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Scientology wants to recruit you How gay protesters are working to expose the anti-LGBT cult By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com LGBT pioneer Morris Kight would have loved these gay guys, snarkily pestering the Church of Scientology staﬀ, security, and recruiters with a video camera and an annoying confrontational lilt to their jibes. Kight would have applauded their bravery, dramatically shrugging oﬀ the fear factor shrouding the cult and giving the famously anti-LGBT organization a jolt of its own harassment. Holidays are particularly special—such as this year’s Hollywood Christmas Parade down Hollywood Boulevard, passing the Hollywood Inn at North McCadden Place where Kight used to live and from whence the ﬁrst Gay Pride Parade set oﬀ in 1970. This Nov. 26, Thanksgiving weekend, the Scientology recruiters were out in force, oﬀering free “Personality Tests” as a lure into the “Everyone’s Welcome” Information Center. That night their annual Winter Wonderland aimed to entice Latino children to sit on Santa’s lap and get a cheap toy and L. Ron Hubbard pulp ﬁction. There, too, were the merry band of gay pranksters, calling out Scientology’s homophobia and squaring oﬀ with annoyed guards. Though Kight and others had sneered at the shadowy organization for years, Scientology managed to stay out of the publicity spotlight through donations to community and civic organizations. Rumors about celebrities such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise were aggressively squashed through threats of lawsuits. But the institution took an unexpected PR hit in 2008 with an explosion of unwanted publicity—which also turned out to be a kind of rude gay awakening. The Angry Gay Pope (Don Myers), Nasty Nathanial
(Nathanial Thomas), and others joined the Guy Fawkes mask-wearing hacktivist collective Anonymous in confronting Scientology after a secret internal video of celebrity Scientologist Tom Cruise was posted online. “Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident it’s not like anyone else. As you drive past you know you have to do something about it, because you know you’re the only one that can really help,” Cruise said. The church said the tape was intended for members only and was copyrighted, asking YouTube and other sites to take it down, NPR reported. That infuriated Anonymous, which saw the church’s response as an attack on freedom of speech. Members researched the religion and reacted by hacking the group’s websites, protesting the church’s requirement that members in good standing “disconnect” from family and friends who leave the church. “We are at war with the Church of Scientology. Our sole target is the church as a corporate entity. We vow to avoid any collateral damage to any member,” an Anonymous spokesperson said in a video. The church retorted. “It’s very reminiscent of days gone by and current days with the KKK, wearing masks, hiding, having secret meetings on the Internet,” Bob Adams, vice president of the church, told NPR. And then came Paul Haggis. After receiving a letter from his two lesbian daughters about the church’s endorsement of anti-gay marriage Prop 8, the Oscar-winning director/writer wrote to Tommy Davis, chief spokesperson for the Church of Scientology International (and son of his friend, actress Anne Archer) asking that the church renounce its support and stand against Prop 8. “I feel strongly about this for a number of reasons,” Haggis wrote. “You and I both know there has been a hidden anti-gay sentiment in the church for a long time. I have been shocked on too many occasions to hear Scientologists make derogatory
The Scientology building at the Hollywood Inn on Hollywood Boulevard and North McCadden Place PHOTO BY JOSEPH G. DANIELS PHOTOGRAPHY FOR THE LOS ANGELES BLADE
remarks about gay people, and then quote L.R.H. [Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard] in their defense.” Haggis noted that daughter Katy lost friends after coming out, which started a whispering campaign about how “Katy is ‘1.1.’” That number on Hubbard’s emotional Tone Scale in “The Science of Survival” classiﬁes a gay person as “Covertly Hostile” — “the most dangerous and wicked level”— equating “homosexuality with being a pervert.” (Such remarks don’t appear in recent editions of the book, the New Yorker reported in 2011.) Scientology has since been trying to spruce up its PR image, with popular straight actresses such as Elizabeth Moss and Lauren Prepon saying they are Scientologists and they support LGBT people. But former church spokesperson Mike Rinder, who co-hosts the Emmyaward winning A&E series, “Leah Remini: Scientology and The Aftermath” disputes that characterization. “In today’s world, where it is no longer socially acceptable to be anti-gay, Scientology has taken steps to attempt to portray itself as tolerant and welcoming
of the LGBT community. But similar to Scientology’s claims that disconnection ‘doesn’t exist’ or is simply a ‘personal choice,’ the PR smokescreen hides an ugly and unpleasant reality. At its heart, scientology IS very homophobic.” Rinder cites speciﬁc quotes about homosexuality from Hubbard’s works, including this from “Science of Survival:” “There are only two answers for the handling of people from 2.0 down on the tone scale, neither one of which has anything to do with reasoning with them or listening to their justiﬁcation of their acts. The ﬁrst is to raise them on the tone scale by un-enturbulating some of their theta by any one of the three valid processes. The other is to dispose of them quietly and without sorrow.” Rinder cautions against taking the passage literally but notes that Scientologists revere Hubbard’s words as gospel and therefore the passage “does inform Scientologists in how to think about such people. According to Hubbard, they should be treated like lepers.” CONTINUES ON PAGE 05
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Exploring Scientology’s anti-LGBT record
This fence surround a Scientology complex to prevent break-ins and break-outs. PHOTO COURTESY ANGRY GAY POPE
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Before he submitted his resignation letter, Haggis did his homework. He was dumbstruck by what he found, including this public declaration on CNN in May 2008: “There’s no such thing as disconnection as you’re characterizing it,” Davis told anchor John Roberts. “[S] omeone who is a Scientologist is going to respect their family members’ beliefs,” he explained, “and we consider family to be a building block of any society, so anything that’s characterized as disconnection or this kind of thing, it’s just not true. There isn’t any such policy.” Haggis knew that wasn’t true. His wife had been ordered to disconnect from her parents “because of something absolutely trivial they supposedly did 25 years ago when they resigned from the church,” he later reminded Davis. “Although it caused her terrible personal pain, my wife broke oﬀ all contact with them.” Haggis continued, “To see you lie so easily, I am afraid I had to ask myself: What else are you lying about?” Haggis also read an exposé in the St. Petersburg Times reporting that senior
church executives subjected other Scientologists to physical violence. In his Aug. 19, 2009 resignation letter, made public by a third party, Haggis wrote that he felt “dumbstruck and horriﬁed,” adding, “Tommy, if only a fraction of these accusations are true, we are talking about serious, indefensible human and civil-rights violations.” Haggis had enough. “As you know, for ten months now I have been writing to ask you to make a public statement denouncing the actions of the Church of Scientology of San Diego. Their public sponsorship of Proposition 8, a hate-ﬁlled legislation that succeeded in taking away the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens of California — rights that were granted them by the Supreme Court of our state — shames us,” read his opening paragraph. “Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent.” Haggis ended: “I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology.” The media went wild. On Oct. 27, 2009, Davis ﬁnally responded to Haggis in a statement to Today. “I don’t want any misunderstanding,” Davis said. “The church supports civil rights for everybody, regardless of sexual orientation, race,
color or creed. We are a minority, too; we understand what it’s like to be persecuted, so to the extent that anything prohibits or inhibits on civil rights, we don’t agree with it.” Davis said the Prop 8 endorsement was a mistake. “Church of Scientology San Diego had been put on a list of churches that supported Proposition 8 out in California. It was incorrectly included and named when it should have never been on the list to begin with,” he said, especially since the church wouldn’t jeopardize its tax-exemption. But the dam of silence broke. In 2009, the Tampa Bay Times started writing in-depth stories “on the inner workings of the secretive church, which has its spiritual headquarters in Clearwater” — investigations that continue today. Other journalistic enterprises include a ﬁve-year, 24-part series in the Los Angeles Times — with consequences. When Joel Sappell wrote an explosive story about secret Scientology documents in 1985, “The Times told Sappell and his colleague, Robert Welkos, to disappear for a few days until things cooled down.” Though he had been warned by sources to watch out for their pets, Sappell returned to ﬁnd his dog had died. Though undeterred by the “unnerving experiences,” in Dec. 2012, Sappell wrote a piece for Los Angeles Magazine about what happened after that ﬁrst story. He got a call from LA Superior Court Judge Ronald Swearinger, the judge presiding over a “nasty civil trial” he was covering that “pitted the Church of Scientology against a former church member who claimed he’d been relentlessly harassed. Thousands of Scientologists from across the country had converged on downtown Los Angeles to protest the trial and what they perceived as Swearinger’s religious bigotry.” Sappell wrote of the call: “’I hear your dog was poisoned,’ the judge said softly. I was startled. It’s highly unusual for judges to contact reporters during a trial, especially when they’ve already been accused of bias. There was a pause as Swearinger
took a breath. ‘My dog was drowned,’ he said, referring to his collie. ‘We found him dead in our pool. He’d never go near the water on his own.’” They learned “how the church and its leaders—ﬁrst Hubbard and then his successor, David Miscavige—had made psychological warfare a spiritual imperative.” Actually, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard made a point of it: “If attacked on some vulnerable point by anyone or anything or any organization, always ﬁnd or manufacture enough threat against them to cause them to sue for peace,” Hubbard said. “Don’t ever tamely submit to an investigation of us. Make it rough, rough on attackers all the way.” It took trans icon Kate Bornstein until May 2012 to escape the fear of retaliation to publish and promote her memoir, “A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology, and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today.” Kate joined Scientology at age 22, in 1970. “I couldn’t ﬁgure out who or what I was,” she said in a July 2016 video interview with Broadly. “What I was didn’t make sense. I knew I wasn’t ‘boy.’ And I started looking for some kind of spiritual answer. What attracted me about it was Scientology’s notion of a spiritual being. They told me – you are not your body. You’re not your mind, you’re not your brain. You are your own immortal soul. They called that soul a ‘thetan.’ So are there girl thetans and boy thetans? No, of course not. I thought, ah – this makes sense. Nothing else in Scientology made sense – but that made sense.” As Al Bornstein, she rose through the ranks of the Sea Org, becoming ﬁrst mate to Hubbard on the yacht Apollo in the early 1970s. Scientology tried to “ﬁx” her but Kate was unwilling. “They oﬀered me a choice and the way they described it CONTINUES ON PAGE 08
This isnâ€™T abouT cake.
iT’s abouT wheTher a business can say “we don’t serve your kind here.” In early December, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop, a case that has the potential to upend the hard-fought principle that no one should ever be denied service from a business open to the public simply because of who they are. The case might seem relatively minor: a Colorado bakery refusing to sell a same-sex couple a cake for their wedding reception. But this is not about cake, and it’s about a lot more than marriage. A ruling that says the Constitution gives businesses the right to turn customers away based on religious beliefs or creativity would create gaping holes in our nation’s longstanding nondiscrimination protections. It would say there is a constitutional right to discriminate—which could be used not only against LGBT people but also against religious and racial minorities, unmarried couples, single mothers and many, many others.
To learn more go to www.openToall.com
#opentoAll National Center for
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‘Homosexuality is the lowest of the low, you’re treated like scum’ CONTINUED FROM PAGE 05
was – I would be sleeping on the garage ﬂoor outside. I couldn’t eat any food in the dining room. I had to wait until everybody else had eaten and then I could eat the scraps they’d left over. It was either that or I could be ex-communicated forever. Excommunicate me,” she said. But that meant she had to leave ex-wife Molly and daughter Jessica Baxter, then 9, behind and they had to disconnect with the “suppressive person. Kate hasn’t seen daughter since 1980. She did try to see Jessica in Dec. 2016 when ﬁlming I Am Cait. Caitlyn Jenner suggested they go to the big blue Scientology worldwide administrative headquarters on Sunset Boulevard—but they left unfulﬁlled. As of Nov. 28, Kate hasn’t seen Jessica for 12,825 days. Many media outlets have written about Scientology without the self-censorship of fear—including former Village Voice editor/investigative reporter Tony Ortega. On Nov. 28, Ortega posted “Ugh. We just found a troubling L. Ron Hubbard Scientology lecture about little boys and sex.” The post features video excerpts of Hubbard’s comments, which Ortega then helps translate for those unfamiliar with Scientology jargon. Even with the translation, however, the thinking is hard to comprehend. On, Sept. 2, 2012, while still at the Village Voice, Ortega wrote a diﬃcult story: “Scientology’s Homophobia: Even the Church’s Token Gay Guy Was Disgusted.” Ortega writes of the whole-hearted belief West Hollywood gay Keith Relkin had in Scientology. He came out in Nov. 2000 and successfully argued that he should do a rebuttal to a story critical of the church. “Relkin asserted that Scientology was actually a leader in human rights, the Beverly Hills mission in particular was welcoming to gays, and that it was his mission to help Scientology reach out to the gay community,” Ortega writes. Reklin, who worked in the movie industry,
DON MYERS, aka the ‘Angry Gay Pope’ in front of Winter Wonderland on Nov. 26. PHOTO BY NASTY NATHANIAL
convinced the church to let him do an outreach party and distribute thousands of gay-speciﬁc versions of “The Way to Happiness” booklet. He was crushed when the event was shut down and he had to ﬁnd and destroy all the booklets. “He spent the next year and a half going through intense Scientology interrogations that convinced him the entire debacle had been his own fault. Then, over the last four years of his life, he continued to struggle through his church training, trying to understand where he’d gone wrong,” Ortega writes. Reklin died on Feb. 3, 2012 of natural causes. On March 21, 2016, the UK Daily Mail Online published the horriﬁc story of Nora Crest, who says she worked at Los Angeles Celebrity Centre taking care of John Travolta and Tom Cruise’s children and taught Scientology courses. “But she says that all changed when she kissed another girl - and liked it. Even though it
never went any further than kissing, Nora was put into the Rehabilitation Project Force [RPF],” The Mail reports. She spent years under constant watch in grueling circumstances, sometimes getting beaten up by other women for imagined slights. She tried to commit suicide and tried to escape—ﬁnally downing a bottle of bleach as the last resort. “It was the most horriﬁc time of my life. I was battered and bruised, pushed around and nearly died trying to leave the Church and all because I had the audacity to desire another woman,” she said. “I was brainwashed into believing I’d done wrong and had to live in horriﬁc conditions for three years before I was ﬁnally allowed to leave. This can’t be allowed to happen to another person, hence why I’m speaking out. Homosexuality in the Church is the lowest of the low, you’re treated like scum.” “Nora Crest was dismissed from her position in the Church of Scientology
nearly 15 years ago for misconduct,” a church spokesperson told the Mail. “The serious allegations that she makes about the Church are without any foundation in fact and are not supported by any credible documentary evidence. The Church premises in Los Angeles where Ms Crest lived are routinely inspected for compliance with health, ﬁre and safety regulations with no concerns arising.” The spokesperson continues: “The claims Ms Crest makes about the Church’s position on homosexuality are also unfounded. The Church is opposed to discrimination of any sort, including on the basis of sexual orientation.” Now 39, Crest is happy, married to a man named Cameron with whom she has two children. She continues to address Scientology on her YouTube Channel. But the fear factor remains real, which CONTINUES ON PAGE 20
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Are transgender service members winning? Two court rulings buoy activists ﬁghting military ban By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org The LGBT community enters December with a slight breeze at their backs. On Tuesday, Nov. 21, a federal judge in Baltimore issued a preliminary injunction halting President Trump’s proposed transgender military ban. This follows a ruling last month in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia also imposing a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the Trump administration’s plan to prohibit transgender people from serving in the military. The rulings allow trans service members to continue serving on active duty but maintain the halt on all recruitment and promotions imposed by the Pentagon prior to Trump’s abrupt policy reversal. The Justice Department is appealing the D.C. ruling. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly set the tone in her strongly worded 76-page Oct. 30 opinion, suggesting the ban — set to take eﬀect in March 2018 — was most likely unconstitutional. “There is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative eﬀective on the military at all,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote. “In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such eﬀects.” Additionally, she wrote that “a number of factors — including the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the directives, the unusual circumstances surrounding the President’s announcement of them, the fact that the reasons given for them do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself — strongly suggest that Plaintiﬀs’ Fifth Amendment claim is meritorious.” On Tuesday in Baltimore, U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis ruled that trans
PRESIDENT TRUMP’s trans military ban has been halted by two judges. BLADE FILE PHOTO BY MICHAEL KEY
service members have “demonstrated that they are already suﬀering harmful consequences such as the cancellation and postponements of surgeries, the stigma of being set apart as inherently unﬁt, facing the prospect of discharge and inability to commission as an oﬃcer, the inability to move forward with long-term medical plans, and the threat to their prospects of obtaining long-term assignments.” The ruling broadened the D.C. decision and clears the way for current transgender service members to receive surgical medical care. Garbis also took a swipe at Trump’s “abrupt policy change” by tweet in his 53page opinion. “A capricious, arbitrary, and unqualiﬁed tweet of new policy,” he wrote, “does not trump the methodical and systematic review by military stakeholders qualiﬁed to understand the ramiﬁcations of policy changes.” To underscore the point, the judge also said that “President Trump’s tweets did not emerge from a policy review, nor did the [implementing] presidential memorandum identify any policy making process or
evidence demonstrating that the revocation of transgender rights was necessary for any legitimate national interest.” Indeed, the judge said, Trump’s policy change actually runs counter to what military leaders have already said they want the policy to be on trans people serving in the military. To put the proposed trans ban in a larger context: the all volunteer US military is currently engaged in seven countries —Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia—without explicit congressional approval. Additionally, the Defense Department is gearing up for a possible nuclear confrontation with North Korea. Additionally, the ban on trans people serving in the military is being proposed by a president who avoided the Vietnam War because of bone-spurs— a point obliquely referenced by the federal judge in a hearing in Seattle. The Oct. 30 case was brought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders. The Baltimore case was brought by the ACLU. Two other cases are pending: Stockman
v. Trump, brought by Equality California, seven individuals, and most recently, the State of California with a decision scheduled for Dec. 11; and Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN, who ﬁled suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in response to Trump’s directions to military authorities Aug. 25. Their lawsuit focuses on the accession policy, representing two individuals who want to join the military and one current service member seeking a promotion, as well as the Human Rights Campaign and Gender Justice League, a gender and sexuality civil and human rights organization, headquartered in Seattle. U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman heard oral arguments Tuesday, Nov. 21, just hours after Garbis’ ruling in Baltimore. In addition to Lambda Legal and OutServeSLDN, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson also intervened in the case. “Barring transgender individuals from serving based on anything other than their ability and conduct is wrong,” Ferguson said last September. In his motion to intervene, Ferguson argued that the trans ban “constitutes undisguised sex and gender identity discrimination that serves no legitimate purpose and its implementation will have signiﬁcant, damaging impacts on the State of Washington and its residents.” Pechman said she will issue her ruling Dec. 8. “We are proud of the arguments we delivered to the court,” OutServe-SLDN President and CEO Matt Thorn told the Los Angeles Blade. “Judge Pechman has stated she intends to make her decision by December 8th and we are cautiously optimistic for a favorable outcome. We couldn’t be more thankful for our co-counsel Lambda Legal and the bravery of our 9 plaintiﬀs who have stood up and our leading the way for thousands of trans service members and those who wish to serve. It’s also a privilege to represent Gender Justice League of Washington, HRC and the American Military Partner Association.”
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Calif. man ﬁles suit claiming he was ﬁred for being gay Says co-workers called him ‘princess’ and ‘faggot’ By DAWN ENNIS “I would get nervous,” recalled Omar Lara, 32, about what it was like to work in the Los Angeles oﬃce that his lawyers describe as a “toxic work environment.” “I would shake. I didn’t know why it was happening,” Lara said. “I felt so, like I couldn’t ﬁt in.” Lara, a business analyst, told the Los Angeles Blade in a Nov. 20 phone interview that he was hired in July 2015 by the general engineering contractor AECOM as an hourly employee. He did data entry on the Los Angeles Community College District’s $94.6 million BuildLACCD program. According to a lawsuit he ﬁled recently, he was laughed at for being gay as early as his second day on the job. Lorna Trinidad, identiﬁed in the complaint as his supervisor, reportedly overheard Lara reveal that he was gay and happily married: “Trinidad stood up, shook her head, and laughed,” the complaint says. Saori Sierra, another supervisor, allegedly complained loudly, “they hired another faggot” while looking at Lara. “Oh look,” she added, “it’s married.” For a year and a half, Lara says he endured co-workers and supervisors referring to him as a woman using “she” and “her” pronouns, “bitch,” “princess,” “whining pussy” “whistleblower” and “faggot.” Supervisors allegedly mocked him and said what he wore was too “gay,” told him to “man up,” threatened his job security for ﬁling complaints and physically hurt him by throwing things at him in the oﬃce, damaging ligaments in his wrist. “It wasn’t only the words,” Lara told the Blade. “It was their actions.” One co-worker allegedly groped him in front of colleagues, exposed his genitals to Lara in the oﬃce and sent him sexually suggestive text messages using company-
OMAR LARA is suing his former employer. PHOTO COURTESY LARA
owned phones, the complaint claims. At one point, the co-worker reportedly placed his crotch on Lara’s arm. That employee, Enrique Castro, is named in the lawsuit, along with Sierra and Trinidad. The lawsuit notes Trinidad was ﬁred, as was another supervisor, Deborah Leister. According to the lawsuit, Leister instructed Lara “to display less stereotypically gay physical characteristics, such as facial expressions and mannerisms, ‘to be more of a man.’” Lara says he was also forced to work hundreds of extra hours without pay, was denied overtime pay, and harassed if he was thought to be late. He also claims he was harassed when he reported to work early and spent some of that unpaid time in the oﬃce kitchen or men’s room. “You should use the ladies’ room,” Lara’s supervisors and coworkers repeatedly told him, according to the lawsuit. They also allegedly badmouthed him to outside contacts and in more than one instance, used vulgar or inappropriate workplace language toward him. By November 2015, Lara had had
enough. “My health started declining,” he said, “and still nobody was stopping it. I didn’t know what else to do.” He retained a lawyer and resigned, only to return in January with promises things would be better. They weren’t, said Lara’s attorney, Lawrence Bohm. “This toxic work environment caused a deterioration of his mental health,” Bohm told the Blade, adding that by August 2016, Lara took a leave of absence. But on Oct. 4, 2016, they “terminated him while he was out on protected leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act.” One of the subcontractors named in the suit, Integration Technology of Norwell, Mass., claimed Lara was not eligible to claim FMLA or CFRA leave, according to the suit. The complaint lists 34 medical conditions that Lara is experiencing as a result of how he was treated at work, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, chronic depression, suicide attempts, sexual dysfunction, damage to his wrist and diﬃculty using the restroom. “They did a lot of harm,” said Lara. “Not only to me but to my partner, and my
family, and the symptoms that I have, and everything that’s happened in my life.” His lawyers say in addition to the lawsuit, Lara ﬁled a discrimination complaint with the State of California. He remains unemployed. Bohm said his client is open to negotiating a settlement, but unless the defendants choose to take concrete action, he wants them to hear this message: “We’re going to bring you to justice. You need to treat people better,” he said. “Before a case like this can be settled, they’re going to have to actually take some ownership of it, to see that it happened, and to really make an eﬀort to try and resolve it.” Failing that, said Bohm: “I expect a Los Angeles jury is going to absolutely destroy these folks.” A spokesperson for AECOM emailed this statement: “AECOM does not comment on pending litigation, but suﬃce it to say, that the company denies Mr. Lara’s allegations.” A spokesperson for BuildLACCD said he could not respond until he consulted with his legal team. Requests for comments from other contractors and defendants were not immediately returned.
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Aguirre faces death penalty in torture-murder case Man believed girlfriend’s son, 8, was gay By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com “This is not over,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Lomeli said Monday, Nov. 20, denying the defense’s motion for a mistrial after the ﬁrst-degree murder conviction of Isauro Aguirre. The onetime Palmdale security guard faces the death penalty for the torture-killing of Gabriel Fernandez, his girlfriend’s 8-year-old son whom Aguirre believed to be gay. Defense attorney John Alan argued that Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami’s emotional statements to the media after the Nov. 15 verdict were evidence that Aguirre would not get a fair penalty hearing on Monday, Nov. 27. During the trial, Hatami argued that Aguirre, 37, and the boy’s mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 34, took custody of Gabriel from his maternal grandparents in order to collect welfare payments and that Aguirre “actually liked torturing Gabriel. He got oﬀ on it” because he thought the 8 year old was gay. Hatami showed photos of the Gabriel’s abused body to the jury, arguing that Aguirre tortured Gabriel for months. Gabriel was “being starved and punched and kicked and abused and beaten … he was belittled, bullied and called gay. His teeth were knocked out. He was tied up every night in a box. … Gabriel was dying,’’ the prosecutor said. In August 2014, court testimony from his two siblings revealed that Gabriel was forced to eat cat feces, beaten with bats, “a club which knocked out Gabriel’s teeth, BB gun and pepper spray shot in Gabriel’s face, and whippings with the metal part of a belt at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend over eight months,” according to court documents. At night the boy was “bound and gagged
Isauro Aguirre faces the death penalty for the torture-killing of GABRIEL FERNANDEZ, his girlfriend’s 8-year-old son whom Aguirre believed to be gay. COURTESY GABRIEL’S JUSTICE CAMPAIGN
inside a small cabinet with a ‘sock in his mouth, a shoelace (tying) up his hands, a bandanna over his face’ and his ankles handcuﬀed,” City News Service reported. The 6-foot-2, 270-pound defendant admittedly punched Gabrielle 10 times in the head and kicked him hard enough to dent the wall on May 22, 2013. He and the mother covered up the biggest dent with a picture and got rid of bloody clothing before calling 911. When paramedics arrived, they found Gabriel unconscious with a cracked skull, three broken ribs and BB pellets embedded in his lung and groin. Declared brain dead, Gabrielle died two days later. Defense attorney Michael Sklar told the jury of seven women and ﬁve men that Aguirre “acted in a rage of anger followed by an explosion of violence” and not with premeditation after Gabriel asked his mother to leave her boyfriend. “He was completely out of control,” Sklar said. The jury found Aguirre guilty of ﬁrstdegree murder with a special circumstance of murder involving the inﬂiction of torture. During the penalty phase of the trial on Monday, he faces the death penalty or life
in prison without the possibility of parole. After the verdict was read, Hatami embraced Gabriel’s father. “I’m a dad and, you know, he’s a dad,” Hatami tearfully told reporters later. “It’s just two dads, and two humans in the community, just sharing the fact that maybe there was some justice.” Hatami revealed that he is also a child abuse survivor. “I think that being a victim of child abuse, you feel powerless and no one’s there to help you. People need to ﬁght for children and others who can’t ﬁght for themselves,” the prosecutor said. Pearl Sinthia Fernandez is still awaiting trial but prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for her, too. She has pleaded not guilty to the murder of her son. The case created a public outcry, resulting in new calls for reforms of LA County’s child welfare system and unprecedented criminal charges leveled last year against former L.A. County social workers social workers Stefanie Rodriguez and Patricia Clement and supervisors Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt who allowed Gabriel to be placed with his mother and remain in her custody despite more than
60 complaints lodged with the Department of Children and Family Services and eight investigations into the family, according to a timeline of the preventable tragedy produced by NBC4. Last March 20, Superior Court Judge Mary Lou Villar ordered the four social workers to stand trial on child abuse and other charges. “Red ﬂags were everywhere,” Villar said, adding that the conduct of the social workers amounted to criminal negligence. Several LA County Sheriﬀ’s deputies were disciplined for their failure to intervene during home welfare checks. The LA County Board of Supervisors, on the recommendation of a blueribbon commission, on July 2016 set up a new agency, the Oﬃce of Child Protection, http://ﬁle.lacounty. gov/SDSInter/bos/supdocs/107324. pdf charged with improving the treatment of children in the county’s care. Perhaps Hatami spoke for many when he asked jurors: “The social workers had a chance. The school oﬃcials had a chance. The deputies had a chance,” he said. “Now it’s up to you…. What are you going to do?”
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Videographers ANGEL and CARL LARSEN of St. Cloud, Minnesota are “Bible-believing Christians who place Christ at the center of everything in their life,” says the Alliance Defending Freedom. “Deeply troubled” by same-sex marriage, they decided to limit their wedding videos to heterosexual couples. Last year they ﬁled a “pre-enforcement” legal challenge against the state’s Human Rights Act saying they should be allowed to discriminate. On Sept. 21, U.S. District Court Judge John Tunheim dismissed the case, saying the couple’s conduct was “akin to a ‘White Applicants Only’ sign,” according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“He’s for transgenders going into little girls’ bathrooms.” — Roy Moore Senate campaign’s Dean Young attacking Democrat Doug Jones, via gay CNN politico Keith Boykin
“The internet is under attack. The free and open internet is a cornerstone of our society and must be protected at all costs.” — California Sen. Kamala Harris’s Tweet from Nov 26. Call FCC 202-418-1000 or https://www.fcc.gov/about/contact
“I’m holding out hope this attempt to screw with net neutrality is going to hit a brick wall once everyone realizes how badly it’s going to mess with their porn.” — Gay author Christopher Rice’s tweet on #NetNeutrality
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Indian Royal Amar Singh on a mission for equality He may run for oﬃce By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org Actress Marlo Thomas tells this story about a trucker and a feminist sitting next to each other in a bar, getting drunk and arguing over women’s oppression, equal pay and whether a woman should be president. They agree on nothing. But one thing they have in common—they both are men. The feminist, Thomas says, is “a guy who gets it.” The story is instructive when thinking about Amar Singh, the 28-year old straight Harvard graduate Indian royal, born and raised in Britain, who is passionate about art, investments, targeted philanthropy— and aggressively but smartly championing women and LGBT rights. Without intention, Singh encapsulates the charismatic concern of presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy during his trips to longneglected Harlem—that family sense of noblesse oblige tossed to the wind as RFK humbly grasps the outstretched hand of a poor black woman desperate for someone to do something, not just pontiﬁcate on the hell of poverty. Singh gets that, too. “There are three tiers of suppression: female, LGBT, and caste—which is actually meant to be illegal but prevails very heavily in India,” Singh, a member of the Kapurthala Royal Family, told The Los Angeles Blade recently over tea at SoHo House in West Hollywood. No matter one’s talent, education, or aspiration, the caste system dictates work and social relationships. It perpetuates the notion of the “untouchables” common during colonial imperialism. Singh wants to change that—along with the oppressive state of women and LGBT rights. And here’s where Thomas’ story is again instructive: he’s working to change the culture—and with it, the
AMAR SINGH PHOTO COURTESY SINGH
political landscape—through one-onone conversations. For the past several years, the art collector and dealer has simultaneously created his boutique Amar Gallery in London and funded a clandestine campaign in India to educate and change people’s minds. He says he’s building “an army of love.” “My grassroots group in India helps spread a message of peace in support of LGBT and women’s rights because the reality is the majority of the country is being suppressed,” Singh says. “A population of 1.1 billion and the majority of the country is suppressed. Now imagine if they were championed. We could have one of the greatest forces on earth. We certainly have the resources but when you have 800, 900 million people who are downtrodden—how can we progress?” Singh says he hasn’t yet spoken with Prime Minister Narendra Modi about women’s and LGBT rights—but he
would like to. Modi assumed power in 2014, shortly after India’s Supreme Court reinstated the repealed British colonial anti-gay law, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that forbids “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” with punishment up to 10 years in jail. There was cause for optimism at the prospect of the law being overturned during the recent pride parade in New Delhi, VOA News reported Nov. 18, after word spread that the court may review the ruling. “Five out of the nine judges, it was a nine judge bench, actually questioned the validity of 377. To me that is amazing. I feel a little easier after the privacy judgment,” Anjali Gopalan, founder of the Naz Foundation, told VOA, adding that the gay community felt “abandoned” in 2013 when the law was reinstated. Singh, normally a very optimistic guy, is only cautiously optimistic. “I hope the prospect of abolishing the 377 penal code is not another false alarm,” he says. “I hope the drums of India’s pride parade beat louder and faster until the voices of hate are drowned out.” He is very conﬁdent, however, in “the power of conversation.” As a parallel example, he refers to the PBS documentary “Accidental Courtesy,” the story of blues musician Daryl Davis’ journey to convert KKK members from racism to at least friendship with a black man. “Daryl Davis is an inspiration because he befriends over 200 members of the Ku Klux Klan,” says Singh. “He actually, through conversation and education, asks the question: ‘how can you hate me when you don’t even know me?’ And they transform and realize their ideals were wrong because their ideals encroached upon human rights. And these former Klan members are better people for that.” Davis, he says, “did it so masterfully, I think I could learn a lot from his example.” But unlike Davis who can put his journey on television, Singh says his grassroots movement “is secretive because if people
knew the individuals championing and spreading the message of peace and LGBT rights, their lives would be in danger. It’s as simple as that.” And yet, they speak to thousands of people a year, sometimes at rallies, sometimes doorto-door, sometimes in their shacks. “Education is the key,” Singh says. “You have to educated people that it’s OK to be gay, to support people who are part of the LGBT community, and to reason with those who are against it within, hopefully, safe parameters.” “I’m a passionate individual who truly despises that there are human rights atrocities which are carried on a daily basis,” he says. “I’ve lost my cool in the past when meeting individuals who’ve said to me—and there have been many—‘gay people deserve to die.” “Gay people must be locked up.” Same thing for women. And I’ve realized over the years, since I was a teenager and certainly a little bit more overzealous, that we have to get to a neutral point to help each other progress.” People in India, while intensely patriotic, sometimes need to be reminded of their exquisite history, religious texts and contribution to humanity—and the fact that India was one of the ﬁrst countries in the last century to elect a female as Prime Minister and elect a non-national as head of a political party. Since Singh is funding the initiative “proudly out of my own pocket,” he has determined to be careful and strategic in his philanthropy and while still fueling his passion for equal rights. “In the past, I’ve raised and donated a lot of money to organizations in India—but truthfully, most of the money never got to where it needed and I was just fed up. I was sick of burning money,” he says. “And I reassessed the situation and thought how can I really make an impact? How can I eﬀect change in a positive way, which is going to help people’s lives?” � CONTINUES AT LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
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Fighting Scientology ‘for a better tomorrow’ CONTINUED FROM PAGE 08
is why Leah Remini and Mike Ringer praise the former Scientologists who bare their souls and share information on camera. One episode included a discussion of how cruel Hubbard was to his son Quentin, who many believed was gay. Quentin committed suicide on Nov. 12, 1976. He was 22. Another heartbreaking episode dealt with the suicide of Aaron Poulin at the Hollywood Inn on Hollywood Boulevard. Marie Bilheimer met Aaron when she was 15 and he was 17 serving together in the Sea Org. They married July 16, 2000. However, their career paths diverged as she got promoted and he got demoted for getting caught doing little things—like putting highlights in his hair or going out dancing. Marie was surprised when the Director of Inspections and Reports brought her to security at the Hollywood Inn where she was told, “Aaron hung himself last night.” “Did he die?” “Yeah.” And that was it. She was surrounded by 25 people, none of whom comforted her as she fell apart. Marie returned to work, forbidden to say anything lest she get written up as Scientology turned Aaron into “just a bad person.” Later Marie found a ticket in Aaron’s sock drawer—for prostitution. He killed himself three weeks before his pending court date. “I feel like he was trapped,” Marie says through tears, “and for years I felt a responsibility and I felt the blame and I felt like I had missed it and it was my fault and that he did it because of me. Because I was so dedicated and he didn’t have anywhere to turn to.” In 2004, two months after Aaron died, Marie left the Sea Org. In 2010, she left Scientology. The show put up a disclaimer: “The Church of Scientology states that Marie Bilheimer signed an aﬃdavit stating the Church was not responsible for her husband’s suicide.” Scientology has repeatedly slammed Remini and the show. For instance, there’s this statement to People: “As we said before, desperate for attention with an
KATE BORNSTEIN joined Scientology in 1970 and spent a lifetime picking up the pieces. SCREENCAPTURE VIA BROADLEY VIDEO INTERVIEW
acting career stuck in a nearly decade-long tailspin, Leah Remini needs to move on with her life. Instead, she seeks publicity by maliciously spreading lies about the Church using the same handful of bitter zealots who were kicked out years ago for chronic dishonesty and corruption and whose false claims the Church refuted years ago, including through judicial decisions. Please see our full statement at www.scientologynews.org/leah-remini.” The Angry Gay Pope and Nasty Nathaniel continue their prankster harassment without Anonymous—and have stayed out of major trouble and beaten back Scientology harassment, thanks to gay lawyer Graham Berry. Pope, aka Don Myers, who has also been on two Emmy-winning teams as an animator and contributor (to Remini’s show), was featured in Business Insider as the protester who took photos of the heightened security around the Twin
Peaks compound in Hemet, where many believe Miscavige’s wife Shelly might be sequestered. He also produces video for an ex-Scientology website for www. survivingscientology.com. Nasty Nathaniel is an independent journalist who does “First Amendment audits” of “the evil, very secretive cult” of Scientology and the police for CopBlock.org. “I am a police accountability activist,” he says. “I ﬁlm the police in public as well conducting First Amendment audits of public buildings, such as police stations, correctional facilities, courthouses, post oﬃces, military bases, etc. The purpose of these audits is to make sure that public oﬃcials respect our right to record in public.” Morris Kight would have been proud of the gay protesters sticking with the cause. “Morris didn’t like what Scientology did to unsuspecting, vulnerable youths,” says Mary Ann Cherry, Kight’s biographer. “He saw from his apartment how Scientology
recruited young runaways, gave them a place to sleep and a bit to eat in exchange for continual servitude, often for a lifetime,” losing their gay identities. Kight’s longtime friend Miki Jackson concurs, saying he counseled many young LGBT people “who had fallen under the inﬂuence and the captivity of Scientology. Morris called Scientology a menace,” Jackson tells the Blade. “They were particularly predatory towards vulnerable young gay people. They scoured the streets of Hollywood looking for runaways and people in distress,” she says. “It was a fertile hunting ground” for exploitation. Angry Gay Pope, who is HIV positive and does videos of other people with HIV/ AIDS, says he’s really just an “ordinary Joe.” But he hates homophobia. “I do this because I’m morally oﬀended. Eventually, they’re going to come for me so I go for them ﬁrst,” Myers says frankly. “I might as well ﬁght for a better tomorrow.”
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Former Olympic swimmer Mark Foster comes out
A story in Buzzfeed described ARMIE HAMMER as ‘a beautiful, pedigreed white man.’ PHOTO BY DENIS MAKARENKO; COURTESY OF BIGSTOCK
Armie Hammer leaves Twitter over Buzzfeed attack Armie Hammer has deleted his Twitter account after a BuzzFeed article chalked up his success to being “a beautiful, pedigreed white man.” Senior Buzzfeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen penned the article titled “Ten Long Years of Trying to Make Armie Hammer Happen,” which analyzes why Hammer’s career has supposedly ﬂoundered and spotlights his prestigious background as the great-grandson of an oil tycoon. “He’s gone on to star in failed Westerns, spy remakes, fantasies, and historical epics,” Petersen writes. “His blockbusters ﬂop; his prestige pictures fall ﬂat. ‘The Lone Ranger’ was one of Disney’s greatest summer bombs of all time. Plans to make ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ into a sprawling franchise disappeared. His attempt to redirect his career with ‘The Birth of a Nation’ faded from Oscar favorite to a blip on the awards season radar.” Petersen notes that Hammer has been given opportunities that aren’t oﬀered to actresses or actors of color. “Yet he and his publicity team have never given up trying to Make Armie Hammer Happen. This year, they are spinning out a publicity campaign around his role in the likely Oscar contender ‘Call Me by Your Name’ that attempts to retroactively reinterpret his choices, his failures, and his career,” Petersen writes. “How many second chances does a handsome white male star get?” Hammer responded to the article tweeting, “Your chronology is spot on but your perspective is bitter af. Maybe I’m just a guy who loves his job and refuses to do anything but what he loves to do.” The actor deleted his Twitter account shortly after. MARIAH COOPER
Former Olympic swimmer Mark Foster has come out as gay in an interview with the Guardian. Foster, 47, has broken eight world records and won six World Championship titles. He swam for Great Britain ﬁve times in the Olympic Games. He tells the Guardian that he’s been out in his personal life and has dated men for 26 years. However, coming out publicly was nerve-wracking. “I was a bit nervous today but I kept busy,” Foster says. “I was tidying the house for you [he laughs]. I was a little apprehensive but years ago I would have been fearful of how I would be judged. Maybe that’s me being older and having a long time to get used to the idea.” At 30, he says he revealed his sexuality to a fellow swimmer during a drunken night. “I was training in Germany with my mate Neil Willey and Therese Alshammar, one of the most decorated swimmers of all time. We shared a ﬂat and every Saturday night we’d go out. Once, pissed in this nightclub, I was dancing close to Therese. Neil sat at the bar giving me this look of thunder because he was seeing her. I went over and he said: ‘What are you doing so close to Therese?’ I said: ‘Mate, you’ve got nothing to worry about. I’m gay.’ He went: ‘Oh!’ My shield was down because I was pissed and felt comfortable sharing it with him and Therese,” Foster says. Foster decided to share his sexuality with the world after the death of his father and during a break from his long-term partner. MARIAH COOPER
U.S. agency urges law against LGBT workplace bias An independent, bipartisan U.S. agency was set to deliver to President Trump on Wednesday a report calling on Congress to “immediately enact a federal law” against antiLGBT workplace discrimination, although lawmakers are unlikely to act any time soon given the current makeup of Congress and the long history of stalling on the issue. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights details in the 154-page report the history of discrimination against LGBT people and the lack of non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in federal law, citing a 2015 hearing the agency held on the issue. “LGBT individuals often face lower wages, increased diﬃculty in ﬁnding jobs, promotion denials, and/or job terminations due to their sexual orientation or gender identity,” the report says. “Studies have found that anywhere from 21 to 47 percent of LGBT adults faced employment discrimination because they were gay or transgender.” Twenty states and D.C., the report notes, have laws barring anti-LGBT employment discrimination and a growing number of courts are interpreting the prohibition on sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to apply to LGBT people. The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the report notes, this year became the ﬁrst federal appeals court to determine sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace amounts to sex discrimination under current federal law. But the report concludes these measures are insuﬃcient in comparison to an explicit federal non-discrimination law barring anti-LGBT discrimination in the workforce. “Some federal courts have concluded that the existing federal statutory protection against discrimination based on sex, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, includes within its protection discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” the report says. “Other federal courts have disagreed. These inconsistent interpretations result in diﬀerent protections available to individuals based on their jurisdiction, and it is not clear when the Supreme Court will resolve the dispute.” CHRIS JOHNSON
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Does #MeToo movement include global queer voices?
Rainbow Rally 2015 in Dhaka, Bangladesh PHOTO COURTESY ROOPBAAN
Sexual assault victims risk all to speak out By TAUSIF SANZUM Two words—#MeToo—started an uproar on social media, particularly among women who shared horrors of assaults they face on a daily basis. The number of men taking part in this movement is signiﬁcantly less. One Facebook user brilliantly explained one possible reason why: “This is exactly what male privilege is. And it is why we men, try as we might, will never know what it is like to
be a woman in this world.” Centuries of being in a patriarchal society put women in a vulnerable position. However, as a gay man from Bangladesh— which has the Article 377 sodomy law and is predominantly Muslim—LGBTQ assault victims are also extremely vulnerable and afraid of speaking out. Talking about an assault may require someone to reveal their sexual orientation, which could lead to harsh government action or religious threats. There is also an extreme lack of empathy since many societies still struggle with accepting homosexuality. Even heterosexual male victims are subjected
to humiliation and negative comparisons to gay men. Only a few of the privileged or rebellious assault victims come forward. Most remain silent. The lack of political inclusion also adds to the silence. The number of queer women holding positions in government is negligible, compared to men. In a few rare cases where an LGBTQ leader occupies a prominent oﬃce, it does not guarantee high acceptance. Rhetoric
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The nuances of gay sexual harassment Judging sex between older and younger gays
JOE MCCORMACK is the managing partner of McCormack + Kristel, Executive Search Consultants for nonproﬁt and philanthropic organizations, specializing in diversity recruiting.
EDITOR’S NOTE: On Nov. 21, President Donald Trump, who has been accused by 16 women of sexual harassment, virtually endorsed Alabama Judge Roy Moore for the U.S. Senate, even though Moore has been accused by six women of harassment when they were teenagers and Moore was a 32-year-old deputy district attorney. One accuser was 14 when she claims he sexually molested her; another was 16. “Roy Moore denies it,” Trump said. “That’s all I can say.” Trump’s attorney General Jeﬀ Sessions says he believes the women. Nonetheless, Trump urged a vote for the man Republican strategist Steve Schmidt called “a pedophile” rather than the Democrat. The watershed
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about prosecuting LGBTQ people under the sodomy law is often used for political gain. And religion plays a big role, with politicians quoting religious verses against LGBTQ people. The deliberate oversight from government and society puts members of LGBTQ communities in a compromising position in many countries. Any form of abuse goes unreported for fear of being subjected to violence and rejection. Unlike in America, where sharing stories of sexual assault leads to personal closure, in many countries speaking out risks lives. This puts queer communities around the globe in a tricky position. They want to be a part of actions like the #MeToo movement but rightly fear the consequences. Comments on social media said women should stop using their stories to shame men. Interestingly, as a number of feminist
#MeToo explosion in the gay world has been a little diﬀerent, though only a handful have spared actor Kevin Spacey the torrents of social media hell, while bitching at rather than burning darling George Takei. Now some are coming forward saying child molesters and drunken creeps should not be treated with the same taint of contempt, especially in the gay world where there are nuances few are factoring in at all. Joe McCormack explains. – Karen Ocamb
In the 1960s, when I was a 19-year-old college student visiting New York for the ﬁrst time from California, I stayed with an older man in a townhouse in a fashionable part of the city. We had met in a bar in San Francisco. He invited me to look him up when I came to New York — and I knew that sex would be expected in return for his hospitality. What I didn’t know was that it would be sudden, violent and coerced. No matter how physically strong I was at 19, being in the big city far from home for the ﬁrst time made me feel powerless. I was surprised and felt defenseless at a profound level. I subsequently learned that I was not this man’s only victim. He and his circle of inﬂuential friends regularly preyed upon young men and they proudly shared their conquests. But
there was also an accepted power dynamic where those with wealth, power and inﬂuence played benefactor and provided safety to younger gay men who wanted access to that wealth, power and inﬂuence. In those days, sex between older and younger gay men was not uncommon. It was often an unspoken mutual understanding for perceived mutual beneﬁt – between a coach and an athlete, a talent manager and an aspiring actor, or a business executive and an ambitious novice. When it was consensual, it was accepted, for good or ill, as a norm of the gay subculture. Same in the straight world: if an older successful man bought a younger aspiring woman dinner, sex was often the expected nightcap. There is hardly a person who came of age in the ‘60s, ‘70s or ‘80s who doesn’t have such a story. So to pretend that we are surprised, appalled or shocked today over sexual harassment allegations against celebrities is disingenuous at best and hypocritical at worst. The question should be not did it occur, but were both parties of legal age, was it consensual, and did the sexual advances stop when the attentions were
no longer welcomed? Did the instigator turn from pursuer into predator? This is the key. Rape or sex with a minor is inexcusable—full stop. In my case, it wasn’t easy for many years to forgive my assailant, but anger and hatred corrode the soul of the hater while seldom aﬀecting the perpetrator. There are many sexual encounters between older and younger men that are consensual. Some even turn into relationships. There was a 30-year diﬀerence, for instance, between writer Christopher Isherwood and his partner of three decades, the successful portrait artist Don Bachardy. It may be diﬃcult to judge attitudes and degree of consent in the context of the times. But we also should not be so quick to accept every accusation as irrefutable proof of sexual harassment or pedophilia with automatic jail time or automatic public condemnation. And as fallible human beings, it’s important that we distinguish between real sexual abuse and the widespread exploration several decades ago of gay sexual liberation.
linguists have pointed out, often when women need to make a point they are either systematically silenced or they have to be over assertive and adopt male behavioral characteristics to be recognized. Many women have been able to overcome these barriers and come forward to challenge the patriarchal society, thanks to a recognition of the need for collective solidarity around being women. This is not the case with the LGBTQ community as sexual orientation and gender identity do not occupy a position of “normalcy” in most countries. When queer communities in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Egypt and many other nations come forward to express themselves in any form, they are either arrested by the government or tortured to death by extremist groups These deep-rooted problems of freedom of speech exist even in developed nations such as the USA where they take a diﬀerent form. A Bangladeshi LGBT activist living in the USA was recently abused and
almost beaten up in front of his house. The assaulter used multiple homophobic slurs. When the activist reported the incident to the police, he was informed that as long he was not physically assaulted, any verbal homophobic attack will not lead to legal action as that falls under the assaulter’s freedom of speech. The idea of freedom of speech is to give voice to minorities and as a brown gay man in America, the Bangladeshi young man is in the minority. Assault is not only physical but verbal and psychological. When he is subjected to hate comments, it should be considered as a form of abuse and subjected to legal protection and action. This is just one example of many forms of assault, which get overlooked because of loopholes in law and policy. The actions taken by bigger nations such as the U.S. and Russia have global impact. When the U.S. government bans transgender service members from the military or the Russian government stays silent on the Chechen anti-gay witch hunt, it not only impacts
the LGBTQ communities in those nations but sends a signal to millions of people around the world who struggle with their sexual orientation every day. Silence and inaction assault every LGBTQ person around the world as our dignity and self-respect are attacked. Can the LGBTQ community be part of the #MeToo movement? Yes. There are millions of queer people who want to vent over years of abuse and get one moment of relief. However, they are unable to get out of fear, especially in this era of increased anti-LGBTQ sentiments. Movements such as #MeToo are important to make sure that power and assault do not go unchecked. This makes it even more mandatory to make these liberation and solidarity movements accessible to everyone. Never has the need been stronger than today for a global stance where no queer voice goes unheard. TAUSIF SANZUM is a freelance journalist and a member of the LGBTQ community of Bangladesh.
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Mark Thompson: An ancestor rises up and shouts The importance of gay authenticity By BRIAN GLEASON I met my best friend Mark Thompson almost 25 years ago at a book reading for Gay Soul, a subject he focused on when he was editor of The Advocate magazine and in several books on gay culture. I started to cry listening to Mark talk about gay people as two-spirits, third genders, visionaries of the heart and trailblazers. “Gay” was not about who you slept with—it was about your soul. Gay is a way of being in the world. I had little exposure to what it meant to be gay except for hooking up or fantasizing about having a lover. That evening led to gay consciousness and gay soul becoming a vital part of my life’s work. Mark loved to walk through the Descanso Gardens in the San Gabriel Valley. We met there and walked and talked for hours. Mark felt that Walt Whitman expressed “gay soul” best poetically in his Calamus series, speaking about the adhesive love that certain men shared and how that was the true democracy. He also loved Plato’s Symposium and the higher love of certain men that went beyond marriage or family. Mark also loved Harry Hay, the founder of the modern gay movement, and his idea of gay men carrying a subject-subject consciousness in their relationships with one another and with the world—a kind of consciousness opposed to the dominant subject-object consciousness which, literally, objectiﬁed relationships and the world, seeing it all as something to be used towards an end. Those talks and a meeting between Mark and Don Kilhefner germinated the idea for “Rise Up And Shout,” an LGBT mentoring program. Mark and Don felt the best way to teach gay consciousness was through the mentoring of young people and the recognition of their creative talents. Teachers, directors, therapists and community leaders met with LGBT youth over the course of a year in workshops designed to bring out their authentic voice and then present that voice on stage. Initially, youth showed up with
MARK THOMPSON PHOTO BY KAREN OCAMB
headshots and agent contact information, only to ﬁnd that “Rise Up And Shout” was more interested in creative gifts than speciﬁc talents, more interested in authenticity than performance, and most interested in that special, unique gay voice that inspired much of the creativity in these youth. Before his unexpected death in August 2016, Mark handed this project over to me, and I produced four “Rise Up And Shout” events, along with a documentary ﬁlm that aired on the Sundance Channel in 2008. The experience also yielded a book of letters between the youth and elders of “Rise Up And Shout,” aptly titled “Letters To Young Gay Men” after poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters To A Young Poet.” The book won entry into this year’s Lambda Literary Festival, where it premiered as a play. The play is currently being reviewed as a possibility for Highways Performance Space’s roster for next year, and continues to seek a publisher. Mark’s mentorship should live on Dear Mark: Your last letter illustrating your view on gay sexuality and drug use really made me think about something that I have to remind myself of everyday. You beautifully wrote, “I’m glad that your better angels
didn’t get their wings fried or you wouldn’t be the amazing artist you are today.” Thank you for that encouragement. You triggered a very signiﬁcant aﬃrmation that I live oﬀ of sometimes. No drug in the world can give me the high that I get while I’m performing. I’m an artist. Always have been. From ever since I can remember I had a crazy and fun imagination. I would create worlds of castles and demons, portraying heroes or ‘damsels in distress’. Playing, drawing, and dancing constantly. I’ve pursued performing pretty much all my life. It is my passion. My work. My reason for being. Mark writes about authenticity and ﬁnding solace after his husband’s death Dear Derek: The failure of success means feeling successful enough inside to always risk being a failure. This is what we should hope and pray for. This is how we become authentic people. And, maybe, if we are lucky, we glimpse at the wisdom of our own old soul like my husband the Reverend Cannon Malcolm Boyd did one evening in Hollywood in the 1950s when he left success as Mary Pickford’s producer and decided to enter the seminary. He threw away the glitter and gold and all previous
assumptions about the importance of those elements in the world to succeed at being “a failure” many times, over and over again to the end. He was the most successful person I ever knew. Recuperating in Palm Springs after Malcolm’s death, Mark found comfort in the words written by a “wise queen,” Jersey Shore: “I come from Hollywood. I know how it works. I just have to sit back and watch you fall. It’s a huge shame you must destroy others along the way. I think that is what bothers me most….Shame on the people who are foolish enough to go along with the ride….I would rather be a happy and true person than someone who wants something that will not be what you thought it was. It never is. Step outside the box and look in, then you will see the truth. The truth will set you free.” As artists, Derek, we strive to avoid the usual clichés. Perhaps what I’m saying to you today seems the hoariest of them all. But this is the truth: the only truth worth listening to. Take it from the mouth of babes in arms in transit. Love always, Mark.
BRIAN GLEASON is a Los Angeles-based writer.
When giving, more than just the thought counts THIS HOLIDAY SEASON, SUPPORT SMALL LGBT-ALLIED BUSINESSES By REBEKAH SAGER W W W .LOS ANG E LE S B LADE .C OM
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Lisa Vanderpump and Ken Todd’s local Los Angeles empire now includes one of the best dog boutiques in the world, located on the increasingly trendy West 3rd Street near Crescent Heights Boulevard in Beverly-Grove. It’s a rescue chic boutique for a cause.
Pals Socks uses mismatched socks to showcase diﬀerence.
PHOTO COURTESY VANDERPUMP DOGS
VANDERPUMP DOGS The gift that also gives back — Vanderpump Dogs is a chic dog rescue concept dedicated to creating a more humane world for dogs, while keeping them and their companions looking stylishly fabulous. This glamorous storefront dog rescue and pet boutique is owned by Lisa Vanderpump, the British restaurateur, author, actress, and television personality Best known for her role on the reality TV show, “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Oﬀering grooming services and a gorgeous selection of niche brands, the brick and mortar was inspired by Gigi the Pom, Lisa Vanderpump’s own precious pup. Go in and #shopwithapurpose at LA’s most fabulous rescue center. Troy Masters, Los Angeles Blade publisher and former West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister are big fans and both get their dogs groomed there. “Vanderpump transformed our 15-year-old Lilly back into a puppy again,”
NiK Kacy’s debut collection consists of ﬁve basic traditionally ‘masculine of center’ styles now created in a unisex sizing and proportion for all individuals.
PHOTO COURTESY PALS SOCKS
PHOTO COURTESY NIK KACY FOOTWEAR
said Masters. If you visit, be prepared to fall in love with the dog of your dreams. “What we’re trying to do is create more humane treatment for dogs worldwide,” Lisa Vanderpump told the Los Angeles Blade. The store is located at 8134 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles. You can call 323-852-DOGS or visit vanderpumpdogs.com to make an appointment for your pooch’s grooming.
“When I was younger I sometimes stuttered... I was weird, apparently. I want more kids to grow up being comfortable with people not exactly like them…I don’t like seeing all this hate, bigotry, fear of people not exactly like them. I’m just trying to put more positivity into this world and create something that can create positive social change, not just a simple novelty,” Lavon adds. Pals encourage playful dialogue between two diﬀerent friends -- you don’t need to match to be best Pals. Our hashtag is #defeetthenorm You can ﬁnd Pal Socks in L.A. at stores such as: Books and Cookies, the Library Store, Dustmuﬃn, and Ron Robinson. Or just visit palssocks.com
PALS SOCKS Pals Socks is a company dedicated to “defeeting” bullies one foot at a time. Using mismatched socks to showcase how diﬀerence is cool, the line was created by a young L of LGBTQ living in Philly. “I wouldn’t say that me being attracted to ladies made me launch this brand in particular. I just am a very empathetic person, and was also a kid who was ‘diﬀerent,’” Lavon says.
NIK KACY FOOTWEAR NiK Kacy Footwear is a brand inspired by the fashion needs of both its founder and the larger LGBTQ community.
In part one of the Los Angeles Blade’s Shopping Favorites, we focus on a mix of our favorite LGBT-owned or friendly merchants (both online and storefront), from charitable chic to the purely indulgent. We encourage you to give without expecting to receive. And we also encourage you to donate money to the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Homeless LGBT Youth Program at Highland.
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From a patented designed padding to seamless and fusing manufacturing, the company looks to help every man feel more conﬁdent, and look more, ahem, masculine. RounderBum’s signature padded technology uses hidden padding made of ﬂexible polyurethane that conforms to every body shape, with hidden bands that lift and deﬁne the muscles with a subtle and discreet eﬀect. As retailer Andrew Christian, the famous men’s undergarment store, closes shop with plans to relocate to Downtown LA in January, the men of WeHo can rest assured that RounderBum is anxious to help showcase the goods. No date has been set for the grand opening of the new ﬂagship store at the northeast corner of San Vicente and Santa Monica Boulevard, located where American Apparel once ruled. In the meantime, Larry Block’s Block Party is happy to be of service; Block Party carries some choice RounderBum gear. RounderBum will be located at 802 North San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood, and you can visit them online at rounderbum.com. The ideal package is round and ﬁrm and it can easily be achieved with a quick visit to the new RounderBum on Santa Monica Boulevard.
There’s an almost fetish art to grooming and Barber Surgeons Guild just oﬀ Santa Monica Boulevard delivers. Every WeHoan wants a little pampering, with an edge.
PHOTO COURTESY ROUNDERBUM
PHOTO COURTESY BARBER SURGEONS GUILD
NiK Kacy says they designed the ﬁrst collection to provide a solution to address the divide between shoe designs and the gender binary. Being unable to ﬁnd shoes that ﬁt their gender expression and their feet. “I still feel the discomfort and embarrassment of being mis-gendered on a daily basis. Most people I come into contact with mis-gender me. I try to take the time to educate them about what non-binary means and how making assumptions about one’s gender is so archaic (not to mention politically incorrect and oﬀensive),” Kacy says. Their desire for gender equality extends beyond gender and features styles ranging from masculine, feminine, gender-neutral, to high-heels in a gender-equal size range from 34-47 (US women’s 3.5 to men’s 14). Subsequent releases include a unisex utility holster that is completely adjustable to ﬁt all body spectrums. Kacy’s hope for the holidays, under the current administration, is that they’re able to ﬁnd a little piece
of their souls and stop taking away the rights of so many deserving Americans. “I’d like them to reverse most of the horriﬁc decisions/ changes they have made in the past 12 months… my Christmas wish this year, is to remove everyone in the administration related to or working for Trump and Pence and bring back BO [Barack Obama] and JB [Joe Biden]. I can wish for a miracle, can’t I,” Kacy says. NiK Kacy is a Certiﬁed LGBT Business Enterprise. Visit the store online at nikkacy.com.
ROUNDERBUM RounderBum is hoping to change the world one pair of men´s undergarments at a time. With a growing trend of men who take care of their appearance, RounderBum created a men’s line for those who want to look more attractive and athletic. In comes RounderBum, oﬀering men’s shapewear.
BARBER SURGEONS GUILD File this one away under the purely indulgent, but irresistible category. Barber Surgeons Guild provides high-quality grooming products and services, combining grooming with advanced medical procedures, backed by Dr. Justin Rome, a plastic surgeon who runs and oversees the store. BSG originates from the history of barber surgeons who were the medical and grooming experts throughout the Middle Ages. BSG products are formulated by master barbers and an expert medical team; oﬀering shampoos, conditioners, pomades, texture liniment and hair serums, each product is scientiﬁcally structured with an active ingredient to ensure hair is healthy, thick, stylish and strong. In addition to the traditional barbershop experience, BSG also oﬀers advanced hair therapies including hair regeneration. It’s artisanal grooming and a whole lot more. Barber Surgeons Guild is located at 805 Larrabee St., West Hollywood. You can make an appointment by calling 310-975-7094. Or visit barbersurgeonsguild.com for more information.
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THE ADVENTURE HAS BEGUN!
THIS HOLIDAY SEASON TAKE A TRIP TO SHERWOOD FOREST WHERE A CLASSIC TALE GOES ROGUE
WINNER GOTHAM AWARDS
BEST BREAKTHROUGH ACTOR TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET
★★★★ (HIGHEST RATING)
“A NEW CLASSIC AND ONE OF THE YEAR’S VERY BEST FILMS.” -Peter Travers, ROLLING STONE
A FILM BY
LUCA GUADAGNINO ARMIE HAMMER
BASED ASED ON THE NOVEL BY
MICHAEL STUHLBARG SCREENPLAY BY
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DIRECTOR LUCA GUADAGNINO & ACTOR TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET IN PERSON! Arclight Hollywood: FRIDAY 12/1 after the 6:00 show and SATURDAY 12/2 after the 8:30 show. The Landmark: FRIDAY 12/1 after the 8:00 show and SATURDAY 12/2 after the 7:10 show. THE WALLIS AND VESTURPORT PRESENT
Kasey Mahaffy, Jeremy Crawford, Christina Bennett Lind, Luke Forbes, Sam Meader. Photo by Luke Fontana.
VIEW THE TRAILER AT WWW.CALLMEBYYOURNAME.COM
David Farr Gisli Örn Gardarsson and Selma Björnsdóttir
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LOS ANGELES BLADE FRI 12/01 1/4 PAGE (4.875" x 4.625")
How David Cassidy outed me I t hi nk I love d t h e ‘70s ic on By TROY MASTERS firstname.lastname@example.org
D E C E M B E R 0 1 2 0 1 7 • V O L U M E 0 1 • I S S U E 1 9 • A merica ’ s L G B T Q N e w s S ource • L O S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M • 3 1 I was an ecstatic 12-year-old when I picked up a Tiger Beat magazine in 1973 and read David Cassidy’s concert schedule. He was set to perform in Nashville. I ran screaming out of my bedroom, down the stairs to the kitchen where my mother was throwing Swanson’s frozen dinners in the oven and demanded to go to his concert. For weeks, I was reading every teen and pop magazine, scouring them for private details about David’s life for any evidence that he was queer like me. I ripped every David Cassidy centerfold out of those magazines and meticulously arranged them on the wall behind my bed, a pyramid gallery of David worship in preparation for the big event. I couldn’t talk about anything but David, David, David. My close-’n-play had by now memorized every Partridge Family and David Cassidy album I owned (which was all of them). My sister, at whom I was angry for not being as excited as I was, was sick to death of me. She had an opposing shrine in her room to Bobby Sherman. I hated Bobby Sherman. My stepfather was surprisingly patient, considering I was replacing his regular stereo blasting of Patsy Cline, Ernest Tubb and Roy Acuff with prepubescent Partridge Family gush. Mom was getting her first hints that her son was a tad nelly as I continued my ranting obsession with David right up until concert time. On Oct. 23, 1973 (I’ll never forget the date) Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium was packed with thousands of impatient teeny-boppers — mostly girls, wiggling and screaming and talking about their
David Cassidy onstage in Nashville Municipal Auditorium. PHOTO BY KEM MOOR BERRY, 1973
David fantasy. As my sister, Mom and me wound our way through the crowd, I caught a boy’s eyes and we both stared knowingly at one another, both looking back at one another as we passed. It was the first time I knew I was not alone. To my surprise there were dozens of boys there who were just as excited, and just as nelly. We found our seats finally and there I was, packed right in the middle of 30,000 screaming girls, screaming right along with them, while my mom cowered in embarrassment and my jaded sister kept reminding me she liked Bobby Sherman more. Then the lights went down, and the nelliness really took me over. I was screaming some high-pitched shrill that I didn’t know I was capable of when stage lights and music filled the auditorium. My moment had arrived. When David walked onstage, the noise from the audience was deafening. He wore a white jumpsuit and kept doing jumping jacks, singing love song after love song. I screamed louder with every jumping
jack, while my mother and sister grew more deeply humiliated. I think they were seeking solace from some of the other parents who had noticed. And there was at least one other mom nearby with a son who was almost as wild. But as I sang and screamed to “Cherish,” “I Think I Love You,” “Echo Valley 2-6809,” “Come On Get Happy,” “Looking Through the Eyes of Love” and, of course, “OneNight Stand,” I didn’t really care what I was revealing about myself. Then came the car trip home: I ranted about David, David, David, his jumping jacks, his white jumpsuit (I begged mom to make me one), my Partridge Family merchandise. Finally, my mother had had it. “Troy,” she said, “you’re supposed to like girls.” My sister chimed in with deliriously gleeful agreement. I felt exposed and stupid. But in a burst of indignant righteousness I exclaimed, “But I don’t!” Yipes! Change of subject. “Mom, you missed the exit,” my sister
exclaimed. Mom blasted, “Now I have to drive all the way back, Troy!” It was my fault. Things have changed a lot since then. There’s not a living soul on earth who cares that I am gay. Gay is not even a topic with mom or my sister. They both supported same-sex marriage before it was the law of the land and while we don’t always agree on politics, we do recognize cavemen when we see them (as least on this issue). But still, in many ways I can credit David Cassidy with the earliest tinge of courage I had to be my expressive self. David Cassidy outed me. Today, as reports stream in about David’s death, I am wistful. I’m actually crying right now as I type. I can’t help but think of all those invested emotions of early love, even if somewhat unrequited and obsessive. I sang every song, watched his videos and became that little 12-year-old boy in Nashville again. Well, part of him. I couldn’t resist being a child again, this time living in Los Angeles. So, I picked up the phone after listening to “Echo Valley 2-6809” and decided to see who answered. “We’re sorry. You’ve reached a number that is disconnected and no longer in service” followed by that hideous rapid busy signal. It jolted me out of whatever fantasy I was having. David brought me out of the closet and his death is a reminder that time is moving at a rapid clip. I’ve progressed and grown and something of David is reflected in who I am today. A little bit of me has died. “I Think I Love You,” is the perfect legacy for you.
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By TROY MASTERS email@example.com “Family. That’s everything in life, you just need to be happy with yourself and you can accomplish anything,” said Zoey Luna. In the Spanish-speaking world, Quinceañera is a coming-of-age celebration on a girl’s 15th birthday. It’s a lavish party that includes a mariachi band, a feast and many guests—much like a wedding. Planning for a quinceañera can start as early as the birth of a daughter. Actual preparations may take anywhere from six months to a year and a half. Dances have to be learned, decorations decided on, cakes made, and in some cases, elaborately detailed and ﬂowing dresses made. Even a throne and presentation area are created for the new woman. Girlhood ends there. For some transgender Latinas, turning 15 can be traumatic. It’s almost a time of reckoning, a moment when the family steps up or gives a painful thumbs down. Zoey is one of the lucky ones. She never identiﬁed as male, though she was born male. And when her mother, Ofelia Barba, and her sister, Lety, realized Zoey was transgender they did not ﬁght it, though both were afraid for her future. The family embraced her and fought with Zoey to raise hell for the recognition she deserved. She stared down discrimination and fought it at every turn and kept winning. She helped, as a 13-year-old in 2013, ﬁght for passage of California’s AB1266, a law authored by San Francisco’s Tom Ammiano and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, that established a student’s right to use facilities that correspond to their gender identity. Her story was featured in “Raising Zoey,” a documentary by Dante Allancastre, that deftly explored identity and the complex struggles of Zoe’s family. But in “15: A Quinceañera Story,” directed by Matthew O’Neill and Thalía Sodi, Zoey begins her journey into the real world as her Quinceañera story is broadcast to the world via an HBO documentary that follows the stories of ﬁve Latina girls from diﬀerent backgrounds. As she heads to New York for the premiere, Zoe is facing her own battles with self-discovery, the awkward phase some might say. She says, “people are expecting a lot from me and I’m not sure I can live up to it all.” School, activism and the spotlight are just a little overwhelming, it seems. But she has a 16-year-old boyfriend, Austin, a carefree transgender Latino guy, who Zoey says helps her stay conﬁdent about who she is. “When I am struggling or when I feel I’m not going to be good enough for something, Austin reminds me that I’ve made it so far with my abilities and intelligence and that I just need to rely on that.” She hopes everyone will watch the show. “It’s not just about the party. It’s a celebration of becoming.”
2 0 G A Y Q U E ST I O N S F O R: ZO E Y L UN A
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? Since ﬁfth grade; it was hardest to accept myself and love who I am.
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do? No! I’m totally grateful for who I ﬁnd attractive. I mean my partner is so gorgeous.
Who’s your LGBT hero Anyone who can come to terms and embrace their identity whether it’s sexual or gender is truly heroic and honorable.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world? I’m not religious. I do love listening to theories and suspicions but there is absolutely no god or Satan.
What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present? I’m still 16 years old! But I have visited The Abbey, so I’ll just leave it at that. Describe your dream wedding. My dream wedding looks like a beautiful venue covered in white walls with pink roses, a beautiful ‘70s disco ball hanging from the top of the ceiling, and a beautiful bride wearing a pearlescent pink dress that’s named Zoey Luna, with her groom wearing a black tux with a pastel pink bow tie. What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? I believe in speaking out against the objectiﬁcation of women in schools and in the workplace. What historical outcome would you change? Donald Trump. What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime? When Kim Kardashian’s Snapchat broke Taylor Swift. On what do you insist? Fair and equal rights for all.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? Keep up the good ﬁght and to remember it’s OK if we screw up; we just have to pick ourselves up when we fall. What would you walk across hot coals for? A button to change time and make Bernie president. Also to star on Broadway as Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde: The Musical.” What LGBT stereotype annoys you most? That all trans girls are creepy sexual predators who have no class. What’s your favorite LGBT movie? “But I’m a Cheerleader” and “Tangerine.” What’s the most overrated social custom? Saying “bless you” after someone sneezes. It’s so annoying when groups say bless you in unison. What trophy or prize do you most covet? My 8th grade drama award because I’ve always loved the arts and it’s such an honor to be recognized for my talents.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? Suggesting others watch “15: A Quinceañera Story.”
What do you wish you’d known at 18? I’m not 18 yet but I’m ﬁne with what I’ve learned over the years; the person I am today will help me grow as a person in the future.
If your life were a book, what would the title be? “Buﬀy got me through it”
Why Los Angeles? Why not? LA is the place to be for diversity and art!
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‘Divas Simply Singing’ like an angel FOR NEARLY 30 YEARS, THESE WOMEN HAVE GIVEN IT THEIR ALL By BILLY MASTERS When Sheryl Lee Ralph started “Divas Simply Singing” in 1990, this diva had no idea she’d still be singing and leading the war on HIV/AIDS. The thought is staggering. “I never imagined we’d still be doing it 27 years later. In fact, I can’t believe it.” This is a very personal battle for her. When AIDS hit, one of the ﬁrst battlegrounds was Broadway, and Ralph saw it up close while creating the iconic role of Deena in the original production of “Dreamgirls.” “I was very frightened by what I saw,” she says. “It was 1982, the early years of what we now know as AIDS. People started getting sick and then died inexplicably. Your friends would be sick today and dead tomorrow. There was no dying process like we’re used to now. There was no PrEP. There were just all kinds of poison medications that people were trying - trying to live, trying to survive. And so many just didn’t. It was just a horrible time. And to stand witness to such a horrible time really has molded me into the woman I’m still becoming.” This is also when Sheryl Lee’s love aﬀair with the gay community began. “It was amazing being on stage in ‘Dreamgirls’ and having the absolute love and adoration of people. But it was the way that gay men came out in support of the show. The way they said they identiﬁed with it - the girls ﬁghting to just be themselves, ﬁghting to live their lives as they are. It’s a relationship that has carried on throughout all these years. When I started advocating for HIV/ AIDS awareness, there were some gay men who warned me that some people might turn on me, and that it wasn’t necessarily my ﬁght. But for me, it was always my ﬁght. It’s a human ﬁght and if it could happen to those folks, it could happen to anybody. So the good ﬁght is a good ﬁght.” The very ﬁrst beneﬁt started with a bang. “I was in a unique position because most of the performers were my friends.
SHERYL LEE RALPH and JENIFER LEWIS PHOTO COURTESY RALPH
When you have to go through an agent or manager, it is much more diﬃcult. But I remember making calls to friends and asking them to just show up and sing - or in the case of Debbie Allen, dance. I wanted everybody to come together and show a commitment to ﬁght against HIV and AIDS. I honestly thought that we would have a cure or vaccine or something by now.” “Divas Simply Singing” has the distinction of being the longest consecutive running musical AIDS beneﬁt in the United States. And from day one, it always delivered a great show. That’s a challenge Ralph doesn’t take lightly. “Anytime you put on an event for over 25 years, there’s the danger of becoming old, too familiar, and having the community take you for
granted.” Most years, it’s been in a concert hall. Two years ago, the show celebrated the 35th anniversary of “Dreamgirls” by re-opening the Ford Amphitheatre. Last year, the fundraiser was in Philadelphia, where Ralph lives part of the year with her husband, Pennsylvania State Sen. Vincent Hughes. Earlier this year, she organized a fundraiser in NYC while appearing in “Wicked” on Broadway. “This year, we thought we’d do something diﬀerent and host the beneﬁt in a venue that brings everyone closer together for maximum interaction and enjoyment.” It will take place at the Taglyan Cultural Center at 1201 Vine Street in Hollywood on Dec. 9. The evening will include a cocktail reception, an elegant
dinner, and then a full concert. This year’s event honors Todrick Hall and includes performances by Jennifer Holliday and Thelma Houston. One of the featured performers will be “Divas” mainstay Jenifer Lewis from “Blackish,” who will also be autographing copies of her new memoir, “The Mother of Black Hollywood.” Ralph says, “I remember calling Jenifer for the ﬁrst ‘Divas’ 27 years ago, and I can honestly say I only remember one time that she wasn’t there on stage with me. That says a lot about our friendship. It says a lot about her commitment. It says a lot about her as a woman.” Each year, the audience looks forward to Sheryl Lee and Jenifer carrying on in that way longtime friends do. “We’ve known each other since we were about 19 years old, sharing one piece of apple pie at the Howard Johnson’s on Broadway ‘cuz we didn’t want to spend what little cash we had to buy a whole piece,” laughs Ralph. Jenifer remembers it diﬀerently. “Nineteen? Maybe I was 19, but Sheryl is MUCH older than me. She had to have been 29 or 30. And I don’t remember her letting me have any of that pie! I turned around and it was gone! No, seriously, I adore her. We started out together as babies on Broadway and never looked back. Nobody works harder or deserves more praise than Sheryl Lee Ralph. Just don’t tell her I said so because onstage, I will wipe the ﬂoor with her and her twodozen red dresses!” The Diva Foundation is donating a portion of the proceeds to Project Angel Food, and the event will honor the many people who volunteer for this organization. DIVAS SIMPLY SINGING Saturday, Dec. 9, 6 p.m. Taglyan Cultural Center 1201 Vine St., Hollywood. For tickets, go to DivaTickets.com.
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Jonathan Groﬀ: ‘Look at me now, Mrs. Evans’ TONY- NOMINATED GAY ACTOR IS ALL OVER TOWN AND YOUR TV By SUSAN HORNIK
Hollywood is simply in love with Broadway darling Jonathan Groﬀ. With two Tony Award nominations—for the uber popular “Spring Awakening” and “Hamilton,” under his belt, the versatile actor/singer has also been in FOX’s “Glee,” HBO’s “Looking,” and the theatrical animated feature, “Frozen.” It’s no wonder then, why Out magazine recently named Groﬀ Entertainer of The Year. During the magazine’s interview, Groﬀ talked about his latest endeavor: starring as a straight FBI agent investigating serial killers in the 1970s, on Netﬂix’s psychological drama, “Mindhunter.” “His sexuality is a huge part of the story, because Holden is having his sexual awakening while talking to psychosexual killers, which is such a bizarre and interesting character arc.” He continued: “I think one of the beneﬁts of being out is that you can share your stories, be who you are, and put yourself in the work regardless.” At a panel for the recent Television Critics Press Tour, Groﬀ performed and chatted about “Live From Lincoln Center” a new PBS miniseries, in which he is guest starring. The series tapes in about a month and will air in the spring. When asked if he loved theater more than acting in television, Groﬀ said: “I really like theater. It sounds so cliché, but it is what I started doing as a kid, and it’s where my heart is. I really do love it, and having moments like this to perform live is really exciting for me. “And when you get to do a show and tell the story from beginning to end in one night, it’s so satisfying. As an actor in the theater, you’re in charge of your ﬁnal edit, which is also so exciting.” Groﬀ compared the experience of doing ﬁlm and television, to being in the mind of the showrunner or the director.
JONATHAN GROFF’s star is ascendant. PHOTO BY DEBBY WONG; COURTESY OF BIGSTOCK
“So much of the ﬁnal product has nothing to do with you. On set, you get to give a bunch of diﬀerent versions of something, and then they sort of cut it together and piece it together. But in the moments when I’m on set and I’m discovering a character and learning about a character, it’s so exciting because of sound purposes and whatever. It’s completely silent... it’s like that bell rings or whatever and the boom goes up, and then it’s action, and between action and cut, it feels like anything can happen. “And there’s this hyper-awareness and energy and excitement and anticipation. Because even though it’s not a live audience, the moment of creating
something on ﬁlm is so quiet, and the camera is right here, and it’s so intimate and so vulnerable and so personal that I do get that kind of excited feeling on set, even though there isn’t a live audience.” “So it’s obviously very diﬀerent, and I like them both, but my heart does ﬂutter on set like it does in front of a live audience.” For all of his success Groﬀ has remained conﬁdent but humble. “My ﬁrst Broadway show was ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and I remember Mrs. Evans, who was teaching ﬁfth grade, was like, ‘Someday, Jonathan, you are going to be in the pit playing your trumpet. And I remember listening to her and being, like,
in my mind — I didn’t say it to her. I didn’t have the balls or even the knowledge to say it, but in my mind, I was like, ‘No, no. Not in the pit. I’m going to be on stage.’ I had a feeling. That was ﬁfth grade. It’s so weird.” As for the future, Groﬀ remains open to special opportunities. “ I don’t have a dream role...I’ve never had one. I just want to keep working on good stuﬀ with people that I respect and have a lifetime of that. That would be my ultimate dream, just to always have something great to sink my teeth into that was inspiring and surprising and challenging and fun. That would be my ultimate — that’s my dream.”
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Trans actress is ‘A Fantastic Woman’ A POWERFUL PERFORMANCE GENERATING OSCAR BUZZ By JOHN PAUL KING
For the ﬁrst few minutes of Chilean director Sebastián Lelio’s “A Fantastic Woman” (Una mujer fantástica), life seems to be pretty sweet for its transgender heroine, Marina. An aspiring singer who earns her living working as a waitress, she is involved with Orlando, a successful older businessman. They adore each other and are deeply committed to building a future together. This blissful existence is turned upside down in an instant when Orlando dies from a sudden aneurysm. Instead of being treated with compassion, Marina is mistrusted by hospital staﬀ, suspected of wrongdoing by legal authorities investigating the death, and viewed as an embarrassment and an interloper by Orlando’s family – who consider her an “aberration” and immediately begin pressuring her to move out of the apartment she shared with him. It’s a stark reality with which Lelio’s ﬁlm confronts us. The notion of unexpectedly losing a partner is dreadful enough, but to be faced with hostility and prejudice in the wake of such tragedy, to be denied the right to grieve the loss – even actively prevented from doing so – is a nightmare most of us are loath to imagine. Yet such is the insult-to-injury treatment that often awaits survivors within “alternative” partnerships – especially when those survivors are trans – in even the most civilized cultures. Marina, in her struggle to ﬁnd closure amid the transphobic whirlwind that surrounds her following her lover’s death, serves as a stand-in for countless unsung individuals who daily suﬀer similar indignities. She’s worthy of bearing that responsibility. As a character, Marina is both relatable and admirable. Throughout her ordeal, she maintains her dignity and poise; even
DANIELA VEGA’s star turn in ‘A Fantastic Woman’ has Hollywood talking. PHOTO COURTESY SEBASTIAN LELIO
when faced with the extreme bigotry of Orlando’s relatives, she manages to remain courteous while still standing ﬁrm – putting to shame their boorish and disrespectful treatment of her. Wrestling to hold on to her sense of selfworth, she responds to a system rigged in favor of hetero-normal identity not by devolving into a spiral of self-pity and selfdestructive behavior, but by ﬁnding solace in the things that give her strength – the love of her own family (as represented by her sister and brother-in-law), the power of her own queer spirit (as manifested in the self-expressive release she ﬁnds on the dance ﬂoor), and perhaps above all, her passion for singing. It’s this positive, pro-active approach that allows her to endure the contempt and incivility of her myriad oppressors, and ultimately gives her the ability to stand up against them and claim what is rightfully hers – which she does in a memorable climactic scene that delivers both catharsis and righteous satisfaction to her emotional journey.
Of course, Marina’s strength as a character would be lost without a performer of equal strength in the role, and thankfully, “A Fantastic Woman” has found the perfect match in Daniela Vega – a real life trans singer (the magniﬁcent contralto voice heard in the ﬁlm is her own) who was originally approached by Lelio to act as a consultant before he decided to cast her as his lead. Bringing the weight of her own experiences to the screen, she creates an unforgettable portrait of resilience. Tender and demure yet spirited and ferocious, the bravery and honesty of her work gives us a Marina who is not only immediately likable but who gains our respect – as opposed to our pity – as the ﬁlm goes on. The raw power of this performance makes it one of the year’s outstanding turns by an actress on the big screen – deserving of the already-brewing buzz about a potential Oscar nod – and allows the movie itself to live up to its title. Though Vega carries the bulk of the ﬁlm on her capable shoulders, there is
also some nice work from her fellow cast members. Francisco Reyes does a ﬁne job as Orlando; he generates a deep impression during his all-too-brief appearance, giving tangibility to Marina’s grief and creating a lingering memory which is as haunting to the audience as it is to her. Aline Küppenheim and Nicolás Saavedra (as Orlando’s estranged wife and son, respectively) bring enough humanity to their roles to prevent them from becoming mere hateful caricatures, and Amparo Noguera successfully walks the thin line between professional courtesy and personal antipathy as a caseworker ostensibly assigned to help Marina in the aftermath of her tragedy. As for the ﬁlm itself, Lelio, working from a screenplay co-written by himself and Gonzalo Maza, has largely avoided over-the-top histrionics or soap-opera melodrama in favor of a restrained, contemplative approach. Though throughout the story there are omnipresent reminders of the very real oppression of transgender people (the degrading treatment Marina receives from the representatives of “law and order,” the harrowing bullying she receives from Orlando’s son and his loutish buddies), “A Fantastic Woman” chooses to focus its attention on the personal quest for selfactualization instead of dwelling on social issues. These things are neither ignored nor downplayed; rather, they are duly noted as Marina gets on with the business of rising above them. As a result, what might have been a bleak and disheartening tale of transphobia becomes an uplifting portrait of personal triumph – sending a refreshingly positive message into a world wrapped (for the moment, at least) in regressive fear and uncertainty. � CONTINUES AT LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
GO S S I P
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Macklemore is obsessed with Bieber’s privates AND OTHER IMPORTANT BREAKING NEWS FROM HOLLYWOOD By BILLY MASTERS
Before zipping east for Thanksgiving, I saw Petula Clark at Los Angeles’ glorious Saban Theatre. And lemme tell you, she put on a show that would be the envy of performers two decades younger. Then again, that would make her the envy of people in their mid-60s. Yes, Clark just celebrated her 85th birthday, and I think bon vivant Bruce Vilanch said it best: “When I’m 85, I wanna be AWAKE for 90 minutes at a time, much less onstage!” The show was chock-full of Clark’s endless catalogue of hits from both her pop and theatrical careers. Since this is her ﬁrst U.S. tour EVER, catch her if you can. Catch her if you can. It’s truly a thrill to see a real legend in action. The latest sexual assault accusations are targeting Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. According to Melissa Schuman (who was a member of the pop group Dream), she and several friends were in Nick’s apartment in 2002. They were making out and then Nick led her to the bathroom. He allegedly hoisted her on the counter, unbuttoned her pants and then performed oral sex on her. Then he allegedly forced her to perform oral sex on him. Then he carried her to the bed. She says, “Then I felt it, he put something inside of me. I asked him what it was and he whispered in my ear...’It’s all me baby.’ It was done.” Melissa, who says at the time she was a virgin, claims that throughout this encounter, she was protesting and ﬁghting him physically. Despite the incident, Nick and Melissa remained friends. They performed together, recorded together, and even made the 2004 ﬁlm “The Hollow” together. Nick says, “Melissa never expressed to me while we were together or at any time since that anything we did was not consensual ... This is the ﬁrst that I am hearing about these accusations, nearly two decades later. It is contrary to my nature and everything I hold dear to intentionally cause someone
JOSH HUTCHERSON’s ‘Future Man’ walks tall and carries a big stick. PHOTO COURTESY “FUTURE MAN” VIA TWITTER
discomfort or harm.” On a recent episode of “Watch What Happens Live”, Macklemore revealed that he has a nude painting of Justin Bieber. “I bought it on Etsy as a white elephant Santa gift that at the end of the night just stayed at my house. No one ended up taking it. I’m very proud of it. And it’s become a huge headline. Like Macklemore owns a naked Justin Bieber dick pancake painting.” And it comes in handy. “It goes right above my bed and whenever I’m with my wife intimately, I can always stare at it if I want to control my orgasm. Just slow it down.” What is a “dick pancake”? It must be seen to be believed - at BillyMasters.com. That leads perfectly into Billy’s Holiday Gift Giving Suggestions, where I share some items that will make your holiday not only bright but also gay. First up, the longawaited (and feared) memoir of Jenifer Lewis. The “Black-ish” star names names and holds nothing back in “The Mother of Black Hollywood.” Her raw honesty and outrageous humor douse every page. Be forewarned - it is racy. Actually, it’s nasty!
But, if you like your divas salty and over the top, Jenifer Lewis is your gal. You can grab either the book or the audio version at Amazon.com. I love a sexy calendar, and for the sixth year in a row, the members of the Warwick Rowing Team are destined to be well hung near my bed. As with each previous year, sales of the calendar are donated to Sports Allies, a group working to remove homophobia from athletics. It’s a worthwhile cause, and they’re a hot group of guys - a win/win. You can grab them - and not in the icky Kevin Spacey way - at WarwickRowers.org. Our “Ask Billy” question comes from Neil in Chicago: “What is ‘Future Man?’ And does Josh Hutcherson really have a gargantuan penis? I can’t ﬁnd this series on any network. Is this a joke? It’s gotta be, right? Right?” Wrong. It is, in fact, a series on Hulu. In it, Josh sports a penis roughly the size of a Louisville Slugger. If that’s a reference you don’t get, picture a large eggplant, or two zucchinis, eh, just picture all of
the ingredients of ratatouille. To make matters more complicated, in the series premiere, he appears with himself. Yes, two Josh Hutchersons. I know what you’re thinking - ratatouille for everyone! Except one of them has a more natural-looking appendage. How much is real? Josh says, “It’s a combination of me with camera lock-oﬀs, and also a stunt double, and a lot of prosthetics as I’m sure you may have noticed.” You can see it on BillyMasters. com. When I’ll take an order of Hutcherson with everything on it, it’s deﬁnitely time to end yet another column. Damn, now I’m hungry. Or am I horny? While I call the Warwick Rowing Team, make a sandwich and put on a condom, you can check out www.BillyMasters.com, the site that ﬁlls a variety of needs. If you have a question for me, send it to at Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before Macklemore commissions a painting of Hutcherson’s eggplant parmesan! Until next time, remember, one man’s ﬁlth is another man’s bible.
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CA LE N D A R
E-mail calendar items to firstname.lastname@example.org two weeks prior to your event. Space is limited so priority is given to LGBT-speciﬁc events or those with LGBT participants. Recurring events must be re-submitted each time.
Homeless Youth Clothing Drive, SAT. DEC. 2 @ 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Sena Femrite Landscape Design (901 Micheltorena Street). Clean out your closet for a good cause and enjoy good food and holiday cheer at the same time. Bring a $20.00 gift card to be used toward the purchase of clothing for LA Youth Network and LA’s Homeless Youth. Even though a huge percentage of homeless youth in LA are LGBT, this is a beneﬁt to assist all homeless you. If you can’t make it to the party, arrangements can be made to pick up your clothing. Call 213-9267848 for more information. Los Angeles Women’s Network and AIDS/LifeCycle Ladies Brunch, SAT DEC. 2 @ 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM at The Villages at Ed Gould Plaza, Los Angeles LGBT Center (1125 N. McCadden). If you are looking for an opportunity to connect with other like-minded biker chicks (the self-powered kind), how does brunch at the Los Angeles LGBT Center sound? How about a raﬄe to win premium cycling apparel, gift certiﬁcates and more? The Women of AIDS/ LifeCycle and LAWN will be hosting Ladies Brunch complete with food, drinks, games and opportunities to learn about how to get involved with the Los Angeles LGBT Center. This a free and open event but you have to sign up at eventbright.com. Also check out their holiday party on Dec. 7. Young Professionals Give What You Can, SAT DEC. 2 @ 12 PM to 5:00 PM at Flaming Saddles West Hollywood (8811 Santa Monica Boulevard). 24% of LGBT seniors don’t have enough food to eat each month. These are the revolutionaries who gave up their ﬁnancial future to help get our community oﬀ it’s ass and into the streets. They deserve your support. Bring peanut butter, canned soups, canned tuna, chicken, turkey, beef, canned fruits and veggies, and oatmeal and you will receive
STEVE GRAND is set to charm Los Angeles at Catalina Jazz Club on December 5. PHOTO COURTESY OF GRAND
a complimentary cocktail. Beauty Kitchen will be on hand to show you how to makeyour-own perfume and lotion. You feel good and smell good when you leave!
AIDS/Life Cycle Holiday Party, TUE DEC. 5 @ 6:30 to 8:30 PM at Madera Kitchen (1835 N Cahuenga Blvd). One of the most loving and inspiring LGBT and AIDS groups in Los Angeles celebrate the season of giving. AIDS/Life Cycle will focus this year’s get together on the homeless LGBT Youth crisis in Los Angeles by helping raise funds and supplies for the Highland Youth Center at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. You don’t have to be a biker to attend — just be a supporter and share the love. Steve Grand Debuts in LA with AllAmerican Boy, TUE DEC. 5 @ 8:30 PM at Catalina Jazz Club (6725 West Sunset Blvd). The out gay singer will perform his Billboard-charting “All-American Boy” and upcoming album release. You may have notice him. Over 16 Million views on YouTube, #3 Album on The Billboard Independent Album Artist Charts, on “Good Morning America” or maybe CNN. It’s best to get to know him up close at personal. Call (866) 468-3399 or visit online at www. ChrisIsaacsonPresents.com for tickets.
Out in Tech LA’s Light, Camera’s, Click, WED DEC. 6 @ 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Google
(320 Hampton Drive). Mix and mingle and learn how ongoing digital innovations are transforming media companies. You get insight into new, emerging platforms that are shaping strategy for content creators everywhere and redeﬁning everything. Out in Tech LA and Google co-host an all-star panel featuring expert voices from YouTube, Disney, Netﬂix, and Buzzfeed. The event is free but you must register at eventbrite.com.
DTLA LGBT Social Mixer, THU DEC. 7 @ 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM at Hotel Indigo Los Angeles (899 Francisco Street). DTLA Mixer brings DTLAs LGBT community together every month this this month they have partnered with the LA Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce to mix it up on the 18th ﬂoor penthouse cocktail lounge, 18 Social. Take in breathtaking views of downtown Los Angeles and L.A. Live from this new, hip happening hotel. Free Admission. Register at eventbrite.com. Walk of the Inns 2017, THU DEC. 7 @ 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM at The Palm Springs Art Museum (101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs) A self-guided walking tour of Palm Springs’ unique collection of boutique hotels and historic inns. It’s one of the best ways to fall in love with Palm Springs sophistication and mid-century style.
HER (the lesbian Grindr) present
Queers, Beers, & Holiday Cheers! SUN DEC. 10 @ 2 PM to 10 PM at Boomtown Brewery (700 Jackson Street). Tons of fun activities, games, contests and shenanigans aplenty. Sweater Swap, “ring/ wear an ugly sweater and swap it for someone else’s cozy treasure!” One big giant game of Dreidel, spin it and win; Feminist ornament making; Holiday Karaoke contest, sing it out loud; Crafts you’ll see nowhere else; an old fashioned Hollywood premiere of the new original series Easy Abby, sponsored by REVRY; Speed Dating by Mixalot; and great music by GoodBoy and DJ Elle Kay. For all the queer, trans, lesbian and bisexual beings in between. For more information contact email@example.com
Meet Bank of America’s Diversity Team, MON DEC. 11 @ 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM at a special location in Downtown LA (obtain the address by registering at lalgcc.org). If you are you an LGBTQ+ entrepreneur, you really can’t aﬀord to pass this event up. In 2015, Bank of America spent $2.1 billion with diverse businesses -- and they are out to increase that sum. Out in Tech & the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce are co-hosting an intimate breakfast and conversation with senior leaders from the Bank of America supplier diversity team. Tickets required: laglcc.org.
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Final homes now selling — Hurry, visit today! Visit LiveGreenGlendora.com | Call 213.294.0169
Now selling — Ask about holiday move-in ready homes! MONTEBELLO – COLLECTION SOUTH
New Phase Release | LiveInMontebello.com | 323.530.0151
WEST COVINA – CITRUS COLLECTION
Move-In Ready Homes | NewHomesWestCovina.com | 626.727.6400
SANTA ANA – HARBORSIDE
Customize Your Home | NewHomesSantaAna.com | 714.673.0738
EL MONTE – SOLSTICE 70
LA VERNE – EMERALD
Models Now Selling | ElMonteNewHomes.com | 949.330.3774
Move-In Ready Homes | LiveLaVerne.com | 909.392.6001
All renderings, floor plans, and maps are artist’s concepts and are not intended to be an actual depiction of the buildings, fencing, walkways, driveways or landscaping. Walls, windows, porches and decks vary per elevation and lot location. In a continuing effort to meet consumer expectations, City Ventures reserves the right to modify prices, floor plans, specifications, and amenities without notice or obligation. Square footages shown are approximate. Please see your Sales Manager for details. ©2017 City Ventures. All rights reserved. BRE LIC #01877626.
Losangelesblade.com, Volume 1, Issue 19, December 1, 2017