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Brooklyn DA Endorses Sex Work Decrim 05

Catholics, Mormons’ Tentative Steps On LGBTQ Issues 10

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



Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva in Wanuri Kahiu’s “Rafiki.”

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April 11 - April 24, 2019 |

In This Issue COVER STORY Rafiki: the film Kenya tried to ban 36 POLITICS Fernando Cabrera’s enduring religious homophobia 06 IMPACT AWARDS Wrap on gala evening & its beneficiary 14-17 EDITOR’S LETTER Pride & gratitude over NYPA Awards 22 | April 11 - April 24, 2019

PERSPECTIVE Why people rise up 23 THEATER “June is the First Fall” 28

Chicago Mayor-Elect Lori Lightfoot 12

“Where Do All the Ghosts Go?” 30 BOOKS “When Brooklyn Was Queer” 34 GALLERY Stonewall in DC 40



Marijuana Reform Advocates Remain Hopeful Drug Policy Alliance holding Cuomo to his word about legalization by June BY NATHAN RILEY


grim determination has settled over the movement in New York State to end racially biased drug arrests and to legalize pot. The original agreement to do the bill as part of the budget was a legislative strategy to allow members of the Assembly and the Senate to keep their distance from a hot-button issue. That cover is gone after Governor Andrew Cuomo reversed himself and took provisions allowing adult use of marijuana out of the budget. As the April 1 budget deadline approached, a variety of issues dogged the legalization effort. While some legislators wanted tax revenues from legal sales to go back to the communities where discriminatory arrests have occurred, the governor talked about using the money for subways. Police wanted extra funds to train officers in drug recognition because there is no test like a breathalyzer for marijuana intoxication. And there were also attacks that conjured visions of more auto accidents and of teenagers becoming schizophrenic from toking pot. False starts are a familiar pattern with Cuomo, and that gives reformers hope that by the end of June there will be a bill. When the legislative session opened, Cuomo was making promises, based on his announcement the month before that legalization would come soon. In a December 17 article, The New York Times quoted the governor saying, “The fact is we have had two criminal justice systems: one for the


Governor Andrew Cuomo.

wealthy and the well off, and one for everyone else [which has] for too long targeted the African-American and minority communities.” At an April 2 press conference, drug reform advocates noted that Cuomo’s December statement was not the first time he promised to end disparate criminal justice enforcement. According to The Times, in his 2013 State of the State Address, the governor said, “There is a challenge posed by the stop and frisk police policies. Roughly 50,000 arrests in New York City for marijuana possession, more than any other possession. Of those 50,000 arrests, 82 percent are black and Hispanic. These arrests stigmatize, they criminalize, they create a permanent

record. It’s not fair. It’s not right. It must end. And it must end now.” That year as a first step in ending New York’s war on marijuana, Chelsea Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, working with Republicans, agreed on a medical marijuana bill that would help people suffering from a wide range of symptoms. At the end of the session, Cuomo rejected the Legislature’s work and insisted on his own bill. A crabbed and limited medical marijuana program, which achieved notoriety because it would not sell smokable pot, was the result. Only a limited number of dispensaries were opened, and the plan has only slowly taken root. The governor likes to “get credit” is the explanation offered by Kassandra Frederique, the New York State director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a major leader in the Smart New York Coalition supporting adult use of marijuana. Frederique explained, “We are very clear about Governor Cuomo around marijuana reform. In 2014 and 2013, we were going to deal with marijuana arrests and then it did not go into the budget.” It did get done by the end by the end of session, however. Cuomo now insists there will be a legalization bill by the end of session, and Frederique is taking him at his word. “I’m very aware of a Cuomo calculus,” she said. “It is something that he wants to get credit for getting it done.” Her bottom line is that in the past the governor has done last-minute rescues and it can still happen this year.




oughly 250 activists and other LGBTQ community members and allies turned up in Washington Square Park on April 7 to protest the Sultanate of Brunei’s imposition of a stoning death penalty for sodomy between men, along with 40 lashes imposed for lesbian sex and a variety of other draconian sentences announced as part of its Sharia law doctrine. Adam Eli Werner, an organizer from Voices 4, said the death sentence “is not Islam and is not religion.”



In Washington Square Park on Sunday, hooded men represented gay men at risk for stoning to death under Brunei’s draconian new penalties.

Though some celebrities, led by George Clooney and Elton John, are calling for a boycott of luxury hotels — in Los Angeles, London, and Paris — owned by the Brunei government, activist Marti Allen-

Cummings said he can’t afford the hotels anyway, but that speaking in the face of oppression every time is the only way to ensure that what today is acceptable in Brunei does not gain wider embrace by bigots.


Adam Eli Werner from Voices 4.

April 11 - April 24, 2019 |


Brooklyn DA Endorses Decriminalization of Sex Work Eric Gonzalez says “the way we are dealing with trafficking cases is not effective” BY MATT TRACY


rooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez voiced his support for the decriminalization of sex work on April 4 during a wideranging discussion with elected officials, advocates, and members of Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn (LID). The “decriminalizing queerness” event, which was hosted by LID and primarily focused on sex work but also touched upon marijuana legalization, housing rights, and other issues facing marginalized groups, additionally featured Brooklyn State Senators Julia Salazar and Zellnor Myrie as well as advocates who have experience as sex workers. “I believe in decriminalization,” Gonzalez said in response to a question from an audience member at the First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn Heights. Gonzalez went on to explain that his office currently utilizes a process that entails enrolling sex workers in services and directing them to complete a series of steps before his office dismisses the cases altogether. He notably left the door open to further improvements in the way his office handles those cases. Gonzalez’s clear support for decriminalization comes just weeks after he unveiled his Justice 2020 plan geared toward reducing incarceration. The Brooklyn Eagle quoted Gonzalez’s spokesperson in March as saying that the DA “expressed willingness to take a fresh look at loitering enforcement and would be open to further discussion about this issue.” The decriminalization movement has gained steam in New York, where Salazar and her colleagues in the State Legislature, including Manhattan Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, Queens State Senator Jessica Ramos, and out gay Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman, have worked with DecrimNY to push legislation aimed at eradicating the criminalization | April 11 - April 24, 2019


Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez speaks during a meeting hosted by the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn.

of sex workers. Salazar told Gay City News that her office has seen “overwhelming support” for decriminalization, particularly from transgender sex workers and advocates. “What’s beautiful about this new decriminalization effort is that it’s been led by LGBTQ people, many of whom are trans women,” she said. Jared Trujillo and Jessica Raven, who have been sex workers before and are advocates in the decriminalization movement, discussed the issue during a panel discussion alongside Salazar. With Gonzalez watching intently from the crowd, the trio articulated the reasons why they believe sex work must be decriminalized in order to protect the workers — and that there are loopholes that need to be addressed. Among the variety of topics covered, Trujillo and Raven cited existing legal barriers based on age. Raven noted that federal law labels sex workers under the age of 18 as sex trafficking victims despite that the overwhelming majority of those people don’t have a trafficker, while Trujillo added that there are cases of people who are 21 or above who are unfairly prosecuted for helping provide shelter to those who are under 18. The shared message among the panelists was that over-criminalization, stigmatization, and lack of resources for workers in the indus-

try creates an unstable and unsafe work environment — and all three panelists pointed out how transgender and gender non-conforming people are disproportionately affected. “Across the city of New York, 94 percent of those arrested for loitering for the purposes of prostitution are black women, including cis and trans women,” Salazar explained. “That’s a startling number and speaks to the racial profiling and gender-based discrimination as well that goes into these arrests.” The panelists also stressed that those who trade sex voluntarily and those who are coerced into the industry should have equal opportunity to access resources. Instead, Raven said a great deal of funds have been dedicated to anti-trafficking ad campaigns in hotels. “But there is no discussion or investment into what happens next after you’ve spotted a trafficking victim,” she said. “There are just not enough resources.” Gonzalez chimed in during the panelists’ Q&A session, first extending an invitation to those advocates to visit his office and further discuss the issue. He then asked what his office should do in the future to help sex trafficking victims who are coerced into the industry. Trujillo, an attorney who represents sex workers, said in response that there is an important discus-

sion to be had over which laws are enforced, and he raised concerns that Brooklyn has been lagging behind other boroughs in the way it polices sex work. “One of the reasons why I chose to practice in Manhattan and did not want to practice in Brooklyn is because your office is a lot better for a lot of people,” Trujillo said. “However, one of the areas where Brooklyn does fail compared to even Queens and Manhattan is prosecuting for purpose of prostitution.” Trujillo added that far too many sex workers end up in unsafe situations because, out of fear of prosecution, they do not feel comfortable turning to police or others for help. After the event was over, Gonzalez further elaborated upon that topic during an interview with Gay City News. “What I heard today has me thinking that the way we are dealing with trafficking cases is not effective,” he said. “If people are afraid they are going to get arrested, maybe something outside of the justice system is better. I’m open to that.” Gonzalez, like many other speakers during the event, drew comparisons to the marijuana legalization movement and the way that it is policed. He especially pointed to the fact that there is no longer a drawn out process for many drug cases. “We don’t send them to Rikers and we don’t make them plead guilty to get services,” he said. “I’m very open to dealing with this in the same way.” Gonzalez expressed a desire to continue listening in other areas, including trans-related issues. He said it was important for him attend the LID meeting because it represents an organization where folks can “have honest talk about issues involving queer and LGBT issues.” “Many of the people who get arrested for sex work are from the transgender community, so I really need to hear from that community,” he said.



Fernando Cabrera’s Enduring Religious Homophobia Near and far, Bronx lawmaker has used his Christianity to justify anti-gay views BY MATT TRACY


ronx City Councilmember Fernando Cabrera has remained steadfast in his bizarre insistence that government suffers from not having more religious folks in it, and in that spirit he has managed to drive a unique brand of religious homophobia. Now in the midst of his third and final consecutive term on the City Council, Cabrera is more than four years removed from a trip during which he was caught praising the homophobic government of Uganda. He is known for his influential role as the founder and pastor at New Life Outreach International Church in the Bronx, which boasts a “Statement of Faith” declaring that marriage is defined as “the exclusive covenantal union of one man and one woman,” and that it is “imperative” that all employees of the church and its volunteers adhere to those rules. It was 2014 when the councilmember, a conservative Democrat, traveled to Uganda shortly after that nation passed a measure that in its


City Councilmember Fernando Cabrera speaks during a Commitee on Governmental Operations hearing.

earliest incarnation was dubbed the “Kill the Gays” measure, but later dropped the death penalty, substituting instead long prison sentences for same-sex sexual conduct. He said

in a YouTube video that “godly people are in government” there and praised the nation for standing against what he falsely described as threats by the United States to pull funding if Uganda’s anti-gay actions continued. “Even when the United States of America has put pressure, has told Uganda, ‘We are not going to fund you anymore unless you allow gay marriage,’ they have stood in their place. Why? Because the Christians have assumed the place of decision-making for the nation,” Cabrera said in the video. The US government exerted no such pressure on Uganda. Cabrera views on religion and government are of a piece with his ties to Pastor Joseph Mattera, who believes Christians should reproduce faster so that they can “have more influence... [and] more votes than anybody else and we would have the most power on earth.” Cabrera served on Mattera’s regional Apostolic Leadership team and taught at his Leadership Institute regarding a “Kingdom Revolution” to push

➤ FERNANDO CABRERA, continued on p.7

Ruben Diaz, Sr., Fumes Over Council Ethics Probe Bronx lawmaker says he will “not sit back and be victimized or bullied” BY MATT TRACY


laiming his First Amendment rights are under attack, Bronx City Councilmember Ruben Diaz, Sr., is calling on the Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics to immediately disclose any existing findings of its apparent investigation into his comments that “everybody” in the City Council “is controlled by the homosexual community.” In an April 3 letter to Staten Island Councilmember Steven Matteo, who chairs that committee, Diaz said he wants to know whether the committee “has made any determination which may amount to a threat to my… first amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion.” He added that he “will not sit back and be victimized or bullied into submission or silence by what seems to be politically motivated attacks on my credibility.” The Council has not yet announced any findings related to the investigation — or even confirmed that it is taking place — and a spokesperson for Matteo did not respond to a request



Bronx Councilmember Ruben Diaz, Sr., has continued to brand himself as a victim since he was stripped of his Committee on For-Hire Vehicles earlier this year.

for comment on the probe or Diaz’s letter. The 75-year-old former state senator has continued to stand by his anti-LGBTQ comments, even after the Committee on For-Hire Vehicles, which was only created last year and he chaired, was disbanded and most of his colleagues publicly called for his apology and res-

ignation. “We all know that in February, an effort was initiated to suppress my first amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion by the use of the media and Twitter,” Diaz continued in his letter. “This was clearly an attempt to mar my reputation as a duly elected official and to discredit me.” Diaz’s attempt to paint himself as the victim resembles the approach he took during a February interview with Gay City News, when he doubled down on his comments and said, “If anyone’s being harassed, it’s me. Look at the way they write their tweets, with their nasty words, the foul language that they use. I didn’t do that.” Diaz has continued to utilize Twitter as a platform to defend himself with an approach that has often only reinvigorated negative publicity about him just when the storylines appear to be dissipating. That was evident when he recently chimed in on the controversy surrounding Brooklyn

➤ RUBEN DIAZ, SR., continued on p.7 April 11 - April 24, 2019 |

➤ FERNANDO CABRERA, from p.6 a “biblical worldview,” according to Political Research Associates. Mattera’s website is laced with articles floating laughable conspiracy theories, like one saying, “An Earthquake and a Hurricane within 30 Days of Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage —What’s Next? ” In another article, Mattera says “homosexuality has been normalized by art, media, and entertainment yet the rank and file of America still reject it… If we are going to transform culture we need to engage and shift the influencers toward biblical values at the highest levels in every major sphere of society.” Cabrera, whose district encompasses Morris Heights, University Heights, Fordham, and Kingsbridge, has also supported and attended rallies with anti-gay groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a far-right anti-gay fringe legal group that has represented Masterpiece Cakeshop baker Jack Phillips in legal battles over his refusal to serve gay and transgender customers. ADF has served

➤ RUBEN DIAZ, SR., from p.6 Councilmember Kalman Yeger, who was removed from his seat on the Immigration Committee after he tweeted that “Palestine doesn’t exist.” When Yeger subsequently tweeted that “free speech must reign, even in the Council,” Diaz tied that storyline to his own case by expressing frustration that Yeger was among those to vote to dissolve the Committee on ForHire Vehicles. “I do agree with Kalman Yeger when he said ‘free speech must reign, even in the Council’ to [sic] bad he did not agree with me when they came after me and speaker Jonhson [sic] eliminated my committee.” Among many other examples, Diaz on March 12 retweeted a strange Twitter post featuring a screenshot of an article with a highlighted sentence that read, “Hollywood is controlled by homosexual Jewish men who expect favors.” On March 25, Diaz pointed to a years-old, since-deleted video featuring rapper Fat Joe saying that the “Gay Mafia” controlled | April 11 - April 24, 2019

as a key legal defender of bans on same-sex marriage and dedicates an entire section of its website to explaining why marriage equality causes “needless emotional and material hardship” and leads to a “redesigned society.” ADF has also repeatedly gone to court to fight the rights of transgender school students. In another YouTube video from 2014, Cabrera directly praised ADF and said it is important for religious folks to run for political office. “We need to have a new generation of young people that are going to raise the banner for family values, for those things that have made our nation great and the values Alliance Defending Freedom has been fighting for,” he said. Cabrera also made a speech that same year at an event sponsored by ADF and led by Christian Union, which “develops Christian leaders to transform culture for God’s glory.” During his speech, he railed against attacks on religious

➤ FERNANDO CABRERA, continued on p.27 hop. “To all those that were asking for my apology I would like you to listen to what Fat Joe says in this video,” Diaz said in a tweet that day. “Why the outrage for me? Because I’m a Christian?” Although Diaz lost the support of many of his colleagues in his display of homophobia earlier this year, he recently announced he is interested in running for Congress to replace outgoing Bronx Representative José Serrano, who announced he will not run for reelection in 2020 due to his health. Diaz expressed interest only after his out gay Bronx colleague, Councilmember Ritchie Torres, made it clear he is considering a run for the same seat in what is shaping up to be a crowded field of contenders. Diaz’s potential congressional bid could be buoyed by the strong support he has enjoyed in his district, which encompasses Soundview, Castle Hill, Parkchester, Clason Point, and Harding Park. He drew a large crowd of supporters to a rally at his district office in the days following the uproar over his homophobic comments about who controls the Council.

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Pride March ‘19 Expected to Be Three Times Bigger Final contingents won’t step off until eight hours after parade’s start BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


he group that produces New York City’s annual Pride Parade and related events is predicting that there will be 150,000 marchers and 150 floats in this year’s event, but organizers are making no predictions as to when this year’s march will end. “We’re going to do our best to make it as efficient as possible,” said Zoe Gorringe, Heritage of Pride’s (HOP) event coordinator, during an April 8 presentation at the Arts, Culture, Education, Street Life Committee of Community Board 4, which covers several Manhattan neighborhoods that will be affected by the march. This year’s march commemorates the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots, which marked the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. It will likely be the largest such event that New York City has seen even if HOP does not turn out 150,000 people and 150 floats. The parade, which fielded about 50,000 marchers in recent years, is already one of the four largest events in the city along with the Thanksgiv-


The spire of the Empire State Building was bathed in rainbow lights during Pride Weekend last June.

ing Day Parade, the city’s 4th of July celebration, and New Year’s Eve in Times Square. The march, which occurs on the last Sunday in June and steps off at noon, will be staged on the blocks to the east and west of Fifth Avenue above 26th Street then head south on the avenue. The route turns west on Eighth and Christopher Streets and past the Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 riots. It heads north on Seventh

Avenue to disperse in the blocks above 24th Street. The route is two miles long, and Gorringe estimated that any group could complete the walk in two hours. In 2018, HOP used the same route, but the direction of the march was reversed. With 50,000 marchers, that parade ended at 9:14 pm, just 24 minutes shorter than the 2017 march. The 2018 event was meant to be a rehearsal for the 2019 march. The 2016 and 2015 marches were each roughly eight hours long. It is likely that the 2019 march will include a host of federal, state, and local elected officials who are always placed at the front and are known for keeping a plodding pace. Given New York’s importance in selecting a Democratic nominee for president, a number of the candidates for that slot may join the parade and can be expected to move slowly enough to be seen by as many voters as possible. Parade sponsors are allowed to buy a position toward the front of the march. The sponsors typically feature large floats and hundreds

➤ 2019 PRIDE MARCH, continued on p.9

Reclaim Pride Nears OK on March, Park Rally Pride Sunday likely to host two different marches as Queer Liberation event firms up BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


he organization spearheading the Queer Liberation March on the last Sunday in June appears poised to win approval for the march and for a rally in Central Park. “Through several months now of these negotiations, we have arrived at a plan,” said Ann Northrop, a member of the Reclaim Price Coalition (RPC), during a March 27 meeting held at the Church of the Village on West 13th Street. Comprised of more than 90 endorser groups, the Coalition has members who had grown increasingly unhappy with the presentation of New York City’s annual Pride March, which occurs on the last Sunday in June and commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riots. Those riots mark the start of the



Ann Northrop, who has taken a lead in negotiations with the NYPD regarding a march route for the Reclaim Pride Coalition, seen here at last June’s Dyke March.

modern LGBTQ rights movement. With this year’s march commemorating the 50th anniversary of the riots, the Coalition members elected to produce their own march on that Sunday to be followed by

a rally in Central Park. This mirrors the 1970 march, the very first march, which traveled up Sixth Avenue from the West Village, where the riots occurred on the last weekend in June, and ended in Central Park where thousands held a “gayin” on the Sheep Meadow. During the negotiations over this year’s RPC march, the NYPD, which issues parade permits, offered a starting point at Seventh Avenue at Sheridan Square with marchers heading north then turning east on 23rd Street then traveling north again on Sixth Avenue before concluding at Central Park with a rally on the Great Lawn. The offer has the march beginning at 9:00 a.m., a time that drew objections from some of the roughly 75 people in the meeting. The group ultimately approved the offer with a request that negotiators agree to the route, but seek a later start time.

If RPC gets its permit, the NYPD will be policing two events on that Sunday. Heritage of Pride (HOP), which also uses NYC Pride, is organizing a march that may have up to 150,000 marchers. That event, which also commemorates the 1969 riots, will step off at noon and travel south on Fifth Avenue from 29th Street then head west on Eighth and Christopher Streets then north on Seventh Avenue to disperse at 23rd Street. While the RPC march will likely be smaller than the HOP event, the NYPD clearly wants the RPC members out of the way before the NYC Pride parade begins. The RPC organizers are among the community members who have objected to the presence of large corporate floats and contingents in the annual parade. Sponsors

➤ RECLAIM PRIDE, continued on p.9 April 11 - April 24, 2019 |

➤ 2019 PRIDE MARCH, from p.8 of marchers. They tend to move slowly as well to maximize the exposure of the contingents, which are essentially ads, to the crowds gathered on the sidewalks. The members of HOP’s march committee have a fondness for PowerPoint presentations and a consistently upbeat manner during those presentations. A timeline for the 2019 march in Gorringe’s PowerPoint gave specific times for some steps, but the end time for “Final Groups Reach Dispersal” was “TBD.”

➤ RECLAIM PRIDE, from p.8 in the HOP march are able to buy positions toward the front in that parade. While the sponsors are a dominant presence, community groups and non-profits continue to make up most of the contingents in that march. Northrop, who presented with longtime LGBTQ and civil rights activist Bill Dobbs, noted that the NYPD had initially told them in

In 2018, the last contingents had a check in time of 6 p.m. This year, the check in time for groups at the end of the 13-section march will be 8:00 p.m. Pressed on when the march will end, Gorringe said, “Let’s see how fast we can make it move… We’ll be rolling more people on to the street in a faster way.” The Reclaim Pride Coalition will be staging a separate march on June 30. Currently, the plan is for those marchers to gather on Seventh Avenue near Sheridan Square and step off at 9 a.m. That group will head north to 23rd Street

then head east to Sixth Avenue where they will head north to Central Park for a rally on the Great Lawn. Ann Northrop, a Coalition member, said they were expecting 50,000 marchers. The police want the Coalition event out of the way before the HOP march steps off at noon. The Coalition was formed by LGBTQ community activists who object to the corporate floats and the police presence in the HOP event. The Coalition march approximates the route of the 1970 march, the first commemoration of the riots, which went up Sixth Avenue from

the West Village to Central Park for a “gay-in” on the Sheep Meadow. “We want a people’s march, a political march,” Northrop told the CB4 committee. “What we want is a march that is cognizant of what is happening in the world today.” The committee approved both march routes and an expansion of the Folsom Street East Festival from one block to two blocks. First staged in 1997, Folsom Street East has raised more than $300,000 for community groups with the annual kink and leather event.

January, “We don’t see a way forward for this.” The Coalition applied for its parade permit in October of 2018. “It was extremely discouraging because we went in there with open hearts and open minds,” Northrop said. The Coalition members have also complained about the policing of the HOP event, which they see as overbearing, and the use of barricades to line the march route,

which they see as keeping people from entering or exiting the march conveniently. The crowd responded with sustained applause when Northrop told them, “The police department has said to us, ‘We don’t have the resources to barricade Sixth Avenue and we don’t have the resources for a large police presence.’” The Central Park rally also appears to be on track to get a permit.

“The parks department and the Central Park Conservancy have been incredibly helpful in getting this done,” said Hucklefaery, a performance activist and member of the RPC’s rally committee, early in the meeting. Hucklefaery later told Gay City News that the interactions with the city parks department and the conservancy, a private entity that manages the park under a contract with the city, had been “incredibly positive.”

Saving a life is easy.

Slow down in work zones. | April 11 - April 24, 2019



LGBTQ Leaders Tepid After Meeting With Vatican Church falls short on endorsing gay decriminalization, but vows to keep talking BY MATT TRACY


GBTQ leaders and human rights lawyers from around the world met privately with the Vatican’s secretary of state on April 5 to present research on criminalization of homosexuality and to push Pope Francis toward opposing anti-gay laws internationally, but the immediate reaction from attendees and queer Catholics is a mixture of encouragement and disappointment. The International Bar Association, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, and the UN-based Latin American Institute were among those who met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, as well as major corporations encompassing the Open for Business Coalition, which promotes LGBTQ business initiatives. The pope was notably absent after attendees said he backed out of plans to attend the meeting and make a “strong statement” endorsing the decriminalization of homosexuality. Following the meeting, Parolin assured attendees that their research and messages would be passed along to the pope. The Vatican did not immediately respond to


Meeting attendees stand together after meeting with Cardinal Pietro Paroli. From left to right: Pedro Paradiso, ILGA Latin America; Helen Kennedy, Egale Canada; Roberto Carles, Inter-American Institute of Human Rights; Ruth Baldacchino, Intersex Human Rights Fund Astraea Foundation and Urgent Act Board; Ymania Brown, The Samoa Fa’afafine Association.

a request for comment on the meeting or the pope’s absence. Helen Kennedy, who attended the meeting in her capacity as the executive director of a Canadian LGBTQ human rights group known as Egale Canada, told Gay City News that it was unfortunate that the pope decided not to attend the meeting. “However, I don’t think that the relevance of

the meeting is lost on any of us,” she said in a phone interview from Rome shortly after the meeting concluded. “We are still very encouraged by the meeting that we had. We are still hopeful that a strong statement will soon be coming from the Vatican.” Kennedy said she was especially happy to hear Parolin say that there is “common ground” between the two sides and that the Church endorsed “human rights for everybody” while condemning all forms of violence. The meeting ended with Parolin leaving the door open for future discussion, Kennedy said, but specific details on plans for future interactions were not immediately clear. “I think the statement that we have common ground is significant,” she said. “We just have to find those areas where we have common ground.” Deutsche Bank board member Karl von Rohr similarly described the meeting as a broad commitment from the Church to condemn wider violence and establish mutual understanding, saying in a statement that Parolin established intentions to “collectively move

➤ VATICAN MEETING, continued on p.12

Mormons Relax Policy on LGBTQ Families’ Children Queer groups applaud move, but doctrines on marriage, sexuality remain unchanged BY MATT TRACY


n a surprise move on April 4, the Mormon Church announced it would immediately begin allowing children of LGBTQ couples to be baptized and that gay couples would no longer be viewed as “apostates,” which is a term used to describe people who deviate from Church teachings. The Church said it is repealing those two policies, which were introduced in 2015, to “reduce the hate and contention so common today” and to “increase respect and understanding among all people of goodwill.” While many have hailed the announcement as a step forward, the Church stressed that same-sex marriages are still considered “a serious transgression” and that the changes “do not represent a shift in Church doctrine related to marriage or the commandments of God in regard to chastity or morality.” The Church’s website further maintains that sexual activity between people of the same sex is sinful and “undermine the divinely created institution of the family.”



Queer Mormons are encouraged after Church leadership loosened some of its LGBTQ-related rules.

There was also an important caveat attached to the new changes. The children of LGBTQ parents can only be baptized if the family understands “both the doctrine that a baptized child will be taught and the covenants he or she will be expected to make.” The changes drew praise within the Mormon Church’s LGBTQ community and in Utah, where the Church has a strong base of followers. However, many cautioned that the announcement is only an incremental improvement and that the Church must take further action if it wants to

create a welcoming environment for its LGBTQ followers. Tory Williams, the executive director of Equality Utah, thanked Mormon leadership and credited “courageous members” within the Church who pushed for the changes by sharing personal stories about their lives. “You were heard, and today marks a positive step in teaching our young people we all have value — regardless of our sexual orientation or that of our family members,” Williams said in an email before added, “we have work yet to do.” Affirmation, which is an LGBTQ group for Mormons, cheered the Church’s announcement but told Gay City News that “there is still much work to be done” to improve the lives of LGBTQ Mormons in church and at home. “Affirmation remains committed to providing safe spaces of unconditional acceptance for all LGBTQ Mormons and former Mormons, and will continue to work towards the time when every individual who chooses to worship God may do so with full acceptance, fellowship, equality, and love,” the organization said. April 11 - April 24, 2019 |


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Lori Lightfoot, Black Lesbian, To Lead Chicago Windy City surpasses Houston as biggest American city to elect out LGBTQ mayor

her administration. Questions were also raised about whether she was the victim of homophobic dog-whistle tactics from Preckwinkle, who brought up Lightfoot’s sexual orientation during a debate when she praised her for being “open and honest about her LGBTQ orientation.” In the preliminary vote in February, Lightfoot topped a field of formidable foes in Preckwinkle, the Cook County Board president, and Bill Daley, who served as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff and whose father and brother each served long stints as mayor. In that contest, Lightfoot yielded 17.54 percent, while Preckwinkle had 16.04 percent and Daley trailed close behind with 14.78 percent of the vote. Lightfoot is set to replace the city’s embattled mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who opted not to seek re-election after his approval rating plunged amid a series of controversies under his watch — perhaps most notably his administration’s

handling of the 2014 fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald. In light of that and other criminal justice scandals, Lightfoot, in her campaign, vowed to revamp the Chicago Police Department as she slammed the current administration for having “no plan” to address crime in the city. Lightfoot hopes to improve the reputation of the city’s police department by building on her roles as the head of the Chicago Police Board and chair of the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force. LGBTQ advocates viewed Lightfoot’s win as a major step forward for queer representation in politics. Equality Illinois, which advocates for LGBTQ folks throughout that state, said Lightfoot’s victory “is historic and it is also an undeniably proud moment for the LGBTQ community,” while the Human Rights Campaign’s senior vice president for policy and political affairs, JoDee Winterhof, said the organization enjoyed campaigning for her and looks forward to working closely with her administration to make sure Chicago “moves forward to be an inclusive and welcoming place for everyone.” The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which works to help elect queer folks across all levels of government nationwide, heaped praise on Lightfoot after she won. “A black lesbian taking power in the nation’s third-largest city is a historic moment for so many communities that are too often ignored in American politics,” said former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, an out lesbian who now heads up the Victory Fund. “Chicago’s enormous influence on the national dialogue provides a platform for Lori to promote more inclusive solutions to the challenges facing our cities and nation — and to be a credible messenger as well.” Lightfoot will be sworn into office on May 20.

Pope Francis’ reputation on LGBTQ issues has varied during his tenure in Vatican City. He has made comments indicating that he wouldn’t judge LGBTQ folks, signaling a shift from traditional rhetoric in Catholic leadership, but has just as often made it clear that he is not willing to make major strides on embracing queer folks. In December, Francis said the notion of gay priests is “something that worries me” and described being gay as a “very serious matter” and dismissed it as “fashionable.” The April 5 meeting came at a time of significant movement on LGBTQ issues across different religious denominations. Just one day prior to the gathering, the Mormon Church suddenly changed its policies to allow children of LGBTQ couples to be baptized while also

announcing that gay couples would no longer be considered “apostates.” Meanwhile, the Methodist Church voted in February to continue banning LGBTQ people from joining the clergy or getting married. Moving forward, New Ways Ministry hopes that a new era of dialogue between the LGBTQ community and Catholic leadership can allow the two sides to join forces to fight against discrimination, violence, and legal penalties facing queer folks around the world. In the meantime, they stress that there is no time to waste. “Decisive action is needed to respond to this terrible scourge which destroys lives and erodes human dignity,” New Ways said of antiLGBTQ laws around the world.



ori Lightfoot cruised to victory in the Chicago mayoral runoff election on April 2, becoming the first out lesbian black woman to lead the nation’s third largest city. Lightfoot defeated Toni Preckwinkle in a landslide, earning nearly 74 percent of the vote compared to 26 percent, capping off a months-long trudge after a tight result in the initial election in February produced no clear-cut leader. The decisive victory for the 56-year-old former assistant US attorney, who won every district in the city during what was her first-ever election race, came on an historic night for lesbian mayoral candidates: Out lesbian Satya Rhodes-Conway was elected mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, and out lesbian Jolie Justus nabbed the Democratic nomination for mayor in Kansas City, Missouri, where she advances to the general election in June. Accompanied by her wife, Amy Eshleman, Lightfoot used her victory speech to highlight the historic nature of her win while painting a bright picture for the future of Chicago. “Out there tonight a lot of little girls and boys are watching us,” Lightfoot said. “And they’re seeing the beginning of something, well, a little bit different. They’re seeing a city where it doesn’t matter what color you are, where it sure doesn’t matter how tall you are, and where it doesn’t matter who you love.” The path to victory for the city’s first openly LGBTQ mayor didn’t come without homophobia. In the weeks before the runoff election, bogus flyers about Lightfoot were circulated around the city — particularly near black churches — saying she would “teach gay history by mandate” and would only hire gay people to serve in

➤ VATICAN MEETING, from p.10 forward with the conversation.” New Ways Ministry, which has advocated for LGBTQ Catholics for four decades, called the meeting a “great step forward” but seeks much more urgency from the Vatican. “We had hoped for a stronger statement from Cardinal Parolin in response to the information presented by the LGBT advocates on human rights violations,” the organization said in a written statement. New Ways said “vague generalizations... will not suffice, nor will they be effective,” and the organization said the Vatican now must forcefully and clearly denounce LGBTQ criminalization laws.



Chicago Mayor-Elect Lori Lightfoot.

April 11 - April 24, 2019 |








   !    | April 11 - April 24, 2019



Leaders in the Spotlight at Impact Awards Gay City News honors more than two-dozen for their work for the LGBTQ community BY MATT TRACY


rom judges to activists, authors, industry pioneers, and beyond, the fourth annual Gay City News Impact Awards gala on March 28 reflected a vibrant class of 32 honorees who have made a difference in various sectors of the LGBTQ community. The special night at the Ravel Hotel in Long Island City marked a rare occasion when dedicated members of the community as well as allies enjoyed an opportunity to step back and be recognized for the work that they have done to improve the lives of others — while acknowledging the contributions of their peers. (For profiles of all the evening’s honorees, visit here; a video slide show of the evening can be found here.) “In my life, I don’t always realize the impact. I just do what I do,” said Roscoe Boyd II, an HIV-positive man who was honored for his role in helping other HIV-positive folks, especially black gay and bisexual men, as a founding steering committee member of U=U (undetectable=untransmittable), an effort that emphasizes that HIV-positive people on treatment who achieve an undetectable viral load cannot transmit the virus to others. “But tonight, I realized just how it affects the lives of others. That’s the impact. It’s a room filled with love, friendship, and camaraderie around the work that’s impacting people. I’m really grateful for the honor tonight.” Schneps Media president and publisher Victoria Schneps-Yunis and Gay City News founding editor-in-chief Paul Schindler helped kick off the evening and oversaw the presentation of the awards, with Schindler saying that impact results from three key ingredients: passion, commitment, and resilience. “We honor impact as the positive energy members of our community and our allies bring to the wellbeing and happiness of New York’s LGBTQ community,” Schindler



MetroPlus Health Plan’s Mervin Otero (left) presents an award to the Richard C. Failla LGBTQ Commission leaders: Justice Joanne Winslow, Justice Marcy Kahn, and Matthew Skinner, with Paul Schindler.

said. “It can come through political action and advocacy, or brilliant lawyering in the courtroom. Some folks have immeasurable impact by working on the inside; many others are on the outside, often in the streets… In the troubled times we find ourselves in today, all of these ways of having an impact can be a way of speaking truth to power.” To mark the occasion, drag queen Harmonica Sunbeam helped set the scene, electrifying the crowd with an energetic performance of “I’m So Excited,” the 1982 Pointer Sisters hit, before the awards were handed out. Many honorees struck a reflective tone when they received their awards. Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) president Brian Downey found himself looking back on his personal journey — particularly back to when he was a rookie cop in 2008 — and he also talked about his responsibilities in helping serve as a bridge between the police and the community. “Really, until I was in GOAL, I was never a part of Pride,” said Downey, who was promoted to detective in 2015 and currently works in the Office of the Police Commissioner. Downey has played a major role in equipping police officers with the training necessary to interact with members of the LGBTQ


Honoree Dr. Ross Hewitt of MetroPlus Health Plan.


Honoree Roscoe Boyd II from U=U.

community and was lauded for leading the NYPD’s effort to close Christopher Street for an otherwise permit-less vigil following the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. “I’ve committed myself to giving back. I’m responsible as we all are to give the community a voice,” he said. Activist Anne Maguire, who is involved with Revolting Lesbians and has played a role in civil rights activism since before she left her home country of Ireland in 1987, was initially speechless when she thought back to her work over the past several decades. “It’s about recognizing the longevity of the work a lot of activists did,” Maguire said. “I have never

Honoree Donna Aceto with Cathy Marino-Thomas, a 2016 Impact Award winner.

been paid for any of my activist work. It’s like my second full-time job and that’s the way it is for a lot of activists. I feel like you have to do it; you have no choice. It’s part of our makeup at this point.” Many honorees touched on the struggles in their respective careers as queer people navigating hostile environments, while others discussed the importance of intersectionality in the broader struggle for equality. Despite hailing from different career fields and backgrounds, the common thread among all award recipients was that their efforts have made a difference. Lee Soulja-Simmons, who pro-

➤ 2019 IMPACT AWARDS, continued on p.16 April 11 - April 24, 2019 |

Make an impact.

Presenting sponsor of the 2019 Gay City News Impact Awards. MKT 19.014 | April 11 - April 24, 2019


➤ 2019 IMPACT AWARDS, from p.14 duces the annual NYC Black Pride celebration, reminded the crowd during his acceptance speech that people of color are far too often left out of historical narratives — and that is why it is more important than ever to raise visibility. “When people ask me why there is Black Pride, it is because we are here, we exist, and I want it to be known,” Soulja-Simmons said. “I feel honored to accept this award from Gay City News, with this year being the 400th anniversary of when the first African slaves were brought here in 1619.” “In celebrating and honoring the impact that community members and allies have contributed, we cherish their passion, we marvel at their commitment, and we damn well need their resilience,” Schindler said. Proceeds from the sale of raffle tickets were donated to Out My Closet, a non-profit organization that empowers displaced and under-resourced LGBTQ youth with clothing, care, and compassion. The group was founded by Michael Narain, one of the evening’s honorees. The total donation made to Out My Closet, which included a special gift of $1,250.00 from Desiree Asher, was $2,950. MetroPlus Health Plan was the evening’s presenting sponsor, and seven individuals handed out the awards to honorees: Marvin Otero, quality and eligibility manager at MetroPlus Health Plan; Ralph C. Bumbaca, senior vice president of TD Bank; Doug Wirth, president and CEO, and Teri Wade, vice president of marketing & communications, at Amida Care; Rodney Capel, vice president of governmental affairs at Charter Communications/ Spectrum; Cathy Marino-Thomas, a 2016 Gay City News Impact Award honoree; and Michael Sabatino, a 2018 Gay City


Queens Borough President Melinda Katz (center) presents a Gay City News Day in Queens proclamation to Schneps Media president and publisher Victoria Schneps-Yunis and Gay City News editor-in-chief Paul Schindler.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams with award presenter Rodney Capel, vice president for government affairs at Charter Communications/ Spectrum, one of the evening’s sponsors.


Honoree Robert Voorheis (right), with his husband Michael Sabatino, one of the evening’s presenters and a 2018 Impact Awardee.


A table of guests from TD Bank, including (rear left) senior vice president Ralph C. Bumbaca, one of the evening’s presenters, and, next to him, honoree Steven Garibell.

News Impact Award honoree. The evening’s other sponsors were Amida Care, New York Cancer & Blood Specialists, TD Bank, East Midtown Partnership, Charter Communications/ Spectrum,

and AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Special guest speakers included Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who declared March 28 Gay City News Day in the borough, Brooklyn Borough President Eric

Presented by:

Adams, and Matthew McMorrow, a senior aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who presented a letter of congratulations to the honorees from the mayor. Previous Impact Award honorees include marriage pioneer Edie Windsor, former Governor David Paterson, and former State Senator Tom Duane, among many others.

Sponsored by:

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April 11 - April 24, 2019 |


Out My Closet Is Impact Awards BeneďŹ ciary Group serving homeless LGBTQ youthsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; clothing needs receives $2,950 donation BY PAUL SCHINDLER


ay City News selected Out My Closet, a non-profit group serving the clothing and other needs of homeless and under-resourced LGBTQ youth, as a beneficiary of this yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Impact Awards. The group, founded in 2013 by Michael Narain, helps youth by delivering new and lightly-worn clothing to providers serving this population, offering counseling ranging from art and music therapy to physical and mental health and educational, vocational, and career training, creating a safe social media platform for engaging LGBTQ youth, and helping educators foster LGBTQ groups in schools. On April 10, Schneps Media CEO Joshua Schneps and Gay City News editor Paul Schindler presented Narain and the groupâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s treasurer, Christopher Mora, with a check for $2,950 from the sale of raffle tickets at the gala as well as a generous direct donation of $1,250 from Desiree Asher. Dignity is key to Out My Closetâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ethos, with


Schneps Media CEO Joshua Schneps (right) and Gay City News editor-in-chief Paul Schindler (left) present the 2019 Impact Award donation to Out My Closet founder Michael Narain and the groupâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s treasurer, Christopher Mora.

the groupâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s website emphasizing, â&#x20AC;&#x153;We NEVER deliver items in garbage bags or boxes but rather create shopping-like experiences where clients may sample our selection and take as many articles that they desire.â&#x20AC;?

Narain, who came from an under-resourced immigrant family himself, worked full-time while earning media and marketing degrees at Hunter College and the Fashion Institute of Technology and then spent 10 years at major fragrance houses. Recovering from shoulder surgery in 2009, he volunteered at Bellevue Hospital, where he worked with people facing life-challenging illnesses and decided to go on for professional training in social services. He currently manages a homeless transitional site serving clients with severe mental illnesses. At Out My Closet, Narain works with most LGBTQ organizations in New York, and has since extended the groupâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s reach to South Florida, Los Angeles, and South America. The group has donated more than 16,000 articles of clothing, shoes, and toiletries, and touches even more lives through social media campaigns such as â&#x20AC;&#x153;Heeling Words,â&#x20AC;? where he enlists celebrity support. â&#x20AC;&#x153;As a gay youth, I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have any mentors,â&#x20AC;? Narain said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I battled with issues of self-esteem, religious and cultural conflictsâ&#x20AC;Ś This is why I am fueled today.â&#x20AC;?







Gay New Yorker Loses Grindr Harassment Appeal Fake proďŹ les created by ex-boyfriend not the app makerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s responsibility, court rules BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


rindr enjoys totally immunity from liability for the harm suffered by a gay Manhattanite whose ex-boyfriend created fake Grindr profiles in his name that led more than a thousand people to contact him at home and at work for â&#x20AC;&#x153;fetishistic sex, bondage, role playing, and rape fantasies,â&#x20AC;? a unanimous federal appeals panel has ruled. The March 27 ruling by a threejudge panel of the New York-based Second Circuit Court of Appeals in a case brought by Matthew Herrick of Manhattan stated total agreement with District Judge Valerie Caproniâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s January 2018 ruling against him. Unlike Caproni, the appellate panel, consisting of Circuit Judges Dennis Jacobs, Reena Raggi, and Raymond J. Lohier, Jr., omitted from its brief â&#x20AC;&#x153;summary orderâ&#x20AC;? the details of some of the dire consequences Herrick suffered. The panelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ruling does not have â&#x20AC;&#x153;precedential effectâ&#x20AC;? but is consistent with other court decisions that have noted that the Communications Decency Act â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s Section 230 states, â&#x20AC;&#x153;No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.â&#x20AC;? The Communications Decency Act was intended to crack down on Internet pornography by requiring service providers, among other things, to enable parental controls over what minors can access on-


A unanimous federal appeals court found that Grindr cannot be held liable for the harm caused by the fake profiles Matthew Herrickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ex-boyfriend created.

line. Freeing interactive online sites from liability for what users post, however, relieved Grindr of liability for the fake profiles Herrickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ex created. According to Caproniâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ruling, Herrick alleges that among the many men who responded to the fake profiles, some showed up at his home or workplace and â&#x20AC;&#x153;physically assaulted or threatened Plaintiff and his friends and co-workers.â&#x20AC;? Herrick had achieved some success when he first filed suit in a New York State court, getting a judge to grant a temporary restraining order requiring Grindr to disable the fake profiles. Grindr, however, immediately removed the litigation to federal court and moved to dismiss it, citing Section 230. There is nothing in the Communications Decency Act that would prevent Herrick from suing his ex-

boyfriend, but Grindr is essentially immune from liability for the harm caused by the fake profiles. When the case was removed to federal court, Herrickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s attorneys amended the original complaint, which he had filed on his own in state court, in order to allege a variety of legal theories seeking to get around the Section 230 immunity issue, but to no avail. The court found that all of Herrickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s claims arose out of â&#x20AC;&#x153;information provided by another information content providerâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; that is, his ex-boyfriend â&#x20AC;&#x201D; so all of them fell within the broad sphere of Section 230. The provision has been liberally interpreted by federal courts to avoid imposing extremely burdensome censorship obligations on operators of â&#x20AC;&#x153;interactive computer services,â&#x20AC;? which include â&#x20AC;&#x153;any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or

enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server.â&#x20AC;? As Caproni found in her earlier decision, courts have ruled that â&#x20AC;&#x153;social networking sites like, and online matching services like and,â&#x20AC;? fall within this category, so its application to Grindr breaks no new ground. Trying to get around this, Herrickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lawyers argued that Grindr provides a defective product and misrepresents its siteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s safety for users, but the court concluded that Grindrâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Terms of Service published on its site provide adequate warnings. The panel noted Caproniâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s finding that those Terms of Service â&#x20AC;&#x153;do not represent that Grindr will remove illicit content or take action against users who provide such content, and the Terms of Service specifically disclaim any obligation or responsibility to monitor user content.â&#x20AC;? In any event, the court found, Herrick deactivated his Grindr account when he met his ex-boyfriend in 2015, so he â&#x20AC;&#x153;could have suffered the exact same harassment if he had never seen the Terms of Service or created a Grindr account.â&#x20AC;? Quoting a decision by the SanFrancisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the appeals panel wrote that under Section 230 an interactive computer service â&#x20AC;&#x153;will not be held responsible unless it assisted in the development of what made the content unlawfulâ&#x20AC;? and cannot be held liable for providing â&#x20AC;&#x153;neutral assistanceâ&#x20AC;? in the form of tools and functionality available equally to bad actors and the appâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s intended users.â&#x20AC;?

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April 11 - April 24, 2019 |

     | April 11 - April 24, 2019



Harlem Fast Food Joint Bias Case Ends Two sides step down in flap pitting trans customers vs. Texas Chicken & Burgers BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


lawsuit brought against a Harlem outlet of the Texas Chicken & Burgers chain by five gender non-conforming or transgender people who charged they were denied service there — only to have that allegation refuted by the company in court filings — has been ended by all parties. “It is hereby stipulated and agreed by and between the below parties and their counsel that… the Complaint (as amended), Counterclaim, and all proceedings hereunder, are fully and voluntarily discontinued with prejudice, and without costs or disbursements to any party,” attorneys for both sides wrote in documents filed in state court on April 1 and again on April 4. The five plaintiffs — Daniele Marino, Deja Smith, Jahmila Adderley, Jonovia Chase, and Valerie Spencer — charged in a lawsuit last year that they were refused service at the outlet in the early morning hours on May 28. Smith recorded three videos of the transaction and posted them on her Instagram page where they received tens of thousands of views. The videos


Attorney Ben Crump, Jonovia Chase, attorney Gennaro Savastano, Daniele Marino, Jahmila Adderley, and Deja Smith at press conference last August outside the Stonewall Inn.

have since been removed from the page. Gennaro Savastano, an associate in the appellate unit at Weitz & Luxenberg, a law firm, and the president of the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York in 2018, and civil rights attorney Ben Crump represented the five plaintiffs. They announced the lawsuit outside the Stonewall Inn last August. Texas Chicken & Burgers responded first with an apology on its Instagram page and then

more aggressively in the lawsuit. The company filed stills from the outlet’s video showing the five ordering and an order ticket, a credit card receipt showing that one of the five paid for the food they ordered, and the group refusing the food and receiving a cash refund. In a document filed in the case last October, Paul Pennock, a second attorney with Weitz & Luxenberg, wrote that the plaintiffs “Admit that Deja Smith gave her credit card to the cashier.” The chain also said in a counterclaim that accusing it of discrimination was defamatory. Cliff Schneider, who represents Texas Chicken & Burgers and is the managing partner at Cohen Schneider Law, in a filing last year, wrote, “The allegations as set forth in the Plaintiffs’ Complaint were pled with intentional disregard for the truth, and the efforts undertaken by Plaintiffs on social and traditional media to paint TC&B as an organization that condones and engages in discrimination of any kind are wholly without merit and do nothing other than strengthen TC&B’s damages for defamation.” Pennock and Schneider did not respond to emails seeking comment.

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April 11 - April 24, 2019 |


Tom Duane Visits West Point Former senator, officers, cadets swap war stories

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Major Meghan Starr, Captain Chad Plenge, cadets Jarod Watson, Thomas Gover, and Claudia DiMartini, Tom Duane, and caedets Kaz Lewis, Isaiah Perusek, and Adam Hug.

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BY DONNA ACETO n an April 2 visit to Spectrum, the LGBTQ organization at the United States Military Academy at West Point, former State Senator Tom Duane recounted tales from his early days as an out gay elected official, while hearing coming out stories from both cadets and officers who had served during the days of Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Ask, Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Tell. The group was shocked when Duane told them that in his earliest days in Albany in the late â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;90s, one of his fellow senators refused to shake his hand because of his HIVpositive status. Captain Chad Plenge, who graduated from West Point in 2011, was a cadet while Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Ask, Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Tell remained official policy. Though he served in Afghanistan later, after repeal, he came out only selectively â&#x20AC;&#x201D; in a country where homosexual conduct is often tarred as â&#x20AC;&#x153;rape.â&#x20AC;? Plenge came â&#x20AC;&#x153;way out,â&#x20AC;? he said, when he was assigned to West Point stateside. Major Meghan Starr was a West Point cadet even earlier, having graduated in 2007. Her need to conceal her sexuality, she said, was a source of guilt, especially given the USMAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s honor code prohibition on lying. Senior cadet Jarod Watson came

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Captain Chad Plenge graduated from West Point just as Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Ask, Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Tell was coming to an end.

of age on the other side of the divide. Having come out as a high school senior, he arrived at West Point knowing about Spectrum and ready to help his fellow gay and lesbian plebes adjust to life in a military culture. That kind of support is probably welcome â&#x20AC;&#x201D; to cadets like Kaz Lewis, who described having a family that is â&#x20AC;&#x153;all ordainedâ&#x20AC;? and â&#x20AC;&#x153;on the fenceâ&#x20AC;? about her sexuality, Isaiah Perusek, who was outed at prep school and later asked flat-out if he were gay during basic training, and to others who told Duane they were â&#x20AC;&#x153;not really outâ&#x20AC;? but did have Pride Flags in their rooms.




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Pride and Gratitude PRESIDENT & PUBLISHER Victoria Schneps-Yunis CEO & CO-PUBLISHER Joshua Schneps



he New York Press Association, a trade association representing more than 800 newspapers statewide, hosted its annual Better Newspaper Awards this past weekend in Albany and Schneps Media, Gay City News’ parent company, brought home 27 awards for excellence, the strongest performance for any New York City newspaper chain. Gay City News won eight awards, including three First Place fi nishes. A Dyke Abroad columnist Kelly Cogswell won First Place for Best Column, and the newspaper took First in Obituaries for an entry that included Court Stroud’s touching remembrance of comedian Bob Smith and Andy Humm’s deeply

DIGITAL EDITOR Matt Tracy ASSOCIATE EDITOR Duncan Osborne CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Donna Aceto (Photography) Christopher Byrne (Theater), Susie Day (Perspective), Brian McCormick (Dance)

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Kelly Jean Cogswell, Andres Duque, Steve Erickson, Andy Humm, Eli Jacobson, David Kennerley, Gary M. Kramer, Arthur S. Leonard, Michael T. Luongo, Lawrence D. Mass, Winnie McCroy, Eileen McDermott, Mick Meenan, Tim Miller, Donna Minkowitz, Christopher Murray, David Noh, Sam Oglesby, Nathan Riley, David Shengold, Ed Sikov, Yoav Sivan, Gus Solomons Jr., Tim Teeman, Kathleen Warnock, Benjamin Weinthal, Dean P. Wrzeszcz


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reported story about pre-Stonewall activist Dick Leitsch’s passing. The newspaper also earned a First Place Award for Front Page with entries that included design work by Marcos Ramos and photography by Donna Aceto and Bill Bytsura. The newspaper was awarded Second Place for Coverage of the Arts, and also for Crime Reporting that included work by Duncan Osborne and Andy Humm. Duncan Osborne’s series of articles about police corruption and gay nightlife in the years before and after Stonewall earned a Third Place Award for Best News Series, and last June’s LGBTQ Pride Issue won Third Place in the Holiday Issue category. Our Impact Awards Special Section from last April won an Honorable Mention in the Special Sections

category. As the founding editor-in-chief of Gay City News, I am proud of this body of work but, more importantly, grateful for the steadfast commitment to the newspaper that so many talented contributors have maintained over nearly 20 years. Our work, of course, would be for naught if not also for the loyalty of our readers, who make possible our continued mission to inform and engage New York’s wonderfully diverse queer community. I want to congratulate my colleagues at Schneps Media for their success in Albany over the weekend and their work week in and week out, and I thank Vicki SchnepsYunis and her son Joshua Schneps for the leadership they bring to our enterprise. In the end, our work is all about producing quality journalism informed by diligence and integrity, something this nation needs now more than ever.


Carcinogenic Windmills & Dads Who Love Marx BY ED SIKOV


ow, you could see the Trump administration’s willingness to trust the meat industry to keep our meat safe as part of an overall attack on government regulation, a willingness to trust profit-making businesses to do the right thing and let the market rule. And there’s something to that, but it’s not the whole story, as illustrated by another event: Trump’s declaration the other day that wind turbines cause cancer. “Now, you could put this down to personal derangement: Trump has had an irrational hatred for wind power since he failed to prevent construction of a wind farm near his Scottish golf course. And Trump seems deranged and irrational on so many issues that one more bizarre claim hardly seems to matter.” Does anyone else find it even minimally terrifying that the Nobel Prizewinning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman just called the president of the United States a madman?

True, Krugman modifies his assertion with an ever-slippery “seems.“ But he is not making a distinction between appearance and reality, as in something seems to be one thing but is in fact something else. No, there is no existential question here. On April 4, 2019, Paul Krugman openly declared in the op-ed pages of the New York Times that the leader of the free world ain’t right in the head, is cuckoo, es muy loco, is crazier than a nun doing a lewd striptease at Sunday Mass. I think we’ve reached a milestone here, folks. Yes, it’s easy for most of us to say casually that he’s nuts, particularly because it’s true. But it’s not every day that a widely respected economist and Times columnist just comes right out and says it. Rump has struck me as being especially crazy lately, the wind/ cancer correlation reaching an apparent new low of sorts (or maybe it’s a new height). But — and I’m certainly not defending him on this — having seen him deliver the line on video, I’m not convinced that he was making a statement of fact. An absurdly insecure man, Rump tends to signal

his sarcasm with a smirk, just to make sure his audience knows he’s not totally bonkers. What he was so ineptly trying to say seems to me to have been a parody of so-called liberal worries about the deleterious effects of everything from cigarettes to asbestos to climate change. And I do realize that Rump smirks at almost everything. It’s one of his least attractive characteristics, along with the fat ass, the muskrat he wears on his head, and the spectacularly unconvincing Cheetos-colored spray-on tan. If he weren’t such an asshole, he’d be a perfect candidate for “Queer Eye.” Then again, what’s the big deal? Paul Krugman called the president nutso. So what? Rump is so obviously batshit crazy that it just doesn’t matter anymore who points it out. “Pete Buttigieg’s father was a Marxist professor who lauded the Communist Manifesto!” was the screaming headline in a recent issue of the Washington Examiner. (Okay, I added the exclamation point for comedy’s sake. Forgive me; I couldn’t help myself.) In these fast-moving times, it’s somehow refreshing to know that classical red-baiting is still alive and well. The Examiner was breathless in

➤ MEDIA CIRCUS, continued on p.23 April 11 - April 24, 2019 |


Gaza, Stonewall: Izzy Mustafa On Why People Rise Up BY SUSIE DAY


very Friday since March 30, 2018, in what’s known as the Great March of Return, Palestinians in Gaza come to the Israeli border fence to protest nearly 12 years of a blockade that has made Gaza into what’s often called the world’s largest open-air prison. They also come to invoke UN Resolution 194, their right to return in peace to their homes, from which they were expelled in 1948 when Israel was created. Last year alone, some 189 Palestinians — including children, journalists, and the disabled — were killed at the border, most by Israeli live ammunition; 23,000 have been injured. One year later, the protests continue. Why? Izzy Mustafa is a Palestinian-American trans man who grew up in New Mexico and moved to New York, where he works at the Adalah Justice Project. Two years ago, I interviewed Izzy about Islam and Gay Pride. Recently, I interviewed him about the Great March. I started by asking him what he’s been doing lately. IZZY MUSTAFA: I’ve been going back and forth between here and Palestine. I was in touch with folks in Gaza. It’s as if my mind’s been in both Gaza and New York City. When the Great March began, I reached out to journalists, bringing pictures, stories to push out onto social media, to help lay the context of what the Great March of Return is about. SUSIE DAY: What is the Great March about? IM: For the first time in decades, Palestin-

➤ MEDIA CIRCUS, from p.22 its coverage of this important story. The writers of the piece, Emily Larsen and Joseph Simonson, provide a handy lesson in the art of the smear. Buttigieg has sterling credentials; he’s a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and an Oxford University graduate. So what are two rightwing journalists to do? Go after his father, of course. Toward this end, they recruit Paul Kengor, “a professor at Grove City College and an expert in communism and [note how they slide into] progressivism, [who] said Buttigieg was among a group of leftist professors who focused on injecting Marxism into the wider culture. “‘They’re part of a wider international community of Marxist theorists and academicians with a particular devotion to the writings of the late Italian Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci, who died over 80 years ago. Gramsci was all about applying Marxist theory to culture and | April 11 - April 24, 2019

Izzy Mustafa is a Palestinian-American transgender man who grew up in New Mexico and lives in New York.

ian civil society has come together in this mass mobilization to demand their human rights. Because the circumstances in Gaza are dire. Gaza is one of the most impoverished places in the world. Since 2007, people are not allowed to move in or out of Gaza freely. They’re limited to only four hours a day of electricity. In Gaza, 95 percent of the water is unclean and unfit for drinking. People know that they need to bring their demands to the world because nobody is listening. The banner everyone walks under is the banner of freedom and justice and return. Men, women, children, grandparents, students,

cultural institutions — what is often referred to as a “long march through the institutions,” such as film, media, and especially education,’ Kengor told the Washington Examiner.” The article goes on to note that “Lis Smith, communications adviser for Buttigieg’s presidential exploratory committee, declined to comment on how his father influenced his political beliefs or on Pete Buttigieg’s thoughts on Marxist thinkers such as Gramsci.” Smart move, Lis! Anything you say can and will be used against your candidate in the court of right-wing opinion. JaniceWatch! We here at Media Circus are always in the mood for distractions from the god-awful state of our country. In this spirit we present the first in an irregular series of featurettes devoted to the wardrobe of NBC4 meteorologist Janice Huff. No, we’re not the first to admire Janice’s taste in clothing. There is even

teachers — you have bricklayers, shop owners, every segment of Palestinian society in that March. Because everybody is impacted by this horrific siege. SD: How has this affected you personally? IM: On April 6 of last year, a week after the first Gaza mobilization, I helped organize a protest in Union Square to let people in New York City know what was happening in Gaza. Hundreds of people came out. It was a very emotionally driven protest. I asked Palestinians from Gaza to tell their stories. One of them was a really good friend. She was a journalist herself when she was in Gaza two years ago. We were on the train to the protest and both of us were on WhatsApp. Right before the Union Square stop, we got this message about a journalist in Gaza we were working with. It said he was shot in the stomach by Israeli snipers. He was being rushed to the hospital. I told her, “He’ll be okay. He had a press vest on.” We got to the protest, and she started to speak. She said something like, “My friend Yaser Murtaja is currently in the hospital. He was shot. He was wearing a press vest. He’s somebody who’s dedicated to bringing the story of Gaza to the world.” As she was speaking, a man from Gaza came up to me and said, “Yaser is dead.” And my heart dropped. Then I had to go up to speak. My friend had gone into the crowd and as I was speaking I was looking for her, because I knew she was going to find out the news. Three minutes into me speaking, I see my friend rush toward me. She grabs me with tears in her eyes. “They killed Yaser. Yaser is dead.” Yaser Murtaja was like a brother to her; she

➤ WHY PEOPLE RISE UP, continued on p.26 a website devoted to it. Honest! But the website is moribund; there hasn’t been a new post in a long time, so Media Circus is stepping up. Janice’s taste in clothes is simple but fashionable; she tends to favor bold colors and no patterns. But every once in a while she goes for a wilder look, such as the time she went on the air wearing a black leather affair that was more appropriate for a dominatrix than for a weatherwoman. Generally though, she favors tasteful, flattering dresses that are tight at the waist and uniform in color, particularly bright orange and red. We promise to keep you posted on the ongoing state of Janice’s outfits. They — like the out lesbian comedian Kate McKinnon’s jaw-dropping impersonation of Rudy Giuliani — are among the few bright spots in our otherwise grim, embarrassing national state of affairs. Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook.


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â&#x17E;¤ WHY PEOPLE RISE UP, from p.23 grew up with him. He died at 31, without ever leaving Gaza. He made a film about her family â&#x20AC;&#x201D; itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s going to be screened here in April. But in that moment, I made a commitment to help amplify the voices from the ground in Gaza to US audiences. SD: A few years ago, a UN report said that by 2020 Gaza would be unlivable. IM: Gaza is already unlivable. You have rising death rates from starvation, poverty, from not being able to go to a decent hospital, suicides because people canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t find jobs. People are putting their bodies in front of these snipers because they know they have nothing to lose. Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the last step in creating an unlivable situation? Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the breaking down of a populationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s social fabric. Soon, because thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s so much anger and desperation and lack of power, Israel is going to watch Palestinians in the Gaza Strip cannibalize themselves.

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SD: Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve worked with Ahmed Abu Artema, a poet and journalist in Gaza, who was one of the organizers of the Great March. He believes in â&#x20AC;&#x153;peaceful resistanceâ&#x20AC;?? IM: Ahmed Abu Artema is one of the most inspirational people Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve ever met. Yeah, he helped make the Great March essentially peaceful. Just by being Palestinian, people mark us as terrorists, mark us as violent people, as savages, barbaric. Palestinians knew that, in order to appeal to the international community, they had to march in a peaceful way for the world to see us as somewhat human. SD: What about differences between Palestinians who support Hamas as opposed to other groups? IM: I think most of the population, whether on the West Bank or in Gaza, are becoming jaded with political parties and leadership that claim to represent Palestinians. Fatah and Hamas arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t the legitimate leaders of our people. They create this media idea that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an equal playing field, that the occupier and the occupied are equal because there are two governments. But thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s really one legal regime â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Israel, which controls everybody. Any uprising has to come from the grassroots, has to come from the most vulnerable, the most marginalized. Palestinian refugees in Gaza are that. SD: Do you see new political groups forming now? IM: I think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s more like a change of spirit. Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s great is you can be Palestinian and be in an organization that works on queer rights. Actually, we should be working toward other struggles â&#x20AC;&#x201D; other forms of liberation, as well as our own. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s how you build communities. You work with other people who might not

â&#x17E;¤ WHY PEOPLE RISE UP, continued on p.27


April 11 - April 24, 2019 |

â&#x17E;¤ WHY PEOPLE RISE UP, from p.26 understand your background but do understand oppression; understand weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re all in this life together. Whether youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re an indigenous queer woman from the Navajo Nation or a Palestinian queer in Palestineâ&#x20AC;Ś SD: If there was one thing you could say to the US queer community, what would that be? IM: Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re all human. If you see

â&#x17E;¤ FERNANDO CABRERA, from p.7 freedom and, as usual, encouraged religious folks to seek political office. Also that year, an article in Gotham Gazette noted that Cabrera told Bronx political figures that constituents asked him to run against Gustavo Rivera for State Senate in District 33 because they were unhappy with Riveraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s support of same-sex marriage. Cabrera wound up running for Riveraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s seat twice â&#x20AC;&#x201D; in 2014 and 2016 â&#x20AC;&#x201D; but was soundly defeated both times in the Democratic primary. Cabrera, 54, has received financial backing from a range of city councilmembers and other elected officials who have expressed support for LGBTQ rights, including Councilmembers Mark Levine and Ydanis Rodriguez of Manhattan and Andrew Cohen of the Bronx, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and Attorney General Letitia James. Levine made a $2,750 donation on March 11, 2017, while Williams contributed $1,375 on the same day. Rodriguez gave $2,000 to Cabrera on August 28, 2017, and James handed over $150 in 2013. Cohen donated $175 to Cabrera on July 30, 2017. Under the leadership of out gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Cabrera serves on seven committees and most prominently is the chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations. A review of Cabreraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s voting record on important issues facing the LGBTQ community uncovers of a more mixed bag than one might expect from his rhetoric. He voted against legislation in 2014 to allow people to change the gender designation on their birth certificates, | April 11 - April 24, 2019

my humanity as a trans person, you should also be able to see my humanity as a Palestinian. And, as a queer person in the U.S., you should understand the importance of mass mobilization. The tradition of Pride comes from Stonewall, when people rose up. In Gaza people are rising up. So we must stand with each other; stand for liberation for everybody. Gaza is a ticking time bomb and if we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t do something now, in my opinion, we have failed all humanity.

and then he voted against creating an advisory board to implement that law. He was absent from a vote on a 2016 bill requiring the Department of Education to report on whether schools have gay-straight alliances and the number of teachers who have received training on LGBTQ issues. In February, Cabrera refused to join his colleagues in punishing Bronx Councilmember Ruben Diaz, Sr., for his recent anti-gay comments. Though on Twitter on February 10 he called on the elder Diaz to â&#x20AC;&#x153;retract his statement and apologize to the LGBTQ community, the New York City Council and all New Yorkersâ&#x20AC;? saying his â&#x20AC;&#x153;words tear at the very fabric of who we are as a city,â&#x20AC;? his actions didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t end up matching his tweet. The City Council voted overwhelmingly to dissolve Diazâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Committee on For-Hire Vehicles, but Cabrera abstained. On the other hand, the councilmember voted for the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 2017 ban on conversion therapy as well as a law enacted the same year that requires the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to outline a plan for serving the behavioral health needs of LGBTQ people. It is not immediately clear whether Cabrera, who is term-limited from running for re-election, plans to pursue political office outside of the City Council following the conclusion of his term. He will nevertheless remain in his current seat until January of 2022 â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and there are no signs that he plans to ditch his role leading a church that has etched homophobic policies into its â&#x20AC;&#x153;Statement of Faith.â&#x20AC;? The councilmember did not respond to requests for comment on this story or his record of homophobia.






Moonstruck Young man returns to reconcile his sexuality with his roots BY DAVID KENNERLEY lays illuminating angstfilled coming out stories have long been a staple of theater. Yet the cryptically titled “June is the First Fall,” courtesy of the Yangtze Repertory Theatre, breathes new life into the genre by infusing a distinctly contemporary Chinese twist. The earnest yet uneven work is part memory play, part catharsis for the out Chinese-American playwright Yilong Liu, who drew much of the material from his own past. Like Yilong, the central character, Don (Alton Alburo), lived for a time in Hawaii. Don has returned after a 10-year absence to make peace with his father, David (Fen-



Karsten Otto and Alton Alburo in Yilong Liu’s “June is the First Fall,” directed by Michael Leibenluft, at the New Ohio Theatre through April 20.

ton Li), sister, Jane (Stefani Kuo), and yes, even his deceased mother, Yu Qin (Chun Cho), who intermittently appears as an exuberant spirit in Don’s memories. When he came out after high school, his parents were blindsided. Naturally, like most castoff gays, he fled to New York. The action is set in a modest home in the Manoa Valley, Honolulu, in 2012. Don’s family emigrated from China when he was a young boy, adding a complex layer of turmoil that allows Yilong to explore the collision of sexuality, family, identity, and immigration through an Asian lens. Which raises the ques-

➤ MOONSTRUCK, continued on p.29

Family Affairs Racial politics, hard times, bio musical all great theater BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE he galvanizing and often hilarious and heartbreaking “Ain’t No Mo,’” now at the Public Theater, combines satire, absurdism, and trenchant observation in a series of sketches aimed at defining the black experience in post-Obama America. Beginning with a gospel funeral for “Brother Norighttocomplain” who expired when a black man was elected president, “Ain’t No Mo’” looks at everything from stereotypes like “bitches and hos,” to abortion, prison’s corrosive impact on the soul, and assimilated families who try to wash away their race through economic success. The story’s conceit is that America’s black people are given a free flight back to Africa, and one of them, Peaches — an overthe-top drag persona marvelously brought to life by the playwright, Jordan E. Cooper — is responsible for getting everyone on board. In each vignette, characters are reminded via text that time is running short and their window of opportunity is fast closing. Race, racism, and the integration of the black experience into American life are the key themes, and the metaphor for that cultural contribution is a piece of colorful luggage dubbed Miss Bag. If Miss Bag is taken away,




Fedna Jacque and Ebony Marshall-Oliver in Jordan E. Cooper’s “Ain’t No Mo’,” directed by Stevie Walker-Webb, at the Public through May 5.

what is lost? The satire has an undercurrent of anger but Cooper does not make his characters victims. They each have a role in creating this world, where they struggle to survive in a culture and under a government willing to eradicate them. Directed by Stevie Walker-Webb, the cast includes, besides Cooper, Fedna Jacquet, Marchánt Davis, Simone Recasner, Ebony Marshall-Oliver, and Crystal Lucas-Perry. They are all outstanding, whether playing over-the-top-stereotypes or more naturalistic

characters. This is a piece that has its roots in a tradition of racial satire dating back to the 1960s. It recalls Adrienne Kennedy’s “Funnyhouse of a Negro” from 1964 that wrestled with defining racial identity and Douglas Turner Ward’s 1965 “Day of Absence,” in which all the black people disappear from a town, which was played by an all -black cast in white face. This in turn gave rise to work by George C. Wolfe and the ‘90s TV series “In Living Color.” Like its predecessors, this is, in one sense, a comedy, but the fact that these issues are still ingrained in our culture 50 years on is anything but funny, and that makes it pointed satire. One might sum up much of Chekhov with the phrase “life sucks.” That’s certainly what Aaron Posner has done in choosing this phrase for the title of his loose adaptation of “Uncle Vanya.” Chekhov cast a cold eye on love, longing, relationships, and the inevitable disappointments of life. These are timeless issues, integral to the human condition, and in updating the play to the present day, Posner shows us just how true this is. The play tracks the plot of the original as

➤ LIFE SUCKS, continued on p.29 April 11 - April 24, 2019 |

➤ MOONSTRUCK, from p.28 tion — can such a highly specific work translate to general audiences? For the most part the answer is yes, but under the direction of Michael Leibenluft this endeavor falls short. That clunky title refers to a Chinese moon festival the family celebrates in spring instead of the usual time in mid-autumn. Much is made of this relocated tradition, though the significance of that is murky. The moon is a recurring motif in the piece. The plot often veers into contrived, melodramatic territory. Inexplicably, Jane hides from her brother that Scott (Karsten Otto), the “haole” dude hanging around the house, is actually her fiancé. A subplot about an intimate encounter between Scott and Don dur-


Chun Cho and Alton Alburo in “June is the First Fall.”

ing a long-ago hike is awkwardly jammed into the narrative. The skill levels of the actors are all over the map. The strongest is Chun Cho, whose passionate Yu Qin is a force to be reckoned with. And it should be noted that most of her dialogue

is spoken in Chinese. That’s not to say there aren’t affecting, poetic passages. When a very tipsy Yu Qin sings “Fly Me to the Moon,” it is tender and joyous and heartbreaking all at once. The central theme of “June is

➤ LIFE SUCKS, from p.28 a family and their friends try to negotiate somewhat bleak lives. Posner adds a very contemporary meta overlay to this as the characters comment on the play to the audience, and even engage them in conversation — or attempt to. This abstract and acknowledged theatricality is fascinating, even compelling, giving the piece an immediacy that resonates with themes of futility, tedium, and constant searching for happiness that is just out of reach — or unattainable altogether because of previous bad choices. The country estate where this all transpires, however, is no bleak house. Chekhov always saw the comedy in humanity, and Posner finds that as well. We recognize ourselves in these characters and their foibles and failures, and like any mirror we can’t resist looking into it. Jeff Wise directs for the Wheelhouse Theater Company, which staged the marvelous “Happy Birthday, Wanda June” earlier this season. The talented company, with notable performances by Austin Pendleton, Michael Schantz, Jeff Biehl, and Nadia Bowers, consistently strikes just the right balance between realism and self-aware irony. And, as with the original Chekhov, you might leave the theater thinking | April 11 - April 24, 2019


Michael Schantz and Jeff Biehl in Aaron Posner’s “Life Sucks,” directed by Jeff Wise, at The Wild Project through April 20.

life sucks sometimes, but at least you’ll know you’re not alone. You might as well laugh a bit and keep going. Seán O’Casey’s plays take a hard, if often darkly humorous, look at the effects of Ireland’s revolutionary politics after the 1916 Easter Uprising on the lives of ordinary people struggling to get by in Dublin. The juxtaposition of bravado and powerlessness among the city’s tenement denizens living in sometimes desperate poverty has created some of the most indelible characters of modern theater.

Two of the plays of O’Casey’s Irish Trilogy — “Juno and the Paycock,” set during the Irish Civil War, and “Shadow of a Gunman,” set during the Irish War for Independence — are currently getting spectacular revivals at the Irish Repertory Theatre. (The third play “The Plough and the Stars” completes Irish Rep’s O’Casey season when it debuts later this month.) Seeing these plays in repertory reinforces their power, politics, and poetry as they tell the stories of how tiny details of their lives such as a supposed inheritance in “Juno” or a flirtatious lie in “Gunman” have destructive consequences well be-

the First Fall” is that we always carry the baggage and blessings of our past with us wherever we go, for better or for worse. “I know you thought leaving would probably solve everything,” Jane says to her brother at the play’s climax. “When you leave, you leave a piece of yourself there and a piece of the place stays in you and it grows.” Despite the ambitious drama’s shortcomings, Yangtze Rep should be commended for making a muchneeded space for a uniquely queer Asian story. JUNE IS THE FIRST FALL | Yangtze Repertory Theatre | New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher St., btwn. Greenwich & Washington Sts. | Through Apr. 20: Sun.-Mon.; Thu.Sat. at 8 p.m. | $25 at | Ninety mins., no intermission

yond their intention. Both of these are characterdriven tragi-comedies, and under the direction of Neil Pepe (“Juno”) and Ciarán O’Reilly (“Gunman”), the worlds of the plays are richly developed and beautifully realized. Pulsing under each of these simple stories is the constant threat of violence and death just outside the door. The company members find every nuance in their respective roles. Maryann Plunkett who plays Juno is sublime. As O’Reilly, her wastrel husband, Jack Boyle is charming and awful at the same time. James Russell is the romantic poet in “Gunman” and the opportunistic suitor in “Juno,” and he is perfect in both. John Keating is the despicable Joxer in “Juno” and the self-aggrandizing Mr. Grigson in “Gunman,” making two of O’Casey’s most reprehensible characters creepily appealing. The “jukebox musical” is often unfairly maligned. The trick with a musical that draws on wellknown songs from a particular niche is to make a good show. Yes, recent years are littered with ones that fell short, but consider that “Jersey Boys,” “Beautiful,” and “The Cher Show” continue to deliver box office, and you’ll understand the appeal to producers.

➤ AIN’T TOO PROUD, continued on p.31



Ghosts of Buildings Past Barbara Kahn chases stories in a vanishing New York


Steph Van Vlack and David Leeper as Sarah Bernhardt and Marcel Duchamp in Barbara Kahn’s “Where Do All the Ghosts Go?,” which runs April 11-28 at the Theater for the New City.

BY KATHLEEN WARNOCK ost New Yorkers have walked down a street and found an empty lot where an old familiar haunt is gone. Maybe it was a cozy restaurant, or a building where a friend lived. And the city — as it always has and always will — continues to replace itself and build upon the past. Barbara Kahn’s work as a playwright is about lost places, times, and people. She writes about historical events and the people whose lives aren’t included in textbooks. She writes about queer people, people of color, actual historical figures, and people she’s made up. Each year at the Theater for the New City, Kahn mounts a new play she’s written, inspired by teasing out hints of drama and fragments of events she culls from her ongoing research. “I got an email from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and found out that the St. Denis had been sold, and they were concerned about what was going to happen to it,” she




A vintage postcard of the St. Denis Hotel at Broadway and East 11th Street.

said. “And lo and behold, the new owners posted the glass monster that was going to replace it.” The St. Denis was a building that stood for 165 years at the corner of Broadway and East 11th Street in Manhattan. It began as grand hotel, frequented by some of the most famous people of the 19th century, from Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain to Alexander Graham Bell. For the last several decades, it’s been an office building, populated by a diverse range of doctors, healers, and other practitioners. “I know the building because I used to go there regularly,” Kahn said. “I always took the elevator up, and I walked down every single time because it had the most glorious staircase. It was somewhat ornate, but mostly it just had a warm feeling to it, with really good vibes that I can’t explain.” Like most old buildings, the St. Denis had stories about hauntings and spirits. And Kahn wondered: when the place they haunt is gone, where do all the ghosts go?

“Where Do All the Ghosts Go?,” written and directed by her, is Kahn’s new play set in an old building, from the 19th to the 21st centuries. In her research, Kahn began to focus on people who’d stayed at the St. Denis whom she could bring to life after death. “I selected five ghosts I would like to mix and match with each other, and because ghosts live in eternity, I could mix up the time frames. So Sarah Bernhardt and Marcel Duchamp argue about what really is art, things like that.” Buffalo Bill was also a guest when his “Wild West Show” played the original Madison Square Garden. A historical, but relatively unknown figure, Elizabeth Keckley, was a former slave and companion to Mary Todd Lincoln. She and Mrs. Lincoln stayed at the St. Denis after the president’s assassination when they came to New York. “At first I had looked at Mrs. Lincoln, then I thought… what about this companion of hers?,” Kahn

explained. “And I googled her and found out she wrote a memoir, with a long chapter about their experience about registering at that hotel. I thought: she’s an unknown character with a rich history. Most people know something about Mrs. Lincoln, so I’ll have Mrs. Keckley instead.” The fifth ghost has the most obscure history, and Kahn had to fill in the gaps of a mysterious life. “I found a short blurb about a woman who had been arrested at the St. Denis for theft, and it was hard to get any more information about her,” Kahn recalled. “I took trips to the Public Library, looking through periodicals, but I only knew the year she was arrested. On my second or third trip, in the Periodicals Room at 42nd Street, I was able to get the date, and then I found the newspaper reports. Then my costume designer, Everett Clark, found more reports in a Washington, DC, newspaper. So I

➤ GHOSTS, continued on p.31 April 11 - April 24, 2019 |

➤ AIN’T TOO PROUD, from p.29 Now you can add “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations” to the roster of shows in this genre that work. And not just work; this is decidedly a hit. Based on a book by Otis Williams, the show tracks the rise of the group, its evolution and changes, politics and longevity. Dominique Morisseau’s book for the show uses Williams as a narrator, but she gives enough depth to each of the characters — and there are a lot of them — to connect clearly and emotionally to the audience.

➤ GHOSTS, from p.30 was able to learn about her, and she was quite interesting. The woman Kahn discovered claimed to be a Swedish baroness, but had been working as a maid and was accused of stealing. “But there was an article that the Austrian Embassy refused assistance,” Kahn said. “Was she Austrian? Was she Hungarian? Was she Swedish? What was she? | April 11 - April 24, 2019

For those of us who knew the music but not the stories behind it, the show touches not only on the personal but also on larger themes about the evolution and staying power of the Motown sound. Director Des McAnuff and choreographer Sergio Trujillo make the show as dazzling to look at as it is heartfelt. The company led by Derrick Baskin as Otis, with James Harkness, Jawan M. Jackson, Jeremy Pope, and Ephraim Sykes, as the original members of the group, are all triple threats — singing, acting, and dancing. You may be enticed to see this

because you love the music of The Temptations, but you’ll also get a hugely entertaining Broadway show that’s well worth your money. Sounds like a win to me.

She was just the kind of character I knew I should throw in among all these celebrities.” The play, a dark comedy, is set in today’s New York, and starts when a couple find out that The St. Denis is being pulled down. “I always try to include lesbian characters,” Kahn said. “In recent years, many of the tenants were in the healing professions, therapists, psychologists, acupuncturists. So I thought: what if they were a mar-

ried lesbian couple and went there for marriage counseling? Then they return to the now-empty building and encounter the ghosts.” In Kahn’s play, the ghosts don’t know that the building is being torn down, and the lesbians don’t know there are ghosts. “When they meet each other, my play takes off!” Kahn has assembled a cast of Chloe Simone Crawford, David Leeper, Christopher Lowe, Sarah

AIN’T NO MO’ | The Public Theater. 45 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. | Through May 5: Tue.Sun. at 7 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. at 1 p.m. | $65; or 212-9677555 | Two hrs., no intermission LIFE SUCKS | The Wild Project, 195 E. Third St., btwn. Aves. A & B | Through Apr. 20; schedule varies | $20-$79 at wheelhousetheater.

org or 866-811-4111 | Two hrs., 15 mins., with intermission JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK/ SHADOW OF A GUNMAN | Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 W. 22nd St. | Through May 25: in repertory: | $50-$70; or 866-8114111 | Each: two hrs., intermission AIN’T TOO PROUD | Imperial Theatre, 249 W. 45th St. | Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m.; Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. | $49-$179 at or 212-239-6200 | Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission

Teed, Steph Van Vlack, Ashley Versher, and Fleur Voorn. The production team includes set and lights by Mark Marcante, prop design by Lytza Colon, costumes by Clark, and sound by Joy Linsheid. WHERE DO ALL THE GHOSTS GO | Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. at E. 10th St. | Apr. 11-28: Thu.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. | $18 at or 212-254-1109



Where Narcissism, Glitter, and Inclusion Join Beautycon celebrates consumption... with an ironic wink at rebellion BY CHARLES BATTERSBY eautycon began as a small convention for people who hosted beauty-themed YouTube channels. It is now large enough to have bicoastal editions in Los Angeles and New York, with the local edition this past weekend filling up the bottom floor of the Jacob Javits Center. Thousands of beauty bloggers, social media influencers and makeup fans flocked to the con, hoping to score “hauls” of cosmetics, and meet their Instagram friends “IRL.” Amidst this shrine to Narcissus, there was also a message about rebelling against beauty standards. The message was hidden deep beneath layers of foundation and irony, but it was still there. The con is not a dry business-to-business event for the cosmetics industry; it is squarely targeted at consumers, wannabe influencers, and fans of established influencers. With its flashy booths, screaming crowds, and youthful, giddy energy, it comes across as a genderflopped version of old Comic Cons. Although prominent singers like Cardi B and Becky G were big draws, most of the celebrity guests and panelists fall into the categories of reality TV stars and New Media personalities. Even though the attendees were overwhelmingly female, Beautycon still had content for men, not to mention a welcoming attitude toward people who refute traditional gender roles. One panel offered a discussion about the notion of “Toxic Masculinity” deep within this glittering pink cocoon. While there were panels all day long each day, con-goers were unabashedly seeking free samples of makeup, free makeovers, and photo ops for their Instagram accounts. Nearly every exhibitor had some sort of photo booth, along with a makeup artist / hair stylist / nail technician on hand to make sure attendees would grow more primped, polished, and glittery for each new Insta post. While the attendees could easily score a haul worth a thousand dollars in free stuff, they also left behind an extensive trail of personal information for data miners and marketers. Attendees willingly forked over their name, age, email, phone number, mailing address, eye color, hair color, preferred lip shade… right down to their precisely-measured skin tone in exchange for a free full-sized tube of foundation. The event might appear to be a celebration of artifice and, on many levels, it is. People could be completely transformed over the course of the weekend, with everything from hair dye




Employing the #ShowUS hashtag, Dove Soap pays heed to the huge proportion of the population that that doesn’t see itself reflected in mass media images.

kits to colored contact lenses to temporary tattoos. However, many of the cosmetic companies on hand were presenting these transformation as a form self-love, encouraging people to be the best version of themselves, without conforming to the traditional ‘80s supermodel look. Everywhere people looked, they could see the slogan “You don’t need lipstick, Lipstick needs you.” Gay City News spoke to Stephanie Cunha, manager of public relations at CVS, about the drug store chain’s new “Beauty Unaltered” program. “I wouldn’t say it’s so much about natural beauty,” she explained. “We embrace whatever it is that makes you feel beautiful, whether that’s false lashes or pink hair. For us, it’s about being real.” The CVS program is about letting consumers know when cosmetic ads have been retouched — a particularly apropos idea in a convention center full of people looking for just the right Insta filter to hide their imperfections. “Seventy percent of the images in our store are completely transparent,” Cunha said, “If it hasn’t been retouched, it’ll have our Beauty Mark watermark on it. If it has been retouched, it’ll say ‘Digitally Altered’ on it.” As a long line of attendees snaked through the CVS booth waiting to take videos on the runway, Cunha added, “You don’t need the filters and the Photoshop... This is a filter-free zone.” Although Beautycon is a weekend of “Look at me” moments, it is also a social experience. Signs in the expo hall boast “Real friends. False lashes.” It was a chance to meet fellow enthusiasts in person — and snap selfies to prove it

happened. It’s also an opportunity for companies to connect with their most loyal consumers. Genevieve Duran, director of education and retail sales at Pixi Beauty and sister company POP Beauty, which have presented at Beautycon multiple years in both LA and New York, told Gay City News, “Our brand loyalty has increased, because we are here every year.” As she said this, a long line of Pixi enthusiasts wound through the expo hall, each waiting for their turn to get a glimmer makeover, a pixi-like flower laurel for their hair, and a turn at the photo booth. “I’ve seen a lot of trends and brands jumping on the trends,” Duran said. “‘Be confident with who you are, whoever you are,’ I’ve seen that everywhere. I’ve also seen people start to spotlight that they’re vegan or cruelty-free. At Pixi, we’ve been natural and cruelty free since day one.” Another theme was inclusiveness. Dove Soap had a booth based around the #ShowMe hashtag, for women who feel they aren’t represented in beauty advertising. According to a panel discussion hosted by Dove, “Seventy percent of women don’t see themselves represented in mass media.” Many exhibitors had products targeted at underrepresented groups. Shea Moisture — and other products that might have once been on a single shelf in a drug store’s “Ethnic aisle” — had a major presence at the con. Other companies were likewise seeking out this unrepresented majority. With mass-market cosmetic companies like Maybelline, Revlon, L’oéal,, and Rimmel all present at Beautycon, the underrepresented were suddenly finding themselves courted by the mainstream. April 11 - April 24, 2019 |


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Queer As Whitman LGBTQ life in a long lost Brooklyn comes alive BY TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER his city sure has changed. Landmarks were destroyed, the skyline is different, and streets are shifted in a way that feels same-not-same. It’s like having dinner with a relative you met once, when you were nine — as in Hugh Ryan’s “When Brooklyn Was Queer,” everything and nothing is familiar. Once upon a time, Brooklyn was little more than farms and fields. That’s the vista Walt Whitman saw when he stepped beyond the built boundaries of the East River city opposite New York where he’d been creating “Leaves of Grass.” He loved the area, a love he shared with laborers, prostitutes, and the rest of the crime-ridden, mostly white population of Brooklyn in the mid-1800s.



Hugh Ryan’s “When Brooklyn Was Queer” jumps off from a poet and a wharf full of sailors.

As a gay man, Whitman would have noted upcoming changes. In 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge

opened, making it easy for residents to reach New York City. There, male and female impersonators found work at live entertainment venues, where race mattered little; and sexes and social classes mixed freely at saloons, concert halls, dancehalls, and theaters. For African-American actors, that relative permissiveness led to more acceptance and, sometimes, fame. By the time Brooklyn merged with the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island in January 1898, a new word had emerged. “Homosexuals” had been targeted by obscenity charges for quite some time by then but, though laws were created against them, they had a living presence in mainstream society. Even so, says Ryan, most people didn’t learn much about homosexuals until World War I. And yet — people couldn’t get enough of “queer” folk, especially

with cabaret shows, vaudeville, and “freak shows” so wildly popular and a subway ride to Coney Island costing just a nickel. New Yorkers flocked to the boardwalk, perhaps titillated by the idea that the performers were “gay.” But “things started to go off the rails” for the LGBTQ community at the end of World War II. The common perception was that being gay was equal to a crime. Starting then, says Ryan, “… the vibrant queer histories of places outside Manhattan would soon be forgotten.” Reading “When Brooklyn Was Gay” is something like frosting a cake. From the starting point of a poet and a wharf full of sailors, readers glide smoothly to wood-floor dancehalls; sweeping near audacious

➤ QUEER BROOKLYN, continued on p.35

Science Fiction’s Gay Elder Statesman Samuel R. Delany on Times Square and uncertain times ahead BY CHRISTOPHER MURRAY pril Fool’s Day was the 77th birthday of science fiction writer and public intellectual Samuel R. Delany. Chip, as his friends call him, is a genius. Though his reputation continues to ascend like the twin moons that suddenly appear in the night sky in his science fiction masterpiece “Dhalgren” (celebrating 45 years since its publication this year), even if he continues to be underrated, in my view, as both a writer and as a leading light of queer sexual and civic liberation. When the leviathans of science fiction like Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov were at the height of their popularity, it was Delany who won the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Nebula Award two years




Samuel R. Delany celebrated his 77th birthday on April 1.

in a row, in 1966 for “Babel-17” and the next year for “The Einstein Intersection.” He did this as an African American man. And as a gay man. That was completely unprecedented in American sci-fi writing. “Science fiction isn’t just thinking about the world out there.


NYU Press has issued a 20th anniversary edition of Delany’s “Times Square Red, Times Square Blue.”

It’s also thinking about how that world might be — a particularly important exercise for those who are oppressed, because if they’re

going to change the world we live in, they — and all of us — have to be able to think about a world that works differently,” Delany wrote in a 1998 essay “Racism and Science Fiction,” originally published in The New York Review of Science Fiction. The now-classic essay was republished last April by PM Press’s “Outspoken Authors” series in a collection of three short works titled and including “The Atheist in the Attic.” Delany’s science fiction still reads like he wrote it yesterday, with themes exploring racial conflict, queer sex, and body and appearance modification. The same freshness cannot be ascribed, for example, to Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” or almost anything Asimov wrote, though Heinlein has aged quite well.

➤ SAMUEL R. DELANY, continued on p.35 April 11 - April 24, 2019 |

➤ QUEER BROOKLYN, from p.34 lesbian actors, scandal rags, legal fights, burly-Q stages, then to the Jazz Age and beyond. Each spot is covered, sprinkled with asides, personal anecdotes from author Ryan, and modern references that help make interesting connections, then gently folded into the next subject. What may delight readers the most, though, is in the details. While this is a history of Brooklyn, specifically, and New York, in general, we’re taken to other cities and cultures to see how worldwide

➤ SAMUEL R. DELANY, from p.34 I met with Delany last month in Philadelphia where he lives near the Art Museum with his partner. He retired from teaching creative writing at Temple University in 2015. Delany told me that he knew Asimov well enough to call him “Ike,” as only his oldest friends did. But now it’s Delany who is the éminence grise, having been inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2002 and named the Science Fiction Writers of America 30th Grand Master in 2013. This month also marks the 20th anniversary of his now-classic book “Times Square Red, Times Square Blue” about how the gentrification of Times Square pretty well ended public sex among men in the district, a development that turned out to be something of a canary in a coal mine for the civic freedoms once inherent to public spaces in New York. The book has just been reissued in a special edition by NYU Press. Here are excerpts of my conversation with Delany: CHRISTOPHER MURRAY: Where were you in June of 1969? SAMUEL R. DELANY: I was in San Francisco and I heard about the Stonewall riots. I had just moved to San Francisco and I was delighted to hear about them. CM: Do you remember thinking, “This is historic?” SRD: I remember thinking, “This is the greatest thing that’s ever happened!” The riots lasted for days. “They are rioting in New | April 11 - April 24, 2019

changes impacted Brooklyn’s residents. Like the inner workings of a clock, tiny facts turn larger events that become part of a big picture for readers to see. Unlike many books, this one doesn’t ignore anyone in the LGBTQ initialism; all are mentioned here and given due diligence. For readers searching for a fun, fascinating, all-encompassing history, “When Brooklyn Was Queer” is a pleasant and welcome gift. WHEN BROOKLYN WAS QUEER | By Hugh Ryan | St. Martin’s Press | $29.99 | 308 pages

York and this is my people?” How could I not think that was fantastic? I was 27 years old. I was not a kid. I came out before the riots. I had already moved to the East Village so it would be easier to be a gay man. 629 East Fifth Street. CM: Not far from Allen Ginsberg. SRD: Ginsberg’s landlord was a friend of mine and we were both screwing him at the same time. CM: Did you regret not being in New York for the riots? SRD: Sure, I did. I thought. “Why did I leave New York now?” I would have loved to be there. But I was in working on the beginning of “Dhalgren.” CM: As you look from Stonewall ‘69 through to Stonewall ‘19, what do you think the most significant historical arcs have been, in your own life, in the queer community, in science fiction, in general in the United States? SRD: From my point of view, certainly the closing of gay institutions like pornographic theaters, sex shows, and bathhouses changed my life incredibly. Dennis [Delany’s long-term partner] still says Giuliani’s closing the theaters in ‘95 ruined our sex life. And nothing really has come back to replace them. I haven’t been able to explore Grindr and the other apps. Maybe that solves the problem; maybe it doesn’t. I think gay marriage is a good choice to have, but I don’t think it’s solved any major problems.

He loves solving problems. So he gives.

William Donnell turned to The New York Community Trust to help him share his good fortune. Together, we preserve parks, support the LGBTQ community, and fight poverty. He also put The Trust in his will. “Long after I’m gone, The Trust will keep using my money to make New York better for everyone.”

What do you love? We can help with your charitable giving. (212) 686-0010 x363 or

➤ SAMUEL R. DELANY, continued on p.47



The Great Awokening Penny Lane explains these are not your father’s Satanists BY STEVE ERICKSON n its six years of existence, the Satanic Temple has managed something remarkable: rebranding Satanism as enlightened and politically progressive. Penny Lane’s documentary “Hail Satan?” makes no attempt to hide the fact that it’s on their side, and the Christians here come across as hateful and dangerous, not the Satanists. To get one thing out of the way, the Satanic Temple does not literally worship Satan or believe in him (or God). In fact, the film’s early scenes show one of its members going shopping for a costume to portray a properly theatrical Satanic image to troll US Senator Rick Scott, who was then Florida’s governor. But the temple’s followers now define themselves a non-theistic religion, with seven ethical tenets that make good sense. The film testifies to the sense of community their members, including many LGBTQ people who have good reason to feel alienated by Christian conservatives, have found. “Hail Satan?” benefits greatly from its sense of humor. For that matter, so does the Satanic Temple. The campy theatricality running through their use of occult imagery is very different from the black metal scene. One of their early actions was a “Pink Mass” at the grave of Fred Phelps’ mother, which riffed on Mormons’ posthumous and unauthorized conversions to their church by “converting” her to lesbianism.



Supporters of the Satanic Temple at an August 2018 religious freedom rally at the State Capitol in Little Rock.

Two same-sex couples kissed, and spokesperson Lucien Greaves rubbed his testicles on her headstone. The Yes Men, who have impersonated CEOs and government officials to promote leftist politics, are a probable inspiration. When Lane films Satanic Temple members who want to remain anonymous, she puts them in black jackets and devil horns even as she hides their faces. “Hail Satan?” goes through a fairly linear history of the Satanic Temple, which it portrays as a gag tried out at a few protests that became increasingly serious and popular. The film also provides a more general background on religion in the US via scholars Kevin Kruse and Jay Wexler. While I remember the “Satanic panic” well from being a teenager in the ‘80s,

it was news to me that the “one nation under God” language in the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” language on currency date back only to the 1950s. The film also reveals that many Ten Commandments monuments on public property were originally planted there to get publicity for Cecil B. De Mille’s film. In its last half hour, “Hail Satan?” builds dramatic momentum around the expulsion of Jex Blackmore, who headed the Satanic Temple’s Detroit chapter, for a performance — that’s honestly the best way to describe it — in which she stuck pig heads on spikes and said “Execute the president!” To Greaves, this called for the murder of Donald Trump and broke with the Satanic Temple’s firm policy of nonviolence. To me, Blackmore’s action was clearly a bit of heated rhetoric, and while I understand the need for the group to cover itself legally, perhaps demanding that Blackmore make clear she wasn’t actually advocating murder would’ve been a better idea than kicking her out. The people critical of the Satanic Temple in “Hail Satan?” are mostly seen in news footage, and they’re almost entirely conservative Christians who view Satanism in a completely literal way. You wouldn’t know from this film that they’ve been criticized from the left, as well. Greaves’ choice of lawyer Marc Randazza, who has also worked for Alex Jones and several alt-

➤ HAIL SATAN?, continued on p.37

When Film Busts Down Barriers Wanuri Kahiu’s lesbian romance forced a discussion in Kenya BY GARY M. KRAMER he marvelous queer romance “Rafiki,” (“Friend”) — the first Kenyan film to screen at Cannes — was banned last year in its native country. Though the Kenya Film Classification Board objected to the film for “promoting lesbianism,” the ban was eventually lifted and “Rafiki” screened to crowds in Nairobi. The film’s temporary censoring, however, made it ineligible to be submitted as Kenya’s foreign film entry for the Academy Awards. Now, New York audiences can see this touching drama, directed and co-written by Wanuri Kahiu. The filmmaker adapted the award-winning short story “Jambula Tree,” by Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko. “Rafiki” depicts the rela-

T 36


Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva in Wanuri Kahiu’s “Rafiki.”

tionship that develops between the tomboy Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and the sexy Ziki (Sheila Munyiva), two young women whose fathers are political rivals. As Kena and Ziki start to fall in

love, they make a pact not to be “like everyone else;” they want to be “something real.” They talk and kiss and cuddle, though they also have a spat in response to a church sermon on samesex marriage. Eventually, their relationship is discovered by others. “Rafiki” is significant not just for showing how Kena and Ziki’s love blossoms, but for addressing homophobia, which is evident not only in slurs some of Kena’s friends employ toward a local gay man but also in acts of violence perpetrated against queer characters. Via WhatsApp, Kahiu spoke with Gay City News about her controversial film.

➤ RAFIKI, continued on p.37 April 11 - April 24, 2019 |

➤ HAIL SATAN?, from p.36 right figures, to represent them in a 2018 lawsuit against Twitter led their Los Angeles chapter to split off. “Hail Satan?” celebrates the group’s expansion and current status as a more conventional religious and political organization. That did not come without compromises. However, the bigger picture “Hail Satan?” sketches says something telling about American culture. To many of the teenagers who would ultimately join the Satanic Temple and to the far bigger group who sat on the sidelines, the Satanic panic made Satanism look cool and those Christians who thought Dungeons and Dragons and backwards messages in Led Zeppelin records would destroy a generation look foolish. The hypocrisy of the Catholic Church freaking out over a Black Mass the Satanic Temple wanted to hold at Harvard while remaining silent about its complicity in institutionalized pedophilia is glaring. In America, the name Satan and images of pentagrams and upsidedown crosses have a mythic power that goes beyond simple atheism.

➤ RAFIKI, from p.36 GARY M. KRAMER: Your film was banned for “promoting lesbianism.” Can you explain the origin and controversy of “Rafiki”? WANURI KAHIU: I wanted to tell a love story, and the short story, “Jambula Tree,” was not banned. I wanted to honor that piece. I was reacting to my world as an artist. I wanted to tell a love story based in Kenya. We have no stories that had characters that looked like me. The fact that it was two women in love was just two women in love. Love is love, and I want to be clear about that while creating the film — that love happens to anyone it meets on its path. As far as “promoting homosexuality,” I wanted to depict a story that is hopeful but also contains harsh realities in a country where same-sex love is illegal. I wanted to normalize the idea that love can happen to anyone at any time, and I wanted to be clear that there is no otherness in love. In that way, I wanted to make sure it felt like | April 11 - April 24, 2019

The Christians who show up at school board meetings fearing for their souls at the concept of an “Afterschool Satan Club” or a Satanist prayer invocation don’t appreciate the importance of critical thinking and the notion that religious freedom involves coexistence with genuine differences. On the Satanic Temple’s part, there’s something very valuable about their insistence on the role of humor in activism, building community around a concrete set of ethics, and trying to re-define religion in a way that’s open to ambiguous belief or none at all. However, the group may be turning into another branch of organized religion built around a charismatic male authority figure, despite its professed atheism. “Hail Satan?” is very entertaining, but it clearly seems made for an audience that’s never thought about these subjects and expects Satanists to sacrifice cats while listening to Slayer amid spraypainted pentagrams. HAIL SATAN? | Directed by Penny Lane | Magnolia Pictures | Opens Apr. 19 | IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Thirds St. |

any other love story. If it promoted or normalized homosexuality, then more power to it. Promoting [in the censors’ eyes] means trying to turn people gay. That’s an absurdity to me. The film helped people come out; many people came out after seeing “Rafiki.” Or it hopefully helped people feel less alone or see that how they love is fine as a result of watching “Rafiki.” I wish I had the power to change people’s sexuality. That would be an awesome superpower! As a filmmaker, I don’t think I have the control the government seems to think I have. KRAMER: Given the attitudes about homosexuality in Kenya, were you expecting the ban and generating controversy when you set out to make this film? KAHIU: We knew it could be potentially dangerous. We were on the side of the law. We didn’t break any laws. We submitted the script to get a license. Our constitution has

Events DAVID BURTKA in conversation with GAYLE KING

Discussion / Book Signing Wednesday, April 17th, 7pm 33 East 17th Street Union Square (212) 253-0810 In this debut cookbook, the actor and chef shares tips for hosting aweinspiring parties as well as recipes for creative meals that will make every night feel like a special event. Priority seating with book purchase.

Get more info and get to know your favorite writers at BN.COM/events All events subject to change, so please contact the store to confirm.

➤ RAFIKI, continued on p.38



The Angle of Approach Hong Sang-soo seemingly gly y ccedes ede control to his muse BY STEVE ERICKSON t 66 minutes, Korean director Hong Sang-soo’s “Grass” barely qualifies as feature length. It works within a confined space, restricting its setting, apart from a few scenes, to a café. It was obviously filmed very quickly. Although Hong has a strong visual style, the screenplay of “Grass” could easily be staged as theater. Everyone who has followed Hong’s work to this point knows that his films keep repeating a small number of motifs: male filmmakers who are attracted to younger women, people getting drunk in cafés and letting their emotions get the better of themselves, breaking up the frame with zooms. “Grass” isn’t a radical departure from the Hong Sang-soo cinematic universe, but it suggests that he’s questioning his place in constructing it. Areum (Kim Min-hee) sits in a café, writing in her journal on a laptop. To her left, a couple argue about the suicide of a young woman. An elderly actor, Chungsoo (Ki Joo-bong), is trying to get back in the good graces of a young woman, Sungha (Seo Young-hwa). A filmmaker, Kyungsoo (Jung Ji-young), struggles to get a new project off the ground. We see a few modest scenes of Areum with her siblings outside the café.


➤ RAFIKI, from p.37 a freedom of expression clause and the clause has categories of what can’t be made, so we were confident we could create the film. We carefully, thoughtfully, and deliberately made the film, so it was protected — as was anyone associated with the film. KRAMER: “Rafiki” had a successful release when it was finally shown theatrically. What can you say about the experience of taking the case to court to get your film exhibited in your native country? KAHIU: I think the Classification Board had a lot to do with that. The [judge] said during the meeting to give it a rating, “If I ban this film, it will make you very popular.” He knew the result of what a ban would do. He expected us to roll over. It was amazing that people went out — and went more than once — to watch “Rafiki.” It was amazing for what it did for the LGBT community here. The response from them was so beautiful. We were gracious and honored, after all the work we had done. KRAMER: What decisions did you make in



Kim Min-hee in Hong Sang-soo’s “Grass.”

Does Hong get ideas for his scripts by sitting in cafés and listening to people talk about their lives? Even if this isn’t literally true, Areum comes across as a truer stand-in for him than filmmaker Kyungsoo. Unlike the other characters, the spectator gets access to her thoughts. Her reflections on death spill out into the rest of “Grass.” Hong’s work started getting consistently darker when his relationship with Kim became a scandal in the South Korean media. “On the Beach At Night Alone” cast her as a woman recovering from the end of an affair that sounded very much like her real-life relationship with Hong.

how you portrayed the relationship between Kena and Ziki physically? KAHIU: We wanted to create a tension to capture that moment of falling in love. You see the lingering first glances and the growth of it. Falling in love is anxious, scary, and intimidating, and awkward, and thrilling all at the same time! So, it was about how to create that anxiousness. KRAMER: The film depicts scenes of homophobia — both verbal abuse and physical violence. Can you talk about incorporating that content and depicting it? KAHIU: The film’s gay male character needed to be someone Kena can see and recognize in the same community and foreshadow what could happen to the girls. But he also is a symbol of silence, strength, and support. One in five people in the LGBT community are assaulted in Kenya. While it is important that we see them fall in love, it was also important to talk about the violence against our community from every side. Who feels they have the authority over women’s bodies? And if we don’t address that, then we won’t have an understanding of the long and continued patriarchal relationship that women have in countries where women live under a patriarchy.

Hong has made many films about filmmakers pursuing women, which usually don’t play out as simple and self-serving male fantasies. Here he seems to pass the torch of creativity to his muse. Even though Areum is just writing in her journal, she has the power to bring a world to life, while the film’s male artists don’t get much accomplished. But what she describes is more important than its ultimate nature. The world of “Grass” is haunted by the idea of personal complicity in other people’s fate. Hong has often been compared to Alain Resnais, and “Grass” raises questions about the reality of what we’re watching in a way that evokes the French director’s work. Still, it never gets surreal. In fact, the arguments about personal responsibility for others’ death are quite sobering. But if they’re taking place in the real world, it seems odd that Areum’s preoccupations are shared by more than one couple sitting around her. Or does she start thinking about the world around her and create a feedback loop? Is she imagining the entire film? The final third of “Grass” rolls around in time, repeating a few lines of dialogue from the beginning but leading to a new line of thought from Areum. The use of classical music by Wagner, Schu-

➤ GRASS, continued on p.47 KRAMER: What can you say the impact of making “Rafiki” has been? KAHIU: No one has the right to intimate anyone for freedom of expression. That’s in the constitution, as well. It is a beautiful clause I hold so dearly. That’s why we were in court. We live in a world that doesn’t reflect the values we want reflected. If we sit back in silence, there is nothing we are doing to hinder the progress of evil. In my way, I’m fighting for freedom of expression. I do not have the luxury of being silent when acts of despicable patriarchy and inequality happen around me. Making films is important — we remember the love and softness and emotion — and it tests relationships and prompts conversations about the rights of LGBT community, rights of privacy, and freedom of expression. Those conversations would not have happened if I had not made this film. RAFIKI | Directed by Wanuri Kahiu | In English and Swahili with English subtitles | Film Movement | Opens Apr. 19 | Quad Cinema, 34 W. 13th St.; | Stuart Cinema & Café, 79 West St., btwn. Greenpoint Ave. & Milton St., Greenpoint; April 11 - April 24, 2019 |

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Stonewall on Pennsylvania Avenue Washington’s Newseum hosts 50th anniversary tribute to West Village bar riots BY TEQUILA MINSKY ise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement” is the 50th anniversary tribute to the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement that opened last month at the Newseum in Washington. Beginning with the June 1969 police raid on the Stonewall Inn in the West Village, the exhibit charts major moments in the past half-century’s struggle for liberation and equality. The Pennsylvania Avenue museum, which sits halfway between the White House and the Capitol, is a project of the Freedom Forum, whose mission is to celebrate and advance the five freedoms embodied in the First Amendment — press, speech, assembly, petition, and religion. The Newseum, of course, is the group’s repository of press-related artifacts. Banners above the museum’s entrance call attention to the exhibit’s major themes. “I Want Gay Rights Now!,” shouts one. On another, alongside a graphic of a rainbow-colored White House, use bold letters to direct: “March, Rally, Unite, Vote.” In three adjoining rooms on the sixth level of the seven-story museum, LGBTQ history is told and assessed through multi-layer presentations and montages of text, publications, videos, and interactive media. One of the panels at the start of the exhibit reads, “Though activists had been organizing and protesting for years, it took a five-day uprising at the Stonewall Inn — an illegal gay bar in New York — in 1969 to propel the grassroots to a new era of militancy and clout.” Sonya Gavankar, a spokesperson for the Newseum, reflected on the exhibit’s impact on visitors. “People stand in front of watershed moments in history that they experienced and are brought to tears,” she said. “The response has been overwhelming and wonderful, and visitors have been touched in ways we didn’t anticipate. The exhibition fosters multi-generational conversations.” Beyond Stonewall, there are reminders of other critical early moments — the 1978 assassination of Harvey Milk, fol-




“Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement” is on exhibit at Washington’s Newseum through December 31.


A photo of a powerfully energetic Edie Windsor draws viewers into the “Faith and the Right to Marry” segment of the exhibit.

lowed several years later by the sudden emergence of the AIDS crisis. “Plague! This is a plague!,” is a quote from playwright and AIDS activist Larry Kramer that shouts from a corner of the exhibit dedicated to AIDS. A small photo nearby of a street “die-in” reminds visitors of the persistence, importance, and varied style of demonstrations. Demonstrators holding a banner reading, “AIDS: We need research not hysteria” are seen in a photograph from the 1983 Pride March taken by photographer Barbara Alper. Alongside is an interactive display — “What do you think? What do you know? What would you do now?” Evident throughout the exhibit are details about how the power of public protest helped change laws and policies. On a 100-foot video wall on the fifth level, the Newseum screens an original 17-minute production “Into the Streets” that explores how the LGBTQ rights movement harnessed the power of public protest to change policy and shift culture. Encouraging discussion, the exhibit asks, “Which activist has inspired you the most?” Moved by the exhibit, photographer Alper, who has been shooting demonstrations since the 1970s, remembered the era she lived through. “It’s such an important period of time,” she emphasized. The exhibit covers Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank’s 1987 public coming out and chronicles the push for hate crimes legislation, the implementation of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, and its later repeal. The image of a powerfully energetic Edie Windsor draws viewers into the “Faith and the Right to Marry” segment of the exhibit. A prominent quote there reads, “Married is a magic word… it has to do with our dignity as human beings. “Rise Up” also looks at popular culture’s role through film, television and music in influencing attitudes about the LGBTQ community. Helping launch the exhibit on a mid-March panel, actor Alan Cumming, in conversation with

➤ NEWSEUM, continued on p.40 April 11 - April 24, 2019 |

â&#x17E;¤ NEWSEUM, from p.40 NPRâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Ari Shapiro, spoke about his career, pop culture, and gay representation. Irelandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s visiting prime minister, Leo Varadkar, and his partner, Matt Barrett, had the opportunity to see the exhibit last month when they visited Washington in connection with St. Patrickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Day events. The Newseum is hosting other events surrounding the exhibit, including commemorations in June planned in conjunction with Capital Pride. This timely exhibit runs until the end of the year, and a visit to the gleaming and contentrich Newseum is a must for current affairs and news junkies at any time. The $25 ticket buys entrance that is good for two days. New Yorkers might remember a branch of the Newseum at East 57th Street and Madison Avenue that hosted numerous photojournalism exhibits. The New York location closed in 2008 when the Newseum opened in DC. Along with the Freedom Forum, the museumâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s founding partners include an array of print, broadcast,

and cable media. Located close to the seat of American power, the state-of-the art museum champions and is dedicated to the importance of the First Amendment. The front of the Newseum features the 45 words of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.â&#x20AC;? Unfortunately, a museum of this substance and caliber isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t economically viable at its current location. At the end of 2019, the Newseum will close its Pennsylvania Avenue doors, its building sold to Johns Hopkins University. The museum is looking to relocate.


A photo of the White House bathed in rainbow lights on the day of the Supreme Courtâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 2015 marriage equality ruling sits above a description of the case.

RISE UP: STONEWALL AND THE LGBTQ RIGHTS MOVEMENT | Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, btwn. Livonia & Riverdale Aves., Washington | Through Dec. 31: Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.5 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. | $24.95; $19.95 for seniors at

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â&#x17E;¤ JUMP, continued on p.41

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Chasing a Golden Dream Amore Opera brings back Meyerbeerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Dinorahâ&#x20AC;? BY ELI JACOBSON he Metropolitan Opera is at the midpoint of Wagnerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mythical tetralogy â&#x20AC;&#x153;Der Ring des Nibelungen,â&#x20AC;? an epic driven by a ring made of cursed gold that destroys those who try to control it. In Giacomo Meyerbeerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pastoral opĂŠra-comique â&#x20AC;&#x153;Dinorah, oĂš Le Pardon de PloĂŤrmelâ&#x20AC;? (1859), the Breton goatherd HoĂŤl abandons his fiancĂŠe Dinorah at the altar to chase after a trove of ancient gold which is protected by a fatal curse. The first man to touch the gold will die. The jilted Dinorah proceeds to go melodiously mad singing roulades up and down the wild forest mountains of Brittany while chasing her goat Bellah. Wagnerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Ring Cycle,â&#x20AC;? though hugely expensive and difficult to perform, has regularly returned to the repertory of the Metropolitan Opera since 1892. Meyerbeerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Dinorah,â&#x20AC;? a pastoral romance with supernatural elements, racked up only five performances at the Met (two were on tour), with the last occurring in 1925 as a vehicle for Amelita Galli-Curci. Meyerbeerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s opĂŠra-comique is mainly known today through one aria â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the coloratura showpiece â&#x20AC;&#x153;Ombre lĂŠgèreâ&#x20AC;? or â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Shadow Songâ&#x20AC;? (famously recorded by Galli-Curci, Lily Pons, and Joan Sutherland, among others). Ironically, it was Wagnerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cruelly anti-Semitic attacks on Meyerbeer and French Grand Opera in his pamphlet â&#x20AC;&#x153;Jewry in Musicâ&#x20AC;?



Holly Flack in the title role of Meyerbeerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Dinorah, oĂš Le Pardon de PloĂŤrmel,â&#x20AC;? performed last month by the Amore Opera Company.

(along with changes in public taste and style) that caused Meyerbeerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s operas to be consigned to the attic trunk along with all the other mid19th century white elephants. The intrepid Amore Opera Company, in March, provided the first chance in nearly a century to see this once-famous and beloved opera staged and performed live. It was also the local premiere of the original French-language opĂŠracomique version (Galli-Curci and Luisa Tetrazzini performed the opera in Italian with recitatives). Amore Opera is the successor to the scrappy but endearing Amato Opera. The singers are local, the orchestra (Amato used two pianos) is a bunch of volunteer amateurs, the costumes are recycled, and the sets are modest painted flats. Everything, including the intermission treats, is homemade and prepared with love. According to Nathan Hull, the company direc-

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tor, this is the opening salvo in a Meyerbeer cycle performed on the tiny stage of the Riverside Theatre near Columbia University uptown. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Ă&#x2030;toile du Nordâ&#x20AC;? is on the docket for next season. Whatever the limitations of Amore Operaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s resources, the small company made a strong case that â&#x20AC;&#x153;Dinorah, oĂš Le Pardon de PloĂŤrmelâ&#x20AC;? as a viable, imaginatively orchestrated, and melodically rich work burdened by an implausible libretto in the hopelessly outmoded pastoral sentimental drama genre. The colorful painted sets by scenic designer Richard Cerullo had a naĂŻve quality suggestive of childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s theater, bolstered by the use of small children playing various livestock â&#x20AC;&#x201D; including two adorable tykes alternating as Dinorahâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pet goat Bellah (who plays an equivocal but crucial role in the plot). The deliberate naĂŻvetĂŠ was appropriate for such a far-fetched and simple minded story. Conversely, Claire Townsendâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rather sophisticated upper-class Parisian frock coats and gowns for the leads hardly suggested the folk costumes of Breton peasantry. Director Nathan Hull strove to tell the story simply, faithfully, and directly, and he translated the French dialogue into colloquial English while the sung material was performed in passable French. The volunteer orchestra (either very young or very senior) was a fly in the ointment â&#x20AC;&#x201D; ensemble and tuning were haphazard, though the violins and horns settled in somewhat

by the end of the evening. Other small companies like Dellâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Arte use a smaller group of more professional, paid players in chamber orchestra reductions â&#x20AC;&#x201D; this seems like a more practical and artistically pleasing solution. There were two alternating casts. On opening night, Holly Flackâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Dinorah unleashed a classic highplaced French light coloratura soprano with neat trills and accurate cadenzas in â&#x20AC;&#x153;Ombre lĂŠgère,â&#x20AC;? capping the famous aria with a high Aflat above high C â&#x20AC;&#x201D; shades of Mado Robin! Flack enacted the fey character with girlish charm. Her alternate, Jennifer Moore, has a larger, more substantial coloratura voice that could handle â&#x20AC;&#x153;La Traviata,â&#x20AC;? and her more mature, serious presence hinted at real madness and potential tragedy. Mooreâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Shadow Songâ&#x20AC;? was also nimble and fleet, capped by a secure high D. In the first cast, Suchan Kimâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s energetic stage presence and virile baritone as the antihero HoĂŤl made an overwhelmingly positive impression. Only his high notes sounded a bit strained and disconnected from the core of a fine, substantial voice. His alternate, Nobuki Momma, possessed a more modest baritone but had greater suavity in his acting and phrasing. As the doltish, cowardly bagpiper Corentin (HoĂŤlâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s intended stooge and cursed gold victim), Juan HernĂĄndez was endearingly goofy and sang with a sweet tenor tone. Michael Celentanoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tenor was grainier and rougher, and his acting evoked Sean Pennâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Jeff Spicoli in â&#x20AC;&#x153;Fast Times at Ridgemont Highâ&#x20AC;? (that is probably a good thing in the wrong place). Conductor Richard Cordova was a true hero of the evening leading his uneven ensemble in a rhythmically buoyant reading of the score. His baton is elegant and precise though his players were not. At the final curtain, Dinorah, after abandonment and long travails, is restored to sanity and happily goes to the altar. It seemed a deserved happy ending and a resurrection for both the title character and Meyerbeerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s charming pastoral opera.

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With â&#x20AC;&#x153;Brutalism,â&#x20AC;? Jonny Pierce Is Back The Drums, now a solo act, offer a hard-won path forward BY STEVE ERICKSON he most striking song on The Drumsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x153;Brutalismâ&#x20AC;? is its most blatantly pissedoff. â&#x20AC;&#x153;626 Bedford Avenueâ&#x20AC;? describes a self-destructive but addictive relationship. As catchy as it is, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s punctuated by very brief bursts of turntable scratching, and its lyrics are barbed: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Get your head out of your ass and take a good look at yourselfâ&#x20AC;Ś you might be a psychopath/ you might want to check that,â&#x20AC;? with Jonny Pierce alternately calling the title address â&#x20AC;&#x153;626 stupid avenue.â&#x20AC;? The upbeat melody makes the bitter tone all the more cutting. The Drums began as a duo, consisting of Pierce and Jacob Graham, but the group now exists as a one-man band consisting of Pierce. They had a hit single in the UK with â&#x20AC;&#x153;Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Go Surfingâ&#x20AC;? in 2010, but Island Records dropped them after



â&#x20AC;&#x153;Brutalismâ&#x20AC;? is the new album from The Drums, now a one-band of Jonny Pierce.

their second album. Tensions between band members seem to have taken their toll. Pierce views â&#x20AC;&#x153;Brutalismâ&#x20AC;? as a return after a period of depression and substance abuse. In an interview with Stereogum,

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Pierce recalls a 2009 interview with The Times of London when he was startled to be asked if anyone in The Drums is gay. Looking back at that moment, he said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;I remember lying and avoiding answering â&#x20AC;&#x201D; â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;None of that really matters, what matters is music,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; something like that. I remember feeling really ashamed, but also justified in not being fully transparent.â&#x20AC;? He now feels that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s very important to talk publicly about being gay and that his sexuality is a gift thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s led to empathy with other minorities. Describing the song â&#x20AC;&#x153;Loner,â&#x20AC;? he said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Being gay forced me to think differently, develop my creative side, and to carry a punk attitude.â&#x20AC;? The Drumsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; early music mined post-punk influences, with Joy Division/ New Order soundalike basslines. Theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve also long pursued the combination of dark allusions with cheerful tunes. The 2011 single â&#x20AC;&#x153;Moneyâ&#x20AC;? referred to domestic violence and serenaded a lover with the chorus, â&#x20AC;&#x153;I want to buy you something but I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have any money.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Brutalismâ&#x20AC;? is more optimistic than the bandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s last album, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Abysmal Sounds.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Nervousâ&#x20AC;? is an acoustic ballad which, as its title suggests, addresses anxiety. The emotional cycle of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Brutalismâ&#x20AC;? closes with â&#x20AC;&#x153;Blip of Joy,â&#x20AC;? where Pierce says, â&#x20AC;&#x153;With one kiss, I forget that I hate myself.â&#x20AC;? In that same Stereogum inter-

view, Pierce suggested that thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s something conservative about the conventional rock band format. The indie pop direction of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Brutalismâ&#x20AC;? has become very familiar in the long trail of The Postal Service. But it isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t entirely electronic. Pierceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bass playing is surprisingly funky, although it sounds closer to British post-punk bands imitating Chic than Chic themselves. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Lonerâ&#x20AC;? uses programmed breakbeats. The album deploys electric guitar sparingly. The title track ventures into dream pop, with Pierce going back to the bandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s earliest surf-rock references and cranking up the tremolo. Pierce overdubs his own voice throughout to sing harmonies with himself. If Pierce intended to use â&#x20AC;&#x153;Brutalismâ&#x20AC;? to tell the story of his return to mental health, his lyrics donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t tell a straightforward tale of recovery and happiness. Theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re soaked in bile, which is most obvious on â&#x20AC;&#x153;626 Bedford Avenue.â&#x20AC;? He doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t come across as the most likeable narrator. The Drums have frequently been compared to The Smiths, and Morrisseyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tendencies toward self-pity and spite have a parallel in their music. The title trackâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s description of Pierce stretching a loverâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s T-shirt over his face when heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not around is creepy. But the song is about the need to recognize the unpleasant aspects of passionate love instead of making it sound like a perpetual walk in the park. Alluding to Joy Division, Pierce sings, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Desire might be the thing that tears us apart.â&#x20AC;? On the surface, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Brutalismâ&#x20AC;? is a fun listen. Paying attention to its lyrics reveals a great deal of turbulence. The Drums have always drawn on a range of musical references from the past. But thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a very personal quality to the album. It assumes that the listener will engage with Pierceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s emotional struggle. The electronic pop sound and â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;80s influences of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Brutalismâ&#x20AC;? are pretty familiar, but the story it tells is specific. THE DRUMS |â&#x20AC;&#x153;Brutalismâ&#x20AC;? | AntiRecords | April 11 - April 24, 2019 |

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As the Culinary King of Queens, I’m so very fortunate to live in the most diverse and delicious destination in all of New York City. And I’m even luckier to be a tastemaker for the World’s Fare, a celebration of global cuisine and culture, which will be held on May 18 and 19 at Citi Field. In the weeks leading up to the Fare, I’ll be profiling some of my favorite vendors from Queens and beyond. Today, a look at the Arepa Lady, the crown jewel of Colombian street food, which is returning for the second year. Back in the day, it was quite a quest to find the Arepa Lady, a smiling angel serving up gooey Colombian corn cakes enriched with salty quesillo cheese. I usually started my mission around 10 p.m. My fellow Queens food adventurers and I knew she’d be under the rumbling 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue in the vicinity of 82nd Street, often in front of a nightclub, but were never quite sure which one. For there were other vendors selling this classic Colombian street food, and we wanted to be sure we were at the stand run by what Jim Leff, founder of the foodie internet message board Chowhound, called the Sainted Arepa Lady. The now septuagenarian Arepa Lady wasn’t always known by that moniker. Maria Piedad Cano immigrated to the United States in the 1980s from Medellin, Colombia, where she served as an administrative judge. Seeking a way to support her family, she learned how to make the griddled corn cakes from a friend. For 30 years this the O.G. — which in this case stands for original grandma — sold her salty, sweet, cheesy treats to revelers and food nerds alike. The stand was once even nominated for a Vendy Award. In the summer of 2014, the Arepa Lady’s family, spearheaded by her son Alejandro Osorio, returned the favor by opening a restaurant — Areperia Arepa Lady — on 77th Street, not far from her original food cart. Osorio and his crew expanded the menu beyond the

8Yfm\ Af\;`Jk\]Xef#k_\8i\gXCX[pDXi`XG`\[X[:Xef#Xe[_\ijfe 8c\aXe[if Fjfi`f% 8Yfm\ i`^_k  K_\ fi`^`eXc jkl]]\[ Xi\gX k_Xk _Xj Y\Zfd\XY\cfm\[jkXgc\f]Z`kpjki\\k]ff[#Xe[Y\cfni`^_k gXkXZfe# Yfk_ f] n_`Z_ m`j`kfij ZXe Ôe[ Xk k_`j p\XiËj Nfic[Ëj =Xi\ Xk :`k` =`\c[ e\okdfek_% two classic corn cakes: the golden yellow corn arepa de choclo, made with fresh kernels, a semicircle enclosing salty quesillo cheese, and the white arepa de queso made with corn flour, to include varieties stuffed with various meats. Some might argue that such additions are gilding the griddled lily. After all, there’s a whole roster of sauces to add to the corn cakes, including pineapple; green-tinged garlic; and leche condensada, a | April 11 - April 24, 2019

thick, sweet condensed milk that’s perfect for the rich arepa de queso. For a short time, the family closed Arepe19 ria Arepa Lady, but thankfully they found a new location on 37th Avenue, where the walls are decorated with pictures of this beatific patron saint of Colombian street food plying her wares on Roosevelt Avenue. Although Cano is semi-retired, “she comes at, like, 5 in

the morning to make arepas,” says Osorio, and sometimes she returns in the evening. “I can’t tell her no. Her name is on the door.” I’m so glad that this classic Colombian Queens street food will be featured at the World’s Fare. It’s one of many international flavors to be found in Queens that turned me into the food writer that I am today. See you at the Fare!

Joe DiStefano, a Queensbased food writer, culinary tour guide, and author of the bestselling guidebook “111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss.” Catch the Arepa Lady at the World’s Fare at Citi Field (12301 Roosevelt Ave. in Queens, on May 18 and 19 from 12 to 8 p.m. Tickets from $19 to $199 (children under 10, $5).



April 11 - April 24, 2019 |

➤ GRASS, from p.38 bert, Offenbach, and Pachelbel veers from melodrama to irony. At first, Hong simply zooms in closer on his characters and then pans from person to person as they speak. Later on, the camera settles on a shadow of a man’s head on the café wall. “Grass” was shot in unobtrusively handsome black-andwhite cinematography. Hong made a number of directorial decisions that undercut the film’s naturalism. He makes so many films that his overall oeuvre seems more valuable than singling any particular one out as a masterpiece, particularly because they share so much and build on top of each other. “Grass” is thematically ambitious but modest and doesn’t aim to cover much ground. Hell, it barely leaves

➤ SAMUEL R. DELANY, from p.35 CM: What does Stonewall’s 50th anniversary mean to you and where do you see gay liberation going in the future, for you, for individuals, for queer folk, for queer folk of color? SRD: Forward in time? I have no idea. How all of these groups are going to respond to the major changes that are likely to come because of climate change, I think, are just unpredictable. There’s reasonable talk of famine in the future and changes in the coastline, not to mention the real problem of pollution… I | April 11 - April 24, 2019

one room. That led to an “Oh no, Hong Sang-soo should stop making so many films” response when it toured the festival circuit in 2018. But, writing in Indiewire upon its New York Film Festival appearance, Adina Glickstein suggested that critics who dismissed it as too slight or fragmentary overlooked its place as part of a larger whole and likened it to Louise Bourgeois’ deliberately unrefined sculpture “Untitled (No. 2), 1996.” If “Grass” feels like the cinematic equivalent of a Bside, that permits a degree of experimentation that is taboo when aiming for hits. GRASS | Directed by Hong Sang-soo | In Korean with English subtitles | The Cinema Guild | Opens April 19 | Metrograph, 7 Ludlow St. , btwn. Canal & Hester Sts. |

think this will all have major influences on all aspects of gay society, and I don’t know what it will be. I’m reminded of a story I heard years ago when there was a meeting of gay novelists in the middle ‘50s, including Paul Goodman and Sanford Freeman, and the question was posed, “What is the major problem that the gay novelist should be worrying about?” and Goodman answered, without missing a beat, “The hydrogen bomb.” TIMES SQUARE RED, TIMES SQUARE BLUE | By Samuel R. Delany | NYU Press | $25 | 240 pages



April 11 - April 24, 2019 |

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Gay City News - April 11, 2019  

April 11, 2019

Gay City News - April 11, 2019  

April 11, 2019