A N G E L E S
L G B T
C E N T E R ’ S
Q U A R T E R L Y
M A G A Z I N E FA L L 2 0 1 4
Facing Down The Foster Care System A STAGGERING 19% OF FOSTER YOUTH IDENTIFY AS LGBTQ. DISCOVER THE CENTER’S GROUNDBREAKING EFFORTS TO TRANSFORM THEIR LIVES.
L O S
THEY’RE REBORN THIS WAY
AIDS/LIFECYCLE IS PIXEL PERFECT
WELLS FARGO PRESENTS 45TH ANNIVERSARY GALA
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2014 HON ORI N G
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13 CEO Letter
A BOLD EFFORT TO ENLARGE THE CIRCLE
A PIXEL PERFECT JOURNEY
RISE to the Top
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HOW THE CENTER IS RESHAPING THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM FOR LGBTQ YOUTH
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Opening More Doors
Why I Give
COMING OUT OF THE CLOSET IS ABOUT MORE THAN SEXUAL ORIENTATION OR GENDER IDENTITY
STRAIGHT “TALK” FROM SHARON OSBOURNE ABOUT WHY SHE LOVES THE CENTER
THE DOCTOR IS IN... TWO DECADES OF GIVING BACK
subscriptions Vanguard is published quarterly by the Los Angeles LGBT Center, a nonprofit corporation. 1625 N. Schrader Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028, Voice 323-993-7400 • TDD 323-993-7698. Copyright 2014, Vanguard. All rights reserved. Printed in the USA. Publication of the name, quotation or photograph of a person in articles or advertising is not an indication of the sexual orientation or the HIV status of such person. Moving, getting duplicate mailings or wish to be removed from the Vanguard mailing list? Call us at 323-993-7620 or visit lalgbtcenter.org/newsletter
MAKING SENSE OF PrEP Lorri L. Jean, CEO
“New York Governor Cuomo supports PrEP to end the epidemic in New York by 2020” “Larry Kramer says gay men who take Truvada instead of using condoms are cowards”
men and trans women who are strong candidates for PrEP, especially those who are at greatest risk of contracting HIV. Obviously, these are decisions that people should make in consultation with their doctors.
Also, it appears to me that the World Health Organization’s recommendation was widely misconstrued. What the WHO said is that New York isn’t the only place where there are mixed messages about where additional HIV prevention choices are needed for gay and pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP (taking antiretroviral drugs— bisexual men and transgender women who have sex with men, daily Truvada—that may prevent the contraction of HIV). Here in L.A. and oral PrEP “may be considered as a possible additional intervention.” around the country we’ve seen some vocal opponents get lots of media But this recommendation was expressly conditional, recognizing that attention, galvanizing proponents. I am not a gay or bisexual man or more research needs to be done, especially in light of the fact that a transgender woman who has sex with men. This means I’m not a sexual risk behavior and adherence to PrEP meds might be different member of the groups at highest risk for HIV infection in the United outside of a trial setting. The WHO also was conscious of the dangers States. So PrEP isn’t an issue for my personal health. But it’s certainly of criminalization, stigma, discrimination and violence when implean issue for many in our community and it’s one I’m asked about almost menting PrEP for our community in certain settings, e.g., in countries every time I’m in a gathering that includes gay men. “What do you where homosexual sex is illegal. think about Truvada?”“Did the World Health Organization really say that all HIV-negative gay men should What do we know about PrEP? be on PrEP?”“Won’t taking Truvada According to the Center’s Medical reduce condom use?” are just a few of Director Dr. Bob Bolan, one of the “PrEP is not a panacea, but it IS the questions I’ve been asked. world’s most experienced HIV/AIDS Given that the only U.S. groups among whom HIV infections are increasing are gay and bisexual men and transgender women who have sex with men, this is an issue of great importance to our community. As a layperson, I thought I’d take a crack at making some sense in the midst of controversy.
one very important component of a comprehensive strategy to reduce the number of HIV infections. I strongly believe that we should be using every tool at our disposal to end HIV as an epidemic.”
First and foremost, PrEP is not a panacea, but it IS one very important component of a comprehensive strategy to reduce the number of HIV infections. I strongly believe that we should be using every tool at our disposal to end HIV as an epidemic. Thanks to advances in research and treatments, such a vision is actually possible. Should all HIV-negative gay and bisexual men and transgender women who have sex with men be on PrEP? The truth is, we don’t yet know. I also don’t think “should” is the right word for the discussion given how much we still have to learn. Certainly, there are gay and bi 4
docs, there are some very promising data from what little research has been done to date. For example, early research indicates that for people who take PrEP 7 days a week, it has 99% efficacy in preventing the contraction of HIV. For those who take it four days a week, the efficacy is 96%. For those who take it two times a week, the efficacy drops to 76%. To get good levels of protection in the blood and the vagina, three weeks on PrEP is necessary; in the rectum, seven days. Does this mean that people on PrEP needn’t use condoms? Absolutely not. PrEP users will be far safer if they also use condoms. Plus, PrEP doesn’t protect someone from other sexually transmitted infections like syphilis or gonorrhea. Also, Dr. Bolan is quick to say that we do not yet have sufficient evidence-based models for who are the best candidates for PrEP or for the proper dosage schedule and for how long. We also don’t know
“We should not be stigmatizing people who decide that PrEP is an appropriate strategy for them any more than we should be stigmatizing women who choose to take the birth control pill or those who access clean needle exchange programs. “
enough about toxicity when it is taken for long periods of time. Or about what happens if people take it intermittently—which could be dangerous in terms of leading to the development of drug-resistant strains of HIV (another reason that it’s safest for people taking Truvada to also use condoms).
proper compliance. At the Center, we currently have no funding to offer PrEP beyond participants in our research study or patients with private or government insurance. So, as things currently stand, not everyone who needs or wants PrEP can access it. As soon as this changes, we’ll be sure to let you know.
At the Center, our Research Department is hard at work trying to find some answers. There are five studies underway in Los Angeles right now, and ours is one of the largest. We are focusing on people who are at high risk of HIV infection. We anticipate that it will be 18–24 months before enough research has been done to yield information about proper dosage. Right now we’re operating by the Centers for Disease Control guidance that PrEP should be taken daily and that people on PrEP must come back to get tested at least every 90 days.
Who do I think should take PrEP? As someone who has spent more than 30 years actively engaged in the fight against HIV and AIDS, my answer is: anyone who wants it after consulting with his/ her physician and who can comply with the medication regimen. We should not be stigmatizing people who decide that PrEP is an appropriate strategy for them any more than we should be stigmatizing women who choose to take the birth control pill or those who access clean needle exchange programs. Ultimately, this is about individual choice and using every means at our disposal to end the epidemic. PrEP is a powerful tool in that pursuit and, as such, should not be dismissed but should be used wisely. We’re working as quickly as we can at the Center to help understand exactly what wise usage is. Stay tuned.
Of course, at about $13,000 a year, PrEP isn’t cheap. (Although, as the WHO report indicates, PrEP is far cheaper than the costs of a lifetime of treatment for someone with HIV.) Many insurance carriers cover PrEP, but not all do so affordably or in ways that encourage
IN THE SAME CIRCLE How Two People With Very Different Lives Ended Up With One Common Bond by Nellie Sims
George Williams* lived in a tiny house in Glendale. He loved playing cards, but at 86, his friends were no longer around to play his favorite game of Hearts. Then, someone invited him to join a Senior Men’s Chat Group at the Center. His life changed that day; no longer isolated, George had a place to go where he belonged. Across town, Helen Benson* lived in a lovely home in the Pacific Palisades. A chemist by profession, Helen was the daughter of wealthy parents. She loved her chemistry students, the environment, progressive causes—and she enjoyed living by herself with plenty of staff to assist. Although their lives were very different, George and Helen had something remarkable in common: Both had the generosity and foresight to leave the Center a gift in their estate planning documents. George listed the Center as the beneficiary of a paid-up life insurance plan, a Gerber Company plan he had held for years. Upon his death, the Center received a gift of $7,600. Helen named the Center as one of three charitable beneficiaries of her trust. When she died, the Center received a gift valued at close to a million dollars. Both gave what they could. Both were part of the Circle of Life. The Circle of Life is the Center’s legacy program. Its members designate the Center as a beneficiary in their estates. The generosity and forethought of supporters like George and Helen have a tremendous impact on the Center’s bottom line—no matter the size of their gift. Although Circle of Life members can designate gifts for particular programs, many leave it to the Center’s discretion to use their donations in ways that are needed most. “Over the last several years the Center has judiciously used unrestricted bequests to build a strategic reserve fund that not only provides annual dividends to support our ongoing work but is available for new initiatives or in the event of emergencies,” said Center CEO Lorri L. Jean. “We’re determined to make the most strategic use of these funds, in full accordance with the Circle of Life member’s wishes.” * Names of donors have been changed.
1,000 STRONG! In the last five years, membership in the Circle of Life has more than doubled—from about 220 members to well over 500 members today. And now the Center is embarking on an ambitious goal to reach 1,000 members in an effort called Project 1000! If you’d like to learn more about ways to make a future gift to the Center, please contact Nellie Sims, J.D., Director of Planned Giving, at 323-993-7691 or email@example.com.
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Support our work to help LGBT people be healthy, equal and complete members of society through regular monthly contributions. Become a member of the Advocatesâ€”one of the greenest and most effective ways you can support the Center.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS*
TRANSGENDER AWARENESS MONTH
Trans Flag Raising West Hollywood City Hall NOV. 3
West Hollywood, Matthew Shepard Triangle Memorial Park NOV. 10
Transgender Film Festival Location to be determined NOV. 16
Transgender Wellness Event Location to be determined NOV. 17
Transgender Economic Empowerment Job & Resource Fair
GET CENTERED! TOURS EXPERIENCE THE CENTER Join us for a tour to see how we open the doors of hope for our community. You will leave not only informed but inspired!
Visit lalgbtcenter.org/tour or call 323-993-7635.
Location to be determined NOV. 20
Day of Remembrance West Hollywood Library
*Events are subject to change. For the latest details, contact Drian Juarez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If my social worker had been more knowledgeable about my community, then perhaps my foster family would have treated me with more grace than hate.â€? Geovanni Fernandez
Former foster care youth (Above) Vicky Pacifico rehearses with her Stagebridge theater class at The Village. 8
RISE to the By Gil Diaz
When Geovanni Fernandez told his foster family he was gay, he wasn’t sure what their response would be. But it soon became clear when they intentionally forgot his birthday—and then ordered him to stay in his room on Thanksgiving until all the guests left so he wouldn’t infect them with his “gay germs.” The family he had lived with since he was nine years old had instantly turned on him simply for revealing his true self. “They were very religious and tried to ‘pray away the gay,’” recalls Fernandez, who was 17 at the time he came out to the family. “They told me that gay people burn in hell. I was scared. I really thought there was something wrong with me.” The family insisted that Fernandez see a counselor. They accompanied him to the first few sessions. But they eventually stopped going, and Fernandez found himself participating in group therapy with strangers. This ordeal occurred 21 years ago, and yet Fernandez—now 38—still looks back with anguish. “I felt worthless because of my damaged relationship with my foster family. Many times I thought about taking my life,” he says. Stories of despair among LGBTQ youth still exist within the foster care system, and the Center is at the forefront of making their experiences better. In 2010 the Center was the recipient of a grant from the federal Permanency Innovations Initiative (PII). PII is a five-year, $100 million, multi-site demonstration project designed to improve permanency outcomes among children in foster care who have the most serious barriers to permanency. The RISE Project housed in the Center’s Department of Children,Youth & Family Services, was developed to take on this important work. A major component of RISE is the Los Angeles Foster Youth Survey (LAFYS). In 2011 RISE contracted with UCLA’s Williams Institute to conduct a comprehensive study of foster youth in L.A. County designed to establish the proportion of
(Left) Los Angeles resident Geovanni Fernandez was placed in foster care when he was three years old.
Our ultimate goal with this and other aspects of RISE is to create a replicable model that will ensure LGBTQ issues are addressed within the child welfare system and among social workers and foster families.” Curt Shepard
Director, Children, Youth & Family Services
LGBTQ youth in the system and gather information about their experiences within it. With the assistance of Holarchy Consulting, a firm specializing in nonprofit groups, the Williams Institute conducted an extensive telephone survey with a randomly sampled population of LGBTQ foster youth. The county supplied the random sample. In late August the Center and the Williams Institute jointly released a report of findings from the study, which is the first of several reports that are planned based on this research. The report, LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care: Los Angeles Foster Youth Survey, reveals that 19% of the approximately 7,400 youth in foster care in the county over age 12 identify as LGBTQ. Other key findings include: • The LGBTQ foster youth population has similar racial/ethnic and age demographics as the foster youth population that identify as non-LGBTQ. Thus, youth of color—primarily Latino and African-American—make up the majority of the LGBTQ population in foster care. • The percentage of LGBTQ youth living in foster homes is twice that of the general LGBTQ youth population in Los Angeles County. (See Table 1) • LGBTQ youth experience more foster care placements and are more likely to be living in a group home. They also are more likely to have been homeless at some point. Twice as many LGBTQ foster youth as non-LGBTQ foster youth reported being treated “not very well” by the foster care system. Three times as many LGBTQ foster youth reported having been hospitalized for emotional distress as their heterosexual
counterparts. (See Table 2) “There’s no history of anyone or any organization having conducted this type of study of LGBTQ youth in foster care,” says Children,Youth & Family Services Director Curt Shepard. “Our ultimate goal with this and other aspects of RISE is to create a replicable model that will ensure LGBTQ issues are addressed within the child welfare system and among social workers and foster families. We want to create an environment of acceptance for LGBTQ foster youth and decrease their likelihood of being rejected by their caregivers.” Shepard points out that, on average, a staggering 40% of youth who visit the Center’s drop-in facility for homeless youth on Highland Avenue have been in the foster care system.
Fernandez—a slender Latino who entered the foster care system at the age of three—wishes he had known about the Center when he came out at 17 so he could have encountered a better support system. After coming out to his family, Fernandez naively thought his social worker would be more understanding. So it devastated him when the social worker—a middle-aged woman—showed no compassion whatsoever. “When I told her I was gay, all she said was, ‘Oh, OK.’ She then lowered her head and changed the subject of our conversation,” recalls Fernandez, who subsequently was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. “I was close to tears. I wouldn’t have been emotionally wrecked if only she had said something supportive. She was supposed to be my advocate. She was supposed to be on my side, and yet she let me down.”
Too many LGBTQ youth in Los Angeles County are in foster care
Percentage of Los Angeles County Residents who are LGBTQ Youth
Percentage of LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care
Fernandez wholeheartedly agrees the foster care system didn’t live up to its standards when dealing with his personal turmoil. He believes the social worker’s uncaring attitude was a product of what was missing in the foster care system at the time: cultural competence in dealing with the LGBTQ community. “Social workers need to receive that formal training because they’re the ones who can influence foster families to understand and accept LGBTQ youth,” he says. “If my social worker had been more knowledgeable about my community, then perhaps my foster family would have treated me with more grace than hate.” RISE has been on the cutting edge of this issue. In January 2013 the Center began offering training classes to county staffers within the child welfare system about the LGBTQ community. So far, more than 1,500 have been trained. “For the sake of LGBTQ foster youth, we need to mitigate the prevalence of het-
erosexism within the foster care system,” says Shepard. “Staff members at these agencies need to be more visibly supportive of the LGBTQ community. By having LGBTQ-affirmative brochures or posters in their offices—or by simply wearing a rainbow colored wristband, for instance— they help to promote inclusion.”
How vulnerable are LGBTQ foster youth? More likely to live in a group home
It’s been more than two decades since Fernandez encountered that cold reaction from his social worker. It may have affected him adversely as a teen, but today Fernandez is a stronger man with friends—including his partner of 10 years—who have become his new adoptive family. “I breathe easily now because I realize being gay is not a crime and nothing to be ashamed of,” he says. “I had to learn the hard way about not being afraid. My foster family has no power over me anymore. I am free.”
LGBTQ Foster Youth
Non-LGBTQ Foster Youth
More likely to be homeless at some point
(Below) Fernandez has formed a new adoptive family, which includes his partner J.D. Sebastian.
LGBTQ Foster Youth: 21% Non-LGBTQ Foster Youth: 14%
More likely to be hospitalized for emotional reasons
25% 8% LGBTQ Foster Youth
Non-LGBTQ Foster Youth
Fall 2014 11
Learning Curve—the nation’s first and only LGBTcentric adult education program—is turning 16! To celebrate, we’ll be going “back to school” this fall with a new and exciting schedule of courses and programs that are bold and fearless reflections of today’s LGBT community. NEW & UPDATED COURSES!
CUTTING EDGE EQUIPMENT!
NEW COURSES COMING SOON!
• • • •
• New PC and Mac computers • AVID video editing system • Digital cameras and production space
• iOS/Android App development courses • Wine tasting workshops • Photography and video courses • Distance learning online courses
Creative writing as art Fashion illustration Tantra for Queer Women Adobe Photoshop CC
Turning 16 has never been so cool. Don’t be late for class!
Twenty-six years ago, the Center hosted the nationâ€™s largest inaugural National Coming Out Day on October 11. This year four individuals who have a connection with the Center are fearlessly coming forward with their personal stories that depict a new evolution in their lives. They are reborn and true reflections of the Center: compassionate, relentless, courageous, inspirational and strong.
photographs by jesse finley reed Fall 2014 13
My exploration gave me the courage to come out—first to myself, then to my family and eventually to the leadership of the church where I worked.” Kevin J. McCloskey
Program Operations Manager LifeWorks program
Losing my job as an associate pastor was one of the most difficult times in my life. I always knew that I was attracted to men. I had been since I was young. Although I pictured myself getting married one day and having a family, I realized that a part of me desired a physical and emotional connection with a man. But, I also belonged to a Christian community that advocated the sanctity of heterosexual relationships. I dismissed my feelings as a childhood phase, assuming that once I got married, the desires would subside. “It’s not God’s best, nor His design.” That was the typical response I heard
whenever the topic of homosexuality came up in the Christian churches I associated with. And there had been many. I grew up Catholic, got “saved” at a Baptist church in high school, joined an interdenominational Christian group in college, and eventually went into full-time Christian ministry. I had seen individuals urged into reparative therapy, excused from leadership, condemned and banished as they admitted their same-sex attractions. No one around me ever knew that this was all very personal to me. I met and fell in love with an amazing woman in college and we got married
shortly after graduation. Although I recognized early on that marriage did nothing to take away my same-sex attractions, I figured my inclination would be something I could live with and keep to myself. We had a family, I made a career in Christian ministry and, overall, we enjoyed a very happy life. As I got into my 30s, my attraction to men began to grow, both in intensity and in consistency. My desires were becoming a much bigger part of my heart than they had ever been. I didn’t dare talk to anyone in the church where I was a pastor. I had been there long enough to understand it wasn’t safe to wrestle with one’s sexual orientation. So I began a private journey of reading, listening to podcasts and attending pro-gay church services. I met Christians who had come to believe that they weren’t condemned in God’s eyes—but rather—were embraced, welcomed and loved. Although it was an extremely lonely time, my exploration gave me the courage to come out—first to myself, then to my family and eventually to the leadership of the church where I worked. It’s been two years since I lost my pastoral job, but I’m thankful it happened. I’ve formed warm relationships with my children and ex-wife, and I’ve found a new faith community that welcomes me as I am. Kevin J. McCloskey has written a screenplay based on his coming out experience.
It had happened before in the previous eight years: waking up in a strange place after a bender with no recollection as to how I got there. But this time, the bed was in a hospital, and I was handcuffed to it. The police told me they brought me there the night before, after I’d shown up at a friend’s home drunk and suicidal. Just a week before, I had spent my last $70 on a Greyhound ticket from Chicago to California with one clear goal: to kill myself. I began drinking shortly after I got out of college. Professionally, I was doing well in corporate human resources and surrounding myself with the external signs of success: car, clothes, fancy watches and more. Internally, though, feelings of inadequacy consumed me, and I quickly learned that alcohol—and later, cocaine—helped to extinguish them, at least temporarily. I pushed away anyone who tried to get too close to me, including my parents.They hadn’t heard from me for three years. I woke up cuffed to that hospital bed with no car, no home, an empty savings account and maxed-out credit cards. Although I had nothing, I date my recovery to that moment. I spent the next few months in homeless shelters and scavenging for food. But losing all my “stuff ” was the beginning of my awakening. My choice was finally clear: continue drinking and die, or… quit and live. There was no in-between. Last spring, I was one of more than 2,300 people biking 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles as part of AIDS/ LifeCycle. On a downhill just past the halfway point—immediately after the two formidable hills riders call “the Evil Twins”—I started to bawl. Much of my
My choice was finally clear: continue drinking and die, or… quit & live. There was no in-between.” Jacob Ittycheria
sobriety work has been to learn to love and forgive myself and allow myself to be worthy of greatness. Here was proof of my progress. Five years before, living on the streets, I couldn’t have imagined coasting downhill through sweet-smelling chaparral with a view of the Pacific. Coasting simply wasn’t a possibility for me. I decided to ride in AIDS/LifeCycle because when I was lost in darkness, people were there to lead me out. Raising $7,000 for the Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic and riding hundreds of miles proved to me that I’m not only strong enough to care for myself, I’m also strong enough to give back. In a sense, I’m grateful for the darkest days of my addiction, because they made me appreciate the light, and I hope to serve as a light to
others who are also struggling. I finally called my parents on Thanksgiving Day 2009, three months after I came to in the hospital. It took me that long to work up the courage to dial their number, and I broke down and sobbed. My mother told me that she had hoped for two years that every ring of the phone would be me. By the third year, she gave up looking and hoping. She calls me every weekend now, just to reassure herself I’m still here. I don’t mind; I want to be certain that neither she nor I—nor anyone else—ever has to lose hope. Jacob Ittycheria celebrated his fifth year of sobriety in August. Fall 2014 15
Even I couldn’t comprehend why I stayed with her. I began to realize that I had become that person we all hear about: The woman who remains in a clearly damaging and abusive relationship while the rest of us scratch our heads and ask,“Why doesn’t she just leave?” I never understood why—until I was that woman. For five years, I was in an abusive relationship with someone I loved. It was incredibly confusing, and I often felt powerless to leave.Whenever my partner exploded into violence, I felt determined to break free from our relationship. But, during tearful apologies, declarations of love and a seemingly heartfelt commitment to change, I would relent. There were times of great joy and happiness, sparked by that unmistakable feeling of a deep and intimate connection with another person. But this would never last. Good times were always followed by manipulation, control, anger and violence. My inability to break from this heart-wrenching pattern made me feel even worse about myself. After one particularly violent episode, I finally sought a restraining order. She had attempted to take the steering wheel while I was driving, nearly causing an accident. As I struggled to control the car, she yanked my clothes, pulled my hair and hit me. I was somehow able to get out of my car, leaving it in an alleyway. She pursued me and grabbed hold, ripping my T-shirt.The humiliation of running through my neighborhood with scratches and torn clothing
I hope that the Center’s program continues to garner our community’s vital backing so that anyone who is suffering in fearful silence can have access to competent, LGBT-friendly support.” Jennifer*
Client Domestic Violence Program *Name changed for client’s safety 16
was accompanied by extreme grief and fear. I called the police from a payphone outside of a McDonald’s, shaken and crying. I felt so badly about myself that I wanted to end my life. If I couldn’t leave her after that incident, I saw no way I could ever leave her. I lived in constant fear of my ex’s anger. I had isolated myself from everyone who loved me for fear that I would break down and reveal the truth about my relationship. I didn’t want my friends to know the extent of the abuse, or how weak I was for staying with such a violent, sadistic person. I saw friends and loved ones less and less frequently—and when I did, I didn’t dare let them know what hell my life had become. This was one of the darkest times of my life. All of the violence, insults, put-downs and psychological and emotional abuse damaged my self-esteem tremendously. Fortunately, I sought help at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Domestic Violence Program—and that saved my life. With the Center’s help, I was able
to leave my abusive partner and have her officially served with a restraining order. Counselors also helped me work through the personal issues—like my low self-worth—that led me to stay in an abusive relationship for so many years. I finally left the relationship in 2006. It was a very long and difficult process, but well worth every effort. Now I counsel people in crisis, some of whom also have experienced domestic violence. I hope that the Center’s program continues to garner our community’s vital backing so that anyone who is suffering in fearful silence can have access to competent, LGBT-friendly support. I know, without a doubt, that the Center’s Domestic Violence Program has a positive and meaningful impact on people’s lives and well being. For more information about the Center’s STOP Domestic Violence Project, call 323-860-5806 or email email@example.com.
My journey to get to this point of living openly about the virus has been a long one.” Brad Ong President and Creative Director, The Equinox Group
I had a secret that I intended to take to my grave. Years later, when I began learning about the Center, I realized how much easier my life would have been had I known about this organization—that I didn’t have to do all of that struggling alone, that the Center could have been my life raft. You see, I’m writing this as a person living with HIV. My journey to get to this point of living openly about the virus has been a long one. I never wanted to be gay. I fought it for as long as possible. I had no gay role models growing up. My perception of being gay meant a life of risky and anonymous sex, drugs, alcohol abuse and loneliness. To me, being gay meant if you had sex, you might die. And if you were to come out, you’d face limited job opportunities. And it meant never having
children. It wasn’t exactly the vision I had for myself. So, I numbed the shame and the pain with drugs and alcohol. During a routine medical checkup in 2005, my doctor discovered that I was HIV-positive. When my diagnosis was confirmed by a second test, I was shocked, devastated and terrified. Back then, doctors recommended not taking antiviral drugs until your T-cells dropped below a certain point. This led to frequent doctor visits and, basically, living in a state of fear. My T-cells remained stable for a couple of years, but then my count plummeted and I needed to get on antiviral meds quickly. It was a very scary time of my life. My minimal insurance policy didn’t cover the drugs, which can cost more than $2,000 a month. I felt
desolate and helpless. I didn’t even know the Center existed. I didn’t know that it was the one-stop shop that could have helped me with world-class HIV practices, medicine and the mental health services I really needed. Luckily, my doctor told me about an experimental study so that my meds and healthcare would be covered. I wouldn’t be sharing my story now if I didn’t think the work that the Center does is life-enhancing and life-saving. I’m writing this for the many faceless, nameless people who cannot—who have either lost their lives or whose lives have become so unmanageable they can’t speak for themselves. Brad Ong is a Center Board Member.
Fall 2014 17
house on Families & Youth. Known as the 2014 Family & Youth Services Bureau Mural Contest for Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs, YCH’s illustration beat out eight other entries for the top honor. In the application, staff members and youth proposed designing a mural that highlights YCH’s newly formed “Good Neighbor” program, which allows youth to work—and to give back—within their community.
(Above) Center Board Member Jayzen Patria (far right) with some of the LifeWorks scholarship recipients.
SOCIAL SERVICES & HOUSING
Hitting the Books—Not Their Pockets Thirty-five young people headed into LGBT Pride Month with something special to celebrate—college scholarships from the Center’s LifeWorks program. Totaling $47,500, the scholarships were awarded at a special ceremony on May 28. Among the generous individuals and companies that provided scholarships this year: Comcast NBCUniversal; the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA); Southern California Edison; and Steven Greene and David Cruz who make possible the Felice Samuel Greene Scholarship, named in honor of Steven’s mother.
“We had conversations about what our neighborhood would look like if we worked together to keep it clean, supportive and aware of all of those who reside within it,” says Youth Development Coordinator Martel Okonji. “Our mural depicts our neighborhood and shows what’s important to us: safe, understanding homes and places where we can gather.” YCH will receive gift cards from Home Depot to help purchase paint supplies to bring the mural to life.
Let’s Get to Work In related YCH news, the Center has been selected to launch a pilot project to address the challenges and issues transgender youth face when they enter the workforce. The project involves providing employment services for 20 transgender youth members.
“As the next generation of LGBT leaders, these students give me great hope for the future of our movement,” says LifeWorks Director Michael Ferrera. “They’re a truly deserving group of individuals, and we’re so proud to help them get their education as they begin their journey to change and influence the world.”
Partnering with the City of Los Angeles Workforce Investment Board and the Community Based Learning Program at UCLA, the Center will help to define solid and scalable best practices in preparing this marginalized and disconnected population for the workforce and providing them with employment opportunities.
Some of this year’s recipients will be enrolled at prestigious and highly competitive institutions, including New York University, Occidental College and the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Wells Received Recognition As they wait in line for the next teller, customers at the Wells Fargo retail branch in West Hollywood can gaze upon a largerthan-life depiction of the Center. Two photographs showing the early years of the Center have been included in an extravagant 102-foot-long mural painted inside the bank, located on Santa Monica Boulevard. Unveiled in June during Pride Month, the mural—one of the largest ever installed in a Wells Fargo banking location—highlights the history of the local LGBT community.
(Above) The Center’s youth clients designed this mural concept, which took top prize in a national contest.
Brushstrokes of Genius Youth and staff members at the Youth Center on Highland (YCH) will begin work on a mural that was selected as the firstplace winner of a contest conducted by the National Clearing-
One of the selected historic images is an iconic 1972 portrait of two of the Center’s founders Morris Kight and Don Kilhefner standing outside the Gay Community Services Center (the Center’s early moniker). The second image shows Center staff members and supporters marching in a Gay Pride Parade circa 1983. “No history of Los Angeles would be complete without including the history of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. It’s inspiring to see such recognition from Wells Fargo,” says Center CEO Lorri L. Jean. “The Center would not exist without the courageous LGBT people who defied social norms and relent-
The authors wrote: “Technology is redefining sex on demand; prevention programs must learn how to effectively exploit the same technology, and keep pace with changing contemporary risk factors for STI and HIV transmission.”
(Above) Two of the Center’s founders, Morris Kight (left) and Don Kilhefner (right), are included in Wells Fargo’s mural depicting L.A.’s LGBT history.
lessly launched what has become, today, the world’s largest LGBT organization of any kind. Our community owes a debt of gratitude to them and the many people who have supported and nurtured the Center’s development since our founders first began providing services in 1969.” HEALTH
The Downside of Hooking Up Research conducted by the Center indicates that gay/bisexual men who use smartphone dating applications to seek sexual partners have a higher risk of contracting common sexually transmitted infections (STI). The research was published in the scientific journal Sexually Transmitted Infections. Previous research has suggested that gay/bisexual men who meet online are more likely to indulge in unprotected sex and to have more sexual partners than men who meet potential partners in other ways, such as in bars and clubs. Research authors—among them Matthew Beymer and Jeffrey Rodriguez from the Center’s Sexual Health and Education Program (SHEP) and Center Medical Director Dr. Robert Bolan—wanted to discover whether these apps altered men’s behaviors and infection risks. They collected data from 7,184 HIV-negative gay/bisexual men who sought services from the Center’s dedicated sexual health clinic from 2011 to 2013. Their analysis showed that men who used smartphone apps to meet other men for sex were more likely to have common STI than those who met their partners in clubs and bars. They were 25% more likely to be infected with gonorrhea and 37% more likely to be infected with chlamydia. However, there was no difference in their likelihood of infection with either HIV or syphilis. The authors suggest that smartphone apps make it easier to meet potential partners more quickly than online or traditional methods. This boosts the chances of anonymous and riskier encounters and of contracting an STI. They point out that their findings may not be applicable to gay/bisexual men in other areas or to those not attending a dedicated sexual health clinic.
(Above) The PEP Song, Miss Coco Peru (below) and the Fabulous Fruits (bottom right) are some of the new entertaining videos featured in the Center’s revamped site Weholife.org.
Get a (Weho) Life! The Center has launched the revamped Weholife.org site as part of its ongoing commitment to stop the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among gay/bisexual men who live in West Hollywood. The site—formed in partnership with the City of West Hollywood—showcases entertaining videos aimed at educating viewers about safe sex, as well as a searchable map to find free condoms and information about the Center’s health services. A two-minute animation video, known as the “PEP Song,” explains the proper use of postexposure prophylaxis (also known as PEP) by men who have sex with men. Another animation video spotlights four male characters who transform into the “Fabulous Fruits” to fight the “Evil Syphilis.” Other features include longtime Center supporter Miss Coco Peru starring in a hilarious skit entitled “Five Rules for a Joyful, Good F*CK.” Coco plays a mother who gives advice about safe sex to her virginal son. LGBT comedians—among them Justin Martindale, Nico Santos and Bruce Daniels—narrate a series of personal anecdotes titled “My First STD.” Check out Weholife.org!
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Worth a Thousand W rds
More than 2,300 cyclists and 650 volunteer “roadies” embarked on a seven-day journey, June 1–7, from San Francisco to Los Angeles. They raised $15 million for AIDS/LifeCycle to benefit the Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation— setting a new world record for a single HIV fundraising event and beating the 2013 total by nearly half a million dollars. Many of this year’s participants snapped their fun adventures along the 545-mile route and shared them through social media. On Instagram, they posted nearly 15,000 photographs with the hashtag #aidslifecycle!
This is their journey—captured through their eyes and smartphones. @joemazzaphoto
Create your own memories! Register today for AIDS/LifeCycle 2015, May 31–June 6, at aidslifecycle.org.
›› Follow the Center on Instagram: @lalgbtcenter
@alecjosephbate s @ogoc
PHOTOGRAPH BY TOM DREW
PHOTOGRAPHS 2 THRU 7 BY FAYE SADOU
Garden Party (1, from left to right) Ruth Tuttle, Carolyn Dye, Michael Mueller and Ara Babaian were among the four Gay Lesbian Elder Housing board members honored at the Garden Party. Held at (2) David Cooley’s residence in Hancock Park, the party’s 350 guests included (3) Darryl Stephens of Noah’s Arc (right); (4) Castle’s Penny Johnson Jerald (far right), her husband Gralin (far left), and Castle costume designer Luke Reichle (second from right); (5) CSI’s Gerald McCullouch (second from left) and E! News’ Marc Malkin (center); (6) The L Word’s Simone Bailly; and (7) The People’s Couch’s Scott Nevins (left) with Rosemary and Newell Alexander of Sordid Lives. 4
Trans Pride (8-10) More than 800 guests broke attendance records at this year’s weekend-long Trans Pride, held at The Village at Ed Gould Plaza. Highlights from the festivities included an intimate Big Queer Convo panel with (11) trans activist Buck Angel in the Renberg Theatre and (12) a performance by alternative rock band Statues of Cats in The Village courtyard. 8
9 PHOTOGRAPHS BY LAURA BLOSSER
Christopher Street West/LA Pride (13-17) More than 500 supporters showed off their pride at the Center’s photo booth in the West Hollywood Park festival grounds. Participants were encouraged to pose with the five words that best described them—the same descriptors linked to the Center: compassionate, courageous, relentless, inspirational and strong. To view more of these fun photos shot by Brett Carlson, Stolen Frames Photography, visit facebook.com/stolenframes.
17 PHOTOGRAPHS BY KERRY CASTILLO
Senior Prom (18-20) The Center’s LGBT seniors celebrated their annual Senior Prom. Held at The Village, the event included a “dance off” on the dance floor.
GED Graduation (23) The West Hollywood City Council presented six graduates of the Youth Center on Highland’s GED program with a proclamation congratulating them on their achievements. The graduates pictured here (from left to right) are: Kris Hatfield, Joseph Porras, Aria Carnes, Veronica Molner, Misael Villalta and Nyree Jennings. Members of the City Council posing with them included (from left to right) Mayor John D’Amico, Councilmember Jeffrey Prang, Councilmember Abbe Land, Councilmember John J. Duran and Mayor Pro Tempore John Heilman. PHOTOGRAPH BY RICHARD E. SETTLE
Circle of Life Summer Luncheon (21, from left to right) Joyce Briscoe, Director of Planned Giving Nellie Sims, Shirley Ann Hill and Center CEO Lorri L. Jean enjoy lunch at the London Hotel; (22) Frank Galassi (right) and Arthur Macbeth (far right) receive awards for recruiting new Circle of Life members.
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The Los Angeles LGBT Center is extremely grateful for the support of the following new Sustaining Donors and Circle of Life members. As of July 2014
GO LD CIRCLE $6,0 0 0 -$11,999
CIRCLE OF LIFE
Michael Collins & Daniel Banchik **
David Michael Barrett & Mark Peters
Alexander Lach & Mark Donofrio **
David Benz & Jeffrey Johnson
Gary Mendes & Darrell Weber **
Stephen Burn & Stephen Burton Robert Campbell & Webb Huang
ST E RLING CIRCLE $3,60 0 -$5,999
Edward Casson & Stephen May
Sharon Kidd Thomas Klein
SI LVE R CIRCLE $2,40 0 -$3,599
Brian Miller & Will Feliciano * **
Christopher Smith & Mark Moreno
Terrie Mathis & Marnie Jamieson Jerry Silverstein
SI LVE R CIRCLE $1,80 0 -$2, 399
Charles J. Taylor
David Benz & Jeffrey Johnson
Andrew Emmett & Chris Acuff ** Keith Ennis ** Jon Gilbert Harley Neuman & Daniel Lam J. Alan Shemelya SI LVE R CIRCLE $1,5 0 0 -$1,799
Louise Carey Perkins Coie Foundation David Garcia Rachel Kurstin & Gregory Kurstin The Law Officies of Eric W. Thompson, P.C. John Weaver & Marty Meekins Richard West & Eric Fischer Brian Wilson
*Indicates Multi-Year Pledges **Indicates an increase in membership level ***Indicates Multi-Year Pledges and increased membership level
For information about Planned Giving or becoming a Sustaining Donor, please contact:
Jorge Mellado Major Gifts Officer 323-993-7635 firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Lee Major Gifts Associate 323-993-8945 email@example.com
Kathy Paspalis Major Gifts Officer 323-993-7687 firstname.lastname@example.org
Nellie Sims Director of Planned Giving 323-993-7691 email@example.com
Lovin’ Levin After 20 Years, Helping Others is Still in Lionel Levin’s Blood
PHOTOGRAPH BY MATT BAUME
by Jason Howe
It was just an offhand remark threequarters of a century ago, the kind one says to a child to make conversation, but it changed Lionel Levin’s life. He was only four years old at the time, recovering from a bout with pneumonia in his native Cape Town, South Africa. “Hurry up and get well,” the doctor said as he prepared to leave after the house call. “I need you to come help me.” The little boy took the doctor’s words seriously, sparking a lifelong interest in humanitarianism. He grew up to become a physician, and later in life he began to donate to causes that would help others. But following his retirement from his job as a Veterans Affairs (VA) psychiatrist in the late 1980s, dual tragedies spurred him to become a volunteer. The first was the loss of his partner of 24 years, Gale Reynolds. The second was the AIDS epidemic, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control, had become a leading cause of death among young adults in the United States. “I was single and had to find a new way of living,” said Levin, who at 80, is a Center Circle of Life member and Sustaining Donor. “So I started volunteering for AIDS organizations. I lived through the epidemic as a gay man and as a physician. I watched patients die, I watched friends die, I watched colleagues die. I wanted to put myself at the disposal of any organization helping people with medical care.” During this same period, the Center was preparing for a dramatic expansion to provide medical care to people with HIV. The organization would eventually move from its Highland Avenue headquarters to what is now the McDonald/Wright Building and open the Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic. “It happened because there was nowhere for anyone to go,” said Levin. “The Center said, ‘We have to do something.’” That commitment to “do something” has kept Levin involved as a volunteer for two decades as the Center has continu-
ally adapted to the changing needs of the community it serves—including expansion of programs for seniors and youth. “The Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic is established, mental health services are established, and everybody knows the quality work going on there,” Levin said. “But staffers going out at night in a van to get homeless kids into shelters, going into schools to stop bullying, addressing the horrible problems facing the elderly LGBT population—these are all issues close to my heart.” Another issue that hits close to home for Levin is the plight of LGBT veterans, especially those over the age of 65. A 2012 survey of Center clients found that only 4% of veterans were receiving the benefits to which they were entitled, including health care, pensions and spousal survivor benefits. “These are LGBT people who deserve just as much as straight people, but apprehension manacled them from ever even asking for the benefits they were entitled to,” he said. The Center began holding benefits seminars in conjunction with the VA, and the segment receiving benefits has now climbed to 19%. Jens Köhler, the Center’s Director of Institutional Giving, said Levin has been invaluable as a volunteer in securing grants for the Center. “Some of our medical funders speak a specialized professional language, and Lionel has been very helpful in translating that language into common English and back again for us,” said Köhler. “Because of him, our applications move forward.”
Lionel Levin photographed in his home, July 2014
Fall 2014 25
WHY I GIVE. BY SHARON OSBOURNE
I once said: My only regret in life is that none of my children is gay. It’s always been a mystery to me why some people have a big problem with the LGBT community. Gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—I embrace everyone, and I think everyone should do the same. So when Linda Perry asked me and Ozzy to support the Los Angeles LBGT Center’s fundraising event, “An Evening with Women,” five years ago, we said “yes” without any hesitation not only because we admire Linda, but also because we have the highest admiration for the work the Center does. I adore the Center for taking care of its community. As a mother, I am comforted to know that the Center provides food, shelter and clothing to LGBT youth who have been kicked out of their homes simply because they turned out differently from what their parents had envisioned. If Jack, Kelly or Aimee had come to me and said they were gay, I would say, “Thank you for telling me. I love you just the same. Be proud and strong. You will face a lot of adversity in life, but you will also be able to help many young people in your position.” That’s how parents should react. As a parent, why would I want to deny my children their happiness and desire to live the life they were born to live? LGBT youth should not have to live a lie. And if their parents were more compassionate, far fewer LGBT youth would be homeless. Just think about it: on any given day in L.A., 40% of homeless youth trying to survive on the streets identify as LGBT. That is just outrageous.
Educating those who are ignorant about or harbor prejudices against the LGBT community, however, will happen one step at a time…one person at a time. Kelly and I saw evidence of that when we served as the Grand Marshals for the Los Angeles Pride parade four years ago. We were having so much fun until we encountered a group of protesters along the parade route shouting obscenities and telling us that gays should go to hell. What a bunch of rubbish! I told them they should be ashamed of themselves. I’m uncertain what type of God they worship, but my God loves everyone. More than four years later, I’m still at a loss to understand people who are prejudiced against others because of their sexual orientation. One of the many reasons why I support the Center’s work is to help bring awareness to the fact that the LGBT community is a diverse, creative and beautiful collection of people. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my years on this planet, it’s that life is too short. Everyone needs to live openly and with dignity, and everyone needs to be a tad bit nicer to each other. I certainly hope my support for the Center inspires others to step it up—whether it’s volunteering for next year’s “An Evening with Women,” donating clothes to the youth shelter, or taking a tour of the Center’s facilities. Until there is full equality for all people, I will always be there for the LGBT community and support the good work of the Center. Always
Sharon Osbourne will be starting her fifth season as co-host of the Emmy-nominated show, The Talk.
Fall 2014 27
McDonald/Wright Building 1625 N. Schrader Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028
Now in its 22nd year, Models of Pride is the largest, free LGBTQA youth conference in the nationâ€”attracting more than 1,200 youth under age 25 each year. But the conference isnâ€™t just for kids!
Parents & Professionals Parents, teachers, Gay-Straight Alliance advisors, therapists and other adults who support LGBTQA youth can attend a full-day conference filled with speakers, workshops, discussion groups and films. The Parents and Professionals Institute follows the same schedule as the youth conference.
Want to get involved? We need over 150 volunteers for this life-changing conference to be a success! Contact Jennifer Jiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moving, getting duplicate mailings or wish to be removed from the Vanguard mailing list? Call 323-993-7620 or visit lalgbtcenter.org/newsletter