Gay City News - November 29, 2018

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WORLD IDS DAY 2018 Bill Bytsura Invites Us to See the Faces of Frontline Activists


Luis López-Detrés and Eric Sawyer.

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Do You Know Who These People Are? Bill Bytsura invites us to see the faces of AIDS activism


The late Juan Mendez.

Saundra Johnson.

They were out — Northrup working for a time at the famous Columbus Avenue nightspot The Works — but, in Bytsura’s telling, not deeply engaged with the wider community. Then, in 1988, within weeks of learning his HIV status, Northrup, 38, died from complications of AIDS. A friend suggested that ACT UP might be a way for Bytsura to cope with his grief. His first visit to the weekly Monday evening meeting at the LGBT Community Center came shortly after the group’s second Wall Street action, and amidst the boisterous crowd, what Bytsura heard was a lot of yelling. “Ugh… this isn’t for me,” he recalls thinking. But he returned, and in time became engaged in the Media Committee. That work, in time, gave birth to the portrait project. To turn the pages of Bytsura’s book is to invite lingering reverie about what was on the minds and in the hearts of those captured in his deeply penetrating gaze. A good number of the images are accompanied by personal statements the subjects forwarded with their photo releases. The words alongside the portrait of a very longhaired Charles King predict the activist



o you know who these people are? If not for them, you wouldn’t be getting married. You wouldn’t be suing about

a wedding cake.” These are the words of photographer Bill Bytsura expressing what he clearly believes is the urgent need for the LGBTQ community to learn and remember the work, dedication, and lessons of more than 60 AIDS activists whose black-and-white portraits from the 1990s he presents in his starkly beautiful new book, “the AIDS activist project.” Bytsura’s volume is culled from photographs he took of 225 activists — first among ACT UP New York members, and then from other chapters nationwide and in Paris and at International AIDS Conferences in Amsterdam and Berlin. The project was fueled by passion — that often involved Bytsura schlepping huge photo cases around international airports all on his own — and generally on his own dime. Bytsura didn’t come by his passion easily. During the 1980s, he and his partner of seven years, Randy Wayne Northrup, lived a relatively quiet domestic life outside the brewing activist energy emerging in response to AIDS.




The late Alan Contini.


Michael Wiggins.

➤ THE AIDS ACTIVIST PROJECT, continued on p.5 November 29 - December 5, 2018 |



The late Tim Bailey.

Ann Northrop.


vince me that I and people like me have a right to live.” The late Robert Garcia, also shirtless, eyes and torso pointing toward the angels, writes of his marching in protest, “Robert every step is a tear you don’t want to cry, every arrest is an act of hope.” A gorgeous nude portrait of Larry Ewing makes the point, “R bodies R political.” Eyes closed and head turned to the side, Cleews Vellay, the late president of ACT UP Paris, writes, “Ma colere est inversement proportionnelle á mon taux de T.4”… “My anger is inversely proportional to my T4 cell count.” Bytsura expressed particular pride in having captured the “kickass” strength of Saundra Johnson, who is looking down, eyes closed, one hand raised behind her neck, seemingly exasperated, perhaps at someone missing her point. She quotes Malcolm X saying, “Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything… But when they get angry, they bring about change.” Wisely, Bytsura lets some of his pictures speak completely for themselves. Alan Contini is seemingly comforted by a dog, Phaedra, just months before his death. Luis López-Detrés and Eric Sawyer share a tender moment of solace. Garance Frank-Ruta is the very picture of calm, confident determination. Larry Kramer, also with a dog alongside, sitting cross-legged on the floor, enjoys a welcome moment of respite. Capturing such singular moments was a driver of Bytsura’s mission.

future he would build at Housing Works. The late journalist Juan Mendez, peering down solemnly as though lost in thought, appropriately writes about the need to “maintain the urgency” of AIDS activism. Maxine Wolfe explains that like their “gay brothers,” lesbians have “put our bodies on the line” to fight the epidemic. And next to Mike Signorile, who looks improbably much the same as he does 26 years later, we read that “the only way to get the truth out was to fight fire with fire; to take the media by balls, give them a show and use their slick, cunning device back on them.” Ann Northrop, also remarkably unchanged with the passage of years, displays her unerring ethical clarity, writing, “The best people I know are AIDS activists. They’re the ones with morals. They’re the ones who insist on the sanctity of human life. They’re the ones who realize we all have to care about each other or we’re all dead.” Months before his 1993 death, Tim Bailey is more combative: “I want my political funeral to be fierce, defiant, and aesthetic. It’s for you — I won’t be there.” His friends were there — in an historic confrontation with Washington police. In some instances, the poignant convergence between image and words is nearly overwhelming. An innocently youthful-looking Michael Wiggins, shirtless, writes, “I have no moral convictions beyond the few that | November 29 - December 5, 2018

Bill Bytsura’s book contains portaits of more than 60 AIDS activists from the 1990s, including the late Robert Garcia.

“The photos were a time-out in the middle of the fight,” is how he described them in an interview this month. The larger collection of images this book’s selection was drawn from have been exhibited before — from Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village and the LGBT Community Center to the National Gallery of Australia. The entire body of work is now housed in the Downtown Collection at the Fales Library at NYU. David France, notable for documenting the history of ACT UP and related activist efforts in his book and film “How to Survive a Plague,” drew on the Bytsura collection in his New York magazine essays that celebrated the group’s 25th anniversary in 2012. France, in a strikingly personal foreword to this book, writes, “These photos betray a deeper insight… These beautiful photographs… bring us as close as we may ever get to knowing what the plague years wrought. Just look into the eyes of the frontline warriors. Those eyes had seen enough.” Of his journey to this project, Bytsura himself writes, “The only thing that makes any sense to me is that Randy’s death opened my eyes to a terrible disease, to the millions of people around the world that were affected by it, to the possibility of raising my voice to fight alongside the heroes in this book to fight AIDS.” THE AIDS ACTIVIST PROJECT | By Bill Bytsura | | $49.95 | 120 pages



Trump Proposes Limiting HIV Meds’ Medicare Coverage OfďŹ cials say plan would reduce costs, but advocates fear treatment havoc BY MATT TRACY


dvocates are sounding alarms after the Trump administration on Monday unveiled a proposal that, if implemented, would lower the number of HIV drugs available to Medicare recipients beginning in 2020. The proposal, which also reduces the drugs available to people with cancer, depression, and other health conditions, is being framed by the Trump administration as a cost-cutting initiative by creating leverage for Medicare-contracted insurance companies in negotiations with drug manufacturers. Those insurance providers are currently required to cover substantially all drugs in six different classes of treatments, but under the new plan they’d be able to stop

covering some drugs if they’re too pricey. Many fear the plan would wreak havoc on the healthcare of vulnerable populations by throwing off their existing drug regimens crucial to keeping them healthy. Carl Schmid, who serves as the deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute, a Washington-based research and advocacy non-profit group, said the plan is especially dangerous because it would implement prior authorization and step therapy, which forces patients to use cheaper drugs first. This, he said, is unheard of in HIV medicine and runs against current treatment guidelines. “Doctors prescribe the drugs they feel is best for that patient,� he explained. “People have resistance to certain things so they can’t take some HIV drugs. Every drug is dif-

ferent and every person is different. People even have different side effects to different drugs.� Despite the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ endorsement of the restrictions proposal, its own guidelines for the use of antiretroviral therapy in people living with HIV note that prior authorizations result in fewer prescriptions being filled and include hidden costs. Complicating things further, prior authorization can delay treatment at times when beneficiaries need their medication. “If they do fail on a particular regimen, you want to get them on another drug as quickly as possible,� Schmid added. “The authorizations would take too much time.� The Trump administration argues that the proposal would re-

duce out-of-pocket expenses and allow insurance companies to negotiate lower drug prices. Yet, drugs that see an increase in price beyond the rate of inflation could be pulled altogether, leaving patients without the drugs they need. Advocates stifled a similar proposal by the Obama administration in 2014, but that plan did not involve any changes to HIV medication coverage. Instead, it would have stopped requiring insurance companies from providing certain antidepressants and some immunosuppressants for transplant patients. Schmid said the AIDS Institute will fight the proposal and plans to turn to Congress to rally lawmakers against it. Several local health groups contacted had not yet been able to study the Trump initiative as Gay City News went to press.

A Brooklyn Spotlight on AIDS Awareness Borough president, health advocates gather at Central Library Wednesday BY DONNA ACETO


n recognition of World AIDS Day to be marked on December 1, public officials and public health advocates gathered at the Brooklyn Public Library on November 28 to highlight the need for continued vigilance against an epidemic fi rst recognized 37 years ago. Representatives from Amida

Care, a nonprofit that provides comprehensive coverage and coordinated care to Medicaid recipients in New York City; the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS; Bridging Access to Care, a Brooklyn AIDS services group; and the office of Borough President Eric Adams were on hand for a program that included free HIV testing, music, readings, performances, and artwork.

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Trump Turns to High Court on Trans Military Ban Effort to sidestep lower courts as federal personnel website scrubs anti-bias language BY PAUL SCHINDLER


n a holiday weekend effort to get around injunctions from four federal courts against President Donald Trump’s efforts to bar transgender military service, the administration on November 23 asked the Supreme Court to lift three of those injunctions while these separate challenges to the policy — which the president first announced in a series of July 2017 tweets — play out in the lower courts. Because of the injunctions, a plan adopted by then Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in the final year of the Obama administration allowing for military enlistment by transgender Americans went into effect on January 1 of this year. In Friday’s court filing, Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued, “The military has been forced to maintain that prior policy for nearly a year… [posing] too great a risk to military effectiveness and lethality.” The four injunctions, however — from district courts in Washington, DC, Baltimore, Seattle, and Riverside, California, with several of those injunctions upheld by appeals courts — have found that the transgender plaintiffs are likely to ultimately succeed in their claims and have ordered trials, which are now in the discovery phase. The government was already appealing a discovery order from Seattle District Judge Marsha Pechman, which sought information on how the dictates of Trump’s original 2017 tweet, where he vaguely alluded to having consulted “my generals and military experts,” became formalized by a task force headed by Defense Secretary James Mattis. Given the careful study of transgender military service by the Obama administration under Carter, the plaintiffs are seeking to learn the basis for the military now arguing their presence in the service would cause problems. The appeal of Pechman’s discovery order went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which Trump blasted bitterly earlier last week, complaining that an “Obama judge” from that circuit had blocked his effort to limit immigrants’ ability to lodge asylum claims and that the circuit itself was consistently hostile to his prerogatives. Trump’s attack sparked an unprecedented rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts, whom the president slammed back in a tweet retort. Responding to the solicitor general’s Friday filing, the National Center for Transgender Equality charged that the proposed Trump military ban, about which the government is resisting discovery efforts, is “based on junk science and baseless myths about the fitness of transgen-



Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, charged that Donald Trump’s latest gambit regarding his proposed trans military ban is yet another sign the president has “zero respect for this nation’s military or the rule of law.”


President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis.

der people to serve in the armed forces.” In a written statement, NCTE’s executive director, Mara Keisling, said, “This is yet another reckless move by a president with zero respect for this nation’s military or the rule of law. Coming the day after the president turned a Thanksgiving message to troops into a complaint about his own losses in federal court, it is clear the administration is growing ever more desperate to undermine the law and insert prejudice and hate into our armed forces. It’s a senseless move that can only serve to disrupt troops, their families, and the military itself.” Peter Renn, an attorney at Lambda Legal, which is one of numerous LGBTQ litigation groups and transgender advocates challenging the Trump ban, said, in a written statement, “Today, the US Department of Justice announced its intent to short-circuit established

practice, asking the US Supreme Court to review a preliminary district court ruling before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has even had an opportunity to rule. This highly unusual step is wildly premature and inappropriate, both because there is no final judgment in the case, and because even the preliminary issue on appeal has not yet been decided. It seems the Trump administration can’t wait to discriminate. Yet again, the Trump administration flouts established norms and procedures.” In a separate development in the Trump administration’s escalating assault on the rights of trans Americans, the Office of Personnel Management has removed language from its website spelling out nondiscrimination protections for transgender federal employees. The OPM website previously included a “Gender Identity Guidance” that outlined respectful treatment of such government employees, on matters such as restrooms, name changes, appropriate language, and dress codes. Updated at some point this week, the website now has no mention of the word transgender and states that gender-specific job roles in the federal government should be assigned according to “biological sex.” The website cites an October 2017 memo from Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice arguing that gender identity is not covered under federal nondiscrimination employment law. Over the last two decades, most federal courts have ruled that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does protect employees from discrimination on the basis of their gender identity or expression — interpreted as discrimination based on sex. The site, however, continues to include gender identity as a protected class from discrimination in hiring — in line with a 2014 executive order from President Barack Obama that explicitly bans discrimination against LGBTQ employees in the federal government. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has also repeatedly ruled that federal law protects transgender federal employees from discrimination. Commenting on news of the changes to the OPM website, NCTE’s Keisling said, “All transgender workers should know this does not legalize discrimination and nobody can just fire them because of who they are. Instead, it’s a cowardly attempt to spread chaos and confusion throughout the federal government. The Trump administration is resorting to misinformation and distortion in an attempt to harm countless employees of the federal government, the nation’s largest employer.” News of the OPM website changes was first reported by Zack Ford at November 29 - December 5, 2018 |


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Marriage Loss In Taiwan; Issue Still in Limbo Legal force of vote questioned BY MATT TRACY


oters in Taiwan on November 24 approved referenda defining marriage between a man and a woman and curtailing LGBTQ education in schools, marking a political setback for the LGBTQ community there one year after that nation’s constitutional court ruled that same-sex couples had a right to marry. But the legal ramifications remain unclear after what have been described as advisory votes. The election in Taiwan culminated a confusing whirlwind of amendment proposals following the court’s 2017 decision, which ruled that the nation must amend the constitution or else its edict would become law within two years. Instead of full marriage equality, voters approved a separate status pro-


Taiwanese-American activist Lance Chen-Hayes, at a fundraiser for the Taiwanese pro-gay side at the Stonewall earlier this month, said the financial advantage of those opposing marriage equality was evident in banners and handbills seen nationwide.

viding for same-sex unions. Conservative groups, including US-based groups such as the National Organization for Marriage, responded to the court’s decision last year by placing referenda on

the November ballot in an effort to stop marriage equality and — while they were at it — wipe out LGBTQfocused education programs. LGBTQ advocates responded with ballot proposals of their own, but their response wasn’t enough. Conservative groups had a significant financial advantage over LGBTQ rights advocates and used it to mount a multi-faceted advertising campaign. Taiwanese-American activist Lance Chen-Hayes told Gay City News earlier this month that banners were posted on buses and storefronts in Taiwan and flyers were handed out all around the nation. Despite the election results, LGBTQ advocates voiced confidence that the 2017 ruling stands — and there has been no official word out of the government as to how the November 24 tally would affect the court’s mandate.

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Freedom to Marry, which followed up on its successful effort to win marriage equality in the US by raising funds and awareness for the same purpose in Taiwan, said in a written statement that the “movement for marriage equality in Taiwan will not be deterred.� “Nothing changes the clear mandate from the court: That by May 2019, lawmakers must update the civil code to allow same-sex couples to marry,� the statement said. Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, which is a key LGBTQ rights group that helped lead the effort to mobilize voters ahead of the election — and benefitted from a recent fundraiser at the Stonewall Inn that brought in $5,000 — said in a written statement following the election that those who supported gay rights at the polls must ultimately help push the nation’s parliament to pass pro-equality initiatives.

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Wrongful Death Claim in ICE’s Treatment of Trans Woman Independent autopsy finds bruising, signs of physical abuse by a baton BY MATT TRACY


he Transgender Law Center (TLC) is taking legal action after a transgender woman who died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was found to have suffered physical abuse during the time leading up to her death in May. Roxsana Hernández, 33, an immigrant from Honduras, was seeking asylum in the US when she was placed in the custody of US Customs and Border Protection — and never made it out alive. Her autopsy, conducted by independent experts, showed she was shackled tightly for long periods of time, causing bruises on her wrists. Lynly Egyes, director of litigation for TLC, an Oakland, California-based advocacy group, said in a written statement that the inde-

pendent forensic pathologist noted that Hernández also suffered bruising consistent with abuse by a baton. “If she was lucky, she was given a bottle of water to drink,” Egyes said. “Her cause of death was dehydration and complications related to HIV. Her death was entirely preventable.” Hernández did not receive necessary medical treatment, according to a wrongful death claim filed by TLC in conjunction with immigration and civil rights attorney Andrew Free, Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project—BLMP, and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement (Familia). Hernández was moved from California to Washington State and finally to New Mexico, where she was held at the Cibola County Correctional Center, a private federal prison for men which operates






Roxsana Hernández’s May death while in ICE custody is now the subject of a wrongful death suit.

under a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She was hospitalized after suffering diarrhea and vomiting, and her condition deteriorated until she was transferred to Lovelace Medical Center, where she died in the intensive care unit. ICE spokesperson Danielle Bennett said any allegations that Hernández was abused are ”false” and claimed that Hernández’s cause of death was cardiac arrest. “A review of Hernández’s death conducted by ICE Health Service Corps medical professionals confirmed that she suffered from a history of untreated HIV,” Bennett sad in a written statement. “At no time did the medical personnel treating Ms. Hernández at Cibola General Hospital or Lovelace Medical Center raise any issues of suspected physical abuse.” Free said his team has asked for records from federal agencies to shed light on the conditions under which Hernández was kept during

her time in custody. If the records are not turned over, he said, they will be filing an additional lawsuit. Hernández had dreams of opening a beauty salon, according to a written statement by her sisters. “They cut her life short and she was not able to pursue her dreams,” they said. “It’s difficult to accept that she was taken from us because of negligence, because of not giving her support and medication that she needed, because they treated her like an animal. It’s not fair.” Hernández’s death is the latest in a disturbing year of fatal violence against transgender people. A report by Human Rights Campaign earlier this month indicated that 22 transgender people had been killed up to that point in 2018 — and 82 percent of those people were transgender people of color. Like Hernández, 64 percent of the people who had died up to that point were under the age of 35.



November 29 - December 5, 2018 |


Trans Victims Remembered City Hall vigil marks epidemic of violence NEW YORK’S 1ST LGBTQ URGENT CARE



City Councilmembers (with the front row including Brad Lander, Carlina Rivera, Daniel Dromm, and Helen Rosenthal), transgender activists, and their allies during a moment of silence during the November 27 vigil.



ransgender Day of Remembrance, officially marked annually on November 20, was recognized on the steps of City Hall in the early evening hours of November 27. The City Council’s LGBT Caucus led the candlelight vigil in partnership with the New York City Anti-Violence Project, the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, the city’s Com-

mission on Human Rights, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Gender & Family Project, and the New York Transgender Advocacy Group. In addition to speakers, the event included a moment of silence. To date this year, at least 22 trans Americans have been murdered, the vast majority of them women of color. Last year was the deadliest year on record, with 29 murders documented in the US.

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The Anti-Violence Project’s Lolan Sevilla addresses the crowd gathered on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday evening.


Tanya Walker of the New York Transgender Advocacy Group also spoke. | November 29 - December 5, 2018

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One Urgent Care Center’s PrEP Efforts Hell’s Kitchen’s MiDoctor fi nds patients “very receptive� BY PAUL SCHINDLER s New York City and the state work to essentially end AIDS as an epidemic by 2020, the two key components of that goal have been to ensure that all those infected with the HIV virus are on treatment and compliant with their regimen — which should render them uninfectious to their partners — and that those who are negative and sexually active adhere to pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, which if used according to guidelines should eliminate the risk they could be infected. Since the introduction of PrEP, the toughest question to quantify has been how widespread its uptake is among those negative New Yorkers most at risk, particularly gay and bisexual men — and especially in communities of color where new infection rates have remained stubbornly high. MiDoctor Urgent Care is a yearold facility in Hell’s Kitchen that has pursued a strategy of creating the patient supports that allow it to serve as a community clinic. With a policy of never turning patients away, regardless of their ability to pay, it works to facilitate access to care for those who are poorly insured or not insured at all. With memberships packages ranging from $50 to $100 per month, MiDoctor offers between four and six no-fee visits a year plus discounts on medications, vaccines, and lab costs. Most pertinent to the issue of PrEP intake, the clinic works with Gilead, the maker of Truvada, the only FDA-approved treatment for preventing infection, to allow its members to avoid insurance copays or the cost of the medication altogether if they are uninsured. Dr. Vino Palli, an emergency medicine specialist at New York Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital who also has a master’s degree in


public health, is a founder and the CEO of MiDoctor, and he spoke to Gay City News this week about that clinic’s experience in doing PrEP outreach among its many gay and bi patients. According to Palli, the facility’s patients have been “very receptive� to the idea of PrEP — he estimates MiDoctor has enrolled roughly 100 on the treatment — but the level of sexual health knowledge varies widely among those first coming through the door. “The community is unfortunately not well educated in public health,� Palli said. The conversation often starts, he said, around a “deciding point� — a patient arriving in need of treatment for an STD or a urinary tract infection. “We initiate a conversation about sex and give them a booklet on PrEP,� Palli explained. “They are going to come back for their results or a follow-up, and that’s when we pick up the conversation.� Decades into the epidemic, he said, startling gaps in people staying on top of their sexual health continue. While working the ER at Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville recently, Palli came upon a bisexual man, last tested for HIV two years ago, who had been misdiagnosed with asthma and actually had Pneumocystis pneumonia. Other doctors there said it had been many years since anyone had presented at the ER with PCP unaware of their HIV status. The number of patients who visit MiDoctor to access PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis — in essence a morning-after pill regimen that must be started within 72 hours of a potential transmission — also demonstrates that a portion of the population has not yet come around to the idea of PrEP. The clinic sees British tourists, who cannot access PrEP at

➤ PREP UPTAKE, continued on p.15

November 29 - December 5, 2018 |

➤ PREP UPTAKE, from p.14 home and use PEP as an alternative when they worry about a risky encounter, but MiDoctor has locals coming in for it, as well. MiDoctor builds on its efforts at educating its patients by hosting monthly evening programs where its members can meet with experts to learn more about sexual health. Once a patient starts PrEP, MiDoctor requires quarterly checkups — to make sure that liver and kidney functions indicate no toxicity from the medication but also to ensure compliance with the regular dosing. Only one patient presented with worrisome elevated liver enzymes and he was referred to a specialist to determine if something else was at the root of that. Compliance can be trickier, with some patients thinking that if they are currently not having sex they can stop taking the Truvada and come back to it when the situation changes. But when sex happens at a spur of the moment, Palli emphasized, PrEP cannot be relied on to act in the same fashion that PEP

does. It acts to prevent infection from happening in the first place, not by stopping an early infection in its tracks. Palli said this sort of compliance problem results from misinformation or misunderstanding and can be corrected by spending the proper time counseling the patient. Palli believes that the clinic’s staff expertise and its approach to patient care make it well-suited to do the public health education work that needs to get done. Born and raised in India, he did his residency in Chicago — at the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois’ campus in the city, and the Rush University Medical Center. MiDoctor has a staff of 15, with three doctors, all emergency room specialists, and three physician assistants. The provider team includes LGBTQ members, and is versed in other aspects of LGBTQ care, including serving the lesbian and transgender population. MiDoctor, located at 715 Ninth Avenue, between 48th and 49th Streets, is open 365 days a year, weekdays 8 a.m.-10 p.m. and weekends 9-7.

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WORLD AIDS DAY CITYWIDE COMMEMORATION The End AIDS NY 2020 Coalition — a coalition of more than 60 community partners from across New York State — and Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS, in conjunction with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the New York State Department of Health, host the fifth annual World AIDS Day Citywide Commemoration. This year’s theme, “Breaking Through Stigma,” focuses on how stigma and discrimination connect to racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, disability, poverty, immigration status, violence, shame, and homelessness and housing instability, and create obstacles for people living with and affected by HIV to accessing optimal health care and support. Speakers will include City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the acting city health commissioner, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the deputy commissioner for the Division of Disease Control, Dr. Oni Blackstock, assistant commissioner for the Bureau of HIV/ AIDS Prevention, and Johanne Morne, the director of the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute. Nov. 30, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Baruch College’s Mason Hall 17 Lexington Ave. at E. 23rdSt.

ST. JOHN THE DIVINE & THE KEITH HARING TRIPTYCH The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and the Congregation of St. Saviour, in partnership with Gay Men’s Health Crisis, hosts a commemoration in which the names of those lost to AIDS are read and panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt as well as the Keith Haring triptych altar piece are displayed. A reception follows. Nov. 30, 6-8 p.m. 1047 Amsterdam Ave. at W. 112th


The NYC AIDS Memorial.


LGBT COMMUNITY CENTER MARKS WORLD AIDS DAY In a special afternoon program, the Center will commemorate those lost to AIDS and host the Mount Sinai Adolescent Program, which will provide free HIV testing. Nov. 30, 4 to 7 p.m. 208 W. 13th St.

#LIGHTTHEFIGHT ON WORLD AIDS DAY #LightTheFight marks the launch of the NYC AIDS Memorial Arts and Education Initiative. This interactive World AIDS Day art experience, created in collaboration with artist Jenny Holzer, will include a program of poetry reading from Jericho Brown of the Poetry So-

ciety of America, remarks from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a performance by the West Village Chorale, and an interactive lighting ceremony. Following the ceremony, a fleet of five trucks emblazoned with LED signs will journey through the city displaying a series of quotes that convey the impact, history, and ongoing battle against the AIDS epidemic worldwide. Stops will include the LGBT Community Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the SVA Theater, and Times Square. Dec. 1, 4:30 p.m. NYC AIDS Memorial W. 12th St., between Greenwich Ave. & Seventh Ave. S.

OUT OF THE DARKNESS CANDLELIGHT VIIGL The American Run for the End of AIDS, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and the International AIDS Prevention Initiative host the 27th “Out of the Darkness World AIDS Day Candlelight Vigil and Gathering” at the NYC AIDS Memorial. After the vigil, participants will walk to Christopher Street, for a moment of silence at the Stonewall National Memorial, and then continue to St. John’s Lutheran Church for a program of speakers and performers. Speakers will include Dr. Tracie Keesee, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for equity and inclusion, Reverend Mark Erson, and spokespersons from the New York State social marketing campaign “HIV Stops With Me.” Dec. 1, 6 p.m. NYC AIDS Memorial W. 12th St., between Greenwich Ave. & Seventh Ave. S. Dec. 1, 7 p.m. St. John’s Lutheran Church 81 Christopher St., btwn. Seventh Ave. S. & Bleecker St. November 29 - December 5, 2018 |


High Court Delays Considering Bias Cases Sexual orientation, gender identity discrimination might not make this year’s line-up BY MATT TRACY & PAUL SCHINDLER


he US Supreme Court is postponing its review of three cases that could determine whether workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/ or gender identity constitutes a violation of federal civil rights. The court was scheduled to consider two cases addressing sexual orientation and a third involving gender identity on November 30. The two sexual orientation cases have already been delayed once, from an original court conference date in September. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects workers from discrimination on a number of grounds, but these cases present the question of whether gender identity or sexual orientation should also be covered — as forms of sex discrimination. Gerald Lynn Bostock, the defendant in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, was fired from his job as a child welfare services coordinator in 2013 despite having received positive performance evaluations. He alleges that, among other issues, an individual made a disparaging comment about his sexual orientation and his participation in a gay softball league. A federal appeals court in Atlanta dismissed the case, based on an established precedent that the word “sex” in Title VII’s itemization of prohibited grounds for discrimination does not encompass sexual orientation. In Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, which also raises the question of whether Title VII’s ban on discrimination “because of… sex” covers sexual orientation, Donald Zarda, who has died since initiating this suit, was fired from his position as a skydiver after he told an Altitude Express customer that he was gay. Zarda’s estate is continuing to press the discrimination claim, and the New York-based Second Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting as a full bench in February, overruled it prior precedent and concluded that civil rights law does indeed


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

cover workers on the basis of sexual orientation. The case of R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Home Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involves the question of whether the word “sex” in Title VII encompasses “gender identity” and “transgender status.” The Michigan funeral home fired a transgender woman, Aimee Stephens, after she began her transition. The Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Stephens’ employer unlawfully fired her because of her sex. The petitions in the two cases involving sexual orientation were delayed from their original September conference date after the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the anti-LGBTQ litigation group representing Harris Funeral Home, asked the court to hold off on that process until briefing could be concluded in its case. Meanwhile, the US solicitor general, Noel J. Francisco, has asked the court to decline consideration of the funeral home case at this time and instead focus on the sexual orientation cases, arguing in part that decisions on one or both | November 29 - December 5, 2018



of the gay cases “may bear” on the transgender question. No reason was given for the delay in consideration of these cases, though it is possible for a single justice to put off review of a case in a scheduled court conference. A new timetable on the three cases has not been announced. The court’s next conferences are scheduled for December 7 and January 4. If the court does not grant review of these cases by the mid-January, it is unlikely that oral arguments could be scheduled to allow for decisions by the time its 2018-2019 term ends in June. Given that the court, under President Donald Trump, has already shifted to the right with the recent confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, delay in settling the Title VII questions at issue could further lengthen the odds against the community’s interests prevailing.



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Corey Johnson Mum on Resistance “Food Fight” MAGA gay couple says Council speaker “irate” at suggestion he reach out to Trump BY MATT TRACY


ity Council Speaker Corey Johnson is remaining tight-lipped after he is said to have blasted a Donald Trump-supporting gay couple at a dinner party earlier this year when they urged him to speak with the president to discuss the city’s infrastructure needs, according to the New York Times. Johnson declined to comment on the alleged spat at the Chelsea apartment of Bill White and Bryan Eure, a couple who spent years supporting and donating to Democrats before changing their minds overnight — actually even faster than that. White, who previously served as president of the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, and Bryan Eure, an insurance broker, decid-

ed to become Trump supporters the night of the 2016 election when White opted to leave Hillary Clinton’s party at the Javits Center as results came in and instead headed over to Trump’s victory party. While President Barack Obama was once the guest of honor at a big-ticket fundraiser they hosted, they’re now hosting parties for Donald Trump Jr. and dining with Fox News anchors — and former anchors, including the similarly politically flexible Kimberly Guilfoyle, the ex-wife of California Governor-Elect Gavin Newsom who is now dating the First Son. Johnson, who is gay and has repeatedly railed against the Trump administration’s actions on issues ranging from LGBTQ rights to immigration and beyond, was “irate” at the couple’s suggestion he talk with the president, according to the Times. White said it was “like a


Speaker Corey Johnson speaks with Gay City News in his City Hall office earlier this year — but is mum about the MAGA food fight.

food fight” and that Johnson called them “complete political idiots.” Johnson’s reticence at commenting even for Gay City News readers is notable given that most of them would likely love to get the dish on an anti-Trump food fight. While the date of the meeting

was not revealed, Trump unveiled a $200 billion infrastructure plan in February. White, whom the Times labeled a member of “Manhattan’s liberal elite,” has a checkered history in New York dating back to his time at the Intrepid museum. He resigned from that position after charges surfaced that he acted in an unlicensed middleman role to help investment companies win pension fund business from then-State Comptroller Alan Hevesi. Governor Andrew Cuomo, state attorney general at the time, said White pocketed more than $570,000 as part of that work, according to the Daily News. He was never charged with a crime, though he agreed to pay a $1 million fine. Eure has been a Republican, but still donated to Democrats alongside his husband, at least until election day in 2016.


Rapper Convicted in Assaults Near Gay Club Three Langston Club patrons stabbed, slashed in nearby Bed-Stuy restaurant BY MATT TRACY


rapper who attacked three people near a gay nightclub in Brooklyn last year has been convicted of assault, menacing, and weapons-related charges stem-

ming from the incident, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced on November 21. A group of friends opted to stop at a nearby Crown Fried Chicken restaurant after leaving the Langston Club on Atlantic Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant in the early

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morning hours of March 5, 2017 – and that’s when things took a horrifying turn. James Thomas, also known as Mousey Baby, walked into the Fulton Street restaurant at around 4:30 a.m., screamed at its patrons, many of whom had just left the club, and slashed one man in the face. He then left the establishment, but it didn’t end there: as two others were trying to enter, he threatened one man with a knife and stabbed another twice before fleeing the scene. The man who was slashed ended up needing 18 stitches on his face, while the stabbing victim was hospitalized and also required stitches. “This defendant viciously assaulted three innocent men for no reason,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “Such brutal violence cannot be tolerated, and today’s ver-

dict holds him accountable and delivers justice for the victims.” The case was investigated by the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force, and Thomas, 34, was originally charged with a hate crime, but that charge was dismissed during the trial, according to the DA’s office. Surveillance video footage showed Thomas screaming at patrons, but it was not clear what he said because there was no sound available. He was found guilty of first-degree assault, second-degree menacing, and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon. He will be sentenced on December 12 and is facing 33 years behind bars. According to the DA’s office, even if he had been convicted of a hate crime, it would not have added time to his sentence because the maximum time for that is 25 years.

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Alone in a Crowd Jason Mitchell struggles with isolation during a dude-bro getaway BY GARY M. KRAMER ut gay writer/ director Sebastián Silva makes squirm-inducing films. In his breakthrough, “The Maid,” in 2009, the title character grappled with issues of class and power in an upper middle class Chilean household. His 2015 feature “Nasty Baby” chronicled a gay couple encountering harassment from a mentally ill homophobe. Silva’s latest work, “Tyrel,” is in much the same vein as it, too, addresses an outsider struggling to find his place in an unwelcoming environment. It is a compelling comedy-drama that, like all of the filmmaker’s work, will get under a viewer’s skin. Silva shoots with a handheld camera and in a loose, semi-improvised style that immerses viewers in the characters’ lives. That’s an effective approach for helping audiences identify with the outsider protagonist, but it also means enduring the bad behavior of other characters. When his girlfriend’s family is in town, Tyler — not Tyrel — (Jason Mitchell of “Mudbound”) heads up to the Catskills with his colleague



Jason Mitchell (center) in Sebastián Silva’s “Tyrel.”

Johnny (Christopher Abbott) to attend a birthday party getaway for Pete (Caleb Landry Jones). The weekend gets off to an inauspicious start as Tyler and Johnny run out of gas on the way to the cabin. When Pete arrives with some gas, he and Tyler, the sole African American in the group getting together, get off on the wrong foot.

Tyler ends up never feeling comfortable during the weekend. Once at the cabin, things go downhill almost immediately, when a game involving accents gets offensive. One guy is supposed to speak in a

➤ TYREL, continued on p.27

Getting By A nuanced look at Middle Eastern migration to Northern Europe BY STEVE ERICKSON smail (Ardalan Esmaili), the protagonist of Milad Alami’s “The Charmer,” uses women for survival. At first, his actions seem wholly mercenary: he’s an Iranian immigrant in Denmark whose visa has run out. He’s about to get deported back to Iran unless he can get a green card through marriage to a Danish woman. This leads to a string of seductions, one of which ends in a tragedy depicted at the film’s beginning. But Esmail has a secret that keeps him from just doing whatever he wants, and he knows that he’s constantly violating his moral compass. He’s a step away from becoming a Patricia Highsmith character, but Alami’s sensibility is much more humanist. Esmaili’s performance does an excellent job of conveying all this. Early on, “The Charmer” emphasizes the actor’s physicality. The film contains several sex scenes. Others show off his shirtless torso in the shower and swimming pool. Once Esmail meets the Iranian-Danish woman Sara (Soho Rezanejad), he starts to relax, but he puts on a blazer and white dress shirt every




Ardalan Esmaili in Milad Alami’s “The Charmer.”

time he goes out to pick up women. He’s trying to pretend he’s more assimilated and white-collar than he actually is, although he works as a furniture mover and lives in a hostel for immigrant men. That blazer is essentially a costume — a stab at “executive realness.” Sophia Olsson’s cinematography tends to turn daytime interiors into milky white backgrounds. The film’s color scheme is muted and somber. The Scandinavian weather bites into the film’s

look. Sara’s house is a refuge for Esmail; once she becomes a part of his life, much of the dialogue is in Farsi. He finds a place among Denmark’s Iranian diaspora. But if he sees something positive there, she wants more freedom, telling him she hates living with her mother at age 26. One person’s home away from home is another’s actual home, with all the baggage that entails. “The Charmer” describes some of the same social tensions as Aki Kaurismäki’s “The Other Side of Hope,” released a year ago, and Mikko Makela’s “A Moment In the Reeds,” a love story between a Finnish man and a gay Syrian refugee now debuting on VOD. But it brings up the difficulties of being a Middle Eastern immigrant in Northern Europe with subtlety. Even when a white Dane calls Esmaili a “raghead,” he doesn’t come across as a plaster saint. And the extent to which “The Charmer” uses sex to tell its story feels very European. If it has elements of a thriller due to a subplot about Esmail being tracked down by Lars (Lars Brygmann), the angry husband of a woman he slept with, it turns into a character study half-

➤ THE CHARMER, continued on p.27 November 29 - December 5, 2018 |

➤ TYREL, from p.26 “black” accent for comic effect. Another character uses the word “faggot” — but insists he didn’t mean to be homophobic. Even as the joking friends try to apologize for their insensitivity, we can see their true natures. Tyler bonds more with the Cosmo, the dog belonging to Nico (Nicolas Arze), the owner of the cabin who is hosting the party, than any of the men who are there. Silva makes this point repeatedly as Tyler goes off on his own to call his girlfriend or just take a nap. He can’t get into it when the other guys sing R.E.M. songs, and he doesn’t feel accepted or that he has much in common with the others — including the Argentine Nico or Dylan (out gay musician Roddy Bottum), the one gay man in the group. Even as Tyler tries to be a good guest, his detachment causes a rift between him and Johnny that both men seem unable to discuss. When Alan (Michael Cera) shows up, Tyler momentarily makes a friend, but tensions soon arise between them. “Tyrel” never creates one big issue that separates Tyler from the others, which is what make the film so smart. But that may make the film feel underdeveloped. Silva’s point here is that it is the other men’s obliviousness that rankles Tyler the most. The conversations about religion and politics and the perva-

sive dude-bro masculinity are not the problem; it’s the smaller things — the repeated micro-aggressions, as it were — that drive Tyler to the breaking point. Even as he escapes momentarily and sits in the tub contemplating his discomfort, Pete interrupts by coming in to use the toilet. Silva effectively employs dark humor in scenes of Pete playing whiskey slaps with Tyler and wrestling with him on the floor, and when Alan tries to trade his rabbitfur coat for Tyler’s do-rag. The subtle racism and classism in these scenes speak volumes. The filmmaker pulls a strong performance from Mitchell in the title role. He aptly demonstrates the weariness of being isolated in a group of men even as he as he tries to soldier on through a bad situation not of his own making. When he finally has a heart to heart with Johnny, his pain and frustration are clear. In support, Cera is amusing as the clueless motormouth Alan, and Jones’ Pete proves a good foil for Tyler. As the two men passiveaggressively tangle, the mood is freighted. “Tyrel” is a small film, but it is quite potent. TYREL | Directed by Sebatián Silva | Magnolia Pictures | Opens Dec. 5 | IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St. |

Cord Meyer Development Company ➤ THE CHARMER, from p.26 way through. An unstated tension runs between Esmail and Sara. It would’ve been easy for “The Charmer” to tell a simplistic story about an Iranian immigrant in a relationship with an ethnically Danish woman, and the difficulties that might result. If he found love with a woman from an Iranian background who can get him a Danish visa through marriage, that could have been presented as a deus ex machina to end the film. Instead, “The Charmer” explores Esmail and Sara’s differences, presenting a world where his code-switching never stops. Esmaili, who lives in Sweden, is relatively new to acting. “The Charmer” is only the second film he has made. Alami’s family emigrated from Iran to Sweden when

he was a child, and he now lives in Denmark, but he says that he comes from a far more comfortable background than Esmail and his relationship to his character is “fascination, not identification.” The final five minutes of this film may tie up its questions fairly neatly, but it’s clear that Esmail will be troubled no matter what he does. Any choice he makes is poisoned by the fact that he’ll be hurting a woman emotionally either way. The film’s focus always centers on him, but, by the end, one realizes that social circumstances have put him in a bind where he’s forced to screw them over to get by. THE CHARMER | Directed by Milad Alami | Film Movement | In Danish and Farsi with English subtitles | Opens Dec. 5 | Film Forum, 209 W. Houston St. | | November 29 - December 5, 2018


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LGBTQ Talent Ready for Their Close-Up The dilemma of acting a role versus being a role BY DAVID EHRENSTEIN n a way, this all came to head with Scarlett Johansson. In July of this year, she was cast in “Rub & Tug,” a film about Dante “Tex” Gill, a gangster born Lois Jean Gill but who identified as male. The transgender community objected to Johansson’s casting and in a statement published in Out magazine the actress declared, “In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante ‘Tex’ Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project.” This was rather remarkable. In recent years, such cisgender actors as Felicity Huffman, Jared Leto, and Jeffrey Tambor have played transgender characters to critical acclaim. But over that same period, transgender issues have come into focus in ways that would never have been thought possible back in the days when Christine Jorgensen was all anybody ever talked about when it came to gender transition. Caitlyn Jenner, Stephen Ira Beatty (Warren and Annette’s firstborn, and most recently Vermont Democratic gubernatorial nominee Christine Hallquist have made names for themselves as transgender individuals fully integrated into society. And as a result, the casting question Johansson faced. What’s at play here? Transgender actor Trace Lysette put it best: “I wouldn’t be as upset if I was getting in the same rooms as Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett for cis roles, but we know that’s not the case.” Trans actress Laverne Cox (“Orange is the New Black”) has broken through — though most prominently for a transgender role — and Lysette is right to wonder whether she’ll be the exception or the rule. We’ve come a long way from “Myra Breckinridge,” the misbegotten 1970 big-screen adaptation of Gore Vidal’s satirical novel about a transgender woman’s conquest of Hollywood. Trans Warhol Superstar Candy Darling longed to play the part. She might well have done wonders with it. But the role




Trace Lysette and Jeffrey Tambor in “Transparent.”


Rex Reed and Racquel Welch in “Myra Breckinridge.”

went instead to Raquel Welch, who played her as… Raquel Welch. This megillah, which co-starred Mae West and Rex Reed, was at least a more interesting fiasco than Irving Rapper’s film of “The Christine Jorgensen Story,” released that same year, with the hapless John Hansen, utterly clueless as to how to play her. It doesn’t take a Scarlett Johansson to tell you that were these

films done today they would be far more attentive to how their subjects were played and who would play them. This, in turn, opens up larger questions about the implications of acting a role versus being that role. In a Hollywood Reporter interview, Cate Blanchett took exception to Johansson’s decision, noting her own experience with the film “Carol” (2015). She said she had

never been asked more questions about her sexuality than when she played the lesbian title character in Todd Haynes’ adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel. “Many interviewers during the ‘Carol’ junket seemed to imply or question whether having a lesbian experience was essential to understanding such a role,” Blanchett said, adamantly resisting that idea. “I will fight to the death for the right to suspend disbelief and play roles beyond my experience,” she continued. “I think reality television and all that that entails had an extraordinary impact, a profound impact on the way we view the creation of character. I think we expect and only expect people to make a profound connection to a character when it’s close to their experience.” That may be true today when out gay, lesbian, and transgender actors are easy to find, but that certainly wasn’t true in the past. Consider, for example, the original film version of Mart Crowley’s “The Boys in the Band” (1970) compared with the 2018 Broadway revival. Most of the cast of the original production were gay. All of the cast of the revival were. The difference is that no one in the first edition was out. Back in the day, being out and having a viable career was regarded as literally impossible. Even playing a gay role was a risk. None of the original cast members of “The Boys in the Band” had much of a career. Nowadays, playing gay can win you an Oscar. Witness Tom Hanks in “Philadelphia” and Sean Penn in “Milk.” But what about actors who are gay — and, more importantly, out? Let’s take a look. Jim Parsons, openly gay, has played gay on stage in “The Normal Heart” and the revival of “The Boys in the Band” and plays a straight character on his hit comedy TV series “The Big Bang Theory.” There, he has been warmly embraced by mainstream viewers, just as Neil

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Dangerous Tango with the Holy Whore The cabaret setting at (le) poisson rouge well-suited for “MarĂ­a de Buenos Airesâ€? BY ELI JACOBSON or the latest in its annual series of Ă“pera en EspaĂąol presentations, the New York City Opera staged Ă stor Piazzolla’s tango operita “MarĂ­a de Buenos Airesâ€? for three performances at (le) poisson rouge. The production concept by director Tomer Zvulun originated with the Atlanta Opera but was restaged in the past month for the (le) poisson rouge cabaret space by revival director Stephanie Havey. Piazzolla’s 1968 work set to a surrealist text by Horacio Ferrer is a sui generis oddity. It is a series of disconnected songs and dances depicting the life and death, rebirth, and second death of MarĂ­a, a woman of the streets of Buenos Aires. MarĂ­a de Buenos Aires is


not a woman of flesh and blood so much as woman as symbol — the spirit of a city and a culture. The world is corrupt and cruel; it will destroy MarĂ­a but her essence will endure. There are three solo players: MarĂ­a a prostitute, El Duende the narrator, and El Payador who represents all the men who love, must lose, and will destroy MarĂ­a. There is no real narrative and the characters are concepts rather than individuals. Here is how El Duende describes MarĂ­a (translation by maestro Jorge Parodi): “Like this city, mournful and festive, stolen from witches on heat that pushes life forward, MarĂ­a was part of that crazy effort of each empty and suicidal card in a lost bet against loneliness. She was the whimsical, grudging verse at the front steps of


Catalina Cuervo and Marcelo Guzzo in the New York City Opera production of Ă stor Piazzolla’s “MarĂ­a de Buenos Aires.â€?

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the first failure, and the one-eyed rose of a lame clown. Goddess and tramp, she dealt equally with heaven and mafia.â€? Ferrer’s poetic literary style was influenced by Jorge Luis Borges (forefather of the “magical realismâ€? school of South American literature) as well as European symbolist poetry and surrealist art. Piazzolla’s tangos drip with sweat, cigarette smoke, cheap sex, and potential violence — like MarĂ­a, his music is Buenos Aires. A piece like this does not belong on a proscenium stage in an opera house because that sets up the wrong expectations in the audience. The environmental staging at (le) poisson rouge lets the audience eat and drink (but not smoke) while the performers move among them or on special platforms while the band (led by specialist Jorge Parodi) plays onstage. It’s like a happening or existential cabaret act. The casting was spot on: Colombian mezzo Catalina Cuervo reportedly has performed MarĂ­a de Buenos Aires more than any other

singer. Her voluptuous dark beauty was matched by her authority in the role. Cuervo sang most of the score in a belty flamenco alto, but in a few higher passages could produce pure classical head tones. Tall Uruguayan baritone Marcelo Guzzo (El Payador) performed Emile de Becque in the national tour of the Lincoln Center “South Pacificâ€? revival but also sings Don Giovanni — he exuded effortless charisma and contained intensity and sang with a velvety, throbbing lyric baritone. Milton Loayza in the speaking role of the ambiguous El Duende was alternately or simultaneously the emcee, pimp, philosopher, and demonic tempter. Tango dancers JeremĂ­as Fors and AnalĂ­a CenturiĂłn added authentic sizzle and doubled as silent actors in the drama. Maestro Jorge Parodi’s spot-on ensemble shone in the orchestral interludes and added electricity to the tangos whether sung or danced. New York City Opera must be commended for adding so much to the city’s diverse cultural landscape via music and art.

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City Councilmember Rafael Espinal, playwright and honoree Eve Ensler, former Mayor David Dinkins, Jessica Walter, Kathryn Erbe, and Jim Owles President Allen Roskoff.



n the wake of a Blue Wave that captured the US House and the New York State Senate for Democrats, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club held a November 26 gala at Butter restaurant in Midtown. The evening honored Congressmember Jerry Nadler, who will chair the House Judiciary Committee come January, City Councilmember Ritchie Torres, chair of the

Oversight and Investigations Committee, “The Vagina Monologues” playwright Eve Ensler, and Broadway star Danny Burstein. Queens Congressmember Grace Meng gave keynote remarks to a crowd that included former Mayor David Dinkins, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, former Public Advocate Mark Green, and in her first LGBTQ night on the town since acquiring Gay City News, Schneps Community News Group President Victoria Schneps-Yunis.


Councilmember Ritchie Torres (r.), an honoree, flanked by Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter Greater New York, who introduced him.


Congressmember Jerry Nadler, one of the evening’s honorees.


Broadway star and honoree Danny Burstein.

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Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons in Joe Mantello’s Broadway debut revival of Mart Crowley’s “The Boys in the Band.”

➤ PLAYING, from p.28 Patrick Harris was before him on “How I Met Your Mother,” where he played a straight man — a caddish one, at that — while being thoroughly out to the world. But what about gay roles? Think of Eric McCormack and Sean Hayes on “Will & Grace.” Both play gay men, but only Hayes is actually gay. It appears to be a perfect fit as Hayes is playing the typical

(though no exactly stereotypical) comic gay role while McCormack is the embodiment of “straight-acting, straight-appearing.” Is this the new paradigm? And is it somehow unacceptable or impolite to ask if a gay actor can add something special to a gay role that a straight actor cannot? Ian McKellen was perfect as James Whale in “Gods and Monsters,” his gayness clearly adding color to the part. He won an Oscar nomination, but not the

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Dirk Bogarde and James Fox in “The Servant.”

Best Actor prize itself. Did everyone think that because he’s gay it was “easy” for him to do the role, that he was just “being himself?” I wouldn’t have wanted anyone other than Peter Finch to play Dr. Daniel Hirsch in John Schlesinger’s 1971 “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” a film that broke all sorts of barriers in dealing with gays and bisexuals seriously. Finch was straight, but he clearly had insight into what it meant to be gay in Great Britain at that time. Alec McCowen could have played the role well, though he wasn’t out. Late in Schlesinger’s career came his telefilm of Alan Bennett’s “An Englishman Abroad,” in which bisexual idol Alan Bates (who can forget him wrestling naked with Oliver Reed in “Women in Love?”) played gay British spy Guy Burgess. Was he “being himself?” Hardly. He wasn’t a spy for the Kremlin. But he played the part with a keen knowledge of gay style, particularly in his conversations with Coral Browne (playing herself). Bates was playing precisely the sort of gay/ bi man who knew how to charm women — as he had obviously done many times himself off-screen. Early in Schlesinger’s career there was “Darling” (1965) in which Roland Curram played Julie Christie’s gay photographer pal. Curram was not only gay, but having an affair with Schlesinger

at the time (something only those in the know were aware of, but it sheds light on the casting process). Also in the cast as Christie’s love interests were Laurence Harvey and Dirk Bogarde. Harvey was notoriously bisexual; Bogarde, now famously closeted despite having played several important gay roles. In “Victim” (1961), a classic sociopolitical protest film exposing the destruction caused by the British ban against homosexuality, Bogarde played a closeted barrister who exposes a blackmail ring responsible for his lover’s suicide. His portrayal was quite reserved. But that same year, in “The Singer Not The Song,” he played a Mexican bandit unaccountably enamored of a priest played by John Mills. Dressed head to toe in black leather, Bogarde was, as the saying goes, “camp to the tits,” though not as much so as when he played the super-villain Gabriel in Joseph Losey’s “Modesty Blaise” (1966), married to a murderous lesbian (Rossella Falk, adding her own brand of camp) and waited on by a series of gorgeous youths. A few years before, for the same director, Bogarde played the sinister bisexual title character in “The Servant” (1963), seducing his employer, James Fox, with the enthusiasm of a cat toying with a mouse. Not exactly a candidate for the GLAAD

➤ PLAYING, continued on p.35

November 29 - December 5, 2018 |

➤ PLAYING, from p.34 Media Awards, but unforgettable in its own special ways. Gay moviegoers’ awareness of Bogarde’s sexuality and the ways of the show business world clearly figured in their enjoyment of these films. Bogarde’s career flourished apart from the climate that faced closeted leading men in Hollywood like Rock Hudson and Cary Grant. Hudson’s outing as a result of his AIDS diagnosis and death was a watershed moment for Hollywood. It left everyone, gay and straight, speaking more freely about sexuality in the entertainment world. That wasn’t the case back in 1948 when Alfred Hitchcock made “Rope.” While nominally based on British playwright Patrick Hamilton’s rendition of the Leopold and Loeb child murder case from the 1920s, “Rope” was given a page one rewrite by Arthur Laurents because the Hollywood censors cited such common English terms as “my dear boy” as unsuitable “homosexual dialogue.” To Hitchcock’s delight, Laurents slipped one past the goalie with his screenplay. The leads in this tale of upper crust New York thrill killers were Farley Granger and John Dall, both gay in real life and Granger in the midst of an affair with Laurents at the time. The murder they commit is devised as a means of outing their academic mentor, who they believe is “like us.” The older man is played by James Stewart, who of course isn’t like them at all. The film’s climactic confrontation would have been far different had Hitchcock been able to get his first choice for the role — Cary Grant. But Grant turned it down for obvious reasons. He was no Dirk Bogarde, much less Neil Patrick Harris. Granger went on to work for Hitchcock once again in “Strangers on a Train” (1951), his adaptation of Highsmith’s first novel. But here he isn’t gay. Rather, he was the straight object of unwanted attention from a gay psychopath played by Robert Walker with a gay flair suggesting that same-sex attraction was not unknown to him. Was he closeted and “dropping hairpins” through his playing, or was he just a very smart straight actor who knew how the world worked? The jury is still out, and is likely to remain so. Walker gave much


Peter Finch, Murray Head, and Glenda Jackson in “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”

the same performance in his next and last film, Leo McCarey’s “My Son John,” a bit of anti-communist hysteria that the actor never lived to see, dying during production. With his passing, the mystery of his uncannily gay performances in both films remains. While Walker was unlucky (only 33 at his death), “Strangers on a Train” was just the start of Highsmith’s literary and cinematic career. Among her works that most benefited from the screen, “The Talented Mr. Ripley” was made into two very different but equally fine versions. “Purple Noon” (1960) starred Alain Delon as the sinuous, sinister anti-hero who murders his way into the sweet life, while Matt Damon played him in Anthony Minghella’s 1999 film that used Highsmith’s title. Both performers are excellent, though Delon, whose off-screen reputation suggests an affinity to the Ripley character on a number of levels (eros being one, the other being that his former bodyguard and chauffeur was killed under mysterious circumstances in 1968), has the edge. But what of the ladies? Katharine Hepburn locked herself firmly in the closet, fending off possible queries with all manner of invented nonsense about the love of her life, the equally closeted Spencer Tracy. Marlene Dietrich made no secret of her bisexuality, though it was easier to get away with that in the pre-Code era (“Morocco” was a 1930 release) than later in her career. Jodie Foster has yet to play a | November 29 - December 5, 2018

lesbian on screen, though in Spike Lee’s brilliant caper film “Inside Man” (2008) she comes this close. And then there’s Kate McKinnon, who’s outer and prouder than any actress who has ever appeared before a camera. While the script doesn’t spell it out, she played her randy Sapphic self in the “Ghostbusters” reboot (2016), and it is to be hoped she gets a chance to offer more in the future. Perhaps in an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s last novel, “Small g,” about a nightclub in Switzerland so labeled in the gay guides to mean “gay but not

entirely.” It would make a terrific movie — provided the right script, director, and cast are provided. Where might such a film fit into the state of LGBTQ in 2018? Hardly between a rock and a hard place these days. More like between a wooden park bench and a big fluffy pillow. Playing gay is perfectly acceptable. And being gay seems to be less and less of a third rail for acting careers. But playing queer while being queer is something we’ve not yet seen enough of. It’s time for the film industry to bring it on.


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