Page 1

A Bigoted Cabbie Gets Off Easy 06

Madonna Surprises NYE Crowd at Stonewall 31

New York Goes to Pot 08

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BACKSTORY: THE SM CH THAT BROKE THE INTERNET Page 04 US NAV Y (NAVAL STATION MAYPORT)

Sailor Bryan Woodington and his husband Kenneth Woodington will forever remember the moment they reunited after seven months apart.

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FREE | VOLUME EIGHTEEN, ISSUE ONE | JANUARY 3 – JANUARY 16, 2019


In This Issue COVER STORY The gay sailor smooch that broke the Internet 04 LEGAL Is falsely saying someone is HIV-positive libel? 06

RELIGION Gay conversion app still on Google 13 PERSPECTIVE Is Trump the 21st century Buddha? 16

POLITICS GOP senator blocks lesbian on EEOC 10 INTERNATIONAL Chechen anti-gay torture continues 11, 17

The London Stage Now 20

THEATER Agreeing on the facts around us 22 2018’s best 24 FILM “The Heiresses� 26

Wedding Pride Directory 1 3 : 3 0 @ /B 7 < 5  : 5 0 B ?  ; / @ @ 7 / 5 3

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GayCityNews.nyc | January 03 - January 16, 2019

3


COVER STORY

Gay Sailor, Husband Recreate V-J Day Photo A military spouse spent months planning the unforgettable moment BY MATT TRACY

I

t was a holiday dream come true. The Florida sun peeked through dark clouds in a setting straight out of a movie last week when a now-iconic photograph captured a US Navy sailor dipping and kissing his husband upon his return home from a seven-month deployment in the Middle East. The picture-perfect moment on December 21 was made possible after military spouse Kenneth Woodington, 30, won a lottery to have the ceremonial “first kiss,” giving him the opportunity to be the first one to embrace his husband, 33-year-old sailor Bryan Woodington, after USS The Sullivans arrived back in Jacksonville. The smooch culminated a months-long effort by Kenneth to win the long-shot chance to kiss his husband as soon as he stepped off the ship. “Basically every month while he was gone on deployment, I called the Family Readiness Group,” Kenneth told Gay City News, referring to the organization that provides communication and resources for family members of those who are in the military. “There are raffles that you can win, and the one I won was ‘First Kiss.’” The couple had already discussed how they would greet each other in the event they won the kiss, but it wasn’t until the night before arrival that Bryan learned they were picked. “I was laying down and immediately woke up when I heard my name,” he said. “I ran up and talked to my higher-ups, who told me that we won. I was so ecstatic. I was on cloud nine.” Bryan had asked Kenneth to wear white for the kiss — he told him to look like a “dental assistant” — so they could replicate the worldfamous 1945 V-J Day photo in Times Square.

COURTESY OF KENNETH WOODINGTON

Kenneth and Bryan Woodington.

On the big day, Kenneth was waiting for Bryan when officials moved him closer to the arrival area, and he was suddenly overwhelmed with joy. “When he was getting off the ship, all my emotions came in,” Kenneth recalled. “I dropped everything and I ran to him.” The pair hugged and locked lips before Bryan proceeded to dip Kenneth, which came easy because he said he had been doing that throughout their relationship. The couple, who married in 2017, first met on a dating app — but it wasn’t immediate smooth sailing. “[Kenneth] was supposed to go on a date with somebody else that same night,” Bryan said. “That didn’t happen, and we started talking. Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I tried FaceTiming him — and he was shocked by that.” But from that point forward, they quickly fell in love. While Bryan was at sea, he said

COURTESY OF KENNETH WOODINGTON

Kenneth Woodington with his sailor boy husband, Bryan Woodington.

his friends were supportive of his relationship — and they held out hope that they would win the first kiss. As expected, the couple received a warm welcome from sailors and families alike when the ship arrived in Jacksonville. Online, the photo generated both positive and negative responses as it went viral on social media. But the couple remained unfazed because they were just happy to be together again. “Everyone has their own opinion,” Kenneth said. “But we showed how much we care for each other. I’m happy we got to show our love.” As for Bryan, there is no more waiting. He has a memory that will last a lifetime. “It was something I’ve always dreamed about doing,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do that for him,” he said.

MILITARY

Trump Administration Sued For Firing Airmen With HIV Plaintiffs decry “unconstitutional” discharges, citing clean bill given by their doctors BY MATT TRACY

T

wo members of the US Air Force are suing the Trump administration after they were booted from the military because of their HIV status, which they say is a violation of the US Constitution and federal law.

4

The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the airmen by Lambda Legal and Outserve-SLDN — an association of LGBTQ military members — asks that the case be taken up by the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Existing military rules restrict HIV-positive people from deploying outside of the US — unless they re-

ceive a waiver — and require those individuals to undergo a medical evaluation process to determine their future in the military. The lawsuit notes that the airmen, identified in the lawsuit under aliases to protect their identities, were deemed fit to continue serving by their doctors and commanding officers.

But things only went downhill from there thanks to the Trump administration’s new “Deploy or Get Out” policy, under which the Pentagon discharges armed service members who cannot be deployed for more than 12 months. The airmen, who tested positive

➤ HIV DISCRIMINATION, continued on p.5

January 03 - January 16, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


HIV DISCRIMINATION p continued from p. 4

last year, are otherwise healthy — their viral loads are undetectable, they are taking necessary medication, and they are not suffering from health consequences related to HIV — but the military already deems HIV-positive service members, absent a waiver, as nondeployable, setting the two up to be automatically discharged under Trump’s new policy. The lawsuit, Roe and Voe v. Mattis, et al, further mentions that the Department of Defense in July determined that service members with HIV can still be deployed “with limitations,” but the two men in the lawsuit were determined to be “severely limited” — not by the doctors who evaluated them or their commanding officers but by the superior officers who made the decision about their discharge. Roe and Voe are pseudonyms used to protect the health privacy of the two men. According to the Washington Post, the airmen were told their discharge was based on the military’s ban on deployment of HIV-positive personnel to the Middle East, where

GayCityNews.nyc | January 03 - January 16, 2019

SPECIALIST 1ST CL ASS K ATHRYN E. HOLM

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis (right).

most Air Force foreign assignments are currently made. Neither the Air Force nor Central Command provided the Post with any explanation as to why HIV-positive service members cannot be deployed to the Middle East. According to the Lambda lawsuit, between 2011 and 2016, the Air Force diagnosed 181 airmen with HIV, 119 of whom were still serving at the end of that period. In the Navy, 388 sailors were diagnosed

with HIV in the same period, with 266 still serving. Yet despite the advances in HIV treatment which renders positive status a manageable chronic condition, perhaps as few as 17 airmen who given overseas deployment last year, according to Lambda. The lawsuit suggests that eligibility for overseas deployment is being made more difficult, despite the continued improvements in HIV outcomes. This is the third such

suit Lambda has filed in recent months, and the title of its press release on the Roe and Voe case is titled “Trump Quietly Starts Firing Servicemembers Living with HIV Just Before the Holidays.” The new “Deploy or Get Out” policy was spearheaded by outgoing Defense Secretary James Mattis, who is listed in the lawsuit as a named defendant alongside Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson and the Department of Defense itself. Scott Schoettes, the counsel and HIV project director at Lambda Legal, said in a written statement that the Trump administration is “disgusting” for “sending some men and women in uniform home for the holidays without jobs simply because of their HIV status.” Peter Perkowski, who serves as legal and policy director of OutServe-SLDN, echoed Schoettes’ sentiments. “These airmen are acknowledged leaders and good at their jobs,” he stated. “They have served honorably for many years … There is simply no justification for this decision.”

5


LEGAL

$125,000 Damage Award for Photo’s Use in HIV Bias Ad State agency’s failure to note woman was a model was “defamatory,” court rules BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

N

ew York Court of Claims Judge Thomas H. Scuccimarra has decided that the State of New York should pay Avril Nolan $125,000 for using her photo in an HIV discrimination ad campaign without a disclaimer that the person in the picture was a “model.” The November 8 ruling came after the Appellate Division’s Brooklyn-based Second Department ruled in January that use of the photo in print and online advertisements, in which the statement “I AM POSITIVE (+)” appeared next to the photo, was defamatory as a matter of law, and sent the case back to the Court of Claims for a determination of damages. Nolan is not HIV-positive. The outcome of this case says much about the way in which courts, in rulings ostensibly tak-

NYS DIVISION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

A portion of the Division of Human Rights ad at issue.

ing on the stigma surrounding HIV, may well be contributing to that stigma. According to Scuccimarra’s opinion, photographer Jena Cumbo took the photo of Nolan for a 2011 feature in Soma magazine that briefly profiled those pictured regarding their musical interests. Cumbo did not have Nolan sign a release and, without asking her permission, sold the photograph to Getty Images, which sells news and stock photos to publications and companies for use in stories and campaigns. The State Division of Human Rights, planning an ad campaign to educate the public that it is illegal to discriminate against people based on their HIV status, chose not to locate people living with HIV willing to be photographed but instead purchased the right to use Nolan’s photo from Getty. Getty mistakenly represented that Nolan

had signed a general release. The hearing the Court of Claims held regarding damages owed to Nolan focused on how she heard about the ad, her subsequent contacts with AM New York, which ran the ad, and with the Division of Human Rights, and the impact its publication had on her life. Nolan, an Irish immigrant who worked for a fashion industry PR company, learned about the ad in April 2013, when she arrived at work and saw a Facebook friend’s post on her page asking whether she was in that morning’s AM New York. The acquaintance later sent her a private message with an image of the ad. Nolan testified that when she saw the image she “was completely shocked” and “confused,” that when she saw the “words, ‘I am positive,’ beside my face, I was dev-

➤ HIV DEFAMATION, continued on p.7

CIVIL RIGHTS

Cabbie Gets Off Easy After Refusing Gay Customer Penalty pales in comparison to other taxicab, private car discrimination cases BY MATT TRACY

A

yellow cab driver is back on the road after being slapped on the wrist with a 10-day suspension and a modest fine for refusing to drive a gay customer in Midtown Manhattan earlier this year. In the early morning hours of June 13, Martin Morrison asked a passenger if he was gay, and when the man said yes, Morrison refused him service and kicked him out of the car, according to the New York Post. For that violation of both city and state nondiscrimination laws, Morrison paid a $1,150 fine in addition to his light suspension. The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, which levied the fine against Morrison, could not be reached for comment regarding the

6

punishment, but the Post reported that the TLC made a factual finding backing up the passenger’s account, which Morrison denied. The light penalty came just months after the city announced the opening of a new Office of Inclusion within the TLC to address discriminatory service by taxi and for-hire drivers. The office is focused on providing anti-discrimination training for drivers, expanding public education campaigns, and encouraging passengers to file complaints when denied taxi service. It is not clear whether the city’s Commission on Human Rights (CHR) took action in the case. A CHR spokesperson would not confirm or deny whether the agency was involved, but noted that the commission “takes all reports of discrimination very seriously” and

that the refusal of service or public accommodation to anyone based on perceived sexual orientation is “a violation of New York City’s human rights law.” The CHR website clearly states that taxis are among public accommodations covered under the law. Instead of treating the action like a human rights violation, the suspension was rooted in Morrison’s breaking of three TLC rules — unjustifiably refusing service, discourtesy, and acting against the best interest of the public, according to the Post. “TLC officials say Morrison’s behavior goes against the morals of the agency,” the newspaper reported. Commissioner Meera Joshi told the Post that the penalty imposed on Morrison was “appropriately severe.” Other cases of taxi discrimination

in New York City have yielded harsher penalties, but only after the CHR became involved. A yellow taxi driver was initially fined $200 by the TLC in 2015 when he refused to pick up a black family and promptly picked up two white people. After the CHR filed charges through the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, a judge elevated the fine to $25,000. There have also been recent cases where private drivers have not been hit by penalties, but were kicked off the road altogether. An Uber spokesperson told Gay City News in November that a driver who allegedly hurled homophobic slurs and assaulted a gay couple was removed from the app. When the couple reported the incident to the NYPD, however, they said police officers insulted them.

January 03 - January 16, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


➤ HIV DEFAMATION, from p.6 astated.” She added that she felt her “world was just falling down around her,” especially because AM New York was a “big target” for two of her clients. Nolan got a copy of the newspaper and, she testified, felt “sick to the bottom of my stomach.” She feared for her career in her office’s intensely competitive atmosphere. On advice of a friend, she told her bosses that morning, showing them the newspaper. She testified that she was “very, very emotional” and “couldn’t stop crying” as she spoke to them. Although her bosses expressed shock, they did not fire her, as she had feared. When Nolan contacted Cumbo, the photographer, Cumbo in turn reached out to AM New York, Getty, and the Division of Human Rights. A DHR representative later informed Nolan, “After speaking with a Getty representative we have been told we are not liable. We are acting in good faith to remove the image based on the model’s request.” The DHR staffer asked Nolan to

send them an email stating she would not hold DHR liable and said, “We need the email sooner rather than later as a number of publications are on deadline and are scheduled to move forward with the campaign with Ms. Nolan’s image.” Nolan responded, “Discussing this matter to get further advice but please remove my image from the advertisements.” Nolan heard nothing more from DHR and, though she testified she suffered considerable emotional distress, her worry about the matter subsided — even if it took her “a couple years” to rebuild her confidence. During the discovery process for this lawsuit, however, she learned that the ad had been used in four print publications and three online publications, which triggered again her concerns about how many people might have seen it. Despite a few incidents, the issue generally did not come up or have any substantial effect on her work. Asked during the hearing what this “association with HIV” meant to her, she testified that while un-

fortunate, there is “so much stigma around it… It’s not like I was in an ad for cancer treatment” where sympathy would be elicited. “There’s a lot of negativity around it,” she testified, “and there’s a lot of associations that people jump to incorrectly about your lifestyle. People think you’re easy, or you’re promiscuous. There’s a lot of just questions around your sexual behavior and your sexual activity... This goes much deeper, and it really calls into question you as a person and your lifestyle.” Still, Judge Scuccimarra noted in his decision, Nolan “did not lose her job nor did she miss any time from work when the advertisement came out. She did not lose any friends. No one other than the acquaintance who first told her about the ad, her Pilates teacher, and the outside producer [from an ad shoot] ever informed her that they recognized her as the person depicted in the ad.” The judge reviewed testimony by several witnesses about the psychological impact of the ad on Nolan, leading to the conclusion that she had been tense and nervous

in the period following the publication, but the effects dissipated with time. As the Appellate Division ruled in January, falsely labeling somebody as HIV-positive — despite changing public attitudes about HIV/ AIDS — fell into the “loathsome disease” category, in which the plaintiff is entitled to damages without having to show financial harm. But courts do have discretion about the amount awarded. Scuccimarra credited “Nolan’s assessment of a culture of competition at her job, and in the public relations field generally, that left her particularly vulnerable as a young woman to the extreme anxiety and distress she suffered upon publication of the defamatory material... This event credibly triggered a setback for her in her confidence and outward demeanor, but she appears to have come out of the experience.” The judge decided that based on the “humiliation, mental suffering, anxiety, and loss of confidence suffered,” reasonable compensation is $125,000, plus interest from 2015 when the state first appealed.

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GayCityNews.nyc | January 03 - January 16, 2019

7


NEWS ANALYSIS

New York Going to Pot Regulating a new marijuana industry and where the revenues go are key questions BY NATHAN RILEY

O

n or about April 1, New York will go to pot. That was the conventional wisdom at a well-publicized mid-December Albany conference on legalizing recreational marijuana. That assessment was quickly confirmed by Governor Andrew Cuomo himself. Making pot legal will be a prime objective of his third term, and things can move lickety-split. A Democratic governor with progressive Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate could advance the bill in the state budget, due on the first day of April. That would be proof positive that ending the partisan gridlock between the Democrats and Republicans in Albany will will bring change — fast. Cuomo has decided that his way to greet a new era is to reform the criminal law, create a new industry, and discover new ways to bring money into the state for badly needed programs. Legal adult use is expected to create all these benefits. In a December 17 speech, the governor previewed his plans for New York. The criminal justice agenda would “address the forms of injustice” that befall minority residents — both by legalizing marijuana and ending cash bail. Imposing cash bail on people too poor to have the money leads their families to becoming victims of extortion or forces them to plead guilty to charges that the wealthy could fight. There are, Cuomo charged, two kinds of justice — “one for the wealthy and one for everyone else.” Marijuana has had an outsized importance in the criminal justice reform push. Legalization both unlocks a forbidden pleasure and is a gateway for ending mass incarceration, a major cause of black and brown poverty. In New York State, about 64 percent of the black and brown prisoners come from seven New York City neighborhoods: “Harlem, and

8

DONNA ACETO

Governor Andrew Cuomo.

the Lower East Side in Manhattan, South/ Central Bronx, Bedford Stuyvesant, Brownsville, and East New York in Brooklyn, and South Jamaica in Queens.” These men are parents and their families suffer because the primary wage earner is locked in prison based on coerced pleas. City Comptroller Scott Stringer found that neighborhoods with the lowest household income had the highest marijuana arrests rates. The State Health Department concluded that the benefits of adult use in combating this crisis of community poverty outweighed the longstanding objections to marijuana legalization. What remains unresolved is one of the most contentious issues in the discussion: Where will the revenues from taxing legal marijuana go? With a fast start, it is expected that legal pot could bring in hundreds of million in the first year and nearly a billion to state and local governments annually going forward. That optimism is based on using the State Liquor Authority to administer the program. The SLA already regulates bars, retail sales outlets, and distributors for alcoholic beverages. Marijuana is not expected to bring greater problems than those already presented by alcohol, and many supporters believe it will improve the quality of

life for many users. The SLA is in a position to jump-start legalization. The coalition that supports legal adult use brought hundreds of people to Albany on December 11 and 12 under the leadership of the Drug Policy Alliance, the GeorgeSoros-funded group that has called for a new drug policy since Ronald Reagan was president and whose importance keeps growing. The group is attracting additional interest because it won’t back away from its view that ending stigma and offering health care to opioid users includes legal access to heroin in safer consumption facilities where they would have medical supervision. That perspective is based not on the view that drugs are “bad” but rather that their consumption should be integrated into the public health system, allowing people to use drugs in ways that reduce harm. Switzerland and Holland offer users heroin-assisted treatment. In Switzerland, only a few people choose heroin. Most users choose buprenorphine or methadone, which are both available to New York users. The intriguing fact about Switzerland is that nobody stays on heroin forever; users taper off at their own pace. The opioid crisis in the US remains deadly: since 2010 more 20,000 New Yorkers have died from an overdose

after buying drugs in the underground economy. It’s the firm conviction of the Drug Policy Alliance that legalizing adult use of pot alone will not end the drug crisis. Joining the DPA in the Marijuana, Justice, Equity and Reinvestment Conference were Jim Capolino + Company, representing many entrepreneurs interested in legal marijuana, and the Katal Center, a group dedicated to ending mass incarceration. Other members of the Smart New York Coalition include public defenders, farmers, parents and friends of people who overdosed, and the staff of many state legislators. By the end of December, Mayor Bill de Blasio offered his endorsement of legal pot, adding to the momentum for change. But the mayor flatly opposed giving the SLA authority to regulate marijuana. Even though the city’s nightlife industry attracts visitors from across the globe, de Blasio’s report claims the SLA “severely limits the ability of New York City to respond to alcohol-related quality of life issues that arise at the community level.” At the Albany conference, one theme received constant play: that allowing localities to control the rollout brings delays and forces supporters to reargue the question in town after town. Even in communities where voters overwhelmingly support legal weed, local towns councils around the country are voting to opt out of legal sales. In Royal Oak, Michigan,, according to the Detroit Free Press, voters approved legal pot by a 70 to 30 percent margin, only to see the city commissioners vote 4-3 to prohibit marijuana businesses. The big battle in Albany might not, in the end, be over SLA control, but rather over how to use the money. Should it be returned to seven city neighborhoods where the poor have long found their lives criminalized or should it go into a general pot for the billions needed to rebuild the subways and public housing?

January 03 - January 16, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


INTERNATIONAL

Canada Issues Bahamas LGBTQ Travel Warning Advocates on the islands call it a â&#x20AC;&#x153;sound, reasonable advisoryâ&#x20AC;? BY MATT TRACY

C

anada has issued a travel advisory for LGBTQ people who are planning to visit The Bahamas, drawing praise from advocates on the ground who have long called for reform in the former British colony. Canada notes that â&#x20AC;&#x153;LGBTQ2 travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to The Bahamasâ&#x20AC;? and that â&#x20AC;&#x153;homosexuality is not widely accepted.â&#x20AC;? Erin Greene and Alex Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Marco, who are LGBTQ activists based in The Bahamas, said that they understood where Canada was coming from in issuing its warning, according to Tribune242, a local newspaper there. Greene called it â&#x20AC;&#x153;a sound, a reasonable advisoryâ&#x20AC;? while Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Marco cited a wide range of reasons why The Bahamas is not a friendly destination for LGBTQ people. â&#x20AC;&#x153;So for LGBT Bahamians, their claim is based on stigma and discrimination,â&#x20AC;? Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Marco said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;They canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get married. They canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t advance if they are a public LGBT person, they are discriminated in that area. They canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t advance in their career. There is no access to marriage, hormones, medications, and all of that, so that will be their claim.â&#x20AC;? Among other concerns, Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Marco said police in The Bahamas arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be trusted to help LGBTQ people in times of need. Police tend to blame people for their sexual orientation or gender identity and force them to sit for hours without filing any reports, she said. The activists believe asylum seekers may have played a role in prompting Canada to issue a warning about The Bahamas. In August, Canadaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Global News reported on a pair of LGBTQ Bahamian asylum seekers who fled their home country after

GayCityNews.nyc | January 03 - January 16, 2019

JUSTIN LING/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been one of the most outspoken world leaders on LGBTQ rights.

they were mistreated by landlords, family members, and co-workers. The pair, Lex Miller and Ralanda Mitchell, also wanted to get married, but same-sex marriage is not legal there. Greene and Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Marco did not immediately respond to a Gay City News inquiry about whether or not they believe the United States should post similar warnings. Currently, the US warns Americans to â&#x20AC;&#x153;exercise increased caution in The Bahamas due to crime,â&#x20AC;? but there are no warnings directed specifically to LGBTQ people traveling there. LGBTQ Americans have suffered attacks in The Bahamas in the past. Adrian Brown, a member of the US Navy, told The Washington Blade that he was beaten with bottles and rocks and called homophobic slurs at the Bahamas Junkanoo Festival in Nassau in May of 2017. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I was dancing by myself to the music, when I felt a splash of water on my back,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I turned around to see what had happened. When I asked why the water was thrown on me, they responded, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re a sissy battyman.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? Amnesty International, which criticized The Bahamas in 2017 for stigma and discrimination against LGBTI people, could not be reached for comment on the travel advisory.

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POLITICS

GOP Senator Blocks Lesbian’s EEOC Appointment Bias cases poised to hit backburner in 2019, but Trump also delayed in seizing control of agency BY MATT TRACY

A

Republican senator’s crusade against the re-confirmation of a lesbian commissioner on the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) could temporarily force the federal agency to shelve civil rights cases in the new year. Senator Mike Lee of Utah objected to the appointment of former Georgetown law professor Chai Feldblum over what he says are “radical views on marriage,” triggering a stalled confirmation process that could bog down the federal agency responsible for enforcing civil rights cases in employment. As expected, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was unable to resolve the impasse before Congress ended its 2018 business, so the EEOC now lacks a quorum. Ironically, Lee blocking Feldblum delays the Trump administration from finally gaining control of the EEOC after nearly two years in office. Given staggered terms, Democrats have held onto majority control of the five-member commission, which has articulated the view that gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination are already illegal under the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s sex discrimination provisions — a view Trump officials reject. Feldblum was renominated on a slate that included two Republicans (the commission can have no more than three members from one party), but the Senate takes an up or down vote on the entire slate. The blocking of Feldblum strays from the traditional practice of routinely reconfirming members of the commission, who are typically appointed by members of both parties. Lee blasted her last year in a post on his Senate.gov page entitled “A Threat to Marriage from the EEOC.” He wrote that Feldblum “wants to turn her opinions into federal policy through the EEOC” and

10

L ANCE CHEUNG/ US DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum speaking at an LGBTQ Pride celebration at the Department of Agriculture in 2017.

OFFICE OF SENATOR MIKE LEE

Senator Mike Lee, who has broken with Senate tradition in his unyielding opposition to Chai Feldblum’s reappointment to the EEOC.

that she “has described modernday politics as a ‘zero-sum game,’ where rights for LGBT Americans are secured only by curtailing the rights of religious Americans.” While Lee accused Feldblum of infiltrating the EEOC with her views, he ironically offered his own opinion and beliefs on the Senate floor on December 19 when he said his objection to her appointment “relates to my belief and religious freedom.” Washington Senator Patty Murray defended Feldblum the same day against what she said was “unprecedented and partisan obstruction of a highly qualified nominee to a critical agency.” In response to Lee’s blocking of

Feldblum, Murray said she will boycotting any effort by the Senate to “jam through” any nominees on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) until Feldblum and Mark Pearce — whose place on the National Labor Relations Board has been on hold for months — are re-confirmed to their posts. Feldblum, who was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009, has penned a series of posts on Medium — including one on Deccember 21 in which she said she “did not recognize the person Senator Lee was talking about” on the Senate floor two days earlier. In a separate Medium post earlier in the week, Feldblum reaffirmed her

independence and sought to clear the air about her stances on LGBTQ rights and religion. “I believe there are some situations in which the rights of religious liberty for organizations who believe homosexuality is sinful will conflict with and should prevail over the rights of LGBT people who might experience discrimination at the hands of such religious organizations,” she wrote. “The reason I believe that is because I care deeply about preserving religious pluralism in our country — even if it that means protecting religious organizations whose views I disagree with. That is the point of pluralism.” A spokesperson for Lee avoided questions from Gay City News about the potential impact the move could have on the federal agency’s ability to move forward on cases in the near future. The senator also refused to comment on Feldblum’s post on Medium.com. Winnie Stachelberg, who serves as the executive vice president for external affairs at the Center for the American Progress, called on the Senate to reappoint Feldblum to a third term “without delay.” “Senator Lee fails to recognize that religious liberty and LGBTQ equality exist in harmony… One senator’s objections to LGBTQ equality should not prevent the EEOC from fulfilling its mission of fighting employment discrimination in every workplace.” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a written statement provided to Gay City News that Lee is openly discriminating against Feldblum — and that is among the reason why she belongs on the commission. “Commissioner Feldblum has served the EEOC with integrity and is experienced and highly qualified for the job,” Ellis said. Whether Trump will put the same three-member slate before the Senate again in the new session or will opt to jettison Feldblum in favor of a different Democratic appointee palatable to Lee is unknown.

January 03 - January 16, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


INTERNATIONAL

Chechnya LGBTQ Torture Campaign Continues International group documents horrific abuses, Russian indifference toward region it controls BY MATT TRACY

A

new report from an intergovernmental international group reveals that human rights abuses — particularly against the LGBTQ community, including intersex people — are continuing in Chechnya nearly two years after the sovereign region of Russia became notorious for its horrifying treatment of queer people. Sixteen states within the Organization for Security and CoOperation in Europe (OSCE), an intergovernmental organization consisting of 57 nations, including some outside the continent, joined in the effort to investigate the abuses in Russia and called on the nation to take action against “overwhelming evidence that there have been grave violations of the rights of LGBTI persons in the Chechen Republic.” The United States, an OSCE members, was among the 16 states. Chechnya landed in international headlines in the beginning of 2017 when reports alleged harassment, unlawful arrests, torture, and extrajudicial executions. The newly unveiled report stated that “the findings indeed do confirm the major allegations.” Victims in the Chechen Republic have suffered from a wide range of mistreatment, which has been possible largely because of a lack of legal representation, according to the report. People have been held by authorities for weeks at a time and “in all cases without access to a judge or legal assistance, often without food and even water, while they were regularly beaten with plastic tubes or police sticks or cables or treated with electrical shocks in order to force them to make confessions... often related to the names and details of others, like other LGBTI persons or suspected drug dealers,” the report alleges. According to the report, antigay “purges” started in December of 2016 and continued through at GayCityNews.nyc | January 03 - January 16, 2019

KREMLIN.RU

Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of Vladimir Putin, has denied gay men exist in his country — where authorities continue rounding up, torturing, and killing them.

least October of 2018. The victims were kidnapped by police officers at their homes, at work, or even on the side of the road, and brought to a police station. The victims were told that they were picked up “because you are faggots” before they were brought to interrogation rooms to be beaten until they were left with broken bones.

The victims were kidnapped by police

officers

communities as well. A campaign targeting those who struggle with drug addiction was launched in August 2018, and teenagers, lawyers, and independent media are also among those who have been affected. As a result of the rampant abuses there, human rights defenders such as the Joint Mobile Group

have been forced to shut down their offices. The report expressed deep concern over Russia’s disregard for the OSCE in light of the fact that the nation is a participating state and has violated its pledge to respect human rights. Russia has done very little to stem the tide of the abuses, the report detailed. The nation’s ombudsman was unable to follow through on a visit to Chechnya last year to investigate the deaths of 27 or more people swept up in the LGBTQ purge. After insisting on an investigation, “she could not prevent the pre-investigation from being closed,” the report explains. Ty Cobb, who serves as the global director for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a written statement that Russia “can no longer deny the existence” of the anti-LGBTQ crimes and asked the Trump administration to take action and accept refugees fleeing the region. Representatives from OutRight Action International, Human Rights Watch, and Human Rights First could not immediately be reached for comment on the report.

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RELIGION

Alt-Right Site Denies Harassing Gay Catholic San Diego church ex-administrator says criminal intimidation forced him out BY MATT TRACY

A

radical right news site that calls itself the “Christian militia” is pushing back against allegations by a former administrator of a Catholic church in San Diego after he blamed that site and others for harassing him until he was forced to resign, marking the latest twist in the ongoing targeting of the gay community’s presence in the Church. Antonio Aaron Bianco endured hostility from parishioners as he climbed the ranks of San Diego’s St. John the Evangelist, a church that welcomed gay Catholics. But he said it was the latest wave of attacks — coming from radical religious media outlets — that finally forced him to step away from it all in October. Bianco, who is married to a man, was one of many LGBTQ people who were singled out in a wave of backlash during the summer of 2018 when conservative Catholics blamed sexual abuse of priests on homosexuality. In a span of two weeks, a person had set doors of his church on fire before Mass and someone broke into the church and spray-painted “No Fags” on a wall, according to the New York Times. Bianco repeatedly received hateful calls and letters from anonymous people. St. John’s the Evangelist did not respond to requests for comment on the circumstances leading to Bianco’s resignation. In his October resignation letter, Bianco directly blamed Church Militant and LifeSite News for “physical and emotional violence,” and accused them of spray-painting, sending letters, making phone calls, and slashing his tires. “They posted pictures of my family, including a photo of my deceased mother, stated where I live, and went back years to try and find anything on me,” he said, according to the National Catholic Reporter. “All of this is done to intimidate and scare me into resigning. These groups are no different than

12

CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF SAN DIEGO

San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy has been outspoken in denouncing the harassment that led Antonio Aaron Bianco to give up his role at a local Catholic church.

organized crime.” Church Militant, which said Bianco and others at his church were a part of a “homosexualist cabal” that “offered a glimpse into how homosexual networks corrupts institutions,” quoted a parishioner who said, “Everyone in the diocese is scared of Bianco” and that he and “homosexualist enablers” were to blame for “turmoil.” LifeSite News also blasted Bianco and others, including San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, for welcoming LGBTQ people. On St. John the Evangelist’s website, the bishop is quoted saying, “There is nothing Christian or Catholic about the hateful and vile people whose persecution of Aaron Bianco drove him from his ministry and who continue to threaten him, his family, and the staff and community at St. John the Evangelist parish. These reprehensible acts are utterly contrary to the Catholic teaching and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The hatred that lies behind them constitutes a dark and vicious corner in the life of our Church that every member of the Catholic community must reject.” In an email sent to Gay City News, Church Militant’s editor-inchief, Christine Niles, strongly de-

nied Bianco’s allegations and accused him of lying. “He has never been able to supply proof that anyone associated — formally or informally — with Church Militant had anything to do with the crimes he alleges,” Niles said. “Bianco’s timeline also contradicts his claims. He said that his tires were slashed before Oct. 9, 2017 — which is the first time we ever reported on Bianco. So there is no way CM’s reporting could’ve been responsible for his tires beings slashed.”

“The hatred that lies behind them constitutes a dark and vicious corner in the life of our Church that every member of the Catholic community must reject.” Niles directed Gay City News to read Church Militant’s coverage of Bianco, which she falsely said was “simply an objective report” despite the headline’s assertion that the

San Diego’s diocese was “using Mass to push LGBT agenda” and referred to people with offensive terminology such as “sodomy activist politicians.” LifeSite co-founder and editor-inchief John-Henry Weston did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The break-in is under investigation by the San Diego Police Department and the FBI, according to the New York Times. The police did not immediately return inquiries regarding the status of any investigation and the FBI’s field office in San Diego could not be reached by phone. The attacks came despite Bianco’s strong outreach efforts to recruit more people to the church, including younger families and Hispanic people, according to the Times. Angela Zito, who is the director of the religious studies program at NYU, told Gay City News that the scapegoating of LGBTQ people — and the drive to push them out of the Church — is a longstanding issue that only deflects from the real problems that exist. “This desperate tactic once again reduces the problem to one of individual and personal experience and responsibility, and well away from the collective, systematic, and constant abuse of power that the hierarchal structuring of the Church continues to foster,” she said. DignityUSA, a group that works to gain respect for LGBTQ people in the Catholic Church, has stood up for Bianco in the wake of his resignation. Executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke saw his case as “a predictable albeit extreme response to the Catholic hierarchy’s dehumanizing teachings about gay people.” “There should be no tolerance of this type of cruelty, and all of the Catholic leadership should be forcefully condemning it,” DuddyBurke explained to Gay City News. “Instead, most have remained si-

➤ ALT-RIGHT HARASSMENT, continued on p.13

January 03 - January 16, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


RELIGION

Conversion Therapy App Fuels Outrage Apple, Amazon pull the app, but Google hasn’t budged

impacted by same sex attraction.” The ministry’s website notes that its founder — who is unnamed — was “secretly wrestling with questions of faith and sexuality.” The ministry states that sexual “struggles” are impacted by a “relational wounding” and are “restored” through relationships “rooted in obedience to Christ.” A 25-year-old man named Steven wrote in a testimony on the

site that he “came to Living Hope in August of 2013 in an attempt to make sense of my unwanted samesex attraction.” Living Hope Ministries could not be reached for comment on the app or its role in practicing anti-gay therapy. Conversion therapy carried out by licensed therapeutic professionals on minors has become illegal in many areas of the United

States, including New York City, where only two city lawmakers — Brooklyn Councilmembers Chaim Deutsch and David Greenfield — voted against a ban last year. Bronx Councilmember Andy King abstained from the vote for what he said were “religious reasons,” according to The Brooklyn Daily, a sister publication to Gay City News. New York State does not yet ban conversion therapy on minors, but with the recent election of a Democratic State Senate advocates for queer youth are upbeat about the prospects for prohibiting the practice. Prior to Amazon pulling the app, it drew a slew of negative comments on its store, including one from a person who identified as a licensed psychotherapist and said “conversion therapy is not accepted as ethical.” Another commenter said the app is “absolutely disgusting” and “should be removed and this ‘ministry’ labeled as a hate group.” Many users also left negative reviews on the Google app store. One a man named James Nelson wrote that “the app promotes hatred and denigration of homosexuality. HAD TO UNISTALL!” Gay City News did not receive a response from Google regarding the future status of the app on its platform.

cerned Catholics of Atlanta did not respond to an email inquiry from Gay City News regarding their petition or the Catholic community’s reactionary campaign targeting gay people. And Pope Francis, who has shown signs of LGBTQ acceptance at times, reaffirmed in a book he released last year that LGBTQ people have no place in the clergy, noting that “in consecrated life and priestly life, there is no place for this kind of affection.” “There is a small but highly motivated segment of our Church that believes that they are justified in attacking LGBTQI people,” DuddyBurke said. “I fear we will see more

Aarons in the months to come.” Bianco, who endured months of

online abuse, could not be reached for comment.

BY MATT TRACY

A

n app promoting socalled “conversion therapy” has been booted from Apple — and later from Amazon — amid public outcry, but Google is under fire for continuing to host the app. The Texas-based Living Hope Ministries, which preaches “a Biblical world-view of sexual expression rooted in one man and one woman in a committed, monogamous, heterosexual marriage for life,” still has an app on the Google app stores despite a petition by Truth Wins Out, a nonprofit organization that targets anti-gay religious extremism. Conversion therapy, the name given to a practice of psychotherapy and counseling geared toward changing a person’s sexual orientation, has been deemed harmful — especially for children — and is opposed by the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and countless other professional groups. Yet, the ministry says it offers “support” for “Youth/ Young Adults.” The ministry describes its online forum as “the largest, worldwide online support groups for men, women, families and friends

➤ ALT-RIGHT HARASSMENT, from p.12 lent, turning the blind eye of complicity to the Catholic alt-right.” Duddy-Burke also believes the rhetoric spewed by President Donald Trump has contributed to the atmosphere that led to Bianco’s situation, noting that people who “engage in this behavior feel legitimized.” Media outlets are not the only ones pushing back against LGBTQ clergy and gay friendliness in the church. A Change.org petition by Concerned Catholics of Atlanta calling for the removal of LGBTQfriendly priests has generated more than 1,700 signatures. ConGayCityNews.nyc | January 03 - January 16, 2019

LIVING HOPE MINISTRIES

A conversion therapy app is no longer available in the Apple and Amazon app stores, but is still available via Google.

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INTERNATIONAL

Constitutional Challenge Targets Singapore’s Ban on Gay Sex Activists emboldened by repeal of similar laws in other former British colonies, especially India BY MATT TRACY

T

he LGBTQ community in Singapore is aiming to follow in the footsteps of India after that nation struck down a similar ban on gay sex. Both countries, formerly a part of the British empire, had sodomy laws imposed on them during their colonial regimes. A 43-year-old Singaporean man is pushing to take legal action against the anti-gay law in his home country. Johnson Ong has mounted a constitutional challenge over what he says is an “absurd and arbitrary” law, known as Code 377A — mirroring India’s former Section 377 — and he is confident in his effort because he believes Singapore is not quite as conservative as other nations that have already overturned sodomy laws. “India is such a conservative society — much more conservative than Singapore in some ways,” Ong told The New York Times, referring to the repeal of India’s ban on gay sex. “So I was like, if India can do it, why can’t we?” Activists are exploring similar court challenges in Sri Lanka and Kenya, and Kenyan activists have already made arguments to that nation’s high court. Singapore’s archaic law from 1938 calls for up to two years in prison for men who have sex with other men, but like in many other nations

GOVERNMENT OF POL AND/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who has signaled he will follow the public’s attitudes on gay sex, where 55 percent of Singaporeans continue to oppose legalizing sex between men.

with similar laws it does not apply to women. Singaporeans have already run into some roadblocks in their campaign to repeal the law. A petition, which garnered more than 50,000 signatures and was delivered to the government, was rejected. But Tommy Koh, a diplomat in the city-state, told the gay community to “try again,” according to the Straits Times. Activists are also emboldened by a separate advancement of LGBTQ rights in Singapore. The Supreme Court there ruled that a gay man

could adopt a child, conceived with his sperm and carried to term by an American surrogate. The father, identified only as James, is in a relationship with Shawn, and they both consider themselves fathers to the child, Noel. Unlike in the US, however, Shawn will not be a legal parent to Noel, but it is signficant that the court’s ruling was based on the child’s best interests — a standard that has been used to advance LGBTQ parental rights in the US and played a key role in retired Justice Anthony Kennedy’s 2015 marriage equality opinion. Though the court was careful to note its decision signaled no recognition of the couple’s relationship, it could be a sign of more LGBTQfriendly rulings in the future. Furthermore, the nation had already started to reform its stringent sex-related laws just over a decade ago. Section 377, a ban on anal and oral sex, was repealed in 2007, while 377A — the specific provisions related to sex between two men — has remained in place. It still could take some time before the law is ushered out if the posture of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong dictates the course of events. He has indicated he will support the existing the law until attitudes change in the city-state, where 55 percent of people said in an Ipsos Public Affairs survey that they supported the law. A court conference regarding Ong’s constitutional challenge is set for February 18.

India’s Trans Community Denounces “Protection” Bill Advocates say the bill violates Supreme Court ruling, offers ineffective anti-bias provisions drawn from the legal community, blasted the bill as a “missed opportunity” and noted that, among other serious concerns, it does not properly address transphobic attacks, lacks the proper framework for protecting trans people, and requires members of the community to go to great lengths to win government recognition of their gender identity. The transgender community in India is threatening a hunger strike in a clear sign of the urgent nature of concerns about a bill that is just one step away from winning final parliamentary approval.

BY MATT TRACY

T

he transgender community in India is rejecting a civil rights bill that advocates say does not go far enough in securing their rights and, in some ways, worsens the conditions for them moving forward. Known as the Transgender Persons Protection of Rights, the bill cleared the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the nation’s parliament. It is awaiting its fate in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house. But the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), a 65-year-old group of human rights advocates

14

MUKESH BARI/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

LGBTQ activists march in a pride parade in Bhopal, which is a city in central India

➤ TRANSGENDER INDIA, continued on p.15 January 03 - January 16, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


INTERNATIONAL

Evangelicals Block Cuban Marriage Equality For Now Fate of same-sex unions headed for referendum down the road BY MATT TRACY

T

he government of Cuba has scrapped plans to implement same-sex marriage in the nationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s new constitution, but the issue is likely heading for a referendum â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and LGBTQ activists are stressing that the issue is not yet settled. The previous draft of the nationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s constitution, which has been approved by the government and now heads for a referendum, referred to marriage with gender-neutral language, drawing overwhelming criticism from evangelical religious groups who responded by aggressively circulating a petition among churches. The groups also rallied opposition from the general public by posting signs saying, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Original family design, just as God created it,â&#x20AC;? according to Reuters. Evangelicals ultimately pressured the government into shelving the measure, at least for now. The National Assembly noted that a referendum on the issue would be taken up within two years after a marriage equality provision emerges, and if it were passed changes would come via the Family Code as opposed to the constitution. The issue of marriage exposed the stark contrast between the conservative religious institutions and the government, which has recently shown a willingness to embrace LGBTQ

â&#x17E;¤ TRANSGENDER INDIA, from p.14 Under the bill, the government will give official recognition to a personâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gender identity, if different than that assigned at birth, only if the individual undergoes sex reassignment surgery. The ICJ points out that the gender reassignment requirement directly contradicts the Indian Supreme Courtâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 2014 decision in National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) v. Union of India (UOI), which gave the community the right to selfidentify as male, female, or a third gender and rendered it illegal to insist on surgery as a requirement for gender transitioning. The Supreme Courtâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ruling also stipulated that discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation â&#x20AC;&#x153;impairs equality before law and equal protection of law.â&#x20AC;? NALSA, which provides free legal services to poor and marginalGayCityNews.nyc | January 03 - January 16, 2019

GOVERMENT OF EL SALVADOR/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Cuban President Miguel DĂ­az-Canel.

rights. Cuban president Miguel DĂ­az-Canel, who ascended to power earlier this year, publicly declared his support of â&#x20AC;&#x153;marriage between people without any restrictionsâ&#x20AC;? as â&#x20AC;&#x153;part of eliminating any type of discrimination in society.â&#x20AC;? And Mariela Castro, a vocal LGBTQ rights activist and daughter of former President RaĂşl Castro (who remains the Communist Party leader), said in a tweet, â&#x20AC;&#x153;We havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t given in or will give

ized members of Indian society, did not immediately respond to emails from Gay City News for its views on how the bill may conflict with the Supreme Court ruling. Among other issues, though the measure expressly addresses crimes against transgender people including â&#x20AC;&#x153;sexual abuseâ&#x20AC;? and â&#x20AC;&#x153;physical abuse,â&#x20AC;? the penalties prescribed for offenders range from six months to two years, which pale in comparison to the penalties for the same crimes against cisgender women, critics at the ICJ say. Discrimination-related protections are incomplete, as well, according to the ICJ. The proposed non-discrimination protections would apply in both private and public sector settings, but the bill does not outline how to enforce these protections. The bill also includes penalties for â&#x20AC;&#x153;beggary,â&#x20AC;? a provision seen as particularly offensive to transgender people who are often are forced

in to the fundamentalist blackmail and backward thinking people who politically oppose the project.â&#x20AC;? Francisco Rodriguez, a Cuban LGBTQ activist, wrote on his website that the latest developments arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t the end of the road for those who seek marriage equality in Cuba. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The first thing that came to my mind is that the new proposal would be rather â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;a step to the side,â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? he explained in a translated version of his post. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Not as far back as the most critical people will say, nor as far as we already [advanced] it from the activism for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people (LGBTI).â&#x20AC;? Haydee Garcia, a leading Cuban-American LGBTQ activist, could not immediately be reached for comment. The creation of a new constitution marks major changes for Cuba as the nation continues to evolve after a long period of isolation under former leader Fidel Castro. The latest draft entails the recognition of private property, further opens the doors for privately-owned business, implements term limits, and establishes a prime minister, among many other changes. However, Communist rule would continue and the government would maintain a strong grip on the nationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s economy. Voters on the island nation are expected to vote on the constitution in a referendum slated for February.

to resort to asking others for money due to economic hardship. â&#x20AC;&#x153;But there is nothing that provides alternative employment opportunities or reservation,â&#x20AC;? a transgender woman named Madhumita told the Times of India. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It is precisely because of rigid mindset and discrimination at the workplace that transgenders resort to begging.â&#x20AC;? The bill is being considered just months after the nationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Supreme

Court struck down the longstanding ban on gay sex. The India HIV/ AIDS Alliance, which advocates for LGBTQ people, sex workers, and other vulnerable groups, could not immediately be reached for comment. Transgender activist Celia Sandhya Daniels, who is from South India but currently resides in the US, did not respond to emails or Facebook messages seeking comment on the bill.

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PERSPECTIVE: Snide Lines

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16

needs to wish him a Merry Christmas. Finally a woman calls out, “Okat, Merry Christmas!” The guy yells back, “Shut up, lady. You’re not the president. I want the fucking president of America to wish me a fucking Merry Christmas.” The monk continues gazing into his iPhone. Like he’s contemplating an email that might deliver all living beings from suffering, if only he would “click here.”

BY SUSIE DAY

D

ear Trump Diary, 7:34 a.m., Tuesday. I just signed another online petition. One of the 250 social-change outfits I connect with shot me an urgent text 45 seconds ago, so away I clicked. Then I left an emergency voicemail at the office of a senator I’ve never heard of, and posted the petition on Facebook, urging people to STOP CONGRESS FROM GIVING DONALD TRUMP $5.7 BILLION TO BUILD HIS OBSCENE IMMIGRATION WALL. How often must I do this, before I die of despair? Don’t get me wrong, Trump Diary. I believe that life is sacred. Yes, sacred: every being, rinsed in the breathtaking light of each passing moment. But how can I enjoy all this goddamn sacredness when I’m hit online, day after day, by soul-sundering cyber-cries for help? Thousands of tireless NGO’s crank out millions of utterly sincere — abjectly necessary — emails and texts. They call me by my own name and beg me to SIGN! SEND! CALL! DONATE! * “Dear Mad Activist: This Imperiled Baby Beluga Needs Help! Demand NO Offshore Drilling in the Arctic! * Only 2,000 signatures needed to tell Trump that homophobia is un-American! * Click NOW to stop the sale of American weapons to Saudi Arabia! * Your voice needed to STOP Keystone XL! * Tangled in Plastic Litter, This Helpless Seabird Is Dying! So CLICK already, you selfish beast…” Again and again, I throw my one, granular identity onto the pile to stop the pain of beings I’ll never meet — while my heartfelt response to multiple tragedies is reduced to a series of keystrokes and clicks. I’m alienated, Trump Diary. These assorted 501C-3’s say my name and reach out to me, but they’re never around in the middle of the night when I need to talk. Remember two years ago, just after Trump was elected? Millions of us pledged to do everything, every day, to stop Trump’s escalating governmental cruelty, injustice, and planet-destroying policies. We said we’d never give up! Well, I’m tired, I’m stepping away from my computer, I’m giving up. PS: I’m also gonna stop signing up

SUSIE DAY

The 21st century Buddha.

on Facebook to attend multiple demonstrations, especially when they’re all scheduled to happen at the same time. Whoops — gotta go! Late for work. Dear Trump Diary, 10:45 p.m., Tuesday. This morning, on the A Train downtown, I was dozing off, much like the 97 other anonymous, work-bound people around me, including this guy in saffron Buddhist monk robes, sitting maybe three feet away. Sometime after the 145th Street stop, some man at the back of the car starts yelling, “I hate this fucking town! Doesn’t anyone want to wish me a Merry Christmas? Doesn’t anyone?” Granted, everybody’s afraid of being mowed down these days by spontaneous gunfire, but this holiday season, we’re probably all more weary than wary. So I didn’t turn around. Nor did anyone else around me, including the monk, who stared fi xedly at his iPhone. Because I didn’t turn around, I don’t know this guy’s approximate age or race. FYI, Trump Diary: Age/race… this is how us activists tend to see people — in terms of perceived demographics, which concern one’s relation to societal power. Not totally enlightened, but there you are. I’m therefore assuming that this guy didn’t have much sway in the world, since most people of means prefer to take their emotional problems to paid professionals like psychiatrists or real estate developers. Anyhow, this guy keeps yelling about how somebody

Dear Trump Diary, 8:25 Wednesday a.m., late again. But must tell you about big enlightenment I had just now! So I’m sitting at my computer, ignoring plaintive emails gently wafting to my inbox. Instead, I am meditating on the Buddhist precept: “Be where you are.” Good luck with that, right? After I’ve listened to NPR News tell me that, besides dealing death to immigrants, rule of law, people of color, and the planet, Trump now wants to kill the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. So there I was, neck-deep in detached Nothingness, when suddenly it occurred to me: Donald Trump is the 21st-century Buddha. Because, fearing death at any moment — as we are learning to do, thanks to Trump — are we not also learning to live in the Eternal Now in ways the original Buddha could never imagine? This adds new meaning to that Zen saying, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” I picture this little golden Buddhabellied statue of Trump sitting crosslegged. Not meditating — tweeting out 21st-century koans. “New Golden Rule, people! Gold: RULES!” “‘Something there is that REALLY LOVES MY WALL!’ — Great line from world’s best poet, ME!” So here we are, staring into a whole new calendar year. With or without activism, never has life seemed more pre– Rats. Inadvertently read an email. “DEMAND Trump Administration stop separating immigrant children from their families! Click HERE to…” Why, Trump Diary? I won’t be any less alienated. Why click once more? I dunno. Maybe because I’m still alive? Maybe because — to quote the real Buddha – “Your actions are your only belongings”…? January 03 - January 16, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus

Anti-Gay Horrors, All But Forgotten BY ED SIKOV

F

rom a horrifying, maddening article in the New Yorker by the great Masha Gessen: “In October, 2017, a young man named Maxim Lapunov spoke at a press conference in Moscow. Flanked by LGBT and human rights activists, Lapunov, shaky but collected, told the story of being kidnapped in the street in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, and being held by the police for twelve days and tortured. ‘They started beating me with batons,’ he said. ‘I’m not sure how long it lasted, but it was a long time…. They hit my legs, hips, buttocks, back. They would hit me until I fell down, let me catch my breath, make me stand up, and start over.’” Lapunov, Gessen notes, “is the only person to come forward as a victim of the anti-gay purges in Chechnya.” But he is scarcely alone in being victimized. (See related story, page 11.) According to Gessen, “What happened to Lapunov is by no means exceptional: kidnapping, torture, and even extrajudicial killings are the norm in Chechnya, as it is the norm for Russian federal authori-

ties to ignore these practices.” She cites a report by an Austrian academic, Wolfgang Benedek: “The report focuses on the anti-gay persecutions, which, it suggests, are incited by the Russian federal law against so-called propaganda of homosexuality, but also on trumped-up prosecutions and on extrajudicial killings. Twentyseven men were killed in Grozny on one night in January 2017, the report indicates; they were suspected of ‘terrorist’ activity and summarily executed. Two cases of torture are given as examples of a general practice: ‘Khizir Ezhiev, a senior economics lecturer at the Grozny State Oil Technical University, who reportedly was abducted, tortured and killed, after having participated in a group on social media which was critical of the [Chechen] Republic’s leader, Mr. [Ramzan] Kadyrov. Another case is the reported abduction and torture of Khusein Betelgeriev, a former senior faculty member at the Chechen State University.’” As Benedek writes, “Reports of a general practice of humiliation, inhuman treatment, and torture in order to obtain confessions are confirmed by victims and witnesses, in particular with regard to certain groups like LGBT persons,

alleged drug users, Islamists, and suspected terrorists, including human rights defenders and journalists. The use of electric shocks is a constant pattern which anybody picked up by the police has to expect. Cases of kidnapping and enforced disappearances exist in the context of extra-judicial killings and during the illegal detentions after which people might reappear.” Gessen’s conclusion is depressing, to say the least: “Following an initial wave of international attention in 2017 to the fate of LGBT Chechens, when Canada and several European countries welcomed more than a hundred refugees, offers of protection have dried up. Dozens of currently displaced LGBT Chechens will continue to struggle to find a safe haven.” In other words, it has been over a year since these horrors came to light, and since then — nothing. Not a damn thing. It’s an international disgrace. From the terrifying to the ridiculous: You’re the Queer in My Coffee… Well, Starbucks has done it again. The company that gave the world the horrific Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino has taken a perfectly good

holiday and destroyed it by designing and handing out deliberately offensive coffee cups to mark the occasion. Never let it be said that Vanessa Wong of BuzzFeed News is slacking off. No ma’am. She’s relentlessly pursuing the hidden truth of the Starbucks coffee cup design, no matter who gets hurt. “People are saying Starbucks new Holiday cup is totally gay,” she writes aggressively. The design in question is a busy affair with a Christmas tree visible — a totally decorated Christmas tree I might add — and a group of packages all tied together with a ribbon, and of course the famous green-colored Starbucks logo of a crowned woman with long flowing hair (a two-tailed mermaid, as it turns out — who knew?). But none of that is the least bit offensively gay-themed. It’s the two arms reaching down from the top of the cup, with their hands holding each other, and the lovely if cartoonish heart between them, that’s causing the uproar. It must be acknowledged that Starbucks introduced the new cup design for the holidays in a video containing a same-sex couple holding hands. But whether the hands are the same hands as on the coffee cup is a completely different mat-

➤ MEDIA CIRCUS, continued on p.19

PERSPECTIVE: Insider Trading

Women New York Must Honor BY ALLEN ROSKOFF

I

n the city’s bid to increase the number of statues of women, there will be one erected for the late Congressmember Shirley Chisholm in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Chisholm was the first black woman to serve in Congress and the first woman — in 1972 — to seek the Democratic nomination for president. Chisholm deserves a statue; she broke many a barrier. In 1972, at the height of her campaign, our community was gathering support for the New York City gay rights bill from candidates, including those running for president. Chisholm was standoffish initially but her prominent GayCityNews.nyc | January 03 - January 16, 2019

supporter Gloria Steinem stepped in and successfully convinced her of the bill’s importance as a civil rights issue. I am confident that Steinem, a living legend and a trailblazer for women’s and LGBTQ rights, will, in years to come, be taught about as part of American history. Steinem testified for passage of the gay rights bill each and every time it was brought up for a vote at the City Council. Contrast this with her contemporary Betty Friedan, who did what she could to make lesbians invisible out of fear that all feminists would be perceived as lesbian. For the past decade or so, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club has been advocating for a

federal building to named for the late Bella Abzug, who meant much to us in the early movement days. Abzug was a foremost leader of the women’s movement, an early supporter of LGBTQ rights, and an activist in the anti-war movement. Abzug represented roughly the district now represented by Jerry Nadler. Though the city recently co-named Bank Street, where she lived for many years, after Abzug, her name adorns no public buildings. There is one named after the late Representative Ted Weiss, who left no sort of legacy and is remembered by few. Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan, who defeated Abzug by 1.1 percent in the 1976 Senate Democratic primary, is getting Penn Station named af-

ter him. Moynihan was the architect of benign neglect, meaning letting blacks fend for themselves, while he served as an advisor to President Richard Nixon — yes, President Richard Nixon. He described “a virulent form of antiwhite feeling” among “black lower classes” and even “portions of the large and prospering black middle class.” Given his notorious habits as a “serious” drinker — and often a nasty one (I witnessed that on numerous occasions) — I think it suitable that there be a huge bar erected in the new Penn Station in honor of the late senator. What he has done to merit the naming of Penn Station after him boggles the mind. To his credit, Moynihan did sur-

➤ INSIDER TRADING, continued on p.19

17


INTERNATIONAL

In Video, Trans Refugees Explain Their Aspirations Three Latin American women at border tell of hardships at home and on their journeys BY MATT TRACY

I

n a video posted recently by the Transgender Law Center (TLC), three trans women seeking asylum in the United States discussed the adversity they have faced in their journeys from their home countries. Cataleya Zulay, Shantal Mendoza, and Chirly Jaritza were forced to flee dangerous situations due to their gender identity — and like many other refugees, they’re not asking for much. They just want to be accepted as humans and live a normal life. As the trio prepared to present themselves to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the TLC urged officials to grant them medical parole while they awaited responses to their petitions. Zulay, who is from Honduras, conveyed how comfortable she is to be a transgender woman, but stressed that transphobia in her home country prevented her from being able to live in peace. “You can’t act like yourself, you can’t dress the way you’d want to, you can’t have the freedom that you’d like [and] the freedom that you need to have,” she said in a translated version of the video. Zulay emphasized that she intends to follow every law in her effort to obtain asylum.

TRANSGENDER L AW CENTER

Isa Noyola, deputy director of the Transgender Law Center, chatted with Shantal Mendoza, Chirly Jaritza, and Cataleya Zulay as they prepared to present themselves to Customs and Border Protection in their effort to gain asylum in the US.

“We want to turn ourselves in at the border and ask for asylum to be able to enter the United States and to succeed and move forward like we’ve always wanted to,” she explained. Mendoza, who is HIV-positive, said she fled Mexico because there were no opportunities for her to grow. She is among those who are merely hoping for a chance to get a fresh start in a new country. “I believe I have reached a point in which I realize that there is no future for me here in my country for me, for a transgender woman, because homophobia and discrimination exist,” she said. “I don’t want to be the exception. I want to live with dignity, I want to live well, healthy, work, and act the way I’d want to, grow

as a human being.” Jaritza, from El Salvador, was blunt: To be an LGBTQ person in her country is a crime, she said, and she wants to secure better healthcare because she, too, is HIV-positive. Medicine in El Salvador is scarce and she does not want to worry about running out. She has stuck with her effort to pursue asylum in the US despite encountering violence and discrimination along the way. Other refugees who traveled in the same caravan have mistreated her, she said. “But it didn’t matter because I left my country searching for a better future, so that my rights are respected as a trans woman,” she said. Transgender women and other LGBTQ refugees face elevated risks of mistreatment at the US border, but they often still opt to make the dangerous trip because they already faced lifethreatening situations back at home. Like Zulay, 33-year-old transgender woman Roxsana Hernandez was also fleeing Honduras for the US earlier this year when she died in ICE custody. An independent autopsy found that she suffered bruises consistent with abuse, yet ICE denied all allegations of abuse and have refused to release details of her case, despite congressional requirements that such information be made public promptly. A wrongful death claim filed by the Transgender Law Center is currently pending.

REMEMBRANCE

Hector Xtravaganza, Ball Scene Icon, Dies at 60 A consultant on hit show “Pose,” he was “abuelo” to his house BY MATT TRACY

H

ector Xtravaganza, a longtime fi xture in New York City’s queer ballroom scene, has died at the age of 60. A member of the House of Xtravaganza, Hector was listed as a still photographer in the 1990 documentary “Paris Is Burning,” which shined a light on ball culture in New York City’s LGBTQ communities of color during the 1980s. The film marked one of the first times the black and Latinx queer communities were highlighted in any film.

18

DONNA ACETO

Hector Xtravaganza receiving an award for his HIV activism at the city’s official World AIDS Day commemoration this past November 30.

Hector served as the father of the House of Xtravaganza from 19931997 and 1999-2003 before ascending to the role of house grandfather. Not to be confused with Hector Valle, who was a founding father of the house and died of AIDS complications in 1985, Hector Crespo changed his last name to Hector Xtravaganza, according to Variety. Hector most recently worked on the groundbreaking FX show “Pose,” which also is based on New York’s ballroom culture in the 1980s. The cause of Hector’s death was not immediately clear. The House

of Xtravaganza announced on Facebook that plans for a celebration of his life will be announced in the coming days. “He was a friend to everyone he met, a source of inspiration for all who knew him, and a cornerstone of our House family,” the House of Xtravaganza Facebook post said. Steven Canals, the co-creator and executive producer of “Pose,” said in a Tweet that Hector was “a show consultant, but more than that a loyal Abuelo to all. Keep him, his family, & friends in your prayers.”

➤ HECTOR XTRAVAGANZA, continued on p.19

January 03 - January 16, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


➤ MEDIA CIRCUS, from p.17 ter. Some observers (hand-picked by Wong) ran to Twitter to opine that the two hands on the upper edge of the cup belonged to the very same same-sex couple seen holding hands in the video. As one user said provocatively, “I’m going w/ the hand holders are gay.” Not content to leave the commentary to tweets, Wong did extensive field research to get to the bottom of the controversy. She walked over to BuzzFeed News’ equivalent of a

➤ INSIDER TRADING, from p.17 prise us by voting against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. His future Senate colleague Chuck Schumer, then a Brooklyn congressmember, disgraced himself by voting the other way. The entire community board review process for the LGBTQfriendly affordable senior housing project Haven Green in Little Italy is a complete sham. It makes a mockery of legitimate democratic processes and better resembles a NIMBYist, Trumpian tragedy put on by a community theater in the most red-state, white-privileged gated community in the country. The crowd at a recent subcommittee meeting of Community Board 2 in the Village was forced to witness former chair Tobi Bergman close out the meeting ag-

➤ HECTOR XTRAVAGANZA, from p.18 LGBTQ advocate, actress, and trans icon Laverne Cox tweeted, “RIP Hector Xtravaganza,” while “Pose” writer Our Lady J said, “The world lost a bright light today.” The House of Xtravaganza was founded in 1982, which coincided with the emergence of the modern ballroom scene and marked the first all-Latinx house. The balls feature competitions from different “houses,” made up of groups of people who formed their own families after many were rejected by their biological families. Ballroom participants often find the events to be a welcome refuge from the hardship they face on a daily basis, which were on full display in “Paris Is Burning.” Part of GayCityNews.nyc | January 03 - January 16, 2019

water cooler and pounced on an expert. “‘I can attest to the lesbianism of The Hands,’ my gay BuzzFeed colleague said upon careful inspection,” she writes oh-so-confidently before rushing back to Twitter, where she found this snide comment: “‘I can’t tell the genders of the people holding hands, on this cup, could be an abomination, better not risk it,’ followed enigmatically by a laughing emoji.” “We reached out to Starbucks, which did not confirm or deny if the hands belong to a same-sex

couple,” Wong continues. “But if the Babadook and Pennywise are gay icons of the Halloween season, maybe Starbucks Ladies can take over the role this Christmas.” (The key question here is whether the Babadook and Pennywise are indeed the gay icons of the Halloween season. I’m still unwilling to give up Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, but then I’m so old I can remember Herbert Hoover’s funeral.) Starbucks obviously wasn’t in on the joke. As Wong reports, “The company said in an emailed state-

ment: ‘Each year during the holidays we aim to bring our customers an experience that inspires the spirit of the season, and we will continue to embrace and welcome customers from all backgrounds and religions in our stores around the world.’” To paraphrase Bette’s comment to Victor Buono in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”: How nice. For them.

gressively shouting at city House Preservation and Development Deputy Commissioner Leila Bozorg in order to push the discredited plan to put the LGBTQ seniors a mile away on a busy nonresidential street in the West Village. That option would locate the seniors on a Department of Environmental Protection lot that contains critical water supply infrastructure and is across from an ICE detention center. Clearly these opponents do not want us integrated into “their” community. There was not one gay person on the community board’s sub-committee dealing with this issue. Opponents of Haven Green are jeopardizing housing for low income people and have gone after Habitat for Humanity for its role as a partner in the project, stooping so low as pressure international donors to pull funding. Perhaps

not so coincidentally Habitat’s local CEO is an out lesbian woman. Assemblymember Deborah Glick, also an out lesbian, made a rare appearance in the district to speak out against the Haven Green project. Glick maintains a rent-stabilized apartment in the district, which has seen an outflow of LGBTQ residents. Stridently anti-nightlife, Glick considers these community board members her prime constituents — rather than the LGBTQ community that was her original avenue to public

office. Unsurprisingly, former Community Board 2 chair Teri Cude is against the housing and has raised the canard that gay applicants for the housing would be given “preference” at Haven Green. She knows full well that would be illegal. Outreach and advertising to LGBTQfriendly organizations, however, is not — and seniors served by those groups face serious housing instability. That outreach is appropriate and will take place, no matter how much it riles Cude up.

what made that film so special was the way it showed ballroom and house members discussing the economic, racial, and social issues impacting their lives at the time. In an interview with Them, Hector said his consulting work with “Pose” was “the opportunity of a lifetime.” “With Ryan Murphy, how am I supposed to say no? That’s the best decision I’ve made in my life,” he said. “I wouldn’t have let this go for anything. Like my grandmother always said, if a door closes, liquify yourself and ooze your way in.” Thanks to the work of Hector and others who helped in the production of “Pose,” the show was renewed for a second season and garnered two Golden Globe nominations.

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THEATER

Your Inheritance Is Coming Gay American play is all ll the talk in London Lo BY ANDY HUMM he critical hit play in London at the moment is a two-part, nearly sevenhour commitment — written by a Latinx American man with roots in the Deep South — that is gayer than “Angels in America” and “Torch Song” combined. Matthew Lopez’s “The Inheritance” is set among a group of mostly 30-ish gay New Yorkers trying to tell their stories with the actual assistance of E.M. Forster, whose “Howard’s End” is the framework for the play. (You’ll just have to see it.) London also boasts a new conception of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company,” with a female lead and the addition of a gay male couple, a terrific if disturbing new play by out gay Mark Ravenhill, a controversial take on Richard II by out gay actor Simon Russell Beale, Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo in “Antony & Cleopatra,” and an uplifting expansion of “Hadestown” led by out gay André De Shields that is headed for Broadway. But it is Lopez’s “The Inheritance” at the Noel Coward (to Jan. 5 only) that’s got everybody talking. It started at the Young Vic and was brought to the West End by Broadway producers including Tom Kirdahy. New York dates haven’t been announced, but with direction by Stephen Daldry and rave reviews, a transfer seems inevitable unless President Mike Pence brings back censorship of the arts. And Lopez packs in plenty of scenes of gay love and sex that will make school productions more controversial than the current dust-ups over “Angels” and even “The Laramie Project.” Lopez, however, is not a provocateur. He’s paying earnest homage to Forster’s “Howard’s End,” which spoke to him as a teenager — even before he discovered Forster’s posthumously published gay novel “Maurice” at 26. If you know “Howard’s End,” your mind will often go to correlating Lopez’s characters with Forster’s — which can be distracting since he consciously deviates from Forster in significant

T

20

MARC BRENNER

Samuel H. Levine and Andrew Burnap in Matthew Lopez’s “The Inheritance,” directed by Stephen Daldry.

MARC BRENNER

Simon Russell Beale in “The Tragedy of Richard the Second,” directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins.

ways. Nevertheless, Paul Hilton is a mediating presence as Forster, who died in 1970, finding ways to dialogue with the kind of out gay men who only emerged in real numbers

after Stonewall and accelerated by the AIDS plague that both decimated us and brought legions out to fight it. The play centers on two gay

couples — playwright Toby (Andrew Burnap) and activist Eric (Kyle Soller) just into their 30s and wealthy conservative businessman Henry (John Benjamin Hickey) and his dying longtime partner Walter (also Hilton) and their intricate interrelationships. The outsiders, young Adam and Leo, who are also part of these men’s lives, are both played by Samuel H. Levine in standout performances. Toby dresses down Forster for not releasing “Maurice,” which he started in 1913 (18 years after the conviction of Oscar Wilde for buggery), before his death, saying he could have “toppled mountains” and “saved lives” had he not held it back until ’71. But even I who have been urging my brothers and sisters to come out for 45 years would not impose that kind of judgment on LGBTQ people pre-Stonewall. I could go on describing the many plot turns — of which there are too many — some of them over-the-top melodramatic especially in Part II. But the closing scene of Part I was so subdued, perfect, and devastatingly moving that it made the day worth it — a feat not even Vanessa Redgrave (Mrs. Wilcox in the movie of “Howard’s End”) can top as lovely as it is to see her helping end Part II elegiacally. The play could be improved by some serious cutting and dropping of subplots. It’s more fit for a mini-series now (like the latest TV version of “Howard’s End”). Corrections are needed in Lopez’s understanding of rent control and HIV testing and PrEP. But I don’t want to be too critical of so lauded and ambitious a creation that brings so many gay themes to vivid life. The Almeida Theatre’s “The Tragedy of King Richard the Second” (to Feb. 2 and on NTLive) has been cut — to the bone (one hour, 40 minutes, with no intermission) — in Joe Hill-Gibbins’ staging. Eight players, all dressed down, briskly play all the parts on a bare stage save for buckets of blood, dirt,

➤ LONDON STAGE, continued on p.21

January 03 - January 16, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


➤ LONDON STAGE, from p.20 and water that get thrown at each other. The only “costume” is Richard’s crown, not much more imposing than those silly paper hat crowns Brits pull out of Christmas crackers and don at dinner. It is a “Richard II” for our time, exposing the folly of those who seek and cling to power. And its center is Simon Russell Beale as the fading king, searingly showing us in this chaotic Brexit time that leadership is hard to come by in crises. “I wasted time,” he says, “and now doth time waste me.”

HELEN MAYBANKDS

André De Shields and the company of Anaïs Mitchell’s “Hadestown,” directed by Rachel Chavkin.

hard-nosed detective investigating the murder, throw themselves into their roles with abandon but in the end it feels more like a sick joke on the audience than a worthwhile play.

“Antony & Cleopatra” (to Jan. 19 and on NTLive) is getting a sumptuous production from Simon Godwin at the National’s Olivier with two megastars, Ralph Fiennes, who is especially fine, and Sophie Okonedo as the middleaged lovers straddling two empires. Neither conveys their characters’ vaunted nobility, which is perhaps as Shakespeare intended — though it was my first go-round with this epic play. They both meet tragic demises in the classic sense of falling from high station, but they have played their jealousies and insecurities so much for laughs that it is tough to feel for them. It often felt more like “The Taming of the Shrew” than a tragedy. But this is a company masterful in conveying Shakespeare’s poetry and displaying the vulnerabilities and folly of people in power especially in their love lives.

ensemble — especially those Fates — and a New Orleans-worthy band, this is a show filled to the rafters with heart even though we know it must end tragically.

On a lighter note (even though it’s about a descent into Hell) is Anaïs Mitchell’s “Hadestown,” directed by Rachel Chavkin, which I missed at the Off-Broadway New York Theatre Workshop and is being given a grand production, also at the big Olivier house (to Jan. 26) prior to opening on Broadway in March. It’s a folk/ jazz musical riff on the young love of Orpheus (Reeve Carney, “Spider-Man” on Broadway) and Eurydice (Eva Noblezada, “Miss Saigon” in New York) delightfully narrated by veteran stage star André De Shields as Hermes. Broadway veteran Patrick Page with his bass baritone as Hades is truly chilling and overtly Trumpian, leavened only by his love for sweet Persephone (Amber Gray). Backed up by a boisterous

At the Royal Court Theatre (to Jan. 26), Mark Ravenhill, who stunned with “Shopping and Fucking” 22 years ago, is back with a vengeance with “The Cane,” a threehander directed by Vicky Featherstone about a soon-to-retire teacher (Alun Armstrong) who is discovered to have been responsible for caning misbehaving students — striking their open palms with a stick repeatedly — more than 30 years ago, when it was legal. As angry students demonstrate unseen outside his home, his long-suffering wife (Maggie Steed) has to contend with a visitation from their estranged daughter (Nicola Walker, late of the ITV detective series “Unforgotten” that aired on PBS), herself an education professional and whose agenda in returning is unclear.

GayCityNews.nyc | January 03 - January 16, 2019

TRISTRAM KENTON

Patti LuPone and Rosalie Craig in Stephen Sondheim’s “Company,” directed by Marianne Elliott.

These three pros hold the stage for a taut hour and 45 minutes in a story about a broken family, a mystery about who did what when and why, and a debate about applying today’s standards to yesteryear’s culture. Caning was banned in 1986. Do the scars still remain and what should be the punishment for inflicting them? Another veteran bad boy of the theater, Anthony Neilson, is back at the National’s Dorfman with a modern take on Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” (to Jan. 9). Tamara Lawrance (brilliant in the BBC adaptation of Andrea Levy’s “The Long Song” about the end of slavery in Jamaica) plays an accomplished but blocked playwright vexed by her young landlady (Imogen Doel), who is hiding more than the Phantom of the Opera was before she turns up dead. The violence and gore is so out there that it produces more giggles than shock. These actors, along with David Carlyle as a

The great director Marianne Elliott (Tony for the “Angels” revival) convinced Stephen Sondheim to let her cast a woman, Rosalie Craig, as the 35-year-old commitment-averse Bobbie at the center of “Company” (to Mar. 30 and likely to come to New York in the future) at the Gielgud. Craig is fine and the music as engaging as ever, but the couples surrounding her and pushing her to couple up remain mostly cartoons in the George Furth book — except for Patti LuPone putting her stamp on the older, jaded Joanne, the role that made Elaine Stritch in 1970. As usual, LuPone is worth the price of admission. And the addition of a gay couple, Jamie (Jonathan Bailey) and Paul (Alex Gaumond), is a plus. Bailey is hysterical on their wedding day. But while the show is updated with the use of smart phones and said to take place in “modern day” New York, it still seems firmly rooted in the culture of the ‘70s — gay marriage notwithstanding. Also on or coming up: David Hare’s new Labour Party drama “I’m Not Running” at the National’s Lyttleton (to Jan. 31 and on NTLive); “Shipwreck” by American Anne Washburn at the Almeida (Feb. 11Mar. 30), a “nightmarish comedy” about Trump; Sondheim’s “Follies” at the National’s Olivier (from Feb. 12); and Matthew Bourne’s homoerotic “Swan Lake” at Sadler’s Wells (to Jan. 27).

21


THEATER

The Truth Shall… Something or Other Three plays grapple with how we understand the reality around us BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE he nature of truth is an ongoing, fraught debate in our troubled political times. So it’s no surprise the topic is on the boards. “Network” looked at the nature of news and the dichotomy between journalism as factual reporting and as an entertainment business. “The Lifespan of a Fact,” now winding down its run at Studio 54, questions whether factual accuracy should get in the way of a good story. When a story is a product, profit is the motive, and competition is intense, the truth and presumably ethics suffer. To reach a big audience, you have to “give ‘em what they want.” John, an award-winning writer, is known for the bending of facts to

T

PETER CUNNINGHAM

Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones, and Bobby Cannavale in “The Lifespan of a Fact,” directed by Leigh Silverman, at Studio 54 through January 13.

achieve a literary end, yet his approach has put him in good stand-

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www.gaycitynews.com/broadwaycon2019 22

ing in the past. So well, in fact, that Emily, the editor at a struggling high end magazine, wants John’s story on a teen’s suicide to be her cover, rather than a fatuous piece on congressional wives. But Emily is on deadline, and she needs the piece fact-checked pronto. Enter Jim, an earnest intern, eager to prove himself. He takes on the project, with the promise of turnaround in 72 hours. While Emily thinks, perhaps hopes, that Jim will do a cursory job so the piece will be ready in time, Jim proves to be a latter-day Diogenes, tirelessly tracking down every point in the piece. Jim’s insistence on accuracy touches off a tetchy three-way battle that throws art, commerce, and truth into the arena in a deathmatch. John wants his literary storytelling. Emily wants a strong piece and plausible deniability for any errors that slip in. Jim wants the truth. For all the seriousness of the subject matter, though, the play is at heart a somewhat frothy comedy. To be sure, much of the humor comes from Jim’s terrier-like tenacity on each individual fact — he comes up with more than one hundred queries in the article’s first page — and the issue all

three are left to ponder is whether if one fact is wrong the veracity of the entire piece is called into question. The audience is left to ponder that quandary, as well, since no definitive resolution is offered. The production, under the witty and sharp direction of Leigh Silverman, is a quick 85 minutes, and the performances by the three stars are perfectly rendered. Cherry Jones is Emily in another focused and wonderfully economical performance. She has both her own issues and is the referee in the battle between Jim and John. Bobby Cannavale is excellent a John, with a brashness that somewhat masks an artist’s vulnerabilities. Daniel Radcliffe is simply great as Jim. With an American accent and a ferocious dedication to the job and the truth, he proves himself an equal combatant against the two older and more established characters. The three play very well together. Narrative journalism remains a questionable genre. Just days after I saw this show, the muchawarded German writer Claas Relotius was forced to return his awards for publishing at least 14 false articles in Der Spiegel with

➤ TRUTH, continued on p.23

January 03 - January 16, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


➤ TRUTH, from p.22 “facts” entirely made up to serve the stories, provoking questions about all of the respected magazine’s reporting. Perhaps if they had had Jim on the case, it might have worked out differently. In “The Hard Problem,” Tom Stoppard’s new play at Lincoln Center, the problem is not so much presenting a debate about the brain as the biological organism running the human body versus its role in making us feel, recognizing moral standards, and giving us what we call our humanity — but rather how to make a good play out of all of that. It’s a problem that Stoppard fails to solve. There is a lot of talking and philosophical argument about artificial intelligence, the nature of goodness, and what guides our actions, and that is all juxtaposed against a contrived and sentimental story about a baby given up for adoption that has an all-too-facile resolution. The result is meandering and unformed. The game cast under the direc-

GayCityNews.nyc | January 03 - January 16, 2019

tion of Jack O’Brien does what they can with this, starting from the fairly meta positioning of the theater as a think tank. The cast come out on stage with scripts in hand, look at the audience, snap their books shut, and dive into the first scene. Rather than theatrical, that feels like a way of excusing what’s to follow. As it gets rolling, the arguments trip over each other and the characters are just superficial sketches in service of ideas. There’s consequently no way for an audience to care about what’s at stake for them. If we can’t connect with the characters, why should we invest in their arguments? This ultimately blunts Stoppard’s intent, and the question of whether goodness is learned or inherent is left to spin on unresolved in academic circles. Unfortunately, none of this plays particularly compellingly on the stage. It’s always thrilling to watch Tyne Daly work. She is an actress who can fill any moment with complexity, humanity, and deep insights into the character

she plays. That thrill is about all there was in Theresa Rebeck’s new play “Downstairs,” which just closed at the Cherry Lane. This is a play that doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a family drama where the past is dragged up by siblings suddenly cast together after a long separation? Or is it a psychological thriller about an abused wife who uncovers her husband’s dark secret. Rebeck tries to have it both ways, but here that doesn’t work. It feels as though the family drama has been shoehorned into the script in order to eke out a superficial thriller. To her credit, Daly commits fully to both elements in the plot. She tries to care for her damaged brother who has been living in her basement rather than on the streets. She listens, soothes, and does what she can to heal the injuries of the past. In the story as thriller, she finally finds her voice to strike back against a lifetime of oppression from her sociopath husband. The roles of the brother Teddy and husband Gerry are one-dimensional, but Tim Daly — Tyne’s

real life brother — and John Procaccino are effective. Procaccino can be especially harrowing, though his role as husband is written as a fairly stock psycho villain. Either story Rebeck tries to tell might have been interesting on its own merits. After all, who doesn’t love a good family drama with dark secrets revealed? And most people are game for a classic thriller. But forced together, they are neither one nor the other. Still watching Tyne Daly in the intimate Cherry Lane Theatre was ample compensation. LIFESPAN OF A FACT | Studio 54, 254 W. 54th St. | Through Jan. 13: schedule varies | $49-$189 at telecharge.com or 212-639-6200 | Eighty-five mins.; 85 min., no intermission THE HARD PROBLEM | Mitzi Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center | Through Jan. 6: Tue.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. | $92 at telecharge.com or 212-639-6200| One hr., 40 mins., no intermission

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PERFORMANCE

Aggie Diversity Moorehead Awards run gamut g from Albee to “Hound Dog” choreography was the most exciting of the season, and, as always, Ann Roth’s vivid costumes told each character’s entire backstory from their very first entrance.

BY DAVID NOH he Method School thinks the emotion is the art. It isn’t. All emotion isn’t sublime. The theater isn’t reality. If you want reality, go to the morgue. The theater is human behavior that is effective and interesting.” So said Agnes Moorehead, who may have created more effective, interesting characters on film than anyone, which is why my annual awards for best live performances are named for her. This year’s 10 Aggies go to:

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“Three Tall Women” When this spectacular revival of Edward Albee’s mesmerizing three-hander ended, I felt almost in a state of grace, as one does in the rare instances of truly great theater, barely able to move or bear the banal chatter of the enthralled, exiting audience. In the best costumes of the season (Ann Roth, of course), Alison Pill finally showed me why she is so ubiquitously cast, obviously rising to the magnificent occasion of sharing a stage with those titanesses Laurie Metcalf and a still ferocious Glenda Jackson. I’d forgotten how much I’d missed Jackson’s monumentally commanding voice. “The Ferryman” After so many impoverishedseeming, paltry American family sagas, usually set around a dining table in some upscale country retreat, the sheer opulence of this play’s huge, roiling, cross-generational cast, imported from the UK, easily riveted its audience. Although not a great play, crafted from shards of Se án O’Casey, Liam O’Flaherty, “Of Mice and Men,” and Lord knows what else, it definitely works, and Sam Mendes, back in blazingly theatrical form made it a full, rich, and finally shocking evening of pure entertainment. “My Fair Lady” Many had issues with Bartlett Sher’s feminist rethinking of what

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BRIGIT TE L ACOMBE

Alison Pill, Glenda Jackson, and Laurie Metcalf in Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women.”

some consider the greatest of musicals. I had little problem with him wanting to emphasize a flower girl’s self-empowerment, especially after delivering the rest of this gold standard show with so much real elegance and loving care. Even a highly mixed cast — never less than adequate but few achieving the sublime — could not take away from the work’s enduring brilliance or Lauren Ambrose’s detailed, startlingly authentic, beautifully sung portrayal of Eliza. “Lobby Hero” Acted with piercing humanity by Michael Cera and Bel Powley, Kenneth Lonergan’s affecting urban chamber piece emerged as a true repertory classic, with its deep humanity and sage observation of regular Joes searching for transcendence. Trip Cullman’s direction was all the more treasurable for its gracefully timed unobtrusiveness. “Saint Joan” The French warrior girl may have a great story, but rarely has it been dramatized effectively, whether it was the too-glossy Ingrid Bergman 1948 film “Joan of Arc” or the God-awful David Byrne musical “Joan of Arc: Into the Fire,” foisted on the Public Theater last year. George Bernard Shaw’s play, written in 1923, has always struck me as some kind of definitive take on her, but rarely revived because of the costly large cast and spectacle it requires. Roundabout did a very

decent job of it, keeping the action clear and ever-propulsive, ploughing through Shaw’s challenging verbosity. It never once came across as too philosophically dry, thanks to the luminous presence in the title role of Condola Rashad, a daring casting choice. She paid off, delivering a performance that verged on greatness. It’s damned difficult to convey saintliness convincingly on the stage without seeming a sanctimonious freak, blowhard, or tiresome goody-goody. She quietly but fervently owned the role, played it like a simple country girl radiantly touched by her private God as well as destiny, and, indeed, was great. “Carousel” I’m sure this wasn’t the first revival of the estimable Rodgers and Hammerstein musical in which the comic secondary leads, playing Carrie Pipperidge and Enoch Snow, stole the show from the tragic central couple of Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan. But Alex Gemignani and, especially, Lindsay Mendez, whose performance automatically entered the realm of the legendary, had such true chemistry, individually and together, that they were easily the most romantic couple on a New York stage in all of 2018. Jessie Mueller and Joshua Henry essayed Julie and Bigelow, with their acting even taking precedence over their singing: his searingly realistic death and her heartbreaking discovery of him, bloodied and finally bowed, tore at your heartstrings. Justin Peck’s

“Conflict” Miles Malleson (1888-1969) was a British character actor best known for the films “The Importance of Being Earnest,” as Dr. Chasuble, and the clueless, toy-loving, doomed Sultan in “The Thief of Bagdad.” He was also a skilled and very forward thinking playwright, whose “Yours Unfaithfully” (1933) dealt with open marriage, something he himself had with one of his three wives. The essential Mint Theater revived that play last year and this year briskly mounted hs “Conflict”(1925), filmed in 1931 as “The Woman Between.” It was a gripping account of a love triangle set against a trenchant political background, superbly directed by Jenn Thompson and acted with superb relish by a sterling cast. “Miss You Like Hell” Ever since she illuminated the stage in the epochal “Rent,” I’ve been waiting for a play to truly showcase the special wonder that is Daphne Rubin-Vega. She found one in this utterly disarming, timely, and deeply moving musical (book and lyrics by Quiara Alegría Hudes; music and lyrics by Erin McKeown), featuring a funky road trip taken by an immigrant Mexican mother (Rubin-Vega) fearing deportation and her estranged, resentful, and possibly suicidal daughter (Gizel Jiménez). They encounter a retired gay couple (David Patrick Kelly and Michael Mulheren), quirky yet possessed of a near magical charm, and when I spoke to Rubin-Vega about it, she enthused, “I loved doing that show. We just recorded the cast album, and Gizel was a phenomenal find, the real thing!” “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” Some may have turned up their

➤ BEST PERFORMANCES, continued on p.25

January 03 - January 16, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


➤ BEST PERFORMANCES, from p.24 nose at this jukebox revival, but a tirelessly talented cast put it over with verve and a joyously irresistible commitment which made it one of 2018’s most entertaining. Although the sexy, triple threat guys nearly broke their backs selling those infernally catchy Stoller-Lieber oldies, and Alysha Umphress’ pipes could knock the tiara off Miss Liberty, Nicole Vanessa Ortiz definitely emerged as a very special star in her own right, bringing down the house each night with “Hound Dog” and “Fools Fall in Love.” This Apollo Theater Amateur Night and “Apollo Live” multiple winner simply has one of the great voices of our time to be heard, anywhere. I was lucky enough to be present at her New York theatrical debut, when she filled in as understudy for a gal in “Spamilton.” As nice as she is talented, she never lets me forget that I wrote the very first review she ever got and I hope to rave about her lots more in the future when she rightfully assumes the big musical roles she was born for.

GayCityNews.nyc | January 03 - January 16, 2019

COURTESY OF KIDD PIVOT

Andrew Murdock and Michael Gross of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago perform “The Other You” at the recent Dance magazine awards.

Kathleen Turner at the Cafe Carlyle It’s always thrilling to be there at the moment a Star becomes a Legend. We are talking Kathleen Turner, who made her breathtaking Café Carlyle cabaret debut earlier this year. One of the top 10 such shows I have ever seen, Turner truly crowned her long career with this event. Utterly assured and comfy in her skin, I doubt if anyone since Mabel Mercer has ever commanded a room with such

royal panache, holding us in the palm of her hand, with a surprisingly rich Zarah Leander baritone (crooning her favorites from the Great American Songbok, which are our faves, as well), so naturally musical, pitch perfect, and seasoned, she almost made Dietrich sound like Billie Burke. And, as raconteur and political commentator, Turner was pretty damn peerless, her every dry and/ or humane observation delivered with the crack timing of a born farceur. It was her version of “Elaine Stritch: At Liberty,” but unlike Stritchie, she did not have John Lahr or George C. Wolfe tweaking her life story. It was all her and quite, quite wonderful. I shamefully confess that I had no idea Dance magazine, beloved by so many of us, was still in publication in these dire days for print, when magazines like the venerable Film Journal, which started me on my writing career in the 1980s and where I continued to write, are closing shop at an alarming rate. But Dance continues, thank Terpsichore, and its awards presentation on December 3 was one holy

night. Misty Copeland introduced the evening and was gratifyingly vociferous about the responsibility and honor of being, as she said, “black, a black woman and a black ballerina.” The utterly magnificent Ronald K. Brown gave the most amazing extemporaneous speech that charted his gloriously wayward early career, harking back to his childhood and becoming a choreographer at the tender age of 18. The presence of so many honorees of color, especially women like Copeland and Lourdes Lopez ,who proudly crowed that she is the first Latina to ever head a major dance company (Miami City Ballet), made the warmly familial celebration even more special. The highlight of the night was a jaw-droppingly brilliant kinetic duet of a dance, “The Other You,” by virtuosos Andrew Murdock and Michael Gross of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. It was splendidly choreographed by Crystal Pite (for her Kidd Pivot company), fusing modern, funk, mime, and barely controlled wildness to depict the difficulties of a relationship.

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FILM

The Oppression Within A Paraguayan lesbian struggles trugg gles to co connect with her own desires BY GARY M. KRAMER he Heiresses,” Paraguay’s official Oscar submission, is a subtle and moving character study about Chela (Ana Brun), whose lover, Chiquita (Margarita Irun), is sent to prison for bank fraud. Alone and adrift, Chela drives her neighbor Pituca (María Martins) around to card games. Eventually, she meets Angy (Ana Ivanova), a beautiful young woman who also employs Chela’s taxi service. An outstanding fi lm, “The Heiresses” is a long shot for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, but it is significant that it was selected to represent Paraguay. The largely Catholic, conservative country is very homophobic. “It had support from President Mario Abdo Benítez and his wife, who won elections talking about family,” explained out gay writer/ director Marcelo Martinessi in a recent interview. “Cinema can change how people think and show how beautiful diversity is,” Martinessi said. “The LGBT community in Paraguay depends on social class. We don’t have a law against discrimination, never mind marriage equality. So, the country needs to take steps forward. It’s still difficult, especially for people who can’t come out or depend on the Paraguayan community to live and survive.” The film, Martinessi said, is about “the prison of social class, relationships, and sexuality. Chela comes from a privileged social class where everything is about not admitting things and lying to one’s self. I think Chela and Chiquita are homophobic lesbians. They grew up uncomfortable in their own skin, especially coming from a generation that was my parents’ generation. Anything out of the norm is not only not accepted but punished.” Hiding is an important theme in “The Heiresses.” The film is not about what you see, but more about what you don’t see. The central relationship slowly comes into focus, as do other elements of the narrative. This is a deliberate and effective approach on Martinessi’s part to keep viewers engaged. The filmmaker shoots in silhouettes and close-ups, as well as through doors and with mirrors to offer an intimate look at the characters’ lives. Martinessi also uses color and lighting in striking ways, creating a visual pall over the women’s household and a vibrancy in the prison and at Pituca’s card games. While Chela is upset about Chiquita’s imprisonment — and tries to hide her situation — she is also depressed by having to sell off their inherited property. The title is ironic giv-

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DISTRIB FILMS US

Ana Ivanova and Ana Brun in Marcelo Martinessi’s “The Heiresses.”

DISTRIB FILMS US

Out gay writer/ director Marcelo Martinessi.

en that Chela is robbed of her lover, her valuables, and her dignity. “For many people, they are born in a bubble when they inherit too much,” Martinessi acknowledged. “When that’s stripped away, they discover life and have different experiences.”

While the filmmaker appreciates the ironic reading of the film’s title, he sees its meaning in a different way. “I was thinking always of heiresses who inherited money, a car, a house, but also prejudice — and that’s a key to understanding the film,” he explained. “It’s like a hereditary disease. I feel I inherited the same prejudices. The film is the opposite of trying to heal. It has to do with everything we inherit. I didn’t want to make it singular. The women playing cards are also shaped by this system. You inherit after so many years of authoritarian regime. You reproduce the protection-oppression in relationships.” Chela’s life changes at the card game where she meets Angy and becomes enamored with her. A scene of the two women sharing a cigarette beautifully captures the moment’s seductive power. “The Heiresses” Martinessi said, is “a coming out story of a 60-year-old woman and coming of age as well. Chela is a character who is always in the background. She is never a protagonist. She doesn’t talk much. I was interested to see what would happen inside her. “I didn’t want guilt or pity or a prejudice around her, but I wanted this woman to develop these small emotions that are huge when they don’t come out. If she was comfortable in her own skin, she’d take money she’s offered by others, or be with Angy. That’s a strong feeling, and everything is constrained in her. I’m interested in that and how people keep everything inside. Society makes these women invisible. I had to make sure people understood — even though the information is given drop by drop.” The film’s slow-burn rhythm is connecting with audiences. It has won multiple awards on the festival circuit and has been embraced by Paraguay’s lesbian community. Martinessi is proud of his film’s success, which he hopes will continue in America. “I was trying to tell a universal story through a lesbian character,” he said. “I was worried that Paraguay activists would be unhappy because the film is timid in the display of sexuality, but they understood it so well because it is how lesbians feel about their sexuality in our country. In a country like Paraguay, where we have decades without cinema, it was important to make a film like this, so I can better speak to my society.” THE HEIRESSES | Directed by Marcelo Martinessi | In Spanish, with English subtitles | Distrib Films US | Opens Jan. 16 | Film Forum, 209 W. Houston St. | filmforum.org January 03 - January 16, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


OPERA

Purely Puccini A successful “Bohème,” a cover show for “Il Trittico”

WIN Is giving away passes to the biggest Broadway fan convention of the year.

January 11–13, 2019 at the New York Hilton Midtown in NYC

KEN HOWARD/ METROPOLITAN OPERA

Marcelo Álvarez as Luigi un Puccini’s “Il Tabarro.”

BY DAVID SHENGOLD saw the Met’s lavish 1982 Franco Zeffirelli production of “La Bohème” for the 18th time on December 3. If not an epochal event, it was a very good repertory performance. Of prime importance: New Yorkborn James Gaffigan, in his first Met conducting gig, proved a real asset, with a well-textured, alert reading throughout. I expect we’ll hear more of him locally. The cast was uniformly strong without any one member being so outstanding as to “grab” the evening — as happened, for example, in a 2004 outing in which the star-power of Anna Netrebko and Peter Mattei, as Musetta and Marcello, wiped everyone else off the stage. The Bohemians all looked ageappropriate (in this work that matters). I first saw Ailyn Pérez as Mimi in her conservatory days at the Academy of Vocal Arts in 2005. Even then, she was an appealing, vulnerable figure with a warm, appropriate sound. She has gained immeasurably in pitch accuracy and is now an international art-

I

GayCityNews.nyc | January 03 - January 16, 2019

ist, with some very fine achievements, including last season’s Met Thais. Yet security on top forte notes remains inconsistent, and she’s developed dodges (diminuendi, rehearsal pianissimi) around less-than-comfortable moments. Though she had a lot to offer as Mimi, I had the sense that maybe she’s been an over-attentive pupil of Renata Scotto’s legacy: sometimes the constant artfulness in phrasing and dynamics gets in the way of straightforward vocal character projection. Plus, she had to cope with a flood of cell phone beeps — some emergency alert pertaining to Rochester! — during the crucial “Sono andate?” Perez did display real chemistry in convincing interplay with her AVA colleague Michael Fabiano, whose Rodolfo I first encountered 10 years ago with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He’s well-voiced for the part. Fabiano — an admirably out gay leading tenor with strong opinions — can sometimes power-sing his way through entire evenings, but on this occasion he explored

➤ PUCCINI, continued on p.28

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FILM

Liberating the Body Unconventional intimacy studied earnestly but haltingly STEVE ERICKSON hen Romanian director Adina Pintilie’s “Touch Me Not” won the top prize at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival, it wasn’t a typical consensus favorite. The scenes at a BDSM club have made some spectators and critics uneasy. But “Touch Me Not” isn’t softcore porn; if anything, it’s painfully earnest. Pintilie’s film is a hybrid of fiction and documentary elements whose premise evokes Steven Soderbergh’s “sex, lies and videotape.” Pinitilie depicts herself on a quest to show subjects searching for intimacy and trying to find sex and love in a world with very narrow beauty standards. The film’s opening line is “Why haven’t you ever asked what this film is about?” This is delivered as Pintilie is framed in the gaze of a camera that is being arranged by two men. She goes on to wonder about her subjects’ silence. The penultimate scene of “Touch Me Not” returns to the same reflexivity, but the voyeurism implied by these moments never goes very far. The concept of “Touch Me Not” could take us into very creepy territory, which it generally avoids. The camera’s gaze is controlled by a woman, and the naked flesh it examines belongs to both men and women who aren’t conventionally attractive. The most sensual scene is an extended tracking shot over the torso of Tómas Lemarquis, a man with no hair, in extreme closeup. When Laura Benson takes off her clothes, she reveals the body of a middle-aged woman who’s aged without the plastic surgery most Hollywood actresses rely on. If

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➤ PUCCINI, from p.27 the text’s poetry and also the music’s many dynamic shadings. As in “Mefistofele” a few weeks ago, he struggled against stridency at virtually every high climax. If he can resolve that issue, Fabiano would be hard to beat as Rodolfo. As an

28

KINO LORBER

Tómas Lemarquis in Adina Pintilie’s “Touch Me Not.”

“Touch Me Not” consisted of extended nude scenes with thin 21-yearold women, its gaze would seem a lot more objectifying. The film’s biggest flaw is its clinical vibe. “Touch Me Not” almost feels like an infomercial made by a sex therapist. (Seani Love, who appears in a scene with Laura, is described in its press kit as “male escort specializing in erotic journeys using the wonderful overlaps between Conscious Kink, BDSM, and neoTantra .”) Even if Pintilie filmed people engaging in activities they would really undergo in their life, they’re filmed in a way that actually makes them seem less emotional or truly personal. Much of this stems from the film’s use of color. White tones dominant George ChipperLillemark’s cinematography. During a scene between Tómas, Chris-

tian Bayerlein, and other people, everyone wears white T-shirts and slacks and rests on a floor backed by a wall of the same shade. Unintentionally, the people bleed into the background. An institutional overtone dominates and even creeps into scenes of its subjects’ everyday life, like an overhead shot of Benson taking a bath. “Touch Me Not” only comes into its own in its final half hour. Before then, its talk of intimacy is mostly theoretical. The only exceptions are the scenes with Christian, a disabled man who has difficulty walking, buck teeth, and perpetual drool at the sides of his mouth. He insists on his own beauty and his desire to be taken seriously as a sexual partner. He interacts with Tómas, who is relatively handsome by conventional standards, even if a disease

interpreter, he’s leagues ahead of the over-the-top self-lovefest offered hereabouts by Vittorio Grigolo. Lucas Meachem made a spirited Marcello, notable for excellent high notes. Angel Blue — a terrific Mimi last year — brought her uncommonly beautiful voice to Musetta, but the out-of-control “diva”

blocking and gestures imposed on her in Act Two were perhaps too enthusiastically enacted. Christian Van Horn sounded somewhat baritonal for Colline’s lower reaches but offered a sound, likable performance. I’m always suspicious of the Met’s British casting directors casting

took away his body’s ability to grow hair. On the other hand, it is genuinely daring for someone who looks like Christian to call himself beautiful. He has obviously fought a real battle to attain his current level of confidence and self-esteem, which is reflected in the passion of his scenes. But that level of engagement is missing from the rest of “Touch Me Not.” The casts non-actors as themselves, but as far as I can tell, it puts them in situations with people they didn’t know beforehand. It then expects them to reveal their bodies and souls. Maybe it’s no surprise that the film itself takes 90 minutes to get warmed up or that the awkwardness of trying to connect with other people rises from subtext to text. When Tómas and Laura cuddle in the nude, the clinical atmosphere of its earlier moments melts away. It’s a shame that “Touch Me Not” saves its best scene for last: Laura dancing in the nude to a song by industrial music pioneers Einstürzende Neubauten (who performed the film’s soundtrack). She looks happy and free of self-consciousness about her body, even wandering out of the frame once. Of course Pintilie probably directed her to do so and carefully set this scene up, but “Touch Me Not” finally expresses a real vision of physical and emotional liberation after two hours of words and images grappling gingerly but almost obsessively with the subject. TOUCH ME NOT | Directed by Adina Pinitilie | Kino Lorber | Museum of Modern Art, 11 W. 53rd St. | Jan. 11-12 & 15 at 6:30 p.m.; Jan. 13-14 & 16-17 at 4 p.m. | $12; $10 for seniors; $8 for students at moma.org

British artists in roles easily filled by North Americans. Surely the audibly veteran Donald Maxwell is hardly irreplaceable as Benoit/ Alcindoro. But Duncan Rock, the affable Schaunard, proved to be about more than his evident gym

➤ PUCCINI, continued on p.29

January 03 - January 16, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


â&#x17E;¤ PUCCINI, from p.28 preparation: the voice has a distinctive individual timbre and carries well even in ensembles. One thing revival director J. Knighten Smit should do forthwith is damp down the egregious prancing onto the stage of Gregory Warren, a Parpignol not exactly channeling the vocal strength of Met predecessors James McCracken or Robert Nagy in the role. But the evening was a success. My guest â&#x20AC;&#x201D; an insightful woman well acquainted with Broadway â&#x20AC;&#x201D; had never seen an opera. (â&#x20AC;&#x153;Bohème,â&#x20AC;? and this crowd-pleasing production, are good bets for a first try at a Met opera for virtually anybody.) She liked the piece, loved the sets, and was very impressed to learn that the singers worked unamplified. Her only objection was to the endless intermissions, now endemic at the Met â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and surely one of the main obstacles preventing Peter Gelb from attaining the valid theatrical values he often discusses. With Puccini, the intermissions are now regularly longer than the acts. Why?

â&#x20AC;&#x153;Il Trittico,â&#x20AC;? Pucciniâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s trilogy of one-acts, had its world premiere at the Old Met one hundred years ago. Originally this yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s revival was conceived as a vehicle for both the 50th anniversary of PlĂĄcido Domingo and â&#x20AC;&#x201D; as a triple bill â&#x20AC;&#x201D; for Kristine Opolais, a beautiful, camera-ready actress in alarming vocal decline. I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t countenance the idea of hearing Opolais ruin â&#x20AC;&#x153;Suor Angelica,â&#x20AC;? the middle opera, to which she had been limited. So I waited for December 12, the cover show, in which understudies were slotted for three principal roles. Jack Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Brienâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s detailed staging remains confident and bold, though I still donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t like the swaying nuns upstaging Angelica during â&#x20AC;&#x153;Senza mamma,â&#x20AC;? when surely no one else should be onstage. Still, Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Brien had more success with this tough show than any of Peter Gelbâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s other Broadway Babies â&#x20AC;&#x201D; some baffingly afforded repeated attempts â&#x20AC;&#x201D; have earned. In the enjoyable if not really combustible â&#x20AC;&#x153;Tabarro,â&#x20AC;? large-voiced Tatiana Melnychenko made an acceptable Giorgetta, and through re-

straint and idiomatic utterance the non-dulcet Lucio Gallo far exceeded expectations as Michele. Marcelo Ă lvarez looked and sounded rejuvenated as Luigi, Pucciniâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s toughest tenor â&#x20AC;&#x153;sing.â&#x20AC;? The first soprano ever to make a Met debut as Angelica, the appealing Elena Stikhina sounded just glorious, meeting all Pucciniâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vocal demands with silky yet carrying lyricism. This was also a role debut, so greater verbal specificity will come. (If Stikhina wants to last longer then such â&#x20AC;&#x153;five years and outâ&#x20AC;? Russian predecessors as Nina Rautio and Marina Poplavskaya, she should radically rethink her insane repertory list, which includes Senta, Salome, and the â&#x20AC;&#x153;Forzaâ&#x20AC;? Leonora.) Stephanie Blythe repeated her chilling, fabulously voiced Zia Principessa. As Gianni Schicchi, Domingo â&#x20AC;&#x201D; announced as ill â&#x20AC;&#x201D; offered large presence and still-potent sound, if not the last word in specificity. The season that Florence Easton created Lauretta, she also sang Santuzza, Lodoletta, and Fiora. So the Met neednâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t cast it with ittybitty voices; Kristina Mkhitaryan looked pretty and sang decently

but on a very small scale â&#x20AC;&#x201D; she might have made an apter Suor Genovieffa than Maureen McKay, a committed performer but lacking the requisite vocal purity. Atalla Ayan (Rinuccio) did highly creditable work, and Blythe returned as a hilarious Zita. All the participants in â&#x20AC;&#x153;Tabarroâ&#x20AC;? registered positively. Maurizio Muraro was idiomatic luxury casting as Talpa â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and later as Simone in â&#x20AC;&#x153;Schicchi.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Angelicaâ&#x20AC;? needed two sisters ejected from the convent: a comprimaria mezzo whose voice was worn 20 years ago but somehow keeps getting cast, and a wealthy soprano who had no right to display her amateurish deportment and patchy voice on a Met stage. Kevin Burdette shamelessly hammed while cawing through what he obviously conceived as the title role of Pucciniâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Spinelloccio.â&#x20AC;? Bertrand de Billy conducted with high competence but less specific finesse than he has brought to some other Met assignments. David Shengold (shengold@yahoo. com) writes about opera for many venues.

                          



     

GayCityNews.nyc | January 03 - January 16, 2019

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January 03 - January 16, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


NIGHTLIFE

A Madonna NYE Surprise at Stonewall LGBTQ rights icon named a 50th anniversary ambassador earlier in the month BY MATT TRACY

J

ust over one week after Madonna was named a Stonewall ambassador for the 50th anniversary of the 1969 riots that marked the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, she made a surprise performance at the Stonewall Inn on New Year’s Eve. The 60-year-old “Queen of Pop” took to the stage with her son, David Banda, who played guitar as she sang two songs and made a motivational speech in support of the LGBTQ community. “I stand here proudly at the place where Pride began, the legendary Stonewall Inn, on the birth of a new year,” she said on stage. “We come together tonight to celebrate 50 years of revolution.” Madonna, who has long used her platform on stage to advocate for a wide range of LGBTQ rights ranging from marriage equality to an end to the bullying of gay teens, was also spot-

INSTAGRAM

Madonna in the first of her two December visits to the Stonewall Inn.

ted at the Stonewall Inn on December 11, when she posted a photo on Instagram as she stood next to an old NYPD sign that read “THIS IS A RAIDED PREMISES,” reflecting an era when gay bars were regularly raided by police. Though the Stonewall protests are seen as

key to the wider effort by the LGBTQ community to push back against harassment and legal barriers, members of the Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights organizations in the US, held a “sip-in” at Julius’ bar in 1966 to protest the city’s ban on serving alcohol to gay folks. Stonewall followed three years later. The 50th anniversary coincides with the festivities of WorldPride, which will be held in New York this year and is expected to draw unprecedented crowds. The city is gearing up for an enormous celebration, though Heritage of Pride, organizer of the annual events, has seen resistance from those unhappy with the police and corporate presence in the parade that has grown over the years. The Reclaim Pride Coalition sought a city permit to host its own march after it was unsuccessful in convincing HOP to give in to its demands for reform. Whether a separate march will receive its own city permit is not yet clear, but the HOP event takes place on June 30.

SPORTS

Rangers Say You Can Play, Too Pride Night at Madison Square Garden in faceoff versus Hurricanes BY PAUL SCHINDLER

T

he New York Rangers are hosting their annual LGBTQ Pride Night in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, January 15 at 7

p.m. According to the team’s website, the purpose of the evening is to “spread the message of acceptance and respect within the hockey community.” The Rangers are teamed up for the evening with the You Can Play Project, a non-profit group dedicated to the safety and inclusion of all participants in the world of sports, including LGBTQ athletes, coaches, and fans. The group’s overall mission is to create a culture change so that locker rooms and spectator areas focus on athletic ability, work ethic, and team spirit — not on sexual orientation or gender identity. You Can Play’s website explains, “Athletes are allowed to be all the things our parents taught us to be growing up. Honest. Dedicated to achieving goals. Hard working and full of competitive spirit. It’s tough to be those things

GayCityNews.nyc | January 03 - January 16, 2019

NEW YORK RANGERS

The New York Rangers’ hockey sticks were wrapped in rainbow tape for last year’s Pride Night.

when a player is keeping a secret. Teams get better results, and athletes are better, when

they can be honest and open about who they are. That includes athletes who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer. It’s time to talk about sports and it’s time for us to create change. It’s one of the last bastions of society where discrimination and slurs are tolerated. It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s an assumption in sports that gay and lesbian players are shunned by all athletes. It’s just not true and You Can Play is dedicated to providing positive messages from athletes, coaches, and fans.” According to OutSports.com, as of last year, all 31 teams in the National Hockey League hosted a similar Pride Night in their home stadiums. Both the Rangers and the Hurricanes play in the Metropolitan Division, which has eight teams. New York is currently in fifth place with a 17 and 14 record, while Carolina is in seventh place, with 16 wins and 17 losses. For more information on Pride Night at Madison Square Garden and to buy tickets, visit nhl. com/rangers/tickets/theme-nights. To learn more about the You Can Play Project, visit youcanplayproject.org.

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E3227<5 27@31B=@G TUXEDOS

TUXEDO WORLD OF STATEN ISLAND 2791 Richmond Avenue, #6, Staten Island, NY 10314, (718) 698-4859 www.tuxedoworldsi.com

CATERING & VENUES

BAY RIDGE MANOR 476 76th Street, Brooklyn (718) 748-8855 www.bayridgemanor.com BAYSIDE HISTORICAL SOCIETY 208 Totten Avenue, Fort Totten Bayside NY 11359 (718) 352-1548 email: siterental@baysidehistorical.org GRAND OAKS COUNTRY CLUB 200 Huguenot Avenue, Staten Island (718) 356–2771, www.grandoaksnyc.com GRAND PROSPECT HALL 263 Prospect Avenue, Brooklyn (718) 788-0777, www.grandprospecthall.com HOLIDAY INN 39-05 29th Street, Long Island City, NY 11101 (718 707-3700 www.holidayinnmanhattanview.com HUNTERS STEAK HOUSE 9404 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11209 (718) 238-8899, www.HuntersSteakhouse.com IL FORNETTO 2902 Emmons Avenue in Brooklyn (718) 332-8494 www.ilFornettoRestaurant.com PA-NASH EUROSOUL 144-14 243rd Street, Rosedale, NY 11422 (718) 917-6094 www.panashnyc.com THE PEARL ROOM 8518 - 3rd Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11209 (718) 833-6666 www.pearlroombklyn.com RECEPTION HOUSE 167-17 Northern Blvd, Flushing, NY (718) 445-1244 www.ReceptionHouse.com SHERATON BROOKLYN NY HOTEL Contact Stephanie Mendez, Sales Mgr (917) 281-5550 stephanie.mendez@ sheratonbrooklynnewyork.com SHERATON LAGUARDIA EAST HOTEL 135-20 39th Avenue, Flushing NY 11354 (718) 670-7408 sales@sheratonlaguardia.com sheratonlaguardiaeast.com

SIRICO’S CATERERS 8015-23 13th Avenue, Brooklyn (718) 331-2900, www.siricoscaterers.net SOTTO 13 5140 West 13th Street, New York, NY (212) 647-1001, sotto13.com TERRACE ON THE PARK 52-11 111 Street, Flushing, NY 11368 (718) 592-5000 www.terraceonthepark.com THALASSA 179 Franklin Street TriBeCa, New York City (212) 941-7661, www.thalassanyc.com THE VANDERBILT AT SOUTH BEACH 300 Father Capodanno Boulevard Staten Island, NY, (718) 447-0800 www.vanderbiltsouthbeach.com WOODHAVEN MANOR 96-01 Jamaica Avenue Queens, NY (718) 805-8500

ENTERTAINMENT

HARRY’S HABANA HUT 214-09 41st Ave., Bayside, NY 11361 (718) 423-5049, www.harryshabanahut.com ND CIGARS INC. AKA LA CASA GRANDE CIGARS 2344 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, NY, 10458 (718) 364-4657, lcgcigars.com

FAVORS & INVITATIONS

UNFORGETTABLE EVENTS 2049 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, (718) 377-4535

FLORISTS

FLORAL FANTASY 3031 Quentin Road in Brooklyn, (718) 998-7060 or (800) 566–8380 www.floralfantasyny.com FLOWERS BY MASSENET Jamaica, Queens, NY (347) 724-7044, (718) 526-3725 HENRY’S FLORIST 8103 Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn (800) 543-6797 or (718) 238–3838 www.henrysfloristweddingevents.com MARINE FLORIST AND DECORATORS 1995 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn (800) 447-6730 or (718) 338-3600 www.marineflorists.com

JEWELERS

BOBBY’S JEWELERS 514-81 Street, Brooklyn, NY 11209 (718) 745-1725 BUONO JEWELERS 1250 Hylan Blvd., #6a, Staten Island, NY 10305 (718) 448-4900, www.buonojewelers.com

LIMOUSINE SERVICES

MILA LIMOUSINE CORPORATION (718) 232-8973, www.milalimo.com M&V LIMOUSINES LTD. 1-800-498-5788 1117 Jericho Tpke, Commack, NY (631) 543-0908 151 Denton Ave., New Hyde Park, NY (516) 921-6845 535 8th Ave., 3rd Flr., NY, NY (646) 757-9101 www.mvlimo.com

ROMANTIQUE/DOUBLE DIAMOND LIMOUSINES 1421-86 Street, Brooklyn, NY, (718) 232-7273 2041-Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island (718) 351-7273, www.rddlimos.com SOPHISTICATED LIMOUSINES Servicing the Tri- State Area, (718) 816-9475 www.sophisticatedlimousines.com

PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO

FANTASY PHOTOGRAPHY 3031 Quentin Rd., Brooklyn NY, (718) 998-0949 www.fantasyphotographyandvideo.com NY PHOTO VIDEO GROUP 1040 Hempstead Tpke Franklin Sq., NY 11010 11 Michael Avenue Farmingdale, NY 11735 Office: 516-352-3188 Joe Cell: 516-445-8054 Peter Cell: 516-343-6662 www.nyphotovideogroup.com info@nyphotovideogroup.com ONE FINE DAY PHOTOGRAPHERS 459 Pacific St., Massapequa Park (516) 690–1320 www.onefinedayphotographers.com ZAKAS PHOTOGRAPHY info@zakasphotography.com www.zakasphotography.com

REAL ESTATE

DREAM HOUSE REALTY 7505 15th Avenue Brookyn, NY 11228 (718) 837–2121, carolynctrp@aol.com Carolyn Trippe, Lic. RE Broker

SALONS

PILO ARTS SALON 8412 3 Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11209 (718) 748–7411, www.piloarts.com

SERVICES

COSMETIC & LASER CENTER OF BAY RIDGE 9921 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11209 (718) 833-2793 or (718) 833-7616 www.BayRidgeDerm.com ELITE WEIGHT LOSS 1316 Kings Highway, Brooklyn, NY 11229 (917) 444-3043, EliteWeightLossNY.com KHROM DERMATOLOGY & AESTHETICS 2797 Ocean Parkway, 1st Fl. Brooklyn, NY 11235 (718) 866-3616, www.josephlichterdds.com JOSEPH LICHTER, D.D.S. 1420 Avenue P in Brooklyn (718) 339-7878, www.khromMD.com OMNI DENTAL CARE 313 Kings Highway in Brooklyn (718) 376-8656, www.omnidentalcare.com THE VEIN CENTER OF THE VASCULAR INSTITUTE OF NY Dr. Natalie Marks 960 - 50 Street, Brooklyn, NY 11219 (718) 438-0067, www.vascularnyc.com

TRAVEL

JOLYN TRAVEL (718) 232-3139 (917) 797-7341

WEDDING EXPOS

BRIDAL AFFAIR (718) 317–9701, www.bridalaffair.com

WEDDING INSURANCE

TRI STATE INSURANCE BROKERAGE 277 Tarrytown Rd.,White Plains, NY 10607 (914) 607-7799 610 Crescent Ave., Bronx, NY 10458 (718) 618-7666 www.tsinsbk.com

TO BE INCLUDED IN THIS DIRECTORY CALL (718) 260–8302 32

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