ADAM RIPPON GETS SASSY WE CATCH UP WITH THE GAY SKATER AS WINTER OLYMPICS KICK OFF, PAGE 19
F E B R U A R Y 0 9 2 0 1 8 • V O LU M E 0 2 • I S S U E 0 3 • A M E R I c A’ S LG B TQ N E w S S O U R c E • LO S A N G E L E S B L A D E . c O M
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04 • FEBRUARY 09, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Trans boy seeks judge’s OK to avoid conversion therapy Ruling to follow startling new statistics on controversial practice By DAWN ENNIS An Ohio judge will soon decide whether a 17-year-old Cincinnati high school senior can live authentically as a transgender male or must undergo Christian-based psychological treatments aimed at preventing his transition. Court documents show that the unidentified parents asked Judge Sylvia Herndon to prevent their unidentified teenager from undergoing hormone replacement therapy and force him to submit to the controversial practice of “conversion therapy,” also known as “reparative therapy,” first outlawed in California in 2012. That bill’s author, Rep. Ted Lieu, calls the “fake, dangerous” practice “psychological child abuse.” The discredited, unscientific practice poses a real danger to tens of thousands of adolescents, according to a new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law. “Conversion therapy” has been used against almost 700,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 59, according to researchers. An estimated 350,000 of them underwent the so-called “therapy” as children or teenagers, the Williams Institute report says. The Ohio trans teen now lives with his grandparents, whose identity is also being withheld. They fully support his desire for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to transition and are seeking full custody. The grandparents have a cadre of medical experts, social workers and lawyers from the local Department of Jobs and Family Services (DJFS) supporting them. “The parents in this case do not desire to parent their child,” DJFS attorney Donald Clancy said in closing arguments Friday, Jan. 26, WCPO-TV reported. “They merely have a desire to parent a child who, in reality, no longer exists.” Karen Brinkman, the attorney who represents the parents, told the court they are not seeking to regain custody, but wish to withhold HRT, calling it a protective measure to prevent long-term damage. Brinkman told the judge they believe the teen’s gender expression is just a phase, “a
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has reintroduced the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act.
place to park (the child’s) anxiety.” “The belief that hormone therapy or sex reassignment therapy would help patients who have gender dysphoria is based on hope, not science,” said Brinkman. Not true, says Shannon Minter, legal director of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights in a phone interview with the Los Angeles Blade. “There’s an enormous body of clinical data, research and experience that goes back now for decades that shows the efficacy of transition for transgender youth.” “The data is overwhelming that young people benefit,” Minter adds. In fact, multiple studies have shown longterm, positive outcomes for transgender patients who report experiencing “high degrees of well-being and good social integration” as well as “significantly fewer psychological problems,” when permitted gender-affirming treatments. “I’ve heard that story from parents over and over again,” Minter says, “that parents who start off very opposed to even the idea of transgender identity are brought around through their love for their children, seeing how much better their children do when they are affirmed.” Religious conservatives, emboldened
by the Trump administration’s pendulum swing away from LGBT rights, are pressing more cases like these. For example, Minter’s team is now in federal court in Tampa, Florida facing off against anti-LGBT Kentucky clerk Kim Davis’s extremist rightwing Christian attorneys. Liberty Counsel is suing to stop an ordinance banning “conversion therapy,” which they claim violates the First Amendment rights of two licensed family and marriage therapists in the Tampa Bay area. “These counselors provide life-saving counsel to minors and their parents or legal guardians,” Liberty Counsel said a press release last December, “who desperately desire to conform their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, and identity to their religious beliefs or conscious [sic].” But Minter notes that laws like Tampa’s banning “conversion therapy” don’t apply to pastoral counseling. “This is not about that at all,” says Minter. “This is about ordinary regulation like mental health professionals, who are subject to all kinds of rules and regulations to make sure they don’t hurt people.” Minter adds, “We don’t let doctors prescribe medications that we know are ineffective and harmful, and we don’t let
mental health professionals engage in treatments that we know are ineffective or harmful.” To date, more than a dozen medical associations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have come out against so-called “conversion therapy.” In March 2017, Tampa joined 31 cities and counties, the District of Columbia and nine states that have outlawed the disreputable practice. In 2012, then-California state Sen. Ted Lieu started the pushback against the then widespread conservative religious belief that an LGBT person could be “converted” or “repaired” to become heterosexual. When Gov. Jerry Brown signed Lieu’s bill, he said http:// www.sfgate.com/news/article/State-bansgay-repair-therapy-for-minors-3906032.php “conversion therapy” had “no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.” The California ban was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court for the second time last summer. Last year, California Rep. Adam Schiff reintroduced a bill in Congress to prohibit CONTINUES ON PAGE 12
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06 • FEBRUARY 09, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
LA’s humanity challenged by homeless crisis AHF tries to salve the problem By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org “L.A. homeless crisis grows despite political promises, many speeches and millions of dollars. How do we fix this?” an Los Angeles Times caption notes in reporter Gale Holland’s extraordinary series on the 75 percent surge of homelessness in LA over the past six years. It’s a humanitarian question that has stymied some of the best minds trying to tackle the intersecting issues of poverty, housing, sanitation, serious healthcare issues (such as HIV and the recent outbreak of Hep A), mental illness, substance abuse, ramifications of incarceration and poor education—not to mention institutionalized racism and bias against LGBT people. Recent studies indicate there are about 55,000 individuals in the city of LA and portions of LA County, nearly 58,000 when Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach are included. “Tent cities stretch from the Antelope Valley desert to the Santa Monica coast, with stopovers in unlikely communities — even Bel-Air, where a homeless cooking fire was implicated in December’s Skirball fire,” Holland writes. Officials and philanthropic groups have done what they can but new programs “have been slow to start and too limited to absorb the waves of people forced into the streets.” LA city and county voters passed two measures last year to help build housing, but homelessness is an entrenched issue. “We are dealing with historical consequences of bad decisions made 10 years ago to guarantee a right to sidewalks instead of a right to shelter,” out LA City Councilmember Mike Bonin, who represents the Westside, told The Times. Bonin is referring to the gentrification of downtown LA, which led to political pressure to “clean up’ skid row. LAPD Chief Bill Bratton started his “broken windows” campaign in 2006, “issuing thousands of tickets to homeless people for minor offenses like jaywalking and throwing out cigarette butts. The streets cleared, but homeless people were arrested for unpaid tickets and bounced from jail back to skid
In August, Hay was one of dozens of LGBTQ people living in a tent encampment near the LA LGBT Center in Hollywood. Los Angeles Blade Photo by John Boatner
row,” The Times reports. Civil rights challenges to the skid row crackdowns were upheld in federal court but other “quality-of-life” laws cropped up. “Officers made 14,000 arrests of homeless people in the city in 2016, a 31% increase over 2011, the Times analysis found. Two-thirds of those arrested were black or Latino, with the top charges issued for nonviolent or minor offenses—the most common of which was failure-to-appearin-court for an unpaid citation. “The base fine in L.A. for sleeping or lying on the sidewalk, for example, is $35, but fees take the total to $238,” L.A. County Superior Court spokeswoman Mary Hearn told The Times. In Jan. 2016, the Court started reducing misdemeanor failure-to-appear citations to infractions. But what’s a broke “throw-away” homeless LGBT kid supposed to do? Sometimes, police will just force the homeless youth to move. That’s what happened to the LGBT youth interviewed for a July 2016 LA Blade cover story. “There’s no way of knowing exactly how many (homeless)
young people are LGBT. These kids, runaway or throwaway young people, are very vulnerable on the streets,” LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl told the LA Blade. But LA LGBT Center CEO Lorri Jean noted in a companion op-ed: “The 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count found that there are nearly 6,000 youth experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County on any given night.” The Center is building the huge intergenerational Anita May Rosenstein Campus in Hollywood, which will have up to 100 beds for homeless youth and up to 35 additional units of “supportive housing” for young people. AIDS Healthcare Foundation has another idea, though not LGBT-specific. “The homeless crisis in Los Angeles is a crisis, one that requires an across the board, ‘all hands on deck’ response rather than the well-intended, but sclerotic government effort we are witnessing by L.A. City Hall and County officials,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein on Jan. 25 announcing the purchase of the 27-room former Sunset
8 Motel at 6516 Sunset Blvd by the “Healthy Housing Foundation.” Last October, the new group bought the Madison Hotel, a 220-room SRO hotel on Skid Row. Plans are to convert both facilities into transitional housing with a priority for homeless with chronic health issues. “We cannot build our way out of this heartbreak,” Weinstein said. “And too many people get a piece of the pie-developers, builders, lawyers, the city treasury, in the form of fees and permits-all have a hand in the till before it trickles down to the ‘lottery winner’ of a tenant who is lucky enough to get placed in one of these photo-op flats. Nothing should cost more than $200,000 and 50% of such units should be $100,000 and below.” AHF said that the purchase price for the Sunset 8 Motel was $4.6 million, or $170,370 per room or unit. The net purchase price for the Madison Hotel $7,950,000 or approximately $36,000 per room or unit. It remains to be seen if AHF changes the approach to “affordable” housing, but the homeless population has a dedicated new advocate.
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08 • FEBRUARY 09, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Schiff vs Nunes: California congressmen battle over truth At stake: America By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com Donald Trump has moved the bright red line of political propriety so often, many politicos only briefly expressed outrage, then shrugged upon release of a new Trump re-election campaign video calling those Democrats who didn’t applaud his State of the Union speech ‘un-American.” The ad opens with an avalanche of concrete irony, as Trump reads from the teleprompter, saying: “I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people.” The ad doubles-down on Trump complaining about Democrats at a Feb. 5 rally in Ohio. “You’re up there, you’ve got half the room going totally crazy, wild – they loved everything, they want to do something great for our country. And you have the other side, even on positive news – really positive news, like that – they were like death and un-American. Un-American,” Trump said, as his supporters nodded and smiled. “Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.” “They certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much,” says the president whose propensity for divisiveness and scalping the English language has raised fears of an unintended nuclear war. The ad identifies Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and oddly, out Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin as “disrespecting our people” and “disrespecting our country” as “disgraceful” Democrats. Not unexpectedly, the camera lingers on excruciatingly unimpressed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, a familiar target of giddy GOP hatred. Images of Pelosi’s marathon speech Feb. 7 demanding a House vote on DACA will soon appear in Republican campaign spots. But while Trump may be pounding his chest and fluffing the midterms, the real battle royale playing out behind closed doors and on television screens around the globe is between the top ranking Californian Republican and Democrat on the House
Intelligence Committee—Devin Nunes and LGBT ally Adam Schiff, respectively. The two started out as cordial bipartisan investigators into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. But that changed mid-March after Nunes took a midnight run to fetch secret intelligence information, some of which he revealed without consulting committee members or even other Republicans before calling a press conference. “The intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition,” Nunes told reporters, a conclusion he derived from reviewing “dozens of [intelligence] reports.” Though the surveillance was legal under a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant, Nunes was “alarmed” that such information, including with some “unmasked” names, had circulated throughout the government. Nunes dashed to the White House to brief Trump, who later said he felt “somewhat” vindicated for his false claim that President Obama “wiretapped” him at Trump Tower. It turned out the White House was Nunes’ secret source. A month later, Nunes recused himself from the House Intelligence probe into Russian meddling, only to resurface this year for “Memogate,” referring to a secret memo based on classified FBI information calling into question that FISA warrant into investigating Trump campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Paige, who the FBI deemed a Russian spy. The FBI beseeched Nunes and Trump not to release what Schiff called the “deliberately misleading” memo, which was “materially different” from the one committee members voted to make public. Meanwhile, Republicans refused to simultaneously release Schiff’s properly vetted Democratic counter-memo. Reporters asked if the White House was Nunes’ source for that memo, too, as yet another attempt to derail Independent Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice to quash the investigation. “Devin Nunes has shown more loyalty to Donald Trump than the Constitution or the rule of law. The release of this sloppy, cherry-picked memo is a blatant partisan attempt to smear law enforcement and Mueller’s investigation. We can’t let them get
away with it,” said Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign. “Devin Nunes, Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, and their enablers have shown no interest in the truth--only misleading the American public and discrediting a criminal investigation,” Griffin continued. “We need every Member of Congress on both sides of the aisle to stand against this manipulation of national security. History is watching. Silence makes you complicit. For the sake of the country, stand up and do something.” “The occupant of the Oval Office is not the least bit of a champion for democracy,” Schiff told University of Pennsylvania students on Feb. 1. “The threat from Russia to our democracy is now far less than the threat from within. There is nothing Russia can do to us that rivals what we are doing to ourselves right now.” Memogate is important, said Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, because it’s “laying a predicate for the administration to interfere with the justice system….The effort
then, with that midnight run, was to put the government on trial. The effort now is to put the government on trial.” “And the way they’re trying to put the government on trial is by suggesting that there is this cabal in the FBI, this secret society, this rampant corruption within FBI and DOJ, and that’s the real story,” Schiff continued. “So, forget about what the Russians did, forget about what the Trump campaign did.” Schiff received a standing ovation when a student asked about the Justice Department: “It’s not [Trump’s] Justice Department. It’s the United States of America’s Justice Department.” The DOJ will determine defense of LGBT rights, including the challenge to Trump’s ban on transgender servicemembers in the military. At the end of his talk, an older woman choked up and thanked Schiff for “standing in the gap for us and in this country, for us to save the democracy. We’re just so grateful.”
In adults with HIV on ART who have diarrhea not caused by an infection IMPORTANT PATIENT INFORMATION This is only a summary. See complete Prescribing Information at Mytesi.com or by calling 1-844-722-8256. This does not take the place of talking with your doctor about your medical condition or treatment.
What Is Mytesi? Mytesi is a prescription medicine used to improve symptoms of noninfectious diarrhea (diarrhea not caused by a bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection) in adults living with HIV/AIDS on ART. Do Not Take Mytesi if you have diarrhea caused by an infection. Before you start Mytesi, your doctor and you should make sure your diarrhea is not caused by an infection (such as bacteria, virus, or parasite).
Possible Side Effects of Mytesi Include:
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Mytesi (crofelemer): • Is the only medicine FDA-approved to relieve diarrhea in people with HIV • Treats diarrhea differently by normalizing the flow of water in the GI tract • Has the same or fewer side effects as placebo in clinical studies • Comes from a tree sustainably harvested in the Amazon Rainforest What is Mytesi? Mytesi is a prescription medicine that helps relieve symptoms of diarrhea not caused by an infection (noninfectious) in adults living with HIV/AIDS on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Important Safety Information Mytesi is not approved to treat infectious diarrhea (diarrhea caused by bacteria, a virus, or a parasite). Before starting you on Mytesi, your healthcare provider will first be sure that you do not have infectious diarrhea. Otherwise, there is a risk you would not receive the right medicine and your infection could get worse. In clinical studies, the most common side effects that occurred more often than with placebo were upper respiratory tract (sinus, nose, and throat) infection (5.7%), bronchitis (3.9%), cough (3.5%), flatulence (3.1%), and increased bilirubin (3.1%).
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Should I Take Mytesi If I Am: Pregnant or Planning to Become Pregnant? • Studies in animals show that Mytesi could harm an unborn baby or affect the ability to become pregnant • There are no studies in pregnant women taking Mytesi • This drug should only be used during pregnancy if clearly needed A Nursing Mother? • It is not known whether Mytesi is passed through human breast milk • If you are nursing, you should tell your doctor before starting Mytesi • Your doctor will help you to decide whether to stop nursing or to stop taking Mytesi Under 18 or Over 65 Years of Age? • Mytesi has not been studied in children under 18 years of age • Mytesi studies did not include many people over the age of 65. So it is not clear if this age group will respond differently. Talk to your doctor to find out if Mytesi is right for you
What Should I Know About Taking Mytesi With Other Medicines? If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medicine, herbal supplements, or vitamins, tell your doctor before starting Mytesi.
What If I Have More Questions About Mytesi? For more information, please see the full Prescribing Information at Mytesi.com or speak to your doctor or pharmacist. To report side effects or make a product complaint or for additional information, call 1-844-722-8256.
Rx Only Manufactured by Patheon, Inc. for Napo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. San Francisco, CA 94105 Copyright © Napo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Please see complete Prescribing Information at Mytesi.com. NP-390-26
• Upper respiratory tract infection (sinus, nose, and throat infection) • Bronchitis (swelling in the tubes that carry air to and from your lungs) • Cough • Flatulence (gas) • Increased bilirubin (a waste product when red blood cells break down) For a full list of side effects, please talk to your doctor. Tell your doctor if you have any side effect that bothers you or does not go away. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
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10 • FEBRUARY 09, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Should Atlantis cruises come with a warning label? Chartered Royal Caribbean ship silent on onboard overdoses By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org Popular Storm Chasers star Joel Taylor was laid to rest on Jan. 29 in his hometown of Elk City, Okla. Just before the funeral, Reed Timmer, Taylor’s best friend and former Storm Chasers co-star, posted a photo on Twitter of Dominator 1—the black armored storm-chasing beast Taylor drove on the Discovery Channel series—saying the vehicle was heading to Oklahoma to join many others in honoring the star. Taylor was 38. There is something stunning about how protected Taylor was during his dangerous career, only to die vulnerable and alone from a suspected drug overdose aboard the 18deck Harmony of the Seas, the largest ocean liner in Royal Caribbean International’s fleet, chartered by West Hollywood-based Atlantis Events. “Law enforcement sources tell TMZ, ‘It appears the death could be an overdose and Joel Taylor was consuming controlled substances,’” TMZ reported Jan. 24. “A passenger who interacted with Joel tells TMZ, Joel had consumed enough GHB on the dance floor Tuesday that he was rendered unconscious and taken off the dance floor by 2 people and back to his room.” Taylor was declared dead by the U.S. Coast Guard when the ship docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Passengers reported earlier on social media that several people were arrested for drug possession at the Ft. Lauderdale port of origin on Jan. 20 as they boarded for the seven-day Caribbean cruise. “The drug use on this cruise was the worst we had ever seen. Out in the open as it was widely accepted and no one had shame. We had never seen people do GHB, Coke and Meth all while dancing but we did on this cruise,” Anthony wrote Jan. 29 on Jim Walker’s Cruise Law News website. “It was so accepted that it became the joke of all the shows.” “As is our standard procedure, law enforcement was notified and responded to the ship when it arrived in San Juan,
Joel Taylor of ‘Storm Chasers’ died during an Atlantis gay cruise. An overdose is suspected. Photo via Facebook
Puerto Rico, on Tuesday, January 23,” Owen Torres, manager of global corporate communications for Royal Caribbean Cruises, told PEOPLE in a statement. “We extend our most sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the 38-year-old male guest from the United States who died while onboard Harmony of the Seas. A member of our Care Team is providing support and assistance to his family,” Torres added. Atlantis Events released no statement of condolence or explanation. Jim Key, former Chief Marketing Officer for the Los Angeles LGBT Center, fumed over Taylor’s death. He lost a friend after a night of drug use on an Atlantis Events cruise. On Jan. 29, he distributed an open letter to Royal Caribbean International President Michael Bayley. “Since Atlantis Events refuses to take responsibility to protect the lives of passengers on Royal Caribbean-chartered and operated ships, you—and the heads of other cruise lines that do business with Atlantis—must take action,” Key wrote. Taylor’s death wasn’t the first suspected overdose on an Atlantis cruise. “In recent years, at least two other people on Royal Caribbean ships—and perhaps many more— have died similarly. One of them was my friend Spencer Yu, in 2009,” Key wrote. “If
three people had died from drug overdoses at a nightclub on land, that club would be shut down, but on Atlantis-chartered ships, the parties continue and the number of deaths keep growing.” Key said that he and Center COO Darrel Cummings met with Atlantis Events president Rich Campbell to discuss “ways to protect other passengers from Spencer’s fate.” They asked Campbell to have onboard medical staff experienced in caring for passengers who might accidentally overdose, common at all-night circuit-type parties. “I was stunned when he refused our request, saying ‘that’s news to me’ in regard to my comments about the wide use of drugs on his cruises,” Key wrote. “[I]f Royal Caribbean continues to operate ships for Atlantis, you—and the head of Holland America and other cruise lines chartered by his company—must take action to prevent any more needless deaths. If you remain complicit, you’ll have on your hands the blood of those who die on future cruises.” When the Los Angeles Blade attempted to interview Campbell, his assistant politely but firmly said, “we won’t comment” on Taylor’s death. When pressed, he added: “that’s all I can tell you. You have to contact the cruise line. They’re doing PR.” The Blade tried again, with no response. Royal Caribbean’s Torres emailed this
statement: “We have a zero tolerance policy for the use or possession of illegal drugs on our ships. Ship charters are held to the same strict standards. We operate with the health and safety of our guests and crew as our highest priority, and we cooperate fully with law enforcement when we are aware of violations.” Torres followed up with a nighttime phone call to the Blade, adamantly repeating the same points. He said that without a toxicology report and law enforcement confirmation, “no one knows” how Taylor died. Torres said Royal Caribbean is working with local law enforcement regarding violations of their drug policy. The Blade has unsuccessfully attempted to contact the Puerto Rico Police Department, which has been overwhelmed with an increase in crime since Hurricane Maria. “The time for Royal Caribbean’s president and the president of Atlantis to pretend people aren’t using drugs should have stopped after the first drug-related death (that I know of), nine years ago,” Key told the Blade. “The only question is how will they care for people who have overdosed? Telling passengers Royal Caribbean has zero tolerance for drug use won’t stop people from using, but it does make it even less likely they’ll seek medical care on the ship.” The next Atlantis Events cruise leaves Feb. 18.
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12 • FEBRUARY 09, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Trans boy fighting conversion therapy effort CONTINUED FROM PAGE 04
discrimination against LGBT youth — including “conversion therapy” — in the nation’s “troubled teen” residential programs, a billion dollar industry. So-called “conversion therapy” is “unethical. It’s malpractice. It’s consumer fraud,” says Minter. “We really want to make sure that parents and therapists themselves absolutely understand that they are going to be held legally accountable if they engage in conversion therapy,. And we will sue you at the drop of a hat. We’re very good about bringing a lawsuit against a ‘conversion therapist’ in any state in this country.” Back in Ohio, a ruling is anticipated by Feb. 16th, and Judge Herndon has much to consider. The lawyer for the trans boy’s parents told the court that they don’t believe their child is transgender at all. The religious-based treatment they want
for their son will “get to the underlying causes” of why he thinks he is trans, said Brinkman. She told the judge the boy is too unstable to decide for himself, the Associated Press reported. That’s not the opinion of actual experts called to testify on his behalf, according to WCPO-TV. Doctors and therapists who examined the boy diagnosed him as having gender dysphoria, but testified that his mental and physical health improved since leaving his home and moving in with his grandparents, according to Paul Hunt of ProKids, a nonprofit organization that helps foster children in Hamilton County, Ohio. “’When I was home, dad chased me around the house,’” the grandparents’ attorney, Jeffrey Cutcher, quoted the teen as saying. “’When I was home, I lived in terror in that home.’” Cutcher said the trans teen’s goal now is to graduate, begin living fulltime as a male, and attend college.
“We don’t want to be planning a funeral,” Cutcher told the judge. “This child teeters on the edge of suicidal ideation.” That risk is real and borne out by statistics. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The rate of suicide attempts quadruples for LGBT youth and doubles for questioning youth, compared to that for straight young people. Nearly half of all young transgender people have considered taking their own lives, with 25 percent actually attempting suicide. But it’s especially concerning that LGBT youth whose families reject them are more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide, compared to LGBT peers who reported little or no family rejection, according to the Family Acceptance Project. For Cincinnati teen, his parents’ rejection was so awful, he emailed a crisis hotline last year and reported that one of his parents had
told him to kill himself. They also refused to let him get therapy unless it was Christianbased. The teen said he was forced to listen to Bible scriptures for more than six hours at a time, according to court documents. That’s when Hamilton County Job and Family Services intervened. In doing so, county advocates appear to have either prevented, or at least postponed, the 17-year old’s exposure to further harm through “conversion therapy.” The latest Williams Institute report makes a dire prediction for youth like him: “20,000 LGBTQ youths currently between the ages of 13 and 17 will be subjected to conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before they turn 18. An additional 57,000 will be subjected to the controversial practice from a religious or spiritual adviser before age 18.” The judge’s decision within will determine which path lies ahead for the Ohio teen and may forecast the trend for others.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 09, 2018 • 13
Former LA Assessor Hahn dies at 78
Kenneth P. Hahn and Louis Mangual at a West Hollywood commitment ceremony in the early 1990s. Photo by Karen Ocamb
Out former Los Angeles County Assessor Kenneth P. Hahn died on Jan. 27 at his Cathedral City home, a month after suffering a serious stroke. Hahn’s husband Louis Mangual was by his side. Hahn was 78. Hahn was a surprise victor when he ran against his boss, Assessor John J. Lynch, in 1990. He was re-elected in 1994 and 1998 and retired in 2000. Though Hahn was quietly out before his election, he was officially “outed” during the 1991 CSW Pride Parade when he was introduced as “the senior-most elected openly gay official in Los Angeles.” “My sexual orientation has nothing to do with my job,” Hahn, then 51, told the Los Angeles Times. “I’ve never been a gay candidate, just a candidate who happened to be gay.” Current out Assessor Jeff Prang met Hahn in 1990, when Prang was 27. “He was a very down-to-earth guy and was approachable and humble,” Prang recently told The Times, crediting Hahn with jumpstarting his political career in 1992. “He gave me my foot in the door and stayed around to help me along the way.” Hahn participated in a public commitment ceremony in West Hollywood in the early 1990s, then, after a 40-plus year relationship, legally married Mangual in 2013. KAREN OCAMB
QUOTES “I found love, only to lose him through AIDS. We changed the world.” —Marijuana activist Dennis Peron, co-author of Prop 215, who died in San Francisco Jan. 25 at age 72.
“They fell in love with each other’s ideas, and ideology and each other.” — The Crimes of Grindelwald director David Yates explaining that Dumbledore will “not explicitly” be depicted as gay because fans “are aware of that.”
“Share yourselves with the world. We’re all supposed to be different and unique.” – TV host Ellen DeGeneres to her audience on her 60th birthday Jan. 26.
14 • february 09, 2018 • LOSaNGeLeSbLaDe.COM
Gillibrand: Defeat Trump in 2020 to pass Equality Act
Chad Goldman helped organize the Feb. 1 fundraiser. Photo Courtesy Goldman
Gay alumni raise $300,000 after lawmakers defund Univ. of Tenn. LGBT center A fundraising campaign launched by a gay University of Tennessee graduate and his husband raised more than $300,000 on Feb. 1 in the kickoff event for a plan to establish a private $3 million endowment to permanently fund the LGBT Pride Center at the university’s campus in Knoxville. Chad Goldman, an alumnus of the university, and his husband, Los Angeles businessman, philanthropist and LGBT rights advocate Brian Pendleton, helped organize the Feb. 1 fundraiser at the Nashville home of another University of Tennessee gay alumnus, Gary Bynum. Pendleton told the Washington Blade that the three men and many others were motivated to support the fundraising drive in response to a bill passed by the Tennessee Legislature in 2016 that eliminated state funding for the university’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion. The Pride Center was part of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion. It lost its funding when the legislature defunded the diversity office. Last year, Pendleton and Goldman helped raise $9,000 to keep the Pride Center open and functioning. “It’s unfortunate we are in this place because of the politics of the legislature, but this effort is not at all about politics,” Goldman told USA Today Network Tennessee. “It’s just about funding a place for LGBTQ and questioning students to go where they can find fellowship and guidance and support at a time that’s very difficult,” he told the news service. Although the bill approved by the Republican-controlled legislature doesn’t specifically mention the Pride Center, it was introduced when several conservative lawmakers took aim at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Among other things, critics of the office accused it of promoting “political correctness” by encouraging the use of gender-neutral pronouns and supporting an annual student-initiated event called Sex Week, which involves panel discussions and forums addressing issues including sexuality, sexual assault prevention, and sexually transmitted diseases. The bill passed by the legislature took effect in May 2016 after Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced he would neither sign nor veto the measure thus allowing it to become law without his signature. One of its two provisions reallocated all funds in the budget for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville for fiscal year 2016-2017 to scholarships for minority students enrolled in the university’s engineering programs. The second provision permanently bans the University of Tennessee from using state funds “to promote the use of gender-neutral pronouns, to promote or inhibit the celebration of religious holidays, or to fund or support Sex Week.” LOU CHIBBARO JR.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) called last week for the defeat of President Trump in 2020 and a change of Congress to enact long-sought federal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people. Gillibrand, a possible Democratic presidential contender in 2020, made the remarks Saturday at the 2018 HRC Greater New York Gala, encouraging attendees to join efforts to make change in the midterm elections and the presidential election in 2020. “We know this president will never sign the Equality Act to ensure the civil rights of LGBTQ Americans,” Gillibrand said. “He has neither the decency, nor the empathy to do so. But even with him in the Oval Office, we can make progress, because with a Democratic House and the Senate, we can find the momentum that we need for a new president to sign that bipartisan bill in 2020.” The Equality Act, legislation introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, credit, jury service and federal funding. In a 2000 interview with The Advocate, Trump said he supported amending the Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation, but he has never addressed the issue as president, nor has he ever said whether he backs the addition of transgender protections in federal law. The erosion of LGBT rights during the first year of his administration suggests Trump no longer holds the position he expressed in 2000. CHRIS JOHNSON
RNC backs Trump’s trans military ban The Republican National Committee has approved a resolution in favor of President Trump’s effort to ban transgender people from the U.S. military, according to the Associated Press. The RNC approved the resolution last week at its annual winter meeting, which this year is taking place in West Virginia. According to the Associated Press, the RNC voted to support Trump’s directive instructing the military to consider being transgender “a disqualifying psychological and physical” condition. The resolution reportedly says the RNC supports Trump’s “intent and prerogative to strengthen our military with sound personnel policies,” but also urges the Justice Department to seek U.S. Supreme Court action. CHRIS JOHNSON
L O S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M • f eb r u a r y 0 9 , 2 0 1 8 • 1 5
‘The saddest day of my life’ LGBT Puerto Ricans forgotten as swaths of island remain without power By MICHAEL K. LAVERS SAN JUAN — Large swaths of Puerto Rico remain without electricity more than four months after Hurricane Maria made landfall. Piles of debris and homes with blue tarps on their roofs are commonplace throughout San Juan, the island’s capital and largest city, and surrounding areas. Driving — especially at night — remains dangerous because of a lack of working traffic lights at intersections, damaged street lights and utility polls and powerlines that hang precariously low to streets and sidewalks. Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Latinx and Catholic Initiatives, was with her parents at their Caguas home during Hurricane Irma, which brushed Puerto Rico on Sept. 7. She said 60 percent of the island lost electricity during that hurricane, even though it did not make landfall in the U.S. commonwealth. “[That] shows you how bad our infrastructure was,” said Meléndez. She returned to the U.S. mainland the day before Maria made landfall. “It was the scariest takeoff I have ever had,” said Meléndez. Wilfred Labiosa, co-founder of Waves Ahead, a group that provides assistance to LGBT Puerto Ricans and other marginalized groups, and his partner were in their 15th floor condo in San Juan during Maria. He said every condo in his building flooded because the hurricane’s winds blew water through the storm shutters. Labiosa, a psychologist and social worker who lived in Boston before moving to Puerto Rico four years ago, was among those who provided assistance to the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. He said driving around San Juan after Maria and seeing the damage “was the saddest day of my life.” “Here you’re dealing with silence,” he said. “You’re dealing with something that can’t be described.” Labiosa said he made sure his mother, who passed away a few weeks after Maria,
Grissel Bonilla, co-founder of Waves Ahead, sits with Marciana Encarnación Caraballo, 101, at her home in Vieques, Puerto Rico, on Jan. 31. Blade Photo by Michael K. Lavers
and his aunt were safe before returning to his home. He said he began to hear reports that people took their own lives “the same day of the hurricane because they were looking at so much in front of them.” “They didn’t know how they could survive,” said Labiosa. Maria made landfall on Sept. 20 near the city of Humacao on Puerto Rico’s southeast coast with 155-mph winds. The Puerto Rican government says Maria killed 64 people, but the death toll is estimated to be more than 1,000. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló last month ordered a review of the official figure. Labiosa co-founded Waves Ahead a few weeks before the hurricanes as a way to help his clients open their own businesses in San Juan and the surrounding area. He said some of the same people with whom he was working began to ask for water and food for their neighbors after Maria. Labiosa said he could not reach a transgender client in Humacao for more than a week because of blocked roads. Bill’s Kitchen, a San Juan-based organization that prepares meals for people
with HIV/AIDS, has not had electricity since Irma. Two diesel-powered generators are currently providing electricity to operate one of Bill’s Kitchen’s two walk-in freezers and limited power to other parts of its building in San Juan’s Hato Rey neighborhood. Rainwater mixed with sewage flooded the lower floor of the Puerto Rico Community Network for Clinical Research on AIDS, an organization near the main campus of the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras that serves people with HIV/AIDS and other vulnerable populations. Maria also damaged the front door of the new AIDS Healthcare Foundation clinic in the town of Trujillo Alto’s Saint Just neighborhood that is under construction. Marciana Encarnación Caraballo, 101, lives alone in her house that overlooks Isabel Segunda, one of the two main population centers on the island of Vieques, and the Puerto Rican mainland. She fell and nearly broke her leg in August 2016 while she was trying to close her bedroom window. Encarnación was still in serious pain when Hurricane Maria ravaged Vieques on Sept. 20.
Encarnación did not have electricity for more than three months after Maria. She also tried to take her life in October by refusing to eat the food and drink the water that neighbors had left for her outside her front door. Encarnación last week was lying on a couch on her front porch when Manuel Silva, a lifelong Vieques resident, arrived with Wilfred Labiosa and Grissel Bonilla, co-founders of Waves Ahead. Rev. Julie Johnson Staples, executive director of Intersections International, a New Yorkbased ministry that is LGBT-affirming, and two of her group’s members, Marcia Fingal and Christine Nelson, were also with them. Silva, Labiosa, Bonilla, Staples, Fingal and Nelson gave Encarnación water, a carton of eggs, packages of sliced ham and cheese, adult diapers, boxes of Ensure, toiletries and bed covers. Staples gave Encarnación communion and led the group, which also included this reporter, in prayer. “I want to die here,” Encarnación told Labiosa and Silva as they sat next to her on her couch.
16 • FEBRUARY 09, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
VOLUME 02 ISSUE 03
On the brink of a constitutional crisis? Constraining the extremes of tyranny and chaos
Jon W. Davidson has been a leading LGBT legal rights advocate and constitutional scholar for more than 30 years. He recently stepped down as the national legal director of Lambda Legal.
Numerous politicians and commentators increasingly have been warning of a looming “constitutional crisis” in our nation. While there is little doubt that we are on the precipice of crises on many fronts (including international relations, civil rights, political integrity, and the environment), how close are we to a true “constitutional” crisis? To answer that, one needs to understand what a constitutional crisis actually is. The U.S. Constitution and its amendments establish the structure of our federal government, the powers and responsibilities of its parts, and the limits of federal, state, and local government authority. One reason our country has had as much stability as it historically has is that drafters of our Constitution created a flexible document that has been able to adapt to very different times than when it went into effect nearly 229 years ago. Another is that many interstices between constitutional provisions have been filled in with judicial interpretations and congressional and executive branch customs. Perhaps most importantly, the Constitution established systems of separation of powers and checks and balances that reduce the risk of national crises, especially with the support of a strong media, effective nonprofit groups, and political leaders and an electorate that prize the values of peaceful debate, truth,
and decency. A constitutional crisis nevertheless can occur, however, when—notwithstanding these safeguards—fierce disagreements arise about whether certain government actions are constitutionally permissible or when the Constitution’s provisions and these ancillary supports prove inadequate to constrain the extremes of either tyranny or chaos. Our nation has endured a number of constitutional crises, or near ones, in the past. For example, the Constitution doesn’t address whether states can leave the union, and we had to fight a civil war to establish that they cannot. Presidential assumption of unilateral emergency and war powers sometimes were checked by judicial orders or congressional enactments, but the failure of either to stop the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II is a sobering reminder of the power of fear and propaganda to overwhelm constitutional justice, at great individual costs, for years on end. Had Richard Nixon refused to comply with the Supreme Court’s order to turn over White House tapes, a constitutional crisis about whether presidents are above the law certainly would have arisen. Like the symbolic Doomsday Clock that recently was reset ahead by 30 seconds— to just two minutes before the midnight of apocalypse—numerous signs point to us having moved closer to a constitutional crisis than we’ve been in decades. Ongoing concerns about whether our current president has been engaged in obstruction of justice and may seek to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or special counsel Robert Mueller to end the investigation of improper Russian influence on our last national election again raises the specter of a chief executive who seeks impunity from legal constraints or even investigations. Complicity by congressional leaders like California Rep. Devin Nunes—combined with the tearing down of customary restraints like the filibuster, committee hearings on important legislation, and the “blue slip” policy that allowed
senators to object to extreme judicial nominees—threaten the operation of longstanding checks on unilateral party power. Vituperative attacks by President Trump on the media (including proposals to subvert constitutional limitations on defamation lawsuits), science, intelligence agencies, political dissent by athletes, and even verifiable facts (like how many people watched the State of Union address) evidence an intent to tear down anything that might stand in the way of unquestioned adoration and authority. And continuing efforts to subvert fair elections through political gerrymandering, improper voter disenfranchisement, and the weakening of Voting Rights Act enforcement, imperil the nation’s history of self-correction when government leaders go too far. Yet, there is reason not to despair. Attacks on women’s health care and indifference to Trump’s bragging about sexual harassment have led to unprecedentedly huge women’s marches, the #MeToo movement, and throngs of women seeking political office. Numerous state officials, and particularly state attorneys general, have stepped forward to challenge Trump administration moves menacing immigrants, religious minorities, the environment, and health care coverage. Our nation’s LGBT legal groups filed four lawsuits that have led to unanimous judicial condemnations of, and a halt on, Trump’s single-handed efforts to bar open military service by transgender individuals. What will allow a constitutional crisis to ripen is indifference. Trump’s unending incendiary tweets and comments threaten not only distraction from the real perils we face but also “outrage fatigue” that may be being intentionally engendered to cause people to stop paying attention and give in to despondency rather than resistance. We have the power to avert a constitutional crisis by organizing, protesting, supporting progressive organizations and leaders, and voting. To give up is to give in. Instead, each of us who can must speak up, contribute, and act. The stakes are too high to do otherwise.
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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 09, 2018 • 17
We can because they did Preserving, celebrating legacy of transformative black history in America
David Johns is executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition.
Martin. Malcolm. Rosa. All of whom we know on a first-name basis and in almost all cases, know their contributions to the fight for civil rights and equality in America, or at least a significant portion of them. Marlon. Richmond. Pauli. Unfortunately, in the same breath, these names are not so familiar. But why not? Sure, there were—and are—many (s) heroes throughout history who have gone relatively unnoticed. But in the cases of Marlon T. Riggs, the groundbreaking filmmaker and LGBT rights activist or Richmond Barthè, the Harlem renaissance sculptor, their contributions have been just as impactful and far-reaching as many of those whom we celebrate each year; however, their names and contributions too often go unacknowledged. While nothing can ever, nor should ever, take away from the legacy of the incomparable Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., there was another notable cleric in our history. Reverend Dr. Anna Pauline Murray, best known as Pauli, was the cofounder of the National Organization for Women (NOW), a founding member of the Congress of Racial Equality, the first woman to be awarded a Juris Doctor degree from Yale University and the first Black woman ordained as an Episcopalian priest. Her life and legacy is worthy of celebration. A binding tie among the aforementioned
luminaries is that—in addition to having enriched our nation and our lives—they also happen to be Black and LGBTQ/SameGender-Loving (SGL). Unfortunately, the historical contributions of Black LGBTQ/ SGL people are far too often diminished or ignored in conversations, especially during Black History Month. It is important to understand that as long as there have been black people, there have been Black LGBTQ/SGL people. The vestiges of trans-Atlantic enslavement and racism combined with the forces of stigma, phobia, discrimination and bias associated with gender and sexuality have too often erased the contributions of too many members of our community. Black LGBTQ/SGL people have enriched the nation and touched so many lives and our contributions are worthy of documentation and celebration. As a community of Black people, we must ensure that the prolific and resilient legacy of Black LGBTQ/SGL people won’t be brushed aside, especially during Black History Month. As Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, the nation’s leading civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black LGBTQ/SGL people, including people living with HIV/AIDS, I believe it is our duty to acknowledge those who have contributed to the progression of
civil rights and LQBTQ equality in a country that is just more than 100 years removed from slavery. From civil rights leader Bayard Rustin to world-renowned writer Langston Hughes, Black LGBTQ/SGL people have truly blazed trails for all blacks in America, and we continue to break barriers and thrive despite the many adversities we face. There are so many more whose names you may not know today—but you will—like Dr. Ayanna Elliott and Quincy J. Roberts, who are both activists and public health advocates committed to advancing the overall quality of life of members of the LGBTQ/SGL community. Just as we cannot rely on history textbooks to acknowledge the full breadth of contributions Black people have made in this country, the same is to be said about the Black LGBTQ/SGL people who have pushed the needle and fought diligently to ensure that Black people have the same rights and privileges as everyone else in this country. To change the narrative and ensure the full diversity of transformative Black history is preserved, NBJC has partnered with the Ubuntu Biography Project during this month to share the largely untold stories of black LGBTQ/SGL men and women and celebrate their remarkable contributions to the world. Through this initiative—aptly titled, “We
Can Because They Did!”—we are featuring pioneers, trailblazers, justice warriors and emerging leaders in the Black LGBTQ/ SGL community on the Ubuntu Biography Project website and social media channels throughout the month. We will celebrate the heroes in our community— some you may already be familiar with, while many may be new to you. It is essential that we now, more than ever, expose people to the impact and involvement of the Black LGBTQ/SGL community. We must make sure their stories are told along with those of our other great Black leaders. Because they are just as captivating, inspiring and empowering – and their contributions will significantly impact the lives and freedoms of our future generations. As the late creator of Ubuntu, Stephen A. Maglott, once said, “These biographies of remarkable men and women illuminate the story of our humanity through shared experiences, familiar hopes, our abundant love, our unique passions, our resilience in the face of challenges, and a common desire for community.” To follow us on this journey, visit www. ubuntubiographyproject.com and to learn more about the National Black Justice Coalition, visit www.nbjc.org.
Tony Kushner & Sarah Vowell In Conversation The Lincoln Legacy: The Man and His Presidency Thu, Feb 22 at 8PM Royce Hall
cap.ucla.edu 310-825-2101 #CAPUCLA
Adam Rippon’s selection to the United States Olympic Team marks the first time an openly gay American man has qualified for any Winter Olympics. Originally from Clarks Summit, Pa., he has been based in Los Angeles for the past six years. He is coached by Rafael Arutyunyan and trains with Ashley Wagner and rival Nathan Chen. Rippon had success early on in his career becoming the first junior man to win back-to-back world junior titles in 2008 and 2009. At 28, his skating career has soared since he came out publicly in October 2015. The Blade caught up with Rippon before he left on Feb. 5 to represent the United States at the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The opening ceremony is Friday, Feb. 9. The games run through Feb. 25. The men’s short and free programs are Feb. 16-17. BLADE: Let’s start with the beginning of your short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which also served as the final criteria event for selection to the U.S. Olympic team. You lined up on the side of the rink instead of the middle, struck a bitchy pose and glared at the camera. Johnny Weir called you the sass master. ADAM RIPPON: I told my choreographer that I needed it to be in your face and fun. I also wanted it to be bitchy which is why I stared right into the camera. I practiced that look in the mirror a thousand times. BLADE: Halfway through that same short program, you skated up to the judges and held up your finger as if to say, “Hold on, watch this.” Bold, ballsy and the crowd loved it. What was the thought process behind that move? RIPPON: I wanted to do something that my younger competitors would be too intimidated to do and I have qualified for the U.S. Olympic team as the oldest rookie since 1936. I’m super excited.
Gone are the days of figure skaters not coming out until years later a la Brian Boitano. Adam Rippon is making his Olympics debut this year. Photos Courtesy of Rippon via Instagram
Adam Rippon gets sassy Out figure skater makes history en route to Winter Olympics By KEVIN MAJOROS
BLADE: This was your third attempt at qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team. What is it like to achieve one of your dreams? RIPPON: To realize that goal after three attempts is incredible. I considered retiring after not making the team in 2014, but I felt I had more to give as an athlete. I would never know if I didn’t try and I have been focused on being my best. BLADE: You have had your share of injuries including a broken foot one year ago. At Skate America in November, you dislocated your shoulder in your free skate attempting a quad lutz. You stood up, popped your shoulder back in place and landed eight triples to win the silver medal. What the hell? RIPPON: I have been using the mentality that nothing is going to get in my way. I had dislocated my shoulder
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in practice a few months before and wanted to cry blood and throw up. Everyone said it wouldn’t hurt as much the second time, but they lied. After I moved it back in place I made eye contact with my coach and saw doubt. I thought, if he thinks I might stop then I am absolutely not stopping. I am going to take it one step at a time and keep going — do it three times if I have to and show those bitches. BLADE: Right before that shoulder incident, you had a little run-in with the referee. She made you clean up bugs off the ice right before you skated. Weirdest thing ever? RIPPON: That was one of the most bizarre things ever in an international skating competition. I had picked up a huge wasp while I was warming up because I knew if I skated over it, it was going to be crunchy. Right when I was starting my program she blew the whistle at me and called me over like she was Judge Judy. Really, are we really doing this right now? I know she doesn’t think I am going to do some rink maintenance. BLADE: You ended up skating around with a tissue, cleaning up bugs. RIPPON: I told her I would do it if she gave me an extra 30 seconds. That can’t ever happen again. I was trying to focus on my skate. I skated back over to my coach and he shoved me really hard which snapped me back into it. The shoulder happened next. BLADE: You won your first U.S. national title three months after coming out in October of 2015. Since that time, your skating has been more powerful, consistent and confident. Is there a parallel? RIPPON: Completely. My success as a skater and coming out go hand in hand. Figure skating is a performance sport and I wear my skating on my sleeve. In years past I didn’t really know who I was, so when I came out I felt like I was representing myself. The stories I was reading about other athletes coming out helped me to realize nothing was going to change. You can be an out gay athlete and be successful, even more than before. BLADE: It’s common in elite figure skating to have adoring teenage girls watching your every move. In your case, the LGBT community has also hitched their wagon to your star. What do you think of your status as a gay icon? RIPPON: Hitch your wagon to a star, it will take you far (laughing). Sometimes we feel unrepresented and I think it’s important to stay visible. I follow the careers of other LGBT athletes and I know that it comes with backlash. I am fully embracing all of it. I consider everyone in the community to be my brothers and sisters.
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BLADE: Do you feel their presence? RIPPON: I feel their presence. There have been so many different people coming forward to engage with me and I am comfortable with it. I’m glad that I shared my story and that it is resonating with people. BLADE: You have said in the past that your skating outfits are an expression of your personality. Your two outfits at U.S. Nationals featured leather, sheer fabric and sparkles. Any surprises for Pyeongchang? RIPPON: I am getting together with my costume designer, Braden Overett, to make some minor changes and Olympify them. I usually just tell him I want to skate in something slutty. It takes my mind off the competition because I can’t believe I am wearing it. It takes a village and he is one of the villagers. BLADE: You recently shot down the rumors that you wear butt pads during your competitions with the following statement: “There’s been a lot questions to whether I compete with butt pads on and I’d like to set the record straight and let it be known that no, it’s just my real butt. Thank you for your interest, comments and concern. Love you.” RIPPON: People were defending me saying the pads helped when I fall. I also heard things like, “What a beautiful performance, are the butt pads really necessary”? I mean c’mon, I’m wearing very thin pants out there. I thought it would be funny if I addressed it directly. Yes, I have the butt necessary to make it to the Olympics. BLADE: Because of your sport, music must be a big part of your life. What is on your personal music playlist right now? RIPPON: I love music. It’s something I work out to and its part of my sport. On the personal side, I like EDM (electronic dance music) — David Guetta and deadmau5. I also like all the gay staples — Beyoncé, Astrid S, Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey. BLADE: What are you hoping to take from your experience in Pyeongchang? RIPPON: It has always been my dream to be an Olympian. I can’t wait to walk into the opening ceremonies and also to see the Olympic rings on the ice for the first time. Then it’s down to business. I’m going to zero in on what needs to be done to have the best skate of my career. BLADE: Are you ready? RIPPON: I am ready for this opportunity and grateful for this opportunity. I feel powerful on the inside and the outside.
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22 • FEBRUARY 09, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
QUEERY 20 GAY QUESTIONS FOR JAZZMUN CRAYTON
queery JAZZMUN CRAYTON How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? I’ve been out for 30 years plus and the hardest person to tell was my mother. Who’s your LGBT hero? The cast and crew of my play “Lovely Bouquet of Flowers” and my Documentary “In Full Bloom: Transcending Gender.” I’m eternally grateful and I like to say Thank U. every chance I get to. What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present? Peanuts. I used to be a dancer there. And current? Julio and Marty feature me in North Hollywood at Club Cobra, so... Describe your dream wedding. Me and the love of my life at the edge of a cliff with the expansiveness of the beach in the background.
Photo by Jimmy Sianipar
By PETER CRUZ
Jazzmun Crayton is an actress, model, advocate, and activist who since first becoming a health educator for the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team (APAIT) in 2014, has also grown to become a powerful force within the trans community of Los Angeles. At APAIT, she has worked on several impactful HIV programs and projects for the trans community. Upon meeting Jazzmun, you immediately get the impression you are in the presence of someone special. You know instantly that she has the passion, dedication, resilience, and commitment to truly be of service to her LGBTQ siblings. And you know, too, that she sees the good in you. In 2017, Jazzmun founded The Midnight Stroll, a monthly outreach event targeting homeless LGBTQ youth and trans sex workers in the Hollywood area. This project is a labor of love for Jazzmun as she walks Santa Monica Blvd. until 3am to give resources and hope to individuals who are most in need. Jazzmun’s leadership skills has resulted in the continued growth of this monthly event, as she manages a team of up to 40 outreach workers per month. Jazzmun never hesitates to speak up on behalf of her community. Whether its in meetings with colleagues, community partners, law enforcement, and even the Mayor of Los Angeles, Jazzmun is there with confidence, integrity, and love. It is this kind of dedication that makes Jazzmun Crayton a true icon in the LGBTQ community of Los Angeles.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? Homelessness. What historical outcome would you change? Colonization. What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime? MUSIC VIDEOS! On what do you insist? I insist on Good Customer Service. What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? A writing I did on radical forgiveness. If your life were a book, what would the title be? The Memoirs of QJ5 a.k.a. Licentious Candy Delicious. Yum, yum, yum eat it up. Cream filled. If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I would remain the same; I love my sex. What do you believe in beyond the physical world? The Holy Spirit. What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? To practice seeing the innocence in everyone. What would you walk across hot coals for? I would walk across hot coals for love. What LGBT stereotype annoys you most? There’s so many stereotypes that are offensive but at the same time they are someone’s personal truth. Not everyone going to like or appreciate you, but regardless what anyone says remember you are pure Magic! We are Perfect, Whole and Complete. What’s your favorite LGBT movie? PUNKS, The movie What’s the most overrated social custom? Hmmm. Traditional gender roles. What trophy or prize do you most covet? I was in 2017 honored with the Masha P. Johnson Trailblazer Award by St. John’s Wellness Center. I’ve gotten the Team Player Award twice, once in 2014 and 2017 from the APAIT team. And in 2018 I won the Community Icon Award, given to me by Children’s Hospital, for which I was very honored. Thank you! What do you wish you’d known at 18? I wish I’d known at 18 that I didn’t know everything, cause I thought I knew everything at 18. Why Los Angeles? I chose Los Angeles. I still live here in Los Angeles because Los Angeles has been the place where a lot of my dreams have come true. Hooray for Hollywood!
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24 • feBRuaRy 09, 2018 • LOSaNGeLeSBLaDe.COM
Hollywood’s gay stunt man has no regrets Conservative industry is at odds with its liberal reputation as homophobia persists By JOHN PAUL KING
As a professional stunt performer/coordinator in Hollywood, Shawn Balentine worked on some high-profile projects. And like most members of the stunt community, he worked side by side with famous people every day without achieving fame for himself. But notoriety came when he came out — the first openly gay stunt man in the industry to do so. Two years later, he remains the only one. His announcement quickly became a hot topic on social media, where every LGBT and LGBT-supportive news outlet shared his story and lauded him for his bravery; but in the closed circles of his Hollywood community, the reaction was not so universally positive. Despite a public reputation for being liberal and aspiring to diversity, the entertainment industry is still shot through with lingering homophobia, a grim reality that made Balentine’s decision to come out scarier than his death-defying stunts. “I thought I was going to lose everything I had worked so hard to get.” So why did he do it? “It was time for me to come out because I’m clean and sober – and I felt like if I didn’t, I would drink or use. I was up against the wall about it.” Nevertheless, he took others into account before making the choice. “In the days before I came out, I contacted all the coordinators I ever worked for, to make sure it wouldn’t hurt them or their reputations. Last but not least, I contacted Patton Oswalt, the comedian/actor that I double, and I waited for him — he was the only person I truly waited for, and if he had said no, I would not have come out. I didn’t want it to hurt his career, because he’s really been good to me. But he said ‘I am there for you 100%. I am so proud of you.’ So the next day I put it on Facebook, so that I wouldn’t
Shawn Balentine chose integrity in an industry where that can be a dirty word. Photo Courtesy of Balentine
have to go around and to each person, each friend, and let them know – I didn’t think I had enough strength to do it that way.” Almost immediately, there was blowback. Balentine was bullied on social media with homophobic insults and even death threats; and although he is reticent to name names (“I’m trying not to point any fingers, that’s my biggest thing”), he got some nasty treatment in the real world, too. “Right after I came out – and right after I had been getting homophobic messages, and stuff like that – I went to a workshop with my union, which is SAG, and at a talkback with the audience, one of the questions was ‘have you ever worked with an LGBT person?’ One of the union board members was there, and her answer was ‘yeah, a couple of hairdressers.’ “The entire panel started laughing; everybody in the audience went completely quiet and turned toward me. If it was just that, it would have been okay – but the next question was, ‘why are there no openly LGBT members in any of SAG’s associations?’ “The answer, from someone who had just gotten through talking about how much diversity they had promoted within the union, was ‘you keep that shit to yourself, otherwise you’re never going to get work in this industry.’ “Again, everybody shut up and stared directly at me. Advocate and Out Magazine both put that story out there, but nothing has ever happened.” Does he think he was the intended target of these remarks? “100 percent.” Instead of being discouraged, Shawn found ways to forge a new path for himself. “I started doing PSAs for anti-bullying, and people wanted to help me, to help change the narrative. I got asked to go and speak at my old high school, which
really turned me around. I’m really proud of that, to be introduced in front of the entire school as an out gay stunt man – and an out gay man.” There were other unexpected rewards as well. “I got invited to the Human Rights Campaign Gala last year – I was one of their end-of-the-year coming out stories, alongside the Wachowski Sisters [directors and creators of “The Matrix” films and Netflix’s “Sense8,” among many other projects, who are both trans women]. I got to take my Mom; I got to fly her out here and get her hooked up with a hair and makeup squad, and we got to walk down the red carpet together. It was such an honor for me to represent the stunt community, and for them to say ‘it’s okay that you’re out, we got you.’ I wish other organizations had been there to say that, for me to feel safer – but they weren’t.” Though he ended up losing several of his professional connections over his announcement, other doors began to open for him. He’s been given opportunities he never knew were out there, such as creating the first-ever live stunt show at a Pride event for last summer’s DTLA Proudfest. He also put together a moving video tribute for the first anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, with 49 different stunt performers from all over the world paying tribute to each of the 49 victims. Coming up, he will be speaking at GayCon in Atlanta, and will soon begin work coordinating stunts on a feature film (Scott Bloom’s “Race World”). “It hasn’t been the easiest, but I have a lot of friends. And some of the people that were giving me a really hard time are now apologizing for their actions – and I think it’s really cool to see the growth in people. The way I look at it, as long as one person evolves, then I’m doing the right thing.” So two years later, does he regret coming out? “No, because now I can breathe. I can look into the mirror and like who I see.”
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 09, 2018 • 25
Bet you have some memory around dancing to the music of The B-52s. With iconic songs like “Planet Claire,” “Private Idaho” and the classic, “Rock Lobster,” the epic new wave band has special plans for Valentine’s Day. The restaurant chain, Shake Shack, and the much loved band have come together to collaborate on the Love Shack Shake, a delicious strawberry blonde milkshake topped with whipped cream and glitter sprinkles, inspired by their popular song, “Love Shack.” As the B-52s are longtime animal lovers, for every Love Shack Shake sold, the restaurant will Give a Dog a Job by donating $2 to Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing them with highly trained assistance dogs at no cost. “We’re shakin’ with excitement to celebrate Valentine’s Day with the Love Shack Shake and even more excited to support the great work of Canine Companions for Independence,” said singer, Kate Pierson. “The money will go a long way.” Astute fans will remember the lyrics to “Quiche Lorraine,” which mentions “a strawberry blonde fall” and “Love Shack’s “glitter” on the “mattress,” “highway,” and “front porch”—all of which inspired the shake. The band, which was formed in Athens, Ga., in 1977, actually performed its first concert on Valentine’s Day. “With the Valentine’s Day connection and the strawberry, it makes sense,” acknowledged Pierson, who married her longtime partner, Monica Coleman in 2015. “Our 40th anniversary was Valentine’s Day. It’s the perfect day to play our music!” “And drink a Love Shack Shake!” singer Cindy Wilson enthused. At Shake Shack, music is in our DNA—and The B-52’s ‘Love Shack’ holds a particularly special place in our hearts,” said Shake Shack culinary director, Mark Rosati. “Between the band’s Georgia roots and the song’s many glitter references, there was no shortage of inspiration for the Love Shack Shake.” The shake will be available in select restaurants in Los Angeles from Friday, Feb. 9-Sunday, Feb. 18. The B-52’s music has been adored by LGBTQ audiences for decades. “We’ve always been outside the mainstream and we’ve always said everyone’s invited to our party,” singer Fred Schneider exclusively told the Los Angeles Blade. Sadly, Ricky Wilson, Cindy’s brother and the original guitarist of The B-52’s, died at the age of 32 in 1985 of an AIDS-related illness, which devastated the band. Over the years, Schneider and his bandmates have worked with numerous AIDS-related charities and been involved with LGBTQ activism. “With the passing of Ricky and so many of our friends, we really wanted to do what we could to make some difference in the fight,” said Schneider. Looking back over his career and the band’s history, Schneider has had many favorite treasured moments. “My grandma and the rest of the family seeing us on television... Traveling to so many places I wanted to see...Playing for a million people in NYC on Earth Day. Being inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.” Schneider has a music side project, “Fred Schneider & The Superions,” a Dadaist synth-pop trio. Their latest album, “The Vertical Mind,” Schneider describes as “pretty nutty.” While Schneider said that “no music” influences him, “I’ve had my own (non) sensibility and writing style since grammar school. Though I do like Dada and surrealist work.” “Fred has a really vertical mind,” Pierson quipped. Pierson has a second solo album she is finishing up. “I am going to be recording stuff in the next few days. We have 12 songs so far, which is exciting.” Wilson is on solo tour for her record that has been getting a lot of good reviews, called “Change.” The ladies were recently honored during the National Association of Music Merchants conference. Hosted by the Women’s International Music Network (the WiMN), the She Rocks Awards celebrates outstanding women musicians.
B-52s say Shake Shack is a little old place where we can get together Classic band, restaurant chain team up for Valentine’s fundraiser By SUSAN HORNIK
B-52s want you to join them at Shake Shack. Photo by Susan Hornik
26 • february 09, 2018 • LOSaNGeLeSbLaDe.COM
EXCLUSIVE: Melissa Etheridge says women ‘a force’ in music biz Lesbian rocker reflects on sexism in ‘80s radio By SUSAN HORNIK
Live in LA with Melissa Etheridge. Photo by Debi Del Grande
Grammy and Academy Award-winning artist Melissa Etheridge is one busy woman. Involved with activism, numerous charities and a new medicinal cannabis products company, the lesbian musician is also working on her 17th album. “I toured last year and it was fabulous. I will be going back this summer, heading to Australia with Sheryl Crow. We will have some fun! But right now, I am writing and recording,” Etheridge told the Los Angeles Blade in an exclusive interview. “I am working with Concord Records again, they were the ones who did my rock and soul album. I really enjoyed working with the company. They are giving me full creative freedom.” Just last month, Etheridge received the Icon award at the sixth annual She Rocks Awards, hosted by the Women’s International Music Network (the WiMN). During her acceptance speech at the gala celebration, Etheridge talked about how things have changed for female musicians. “People are asking a lot of questions about women these days. They come up and say, ‘Did you guys ever have any trouble in rock ‘n’ roll?’ There wasn’t enough of us to have trouble.” She talked about visiting radio stations in the ‘80s and hearing the programmers say ‘Sorry, but we’re already playing a woman, we can’t play you.’” But that didn’t stop her from kicking doors down. “Even though it has been next to impossible being a woman in the music business,” said Etheridge, “we have succeeded and we have infiltrated every aspect of the music industry. “We play the guitars and we rock; we play the drums and we rock; we work at the record companies and we rock; we discover the artists and we rock. We are a force to be reckoned with!” While Etheridge is a mom of four in her 50s, she still has a passionate vibrancy. “What keeps me young is my music, my attitude and my desire to create and just keep practicing. That’s life, that keeps me young.” Looking back at the breakout moment in her career, the veteran musician remembers being out to her friends, family and the people she worked with, but not to the public. “At that time, it was a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ kind of thing in popular music. No one really wanted to know if I was gay. That changed in the mid ‘90s, then I let everyone know.” Etheridge is passionate about cannabis being available to people with cancer, cancer survivors and veterans who are in need. “I am very deeply involved in the medicinal cannabis world. It’s a lot of political work, in bringing education, information and understanding to people. “That we don’t allow every single veteran in our great country to feel the release of medicinal cannabis is just criminal,” Etheridge added. Etheridge is still on a high after performing with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles during the Women’s March last month. Oscar-nominated actress Allison Janney introduced Etheridge before her performance. “She has consistently used her music and her voice to fight for what matters. She has never backed down from a challenge,” describing her as a person she greatly admired. About the experience, Etheridge said: “It was so inspirational. It was a reminder of last year, when we were all falling down the hole of ‘wait a minute, I thought we were living in a different world.’” She continued: “This year, was not so much a reaction, but a call to action. I believe that this movement has gained steam and organization. The balance that has been long overdue is coming and is here in our world.”
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 09, 2018 • 27
E-mail calendar items to firstname.lastname@example.org two weeks prior to your event. Space is limited so priority is given to LGBTspecific events or those with LGBT participants. Recurring events must be re-submitted each time.
Book Soup and WeHo Reads hosts a reading and meet and greet with André Aciman, author of “Call Me By Your Name” at West Hollywood Library on Friday, February 23. Photo Courtesy Book Soup
FRI. FEB 9
event hosted by David Cruz of “Millionaire Matchmaker” and “Three Day Rule.” Great algorithms and cocktails ensure you will find the man of your dreams or the man of right now. $25 fee.
Brown & Out Fest IV, Feb. 09, thru Sun, Mar. 4 @ 08:00 PM at Casa 0101 Theater (2102 East 1st Street). A collection of 10 world premiere short plays celebrating the Latinx LGBTQ+ experience: “He Said, She Said, They Said,” by Jaime Mayorquin; “Girl Misinterpreted,” by Josefina López; “Twinks & Boobs MC,” by Raymond Arturo Perez; “L.U.G. (Lesbian Until Graduation),” by Claudia Duran; “Angelito,” by Gilbert Salazar; “Scratching the Service,” by Patricia Zamorano; “When Boys Cry,” by Abel Alvarado; “Baby Mama,” by Matthew Benjamin Ramos;“Young Dudes,” by Corky Dominguez; “Cochino,” by Richard Villegas Jr.
The Love Ball, Wed. Feb. 14 @ 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM at Flaming Saddles (8811 Santa Monica Boulevard) Three Day Rule brings arrows and you bring the quiver. It’s time to find the man of your West Hollywood dream. It’s Valentine’s Day and now he/him/she/her/them or they should be left alone at home. Stiff drinks. Be dressed well. FREE.
SAT. FEB 10
SAT. FEB. 17
The Un-Private Collection: Jasper Johns, Sat. Feb. 10 @ 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM at The Broad (221 South Grand Street). Celebrate opening day of Jasper Johns: ‘Something Resembling Truth’ with a conversation between co-curator Roberta Bernstein and The Broad’s host curators, Founding Director Joanne Heyler and Associate Curator Ed Schad. The UnPrivate Collection: Joseph Beuys is up next on Feb. 22.
SUN. FEB. 11
Quick Dates: Find Your Valentine, Sun. Feb. 11 @ 12:00 PM to 2:30 PM at The Birdcage (2640 Main St, Santa Monica) Ivy Pride Alliance LA, Three Day Rule, and Mixalot presents a special Valentine’s Day version of their gay men’s speed dating
WED. FEB 14
Summit for Gay Latino Male Collegians, Sat. Feb. 17 @ 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM at University of Southern California, Fertitta Hall (3470 Trousdale Parkway). A safe and welcoming space for gay Latinos to network, share their experiences, and hear about the successes of recent gay Latino college graduates, highlighting important issues gay Latino males face in navigating college and university life. Enjoy panels, presentations, and educational workshops. For more information, please contact Oscar Patrón at email@example.com. The Future is Black: Reclaiming Our Power, Sat. Feb. 17 @ 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM at Los Angeles LGBT Center (The Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 N. McCadden Place). A celebration in honor of Black History Month hosted by the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Includes workshops, award presentations,
live performances, an art exhibit, lunch, a resource fair, and an assembly to honor Black history, culture, and power. The Vagina Monologues, Sat. Feb. 17 and Sun. Feb 18 @ 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM at West Hollywood City Council Chambers (625 North San Vicente Boulevard). One of the most important women’s events in Los Angeles history and co-sponsored by Pacific Shore NOW, California National Organization for Women, V-Day, One Billion Rising - Los Angeles, GWEN, the Los Angeles County Young Democrats, the Stonewall Democratic Club, the City of West Hollywood Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, the City of West Hollywood Transgender Advisory Board, and the City of West Hollywood Women’s Advisory Board. Some of LA’s most powerful women read roles from the iconic play. Los Angeles AIDS/LifeCycle Expo, Sat. Feb. 17 @ 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM at Griffith Park’s Crystal Springs Recreation Area (4659 Crystal Springs Dr.). Gear up and get ready for AIDS/LifeCycle Ride, the 545 mile, seven-day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. This year’s ride will be from June 3 through June 9 and will help rais millions for people living with HIV/AIDS. AIDS/LifeCycle is co-produced by the Los Angeles LGBT Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
SUN. FEB 18
An Evening with Jenifer Lewis, Sun. Feb. 18 @ 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM at Los Angeles LGBT Center’s The Village at Ed Gould Plaza (1125 N. McCadden Place). the one-and-only Jenifer Lewis stars in an
encore celebration of her magnificent new memoir, ‘The Mother of Black Hollywood!’ In addition to excerpts from the book, there’ll be NEW songs, NEW stories, lots of film clips spanning her career—and best of all, Ms. Lewis will sing and carry on and raise the roof!
WED. FEB 21
Mutual Masturbation: Give Yourself a Hand with Elle Chase, Wed. Feb. 21 @ 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM at Pleasure Chest (7733 Santa Monica Boulevard). Learn to share your most intimate selfish moments. You can chose a stranger or the one you love, but there’s an art to it that just might surprise you. And it will certainly shock you just how good it can be. FREE as it should be.
FRI. FEB 23
Andre Aciman discusses Call Me By Your Name, Fri. Feb. 23 @ 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at West Hollywood Library (625 N. Vicente). Hosted by Book Soup and WeHo Reads, Andre Aciman reads his smash hit “Call Me by Your Name” (Picador/Farrar Straus and Giroux), the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliffside mansion on the Italian Riviera. Each is unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, when, during the restless summer weeks, unrelenting currents of obsession, fascination, and desire intensify their passion and test the charged ground between them. Just in time for the Oscars. FREE.
28 • FEBRUARY 09, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
The Los Angeles Blade held its inaugural Best Of Gay LA party on Friday, Jan. 26 at SUR in West Hollywood. Lisa Vanderpump accepted the award for Best Restaurant for SUR; she was also the Editors’ Choice for Best Ally. See more photos at the LA Blade’s Facebook page.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • fEBruAry 09, 2018 • 29
30 • FEBRUARY 09, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Out, proud and, yes, fat Love your body and shake By REBEKAH SAGER
Bevin Branlandingham does not teach your average aerobics class. First off, she’s fat, and secondly she’s queer. And she feels perfectly at ease with you referring to her that way. The name of her class is “Fat Kids Dance Class,” and truly everyone is welcome. “I use those terms because they’re used to oppress me, but I find a lot of liberation in embracing them. I want to be that example to other people, that you can love yourself no matter what,” Branlandingham, 39, told the Los Angeles Blade before her weekly class at Everybody Gym in the Glassell Park neighborhood of L.A. Branlandingham’s journey to self-proclaimed fat acceptance started when she was only 22-years-old and she says she learned she could be “both fat and a babe.” “I fell in with the right crowd. I met people who said all bodies were good bodies. I felt a paradigm shift after a childhood of bullying and depression and hating myself for my weight and a million failed diets,” she says. She adds, “I finally felt like I could be at home in my body and love it as it was, instead of needing it to change. That shifted my perspective on life… I became a body liberation activist.” Her shift happened around the time she was finishing college and attending law school. She is an attorney. She lives with her girlfriend, a consultant who creates programs for schools and nonprofits about changing their culture around empathy – something Branlandingham focuses deeply on in her aerobic classes and on her website. Her classes start with her burning sage to clear the
Dancing proud and loud with Bevin Branlandingham. Photo Courtesy Fat Kids Dance Class
energy and include traditional choreography for exercise, dance breaks, high-fives for water breaks aka self-love, and even Branlandingham quoting James Baldwin. “It’s not just for fat people, but all people, because all bodies are affected by fat phobia. When there’s a type of body that’s seen as bad, then there’s this fear that either they’re going to get fat or disabled or old, but there’s a lot of freedom and joy in accepting all bodies as they are and all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are,” Branlandingham says about her work. She came out to her family at 19. She had a girlfriend. “For me it was harder being fat than queer. Because being queer was a mutable identity, so, it was easier for me to ignore the queer stuff and to focus on self-loathing around fat because that was more visible… I wasn’t raised particularly religious and I wasn’t taught that being gay was wrong, but coming out was a challenge. “I came out before I found fat liberation so it was interesting because I knew I was queer, but I didn’t come out because I didn’t think anyone would find me attractive, so what was the point. It was rooted in fat-phobia and not being able to own my sexuality,” she says. In addition to the classes she teaches in LA and the videos she’s raising money on Indiegogo to produce, Brandlandingham has lived several chapters. She started as a performer doing “Drag King” work. She says being fat on stage gave her audience permission to be themselves. She launched a podcast called a “Queer Fat Femme Guide
to Life,” about her life, friends, fat fashion, sex, and style, and it became a blog called Queer Fat Femme.com. In New York City, she produced body positive dance parties – all in an effort for people to come out dance, be themselves, and eradicate judgment and self-consciousness. Branlandingham opposes the term overweight. She prefers to use the word fat. She believes that the idea of medical obesity is an untruth. “There are so many different ways to be fat. There are so many studies that show you can be fat and healthy and even be healthier than a thin person. Fat people are healthy and fat people are diseased. Adipose tissue, the tissue that causes fat, can be caused by genes, lifestyle, disease, side-effects from medicines, hormones, and the effects of trauma,” she says. She believes that pathologizing fat people doesn’t lead to health, but it creates shame, and she says, shame has been shown to cause weight gain not weight loss. “If you support people in loving themselves no matter what, you’ll support them in opening up to movement. Because a lot of people feel kept small and like they don’t get to try. We need spaces where it’s okay to screw up in class. In my class when I make a mistake, I love it, I say, ‘there’s no wrong way to do Fat Kids Dance Party,’ I’m modeling mistakes and making it safe for people. It gives them the freedom to bust a move and not worry about screwing up,” she says.
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