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Albany Dems Push NYS Universal Health Care 10

Again, No Gays Need Apply in Staten Island 12

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



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South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to a Brooklyn Public Library forum on February 18.






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February 28 - March 13, 2019 |

In This Issue COVER STORY Mayor Pete Buttigieg wows ‘em in Brooklyn 06

LEGAL Lawmakers push decriminalization of sex work 16

REMEMBRANCE Babs Siperstein, NJ trans pioneer 07

FILM “Mapplethorpe”: art supplants life 22

“Front Runner” author Patricia Nell Warren 12

MUSIC Trans South African Angel-Ho steps out front 24

MILITARY Court blocks healthy poz airmen’s discharge 14

The New Public Advocate 08

TOY FAIR An industry ever adapting to times 26

ASK YOUR DOCTOR TO TEST YOUR CHILD FOR LEAD Lead in peeling paint poisons children. • Tell your landlord to fix peeling paint. It’s the law. • Wash floors, windowsills, hands, and toys often.




Bronx Gay Teen’s Trial Plagued by Delays, Fears DA seeks gag order on defense after Gay City News reporting BY ANDY HUMM


he trial of Abel Cedeno, the bullied Bronx gay teen charged with manslaughter in a 2017 high school classroom fight that left one student dead, another slashed, and student witnesses screaming in alarm, was this week set over to April 18 by Judge Steven Hornstein for still more pre-trial motions. Assistant District Attorneys Nancy Borko and Paul A. Andersen and defense counsels Christopher R. Lynn and Robert J. Feldman squared off in court on February 25 on a host of issues, most of which Hornstein ruled had to be determined by the trial judge. The DA is asserting that witnesses are afraid of defense counsel. The defense says that the witnesses are afraid of members of a gang that they say the victims belonged to. Defense wants the opportunity to interview all the eyewitnesses to the alleged crime. Borko said that the eight she has spoken to — or their families — have indicated they do not want to speak to the defense. Lynn told the court, “We need all those kids and the three adults in the classroom to testify.” He believes that the combination of witness testimony and cellphone video of the altercation will show that “it was Abel who was attacked” before defending himself with a knife, killing Mathew McCree, and wounding Ariane Laboy. Cedeno’s attorneys are mounting a defense of “justification” or self-defense. Feldman said in court, “If these 35 witnesses are not brought into court, there cannot be a fair trial. Justice requires that each and every witness be compelled to testify.” The day after the proceeding, Lynn said, “I’m requesting that Judge Hornstein issue material witness orders for the kids and teachers using information from the city Department of Education that would compel all 33 kids and three adults to appear April 18 under threat of contempt.” He



Defendant Abel Cedeno (center) with his attorneys, Robert J. Feldman and Christopher R. Lynn, at Bronx criminal court on February 25.

cited Criminal Procedure section 620.30. The defense holds that Cedeno, who was 17 at the time of his arrest and had a lengthy history of being bullied in school since the sixth grade, knew the attackers as gang members and feared them. The video appears to show him defending himself with the knife after being pummeled by McCree and then Laboy. Defense wants a closed courtroom for the witness testimony because Cedeno’s attorneys say the students and teachers who saw the fight fear retribution from the gang that McCree and Laboy belonged to. McCree’s mother, Louna Dennis, has insisted that her son “was no bully, no gang member,” but defense counsel say that Facebook posts and experts in gang-related issues engaged by the defense will contradict that. Lynn and Feldman are also seeking a special prosecutor in the case, claiming that the district attorney mishandled two cases against Kevon Dennis, the deceased’s brother, who had been cited for trying to jump Cedeno inside the courthouse in 2018 and with armed robbery of student witnesses immediately after the September 2017 fight that ended in his

brother’s death. That latter case was dismissed by the trial judge, who cited a lack of evidence in the grand jury record — even though Dennis’ co-defendant, Jonathan Espinal, is still charged. The case against Dennis could have been re-presented to the grand jury but DA Darcel Clark chose not to, and defense counsel hold that is due to her not wanting to complicate the people’s case against Cedeno. The DA never sought witness-tampering charges against either Dennis or Espinal. The Bronx’s chief administrative judge, George Silver, is supposed to decide the defense motion for a special counsel within two weeks. Clark filed papers accusing Lynn and Feldman of “professional misconduct” for speaking to the press — Gay City News, specifically — about the Dennis case, which was eventually placed under seal. While the DA insists the Dennis case “is not relevant” to the Cedeno case, Hornstein said that “there may be relevance.” The DA sought a protective order limiting the disclosure of discovery to the press. Hornstein would not issue a gag order but emphasized that material under seal had to stay under seal. The DA is also attacking the defense for the Gay City News re-

porting on Laboy’s deposition in his civil suit against the city and Cedeno in which he related what this reporter termed a “preposterous” version of events contradicted by the video tape. But the DA said in her filing that this disclosure from a public document obtained in discovery (and not under seal) shows that the defense is willing to “encourage ‘a substantial risk’ of ‘unjustified annoyance or embarrassment’ to the People’s witnesses by denigrating their sworn testimony” on what prosecutors term “the senseless killing of his best friend.” Defense has repeatedly sought an order of protection for Cedeno, who is out on bail, and his family from Kevon Dennis and been rebuffed by the DA and the court. Cedeno is provided with an NYPD protection escort to and from court and had to move to an undisclosed location. Defense also wants Sanford Rubenstein, attorney for Ms. Dennis, to reveal the source of a video of the classroom fight that he released to the media. Defense say whoever took the video is an eyewitness. Hornstein said he didn’t have the

➤ CEDENO TRIAL, continued on p.20 February 28 - March 13, 2019 |

Save New York Jobs. Buy American. | February 28 - March 13, 2019



Pete Buttigieg Packs ‘Em In in Brooklyn Gay South Bend mayor, presidential hopeful, speaks to public library crowd BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


ntering to sustained applause at a recent event held at the Brooklyn Public Library, Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, had left behind his suit jacket, but had not yet rolled up his sleeves. That came later when he left the stage in the library’s Dweck Center to sit at a small table in the lobby and autograph copies of “Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future,” his autobiography, for a standing room only crowd that packed the center. Buttigieg, 37, is one of more than a dozen Democrats seeking that party’s nomination for president. It is a diverse field including African Americans, women, Asian Americans, one Latino, and Buttigieg, who was born and raised in South Bend, part of the “industrial Midwest,” as he calls it, and is openly gay. That crowd of candidates prompted a comment from Bernie Sanders, the Vermont US senator. “We have got to look at candidates, you know, not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation or their gender, and not by their age,” Sanders, 77, told Vermont Public Radio on February 19 when he announced the launch of his campaign for the 2020 nomination. “I think we have got to try to move us toward a nondiscriminatory society which looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for.” Buttigieg, who has assembled an impressive political pedigree, is prepared to respond. He was first elected mayor in 2011 and is now serving his second term. He developed his political skills working on the 2004 Kerry presidential campaign, the Obama campaign in 2008, and other campaigns. He boosted his profile in 2017 when he ran for chair of the Democratic National Committee, though he withdrew from the race before the 2018 vote. He lost a 2010 race for Indiana state treasurer. He graduated from Harvard in



South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg at the Brooklyn Public Library on February 18.

2004 and then attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. After graduation, he worked at McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm. And he joined the Naval Reserves, serving as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan. Were he to win the nomination and the White House, Buttigieg would be the youngest person ever elected to that office. While some might think he is too young, he asserts that his age is a benefit, pointing out that three of the last four presidents were born in 1946. “One generation has mostly been running most things for a while,” he said on February 18 at the library. “Nothing wrong with that, but I do believe the perspective of different generations is important… My generation provided most of the troops for the conflicts after 9/11. My generation will be dealing with climate change for the rest of our lives. We will be paying the price tag on tax cuts for billionaires. All of these things that are talked about as theoretical… as if they are somebody else’s problem are very personal for anybody my age or younger.” Buttigieg was blunt when he announced his exploratory committee on January 23. “I launched a presidential exploratory committee because it is a season for boldness and it is

time to focus on the future,” he tweeted that day. “Are you ready to walk away from the politics of the past?” He promotes his experience as mayor, even making jokes about the technocratic aspects of wastewater treatment, but he also came to understand the importance of leadership. “By the time I became mayor, I was a management guy, I was a policy guy,” Buttigieg said. “What I realized over time was all the ways in which when you are in an executive role, it’s also a symbolic role. You are a walking symbol of the community that elected you.” His rationale in seeking the mayoralty, aside from ambition, is that his skills matched what South Bend required. “You look at the office and what it calls for,” he said. “So what was out there in 2011? [South Bend] needed to bring its youth home, it needed a better model for economic development, and it needed a sense of faith in its future. At the time, running for office at my age was an act of hope in the future… The question now is what the country needs.” The country needs the Green New Deal, a proposal to address climate change that Buttigieg supports while noting, “It is currently a set of goals, not a fully articulat-

ed plan and it is not obvious how we get there… We need to treat climate change like the major emergency that it is.” Americans of all ages should be allowed to buy into Medicare, the federal government health insurance for people over 65, he said. That could mean that the US would have private healthcare providers, but a large payer setting prices and controlling costs for many consumers. “I don’t think that private insurance can remain the central way to coverage,” Buttigieg said. “Leaving Americans to the tender mercies of corporations has not worked out well for us.” And he agreed that the US has to leave Afghanistan. US forces have been deployed there since 2001, following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. “The only question is are we going to leave well or are we going to leave poorly?” he said. “What does leaving poorly look like? Basically, it looks like what we are doing now.” His personal story is probably closer to the experience of most gay men and perhaps less inspiring than some of the coming-out tales that are celebrated in the media. For most of his 20s and early 30s, he was largely in the closet fearing that disclosing that he was gay would “be a career death sentence both as an individual and as a military officer… The sad truth is if I had been given the opportunity, I would have taken a pill to not be gay.” He eventually decided that he was “wasting my time, and I was wasting the time of some really remarkable women who deserved better than to go on dates with a guy who couldn’t admit he was gay.” In 2015, just before he ran his second race for mayor, he came out in an op-ed piece in the South Bend Tribune. He won 80 percent of the vote in that second race.

➤ BUTTIGIEG, continued on p.39 February 28 - March 13, 2019 |


NJ Trans Pioneer Babs Siperstein Dies at 76 Among Garden State Equality founders, she was also a national Democratic Party force ty behind,� Fuscarino said Siperstein “was instrumental in passing many of the 220 LGBTQ civil rights laws that Garden State Equality has secured in its 15-year history.� Just two days before Siperstein’s death, the Babs Siperstein Law that simplifies the process of transgender people born in New Jersey changing their birth certificate gender marker, including the option of a non-binary signifier, took effect. New Jersey Democratic Governor Phil Murphy ordered the state’s flags flown at half-mast and delivered a eulogy at her funeral service. New Jersey State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, a stalwart LGBTQ ally, said of Siperstein’s passing, “Another sad loss but she lived to see some very important legislation passed in her honor. A courageous life lived to make it better for others.� In a written statement, DNC Chair Tom Perez noted that Siperstein led the fight for an expanded definition of gender in the party’s rules for delegate selection and caucus participation so that gender non-binary and nonconforming Democrats can better be represented.



arbra Siperstein, a groundbreaking activist for transgender rights and trans visibility in Democratic politics — in New Jersey and nationwide — died on February 3. A native of Jersey City known as Babs, she was 76. In 2009, Siperstein, a founding member of Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s LGBTQ rights group, became the first transgender member of the Democratic National Committee. Two years later, she became part of the DNC Executive Committee, where she remained until late 2017. During the 2016 presidential election, Siperstein was a superdelegate for nominee Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. On Facebook, Steven Goldstein, who served as the founding executive director of Garden State Equality (GSE), wrote that Siperstein “led the way in making New Jersey an international leader in transgender equality. Even as she became a national leader in the Democratic Party, she persuaded the most right-wing Republicans


Babs Siperstein celebrating LGBTQ Pride in Asbury Park in 2017.

in New Jersey to support transgender equality. In our state, unlike in too many other states, legislators found transgender equality the easiest LGBT progress to vote for. It was because of Babs.â€? Christian Fuscarino, the group’s current executive director, described Siperstein as a “towering figure in the LGBTQ community‌ among the likes of Harvey Milk, Sylvia Rivera, and Bayard Rustin.â€? Noting that as a GSE board member from the group’s first days, “Babs pushed us all to embrace an uncompromising pro-equality campaign that left no member of our communi-





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Jumaane Williams Elected Public Advocate Brooklyn pol set to become second in line to the mayor BY MATT TRACY


rooklyn City Councilmember Jumaane Williams emerged from a crowded field in the special election race for New York City public advocate and won handily on Tuesday evening, capping off a contentious months-long race to fill the vacancy left by State Attorney General Letitia James. With roughly 98 percent of precincts reporting, Williams had almost exactly one-third of the vote, with Queens Councilmember Eric Ulrich, the only Republican in the contest, garnering about 19 percent of the vote, and former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito winning roughly 11 percent of the vote. Just over 400,000 New Yorkers turned out for the special election, a low but not unexpected figure. Williams, who was first elected to the Council in 2009 and has become a major voice on key progressive issues ranging from police reform to housing rights, painted himself as an activist who fits the role of public advocate because of his extensive history of standing up for marginalized groups. He has often pointed to his body of work in the Council, where, among many other laws, he led on legislation protecting people from discrimination against the NYPD and banning employers from asking about the criminal record of applicants before offering a job. He also has been arrested on numerous occasions for civil disobedience when protesting cases of social injustice. In deeply personal and emotional remarks claiming victory, Williams said, “We have to keep going up the hill for equity, we have to keep going up the hill for justice, we have to keep going up the hill for all of us.” He also talked about having undergone therapy for the past three years, where he learned that he was more than just the title he holds. Williams will soon take over for



Brooklyn City Councilmember Jumaane Williams claiming victory in Tuesday’s special election for city public advocate.

Acting Public Advocate and current City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, but he has a relatively short honeymoon to savor his victory before quickly getting to work during a short term that will expire on December 31. There will be another public advocate race — a primary competition in June and a general election in November — and the winner then will serve out the remainder of James’ original second term, which runs through 2021. The 42-year-old entered the race after garnering more than 669,000 votes in this past September’s Democratic primary in an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor. He performed particularly well in Manhattan and Brooklyn, where he received more than 285,000 votes to win those boroughs in his battle against incumbent Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. Williams’ strength across the city in that race gave him increased name recognition heading into the public advocate competition, where he quickly picked up where he left off by piling up endorsements, far outpacing his opponents. Among the many groups to endorse Williams included the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, an LGBTQ political group.

He faced competition from 16 other candidates on the ballot, including out gay Manhattan Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell, who finished well back in the pack on Tuesday, and Bronx Assemblymember Michael Blake, who is vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and finished fourth. Blake showed serious fundraising prowess by hauling in more than $359,000 in contributions before counting the $838,000 in matching taxpayer funds doled out by the city’s Campaign Finance Board. Regardless of fundraising ability or citywide office experience, those candidates were still playing catchup against Williams and opted to target him on issues he had trouble with in the past, most notably marriage equality and abortion rights. More recently, he was hit by attacks from an outside candidate in Nomiki Konst, an investigative journalist with The Young Turks, who stood with Mark-Viverito on Monday to demand transparency about a newly-revealed 2009 incident when Williams was arrested after an argument with his then-girlfriend. The charges were dropped and the case was sealed, which led Williams’ Brooklyn colleague Laurie Cumbo to demand answers about

how those sealed law enforcement records came to light. In the first of two televised debates, Williams failed to answer inquiries from Blake and Mark-Viverito about his history of opposing same-sex marriage — even as he emphasized his support today for a woman’s right to choose — raising more questions about his handling of issues he says have been long settled. And earlier in the campaign, Gay City News had reported that both Williams and Mark-Viverito misled members of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City by falsely claiming in that group’s questionnaire they had never donated to or endorsed an anti-LGBTQ candidate. In 2017, Williams donated $1,375 apiece to the reelection campaigns of Brooklyn Councilmember Chaim Deutsch and Bronx Councilmember Fernando Cabrera, both of whom are among the most homophobic lawmakers in the city. Williams called his answer and those donations “an oversight” and said he would make a commensurate donation to LGBTQ groups. His tricky past on LGBTQ issues

➤ JUMAANE WILLIAMS, continued on p.20 February 28 - March 13, 2019 |

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Gottfried Pushes Universal Care in a Dem-Run Albany Chelsea assemblymember, Bronx senator pledge hearings once budget wrapped up BY NATHAN RILEY


ew York State has aggressively embraced the Affordable Care Act, expanding Medicaid and offering health insurance plans for low-income residents, but inequality remains. Where you live determines how long you live. In Manhattan’s Upper West Side Community District 7, a resident’s life expectancy is 84.7 years while in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn’s Community District 3, it is 76.8 years. Eleven percent of the adults in the Brooklyn district have no health insurance, while the comparable figure on the Upper West Side is five percent, according to the city health department’s 2018 Community Health Profiles. For every 100,000 residents in Bedford-Stuyvesant, 55.1 contracted a new HIV infection in 2016, while on the Upper West Side the rate was 15.4. For 31 years, Chelsea’s Richard Gottfried has been the chair of Assembly Health Committee, where he has pursued a Medicare for All/ single payer system for New York State and the nation as a whole. Last week, for the first time, he presented a proposal to cover all New Yorkers, the New York Health Act, at a time when his fellow Democrats control both houses of the Legislature. This new bill is bigger than previous ones. It includes nursing homes providing long-term health care as well as home health care services. Advocates with high hopes wasted no time heralding the new measure as “the most comprehensive” statewide “universal health care bill” in the nation. The expanded services in the legislation, Gottfried said in a statement, provide “dignity and financial security to millions of aging and disabled New Yorkers.” The supporters’ enthusiasm is understandable, and its passage is a possibility. Similar bills received Assembly approval four times. Eighty-one assemblymembers and 22 state senators are sponsoring



Assemblymember Richard Gottfried (center) and Senator Gustavo Rivera pledge to hold hearings on a single payer health care bill that Gottfried introduced in the Assembly last week.

this year’s bill. Gottfried and his counterpart in the Senate, Gustavo Rivera of the Bronx, have promised to hold hearings after the budget is completed. Rivera, the lead Senate sponsor, said the bill helps those, especially women, “who are being suffocated by the financial burden placed on them as they provide long-term care.” Hostility from the Trump administration won’t kill the bill. Gottfried, in an email, argued that federal cooperation is desirable but not required. “It will be easier to run New York Health with federal waivers for Medicaid, Medicare, and the [Affordable Care Act],” he wrote. “But there are mechanisms that would enable NYH to incorporate or wrap around those programs so we can continue to draw down the federal funding and still have the system operate as a single-payer system.” The bill’s language establishes health care as a right: “Every resident of the state shall be eligible. No individual shall be required to pay any premium or other charge.” The legislation protects New York employers and employees who routinely see their costs jump when insurance companies hike their rates. The current system of copays often means that sick people see their costs spike at the very time their income is constrained by

illness. The new system provides for a graduated tax on income that exempts the first $25,000 from taxation. The revenue would come from two taxes: “a graduated tax on all payroll and self-employed income” and a non-payroll tax on other income such as “interest, dividends, and capital gains,” also pegged to income level. A person whose income drops due to illness would see their medical taxes decline. For many employer health plans as well as self-employed individuals, the tax would be lower that the current premiums for gold-plated coverage, according to a study by the RAND Corporation. An overriding objective of the new system is to get medical costs under control. One method is stopping insurance companies and drug companies from using their market power to increase costs borne by consumers and employer health plan subsidies. The bill explicitly states that its objective is to inhibit “rising premiums, deductibles, and co-pays, and high out-of-network charges.” The legislation does away with provider networks by offering every New Yorker the opportunity to see the doctor of their choice. The bill’s language explicitly offers protection from the growing problem of employers “shifting a larger share of the cost of coverage to their employees or dropping cov-

erage entirely.” In Europe, medical costs are a smaller proportion of the national income than in the US but government health care systems there provide citizens better coverage. In the language of Gottfried’s bill, its long-term objective is “movement away from fee-for-service payment, which tends to reward quantity and requires excessive administrative expense, and towards alternate payment methodologies, such as global or capitated [per patient] payments.” This, in turn, provides incentives for health care providers to encourage preventive medicine, a key principle in Canadian and European health care systems. The Campaign for New York Health coalition includes 1199 SEIU, the national health care workers’ union. Gabby Seay, the group’s political action director, said provisions guaranteeing longterm care meet the new reality of needs facing “our aging population.” The State Nurses Association supports the Gottfried measure because “many of our insured patients are struggling to afford the co-pays, deductibles, and outof-network charges,” said Marva Wade, a board member at the group. NYC Health + Hospitals, which maintains the city’s public hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities, has also endorsed the bill. Dr. Mitchell Katz, the agency’s CEO, said, “It will decrease needless administrative costs” and “allow us to invest more” in meeting the health needs of their patients. Wendy Stark, executive director of the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, which provides specialized care to the LGBTQ community, also backs the measure, explaining that it provides “a much needed reset to our state’s fragmented health care system.” According to the bill’s supporters, while Governor Andrew Cuomo supports a single payer system for the nation, he has not yet shown his cards on moving forward in New York State alone. February 28 - March 13, 2019 |


Corey, Advocates Demand    Generic PrEP

  A Big Pharma monopoly holding back progress on HIV, advocates say 



City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, joined by fellow elected officials and HIV/ AIDS advocates, speaks about PrEP affordability at the AIDS Memorial Park in Greenwich Village on February 18.



ity Council Speaker Corey Johnson and other elected officials joined advocates on February 18 to call on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to terminate a patent on PrEP and allow for a generic version of the medication that dramatically reduces the risk of being infected with HIV. PrEP, also known as Truvada, is sold exclusively by Gilead Sciences, which, according to, has taken advantage of its patent on the drug by spiking the monthly cost from $6 to $1,600, keeping it well out of reach for many of the people who need it the most. Further controversy has erupted over the US governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s funding of the drugâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s development, all while Gilead profits handsomely. Advocates say that the drug could wipe out the epidemic without even needing a vaccine â&#x20AC;&#x201D; but that is only possible if the NIH makes it accessible. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Gilead Sciencesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; 250 times markup on Truvada as PrEP, a publicly funded invention, is an egregious instance of special interests trumping the public health needs of the American people,â&#x20AC;? said Christian Urrutia, who is co-found- | February 28 - March 13, 2019

er of the PrEP4All Collaboration, a group pushing federal agencies to â&#x20AC;&#x153;break the patentâ&#x20AC;? on Truvada. Urrutia led the press conference at the NYC AIDS Memorial in the West Village. Johnson said that as an HIVpositive elected official, he feels he has a responsibility to those who came before him to do everything in his power to end the epidemic. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The cost of PrEP in our country reveals something deeply rotten about our health care system, and the NIH needs to march in and break the patent immediately,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This is life or death and there is no time to waste.â&#x20AC;? Former State Senator Tom Duane, who in 1994 became one of the first out gay members of the City Council, put it bluntly when he said the issue is â&#x20AC;&#x153;not complicatedâ&#x20AC;? and blasted the drugâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s limited availability as â&#x20AC;&#x153;an outrage.â&#x20AC;? Governor Andrew Cuomo claims that the state is on pace to end the epidemic by 2020, but there have been red flags. The rate at which new infections have dropped in New York City has slowed down, giving even more fuel to the sense of urgency. â&#x20AC;&#x153;To end AIDS as an epidemic in

â&#x17E;¤ GENERIC PREP, continued on p.39


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Once Again, Staten Island Gays Need Not Apply Borough’s Pride Center excluded from March 3 St. Patrick’s Day Parade BY PAUL SCHINDLER


nce again this year, the organizers of the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade are refusing to allow the Pride Center of Staten Island, the borough’s center for the LGBTQ community, to march with its banner. According to Carol Bullock, the Pride Center’s executive director, she attended a February 17 registration event for the March 3 parade, where she was told that its organizers had held a vote and decided the Center’s visible participation would “go against the tenets of the Catholic Church.” Bullock said that Larry Cummings, the event’s president, told her the Center was welcome to march without any identifying signs or dress. When she responded that the Center’s desire to march with its banner was not intended to raise a discussion about LGBTQ


Carol Bullock, executive director of the Pride Center of Staten Island.

issues but rather to “celebrate our Irish identity,” Cummings, Bullock said, insisted that the banner “promoted homosexual lifestyles.” Bullock told Cummings that he doesn’t seem to understand the Center’s mission and invited him to visit for a tour. She also said, “You know I’ll be back against next year, Larry.” Regarding the hostility the Center has faced in its effort to join the parade, Bullock said, “It’s why we exist. It’s the kind of discrimination

that people as individuals face every day.” Bullock said, however, that she has been buoyed by the support the Pride Center has received from individuals and organizations in the borough. James Oddo, Staten Island’s Republican borough president, in a February 15 tweet, wrote, “I look forward to marching next month, and time has long since passed that we include the @pridecenterSI. What a unifying moment it would be for our borough to reach an accord and have all of SI enjoying this happy day.” Nearly 30 groups — including religious congregations and coalitions, labor unions, cultural institutions, and political clubs — signed on to a letter urging the parade organizers to allow the Pride Center to participate. In a written statement, out gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson voiced his “outrage,” saying,

“This ban sends the message that being LGBTQ is something you should hide. The overwhelming majority of Irish citizens who made history in 2015 when they voted to legalize same-sex marriage certainly didn’t think the LGBTQ community had anything to hide. Let’s take their lead and bring the same spirit of inclusiveness here.” Even in criticizing the ban on her group, however, Bullock struck a conciliatory tone. The parade, she wrote in an email message, “is an important event on Staten Island for the community and Irish who live here. It’s a great day, so we are not looking to ruin that, and that is why we want to march.” The Pride Center is not calling for a boycott of the parade because of its exclusion, and Bullock said she and others from her group will be on hand to watch. Bullock has been invited to a VIP breakfast

➤ STATEN ISLAND, continued on p.39


“Front Runner” Author Patricia Nell Warren Dies at 82 The novelist penned one of the first prominent gay fiction books BY MATT TRACY


atricia Nell Warren, a journalist, poet, and author best known for her 1974 New York Times bestselling book “The Front Runner,” passed away on February 9 at the age of 82. Born in Helena, Montana, in 1936, Warren moved on to work for Reader’s Digest for 21 years and wrote several novels beginning in the 1970s. “The Front Runner,” her second novel, told the story of a gay college track coach, Harlan, who recruited three runners expelled from the University of Oregon because they were gay. The coach fell in love with one of the students, Billy, and the pair went on to form a relationship.



Patricia Nell Warren, center, smiles while standing behind her books in 2013.

Billy later qualified for the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and nabbed a gold medal there. But the characters in the story often were forced to navigate the homophobic sporting realm, and that culminated at a tragedy-marred Olympics. “The Front Runner” was a massive hit in an era when LGBTQ representation in mainstream books, films, and popular culture

was nearly nonexistent. Queer folks had fewer resources through which they could relate to others who were like them, and that book offered a much-needed glimpse into gay life. The novel sold more than 10 million copies in 11 languages, according to her estate. At the time of her death, Warren was finalizing the fourth in a series begun by “The Front Runner.” It will be published posthumously. Despite the popularity of the novel, even the involvement of Paul Newman could not persuade Hollywood to take a chance on a gay love story in the mid-1970s. The book’s focus on running likely stemmed from Warren’s own interest in running. She pushed for women to have equal opportunities

to participate in the Boston Marathon, and she became one of the first women to participate in the race, according to Outsports. Warren departed Reader’s Digest in 1980 to dedicate her time to writing. After she subsequently moved to the West Coast, she continued to write novels but also became more immersed in the local LGBTQ community. In the mid-to-late 1990s, she volunteered with the Los Angeles Unified School District, serving as a commissioner of education and on the Human Resource Education Commission. She ran unsuccessfully for City Council in West Hollywood, California, in 2006. Warren is survived by her brother, Conrad Warren, and several nieces and cousins. February 28 - March 13, 2019 |


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US Court Blocks Healthy Poz Airmen’s Discharge Categorical policy toward service members with HIV “arbitrary and capricious,” judge says BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


federal district court in Virginia has refused to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Air Force’s refusal to allow healthy airmen living with HIV to continue serving and deploying to combat zones. At the same time, the court issued a preliminary injunction blocking the plaintiffs’ discharges pending a final ruling on the merits in the case. Judge Leonie M. Brinkema’s February 15 ruling found that the plaintiffs — two airmen living with HIV as well as OutServe-SLDN, an organization for LGBTQ service members and veterans that is representing other military personnel living with HIV — have “made a strong preliminary showing that the deployment policy applied to asymptomatic HIV-positive ser-


Shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump and his first secretary of Defense, James Mattis, reversed course and began systematically dismissing military personnel living with HIV, even if their infection was under control.

vice members cannot withstand rational basis review” — the most lenient judicial standard applied to

laws and government policies. Early in the Trump administration, it became clear that the Pen-

tagon would reverse course and systematically dismiss uniformed personnel living with HIV, regardless of the state of their health. Though the government has not said so, the suspicion is that this decision was motivated, at least in part, by a desire to avoid the costs of providing expensive anti-HIV medications. The situations faced by the two plaintiffs, who are proceeding anonymously as Richard Roe and Victor Voe, illustrate the bizarre anomalies involved here. Both men enlisted shortly after the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy ended in 2011 and had very successful careers until they were diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2017. Though both men have been compliant with their treatment regimens and have undetectable viral loads and no measurable

➤ POZ SERVICE, continued on p.15


Palm Beach Conversion Therapy Bans Win Round One District judge denies practitioners preliminary injunction OKing talk therapy for now BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


n February 13, a federal district judge denied a motion by two Palm Beach County psychologists to block enforcement of the county’s ordinance forbidding licensed health care practitioners from providing “sexual orientation change efforts,” also commonly known as “conversion therapy,” to minors. Judge Robin L. Rosenberg’s refusal of a preliminary injunction extends as well to a similar ordinance enacted in the Palm Beach County community of Boca Raton. She concluded that the plaintiffs failed to show they were likely to prevail on their argument that the measures violate their First Amendment free speech rights. Rosenberg appears to be the


first district judge to take on recent Supreme Court rulings that might make it more difficult for governments to defend these laws against constitutional attacks. Just weeks ago, a federal magistrate judge in Tampa recommended that the district court there grant a preliminary injunction against enforcement of Tampa’s ordinance banning conversion therapy practitioners while the litigation proceeds. The district court has not yet ruled on that recommendation. Magistrate Judge Amanda Arnold Sansone’s recommendation in the Tampa case was based heavily on the US Supreme Court’s ruling last June in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra that a California statute requiring clinics to advise clients about the availability of state-financed abortion services vi-

olated the clinics’ First Amendment rights. Justice Clarence Thomas’ opinion for the court specifically rejected assertions by two federal appeals courts, in cases regarding conversion therapy bans, that “professional speech” is entitled to less constitutional protection than other speech. Sansone construed the Supreme Court’s ruling to require Tampa’s ordinance to be held to a “strict scrutiny” standard and concluded that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail, at least regarding the “talk therapy” that the plaintiffs claimed to be providing their patients. Without explicitly mentioning Sansone’s analysis, Rosenberg rejected it, concluding that the question of what standard such ordinances should be held to is “unsettled” at best, and that the cases Sansone relied on do not neces-

sarily lead to the conclusion she reached. Rosenberg, in contrast, applied different levels of judicial review to the ordinances. Using the least demanding level of review, “rational basis,” she easily rejected the contention that the city and county were acting irrationally or without justification in passing the ordinances. She devoted significant space to summarizing the evidence considered by legislators about the damage conversion therapy can inflict on minors as well as its lack of effectiveness in changing sexual orientation. Minors, she noted, are in no position to give informed consent to the therapy. Alternately applying “heightened scrutiny,” often used in evaluating free speech challenges to laws

➤ CONVERSION THERAPY, continued on p.15 February 28 - March 13, 2019 |

➤ POZ SERVICE, from p.14 impairments, their careers have been sidelined and their hopes for promotions and overseas deployments stymied. Despite strongly positive recommendations from their commanders and colleagues, the Pentagon’s internal review process has rejected their attempts to remain in the service and both were scheduled for discharge. Brinkema’s preliminary injunction will keep them in the service while this case plays out and they should be treated as available for overseas deployment. The Defense Department’s motion to dismiss the case focused on three arguments. First, they claimed that the plaintiffs had failed to exhaust internal Air Force administrative remedies, an argument the judge rejected. Brinkema also rejected the Pentagon’s argument that the two men lacked standing to bring their suits be-

➤ CONVERSION THERAPY, from p.14 like these, Rosenberg found that the legislative records back up the city and county’s claims that important governmental interests in protecting minors are advanced by the conversion therapy bans. In turning to the most demanding level of review, “strict scrutiny,” Rosenberg noted that the burden was on the government defendants to show they had a compelling interest at stake and had employed a narrowly tailored approach without unnecessarily abridging free speech. Here, Rosenberg acknowledged that the question of narrow tailoring was the challenging part of the analysis. The plaintiffs had suggested that a ban on aversion therapy or other forms of non-talk, coercive therapy would suffice. But Rosenberg cited evidence that talk therapy itself may have harmful effects and that, as to it pertains to minors, it is not really consensual. In the end, Rosenberg concluded that the plaintiffs did not definitively show that strict scrutiny was the appropriate standard for review nor did they have a substantial likelihood of proving at trial that the ordinances were insufficiently narrowly-tailored. As a result, Rosenberg did not issue a preliminary injunction. | February 28 - March 13, 2019

cause they had not actually been discharged. The Defense Department argued, as well, that its personnel decisions based on medical concerns are “altogether immune from judicial scrutiny,” effectively the same argument the government has been making in defense of Trump’s ban on transgender military service. But Brinkema pointed out that military personnel decisions are not wholly free from judicial scrutiny, and, pointing to Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals precedents binding on her, she found that the balance of factors in the case favored allowing it to continue, particularly since “at this preliminary stage, [the plaintiffs] have made a strong showing that defendants’ policies are irrational, based on a flawed understanding of HIV epidemiology, and inconsistently applied.”

➤ POZ SERVICE, continued on p.21 Most significantly, Rosenberg distinguished this case from the NIFLA clinics case in California, which, she pointed out, did not involve regulating speech that was part of treatment, while in this case, the speech is a tool in the process of providing treatment, and state and local governments have traditionally regulated treatments offered by licensed professionals. In the California case, she wrote, “the doctors were compelled to speak, despite the fact that the required notice ‘is not an informedconsent requirement or tied to a procedure at all.’” Rosenberg’s action leaves to a later stage in the litigation a more definite ruling on the appropriate level of review and the ultimate merits of the case. In the meanwhile, conversion therapy practiced on minors in Palm Beach County and the city of Boca Raton will continue to be illegal for licensed health care practitioners. The plaintiffs are represented by Liberty Counsel, the anti-LGBTQ legal organization that also represents the psychologists attacking the Tampa ordinance, as well as psychologists in New Jersey who have petitioned the Supreme Court to revive their First Amendment challenge to that state’s ban on conversion therapy for minors.

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VILL AGE New Push to Decriminalize APOTHECARY Sex Work in New York T H E C O M M U N I T Y P H A R M AC Y T H AT C A R E S


Advocates, lawmakers call for bolstering rights of a vulnerable group




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Advocates for sex workersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; rights were joined by elected officials, including (at left, front) Manhattan Assemblymembers Dan Quart and Richard Gottfried, at a press conference Monday laying out a decriminalization agenda for Albany.





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he movement to end what many argue is the unfair prosecution of sex workers is gaining serious momentum in New York, where state lawmakers are mobilizing alongside advocates to prepare a decriminalization bill in the State Legislature. More than 20 groups â&#x20AC;&#x201D; including several LGBTQ organizations â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and a handful of local politicians are joining forces with DecrimNY, a new coalition of sex workers and advocates focused on â&#x20AC;&#x153;decriminalizing, decarcerating, and destigmatizingâ&#x20AC;? their lives and livelihoods. The coalition kicked off on Monday during a press conference with advocates and politicians. Manhattan State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, who heads up the Health Committee, and State Senators Brad Hoylman of Manhattan, Julia Salazar of Brooklyn, and Jessica Ramos of Queens are leading the effort in Albany to pass a bill that would be the first of its kind in the nation. Hoylman, an out gay lawmaker

who played a key role in spearheading the passage of two proLGBTQ laws earlier this year â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a transgender civil rights measures and a ban on conversion therapy practiced on minors â&#x20AC;&#x201D; said â&#x20AC;&#x153;decriminalizing and destigmatizing the sex trade will ensure our laws target those who exploit sex workers rather than the workers themselves.â&#x20AC;? Hoylman added, â&#x20AC;&#x153;What our current laws treat as a crime is, for many marginalized New Yorkers, a tenuous lifeline and a livelihood. Criminalization renders them vulnerable. It disproportionately impacts LGBTQI+ New Yorkers, immigrants, and people of color, and furthers a devastating cycle of violence and incarceration. This has to end.â&#x20AC;? The DecrimNY effort also aims to wipe out past prostitution conviction records. Lawmakers are folding into the bill a pair of existing proposals to allow survivors of sex traffickers to vacate their prostitution convictions and to repeal criminal provisions related to

â&#x17E;¤ DECRIMNY, continued on p.17 February 28 - March 13, 2019 |

He loves solving problems. So he gives. MAT T TRACY

State Senator Brad Hoylman.

➤ DECRIMNY, from p.16 loitering for the purpose of prostitution, often used to harass people whether or not they are engaged in sex work. Decriminalization would allow law enforcement to focus on the perpetrators of human trafficking instead of targeting victims, advocates say. “Full decriminalization of sex work is desperately needed both because it safeguards the human rights and safety of sex workers and because it is an essential step towards being able to effectively investigate and disrupt human trafficking networks,” Salazar said. Some of the main concerns addressed by the DecrimNY movement include the mistreatment of sex workers by law enforcement and the stigma attached to the work, which relegates those in the industry to a vulnerable underclass. Many sex workers are also immigrants, and the criminalization of their livelihood places them at risk of possible deportation and abuse from those exploiting their fear of deportation. “I am a trans woman and former sex worker,” Bianey Garcia, Make the Road New York’s TGNCIQ justice organizer and a DecrimNY Steering Committee member, said in a written statement. “At the age of 18, I started my transition together with my other undocumented trans friends. We did sex work to survive in New York City. One by one, they were deported, and for them I’m fighting to decriminalize sex work. We are tired | February 28 - March 13, 2019

of being criminalized, marginalized, abused, and arrested for doing a job for survival.” Jared Trujillo of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys noted that an Urban Institute report on sex work in New York City found that LGBTQ youth are seven times more likely than straight youth to have traded sex for a place to stay. The same report found that transgender youth in particular are eight times more likely to do so. “The over-policing of these youth further isolated them, and creates barriers to accessing healthcare and to reporting abuse,” Trujillo said. “Decriminalizing sex work is the essential first step of empowering these young people, and enabling them to have a future.” Ramos and Salazar wrote a joint op-ed in the New York Daily News this week and described the effects of current laws and systems on the lives of sex workers. In that piece, the pair asked other lawmakers to join their cause. “We recognize the tremendous public education required to pass such a bill, but we believe New York can and should be the first to decriminalize sex work fully,” they wrote. Housing Works, Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society, the National Lawyers Guild Queer Caucus, the Democratic Socialists of America NYC Queer Caucus, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the New York City Anti-Violence Project, and the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys LGBT Caucus are among those involved in DecrimNY, according to the coalition’s website.

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I Feel Sorry for Jussie Smollett BY ED SIKOV


ne thing that has been in short supply during the whole Jussie Smollett fiasco is compassion. Opinions, however, have been overabundant. Here’s a report in USA Today, using the annual Essence Black Women in Hollywood luncheon as a jumpingoff point: “Seemingly the only dark cloud surrounding the day of celebration was the latest development in the Smollett case, as the ‘Empire’ actor was arrested Thursday morning on a charge of disorderly conduct by filing a false police report. Although [honoree Jenifer] Lewis had ‘absolutely no comment’ about the situation on the red carpet, she used song to express her thoughts about it during her award acceptance speech at the luncheon, though not mentioning Smollett by name. “‘Before you lie to us, remember Rosa sat on that bus/ Before you tell your tale, remember Mandela sat in that jail/ Before you do anything, remember Dr. Martin Luther King/ Before you connive and steal, I dare you to google Emmett Till,’ Lewis sang, before turning back to her speaking voice. ‘Before another dawn, after this mess, before another dawn, and I speak to everyone, remember whose shoulders you stand on.’” Call me a bleeding heart — I’ve been called worse — but I don’t see the point of mocking a TV actor because he’s not Nelson Mandela spending 27 years in prison. To be fair, USA Today talked to some other people at the Essence luncheon — women who expressed sympathy — women like Congressmember Maxine Waters and “Think Like a Man” star Meagan Good, who said, “I don’t know if I believe what the media is saying. The person that I know Jussie to be is not that person. That’s where I stand.” Actress Yvonne Orji (“Insecure”) said that she’s “with a lot of people who are genuinely confused right now. We don’t know what to make of it.” Both the award for Least Sympa-

thetic Personality and the award for Stupidest Response goes to Grammy Award-winning pig Cardi B, who was mad because Smollett “fucked up Black History Month.” Ms. B, you will no doubt remember, was involved last August in a melee inside a Queens strip club called Angels, where she allegedly threw bottles and chairs at the bartenders. She also got physical with Nicki Minaj at a Fashion Week event in New York last September. We are thankful that neither of these violent outbursts occurred in February. Of course Fox News was exultant. ‘‘MSNBC guest unchecked after floating theory that Trump-supporting cops may have framed Jussie Smollett” trumpeted one headline online. The accompanying article, by Brian Flood, begins, “MSNBC finally got around to covering the scandal surrounding ‘Empire’ star Jussie Smollett and allowed a guest to float a theory that Trump-supporting cops are lying about the case.” The Trump supporting-cops theory was no theory at all. Instead, Zach Stafford, the editor of the Advocate, expressed widely shared skepticism about the Chicago Police Department and its troubling relationship with the African-American community. Stafford happens to be both gay and black. Perhaps needless to say, Our Fearless Leader was equally triumphant. “President Trump on Thursday slammed actor Jussie Smollett after police accused him of orchestrating a ‘bogus’ hate-crime attack, saying the ‘racist and dangerous comments’ insulted his supporters. ‘@JussieSmollett — what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA,’ Trump tweeted last Thursday.” Take a guess where this fine bit of reporting turned up. Yes that was an easy one: our version of Pravda, Fox News. I’m a pretty cynical guy, but even I was stunned by the “see we told you so” response to the Smollett story, as though one gay African-American’s dumb stunt proved that all claims of racist and homophobic violence were

at the very least suspicious and at most outright lies. What Smollett did was scarcely admirable, nor was it intelligibly executed. (Note to Jussie: Next time you hire a hit man, don’t pay him with a personal check.) But compared to the violence against African-Americans we see almost daily, often at the hands and guns of the police, not to mention the anti-LGBTQ — particularly the anti-trans — violence we have all gotten used to, the Smollett story’s sad end is more deserving of kindhearted sympathy than derision. I think it’s time for some cheap sentiment don’t you? If you haven’t yet heard of the two gay penguins at the London Zoo, are you in for a treat — a sticky, saccharine treat, but a treat nonetheless. There are these two male penguins, see? And they’ve bonded. They even went so far as to find a nest somewhere and procure an egg, which they are tenderly sitting on. To keep it warm! This isn’t a Richard Gere situation here, folks. Get your mind out of the gutter. I’ll let PinkNews take over: “A video featuring a real-life gay penguin couple getting married is winning hearts on Valentine’s Day. The clip captured the luxury ceremony that was thrown for the ‘inseparable’ penguin couple, Ferrari and Pringle, by their human keepers. “The penguins, who first met at Heythrop Zoo in Oxfordshire, were driven in a Bentley to the mock ceremony at a beautiful venue in the Cotswolds, before being treated to a fish wedding breakfast. Penguin keeper Jess McGugan of Amazing Animals was on hand to walk Pringle down the aisle for the ceremony. She said: ‘Ferrari and Pringle make a beautiful couple. I see them every day at the zoo and when they are apart, they cry and pine for each other. It is so cute and heartwarming to watch them.’” There’s nothing cuter than a crying penguin; that’s my motto. Oh, dear. I’ve managed to conflate one gay penguin story with another. Ferrari and Pringle were the ones that got married; it was another gay penguin couple, Sphen and Magic at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium in Australia, who got the egg to cuddle. We regret the error. Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook. February 28 - March 13, 2019 |


Gays Against Guns Mark Tragic Anniversary Activists return to DC to commemorate year since Parkland shootings, demand action


“Human Beings” and other Gays Against Guns activists in front of the Supreme Court on February 14.


“Human Beings” affiliated with Gays Against Guns marched from Union Station in Washington, DC, to the Supreme Court Building on Valentine’s Day.


Gays Against Guns members formed a “broken heart” in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building.


Activist John Grauwiler being placed under arrest.




n Valentine’s Day 2018, activists from Gays Against Guns were entering Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn’s Washington office to protest his sponsorship of a bill to give gun owners the right to carry concealed weapons across state lines when a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 students and staff members and injuring 17 others. One year later, Gays Against Guns members from New York and Columbus, Ohio, joined by other gun control activists, returned to Washington to mark the tragic anniversary, draw attention to a Second Amendment challenge to a New York City ordinance limiting gun owners from transporting weapons outside their homes, and demand Senate action on HR 8, a bipartisan background checks bill covering all gun sales. The group marched from Union | February 28 - March 13, 2019

The Office of the Bronx Borough President, the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, the Third Avenue BID, Destination Tomorrow, The LGBT Center and the NYS Department of Labor invite you to join them for a Bronx LGBT Career Fair.

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Eight activists were arrested in the “broken heart” action.

Station in Washington to the Supreme Court Building and then on to both the Russell and Hart Senate Office Buildings. Eight activists were arrest in the Hart Building after forming a giant red “broken heart” image on the floor of the atrium while “Human Beings” dressed in white with veils on held up images of lives lost to gun violence. Gays Against Guns formed in June 2016 in the immediate aftermath of the carnage at the Pulse LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that claimed 49 lives and caused more than 50 other injuries.

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Where Are NYS’ LGBTQ-Friendliest Places? Competition asks state residents to submit video touting their neighborhood

offer as we extend an invitation to LGBTQ travelers from around the world,” said Empire State Development president Howard Zemsky. Among those working with the state on the initiative include Heritage of Pride, which organizes the annual Pride March and related celebrations in Manhattan. “By working with New York State to identify these dynamic and inspiring WorldPride ambassadors, we hope to showcase the wide array of diversity that makes us proud to call ourselves New Yorkers,”

said Heritage of Pride managing director Chris Frederick. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who signed a series of LGBTQ rights bills earlier this year — including transgender rights bill GENDA and a ban on so-called gay conversion therapy practiced on minors — praised the ambassador program. “Together with our WorldPride Ambassadors, we will show that there is no place for hate in our state as we celebrate the LGBTQ community and continue to fight for a safe and equal nation for all,” he said. The Pride events this year are expected to be particularly festive since the international WorldPride celebration is being hosted in New York at the same time as the city marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall protests. The “I love NY” website features an LGBTQ travel guide specifically made for WorldPride. That guide includes several parts of New York City, but also features a number of areas outside of the city including Niagara Falls, Fire Island — historically known as a safe haven for LGBTQ people — and other locales in each of the state’s major regions. There’s still plenty of time remaining to shoot your video before the March 31 deadline. Submit your clip at

metal detectors in the school and lack of enforcement of the state and city anti-bullying laws. On that latter point, Cedeno, whose mother had complained about her son being bullied for years, seems to agree. Standing with his mother and sister after the proceeding, Cedeno said, “Just after this incident, another gay boy in the school tried to hang himself in the staircase. These are the things that

are happening. People don’t like to admit it.” Cedeno’s Bronx school was closed after the incident, and, citywide, more students are being made aware that they are entitled to transfers when a school environment becomes intolerable for them. Defense counsel say that they are ready to go to trial and that the DA is responsible for the repeated delays.

City News, Williams, then vying to become City Council speaker, voiced his support for marriage equality and said his previous positions were due to religious beliefs stemming from his childhood. By now, he boasts a very clear pro-LGBTQ platform, as evidenced by the “LGBTQ” section on his campaign’s “On The Issues” page, as well as his strong push in video advertisements and mailings to market his queer-friendly work. His Council office has allocated tens of thousands of dollars in total to a variety of LGBTQ groups over the years, including the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, Gay Men of African Descent, SAGE, and the LGBT Community Center. He also has been a rare voice among city lawmakers to repeatedly speak out in support of

transgender women of color, who he says have been “dying with impunity” at a time when they have been disproportionately affected by violence and other forms of abuse. How Williams plans to advance LGBTQ rights in his new position is not immediately clear, but he could run into challenges in his quest to move the needle on a number of issues. The role of public advocate is viewed as significant because the officeholder is second in line to the mayor, can propose legislation, and serves as a voice for the people against the mayor and other powerful figures in government. But it is also very limited: The office’s budget is just $3.5 million, the public advocate cannot vote on legislation, and there is little other power beyond the bully pulpit.



o you love your neighborhood? Is it LGBTQ-friendly? If so, New York State wants you to let it be known. LGBTQ folks who live in the state are being asked to submit a three-minute video explaining why they are proud of their local area and the state — and why queer visitors should visit that area. Winners will serve as ambassadors for WorldPride 2019 and will be featured in “I LOVE NY” WorldPride promotions and in anti-discrimination educational campaigns by the state Division of Human Rights. They will also win free transportation to the June WorldPride celebration in Manhattan. Competitors must answer five questions in the video: What area of New York do you live in? Which section of the LGBTQ community do you most identify with? What about your city/ town or state makes you proud as an LGBTQ New Yorker? What in your region would you show off to LGBTQ visitors as part of a dream vacation in New York? Lastly, why do you feel you would be a good WorldPride ambassador? “The WorldPride Ambassadors competition is the perfect opportunity for New Yorkers from across the state to showcase the best we have to

➤ CEDENO TRIAL, from p.4 power to order Rubenstein, who accompanies Ms. Dennis to the proceedings, to do anything. Ms. Dennis, speaking after the proceeding with her attorney, said, “I’m anxious and depressed, but I have to be strong. I have to represent my son. I am my son’s voice.” Rubenstein is basing his suit on the lack of

➤ JUMAANE WILLIAMS, from p.8 also includes his 2014 abstention from a transgender rights bill that would have eased the process for people looking to change the gender marker on their birth certificate. He said he abstained because of his concerns that the measure listed midwives among those who could sign off on the change. (The need for any health professionals’ sign-off to make such a change was subsequently removed from city law altogether.) Amid all the controversy over those positions, Williams has never voted against LGBTQ rights legislation and has worked diligently in recent years to rebrand himself as a champion for the community. In a 2017 interview with Gay



The Empire State Building lit up in rainbow colors during last years LGBTQ Pride Weekend.

February 28 - March 13, 2019 |

➤ POZ SERVICE, from p.15 “At least at this stage,” Brinkema wrote, “plaintiffs have made a strong and clear showing that defendants’ policies are irrational, outdated, and unnecessary and their decisions arbitrary, unreasoned, and inconsistent.” In essence, the Defense Department has been proceeding as if treatment for HIV infection were still mired in the futility of the 1980s, when it usually led to severe disability and death. The decision to discharge Roe and Voe was based on their classification as “non-deployable,” which in turn was based on the mischaracterization of their health as presenting unacceptable risks to themselves and others were they deployed overseas. Under inflexible regulations, people living with HIV cannot be deployed without a “waiver” of the general restriction on personnel who have serious medical conditions, and the record before Brinkema includes a statement by the official in charge of the “waiver” process that they would never issue a waiver for somebody living with HIV. But Brinkema concluded that the Air Force’s application of its regulations is inconsistent with the facts. “To be sure,” she wrote, “HIV remains incurable, and Roe and Voe must take daily medication to ensure that their viral loads remain suppressed. But that fact does not justify the categorical prohibition at issue here. Although HIV-positive individuals who suddenly stop antiretroviral treatment are vulnerable to ‘viral rebound,’ appreciable physical effects are not immediate.” Even with viral rebound, experts testified, “the virus enters a period of clinical latency that can last years, often with no symptoms of negative health outcomes.” Brinkema also noted that the plaintiffs had “identified several serious medical conditions treated with daily medication that do not subject service members to the same categorical denial of deployability.” She concluded that “there appears to be no reason why asymptomatic HIV is singled out for treatment so different from that given to other chronic conditions, all of which are subject to | February 28 - March 13, 2019

ing upon disruption of daily medication.” And, significantly, the judge also noted that those with undetectable viral load “cannot transmit the virus to another,” overriding the Defense Department’s argument about the risk of accidental infection on the battlefield. The government, Brinkema noted, had totally failed to counter the plaintiffs’ expert medical evidence. The Air Force’s decision to discharge Roe and Voe based not on an individualized assessment, but rather a categorical ban “renders the decision to discharge them arbitrary and capricious.” Other factors relevant to awarding preliminary relief were all present, the judge found. The men’s military careers would be irreparably damaged by an unjustified discharge, which would also deprive them of continued coverage of military health care. She specifically rejected the Pentagon’s argument that an improper discharge could be remedied after the fact by an award of damages, finding that “the ‘stigma of being removed from active duty and being labeled as unfit for service’ is coupled with the indignity suffered because the reason for their discharges bears no relationship to their ‘ability to perform their jobs.’” That, in turn, could have consequences in their civilian life, the judge concluded. Brinkema also found that other factors cut in favor of plaintiffs, especially the public interest. These men, dedicated to service with excellent records, were rendering valuable public service that would be interrupted or ended if she did not issue the preliminary injunction. Because her analysis of the case focused specifically on the practice of the Air Force, Brinkema did not grant the plaintiffs’ request to make her injunction apply to the entire Defense Department, but on the other hand she rejected the government’s request that it apply only to Roe and Voe and not to other similarly situated Air Force personnel. Lambda Legal joined with OutServe-SLDN to represent the plaintiffs. Laura Cooley and Andrew R. Sommer, pro bono attorneys from the Washington office of Winston & Strawn, also appeared on their behalf.



Art Supplanting Life Biopic explores Mapplethorpe’s genius, self-destructiveness BY GARY M. KRAMER ndi Timoner’s canny, episodic biopic “Mapplethorpe” chronicles significant moments in the last 20 years of the famed gay photographer’s life. It also features dozens of the artist’s indelible images. Robert (Matt Smith) is first seen in his dorm room at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1969. He soon meets Patti Smith (Marianne Rendón), and they become friends, supporting each other and moving into the Chelsea Hotel. At the hotel, a neighbor encourages Robert to take photographs. Soon, Robert is exploring his sexuality and taking S&M-tinged photos. His work captures the eye (and heart) of curator and benefactor Sam Wagstaff (out actor John Benjamin Hickey), and he starts to achieve success. Around this time, his brother Edward (Brandon Sklenar) comes to New York to be his assistant. Later, Robert finds a muse in Milton Moore (McKinley Belcher III), an African-American man who becomes his lover. “Mapplethorpe” focuses on these relationships to tell the story of a self-destructive but genius artist whose work pushed boundaries as he pushed people away in his personal life. Timoner spoke with Gay City News about making her film and her thoughts about Mapplethorpe.


GARY M. KRAMER: Where did you first see Mapplethorpe’s work and how did it speak to you? ONDI TIMONER: I saw the calla lilies when I was a 10-year-old girl. Someone gave me a Mapplethorpe flower calendar. That’s what’s funny about my trajectory with Mapplethorpe — I had no idea what he was up to! This project came into my life in 2006. Bruce Goodrich had written an original script. He met with me and chose me to produce and direct it. He thought a woman should do it. I was drawn to the balance of his work, life, and our history. I felt like this was someone who really took on a revo-



Matt Smith in the title role of Ondi Timoner’s “Mapplethorpe,” which opens March 1 at Cinépolis Chelsea.

lution through his camera in a way and managed non-stop until his work was in major museums. He broke the walls down. That’s what’s important. What he was doing at the time was so out there. He challenged what society could accept. KRAMER: How did you conceive of this project and why did you approach Mapplethorpe’s life in the way that you did? TIMONER: I wanted to create an anthem for artists. As soon as Robert picked up a camera, he was off to the underworld as it were. It was important to document that trajectory. I also couldn’t tell the story without telling the story of AIDS. I didn’t want to shy away from the way he destroyed his relationships. How perfect his photos were but how imperfect his personal life was. That balance was important — having a personal life and having it have rough edges. As a character, you become more hard-edged. You have to be tough when you see things others can’t. KRAMER: Robert has four prominent relationships in the film — with Patti, Sam, Edward, and Milton. What were your thoughts on how they shaped him? TIMONER: Patti Smith was such an important relationship. I

couldn’t tell the story without that — the irony of him finding himself as an artist led him away from her. In the case of Sam, Sam was a man who finally found his muse, an artist he could live vicariously through. Sam could build and create Robert. He loved Robert dearly, but Robert was not monogamous. Sex was part of the process for Robert, framing guys up, possessing them, and putting them in his collection. Robert forced his brother Edward to change his [last] name. Imagine how crushing that was for Edward. Robert needed to mold Milton to be his creation, his Pygmalion. Robert had accomplished the success and fame he craved so dearly that everyone came to him. You’re not famous unless Robert takes your picture. KRAMER: How do you find sympathy in a character who is self-destructive? TIMONER: I do that with my movies a lot — because when people can’t decide if they like someone or not, they lean in. If viewers grapple with judging a character, it is because they are grappling with their own issues with themselves. Why did he do that? I don’t like him for that. With Robert you can’t help but respect him for sticking to doing what he did. He was fearless, or he had fear and he trampled it.

He pushed the edges and blazed new trails. I think it’s important to realize that if you have flaws and guilt, you can realize you can still pursue your vision and still do great things. KRAMER: Did you ever feel that you had to put yourself in Mapplethorpe’s mindset to recreate his photographs or see something in the way he did? What can you say about using his images and artwork? TIMONER: We had free reign. The [Robert Mapplethorpe] Foundation was a pleasure to work with. What I chose to do was to tell the story of images I could put a story behind that would apply to his life — so the shot of the flower and the knife or the process of creating “The Man in the Polyester Suit” with Milton. There was a shot of Robert assessing flowers against the light and throwing some away — that was indicative of his exacting eye. His entire world was about conflict and contrast. It was more about making sure we made a beautiful film that lived up to his work. MAPPLETHORPE | Directed by Ondi Timoner | Samuel Goldwyn Films | Opens Mar. 1 | Cinépolis Chelsea, 260 W. 23rd St. | February 28 - March 13, 2019 |


Queer Films, Actors Shine at Oscars Academy Awards success follows big showing at Golden Globes BY MATT TRACY GBTQ stars and those playing queer on screen arrived at the Oscars Sunday night well-dressed and left well-decorated, capping off an historic year of queer representation in the film industry. “Pose” star Billy Porter set — well, nearly stole — the scene with his tuxedo dress, which seems to have been in honor of a similar outfit worn by the late Hector Xtravaganza, who passed away late last year at 60, having made a name for himself decades ago in New York City’s queer ballroom scene. LGBTQ-related films performed very well throughout the evening. “Green Book,” about gay pianist Don Shirley, yielded Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Mahershala Ali nabbed the award for Actor in a Supporting Role after he earned Oscars honors two years ago thanks to his role in another LGBTQ-themed film, “Moonlight.” Rami Malek received an Oscar for Actor in a Leading Role for playing Freddie Mercury — the late queer singer from the rock band Queen — in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which collected other awards including Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Film Editing. That film’s success has been overshadowed by a scandal involving its out gay director, Bryan Singer, who was booted from the film amid multiple allegations of sexual assault. Olivia Colman won Best Actress after starring as Queen Anne in “The Favourite,” a role that required her to juggle romances with women played by Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. Stone and Weisz both landed nominations for Actress in a Supporting Role. Bisexual music icon Lady Gaga received an Oscar for Best Original Song thanks to her music and lyrics in “Shallow,” for the film “A Star is Born.” After winning the Oscar,

L | February 28 - March 13, 2019


Billy Porter poses before the beginning of the Oscars on Sunday in Los Angeles.

Gaga spoke to Australian news outlet and said she hoped fans at the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney would “feel a joy.” “What I would like to say is: one of the hardest things in life is to be brave enough to be yourself,” she said before adding that her co-star, Bradley Cooper, said he wishes “to everyone that is going to that celebration to feel a joy inside of them. “He said, ‘Let’s just drop a little bit of joy.’ And I said, ‘Okay’. And turns out, joy did a whole lot for me… I hope that everyone there in Sydney feels so much joy and celebrates all sexual identities.” Gaga added a message of inclusivity when she said she dreams of awards shows that do not adhere to strict gender norms. “I also have a true dream in our future as we evolve as humanity that these award shows will not be male and female but that we include everyone,” she said. LGBTQ actresses Sarah Paulson, Amandla Stenberg, and Tessa Thompson presented awards, and out gay composer Marc Shaiman performed onstage with Bette Midler for his nominated song “Where the Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns.” Out gay music star Adam Lambert and Queen opened the show by performing a tribute to Mercury, whose image was displayed for all to see.



Angel-Ho Steps Out Front South African transgender artist, as personality and persona BY STEVE ERICKSON outh African producer/ vocalist AngelHo likes American pop music enough that she’s posted a remix of Aaliyah’s “Rock the Boat,” re-named “Howling Motorbikes,” on the download site Bandcamp. But her debut album “Death Becomes Her” approaches it with a distance that partially reflects the fact that she’s a trans woman. Her reputation up to this point has been based on her instrumental production on three EPs, work as a DJ, and co-founding of the NON Worldwide label. With this album, she’s begun expressing herself more directly by singing and rapping in a voice that recalls Grace Jones. Its first single is called “Like a Girl.” It begins with Angel-Ho singing, “I can be your girl in a lonely world.” American rapper K-Rizz delivers the second verse in a sexually frank style and hyped-up flow. But when Angel-Ho returns, she describes herself an “African queen” and “whistle-blower,” as well as a “shot caller.” Along with “Like That,” which is dominated by thick blasts of bass, this is the closest “Death Becomes Her”



”Death Becomes Her” is the debut album from Angelo-Ho,

comes to mainstream pop. However, I don’t think it’s reading too much to think that the many breathy declarations of “I can be your girl” are self-aware about the number of people who don’t accept trans women as genuine women.

“Death Becomes Her” brings up images of femininity and female sexuality from pop music and places them in a new context. When its lyrics explicitly refer to Britney Spears, I’m sure that Angel-Ho genuinely loves her music, but she’s not making straightforward, easily consumable music. “Muse To You” features boasting about designer bags and sex, but instead of simply celebrating her success, Angel-Ho sings, “no longer beaten and abused, you are the muse.” The lyrics of “Business” and “Live” come close to familiar hip-hop bragging but do so over dissonant backing tracks instead of smooth, danceable beats. On “Live,” the music eventually gets louder and harsher, drowning out her vocals. Much of “Death Becomes Her” consists of woozy, abrasive instrumentals featuring metallic percussion. “Jacomina” offers some relief with a funky bassline evoking the theme from “Seinfeld.” Angel-Ho frequently overdubs and processes her voice to the point where it becomes disorienting. “Destify” uses vocals to simulate

➤ ANGEL-HO, continued on p.25


Transcendence in the Stillness Hu Bo probes emptiness and d seeking in modern Chinese life BY STEVE ERICKSON aking a very long film says “this story warrants more than a casual two hours in a movie theater or, especially, in front of a TV set.” While one can understand instantly why Claude Lanzmann thought his Holocaust documentary “Shoah,” which he spent years shooting, needed to be nine hours long, the rationale behind narrative films like Hu Bo’s “An Elephant Sitting Still” takes more consideration. While I was watching it, I felt a link to the Hungarian director Béla Tarr’s seven-hour “Satantango.” Afterwards, I learned that Hu studied with Tarr and made his short “Man in the Well” under his supervision. Bleak tales of Chinese life outside the country’s biggest cities have become very familiar in its independent cinema. While “An Elephant Sitting Still” is three hours shorter than the “Sátántangó,” both rely on Steadicam tracking shots. They also use duration to build sympathy, even complicity, with characters




Uvin Wang, Congxi Li, Yu Zhang, and Yuchang Peng in Hu Bo’s “An Elephant Sitting Still,” which opens March 8 at the Film Society of LIncoln Center.

whose behavior is sometimes nasty and unpleasant. But if “Sátántangó” is a tale of disillusionment starting from the premise that

opening Hungary up after the fall of Eastern

➤ ELEPHANT, continued on p.25 February 28 - March 13, 2019 |

➤ ANGEL-HO, from p.24 a buzzing hive of bees; singing actual words seems beside the point. “Good Friday Daddy,” on which she’s joined by singer Queezy, takes this in an overtly feminist direction without becoming a conventional protest song. Angel-Ho layers anguished voices repeating “good Friday Daddy” and “it’s Daddy” five or six thick, with a sinister implication quite clear from their tone, as well as the screeching synthesizers, sudden leaps in volume, and a stop-and-start beat. While the song doesn’t spell this out explicitly, it’s hard to avoid both its hints of incest and “daddy” in a general sense of overbearing patriarchy. The production on these songs makes it clear how much pain lies behind the pleasure described by their lyrics. Angel-Ho presents herself as a glamorous star — a “trans goddess,” in her words — but she keeps the seams of her music visible and makes it obvious that she’s enacting a persona. Her lyrics are strewn with quotes and pop culture references: Michael Jackson, the Bee Gees, Lil’ Kim, Spears, Marilyn Monroe, “V For Vendetta.” But if minority artists are frequently called to make explicitly autobiographical work commodifying a traumatic

➤ ELEPHANT, from p.24 European communism would never improve its characters’ lives and only make them susceptible to false prophets, “An Elephant Sitting Still” begins with a sense of emptiness, taken as the norm for contemporary China (or just modern life as a whole), and gets darker from there. The film takes place on one eventful day, cutting back and forth between four main characters whose lives intersect. High school student Wei Bu (Yuchang Peng) runs away after he throws a bully down the stairs, which results in injuries. He’s enamored of a fellow student, Huang Ling (Uvin Wang), who is dating the school’s vice principal. Petty gangster Yu Cheng (Yu Zhang) sees his friend commit suicide by jumping out of a window. To make matters worse, he’s had sex with his friend’s wife. Sixty-year-old Wang Lin (Congxi Li) decides to resist his son’s effort | February 28 - March 13, 2019

past, “Death Becomes Her” resists that. If the album’s aesthetic is born out of experiences of violence, she doesn’t refer directly to them. Angel-Ho has her own personality and her sound is marked by her strong South African accent, but the album has similarities to two of the strongest 2018 albums released by LGBTQ musicians, Yves Tumor’s “Safe in the Hands of Love” and SOPHIE’s “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides.” Like them, it tries to create a sound that’s both noisy and accessible in order to express a desire for comfort and figure out how to build a healthy identity in a world that regards queer people with contempt. The album’s sequencing is well thought-out, going back and forth between instrumentals and more pop-oriented songs. She finds inspiration in a lot of hip-hop tropes, even references to fashion and beauty that are often dismissed as shallow materialism, but proud trans women have been shut out of the genre’s mainstream. “Death Becomes Her” locates something subversive in achieving a joy that cisgender people take for granted.

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to send him to a nursing home and joins Wei and Huang as they prepare for a bus trip to the northern city of Manzhouli. That destination represents something beyond a physical escape, even if that becomes increasingly urgent — the legend Wei has heard about an elephant in that city’s circus who sits still, immune to pain and ignoring the world around him, becomes the only symbol of hope these characters have. I’ve waited this long to mention the fact that Hu committed suicide in 2017, while “An Elephant Sitting Still” was in post-production because I don’t want to romanticize it via the myth that it lends authenticity to his film’s grimness. (Someone on Letterboxd called it “a cry for help,” which is awfully reductive.) Any 29-year-old man’s suicide is tragic. His film shows that he was a great talent who

➤ ELEPHANT, continued on p.28




Slime, Surprises & a 60-Year-Old Barbie Toy Fair 2019 shows off an industry ever adapting to changing times BY CHARLES BATTERSBY he tragedy of the annual Toy Fair New York is that most people can’t go. The Jacob Javits Center is crammed full of the coming year’s hottest toys, games, and dolls but the only people who can play with them are toy industry professionals. Plus a few lucky journalists. This Gay City News reporter was among the fortunate few who got to run amok in this dream house, where I learned what the cool kids will be playing with this year. Actually, it isn’t enough to just play with toys anymore. Kids today have to “unbox” them. Among the major trends are products with surprise accessories that are revealed dramatically as the packaging is opened. The “LOL! Surprise” dolls were a hot item this past Christmas, and this year they won the prestigious Toy Of The Year Award in two categories. These dolls come in little balls that are unwrapped layer-by-layer, revealing a series of stickers, clothes, accessories, and — eventually — the toy itself. This year, the “Slime” fad from the ‘90s returned in full force, although the toy industry’s collective term for slime, foam, sand, and clay is now “Compounds.” The compounds also mesh with the unboxing trend because many slime kits also have little collectible creatures and charms hidden inside. Another advantage of these modern descendants of Play-Doh is that they appeal to boys, girls, and non-binary kids. One such compound is Playfoam by Educational Insights. I spoke with Lee Parkhurst, an out transgender staff member at the company Insights who told me, “The gender norms of play have been blown out of the water. We have boys playing with fairy wings and girls playing with power tools.” This mentality is reflected in traditionally gender-specific toys like baby dolls, too. Madame Alexander dolls have added the col-




Barbie, at 60, and her Mattel family.


Lee Parkhurst, an out transgender staff member at Playfoam, said, “The gender norms of play have been blown out of the water.”

or mint green to the usual pink/ blue dynamic for their baby dolls. A company spokesperson explained that this is partly to avoid enforcing gender stereotypes, but also because the mint green dolls make good gifts for expecting parents who don’t yet know the gender of their child or don’t want a sea of blue or pink. Speaking of pink, no Toy Fair can be complete without Barbie,

the feminist lightning rod, gay icon, and trans role model. This year is a special anniversary for her, she fi rst hit shelves in March 1959, which means that her 60th birthday is nearly upon us. Aside from a set of signature dolls inspired by her early outfits, she also comes in a couple of new body types this year. One is a sportier body with “more defi ned arms” and a less dainty waist.

Barbie’s other new body type has a prosthetic leg. This is a first for Barbie and was highly requested by fans. Hardcore Barbie enthusiasts will recall Barbie’s friend Becky, who has used a wheelchair. This year, Barbie can come with her own wheelchair, and it’s the first time we’ve seen disabled Barbie rather than just one of her friends facing such challenges. Although the general public couldn’t play with any of these dolls at the Toy Fair, Mattel’s PR team assured me that there will be a Barbie pop-up event open to the public happening in New York City when her 60th birthday arrives on March 9. For years, the Toy Fair has seen miniature video game cabinets, in various sizes, some as small as keychains. This year, Arcade1Up found the sweet spot for these, at a 3/4 scale. The company’s 48-inch tall arcade cabinets won Tech Toy Of The Year. I spoke to David Mackintosh, a PR rep for Arcade1Up, who explained that this size provides “an authentic arcade experience.” He mentioned that smaller-scale

➤ TOY FAIR, continued on p.27 February 28 - March 13, 2019 |

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“Slimi Cafe” is an upcoming product line from ORB, whose promotional models joined the author (at right) in this picture.

➤ TOY FAIR, from p.26 products from competitors have tiny buttons and joysticks that break easily, while the Arcade1Up models have full-sized controls, adding that their popularity at the Toy Fair was based on “partly nostalgia, partly a high quality product.” Among the company’s upcoming line of cabinets is the ‘90s fighting game “Final Fight,” which featured a female villain named Poison, who happens to be one of the first transgender characters in a video game. Aside from big companies, Toy Fair New York also gives the little guys a chance to shine. At a small booth we met Dan Abramson, owner of Yoga Joes. The company’s products are classic green Army Men but instead of carrying rifles and throwing grenades they are doing peaceful yoga poses. Abramson, explaining that he discovered yoga after a back injury, said, “I was trying to get more people into yoga, especially macho men who thought it was only | February 28 - March 13, 2019

for women,” He later added that injured veterans who practiced yoga “came out of the woodwork” when he launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his business. Aside from the traditional army green, Abramson offers a new line of rainbow-colored Yoga Joes. When we asked if that was a gayspecific idea, he responded, “I just thought it was cool. Rainbows are cool. It’s irreverent no matter how you look at it.” With a serene yogi smile, he added, “It’s happy and irreverent.” Another small company is Brooklyn’s FCTRY, that displayed an eclectic set of products that ranged from political action figures like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump to a line of glitter cosmetics called Unicorn Snot. I spoke with FCTRY’s Douglas Dale about the company’s booth and its massive vanity table where attendees were encouraged to try on various Unicorn Snot cosmetics. “It’s toy fair, if you’re not having fun what are you doing?,” he said.

On February 14, 2019, history was made with the signing into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo of the “Child Victim’s Act.” This Act will ensure that those who abuse children are held accountable criminally and civilly for their wrongdoing. In addition, this new statue creates a path to justice for victims. The bill extends the civil statute of limitations to allow civil actions to be brought until a victim’s 55th birthday for child sexual abuse which occurred before age 18. A one year window has been created for adult survivors to commence civil actions for damages which under current law are barred because of the statute of limitations. This one year window will begin on August 14, 2019 so victims up until their 55th birthday can bring civil lawsuits against individuals or public and private institutions from churches to public school districts for child sexual abuse that they may have suffered many decades ago. The Legislature also removes the current Notice of Claim requirements for public entities in cases involving child sexual abuse so a Notice of Intention to make claim against municipalities within 90 days is not required in order to bring a lawsuit.

JXe]fi[IlY\ejk\`e Sexual abuse against a child is a shameful unforgivable act. It is a traumatizing experience that can take a lifetime to come to terms with. While this new law cannot erase what happened to victims, it will give victims an opportunity to recover damages in a Court of Law for what happened to them. While the one year window to bring a legal action will not begin August 14, 2019, victims should consult an attorney as soon as possible to begin the painful and arduous task of their gathering medical records and other evidence of their victimization. Governor Cuomo and the state Legislature are to be commended for making the “Child Victim’s Act” a reality.

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Murder with Pom-Poms Spunky teen tuner uner a manic mash-up of “Bring Bring It On” On and an “Halloween” BY DAVID KENNERLEY he onslaught of teen musicals continues. Recent theater sea-sons have brought us “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Mean an Girls,” “The Prom,” “Clueless,” s,” and “Be More Chill,” to name a few. But “We Are the Tigers,” the erratic new tuner now at Theatre re 80 Off-Broadway, is determined d to stand out from the pack. With h book, music, and lyrics by Preston eston Max Allen, it may well be the first slasher teen musical comedy, where h innocent cheerleaders are slain between zippy song-and-dance routines. Think “Bring It On” meets “Halloween.” In a rare twist, nine out of 10 cast members are women, and the characters, members of a faltering Tigers cheerleading squad at Giles Corey High (only amusing if you know Corey was brutally pressed to death during the Salem witch hunts) handily pass the Bechdel test. Each female character is richly drawn and has her moment to shine in a solo or duet designed to reveal hopes and vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, their bickering and backbiting undercut our empathy. The obsessive team captain, Riley (Lauren Zakrin), insists on hosting a pre-season sleepover/ practice in her tastefully appointed basement to motivate the girls, many who would rather be home watching TV on their laptops. The imaginative


➤ ELEPHANT, from p.25 was just getting started. He had also worked as a writer, and this film is adapted from one of his stories. His death led to legal wrangling over the film’s release, with his family getting its rights over producer Wang Xiaoshuai. “An Elephant Sitting Still” uses Hu’s style to suggest that its characters live inside a shrinking cage, even though at least half the film takes place in open air. He frames his actors in close-up, sometimes



MiMi Scardulla, Jenny Rose Baker, Wonu Ogunfowora, Lauren Zakrin, and Kaitlyn Frank in Preston Max Allen’s “We Are the Tigers,” directed by Michael Bello, at Theatre 80 through April 17.

set design, complete with a toilet for barfing in, is by Ann Beyersdorfer. Against stereotype, many of these girls have a not-so-cheerful side. The hard-partying Farrah (Zoe Jensen) struggles with booze and shows up sloshed. The plump yet limber Reese (MiMi Scardulla), fat-shamed since second grade by the girls, serves as the Tiger mascot and strives to be accepted as a bona fide cheerleader. Kate (Jenny Rose Baker) and Chess (Celeste Rose) are best friends in denial that they are a romantic couple, and their bond is tested by a Vicodin addiction. Annleigh (Kaitlyn Frank) is a religious freak who refuses sex with her “100 percent bangable” boyfriend of six years, saving herself for marriage. As the night wears on, a mysteri-

ous killer stalks and slashes certain team members, in glorious sprays of blood (the “violence design” is credited to Matt Franta and Brandon Pugmire). Yet once the bodies are discovered, the survivors, fearing they are prime suspects, balk at calling the police. Shockingly, they decide to frame one of their own to avoid a scandalous investigation, and the poor girl gets locked up. Never mind that anyone who’s ever seen one episode of “CSI” knows that, between fingerprints, DNA tests, and blood splatter patterns, the real killer would quickly be unmasked. And therein lies the problem. Not only is the book shaky and implausible, but under the direction of Michael Bello, the quasi-parody struggles to balance the comedy, drama, and horror. We are meant to

extreme ones. His images are claustrophobic and cluttered. He fills the screen with people. The lighting and cinematography are always dim and gray, taking film noir at its word, and the sky, too, is perpetually gray. While the film is set over one day, it obviously wasn’t shot in one, and great care went into the consistency of its wintry look. “An Elephant Sitting Still” heats up to a series of amazingly blunt, cruel confrontations. Hu didn’t hold back about the essential self-

ishness and spiritual emptiness of the world he depicts. But his film isn’t nihilistic. The concept of the title elephant is an on-thenose metaphor. His characters’ dream of finding transcendence in Manzhouli is rather ludicrous if taken literally. However, it’s the only means they have to expect anything better than accelerating entropy. The social and political reasons behind all this remain just offscreen, but it’s not hard to read them into the film. “An Elephant

feel profound compassion when Reese es sings about being “defined by years on the sidelines being the ye girl no one wants to be around.” g But the murder scenes are largely played for laughs. Ditto with the incarceration scene. As A a whodunit, the aura of suspense is only intermittently susp tained. t The show is at its best by far during the musical numbers, featuring smart choreography by b Katherine Roarty. What Allen might lack in the plotting department, he more than makes up part for with the fresh, pop-rock musical f score that pulses with charm and humanity. Each performer delivers stellar, heart-stirring vocals. One of the strongest numbers is when Clark, Annleigh’s handsome, blond boyfriend (a highly appealing Louis Griffin), sneaks into the house to steal a kiss and more. It’s a witty, tension-filled tango of seduction and self-restraint. To our dismay, he disappears way too soon. Come to think of it, the twodimensional lone male character would not pass a male counterpart of the Bechdel test, if there were one. WE ARE THE TIGERS | Theatre 80 | 80 St. Mark’s Pl., btwn. First & Second Aves. | Through Apr. 17: Sun.-Mon. at 7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sat. at 3 p.m.; Sun. at 2 p.m. | $29.50-$99.50 at TigersMusical. com | Two hrs. and 10 mins., with intermission

Sitting Still” shows the people who lose out on the unity and nationalism celebrated by mainstream Chinese cinema, and he himself was one of them. But there’s a reason it ends with an elephant’s trumpet blasting. AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL | Directed by Hu Bo | In Mandarin with English subtitles | KimStim | Opens Mar. 8 | Film Society of Lincoln Center, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 W. 65th St. | February 28 - March 13, 2019 |



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Foreign Cinema’s Survivor Lincoln Center hosts 24th annual French film series impossible to dodge. As well-intentioned as the im director may be, she winds up showing Gabriel di using Maya — and India — to liberate himself u from feelings of guilt and victimization, with his fr pain foremost. But even if she names the film pa after Maya and shows how hard that liberation af is to come by, the girl’s emotions and life come second to his. Closing “Maya” by playing Nick s Cave’s mournful ballad “Distant Sky” is a lazy way to wring something moving out of its i final images.

BY STEVE ERICKSON rancophilia and cinephilia have long ong gone hand in hand. While the mararket for subtitled films in the US has changed greatly, we still get to see more films from France than any other country try outside the multiplex circuit for mainstream m cinema from India and China. The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annu-al “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema” program, m, now in its 24th year, offers a wide cross-section of that nation’s films. It’s willing to show everything from broad comedies (which aren’t actually that commercial in the US) to recent work by auteurs like Mia Hansen-Løve and Bruno Dumont to new directors whose work is less classifiable. In addition to the films I was able to preview, this year’s installment offers promising titles like “Paul Sanchez Is Back!,” the fifth film by Patricia Mazuy, a major director who has had great difficulty getting her films made or shown in the US and Dumont’s absurdist sci-fi mini-series “Coincoin and the Extra-Humans.” The Film Society’s program notes for Pierre Salvadori’s “The Trouble With You” (Feb. 28, 6:30 & 9 p.m.), the opening night film for “Rendez-Vous,” call it a “comic whirlwind.” That’s not how it actually plays out. It begins with an exaggeratedly wild fight, as cop Santi (Vincent Elbaz) kicks in a door, starts throwing his fists around and letting bullets fly to the tune of a pseudo-John Barry score by Camille Bazbaz. If this seems ridiculous, there’s a reason why: Santi is dead, and this is a story told by his widow Yvonne (lesbian actor Adèle Haenel) to their son. Also a cop, she learns that he was actually corrupt and responsible for framing an innocent man, leading to an unjust and lengthy jail term. Meanwhile, her colleague Louis (Damien Bonnard) pines loudly and obnoxiously after her. Salvadori’s direction and script treat potentially grim material blithely. If it’s theoretically a comedy, it’s rarely laugh-out-loud funny — the best gag involves sex toys and a break-in — but maybe that distance lies in Yvonne’s detachment from her grief and the tension of her work. For the most part, the film makes pleasantly playful hay with familiar ideas from the cop movie and rom-com, although it’s too bad it ultimately indulges the latter’s sexism too much. That’s a symptom of its narrative contrivances; Haenel brings more motivation to her part than the script does and after a certain point the film stops making much sense.


Mia Hansen-Løve might be the most talented French director still in their 30s, but



Aarshi Banerjee and Roman Kolinka in Mia Hansen-Løve’s “Maya,” which screens on March 6 and 7.


Images of the sun are employed as punctuation in Virgil Vernier’s “Sophia Antipolis,” which screens March 5 and 10.

she’s made her first major misstep with “Maya” (Mar. 6, 6 p.m.; Mar. 7, p.m.). The film steps gingerly onto loaded territory. At its beginning, French journalist Gabriel (Roman Kolinka) gets off a plane after having been held hostage and tortured in Syria, with his bruise marks still fresh. Trying to recover, he heads right to the Goa region of India, where his godfather owns a hotel. There, Gabriel strikes up an intense relationship with the godfather’s teenage daughter Maya (Aarshi Banerjee), who is trying to decide if she should apply to college. Gabriel seems most at home far away from France, in the Middle East and South Asia. But his sex with Maya plays out an old colonial dynamic: a white European seeks relief from his pain in a much younger woman of color. “Maya” wants to engage with Gabriel and Maya as people, rather than representatives of their countries and genders, but this baggage is

Thankfully, Virgil Vernier’s “Sophia Antipolis” (Mar. 5, 4 p.m.; Mar. 10, 5:30 p.m.) offers something far different and more compelling than those two films. It’s tied closely to the title location: a town, between Cannes and Nice, named after its industrial park. While it has access to a beautiful beach, most of the town seems inhospitable, dominated by large, sterile buildings that don’t look like they were made with people in mind. J. G. Ballard’s shadow looms over the film. In fact, it feels close to the suburban menace of the Brazilian film “Neighboring Sounds” and Lucrecia Martel’s depictions of decadent middle-class Argentina. Starting off on a faintly confrontational note, an 18-year-old girl looks straight into the camera and tells an unseen plastic surgeon that she wants breast implants. Following that, the film depicts a world full of false prophets, including a group with Heaven’s Gate overtones. And they look benign compared to the atmosphere of tension and barely restrained violence “Sophia Antipolis” establishes in its second half. The turning point comes with the discovery of a woman’s burned body in a factory. Vernier throws us into life in Sophia Antipolis without any introduction, shifting from character to character. Unlike the many bad films claiming “we’re all connected” in the long trail of Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts,” the apocalyptic overtones and sense of the uncanny are earned here. “Sophia Antipolis” uses images of the sun as punctuation, culminating with one suggesting something larger than just the story of one city is coming to an end. Despite suffering from an elliptical narrative, the film is extremely insistent about alienation and tying its knots together in the end. Still, it all amounts to a critique of modern life that’s overly familiar but also vague rather than a film with real political punch. RENDEZ-VOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA | Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater, 165 W. 65th St. | Feb. 28-Mar. 10 | Screenings are $17; $12 for students & seniors; opening night is $25/ $20 at February 28 - March 13, 2019 |

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Opéra Très Comique “La Fille du Régiment,” “Don Don Giovanni” Giova revivals offer delight BY ELI JACOBSON ebruary in New York City is no laughing matter but the Metropolitan Opera thawed our frozen funny bones with two delightful revivals — Donizetti’s bubbly opéra-comique “La Fille du Régiment” and Mozart’s darkly ambiguous dramma giacosa “Don Giovanni.” A raft of role and Met debuts added fresh zing to these revivals. Pretty Yende and Javier Camarena managed to erase memories of Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Flórez in the production premiere of “La Fille du Régiment” over a decade ago. The soprano and tenor both brought an open-hearted sweetness and adorable goofiness to their winning characterizations. Yende was a sprightly, tomboyish Marie but less manic in her comedic shtick than Dessay was. Her quicksilver coloratura soprano danced over the notes, and she was very free to add high-flying staccato variations to the second verses. As her suitor Tonio, Camarena’s eager puppy dog manner and boyish silliness lit up the stage. He sailed through the nine high C’s in “Pour mon âme” with a rounder, sweeter tone than Flórez. He sounded even better repeating them for the encore reaching a total of 18 high C’s! Where I must caution these two gifted singers is that they enjoy their flights into the upper stratosphere so much that their mid-range legato and soft singing suffer. In the mournful cavatina “Il faut partir,” Yende suffered from shaky breath control and wandering pitch. Her middle register can sound a little empty as if all the resonance has been pushed upward. In Act II, Camarena almost cracked on soft high notes in “Pour me rapprocher de Marie” — the same notes that gave him no trouble belting to the Family Circle in Act I. It’s kind of like a ballet dancer who soars on the big bravura jumps but neglects fine motor coordination and stumbles in quick small footwork. But you have to love them both despite any critical caveats. Both Yende and Camarena possess an increasingly rare quality — charm. Stephanie Blythe’s booming contralto and Junoesque dithering — there was always a divan nearby for the Marquise to collapse on with an attack of the vapors — proved a constant source of comedic joy. Maurizio Muraro’s walrus-like Sulpice was her equal in booming low notes and juicy comic characterization. Kathleen Turner in the (basso cantante) speaking role of the Duchesse de Krakenthorp was game with passable French but she was scuttled by weak dialogue and clueless stage direction. Turner seemed too often at a loss try-




Pretty Yende and Javier Camarena in Donizetti’s “La Fille du Régiment.”


Luca Pisaroni and Rachel Willis-Sørensen in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”

ing to fill up dead spots and punch lines that didn’t land in her two dialogue scenes. Enrique Mazzola’s sparkling conducting was full of bounce and go while revival stage director Christian Räth fully recaptured the fun and wit of Laurent Pelly’s droll production. Try to catch this in the house or transmitted in HD on the afternoon of March 2. A fascinating cast of newcomers managed to surmount the obstacle of Michael Grandage’s dead-on-arrival production of “Don Giovanni” with fresh voices and vital dramatic interplay. Young debutant maestro

Cornelius Meister set things off at a clip that rarely slackened over the evening. There is more musical weight and variety in Mozart’s opera but Meister showed real rhythmic verve and fine-tuned control over the orchestra, something that bodes well. Bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni made a striking libertine in his first-ever Don Giovanni. He is naturally charismatic and captured the seducer’s art of total concentration and attention on the object of his desire — making the victim think that in his eyes they are the only thing in his world. Pisaroni’s bass-baritone is somewhat less glamorous than his physique and better suited to defiance than soft seduction. Ildar Abdrazakov’s richly sung basso cantante Leporello displayed shifting morals and a simultaneous fascination, repulsion, and envy toward his master. French tenor Stanislas de Barbeyrac, Russian soprano Aida Garifullina, and Italian soprano Federica Lombardi made their Met debuts as Don Ottavio, Zerlina, and Donna Elvira, respectively. De Barbeyrac made a more heroic Don Ottavio than the usual suave lyric tenor, the tone and text assertively projected. “Dalla sua pace” lacked lyric sweetness so it was a happy surprise to hear accurate divisions in “Il Mio Tesoro.” Garifullina was a pretty as a picture peasant coquette — prettier, in fact. Her light coloratura soprano is one part fruity and one part sparkly. She is the sort of camera-ready performer the current Met administration likes to push — however, her sweet soprano lacks substance and impact in such a large hall. Lombardi’s Elvira was a lovely discovery — an elegant Mozart specialist with a creamy, even soprano with no register breaks and native Italian diction. This was a dignified noblewoman, not a hysterical virago (with Elvira you can go either way; the music and text support many approaches to the rol+e). Don Giovanni wants Elvira to go away but I hope the Met wants Lombardi to return and often. Rachel Willis-Sørensen’s Donna Anna was more passionate and volatile with a cool soprano projected with white-hot intensity. She collaborated brilliantly with the conductor, adding interesting variants and appoggiaturas to the second verses of Anna’s music. The versatile American soprano got a huge ovation at the final curtain. Young bass-baritone Brandon Cedel made Masetto a sexy hothead worthy of winning Zerlina back from the Don. Stefan Kocán’s Commendatore was effective in the graveyard scene. With this winning team center stage and in the pit, the production faded into the background. February 28 - March 13, 2019 |

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Lagerfeld — Difficult, Elitist, Entitled… and Talented A half-century’s biggest name e in fashion fashio died still working BY DAVID NOH aiser” Karl-Otto Lagerfeld, as he was known, the biggest name in fashion for half a century, died February 19 at the age of 85. In terms of fashion influence, there was Yves Saint Laurent with his game-changing innovations, even Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, whose fabrics somehow became intrinsically woven into the fabric of people’s lives the world over. A contemporary of Saint Laurent’s, whom he outlived, Lagerfeld was already an established eminence in the business before either of the latter two. And he kept on working until the day he died, at the top of his game. He designed a staggering 14 collections a year for various labels, including his own eponymous one, Fendi since 1967, and, most prominently, Chanel, which he took over in 1982, turning a dowdy, faded house known for dressing wealthy matrons into a $4 billion juggernaut. Nobody had the overwhelming world reach he possessed and for such an impressive length of time. In matters of style, for decades, he was simply “da Man,” and I will never forget the MTV Awards at which TLC’s late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes referred to him as “da Bomb.” If nothing else, this man made sure he stayed relevant to every generation of women, with a claw-like tenacity. If all that seems an excessive appraisal, rest assured it is truly apropos. Besides his leaving an estate worth some $200 million, Lagerfeld was a legendary alpha among designers. During one Fashion Week in Paris, I was sitting in the ever-popular Café de Flore when I saw Pierre Bergé, head of rival house Yves Saint Laurent and that late designer’s former lover, enter, whereupon the maître d’ whispered something in his ear. Bergé promptly left. When




Karl Lagerfeld at a 2014 Fendi store opening.

I wondered why, a knowing friend told me, “That’s because Karl is here. Bergé will wait in his car until he sees him leave and only then will he come back.” Sure enough, not long after, Lagerfeld left with his twittering entourage, and after a moment or two Berge returned to make his own kingly entrance. That enmity had roots in a deca-

dent dead lover of Lagerfeld’s, who simultaneously took up with Saint Laurent, dragging him, in Bergé’s view, into a world of drugs and gay S&M. Berge always blamed Lagerfeld for instigating this to bring down the house of Yves, and no further words were ever exchanged between them. I always preferred the far more

versatile, ever-evolving, and hip designs of Lagerfeld to Saint Laurent, from Karl’s early days at Chloé when his still timeless pieces there had a sensuality, essential légère, and downright prettiness, which to me the heavier hand of Yves often lacked. Lagerfeld was born on September 10, 1933, in Hamburg, to a wealthy businessman father and a deeply adored, strict, and strictly chic mother, who remained the biggest influence in his life. Precocious, to put it mildly, from an early age, he fled to Paris in his teens, where, without any real formal pertinent education or experience, he entered fashion by winning a 1954 fashion competition for his coats, along with fellow victor Saint Laurent, who would become something of a frenemy cum bête-noire to him. He apprenticed at the prestigious houses of Balmain and Patou before going freelance in ready-to-wear, which by the 1960s was beginning to challenge haute couture’s influence at setting styles. At the house of Chloé first and then Fendi, he really made his name, doing covetable, hyperfeminine, and fun pieces for the former, and revolutionizing the fur business for the latter, with his bold combining of different pelt breeds (like the more lowly squirrel, mole, and rabbit with mink) and startling cuts, to dazzling never-before-seen effect. Many critics say that Lagerfeld never truly invented a fashion, like Chanel’s trademark suit, Schiaparelli’s knitwear and shoulder pads, or Saint Laurent’s “smoking” (tuxedo for women) and safari looks. But, while it remains true that — like his younger, brilliant American apostle, Marc Jacobs — he was mostly a master at editing the ideas of others or from the past into the most strikingly chic cutand-sew jobs, with fur he was a

➤ LAGERFELD, continued on p.35 February 28 - March 13, 2019 |

â&#x17E;¤ LAGERFELD, from p.34 real pioneer. Freelancing ended when he took over Chanel, and the rest is fashion history, via his canny interpretations of the venerable houseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s It-suits and brandable interlocking Câ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, pearls, and gardenia motifs that became so-hip must-haves for everyone from millionairesses to movie stars to the youngest hip hop sensations. (It was announced that Virginie Viard will take over as house head designer.) Even with his killer designing schedule, which he embraced while rivals half his age crumbled under less pressure, this most driven of workaholics found time to pursue interests in photography (much better than his mediocre drawing), often shooting Chanelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ad campaigns and doing work for magazines like Visionaire, publishing â&#x20AC;&#x201D; having founded his own imprint â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and book-writing, like 2002â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Karl Lagerfeld Dietâ&#x20AC;? detailing how he had lost 92 pounds. It was then that he whittled his husky Teutonic frame, draped in baggy Comme des Garcons suits, into a skeletal model size, encased in more rock â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;nâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; roll trappings of black jeans and leather, foppishly tailored shirts, a kingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ransom in Chrome Hearts jewelry, ponytail, and those ubiquitous dark glasses. He was gay and never made a secret of it, but really had only one great male love in his life, the byall-accounts devastating, drug and S&M-addicted playboy Jacques de Bascher (the one who also hypnotized Saint Laurent), dead of AIDS at age 38 in 1989, whose ashes were forever kept by Lagerfeld in a secret place, along with his motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I infinitely loved that boy but I had no physical contact with him,â&#x20AC;?

he once said, seeking, like Andy Warhol, to maintain a mysterious asexual persona seemingly above mere human desire. In fact, both men actually pursued sex avidly, with Lagerfeld being a notorious frequenter of the cruisy Tuileries Garden after dark, an unmistakable, unashamed, somewhat vampiric presence according to numerous eye-witnesses. If there was any other big romance in his life, that would have to be his white Birman cat, Choupette, who was given to this never-big-on-animals designer in 2012. He named her in his will, although she has already earned some $3 million through advertising work, with a social media following of 200,000. She enjoyed four prepared meals a day, including one made of king crab, smoked salmon, and caviar, and basically symbolizes the Bourbon excess of Lagerfeldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s personal life and the fashion world, that beautiful poison, in general. As with many brilliantly successful, out-sized personalities, especially in fashion, he was not always an easy person to be with, being a Diet Coke-addicted control freak and occasional pot-stirrer, as when he once offered a fabulously rare vintage designer gown as a gift to whoever grabbed it first, tossing it directly between two of his dearest fashionista friends, Paloma Picasso and Italian Vogue editor Anna Piaggi. He could passionately take up people (as he did various styles of furniture â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Italian Memphis, Art Deco, rococo for his numerous houses) and then drop them completely to move on to something new. He ruthlessly cut off his favorite model, the striking Inès de la Fressange, who was virtually the house muse of Chanel, not to mention the definitive French woman to the world,

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when she was chosen as the model for Marianne, Franceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s symbol of their Revolution, replacing Brigitte Bardot. Was it old royalist loyalties, pure jealous ego, or what that made him declare that Marianne was the embodiment â&#x20AC;&#x153;of everything that is boring, bourgeois, and provincialâ&#x20AC;? and that he would not dress up historic monuments? And politically he could be a big old mess, always voluble with his somewhat nerve-wracking, rapid-fire speech, which could raise eyebrows with certain views, even bearing in mind his advanced age and the times that must have shaped them. Right after his death, a Twitter fight broke out between a favorite Lagerfeld model and friend, Cara Delevingne, who posted a loving tribute to him, and actress Jameela Jamil, who reacted to that, citing an article written by Lara Witt that called out Lagerfeld

for being an â&#x20AC;&#x153;Islamophobic, racist, misogynistic, fatphobic rape apologist.â&#x20AC;? Sharing that article Jamil wrote, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m glad somebody said it. Even if it is a little soon. A ruthless, fat-phobic misogynist shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be posted all over the Internet as a saint gone-too-soon. Talented for sure, but not the best person.â&#x20AC;? Difficult, elitist, and entitled, definitely, but, yes, undeniably talented. Lagerfeld said he wished to die while working, like Chanel herself did, herself. His final collections were stunning, particularly his jaw-dropping 2018-19 Egyptian-themed â&#x20AC;&#x153;Metiers dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;artâ&#x20AC;? show held in the Metropolitan Museum of Artâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Temple of Dendur. It is indeed rare for anyone in their 80s to deliver work that is the equal to if not better than anything theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve ever done before, and, in this light, Karl Lagerfeld could be accurately described as the Verdi of Fashion.







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Cause for Action Fans and artists channel their heir passion passion into activism BY SCOTT STIFFLER rom gamer, geek, and drag conventions to the political trenches to center stage on Broadway, LGBTQ fans as well as artists are using their abilities to advance progressive causes, shape the public conversation, and demand authentic depictions. “Activism has been going on since the start of fandom,” said Elana Levin, program director at New Media Mentors and host of the Graphic Policy Radio Podcast. Levin cited as a watershed moment when “forces came together to get ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ off the ground… It was a lot of women and LGBTQ fans demonstrating to the producers that there was an audience for the show, and that audience wanted to have female characters in more significant roles, and more diversity.” (That was 1987. Currently, “Star Trek: Discovery” has Wilson Cruz and Anthony Rapp as the first openly gay, partnered characters in franchise history.) Present day actions, Levin noted, have “become about more than improving what we see and read. It’s about using the creativity we see in fandom to invent our own activism projects and spaces.” Last year, Levin led “Fan Activists — Assemble! Using our Fabulous Powers to Win the Fight for Justice” at Flame Con, a comic convention that celebrates queer geekdom and LGBTQ contributions to pop culture. The training session, which challenged attendees to channel their cosplay, writing, drawing, and meme-making skills into activism, encouraged collaboration. “Rather than go it alone,” Levin reasoned, “there are a lot of nonprofit organizations who work on issues these fans are concerned with. So it’s good when they can partner. Fans bring creativity and community, and don’t necessarily have the same approaches of people in the nonprofit world. And nonprofits have experience running campaigns.” Recalling the development phase of a series adaptation of the “Iron Fist” comic, Levin cited an online petition from, a community of South, Southeast, and East Asian diasporas, whose website notes their use of “digital-first advocacy tactics to elevate the voices of and mobilize our over 120,000 members to take action on issues that matter to them.” “Their current executive director is trans,” Levin said, of Cayden Mak, “and they were able to connect with The Nerds of Color,” whose website describes them as a “community of fans who love superheroes, sci-fi, fantasy, and video games but are not afraid to look at nerd/ geek fandom with a culturally critical eye.”




Bob The Drag Queen (at left) was part of “The Resistance” panel at RuPaul’s DragCon last year in New York.


Elana Levin will lead an activism workshop on April 26 at New York’s Organizing 2.0 Conference.

They had this idea, Levin said, of, “‘Let’s do a petition to Marvel Studios/ Netflix before the show is made that they should cast an Asian.’” A non-white Iron Fist, the petition argued, would “help remove some of the character’s more problematic elements such as Orientalism and cultural appropriation.” By its premiere in March 2017, with a Caucasian in the title role, Levin noted, fans “completely changed the media coverage of the show,” by having their dissatisfaction with the casting become part of the mainstream press’ narrative. At fan conventions, cosplaying attendees queer their interpretations of iconic comic, anime, and film characters (drag Wonder Women and trans Supergirls, for example), while panel discussions see content creators and pundits discussing LGBTQ inclusion and authenticity.

Having a public forum for such matters wasn’t always the case, nor was having more than enough to talk about in a single sitting. Charles Battersby, who has reported from Flame Con, Anime NYC, and Wigstock 2.HO for Gay City News, recalled, “About eight years ago, there was the occasional [LGBTQ-themed] panel at a gaming con. You’d have six people, and it would take you an hour to talk about every single gay storyline.” In 2012, at Boston’s PAX East expo, Battersby curated and led “Press XY.” “That was the first time,” they noted, “someone had done a panel just on trans themes.” By 2017, Battersby said, the situation advanced to where a New York Comic Con panel addressed “woman and non-binary persons of color with mental illness in cosply. That’s such a hyperspecific set of subgroups in the community. And the reason a panel like that gets greenlit is if you have tens of thousands of people coming to the Javits Center in one day, if even onetenth of a percent fall into that category, you’re going to have a room full of 50 people who are very excited about that issue.” The 2018 New York Comic Con had its firstever Queer Lounge, Battersby noted. Other cons, they said, “have a diversity lounge. And groups promoting race, disability, women’s and mental health issues might have a designated section that’s very prominently featured.” When this was first proposed a few years ago, “A lot of people on the far left were outraged,” Battersby recalled. “They thought it would be a ‘petting zoo,’ and it ended up begin a huge success, done with a great deal of enthusiasm and earnestness.”

➤ ART & ACTIVISM, continued on p.37 February 28 - March 13, 2019 |

â&#x17E;¤ ART & ACTIVISM, from p.36 This new era of inclusion has yet to embrace one demographic, however. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It seems,â&#x20AC;? Battersby said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;like the politics are almost always progressive. We donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t see a lot of conservative political panels at cons.â&#x20AC;? Unabashed liberalism was the tone of â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Resistance,â&#x20AC;? a 2018 panel at the New York incarnation of RuPaulâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s DragCon. Taking place just a few weeks before the midterm elections, it was presented by Swing Left, which seeks to elect Democratic candidates. Panelists, including Catherine Vaughan, CEO and co-founder of the redto-blue state advocacy group Flippable, and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, mulled ways to maximize social justice and political engagement efforts. Jon Mallow, a producer and an advisor at Swing Left who sits on the board of Gay Menâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Health Crisis, moderated. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The overlap between the drag world and the electoral politics world was really interesting,â&#x20AC;? he recalled, â&#x20AC;&#x153;in that I think a lot of art is inherently political.â&#x20AC;? Mallow also noted the impact Trump has had on single-issue activism. People are intensely aware, he said, that supporting causes they believe in and candidates they want to see in office are â&#x20AC;&#x153;two sides of the same coin. Government is able to have a momentous impact on society, culture, and funding.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Resistanceâ&#x20AC;? panelist Bob The Drag Queen spoke about the need to persevere. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It is not insurmountable. It is completely mountable,â&#x20AC;? he said, of the â&#x20AC;&#x153;darkest daysâ&#x20AC;? that tempt people to think we â&#x20AC;&#x153;canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get out of thisâ&#x20AC;Ś Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m a gay man. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m a man. Use your privilege. Use what you have. There is no â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;too little.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; There is no â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;too much.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nothing more powerful than voting. Use your platform. Use your voice.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Resistanceâ&#x20AC;? panelist Marti Gould Cummings works as a drag queen and is also the founder and current president of Hellâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Kitchen Democrats, a political club. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Education is the most powerful weapon we have,â&#x20AC;? Cummings declared at DragCon, recently telling Gay City News, â&#x20AC;&#x153;People should go to as many town halls as possible, or watch them. They can read as | February 28 - March 13, 2019


Drag queen and trans activist Peppermint as Pythio, The Oracle of Delphi, in Broadwayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Head Over Heels.â&#x20AC;?

much literature about candidates as they can. Ask questions. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s your civic duty. We have to be constantly learning and growing in the moment.â&#x20AC;? In addition to her day job (in name only â&#x20AC;&#x201D; most gigs are in the evening â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Cummings has a place on the mayorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Nightlife Advisory Board, is a member of Community Board 9, and publicly supported the campaigns of Johnson, City Councilmember Mark Levine, and, most recently, Public Advocate candidate Danny Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Donnell. Of a â&#x20AC;&#x153;decision to use my drag for not only entertainment purposes,â&#x20AC;? Cummings noted, â&#x20AC;&#x153;In between jokes, I always try to have a section of the show that is, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;This is whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s happening,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; [where I talk about] events and social media. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve had electeds come to speak at some of my shows, and have literature available.â&#x20AC;? Another drag queen is making a statement, on and off the stage. Peppermint parlayed her visibility as a Season 9 veteran of â&#x20AC;&#x153;RuPaulâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Drag Raceâ&#x20AC;? and recording artist into a role in the recently shuttered Go-Goâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s-infused musical â&#x20AC;&#x153;Head Over Heels,â&#x20AC;? whose hyperprogressive book (originated by Jeff Whitty, adapted by James Magruder) had LGBTQ, body-positive, and gender role plot points, often within the context of a single scene. The first transgender woman to originate a principal role in a Broadway musical (as non-binary character Pythio, The Oracle of Delphi), Peppermint noted the multitude of times when, at the stage door after a performance, fans would â&#x20AC;&#x153;tell me the show helped them come to

terms with their gender identity or their transnessâ&#x20AC;Ś There were families where the parents would say, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;I get it. I understand what my child has been trying to express to me.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? During the showâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s development, Peppermint was â&#x20AC;&#x153;able to witness the entire cast and creative team learn some of these ideals together.â&#x20AC;? Talk in the rehearsal and fitting rooms, and interactions with casting directors, stage managers,

and other behind-the-scenes influencers, she said, allowed them to â&#x20AC;&#x153;have a better understanding of the conversation, and know their place in the conversation, and know how they can contribute.â&#x20AC;? Regarding why one gravitates toward a particular piece of entertainment, Peppermint observed, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Usually, the reason why weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re a fan of something is because we can identify with some part of itâ&#x20AC;Ś And it is rare for a queer person or someone who is a double or triple or quadruple minority to see themselves reflected in a mainstream way.â&#x20AC;? With that in mind, Peppermint said she hopes â&#x20AC;&#x153;Head Over Heelsâ&#x20AC;? will inspire more diversity, in roles yet to be written and cast. As for speaking out, Peppermint said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;I hope that anyone would want to do and say things that would inspire or benefit other peopleâ&#x20AC;Ś For my own actions and my own platform, I always have and will always continue to try to use it help others, not just themselves â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and to be inclusive, and not discriminatoryâ&#x20AC;Ś Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m dedicated to doing that.â&#x20AC;?









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February 28 - March 13, 2019 |

➤ GENERIC PREP, from p.11 New York, we need to nearly triple the number of people using PrEP across this state, and dramatically increase the percentage of PrEP users who are low-income,” said Charles King, the CEO of Housing Works, a nonprofit fighting HIV and homelessness in the city. “Drug pricing reform is vital, as is shoring up our HIV infrastructure with any savings from lower drug prices, so that it can adequately deliver PrEP services.”

➤ STATEN ISLAND, from p.12 prior to the parade, which is hosted by Staten Island officials separate from the parade organizers. Last year, the Pride Center skipped the Staten Island event, choosing instead to march the same day in the inclusive St. Pat’s For All Parade in Queens, which was origi-

➤ BUTTIGIEG, from p.6 Buttigieg married Chasten Glez-

Lower East Side Councilmember Carlina Rivera, who chairs the Hospitals Committee, and Chelsea Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, who chairs the Assembly Health Committee, were among the other lawmakers in attendance. ACT UP New York, the National Action Network, and VOCAL-NY were also present. Gottfried recently outlined a proposal for the New York Health Act, a single payer, universal care program that would improve access for marginalized groups who have

been excluded from important HIV prevention services. President Donald Trump, in his recent State of the Union Address, talked about eradicating the epidemic nationwide by 2030, but that plan has been met with widespread skepticism in light of his own attempts to cripple funding for HIV prevention and treatment. In response to Trump’s plan, advocates say the better approach is to follow the Act Now: End AIDS Coalition, a joint effort led by AIDS United with input from the HIV,

public health, and reproductive health communities, which has identified a goal of ending the epidemic by 2025. “Compared to the community’s six-year plan, the Trump administration’s 10-year strategy will waste time, money, and lives,” King told Gay City News earlier this month. “We must see an immediate stop to attacks on the Affordable Care Act, human rights, sexual and reproductive rights, immigrants, and all the communities most impacted by the epidemic.”

nally launched as an alternative to Manhattan’s massive St. Patrick’s Day Parade that until several years ago also excluded LGBTQ groups carrying any self-identifying signs. “It’s such a great event,” Bullock said of the Staten Island parade in explaining why she remained enthusiastic about an event that continues to exclude open LGBTQ

participation. The Pride Center’s letter to the parade organizers identifies the Ancient Order of Hibernians — the group that long resisted LGBTQ participation in the Manhattan parade, until it surrendered control of that event — as the organizers of the Staten Island parade. Jack King, a leader of one of the bor-

ough’s AOH divisions, will be the grand marshal on March 3 and he did not respond to a request for comment. The event’s Facebook page links to the Staten Island Cultural Center and Irish Fair. That group also did not respond to a request for comment and its phone number does not take messages.

man, his husband, in 2018. “The honest answer was that I was running down the clock or

maybe there was some chance that somehow I wasn’t as gay as it seemed like I was,” he said.

Buttigieg was interviewed by Frank Bruni, the New York Times columnist.

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