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Supreme Court Takes Up Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination 06

Tiffany Cabán’s Out Queer Run for Queens DA 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




Wes Enos, executive director of The Generations Project, at a recent storytelling event.



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April 25 - May 8, 2019 |

In This Issue COVER STORY Bridging the gap 04 INTERNATIONAL Kiev lesbian conference overcomes right-wing thugs 11

RELIGION Two popes and a comedian walk into the Vatican... 18 EDITOR’S LETTER Can Reclaim Pride take yes for an answer? 24

CIVIL RIGHTS Advocates demand answers in NYPD killing of Bronx gay man 12

FILM Savannah Knoop’s side of the JT Leroy hoax 33

CRIME Abel Cedeno’s trial finally opens June 18 14

HISTORY The Public Library’s Whitman sampler 34

Hades in a handbasket 28


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Bridging the Gap Stories of LGBTQ lives celebrated, preserved by The Generations Project BY DAVID KENNERLEY


es Enos, executive director of The Generations Project, has a deep-rooted affinity for history. The enterprising young activist founded the history-minded group in 2015 with the aim of bridging what he saw as the widening chasm between young and old queer generations. And the prime building blocks for those bridges take the form of shared histories through highly personal stories — whether happy or harrowing — about the LGBTQ experience. “History has a history of being forgotten,” the 32-year old Enos said. “When history is not shared, it is lost. Our community has not had the resources or social acceptance to have our heritage recorded properly. Now we have all the resources available.” Enos concedes that when he started the not-for-profit endeavor, he knew nothing about the watershed Stonewall uprising. He’d heard of it, but didn’t grasp its historical impact. By creating an inclusive, safe space for dialogue, vital queer history is passed down to younger generations and the LGBTQ community is fortified. Naturally, Enos, who grew up in rural Oregon, has a captivating story of his own. “History has always been a part of my life, for better or for worse,” he recalled. “My dad taught every 10th grader in my school world history. Even the terrible students who hated school would come up to me and say they loved his history class. He found a way to make history come alive.” But as Enos entered 10th grade, he suddenly lost his dad to pancreatic cancer. He would sit in his dad’s former classroom and various substitute teachers would ask him why his last name sounded familiar. He was forced to explain, his stomach in knots, that they were teaching his dad’s curriculum. “I grew to hate history,” he said. “I didn’t want anything to do with



Reginald Brown shares a story about helping low-income people with HIV find housing.


Emcee Kyle Post encourages Dick Leitsch, who died last year, to recount his role in the historic “Sip-In” at Julius’ in 1966.

it.” Closeted and terrified of being gay, he mustered the courage to come out after graduation. To his relief, the declaration was, for the most part, warmly received by his friends, mother, and five siblings. When he went off to college, he started as a psychology major but to his somewhat chagrined surprise ended up majoring in history. It was in his blood, after all. “When I moved to San Francisco in 2005, I was ignorant of so many things,” he recalled. “I didn’t even know the Castro district existed. I just knew that gay people were somewhere in that city. I didn’t really know if I knew gay people

existed anywhere but San Francisco.” Soon Enos found a job as a waiter at a restaurant in the Castro, where he worked for five years. Fittingly, the restaurant was called Home. “It’s where I made my chosen family, my first gay family,” he said. One morning while working a brunch shift he told a fellow waiter, “No matter what I do with my life, I don’t ever want to be one of those old gay guys who sit here having breakfast alone every day.” The coworker was not having it. “These men used to go out dancing just like you do,” he snapped.

“They used to have brunch with large groups of friends just like you do.” The fellow waiter explained that due to the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s and ‘90s, many of their friends had died. “At that moment I realized how little queer history I knew and how little respect I had for our elders,” Enos recalled. “I was enjoying being part of the community but taking it for granted, not fully appreciating anything.” When he relocated to New York a few years later, he met other young gay men similarly clueless about queer history. Once at a party in Hell’s Kitchen, he overheard a group of 21-year-old gay boys declare that anyone over 40 should be banned from gay bars. Enos was appalled and vowed to figure out a way to educate the younger generation. “I think that’s how it is with most younger people,” he observed. “There’s so much rich history in LGBTQ community. As a young gay person new to the scene, where do you start?” After initiating a number of conversations with older people about gay life it struck him — intergenerational storytelling. The Generations Project was born. “Our community has been missing a platform where older adults are valued and their stories acknowledged,” said Enos. “The best way to build our community is to share our history and make sure our stories are passed to the next generation.” The platform created by The Generations Project consists of workshops and shows, where stories are presented in front of a live audience and recorded. The group has collected over 100 stories and staged more than 15 storytelling shows, with more on the calendar. The storytelling workshops are a structured curriculum where LGBTQ folks meet once a week for four weeks to develop their stories. On the final day, they present a

➤ BRIDGING THE GAP, continued on p.5 April 25 - May 8, 2019 |

➤ BRIDGING THE GAP, from p.4 five-minute story to the group, and their friends and family. “Now we have an archive of experienced storytellers,” Enos said. “When we create themed shows we can pull storytellers from past workshops, mix them with others in our network, and build an eager community to support them. The workshops help coax it out of people with no experience. Some of the participants never thought they would share their story in front of an audience.” Enos estimated these shows draw up to 350 people, depending on the venue. As participants enter, they collectively build an LGBTQ timeline of newspaper clippings and movie quotes before the storytelling show begins. They also grab a timeline card from the year they were born. “It’s a networking icebreaker,” Enos explained. “If you come alone, it can be intimidating. You have something in your hand, something to talk about to the stranger next to you.” During the first hour of the event, attendees mingle (the open bar adds further lubrication) as they create the timeline. Then they sit down for a polished show where each storyteller speaks for about 10 minutes. “Younger people are gaining a reputation of having shorter attention spans,” he said. “We have 10-minute stories for a reason.” Past shows have centered on themes such as HIV stigma, the history of Gay Pride, personal and historical “first times,” and how fashion has contributed to LGBTQ visibility. In recent shows, The Generations Project has expanded its scope, adding younger storytellers to the mix. “Regardless of our age, we all have a desire to learn from someone younger or older than ourselves,” Enos said. “The best way to learn is to connect with people of different ages.” For its next event, The Generations Project teams up with Summer of Sass on May 2 to present “The Feel Good Cabaret: Comedy for Charity,” an evening of standup and storytelling hosted by comedian Kristen Beck and featuring Wanjiko Eke, Anddy Egan-Thorpe, and Samantha Ruddy, among others, at the Stonewall Inn. While the main thrust is for everyday folks to share their stories, notable figures in the LGBTQ community have also gotten into the act. At a recent “Make History” fundraiser at New York’s LGBT Center, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson related a powerful coming-out story about being a closeted star on his high school football team and feeling so lost he considered suicide. In past storytelling events, Reginald Brown talked about his efforts to provide housing for low-income people with HIV, Cleve Jones recounted how he learned that his friend Harvey Milk had been assassinated, and the late Dick Leitsch chatted about his role in staging the famous “Sip-In” at Julius’ bar in 1966. | April 25 - May 8, 2019


Melissa Sklarz shares a story about her search for a community of gender nonconforming people.

One of the most memorable for Enos was Melissa Sklarz, an out transgender woman long active in progressive politics who failed to win her election bid last year for a New York State Assembly seat in Queens. She was hoping to be the first ever transgender member of the State Legislature. “She was a macho jock who had not been comfortable in her skin,” said Enos. “When she discovered the Gilded Grape bar, she found a community of gender nonconforming people that she could relate to. Her journey of finding a community and sort of becoming absorbed into the good and the negative sides of it is an experience that I have felt myself. Eventually, she hit rock bottom emotionally and said something that resonated deep within me: ‘Once you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s only one direction you can go and that’s up.’ That has always stuck with me.” Naturally, The Generations Project cannot fulfill its mission alone. The group has partnered with SAGE, HBO Out, the Alice Austen House on Staten Island, and the Fashion Institute of Technology, among others. The group is gearing up to collaborate with GMHC, the Jewish Heritage Museum, and the Black Lesbian Conference, and is looking to work with colleges to connect student groups with alumni. As part of the mammoth Stonewall 50 celebration this June, The Generations Project is joining forces with the New-York Historical Society to create the Stonewall 50 Time Capsule, to be stored at the NYHS for 50 years. But it’s not your typical time capsule. Enos sees the cache as a physical manifestation of the LGBTQ movement, generated through content from the group’s workshops and storytelling events and other collaborations with the Stonewall 50 Consortium.

According to Enos, the time capsule will be created by trendy metalworker Carlos Lopez (aka The Project Assassin). For now, it is designed to be the size of a small trunk, roughly three cubic feet, and made of 14-gauge steel. It will be jam-packed with envelopes created by organizations and participants from their events, comprised of short stories, pictures, memorabilia, transcripts, and more. Why wait so long to open the Stonewall 50 Time Capsule? “I like 50 years because I’m an environmentalist and am concerned about the future,” Enos said. “Some people say they might not be around in 20 or 30 years. Well, let’s write about that in the time capsule. Let’s record our positive intentions for a world we want in 50 years. What do we need to do now to make that happen?” “So much of our LGBTQ+ history has already been lost,” Enos continued. ”With most of our history now being preserved digitally, I think the future organizers of the 100th Anniversary of Stonewall will find our physical manifestation of the LGBTQ+ movement invaluable in understanding our history.” A grand party celebrating the closing of the time capsule is planned at the NYHS for June 2020, the 50th anniversary of the first Gay Pride March in New York. With an abundance of planned programs and events, does Enos fear they might be generating too much content? “If necessary, we can expand the time capsule,” said Enos. “There’s no such thing as too much content.” For more information, check out the group’s website at or contact Wes Enos directly at



SCOTUS to Review Gay, Trans Job Bias Cases Does the 1964 Civil Rights Act cover sexual orientation, gender identity discrimination? BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


he US Supreme Court announced it would hear appeals in three cases presenting the question whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s employment nondiscrimination provisions cover claims of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. The three cases involve the ’64 Act’s Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, and the high court’s April 22 announcement indicated they would be heard in the next term beginning in October. Since federal courts tend to follow Title VII precedents in interpreting the sex discrimination provisions in other areas of federal law — including fair housing and equal educational opportunity — rulings in these three cases could have broad implications for areas beyond simply employment discrimination. One of the three cases the high court will take up was filed on behalf of Gerald Lynn Bostock, a gay man who claimed he was fired by the Clayton County Juvenile Court System in Georgia, where he worked in child welfare services, because of his sexual orientation. The trial court dismissed his claim, and the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that dismissal based on a 1979 circuit precedent that Title VII does not forbid discrimination against gay people. The second was filed by Altitude Express, a now-defunct skydiving company that fired Donald Zarda, a gay man who claimed that was due at least in part to his sexual orientation. A federal trial court in New York, applying precedents from the Second Circuit, rejected his Title VII claim. The Court of Appeals, however, in an en banc hearing of the full Second Circuit bench, overruled numerous of its earlier precedents and found that the Title VII claim should not have been dismissed since that law applies to sexual orientation discrim-



The US Supreme Court will consider whether Aimee Stephen’s dismissal as a funeral director by Harris Funeral Homes in Michigan because of her gender transition was sex discrimination outlawed by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights g Act.


The high court will also consider the claim by the estate of the late Donald Zarda that his losing his job as a skydiving instructor was impermissible sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII.

ination. The third petition was filed by the Detroit area Harris Funeral Homes, which fired a funeral director, Aimee Stephens, who had been hired while still living as a man, when Stephens told owner Thomas Rost about her planned transition. When the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency responsible for overseeing Title VII enforcement, sued the funeral homes under Title VII, Rost voiced religious objections to gender transition and claimed he was free of liability under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Stephens intervened in that case as a co-plaintiff.

The trial judge found that Title VII had been violated, but that RFRA protected Harris Funeral Homes from liability. The Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling on the Title VII violation but reversed on the question of RFRA, finding that complying with Title VII would not substantially burden the funeral homes’ free exercise of religion. In concluding that Title VII had been violated, the Sixth Circuit relied not only on its ruling in a 2004 case, under which it found Smith to be the victim of impermissible sex stereotyping, but also concluded that gender identity discrimination is in and of itself a

form of sex discrimination under Title VII. In all three cases, the high court will consider whether Title VII’s ban on discrimination “because of sex” is limited to discrimination against a person because of their status as either a woman or a man, or if, as the EEOC has ruled in several federal employment disputes, it extends to sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination claims. The Supreme Court lingered over whether to take up these cases for nearly a year. The appeals in Bostock and Zarda were both filed last May; the Harris Funeral Homes case was filed in July. Prior to these cases being accepted for review, only nine others had been scheduled for the new term in October, so these could be argued by November, with decisions potentially handed down by early 2020, just as the presidential primary season is heating up. In the early years after Title VII became law, the EEOC and federal courts agreed that it offered no jurisdiction over complaints charging sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination. The lower courts’ attitudes began to change after the Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that evidence of sex stereotyping by employers could support a sex discrimination charge under Title VII in the case of Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, where the accounting firm denied partnership to a woman deemed insufficiently feminine in her demeanor. In 1998, in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, the high court found that Title VII could apply to a same-sex harassment case. The late Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion for the court there suggested that Title VII applied not only to the specific concerns of the legislators who enacted it, but would extend to “comparable evils.” As a result of this more flexible approach to sex discrimination, federal courts in this century began reconsidering their earlier

➤ SUPREME COURT, continued on p.7 April 25 - May 8, 2019 |

➤ SUPREME COURT, from p.6 rulings in LGBTQ discrimination cases. Appeals courts applied the Price Waterhouse sex stereotyping analysis to claims by transgender plaintiffs, leading the EEOC to rule in 2012 that a transgender applicant for a federal job, Mia Macy, could bring a Title VII claim against the government on the grounds that gender identity discrimination was inherently sex discrimination. In 2015, the EEOC extended that analysis to a claim brought by a gay air traffic controller, David Baldwin, against the US Transportation Department. The EEOC has followed up these rulings by filing discrimination claims in federal court on behalf of LGBTQ plaintiffs — or, alternately, by filing friend of the court briefs — in such cases as Zarda v. Altitude Express. In the Harris Funeral Homes case, the Sixth Circuit became the first federal appeals court to go beyond the sex stereotyping theory for gender identity discrimination claims, agreeing with the EEOC that discrimination because of gender identity is always discrimination because of sex. The EEOC’s argument along the same lines regarding sexual orientation discrimination was adopted by the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. The losing employer in that case, an Indiana community college that had declined to rehire a lesbian instructor, did not appeal. The Second Circuit similarly endorsed the EEOC’s view in the Zarda case last year. When the Zarda case (now carried on by his estate in the wake of the gay plaintiff’s death) was argued in front of the Second Circuit, the judges were both amused and confused that the EEOC and the Department of Justice argued opposite sides of the case. The EEOC was then still controlled by commissioners whom President Barack Obama had appointed, while thenAttorney General Jeff Sessions had adopted the position that federal sex discrimination laws do not apply to sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination claims. When it agrees to hear appeals, the Supreme Court sometimes tips its hand by reframing the questions posed by the petitioner. It | April 25 - May 8, 2019

did not do this regarding sexual orientation, merely stating that it was consolidating the Bostock and Zarda cases. In the Harris Funeral Homes case, the court limited consideration to the question “whether Title VII prohibits discrimination against transgender people based on (1) their status as transgender or (2) sex stereotyping under Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins.” The Supreme Court’s use of the phrase “status as transgender” is unusual since the phrase “gender identity” fits more neatly into Title VII terminology. None of the court’s members have addressed the questions presented in these three cases during their judicial careers, so venturing predictions is difficult. The four most recent appointees to the court with substantial federal judicial careers prior to their Supreme Court appointment — Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh — have never written a published opinion on sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination, and neither did Chief Justice John Roberts during his brief service on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Still, any justice committed to construing civil rights laws narrowly in the context of the time they were adopted will be skeptical about the argument that the 1964 statute can be interpreted to cover sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination. Seasoned Supreme Court advocates are likely to be brought into these cases on behalf of the numerous parties, but it is worth noting that the roster of attorneys already includes John A. Knight of the ACLU Foundation, Chicago, who represents Aimee Stephens, and the anti-LGBTQ religious liberty litigation group Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Harris Funeral Homes. The high court has still not taken action on two other pending petitions regarding LGBTQ rights — a Title IX case challenging the Boyerstown, Pennsylvania, school district’s decision to let transgender students use facilities consistent with their gender identity, and an Oregon state court decision rejecting a baker’s First Amendment defense against a same-sex couple’s discrimination claim brought when he refused to make them a wedding cake.

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Tiffany Cabán Aims to Scramble Queens DA Race Can queer newcomer disrupt the borough’s entrenched establishment? BY MATT TRACY


ueens district attorney candidate Tiffany Cabán stopped at one point during a recent interview with Gay City News to make it clear she prefers to speak about the LGBTQ community in the first person because, in her words, “It’s my community.” Cabán’s identity as a queer Latina woman has helped shape her career as a public defender and her understanding of other marginalized groups facing tough hurdles in the criminal justice system, and she is now vying to channel her insight toward a broader effort to shake up the political and legal establishment in the borough. Cabán, who grew up in Queens, admitted she “never thought” she would be running for an office with a tough-on-crime reputation. But a burning desire to eradicate the systemic problems she’s witnessed was part of the driving force behind her decision to run, and she ultimately wants to flip the script on the way Queens residents think of prosecution in their borough. “When I walk through the halls of the courthouse, people say, ‘You’re the good guy!,’” Cabán said, referring to her work as a public defender. “You have to ask why that is. Why am I on the good side?” The 31-year-old Cabán is facing formidable foes in the looming June 25 primary race, including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and City Councilmember Rory Lancman, both of whom have spent more than a decade serving as elected officials in various capacities. But Cabán has managed to stand out — and pile up endorsements — in part by touting progressive stances historically unheard of among district attorneys in the nation’s largest city, let alone in a borough where current DA Richard Brown will have reigned for more than 28 years when he resigns in June. (John Ryan will serve as acting DA until Brown’s permanent successor is



Tiffany Cabán, a queer Latina public defender from Queens, is bringing a fresh approach to the race for the borough’s next district attorney.

chosen in the November 5 general election.) Cabán felt emboldened to run for the office when she saw local political upstarts like Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez find success when running against entrenched political leaders who appeared destined to cruise to reelection. Cabán’s slate of progressive stances include her support for the decriminalization of sex work — though she struggled to articulate during this interview whether it should be fully legalized — and she further broke with many district attorneys when she said it is not necessary to request cash bail in many cases, another issue that exposes the class divide in the criminal justice system, with some defendants easily able to afford it but others remaining behind bars for lengthy periods without having been convicted of anything. She has seen firsthand the impact of this issue in a meeting with a transgender client ahead of her court hearing. “She couldn’t afford her bail,”

Cabán said, recalling that her client was thrown into a holding area with men as she awaited a hearing. “I sat down across the bars from my client and saw a group of men standing behind her — and she was growing facial hair for the first time in a long time.” That her client was growing facial hair — a clear sign of medical mistreatment in the withholding of needed hormones — and forced to be housed with men was a reflection of the inhumane conditions trans people can endure while incarcerated. Cabán noted that Manhattan Detention Center is supposed to have special housing for transgender women. Yet, only some trans women are placed there. “They can hold 50-60 people there, but at a given time there are 20-25 people in that unit and everybody else that identifies as trans is placed into solitary,” she said. “To be placed into solitary and told this is for your safety… nobody should be in solitary.” Cabán wondered aloud why she is “not seeing the overwhelming

outrage” about the community being disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system has been harsh for sex workers, as well — including many who are transgender. Sex workers often fall into vulnerable positions because the law pushes them into a dark underground or police officers and clients take advantage of them. Cabán believes it is important to make sure that the criminal justice system is not stacked against people who are merely trying to make ends meet. “Our economy doesn’t work for everybody,” she said. “There is a large number of trans Latina women who do sex work. On an everyday basis, they experience barriers in areas of housing and employment. This is work they do to survive. It’s the same with a lot of migrant workers from Asian communities working in massage parlors. Sex work is work.” As DA, Cabán said she would decline to go after sex workers, customers, or landlords and spaces facilitating sex work. In her view, that would help allow sex workers to pursue their trade in dignity while also benefitting those coerced into the work because folks would not feel as threatened to work with law enforcement. The issue of sex work has been injected into local and national conversations thanks to vibrant campaigns mounted by advocacy groups such as DecrimNY, which has led the effort for decriminalization here, pushing politicians to fight for their cause. That group has, however, deliberately opted to advocate for decriminalization rather than legalization, which would entail potential hurdles for sex workers having to comply with a more regulated system. Cabán’s position on whether sex work should be outright legalized is not as clear. When she was asked about that in a questionnaire for the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club — an LGBTQ group that has

➤ TIFFANY CABÁN, continued on p.26 April 25 - May 8, 2019 |


Lesbians Overcome Far-Right Thugs in Kiev Anti-LGBTQ fever persists in Eastern Europe, but Ukrainian authorities upheld order BY MATT TRACY


n international lesbian conference in Ukraineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s capital city of Kiev April 12-14 was met with a barrage of religious and far-right protestors who held up homophobic signs, tried blocking the venueâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s entrance, and even launched tear gas canisters. The event, however, went on as planned. The European Lesbian Conference (ELC) draws hundreds of women from around the world to focus on global issues facing lesbians and the broader LGBTQ community. The first such conference took place in 2017 in Vienna. The anti-LGBTQ protestors were most disruptive on the ELCâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first day. As they unsuccessfully tried to block the event from taking place, some waved signs saying, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Homosexuality is a diseaseâ&#x20AC;? and â&#x20AC;&#x153;Go back to Hell, sodomites.â&#x20AC;? Oksana Pokalchuk, who serves as the director of Amnesty Ukraine, tweeted a video she recorded of dozens of protestors outside of the venue. One small sign seen in the video was a


Board members smile at the end of the European Lesbian Conference in Kiev on April 14.

crossed-out Rainbow Flag. During the ELCâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s second and third days, the protestors settled down with most of them peacefully assembled outside of the conference. The protestersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; anger could not compete with the upbeat mood inside the venue, where posts on the ELCâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Twitter page reflected a successful â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and historic â&#x20AC;&#x201D; gathering of LGBTQ folks in

a region better known for its intolerance than acceptance, even with slightly more progressive attitudes in major cities like Kiev. Pokalchuk tweeted, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Together we stood up to hate and made history. No words can describe how much important this event was for #Ukraine and the community.â&#x20AC;? Evgenia Giakoumopoulou, a human trafficking attorney and an ELC board member, said protestors were â&#x20AC;&#x153;afraid of those big bad dykes and they were right to be because lesbians are here to smash patriarchy.â&#x20AC;? Olena Shevchenko, who is the leader of a Ukrainian LGBTQ group known as Insight, told Reuters that police blocked protestors from breaking into the event, an improvement over official indifference and even hostility at similar gatherings in Kiev in recent months. A transgender rights demonstration in that city in November, which was legally authorized, was similarly interrupted by far-right and religious groups, forcing the activists to take their rally elsewhere. Those activists blasted police for shoving them, yelling slurs, and swearing at them, according to RadioFreeEurope.

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Cops’ Fatal Shooting of Gay Black Man Questioned Advocates say four bullets to Kawaski Trawick’s chest were preventable BY MATT TRACY


oughly one week after NYPD officers killed a gay black man at his apartment in the Bronx, advocates gathered outside that home to demand accountability, transparency, and a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death. A rally was held April 22 at Hill House in the borough’s Morris Heights section, where 32-year-old Kawaski Trawick — a member of the local queer ball scene — was residing when cops shot him four times on April 14. The shots came, they said, after he “suddenly jumped to his feet” when he was tased during what has been described by advocates as a possible case of emotional distress that warranted support, not four fatal bullets to the chest. Advocates are seeking the release of body camera footage of the incident, the naming of police officers involved in the shooting, and the appointment of a special prosecutor to handle the case by State Attorney General Letitia James.


Advocates demand accountability during an April 22 rally outside the home of a gay man who was fatally shot by NYPD cops earlier in the month.

The NYPD dodged questions from Gay City News about whether or not body camera footage would be released or if the police officers involved would be named. In a written statement, the NYPD claimed Trawick initially called the FDNY and said his front door was locked and his apartment was on fire. Firefighters arrived, forced the door open, and found that the apartment was not on fire. Neighbors called police at around the same

time, and cops said they arrived to Trawick’s apartment and found him holding a kitchen knife in one hand and a broomstick in the other. After he refused to answer pleas to drop those weapons, the police officers tased him and he fell to the ground. At that point, cops said, Trawick jumped up and “charged at the officers from a short distance” with the knife and broomstick in hand. Cops left the apartment, but Trawick allegedly continued charging at them, forcing officers to shoot him, the NYPD asserted. He died at Bronx Lebanon Hospital later that night. Advocates say folks who were in the area at the time of the incident met the NYPD’s story with suspicion. They believe that full accountability is the only way to begin to understand what happened the night of April 14. “Reports from the local community in the Bronx and those on the scene suggest Kawaski was not a threat to anyone when police arrived at his building,” said Carolyn Martinez-Class, who is a spokesperson for the police watchdog

➤ BRONX FATAL SHOOTING, continued on p.13


NYPD Resists Calls for Vice Squad Probe Cops defensive responding to sex worker overpolicing, harassment charges BY MATT TRACY


he NYPD significantly escalated tensions with advocates for sex workers on April 18 when a spokesperson said a letter from four local elected officials calling for an investigation into the department’s handling of sex work cases made “sweeping generalizations” that “blatantly mischaracterized” the department. The response from the NYPD, in turn, prompted some advocates to blast the department for itself running prostitution rings while resisting a potential probe. The letter calling for the investigation, delivered on April 5 to city Department of Investigation (DOI) Commissioner Margaret Garnett and DOI Inspector General Philip K. Eure, said a DOI investigation of the Vice Squad is “both warranted and necessary” at a time “of decaying confidence in the police.” Out gay City Councilmember Ritchie Torres of the Bronx, who chairs the powerful Committee on Oversight and Investigations, State



The NYPD is resisting calls for a probe into Vice Squad overpolicing and harassment of sex workers.

Senator Jessica Ramos of Queens, and Assemblymembers Dan Quart of Manhattan and Ron Kim of Queens signed the letter charging that the NYPD Vice Squad “is a traditional hotbed of corruption. With vast institutional issues and contradictory directives, it’s a citywide department deserving of scrutiny.” The pols questioned why the Vice Squad in-

cludes prostitution as part of its focus on fighting “victim-based crimes,” which includes human trafficking and Internet crimes against children, saying, “It’s both dangerous and offensive to conflate willing participation in the sex trade with human trafficking.” The letter continued, “Further, how do those investigations fit with Internet crimes against children? Why are these crimes grouped together, and how do the Vice Squad’s investigations overlap with those in the Computer Crimes Squad?” The politicians similarly expressed confusion over why the NYPD’s Narcotics Bureau has its own vice branch investigating “prostitution, gambling, massage parlors, untaxed cigarettes, and club-related issues.” A Department of Investigation spokesperson acknowledged that the DOI received the letter, but declined comment on the possibility of an investigation. The letter pointed to numerous recent cas-

➤ VICE SQUAD, continued on p.13 April 25 - May 8, 2019 |

â&#x17E;¤ BRONX FATAL SHOOTING, from p.12 group Communities United for Police Reform. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Instead, he was in his room, possibly in a state of emotional distress. His death was preventable.â&#x20AC;? Others pointed to the way authorities have dragged their feet on details surrounding the fatal shooting. Jason Walker, who serves as the HIV/ AIDS campaign coordinator at VOCAL-NY, a grassroots advocacy group with a focus on homelessness, incarceration, healthcare, and issues related to drug reform, complained that it has â&#x20AC;&#x153;been over a week without full transparency or accountability from the NYPD.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Kawaski Travick was a 32-yearold black gay man who loved to vogue and dance,â&#x20AC;? Walker said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;He came to New York City looking for opportunity and he should be with us today. Instead he is dead.â&#x20AC;? It is not immediately clear wheth-

â&#x17E;¤ VICE SQUAD, from p.12 es of wrongdoing at the hands of city cops to justify the probe. A retired NYPD detective was charged last year with running a prostitution and gambling ring, while Yang Song, who told her family she was sexually assaulted by an undercover NYPD cop, died while vice officers were pursuing her in November of 2017. Her family told the criminal justice news site The Appeal that they were worried that her death â&#x20AC;&#x153;was a retaliation from the police and they forced her to die.â&#x20AC;? The letter also noted that Michael Golden, an undercover cop, paid and had sex with sex workers whom his team later busted for prostitution. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This behavior is nothing new â&#x20AC;&#x201D; for decades, undercover police officers have solicited sex for a fee, took advantage of unsuspecting sex workers, engaged in sexual activity, and then radioed in their squad to make arrests,â&#x20AC;? the letter said. The letter coincides with a recent push to decriminalize sex work. An advocacy group known as DecrimNY has mounted a strong campaign to defend sex workers, while politicians at the state level have proposed legislation aimed at | April 25 - May 8, 2019

er Trawick was suffering from mental health issues at the time of his death, but one of his friends told the New York Post that â&#x20AC;&#x153;heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s always been edgy, and I always tell him that he needs to slow down.â&#x20AC;? Another one of his friends told the Post that Trawick had been kicked out of his familyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s home due to his sexuality and had not spoken with family members for 13 years. Further details about Trawickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life, including where he lived prior to moving to New York, were not immediately clear. Attempts to reach Trawickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sister were unsuccessful. â&#x20AC;&#x153;There are many unanswered questions about Kawaski Trawickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s recent death. But one thing is clear: Kawaski should still be alive today,â&#x20AC;? Martinez-Class said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;In recent years, there have been far too many cases of emotionally distressed black New Yorkers and other people of color dying at the hands of NYPD officers.â&#x20AC;?

eradicating the overpolicing of the sex work industry. An increasing number of elected officials, including Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, have endorsed the decriminalization of sex work. Yet, the NYPD is actively deriding calls for reform. In a statement provided to Gay City News, Sergeant Jessica McRorie, an NYPD spokesperson, brushed off criticism of the Vice Squad, defending it for its work in targeting â&#x20AC;&#x153;the gangs and criminal enterprises that peddle in sex and human trafficking; prey on children; and victimize the vulnerable.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Sweeping generalizations do a real disserve to dedicated Vice cops,â&#x20AC;? McRorie said of the letter. â&#x20AC;&#x153;And they blatantly mischaracterize the successful work the NYPD does every day to forge deeper bonds of partnership with the communities we serve â&#x20AC;&#x201D; while keeping crime in New York City at record low levels.â&#x20AC;? The departmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tactic of shifting the focus away from consensual sex work to the departmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work on trafficking and child abuse represented one of the main concerns presented in the letter â&#x20AC;&#x201D; that the department bunches the two is-





â&#x17E;¤ VICE SQUAD, continued on p.27



Abel Cedeno’s Trial Finally Begins June 18 Defense bid for special prosecutor nixed, but teacher witnesses can testify BY ANDY HUMM


lmost 20 months after a fight in a Bronx high school led bullied gay teen Abel Cedeno to use a knife in what he said was selfdefense, killing one classmate and slashing another, his trial for manslaughter is set to begin in Bronx Criminal Court on June 18. Defense pleas for a special prosecutor in the case were rejected by Judge Robert Torres, though his written decision was not available at press time. Christopher R. Lynn and Robert J. Feldman, attorneys for Cedeno, argued that Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark had compromised the case by not pursuing charges of witness tampering against Kevon Dennis — the brother of the deceased, Matthew McCree — for his alleged coercive contacts with other students later


Abel Cedeno in court last week with his attorneys, Robert J. Feldman and Christopher R. Lynn.

in the day of the fatal incident. Dennis also tried to jump Cedeno inside the court building early in the proceedings, but that case was not pursued, either.

Feldman called Clark “corrupt, conflicted, and compromised” and said, “She threw the Dennis cases in the garbage.” Lynn said, “The DA did not

charge properly on the defense of justification — self-defense.” Judge Steven Hornstein, who has been hearing pretrial motions, did give the defense one thing they have been pleading for in court on April 18 — the opportunity to call the three teacher witnesses to the incident. The DA and the Department of Education have opposed any access to the 25 student witnesses, most all of whom are now adults. Lynn said video of the incident shows one teacher, Nicholas Kennedy, being “pushed up against the wall by Matthew as Matthew was rampaging in the classroom.” Louna Dennis, McCree’s mother, attends every court session with her attorney, Sanford Rubenstein. They are suing Cedeno and the city for $25 million, arguing that the city was negligent in failing to

➤ ABEL CEDENO, continued on p.15


Bolsonaro Event Out at Natural History Museum Revolting Lesbians claim can win, but Marriott Marquis opens its doors to Brazilian prez BY ANDY HUMM


he direct action group Revolting Lesbians once again picketed the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) on April 13, demanding that billionaire Rebekah Mercer, a major Breitbart News investor, be removed from the museum’s board for being a climate-change denier and funding groups that challenge the reality of global warming. The spirited demonstration came in the midst of another controversy engulfing the museum for renting its main hall to the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce, which was set to honor the anti-LGBTQ, anti-environment right-wing president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, as its man of the year on May 14. Protests against the event by museum em-



Popular outcry has forced the cancellation of an event honoring Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, at the American Museum of Natural History, but Revolting Lesbians continue to press for right-wing climate change-denier Rebekah Mercer’s removal from the institution’s board.

ployees were vociferous, and 20,000 people signed letters and petitions

demanding AMNH cancel it. Mulheres da Resistência no Ex-

terior, Revolting Lesbians, and five other groups had planned a demonstration at the museum to protest the Bolsonaro event on April 20, but by then the museum caved so the protest was held instead at Zuccotti Park near Cipriani Wall Street, where the event had been moved. Cipriani has now rejected it, as well, and it is now set for the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, where Bolsonaro and, as “American of the Year,” Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be honored. Tickets are $30,000 and protests are anticipated. Mayor Bill de Blasio called Bolsonaro “a dangerous person due to his anti-gay, racist, and anti-Amazon Rain Forest stance.” The museum, however, continues to dig in on keeping Mercer, issuing

➤ JAIR BOLSONARO, continued on p.15 April 25 - May 8, 2019 |

â&#x17E;¤ ABEL CEDENO, from p.14 install metal detectors and adequately enforce municipal and state anti-bullying laws. Despite the many delays in the criminal trial, Rubenstein told Gay City News, â&#x20AC;&#x153;We have full confidence in the prosecution being conducted by the DAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s office and look forward to trial.â&#x20AC;? Cedeno has a history of being bullied since the sixth grade and said that he feared McCree and Ariane Laboy, the student who was slashed, because they were gang members. The video shows McCree and Laboy pummeling Cedeno and him lashing out with his knife. Cedeno, free on bail, was surrounded by family members â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and a police escort â&#x20AC;&#x201D; leaving the courthouse. His mother, grandmother, and sisters were by his side. His grandmother told Gay City News, â&#x20AC;&#x153;What is going to be is up to the Lord. I put it in his hands.â&#x20AC;? Cedenoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mother, Luz Hernandez, said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;We pray,â&#x20AC;? but she worried about her sonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s picture being put on Facebook by allies of the victims saying, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going to get you.â&#x20AC;? She wants an order of protection for her son but the court has refused to grant one. As for the trial itself, Lynn said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;They put on their case and we put on ours case, and then they have to disprove our caseâ&#x20AC;? of justification.

â&#x17E;¤ JAIR BOLSONARO, from p.14 this written statement in response to the Revolting Lesbians demo: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Human-induced climate change is well-supported by scientific evidence and is one of the most serious issues currently facing our planet. We are deeply committed to presenting evidence-based, scientific information about climate change to a broad public. The Museum does not make appointment decisions concerning staff or trustees based on political views. In addition, trustees and donors do not make decisions about the presentation of scientific information. That is the role of curators and educators.â&#x20AC;? Anne Maguire of Revolting Lesbians responded, â&#x20AC;&#x153;How does the AMNH expect to maintain any credibility by protecting a board member who funds and promotes anti-science propaganda around climate change, based solely on political views over scientific evidence? If scientific evidence is their criteria then Mercer, regardless of her political opinions, has no place at this museum. Mercer pays for anti-science propaganda and climate science misinformation and for those reasons no reasonable scientific institution would want her on their board. This statement is pure obfuscation and frankly itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s insulting.â&#x20AC;? Revolting Lesbians are looking to step up their protests of board members who refuse to remove Mercer â&#x20AC;&#x201D; including Tina Fey, Lorne Michaels, and de Blasio. Only City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, an ex-officio member of the board, has called for her removal. | April 25 - May 8, 2019

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Center Honors Lena Waithe, Don Lemon Annual Cipriani Wall Street dinner raises $2 million for West 13th community center


Actor and writer Lena Waithe, one of the evening’s honoree.


CNN anchor Don Lemon, who was honored.


The crowd of roughly 800 at Cipriani’s Wall Street.




Guests Edward Padron, James LaForce, and Kevin Herzog.


Freddy Perez, one of the evening’s client speakers.



Transgender activist and model Gina Rocero, who opened the evening.

t the LGBT Community Center’s annual dinner, held April 18 at Cipriani Wall Street, the West 13th Street institution honored out lesbian actor and writer Lena Waithe, who won a 2017 Emmy for her writing for the Netflix series “Master of None”; CNN out gay anchor Don Lemon; Google, which donated a $1 million toward the Center’s work on oral histories related to the Stonewall National Monument; and Lloyd Blankfein, senior chairman of Goldman Sachs, whom the Center identified as being the first major CEO to come out against the Defense of Marriage Act. The evening drew 800 guests and raised approximately $2 million for the Center’s programming.


Torrence Boone, vice president at Google, which was honored at the event.


State Assemblymember Dick Gottfried and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.


Center executive director Glennda Testone.

April 25 - May 8, 2019 |


Reclaim Pride Coalition Blasts Community Center #WalkAway event, though canceled, sparks sharp critique of 13th Street institution BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


ith just 10 weeks to go before it produces an alternative march in New York City on the last Sunday in June, the Reclaim Pride Coalition has issued an open letter stating it will no longer meet at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center and denouncing The Center. “The attitudes and actions of The Center appear to be rooted in transphobic, racist, and classist attitudes,” the group wrote in the April 18 open letter. “It is these very attitudes that the community looks toward an institution like The Center to resist and expunge. Instead, The Center largely caters to the more privileged members of the LGBTQTSIA+ community while failing to provide a safe and welcoming space to its more vulnerable and | April 25 - May 8, 2019


The LGBT Community Center on West 13th is drawing the ire of the Reclaim Pride Coalition.

marginalized members.” The Coalition’s unhappiness with the agency grew when The Center rented space for a March 28 meeting of the #WalkAway Campaign, a conservative group that seeks to

convince Democrats to leave that party and join the right wing. The town hall was to feature Brandon Straka, the gay man who founded the campaign in 2018, and three other LGBTQ speakers. The Center

canceled the rental after an outcry from a number of groups including the Coalition. “It was the Walk Away event,” said Ann Northrop, a member of the Coalition. “There was a lot of online chatter about The Center having rented a room to the Walk Away people.” The Coalition originally planned on holding a March 27 town hall at The Center, but canceled after the #WalkAway event was booked and instead met at The Church of the Village, which is on the same West 13th Street block as The Center. The #WalkAway event was the last straw. “After all of that, we kept talking about and had a couple more events scheduled [at The Center],” Northrop said. “It all just piled up and the decision of the group was to

➤ CENTER BLASTED, continued on p.27



Gay Faithful, Abuse Victims Rip Ex-Pope’s Comments Benedict XVI blames sex abuse on ‘60s revolution, “homosexual cliques” BY MATT TRACY


ormer Pope Benedict XVI broke his years-long silence on April 10 with a 6,000-word letter in which he blamed child sex abuse in the Catholic Church on the sexual revolution of the 1960s and said “homosexual cliques” were responsible for changing the climate in seminaries, prompting strong criticism from LGBTQ Catholic groups, leaders, and abuse victims. Benedict’s comments, translated by the Catholic News Agency, piled on to the Church’s ongoing crisis over clerical sex abuse and followed a recent trend among some Catholic leaders to scapegoat LGBTQ folks in the wake of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s naming of hundreds of priests in an investigation of child sex abuse. “It could be said that in the 20 years from 1960 to 1980, the previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely,” Benedict argued in his essay before adding that the revolutionary years of the 1960s gave way to pedophilia that was “then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.” Also in the 1960s, Benedict said “homosexu-


Pope Francis greets Pope Emeritus Benedict VI.

al cliques” were established among candidates seeking to become priests, and he pointed to a seminary in southern Germany where he said candidates lived together and sometimes were accompanied by their wives and children. That setting, he wrote, “could not provide support for preparation to the priestly vocation.” “The Holy See knew of such problems, without being informed precisely,” said Benedict, who resigned in 2013, citing a lack of “strength of mind

and body” due to his age. “As a first step, an Apostolic Visitation was arranged of seminaries in the United States.” In interviews with Gay City News, LGBTQ Catholics swiftly condemned Benedict’s blame game and allegations against gay priests. Francis DeBernardo, who is the executive director of New Ways Ministry, a national LGBTQ Catholic organization, said the essay “does not deal with reality at all.” “Those are accusations that can be made with no proof behind them,” DeBernardo said. “They’re just red herrings that he throws out to scapegoat gay men in the priesthood — but with no evidence. Benedict is responsible for this greatly.” Other LGBTQ Catholics who have served in leadership roles in the Church also pushed back strongly on Benedict’s comments. Aaron Bianco, an out gay former pastoral associate at a Catholic Church in San Diego who was driven to resign after he suffered harassment and threats from alt-right Christian news sites following the release of the Pennsylvania report, was sur-

➤ BENEDICT’S COMMENTS, continued on p.19

Two Popes and a Comedian Walk into the Vatican... Francis consoling a gay Brit the latest incident in an emerging pontifical rift BY PAUL SCHINDLER


resh on a report in The New York Times that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI may be provocatively challenging the moral authority of his successor, Pope Francis — especially on issues of sexuality — comes news that Francis met with a British comedian and made what one advocate for queer Catholics is calling “groundbreaking pro-LGBT statements.” According to Francis DeBernardo, who heads up New Ways Ministry, a 42-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBTQ people and the Church, Francis, in a brief audience with Stephen K. Amos, responded to the comedian’s account of the rejection he has faced as a gay man. “Giving more importance to the adjective [gay] rather than the noun [man], this is not good,” the pope told Amos. “We are all human beings and have dignity. It does not matter who you are, or how you live your life – you do not lose your dignity. There are people that



Gay British comedian Stephen K. Amos chatted with Pope Francis about the rejection he has faced as a gay man.

prefer to select or discard people because of the adjective. These people don’t have a human heart.” In a release from New Ways Ministry, DeBernardo said, “What is critically important in these latest remarks is that it shows the pope prizing the Church’s social justice tradition over the sexual ethics tradition… This is an important shift because while many Church leaders, especially in the US, often mention both traditions in their comments about LGBT

issues, but the social justice tradition is often given short shrift in comparison to the sexual ethics tradition, and it often appears to be regarded as secondary, not primary, as the pope has made it in this comment. This shift will have great impact, as it is the way so many lay Catholics, but not leaders, view LGBT issues.” On April 10, Benedict, who gave up the papacy in 2013, ended years of public silence with a 6,000-word letter that blamed child sex abuse in the Catholic Church on the sexual revolution of the 1960s. “Homosexual cliques,” he argued, were responsible for changing the climate in seminaries. The retired pontiff’s remarks were widely condemned by advocates for LGBTQ Catholics, including DeBernardo, as well as by sexual abuse victims. But his arguments were in line with the views of some Catholic conservatives who have tried to scapegoat the LGBTQ community for the Church’s sex abuse crisis and have criticized Francis for what they see as a

➤ TWO POPES, continued on p.19 April 25 - May 8, 2019 |

â&#x17E;¤ BENEDICTâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S COMMENTS, from p.18 prised by Benedictâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s essay. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I am shocked that he would write up a piece that once again blames everything other than the Church,â&#x20AC;? Bianco said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;He is blaming the â&#x20AC;&#x2122;60s and all of this instead of looking into his own house in finding out why heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ordaining men who are pedophiles and abusers.â&#x20AC;? Bianco has been involved with the Church for years and has personal experience in the seminary in Rome. He has noticed that there have historically been a â&#x20AC;&#x153;good numberâ&#x20AC;? of gay men in the priesthood, but he said the notion that there is a â&#x20AC;&#x153;homosexual mafiaâ&#x20AC;? in the Church is yet another baseless talking point pushed by conservatives â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and he worries that the altright could seize the narrative and run with it. â&#x20AC;&#x153;If they go out and print that all these priests are homosexuals and pedophiles and we have to stop this mafia, they drum up support for those like-minded people,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We all know homosexuality has nothing to do with pedophilia. The day before [the essay was published], a bishop in India was brought to court for raping a little girl.â&#x20AC;? He continued, â&#x20AC;&#x153;We play this game that weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll blame homosexuals instead of blaming the Church for ordaining and keeping men they know are pedophiles.â&#x20AC;? Michael Meenan, who was sexually abused in the 1980s by both a religious studies teacher while he was in high school at Fordam Prep and by a parish priest in the Bronx, stressed the immediate need to remove abusers from the Church. Making a careful distinction between pedophiles and gay priests, he said that pedophiles have â&#x20AC;&#x153;infiltratedâ&#x20AC;? the Church â&#x20AC;&#x153;like terroristsâ&#x20AC;? and the Vatican has no idea how to get them out. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Law enforcement must act im-

â&#x17E;¤ TWO POPES, from p.18 more permissive attitude on human sexuality. According to The Times, Vatican experts say that Benedictâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s recent letter â&#x20AC;&#x153;marked the most recent, and egregious, example of why having two popes â&#x20AC;&#x201D; whose homes are separated by a few | April 25 - May 8, 2019

mediately and they must be the entities by which these criminals are removed from the Catholic Church,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;By that, those who sexually abuse children in the Catholic Church must be prosecuted and incarcerated.â&#x20AC;? Meenan, a former deputy editor at Gay City News who went on to work as a reporter for NY1 and the New York Times, revealed last year the years-long abuse he suffered at the hands of that parish priest, Jon Jenik, who went on to become an auxiliary bishop and was subsequently removed from that post in the fallout over the abuse allegations. Meenan had told Fordham Prep officials of the abuse he suffered at that school within one year after it happened, but it took more than three decades for officials to take action. Meenan believes that gay priests, on the other hand, could improve the culture of Catholic Schools if they were to lead with authenticity. â&#x20AC;&#x153;A young boy or girl should be so lucky to have an out gay man or an out gay woman teaching them because they have the benefit of having such a positive role model, whether or not the child is gay or straight or regardless of sexuality. The fact that we have gay priests in our schools is the worst kept secret that the Catholic Church has ever tried to hold.â&#x20AC;? And while Benedict described the 1960s as an era that represented a stain on history, Meenan said the modern LGBTQ rights movement â&#x20AC;&#x201D; which most prominently was sparked in that era by the Stonewall riots of 1969 â&#x20AC;&#x201D; helped lead to the disclosure of sex abuse in the Church, even if the Pope and key Catholic leaders would never admit that. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The struggle for equality has also been a struggle for justice for people sexually abused by members of the Catholic Church,â&#x20AC;? he said.

hundred meters but whose style, substance, and visions of the Church are vastly apartâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; can be so confounding to the faithful.â&#x20AC;? According to papal observers, â&#x20AC;&#x153;speculation has mounted that Benedict has been used as a stalking horse by conservative ideological opponents of Francis,â&#x20AC;? The Times reports.





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Where culture is king

Church Hit With Homophobic Threats A tiny Rainbow Flag was enough to set off a bigot in Bay Ridge BY MATT TRACY



may 10


may 16




homophobe threatened to use a crowbar to wreak havoc on a church in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn because of its support of LGBTQ people. Councilmember Justin Brannan, who represents that area, announced on Twitter that he was “absolutely horrified” to learn that a man left a voicemail for the pastor of Union Church of Bay Ridge on the afternoon of April 17 and vowed to destroy the place after seeing a Rainbow Flag sticker posted on a sign outside of the building. According to Brannan, the man said, “Take [the flag] down or lose everything!” A spokesperson for the NYPD told Gay City News on April 19 that the suspect is not known at this time, but the department’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the case. Police say he threatened to break open the sign, add a sticker of his own, and remove the rainbow sticker if Union Church officials refuse to take it down. A spokesperson from Brannan’s office confirmed that the church reached out the councilmember to inform him of the threats. The church’s pastor, Reverend Bob Anderle, did not return phone calls and emails regarding the alleged attack by press time. Brannan ripped the alleged suspect in a statement on social media. “Let me be very clear: in this city, people are unequivocally free to love, and worship, whomever they choose,” Brannan wrote in a tweet. “I stand with Rev. Bob Anderle and will do everything in my power to protect the Church and its congregants.” The church, located at 7915 Ridge Boulevard, states on its web-


A Rainbow Flag sticker at a church infuriated a man who allegedly threatened to destroy the place with a crowbar.

site that it is a member of Parity, formerly known as Presbyterian Welcome, which “works for the full participation of individuals in contexts of faith, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.” The church also states that, as part of its mission, it “is an open, accepting community where all people can find belonging, fellowship, and support.” Brannan’s tweet drew some hostile responses from folks who dismissed the threats at the church. “You’re spending a lot of time on this ... it’s pathetic,” one person whose Twitter handle is @resident_ nyc wrote in a response to Brannan. “Thousands of people live in this district and you are focusing on one idiot, and blowing an issue up that was already addressed so you can try to score political points from it.” Another user wondered why the American flag wasn’t posted on the sign instead of the rainbow flag. The threat follows a wider trend of attacks on churches. Several predominantly black churches in Louisiana were burned down earlier this month and the NYPD arrested a man on April 17 after he tried to bring two cans of gasoline and lighters with him into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. April 25 - May 8, 2019 |


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$25K Fine for Refusing Gay Marriage License As an upstate town pays, a homophobic clerk publically apologizes BY MATT TRACY


n upstate New York town has been ordered to pay $25,000 to a samesex couple as part of a settlement after the town clerk refused to grant them a marriage license last July. Dylan Toften and Thomas Hurd sought a marriage license in the town of Root, New York, which is roughly 50 miles west of Albany, but they immediately ran into a roadblock when town clerk Lauren â&#x20AC;&#x153;Sherrieâ&#x20AC;? Eriksen would not comply with their request. Instead, she directed them to make an appointment. According to the Times-Union of Albany, the town attorney admitted that Eriksen had a â&#x20AC;&#x153;religious objectionâ&#x20AC;? to same-sex marriage and historically refused to do her job when same-sex couples sought licenses. The newspaper noted that a lesbian couple six years ago endured the same experience: Eriksen allegedly refused to process their license and told them to make an appointment in an apparent attempt to pass the responsibilities onto other staffers. Toften and Hurd, represented by Lambda Legal, sued the town for violating the stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Marriage Equality Act and federal and states civil rights laws, resulting in the settlement reached on April 10. Under the terms of that settlement, the clerk was required to issue a statement agreeing to follow the law, while the town was forced to pay the couple $25,000 and state in its


Dylan Toften (left) and Thomas Hurd are all smiles after they reached a settlement stemming from an upstate New York town clerkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s refusal to issue them a marriage license.

policy that town clerks must provide licenses to couples in accordance with the law. The case caught the attention of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who announced in August that he launched an investigation, saying on Twitter that denying the couple a license â&#x20AC;&#x153;is an unconscionable act of discrimination that goes against our values as New Yorkers.â&#x20AC;? Eriksen carried out her end of the settlement by reading a     public statement at an April 10 town meetIf you are a survivor of child sexual abuse, New York ing. She apologized law allows you to take action against the perpetrator and institution that protected him or her. and stated that it is her responsibility to issue licenses to all !#%( /)-* &)-*(!/ )" $!'%(# ,) / )(,, -+ couples, regardless of (). )-, ,$!         â&#x20AC;&#x153;sex or sexual orientation,â&#x20AC;? as long as they meet all legal requirements.

    â&#x20AC;&#x153;On July 30th of 

last year, there was 



an unfortunate incident involving Mr. Thomas Hurd and Mr. Dylan Toften who came to my office seeking a marriage license,â&#x20AC;? she said in the statement. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I am sorry for any harm or inconvenience my actions caused the couple.â&#x20AC;? Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior attorney at Lambda Legal, praised the town for reaffirming its duty to serve all couples, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The law recognizes the equal dignity of samesex couples, and so too must every government official,â&#x20AC;? Gonzalez-Pagan said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We hope this serves as a reminder to government officials in every town â&#x20AC;&#x201D; no matter its size â&#x20AC;&#x201D; that marriage equality is the law of the land and that religious beliefs do not grant a license to discriminate.â&#x20AC;? The couple, now married, wound up obtaining a marriage license in nearby Cobleskill. The duo did not respond to requests for comment, but Toften reacted to the settlement via Lambda Legal. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We feel vindicated and grateful that the Town of Root has realized its obligation to respect our family and all same-sex couples on the same terms as any different-sex couple who wants to marry,â&#x20AC;? Toften said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We are happy the State of New York supports our marriage and that we were able to not allow this one town clerk in our town to get away with violating the law and discriminating against LGBT families.â&#x20AC;? April 25 - May 8, 2019 | | April 25 - May 8, 2019


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Can Reclaim Pride Take Yes for an Answer? BY PAUL SCHINDLER


he attitudes and actions of an institution that Reclaim Pride was taking to task “appear to be rooted in transphobic, racist, and classist attitudes,” the group wrote in an open letter circulated last week. Was this a blast at the Trump administration? Nope. The target, instead, was New York’s LGBT Community Center. The hyperbolic missive from the group — whose primary objective is producing a Queer Liberation March on June 30 as an alternative to what it views as an over-corporatized LGBTQ Pride March — was, sadly, no model of either well-reasoned argumentation or substantiated claims, but let’s try to follow its logic anyway. Reclaim members and others were upset that the Center had greenlighted a room reservation for the #WalkAway movement, a push launched last year by gay conservative Brandon Straka, who supports Donald Trump and hopes to lure unhappy Democrats away from their party. #WalkAway critics, in a March 22 open letter, said the group should find no welcome at the Center and demanded that the 13th Street institution be more transparent about its room rental policies.

The Center canceled the #WalkAway event the same day that first open letter appeared. Not content with that victory, the Center’s critics, in the Reclaim Pride letter that followed, faulted it for hypocritically claiming its goal was to maintain itself as a space for all voices in the community — despite the fact that between 2011 and 2013 the Center banned all meetings focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to deny space to the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. The Center, in fact, came under justifiable fire for that two-year moratorium, which it finally abandoned. While Reclaim Pride is correct that the Center never really acknowledged its errors in that unfortunate episode, it’s also true that this is now six-yearold history. And, many of the activists currently aligned with Reclaim Pride were among the most vociferous in their denunciations of the Center eight years ago for picking and choosing which points of view deserve to be aired in its space. So which is it? Was the Center wrong to try to stifle queer Palestinian and allied voices or was it wrong to open its space up to queer conservatives? I readily acknowledge that my college career long predated the current campus culture that places a high premium on creating “safe spac-

es.” I am more of a traditional free speech advocate. You either believe the Center should be a space where a full range of opinions can be aired or you don’t. And, for God’s sake, when the Center ends up caving to your demands to shut down #WalkAway, why not take your victory rather than cranking back up your ire three or four weeks later? As for the rest of the Reclaim letter, the less said the better. How are we, in 2019, possibly to litigate the question of the late Sylvia Rivera being banned from the Center in the mid-1990s? Following that reference came an almost impossible to decipher claim about a support group for transgender women that involved “mandatory” drug testing and psychological evaluations. When Gay City News tracked down the source of this charge, we learned that the Reclaim Pride member voicing the complaint had only second-hand knowledge of a group she never attended and might well have been a substance abuse remediation program. I could chalk this whole unfortunate letter up to a misfire by a wellmeaning group of activists. But the larger concern it raises in my mind has to do with the kind of community that the June 30 Queer Liberation March aims to inspire. Let’s hope it’s not one marked by the sort of endless score-settling — even in the wake of progress, even victories — and baseless accusations suggested by last week’s open letter. None of that is going to be helpful in November 2020.

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PERSPECTIVE: The Human S tor y

A Passover Message from the Southern Border [Two weeks ago, Rabbi Yael Rapport and Rabbi Mike Moskowitz from Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, New York City’s LGBTQ synagogue, joined a delegation from the American Jewish refugee assistance nonprofit HIAS and clergy from T’ruah, an organization of rabbis dedicated to defending human rights, to the Southern border, encompassing Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico itself. The delegation bore witness to the humanitarian crises taking place there and strategized a Jewish response.]



uring the seder there is a universal custom to recount the 10 plagues while spilling out a drop of wine for each one. The first plague is dam, blood. Why is this the first plague? We learn that all of the Egyptians were punished through the Nile turning into blood because Pharaoh decreed that the Hebrew children should be separated from their parents and drowned. The

commentators ask, “Why was the entire nation punished if it was only a few people who actually carried out the decree?” Because responsibility falls on the community. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel writes: “In a free society, few are guilty, all are responsible.” From those days to this day, we understand as Jews and human beings that we as individuals are not exempt from owning the darkest sins of our community. Whether we participate, whether we are passive, or whether we protest — while we remain accountable, we have the power to determine our response. Just as Moses saw God and didn’t have the proper words, so too do we

➤ PASSOVER MESSAGE, continued on p.25 April 25 - May 8, 2019 |

➤ PASSOVER MESSAGE, from p.24 find ourselves lacking in accurate and emotive descriptions for what we witnessed on the Southern border. While acknowledging that words limit, our feelings were expansive and overwhelming in ways that our retelling can give no justice. Walking through the sterile and staged holding cells of Otero Detention Center and Southwest Key Children’s Shelter, we felt hopelessness, impotency, despair — trapped in a performative role of observation and internalization, not action, not change-making. Otero and Southwest Key are both opportunist, for-profit businesses, incentivized by the exploitation of others. MTC, Management and Training Corporation, a part of the prison industrial complex that operates a US prison on the same site for violent offenders, makes $97 dollars a day per head on each of the more than 1,000 individuals being held at Otero. “Inmates,” as they are called at Otero, work for a dollar a day doing everything from barbering to packing sandbags outdoors in the New Mexico sun. A tapped phone call home, on prison phones, costs 33 cents a minute. Medical care is available on site, but the one doctor who serves the entire population only works 24 hours a week. A complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union has already been filed against the treatment of LGBTQ individuals being held, who are frequently isolated in solitary confinement “for their own protection” and subject to abuse and harsher working conditions. To be perfectly clear, seeking asylum in the United States as these “inmates” have done, is NOT and is never a crime. Over the course of the seder, the four cups of wine that we drink have their scriptural source in the four languages of redemption described in Exodus — the “Arba L’Shonot shel Geula.” God says, “I will redeem you, I will take you out, I will save you, and I will bring you to me.” Part of the liberation of people is the emancipation of language. Passover expands our capacity to elevate the language we use to describe people and circumstances. In fact, the word Pesach — “peh sach” — means “the mouth that speaks.” The way in which we talk about things affects the way we see them, and Pesach is our | April 25 - May 8, 2019


Rabbi Mike Moskowitz and Rabbi Yael Rapport at the Southern border wall.


Rabbi Mike Moskowitz posts a message on the Southern border wall declaring the historic social justice obligations of the Jewish people.

portunity to see with clarity. As we moved through different worlds of experience at the Southern border, we heard four languages used to describe those who sought safety and sanctuary in this country. In Otero, the warden, the ICE official who followed our group, the community representative from Chaparral, New Mexico, and the Detention Center chaplain referred to “inmates” and “detainees.” Reuben Garcia, the director for decades of Annunciation House, an El Paso shelter that houses and places more than 600 individuals and families every day who are released from ICE and Border Patrol custody, called those he serves “refugees” — a political, purposeful statement, as he believes the US holds a moral and legal responsibility under international agreement to afford refugee status to anyone from Central America who is seek-

ing asylum. At Las Americas, the El Paso Immigration Advocacy Center, lawyers, advocates, and activists called their clients “immigrants” and “asylum seekers.” We heard new language at the Hope Border Institute and Casa del Migrante — a shelter in Juarez, Mexico, which houses and protects the 10,000 people awaiting processing in the US, including those who had over years built lives, families, and futures here, who had still been deported. The name of the institution and the descriptor for those who reside there is “migrants.” By describing a “person in movement,” such a name can encompass those too who are victims of forced displacement within national boundaries, an all too common event in Central and South America. “Migrant” stems from the same root as the Spanish “migrantes,” which is

the way those at the shelter refer to themselves. Language can unify and language can divide. The way we describe a person or a circumstance can draw us closer to identifying with them, or can shape them into the other — creating distance and distaste. The night of the seder reminds us of our perpetual communal responsibility to use words to bring people together. We say “B’chol dor vador,” in every generation it is REQUIRED of us to see ourselves as if we were the ones going forth from Egypt. How in this generation can words and deeds shift us closer to those telling the same story today — the story of crossing a desert, leaving all we know behind, in search of a promise that brings us out of narrow places? It is their story, it is our story, it is the human story. Can you join us at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah as our community accompanies those with local ICE deportation hearings, trains ourselves in the legal mechanism of citizenship application, and advocates for policy change in the halls of power and through our calls and cards? Could you send badly needed supplies to Southern border shelters, such as travel-size toiletries for recently released, or adult and kids underwear in sizes small and medium? Do you have the ability to financially support CBST in our Sanctuary work, or one of these incredible changemaking organizations in Juarez or El Paso through monthly or a onetime gift, perhaps to be collected as tzedakah at your seder table? If you can take action in any of the ways above, please contact Rabbi Marisa James at Chayavim anu — we are bound, and we are not free until all are free. This Passover, let us add a new chapter to our ancient tale that brings us to today, let us choose around our seder tables the ways we use our gifts, our words, and our power to bring others into a z’man cheiruteinu, a time of liberation. Rabbi Yael Rapport is assistant rabbi at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, and Rabbi Mike Moskowitz is the congregation’s Scholar-in-Residence for Trans and Queer Jewish Studies.



Pride’s Grand Marshals Encompass a Diverse Community Early radicals, youth advocates, a trans pioneer, and international communities of color honored BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


eritage of Pride, the group that produces New York City’s annual Pride Parade and related events has selected grand marshals for this year’s march that recognize the community’s history, its current state and its future, and the international scope of this year’s events. “We’re really thrilled with the group of grand marshals we have this year,” said James Fallarino, a spokesperson for HOP, which has produced New York City’s Pride events since 1984. “The goal was for them to reflect what WorldPride 2019 and Stonewall 50 are all about. This honors our history and charts a path forward for the movement.” This year’s march commemorates the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots, which mark the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. HOP is also producing this year’s WorldPride, which is an international event that includes parades, rallies, and conferences. There have been five WorldPride meetings, with the first held in Rome in 2000. This is the first WorldPride to be held in the US. The marshals are the cast of “Pose,” a television series set in 1980s New York City that explores the ball culture world and the downtown social and literary scene; Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, a co-founder of UK Black Pride; the Gay Liberation Front, the very first LGBTQ activist organization formed after the Stonewall riots; The

➤ TIFFANY CABÁN, from p.10 endorsed her — she responded, “Absolutely,” and added, “As DA, my office’s policies will support the legalization and de-stigmatization of sex work.” But when asked by Gay City News about that position and how it conflicts with the stance taken by DecrimNY, Cabán did not directly indicate whether she stands for full legalization, though she definitively supports at least decriminalization. She said she would “continue conversations” on the issue. “One thing that I’m proud of is that I am always ready and willing to sit at the table with those who are directly impacted,” Cabán said. On another emerging criminal justice reform question, Cabán said she wouldn’t fight parole in



Monica Helms, creator in 1999 of the Transgender Pride Flag, is among the grand marshals for the June LGBTQ Pride March.

Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth; and Monica Helms, a transgender activist and the creator of the Transgender Pride Flag. The march always takes place on the last Sunday in June and steps off at noon. This year, contingents will be staged in the blocks above 26th Street and east and west of Fifth Avenue. The march will head south on Fifth Avenue, west on Eighth and Christopher Streets past the Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 riots, and north on Seventh Avenue to disperse in the blocks above 24th Street. Like 1994, which marked the 25th anniversary of the riots, there will be a second march

most cases, a position taken most recently by Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez. Still, Cabán acknowledged that parole boards wield the final say on such decisions, with the DA playing only an advisory role. “I think we should be taking a practical approach with every case to make sure harm doesn’t happen,” Cabán said. “One thing that people don’t recognize is that the DA can take a position that doesn’t force the parole [board] to act. Parole is independent, but as a DA, we can take the position of, ‘Hey we think this person should stay in their community.’” Cabán’s relative obscurity in the political world — she has yet to create a Wikipedia page — will likely mean an uphill battle against wellconnected competitors, but that could also work in her favor in the same way it did for the handful of

on June 30. Produced by the Reclaim Pride Coalition, the second march will be staged on Seventh Avenue near Sheridan Square. At 9 a.m., it will travel north on Seventh Avenue, turn east on 23rd Street and then north on Sixth Avenue to Central Park for a rally on then Great Lawn. That route and rally roughly approximate the route and rally from 1970, the first commemoration of the riots. The Coalition members object to the corporate floats and police presence in the HOP march. “Like many people in the Gay Liberation Front, I am appalled that the HOP march has become so corporatized, but I understand that the GLF has a responsibility to the millions of people who do not understand that the gay revolution started with us,” said Perry Brass, a GLF member and noted author. “Some of us will be at the HOP march and some of us will be with the Reclaim Pride March. GLF is not making a demand that our brothers and sisters march in either march.” The 1994 events were not produced by HOP. In a nod to the international element that year, Stonewall 25, the group that executed that year’s parade, ran the march on First Avenue past the United Nations building. A second group objected to the abandonment of Fifth Avenue, which carries a certain elevated status for parades in New York City, and aimed to commemorate what participants said were the march’s radical roots. That second march went up Fifth Avenue to the Stonewall 25 Central Park rally.

State Senate candidates last year who knocked off established incumbents who were tied to the Independent Democratic Conference. She is also hoping that her unique approach means she can connect more directly with voters — even if they don’t share the same background or come from the same demographic as she does. “For me, when I think about the fact that I am a queer Latina, that informs the way I view the world, it speaks to some of my experiences, some of the challenges that I’ve faced, and it also is about intersectionality,” Cabán explained. As part of her goal to connect more directly with the community, Cabán said she would assign prosecutors to geographical areas, sending them into local communities to build relationships with the people who live there. She said

that approach differs from the way DAs usually handle things, which in the current status quo is “the big thing that separates prosecutors from public defenders.” Cabán voiced confidence that her style as a public defender in engaging the entire community in criminal justice dialogue —regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, belief systems, or other differences — will be a winning message down the stretch. “There are so many people who will invalidate your experiences,” she said. “You don’t have to believe in the same thing, but you should validate us. You may have a different value set, but it is an approach you have to take in the work as a public defender: It is your job to accept and validate and understand where people are coming from.” April 25 - May 8, 2019 |

â&#x17E;¤ CENTER BLASTED, from p.17 cancel our stuff there and not just cancel, but write an open letter.â&#x20AC;? Dating back years, a small number of LGBTQ groups have elected to not meet at The Center with those groups typically citing a general discomfort among their members with the atmosphere at The Center. Currently, Rise and Resist, the activist group, meets at The Peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Forum on West 37th Street in Midtown Manhattan. The Coalition has also used that space, which is cheaper than The Center and is seen as more politically aligned with the groupâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s views. The open letter also cites The Center denying space to Queers Against Israeli Apartheid and any group that was organizing around the Israel-Palestinian conflict in 2011, a ban that was lifted in 2013, and its banning Sylvia Rivera â&#x20AC;&#x153;in the mid-90s.â&#x20AC;? In 2012 and again in 2014, SAGE, the LGBTQ seniors organization, battled to keep its drop-in space at The Center and some smaller groups, such as the Zappalorti Society, have had tensions with The

â&#x17E;¤ VICE SQUAD, from p.13 sues together in the same breath. The NYPDâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s defensive response yielded pointed reactions from elected officials who signed the letter and advocates involved in the decriminalization movement. Nina Luo, a member of Decrim NYâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Steering Committee, called out the Vice Squad for hypocrisy and said it should be defunded. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It is straight up laughable for Vice to claim moral high ground when they are the ones running the prostitution rings,â&#x20AC;? Luo told Gay City News. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Vice cops have immense power over sex workers, who are highly criminalized, and they abuse that power every day to harass, blackmail, and assault our community. They have the power to arrest or not to arrest, and they use that power to coerce sexual favors from undocumented women and trans women. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rape.â&#x20AC;? Others also took issue with the NYPDâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s resistance to calls for an investigation. Quart noted that safety in the city is dependent on full transparency from the police department â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and a city agency | April 25 - May 8, 2019

Center over space mostly related to the cost of rent. The Zappalorti Society and The Center have resolved that matter and it continues to meet there. On June 30, the Coalition will stage a march that begins on Seventh Avenue near Sheridan Square at 9:00 a.m. It will head north on Seventh Avenue then east on 23rd Street then north again on Sixth Avenue to Central Park for a rally on the Great Lawn. Separately, Heritage of Pride (HOP), the group that produces the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s annual Pride Parade and related events, will stage its march in the blocks east and west of Fifth Avenue and above 26th Street. That march, which always steps off at noon, will head south on Fifth Avenue, west on Eighth and Christopher Streets, then north on Seventh Avenue to disperse in the blocks above 24th Street. This yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s events commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots, which mark the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. The Coalition march roughly approximates the 1970 march, which was the first com-

shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be so resistant to a potential probe. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This investigation is an effort to uphold the integrity of the NYPD, but their leadership wants to see it as an attack on all cops,â&#x20AC;? Quart said in a statement to Gay City News. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The facts speak for themselves â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Vice has a history of targeting sex workers, making their work more dangerous, and in some cases, deadly.â&#x20AC;? He continued, â&#x20AC;&#x153;If the Vice Squad is as structurally sound as NYPD leadership believes, they should have no problem with the DOI confirming that through an investigation.â&#x20AC;? Audacia Ray, who is involved with DecrimNY and serves as the director of community organizing and public advocacy at the LGBTQ-focused New York City Anti-Violence Project, said the NYPD regularly violates the rights of queer folks and those who are trading sex â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and must face accountability for its actions. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We know our community is not served by Vice,â&#x20AC;? Ray said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a wholly obscured process. We need oversight, period.â&#x20AC;?

memoration of the riots. The HOP march goes by the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, the site of the riots. A few of the charges in the open letter appear to have not been investigated by the Coalition. Some Coalition members, who were not identified in the letter beyond saying they were trans women, alleged that when they people tried to enroll in The Centerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s substance abuse programs, they faced â&#x20AC;&#x153;Onerous and â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;mandatory intake requirementsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; including drug and HIV tests and psychiatric evaluations were requiredâ&#x20AC;? and â&#x20AC;&#x153;full, legal names were taken in order to fulfill grant requirements.â&#x20AC;? The Centerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s two substance abuse programs are licensed by the state Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and it is the OASAS that requires some of these practices, not The Center. The Center has city and state contracts to provide services and some of the services provided are paid for with Medicaid or private insurance dollars. Those payers will not reimburse for services without the individual receiving a diagnosis, so

intake with a full name is required and they may well require drug testing to show that the individual is complying with the program. Additionally, if city or state corrections or probation refers an individual to The Centerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s drug treatment programs, those agencies might also require drug testing to prove compliance, which would be a condition for staying out of jail or prison. Robin Scott, the Coalition member who raised these issues at its most recent meeting, told Gay City News that she was a member of a trans-feminine support group at The Center in late 2014 and early 2015 when she heard these complaints from other women in the group. Scott never participated in The Centerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s substance abuse programs. Members of her support group were required to give full names. â&#x20AC;&#x153;You talked about intake requirements for substance abuse,â&#x20AC;? she said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I have no experience with that. It was all anecdotalâ&#x20AC;Ś I was there for people being required to give their full names, and I was not in the substance abuse programs.â&#x20AC;?









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Hades in a Handbasket Uncanny relevance of Orpheus & Eurydice’s inspired revamp BY DAVID KENNERLEY enre-busting. Ingenious. Revelatory. Cosmic. These are but a few of the adjectives that don’t come close to fully describing the new Broadway sensation that is “Hadestown.” The show is truly ineffable. When the project began more than a decade ago, singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell certainly didn’t set out to write the book, music, and lyrics for a Broadway show. She started with a song cycle, which morphed into a concept album, then an immersive concert piece at the New York Theatre Workshop Off Broadway, then a full-blown musical at London’s National Theatre last year. Yet the term “musical” isn’t quite right. It’s more like a folk opera, featuring a generous mix of bluesy folk, New Orleans jazz, funk, and gospel music. Did I detect a dollop of ragtime as well? Mitchell admits to heavy cinematic and soundscape influences — and it shows. The material is drawn from a wildly unlikely source — the ancient legend of the star-crossed young lovers Orpheus and Eurydice, which also spotlights Hades, King of the Underworld (known here as Hadestown), and his wife Persephone, Goddess of the Seasons. Hermes, Messenger of the Gods, figures prominently as well, serving as emcee extraordinaire, introducing each character and filling in the blanks to push the narrative along. Also on hand are The Fates, a trio of sassy black women serving as a kind of Greek chorus, who not only comment on the action but also hurl nasty curveballs at Orpheus and Eurydice. And if you’re rusty on your Greek mythology, you’d do well to study the primer in the Playbill. In staging this mythical, multifaceted story, director Rachel Chavkin works the same magic as she did with “Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812,” em-




André de Shields as Hermes in Anaïs Mitchell’s “Hadestown,” , directed byy Rachel Chavkin, at the Walter Kerr Theatre.


Patrick Page as Hades amd Amber Gray as Persephone in “Hadestown.”

ploying a proscenium-punctured set (crafted by Rachel Hauck) with a lively orchestra — more like a band, actually — onstage. Midway through the proceedings, Persephone calls out each musician by name, rock-concert style, to welldeserved cheers. For her part, Mitchell has selected bits from various versions of the legend (Virgil and Ovid each documented it) and put her own spin to devise the book, focusing on analogous love stories. Orpheus, the dreamy son of Apollo and Calliope, is a silvery-voiced musician whose “lute” is really a guitar. He falls compulsively in

love with the beautiful nymph Eurydice, who wanders the land lost and hungry. After a hasty marriage, she is lured by Hades, who has built a vast underworld of factories and electric grids, powered by an army of grunting, indentured workers. After she sells her soul to the wicked king, Orpheus, armed with only his guitar and grit, fights his way to Hadestown to rescue her. Turns out the older couple, Hades and Persephone, also once shared a deep love, but over time it has gone cold. This is mirrored by Hades holding back Persephone’s annual trip above ground, throw-

ing the seasons out of whack. The increasingly long winters have a punishing effect on the citizens above. Can the gentle poet save the world though his song? Not that the dizzying plot should be the focus. It’s the intense, evershifting moods and emotions that count, brought to life not only by the orchestrations but by astonishing, full-throttle performances. A snowy-white bearded Patrick Page, dressed to the nines in a flashy pinstriped suit, is evil incarnate as the filthy rich Hades, and his booming, sonorous vocals stop the show. Amber Gray embodies Persephone with a roguish ebullience as she beckons the folks living above to raise their cups and have another drink. Eva Noblezada lends a fresh, contemporary flair to the foolish Eurydice, who loses faith in her husband way too soon. Her voice is now even finer than when she played the titular lead in “Miss Saigon” last season. And esteemed Broadway veteran André de Shields’ take on Hermes is like nothing you’ve ever seen. At 74 years old, he commands the stage effortlessly. With one raised eyebrow, or a flick of his wrist, he has us firmly in the palm of his hand. The only performer I have a quibble with is Reeve Carney, of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” fame. His milquetoast Orpheus is too tentative, too tremulous to convince us he has the fortitude to rescue his bride from the monster below. That said, his voice is beguiling, as he repeatedly wails his “song to fi x what’s wrong; take what’s broken and make it whole.” This tragic, centuries-old love story reverberates with relevance, not just in its themes of romantic love and loss, but with allusions to modern day politics. The parallels to the rich exploiting the poor, and the threat of climate change due to human greed are striking. There’s one bone-chilling number, “Why We Build the Wall,” in-

➤ HADESTOWN, continued on p.31 April 25 - May 8, 2019 | | April 25 - May 8, 2019



True Grit Two dark tales from the American past p BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE he magnificent and thrilling revival of “Oklahoma” now on Broadway will not be for all tastes. For those who cling to gauzy nostalgia for the seminal American musical as a tale of unbridled jingoism, manifest destiny, and cute romance in the early 20th century, the stripped down, visceral, and sexually-charged production from visionary director Daniel Fish will be shocking. But that shock is exactly what makes this production so breathtaking and theatrical. Just as David Cromer did with “Our Town” a decade ago, eschewing dewy-eyed reverence for a beloved oldie, Fish forces the audience to encounter “Oklahoma” anew as a gritty tale of tenuous survival in an often inhospitable environment where an event as innocent as a town picnic has lifeor-death implications. What this production makes clear is that for every “beautiful mornin’,” people struggled to eke out a living on the unforgiving land that was the Oklahoma territory–turning-state of 1907. The show’s characters — familiar from countless stage productions and film — have been given an immediacy and integrity seldom seen. The simple story of cowboy Curly and his rivalry with hired hand Jud Fry for the hand of Laurey has become a high stakes game with an immediacy and complexity confronted head on. Those complaining that this “Oklahoma” would make Rodgers and Hammerstein spin in their graves may not fully understand what drove those creators as they transformed musical theater. They were committed to tackling serious topics. “Carousel” exposed the violence and risks of toxic relationships. “Allegro” questioned the American success ethic. The duo embraced the inherent theatricality of life’s darker sides, and the cheerful lyricism of their scores has always stood in stark counterpoint to those themes pulsing




Rebecca Naomi Jones and Damon Daunno in the Broadway revival of “Oklahoma!,” directed by Daniel FIsh, at Circle in the Square through September 1.


Lara Pulver and Tony Yazbeck (foreground) in CSC’s revival of “The Cradle Will Rock,” directed by John Doyle and running through May 19.

beneath. Creating a stark conflict between reality and romanticism may be precisely what the authors originally intended. The show unfolds in a large plywood arena, created by Laura Jellinek and is performed in Scott Zielinksi’s full blaze of houselights at full for most of the performance. This suggests how relentless the sun might have been on the plains — and makes the mo-

ments of darkness and color both surprising and affecting. Daniel Kluger’s orchestrations for the small band that sits on the stage have a twangy, bluegrass quality that complements the production’s starkness while allowing the familiar songs to be heard as if new. The casting has no room for coyness in executing this realistic reading. Both Damon Daunno as

Curley and Rebecca Naomi Jones as Laurey are overtly sexual in their sparring and sparking with one another — younger and more alive than the typical waxwork presentation of these characters. They sing with urgency and presence, allowing us to hear a subtext in these songs of longing and even lust. Jones is well aware of her own agency, and she’s not afraid to use it. Ali Stroker is also unabashedly sexual as Ado Annie, a woman always intent on loving the one she’s with. She effectively drives her beau Will Parker, a charming and geeky/ sexy James Davis, crazy before settling down. The alwayswonderful Mary Testa is a tough and cold-eyed realist as Aunt Eller, her hard take on some of the singing demonstrating again what a versatile actress she is. Patrick Vaill as Jud, Curly’s rival for Laurey’s affections, has a depth not usually associated with this character. He suffers for Laurey, and in his desperation, we can’t help feel for him as he loses what seems to be his last chance for love. Typically, “Oklahoma” ends with the audience going out on a high, with “plenty of heart and plenty of hope” as Laurey and Curly start out their new life in a “brand new state.” Not this time. Without changing a word of the book or the lyrics, this production makes us keenly aware that joy comes — but at a cost. This production’s unflinching honesty makes for much more moving and thoughtprovoking theater. “The Cradle Will Rock,” Marc Blitzstein’s “play in music” from 1937 is as much a legend as it is a piece of theater. The piece became notorious when Orson Welles presented it with a single piano on a bare stage after their original theater had been shut down due to conflicts between managers and unions. Subsequent productions largely repeated the stripped-down format, including the famous New

➤ CRADLE WILL ROCK, continued on p.31 April 25 - May 8, 2019 |

â&#x17E;¤ CRADLE WILL ROCK, from p.30 York production in 1983 that starred Patti LuPone. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s quasiBrechtian, allegorical structure has appealed to actors and theater companies, but it remains a difficult piece with a complicated, if fascinating score and a disjointed book that is a series of 10 scenes set in Steeltown, USA. Taking on oppressive capitalism, religion, and the union movement with satire and stridency, the show champions the little guyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s endless fight against a tyrannical system. Given the problematic nature of the piece â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and the decades of political theater and agitprop that have followed â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the new production at CSC is more successful as an historic re-creation than an

â&#x17E;¤ HADESTOWN, from p.28 toned by the gravelly voiced Hades, justifying his fortress to keep out â&#x20AC;&#x153;the enemy which is povertyâ&#x20AC;? and â&#x20AC;&#x153;to keep us free,â&#x20AC;? a barbed reference to the current White House occupant. The number was

affecting political musical. John Doyleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s spare staging with one piano played in three quarters proves problematic when actors have their backs to two-thirds of the house. The stories are difficult enough to follow without making it challenging to hear dialogue. The scaled down cast of 10 â&#x20AC;&#x201D; versus an original 30 â&#x20AC;&#x201D; demands lots of doubling of parts, which adds to the confusion. Still, some moments are quite successful. The score, played by cast members who rotate on and off the piano bench, is rich and energetic. The singing is strong and often forceful. Tony Yazbeck is charismatic and moving singing the title song. Lara Pulver as Moll, a prostitute who refuses to be bought, delivers the most com-

pelling song of the evening, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Nickel Under Foot,â&#x20AC;? and Benjamin Eakeley is outstanding as the preacher whose sermons are for sale. The rest of the company, notably David Garrison, Sally Ann Triplett, Eddie Cooper, and Kara Mikula throw themselves into the proceedings with gusto, as they take on different roles. The original intent of the piece was to rouse audiences to fight for the rights of workers. Perhaps 80 years on we have been desensitized to this type of political theater, as so little seems to have changed. Today, the satire seems strident and dated. Or perhaps the nature of the material keeps the audience at a distance, intellectually stimulated but emotionally unengaged. Whatever it is that

keeps this production from firing up our guts, you may appreciate this production for its subject matter and timeliness but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s unlikely you will be rocked.

executed flawlessly, but it felt impolitic, if not downright dirty, applauding a maniacal dictator bent on oppressing people of disadvantaged backgrounds. Like any good myth, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Hadestownâ&#x20AC;? delivers a mighty potent lesson; in this case, that storytell-

ing and song can prove a healing balm in dastardly dark times. The power of art can defy evil, and thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s something that offers hope and soothes the soul even today. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Wipe away your tears, brother,â&#x20AC;? says Persephone. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Look a little closer and thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a crack in the


OKLAHOMA! | Circle in the Square, 1633 Broadway at W. 50st St. | Through Sep. 1: Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m.; Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. | $69.50$249.50 at oklahomabroadway. com or 212-239-6200 | Two hrs., 45 mins., with intermission THE CRADLE WILL ROCK | Classic Stage Company, 136 E. 13th St. | Through May 19: Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. | $82-$127 at or 866-811-4111 | Ninety mins., no intermission

HADESTOWN | Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W. 48th St. | Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. | $109$159 at | Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission

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MUSIC DIRECTION BY PHIL | April 25 - May 8, 2019



It’s All Haiku to Me Olivier Assayas’ third take on the Internet tells, not shows BY STEVE ERICKSON rench director Olivier Assayas’ “Non-Fiction” is more illustrated thinkpiece than cinema. Half of its dialogue is about the impact of the Internet and social media on our lives, much of it about the effect of technology on art. Back when the Internet was new and seemed dangerous in a much different way, Assayas devoted his film “demonlover” to this subject. It now seems terribly dated in some respects: it wears its debt to David Cronenberg’s “Videodrome” on its sleeve, anime no longer seems remotely exotic, and, far more seriously, its lurid obsession with porn slips beyond critique even though its recognition of its own libido doesn’t stop it from engaging in slut-shaming moralism. Still, it recognized that new technology brings new forms and new methods of storytelling. Like “Videodrome,” “demonlover” shows the failure of old-fashioned narrative to do justice to the way new media affect our brains. Assayas returned to the subject of the Internet with far less hysteria in his last film, “Personal Shopper.” There, he found the ghost in the machine while also depicting fairly realistically the way technology has allowed stalkers to find new methods for harassing their targets. “Non-Fiction” might be the most stereotypically French film Assayas has ever made: the characters consist of middle-class white



Guillaume Canet in Olivier Assayas’ “Non-Fiction,” which opens May 3 at the IFC Center and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

people who spend half their lives at dinner parties talking about art and politics and the other half committing adultery. Much of that talk about art has to do to with the specific ways literature has been changed by the Internet. And it sounds like Facebook posts and tweets themselves. Editor Alain (Guillaume Canet) refuses to publish Léonard’s (Vincent Macaigne) latest novel. When his company hires Laure (Christa Théret) to help it adjust to the contemporary world, Alain — whose wife Selena (Juliette Binoche) is a famous actress who plays a cop on the TV show “Collusion” — decides to sleep with her. When





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Léonard’s novel does make it out, he’s confronted with the concept of “auto-fiction” and the fact that his readers can figure out a great deal about his life. He has had an affair with Selena and wrote about it, changing the movie during which they had sex from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” to the classier “The White Ribbon.” The tone of “Non-Fiction” is light and comic, playing into the American stereotype that French culture casually tolerates — or even expects — adultery. But this is a frothy film about people backstabbing each other, even if the tension is never really developed. Instead, Assayas’ usual attempt to capture the pressures of globalization and modernity feel forced and overly self-conscious. You’ve probably read its line about Twitter bringing back haiku on Twitter itself, and I’m sure that’s deliberate. “Non-Fiction” is also full of a postmodern self-referentiality that feels smart but goes nowhere. Michael Haneke and his film “The White Ribbon” get cited frequently, and the film makes a joke out of how Léonard writes about having sex while watching a grim movie about proto-fascism. However, if Assayas has his characters men-

tion Haneke because the Austrian director now occupies the cultural position Antonioni or Bergman did in the 1960s, Binoche has a real-life connection to him, having worked with him. In one of the final scenes, someone mentions Binoche and Selena says, “I can give you her agent’s number.” This is a clever in-joke, but rather smirky. Films as different as Jean-Luc Godard’s “The Image Book,” Frank Beauvais’ “Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream,” Peter Parlow’s “The Plagiarists,” and Leo Gabriadze’s “Unfriended” have succeeded in finding new styles to convey the impact of spending so much time online on our psyches. “Non-Fiction” never even tries. Shot on 16mm, it settles for a fairly standard pattern of shot/ counter-shot editing. Assayas’ two best films, “Cold Water” and “Irma Vep,” used Steadicam camerawork to convey a state of mind where exhilaration could cross over into intense anxiety at any moment. Alain is skeptical that anything positive can come from putting the world’s books online, while the film’s younger characters see positive possibilities in the Internet. “Non-Fiction” doesn’t have a didactic message, but one gets the feeling that Assayas probably sides with Alain. Nevertheless, he’s returned to this territory for the third time, while other directors of the generation who came of age in the ‘70s make movies in a world where memes and social media don’t exist. But “Non-Fiction” doesn’t recognize that a very familiar French comedy might not be the best way to deal with this subject. The best films embody the forces propelling contemporary life instead of just having their characters talk about them. NON-FICTION | Directed by Olivier Assayas | In French with English subtitles | Sundance Selects | Opens May 3 | IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St.; ifccenter. com| Film Society of Lincoln Center, 144-165 W. 65th St.;



April 25 - May 8, 2019 |


Unmasked Again Savannah Knoop’s side of the JT Leroy hoax BY GARY M. KRAMER ut gay writer/ director Justin Kelly makes fascinating biographical dramas about complicated, intriguing people. His feature debut “I Am Michael” chronicled Michael Glatze, a gay activist who rejected his queer life to become an ex-gay Christian pastor. His sophomore effort, “King Cobra,” recounted the story of underage gay porn star Sean Lockhart, aka Brent Corrigan. Kelly’s latest film, “JT Leroy,” tackles the thorny literary hoax perpetrated by Laura Albert, who wrote “Sarah” and “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things” as JT (Jeremiah Terminator) Leroy. She had her sister-in-law, Savannah Knoop, appear in public as the author. “JT Leroy,” co-written by Kelly and Knoop, is based on the latter’s

O | April 25 - May 8, 2019


Laura Dern as Laura Albert (posing as Speedie) and Kristen Stewart as Savannah Knoop (posing as JT Leroy) in Justin Kelly’s “JT Leroy,” which opens at the Quad Cinema on April 26.

book, “Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT Leroy.” It artfully depicts the six

years Savannah (Kristen Stewart), a young, bisexual woman, was in-

volved in her sister-in-law Laura’s (Laura Dern) scheme to pose as the author. As they are fêted in Los Angeles or flown to Paris for a press conference, Laura poses as Speedie, JT’s agent. When Eva (Diane Kruger), an actress, takes an interest in making a film of JT’s work — and Savannah starts to have feelings for her — she must navigate the situation carefully. How things play out is no surprise to anyone who knows the story. However, Kelly’s purpose in making “JT Leroy,” and his strength as a filmmaker, is not about recounting the events, but using the facts to understand the nature of tricky people who are constantly reinventing themselves. Moreover, the film is graced with two pitch-perfect performances by Stewart and Dern.

➤ JT LEROY, continued on p.36



A Whitman Sampler New York Public Library’s intimate bicentennial remembrance


Copies of “Leaves of Grass” and Fanny Fern’s (aka Sara Payson Willis) “Fern Leaves from Fanny’s Portfolio,” which preceded the 1855 publication of “Leaves” by two years.


Matthew Brady’s 1865 photographic portrait of Walt Whitman greets visitors to New York Public Library’s exhibition “Walt Whitman: America’s Poet,” which runs through July 27.

BY DAVID NOH he clear, open, and wondering eyes of a child stare out at you from Matthew Brady’s portrait of Our Good Gay Grandfather Poet in the New York Public Library’s show “Walt Whitman: America’s Poet,” running through July 27. Given this writer’s enduring, towering reputation and the exhibit’s portentous title, in observance of his bicentennial (May 31), no less, one might expect gallery after gallery of stuff relating to the man many consider our country’s national poet for all time. What a surprise, then, to discover that the whole shebang is housed in a quite intimate first floor gallery not far at all from that famous pair of lions guarding the library façade, so beloved by tourist shutterbugs. It can become quite crowded in this room filled with students, Waltphiles, and other library denizens, so be prepared to be patient and as full of brotherly love as old Walt himself propagandized about his entire career. A cursory overview of his lifetime emerges here, with a curatorial hand very much aware of making this 19th century scribe relevant to a generation more attuned to the rhythms of rap than epic poetry and whose only exposure to Whitman may be the “I Sing the Body Electric” dance number from the movie “Fame.” In his lifetime, Whitman personified the often penurious, picaresque existence of the freelance




A letter from Whitman to his mother written in December 1866 from his post in the US attorney general’s office.

writer, being, at various times, a law office boy, printing press apprentice, journalist, teacher, volunteer nurse (in the Civil War), newspaper publisher, editor, typesetter, pressman, and

government clerk in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Curated by Michael Inman, culled from the library’s various branch holdings of Whitmania, at times the exhibit seems almost as all over the place as Whitman’s job history, with everything from a letter to his mother to a beautiful, moss green (with gold lettering) edition of “Leaves of Grass.” That monumental work, unsurprisingly, gets the lion’s share of focus here. While it covered its creator in lasting glory, at the time its uncensored celebration of homosexual love also got him fired. Whitman was working in the office of Secretary of the Interior James Harlan in the summer of 1865, when Harlan came across a copy of it on the writer’s desk. Appalled by its content, he sacked the 46-year-old Whitman, which caused a rally among his friends and fans in support of him — and a new post in the office of Attorney General James Speed, whose brother Joshua had been Abe Lincoln’s Springfield roommate. Both the book and Whitman’s firing letter are on display. Inman has remarked on Whitman’s values of racial inclusivity and gender fluidity, so in step with beliefs that today, ironically, even absurdly, are often referred to as progressive: “While things [like the Civil War] were pulling the country apart, he was trying to point out the beauty of the individual, the sanctity of the individual, but also how individuality in a sense binds the country together.” Other aspects of the show reveal the myriad outside influences that the ever-alert-to-hissurroundings Whitman found eclectically inspirational throughout his life: a staunch love

➤ WALT WHITMAN, continued on p.38 April 25 - May 8, 2019 |


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Conquering Hero With Stefan Vinke debut, “Siegfried” Siegf is a triumph at the Met BY ELI JACOBSON he Metropolitan Opera’s 2019 “Ring g Cycle” seems to improve with each installment. The “Siegfried” matinee on April 13 provided the debut of German tenor Stefan Vinke, who proved a revelation, scoring a personal triumph. Usually, the Siegfried interpreter is the weak point of any y “Ring” production — invariably the performerr looks and sounds too old for the character who is supposed to be an athletic, teenage golden boy. Siegfried is onstage constantly in all three acts and his music is punishing declamation written close to the upper break of the tenor voice. “Siegfried” is supposed to be the joyous “scherzo” section of the “Ring.” But too often with a weather-beaten and charmless lout as the hero, it is as much an endurance test for the audience as for the leading tenor. Vinke bounded onstage with exuberance, energy, and total self-possession. The voice is big and penetrating with a true tenor resonance and placement — Vinke is not a pushed-up baritone like many a heldentenor before him. One never got the sense of husbanding the resources, which worried me, but he sailed through Act I, climaxing with an exultant forging song with excellent rhythm on the anvil and firmly-attacked high notes. Even more impressive were soft phrases in Acts I and II as Siegfried muses on his lost mother and the beauties of nature. Vinke’s bright steely tone continued with unabated brilliance in Act II, and the Act III love duet found the debutant taking an interpolated final high C with Brünnhilde. Vinke is tall and sturdy, well-proportioned and long-limbed. He wore the blond metal rocker wig with panache and has a dazzling broad smile. Even more wondrous, Vinke proved a physically responsive and spontaneous stage animal. He moves naturally and listens and reacts to his stage partners. I loved how he mouthed Mime’s whinging complaints of ingratitude along with him like a bratty adolescent with attitude — Siegfried had


➤ JT LEROY, from p.33 In a recent phone interview, Kelly spoke with Gay City News about the myth and making of “JT Leroy.” GARY M. KRAMER: What were your initial impressions of JT Leroy when “he” burst onto the literary scene? Did you read his books? Did you think he was real? And what was your reaction when it was revealed as a hoax? JUSTIN KELLY: I read “Sarah” shortly after



Stefan Vinke in the title role of Wagner’s “Siegfried” at the Metropolitan Opera.

heard this speech too many times before. One of the great pleasures of Act I was hearing three native German-speaking singing-actors explore the text. Gerhard Siegel as Mime has a real voice, and the nasal whine is in the inflections and not the basic tone (Siegel has sung the title role in small German houses). Siegel’s acting was full of quirky and spontaneous details so that Mime never became merely tiresome. He squared off brilliantly against Michael Volle as the Wanderer in the Act I scene where Mime and Wotan trade riddles. Volle’s expansive heroic baritone had lieder singer detail in his delivery of text. The scene where Wotan renounces power and resigns himself to the doom of the gods in Act III was shattering. As the newly awakened and humanized Brünnhilde, Christine Goerke created a positive and engaging heroine. The “Siegfried” Brünnhilde is the shortest and highest of the three and the least suited to Goerke’s dark, middle-heavy dramatic soprano. She removed much of the dark mezzo weight out of her tone and kept her placement high. There was a loss

it came out in 2001, and I liked the book, but I wasn’t quite as obsessed with it as a lot of people were. I was more obsessed with the character of JT in Interview and Vanity Fair — the obstructed face and hat. I did think it was real. I moved to San Francisco in 2001 and lived there until after the hoax was unveiled. I had friends who said they saw JT — and I thought they had seen him — but they all saw someone they wanted to see, whether or not he existed. I was as blown away as everyone else by the hoax, but I was fascinated by how and why these two women

of some of her characteristic rich dark timbre but the high B’s and C were attacked cleanly though not exulted in. Goerke had great chemistry with Vinke, overcoming the Valkyrie’s maidenly fears in “Ewig war ich” and then surrendering to sexual passion on a shared orgasmic high C. Karen Cargill as Erda produced a rich mezzo-soprano and her dark tone and firm legato grounded the character. Cargill lacks the mystic colors of a true deep contralto. Tomasz Konieczny as Alberich, like the role originator in this production, Eric Owens, has too prepossessing and beautiful a voice for such a despicable and villainous character. Like the other “character” roles in this “Ring” revival, this is a real voice used very musically but with firm dramatic intent. On the low end of the vocal spectrum, Dmitry Belosselskiy’s Fafner was aided by electronic enhancement but the blacktoned resonance was very much his own and very effective. On the high end, Erin Morley as the Woodbird has a freshly innocent woodwind timbre that was ideal for the role. Philippe Jordan’s conducting has improved with each “Ring” opera. This “Siegfried” was full of lyrical dash and dramatic propulsion. There were beautiful details savored along the way but the music always moved forward with energy and purpose. With such a superb cast, Lepage’s machine was a neutral factor. I was more bothered by Etienne Boucher’s dark lighting which threw a pall over each scene — including the springtime forest in Act II and the dazzling sunrise in Act III. I suppose the onstage darkness was necessary for Pedro Pires’ computer video projections but this shining cast and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra radiated their own light on the proceedings. Eli Jacobson writes about the American Symphony Orchestra’s concert presentation of Bohuslav Martin’s “Julietta, or the Key of Dreams” in the online version of this article, at gaycitynews. nyc/stories/2019/9/vinke-opera-2019-0425-gcn. html.

pulled it off. It was so completely unreal. KRAMER: There have been two documentaries about the JT Leroy phenomenon, “The Cult of JT Leroy,” which presents an outsider’s perspective, and “Author: The JT LeRoy Story,” which presents Laura Albert’s version of the events. You are telling Savannah Knoop’s version. What made you want to retell this story from Savannah’s perspective?

➤ JT LEROY, continued on p.37 April 25 - May 8, 2019 |

â&#x17E;¤ JT LEROY, from p.36 KELLY: I read Savannahâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s book, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT Leroy,â&#x20AC;? when it came out in 2008. I was familiar with the story, but I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know the details behind how they pulled it off until I read the memoir. It was full of things I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know â&#x20AC;&#x201D; political and feminist reasons; it was not for fame and money â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s so much more interesting than everyone knows or cares to think about. Lauraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s story is interesting as a backstory â&#x20AC;&#x201D; how she became JT â&#x20AC;&#x201D; but Savannah is more interesting as JT. It is more a coming-of-age story. KRAMER: This film, like all of your films, deals with the power these people have â&#x20AC;&#x201D; or think they have. What observations do you have about the power of celebrity? KELLY: Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s interesting. The

link between all three films for me â&#x20AC;&#x201D; which might seem purposeful but wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t â&#x20AC;&#x201D; is people trying to become or be perceived as someone else. JT is the penultimate version of people being or being perceived as someone they are not â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and yes, it deals with celebrity, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tricky. The film doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t take sides. In the end, you can make your own judgments. I believe that they didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t do it for fame. It snowballed and became bigger than they were. The fact that they made JT famous, or the fans made him a bestseller, was because of Lauraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hustling â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and that people wanted to be a part of something cool and weird and different. KRAMER: Laura/ Speedie tried to control â&#x20AC;&#x201D; some might say manipulate â&#x20AC;&#x201D; JTâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s story as much as she could. What are your thoughts about her character and her moti-

vation? KELLY: [Laughs.] Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s so complicated. I always refer to Laura as an eccentric genius, which is true and fair. Having lived in San Francisco and having had friends feel burned by the hoax, I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t try to justify it. It was my extreme fascination in how it could happen in the first place. Like Michael [Glatze] and Brent [Corrigan], I was interested in how they could do extreme things, and diving in to that, not answering the question. I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know Laura; weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve not met. But I feel from the documentaries and Savannah that a good amount of her story is true. JT was an â&#x20AC;&#x153;avatar,â&#x20AC;? but he has so much in common with her. She used â&#x20AC;&#x153;himâ&#x20AC;? to explore things and it went too far. The lives and betrayals were not cool, but it wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t as much of a hoax as people thought. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s weird that a lot of people hate on her now,

which is fair, but look where she is â&#x20AC;&#x201D; sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not a celebrity. Once JT went away, she went away. KRAMER: Do you think telling Savannahâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s story will change peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s minds about JT Leroy? KELLY: Good questionâ&#x20AC;Ś I think it will. A lot of people, when they think about this story, they focus on the hype those who felt betrayed put out there. And thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s totally fair. But when I read the memoir, I felt the reasons behind it were not as calculated as people thought. If thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a takeaway, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gaining an understanding of why they did it â&#x20AC;&#x201D; even if other people see them as shady, awful people. JT LEROY | Directed by Justin Kelly | Universal Pictures Content Group | Opens Apr. 26 | Quad Cinema, 34 W. 13th St.; quadcinema. com

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➤ WALT WHITMAN, from p.34 of nature engendered by his childhood in rural Huntington, Long Island; the bustle of Manhattan, rife with new invention and creativity exemplified by the inception and exhibitions of daguerreotypes; master circus huckster P.T. Barnum, and, especially, music, everything from grand opera to the Hutchinson Family, a vocal toupe who sang about abolition, women’s rights, and temperance, which Whitman very much in supported in his time. He wasn’t shy about self-promotion, either. The congratulatory letter which Ralph Waldo Emerson sent him after “Leaves of Grass” came out in 1855 was used again and again by Whitman to publicize subsequent editions of that 12-poem volume. Dominating one side of the gallery is a huge and lovely sketch of two boys in bed, shown next to a particular homsexual passage. Here’s my cue to thank this writer personally for he way he helped me get out of a serious funk about myself and what, exactly, being gay was supposed to be about. I had spent one very young summer in the Fire Island Pines, the beginning of which found me poised and ready to experience what I, in my early 20s then, assumed would be the most fabulous season by the beach, amidst the bold, beautiful, successful crème de la gay crème. Glamorous? Well, in a way, yes, as it was just


Matthew Brady’s photograph of Whitman was taken in 1865 but first printed later.

before the onslaught of AIDS, very heady halcyon days, but, for shy, insecure 20-something

me, it was just too much. Too much sex, drugs, disco, attitude, bitchiness, pretension — while severely lacking in any kind of real gay feelings of camaraderie, brotherhood, whatever, that I’d assumed would just be a given once any closet door was thrown open. Basically, I saw a lot of people treating each other like toilet paper: to be used once and immediately discarded, and realized that “bitchy queen” wasn’t just a cliche but an all-too prevalent reality. I came back to the city, thinking in my callowness, that if that’s what being gay is, in its so-called highest echelons, I want no part of it. So then, what the fuck was I? And WHO? Thank God for that one big room at the Metropolitan Museum holding four immense stone Buddhas to which I’d repair often, hoping some of their timeless calm would infiltrate me. And thank you, Walt Whitman, because “Leaves” truly helped me shake off that long depression. The final stop of the exhibit features Whitman’s lasting influence, with books by the widest international range of authors of subsequent generations, all under his sway, on display, and even that episode of “The Simpsons,” with Homer mistaking Whitman’s gravestone for that of his own mother’s, and then suffering a meltdown with the discovery: “Damn you, Walt Whitman. I. Hate. You. Walt Whitman! Leaves of Grass — my ass!”

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April 25 - May 8, 2019 |

B U S I N E S S , B R O O K LY N S T Y L E

Brooklyn Spine Center offering patients living with back pain a surgery-free option 9P:8D@CC<JG<II8QQ8 Dr. Melinda Keller of the Brooklyn Spine Center has been treating patients with chronic back pain for 36 years. She has heard it all from patients who come to her as a last resort, after they have tried pills and injections. Yet, despite these treatments, they are still suffering. They can’t sit and do computer work for their jobs. They can’t bend to pick up their grandchildren. Many can’t sleep at night because the pain is excruciating. Their quality of life is so diminished, many consider surgery to be their only option. But Dr. Keller provides them with another alternative: non-surgical decompression. She utilizes the DRX-9000 (pictured right), a state-of-the-art device that helps restore spinal discs back to optimal health. The machine gently stretches the spine so that pain subsides. As a result, pressure on the nerves is released. “It accelerates the natural healing process, and offers an effective alternative to risky spine surgery, painful injections, and prescriptive medications,” says Dr. Keller. The results are based on scientific evidence. “PostMRI results reveal actual physical improvement to the health of the spinal disc in approximately 90% of the cases,” says the doctor. D.R.X. stands for Decompression Reduction Extraction, and the DRX -9000 is the best quality and most researched decompression device on the market, she says. The system is manufactured by Axiom Worldwide, and is Food and Drug Administration-approved. This technology allows Dr. Keller to apply a controlled amount of traction to specific parts of the spine, gently easing the pressure off of patients’ injured discs. Keeping discs healthy is important. “Discs are responsible for drawing fluid from the body that carries nutrients and oxygen to the spine,” says Dr. Keller. “The spine needs these nutrients to stay strong.” The procedure is | April 25 - May 8, 2019

invasive, and patients do not feel any pain when undergoing the treatment. The only thing they may feel is a gentle tug to the spine as the machine works to ease the symptoms associated with herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, and sciatica. While this is taking place, patients are lying comfortably on top of the machine’s cushioned table. The treatment takes place slowly and gradually, so that patients are relaxed and stress-free. Some patients report feeling a sense of relief right away, as the machine can offer immediate relief to the pressure on their discs. Several DRX-9000 treatments are usually needed to obtain lasting results. Dr. Keller will discuss the timeframe with each patient, outlining a treatment plan that’s based on individual needs. Each session lasts about 45 minutes, providing time for the DRX-9000 to lengthen and stretch the spine, as it reduces pressure to the nerves. Good spinal health is essential, says the doctor, as it can mean the difference between staying active and being bedridden. Some patients come into the office, and they can barely walk. If left untreated, what will their spines be like when they age? “Half of all babies born in the year 2000 or later, can expect to live to be 100 years old,” says Dr. Keller. “We are already living longer, but we have to live better.” Keeping our spines functioning at 100% prolongs quality of life. More than 900 insurance companies cover chiropractic care, and the warm staff at the Brooklyn Spine Center will make a courtesy call on your behalf to see what your plan offers. The staff is compassionate, upbeat, easy-going, and available to help. Brooklyn Spine Center [5911 16th Ave. between 59th :cfZbn`j\ ]ifd c\]k  ;i% D\c`e[X and 60th streets in Borough B\cc\if]k_\9iffbcpeJg`e\:\e$ Park, (718) 234-6212, www. k\i _\cgj X gXk`\ek lj\ k_\ CG>]. Jg`e\ =fiZ\% ;i% B\cc\i `e _\i f]$ Open Mondays – Thursdays, 9 ÔZ\% :\Z`c`X Xe[ EX[`X ^i\\k gX$ am – 7 pm; Fridays, 9 am – 2 k`\ekjXkk_\]ifek[\jb% pm; Saturdays, 9 am – noon,  G_fkfjYp>\fi^`e\9\em\elkf by appointment.



April 25 - May 8, 2019 |

JXmfiJpi`XeÕXmfij]ifdKXeXY\cKXYc\ :Xk\i`e^ZfdgXep]ifd9iffbcpeZ_\]b\\gjD`[[c\<Xjk\iei\Z`g\jXc`m\ 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 Tanabel Table, a Middle Eastern catering and event company from Brooklyn’s very own Chef Hannah Goldberg. 9PAF<;@JK<=8EF Chef Hannah Goldberg named her catering and events company Tanabel Table after the Souk el Tanabel in Damascus. Tanabel means “lazy person” in Arabic, and the company takes its name from the bustling market where merchants farm all of the intricate prep work Syrian food requires of women in their homes. Those women chop mountains of parsley and hollow out hillocks of squash, and deliver the finished goods to the merchants to sell in that “Lazy Person’s Market.” Goldberg envisioned Tanabel as a space where women could contribute their skills and ingenuity to a larger project, doing what they could to make a life for themselves while growing a larger business. “We pay a living wage and pride ourselves on meeting our cooks where they are, finding ways for them to contribute as much or as little as they’re able and to take pride in their work and in sharing it with their new neighbors,” she said. Goldberg, who has been a chef since 2001, started the company — which celebrates the rich culinary traditions of the Middle East and employs refugee women — after the 2016 presidential election. “I felt compelled, as many people did, to get involved, to stand up and affirm what America means to me,” she recalled of her involvement with the refugee task force of a local synagogue in the midst of an influx of Syrian refugees. As a chef, Goldberg had been committed to helping to preserve traditional foodways at risk of disappearing, so working with refugee women to preserve and celebrate their tra-

=ifdc\]k#KXeXY\cKXYc\ËjÔijkZffb=XpqXDXXdf#_\idfk_\i=X[`cX#Xe[KXeXY\c]fle[\iZ_\]?XeeX_>fc[Y\i^% ditional recipes felt like a very natural fit, she recalls. Tanabel employs women from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran, each of whom bring their mothers’ and g randmothers’ recipes and traditions with them. Tanabel’s very first cook, Fadila Maamo, hails from Aleppo, Syria, and came to the United States

with three of her four children in the fall of 2016. Maamo and her family are Yazidi Kurds, with a lot of their own 19 unique traditions, including Syrian kibbeh — fried bulgur torpedoes stuffed with spiced meat and walnuts, with a red pepper and pomegranate sauce and

a little fresh cabbage and mint salad on the side — which will be served at the Fare. “They’re just the best version we’ve ever had — juicy and savory and crisp — we’re so excited to share them with everyone at the Fare!” Goldberg said. “I’m really proud to be a part of the World’s Fare this year; Tanabel is about celebrating the unique contributions that each of our cooks brings from her homeland and

CITI FIELD MAY 18 & 19, 2019 | April 25 - May 8, 2019


sharing them with New Yorkers who are curious and eager to understand them, their food, and their traditions more completely,” she said. Joe DiStefano is a Queensbased food writer. Try traditional fare from Tanabel Table at the World’s Fare at Citi Field (123-01 Roosevelt Ave. in Queens, on May 18 and 19 from 12 to 8 p.m. Tickets from $19 to $199 (children under 10, $5).

100+ Global CuIsines International Beer Garden Music, Dance, Art & More 41


April 25 - May 8, 2019 | | April 25 - May 8, 2019





April 25 - May 8, 2019 |

Profile for Schneps Media

Gay City News - April 25, 2019  

April 25, 2019

Gay City News - April 25, 2019  

April 25, 2019