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SCOTUS to Weigh Exemptions to Gay Rights Laws 05

Clock Running Out on Trans Elder Erasure 17

WHOSE RESISTANCE IS IT? A LOOK BACK AT PRIDE Pages 10, 12 & 34

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July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


COVER STORY Whose resistance is it? 10, 12 & 34

PERSPECTIVE Why I chose to be gay 36

FAMILY Texas high court making trouble for marriage equality 04

FILM “Desert Hearts,” lesbian classic, returns to IFC 40

COMMUNITY Stark divide on Cuomo LGBT memorial 09

Asian Film Fest mindful of family matters 44

PERSPECTIVE Abandoning outrage 35

Lopsided Ménage 42

OPERA NYCO shines in spite of fractured “Angels” 41

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FAMILY

Texas High Court Questions SCOTUS Marriage Ruling’s Reach Refusing to dismiss challenge to equal spousal benefits for public employees, unanimous bench stirs pot BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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n a clear misreading of the US Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges from 2015 — especially as elucidated just days before by the high court in its Arkansas birth certificate ruling in Pavan v. Smith — the Texas Supreme Court, on June 30, unanimously refused to dismiss a lawsuit by two disgruntled taxpayers who argue that the city of Houston should not provide employee benefits for the same-sex spouses of its employees. Instead, even while affirming the Texas Court of Appeals’ ruling that reversed a 2014 trial court preliminary injunction against paying those benefits, the Texas high court sent the case back to the trial court to consider whether Obergefell obligates Houston to provide equal benefits to it employees’ same-sex spouses. The trial court was also directed to consider the taxpayers’ argument that the city should be required to “claw back” the value of benefits paid prior to the Obergefell decision, on the theory that Texas’ refusal to recognize same-sex marriages contracted out of state was valid until the marriage equality ruling was handed down. In the Pavan v. Smith case (see page 21), the Arkansas Supreme Court had ruled that the Obergefell decision did not require the state to treat same-sex spouses the same as different-sex spouses in listing a birth mother’s spouse as a parent on their child’s birth certificate. Reversing that ruling on the last day of its session, the US Supreme Court, in an unsigned “Per Curiam” opinion, said, “As we explained [in Obergefell], a State may not ‘exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as oppositesex couples.’ Indeed, in listing those terms and conditions — the ‘rights, benefits, and responsibilities’ to which same-sex couples, no less than opposite-sex couples, must have access — we expressly identified ‘birth and death certifi-

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JUSTICEJEFFBOYD.ORG

A 2014 campaign ad for Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey S. Boyd.

cates.’ That was no accident…” The Supreme Court, in that way, made clear that same-sex couples, under Obergefell, are entitled to the same rights and benefits of marriage as different-sex couples. In listing some of the rights and benefits of marriage that same-sex couples had wrongly been denied, the Obergefell court also specifically mentioned health insurance, the employee benefit at issue in the Texas case. So, it is completely disingenuous for the Texas court to claim that Obergefell fails to deal with that question explicitly. Yet, in Pidgeon v. Turner, Justice Jeffrey S. Boyd wrote for the Texas Supreme Court, “The Supreme Court held in Obergefell that the Constitution requires states to license and recognize same-sex marriages to the same extent that they license and recognize opposite-sex marriages, but it did not hold that states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons, and — unlike the Fifth Circuit in DeLeon — it did not hold that the Texas DOMAs are unconstitutional.” DeLeon refers to the Texas marriage equality decision that was issued by the US Fifth Circuit Court

of Appeals a few days after the Obergefell decision, holding that the Texas ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional in light of the Supreme Court’s action. Instead of cutting through procedural complications to save everybody involved lots of wasted time and money through prolonged litigation, the Texas court has now repeated the Arkansas Supreme Court’s error by insisting that the Obergefell ruling does not clearly require “the same” rights, benefits, and responsibilities. Incredibly, in support of this point, the Texas court cited the Supreme Court’s decision on June 26 to grant review of a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Human Rights Commission, which concerns a totally different question: whether a baker has a First Amendment right to discriminate against a same-sex couple by refusing an order for a wedding cake in violation of that state’s anti-discrimination law. In its June 2015 Obergefell ruling, the Supreme Court did not address the question of potential clashes between anti-discrimination laws and the free speech and free exercise of religion rights en-

joyed by private individuals and organizations. But the high court most emphatically did address the issue that governmental actors, like the city of Houston, bound by the 14th Amendment, must accord the same rights to all married couples, whether same-sex or different-sex. The court reiterated that point last week in its Pavan birth certificate ruling. The Texas case dates back to 2013, when Houston Mayor Annise Parker, an out lesbian, reacted to the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act by extending benefits to the same-sex spouses of Houston city employees who had gone out of state to get married. At that time, Texas had both a state Defense of Marriage Act and a similar constitutional amendment, and Houston had a charter provision limiting municipal employee benefits to legal spouses and children of employees. Parker relied on an advisory opinion from Houston’s city attorney in concluding that after Windsor it was unconstitutional to refuse to recog-

TEXAS SUPREME COURT, continued on p.20

July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


CIVIL RIGHTS

Supreme Court to Consider Gay Rights Law Exemptions Baker’s religious freedom, free speech claims at issue in Colorado wedding case BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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he US Supreme Court, on June 26, agreed to hear an appeal of a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling that Jack C. Phillips does not have a First Amendment right for his business, Masterpiece Cakeshop, to refuse an order to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The high court acted on a petition filed on behalf of Phillips and his business by Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-gay “religious” law firm. The ADF petition was filed last July and was listed for discussion during Supreme Court conferences more than a dozen times before being accepted. The addition of Donald Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia was likely the catalyst for a decision to grant review. The ultimate disposition of the case, however, could heavily depend on the views of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing justice where LGBTQ issues are involved. Ironically, one of the main precedents that stands in the way of a victory for Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop is an opinion written in 1990 by Scalia. The petition asks the court, in effect, to reverse or narrow its longstanding precedent from that case, Employment Division v. Smith, where Scalia wrote that individuals do not have a constitutional right based on their religious beliefs to refuse to comply with “neutral” state laws “of general application.” Such laws are ones that do not directly concern religious beliefs or practices, but whose application may incidentally affect those practices and beliefs. It was in response to that 1990 decision that Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — with many state governments following suit — which allows individuals to claim religious exemptions from complying with statutes under certain circumstances. The question that the Supreme Court will now consider, as phrased by ADF in its petition, is whether “apGayCityNews.nyc | July 06–July 19, 2017

ACLU.ORG

Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the gay couple who challenged a cake baker’s refusal to provide them services for a celebration of their wedding.

plying Colorado’s public accommodations law to compel Phillips to create expression that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage violates the Free Speech or Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.” The high court has addressed the free speech aspects of this issue in the past. In its 1995 Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that Massachusetts’ public accommodations law would have to give way to the First Amendment expressive association rights of the organizers of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, who refused to allow an LGBTQ group to march under its own banner. With an opinion by Justice David Souter, the court ruled unanimously that a parade is a quintessential expressive activity, and its organizers have a right to exclude groups whose presence would convey a message the organizers do not wish to. By a bare 5-4 majority, the Supreme Court, in 2000, extended that ruling in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, where Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote, holding that the Boy Scouts, like the Boston parade, is an expressive association and could refuse to allow an out gay man to serve as an assistant scoutmaster because this would communicate a view about homosexuality the group did not want to communicate. That ruling sparked two dissenting opinions, sharply contesting the majority’s weighing of rights in allowing the Boy Scouts to discriminate and challenging the view that

the BSA could be characterized as an “expressive association.” Interestingly, over time, the winning parties in both cases have come to see the wisdom of allowing at least some LGBTQ participation in their activities. The Boston parade organizers have allowed gay groups to march in recent years, and the BSA voted to allow its local troops to permit participation by LGBTQ people as members and adult leaders, though troops sponsored by some religious organizations have continued to exclude them. The high court, since 1990, has yet to return to the religious objection aspect of this case. A few years ago, it refused to review a decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court holding that a wedding photographer did not have a First Amendment right to refuse her services to a lesbian couple for their commitment ceremony. Since then, courts in several other states have rejected religious exemption claims by businesses providing wedding-related services, including a 2016 New York ruling refusing a religious exemption to a farm that hosts and caters weddings. The 2014 Hobby Lobby case, in which the Supreme Court found that a closely-held corporation could refuse on religious grounds to cover certain contraceptive methods under its health care plan, was litigated under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and so was not grounded on a constitutional claim. A recent appellate ruling by a Kentucky court, however, upheld the right of a company that makes custom T-shirts to refuse an order from a gay organization for shirts publiciz-

ing the organization’s Gay Pride festival. The 2-1 ruling was premised on the court’s conclusion that denying services to the group was not based on the sexual orientation of anybody, and the concurring judge also cited the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The court’s dissenter, meanwhile, found that the company clearly violated the city of Lexington’s anti-discrimination ordinance and had no right to a religious exemption. In the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, Charlie Craig and David Mullins decided to marry out of state in 2012, at a time when Colorado did not yet allow same-sex marriages, but they also planned a local celebration to follow with their families and friends. When they contacted Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a cake for the occasion, Phillips refused their business, citing his religious objection to same-sex marriage. Publicity surrounding Masterpiece’s refusal led another baker to give them a free wedding cake, but the couple also decided to file a sexual orientation discrimination claim with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. Rejecting Phillips’ First Amendment free exercise of religion and free speech defenses, the Division ruled in the couple’s favor, finding that Masterpiece violated Colorado’s gay rights law. When ADF appealed that administrative ruling, the intermediatelevel Colorado Court of Appeals rejected both of Phillips’ constitutional arguments, holding that baking and decorating a wedding cake are not speech or artistic expression. The gay rights law, the court found, is a “neutral law of generally applicability” and so within the scope of the Supreme Court’s 1990 Employment Division v. Smith precedent for which Scalia wrote the opinion. Colorado has no Religious Freedom Restoration Act creating a statutory exemption to its anti-discrimination law. Because the Supreme Court granted review on both the free speech and religious exercise claims, it could reach a split decision. If it wants to adhere to a broad view of the 1990

RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS, continued on p.31

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COMMUNITY

Cuomo LGBT Memorial Pick Draws Praise, Fire What critics sees as bland, banal, defenders laud as deep, universal, enduring BY ANDY HUMM

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onuments to cataclysm — from the Vietnam War Memorial wall in Washington bearing the names of tens of thousands of American soldiers killed in that divisive US “police action” to the 9/11 Memorial waterfalls marking the site of the obliterated World Trade Center towers and the thousands who perished that day — are almost invariably erected in controversy, at least at first. The winning design announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo at the end of Pride Month for the LGBT Memorial in Hudson River Park to “honor the LGBT community and the victims of the Orlando shooting” at the Pulse club in 2016 was met by an unusual amount of criticism, while staunchly defended by the members of the selection commission that recommended three designs as well as others who praised its “strength and depth.” Cuomo picked Anthony Goicolea’s plan for an arrangement of “nine modified boulders, some of which are bisected with a clear, laminated, borosilicate-glass with refractory components that act as a prism to create subtle rainbow patterns on the surrounding lawn and nearby objects.” Goicolea, a Cuban-American artist born in Georgia who now lives in Brooklyn with his husband, told Gay City about his concept for “a circular stone formation made out of bronze and finished to look like granite or fieldstone. Six will be bisected by glass prisms and one split in half with interior faces polished and with texts” that, he said, will on one face “memorialize members of the LGBT community who have been victims of hate crimes,” though no names of victims will be etched there. The other face will feature “poetic texts that will celebrate the diversity and endurance of the LGBT community.” “If you include names, it creates a cut-off,” Goicolea explained, and

GayCityNews.nyc | July 06–July 19, 2017

OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

A rendering of Anthony Goicolea’s design for the LGBT Memorial planned for Hudson River Park, showing the glass prisms in the rock design as well as the rainbows they cast on the surrounding grass.

OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

The location planned for the LGBT Memorial.

anti-LGBT violence “is an ongoing issue.” The artist said he was inspired by “circular formations — divine structures throughout history that encourage communal gathering,” citing Easter Island, Stonehenge, megalithic stone structures in Africa, pre-Colombian burial grounds, and others in Ireland. “That kind of circular formation crops up again and again and is a unifying element for humanity.” Goicolea told the New York Times, “I wanted something usable and functional and that was not going to take away part of the space. I wanted to communicate

with the river and the piers. I really want it to be part of the area.” Cuomo called it “a stunning design,” but some LGBTQ activists were just stunned. Matt Foreman, the executive director of the New York City AntiViolence Project from 1990 until 1996, among numerous community leadership posts, said, “This design is an insult to LGBT victims of violence. Hate has never broken or scattered us, like this design suggests. It’s only made us stronger.” Beverly Tillery, who is AVP’s current executive director and served on the commission, offered

a different reaction, saying, “We wanted to make sure that this design created a space where people could come and be reflective individually or in groups and have time and space to learn about the history of violence whether they didn’t know about it or if they have been survivors or affected by it — a place where people can come together and talk about what we can do about it.” Tillery acknowledged, “For any project like this, some will love it and some will hate it.” Duncan Osborne of Queer Nation — and Gay City News’s associate editor — wrote on Facebook, “We have an AIDS memorial just a stone’s throw from the location for this memorial that has zero names of people who died from AIDS and is commonly referred to as a bus shelter though Sarah Schulman recently called it a dish rack or a spaghetti strainer or a colander or some other utensil… Now this memorial proposes to not mention anyone who is LGBTQ. Memorials must name the people they are recalling.” Elsewhere on social media, reaction varied widely. Gay activist Gregg Kapuscinski wrote, “I would like to keep an open mind about this, but 9 rocks and some reflective glass seem uninspired, flat, and sad. Stumbling upon this and not knowing what it was I would walk right past it.” But Ted Thompson’s response was, “They look like a prayer circle, a fitting tribute to those whose lives were so brutally cut down.” And Anthony Accardo wrote, “I am familiar with Anthony Goicolea’s work. At first glance this memorial may seem underwhelming, but the subtleties of the work do speak to the everyday lives of the victims. The reflected rainbows created by the rocks inserts and the solid nature of stone reveal both strength and depth. I don’t believe a plaque with names or some representational sculpture would feel as universal or

LGBT MEMORIAL, continued on p.38

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POLITICS

Resistance Throngs Exuberant, But 12 Queer Disruptors Arrested Protesting police, corporate role in Pride, Hoods4Justice blocks GOAL, halts march, angers some spectators BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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dozen queer activists were arrested during New York City’s Pride March as they protested the presence of police and corporate sponsors in the annual commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall riots that marked the modern LGBTQ rights movement’s start. “To the police — You cannot mass incarcerate us, brutalize us, murder us, and call it pride,” Hoods4Justice, the group that organized the protest, wrote in a statement that was posted on its Facebook page hours before the action. “To Wells Fargo, Citi, and remaining corporate sponsors — You cannot pillage our homes, brand us, rob us of our dignity, invest in our imprisonment, and spray us with water hoses in sub-freezing temperatures and call it sponsorship. To the politicians — You cannot sit idly by and call it allyship.” Hoods4Justice used a classic activist move — it never registered for the parade, instead jumping in with the 18 groups, including Rise & Resist, Gays Against Guns, ACT UP, and other activist organizations, that comprised the resistance section that was registered and situated near the start of the parade. The resistance — formed this year as a way for the Pride March to respond to Donald Trump’s election as president — was staged, prior to the kickoff of the march, on East 41st Street. In the several hours leading up to the parade, Hoods4Justice initially gathered at the rear of that contingent, but when the resistance organizations stepped onto Fifth Avenue moments after noon the group jumped to the front of that section. “We’re here to declare that today’s Pride and coming Prides are a nocop zone,” June, a member of Hoods4Justice, told Gay City News as the group marched south on Fifth Avenue to cheers and applause. The roughly 50 members carried banners reading, “There Are No Queer Friendly Cops,” “No Cops No Banks,” and “Decolonize Pride.” Hoods4Justice was joined by a small contingent from Black Lives Matter of Greater New York. The

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DONNA ACETO

Disruptors, led by a group known as Hoods4Justice, did not register for the march but instead jumped into the resistance contingent and carried signs protesting police and corporate participation in the Pride event.

DONNA ACETO

The resistance was a contingent of at least 18 groups pulled together by Rise and Resist and Gays Against Guns under the leadership of Ken Kidd.

DUNCAN OSBORNE

DONNA ACETO

Among the larger resistance groups was Gays Against Guns, formed in the wake of last June’s Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre.

A small contingent of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, led by Hawk Newsome (carrying the flag), marched with the Hoods4Justice group.

DONNA ACETO

Cathy Marino-Thomas from Gays Against Guns.

Hoods4Justice demonstrators used long black tubes to thwart NYPD efforts to quickly end their blockade of the march.

Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club marched in front of both groups. It is always difficult to tell if the tens of thousands who line the march route are cheering specifically for the groups that are going by at that moment or just cheering for every group that goes by. Judging by the raised fists that frequently greeted the Black Lives Matter group, it was clear that the group was winning the crowd. The cheers were occasionally deafening. “It shows that the good people of New York care about Black Lives

Matter,” Hawk Newsome, who is the president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York and an officer in the Jim Owles Club, told Gay City News during the June 25 parade. “The gay community stands on the side of Black Lives Matter.” The police and Heritage of Pride (HOP), the organization that produces New York City’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, were clearly expecting Hoods4Justice, which was no surprise as a member was quoted in a June 19 USA Today article saying the organization would protest on

DONNA ACETO

June 25. Hoods4Justice was trailed down Fifth Avenue by about two-dozen police officers on bikes and another roughly 20 to 30 officers and commanders from NYPD’s Strategic Response Group, which handles what police call civil disorder, and other police units. When the group arrived at the east end of Christopher Street at roughly 2:30, about two-dozen members of Hoods4Justice stepped out of the

RESISTANCE, continued on p.16

July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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POLITICS

Parade Disruptors’ Support in Wider Community Uncertain Demands to bar police, corporations from Pride mount across US, but no clear verdict from street crowds BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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s 12 members of Hoods4Justice were marched off Christopher Street in handcuffs after blockading the street during the June 25 Pride Parade, the crowd on the sidewalk booed. Asked if they were booing the police for making the arrests or the protesters who halted the parade, people on the sidewalk were very clear that it was the protesters who were the target of their anger. “All these guys are not the problem,” said Chris Laro, who described himself as a Vermont exhippie, referring to the police. “It’s not that it’s not a vital issue, but today’s not the time.” Hoods4Justice, which did not register for the parade, jumped into the line of march in front of the 18 groups that had secured a leading spot from the event’s organizer, Heritage of Pride (HOP), to give voice to resistance to the Trump administration. Downtown, at the east end of Christopher Street, the interlopers allowed the resistance contingent to pass them by and then carefully timed their move back onto the street so that they stopped the parade in front of the NYPD’s marching band, which was leading the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL), a contingent from the Toronto police department, and groups from the city’s corrections and fire departments. Hoods4Justice was protesting the presence of police and corporations in the parade, and the effort by police to end the group’s blockade took roughly half an hour. Just to make the mood within the crowd of spectators absolutely clear, after the protesters were removed from Christopher Street, the cheering for the police groups that then passed by was deafening. HOP was not the only such organization to deal with protests over police and corporate contingents in Pride Parades this year. There were similar protests in Chicago, Minneapolis, and the nation’s capital. In Toronto in 2016, a Black Lives Matter group mounted a pro-

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DONNA ACETO

As Hoods4Justice protesters carried a banner reading, “No Queer Friendly Cops” down Fifth Avenue, they were widely cheered, yet when a dozen of them brought the parade to a halt, blockading a series of law enforcement contingents, the street was on the side of the police, not the disruptors.

test over police in that city’s Pride Parade, and police in uniform were banned from that event this year. GOAL invited Toronto’s LGBTQ police group to march in uniform in New York City’s parade this year. What remains unclear is how much support these protests have from the wider community. The action in Toronto won an effective police ban in this year’s march, but in Minneapolis, Twin Cities Pride initially barred police from this year’s march then reversed its decision in less than 24 hours. The debates over the protests on social media have been lively. And Hoods4Justice was cheered as it marched along Fifth Avenue from 41st Street to Christopher Street carrying banners that read “There Are No Queer Friendly Cops,” “No Cops No Banks,” and “Decolonize Pride.” The debates are occurring in a community where the politics generally range from center left to much farther to the left. “Is it reasonable to assume ho-

mogeneity if not unanimity in the community?” said Ken Sherrill, a professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College. “There are people who are not prepared to accept the Log Cabin Republicans, there are people who are troubled by the left. We do reflect the glorious diversity.” Part of the explanation is that the protesters are generally younger and more likely to identify with modern radical causes, such as the Black Lives Matter movement or the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. While many Pride Parade attendees and participants, young and old, see the police contingents and corporate sponsors as symbols of hard-won acceptance, the protesters see them as the law enforcement that harasses transgender people and shoots unarmed black men and the banks that fund pipelines that run through lands owned by indigenous peoples. “I suspect the people who did this are too young to remember

when the police wouldn’t give us parade permits,” Sherrill said. “The progress in our relationship with the police isn’t as apparent to those who didn’t have the kinds of horrible experiences that we had.” GOAL had to sue the NYPD in 1996 to be allowed to march in uniform in New York City’s Pride Parade and so be treated like every other fraternal organization in the police department. In 1986, GOAL was the subject of a protest by mounted police officers who executed an about-face on their horses and turned their backs as GOAL went by during that year’s Pride Parade. GOAL was reportedly the subject of an internal police department investigation after it was founded in 1982. “GOAL has always represented something very powerful in the parade,” said Edgar Rodriguez, a former GOAL president who retired from the NYPD in 2002. “People see us in the uniform and say, ‘Wow, we can be protected.’” For the protesters, who intentionally made their blockade just yards from the Stonewall Inn, the modern LGBTQ rights movement was born during the 1969 riots at that bar in response to abuse from a profoundly corrupt police department that was allied with organized crime. The 2016 and 2017 protests fulfill that earlier spirit, they said. In a Hoods4Justice press release, one protester said, “Pride is meant to commemorate and continue the fight begun in 1969 with the Stonewall Riots. A fight against police violence, and a fight that most certainly did not have permits. And, most importantly, a fight we still shoulder to this day.” Whether these protests will have any impact remains to be seen. “There’s always a sizable activist cohort within the movement or within the community that will take positions of this sort,” Sherrill said. “I wouldn’t call them different factions. There are different cohorts within the community. There are those who are radicalized and remain radicalized.” July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | July 06–July 19, 2017

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IN WASHINGTON SQUARE, UNDERLINING TRANS VISIBILILITY

PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO/ REPORTING BY PAUL SCHINDLER

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n a humid Friday afternoon just two days before the LGBTQ Pride March, a crowd of several hundred spent an hour in Washington Square Park listening to speeches as part of Trans Day of Action, before devoting several more hours to marching around the Village. The annual event, held June 23 and produced by the Trans Justice Now! initiative at the Audre Lorde Project, included bilingual English-Spanish discussions of top-

ics ranging from the policing and incarceration of transgender and gender-nonconforming people to health care and housing disparities faced by the community. For Stephanie Rodriguez, a 27-year-old from Queens who identifies as “queer,” the rally was her first-ever Pride event. Explaining that she comes from a strictly religious family, she said she came out “late in life,” but wants to be “with people like me” and “have fun.” Explaining she is still in the coming out process, she said she planned to be a part of the big parade two days later. Ellen, a 30-year-old Manhat-

tanite who declined to give her last name because she was absent from work without permission, said she provides housing and other services to low-income New Yorkers and has learned how few people in the helping professions “get transgender.” “Raising awareness is really important,” said Ellen, who also planned to attend both the Dyke March on June 24 and the Pride Parade the next day. Charles Whitewolf, who is black and prefers “they” and “them” as pronouns, said even within the transgender community there is pressure on gender-nonconforming people. “We’re still asked what we’re

going to choose,” Whitewolf explained. “Every day, everywhere.” For 23-year-old Holden Compton-Lujin of Queens, Trans Day of Action represented a chance “to show we are present.” “As a trans individual, I’ve experienced discrimination in my life and against my community,” he said. “I think trans people are invisible, often times in the queer community.” Compton-Lujin, who said his concerns are as basic as wanting to feel safe walking home in his Bushwick neighborhood, planned to also be “present” at the parade closing out Pride month on June 25.

GRACIE MANSION CELEBRATES PRIDE

PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO

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n a spectacular early summer evening June 22, Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray played host to several hundred LGBTQ New Yorkers in a salute to Pride and, specifically, to Laverne Cox, the first out transgender television star (“Orange

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Is the New Black”). Cox not only wowed the crowd, she also earned her stripes as an advocate, taking her chance at the microphone to endorse the Right to Know Act, a City Council proposal that would require police to get informed consent from any New Yorker they wish to search without specific legal authority — something the mayor has been unwilling to endorse. July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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RESISTANCE, from p.10

march route and waited on a nearby corner. They were first penned in by police bikes and then with police stanchions. As the members moved west on Christopher Street on the sidewalk, they were followed on the street by members of the Strategic Response Group. The members of Hoods4Justice timed their move back onto Christopher Street so that they blocked the parade route just as the NYPD’s marching band, which was leading GOAL, the NYPD’s LGBTQ police group, arrived. Some members of Hoods4Justice either handcuffed themselves together inside of long black tubes that covered their arms or linked hands inside the tubes, preventing the police from easily separating them. The blockade happened just yards from the Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 riots. Police brought out saws and threatened to cut through the tubes, and the entire process of clearing the disruption took about 30 minutes. The crowd was not sympathetic to the disrupters. “They shouldn’t be doing this,” said Steven, a 17-year-old who was watching the parade. “The parade is about acceptance, not resistance.” As some of the 12 protestors were led off by police, some in the crowd booed loudly. Asked if they were booing the police or the protestors, people on the sidewalk were unanimous in saying they were booing the people who had blockaded the parade. “All these guys are not the problem,” said Chris Laro, who described himself as a Vermont ex-hippie, referring to the police. “It’s not that it’s not a vital issue, but today’s not the time.” A number of people whom Gay City News spoke with during and after the protest had no idea what it was about and had to hear an explanation from this reporter first before they had any reaction. It is unknown if HOP or the NYPD was the complainant in the arrests, but a man wearing a HOP T-shirt reading “Executive Board” could be seen conferring with police during the arrests. While this is not the first time people have been arrested while protesting during the Pride March, it would likely be a first if HOP asked that the arrests be made. James Fallarino, HOP’s spokesperson, did

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DUNCAN OSBORNE DONNA ACETO

A dozen demonstrators were eventually arrested.

LGBTQ uniformed officers, such as these transgender police officers, who followed the demonstrators won cheers from the crowd.

DONNA ACETO

Gays Against Guns staged periodic die-ins along the march route.

DONNA ACETO

ACT UP was also part of the resistance contingent and they and other groups drew attention to health care threats posed by the Trump administration.

DONNA ACETO

One of the 49 Human Beings, a political statement conceived by TiggerJames Ferguson after last year’s Orlando massacre, who marched with Gays Against Guns.

not respond to a call seeking comment, and the police department press office could not supply an answer when asked. The crowd on Christopher Street cheered loudly as GOAL and LGBTQ members of other city uniformed services, including the corrections and fire departments, marched by. GOAL invited the LGBTQ police group from Toronto to march with it this year after it was banned from Toronto’s annual Pride Parade. The registered resistance contingent swelled to more than 2,000 people, effectively stealing the Pride

DONNA ACETO

Refuse Fascism focused its fire on the threat the Trump-Pence regime poses to liberal democracy here and around the globe.

show this year with its large group and loud message very near the front of the parade, which often more closely resembles a celebration. “The crowd was joyous, the crowd was thrilled with our message of resistance,” said Ken Kidd, the activist who took the lead on organizing the contingent. “They joined in with us when we said, ‘Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go.” Joining the resistance contingent were Housing Works, the AIDS services organization, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the LGBTQ synagogue, and Indivisible Nation

BK, a Brooklyn activist group. Gay City News also marched with the resistance. HOP initially resisted admitting the contingent into the parade at all, and also pushed back on the effort to have it located at the front. When HOP agreed to allow the resistance contingent a forward position, it capped the number of groups that could join the section. “All of the groups came together to say this is not normal, this is fascism, and we are going to be resisting until this Trump regime is over,” Kidd said. July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


ELDER WELL-BEING

Scramble to Restore Trans Seniors to Key Fed Survey SAGE claims partial victory on gays, but points to July 22 deadline on gender identity

SAGEUSA.ORG

SAGE’s April campaign to block Trump administration plans for changing the annual elder survey.

DONNA ACETO

The SAGE contingent in the June 25 Pride March in Manhattan emphasized the commitment to reverse the Trump’s administration’s plan to eliminate transgender elders from an annual survey of older Americans.

DONNA ACETO

SAGE’s Michael Adams at the June 16 Pride Rally in Foley Square.

BY PAUL SCHINDLER

W

ith less than a month left before the federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) closes the window on public comment, advocates for LGBTQ seniors are claiming partial victory against the Trump administration’s original plan to “erase” the community’s elders from an annual government survey of older Americans. According to Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, or SAGE, at the conclusion of a preliminary 60day public comment period, the federal Administration on Aging, a unit

GayCityNews.nyc | July 06–July 19, 2017

of the Administration for Community Living within DHHS, published a revised survey format that restores a question about sexual orientation it originally proposed jettisoning. However, the agency is continuing with its plan to drop a separate question about gender identity. Under the Obama administration, the survey included questions on both sexual orientation and gender identity in 2014, 2015, and 2016. According to Michael Adams, SAGE’s CEO, the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants is a critical tool for making the needs of older Americans known to legislators and other policymakers. In an interview with Gay City News earlier this year when DHHS first proposed the elimination of both sexual orientation and gender identity from the survey, he said of the Obama policy of counting LGBTQ seniors, “The most important impact was in sending a message to federally-funded elder care providers that this was a segment that had to be served. We saw positive results as a consequence.” On June 30, Adams — a week after learning that the initial comment period resulted in DHHS reversing its intentions on surveying sexual orientation but not gender identity — told this newspaper, “We want to recognize that we won a significant victory here but we can’t let up. We don’t know if we can reverse them

on transgender seniors but we have to fight like hell.” In April, when SAGE and other senior advocates first learned of DHHS’ intention to modify the survey, the group waged a dramatic public campaign with the slogan: “TRUMP TO LGBT ELDERS: DROP DEAD,” playing off the famous Daily News front page castigating Presi-

dent Gerald Ford’s refusal to bail out New York City during the height of the 1970s fiscal crisis. SAGE also emphasized in its advertising, “We refuse to be invisible.” Directing concerned community members to its sageusa.org website, the group reports that roughly

TRANS SENIORS, continued on p.39

17


WOKE-NESS COLORS PRIDE MARCH

Grand marshal Brooke Guinan, the FDNY’s first out gay transgender firefighter.

Members of the Sirens Women’s Motorcycle Club at the March’s lead.

Barechested pride.

PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO

B

Love was celebrated enthusiastically.

The Washington administration’s assault on sexual health aid worldwide was another target in the March.

Former State Senator Tom Duane.

18

eyond the unprecedented forward position of thousands of “resistance” marchers from 18 organizations in the June 25 LGBTQ Pride March (see page 10), the entire mood of the day reflected awareness that the queer world faces brand new challenges under the Trump/ Pence regime.

A couple celebrates their longevity.

James Esseks (left), who heads up the LGBTQ and HIV Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, which was one of the March’s grand marshals, rides with Gavin Grimm, the recent Virginia high school graduate who waged a battle in court to gain access to bathrooms appropriate to his gender identity.

Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Copping a kiss.

Grand marshal Krishna Stone (right) of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, with her daughter, appropriately named Parade.

July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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TEXAS SUPREME COURT, from p.4

nize those out-of-state marriages. Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks, Houston taxpayers who identified themselves as devout Christians who did not want their tax money going to subsidize same-sex marriages, filed a lawsuit challenging Parker’s benefits extension in December 2013. They claimed, based on state and city law, that the benefits extension was “expending significant public funds on an illegal activity,� and persuaded a local trial judge to issue a preliminary injunction against continued payment of the benefits while the case was pending. The city appealed. The Texas Court of Appeals sat on the appeal while marriage equality litigation proceeded in federal courts in Texas and elsewhere. Shortly after the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell on June 26, 2015, the Fifth Circuit, affirming a federal district court ruling, held in DeLeon that the Texas laws banning same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. At that point, the Texas Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s preliminary injunction in the Pidgeon case and sent the case back to the trial court with instructions to decide the case “consistent with DeLeon.� When Pidgeon and Hicks sought to appeal this ruling to the Texas Supreme Court, they were initially turned down. Then the state’s top Republican elected officials — Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton — joined by other non-parties, filed papers with the Supreme Court urging it to change its mind. The court, whose members face the voters of Texas every six years, eventually agreed to do so. In its June 30 ruling, the court buried itself in procedural complications. Based on its incorrect conclusion that Obergefell, as amplified by this week’s Pavan ruling, does not decide the case’s merits — and giving credence to the plaintiffs’ argument that Obergefell cannot be construed to have any retroactive effect because “the Supreme Court acknowledged that it was attributing a new meaning to the Fourteenth Amendment based on ‘new insights and societal un-

derstandings’� — the court opined that Pidgeon and Hicks should have an opportunity to “develop� their argument before the trial court. This contention about retroactivity is not shared by other courts that have ruled on the question, including some that have retroactively applied Obergefell to find that cohabiting same-sex couples in states with common law marriage can be held to have been legally married prior to June 2015. Indeed, the federal government even gave Windsor retroactive application, allowing same-sex couples to file for tax refunds for earlier years on the basis that the Internal Revenue Service’s refusal to recognize their state-law marriages under DOMA had been unconstitutional. The Texas Supreme Court agreed with Pidgeon that the Texas Court of Appeals should not have directed the trial court to rule “consistent with DeLeon� because, technically, the state trial courts are not bound by constitutional rulings of the federal courts of appeals, only by US Supreme Court rulings on questions of federal law. DeLeon could be a “persuasive� precedent, but not a “binding� precedent, Texas’ high court said. Which merits a big “so what?� After all, the real question in this case is whether Obergefell requires that married same-sex couples are entitled to the “same benefits� as different-sex couples from their municipal employer, and the answer to that could not be more clear, especially after Pavan. (It should be noted that Justice Neil Gorsuch’s dissenting opinion in Pavan repeats the same mistaken assertion — that Obergefell does not clearly require the “same� rights and benefits, which the court’s Per Curiam opinion responds to by quoting from Obergefell to the opposite effect — and is just as disingenuous as Justice Boyd’s decision for the Texas court.) Now the case goes back to the trial court in Houston, where the outcome should be dictated by Obergefell and Pavan v. Smith and the court should dismiss this case. But, since this is taking place in Texas, where contempt for federal law is openly expressed by public officials, who knows how it will turn out? July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


FAMILY

Birth Certificate Win at the Supreme Court Arkansas high court decision overturned, but with telling dissent by Justice Neil Gorsuch BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

I

n the final day of its term, the US Supreme Court ruled that when a child is born to a woman married to another woman, both women should be listed as parents on the child’s birth certificate. The 6-3 ruling in Pavan v. Smith on June 26 reversed a decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court, and came on the second anniversary of the high court’s Obergefell v. Hodges marriage equality decision, which provided the basis for this latest gay rights victory. (June 26 is a big day in LGBTQ jurisprudence, with the victory over the Defense of Marriage Act in US v. Windsor coming on this date in 2013 and the Lawrence v. Texas sodomy decision having been announced exactly 14 years prior to Pavan.) The petitioners in this case were two married same-sex couples, Leigh and Jana Jacobs and Terrah and Marisa Pavan. Both couples resided in Arkansas when their children were born in 2015, having previously married out of state, and each had filed paperwork with the state seeking birth certificates listing both mothers as parents. The state turned them down, issuing birth certificates listing just the birth mothers and leaving the space for fathers blank. The Arkansas Health Department argued that this was compelled by a state law providing that when a married woman gives birth, her husband will be listed on the birth certificate. This “parental presumption” means that even if a woman conceives through donor insemination or gets pregnant by another man, her husband is recognized as the child’s father. Incredibly, the Health Department justified its refusal to name both mothers on the birth certificates by saying the certificate’s purpose is to record biological lineage, even though the state pointed to a law requiring that the husband be listed regardless of whether he is biologically related to the child. And, Arkansas issues amended birth certificates when children are adopted, listing their new legal parents, who one assumes would not be biologically related to GayCityNews.nyc | July 06–July 19, 2017

FACEBOOK.COM

Marisa and Terrah Pavan were two of the four plaintiffs in the birth certificate case where they prevailed at the US Supreme Court.

the children. The women sued, and the trial court agreed with them that this result was unconstitutional under Obergefell because the statute “categorically prohibits every same-sex married couple from enjoying the same spousal benefits which are available to every opposite-sex married couple.” The Arkansas Supreme Court was divided in this case. A majority sided with the Health Department, buying its biological lineage argument. “The statute centers on the relationship of the biological mother and the biological father to the child, not on the marital relationship of husband and wife,” the state high court wrote, and so was not inconsistent with Obergefell. The dissenters on the Arkansas Supreme Court, in contrast, wrote that under Obergefell “a same-sex married couple is entitled to a birth certificate on the same basis as an opposite-sex married couple.” The majority on the US Supreme Court agreed with the Arkansas dissenters, finding the case so clear it simultaneously granted the petition for review and issued a decision, without waiting for briefing on the merits or oral argument. The decision was issued “Per Curiam,” without identifying an individual justice as its author. The six-member majority concluded that the Arkansas Supreme

Court’s decision “denied married same-sex couples access to the ‘constellation of benefits that the State has linked to marriage,’” in violation of the Obergefell ruling. Noting that birth certificates are “used for important transactions like making medical decisions for a child or enrolling a child in school,” the high court concluded that “Obergefell proscribes such disparate treatment” as the Arkansas policy creates. The majority pointed out that the Obergefell decision specifically included “birth and death certificates” in its list of “rights, benefits, and responsibilities” of marriage to which same-sex couples are entitled on the same basis as different-sex couples. “That was no accident,” said the court’s opinion, as “several of the plaintiffs in Obergefell challenged a State’s refusal to recognize their same-sex spouses on their children’s birth certificates. In considering those challenges, we held the relevant state laws unconstitutional to the extent they treated same-sex couples differently from opposite-sex couples.” The court also specifically rejected Arkansas’ argument about biological lineage, citing as a prime example the parental presumption in cases involving donor insemination. “Arkansas has thus chosen to make its birth certificates more than a mere marker of biological relationships: The State uses those certifi-

cates to give married parents a form of legal recognition that is not available to unmarried parents,” the court found. “Having made that choice, Arkansas may not, consistent with Obergefell, deny married same-sex couples that recognition.” The six-member majority included all five justices who supported the Obergefell decision plus Chief Justice John Roberts, the principal dissenter in the 2015 marriage case. Roberts’ vote here is notable, given the vehemence of his dissent in Obergefell. It is apparent that he now accepts that ruling as precedent with which the Arkansas high court decision was inconsistent. Not so the three dissenters — Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and the recently installed Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the dissent on their behalf. When Gorsuch was nominated, it was predicted he would be as bad for LGBTQ rights as his predecessor, Justice Antonin Scalia, if not worse. His dissent here vindicated that view. First, he scolded the court for deciding the case summarily, arguing that the law in question is not “settled and stable,” and he did not view it as clear that Obergefell would invalidate state laws restricting who could be listed on a birth certificate when they were justified by a policy of recording biological ties. Gorsuch took the narrow view of the 2015 marriage ruling that some lower courts have adopted in birth certificate litigation around the country, arguing that “nothing in Obergefell spoke (let alone clearly) to the question whether [the Arkansas statute], or a state supreme court decision upholding it, must go. The statute in question establishes a set of rules designed to ensure that the biological parents of a child are listed on the child’s birth certificate.” This is, of course, incorrect, as the majority’s opinion demonstrated. Requiring that the husband of a woman who conceives through donor insemination be listed as the child’s father clearly does not “ensure” that the biological parents of a child are listed on the certificate. In fact, as

BIRTH CERTIFICATES, continued on p.31

21


AT 25, DYKE MARCH MORE PASSIONATE THAN EVER

Rise and resist was a big theme in the June 24 March.

Maxine Wolfe from the Lesbian Herstory Archives celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Dyke March, with Sergeant Arthur Smarsch.

Young marchers brought wonder to the event.

The Dyke March banner is carried south below the Empire State Building.

PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO

T

Dyke visibility, of course, was key to the day.

he Dyke March, which precedes the annual LGBTQ Pride March by a day, traditionally has a louder, more determined, and more political voice than the bigger parade-style event. This year, for its 25th anniversary, the June 24 Dyke March down Fifth Avenue to Washington Square Park was a particularly defiant celebration of lesbian visibility and resistance.

The cistem was a target…

Some marchers added the rainbow.

GayCityNews.nyc | July 06–July 19, 2017

Yetta Kurland.

Diversity was another big part of the day’s spirit.

… As was the system.

The urgency of the issues facing the lesbian community was emphasized in many ways.

There was a steady drumbeat of passion about the afternoon, as Edie Windsor (pink hat at right) shows.

The dangers of resurgent misogyny were on the minds of many, in the midst of an exuberant event.

25


CIVIL RIGHTS

Anti-LGBTQ Mississippi Law Prevails on Appeal Ruling on standing, not the merits, panel still suggests religious establishment objection wouldn’t fly BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

A

three-judge panel of the Houston-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved a preliminary injunction and dismissed two lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that protects people acting on anti-LGBTQ views from adverse action by state and local governments there. On June 30 of last year, US District Judge Carlton Reeves, finding that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on their claim that H.B. 1523 violated their equal protection rights as well as the constitutional prohibition on establishment of religion, issued a preliminary injunction. That kept the law from taking effect on July 1, 2016, as it was due to. Ruling last week, on June 22, the panel found that none of the plaintiffs had standing to bring a

challenge because, in the court’s opinion, none had suffered an individualized injury. The appellate panel was careful to state that, because the plaintiffs’ lack of standing deprived them of jurisdiction over the case, the three judges were not expressing an opinion about whether the law was constitutional. The plaintiffs’ attorneys from the two cases announced they would seek “en banc” review by the full Fifth Circuit bench and, failing that, would petition the Supreme Court. The Fifth Circuit is a notably conservative bench, however, with only four of the 14 active judges having been appointed by Democratic presidents. The three-judge panel that issued this decision consisted entirely of Republican appointees. H.B. 1523 specifically protects three “religious beliefs or moral

convictions” held by people for which they cannot suffer any “discriminatory” action by the state — including adverse tax rulings, benefits eligibility, employment decisions, imposition of fines, or denial of occupational licenses. Those beliefs are that “(a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; (b) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and (c) male (man) or female (woman) refers to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.” The law authorizes people with claims they have suffered adverse action based on their having one of those three beliefs to sue state officials. H.B. 1523 also specifically protects religious organizations in discriminating against LGBTQ people in employment, housing,

child placement, and marriages, and protects parents who decide to “raise their foster or adoptive children in accordance” with one of the three listed beliefs. Businesses that provide wedding services are protected against liability for denying such services to LGBTQ people, as are medical and mental health care providers, except in emergency medical situations (and a health care provider cannot interfere with visitation by a patient’s designated representative, who may be a same-sex partner or spouse). State agencies that license professionals may not refuse to license somebody because they hold or articulate one of the three listed antiLGBTQ beliefs. The statute also specifically protects “any entity that establishes sex-specific standards for facilities such as locker rooms or rest-

MISSISSIPPI, continued on p.32

Jersey Trans Teen Wins Name Change Case In case of first impression, Trevor Betts prevails over father’s initial objections BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

I

n what the court characterized as a matter of “first impression in this state,” New Jersey Superior Court Judge Marcia Silva has granted a transgender teenager a change of name from Veronica to Trevor. “At the parties’ request,” Silva wrote, “this court has used the parties’ real names. It was also Trevor’s desire that his name be used in this opinion.” Though Silva decided the case on March 17, her opinion was not approved for publication until June 28. While this may have been the first such case among published court opinions in New Jersey, Trevor is not the first transgender minor to get a court-approved name change. Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy from Virginia whose lawsuit against his school district to gain appropri-

26

ate restroom access is still pending before the federal appeals court in Richmond even though he recently graduated from Gloucester County High School, received a legal name change, as have some other transgender teens involved in litigation against their schools. Trevor’s case was originally contested. His parents divorced in 2011 and have joint custody, though Trevor lives with his mother, Janet Sacklow. His father, Richard Betts, consented to Trevor beginning hormone treatments in 2014, first to suppress menstruation and then, in 2016, by using testosterone to begin masculinizing his body. Richard was opposed to the name change, however. Janet filed the petition seeking the name change on Trevor’s behalf on September 12, 2016, naming Richard as the defendant. He did not drop his opposition until after he

heard Trevor testify during a hearing on March 7. The biggest issue for Judge Silva was whether the court had any judgment to exercise in this case once the consent of both parents had been obtained. When an adult petitions for a name change, New Jersey law dictates that the court should grant the change unless there is some public interest in denying it, usually based on a finding it is being done to perpetrate a fraud on creditors or to avoid criminal prosecution. Unless one of those complicating factors is present, the court is normally not required to make any finding as to whether the name change is in the applicant’s best interest. Back in 1991, a New Jersey trial judge refused to grant a transgender adult’s petition for a name change, holding that “it is inherently fraudulent for a person who is physically a male to assume an obviously ‘female’

name for the sole purpose of representing himself to future employers and society as a female.” The Appellate Division reversed that ruling, stating that “a person has a right to a name change whether he or she has undergone or intends to undergo a sex change through surgery, has received hormonal injections to induce physical change, is a transvestite, or simply wants to change from a traditional ‘male’ first name to one traditionally ‘female’ or vice versa.” In short, where an adult is concerned, the court has limited discretion to deny a name change, and in New Jersey it has been established for more than a quarter-century that a name change to accord with gender identity is not deemed fraudulent as such. The issue for minors is different, Silva explained.

NAME CHANGE, continued on p.39

July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS, from p.5

precedent, it could easily follow the route taken by several state courts that have refused businesses religious exemptions from complying with anti-discrimination laws. Or, it could use this case to back away from the Employment Division holding or narrow it in some way. If it sticks with its precedents, however, the high court is unlikely to rule for Phillips on the free speech argument, since the recognized constitutional exception is for organizations or activities that have a primary or significant expressive purpose. Both the Boston St. Patrick’s Day and the Boy Scout rulings involved non-profit organizations — not businesses — that were engaged in activities that the court found to have strong expressive association claims. It is unlikely that a business whose primary activity is selling cakes could make a similar claim. But the Supreme Court can be full of surprises, and there have been significant changes in its membership since these cases were decided. It might bow to ADF’s argument that

BIRTH CERTIFICATES, from p.21

the Per Curiam opinion noted, if the biological father of a child is not the mother’s husband, he can be listed on the birth certificate only if he, the husband, and the mother all agree in sworn statements. Gorsuch also noted that Arkansas ofials now agree that a birth mother’s spouse should be listed on the birth certificate — though state law has not been amended to reflect that change in policy — and so the newest justice professed to seeing no reason for the court’s ruling. “It is not even clear what the Court expects to happen on remand [to the Arkansas courts] that hasn’t happened already,” Gorsuch wrote. The proper action on remand, in fact, is an Arkansas judicial declaration that same-sex spouses are entitled to be listed on birth certificates and a permanent injunction requiring that result, something that is not a superfluous step, since the State Legislature has not amended the statute. The Supreme Court’s ruling will affect pending litigation elsewhere. In Arizona, a panel of the state’s intermediate court of appeals ruled on GayCityNews.nyc | July 06–July 19, 2017

people of strong religious convictions who wish to incorporate those beliefs into their businesses have a right not to be compelled by the government to undertake activities expressing views contrary to their religious beliefs. If the court came to that conclusion, it would potentially tear a big hole in the protection against discrimination provided by the public accommodations laws of most states, and not just those that ban discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Colorado Court of Appeals’ decision will be defended before the Supreme Court by the state’s attorneys. Craig and Mullins have been represented by the American Civil Liberties Union in their litigation efforts. Lambda Legal and One Colorado, with cooperating attorneys John McHugh and Anthony Giacomini of Denver-based Reilly Pozner LLP, filed an amicus brief in response to the ADF petition to the Supreme Court. Given the strong interest in this case, it is likely to spawn a blizzard of additional amicus briefs. Oral argument will be held sometime next winter.

June 22 that a lesbian co-parent was not entitled to be listed on a birth certificate, conflicting with a ruling by another panel of the same court. The issue was recently granted review by the Arizona Supreme Court. The Arizona panel that ruled against the lesbian co-parent on June 22 cited the Arkansas Supreme Court’s ruling as well as a 2015 decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Plaintiffs in the Wisconsin case should be able to file a new suit based on Pavan, though perhaps this new ruling will convince state officials there to drop their obstruction and accord equal treatment to same-sex married couples. The plaintiffs in this case were represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, with local counsel Cheryl Maples of Heber Springs, Arkansas. Attorneys from the Washington and Boston offices of Ropes & Gray, LLP, worked on the case in collaboration with NCLR, and R&G’s Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, one of the attorneys who participated in the 2015 oral argument in the marriage equality cases, was counsel of record here, and might have argued the case had the Supreme Court scheduled a hearing.

FAMILY

PRIDE

To advertise contact: Gayle H. Greenberg 718-260-4585 ggreenberg@cnglocal.com 31


IT’S STILL JUST A DRAG MARCH

PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO

O

n Friday evening, June 24, perhaps the most colorful annual event unfolded in the Village. With resistance in the air, however, this often-frivolous fun was imbued with plenty of anger and passion about the state of our union.

MISSISSIPPI, from p.26

rooms,” as well as state employees who want to voice the beliefs listed in the statute. It also allows county clerks and judges to refuse services to same-sex couples seeking to marry, as long as arrangements are made through another public employee to allow such marriages to take place without delay. The law, then, clearly aims at providing “special rights” to people claiming a religious or moral basis for discriminating against LGBTQ people and same-sex couples. Given that Mississippi law does nothing to protect the civil rights of LGBTQ people anyway, many of this statute’s provisions are more symbolic than real. Even before its enactment, a Mississippi landlord faced no state law penalty for refusing to rent to a same-sex cou-

32

ple, for example, and businesses in that state were free to deny goods or services to people who are gay or transgender without incurring penalty. Few local governments in Mississippi have adopted laws that would be affected either, although some educational institutions would clearly be impacted, especially by the facilities access provision. In the eyes of the appeals court, the plaintiffs had not articulated the kind of particularized injury that would give them standing to sue the state in federal court before the law had even taken effect. The plaintiffs’ suits relied heavily on the argument that the law imposes a stigma, signaling second-class citizenship, and seeks to enshrine by statute particular religious views. The court rejected these arguments as insufficient to establish

standing. The plaintiffs pointed to cases in which courts had ruled that plaintiffs offended by governmentsponsored religious displays could challenge them under the First Amendment in federal court, but Judge Jerry E. Smith, writing for the panel, rejected this analogy. The court found that by protecting both “religious beliefs and moral convictions,” the Legislature had avoided privileging religion, since persons whose anti-gay beliefs were not religiously-motivated would be protected from adverse government treatment under this act. An atheist who believes samesex marriage is wrong or that gender is immutable would be protected, even if these beliefs had no religious basis. Similarly, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ standing as taxpayers,

finding that H.B. 1523 did not authorize expenditures in support of religion. One plaintiff who based his standing on his intention to marry in the future was rejected by the court, which pointed out that he did not specify when or where he intended to marry. “He does not allege that he was seeking wedding-related services from a business that would deny him or that he was seeking a marriage license or solemnization from a clerk or judge who would refuse to be involved in such a ceremony, or even that he intended to get married in Mississippi,” wrote Judge Smith. The court made clear that if anybody actually suffers a concrete injury after the law goes into effect, they could file a new lawsuit and raise their challenge. July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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GayCityNews.nyc | July 06â&#x20AC;&#x201C;July 19, 2017

33


LET TER FROM THE EDITOR PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN

jgoodstein@cnglocal.com

Whose Resistance Is It?

FOUNDING EDITOR IN-CHIEF & ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER PAUL SCHINDLER

editor@gaycitynews.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR DUNCAN OSBORNE

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NATIONAL DISPLAY ADVERTISING Rivendell Media / 212.242.6863 Gay City News, The Newspaper Serving Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender NYC, is published by NYC Community Media, LLC. Send all inquiries to: Gay City News, One Metrotech North, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Phone: 212.229.1890 Written permission of the publisher must be obtained before any of the contents of this paper, in part or whole, can be reproduced or redistributed. All contents © 2017 Gay City News. Gay City News is a registered trademark of NYC Community Media, LLC. Jennifer Goodstein, CEO Fax: 212.229.2790; E-mail: jgoodstein@cnglocal.com

© 2017 Gay City News. All rights reserved. FOUNDING MEMBER

34

BY PAUL SCHINDLER

H

alf a dozen years ago, a divisive battle broke out at New York’s LGBT Community Center between supporters of Israel and activists opposed to the Jewish State’s treatment of its Palestinian and Arab residents. Some LGBTQ New Yorkers, including several elected officials as well as others with influence on the Center’s board, objected to the use of Center space by Queers Against Israeli Apartheid and other critics of that nation. The issue was emotionally fraught — with charges of antiSemitism and of genocide traded back and forth. But the Center’s solution at the time was one I criticized — placing an indefi nite moratorium on any discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian confl ict in its space. What should stand as a model refuge for open discussion across New York’s large and diverse LGBTQ community instead became someplace where important issues of the day were explicitly sidelined. That’s not what the Center should be about. Fortunately that policy was shelved when it reached its absurd apotheosis — the Center’s refusal in early 2013 to allow lesbian writer Sarah Schulman, a Jewish critic of Israel, to discuss her book “Israel/ Palestine and the Queer International.” This Pride season, we’ve sadly learned that it’s not necessarily supporters of Israel who are the fi rst to try to straightjacket the LGBTQ community’s discussion of the Middle East. Shocking news out of Chicago reported that several women carrying Rainbow Flags bearing Stars of David were told to leave the Dyke March there. According to the Windy City Times, an LGBTQ newspaper, members of the Dyke March Collective who intervened to eject the women told them the event was “anti-Zionist” and “pro-Palestinian” and that the Star of David “triggered” other dykes marching. Some of the ensuing debate centered on whether or not the Star of

David is an explicitly Zionist symbol, but taking fi rst things fi rst: What kind of historical blindness and moral obtuseness would lead so-called progressives to ban the Star of David? Did these collective members have no awareness of how the Nazis used this symbol as a way to ostracize and, over time, exterminate Europe’s Jewish population? Did they have no appreciation for how excluding these women from the Dyke March would inevitably be seen as antiSemitic? Beyond that tone-deafness is the broader question of whether community space — whether at New York’s LGBT Community Center or in Chicago’s Dyke March — should be restricted based on one’s view of the Israeli-Palestinian question. I understand that critical human rights questions and values are at stake in the Middle East, and I would never argue that our community has no stake in how such issues are adjudicated. But we make a grave mistake in demarcating “citizenship” in our community based on the views someone has on this very difficult matter. Debating questions like this should be embraced as a welcome sign our community can tolerate and contain disagreement — even ones where deeply held beliefs are involved. Arguing that certain ideas are dangerous because they “trigger” others is an intellectually and morally lazy assertion that we’re better off if we avoid certain difficult issues by simply not talking about them. We’re better and stronger than that — or we ought to be. Our community faces enormous existential threats under the new Trump administration, and we better get serious about ordering our priorities. Otherwise we run the risk of drowning in our own divisions, unable to put up any kind of consistent and concerted resistance. Activist groups — Rise and Resist and Gays Against Guns, chief among them — laudably stepped up this year and won a big concession from Heritage of Pride (HOP),

which produces the LGBTQ Pride March: prominent placement in the order of march for critics of the Trump regime. Other activists, less willing to do the spadework, instead chose to piggyback off the resistance contingent’s efforts, jumping in with the goal of blockading the March based on diffuse demands that police officers and corporate sponsors not be allowed to participate. Absent from any of the HOP forums where other activists made their case, Hoods4Justice simply threw some rhetoric up on social media and then showed up. Tellingly, when a dozen of them managed to tie the parade up for half an hour outside the Stonewall Inn — blocking several LGBTQ law enforcement contingents from moving forward — they made no particular effort to educate the confused spectators about their demands. Instead, they focused on ugly provocations. One marcher wore a sign reading, “Good queers kill cops” on her back. A disruptor fi lming those sitting-in for online PR purposes could barely stay focused on that task as he screamed “pig” and “Nazi” to a police officer calmly trying to bring the blockade to an end. The community would do well to open up debate over the character of the Pride March. Hoods4Justice members are hardly alone in their discomfort with the commercialism on display. Nor are they the only activists concerned about continued police abuses aimed at segments of the LGBTQ community. But where were these disruptors prior to June 25? And what gives them the right to read out of the community LGBTQ law enforcement professionals who, against very long odds, have brought a queer perspective into policing in this city and elsewhere? Principled and strategic resistance is what is needed now. Angry and divisive tantrums that provide succor for nihilistic narcissism, however, get us nowhere. Again, we ought to be stronger and better than that. July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus

The Root of Chump’s Lies BY ED SIKOV

D

uring the grotesque period between Chump’s election and inauguration, one of the things with which those of us with our minds still intact consoled ourselves was the conviction that we would be able to stop the “normalization” of Chumpism — the idea that somehow we could, through sheer force of will, keep the whole thing seeming aberrant for four solid years. We see now that this was pure fantasy. We can no more put a halt to the normalization of Chump’s lies, his tacky, petty obsession with “fake news” and disobedient journalists, and so on, than we can stop the earth from turning. In fact, what no one foresaw was that merely reporting the news would itself serve to normalize it. In other words, when the news is crazy, as it mostly is in the Chump era, reporting it makes insanity seem everyday. Take the New York Times’ extraordinary collection of all of Chump’s lies, which the newspaper has been running daily in its web edition. At first, when the Times began calling them what they were — lies — it was shocking. The newspaper even ran a piece explaining its editors’ decision, bold at that more innocent time, to go with the word “lie” instead of employing standard, fluffy euphemisms like “misspoke,” “inaccuracy,” “falsehood,” and the like. But nobody foresaw the tsunami of lies that has defined the Chump administration from Day 1. So para-

doxically, David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson’s catalogue of his rampant lies only serves to make them seem routine. They flow forth so regularly from the Oval Orifice that one has to wonder if he is even remotely aware that what he says is complete and utter bullshit. Leonhardt and Thompson take a few topics and analyze them in detail. For example, they noticed that “Trump’s public lies often changed with repetition,” that the moron “can’t even keep his untruths straight.” They cite his complete turnaround on a campaign pledge to label China a currency manipulator and the varying times he claimed that China had stopped the practice. On April 21, it was “from the time I took office.” On April 29, it was “during the election.” It became “as soon as I got elected” on April 30, but by May 1, the very next day, it had turned into “since I started running.” It still wasn’t over; three days later, he asserted that China stopped the practice of manipulating currency “since I’ve been talking about currency manipulation.” I blame his tiny penis. Ever since the great, late-lamented Spy magazine began calling him “the smallfingered vulgarian,” Chump has been unable to stop talking about the size of his hands, which clearly stand in, in his mind, for his dick. He even referred to his dick directly during one of the presidential debates, marking what was then a tacky new low in his supremely tacky run for office. (He quickly surpassed that moment, however. By the end of the election, calling him a “vulgarian” might well

have been considered praise.) Lying about the size of one’s cock is, for men, the primal lie. Once you’ve crossed the line on that topic, there’s no turning back. In a sense, Chump’s lies are in varying measures the measure of his manhood. I never thought I’d be writing about the president’s piddling rod, but here we are. Normalization: inevitable. The real enemy? “At a time when we should be focusing on the threats from North Korea and Putin and ISIS, we’re having to deal with a threat here at home — a domestic threat — of allowing transgenders [sic] in our service, which is a real problem because it impacts their readiness, and it’s a huge cost for our military.” This is what Representative Vicky Hartzler, a Missouri Republican, puked up on what Think Progress’ Zack Ford described as a call “to the anti-LGBTQ hate group the Family Research Council,” but what was more likely a call to the group’s radio show. Hartzler is upset at the idea of inclusion; trans folks apparently should be barred from serving in the military because, well, they cost too much. She repeated what Ford calls “her completely bogus claim,” first floated during a meeting of the House Armed Services Committee, “that transgender-related surgeries will cost the military $1.35 billion over the next 10 years. That figure is 16 times more than the highest estimates provided by the RAND Corporation, and Hartzler’s office has still not responded to a ThinkProgress inquiry as to where she came up with that number.”

If you’re going to exaggerate costs, you may as well go for broke. You Can’t Make This Shit Up “Angry Christian activist Linda Harvey wants to trademark the rainbow to prevent it from being raped by gays and lesbians.” Oh, really? How exactly does one rape a rainbow? “The sweet rainbow image has been violated, raped by the deluded and fraudulent, and it now serves too often as a garish signpost for slavery to grave homosexual sin. From shameful pride parades to hats, T-shirts, wristbands, and buttons sold at Target or Walmart, sexual deviance is being colorfully and arrogantly proclaimed from America’s rooftops.” This insanity is chronicled by Michael Stone on Patheos.com under the subhead “Progressive Secular Humanist.” “At once both ludicrous and malicious,” Stone writes, “a breathless Harvey continues her absurd, hatefilled, anti-gay rant: ‘It’s clear God did not intend for the rainbow to represent rebellion, iniquity, and division. So how did this precious symbol become the banner, with few objections, for human depravity, lust, defiance, and heresy? Rainbow flags are flown in America from some government buildings, at some of our embassies, and these colors on several occasions even lit up our White House (under the former regime, thank God).’” What have those fiwthy homosexuaws done with God’s pwetty wainbow? They’ve wuined it! Follow @edsikov on Twitter and Facebook.

PERSPECTIVE: A Dyke Abroad

Abandoning Outrage BY KELLY COGSWELL

I

’ve been thinking about outrage lately, and how inadequate it is when it comes to Americans and Trump. Maybe the problem is that outrage requires some level of surprise, and, at this point, surprise seems false, even bizarre, in the face of a president who revealed himself clearly in all his pre-election conspiracy tweets and unsavory deeds: from boasts about grabbing GayCityNews.nyc | July 06–July 19, 2017

pussy to KKK-filled rallies to asking why we couldn’t just nuke undesirable people or countries. Yep, he was pretty clear up front about his goal to take us back to the good old days when a man, a white man, could buy a home with a good blue collar salary. And the women and the blacks and browns and gays and dangerous foreigners all knew their third-class place. The outrage seems especially false when it comes from a Sandersembracing Democratic Party who

share certain goals with Trump –– the delusional return of heavy industry, the retreat from international agreements, the rescue of an idealized working class, which is somehow always defined as white and male. They’re still salivating over the mythical Trump voters, no matter that study after study proves poor whites –– like poor people of color –– actually voted for Clinton. That it was mostly middle and upper class white folks characterized by pathological bigotry that voted for Trump. Instead of trying to rise and resist fueled by outrage — and a good dose

of righteousness — why not lie down and concede? Who has the time or energy to think past Trump? Me, I no longer have the skills. I invested so many years in outrage that there are only ashes left where my brain once was. Outrage, after all, was what mobilized me as a Lesbian Avenger. It was what I’d try to inspire in you with my writing, imagining you’d be forced to act if you felt the same horror and anger I did at queers getting beaten and killed. Or cops gunning down some man raising his wallet in a black

OUTRAGE, continued on p.38

35


PERSPECTIVE: The View From L A

Why I Chose To Be Gay BY DAVID EHRENSTEIN

Y

es, you read that right. And yes, I’m quite aware of what those words imply. It’s 2017 and the notion that sexual orientation is anything other than innate is understood in American culture — and widely accepted in much of the “civilized” world as well. But said acceptance has arrived only in the wake of an intense ideological battle that consumed most of the 20th century, and contines in one form or another to this very day. For while men and women may be “oriented” to persons of their own gender, the “other” one, or both, the society that contains them has perpetually privileged “opposite sex” commingling, ritually attacking anything and anyone that deviates from this alleged “norm.” It’s in this regard that one chooses to be gay — and is therefore forced to deal with the often-dire results of doing so. What signals these dire results is the presumption behind the query “Is it a choice?” For if being gay is a choice, then the conservative doxa can feel free to declare, “You chose wrong. Try again!” However my declaration of choice proceeds from quite a different perspective — one the conservatives heartily disapprove of. Even a cursory glance at history will show opposition to same-sexuality wasn’t always in play. In different cultures and different eras, same-sex relations were by and large regarded as an understood phenomenon with no particular concern about it. There were, of course, many variations on this. In the Old Testament of the King James version of the Bible, for instance, the Book of Leviticus contains a passage ritually highlighted by rightwing fundamentalists stating that “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” By contrast, in the Book of Samuel, the love of David and Jonathan is hailed as “ passing the love of women.” King James, by the way, was a same-sex enthusiast himself, which is in and

36

of itself scarely execptional across the course of human history. But that doesn’t make the king and his kind gay by modern standards. In terms of recent history, particular note should be made of Christopher Marlowe’s “Edward II” (1593, memorably filmed by Derek Jarman in 1991), in which a monarch’s love for another man is deemed a threat to the state and consequently brought to a violent end. Marlowe himself has been quoted as declaring, “All they that love not tobacco and boys are fools.” Oh snap! The socio-political upset his “Edward II” dramatizes underscores how samesex relations could make its practitioners “enemies of the state” — a situation one finds in many regions of the world today (Chechnya being but one example) thanks in many ways to what has happened in the West ever since the Stonewall Riots. Today in places like Chechnya, gay rights are regarded as part and parcel of “Western values” and are opposed as such. But before getting to Stonewall, we must go back to the close of the 19th century when a Hungarian journalist named Károly Mária Benkert ( also known as Károly Mária von Kertbeny) invented the term “heterosexual’ to denote oppositesex relations and distingish them from “homosexual” — the word he crafted to label same-sex practitioners. Heterosexuality and homosexuality were then taken up by medical authorities who for obvious profit deemed the former “normal” and the latter a “perversion” and an “illness” — a situation that persisted until 1974 when the American Psychiatric Association declassified it as such, thus “curing” millions of people of this “mental illness” instantaneously. Prior to this copasetic turn of events — which transpired thanks to the efforts of the gays and lesbians who organized in Stonewall’s wake — precious few of the samesex oriented declared themselves to be so given the socio-political weaponization of Benkert’s label. One could lose their job, their home, the love of their parents, even their life. No wonder the entire subject of homosexuality was deemed verboten in polite conversation, and so exiled to the realm of gossip.

This disenfranchisement of the sexually non-conforming, of course, was experienced differently based on class. Those with money could live as they pleased, as no one would presume to “ask” or “tell.” A “New York Marriage” of convenience — the option chosen by Cole Porter, Lincoln Kirstein, and Leonard Bernstein, among many — also served to dissuade prying eyes and wagging tongues. In any event, working in the arts world allowed you to luck out, as this bohemian subset by its very nature lived at a remove from the status quo, which few worried that it threatened. Still, even with all those buffers, same-sexuality remained a rare topic for conversation, save in whispers. As for everyone else, from bus drivers to ribbon clerks to office drones, short-order cooks, and desperate housewives, they took their chances. Small-town America was hostile to any nonconformity. The anonminity of big cities was far preferable. But even there, unless one was financially well-fixed it was advisable to take cover in one way or another. The pressures of doing so were often alleviated by the “gay families” formed on an ad hoc basis for fun and social shelter. But as Mart Crowley’s seminal play “The Boys in the Band” showed, friends could often be “frenemies” in such sociopolitically hostile circumstances. Exceedingly hostile, in fact, considering that it was illegal for any establishment to become known as a place where the same-sex oriented congregated. The threat of police raids on such establishments proved a boon to organized crime, which was happy to run clandestine bars (serving over-priced watered drinks) while paying off the police on the side to keep them open. When payments didn’t arrive on time or were deemed insufficient, the cops desceneded — which is precisely what happened on that tumultuous June night in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn. But if one took proper precautions, enjoyment could be found, as Frank O’Hara indicated in his poem “Ave Maria,” which describes being picked up at the movies by “a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the Heaven on Earth Bldg. near the Williamsburg Bridge.” It’s against this backdrop that my discovery of having what early 1960s softcore pulp novels called “strange twilight urges” did not up-

set me as it did many others. I lived in O’Hara’s New York, after all, and was destined to work in the arts, attending as I was its High School of Music and Art, a rare refuge that was sexually enightened to the max. At the very first school assembly, I saw a pair of senoir boys curled up in the back of the auditorium making out in full view of literally everyone. I was surprised but in no way displeased. It was for me simply the “coming attactions.” My high school years from 1961-1964 were full of flirtations, heavy petting, and sometimes more. One summer in those years my parents elected to have me take an acting course at New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I had fun, even while discovering that acting wasn’t for me. I also discovered my self-reliance, when another student took me aside and informed me in hushed, slightly threatening tones, “You have faggot tendencies.” I wasn’t upset so much as startled by his desire to inform me of the obvious. It was my first encounter with what I would later learn was a closet queen — a man so discombobulated by his strange twilight urges that he not only hid them but struck out at those who didn’t. I soon migrated to the world of avant-garde film, filled with openand-above-board same-sexers like Gregory Markopoulos, Kenneth Anger, and, especially, Andy Warhol. I interviewed Andy extensively at his legendary Silver Factory in its early ‘60s prime, and also hung out there, where my experiences proved central to my discovery of what was called the Gay World. As writer and incurable diseuse Fran Lebowitz has noted of that era, “In New York, being gay was not enough. Here, there was a hierarchy that had to do with intelligence or with a certain kind of cultivation. And partially this was caused by the invisibility of homosexuality in the culture. There was just no awareness of it. It just didn’t exist, but it also operated kind of like a secret society. And so part of the older men taking younger men to the ballet, part of that was — if you want to call it — mentorship and part of it was just seduction.” Part of the seduction had to do with the notion that it “didn’t exist” — which of course it did, though the

CHOOSING, continued on p.37

July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


CHOOSING, from p.36

socially-imposed silence enveloping it served as a kind of protective shield. It allowed Andy to be as “unmasculine” as hell and make films like “Blow Job,” “Horse,” and “My Hustler” without ever being seriously interrogated about it. But sex was not all that mattered in this context. Behind this silent shield one also learned about what really mattered: Maria Callas, Jean Genet, Allen Ginsberg, Noël Coward, Stephen Sondheim, Elaine Stritch, the New York City Ballet under George Balanchine, and the Broadway stage under Jerome Robbins. Stonewall signaled that “silence” had run its course. Many redecorated their closets, but others were bursting out of them, quite dramatically. It was because of those souls that I soon found myself in the ranks of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), fighting for a world where one could be openly gay as a matter of course. Today, the notion that so many were fearful of coming out seems quaint. Many were reluctant not only to come out to the world at large but even to themselves. Some claimed they were merely “going through a phase” or were “really bisexual” — though that wasn’t at all the case. As a result, ill-advised marriages to persons of the opposite sex continued to be made. But then came AIDS, and that changed everything. Fran Lebowitz again: “ After AIDS, I think that [homosexual] people were afraid of a kind of official response to AIDS, like they would be arrested, or put in jail, all these kind of things, which are not unlikely things, by the way, and so they made up a lie. ‘We’re just like you. We are just like you, we’re exactly like you.’ But of course, they were not exactly like straight people. They were nothing like straight people.” And that, of course, is our greatest asset. But realizing that fact and doing something about it must be made fresh with every generation, even in the face of those trying their best to be “imitation heterosexuals.” We’ve come a long way from the likes of Katharine Hepburn, who worked tirelessly to turn her on-screen romance with Spencer Tracy into an off-screen reality the better to cover up her lesbianism, to out (from the start) lesbians like Kate McKinnon and the (finally) out and proud Jodie Foster. But the fight never seems to end — the ever-so-coyly closeted Kevin Spacey being a perfect example. I was reminded of this by a photograph recently taken of Gauthier Destenay, the husband of Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, with the spouses of other world leaders — all of whom were female. Donald Trump’s White House initially didn’t wish to make note of Destenay’s presence in captioning the photo. But they eventually capitulated, thanks to media insistence. This is a far from my GAA days spent trying to get the media to take notice of us in any way, shape, or form. That media notice now goes to the point of chronicling the antics of alt-right homocon Milo Yiannopoulos, whose seething hatred of women, GayCityNews.nyc | July 06–July 19, 2017

transgender people, and anyone on the political left places him in the position formally reserved not just for Roy Cohn, but also carnival geeks who chew the heads off of live chickens. Clearly Milo has made his choice to turn self-loathing into a “lifestyle.” My choice to be gay was made in high school. And it was strengthened thanks to my discovery of Frank O’Hara, who inadvertently outlines it in a poem called “At The Old Place” about a clandestine gay dance club he went to in the 1950s: Down the dark stairs drifts the steaming chacha-cha. Through the urine and smoke we charge

to the floor. Wrapped in Ashes’ arms I glide. (It’s heaven!) Button lindys with me. (It’s heaven!) Joe’s two-steps, too, are incredible, and then a fast rhumba with Alvin, like skipping on toothpicks. And the interminable intermissions, we have them. Jack, Earl and Someone drift guiltily in. “I knew they were gay the minute I laid eyes on them!” screams John. How ashamed they are of us! we hope. “ And as Kevin Spacey shows, some are still really and truly ashamed. And that’s a shame.

1:00 PM KICKOFF OF UNITY PARADE OF FLAGS (FULTON MALL)

2:00 PM CULTURAL PERFORMANCES (COLUMBUS PARK MAIN STAGE)

3:00 PM BROOKLYN FUSION: A CULTURAL CONVERSATION (COLUMBUS PARK MAIN STAGE)

PLUS: THE NEW GLOBAL VILLAGE A TASTE OF ETHNIC CUISINE

TRANSPORTATION 2

R

BUSES: B25, B26, B38, B41, B52, and B103 Brooklyn Borough Hall is ADA-accessible and breastfeeding-friendly

37


LGBT MEMORIAL, from p.9

timeless.” Referring to the portion of Central Park long renowned for gay cruising, Robert Pell-deChame wrote, “Why recreate The Rambles when [the park’s landscape architects] Vaux & Olmsted did it so much better? Put a plaque up there.” And Jay Vithalani wrote, “This appears to be a generically pleasant grassy leafy space with some rocks to sit on and some rocks to look at — and some prisms cuz of course rainbows. What is this evocative of or a *memorial* to — besides some idea of a futuristic gay pastoral? Given the banality — seen through the artist rendering at least — of the result, invective doesn’t even seem worth it. The task was immense and admittedly impossible, as all monumental projects of fissiparous tendencies are impossible. How do you acknowledge and honor so very much, in all its bewildering and indeed contradictory complexity? And yet, artists have risen to that challenge of public-monument impossibility before. What I see here is not a rising-up to the task so much as a sidestepping abdication of it (and not in the spirit of artistic abnegation). Blandness, at least, can never be (publicly) offensive after all.” But Jackie Rudin of Gays Against Guns did find offense in the design, saying, “These rocks

OUTRAGE, from p.35

hand because they were afraid — and never paying for it. At elections being stolen. War declared for no reason. Prisoners tortured. I’d even offer tips for action. Tell my newly furious readers to call this representative. Write that senator. Think about this law. I gradually discovered outrage really only works to elicit more outrage. Real action — not so much. Outraged people might send an email, or go to a couple demos, or vent on Facebook, but real change demands a lot more. It is sometimes boring, and always slow, and actually requires a suspension of the anger that got you involved in the first place. After all, change needs wide

38

look like graves where we — and our issues — are buried and gone, rather than memorials where our strength, love, and persistence will live on forever. I find it repulsive, insulting, and degrading.” Eunic Ortiz, a former president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City and one of the few commissioners who does not work for an agency receiving state funds, said, “As a Latina, I was very proud to see they chose a design from someone of Latino descent because of who we lost at the Pulse — mostly Latinx people.” She added, “I see this at first as something dark, but then the light shines through and our rainbow shines bright. And I truly feel that is the core of our community. No matter what obstacle we may face or road block we have to overcome, we always stand strong and shine forward in the fight for equality.” Jay W. Walker of Rise and Resist said, “The fact that they chose this design rather than the one proposed by the late, great Gilbert Baker shortly before he died — a design that included a permanent Rainbow Flag that LGBTQ+ activist have been clamoring for for years — is the latest example of a tone-deaf, straight, cis political class completely devoid of any understanding of our communities and needs.” Baker’s close friend Charley Beal said that while he is “thrilled” by the Stonewall landmarking

and this new memorial, “it is time for New York to come out of the closet and create a monument to LGBTQ visibility by erecting a 100-foot flagpole with a giant Rainbow Flag on the Hudson River waterfront at the foot of historic Christopher Street.” Beal intends to carry on Baker’s quest for such an installation. Activist and artist Ronald Madson questioned how the winning design would “reflect the centuries of oppression here in the USA and the struggle to get to that modicum of freedom. If the scale shown is the one to be executed, it misses the enormity of the obstacles we have had to overcome, the enormity of our losses, and the struggles we still face.” Cristina Herrera, founder and CEO of the Translatina Network, another commissioner, said the Goicolea design is “a powerful work of art. We were worried about a monument outdoors on the waterfront that can be impacted by weather. It had to have great endurance to be everlasting. It is very welcoming and open and many people can be within the space and celebrate who are as community.” The selection commission was overseen by Alphonso David, the governor’s out gay counsel. Other commission members were Scott P. Campbell, executive director of the Elton John AIDS Foundation; Rose Harvey, commissioner of the State Office of Parks, Rec-

reation and Historic Preservation; Thomas Krever, CEO of the Hetrick-Martin Institute; Kelsey Louie, CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis; Christine Quinn, the former City Council speaker who is now CEO of Women in Need; Melissa Sklarz, development director at the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund; and Glennda Testone, executive director of the LGBT Community Center. While the commission consulted with two art and architecture experts, their names were not released nor were the 40 other submissions for the $800,000 commission. There was no opportunity for the public to comment on any of the designs. David said, “There are no additional formal processes” in the selection process, but “as we go through process of installing, we want community to be engaged. We will hold community forums. Will keep elected officials informed.” He added that the other designs would be released once the winner goes through a contracting process. David called the “underlying premise” for the memorial “challenging,” saying, “This proposal that the commission approved reflects what we were seeking to do — a memorial that reflects pride and tolerance and acceptance within the LGBT community. We hope that when it is installed and fully put in place [in a year] that the majority will see value in it.”

support, and to get it, you can’t just tell people something is right — or wrong — you have to persuade them of it. And that requires making arguments. And effective arguments require getting to know someone and finding common ground, at least on that one issue, and accepting that on others you might remain impossibly far apart. Which means you also have to refuse purity, refuse hate, agree to listen more than speak. Not everyone is cut out for this. Fewer and fewer even try. We’ve replaced analysis with censorship. We have forgotten how to be wrong. We’ve also forgotten how to be right. On Facebook, last week, I noticed that people can’t tell anymore when somebody is trolling them or agreeing with them. Last

week on two different pages and two different threads I saw people get blocked in fury because they restated their agreement in different language or wondered what happened if you took the same train of thought a little further. We’ve all lost our damn minds. Lately, I’ve started to wonder what would happen here if somebody tried to build a movement in the mold of Macron’s successful En Marche in France. There, they did two important things. They divided campaigns by neighborhood. So whomever you talked to from En Marche probably only lived two or three streets away. Right away you had something in common. And during training, all the volunteers were told to remain pleasant no matter what. To listen. To never

dismiss. Never harangue. Even if somebody was offensive. My girlfriend went out to canvas voters and decided to follow instructions even though she was extremely skeptical. And every night she’d come back after handing out flyers or going door-to-door marveling that in divided, combative, bitterly sectarian France something so simple worked time after time — if not to win a vote, at least to open an honest dialogue among citizens. A dialogue free of hate and outrage that, if sustained, might in time change things much more than an election, though they pulled off the win, too. Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press. July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


NAME CHANGE, from p.26

Most name change petitions for minors involve situations where the parents are divorcing and the mother, who may have primary residential custody, is planning to assume her maiden name and wants her child to have the same last name as her. In such cases, where the father may be opposed, the court has to referee the situation by figuring out whether it is in the child’s best interest for a change of surname, and in a 1995 case a New Jersey court set out a list of factors to consider. The decision to change a given name to reflect gender identity presents different issues, but Silva concluded that in light of the court’s role as a guardian of the interests of children “the best interest of the child standard should apply.” The judge acknowledged that though the cases involving surnames “provide some guidance to this court, they do not fully address whether the proposed name change is in Trevor’s best interest.” In considering Trevor’s case, Silva explained she would consider his age, how long he has used the name Trevor, “any potential anxiety, embarrassment, or discomfort that may result from the child having a name he or she believes does not match his or her outward appearance and gender identity,” the history

TRANS SENIORS, from p.17

9,500 people offered comments to the federal government through a link provided there. In total, Adams said, roughly 15,000 people voiced their opposition to the elimination of sexual orientation and gender identity categories on the survey during the 60-day comment period. The public now has until July 22 to offer comment on the revised survey format, and SAGE will continue to direct those interested in voicing their views through its website. “What we have seen is that opposition and public comment can have an effect,” Adams said, noting that the opposition included leading expert voices in the aging community. Press scrutiny, he said, forced DHHS to justify its intentions, which Adams said are based on little more than “bigotry.” In response to a query from the Associated Press, he said, GayCityNews.nyc | July 06–July 19, 2017

of Trevor’s medical or mental health counseling, the name by which he is known in his family, school, and community, his preference as well as his motivation for seeking the name change, and whether his parents have given consent. Silva concluded that all these factors supported a finding that it was in Trevor’s best interest to approve the name change. Trevor’s parents considered him a “quintessential tomboy” as a youth, and they noticed “a change in his behavior” when he entered the sixth grade that led them to seek counseling for him, first with a child study team at school and then with a clinical social worker. Ultimately Trevor announced his male gender identity to his parents and his desire to be known by that name. His gender dysphoria was diagnosed by a psychologist who continues to work with him through his transition. Trevor testified that “the only people that still call him Veronica are his father, his stepmother, and stepsiblings” and that “he feels that the name [Trevor] better represents who he is and the gender with which he identifies.” While noting the “constant changes that have occurred in the legal landscape as it relates to gender identity, sexual orientation, and similar issues,” Silva wrote, “the is-

sue of whether a transgender minor child should be permitted to change his or her name to better match his or her gender identity is a novel one for this court.” She pointed out that if Trevor had waited until his 18th birthday, the issue would be simpler since parental approval would not be required. “However, children are unable to make such decisions on their own unless they have been emancipated,” Silva wrote. Observing that the Legislature has declared that the state “has a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth,” she wrote, “recognizing the importance of a name change is one of the ways to help protect the wellbeing of a transgender minor child. The name change allows the transgender minor child to begin to fully transition into their chosen gender and possibly prevent them from facing harassment and embarrassment from being forced to use a legal name that may no longer match his or her gender identity.” One practical reason why Trevor wanted the change now was because, as he was about to turn 17, he would be applying for a driver’s license and for college admission, and was getting a passport for summer travel to China. It was impor-

tant, now that he is living as a boy, for him to be able to get these official documents with an appropriate name matching his identity, and a legal name change was needed to use this name on official documents. The judge concluded, “Trevor has undergone hormone therapy and presents as a young man with facial hair, a muscular build, a head full of male-textured hair, and a deeper voice. To force him to legally keep the feminine name ‘Veronica’ would not be in his best interest. Therefore, plaintiff’s motion to legally change Veronica’s name to Trevor is granted.” Trevor was not seeking to change his surname, and will be known as Trevor Adam Betts. Often transgender people seek an exemption from the legal requirement that court-ordered name changes be published in a newspaper of public record, but Trevor was not seeking such an exemption. “Given the parties’ request that their real names be used in this decision, and the fact that Trevor is the subject of a documentary, this court does not find it necessary to protect his identity and thus will order plaintiff to comply with the publication and filing requirements,” Silva wrote. Trevor and his mother were represented by Jennifer Weisberg Millner of the firm Fox Rothschild LLP.

administration officials initially said the use of the sexual orientation and gender identity categories was simply a three-year pilot program that was due to expire. When former DHHS officials who developed the questions contradicted that assertion, the Trump administration responded that including the two categories imposed burdensome costs on state and local officials required to collect the information. That, in turn, Adams said, led officials around the country to come forward to say they found the information valuable and were not burdened in accumulating it. “Negative media attention forced them to explain,” Adams said of what DHHS officials faced over the past several months. “And then we could respond. The press smoked them out.” The controversy also caught the attention of Congress and led to bipartisan support for keeping both the

sexual orientation and gender identity questions in the survey. Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins, who chairs the Special Committee on Aging, and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, got 17 of their colleagues to sign on to a letter opposing the DHHS plan to forgo questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. In an email circulated to SAGE supporters this past week, Adams pledged, “Over these 30 days, SAGE intends to fight as aggressively against the erasure of trans elders as we fought against the erasure of LGBT elders. We will not rest until all of our community’s elders are counted, included, and supported. Thousands of voices of opposition forced the Trump Administration to back down on LGB elder erasure; thousands more will be needed to force them to back down on trans erasure.” Once DHHS makes it final determination on the specifics of the an-

nual senior survey, it must get approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget. In discussing the specifics of why the Obama administration’s inclusion of the LGBTQ community in that survey was so significant, Adams told Gay City News, “We saw state offices on aging and area offices on aging stepping up and doing needs assessment and designing programs to serve our community. Of course not everywhere, but in a growing number of places including in places we wouldn’t have expected.” Noting that the federal government is the largest funder of elder services across the nation, he added, “Our fear is that this disregard will cascade down to state and local governments.” For more information on SAGE’s efforts to forestall the elimination of transgender seniors from the federal government’s annual survey, visit sageusa.org.

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FILM

A Very Early Desert Bloom Donna Deitch’s classic of lesbian cinema gets new release in Janus restoration BY GARY M. KRAMER onna Deitch’s “Desert Hearts” became an instant classic of lesbian cinema when it was released in 1985. The film, set in 1959 Reno, respectfully depicted the love that develops between Vivian (Helen Shaver), an English professor waiting out a divorce, and Cay (Patricia Charbonneau, in a remarkable debut) who works at a casino and lives on the ranch where Vivian is staying. Vivian is prim and proper and wants to “be free of who I’ve been,” while Cay is reckless. When she first meets Vivian, the sexy young woman is seen driving backwards. Their slowburn attraction heats up when the women kiss in the rain, but their relationship soon has tongues wagging. Deitch’s film was a milestone of independent film when it debuted, and the film’s new restoration truly sparkles. The director spoke with

DESERT HEARTS

D

Directed by Donna Deitch Janus Films Opens Jul. 19 IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St. ifccenter.com

JANUS FILMS

Patricia Charbonneau and Helen Shaver in Donna Deitch’s 1985 “Desert Hearts.”

Gay City News about making “Desert Hearts” and how the film has endured over time. GARY M. KRAMER: Why do you think “Desert Hearts” became an

instant classic? DONNA DEITCH: Who knows? Buñuel was my first inspiration as a filmmaker. I read once — and I’m paraphrasing — that he said if you feel you have your finger on the pulse

and you feel passionately about something, then go for it. My passion was to make a hot lesbian love story that did not end in a bisexual love triangle or suicide. I made the movie I wanted to see. I spent time thinking about it — should I write it? Then a friend gave me “Desert of the Heart” [Jane Rule’s novel that the film is based on] and that was the story I wanted to tell. GMK: Do you think the film had

DESERT HEARTS, continued on p.52

Sexually Frank, On Her Own Terms “Bronx Gothic” steps back to let performance artist Okwui Okpokwasili have her say BY STEVE ERICKSON few weeks ago, Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled” became the subject of a huge controversy over racism, not for any stereotypical treatment of African Americans within the film itself but because it omits the subject of slavery despite its Civil War setting. A lot of lively debate followed, unfortunately accompanied by the kind of defensiveness and bluster that show the limits of 140 characters for addressing complex subjects with the nuance they deserve. While also made by a white person, Andrew Rossi’s “Bronx Gothic” depicts the life of a black woman with all the three-dimensional perspective social media seems incapable of right now. Rossi’s subject is Nigerian-American performance artist Okwui Okpokwasili, and he

BRONX GOTHIC

A

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Directed by Andrew Rossi Grasshopper Film Opens Jul. 12 Film Forum 209 W. Houston St. filmforum.org

GRASSHOPPER FILM

Okwui Okpokwasili in Andrew Rossi’s documentary “Bronx Gothic,” based on the Nigerian-American’s performance artist’s show of the same name.

documents her three-month tour of the title show. Rossi, who also collaborated on the film’s editing and cinematogra-

phy, makes his presence felt stylistically. The editing has a very personal feel, relying heavily on multiple superimpositions. Rossi also cuts

from Okpokwasili’s performances to scenes of her daily life, such as doing laundry. He never shows particularly long sections of her work, and he repeats certain segments, such as a reference to Nathan’s Hot Dogs, over and over again. Okpokwasili’s piece combines elements of theater and dance, telling the story of the friendship of two girls in the Bronx. Rossi knows when to shut up and

BRONX GOTHIC, continued on p.52

July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


OPERA

Voices of Angels, Sinful Songs of the Flesh

 

NYCO lends its best to problematic adaptation of Kushner classic

     

THE LOFT at the DAVENPORT THEATRE 354 W 45th St (btw 8th & 9th Ave) SARAH SHATZ

Aaron Blake and Andrew Garland in the New York City Opera production of PĂŠter EĂśtvĂśsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x153;Angels in America,â&#x20AC;? with a libretto by Mari Mezei.

BY ELI JACOBSON ony Kushnerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Angels in Americaâ&#x20AC;? diptych, as I noted in a preview last month (gaycitynews.com/ still-searching-angels) was operatic in scale and theatrical voice to begin with. For their 2004 operatic adaptation, composer PĂŠter EĂśtvĂśs and his librettist Mari Mezei cut the massive play down from epic size to a digestible two and a half hours of music drama. The New York City Opera local premiere production of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Angels in America: the Opera,â&#x20AC;? seen June 12 at Jazz at Lincoln Centerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Rose Theater, was a worthy effort and showed how far this fledgling company has grown in a few years. Still, in my estimation, where Kushnerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s play sings in soaring prose elegies, EĂśtvĂśsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; opera just scores background music to a reduced text. In an opera, music and poetry should combine to carry the story and the emotional content forward with the human voice as the leading instrument. Sometime in the early 20th century, operatic composers lost this art. EĂśtvĂśsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; intricate, layered orchestrations

T

GayCityNews.nyc | July 06â&#x20AC;&#x201C;July 19, 2017

feature unusual combinations of instruments â&#x20AC;&#x201D; electric guitar, saxophones, marimba, Hammond organ, and celesta along with the usual string and woodwind instruments. Electronic amplification and sound effects augment the soloists, and a vocal trio adds commentary and atmospheric background music from the pit. But EĂśtvĂśsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; busily animated music functions as background scoring to the story like film music for a psychological thriller. Mezei cuts down Kushnerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s long arioso speeches into shorter fragments, and EĂśtvĂśs underscores the text rather than setting it aloft with melody. The vocal writing allows the text to come through with clarity but the melodic units are short and staccato â&#x20AC;&#x201D; never developing into expressive musical structures. Likewise the vocal lines are fragmented, veering from middle register declamation to falsetto keening, from Sprechstimme and spoken lines to octave-jumping vocalise. The music works parallel to the libretto, not as its manifestation and embodiment in sound. Mezeiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first act expertly stream-

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ANGELS, continued on p.53

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41


THEATER

Lopsided Ménage Hunky couple enjoys an open relationship, but one three-way throws them for a loop BY DAVID KENNERLEY he love triangle has been a heady plot driver in theater forever, but in the sordidly sexy, unsatisfying “Afterglow,” writer-director S. Asher Gelman gives the device a decidedly contemporary queer spin, kicking it up a notch or two. More than a few gay couples will recognize the fraught scenario that plays out in the opening scene. Josh and Alex, in their late 20s and together for five years, have just had a mind-blowing threesome with Darius in their New York City apartment. As they lie on their backs catching their breaths, drenched in sweat, lube, and semen, still buzzed from pot, a delicate dance begins. When to sit up, offer a wipe and a shower? Do they boot the visitor out immediately or offer him coffee? Darius, 25, is buck naked, and the couple wears nothing but their shiny wedding rings. But make no mistake,

AFTERGLOW

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Midnight Theatricals The Loft at the Davenport Theatre 354 W. 45th St. Through Aug. 5 Mon-Wed. at 7:30 p.m. Thu.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat. at 2 p.m. $64.50-$84.50; telecharge.com Two hrs., 15 mins., with intermission

MATI GELMAN

Patrick Reilly, Brandon Haagenson, and Robbie Simpson in S. Asher Gelman’s “Afterglow.”

the extended full nudity — and believe me, the trio is exceptionally easy on the eyes — is no mere gimmick. It effectively adds to the authenticity of the story and, at key moments, underscores each man’s vulnerability. Not to mention the potential for surprise (during the performance I

attended, a rogue erection appeared at an inopportune moment). When Alex exits to shower, Josh is all over Darius and insists they get together, just the two of them, since he and his hubby have a wide open relationship. Although Alex repeatedly claims he has no problem

with it — their only rule is “no sleepovers” — the audience knows that will change soon enough. And so for the duration of the drama, the awkward dance continues, with a reluctant Darius taking on the dubious role of Josh’s extramarital boyfriend. Is Darius stealing Josh from his husband, or is it simply sharing? The fact that the part-

AFTERGLOW, continued on p.43

More Hot Pies Barrow Street’s “Sweeney Todd” as exciting as ever with new cast BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE here are some shows I can never get tired of because they reveal more with each successive viewing — and they’re simply that good. That’s certainly the case for Shakespeare and, very often, for Sondheim. By last count, I’ve now seen “Sweeney Todd” 18 times in various different productions from Broadway to major opera companies, and most recently the stunning mounting currently at the Barrow Street Theatre. For this production, this sprawling show has been reconceived as a chamber piece and the theater has been transformed into a pie shop, complete with benches and tables and features a company of

SWEENEY TODD

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42

Barrow Street Theatre 27 Barrow St., btwn. Seventh Ave. S. & W. Fourth St. Tue.-Thu. at 7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat 2:30 p.m.; Sun. at 2 & 7:30 p.m. $69.50-$17; pre-show pie, ordered in advance, at $22.50 web.ovationtix.com or 866-811-4111 Two hrs., 45 mins., with intermission

Carolee Carmello and Norm Lewis in the Barrow Street Theatre production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

eight — plus three musicians. If you so desire, you can order a pie

to have in that setting before the production begins. In London, this

Tooting Arts Club production was originally staged in the real Harrington’s Pie and Mash shop. When I first saw this production last fall, I was transported by

SWEENEY TODD, continued on p.43

July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


AFTERGLOW, from p.42

ners are expecting a baby via surrogacy in a few months only raises the stakes higher. This is Gelman’s first effort as a playwright and it shows. Although the plot is compelling, the occasionally insightful dialogue can turn wooden or preachy. Darius, a massage therapist tired of being single, pontificates about guys unwilling to compromise now that technology brings potential mates “literally at your fingertips” and how we’re all “paralyzed by the illusion of choice.” “Afterglow” flirts with melodrama throughout and fully gives into it at its climax. There are other glitches. The two hours and 15 minutes running time could easily be trimmed — the multiple arguments and trysts become repetitive — and the scene transitions, where the actors must lug and reassemble chunks of scenery, could be choreographed a little more tightly. The actors do a solid job tackling demanding roles. The modelhandsome Brandon Haagenson mines unexpected tenderness in the selfish, grab-the-gusto Josh, a theater director under the pressure of a looming opening night. Patrick

SWEENEY TODD, from p.42

the power of the intimacy of being in such a small environment with the actors, sometimes literally, in your face. The reduced instrumentation was a revelation, allowing the score to be heard with a clarity that emphasized its sophistication. The performances of Jeremy Secomb and Siobhán McCarthy (from the original London cast) as Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett, respectively, emphasized the cartoonish horror with an intensity that was galvanizing and thrilling in every sense of the word. I recently went back to see the production again with a mostly new, American cast that features Broadway veterans Norm Lewis as Sweeney Todd and Carolee Carmello as his partner in murder, revenge, and cannibalistic comestibles. Happily, this “Sweeney Todd” remains one of the most exciting things to see in New York right now, and it’s not to be missed. What continues to work so well GayCityNews.nyc | July 06–July 19, 2017

Reilly is utterly convincing as the lonely Darius, who, against his better judgment about getting involved with men who are emotionally unavailable, lets himself fall hard for the alluring Josh. Robbie Simpson’s Alex, a promising chemist with a heavy workload, is adept at walking the fine line between supportive husband and aggrieved victim. Gelman’s dynamic staging helps mask the script’s limitations. The intimate Loft space at the Davenport Theatre has been configured with the playing area in the center, flanked by raked seating. Upon entering, half the audience must pass through what appears to be a bedroom, careful not to step on clothes strewn on the floor. A large cube formed out of white sheets dominates the stage, later morphing into a bed, then a spa, and sometimes, amazingly, into a fully functioning shower. Kudos to Ann Beyersdorfer for the scenery, Jamie Roderick for the lighting, and Alex Dietz-Kest for the sound design. Flaws aside, if the goal was to shine a brief light on the potential joys and pitfalls of queer polyamory, the overly ambitious “Afterglow” succeeds as it titillates.

is director Bill Buckhurst’s staging and use of the tiny company to create the rich world of the show. By integrating the actors with the audience — on the tables, in the tiny aisles, and in the balcony — the experience is completely enveloping and, like the best horror movies, can be both harrowing and hilarious. The impressive energy in a small space explodes with theatricality again and again, as the book and the score relentlessly sweep us along on this grim but glorious journey. For those who don’t know the story, it comes from a 19th century penny dreadful, a story intentionally designed to be overblown, overdramatic, and scary. Sweeney, a barber, returns to London having been sent to prison in Australia on trumped up charges. Home again, he thinks his adored wife is dead and sets out to exact revenge on the judge and the beadle responsible for her degradation and

SWEENEY TODD, continued on p.55

BRINGING MANHATTAN to BROOKLYN 943 Coney Island Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11230 646.494.7227 | AtlasSteak.com 43


FILM

A Strong Slate of Strained Relations 2017’s New York Asian Film Festival is mindful of family matters BY SCOTT STIFFLER ullets fly and swords are wielded in plenty of the crowd-pleasing, kinetic selections at 2017’s New York Asian Film Festival — but its deepest cuts come from the sharp tongues of those who know us best. Uneasy questions and murky answers about what makes, breaks, and heals a family are front and center in a number of outstanding selections this year, the first of which possesses multiple strengths above and beyond the queer content that garnered accolades after screenings in Berlin and its native Japan. Pining for a parent with nurturing instincts is the day-to-day routine of 11-year-old Tomo, a sullen latchkey kid beginning to wrestle with her own complicity in acts of petty prejudice inflicted upon a friendless classmate as well as with a new ally from the adult world. Stung once again by a mother who responds to the pressures of single parenthood by giving herself to booze, men, and long periods of absence, Tomo arrives at the workplace of Uncle Makio, who takes her in — with a word of caution before they arrive at his door. Makio now resides with Rinko, a transgender woman with intriguingly firm breasts, a yearning for domestic bliss, and a maternal sense of how to pass along her use of needles and yarn as a purification system for toxic emotions (hence the means-what-it-says title, “Close-Knit”). Corners, closets, benches, and walls get a thorough workout as artfully framed go-to places of retreat and resolve in this latest entry from Naoko Ogigami, a writer and director whose comedic body of work has long placed her female characters in unfamiliar environments. This time, however, the strangers in a strange land aren’t tasked with running a new business in Helsinki (2006’s “Kamome Diner”) or plopped down on an island full of eccentrics (2007’s “Glasses”) — they’re beside us at school, in supermarket aisles, and at the dinner table, which makes the resulting culture clashes

THE NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL

B

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Through Jul. 13 Film Society of Lincoln Center 165 W. 65th St. Jul. 14-15 SVA Theatre 333 W. 23rd St. $14; $11 for students, seniors subwaycinema.com CLOSE-KNIT FILM PARTNERS

A trio bonds with the help of needles and yarn in “Close-Knit.”

CHINA LION FILM DISTRIBUTION, INC.

“Duckweed” sends an arrogant son back in time to make sure his parents get hitched.

ENTERTAINING POWER COMPANY

Sanitation workers also serve as a secret force tasked with sweeping Hong Kong’s bloodsuckers under the rug, in “Vampire Cleanup Department.”

more sinister than quirky. Rinko, still negotiating her romantic relationship as well as a lingering connection to a certain part of the male anatomy, suffers the most from this disparity. Effectively underplayed by pretty boy hetero heartthrob Toma Ikuta, audiences accustomed to a steady diet of transgender characters presented as outlandishly sassy, highly sexualized, or damaged beyond repair will be tempted to interpret

frumpily dressed Rinko’s stoicism as a weakness — but the character’s restraint in the face of multiple indignities and her glacial progress at bonding with Tomo has a cleverly orchestrated effect on the impatient viewer: mounting outrage at how those with obvious differences are pushed to the margins, when they have every right to equal footing. During her early days of cohabitation with the couple, Rinko’s mother takes Tomo out to a restaurant and

lets her know, with gangster-like intimidation, that nobody messes with her daughter. (Note: every time she refers to her child in the feminine sense, quote marks are absent from both subtitle and tone of delivery.) Sadly, this seemingly enlightened cisgender woman — who proudly recalls buying pre-teen Rinko a bra — delivers the film’s most hurtful comment, made all the more brutal because she believes it to be a declaration of support. The film is swimming in such moments, where cutting observations and powerful declaratives are intertwined, such as when, in the flip side of that restaurant scene, Uncle Makio (Kenta Kiritani) tells his niece the why, when, and how of falling in unconditional love with Rinko. Tomo (Rinka Kakihara) also takes a stand for something far beyond mere tolerance by visiting the gay classmate she once snubbed, determined to validate his worth and push him toward self-acceptance. Guard down and chin up seems to be the best any given character in “Close-Knit” can offer to another or muster for themselves. Screenwriter Ogigami’s words, soft as yarn but tightly wound, make a convincing case that decency and determination are the only virtues powerful enough to move us forward. Saturday, July 8 at 8 p.m. (Q&A with the director follows the screening.) Japanese with English subtitles; 127 minutes. Elsewhere in the festival, “Mad World” refers to the inhospitable zone beyond the psychiatric rehabili-

ASIAN FILM, continued on p.46

July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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THEATER

Tennessee’s More Challenging Terrain Austin Pendleton, Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company collaborate on “The Two-Character Play” BY TRAV S.D. ustin Pendleton is a man of many reputations: renowned actor of stage and screen, theater director, teacher, and artistic director of the now-defunct Circle Repertory Company. His current project is a revival of Tennessee Williams’ late work “The Two-Character Play,” produced by Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company. The collaboration may be fortuitous. Pendleton has previously directed prominent productions of several Williams works including “Vieux Carré,” “Orpheus Descending,” “Suddenly Last Summer,” and “Small Craft Warnings.” And, last season, Playhouse Creatures presented a successful double bill of the late Williams one-acts “A Recluse and His Guest” and “The Remarkable Rooming-House of Mme. Le Monde.” Pendleton’s passion for Williams stretches back to his earliest days in the theater. “My first encounter with a Tennessee Williams play became the first time I knew there was such a thing as a great playwright,” Pendleton said. “When I was 14, I saw a good community theater production of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ in my hometown in Ohio. I’d had no idea before that that you could get that involved with a character in a play. I

A

ASIAN FILM, from p.44

tation facility that discharges former investment banker Tung (Shawn Yue), one year after a breakdown triggered by his stint as the abused caretaker to his late mother. The transition is further complicated by his new roommate: the father whose abandonment contributed to his current mental state. Eric Tsang costars as the surviving parent, and will attend the film’s July 12 9 p.m. screening for a Q&A alongside director Wong Chun and screenwriter Florence Chan. (Tsang also receives the festival’s 2017 Star Hong Kong Lifetime Achievement Award.)

46

THE TWOCHARACTER PLAY

COURTESY: AUSTIN PENDLETON

Austin Pendleton directs Tennessee Williams’ “The Two-Character Play,” at Duo Multicultural Arts Center in the East Village through July 16.

Duo Multicultural Arts Center 62 E. Fourth St., btwn. Bowery & Second Ave. Jul. 6-8, 12-15 at 8 p.m. Jul. 8 & 15 at 5 p.m. Jul. 9 & 16 at 3 p.m. $35-$49; $15 for students playhousecreatures.org

didn’t know you could go to the theater and actually worry about somebody. The first time I directed a play as an adult, I directed my mother [professional actress Frances Manchester Pendleton] in a production of ‘The Glass Menagerie.’ The characters haunted me for months. Williams writes about people we would never imagine would have impact on us, but they do. Tennessee Williams does not write everyman characters. He writes these strange people but the whole world embraces them.” “The Two-Character Play” was written during a time of tumultuous transition for Williams. During the 1960s he plunged into radical experimentation, a transformation that drove both critics and audiences away. Many of these last works have been revived in recent years to

great acclaim. “The Two-Character Play” is an existential ordeal in the manner of Beckett. A brother-sister acting team, who may be insane and have been abandoned by the rest of their company, present a play within a play. The work is full of sadness and alienation and ultimately may be more rooted in reality than his original audiences could have known or appreciated. Williams first presented an early version of the play in London in 1967. He continued to work on it, and presented a re-written version called “Out Cry” in Chicago in 1971, finally bringing it to Broadway in 1973. That production closed after 12 performances. It took the public and the critical community decades to catch up with Williams’ vision.

Drawing from the deep well of fiction that tells us you can only go home again by getting knocked on the noggin, lapsing into a coma, and learning a valuable lesson, “Duckweed” does its “Wizard of Oz” quest thing very well, but also manages to spread a thick layer of subversive melancholy atop the save-my-parents/ save-myself prime directive of “Back to the Future.” The result is an often light but consistently challenging rumination on destiny that refuses to shave the bittersweet edges off its arrogant antihero’s bid for redemption. It’s 2022, and gifted rally driver Tailang (Deng Chao) caps his vic-

tory with a venomous and very public criticism of Zhengtai (Eddie Peng), the father who refused to support his dreams. In a slow-motion crash sequence as bold as the rest of the film is restrained, Tailang’s car meets the business end of a speeding train and he wakes up back in 1998, the year before he was born. Rather than concern itself with the mechanics of time travel that made this possible, “Duckweed” gets right down to the serious business of ambition, interpersonal dynamics, and fatal flaws — groundwork that’s nicely established in a scene where Tailang is rescued from

There have been numerous critically acclaimed productions over the past several years. “It’s one of his most personal plays,” Pendleton said. “He was inordinately fond of it. I’d acted in a 1982 production, the last one during his lifetime, and it got good reviews. When it came time for me to direct the current production, I thought I’d remember some of the things the previous director Tom Brennan had said [about the play’s meaning], but I couldn’t remember a thing. Any interpretation you come up with, you come up with in the moment when you’re doing it. You’re starting all over again.” The director appears to have found a key, at least for this production. “I knew Tennessee a bit and about his life,” Pendleton noted. “He was, especially in his last years, in a state of perpetual crisis. He carried his feelings about his sister around with him in his work all those years, and it came out in some of his greatest characters — Blanche, Laura. Critics began to decide it wasn’t worth watching him do this any more and it hit him hard. ‘The Two-Character Play’ seems torn out of those feelings. It takes place in this frozen country, everybody’s walked out. The characters speak in code to each other. It’s haunting and disturbing and funny like all of his plays.”

a skirmish by his shockingly spry and charismatic father, an entrepreneurial gang leader with terrible business instincts and the wrong taste in women. It seems Zhengtai has a fiancé whose maiden name is not that of the mother who must give birth before Dad is sent to prison for six years, only to emerge as the twisted tormenter responsible for turning his now-motherless boy into the ungrateful heel of 2022. For the tail end of the ’90s, though, the trio become fast friends while the Tailang goes all out to ensure his very existence.

ASIAN FILM, continued on p.47

July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


ä&#x2030;´

ASIAN FILM, from p.46

What makes â&#x20AC;&#x153;Duckweedâ&#x20AC;? so engaging has very little to do with how the future version of an unborn son maneuvers the right people to the altar. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s enjoyable enough, yes; but its real appeal is rooted in the slight advantage director Han Han gives the audience over the main character. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re always one step ahead when it comes to realizing that despite Tailangâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s knowledge of impending events and his slowly emerging sense of empathy, some lives will be lost and others will be damaged, perhaps beyond repair. Waking up in the present to find his timeworn father at the hospital bedside, a tender moment of recognition between them provides a bit of hope, but stops short of delivering the brand of dewy kinship that made Dorothy Gale and Marty McFlyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s homecoming such a pleasure to watch. That narrative choice is difficult to digest, but it sure does stick to the ribs. Saturday, July 15 at 12:30 p.m. Mandarin with English subtitles; 101 minutes. An anomaly relative to the more somber entries in this roundup, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Vampire Cleanup Departmentâ&#x20AC;? never drops the ball in its desire to juggle gore and genealogy. Like the kindhearted teen whose newfound immunity to supernatural toxins gives him an edge in the fight against evil, â&#x20AC;&#x153;VCDâ&#x20AC;? is a zippy hybrid with an unusual blood type coursing through the veins of its franchise-friendly mythology: Deep beneath a seemingly mundane garbage collection station, civil servants who sweep the streets by day spend their nights answering the call to

keep Hong Kongâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s robust population of undead in check. â&#x20AC;&#x153;When a person dies with injustice on a cloudy day, at a gloomy place, then he might turn into a vampire,â&#x20AC;? says Uncle Chung (a droll Richard Ng), who recruits naive and nerdy Tim (an appropriately named Babyjohn Choi) into the teamâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rapidly aging ranks after a vampire attack reveals his nephew has inherited protective powers from his late mother (Mom and Pop, turns out, were Department bigwigs who died heroically). Trained in the ways of vampire fighting and soul reclamation, the dutiful but untested teen is sworn to secrecy (having refused a sip of memory-erasing tea that keeps the general public blissfully unaware). On his first mission, Tim comes fresh-face-to-putrefied-face with a female vampire. Lacking the heart to stab hers, a bloody good smooch turns Summer (Lin Min-chen) into a mute but perceptive beauty. The rest of the film plays out as a manic series of seismic shifts in tone, with Tim hiding his new love interest from the others, coaching her in the ways of humanity, and confronting threats on several fronts (a big bad vampire; a delusional grandmother; the upstart local authority determined to replace VCD with his own force). The film transfused with injections of comedy, action, horror, and romance, directing team Chiu Sin-hang and Yan Pak-wing are so dead-set on entertaining you that the genre-hopping attention deficit disorder of their debut feature proves less of a distraction than a welcome asset. Saturday, July 15 at 10 p.m. Cantonese with English subtitles; 94 minutes.

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47


FILM

A Privileged Character Alison Maclean’s midday in the garden of good and evil BY STEVE ERICKSON t’s hard to draw a dividing line where the media starts to exploit people, especially in an age where people are willing to objectify themselves for a shot at fame. I was startled to see a recent documentary about the Syrian civil war include ISIS snuff videos in their entirety, a step no other American film or news broadcast has taken. Although the exact situation still seems somewhat unclear, cameras on the reality show “The Bachelor in Paradise” apparently caught a rape in progress. New Zealand director Alison Maclean’s narrative film “The Rehearsal” explores the difficulty of making a theater piece about statutory rape. From the first 20 minutes of Maclean’s film, one would never guess where the film ultimately winds up. It initially evokes Argentine director Matías Piñeiro’s sunny depictions of

THE REHEARSAL

I

Directed by Alison Maclean Mongrel Media Opens Jul. 7 Metrograph 13 Ludlow St., btwn. Hester & Canal Sts. metrograph.com

MATTHEW KLITSCHER/ MONGREL INTERNATIONAL

Kieran Charnock, James Rolleston, Michelle Ny, Alice Englert, and Scotty Cotter in Alison Maclean’s “The Rehearsal.”

female college students researching Shakespeare and pursuing complicated love lives. Maclean shows her students engaging in difficult acting exercises by day and getting stoned and watching films by the late queer (in every sense of the word) Soviet director Sergei Parajanov by night. The exercises are shown in full,

and they’re quite difficult, especially under the frankly cruel tutelage of teacher Hannah (Kerry Fox.) Stanley (James Rolleston) is forced to imitate his father — seen in one scene, where his main characteristic seems to be a fondness for tasteless jokes about pedophilia — talking about him. While Hannah pushes Stanley

to his limits, he thrives. The film is filled with cryptic blackout scenes involving tennis. Eventually, their meaning becomes clear, as they allude to the other main narrative thread of “The Rehearsal.” Very early on, we see TV news reports about a middle-aged tennis star arrested for having sex with an underage girl and hear the acting students talk about this case.

REHEARSAL, continued on p.52

Walking Through the Injury Michael Collins chronicles the journey of veterans coming to terms with their military service BY GARY M. KRAMER om Voss and Anthony Anderson are two ex-soldiers who have been suffering from “moral injury,” a form of PTSD where soldiers suffer a “wound to the soul” because they have done things in battle at odds with their moral beliefs. These men, who served in Iraq, are grappling with actions that may have been justified, but they seek forgiveness for their responsibility in the results. Having struggled with fallout including alcoholism and anger, the two men decide to embark on the “Veteran’s Trek,” a 2,700 mile journey from Milwaukee to Santa Monica on foot. Their 155-day journey is meant to clear their heads and create awareness about soldiers at risk

ALMOST SUNRISE

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Directed by Michael Collins Argot Pictures Opens Jul. 14 IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St. ifccenter.com

ARGOT PICTURES

Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson in Michael Collins’ documentary “Almost Sunrise.”

of committing suicide during or after their tours of duty. Out gay filmmaker Michael Collins chronicles the lives and experiences of Voss and Anderson in his inspir-

ing documentary, “Almost Sunrise.” The filmmaker spoke with Gay City News about the issues of moral injury, anger, and forgiveness.

GARY M. KRAMER: How did you get Tom and Anthony to trust you to tell their story? MICHAEL COLLINS: They basically interviewed me. I had to be myself and sincere and open with my intentions, and they felt it was totally in line with what they wanted to do

ALMOST SUNRISE, continued on p.53

July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


NYC CARIBBEAN

Saturday, July 15

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Come with your friends, come with your family and enjoy a relaxing day on the grounds of one of New York’s largest recreation centers. Enjoy the best food, drinks & music from the Caribbean islands.

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www.caribfoodfest.com GayCityNews.nyc | July 06–July 19, 2017

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Buck Wild and Witty “The Price of Illusion” is one ultra-chic, compulsive read BY DAVID NOH t would be hard to find a more diverting summer read this year than Joan Juliet Buck’s memoir, “The Price of Illusion.” Buck, blazingly intelligent, witty, and strikingly attractive with volumes of personal style, has led a mesmerizingly kaleidoscopic life, the hippest female Zelig one can imagine, forever finding herself in the right surroundings and crowds, many deserving the appellation “legendary.” Her writing has a febrile, irresistible rhythm to it, admirably spare in style yet rife with descriptive richness. Born in Los Angeles, Buck met me in a Madison Avenue coffee shop and spun the yarn of her life like Scheherazade in Zac Posen, beginning with, “Dad [Jules Buck] was a young producer at Fox when I was born. Mom was a child actress from 9 until 19 [and close buddy of Lauren Bacall, when she was starting out] and stopped when she got married. They moved to Paris when I was three and a half with my grandparents. So my first language was French, which was actually the cause of everything in my life and the reason why I was given French Vogue.” This career episode ended startlingly, with Buck being ordered by publisher Condé Nast to go to rehab, although she had no real addictions to speak of. Buck’s gift for attaining fabulous friends started early. The gifted, eternally underrated film noir director Robert Siodmak “was my first friend and he took this picture [in her book] of my father, which to me is the best ever. If you watch ‘The Killers’ again, and many of his other films, there is always a guy sitting in an armchair exactly like this, shot from the same angle. He was so wonderful, God I loved him, and his films are filled with extraordinary black and white compositions.” “The Killers” was the first film to really spotlight the ravishing young Ava Gardner: “Ava was around the family a little, but late. There was this diaspora and she ended up

I

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SIMON & SCHUSTER

in Spain and then moved to London. If you want the real Jewish geography, there was this writer called Robert Ruark, who wrote bestsellers and shot big and small game, like dik-diks, which you’re not supposed to kill. He had this apartment in Park Lane which was filled with taxidermy, and Ava was living there. I remember one New Year’s there I found quite pathetic, with Ava, who was kind of drunk and loud, and it felt so lonely. There were a couple of guys there who sort of admired her, but it wasn’t anything to do with anything and seemed sad. Everybody drank from these nasty glasses, and you could hear the ice cubes.” As we talked, in a true conversation that leapt from subject to subject, extraordinary connections kept popping up, like the fact that one of my all-time favorite films, the 1969 musical remake of “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” was produced by her father. “My father always said it was one of Peter O’Toole’s best performances. I always used to hate that movie because when they opened the film in DC, I was 20 and went to the premiere and then came back to New York and discovered my roommate, Eva, a model, had died, so the events are stuck together in my mind. But whenever I see it, I weep. The songs!” Devastated by this death as well as that of the fiancé of her first roommate that year and of Ricki

LACOMBE

Joan Juliet Buck.

Huston, mother of her childhood friend, Angelica, Buck, who had dropped out of Sarah Lawrence to work at Glamour magazine, quit her job, and went back to London where her parents had moved. “I was traumatized and did nothing. We shared a house with Peter O’Toole’s sister and her husband, Derek Coombs. My parents had gone to Venezuela to make a real dog of a movie, ‘Murphy’s War,’ and one day Derek said to me, ‘Darling, I’m running for Parliament, and this is the first time the 18-year-olds have the vote. I think you should write the letter for my campaign for the 18-year-old vote. I said, ‘But you’re a conservative and I’m an American Democrat!’ ‘Oh, just write it.’ “So I write this letter and it’s a fucking landslide victory for the Conservative Party! So I go from this traumatized, horrified not quite 21-year-old who’s had three people die where she’s living to writing this letter that perhaps contributes to a right-wing victory. And then Rupert Murdoch gives me a magazine to edit and then takes all his money out of it, so I’m out of a job, and I go to French Vogue. But they don’t want me because I’m a professional.”

THE PRICE OF ILLUSION By Joan Juliet Buck Simon & Schuster $30; 416 pages

But, in 1994, French Vogue in fact made her editor-in chief, the only American to ever edit a French magazine, a job she held until 2001. She’d been very well-connected in Paris, describing her life as “exquisite. From October 1985 to March 1988, I had dinner with Pierre Bergé, Hélène Rochas, Clara Saint, Madison Cox, these exquisite people every night, except for a few love affairs I slipped in. This was in all the best restaurants, but I never saw anyone I knew at any other table, which was creepy. It was as if we were under a dome.” And one of her first intimations of the price of illusion. “But it was very restful to hang out with them, compared to New York. After a day of writing my third novel in the late 1980s, I’d go out to dinner with New Yorkers and

JOAN JULIET BUCK, continued on p.55

July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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GayCityNews.nyc | July 06–July 19, 2017

haps they’re checking out a house in a new neighborhood or thought they saw someone they knew on the street corner. It can be easy to veer into the direction your eyes are focused, causing an accident. In addition to trying to stay focused on the road, some drivers prefer the help of lane departure warning systems.

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DESERT HEARTS, from p.40

more resonance when it came out because it was set in the past? DD: Absolutely. Initially, I wasn’t thinking it had to be set in the past, but when I came across the book, the metaphor and the milieu — the divorce capital in the 1950s — lent the film the story I wanted to tell. GMK: Patricia Charbonneau is fantastic in her debut, and Helen Shaver is pitch-perfect. I also really like Audra Lindley and Andra Akers in the supporting roles. What can you say about the casting? DD: Nobody wanted to be in the movie. No agent wanted this, even if it wasn’t the leads. There was so much homophobia, no one wanted to audition. It was shocking. I think I got the best people to play those

BRONX GOTHIC, from p.40

let his subject speak for herself, and he does so for most of the film. Okpokwasili explains her views about the difficulties of being a “brown girl” — her preferred phrase — at length. Her “Bronx Gothic” is not autobiographical, but it’s based on experiences she observed growing up in the Parkchester neighborhood of the Bronx in the ‘80s. In its view of sexual pleasure and abuse, it’s been compared to Toni Morrison’s novel “The Bluest Eye.” Ironically, what Okpokwasili says about the dangers of teenage girls’ sexual ignorance actually has many points of contact with Coppola’s “The Beguiled.” Okpokwasili’s performance is both extremely physical and sexual-

REHEARSAL, from p.48

It turns out that the girl and her family are part of their social circle. Inspired by this incident, the theater troupe decides to create a play around it. “The Rehearsal” shows many non-narrative images of it, including a memorable scene of actors with their faces hidden by shirts and tennis rackets dangling like testicles below their crotches. Stanley has a direct and rather dubious connection to the case beyond his participation in the play: the 18-year-old boy is dating Isolde (Ella Edward), the 15-year-old sister of the girl with whom the tennis star

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parts and that was, in a way, the benefit of all of that homophobia. I didn’t go to anyone known. I had a fantastic casting director by the name of Tim Flack, who died young, from AIDS. He brought everyone to me. I didn’t know any of these people. I saw Patricia Charbonneau’s 8x10 and this was exactly how I saw Cay. She’d never done a film before. I met her and they said I needed to test her, but I didn’t think I did. I flew her out to LA and I read Patricia with the three actresses I was considering for Vivian, and I saw the chemistry between her and Helen. That was so important in my mind. I needed to see it before I cast Helen, and it was quite magical.

ian’s. This moment makes parallels both visually and emotionally between the characters. What observations do you have about the link between these two women? DD: It’s ironic in a way, and funny, in a way, and totally real. I say that with regards to it being a love story between two people who initially have absolutely nothing in common except that they are the same sex. They each have something in themselves that the other yearns for. That’s the heart of their connection.

dinner scene. I spent a lot of time discussing it with Helen and Patricia. It’s about the emotional journey that accompanies a sexual journey. I scheduled it for the second to last day of shooting so they would know each other and be more comfortable. But equally important was that I had their full commitment to do this scene before they signed the contracts. These two actors were so fantastic and committed to fully realizing the journey.

GMK: I love the scene where Vivian removes her ring and then you superimpose Cay’s face over Viv-

GMK: The film’s sex scene is tender and erotic. Can you talk about how you created it? DD: That love scene is the centerpiece of the film, of course, because it’s a lesbian love story. It needs a love scene. I wanted it to have a beginning, middle, and end, like a

GMK: “Desert Hearts” has a huge fanbase. What are some of the most unusual responses you received? DD: I’d have to give that a thought. Nothing is coming to mind right now. People come up and tell me their “Desert Hearts” coming out stories. I should be collecting them on my website.

ly frank. In it, she reads a letter, inspired by a real one she was given as a girl, describing very explicit experiences. She gets down on the ground and thrusts her body against it. But she does all this on her own terms, in a way that never allows the audience to objectify her. If anything, she treats the audience aggressively; in fact, she speaks about her spit and sweat landing on them. Rossi films her at home talking about how black bodies are casually murdered and thrown away in America. “Bronx Gothic” testifies to her determination not to allow herself to become one of them, if she has any control over it. There’s one point where I wish both Rossi and Okpokwasili had probed further. Rossi shows im-

ages of the audiences for her tour, and with the exception of her closing night performance in the Bronx, they’re mostly, although not entirely, white. She addresses this occasionally, at one point pondering, “Is my blackness getting on you?” But the film essentially ignores the irony of her celebration of black womanhood playing to audiences for whom it’s not a shared experience, even though it shows her talking with groups of audience members largely composed of women of color afterwards. “Bronx Gothic” would be a stronger film if it explored further how Okpokwasili might feel about sharing her work with people who don’t have a direct connection to it and, at worst, might be voyeurs. At the same time, it’s saying

something about the experience of growing up female in America that most women could probably relate to. These levels are tricky, and the film mostly ducks them. All that said, “Bronx Gothic” (both Rossi’s and Okpokwasili’s) deserves a lot of credit for fearlessly tackling subject matter that no American film I’ve seen this year — with the exception of Jordan Peele’s obviously much different “Get Out” — has addressed. New York’s arthouse audiences can be amazingly vanilla, but earlier in 2017 Film Forum’s lengthy run of Raoul Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro” attracted a diverse house. Okpokwasili obviously doesn’t have James Baldwin’s name recognition, but I hope some of that audience returns for “Bronx Gothic.”

committed statutory rape. Maclean uses a widescreen frame with characters often pushed to its edges. In her images of the acting class, she’s careful to alternate between shots of one actor and the whole group of students watching him. There are few nighttime scenes; the Auckland locations look as sunny and inviting as the Argentina of Piñeiro’s films. She evokes a student bohemia that starts off looking extremely attractive but by the film’s halfway point reveals the potential for abuse and tragedy. The problem with her structure is that for a long time “The Rehearsal” doesn’t really seem to know where it’s going. While

Stanley is the main character, it’s an ensemble piece, and Maclean proves less adept at managing her large cast than a director like Richard Linklater. “The Rehearsal” is a somewhat deceptive film. At first, it seems to deal with the themes and subjects that are central to it somewhat glancingly. I wonder if it would be more powerful were it blunter and shorter. Perhaps the set-up about a seemingly carefree group of actors learning their craft is necessary for the ethical dilemmas of the final third to have as much as impact as they do. The age difference between Stanley and Isolde is not as extreme as

the one between the tennis star and her sister, but Stanley could still face potential criminal persecution, as Hannah points out to him, making his participation in a play about male abuse of power over teenage girls rather hypocritical. He finds a way out, but it’s not one that leads to a satisfying ending for himself, the theater troupe, or the film itself. And while I’m sure that’s Maclean’s exact point, it still leads “The Rehearsal” to close on a march into the void. Although I understand everything it’s saying, the ending still feels like a betrayal of the sense of youthful possibility expressed in the film’s first half. July 06–July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


ANGELS, from p.41

lines “Millennium Approaches” to a well-constructed 85-minute drama that efficiently introduces the characters and situations. Act II, however, is a mutilated 55-minute torso of “Perestroika.” The characters of Louis Ironson and Joe, Harper, and Hannah Pitt are abruptly dropped after the death of Roy Cohn. We never see the dissolution of Joe and Louis’ affair, Harper’s recovery and rejection of Joe, or Hannah’s friendship with Prior and her personal evolution. Scenes that cry out for musical setting, such as Louis in the hospital room singing the Kaddish over Roy Cohn’s corpse while Belize steals Cohn’s hoard of AZT for Prior, are absent.

ALMOST SUNRISE, from p.48

with the walk. They wanted to help themselves, but also bring awareness to the rest of the country about what veterans are facing. I thought if we are able to capture their healing on film that can be very inspiring for a lot of people. They saw the value of a larger film being made about this journey. They trusted me with their families. It didn’t take us long to decide we were all on the same mission. GMK: Tom and Anthony, along with other soldiers profiled in the film, have a difficult time with expressing their emotions. How did you get them to reveal their thoughts and feelings for “Almost Sunrise?” MC: They are experienced talking about some of this stuff. They worked as peer mentors for other vets in the veterans’ service space. That’s where they met. It was about creating a space where they felt comfortable. With Tom, it wasn’t easy. Not that he didn’t trust us, but he was more emotionally closed down. That was a real challenge to have a main character who doesn’t speak a whole lot. That was a little frightening for me as a filmmaker. So I had to think of other ways to use this medium to convey that — to show his quietness and make the audience experience his emotional state of mind through non-communication. GMK: About a third of the film is GayCityNews.nyc | July 06–July 19, 2017

The final two scenes include Prior’s visit to Heaven to return the book and confront the Continental Angels then skips ahead five years to Prior’s final Central Park soliloquy on the Angel of Bethesda. The ending feels abrupt, and key relationships are unresolved. The final soliloquy likewise sounds unresolved and diffuse, failing to build into a culminating musical summation of the opera’s themes and musical ideas. City Opera, on the other hand, did itself and the work proud with a powerfully realized original production. Director Sam Helfrich’s customary use of a unit set was efficient and John Farrell’s set design — a black-tiled multi-level space — was evocative and versatile enough to suggest the wide variety of loca-

tions required by the libretto. Helfrich elicited expert acting from a group of wildly talented young American singers evoking the best New York City Opera tradition. Two performers (both playing AIDS victims) stood out in a strong ensemble. Baritone Andrew Garland’s Prior Walter (despite a rather healthily toned physique) grew from desperation at his AIDS diagnosis to spiritual revelation and finally to strength and hope in survival. Bass-baritone Wayne Tigges captured Roy Cohn’s manic energy and animal instincts underpinned with the deep self-loathing that enabled his amoral acts. Tigges’ nasal Lower East Side “Noo Yawk” accent was as spot-on as his singing. Kirsten Chambers’ brightly heroic soprano commanded the sus-

tained high melismas required of the Angel. Aaron Blake found in Louis Ironson the fear, vulnerability, and insecure self-doubt that spurred his abandonment of Prior. His bright silvery lyric tenor handled Louis’ rangy music with the same adroit sensitivity. The excellent work of soprano Sarah Beckham-Turner (Harper Pitt/ Ethel Rosenberg), mezzo Sarah Castle (Hannah Pitt/ Rabbi), baritone Michael Weyandt (Joe Pitt), and countertenor Matthew Reese (Belize) made one wish their characters had been given more opportunities in Act II. Conductor Pacien Mazzagatti and his well-rehearsed orchestra reveled in the eclecticism of Eötvös’ score, fully realizing its dramatic potential.

focused on the trek itself. Can you talk about how you chronicled the story before, during, and after the trek? MC: I wanted to spend time with the men before the journey so the audience would “go along” with them. You needed to feel the stakes are high and this journey is urgent. Tom saw no other options; he had no choice but to put on a backpack and walk for five and a half months. I had to capture as much as I could. It was an internal journey, not just a physical one. When we got to the end, Tom’s journey was going to continue, and that’s why we stayed in production for another few months.

intellectual. So when I make films, they aren’t going to be essay films about an issue, but an emotional journey about the issue. I allow the intellectual stuff to come out organically. We’re all human. That’s what drives me — creating an emotional connection to someone they don’t

think they can relate to. I’m growing and moving out of my comfort zone. I’m walking across the country with veterans as a lefty New Yorker. When you do that, you see how much you have in common with these people that the media tries to convince us are different than we are.

GMK: There are several scenes that depict the moral injury that forms Tom and Anthony’s particular form of PTSD. Can you talk about that issue? MC: Moral injury, as I’ve grown to understand it, is characterized much more by guilt and shame beyond the fear-based trauma of post-traumatic stress shock. It really brings into focus the human cost of war beyond the obvious physical injuries and casualties. It brings up questions about the morality of war and sending people in to kill other people. GMK: As a gay man, how do you choose your subjects and stories to tell? MC: My approach to filmmaking and life is much more from the space of the heart, an emotional connection, not the head, which is

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July 06â&#x20AC;&#x201C;July 19, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


JOAN JULIET BUCK, from p.50

they’d ask, ‘How’s it going? What’s your advance? How’s your agent, how’s it going to do?’ In Paris, it would be, ‘Oh, darling should your glasses be so big? You are so boring in brown, you look much more interesting in blue. Don’t wear brown.’ Nobody gave a shit about the book or its future.” Another friend, Karl Lagerfeld, designed her wedding dress and would let her pick out a complimentary couture outfit each year after she left French Vogue. “He loaned me his house in Monte Carlo when my father was living in Paris near me. ‘Why don’t you take it, because I prefer Biarritz now.’ “The chauffeur drives us up this winding road with two security checkpoints, not manned, but gates. We get up to the top and there’s this beautiful little fairy tale chateau called La Vigie, which had belonged to the Grimaldis. [Princess] Caroline had either loaned or given it to him. There were lots of books, flowers, and furniture, bedside tables with chairs piled with picture books, very fancy and beautiful. “There’s a butler, cook, and chauffeur who announce, ‘We serve dinner at seven and then we go home,’ and the chauffeur said, ‘I will be at your disposal during the day.’ I realized that every night I would be locked up in this pal-

SWEENEY TODD, from p.43

presumed demise. Sweeney meets Mrs. Lovett, owner of a failing pie shop, and together they go on a murderous spree. It’s a perfect relationship. Sweeney needs balm for his tormented soul. Mrs. Lovett needs meat. As he sets about killing his customers, Sweeney finds his daughter Johanna, now 16 and the ward of the same horrible judge, and rescues her with the help of Anthony, the sailor who saved Sweeney on his escape from the penal colony. The tale of retribution and rescue performed in tight quarters takes on a tension and urgency that are part of what make this production so remarkable. Needless to say, happy endings are reserved only for the young and innocent, which GayCityNews.nyc | July 06–July 19, 2017

ace with my father with no way of getting out and no one could come visit because of the checkpoints. It rather symbolized my life, and it was 1997, the summer that Princess Diana and Dodi al Fayed were on their yacht. I really didn’t know anyone in Monte Carlo and my father didn’t want to see any of his friends, so we would read the English newspapers I’d pick up every morning, have dinner on the terrace, and then there would be fireworks at the casino at night. My father would be asleep, and, after seeing all the news pictures of Diana swimming and necking with Dodi, I was thinking I want to be on a boat with a boyfriend. I want sex in the cabin, Bain de Soleil, not locked up in a palace with my father like a fairy tale princess.” That wedding dress Lagerfeld designed for her — “like a riding habit with an under part that was all taffeta; I gave it to the Met” — was for her marriage to a wonderful writer I greatly admire, John Heilpern. “I was 28 when we got together for not that long, five years. But he taught me about paragraphs! I was then features editor for British Vogue and had done my stint as Women’s Wear Daily correspondent in London and Italy, but I had never thought about paragraphs and it was John who said, ‘You follow a thought to the end, and then you go to the next one [laughs].

“He’s a good guy and a friend and made me laugh a lot, but it’s difficult living with another writer. We found a New York apartment that had two little studies next to each other separated by a door. I was supposed to be working on my first novel and various Vogue pieces, and he was the correspondent for the London Observer. We would listen to each other’s typewriters. I would hide and stand in the closet, crocheting compulsively. John would say, ‘You’re not typing!’ And I would reply, ‘I’m filing!’ We drove each other nuts. And then there’d be the all-nighter when you’d keep the other company which they don’t want, and whoever was working harder would just suck all the energy out of you. We’d both be on deadline and then we’d nap, and it was a battle for the energy.” Buck is single at the moment. “Mike Nichols was everything anyone would aspire to be in terms of worldliness and when I interviewed him, someone had just broken up with me. He said, ‘Oh, it will just be a minute [before I met someone else].’ And of course it wasn’t a minute, because I got French Vogue and was a nun for three and a half years, never had less sex than when I was editing that. Whenever any girl I knew was given a Vogue job, I’d say, ‘You have six weeks before you start? You fuck! Just fuck them every single day, all day long because once you take on the job, it’s over!’

“I’ve had like three big relationships since I came back from France when I was 52, so that’s quite a lot for somebody in their older years. Right now I wouldn’t mind eight adoring men to help me move my books around and take care of shit, but I’m at the age when men and women are very different. Because of the Internet, men have porno standards, so I think it’s become more difficult for older women because, frankly, teetering on a pair of skyscraper heels was not expected of somebody who’d be my age 20 years ago. “I like a man that I can laugh with and have an actual dialogue, with shared values. This sounds like fucking Christian Mingle but I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m afraid that if he catches sight of my double chin against the light of the kitchen window, he will be disgusted to realize my age. I don’t want to be in some weird illusion of being younger than I am, some Shangri-La where he goes, ‘Ohmigod! You’re an older woman! What was I thinking?’ “As far as meeting a new old person, I just narrated a play and someone in the cast keeps wanting me to meet their father and I’m not that interested. As you get older, everything remains the same but it takes longer to do it. I probably would have written this book faster if I was younger, but I just wanted to carefully go through it, fi xing it.”

is both the conventional morality of the original tale’s time and a mordant reminder of Oscar Wilde’s aphorism, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” Hugh Wheeler’s book has themes of class and privilege woven throughout. Both Lewis and Carmello are spectacular in their roles. Lewis sings the role more lyrically than any Sweeney I’ve heard, including opera star Bryn Terfel. His rich and powerful voice, unforgettable in “Porgy and Bess” and the original “Side Show,” is here underpinned by his intensity as an actor, and his Sweeney is both chillingly raging and appealing. In this compact theater, every nuance of character is felt and often sends chills up the spine. Carmello is every bit Lewis’ match as Mrs. Lovett. This is one of

the most complicated and demanding roles to sing in modern musical theater, and Carmello makes it seem effortless. She is also a flawless comedienne who makes this the funniest Mrs. Lovett I’ve seen. She has the advantage of the small space to do so much with a look and small gesture to enrich her portrayal. Given the enterprise Mrs. Lovett is engaged in, it’s disconcerting to fall in love with her, but Carmello makes it impossible not to. The other new members of the cast include Jamie Jackson in a brilliantly sung performance as Judge Turpin, Stacie Bono as the Beggar Woman/ Pirelli, and JohnMichael Lyles as Tobias, the young boy Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett press into service after murdering Pirelli to protect Sweeney’s identity. Lyles has a fresh voice and puppy-dog-

like quality in the role that work perfectly. Continuing members of the company include another Broadway veteran, Brad Oscar, as the Beadle, Matt Doyle as Anthony, and Alex Finke as Johanna. They all continue in top form both as their characters and in the choral passages that punctuate and comment on the action. “Sweeney Todd” has always been a thrill ride. The “horror” of the story could never been seen as real, at least by anyone with an understanding of the genre and a capacity for abstract thought, and so we’re free to indulge in its overthe-top-darkness and to laugh it off at the end, having had a good scare. Combined with the artistry of Sondheim’s score, it’s no wonder I go back to see this show as often as possible. You should, too.

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Gay City News  

July 6, 2017

Gay City News  

July 6, 2017