and only exacerbate the stressors that lead to poor health outcomes and higher rates of suicide, anxiety, drug use, and depression. Allies are needed now more than ever. This year, at least 22 transgender people were victims of hate-related homicides, and most of them were women of color. We cannot allow a community that is already vulnerable to suffer even more. We will stand by our transgender and non-binary allies and ensure that they are seen, heard and protected, regardless of efforts to erase them and silence their voices. Dr. Oxiris Barbot is the acting commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Carmelyn P. Malalis is the chair and commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

PERSPECTIVE: Insider Trading

Big LGBTQ Wins Right Here at Home BY ALLEN ROSKOFF

B

ig congratulations to the LGBTQ community and everyone else victimized by the Republican Party for helping Democrat Andrew Gounardes defeat right-winger Martin Golden — the last GOP representative in Brooklyn. The Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club did a 3,000-piece mailing for Gounardes and knocked on hundreds of doors in the homestretch of a close race. Apparently our mailing hit close to home, eliciting this response from Colleen Golden, wife of the defeated senator: “I have many people in my family who are gay. So don’t tell me

that I don’t care. You know nothing about me and I am very proud of them.” Sorry Colleen, but it’s not about you, it’s all about your homophobic husband. Based on his horrible record on gay rights as a senator, your gay relatives shouldn’t be very proud of him and neither should you. Let’s return for a second look at the Borough of Queens, which has come a long way since the long hard fight to finally enact a gay rights bill in 1986. Back in the 1970s, then-Councilmember Archie Spigner said on the Council floor that he didn’t want gay teachers teaching schoolchildren. We

GayCityNews.nyc | November 22 - December 5, 2018

shouted back that we already were. His public response was, “That’s why they can’t read.” It gave me great pleasure to see him waiting in line in 2010 for the induction of out gay Queens Councilmember Danny Dromm, who now chairs the Council Finance Committee. In his current job, meanwhile, Spigner has to lobby a gay Council speaker, which is poetic justice. Now that’s coming a long way. The Queens county leader, Joe Crowley, has long been in lockstep behind the LGBTQ community and its aspirations. This is also a switch from the past, when former county leader Tom Manton was a “no” on gay rights while in the City

Council. When we needed Queens votes to pass marriage in the Senate, legislators from the borough stepped forward thanks to prodding from Crowley, who showed true leadership. Queens can also boast of a strong community ally in Congressmember Grace Meng, who also serves as a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. Unfortunately, Jimmy Van Bramer is an out gay councilmember who forgets that the gay rights movement was founded to achieve civil rights and sexual liberation. Pandering to a rabidly anti-sex crowd, Van Bramer spends an

➤ INSIDER TRADING, continued on p.35

15


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November 22 - December 5, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


LEGAL

Protesters Denounce Trump’s Seizure of Justice Department Interim attorney general unconfirmed by Senate raises alarm regarding Mueller probe

DONNA ACETO

Members of Rise and Resist carry a banner emphasizing the need to protect the Mueller investigation.

DONNA ACETO

Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, flanked by Justin Hendiks, one of the protest’s organizers.

DONNA ACETO DONNA ACETO

DONNA ACETO

The crowd’s trust was in Robert Mueller.

The throngs of protesters in Times Square.

BY PAUL SCHINDLER & DONNA ACETO

crowd. The demonstrators included members of Gays Against Guns, the group’s affiliate chorus Sing Out Louise, Rise and Resist, the National Organization for Women — New York City, local Democratic clubs, and numerous chapters of MoveOn.org and Indivisible Nation. No one is above the law was a major theme of the protest. The president long regarded Sessions’ recusing himself from the Mueller investigation — given his work on Trump’s 2016 campaign — as a betrayal, a sign that the attorney general would not work actively to protect him. Though Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the lead Justice Department official involved in the Mueller probe, is the official who would customarily step up to act as interim attorney general after Sessions’ departure, Trump instead

O

ne day after President Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, demonstrators massed in cities across the nation — each gathering beginning at 5 p.m. local time — to protest what is widely understood to be an effort to undermine and perhaps end Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. In New York, thousands jammed Times Square and marched south to Union Square in the early evening of November 8. There, several people — including Manhattan Democratic Congressmember Carolyn Maloney and Patricia Okoumou, who was arrested at an anti-Trump demonstration at the Statue of Liberty on Fourth of July — made impromptu remarks to the

GayCityNews.nyc | November 22 - December 5, 2018

designated Matthew Whitaker, who served as Sessions’ chief of staff, to be the acting AG. Numerous legal observers, including top White House advisor Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George Conway III, have charged that Whitaker’s interim appointment is unconstitutional because he did not have Senate confirmation for his original post in the Justice Department. The Constitution requires that agency officials who report only to the president must be confirmed by the Senate. Prior to working for Sessions, Conway, a former US attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, was an outspoken critic of the Mueller investigation, saying that the former FBI director’s appointment was “a little fishy” and declaring that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Whitaker has also voiced ex-

“No One Is Above the Law” was a theme of the evening.

treme views about the role of judiciary, going so far as to question the Supreme Court’s 1803 ruling in Marbury v. Madison, which established the precedent for judicial review of laws enacted by Congress and signed by the president. Whitaker referred to the Judiciary, a co-equal branch of the federal government, as an “inferior branch.” Democrats in Washington have voiced alarm at Sessions’ replacement by Whitaker, who is reported to be absolutely unwilling to recuse himself from oversight of the Mueller investigation. Top Democrats are demanding that all documents from the Mueller probe and related to Sessions’ firing be preserved, and even some Republicans — including Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, Maine Senator Susan Collins, and Utah Senator-Elect Mitt Romney — warned that the Mueller investigation must not be impeded.

21


FILM

Unafraid of the Body Alberto Fuguet pushes boundaries of thriller genre cinema and some have never seen so many naked guys.

BY GARY M. KRAMER ola de Mono” is out gay writer/ director Alberto Fuguet’s sensational and sexually explicit genre film about two brothers in Chile in 1986. It is Christmas Eve, and Borja (Cristóbal Rodríguez-Costabal) and Vicente (Santiago Rodríguez-Costabal, Cristóbal’s real-life brother) each discover their queer sexuality in separate storylines. After dinner with their mother, Vicente heads out to go cruising in a park. Meanwhile, Borja gets drunk and breaks into his brother’s bedroom, where he puts on a jockstrap and looks at dirty magazines. Things come to a head when Vicente returns. “Cola de Mono” then jumps to 13 years later, with an erotic episode in a bathhouse that echoes themes of sexuality and violence from earlier in the film. Fuguet, a Chilean author turned filmmaker, chatted via Skype with Gay City News about his stunning film that pushes boundaries and stretches the genre’s limits.

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GARY M. KRAMER: You feature American movie posters, books, and objects from the 1980s throughout “Cola de Mono.” Can you discuss your inspirations for this film? ALBERTO FUGUET: My memory and my movie-going habits. When I was 14, 15, 16, 17, I was let in to movies like “Carrie,” where I had fun. I was scared and enjoyed them fully. They were cinema. De Palma was better than Richard Attenborough. Stephen King resonated in a repressed Catholic society, because under the dictatorship in Chile in the 1980s, things went bump in the night here without devils or ghosts. Even though I saw genre films, they were talking to me. I could relate to Keith Gordon or Carrie — the weirdo or misfit. And whenever there was a naked guy… But let’s not get too intellectual. It was pure pleasure. KRAMER: What can you say

22

TL A RELEASING

KRAMER: The film also features at least four knives, which are used for various purposes. Can you talk about the violence in the film? FUGUET: It’s a genre movie. I’ve never done a knife film. But if we make a film that deals with the slasher genre — which began with “Halloween” in 1978 — we have to respect the laws and clichés of the genre. Otherwise, it’s like making a Western without horses and guns, or guys. The film is about repression — but the two main characters are very free — but they are in a repressed world.

Cristóbal and Santiago Rodríguez-Costabal in Alberto Fuguet’s In “Cola de Mono.”

about the casting of real-life brothers as brothers? FUGUET: I never thought I’d use two brothers, but I got them. I cast Santiago and I said we need to find someone you know to play Borja. I thought he’d recommend someone he knew, and he suggested his brother, who is very exhibitionistic. Once I saw them together, I knew that they would deliver. They are from a new generation that have no problem being gazed upon. They feel awkward when they are not on camera. KRAMER: Can you talk about the sexual tension in the film? FUGUET: “Cola de Mono” is about male intimacy. I always felt that when you see men like RustyJames in “Rumble Fish,” the guys in “The Outsiders,” or the brothers in “East of Eden,” that you can get a lot of intimacy. “Papillon” is very homoerotic. Fights between males involve skin contact — especially guys fighting in their underwear or in the shower. For a gay guy like me, who has only sisters, I lost that possibility of borrowing a brother’s T-shirt and the homoeroticism and intimacy of that. Gay doesn’t only mean having sex with guys. Like you, Gary, I’m more romantic. But part of the turn-on of films about men who are friends was that the guys could cry and speak from the

heart. KRAMER: Borja is constantly told to grow up. What prompted you to make this a coming of age story about an age where “everything is scary?” FUGUET: I set it in the time when you are starving for information and stimulation and that was hard to get. Sexuality was forbidden, scary, and risky. No one came out as gay then. Everything is known, but not spoken, which is a good premise for horror films. It’s a ghost story in a way. There are a lot of ghosts. The mother wants sweet sons; she really wants her sons to wear revealing shorts but never touch themselves. KRAMER: “Cola de Mono” features extended nudity and sexual expression. Are you using sex and skin to comment on repression? FUGUET: Going back to De Palma’s films, he enjoyed women, their bodies, and showed them empowered. I wanted to make a film where the actors, myself as the director, and the public were not afraid of their bodies. I think a lot of movies that you see — even those catered to a gay audience or festivals — are repressed. Actors can only be seen naked from the waist up. With my film, some viewers get nervous, some get horny,

KRAMER: I don’t see the film as homophobic, but some might. How do you respond to that criticism? FUGUET: The film is not homophobic. I’m not conveying sex is dangerous or that you get punished if you’re horny. In this genre, those things happened. Even “Call Me by Your Name” says love is dangerous and you could get hurt. There’s a scene in “Cola de Mono” where a character has a cute boyfriend, and they have an intimate scene when he’s comforted by him. KRAMER: You play with time in the film — not just in setting the two interconnected stories 13 years apart, but also in your editing. Can you discuss this approach to your storytelling? FUGUET: If viewers are confused — don’t worry about it. That comes out of “Dressed to Kill.” This is a mix of an art film and a genre film. I wanted to make a mystery and reveal things, so it’s like solving a puzzle. Not knowing everything is sexy. It’s like learning about a guy. A little mystery is not bad. You can even keep an air of mystery about yourself even when you are fully naked. COLA DE MONO | Directed by Alberto Fuguet | Distributed by TLA Releasing | Available Nov. 27 on DVD and streaming on Amazon, iTunes, Dekkoo, YouTube

November 22 - December 5, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


THEATER

Making the World Hate Again Brutal persecution of Russian gay men revealed in a bold, harrowing new play BY DAVID KENNERLEY he power of “Lured,” a gutsy new political drama exposing heinous crimes against gay men in present-day Russia, is felt well before the actors take the stage. Upon entering the tiny Cino Theater at Theater for the New City, we’re confronted with an ominous tableau (Steven Medina created the gritty set). We see a dingy, mostly empty room, with a disintegrating linoleum-tiled floor, lit only by a harsh overhead light, the type used at a KGB interrogation during the Cold War. A little pink inflatable kiddie pool, emblazoned with images of Barbie, lies on the floor. As we scan the room we see a couple of metal folding chairs, old paint cans, duct tape, a poster with shirtless hunks, a few beer bottles, and a toilet plunger. Is that a rubber dildo on the table? A scratchy soundtrack plays chunks of haunting tunes, like the Russian-inspired classic “Those Were the Days” and “Uprising,” the glam rock anthem by Muse, with its defiant refrain, “They. Will. Not. Control us.” When the action begins, the dark promise of the set is methodically fulfilled. By the end of the drama, among the most arduous and exhilarating 80 minutes I’ve spent at the theater in recent memory, each of those props is put to dastardly use. In Scene One, a strapping young man is lured to the room by a crazed thug named Valentin (a deliciously brooding Marc Lombardo), with the assurance of sex via a gay hookup app. Moments later he is pistol whipped, gagged with soiled underwear, questioned, taunted, tortured, forced to strip naked, and more. A jittery woman (Carlotta Brentan) documents the horrors on her smartphone, to be posted on a website for the world to see. Another accomplice (David Joseph Volino), armed with brass

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ASHLEY GARRET T

Brendan Daugherty, Cali Gilman, John DiMino, and Kalen J Hall in Frank J. Avella’s “Lured,” directed by Avella and Carlotta Brentan, at the Theater for the New City through November 25.

knuckles, aids in the assault. Written by Frank J. Avella, who co-directed along with Brentan, “Lured” is set in St. Petersburg in 2014 and is inspired by actual events. Shockingly, such a toxic environment is now part of life for LGBTQ people in Putin’s Russia, thanks to his “gay propaganda” law allowing discrimination based on sexual orientation. Victims are not only humiliated and beaten, but their lives are destroyed. Once their face appears in a video, they are shunned by their employers, friends, and families. Men have died from their injuries. They sometimes turn to suicide as the only way out. In a flashback to a few weeks earlier, Scene Two finds a parallel incident. This time the target is Dmitry (John DiMino), a timid schoolteacher entrapped by the cute Evgeny (Brendan Daugherty), who videos the proceedings. Dmitry is grilled and tortured by a brute named Sergio (Kalen J Hall) and his girlfriend, Tatiana (Cali Gilman). “Dance, faggot. Dance or I’ll kick your skull in,” Sergio says after

GayCityNews.nyc | November 22 - December 5, 2018

sucker-punching a shirtless, sobbing Dmitry. The vigilante terrorists are members of Occupy Pedophilia, one of many hate groups active in Russia that wickedly equates homosexuality with sexual abuse of children. They rationalize their violence as pro-children activism. By Scene Three, a continuation of the action in Scene One, it becomes clear that the identities of certain perpetrators and victims are not what they first appeared (I won’t spoil the reveal here, but it’s potent and affecting). Will the victims get their revenge? If the dialogue is at times overwrought and the staging a bit clunky — the pacing and fight scenes are not as fluid as they could be — the performers, employing Russian accents, are committed and thoroughly convincing. As one of the sadistic haters, Lombardo is perfectly cast, delivering a rich, complex characterization beyond the typical stage villain. The tiara he wears is an inspired touch. What’s more, this naturalis-

tic psychological drama succeeds in painting a vivid picture of why vigilante hate groups have it in for “homosexuals,” or anyone seen as threatening traditional values. “I do not do anything for the government of Russia,” says Tatiana. “I do this for the morality of Russia. We must protect our own.” The piece asks who should decide what is moral, and if hate is inherent or learned. It also contemplates the value of revenge. At the play’s climax, we are left with no easy answers. Even more sobering than the play was the talkback featuring Lyosha Gorshkov, co-president of RUSA-LGBT, an advocacy group for Russian-speaking LGBTQ émigrés. He revealed that many of the events in “Lured” happened to him and his friends, and estimated that 90 percent of LGBTQ people in Russia are deep in the closet, living in fear. And the police do nothing to help. You may recall the May 2017 reports of at least 100 gay men being sent to a concentration camp in Chechnya. Also on hand was Kyle Knight, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, which documents the persecution. He explained that while not long ago the hate groups were shamed into secrecy, they are now given tacit permission to operate openly. Much of this hatred is fueled by right-wing groups in the US. “Trump empowers bigots,” Knight said. These witch hunts are hardly confined to Russia, and they’re spreading to other countries. Gorshkov offered a chilling prediction, asserting that unless something major is done to fight these groups now, similar abuses of LGBTQ people will spread to the US. LURED | Theater for the New City, Cino Theater, 155 First Ave., btwn. E, Ninth & 10th Sts. | Through Nov. 25: Thu.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. | $18 at luredtheplay.com | 80 mins., no intermission

23


CABARET

You, “Me,” and Isaac Mizrahi Fashion maven’s cabarett sho show ow is flirty, fizzy, fun BY SCOTT STIFFLER here’s no “I” in “Cabaret” — but there are three of them in Isaac Mizrahi’s name, and one in the title of his new show. “I&Me” finds the iconic fashion designer drawing from the fabric of his life to create a surprisingly intimate performance whose swatches of gay, Jewish, and Mama’s boy identity serve to preview the early 2019 release of “I.M.: A Memoir.” Add to that an idiosyncratic set list, id-baring patter, and spontaneous moments of audience interaction. “When you’re on stage in a cabaret setting,” Mizrahi said, of playing the Roxy Hotel’s cozy, downstairs Django room, “there’s a kind of freedom to go off book. That’s what you’re being paid to do, challenged to figure out… If there’s a truth about the saying, ‘the audience makes the show,’ it could not be truer than when you’re talking about cabaret… So that’s what I love, and that’s what I’m so scared of. Before I get on stage, the thing I panic about is that it won’t happen, you know what I mean? Or it

T

JASON FRANK ROTHENBERG

Isaac Mizrahi’s current cabaret gig is a prelude to his unconventional 2019 book tour.

will happen to a lesser degree. But the thing I realized is, the moment I hit the stage, it’s inevitable. And that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good show, it just means it’s inevitable that something living is going to take place in that room.” Based on what went down at last week’s premiere, the veteran talk show host and current “Project Runway All Stars” judge need not stress about his delivery, or the audience’s reception. A sardonic demand (“I would like a pronoun”) garnered laughs, as did a quick scan for Diazepam fans (“Do you all take pills? It’s okay, this is a safe space”), and a regifting segment with content from his vast collection

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of swag, personal and acquired. Entertaining as that may be, this is, after all, cabaret — which makes it all the more pleasing to report the show’s musical content both anchors the evening and gives it wings. Mizrahi’s vocal chops are capable of telling a story as well as carrying a tune, and the Barbrameets-Blondie set list respects the genre, while stretching its boundaries in unexpectedly odd directions. (“Don’t Rain on My Parade” is daffily defiant; “Heart of Glass” was done as slowed-down duet, with droll comedian Dave Hill; and Mizrahi’s custom-made lyrics for “You’re the Top” were a window into his politics and peccadillos.) But don’t necessarily expect any of the above at The Django’s two remaining shows. “This [rotating] set list,” Mizrahi explained, “is, like, some of my favorites I’ve done throughout my cabaret life. I’m always collecting songs and trying material with my band. We’ve been working together for so long. To me, the music is the easy, safe place, because it’s about me performing with these gentlemen who I adore. (That’s the Ben Waltzer Jazz Quartet — whose members, Mizrahi quipped, went “from drug abuse to exchanging balsamic reduction recipes.”) For the man fronting the band, live performance “kind of really has opened the door and shown me what I’m supposed to be doing.” While Broadway performers “are able to rediscover something eight times a week,” Mizrahi said cabaret’s flexibility and immediacy make for “the thing I really adore… I’ve been doing lots of shows for so long, and so

I had this idea to merge a book tour and these performances, instead of doing book signings.” And so, a Mizrahi show, like life itself, is hard to predict. But he did assure that for the final shows at The Django, “The stories I’m developing are glimpses of my mother, and this woman who raised me, Maureen — she was kind of, like, a nanny — and the female impersonations I did as a kid, and how that influenced me.” The next big reveal happens with a “real nightclub thing” at his February 5-16 Café Carlyle residency. Then, on the road in support of his memoir: “I’m booked into music halls. At that point, I want it to be a little more autobiographical, even at the risk of not being terribly, terribly funny.” Mizrahi said “I.M.” is also in lock step with this theme of evolution. At one point during its development, he recalled, “I called the editor and said, ‘You know, what if it was the story as told through my mother’s eyes?’ I worked for quite a long time under that premise.” Finally, he added, “by the three millionth pass of the book,” it came to be “this classic, straightforward memoir.” Asked what kind of work will be in fashion down the road for him, Mizrahi speculated, “As I get less and less able, physically, to perform, because I’m getting so fucking old… Twenty years from now, I see myself as a writer, which is a crazy thing, and I would love to write a novel… So that’s my answer. I think writing, and producing, and developing — entertainment, and books, and things.” And then, pausing for the beat every savvy comic or singer knows how to work, Mizrahi brought it back to the present, exclaiming, “That’s what I’m doing!” ISAAC MIZRAHI | “I&Me” | The Django, at the Roxy Hotel, 2 Sixth Ave., btwn. Walker & White Sts. | Nov. 27 at 8 p.m.; Dec. 4 at 10:30 p.m. | $45, plus two-item minimum | TheDjangoNYC.com or 212-5196649

November 22 - December 5, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


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25


THEATER

Making a Go of It Two new shows tackle le thorny challenges — with varying g results re BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE he Other Josh Cohen” is a charming urban fairytale perfectly pitched to anyone who has struggled with living in the city, coping with loss and loneliness, and finding a way through in the end. Basically anyone who makes New York their home. Josh Cohen has no date for Valentine’s Day, his temp work is going nowhere, and his apartment’s been robbed, leaving him with only a Neil Diamond CD. The burglar even took the Bundt cake Josh would have used to stuff his feelings. Grim as this might be, this is the set-up for a wonderfully appealing and heartfelt musical comedy. The conceit that makes it work is that even at his most bereft, Josh is shadowed by the image of himself a year later when everything has turned out much better for him. That “much better” starts with a misdirected letter that includes a financial gift that could be a windfall. Josh’s wrestling with his integrity sets off a chain of events that affect his life in ways he never could have imagined — all leading to a happy ending. It’s a quirky, though well-structured, story, and it reminds us of life’s unexpected turns. Along the way, we meet Josh’s family and an assortment of failed dates. Neil Diamond even makes an appearance, at least in Josh’s imagination. And all the while, Josh from the future is a relentlessly upbeat cheerleader who keeps Josh from last year in the game. As directed by Hunter Foster, the show has a comfortable, casual feel. Steve Rosen and David Rossmer who respectively play Josh in the present and Josh in the future also wrote the largely sung-through show. They are both wonderful, charismatic performers, and the music is deceptively sophisticated with lyrics both poignant and funny. The five other members of the company — Kate Wetherhead (who is hilarious as Neil Diamond),

“T

26

CAITLIN MCNANEY

David Rossmer, Steve Rosen, and the company of Rossmer and Rosen’s “The Other Josh Cohen,” directed by Hunter Foster, at the Westside Theatre through February 24.

Louis Tucci, Hannah Elless, Luke Darnell, and Elizabeth Nestlerode — play all the other roles and the instruments. Part of the fun is their listing in the program as just “a lot of people,” “a bunch of people,” and so forth. This is a classic Off-Broadway musical — one of the best in this class. It is wonderfully uncomplicated, knows what it is, and is performed by a talented cast reveling in the pleasure of telling the story. It’s pure fun, and its hopeful message is one that we can all use right now: No matter what life throws at us, we have to find a way through. So, find your way to this show. It ain’t easy being “woke,” particularly if you’re an elementary school theater teacher trying to put on a play about Thanksgiving’s history for your young audience. That’s especially true if the teacher, currently threatened by more than 300 irate parents for mounting a controversial middle school production of “The Iceman Cometh,” is fighting for her job. Her last chance comes in creating an age-appropriate, 45-minute play about the first Thanksgiving. The rub for this particular teacher is that she is committed to presenting an enlightened cultural sensitivity toward Native Americans and the real history of what went down. While pleasing the parents and honoring tradition, she must

also hew to the requirements of the grants that made the play possible, which include hiring a Native American actor. But because this teacher unintentionally cast a white actress who can “play Native American,” she’s saddled with an all-white cast. It’s all a mess. Dramatizing — or rather satirizing — this situation is the task Larissa FastHorse has set herself in “The Thanksgiving Play,” now at Playwrights Horizons. But, over the course of 90 chaotic minutes, FastHorse proves herself unequal to the task, and the result is a sprawling, often mean-spirited piece. Despite a few pointed jokes, the piece cynically demeans characters who appear well-intentioned and manages to trivialize the challenge of being culturally sensitive in an increasingly diverse but fragmented culture. The teacher’s effort is presented as ridiculous, to be laughed at by a presumably sophisticated audience. Satire comprised of trite gags — about frustrated playwrights resigned to teaching kids, dim actresses trading on sex, and that go-to for lazy writers these days, vegans — but with no coherent point of view can’t succeed. The presumably unintended result is simply another screed against “political correctness.” The four-person cast does what they can with the material, as does director Moritz von Stuelpnagel. But , as written, the characters are

types, not real people, so it’s not an easy task. Jennifer Bareilles is the manic teacher running the show, and she plays the entire evening at a high level of desperation, even when she has the tutelage of actress Alicia, a charming Margo Seibert. Alicia is the most developed character and what she says about ethnicity and race-blind casting is the play’s most interesting tangent. Greg Keller is entertaining, if predictable, as the slacker-cum-ally Jaxton, and Jeffrey Bean plays the would-be playwright, who largely serves the function of repeatedly bringing up the “real” history of Thanksgiving. Cultural sensitivity is a thorny issue and it needs to be addressed constructively — even if along the way we find ways to enjoy a laugh. That’s not what happens here. Instead, FastHorse and Playwrights served up quite a turkey. THE OTHER JOSH COHEN | Westside Theatre, 407 W. 43rd St. | Through Feb. 24: Tue., Thu.-Fri. at 7 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed. at 2 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. at 3:30 p.m. | $59$89 at telecharge.com or 212-2396200 | 90 mins., no intermission THE THANKSGIVING PLAY | Playwrights Horizons, 416 W. 42nd St. | Through Dec. 2: Tue.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. | $59$99 at ticketcentral.com or 212-2794200 | 90 mins., no intermission

November 22 - December 5, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


THEATER

Harvey Fierstein’s Life & Work Honored With “Torch Songâ€? back k on Broadway, actor/ playwright fĂŞted BY ANDY HUMM econd Stage Theater, which brought “Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Songâ€? to OffBroadway and now to the Helen Hayes Theater on Broadway, honored him at a star-studded benefit November 12 that left playwright and actor Fierstein verklempt but still able to make his audience laugh. Choking back tears, he said, “It would have been enough for one of you to call me mama,â€? a role he played with so many of the “childrenâ€? in his shows. Fierstein also regaled the audience with how he stepped up the affection between the leads in “La Cage Aux Follesâ€? when he and Christopher Sieber played them in a 2011 revival. “We kissed and rolled down the stage with each other,â€? he recalled, something director Arthur Laurents had not allowed in the musical’s original 1983 Broadway production, despite being openly gay himself. The evening’s entertainment was directed by the great Jerry Mitchell, written by Chad Beguelin (whose lesbian-themed musical-comedy

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DAVID SHANKBONE/ CREATIVE COMMONS

Harvey Fierstein.

“The Prom� is on Broadway now), and hosted by Michael Urie, who is starring as Fierstein’s alter ego Arnold Beckoff in the current production of

“Torch Song.â€? Cyndi Lauper sang “Not My Father’s Sonâ€? from “Kinky Boots,â€? the show she created with Fierstein. Annaleigh Ashford was joined by Paul Canaan and Joey Taranto in singing Lauper’s “True Colors.â€? Sieber, now in “The Prom,â€? recreated his number with Fierstein in “La Cage Aux Follesâ€? by crooning the loving “Song on the Sandâ€? to him. Gino Emnes from the German cast of “Kinky Bootsâ€? sang “Hold Me in Your Heartâ€? from the show‌ in German. Marissa Jaret Winokur, who became a star in Fierstein’s “Hairspray,â€? reprised a number from that show. Clips were run from a 1983 “20/20â€? interview of Fierstein by Barbara Walters where he stood up to her discomfort about gay issues. Event co-chair and longtime Fierstein friend and colleague Richie Jackson introduced him by talking about being part of “the first generation of gay men who grew up with Harvey,â€? who was always leading the way. Jackson praised another quote from the “20/20â€? interview: “I always assume everyone is gay unless told otherwise.â€?

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27


VISUAL ARTS

Yowie! Anime NYC Returns Javits Center convention drew queer q fans,, offered red plentiful LGBTQ content co

CHARLES BAT TERSBY CHARLES BAT TERSBY

A full squad of gender-flopped Sailor Moon cosplayers.

BY CHARLES BATTERSBY he stereotypes of anime fans range from the antisocial, obsessive otaku with his collection of Gundam models to the giggling teenage Sailor Moon cosplayer. To be sure, both of these could be found at the second edition of Anime NYC at the Jacob Javits Center this past weekend. But the anime scene also has a large amount of queer content, not to mention openly LGBTQ artists and fans. Gay City News spoke with some of the creators, vendors, and librarians who are working to bring these interests and artists into mainstream awareness. Judith Fisch, an animator, and artist Natalie Reichel are the owners of Gay Breakfast Studio, a creative lab for LGBTQ art and podcasts. On Saturday morning, the Studio hosted a wide-ranging panel on LGBTQ themes in anime and manga, the popular Japanese comic books and graphic novels. Fisch and Reichel told the standing-room-only crowd about the historic nature of gay stories in Japanese culture, even in early 20th century prose and theater that predate manga. The gay-related manga that is currently at the forefront of American media awareness is yaoi. Pro-

T

28

CHARLES BAT TERSBY

Booths at Anime NYC enlisted cosplayers to promote their products.

nounced “yowie,” this style of comics and cartoons features gay male characters, but the target audience is actually young women. Yaoi was first brought to wider audiences two years ago through the popular “Yuri on Ice” anime. Fisch pointed out that “‘Yuri on Ice’ is a sports show first and foremost. It’s about a figure skater who is making his big comeback, but it’s also a love story between him and his coach. It’s a very genuine love story. It treats the relationship with a lot more respect than others in the genre have in the past.” On the show floor was a booth called OTP, which specializes in fan-made comics from Japan

CHARLES BAT TERSBY

The fan-created character “Bowsette” is popular with cosplayers like Nico Chan Cosplay.

Dylan, the owner of OTP, flaunts a fan-made Japanese comic.

where characters are often engaged in gay relationships outside the story’s traditional canon. The name OTP refers to anime fans who imagine their favorite characters in a “One True Pairing,” even if that romantic coupling isn’t part of the story. OTP’s owner, who gave his name as Dylan, told us about the origin of Yaoi and “Boys Love” manga as a way for closeted lesbians to have erotica. “It’s sort of a funny story,” he explained. “It got started back in the ‘70s by lesbians, who would draw two men together, very effeminately because if they got caught with it they could explain it. But if you got caught with comics with two

women, you couldn’t really explain that to your family.” Anime NYC also offered a reading library, the Carolina Manga Library, that had manga and Western comics for the crowd to browse. One of the library’s volunteers said they use manga to spread literacy. “Young teens and kids will show an interest in reading through manga and comics,” the volunteer said, “but then their parents, teachers, and librarians will tell them, ‘That’s not a real book’ and turn them off of wanting to read. So we try to help abolish that stigma.” Among the library’s thousands of titles were some LGBTQ content. A prominent item for sale was a mystery bag of Yaoi. “A lot of the people who try to buy them are young teenage girls, and we don’t allow that,” a library staffer explained, saying the yaoi grab bags were only for people over 18. Some less explicit yaoi, however, was available for rental to younger readers. Though there was demand for yaoi at the con, the most popular manga titles, library volunteers said, remain the action stories like “My Hero Academia” and “One-Punch Man,” which feature little in the way of LGBTQ content — and even the

➤ ANIME NYC, continued on p.29

November 22 - December 5, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


COURTESY OF GAY BREAKFAST STUDIO

Natalie Reichel and Judith Fisch of Gay Breakfast Studio.

➤ ANIME NYC, from p.28 occasional negative stereotype. Another cultural peculiarity specific to Japanese fiction is the “Class S Relationship,� in which two teenage girls have an innocent romantic relationship, with the implication that the characters will grow out of it and aren’t truly lesbians. This genre was popular in theater and prose in earlier Japanese fiction, but still has an echo in present day manga and anime. “It’s a very chaste relationship that is seen as an attribute of their fleeting youth,� Reichel explained. “It’s part of the belief that girls will experiment with romance on each other before they’re ready to grow up and get married. There’s this veil of purity over the whole thing, there’s usually sparkles and shimmering eyelashes and hand-holding.� Reichel and Fisch both laughed

at this reference to such overused animation flourishes. While specific sub-genres overtly target gay readers — or those seeking gay content for fetishistic reasons — there is also a lengthy tradition of gay and transgender characters in mainstream anime. During their panel, Reichel and Fisch cited many examples from the period when anime first became popular in America. Of particular note is the very popular manga “One Piece,� which has recurring appearances from the character Bon Clay, a stereotypical Okama, the Japanese term for drag queen. While Bon Clay’s gender presentation is an outlandish stereotype, Reichel pointed out, “The character is morally exemplary. The character is loyal, the character never gives up in a fight for his friends. The character is really good at fighting — which, in a shonen [teen] anime, if you are a good guy

CHARLES BAT TERSBY

CHARLES BAT TERSBY

The anime “Free!� has strong appeal to certain audience demographics.

The author, left, is rewarded for completing the Sailor Moon scavenger hunt.

and you’re good at fighting you’re the best there is as a person.� That for a character who happens to be drawn from the LGBTQ

world. Anime NYC has confirmed it will return in 2019 from November 15-17.

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In the NOH

Call Her Irrepressible Marilyn Michaels’ memoir is a lavish hootfest, just like her BY DAVID NOH rowing up in the 1960s in Hawaii, TV may have largely presented an idealized, sanitized, largely white view of the world, but it also introduced a ton of richly variegated, mostly New York talent to me, stuck on an island — however beautiful — in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It was the golden age of the now extinct variety show, and I was particularly fascinated by that small cadre of feisty, balls-out dames who would swagger onto “The Ed Sullivan Show” or “Hollywood Palace” and do their special thing — Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, Totie Fields, Moms Mabley — and Marilyn Michaels, whose gamine face and figure personified fun as she impersonated all of them, plus a hundred other popular divas of the day. The singer/comedian has turned writer with her debut book, “How Not to Cook, for the Rest of Your Life,” and when she invited me to lunch with her at Sardi’s to discuss it, believe you me, this boy jumped! She was already seated when I arrived, and all I had to do was turn on my recorder and bam!: “I’m having what I always have here — the spinach canneloni. I try not to have it too much — with three tomatoes — and then I pray. This is where I sat with Burt Reynolds. He was great friends with Vincent Sardi. “Burt took me to a party at Vincent Sardi’s townhouse. It was so nice, but I was involved with somebody else at the time. What, I was gonna turn down a date with him at that time in his life? Burt asked me, ‘How deep into him are you?’ “I told him only a few months and he said, ‘That’s too bad because you’re now in the thick of it, it’s not just beginning.’ So, we’re at this party and he disappears. I was looking all over for him and found him in the attic, surrounded by teenaged girls. And then I realized that that was not what I wanted to

G

30

MARILYN MICHAELS PRODUCTIONS

This book is not really about cooking.

handle.” When I mentioned gay rumors that have always swirled around Reynolds, she said, “This I don’t know.” Despite the title of Michaels’ book, “It’s really not about cooking. It’s about relationships, about women cooking for men and men for women, most of whom have in my life, if they wanted to get lucky [laughs], and cooking together. “I was always busy working, but it’s always expected of you to cook in a male-female relationship. Like, after sex, somebody always says, ‘Oh, I’m going to the kitchen. Can

I fix something for you?’ Invariably, it’s the woman who does that. In a male-male relationship who fixes something? I think that after two women have sex, they both run into the kitchen, bumping into each other. We women are so trained to serve — ‘No, I’ll do it!’” It was a pure joy it was to be in Sardi’s, our voices raised in laughter, the waiters sharing our enjoyment, getting interested/ amused looks from the other patrons, most of them acquaintances of Michaels — defining haimische — who, bare, pretty feet up on her seat, turned the joint into her living room.

“A guy I really wanted I made fucking spaghetti for, Goddamit, al dente, baby! But, inside, I was not happy, thinking, ‘So why doesn’t he go and make it for me?’ “This one guy happened to be a newspaper man — hello! — I have a weakness for journalists! We went shopping for food, got the eggs, and he said, ‘Let’s get asparagus!’ But this man folded the asparagus into the omelette and brought it to me on a tray, in bed. Wasn’t that something? “I don’t think he was aware of the implication, because this was just a fling to be honest. He was a womanizer and I knew it. But we remained friends all through the years, flirting back and forth, because once is not enough! There’s nothing like making love — the beauty and the sensuality. And I’m not knocking that sense of closeness — Marlene [Dietrich] said, ‘I really don’t care about sex, I just want somebody to hold me and she got a lot of people to hold her. You have to love yourself — that’s what my book is about. Now you’re making me cry.” Dating-wise, Michaels has usually avoided comedians, although there was one, younger and very attractive, whom she considered a genius. “I met him at a restaurant after talking on the phone for God knows how long. We spoke the same language because he was very artistic and, you know, I’m a painter, as well. I just fell into his arms and took him back to my apartment. I don’t usually do it on first dates, it takes me six — okay, maybe four — and a ring. I usually get a ring — I’m a child of the 1950s — what do you want from me? They like it — they want to win you. They don’t want what’s easy. “So, here’s the mistake he made: I’m lying back this way [strikes a sensual pose] and he said, ‘You don’t have any wrinkles.’ Now I know that was a compliment, but it’s not the kind of thing I wanted

➤ MARILYN MICHAELS, continued on p.35

November 22 - December 5, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


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33


CRIME

With Dem State Senate, Crime Reformers Upbeat Public defenders lay out comprehensive proposals to end mass incarceration’s ills BY NATHAN RILEY

A

Blue Wave hit New York two weeks ago, giving Democrats firm control of the State Senate for the first time in modern memory and offering criminal justice reform advocates — who believe current laws have undermined “the presumption of innocence, fueled mass incarceration, allowed intolerable court delays, and caused countless wrongful convictions” — hope that the new Legislature convening in January will “pass key criminal justice reforms.” That is the argument being made by five agencies that offer defense services to low-income city residents. The public defender groups sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who is expected to be the new Senate majority leader, urging them to drastically reform a system that has “needlessly upended” the lives of black, Latinx, and other “marginalized people” in New York State. Like the State Health Department when dis-

34

NEW YORK STATE SENATE

Criminal justice reform advocates are optimistic that a new Democratic State Senate, likely led by Westchester County’s Andrea-Stewart Cousins, will enact meaningful changes to a system that has perpetuated mass incarceration in New York.

cussing marijuana arrests, these public defenders argue that racist enforcement causes poverty and hampers economic opportunity. “There wasn’t a sense of urgency

in the State Senate,” which “didn’t feel accountable” because “the reality was they were 100 percent white,” said Jared Chausow, an advocacy specialist for the Brooklyn Defender Services, in an interview at a news conference reform advocates held in Foley Square on November 14. With a new Democratic Senate majority, both chambers of the Legislature will be led by officials who come from the communities “that are tired and ready to express their voices for change,” Chausow said. “Our lives are on the line,” warned Kassandra Frederique, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Progress is not based on what elected officials” say is possible. Change must bring relief to “those that are still incarcerated.” Frederique called for an end to all arrests for the sale or possession of any drugs. The package of bills supported by the public defenders would legalize marijuana, “repairing the harm of prohibition,” end cash bail that disadvantages those without the financial means to win their freedom as they await trial, change

discovery laws so that prosecutors must quickly provide defense attorneys with the evidence against their clients, and ensure speedy trials. They also want to end “the torture of prolonged solitary confinement” (which would have been curbed by a measure the Assembly already passed) and offer prisoners “fair and meaningful” opportunities for parole. Other proposals the defense attorneys seek include raising the age of eligibility for youthful offender status, restoring free bus service to state prisons, expanding opportunities for family visits, protecting immigrants from deportation, and ending “warrantless ICE arrests in and around courthouses.” Next year the State Senate will have 39 Democrats (not including renegade Democrat Simcha Felder of Brooklyn), a substantial majority of the 63 members, giving New York State meaningful one-party rule for the first time since before World War II. The end of partisan gridlock has raised reformers’ hopes to a fever pitch. On another prison reform front, the State Assembly Committees on Corrections, Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and Health held a November 14 hearing on legislation requiring state prisons and jails to offer medically-assisted treatment of heroin users with methadone or buprenorphine to reduce their craving for opioids. West Side Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, who chairs the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee, supports the measure. In a written release about the hearing that Rosenthal issued with reform advocates, Hiawatha Collins, a VOCAL-NY board member, stated, “Forced withdrawal while incarcerated is torture, painful, and disrupts recovery for people who already use medication-assisted treatment. Medication-assisted treatment is a critical tool for recovery for those who use opioids, and the lack of this lifesaving treatment during incarceration increases the risk of relapse and overdose.”

November 22 - December 5, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


➤ INSIDER TRADING, from p.15 inordinate amount of time fighting to close adult entertainment nightspots in his district. As a longtime gay rights advocate, I find it embarrassing that in 2018 we are still fighting against 1950sera prudes. When the feds staged a high-profile raid on the offices of rentboy.com in 2015, Van Bramer, alone among the six out LGBTQ members of the City Council, declined sign on to a letter of protest to the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. A gay elected official may get conservative votes by embracing the anti-sex crowd, but that involves trading away our community’s hard-won freedoms for personal gain. In contrast, Councilmember Karen Koslowitz is the most wellliked and perhaps most powerful councilmember in the borough. She served in the Council in the 1990s and then stepped down due to term limits, returning in 2009. She is a powerhouse, not afraid to kneel to protest racial injustice and a friend to us all. We did lose a great friend last year when Elizabeth Crowley was

➤ MARILYN MICHAELS, from p.30 to hear then. Schmucko. I said, “Yeah, but I could pop off any minute!” In her illustriously lengthy career, Michaels has literally met and/ or worked with just about everybody. “The only ones I didn’t meet were Ava Gardner and Sinatra, of all people, and Olivier. I worked with Debbie [Reynolds] a lot and Eddie Fisher at different times, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. It’s a great provenance to have. “Well, Debbie was lonely and said, ‘I don’t want to be like my best friend, Lana [Turner]. She’s so lonely.’ Men were intimidated by her, so Debbie was fixing Lana up, but lots of men said no. She was so breathtaking she made Sharon Stone look like a doorknob, but they were scared, not as macho as you want them to be, men are

defeated in her conservative district by a demagogue who campaigned against the homeless. I hope that Crowley puts herself in the running when the Queens borough presidency opens up in 2021. Consultant Andrew Kirtzman, a nominal Democrat, recently penned a piece entitled “Can Michael Bloomberg Save the Planet?” Kirtzman, an out gay man, perhaps forgets that Bloomberg went to court in 2005 to overturn a Manhattan judge’s order legalizing same-sex marriage. This year Bloomberg endorsed and gave fi nancial support to anti-gay and anti-choice Republican Congressmembers Dan Donovan and Peter King. I’m not a believer in a big tent. If you are going to act like a Republican, then register as one. Though New York does not outlaw conversion therapy being practiced on minors, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington State, and the District of Columbia do.

very fragile. I come from the land of hunt me down, pursue me, drive me to your cave or mansion in the sky. Like in that movie ‘Monster’s Ball,’ where Halle Berry says, ‘Just make me feel good!’ and they’re like, ‘Duh!”

“Talk about Phyllis Diller, she was so wonderful. She was a wonderful person who wasn’t threatened.” Recalling her days on the Sullivan show, when she was one of a handful of pioneering funny women, Michaels said, “We had a

The failure to move such legislation in Albany was the fault of Republicans — aided and abetted by the Independent Democratic Conference, most of whose members were defeated in the September primary — controlling the State Senate. Now with the Democrats having swept state government, this needs to change within weeks of the new Legislature being seated. I hope out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman files it on January 1, along with the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and legislation to grant clemency to elderly inmates. I suspect that Hoylman will play a leadership role in the new Senate He is well respected in his party conference and effective at what he does. I wish Hoylman were more supportive of progressive Democrats over establishment candidates, but he is solid, smart, and always gives you his attention. Speaking of the State Senate, I think Simcha Felder, the hold-out Democrat who singlehandedly gave the Republicans a majority, should be isolated by his colleagues. The new majority should find a windowless office preferably lacking heat

as payback for all the suffering he has caused the people of New York State. He shouldn’t be welcome in our party. We won’t need his vote, and he votes wrong on most of the issues we care about anyway.

thing, us comediennes — we had to be pretty and present our most attractive, glamorous selves. If you were fat, there was room for just two people in the business: Totie Fields and Mama Cass. You had to be pretty and turned out well — Peggy Lee, Dinah Shore — every single one of them was gorgeous. I don’t know what happened — maybe there’ll be a return to elegance. “You asked about Joan Rivers. Howard Stern made me go into his studio and play a trick on his producer, pretending to be her: ‘It’s Joan. Can we talk because you’re so terrific and Melissa’s going to have a show I think you should do.’ We went on for 10 minutes like this until I said something absolutely ridiculous. And he was like, ‘Who is this?’ “I did Joan’s show and I write with admiration about her, her tenacity. But she was not nice to me and the thing is I’m not really a stand-up. I do characters and am a

singer. She was threatened, and I know you have a total understanding of the insecurity among funny people. It is so insane. I’m on her show and I said something and she didn’t know what to do to shut me the fuck up. She said, ‘Oh, yeah, really, sure, yeah.’ Oh gracious hostess — not! However, we can talk about Phyllis Diller who was so wonderful. She was a wonderful person who wasn’t threatened by me: ‘Whatever you want, honey, you’re going to go up and make ‘em laugh!’ But Rivers, no. Yet I admire and miss her. “But when you get a chance, read my book. You can just dip into it anywhere — it’s all little tiny subdivisions. Read it on the toilet, because your humor is great and you will scream!”

On Saturday, December 8, there will be a candlelight rally and vigil in front of the governor’s home in Mt. Kisco. Buses will leave from Chelsea. It’s being organized by Candles for Clemency (facebook.com/candlesforclemency ) and RAPP, Release Aging People from Prison, (rappcampaign.com). We will be demanding the release of elderly people incarcerated for crimes committed decades ago who pose no risk to society and have shown remorse for their actions. The Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, on November 26, is honoring Eve Ensler, who brought us “The Vagina Monologues,” out gay Bronx City Councilmember Ritchie Torres, Congressmember Jerry Nadler, and Broadway’s Danny Burstein. For more details on the event, at Butter restaurant in Midtown, or to RSVP, email aroskoff@gmail.com.

HOW NOT TO COOK, FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE | By Marilyn Michaels & Mark Wilk | $18.95 | 204 pages

For more news & events happening now visit www.GayCityNews.nyc GayCityNews.nyc | November 22 - December 5, 2018

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