Losangelesblade.com, Volume 2, Issue 5, March 9, 2018

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M A R C H 0 9 2 0 1 8 • V O LU M E 0 2 • I S S U E 0 5 • 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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Investigation continues into death of Gemmel Moore In The Meantime holds crystal meth discussions on Tuesdays By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide detectives are looking for one or two men they believe may have information related to the methamphetamine overdose death of Gemmel Moore last year. Detectives Ralph Hernandez and John Carlin are still gathering information and have interviewed multiple people, Lt. Joe Mendoza told the Los Angeles Blade in a March 1 phone interview about the ongoing investigation. “We’re trying to track down one or two people in the West Hollywood area” the detectives think might potentially have information pertinent to the case. So far their efforts have been unsuccessful. Moore, 26, died July 27, 2017 in the West Hollywood apartment of Democratic politico Ed Buck. West Hollywood Sheriff’s deputies apparently found no direct evidence of foul play after interviewing Buck, 63, at the scene, checking his apartment and talking with numerous neighbors who told deputies that Moore frequently visited Buck’s apartment. Deputies filed a death report and the LA County Coroner issued a report saying Moore accidentally overdosed after injecting methamphetamine. But Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, and members of the community questioned whether the crystal meth OD was truly an accident, prompting Sheriff Jim McDonnell to order detectives to take a second look. “Initially, like any of these cases, patrol went out and took an initial report that would then be looked at by both the coroner and follow up investigators,” McDonnell told the Los Angeles Blade last September. “When we became aware of the concern by the family, we had Homicide [Bureau] take a look at it as well. And that investigation is still ongoing. We have some of our best investigators involved and following up on this. What the outcome will be, I don’t know at this point.” Concerns raised by the family and news reports “were enough to ask our Homicide detectives to take a look at this case and report on it,” McDonnell said. “We felt it was

Gemmel Moore died July 27. Photo Courtesy Facebook

our obligation to look into those issues.” Buck’s attorney Seymour Amster told the LA Times that his client had “nothing to do with this young man’s tragic death.” Amster added that Moore’s overdose was “a selfimposed accidental death.” Buck has not yet publicly commented. Mendoza confirmed to the Los Angeles Blade that the three-person investigation team has interviewed individuals granted partial immunity by the district attorney’s office “so they can speak freely.” Though the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department cannot grant immunity, they are willing to facilitate communication with the DA’s office to seek a letter granting partial immunity on a case-by-case basis. “If somebody out there has information, please come forward,” Mendoza said. “If they have any fears or concerns, they can discuss that with Detectives Hernandez or Carlin and we can try to do the same thing for them. We can’t make those promises (of

immunity)—that has to be worked out with the DA’s office. But we can facilitate that.” Please call 323-890-5500. Meanwhile, Jeffrey King, founder of In The Meantime Men, has been holding open community meetings to encourage discussion of the use of crystal meth among young gay black men. And like so many others in the African-American community, King questions the nature of the sheriff’s investigation in the first place. “If that incident had occurred in my home, the police would have kicked down my door, guns drawn and had me in handcuffs. There’s no doubt about it. That’s how it goes,” King told the Los Angeles Blade. “That’s part of the bigger issue here. That guy was treated like a respectable citizen. But a drug-related accident occurred in a man’s house. He should have been taken down to the station and questioned, at minimum. This is a matter of race on a minimum level. The value of this kid’s life not the same as

a prominent person’s child—he would have been handled different. The police would have been relentless; the DA would have been relentless; the whole system would have been relentless.” King is trying to address addiction in the black gay male community through “Crystal Meth = Death” billboards and discussion groups. Brothers Reaching Brothers meets on Tuesdays from 7-9pm. The discussions look at how treatment for crystal meth addiction has changed and therefore people must develop new skills to develop a new life. The dialogue also looks at the backgrounds of young people who get addicted, the power of addiction— the cravings and the cycles—supply and demand and how to help young people make different choices and decisions. “We focus on what steps we can take.” In The Meantime Men’s Group meets at 2146 W. Adams Blvd. in Los Angeles. All are welcome to attend and bring a friend.

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California Democratic youth demand change Millennials are no longer backbenchers By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com SAN DIEGO — The rustle of activity caught the attention of even the most nonchalant of Democratic politicos waiting for new California Democratic Party chair Eric Bauman to welcome party delegates to their convention here. At the center of the hubbub was esteemed Sen. Dianne Feinstein, looking tired and frail but intently focused on each person asking a question or pressing a point. Not a convention regular, her very presence added to the star quality of her Senate seniority. At the outer edges of the crowd, a gaggle of young women giggled as they strategized how to get a selfie with the legendary leader. Finally thrilled with their success, they wandered away to go endorse Feinstein’s younger, more progressive primary opponent, State Sen. Kevin de León. That Feinstein even got a primary challenge at a time when seniority in Washington, D.C., still holds a modicum of meaning astounded many establishment Democrats, including lesbian supporters Hilary Rosen, Yvette Martinez and Assemblymember Susan Eggman. Feinstein failing to receive the California Democratic Party (CDP) endorsement shocked the nation. Many political observers assumed it was a continuation of last year’s turmoil as populist Bernie Sanders supporters loudly tried to take over and remake the party in a much more progressive mold. But that’s not what happened. In the time since assuming office of chair last year until the Feb. 23-25 convention, Bauman made such substantial changes to the internal mechanism of party governance—including gender parity, more decision-makers at the table and youth inclusion—the real focus of the 2018 convention was on arguing for particular candidates. “We saw people go at each other’s throats at the 2017 convention due to the so-called ‘progressive vs. establishment’ divide,” Los Angeles Democratic Party chair Mark Gonzalez, 33, tells the Los Angeles Blade. “This year, though, it seems that the delegates and activists have come to the realization that they have more in common than they have in

conflict. Just by watching their interactions on social media and at Democratic Party events in the last year, it looked like people realized that while we may sometimes be opponents, we are never enemies.” But times have changed. “The party has continuously evolved since Dianne Feinstein first sought endorsement from the Democratic Party. It’s changed with new energy and new blood, and a different generation of activists,” Gonzalez says. “A majority of delegates see Sen. Kevin de León as someone who could lead that charge of resistance [to President Donald Trump], representing the next generation of California’s elected Democrats.” And while Feinstein is still held in great respect, “the numbers show that the party is headed in a much more progressive direction” and Feinstein “needs to adapt to the changing winds.” Feinstein has been campaigning vigorously while also pressing her signature issues such as gun control, particularly jumpstarting a new assault weapons ban. In the past, Feinstein has called the National Rifle Association “venal” for standing in the way—gun violence is a personal issue. She discovered the body of her assassinated gay colleague San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978 and a finger slipped into one of five bullet wounds while she checked for his pulse. She grasps the impact of mass shootings, most recently at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—but unlike House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, she has not called for #NoNRAMoney in political campaigns. Pre-convention polling shows Feinstein well situated to win November’s general election, with or without the party’s endorsement. However, that may soon change. De León, a respected advocate of the DREAMers movement and author of two of California’s “sanctuary state” laws is leading the charge with Gov. Jerry Brown and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (who also failed to win a CDP endorsement) against a lawsuit brought March 6 by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Trump administration wants local law enforcement to work with ICE in deporting undocumented immigrants. Sessions claims ICE only targets criminals, but others, including legal residents, have been caught up in sweeps and treated as mere collateral damage. The state laws, with input from both former Attorney General Eric Holder and LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, were

Crystal Araujo, 32, (center) with Lauren Goldeen, 27, and Alexandra Sandavol, 28 at 2018 California Democratic Convention in San Diego Los Angeles Blade Photo by Karen Ocamb

written to withstand constitutional scrutiny. With no congressional action resolving DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)—which Trump told the Latino Coalition’s Legislative Summit March 7 is being held up by Democrats—and “thoughts and prayers” but no action on gun violence, young people are taking action, themselves. They are inspired by the protests against the Vietnam War and, for LA’s Latino youth, the Chicano students who walked out of their high

schools protesting racism and inadequate schools 50 years ago on March 1, 1968. “Those young people helped launch the Chicano movement in Southern California and created a generation of leaders,” columnist Gustavo Arellano wrote in the Los Angeles Times recently. Protests against gun violence are planned nationwide for March 14. There is a national “March For Our Lives” in Washington planned for March 24. Among the leaders of


Christopher Nikhil Bowen, Michael Colorge, Arasele Torrez, and Rayes Alexander at 2018 California Democratic Convention Los Angeles Blade Photo by Karen Ocamb

the Parkland students’ movement is bisexual Emma Gonzales who in the two weeks after the massacre that killed 17 students garnered more followers on Twitter (691,000) than the NRA (562,000). Other protests are also expected when Trump visits San Diego to view samples of his proposed border Wall and then attends a Republican fundraiser in Los Angeles on March 21. Reaching and registering the state’s approximately 10 million millennials is a key component of liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen America organization. “We

really believe in millennials being integral, involved American citizens in our political process,” Steyer told the Sacramento Bee for a March 7 story. “Millennials have voted at half the rate of other American citizens and they’re also the biggest age demographic. So the opportunity to make a difference is clearly gigantic.” But while NextGen ads and street demonstrations catch the TV eye, the deeper story is being missed: there is a wave of young leadership and activism within the California Democratic Party that is utilizing technological outreach and will no doubt

take advantage of California’s new law that automatically registers young people to vote when they get their driver’s license. Just as the LGBT movement was integrated throughout the convention—from Bauman and his husband Michael Andraychak to LA Democratic Party chair Mark Gonzales to Stonewall Young Democrats Christopher Nikhil Bowen, Michael Colorge and Ari Ruiz to intersectional LGBT speakers on the convention stage—leadership of the Democratic youth movement was given its due at the convention. Among the many young activists were:


Danielle Shah Shon, 16, offered a stunning poem; Jenny Bach, 33, elected Secretary of the California Democratic Party Secretary, talked about her Vietnamese immigrant parents; and Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, 30, a gay Marine veteran elected president of the California Young Democrats, talked about his activism. But young Democrats are active throughout the state, such as Crystal Araujo, a single mother who secured her law degree last year from the University of San Francisco School of Law. Araujo started her political activism at UCLA in 2009. She is now a member of the South Alameda County Young Democrats (SACYD), a group that attends each convention. “This was an exciting convention for me, because it was my first to time as an appointed delegate so I was able to be involved in helping decided the Democratic slate to ensure issues important to millennials were being carried to legislative bodies,” Araujo told the Los Angeles Blade. “In addition, I was recently appointed as CYD Policy & Legislative Chair, a position I hope to utilize to strength the Young Dem voice and continue to advocate on issues important to us like student debt and discrimination. We cannot afford to stay silent or to be ignored and it is also important for us to be heard and set an example by mentoring and bringing the next generation of leaders forward.” “As Young Dems, we are ready to roll up their sleeves and work together to solve the issues before us,” she continued. “My hope is that this November, the young vote will reach historic numbers and the party and politicians in office realize we are the NOW and not just the future.” Some longtime politicos are excited by the change, such as former LA-based gay activist Wuzzy Spaulding. “For about 35 years, I was an activist fighting for social justice,” Spaulding told the Los Angeles Blade, until he realized he’d become “a dinosaur” and it was time to step aside. “It is arrogant and insulting to suggest that young people do not and cannot have ideas better than our stale way of looking at things, especially when our stale way of looking at things produces nothing,” Spaulding said. “I am happy to have handed off the baton. I am thrilled with these kids in Florida and elsewhere. We will all be better off for their participation.” Time will tell.



Prang wants to correct the hitch in domestic partnerships New Assembly bill closes a discriminatory property tax gap By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Before Edie Windsor explained to the world that same-sex couples suffered a terrible discriminatory financial disadvantage, as well as emotional trauma at the death of a loved one—the AIDS crisis revealed just how cruel discrimination against gay couples could be. Hospitals denied visitation rights to the partner of a loved one dying alone as estranged family members looted and often claimed the home the couple had shared. Lambda Legal and the ACLU offered seminars on how to draw up wills to protect shared property that—without the legality of marriage— automatically transferred to the next of kin. The new City of West Hollywood saw that need and created the first domestic partnership registry in 1985 to provide legal standing to two unmarried adults who were each other’s sole partner and shared responsibility for each other’s welfare. A statewide domestic partnership registry was signed into law by Gov. Gray Davis in 1999 and another more expansive law, AB 205 by Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg, was signed into law in 2003, effective 2005. But separate was not equal and the pressure for full marriage equality intensified until the US Supreme Court declared that Edie Windsor was not required to pay $363,053 in federal estate taxes after her beloved wife Thea Spyer died in 2009. After years of legal wrangling, the Court ruled in June 2013 that Sec. 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act—which the IRS said made her claim of an estate exemption invalid— was unconstitutional and ordered the government to give her a tax refund with interest. But a lot of same-sex couples eschew marriage, preferring the legal protections of domestic partnership instead. Indeed, West Hollywood announced on Oct. 23, 2014 that it had registered its 10,000th couple under the Domestic Partnership ordinance. Until new legislation in 2009, domestic partners had to pay huge tax hikes upon the death of their loved one.

Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffrey Prang Los Angeles Blade Photo by Karen Ocamb

The LA Times, for instance, told the story of Don Atkins whose life partner of 37 years, Ted Horzella, died in 2005. Registered with the state as domestic partners, Atkins suddenly faced an annual property tax bill that skyrocketed from $1,400 to $10,400. Additionally, he had to pay an attorney $6,700 to fight his property reassessment and had to pay LA County an additional $20,000 in taxes. Finally, the California Legislature passed a bill sponsored by out state Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) to exempt statewide domestic partners reassessed between 2006 and 2000. Unbeknownst to many intending to register as domestic partners in their local cities or counties—assessment of property can still be higher upon death of a partner. Out LA County Assessor Jeff Prang—who was registered for his domestic partnership with Ray Vizcarra, before the couple married— wants to correct the problem.

Prang is sponsoring AB 2663 with bill author Assemblymember Laura Friedman; the bill is co-authored by out LGBT Legislative Caucus Chair Assemblymember Evan Low. AB 2663, introduced on Feb. 15, is designed to fix the discrepancy that exists between state and local property tax exclusions for domestic partners regarding changes in property ownership since domestic partners registered with a county, city or other local jurisdiction continue to be ineligible for the exclusions. “Over the last decade, we’ve taken significant steps to ensure that couples in domestic partnerships have the same rights as married couples,” Friedman told the Los Angeles Blade. “AB 2663 fixes a gap in the law that treats couples differently based solely on where they registered their partnership.” “Especially in times like these, the principle that all people should be treated fairly and equally seems pretty basic and

something upon which we can all agree,” Prang tells the Los Angeles Blade. “Treating people with fairness and equality is not only the right thing to do, it is written into our laws and safeguarded by the Constitution. This basic ideal of equality serves as the very foundation for property valuation within the California tax system. As the Assessor for the largest County in California, it is my responsibility to ensure that all property owners have the same rights regardless of marital status.” The bill, Prang says, “creates parity in the law so that every domestic partnership has equal access to benefits, regardless of where they originally registered. Most importantly, the bill creates an ‘amnesty’ for those local registered domestic partnerships to receive a reversal of the reassessment, and appropriate refunds.” Now the process of gathering support begins.

MARCH 09, 2018 • 09


A survivor, a hero and a fighter all in one

Brandon Wolf is a survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla. Photo courtesy Wolf

“In June 2016, I survived the mass shooting that took 49 lives at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Less than two years later, I met with the amazing Parkland students who have created a growing national movement to defeat gun violence by saying #neveragain. Marches are planned around the country on March 24, and I will be there to stand with them in Washington, D.C.,” Brandon J. Wolf wrote in a March 5 CNN op-ed after students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School confronted Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on the need for gun control legislation at a CNN town hall. Wolf, vice president of The Dru Project, an LGBT nonprofit created after the Pulse massacre, is also a spokesperson for the #noNRAMoney campaign, an advocacy organization developed by Equality Florida executive director Nadine Smith and others to press political candidates to reject contributions from the National Rifle Association. “The NRA’s worst nightmare is here,” Wolf writes. “But the past few weeks feel different. These students are inspiring a resolve for accountability like none I have yet seen,” turning the NRA’s rhetoric about “freedom” on its head. “Not the freedom to buy military grade weapons. Not the freedom to profit off the murder of innocent people. The freedom to walk our streets, school hallways, enjoy a concert, go to church. Freedom is the bedrock of American values. It’s time for us to do whatever we have to do to change the broken system. It’s time to fight back.” – Karen Ocamb

Pat Harrison “was beautiful (inside and out), smart, brave, political, talented, funny and a lesbian feminist who was never in the closet.” – Robin Tyler on the March 3 death at home in Los Angeles of her former comedy partner and friend of 55 years.

“Voters deserve the truth.”

– Out San Francisco mayoral candidate Mark Leno March 6 on successfully stripping opponent Supervisor London Breed’s identification as (former) “acting mayor” from the June ballot.

“Sometimes it feels as if we at NOM are facing a firehose of assaults from Hollywood and the left.” – Anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown in a fundraising email after the Oscars referencing the early black civil rights movement.



Ga. governor signs LGBT ‘neutral’ adoption bill Disney, other entertainment companies reportedly consider boycott of state By LOU CHIBBARO JR. Republican Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia on Monday signed into law a comprehensive bill updating the state’s adoption law after he joined a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in killing proposed changes that would have allowed adoptions by same-sex couples to be denied on religious grounds. The Georgia General Assembly’s approval of the sweeping adoption reform bill, known as HB 159, which includes no restrictions against same-sex couple adoptions, appears to have been overshadowed by the passage by the Georgia Senate on Feb. 23 of a separate bill, the Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act, or SB 375. That measure calls for allowing private adoption agencies receiving state funds to deny adoptions for certain couples or individual parents based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Legal experts say the bill’s language would allow faith-based adoption agencies to decline to approve an adoption for those with whom they disapprove, including single parents, unmarried couples and LGBT couples. The bill would prohibit the state from defunding or penalizing a private adoption agency for making adoption decisions based on religious grounds. Upon approval last month by the State Senate, SB 375 was sent to the House Judiciary Committee. A spokesperson for the committee’s chair, Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), told the Washington Blade on Tuesday that Willard had yet to schedule a hearing for the bill due to the committee’s consideration of numerous other bills. The spokesperson said she didn’t know when or if Willard planned to call a hearing. Under the Georgia General Assembly’s 2818 legislative session, any bill that isn’t fully approved by the state House and Senate by March 29 will be considered dead for the session. Jen Ryan, a spokesperson for Deal, told the Blade in an email that the “governor’s office doesn’t comment on pending legislation.” However, at least one source familiar with Deal and the Republican-controlled legislature said Deal and a number of

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia this week signed a bill updating the state’s adoption law.

prominent GOP lawmakers have made it known they oppose SB 375, among other things, because they believe its perception as a discriminatory law would hurt efforts to bring and retain large businesses in the state. Deal made his views known on that score in 2016 when he vetoed a “religious liberties” bill that critics said would have given employers and landlords authority to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds. With Atlanta currently in contention for becoming the home for Amazon’s second corporate headquarters, Deal has called on state lawmakers to refrain from passing bills appearing to allow discrimination. Meanwhile, a source familiar with the entertainment industry said prominent entertainment companies that have long been supportive of LGBT rights, including the Walt Disney Company, Netflix, and others that have produced films or conducted business in Georgia were watching with interest Georgia’s SB 375. The source said that if the bill passes and the governor signs it these and other companies might consider withdrawing film productions from Georgia. “My hope is that the House of Representatives takes on work that’s more important to everyday Georgians and reflects the values of Georgia rather than addressing

SB 375,” Georgia State Rep. David Dreyer (D-Atlanta), told the Blade on Tuesday. Dreyer, who opposes SB 375, said he was proud that he and his colleagues in the State House and Senate worked diligently to secure passage of the comprehensive adoption bill that he said will modernize the state’s adoption process. “Really I think the important story here is House Bill 159, which is a nondiscriminatory rewrite of our adoption code,” he said. “It was supported by Georgia Equality and other groups,” Dreyer said in referring to Georgia’s statewide LGBT rights organization. “It not only passed both chambers but the governor scheduled an early signing ceremony and signed it yesterday at noon.” Dreyer noted that the bill was introduced last year and became stalled for a period of time when lawmakers disagreed over certain provisions added by members of the Senate. “The Senate added discriminatory provisions and it would come back to the House and we would strip those,” Dreyer recalled. “And it went back and forth like that for some time. And the governor said he would only sign what he called a clean adoption bill,” said Dreyer. “And everybody was referring to that as a nondiscriminatory adoption bill,” he said.

“And finally this year we got the Senate to pass a clean adoption bill.” Equality Georgia and the Human Rights Campaign, the national LGTBT advocacy group based in Washington, have spoken out against SB 375. “This bill is a solution in search of a problem and would do nothing but make it more difficult for kids in the child welfare system to find a loving, long-term home,” said Nick Morrow, HRC’s southern states press secretary. “It would also send a strong message that Georgia is not a welcoming place for all,” Morrow said. “HRC opposes this bill and any attempt to single out LGBTQ people for discrimination.” Gay Republican activist Andrew Lawrence, a junior at the University of Georgia in Athens, said he organized an impromptu protest against SB 375 outside the state capital building on March 2. He said about a dozen people turned out to call on the State House to vote “no” on the bill and for Deal to veto it should it pass the House. “Specifically, this bill would allow organizations to refuse LGBT couples the right to adopt children,” he said. “Bigotry, in this case, comes at the expense of a child in need of loving parents.”



Pelosi, HRC on opposite sides over re-election of anti-LGBT Democrat Coalition launches $1.3 million effort to unseat incumbent in primary By CHRIS JOHNSON The nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group is spearheading a $1.3 million effort to unseat from Congress a nearly extinct animal — an anti-LGBT Democrat — in an upcoming primary, but that effort runs contrary to the position of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Weeks before the primary on March 20, the Human Rights Campaign has launched an independent expenditure campaign to defeat Rep. Dan Lipinski, who represents Illinois’s 3rd congressional district. Ben Needham, director of strategic initiatives for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a phone interview with the Washington Blade on Friday the effort involves a multi-pronged approach. “We are spending $1.3 million collectively to remove Lipinksi from office,” Needham said. “Those efforts include direct mail programs, social media, campaign and social media ads. It includes an on-air TV buy at this point, and we are doing phone calls into the district as well.” Aside from the Human Rights Campaign, the coalition in the joint independent expenditure effort consists of NARAL ProChoice America, SEIU, MoveOn, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and EMILY’s List. It isn’t the first time HRC has attempted to unseat Lipinski, a Catholic lawmaker who has established an anti-LGBT record even though he’s a Democrat and represents a progressive district. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the district by 15 points in the general election; Bernie Sanders won it by 8 points in the Democratic primary. Needham said since Lipinski has taken office in 2005 the lawmaker has “repeatedly taken votes against the LGBTQ community, and he’s consistently done it in every single Congress since then.” “This is not our friend,” Needham said. “This is someone who is extremely antiLGBTQ and he is siding with some of our biggest opponents.” During his first term in Congress, he voted “present” in 2006 when a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage came

A coalition is seeking to unseat anti-LGBT Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), but he has support from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Blade photo by Michael Key

to the House floor. In the subsequent Congress after Democrats took control, Lipinski in 2007 voted against a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act on the House floor. Lipinski was also the only Democratic cosponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act, which seeks to “protect” opponents of samesex marriage from government action, but was seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom.” The incident most revealing of Lipinski’s anti-LGBT views was a 2014 campaign mailer to his constituents organized by the anti-LGBT Illinois Family Institute. That flyer indicated Lipinski backed a U.S. constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, supported a measure that would have prohibited the U.S. Justice Department from undermining the Defense of Marriage Act; and backed a conscience clause in major defense spending legislation seen to enable anti-LGBT harassment of service members. Those views are in opposition to the tenets of the Democratic Party. The 2016 Democratic Party platform embraces LGBT rights and states “Democrats applaud” the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage that “recognized that LGBT people — like other Americans — have the right to marry the person they love.”

Needham said Lipinski has been able to maintain those views in office even though he’s a Democrat because he won the seat, which was previously held by his father, based on name recognition. “He has never had a real race, he has never had to communicate his policies to the people and Illinois’ third district, and so they don’t know what his policies are, and that is the reason why we are partnering with our partner organizations: To make sure voters are educated when they go into the ballot box,” Needham said. The Lipinski campaign didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment for this article or whether the lawmaker’s views have changed on LGBT issues. Despite his anti-LGBT actions, it should be noted Lipinski’s record isn’t entirely hostile. The lawmaker has voted in favor of federal hate crimes protection legislation for LGBT people and in favor of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. More recently, Lipinski voted with Democrats to uphold President Obama’s executive order barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors and, just last year, to maintain payments for gender reassignment surgery as part of the U.S. military’s health care system. But Lipinski’s anti-LGBT views aren’t the only aspect of his record that offended progressive groups. According to HRC, Lipinski has voted to block his constituents from care at Planned Parenthood and ban abortions, opposed raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and voted in opposition to Obamacare. The only competitor facing Lipinski in the March 20 primary is Marie Newman, a small business person and entrepreneur who established the group called “Team Up to Stop Bullying,” a coalition of 70 organizations seeking to find anti-bullying solutions for school kids. On her campaign website, Newman includes a section on “protecting rights,” which criticizes Lipinski for his anti-LGBT record and pledges a commitment to LGBT people. “In Congress, I will fight tirelessly against discrimination based on race, religion, gender or sexuality — because respect, appreciation and equal rights are American values that I hold dear,” Newman writes. “We must rededicate ourselves to the basic, American principles of accepting refugees and promoting a welcome environment for all.” Marty Rouse, HRC’s national field director, said Newman is “a candidate with a proven

record of supporting LGBTQ equality” and his organization is mobilizing for her in the district on top of the independent expenditure campaign. “Our staff and volunteers have completed hundreds of hour of canvassing and phone banks across the district and greater Chicago,” Rouse said. “HRC has already conducted two campaign advocate training in Chicago for our members. This grassroots mobilization is building to elect a candidate whose values best represent those of Illinois’ third district.” An internal poll from the Newman campaign made public in December declared Lipinski was “vulnerable” based on voters’ lack of knowledge of his positions. Against an unknown candidate, Lipinski led 49 percent to 18 percent, which is sub50 percent and considered by the Newman campaign a sign of vulnerability. Upon educating Democrats on Lipinski’s record, support for him dropped five points and rose for Newman by 16 points. That closed the gap between them to a margin of less than 10 points. After hearing balanced negative attacks on both candidates, Newman pulled into the lead by five points. Nathan Gonzalez, editor of the non-partisan publication Inside Elections, said progressive groups “definitely have an opportunity.” “I think when we get closer to an election day, it’s important to rely on the current polling, and there just isn’t a lot of polling,” Gonzalez said. But Lipinski has support in the upcoming primary from at least one progressive, Pelosi, whose voice is strong within the Democratic Party. With the election weeks away and the progressive campaign underway to unseat Lipinski, Pelosi was asked during her weekly news conference whether she supports the incumbent lawmaker. Her response was succinct and arguably half-hearted: “I do.” Those words seemed to surprise the Capitol Hill press corps because a reporter repeated the question, prompting Pelosi to leave no doubt of her position by saying, “I do,” once again. A Democratic leadership aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Blade Pelosi endorsed Lipinski because “leadership always supports incumbents.” Needham said in response to Pelosi’s endorsement of Lipinski the Human Rights Campaign backs her, but still remains focused on defeating the lawmaker.



Panama lawyer: Same-sex marriage benefits ‘entire society’ PANAMA CITY — The lawyer who represents two same-sex couples seeking marriage rights in Panama last week said a ruling in their favor would resonate beyond the country’s LGBT community. “This is very good not only for this community, but also for the entire society to become more in tune with the 21st century and to be a more just society,” Carlos Ernesto González of Morgan & Morgan, which is Panama’s largest law firm, told the Blade on Feb. 28 during an interview at his office in the Panamanian capital. “That’s our aim at the end in reality, nothing else.” González represents Enrique Jelenszky, who legally married his husband, John Winstanley, abroad, and Álvaro Levy, whose spouse, From left, John Winstanley and Enrique Ken Gilberg, is from the U.S. Jelenszky are one of two same-sex couples Panama Supreme Court Justice Luis Ramón Fábrega last seeking marriage rights in Panama. summer heard oral arguments in both lawsuits. They have been Photo courtesy of Enrique Jelenszky subsequently combined into one case. Panamanian law does not legally recognize same-sex couples. González told the Blade he had wanted to file a marriage lawsuit, but it was difficult to find gays and lesbians who wanted to become plaintiffs. “It took us almost a year to find someone willing to go ahead with this fight,” said González, noting Jelenszky contacted him about a potential legal challenge. “He ( Jelenszky) was actually thinking of doing the same thing when we got into contact with each other,” added González. “So we started that case.” González also said Morgan & Morgan’s main partner, Eduardo Morgan, was close to an uncle in New York who was gay. González said the uncle told Morgan a decade ago that “gay marriage” was important “because it provided stability to society and he saw it with his uncle.” Panama would become the first country in Central America to allow same-sex couples to legally marry if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Jelenszky and Levy. Panamanian First Lady Lorena Castillo — whose office has launched an anti-discrimination campaign with U.N. AIDS — and Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo are among the officials in the Central American country who support marriage. Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, and Hunter T. Carter of the New York City Bar Association, who works with advocates throughout Latin America who are seeking marriage rights for same-sex couples in their respective countries, have both filed amicus briefs in support of the plaintiffs. Iván Chanis, a gay Panamanian lawyer who once lived in D.C., is working pro bono with González and Morgan & Morgan on their case. The Panamanian Roman Catholic and Pentecostal churches continue to spearhead opposition to marriage in the country. Fábrega last October drafted a ruling that concluded the two portions of Panama’s family code that prevent gays and lesbians from marrying are not unconstitutional. Fábrega also said the Panamanian National Assembly should consider whether to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. Fábrega last month withdrew his draft ruling after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on Jan. 9 issued a landmark decision that recognizes same-sex marriage and transgender rights. Panama is among the countries that recognize the American Convention on Human Rights, which the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights enforces. The Panamanian government has signaled it will comply with the ruling, but it remains unclear whether conservative justices will argue the Inter-American Court of Human Rights decision is not legally binding. Two of the justices’ terms have ended, but González pointed out to the Blade the National Assembly has rejected President Juan Carlos Varela’s nominees to succeed them. The two justices whose terms have expired oppose marriage. “Right now we’re at an impasse,” González told the Blade. “These justices shouldn’t be there, but they are there and the president has not presented the other two and the opponents want these two to vote.” The Panamanian Alliance for Life and the Family, which represents 10 religious organizations and other groups, this week is scheduled to hold a march against marriage in Panama City. González noted these groups continue to pressure the Supreme Court to rule against the issue. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Nicaragua trans group seeks to create new leaders MANAGUA, Nicaragua — The head of a transgender advocacy group in Nicaragua on Tuesday said her primary objective is to “create new leaders.” Venus Caballero, executive director of the Organization of Transgender People of Nicaragua (ODETRANS), noted to the Blade during an interview at her office in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua that her organization has 30 active members across the country. She said ODETRANS members are working in the cities of Masaya, León, Chinindega, Chontales and Orotal. Caballero, who also represents the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People (REDLACTRANS) in Nicaragua, told the Blade that ODETRANS has representatives in each of the country’s 15 departments in spite of the fact the organization’s only office is in Managua. “We have trans leaders that are doing work in each one of these departments,” said Caballero. Caballero said ODETRANS’ other objectives include teaching trans Nicaraguans how advocate for their rights, referring to a recent meeting in the northern part of the country that focused on empowering “girls about their human rights, self-care and self-esteem.” She told the Blade that ODETRANS also encourages trans Nicaraguans to become involved in the country’s political process. The Nicaraguan government in 2009 created the Special Ombudsman for Sexual Diversity position within its Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman. The country’s Health Ministry in 2014 issued a resolution that bans discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in health care. Caballero noted Vice President Rosario Murillo, who is married to President Daniel Ortega of the ruling National Liberation Sandinista Front, recently appeared on Nicaraguan television with a trans woman who had graduated from a prominent university with a communications degree. Caballero described Murillo’s decision to highlight the trans university graduate as a “real paradox” because she remains unemployed. “She (Murillo) can say that okay, we are not against the issue (of trans rights), but we haven’t done anything to support the issue,” said Caballero. Caballero also noted Ortega and Murillo — whose government is becoming increasingly authoritarian — describe Nicaragua as a “Christian, socialist and solidarity” country. The Roman Catholic Church and evangelicals also have significant influence over Nicaraguan politicians. “We are a secular country,” said Caballero. “But our government professes a religion.” Caballero further stressed discrimination based on gender identity remains commonplace in Nicaragua, even though ODETRANS and other advocacy groups continue to advocate for a comprehensive trans rights law and local nondiscrimination ordinances. MICHAEL K. LAVERS


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The woman behind the Rainbow Flag Lynn Segerblom, James McNamara and Gilbert Baker co-created the LGBT symbol By LYNN SEGERBLOM I taught myself to dye and hand paint fabrics in high school. I experimented with dyes, paints, wax, gutta resist, rubber bands and woodblocks to make designs on fabric and on clothing. I moved to San Francisco when I was 18 and dyeing and sewing became my job. I made colorful things to sell. Then I got into dyeing yards and yards of silk for designer Lea Ditson. I joined “The Angels of Light Theater Company” and one of their communal houses was right by the Gay Community Center at 330 Grove St. At one point, Gilbert Baker and I were roommates. Back then I did not know my sexuality. I had a girlfriend but later realized I was heterosexual with extremely strong feelings for LGBT rights. But all my friends were LGBT and we were all experimenting. Mostly we just cared about art and found prejudiced people irritating. Anyway – I rented a room at the Center in which I could do my dyeing. I had a few clients who wanted my clothes. The Center had no water heater so I had to heat the water up in big canning pots and then mix it with the cold water in giant trashcans—dye-vats. And there was no washer or dryer so I had to rinse by hand then put the cloth in trash bags and run to the Laundromat. It was work. Well, in 1978 there was going to be a Gay Parade and the Gay Parade Committee needed decorations. Originally we were going to decorate City Hall with bunting, but our plans changed when we were offered the Civic Center flagpoles and the two large poles at UN Plaza on Market St. Lee-Lee Mentley, who ran the Top Floor Gallery at 330 Grove and founded the Artist Coalition, helped us buy art supplies after the Committee gave us money. We were excited! I had made flags before for a sailboat club in Sausalito. I knew where to buy white cotton muslin fabric, where to get dyes in bulk, grommets, threads, etc.

Gilbert Baker with Lynn Segerblom Photo by James McNamara; Courtesy Paul Langlotz

Gilbert, James McNamara and I brought our sewing machines, irons and ironing boards to the Center and we bought trashcans. The smaller flags along the reflecting-pool each needed an artist to dye-paint and sew them. Then there were the two big flags on Market Street—James and I said we’d do those, with James supervising the sewers. James went to FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York City and was amazing with sewing, cutting, constructing. He taught Gilbert how to sew in the early 1970s. Now, what to put on them? I’m sure we all had a meeting about this but I was “the Rainbow Faerie” so I wanted them to be rainbow colored flags. We all agreed. I decided the sequence of colors would be reversed on the two big flags: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, aqua blue, royal blue, violet on one. The other one would start with violet then royal blue, etc. I dyed each strip by hand—and I decided mine would have stars in the corner, like the American flag. This meant I had to cut two sets of matching woodblock cut like stars, varnished, glued and c-clamped to the white cloth that was folded in a special pattern to make “repeating stars in a circle.” I was not sure it would work but thank the heavens it did! One more thing about the “stars and stripes” rainbow flag—it has a lamé star stitched to the aqua stripe, silver lamé on one side, gold lamé on the other side. Just a touch of “glitter.”

We prewashed the fabric, dyed it all by hand and rinsed it all by hand on the roof of 330 Grove and then dashed off to the Laundromat. Then we ironed all of it— pinning, working out what went where. Future documentarian Glenne McElhinney was there as a volunteer. James sewed all the strips together for the big flags but a lot of volunteers showed up to help us, thank god, we needed them! It was a big job. We were worried about finishing on time. We had a test-run day before the parade. Someone had a truck to put them in and someone else had the keys to the flagpoles. Would it all work? Somehow it did. On June 25, 1978, all the flags for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade were beautiful—the reflecting pool flags and the two big rainbow flags. James was also a photographer and took great photos of what we did. Thank heavens his close friend Paul Langlotz kept them all. Gilbert is usually given all the credit for creating the Rainbow Flag—but really it took three flag makers, the artists from the Eureka/Noe Valley Artist Coalition, (founded by Harvey Milk, Scotty Smith and Lee Mentley), the Parade Committee and countless volunteers to create all the color that made the Rainbow Flag stick in people’s minds that Gay Freedom Day. I know it sounds corny but I believe in the power of color—rainbow color—to heal people. I’m still a believer today.

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Why the Second Circuit ruling is so important Sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination

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.

On Feb. 26, the full federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an important decision known as Zarda v. Altitude Express. It ruled that Title VII—the federal law barring employment discrimination based on race, sex, religion, and national origin—protects against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation as well, because it is a form of sex discrimination. Ten of 13 Second Circuit judges agreed with this outcome. They joined eight of 11 Seventh Circuit judges who reached a similar conclusion in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College last April. The Zarda decision provides federal protections to lesbian, gay, and bisexual

employees within the Second Circuit— Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. Those three states already had laws expressly barring employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, however. Why, then, is the decision being hailed as a “landmark” and a “huge victory” for gay rights? (The decision also indirectly helps on trans rights, because it rejects common arguments made against Title VII’s coverage of both sexual orientation and gender identity claims.) One reason is that having both federal and state legal protections may make it easier for employees to win their cases. The Second Circuit concluded that was true in Don Zarda’s case. They remanded Don’s case back to the lower court for a new trial, where his estate (he has since passed away) can prevail by showing that at least one of the factors that led to him being fired from his job as a skydiving instructor was his sex (understood to include his sexual orientation). That shouldn’t be too hard given that he was fired very shortly after he disclosed he was gay to a woman he was being tethered to for a tandem dive, to make her more comfortable. The Second Circuit’s decision also adds to the split among federal circuits on whether sexual orientation discrimination violates Title VII, increasing the likelihood that the Supreme Court will soon feel the need to step in and decide who is right, in order to provide a uniform outcome nationwide. Whether they do that quickly could well affect the outcome, given the risk that delay

could afford Trump another chance to appoint an anti-LGBT high court justice. But I believe the Zarda decision’s greatest significance comes from the increasing acceptance by federal judges that sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination. Polls consistently show a supermajority of Americans support having a federal law barring employment discrimination based on sexual orientation (as well as based on gender identity). Indeed, a 2011 poll found that 87% of all voters believe federal law already prohibits someone being fired for being lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Because Title VII doesn’t expressly reference sexual orientation, the only way these voters are right is if the Second and Seventh Circuits are—that that law’s express ban on sex discrimination encompasses sexual orientation discrimination as well. Second Circuit Chief Judge Robert Katzmann clearly explained three reasons why that must be so. First, he recognized that an individual’s sexual orientation depends on their sex. If someone is male and primarily attracted to men, they’re gay. If the person instead were female but still primarily attracted to men, they’re heterosexual. So, discriminating against someone because of their sexual orientation necessarily means treating them worse than they would have been treated had they been of a different sex. Second, courts have held that treating employees adversely because they don’t

conform to stereotypes about their sex is sex discrimination. Judge Katzmann recognized that sexual orientation discrimination invariably rests on the sex stereotype that a “real” man should only be attracted to women and a “real” woman should only be attracted to women. Third, courts have accepted that discrimination against a white employee for dating someone black discriminates against the employee based on his race. Just Katzman explained that that same reasoning must mean that discrimination against a male employee for dating a man necessarily discriminates against the employee based on his sex. The federal EEOC came to these same conclusions in 2015. Numerous federal district courts have agreed. But, with the Second Circuit’s new ruling, large numbers of federal appellate judges are supporting these conclusions as well. That’s crucially important, because the Supreme Court is more likely to follow a growing consensus in reaching its decisions than being willing to break new ground. That happened in the march toward marriage equality. By the time the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Obergefell, 37 states had already allowed same-sex couples to marry either by legislative action or judicial ruling. Similar change in getting rid of state sodomy laws preceded the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas. Momentum is the name of the game. And, with the victory in Zarda, the wind at our backs is stronger than ever.

Ru Paul works it ONTO Hollywood Boulevard The drag supernova forever memorialized By REBEKAH SAGER

On March 16th, America’s favorite drag queen and icon, RuPaul Andre Charles will be honored with the 2,631st star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Although he’s more than just a drag queen, RuPaul will be the FIRST with his own star. The star will be will be placed at 6652 Hollywood Boulevard, in front of the World of Wonder production office, which produces the wildly successful show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” But no star this epic, fabulous and innovative can be without controversy. Charles, a recovering addict with over two clean & sober decades under his belt, has had his share of missteps. Going back to 2014, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” was accused of being transphobic. The show and Charles were called on the carpet for using terms such as “she-male” and “she-mail” that some transgender-rights advocates regard as offensive. “Shemale is an incredibly offensive term, and this whole business about if you can tell whether a woman is biological or not is getting kind of old,” Carmen Carrera, a former “Drag Race” contestant, wrote in statement on Facebook at the time. Charles’ latest gaff comes in a recent interview with The Guardian, where writer Decca Aitkenhead asked Charles about “the contradiction between his playfully elastic sensibility and the militant earnestness

of the transgender movement.” Charles answered hesitantly that he would “probably not” allow a transitioning transgender person to compete on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and explained that (contestant) Peppermint was an exception because she had not fully transitioned. “You can identify as a woman and say you’re transitioning, but it changes once you start changing your body. It takes on a different thing; it changes the whole concept of what we’re doing. We’ve had some girls who’ve had some injections in the face and maybe a little bit in the butt here and there, but they haven’t transitioned,” Charles told the Guardian. “Drag Race” fans, the trans community, and many allies were outraged. Charles doubled-down, though, with what some thought was an even more offensive tweet: “You can take performance enhancing drugs and still be an athlete,” he wrote, “just not in the Olympics.” Carrera took to Facebook again, writing on March 5: “Keeping drag in an outdated version of ‘boys-only’ sets the drag culture back decades and kills the diversity the LGBTQ community has to offer. Just a thought....” RuPaul issued an apology. “Each morning I pray to set aside everything I THINK I know, so I may have an open mind and a new experience. I understand and regret the hurt I have

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caused. The trans community are heroes of our shared LGBTQ movement. You are my teachers,” RuPaul tweeted. He added, “In the 10 years we’ve been casting Drag Race, the only thing we’ve ever screened for is charisma uniqueness nerve and talent. And that will never change.” Born on Nov. 17, 1960, RuPaul Andre Charles spent his childhood in San Diego. When he was 15, he moved to Atlanta and attended the North Atlanta School of Performing Arts. Charles didn’t finish high school, but in the mid-1980s, he resettled in New York where he went on to make a name for himself as the larger-than-life fab-diva drag star. His first eye-catching national exposure came in 1989 with a featured role dancing in the B52’s “Love Shack” music video. “That summer, I f—ing ruled downtown New York. I switched my look from genderf—k to Soul Train dancer slash black hooker. I got the shortest skirts, highest hair, and everybody f—ing lost it. And I thought, ‘Okay, I know what’s happening now,’” Charles told Entertainment Weekly about his underground success as Queen of Manhattan. In 1991, World of Wonder’s Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey became his managers. “When I first started doing drag, I could be messy and have a lot of unbridled fun. But once I got famous, I had to represent what people expected of me. I still have

fun in drag but it’s in a very controlled atmosphere,” Charles told the Los Angeles Blade. “Drag is language that communicates with your immediate environment. I’ve always said ‘you’re born naked and the rest is drag’ and I truly believe that. Everything you wear once you get out of the shower is drag. By articulating the clothes that I wear, I can curate how people react to me. A suit and tie gets one reaction, while a nautical or western wear look gets another,” Charles said. At 6’4,’Charles stands seven-feet in heels, making him a natural as “Supermodel of the World” -- the title of his first album. By the mid ‘90s, Charles reached international superstardom with the Billboard Hot 100-charting single “Supermodel (You Better Work).” He went on to grace the covers of magazines, produce over a dozen albums, ink modeling contracts with the likes of renowned beauty line M.A.C. Cosmetics, raising millions of dollars for the M.A.C AIDS Fund and becoming the first man to land a major cosmetics campaign. He’s also the author of “Lettin’ It All Hang Out” and “Workin’ It! RuPaul’s Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style.” Plus he’s a talk show host on VH1’s, “The RuPaul Show” and of course the star of the history-making reality show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”– now in its tenth season.

Photos courtesy Andre Charles

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Photos courtesy Andre Charles

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” has inspired several spin-offs, including “RuPaul’s Drag U” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars,” “Skin Wars: Fresh Paint,” “Good Work,” and “Gay for Play Game Show Starring RuPaul.” In July 2016, seven years after the “RuPaul Drag Race” pilot originally aired on Logo TV, the self-made “glamazon” drag idol made history when he was nominated for his first Primetime Emmy in the Outstanding Host of a Reality or Reality Competition Series, category, putting Charles up against such heavy hitters as Ryan Seacrest, Heidi Klum, and Tim Gunn. RuPaul took home the award at September 2016’s Emmys, then picked up another one in 2017. Time magazine recently named Charles one of its 100 Most Influential People of the year. “When I am in ‘glamazon’ drag, I feel like the Superman to my Clark Kent. It feels like thirty thousand volts of electricity are racing through my body and I recognize the effect it has on other people. I respect the responsibility of possessing that much power and I am very careful to use it for good,” Charles told the Los Angeles Blade. As an actor, RuPaul has appeared in more than 50 films and television shows both in and out of drag including “Crooklyn,” “The Brady Bunch Movie,” “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar,” “But I’m a Cheerleader,” “Hurricane Bianca,” the Comedy Central series “Broad City” and the Netflix original series “Girlboss.” Last year Charles and his boyfriend of 23 years, Georges LeBar, were married. The two have said they were concerned about President Donald Trump possibly turning back same-sex marriage. When it comes to politics, Charles has

been outspoken. He famously tweeted that he was “finding it hard to carry on ‘business as usual’ after America got a giant swastika tattooed on her forehead,” and he told New York magazine’s Vulture website that Trump’s presidency felt “like the death of America.” “Our only hope is the young people. Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and the very vocal students from the Parkland High School massacre have been a ray of light in this very dark time,” Charles told the Los Angeles Blade. “It’s important to make the privilege of democracy exciting, rewarding and sexy for young people. We have to remind them that our greatest power is our love for life, beauty, colors, music, art, dancing, laughter and our love for love. Those are the strengths to which the other side has no defense.” When the Los Angeles Blade asked whether it’s more difficult to be a black man or a drag queen, Charles said that “life is difficult. Period.” He adds, “In my experience, having traveled around the world, being a black man is more threatening to people than my drag persona. Being in drag somehow diffuses my inherent black rage and people find me more approachable. That said, I’ve been very lucky to have outmaneuvered much of the hideous negativity many black men have faced.” Scandal or no, it’s difficult to deny the definitive impact RuPaul has had made towards acceptance of LGBTQI people in straight mainstream America. When Oprah Winfrey asked how he defines himself, RuPaul proudly said: “I’m everything and nothing at all…Drag doesn’t hide who you are, it reveals who you are.”

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LA Blade, 3/9/18 1/4 Pg / 4.875 x 4.625 / 4C



Laemmle’s NoHo 7

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Q&As with Cast & Crew Opening Weekend! Friday 3/16 – Sunday 3/18 at the 7:40PM show

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queery ERIK BRAVERMAN How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? I came out to my family when I was 23. I slowly came out to friends and select co-workers over the years. Ultimately, I lived as an out man when I bought my condo in West Hollywood in 1997. I lived the double-life of being out with friends and family and closeted at work until the Outsports article in 2015 Who’s your LGBT hero? Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres and Neil Patrick Harris are celebrities I consider heroes. But there are many non-celebs (some not out) who have shaped my life.

Photo Courtesy Facebook

By TROY MASTERS tmasters@losangelesblade.com

Only a couple of years ago, taking on the world of professional sports as an out gay executive was strike three and not for the faint of heart. It takes a certain confidence and a great deal of skill to not be overshadowed by the identity phobias others may attach to you. But Erik Braverman, who made sports headlines when he came out in 2015, was determined that would never get in his way. Braverman was recently promoted to Senior Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Broadcasting for the Los Angeles Dodgers, proving that being openly gay is not an obstacle to success. Braverman, along with Major League Baseball Inclusion Ambassador Billy Bean, Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts, Golden State Warriors President Rick Welts, is one of a growing roster of out gay sports executives who are changing the world of sports. “Sexual orientation is certainly a part of who I am, but I don’t lead with that. It just happens to be part of me. I’m a senior vice president and I happen to be gay,” he told Cyd Zeigler of Outsports.com. “When I started with the Dodgers in 2009, I did not want to be known as the openly gay baseball executive. I wanted to be respected and looked at for the quality of my work,” he told Lindsay Berra in an article for MLB. com, the league’s news website. “But the Dodgers are known for embracing diversity, being progressive, and above all, doing the right thing. When you have the support of your family, your friends and your employer, you have an entire system in place, and it made it much easier for me to merge my public and private lives.” Braverman was born in Sugarland, Texas, to a Puerto Rican mother and Jewish father. And Braverman saw the sunny side of that equation: “I’m Puerto Rican, Jewish and gay,” he said. “I’m a poster child for diversity.” Today, he gets to lead events like the Los Angeles Dodger Pride Night, the largest such event in professional sports. Last year, the event sold more than 7,000 tickets, making it one of the team’s most successful events — and featuring dozens of same-sex couples kissing on the Jumbotron.

What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present? The Abbey in West Hollywood is a staple, of course. My personal “Cheers” is the Mother Lode. The beauty of West Hollywood is there is a little something for everyone all within walking distance of each other. Describe your dream wedding. My dream wedding would be something small surrounded by a few friends and family…in Hawaii or somewhere tropical. What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? All things sports is the obvious answer. I am passionate about the Olympics returning to Los Angeles and for the Dodgers to host an All-Star Game again for the first time since 1980.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? I posted the Outsports article on Facebook and Twitter. If your life were a book, what would the title be? “The Complex, yet Simple Life” If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do? I have no interest in changing myself. I do like to make smart investments though. What do you believe in beyond the physical world? This is a deep question for a guy who works in sports and hangs out at The Abbey and Mother Lode. I believe in more after a drink in West Hollywood! What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? Keep doing what you are doing. Every movement in history has been the outcome of young people rising up to make change. It’s the job of the adult LGBT leaders to inspire the youth. What would you walk across hot coals for? My family and for a World Series Championship ring. Wait, how hot are these coals? What LGBT stereotype annoys you most? That gay men cannot possibly love sports. I am not that rare. What’s your favorite LGBT movie? “Call Me By Your Name”

What historical outcome would you change? I’ll avoid anything political here and go for the easy one. I would change the outcome Game 7 of the World Series in 2017. Having said that, I am originally from Houston, Texas and grew up a die-hard Astros fan. If we had to lose, the Astros would have been my choice for the team to lose to.

What’s the most overrated social custom? Millennials have many I don’t understand!

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime? I’ve had so many moments over the years. Perhaps my spending time with Tom Leykis (former radio talk host) and Sam Kinison in the late 80’s/early 90’s is the most memorable for me.

Why Los Angeles? My brother had gone to Chapman University, my sister was going to Pepperdine. I love nice weather and my family and I had an opportunity to work at KFI Radio. I thought I would be here for a couple of years before returning to Houston. That was in 1989!

On what do you insist? Honesty and integrity.

What trophy or prize do you most covet? World Series Championship. What do you wish you’d known at 18? That everything was going to be OK.



Oscar 2018 grapples with inclusivity, misogyny The age of #MeToo and #TimesUp gets a close up in Hollywood By JOHN PAUL KING

The message, in case you missed it, came through loud and clear in host Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue. Referring to the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the subsequent impact of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, he said, “What happened with Harvey and what’s happening all over is way overdue. We can’t let bad behavior slide anymore. The world is watching us. We need to set an example.” He also addressed positive steps towards inclusion in the movie industry over the past year, and pointed out how these were reflected in this year’s crop of nominations – singling out Greta Gerwig (the first female nominated for Best Director in 8 years, for “Lady Bird”) and Rachel Morrison (the first female nominated for Best Cinematography, ever, for “Mudbound”). It’s worth pointing out that, later in the evening, both these women lost the award in their respective categories. Throughout the evening, it was clear that the Academy had taken pains to ensure the #OscarSoWhite hashtag would not be a thing this year. From “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman to Asian-American “Last Jedi” actress Kelly Marie Tran to Native American actor Wes Studi, the show was all about representation; it became so obvious that, late in the proceedings, presenters Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph joked about “Oscar So Black” before reassuring the audience that there were still plenty of white people backstage (the pair’s appearance was one of the evening’s highlights, with many online commentators calling for them to co-host a show or be teamed for a movie). Mary J. Blige – the first person to be nominated for both her acting and songwriting – performed “Mighty River” (from “Mudbound” which she co-wrote with Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson), and accompanying Keala Settle in her rendition of “This Is Me” (the inclusive, selfempowering anthem from “The Greatest Showman”) was an emphatically diverse back-up choir and dance corps that helped drive the performance toward an enthusiastic standing ovation from the crowd. Both would later lose the award. It was a running theme throughout the show.

Daniela Vega celebrates a victorious Best Foreign Language Film Oscar win for “Una Mujer Fantastica.” Image by Troy Masters

The biggest disappointment of the evening – certainly for LGBT audiences, but also for many others who were rightly electrified by his astonishing performance – was Timothée Chalamet’s loss in the Best Actor category for his performance in “Call Me By Your Name.” Though Chalamet is straight, he played a young gay (or, at least, fluid) man experiencing first love during a summer fling with his father’s handsome assistant; his portrayal has been widely hailed as one of the best screen performances in years, but the award went to longtime Hollywood favorite Gary Oldman, for his turn as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.” Oldman, who has taken the prize in most of the major awards ceremonies leading up to the Oscars, and was considered the front runner – but there was hope of an upset (particularly after Chalamet’s recent win in the same category at the Independent Spirit Awards, and while it was not unexpected, the loss was still a let-down. Still, there were triumphs, too. “Call Me By Your Name” did take home one of the prizes for which it was nominated, when out screenwriter James Ivory (a revered cinema veteran and four-time nominee) was given the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He thanked André Aciman, author of the novel on which the film is based, for the story, which he claimed drew him because of its “personal relevance” to his own life (“Whether straight or gay or somewhere in between, we’ve all gone through first love and come out the other side intact”), and his former collaborators – including his producing (and life) partner, Ismael Merchant, who passed away in 2005. The other writing award, for Best Original Screenplay, was also a celebration of diversity. Only the third filmmaker to be nominated for the writing, directing, and picture prizes, Jordan Peele became the first black winner of the prize for “Get Out,” his brilliant, double-edged horror movie that served up biting social satire alongside its hair-raising thrills. In his speech, he said, “I want to dedicate this to all the people who raised my voice and let me make this movie.” Before the ceremony, during his red carpet interview, when asked what message he was trying to convey in his film, he said it was “that we’re never done with the conversation about race in America.” The most resounding victory for inclusiveness came with

the award for Best Foreign Language Film, which went to “A Fantastic Woman,” Sebastian Lelio’s Chilean movie featuring a trans protagonist whose life is turned upside down when her lover and protector unexpectedly passes away. The film’s star, Daniela Vega, took the stage with Lelio and the film’s other producers to accept the award, and later became the first trans person to present on the Oscar stage when she introduced Sufjan Stevens’ performance of “Mystery of Love,” his nominated song from “Call Me By Your Name.” The movie’s win marks a major moment for trans awareness in the film community. It’s telling that it originated in a foreign country – but that also brings recognition for the Latino community. Latino fans got more love with the predicted win by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro in the Best Director category (for “The Shape of Water”), and with “Coco,” the popular and critically acclaimed Disney/Pixar film about a Mexican boy’s journey to the City of the Dead during Dia de los Muertos, which took home the awards for Best Original Song and Best Animated Feature. Initially criticized for cultural appropriation, the film’s creators overcame the protests by drawing heavily on Latino involvement in its development and production, resulting in a movie that has been hailed on all sides for promoting multi-cultural awareness. During the acceptance speech for Best Animated Feature, director Lee Unkrich drew cheers by saying “Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters.” The film also scored some recognition for the LGBT community when producer Darla K. Anderson and writer Adrian Molina each thanked their same-sex spouses – an act which, not so long ago, might have been a death blow to their careers. Most of the rest of the evening’s wins were predictable, safe choices. Straight ally and fan favorite Allison Janney won Best Supporting Actress for her memorable work as Margot Robbie’s cold-hearted mother in “I, Tonya,” and Sam Rockwell claimed the Supporting Actor prize for his effective (if somewhat controversial) performance as a racist cop beginning to feel empathy in “Three Billboards.” CONTINUES AT LOSANGELESBLADE.COM


Lights! Camera! A lot of LGBT action! While there are months and months of planning for what is the most important event in Hollywood each year, the Oscars are always a hot topic of conversation for weeks after the awards take place. And tongues are certainly wagging anew. And though most readers of the Blade may have been measuring the degree of LGBT inclusion by the nominees and winners who were LGBT or films featuring their lives, the true measure of LGBT influence is still — as it has been for nearly a century — behind the scenes. The Blade got an inside view of the craft makers behind Hollywood’s biggest show.

The Flowers Gay floral designer Mark Held, of Mark’s Garden, was the exclusive florist for the 2018 Governor’s Ball, the Academy’s official post-Oscars gala. Held and his team created table décor combining succulents and florals arranged in a variety of gold and copper containers in celebration of the 90th year. “We try to stay modern with our designs, which is in line with the way people think nowadays about social issues,” Held told the Blade. “We wanted something meaningful and beautiful.” Inside the ballroom, Held, who has worked on the Ball for many years, arranged 5,000 succulents with thousands of roses and ranunculus that arrived from South America, Holland, and California at Mark’s Garden’s studio last week. “We always get an initial inspiration from the Ball chairman, Lois Burwell. She wanted something that was sustainable, that we could repurpose, as the succulent plants displayed will be replanted at the Motion Picture Television Fund for the residents to enjoy as part of the Oscars’ 90th anniversary celebration.” Held’s company does a lot of high-profile gay weddings, and coordinated the floral arrangements for Madonna’s Oscar party.


Behind the scenes at the Oscars with gay tastemakers Hair and makeup, swag bags and flowers — LGBT pride behind every award By SUSAN HORNIK

The Swag As part of his niche marketing agency, Distinctive Assets, gay gifting expert Lash Fary puts together an elaborate swag bag for Oscar nominees. The “Everyone Wins” Nominee Gift Bags have been independently produced by Distinctive Assets for the past 16 years. The bag is a blend of fun, quirky and indulgent items meant to thrill and pamper those who may have everything money can buy but still savor the simple joy of a gift. While this gift bag always boasts an impressive six-figure value, that is never the goal. “A great gift has nothing to do with the retail value,” said Fary. “For years we have been breaking one of the cardinal rules of gift giving by disclosing the price tag. Instead we are trying to start a new tradition by simply celebrating the fun and festive nature of this legendary gift bag.” The bag includes a 12-night Tanzania Adventure Package for two from International Expeditions; a seven-day Hawaiian escape in a luxury ocean-view villa at Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu; a week of total mind/body/spirit renewal at Golden Door; the chance to find (or share) true love using the NeverMissed dating app; 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service; Luminosity Skin Serum and Hair Follicle Stimulant from Healing Saint by Dr. Jane 360. “Since I was a kid, I’ve loved giving gifts,” said Fary. “The recipients of my gifts as an adult are usually very famous and incredibly talented individuals, but at the end of the day they are just regular people who appreciate acknowledgment and the fun of opening a present … especially when it is an enormous gift bag filled with bucket list vacations, world-class beauty products and cutting edge tech.” Also in the Oscars gift bag is Halo Purely for Pets holistic pet food, which is owned by Ellen DeGeneres. The nominees have the opportunity to “feed it forward” by having a 10,000 bowl donation made in their name to an animal shelter or rescue of their choice. Previously, animal-loving celebs Julianne Moore, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Ethan Hawke, June Squibb, Jeff Bridges, Rosamund Pike and Naomie Harris all chose shelters or rescues to receive Halo’s generous gift.

Oscar Styling Gay celebrity stylist Michael O’ Connor is always on the carpet. “On Oscar night, we’ve seen the envelope being pushed. First, with the wearing of jewelry and accessories for men such as colorful and attention getting pocket squares and lapel pins. Second, with patterned and colorful tuxedo jackets for men and more recently, tuxedos that are more imaginative — great colors, patterns and more interesting fabrics,” he noted. Women in the LGBT community have also tried new things, with tuxedos, tuxedo styling and super elegant old Hollywood glamour gowns. The LGBT community continues to have a growing and more prominent profile in Hollywood and are bringing a fresh face and fresh fashion takes to the red carpet and beyond. The LGBT community has always been an ‘early fashion adopter’ and more willing to take a fashion risk both on the red carpet and in real life. As with every sector of the population there are some who take subtle fashion forward steps and some who like to make a big statement.

Lash Fary and his Oscar gift bag: ‘a 12-night Tanzania Adventure Package for two from International Expeditions, a 7-day Hawaiian escape in a luxury ocean-view villa at Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu, a week of total mind/body/spirit renewal at Golden Door’ and more. Photo by Susan Hornik



Poking fun at homophobia in Hollywood ‘The Happys’ reminds you to seek your happiness By JOHN PAUL KING

‘The Happys’ opens in L.A. for limited release on March 16, beginning with Laemmel’s NoHo 7 at 240 Lankershim Blvd. Poster image courtesy Indican Pictures

There’s no shortage of movies about fresh-faced out-of-towners coming to “the big city” to make all their dreams come true, only to have their naiveté stripped away by a few hard knocks from harsh reality. In a substantial percentage of those movies, the big city in question is, of course, Hollywood. Going into “The Happys,” a new film about a young Wisconsin girl who moves to LA with her high-schoolsweetheart-turned-fiancé after he is cast in a major Hollywood film, one might expect the same familiar patterns to be played out yet again. Writer/directors Tom Gould and John Serpe throw us a new twist almost immediately, when Tracy (Amanda Bauer) comes home to the couple’s new Los Feliz rental and catches Mark (Jack DePew) having sex with another man. The two decide to stay together – they are too enraptured by their happily-ever-after fantasy to let it go; but though this seems to go well, at first, Tracy grows restless. She begins to explore the local culture, developing a fondness for food trucks and striking up an intriguing new friendship with a reclusive neighbor (Rhys Ward). Meanwhile, Mark finds himself struggling not only to keep his repressed sexuality from jeopardizing his relationship, but also from derailing his career in homophobic Hollywood before it has even begun. Such a set-up could go in a lot of different directions. “The Happys” could have been anything from slapstick comedy to bleak tragedy, but Gould and Serpe have chosen a middle path, and it suits their film admirably. Establishing its identity squarely from the beginning as a “dramedy” with a comfortably quirky indie flavor, it floats between seriousness and humor at about the same levels found in your average rom-com. It honors the struggles of its flawed characters by taking them seriously and treating them with fairness and dignity, but it’s not afraid of poking a little fun at their foibles, also. It pushes furthest towards the direction of outright parody in its treatment of the movie business (an establishment which serves, after all, as the story’s only real antagonist) – but here, too, it works hard to avoid passing judgment. Even Mark’s brass-balls agent (Melissa McBride), who pushes him to stay in the closet and use his girlfriend as a beard, is depicted with relative sympathy; she is, after all, only another cog in the wheel of the Hollywood machine. “The Happys,” for all its overtures towards satire, is less interested in ridiculing the status quo than it is in overcoming it. It gives us stereotypes we think we know – the devoted girlfriend who defines herself through her relationship, the closeted pretty-boy terrified of being found out, the mysterious recluse with a secret and a heart of gold – and makes of them a little community, letting them discover more about themselves through their interactions with each other and the larger world. In the process, it opens them up and allows us to see parts of ourselves in each one of them. In this way it bears more than a passing resemblance, both in form and in spirit, to Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City.” Just as that book does with San Francisco, it revels in its Los Feliz setting (the film’s title is a reference to it), making the neighborhood itself into a character and ensuring plenty of enjoyment for locals who will recognize many of the locations. It carries a similar message, too. Each of its characters starts their journey with an identity dictated by outside expectations and spend the rest of the movie learning to recognize and embrace who they really are. As one of the film’s minor character sums it up, “the closer you get to your true self, the happier you are.” One can imagine Mrs. Madrigal saying those exact same words. “The Happys” inhabits a more confined space than “Tales,” though, with fewer characters, a less sprawling landscape (both geographically and culturally), and a lot less time to win us over. As a result, some of it feels a little hasty; revelations come too quickly, as do realizations and reconciliations, and some of the plot contrivances stretch the willing suspension of disbelief a little too far (an unknown newbie actor from the Midwest landing a lead in an A-list Hollywood movie is just the first of several implausible plot points). Still, it’s a movie with a lot of heart, along with a worthy and much-needed agenda. Gould and Serpe address the issue of homophobia without being preachy or confrontational, opting instead to treat it with kindness and candor. Mark, though he may be callous and dishonest, is also broken and unhappy, and the fact that we are led to empathize with him and even root for him raises this movie above the level of the many less-sincere attempts to confront such characters onscreen. Likewise, in Tracy, the movie gives us a strong female protagonist whose growth from subservient mouse to independent woman presents her at every stage as a likeable, understandable person – not just some caricature of femininity. Both these characters work, despite the occasional elision of their arcs, thanks to their heartfelt performances. Bauer, in particular, gives a strong performance, carrying the bulk of the movie on her shoulders and making it look good as she does so. Garofalo is a treat, as is McBride; Arturo del Puerto brings good-natured charm (as well as a dash of diversity, something the movie could have done better at including) as Ricky, a flirtatious Latino food truck operator; and young out actor Brian Jordan Alvarez has some memorable scenes as one of Mark’s co-stars, contrasting his openly gay persona against DePew’s tightly guarded artifice. Thanks the sincerity and positivity of its intentions, it offers up so many sweet and life-affirming moments that it is easy to forgive it for not making a deeper dive. “The Happys” opens in LA for limited release on March 16.



The Berlanti touch Nick Robinson, left, with director Greg Berlanti on the set of ‘Love, Simon.’

Busy gay director juggles superhero series with dramedy ‘Love, Simon’

Photo courtesy the Karpel Group


By any measure, gay writer, director and producer Greg Berlanti has had an amazing career so far. Over the last 20 years, he’s been involved in the creation and development of several iconic movies and television series, many of which have featured prominent LGBT characters. Now he’s about to launch a very personal project, a big screen gay romance called “Love, Simon.” The 45-year-old Berlanti was born in Rye, N.Y. and studied playwriting at Northwestern University. His first gig in Hollywood (1998-2002) was working as writer and then producer of the WB’s popular teen drama “Dawson’s Creek.” The cast of the show included Kerr Smith who played one of the first openly gay teens on television. In the 1998 episode entitled “True Love,” Jack’s kiss with Ethan (Adam Kaufman) was the first-ever gay male kiss on prime time television. Following his success with “Dawson’s Creek,” Berlanti went on to create two more successful series for the WB: “Everwood” (2002-2006) and “Jack and Bobby” (2004-2005). The final season of “Everwood” featured the coming-out story of piano prodigy Kyle Hunter (played by Steven R. McQueen). After his success at the WB, Berlanti moved to ABC to launch the series “Brothers and Sisters.” Written by gay playwright Jon Robin Baitz, the show explored the life of Nora Walker (Sally Fields), matriarch of the Walker clan following the sudden death of her husband. Gay son Kevin (played by Matthew Rhys) helps his mother tend his siblings while he sorted out his own on-again, off-again relationship with Scotty Wandell (Luke MacFarlane). In 2007, Berlanti created “Dirty Sexy Money” about a New York lawyer (Peter Krause) and his rich New York City clients for ABC. Berlanti cast trans actress Candis Cayne as Carmella Rainer, a trans woman having an affair with married New York Attorney General Patrick Darling (William Baldwin). This made Cayne the first transgender actress to play a recurring transgender character on primetime TV. Meanwhile, Berlanti began to explore his interest in filmmaking. In 2000, he wrote and directed “The Broken Hearts Club: a Romantic Comedy,” a heartwarming movie that has become a perennial gay favorite. Set in West Hollywood, the film is centered on a bar owned by Jack (John Mahoney) and the group of friends who frequent the bar and play on Jack’s softball team. Based on Berlanti’s

friends at the time, the cast was filled with rising stars including Timothy Olyphant, Dean Cain, Zach Braff, Matt McGrath, Andrew Keegan and Billy Porter. Movies were also Berlanti’s introduction to the DC Extended Universe with which he is now closely associated. In 2011, he co-wrote and co-produced “Green Lantern” starring Ryan Reynolds as the title character. Although the movie was neither a critical nor financial success, a reboot of the franchise is in development. Since then, Berlanti has developed a highly successful and lucrative collaboration with DC Comics and the CW network. GLAAD and other LGBT media watchdogs have frequently praised Berlanti’s work with the DC Extended Universe for its inclusion of so many LGBT actors and characters. Since 2012, Berlanti has been producing “Arrow.” He’s also involved with several other superhero series that are still on the air, including “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” “Legends of Tomorrow” and “Black Lightning.” He also produces “Riverdale,” based on updated versions of the characters from the Archie comics. With all these series underway (and even more on their way), Berlanti set a record for having 10 different scripted television series planned to air in the 2017-2018 television season on various networks and digital platforms. In the midst of all this, Berlanti still found time to get married. Last Dec. 2, Berlanti exchanged vows with Robbie Rogers who made history by coming out while he was a professional soccer player. Forced to retire in 2017 due to injuries, Rogers is now working as an actor and producer. Berlanti and Rogers live in Los Angeles with their son Caleb who just celebrated his second birthday. And now, Berlanti is set to release his next project, “Love, Simon,” a romantic comedy-drama slated for a U.S. release March 16. Adapted by the writing team of Isaak Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger from the award-winning book “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli, the movie is about Simon Spier, a gay teenager who is not ready to come out of the closet. Things begin to look better when he starts an online relationship with a fellow student named “Blue,” but takes a turn for the worse when a classmate discovers the emails and blackmails him. Berlanti says the movie is “a coming-out story that makes you laugh, cry and feel.” He became aware of the

book when people in his office decided to pursue it, but couldn’t get the rights. “When the script was written it came my way,” Berlanti says. “I fell in love. It felt both timely and timeless. It reminded me of films that I grew up with that were about coming of age and figuring yourself out. But, it had one essential difference — this script had a gay character front and center. I had a visceral reaction to the script and I hoped that audiences would have the same reaction.” Once he had his hands on the script, Berlanti used the skills he has developed adapting comic books for the small screen. “Working with the DC Comic Universe,” he says, “I’ve learned to try and honor the DNA of the characters, but it still has to work in this new art form. There’s a reason the character was popular to begin with and you have to get the heart of the character and extrapolate that out. … I would go back to the book all the time whether it was for a line or a moment. I just didn’t want to miss anything.” With the premiere of “Love, Simon” approaching, Berlanti says he finds himself thinking about his first feature film, “The Broken Hearts Club.” Partially it’s because his new movie is getting the wide release that his first movie never received. But it’s also because he misses his friend, actor John Mahoney (“Frasier”) who died in February at 77. “John was a real godfather for that movie. He was the name who came on board to help us get financing. He knew I was kind of figuring out how I would pull this off and he was very supportive. I remember sitting with him in between set-ups and he was just giving me the confidence to tell that story.” As for Mahoney’s sexuality, Berlanti says, “He and I never discussed our private lives.” Of posthumous attempts to out people, Berlanti says, “I really think that Harvey Milk said it right: Every gay person has to come out. But, I do believe that everyone needs to determine their own timeline. To borrow Simon’s line from the movie, ‘I’m supposed to be the one that decides when and how and who knows, and how I get to say it, that’s supposed to be my thing.’” To borrow another of Simon’s lines, “I’m done living in a world where I don’t get to be who I am. I deserve a great love story and I want someone to share it with.”



Spring music preview: Moby, Kylie, Hayley and more Minogue slated for a New York Pride appearance in June By SUSAN HORNIK

Kylie Minogue’s new album ‘Golden’ is slated for an April release. Photo courtesy BMG

If you look in the dictionary under Zen monk, you might well see a picture of Moby, who at 52, has reached the point in his life where he gives zero fucks about anything except creating music, impeaching Trump and being a tireless animal and environmental activist. Moby’s 15th studio album, “Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt” comes out today. Fans of David Byrne are excited the Talking Heads frontman has a new album, “American Utopia,” his first project in five years. It’s hard to believe metal group Judas Priest has been around for 49 years, selling 50 million records. Their lead gay singer Rob Halford has a voice like no other. Bisexual Azealia Banks just signed a $1 million record deal and has has a new 22-track album “Fantasea 11: the Second Wave.” Due out this month, Busta Rhymes and Spice Girls’ Mel B are featured on the rapper’s album. Before Hayley Kiyoko brings her sexy lesbian hotness to perform at Coachella, you best be prepared to buy her latest album “Expectations,” out March 30. If you like country music, check out Chase Sansing, who has a brand new song and video out, “Begins With You.” The music is inspired by the rising country star’s struggle as a gay musician in Nashville. After spending time in Nashville, expect Kylie Minogue’s new album “Golden” to have a country music-inspired feel. Her 14th album drops April 6. And if you’re in New York for the weekend in June, she headlines Pride Island. It’s so clear watching Janelle Monae’s new sexually ambiguous video, how much Prince has influenced her. Even the name of her new CD, “Dirty Computer,” brings back the memory of Prince’s song, “Computer Blues.” Her project is out April 27. Ian McCullough is still one sexy mofo. Watching him perform his iconic new wave songs like “The Cutter” and “Do It Clean” is a can’t miss. Echo & the Bunnymen’s new album, “The Stars, The Ocean & The Moon” comes out in May. The new record will feature a mix of both new material and updated Bunnymen classics. The gayest music to be on the lookout for: Troye Silvan’s new album will be released this spring. Via Twitter, the much-loved, gorgeous gay pop singer announced a music collab with Ariana Grande. “I’m just doing what all the other pop stars are doing: writing love songs, singing love songs and putting love interests in my music videos,” he told the Guardian. “I think there’s power in living openly and truthfully, while also being gay.” Pull up to your bumpers with the always fantastic Grace Jones, who has a new music documentary out in April. You’ll get to see live performances of her songs. Later this year, Lady Gaga will be singing the songs Barbra Streisand performed so gorgeously, in the latest remake of “A Star is Born.” Gaga will also be starting a new residency in Las Vegas. Madonna is working on new material, and we so hope things get better for her in the studio. On a recent Instagram, Madge responded to a post a Guy Oseary had up, saying, “Remember when I made records with other artists from beginning to end and I was allowed to be a visionary and not have to go to songwriting camps where no one can sit still for more than 15 minutes.” Former boy band star Zayn Malik has been teasing beautiful new music from his third album on Instagram. Recently, the British-Pakistan pop star showcased his Hindi singing skills with a cover of Kailash Kher’s song “Teri Deewani.”

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LA Leather Pride highlights diversity, welcomes all The safe word is ‘enjoy’ By JOHN PAUL KING

Los Angeles is home to the largest leather community in the world and LA Leather Pride turns it out, March 10-25. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Leather Coalition

Though to the uninitiated, the leather and fetish scene might seem like a dark and intimidating environment, LA Leather Pride organizer Gus Norris wants you to know that nothing could be further from the truth. “You go to a couple of these events, and you realize these are just really warm and wonderful people who like to have a lot of fun.” Gabriel Green, a former Mr. LA Leather Bear and the president of LA Band of Brothers, agrees. “I think what is beautiful about leather culture is that there’s something for everybody. There are different levels to kink, from mild to wild, and there’s no judgment about it. Someone might be into something that you’re not, but that’s OK. The point is to just be yourself, celebrate it, and don’t be afraid to explore – just do it safely, sanely, with consent and with respect. That’s the main message of Leather.” It’s about more than just having a good time, though. Norris says, “I’ve seen the community actually save lives. They rally together to support someone who is feeling on edge, who might be thinking of hurting themselves – and also, just in the sense of camaraderie, the encouragement to explore and the acceptance that comes from that. It tells people they’re not alone in their feelings, that what they’re interested in is perfectly normal, that there’s a whole group around you that you can talk to, so you don’t have to feel different and apart – it’s all about telling people that they’re not alone.” Green’s experience bears that out. “When I first came to West Hollywood, I was excited because I was finally in ‘Gay Mecca,’ where I could get a boyfriend and hold hands in public and all that. And yes, it was a great introduction – but I found, unfortunately, there was also a lot of attitude. If you didn’t fit a certain mold – whether it be racially, or because of your build, or whatever, then you might not feel accepted. But when I entered the leather community, people were so warm and welcoming. They were willing to embrace me, to mentor me, and I gained what I really wanted – a big, loving, kinky leather family. I was introduced to a whole new world of experiences, and people, and love.” Green says that being part of the leather community has helped him to learn not to judge himself, and to become a more sex-positive person. “Sometimes something looks scary, or intimidating, and you think ‘I can never do that.’ But sometimes the best things in life happen when you say, ‘why not?’ That’s what I learned from the leather community.” If you feel like you could use a dose of that in your own life, the LA leather community wants you to know that you are welcome to join them for their annual festival. Reinforcing that message is the fact that the theme this year is diversity. You’ll also be supporting a good cause – the proceeds from Pride allow the Los Angeles Leather Coalition to make a substantial donation to Being Alive. Unlike other Pride celebrations, this is not a self-contained festival taking place in a single location; rather, it’s a series of gatherings at different venues, spread out over a 10-day period as the leather community gathers together to crown a new Mr. LA Leather.


Below is the schedule of planned events. More details and ticket information can be found at www.losangelesleatherpride.com


SISTERS OF PERPETUAL INDULGENCE PRE-KICKOFF PARTY, Time TBA. Hosted by Sister Mariposa Patriota, a garden party at her home in Downey, followed by a bus tour/bar crawl to bar sponsors of Mr. L.A. Leather.


HARDER Men’s Only Play Party by AVATAR, Sanctuary LAX, 9pm-2am. Avatar kicks off with HARDER, A Men-Only Play Party.


FOX HOLE: FOREPLAY by Green Mirror, Bullet Bar, 9pm-2am. Celebrating the golden sex days and Los Angeles Leather Pride Week.


LA Leather Pride 2018 Kick-off by Onyx, Eagle 562, 3pm-7pm. We Are ALL LA Leather kick-off Los Angeles Leather Pride 2018!


LA LA Leather Opus 2, by Bears LA, MCC in Valley, 7pm-10pm. Classic Meets Fetish tradition of Folsom Berlin in concert.


D.I.V.E.R.City LA: Conversations on Identities and Community in Leather, Fiesta Hall, Plummer Park, West Hollywood, 6:30pm-9pm. An interactive discussion, to include exercises and breakout sessions.


Mr. LA Leather Meet & Greet and Roast of Jeff Wilcox, Precinct, 7pm-11pm. Greet the meatiest contestants of Mr. Los Angeles Leather 2018.


The Assembly, Rough Trade Gear, 7:30pm-10:30pm. The California B&B Corps, BLUF, and The Regiment of the Black and Tans present a sexy hot uniform dress code event! DenLA Presents: LA Leather Pride, Official Dance & Play Party of LA Leather, Sanctuary LAX, 9pm-3am. The official play party of LALP 2018. An all the men you can eat buffet. Stud Los Angeles, Faultline Bar, 9pm-2am. From 1974-1988 the Stud inhabited what is now the Faultline. It’s back! Leather Dog Pound, Bullet Bar, 9pm-2am. Pups have their own place in LA Leather Weekend with Leather Dog Pound. REFLEX After Hours, Los Globos Theatre, 2am-6:30am. AfterHours with Audio4play, Dj/ Producer HECTOR FONSECA; Downstairs MAIN ROOM: FUNKtion ONE Sound.


Mr. Los Angeles Leather 2018 Contest, Globe Theatre, 6pm-10pm. We are ALL LA Leather! Cheer on the LA Leather Titleholder Class of 2018 as they expose themselves. LEGION Meets Megawoof: Official Mr. LA Leather Dance Party, Globe Theatre, 10pm4am. Justin David spins the Official Saturday Night Dance.


LABB Titleholder Victory Brunch, Farmboy Kitchen, 11am-1pm. Join the Los Angeles Band of Brothers (LABB) and celebrate the Mr. Los Angeles Leather 2018 winner and all the titleholders who competed in the Mr. Los Angeles Leather 2018 Contest! Off Sunset Street Festival, Santa Monica Blvd from Hoover to Sunset, Noon-7pm. The Los Angeles Leather and Fetish Street fair closes out a week of events for Los Angeles Leather Pride! 21+ Only.



E-mail calendar items to tmasters@losangelesblade.com 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.

March For Our Lives echos the #TimesUp movement as young people assert themselves around the world on March 24 to demand gun control legislation and an assault weapons ban.. Photo courtesy March for Our Lives

FRI. MAR 9 OUTFEST FUSION: LGBTQ People of color film festival, Fri, Mar 9 - 13 @ various times at Egyptian Theater (6712 Hollywood Boulevard). Outfest Fusion is a celebration of the diverse communities that make up LGBTQ Los Angeles. The festival showcases film and other media that tell the the stories of queer communities of color, including African, African American, Asian diaspora and Latinx perspectives as well as many other cultural identities. Filmmakers who premiere a film at Outfest Fusion are often invited to play at Outfest Los Angeles and Newfest, New York’s LGBT Film Festival – exposure that can lead to representation, distribution, other festival invitations, as well as new friends and contacts. For more information “like” OUTFEST FUSION @oufest on social media or visit outfest.org.


OUTFEST FUSION: Alaska is a Drag; Congo Cabaret, Sat. Mar 10 @ 4:30 PM at Egyptian Theater (6712 Hollywood Boulevard). In Shaz Bennett’s featured film Alaska is a Drag, Leo, an aspiring drag superstar, is stuck working in a fish cannery in Alaska, trapped in the monotony of fist fights and fish guts that catches the attention of the local boxing coach. It leads to love in Alaska. ALSO: Congo Cabaret (Dir: Deondray Gossett & Quincy LeNear, 2018, USA 16 min)

features a cabaret singer in a gay-owned Harlem speakeasy seeking to reignite her man’s fading interest but seduces the whole room, including his best friend. Stick around for a panel discussion afterward. Tickets available for all OUTFEST FUSION events at outfest.secure.force.com.


7 Days of Sweat: Tour de Los Angeles, Mon. Mar 12 daily through March 18 @ 7:00 AM disembarking from The Trails Cafe at Griffith Park (2333 Fern Dell Drive). Rise ‘n Shine for some morning rides for a daily bike ride tour of different parts of the Los Angeles. On Monday: McDonald/Wright (LA LGBT Center Clinic) to Griffith Observatory; Tuesday: the LGBT Center to center of Weho; Wednesday; from Triangle Square to the Hollywood Sign; Thursday: from Highland to the Observatory; Friday: from Mi Centro explore Boyle Heights; Saturday: from the LGBT Center’s Trans Wellness Center to the Observatory; and on Sunday: a round trip to Anita May Rosenstein New Campus. A great way to prepare for June’s 500+ mile AIDS/LifeCycle ride.


3rd Annual HERstory Awards, Thu. Mar. 15 @ 7:30 PM to 8:30 PM at Community Meeting Room, West Hollywood Library (625 North San Vicente Boulevard). In honor of Women’s History Month, Hollywood NOW will toast & roast the Honorable

Lindsey Horvath, Councilmember, City of West Hollywood. Horvath is a trailblazer on women’s issues in her work with One Billion Rising, a global campaign of the V-Day movement to end violence against women and girls. She is also an Advocate for A Window Between Worlds (AWBW), UN Foundation, and CARE. She was first appointed to the West Hollywood Women’s Advisory Board in 2007, focusing on the issues facing women and families in West Hollywood. She was previously President of the Hollywood Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and NWPC LA Westside as well as Young Feminist VP of California National Organization for Women. Email hollywoodnowchapter@ gmail.com for more information.


Family Equality Council LA Impact Awards, Sat. Mar 17 @ 7:00 - 10:00 pm at Globe Theatre Universal Studios (100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA). Family Equality Council’s Impact Awards are a celebration of LGBTQ families, and the people and organizations that have made an impact on our families and communities. This year the organization, which advocates and helps support three million LGBTQ parents and six million children, will honor the visibility and advocacy of television personality Nate Berkus, his husband Jeremiah Brent and their daughter Poppy. Armie Hammer of “Call Me By Your Name” will be on hand

present the award, including a special honor to Johnson & Johnson. Past honorees have included Greg Berlanti, Sara Gilbert & Linda Perry, Glee + Modern Family, Mayor Annise Parker, Transparent, and Target. Tickets are $500 at laimpactawards.com.


March for Our Lives Los Angeles, Sat. Mar 24 @ 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM near Pershing Square (603 South Spring Street). When Emma Gonzelez and her classmates spoke truth to power after the shooting at Parkland, Florida, she launched a global movement. March to stand in solidarity with the students in Florida who are organizing this march. Students, kids and families will take to the streets around the world to demand that their lives and safety become a priority, and that we end gun violence in our schools and communities. For more details visit event. marchforourlives.com. Simply Divine, Sat. Mar 24 @ 6:00 to 9:00 PM at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (6000 Hollywood Boulevard). The world’s finest food served in a glam cemetery full of legendary performers. Dine outdoors under the stars with the stars. Tastings from over 55 exciting food and beverage vendors at the only LGBT food & wine event in Los Angeles. You can enjoy an exclusive lounge with private bartenders, tastings of rare high-end wines, celebrity chef meet & greets, and complimentary valet parking. Tickets: simplydivinela.org.




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