MEET NEW LA COUNTY SHERIFF ALEX VILLANUEVA HOW LGBT-FRIENDLY WILL HIS POLICIES BE? PAGE 06
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04 • DECEMBER 07, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Aaron Salazar: ‘I did not jump off the train’ Statement contradicts Amtrak findings of suicide attempt By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com Aaron Salazar, the 22-year-old gay Portland State University student who was found critically injured and near death on the railroad tracks just outside of Truckee, Calif., last May 15, flatly denies that he tried to kill himself, as Amtrak investigators concluded. “I did not jump off the train. I’d never, ever try to kill myself,” a still-recovering Salazar said in a family video from home sent to Bob Conrad of ThisIsReno.com. Conrad worked with the Los Angeles Blade to cover the story when Salazar—who had been missing for three weeks while riding Amtrak from Denver to Sacramento—was taken to the Intensive Care Unit of a Reno, Nev., hospital. From the beginning, Amtrak police, which investigates train-related incidents, insinuated that Salazar jumped from the train, a claim adamantly contradicted by his family and close Portland State University friends. In phone interviews with the Los Angeles Blade, PSU students Morgan Patterson
Aaron Salazar at Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo. on Aug. 13. Photo courtesy the family
and Andrea Valencia disputed Amtrak investigators’ allegations that Salazar was troubled or even suicidal. “Someone who is suicidal does not constantly talk about their future. Aaron had big plans to graduate from Portland State
with his degree in economics and continue his education through graduate school in Denver,” Patterson said. “When I heard Amtrak was insinuating he committed suicide, that did not make sense to me because he’s just a dork and I don’t
think he would do that to the people who love him,” said Valencia. Nonetheless, Amtrak’s Police Chief, Neil Trugman said at a press conference in May that Salazar was “distraught,” according to “several conversations” with 300 people as part of the investigation. “He was very distraught. All indications right now appear that it was an attempted suicide. There’s nothing to suggest he involuntarily was removed from that train,” Trugman said. Publicity about the incident induced a number of other people to come forward sharing concerns about similar deaths or injuries that occurred on Amtrak’s California Zephyr line. Cindy and Douglas Putnam, whose son Robin Putnam, 26—a straight junior at the California College of the Arts in Oakland—disappeared around July 7, 2012 while riding an Amtrak train to Grand Junction, Colo. His remains were found by Union Pacific Railroad employees on Aug. 25, 2015. The Putnams told the Los Angeles Blade that Amtrak also insisted that Robin had committed suicide. “We are glad Aaron is improving and look forward to talking with him and any other witnesses as part of the investigation,” Amtrak spokesperson Olivia Irvin told Conrad. The Salazar and Putman families hope congressional oversight committees will look into the harrowing incidents involving Amtrak.
Karger to Chenoweth: Bow out of Mormon gig Instead of the hate-stage, visit LGBT centers By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org LGBT rights activist Fred Karger tried to warn Broadway superstar Kristin Chenoweth about the turbine of trouble awaiting her if she performs with the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir for its Christmas extravaganza. Karger has been exposing the harmful anti-LGBT bias of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since their secret machinations funding the anti-gay marriage initiative Prop 8 in 2008.
It’s not just about her singing three free, live-streamed concerts Dec. 13-15 at the 23,000-seat Church Conference Center. It’s that Chenoweth—a strong LGBT ally who lost her best gay friend to suicide— will be performing on the same stage where Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the First Presidency, recently re-iterated the Church’s anti-LGBT policy, despite its promotion of suicide prevention and public preening that it no longer avows the discrimination that some suggest has led to Utah having the highest rates in the country for 11-17 year olds. “Our knowledge of God’s revealed plan of salvation requires us to oppose many of the current social and legal pressures to retreat from traditional marriage or to make changes that confuse or alter gender or homogenize
the differences between men and women. We know that the relationships, identities and functions of men and women are essential to accomplish God’s great plan,” Oaks said at the General Conference last October. Many were so shocked and hurt, Mama Dragons, the support group for Mormon mothers of LGBT children, called out the “harmful rhetoric” on Facebook and offered “our unequivocal support of our LGBTQ children and the entire queer community….We love you. We celebrate you exactly as you are.” Chenoweth says she plans to sing and still support the LGBT community. “We have to assume that the contract she signed with the Mormon Church was pretty ironclad making it tough for her to stand up for all her LGBTQ friends and fans and just bow out,” Karger
said. However, there is still time for her to change her mind and instead visit the LGBT youth center Encircle in Provo and visit the Utah Pride Center and Equality Utah in Salt Lake City. “Kristin Chenoweth could make a huge statement and create a lot of news coverage by simply changing her itinerary up a bit. Instead of standing on the same stage at the Mormon Conference Center where all the hate spewed out by Church leaders agsitnt the LGBTQ community and our vulnerable youth comes from,” Karger tells the Los Angeles Blade, she could “use those days to show what a tremendous ally she is to all those lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people around the world who look up to her.”
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06 • DECEMBER 07, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Meet new LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva How LGBT-friendly will his policies be? By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com Another stereotype bites the dust. Though technically the elected position of Los Angeles County Sheriff is non-partisan, the long-held presumption is that anything to do with law enforcement is the political province of “law and order” Republicans. But the mega-turnout Nov. 6, 2018 election flipped that script, with dark horse retired sheriff’s lieutenant Alex Villanueva— who ran as a Democrat—defeating former Republican incumbent Jim McDonnell by 141,596 votes or 53% to 47%. Villanueva, who has a Ph.D in Public Administration from La Verne University but no top command experience, now has the opportunity to put his Democratic Party ideals into effect as he assumes leadership over 9,500 sworn deputies, 8,000 civilians— and perhaps his most daunting challenge, running the county’s jails in a county larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island with roughly 10.6 million people. “I’ve been a Democrat my entire life. I always believe in the little guy. I don’t believe in betting on Goliath; I always bet on David,” Villanueva tells the Los Angeles Blade by phone on Dec. 5, his first official day on the job, referring to the biblical match up between the strong giant and the little guy with a rock and a slingshot. “Corporate America is well-represented by the Republican Party and I think the Democratic Party shares my values, which is defending the rights of those who sometimes can’t speak for themselves—the underprivileged, the under-represented—they need to have an equal say in government.” Villanueva received the endorsement of the LA County Democratic Party, chaired by out gay Mark Gonzalez, and Stonewall Democrats, with whom he marched in the CSW Pride parade. But participating in Pride has been standard fair since Jewish Republican Sherman Block was Sheriff. The primary difference between Villanueva and Block, Lee Baca and Jim McDonnell, apart from political party preference, is that the new sheriff has a history of being disruptive in pushing back against perceived
Alex Villanueva Photo Courtesy Villanueva Campaign
discrimination. And while his predecessors may have been OK with LGBT people, Villanueva is a proven ally. “I recognize LGBT people not only as individuals but as a distinct minority,” Villanueva says, a belief he picked up over the years, through a gay nephew and gay friends. “And as I got older and started to make employment decisions, I started to realize, wow, there’s a lot of these individuals everywhere, in all walks of life and they’re deserving of being treated same as everyone else.” Additionally, as former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa often pointed out during his long public service, the new sheriff says the old stereotype of straight Latino men disparaging LGBT people as weak is disappearing, even in law enforcement. “That perception is changing,” Villanueva says. “If you look at the younger generation,
our millennials, they’re a lot more inclusive and open-minded about perceptions than the older crowd. The younger crowd is more accepting because they grew up in an environment where there’s more inclusiveness.” Villanueva, 55, has direct experience as the underdog, undergirding his deep desire to help people. Born in Chicago to a PolishAmerican mother and a Puerto Rican father, Villanueva moved around a lot, running from bullies in New York before landing in Puerto Rico at age 9, where he had to learn Spanish. He served stints in the US Air Force, Air National Guard and the California Army National Guard before signing up the Sheriff’s Department. His first assignment was in the county jails where the smoke was so heavy, he proposed a smoking ban. Though initially rejected by a commander, Block eventually put the ban into effect. In 1997, studying for his master’s degree
in public administration, Villanueva wrote a stinging critique of the department’s promotion process, arguing it discriminated against Latinos. By the mid-2000s, the experience first hit home when he was passed over for a sergeant’s position. “Villanueva conducted a diversity study and determined that Latino deputies were underrepresented. He took his findings to a commander who encouraged Villanueva to stop pushing ‘the brown thing,’ according to the lawsuit. He eventually settled the matter,” the LA Times reported. The discrimination continued and Villanueva resigned after being passed over four times for a captain’s job, despite his qualifications. He extrapolates that experience to the possible impacts on LGBT deputies. “We want to reach out to the LGBTQ community,” he says. “We want them to be represented on the department. And we’re
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 07, 2018 • 07
Villanueva sworn in with his wife, Vivian, a 30-year veteran of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, watches. Photo Courtesy LA County Sheriff’s Department
going to do a lot of outreach to get them to apply. That’s very important to be a truly representative bureaucracy. We have to be a reflection of our community. And if they’re not reflected in the organization, in our hiring and in our promotional practices, then we’re not truly a representative organization.” That’s not just rhetoric. Villanueva notes that when he and his wife Vivian became small business owners of a CrossFit gym in Whittier, one of their first hires was LGBT. “My campaign staff, my nephew – LGBT. And as a transition team, we had LGBT members. Actually every organization where I’ve been responsible for hiring, I hired LGBT,” he says. Villanueva put his commitment to diversity and equality on the record during his long career, during the campaign and during his Dec. 3 swearing-in before a packed auditorium at the East Los Angeles
College, where he once served as a campus police officer. “This was a rare moment in history where we not only had the opportunity but courage and responsibility to challenge an existing power, to ensure that no matter where you’re from, where you live, how you pray, the color of your skin, your sheriff’s department will work to protect you and keep you safe,” Villanueva said to much applause. One key factor that distinguished Villanueva from McDonnell was over SB 54, California’s “sanctuary state” bill, authored by LGBT ally State Sen. Kevin De Leon. McDonnell disagreed with the law that prohibits state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. By contrast, Villanueva tells the Los Angeles Blade, “I intend on kicking them out of the country jails. We’re going to honor SB 54.”
“You can live in L.A. County with dignity, safety, and yes, sanctuary,” Villanueva supporter De León said from the podium at the swearing-in ceremony. “The country is watching very closely.” Treating people with dignity extends to transgender people who might engage in sex work and be incarcerated in county jails. “We do not want to stigmatize people who are in sex work,” Villanueva says. “I recognize that it’s not a career choice for most people, it’s by necessity. And we’re not going to harm them more than they’ve already put themselves in harms way. When they do wind up, unfortunately, in our jail system, we’re going to make sure they’re treated with dignity with respect. We’re going to afford them all the privacies we can. Of course, there are some physical constraints because of the outlay of our jail system. But we’re definitely going to make sure they’re treated the way they want to
be treated—assuming, of course, that they follow all the rules and regulations of the jail.” Though the county jails are the focus of much attention regarding alleged abuse of both prisoners and jailers, Villanueva says he is not up to speed on the issue of HIV/ AIDS prevention in county jails. “I have to take a long hard look at it. I have to see what our current practices are. We’re assessing all of the practices of the county system right now, including what we’re doing in the jails and access to care,” he says. “We’re scrutinizing them and making sure we comply with current laws that are on the books. And that we make sure we’re doing everything with the best interest of the community at heart. But that one (HIV/ AIDS prevention)–I have to find out more before I can say what we’re doing. I just walked in the front door.” Reminded that Sheriff Block, as well as then-LAPD Chief Bernie Parks, followed then-LA Mayor Richard Riordan’s when he declared a state of emergency in the City of Los Angeles to allow for HIV prevention needle exchange programs to operate without law enforcement interference, despite an edict from then-Attorney General Dan Lungren, Villanueva says he has a different view of the problem of addiction. block in harm reduction – needle exchange. “I view drug addiction as a health problem, not a criminal problem and I’m going to take it in that direction,” he says. “When it comes to people actually selling drugs and getting people addicted to drugs, I view that as a criminal matter. But we’re going to treat drug addiction as the health problem that it is.” One particularly moving moment during his swearing-in ceremony was when Villaneuva turned to his wife Vivian, whom he met when she was training to become a deputy at the sheriff’s East L.A. station and thanked her for sticking by him. “You bared the brunt of retaliation leveled my way for years,” he said. After he concluded his remarks, Villanueva went over to his wife and kissed and embraced her, in a moment not only moving for his audience of supporters but also for those watching on the live stream of the ceremony. “Shocking, we are human,” Villanueva tells the Los Angeles Blade.
08 • DECEMBER 07, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
St. John’s Well Child & Family Center expanding healthcare Staff trained to protect undocumented and trans clients By SEAN SHEALY For Los Angeles County’s undocumented immigrants and transgender residents, a recently approved expansion of funding by the LA County Board of Supervisors for the My Health LA program comes as welcome news. After months of deliberations, the Department of Health Services reached an agreement with community clinics, including the county’s largest clinical system, St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, to support countywide universal coverage in a historic expansion of immigrant health services and access to care. My Health LA is a partnership between the county and local community clinics and health centers aimed at providing healthcare for every county resident. Clinics provide primary care services like screenings, physicals, chronic disease management and prescription medications. The Supervisors’ Nov. 20 action addresses the healthcare needs of undocumented immigrants who are ineligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act because of their immigration status. Supervisor Hilda Solis said it was “one of the very few in the entire nation that exists that provides this kind of service.” While the Department of Health Services offers specialty care and more acute services, Jim Mangia, the openly gay President and CEO St. John’s Well Child & Family Centers, points out that non-profit healthcare service providers are critical to the over 150,000 county residents who are dependent on free or low cost healthcare. The Board action raises the cap to 165 thousand residents. “The 17 St. John’s Well Child & Family Centers currently serve over 25,000 residents enrolled in My Health LA and with an overall client base of 100,000 patients of all ages through the network of health centers and school-based clinics in Central, South LA and Compton, is the largest single provider,” Mangia told the Los Angeles Blade. Mangia said that under the new My Health LA partnership terms, “patients must be able to get an appointment for routine care
St. John’s Well Child & Family Center President and CEO Jim Mangia (fourth from the left) with staff Photo courtesy Mangia
within 21 days.” Currently some people wait up to three months for a visit. But, he adds, “urgent primary care must be made available within 96 hours.” With the omnipresent threat of enforcement actions by the U. S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement agency, (ICE), some in the immigrant community eschew even basic healthcare out of fear of being caught up in an ICE raid, followed by deportation. Mangia said that his staff is trained to ensure the protection of their immigrant clients. Additionally, they are culturally and language competent to better serve patients and their families. “Rather than just wait and react, we figured we would equip our staff,” Mario Chavez, director of government affairs at St. John’s, told Healthcare Dive Magazine last September. “We had to have a game
plan, given all the fear in the community. We couldn’t be reactionary.” St. John’s makes sure its front desk staff and clinicians are “made clear” on the rights granted to them and their patients by the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Front desk employees are also given a script to prepare them for questions they may be asked by ICE agents. Managers are trained in how to read warrants. Staff have also learned how to form a human shield to prevent apprehension. If the worst situation arises, St. John’s staff have a protocol for keeping ICE agents in place while patients are locked in their rooms. “We shouldn’t have to compromise our constitutional rights as citizens or residents in this country in the name of national security when there’s clearly a due process,”
Chavez told Healthcare Dive Magazine. Another area of much needed funding expansion is an increase for the funding of pharmaceutical drugs, which St. John’s is required to provide at no cost to patients enrolled in the program. “There’s now an agreement to look at increasing grants targeted for pharmaceuticals,” Mangia tells the Los Angeles Blade, “which would include hormone treatments for trans patients that weren’t previously allowable.” St. John’s has been working with LA LGBT Center volunteers to target care for trans and homeless sex workers. “Currently only Los Angeles and San Francisco have such targeted programs,” Mangia says. Teanna Herrera, a Victims Advocate for St. John’s Transgender Health Program who
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 07, 2018 • 09
St. John’s Well Child & Family Center healthcare provider and client Photo courtesy St. John’s Well Child
connects undocumented trans women of color to healthcare, was recently profiled by INTO Magazine. Rizi Timane, the manager of the Transgender Health Program at St. John’s and founding director of the Happy Transgender Center, sees Herrera as a vital part of his team, and an asset in community outreach. “Teanna brings a vast knowledge about trans women and trans patients,” Timane told INTO. “[Patients] are more inclined to listen and to trust her advice on how to possibly find a way into mainstream employment, as well as how to stay safe while still in the sex work life. … She goes out into the community to present and share her story and attends important community meetings where she advocates for the community as well.” Although the agreement reached to increase the trans healthcare program is
verbal, Mangia tells the Los Angeles Blade that he feels strongly that county officials are acting in good faith. “St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, which is the largest provider of services to undocumented immigrants in the country and the largest My Health LA provider, was able to get assurances from the County that services would be expanded to include transgender health services,” a grateful Mangia tells the Los Angeles Blade. “At this time of unprecedented attack by the Trump administration against immigrant families and individuals, this expansion in the largest county in the United States sends a clear message of support for the right of everyone to healthcare services, regardless of immigration status.” Trans care also includes a healthcare
reentry program for offenders leaving County detention facilities. Currently St. John’s has the only certified reentry program for trans offenders, staffed by former offenders, Mangia says. The additional approved funding expansion will also supplement St. John’s HIV-Prevention and Treatment program, especially in the PrEP and PEP pharmaceuticals program. Mangia notes that St. John’s is working with the Black AIDS Institute, which last April opened A Clinic for Us (C4U), a free and or low-cost community primary care facility in Crenshaw’s Leimert Park neighborhood. Phill Wilson, out-going Founder, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, pointed out in a BAI release that Blacks account for 64 percent of recently diagnosed HIV/AIDS
cases in Leimert Park and surrounding areas. According to AIDSVu, interactive online map displaying HIV/AIDS prevalence in America, 1,377 out of every 100,000 Black Angelinos is living with HIV, compared to 591 out of every 100,000 white Angelinos. “These numbers speak to the need for additional resources and services within Black communities, particularly communities in south Los Angeles,” Wilson said. “Clearly, health disparities between Black and other racial ethnic groups in this county continue to exist and there are still enormous unmet needs in this community. It is our hope that ‘A Clinic for Us’ will help mitigate those issues and extend much needed free or low-cost prevention and treatment services to those most in need in this community.” Mangia echoes Wilson’s sentiments, saying that under-served minority communities must be better served by efforts such as the increased funding from the County. Access to medical care is always an ongoing concern he adds. St. John’s clinics are located near bus lines and the clinics offering free MTA tokens and free parking. Additionally, care is provided through two state- of-the-art medically equipped tworoom mobile clinic vans. For homeless HIV patients, these vans can be literal lifesavers, even transversing the County’s dry concrete riverbeds to serve the folks living there. But many issues remain. “Of particular concern is addressing mental health issues, for which, at this point, there currently is no funding for undocumented Angelos,” Mangia says. Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Supervisor Kathryn Barger have also recommended that the County also look at expanding access to substance abuse treatment and mental health care for My Health LA patients. Free substance abuse treatment is available under the plan but is underutilized, so the supervisors directed staff to find out why. Options are also limited for treating less severe, but prevalent mental health issues such as depression and anxiety and the board also directed staff to look at sources of funding to expand available treatment. “Healthcare is and should be a fundamental right,” Mangia tells the Los Angeles Blade. He hopes to improve St. John’s Well Child & Family Center’s holistic approach to providing the County’s residents with better comprehensive services.
10 • DECEMBER 07, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Meet Raniyah Copeland, Black AIDS Institute’s new leader Promises to continue Phill Wilson’s legacy By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org “Our house is on fire!” Phill Wilson preaches from the pulpit at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Los Angeles, Newsweek reported June 10, 2001. “AIDS is a fire raging in our community and it’s out of control!” Wilson founded the Black AIDS Institute two years earlier, in May 1999, to shout “Our house is on fire!” from every pulpit, stage and rooftop he could find as whites with access to the new three-drug cocktail saw HIV/AIDS turned into a manageable disease while new infection rates in the Black community continued to skyrocket. Though not hoarse from shouting – and having made extraordinary progress in the almost 20 years serving as president and CEO – Wilson announced his retirement in 2015. After a concerted search, the BAI Board announced a new director on Dec. 1 during its annual Heroes in the Struggle gala: Raniyah Copeland, 34, a BAI executive staffer was picked out of 20 applicants. “I can’t imagine a better choice to lead the institute into the future. Raniyah is bold, brave, and brilliant,” Wilson said about his successor. “She brings a vigor and vision to the AIDS movement that, given the current political environment, is desperately needed.” And Copeland does “bring it.” Backed by degrees in African-American Studies from the University of California/Berkeley and a Master of Public Health from Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, Copeland started her dream job at BAI combining her two passions—Black people and health—in April of 2008, first as the Training and Capacity Building Coordinator and now as Director of Programs, until Jan. 1 when she assumes the CEO mantle. “What’s really important to me is Black people,” Copeland tells the Los Angeles Blade when asked why a straight married mother of two would want the job. “It’s really quite horrible that we aren’t all really outraged by what HIV looks like in Black communities. HIV disproportionally impacts same-gender-loving people, trans folks, and Black cis women. I am a cis-hetero-woman - but we are one community and I think that for me, it sends an
Raniyah Copeland succeeds Phill Wilson at Black AIDS Institute. Photo courtesy Black AIDS Institute
important message that we are in this together. “The only way we are really going to end HIV is by our entire community coming together,” Copeland says. “It’s important that we all do our work to end HIV stigma and homophobia and transphobia—and that’s not the work of only some samegender-loving people. It’s work we all have to do and I’m excited to lead that effort.” It’s an excitement fueled by the lessons of history. “I was raised by what folks might call two radical Black parents. Growing up, I learned a lot about the history of Black people, the oppression of Black people,” she says. “A monumental book for me was ‘A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story’ by Elaine Brown, who was the highest ranking Black woman in the Black Panther Party. I remember thinking that we as Black people have so much to offer and we’ve been through so much, that it was disgraceful that Black people were disproportionately impacted by so many diseases, whether it was breast cancer, diabetes or HIV.” In college, Copeland worked on reproductive justice issues but was startled writing a report on HIV in Black communities.
“I thought how crazy it was that there was this huge HIV epidemic and the highest amount of attention that I ever remembered was around Magic Johnson,” she says. “But there were all these other communities within the Black community that were disproportionately impacted. It didn’t sit well. It didn’t seem right that HIV wasn’t getting the attention that it deserved—it didn’t seem like people cared very much.” After college, she was thrilled finding a BAI job posting. “Who I am is being able to be uniquely, unapologetically Black. So finding an organization that focused on that was really exciting for me.” And doing HIV work across the country, “really showed me how the epidemic looks so different in different places.” Copeland is also excited about BAI’s new expansion into direct services and partnering with different organizations, such as St. John’s Well Child & Family Center. “We end HIV,” she says, by creating access to quality healthcare that’s “culturally humble” and “by making sure that people have access to the human rights and the dignity that they deserve.” Being culturally humble, Copeland explains, “is a step above being culturally
competent. Cultural competency means you have an understanding of the norms and the culture that people come from. You understand the language that you should and shouldn’t use. You understand medical mistrust that is present in Black communities. You understand the need of trans folks and how they different from cis people. These are all things that you learn. Cultural competency – you understand the culture. “Being culturally humble means that even though you know you have a competency, that each person is going to present to you differently,” Copeland says. “No culture is monolithic. So when people present to you, you have the competency but you let them guide and you let them determine the kind of services they want. It’s a different type of framework around how you position the relationship. And really understanding that the people we serve, the people that we engage with – that they lead us.” It may be a re-framing of the approach but the passion to put out the fire burns just as bright as when Wilson first issued the call. “He’s been such a huge game-changer,” Copeland says of Wilson, “and I’m very, very honored to come after him.”
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 07, 2018 • 11
“Sometimes we just need someone to be there to listen. To tell us that we are loved.”
– “Pose” star Billy Porter on Instagram Dec 4 about suicide prevention and the Trevor Project gala.
“And when a writer’s own life could potentially be at stake, we must take necessary steps to ensure their safety.” – Grindr’s INTO editor on removing the name of the author of an opinion piece who received death threats for criticizing Ariana Grande’s music video for transmisogyny, anti-queer jokes, and blackface, via TheWrap Dec. 4.
“I never thought I was the right person to win this award, because I’m just a little bit out there. I’m the girl who rode the cannon.” –Cher on winning a Kennedy Center Honor Dec. 2, via Billboard.
The Trevor Project hosted its 2018 TrevorLIVE Los Angeles gala Dec. 2, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in a starstudded event that raised over $1.5 million. The Hero Award was presented by writer and transgender rights activist Janet Mock to mega-award-winning producer/ director Ryan Murphy, who used the event to rail against anti-LGBT politicians. “When I was 19, in Indiana, I myself called a suicide hotline. Overwhelmed by the AIDS crisis, by the fact that I was the only ‘out’ person in my friend group, the only ‘out’ person I knew at the time, and alienated from my family, I felt profound despair. I made a call one late night in November. I made a connection, got some hope, and carried on. It’s powerful life saving work this organization does. In my roundabout way, I know this first hand,” Murphy said in his powerful acceptance speech. Producer Ryan Murphy accepting the Hero Award from the Trevor Project Murphy wondered why more wasn’t being done to Photo by Getty on behalf of The Trevor Project target those who caused the problem. “The homophobes, the trans naysayers, and the small restricted and dangerous minds who are causing so many young people to needlessly hate and doubt themselves in our country when what they should be receiving from this country is love and support and understanding. Weren’t we as a nation established on the idea of equality, not appalling and illegal discrimination?” Murphy said. The mega-producer said his intention is to create “a multimillion-dollar organization that targets anti-LGBTQ candidates running for office. We are narrowing our focus to 20 of them, Senate and congressional candidates who think they can get votes by hurting and discriminating against us. Well, we can get votes too and we can fight back,” Murphy said. “Maybe if candidates in the future see that embracing these viewpoints leads them to being kicked out of office and losing something tangible, the conversation can shift and change.” — Karen Ocamb
12 • DECEMBER 07, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Bush unsupportive on gay rights, AIDS Longtime activist Larry Kramer: ‘He hated us’ By CHRIS JOHNSON Following the death of former President George H.W. Bush at age 94, the nation remembers him for his civil tone in contrast to President Trump and for helping bring the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union to a peaceful conclusion — but his legacy on LGBT rights and failure to confront the raging HIV/AIDS epidemic at the time remain a stain on his overall record. A memorial service was held at National Cathedral on Wednesday and Bush was to be laid to rest in Texas on Thursday. Gay former Rep. Barney Frank, whose 32-year tenure in Congress included the George H.W. Bush administration from 1989 to 1992, told the Blade in an interview the late former president “was bad” on LGBT rights and “wouldn’t do anything” to advance them. “I asked him, for example, to rescind the Eisenhower rule that said we couldn’t get security clearances,” Frank said. “He refused to do it. Bill Clinton did a few years later.” Frank also said Bush refused to roll back military’s ban on gay service members, which was administrative and not statutory in the days before the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law of 1993. “Bush was simply unsupportive on any issue,” Frank added. Frank, however, qualified his remarks by saying Bush did a positive thing by appointing former U.S. Associate Justice David Souter to the U.S. Supreme Court. But that appointment, Frank said, was undercut by Bush’s appointment of U.S. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. Frank said Thomas — who dissented in every major gay rights decision, including the Obergefell decision in 2015 extending marriage equality nationwide — has been “totally negative.” One exchange between a reporter and Bush in 1992, the final year of his administration, prominently exemplifies his anti-gay views. According to a clipping from the Los Angeles Times, a reporter from NBC News asked Bush how he would respond to a grandchild who came out as gay. Bush replied he’d “love that child,” he also denigrated being gay.
Former President George H.W. Bush continued many of the anti-LGBT policies of the Reagan administration. Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle
“I would put my arm around him and I would hope he wouldn’t go out and try to convince people that this was the normal lifestyle, that this was an appropriate lifestyle, that this was the way to be,” Bush reportedly said. Bush reportedly added, “But I would say, ‘I hope you wouldn’t become an advocate for a lifestyle that in my view is not normal, and propose marriages, same-sex marriages as a normal way of life. I don’t favor that.” Urvashi Vaid, who served as executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force at the time, said the Bush administration “was not a friendly administration on LGBT issues.” “I think our standards have really declined,” Vaid said. “Compared to the Trump administration it was better, compared to the Reagan administration, it was neutral, but President Bush continued many of the policies of the Reagan administration around LGBT people.” Vaid added, “I think that that administration pandered to the right-wing in the Republican Party and did not stand up to it and allowed itself to do a lot of things. The president allowed himself to be led
by people who were far-right zealots like Patrick Buchanan.” In 1992, Buchanan delivered a fiery speech at the Republican National Convention calling for a culture war, mocking Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton for being called pro-gay by “a militant leader of the homosexual rights movement” and urging followers to stand with Bush on the “amoral idea that gay and lesbian couples should have the same standing in law as married men and women.” That year was the first time the National Log Cabin Republicans made an endorsement decision in the presidential race. The group declined to support Bush because he refused to condemn Buchanan’s anti-gay rhetoric at the GOP convention. Despite Bush’s anti-gay views, at least two pro-gay laws were enacted during the Bush administration. Among them was the Hate Crimes Statistics Act, which required the U.S. Justice Department to collect data on bias-motivated crimes based on a victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity. The Hate Crimes Statistics Act was the
first federal law to recognize and name gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Gay activists were invited to the White House during the signing ceremony on April 23, 1990. During the event, Bush repudiated discrimination, praised civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., and enumerated the inclusion of sexual orientation in the law. “Bigotry and hate regrettably still exist in this country, and hate breeds violence, threatening the security of our entire society,” Bush said. “We must rid our communities of the poison we call prejudice, bias and discrimination and that’s why I’m signing into law today the a measure to require the attorney general to collect as much information as we can on crimes motivated by religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.” The other pro-gay law was the Immigration Act of 1990, which included a repeal of the ban on “homosexuals or sex perverts,” or LGBT people, from entering
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Larry Kramer says George H.W. Bush ‘hated’ gays Continued from page 12 the United States. That immigration exclusion was present in some capacity in immigration law since 1917, but was explicitly codified in 1952. In 1990, Bush made an oblique reference to the removal of the LGBT travel ban in a signing statement for the overall bill. “I am also pleased to note that this Act facilitates immigration not just in numerical terms, but also in terms of basic entry rights of those beyond our borders,” Bush said. “S. 358 revises the politically related ‘exclusion grounds’ for the first time since their enactment in 1952.” Frank, however, said Bush deserves no credit for either the Hate Crimes Statistics Act or the repeal of LGBT ban in the Immigration Act of 1990. The inclusion of the repeal language in the Immigration Act, Frank said, was part of a deal he made with former Sen. Alan Simpson, whom Frank called “one of the last pro-gay Republicans.” “I was on the immigration subcommittee and I had enough support from other Democrats to say that if they did not agree to include the repeal of the anti-gay stuff, I could defeat the bill,” Frank said. “That deal was originally worked out in ’86. It took a couple years to get the bill through, so Bush did sign that bill, but he didn’t have much choice. Congress had agreed without him that that would happen.” The Hate Crimes Statistics Act, Frank said, was “actually a compromise” because Democrats in Congress wanted a hate crimes law with teeth, but Bush would only agree to a measure that collected data. “It didn’t have any teeth,” Frank said. “Frankly, at the time, it wasn’t a big deal, and it wasn’t.” It wouldn’t be until the Obama administration in 2009 when a broader Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act giving the attorney general authority to investigate and prosecute hate crimes became law. But Bush faced stronger criticism for continuing the inaction on HIV/AIDS as the epidemic raged during his administration. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 1989 the first year of the Bush administration, there were 21,628 AIDSrelated deaths in the United States. That
Longtime AIDS activist Larry Kramer denounced former President Bush, saying he ‘hated’ gays. Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle
number rose to 24,524 in 1990, 28,569 in 1991 and 32,407 in 1992. HIV/AIDS was the No. 1 issue facing the LGBT community at the time. The activist group ACT UP held die-ins to encourage the delivery of experimental drugs to people with HIV and held protests at the Food & Drug Administration, the White House and Bush’s summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine. One protest in 1991 recorded and currently available on YouTube shows demonstrators holding signs reading, “It’s time for National Plan, George,” and chanting, “Health Care is a Right! We need more than Right to Life!” Bush was publicly flustered by ACT UP and its tactics. In 1991, Bush called out the group by name in response to a reporter’s questions about its protests of the Catholic Church for opposing condom use. ACT UP’s efforts, Bush said, were “totally counterproductive” and an “excess of free speech,” according to the book “Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP’s Fight against AIDS.” “To the degree that the AIDS question should be treated as a health question,
they work even against that because of their outrageous actions,” Bush is quoted as saying. “And you’re talking to somebody who has his own meetings broken up by them — or had two or three of them in the last year. And I condemn the kinds of tactics that are offensive to mainstream Catholics, Protestants and Jews, anybody else. It’s an excess of free speech to use — to resort to some of the tactics these people use.” In the aftermath of an ACT UP protest in Kennebunkport, Bush urged “behavioral change” to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. “Here’s a disease where you can control its spread by your own personal behavior,” Bush said. “You can’t do that in cancer.” With regards to spending on HIV/ AIDS, Bush dismissed the notion his administration wasn’t spending enough to fight the disease, asserting the U.S. government was “spending $4 billion a year on AIDS research.” “When you consider that on a per capita basis or compare it to heart disease or cancer, it’s an awful lot,” Bush said. “It’s far more.” According to the Los Angeles Times at the time, the amount spent on AIDS research then was actually quite smaller and less than $2 billion a year. Despite anger over the government’s response to HIV/AIDS, in 1990 he was the first president to sign the Ryan White CARE Act, which has provided health coverage for low-income people with HIV/AIDS and reauthorized under George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The elder Bush also signed into law an Americans with Disabilities Act that barred discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS. Vaid, who famously interrupted a speech Bush gave on HIV/AIDS, said those laws were directly the result of activism from groups like ACT UP and wouldn’t have been signed otherwise. “He was not doing enough as a leader,” Vaid said. “I think that those pressures and protests led by ACT UP all over the country… that pressure is what pushed both members of Congress and the administration to do whatever it did. I can’t say that enough. I think there’s a sense that looking backwards that ‘well, you know, it would have happened, it just was a matter of time.’ It wouldn’t have happened. What we were up against were these really profound negative homophobic attitudes coupled with a right-wing that was…growing in power that these people
had got elected through, pandering to that right-wing. And so, those forces were very much what we had to deal with, and that’s why got so little action for so long.” Larry Kramer, a longtime activist against HIV/AIDS, was succinct in response to a Blade email inquiry on whether Bush deserves credit for signing the Ryan White Care Act into law. “I will not give him credit for anything,” Kramer said. “He hated us.” Bush’s legacy on LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS stands in contrast to that of his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, who died earlier this year and was remembered for being a gay ally who fought to dispel AIDS stigma. As the Washington Blade reported in 1990, Barbara Bush as first lady visited Grandma’s House, a D.C. home for children with AIDS. During the event, Barbara Bush held up an infant with AIDS and hugged a gay man with the disease, Lou Tesconi. Both the child and Tesconi would later succumb to AIDS. In 1990, Barbara Bush wrote a letter responding to PFLAG co-founder Paulette Goodman, “We cannot tolerate discrimination against any individuals or groups in our country.” The letter is considered the first positive statement in history from the White House on gay people. Bush’s anti-gay administration was a precursor to the anti-gay administration of his son, George W. Bush. In 2004, Bush made anti-gay positions a cornerstone of his re-election campaign, making a Federal Marriage Amendment that would have barred same-sex marriage nationwide a central plank. The measure came up in Congress in 2004 and 2006, but didn’t have enough support for ratification. In the aftermath of his presidency, George H.W. Bush like many Americans signaled a change on LGBT rights and made headlines in 2013 when he participated in the Maine wedding of lesbian couple Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen, who were longtime friends of the Bush family, and served as witness for the ceremony. Bush, who said during his 1988 campaign he “didn’t want same-sex marriage codified,” wrote later in a 2015 biography he still “believe[s] in traditional marriage,” but has “mellowed” on the issue. “People should be able to do what they want to do, without discrimination,” Bush wrote. “People have a right to be happy. I guess you could say I have mellowed.”
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U.S. nullifies LGBT provisions in USMCA Language targeted workplace bias in 3 member countries By CHRIS JOHNSON President Trump agreed last week to an updated trade agreement with Canada and Mexico that includes aspirational language encouraging member states to adopt policies against LGBT discrimination in the workforce — although it has been watered down from the initial proposal. Colin Shonk, a spokesperson for the Canadian embassy in the United States, told the Blade the language is in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement moments after Trump signed it at an event in Buenos Aires with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Section 23 of the USMCA contains a provision against sex discrimination in the workplace, encouraging members in the deal to adopt policies against sex-based discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The section also calls for cooperation among the member states “in promotion of equality and elimination of employment discrimination” with regard to numerous characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity. But as reported by Canadian Press, the language — which was aspirational to begin with — is even more watered down from the original version and makes clear the United States does not need to make changes to bar anti-LGBT discrimination to adhere to the trade agreement. Although the initial draft called on member states to support policies against anti-LGBT and sex discrimination in employment, the new wording calls on each country to implement those policies as it “considers appropriate.” A footnote on the agreement also says Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is “sufficient to fulfill the obligations” on labor rights, and “thus requires no additional action” by the United States. Although Title VII bars workplace discrimination on the basis of sex and courts are increasingly interpreting them to bar anti-LGBT discrimination, no explicit federal law is in place against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
President Trump signs the USMCA trade agreement last week.
The Canadian government at the behest of Trudeau included the LGBT language in the USMCA. The signing of the agreement with the language intact would have been a win for the prime minister, but the weakening of the LGBT language in the USMCA indicates the Canadian government caved on those provisions. That’s consistent with Trudeau’s hedging on whether he’d insist on including the language in the USMCA when asked by reporters prior to signing the agreement. “In any trade deal, there are going to be people who would like this or like that or not want this or not want that,” Trudeau said. “We got to a good agreement that I think represents Canadian values, a Canadian approach, but also values that are broadly shared amongst citizens of our three countries.” A Canadian official said the footnote on Title VII was added by the United States, but the new inclusions don’t do anything to change the enforceability of the LGBT provisions in the USMCA. The Office of U.S. Trade Representative hasn’t responded to repeated requests to comment on the LGBT language in the bill or changes to it. Geoffrey Gertz, a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution, questioned on Twitter why any member states would bother including the LGBT language in the agreement only to undercut it. “Whatever you think of the LGBTQ provisions in the new NAFTA, this outcome
– to include them but nullify them with a footnote – is ridiculous,” Getz wrote. “And it’s the kind of thing that will make progressives even more suspicious of engaging with trade liberalization.” Trump, Trudeau and Nieto failed to mention the LGBT provisions during their signing event. Instead, Trump focused on the size of the agreement and new opportunities for American businesses. “All of our countries will benefit greatly,” Trump said. “It is probably the largest trade deal ever made, also. In the United States, the new trade pact will support high-paying manufacturing jobs and promote greater access for American exports across the range of sectors, including our farming, manufacturing, and service industries.” Trudeau talked about the economic benefits of the agreement for Canada, emphasizing the importance of free trade on the North American continent. “Canadians got here because Team Canada was driven by the interests of the middle class,” Trudeau said. “Free and fair trade leads to more and better-paying middleclass jobs for more people. And the benefits of trade must be broadly and fairly shared. That is what modernizing NAFTA achieves, and that is why it was always so important to get this new agreement done right.” Even though the LGBT provisions are watered down, they’re still in the agreement despite objections from a group of 38 House
Republicans led by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) who urged Trump to seek removal of that language, insisting the USMCA “is no place for the adoption of social policy.” The USMCA must be ratified by Congress with implementing language for the agreement to take effect. It remains to be seen whether House Republicans will now vote against the agreement with the LGBT language, or if the USMCA has enough support for approval in the next Congress when Democrats will have a majority in the U.S. House. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the only out lesbian in the U.S. Senate, said in a statement she opposed NAFTA on the basis that it cost her state manufacturing jobs and would only back the new agreement if it helps Wisconsin workers. “As Congress works on legislation for this new deal I will be working to ensure that this new deal increases market access for our Wisconsin dairy farmers and cheese makers,” Baldwin said. “With the signing of the USMCA there is still more work to be done in Congress to ensure any final agreement stops the outsourcing of jobs to other countries, strengthens Buy America, puts in place real enforcement of labor provisions, and allows the United States to take action on currency manipulation. I will only support this new deal if we can make it a better deal for Wisconsin farmers, manufacturers, businesses and workers.”
18 • DECEMBER 07, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
VOLUME 02 ISSUE 40
‘Philadelphia,’ AIDS and ally Tom Hanks When actor risked his career for people with AIDS By KAREN OCAMB To many in the LGBT community who survived the ravaging years of the AIDS crisis, the death of former President George H.W. Bush on the eve of World AIDS Day was a profound PTSD trigger. Like a quick nod of a genie’s head, the agony of the government’s neglect during the Reagan/Bush years in the 1980s came rushing back. And while Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Ryan White Care Act, thousands had died, there was no cure, and no end in sight for more carnage, brought on by stigma as much as the disease. What’s sometimes overlooked in the overwhelming grief as we remember our lost loved ones are the friends and allies who showed up to help, to care, to just stand with us in love and defiance. One such ally was actor Tom Hanks, best known in the early 1990s for his comedic performances in “Splash,” “Big,” and “Turner & Hooch.” Taking on the role of a gay man dying of AIDS in Jonathan Demme’s 1993 film “Philadelphia” was a risk to his popularity and career. Dec. 14 marks the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles premiere of “Philadelphia,” which went on to win Hanks his first Academy Award, as well as an Oscar for Bruce Springsteen’s haunting song “Streets of Philadelphia.” Some criticized the film for being too milquetoast mainstream— but that was the point. Who would pay $7 to see an AIDS story unless it was a good, relatable story with Hollywood stars? Through Hanks, straight people got to “know” a gay person and through Denzel Washington, they took the journey from homophobic ambulance-chaser to compassionate attorney for gay/PWA civil rights. The LA premiere was a benefit for AIDS Project Los Angeles, which netted $250,000 APLA Chair Steve Tisch told the LA Times. But it did more than that. About two years after actor Brad Davis died of AIDS and left a scathing letter about Hollywood homophobia tied to insurance issues over hiring HIV-positive actors, Demme hired more than 50 HIV-positive actors, including the late Ron Vawter who played one of the partners in the law firm that fires Hanks’ character. “Philadelphia” also brought attention to
David Drake kisses Tom Hanks in LA in 1993. Photo by Karen Ocamb
the real 1987 lawsuit upon which it was partly based and Hanks’ remarkable Oscar acceptance speech—which he noted “that the streets of heaven are too crowded with angels”— unintentionally outed his gay drama teacher and spawned the 1997 movie “In & Out,” in which straight actors Kevin Kline and Tom Selleck share an onscreen kiss. I covered the LA premiere of “Philadelphia” and had my own heart-warming moment. I was one of AIDS activist Michael Callen’s care providers and Michael and The Flirtations made a cameo appearance singing “Mr. Sandman” in the film. He was too sick to attend the APLA event but asked me to convey his thanks to Tom Hanks, which I did. He was sorry to hear that Michael had taken a turn for the worse but told me to tell him thanks back. Hanks said he listened to Michael’s “Purple Heart” album in his trailer while getting into character. Michael was overjoyed to hear that. Michael died 13 days after the APLA benefit premiere of “Philadelphia.” During the event, gay actor David Drake came up to us while I was interviewing Hanks. Drake, who was also in the movie, was well-known for his powerful AIDS play “The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me.” We were joking around and I asked them to play out that scenario, which they did to everyone’s amusement. “I knew from the get-go being cast in “Philadelphia” was a very special kind of honor, more so than any other big-budget Hollywood film at the time,” David told me via email. Jonathan Demme “was committed to turning his formidable creativity and star power to telling the story of a gay man with AIDS in his quest to save his life was groundbreaking for mainstream culture.
“And to enlist Tom Hanks to star was major,” David continues. “I was on and off filming for over three months, which was shot in Philadelphia, and stepping on set that first day with Tom was daunting. But he immediately made me feel right at home when we met in the makeup trailer, saying, ‘So you’re the guy kissing Larry Kramer! I’ve been reading a lot about you, so happy we’re working together on this.’ “I was dazzled by his humility and impressed at his genuine interest in what was going on in the AIDS activist community,” David says. “Plus, he was just so easy-going and available to engaging in conversation with. No diva fits, no tension, and Tom’s commitment—losing 30some pounds for the role—was astonishing. As was his performance in take after take.” “A once-in-a-lifetime encounter: I also remember having a lovely conversation in the hospital waiting room (on set) about the secret restaurants of San Francisco with Joanne Woodward (who was knitting) and Karen Finley (who was dressed in doctor whites),” David says. “When the movie wrapped that spring of 1993,” David remembers, “Tom sent everyone in the cast and company wristwatches with the “Philadelphia” logo under the glass of the clock— and with a personally signed note of thanks. The ‘nicest guy in Hollywood?’ You betcha.” So when injustice seems to pour down like torrents from hell, remember there are some angel-allies who walk the streets of LA, too.
Karen Ocamb is news editor of the Los Angeles Blade
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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 07, 2018 • 19
Undeserved praise for George H.W. Bush Outpouring of support for 41 ignores neglect of AIDS crisis
Kevin Naff is national news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s nothing more galling than revisionist history and last weekend’s reactions to the death of former President George H.W. Bush brought an onslaught of it to many social media feeds and, more predictably, to mainstream media. I was stunned to see my own feeds filled with tributes to the 41st president — some written by gay men. And on World AIDS Day, no less. Even the Advocate — once a leading critic of the Reagan-Bush administrations —
joined this chorus of glossing over Bush’s anti-LGBTQ record. In an Advocate story posted on World AIDS Day about Bush’s death, the word “AIDS” appears just once in a reference to Reagan. The headline describes Bush as “no enemy of LGBTQ people.” In Neal Broverman’s Advocate story, Bush is credited with signing the Hate Crimes Statistics Act. But he fails to mention that the measure was a far cry from passing a real hate crimes bill that Democrats and LGBTQ allies wanted in 1990 but was impossible to achieve given Bush was in the White House. Broverman also cites the 1990 removal of a ban on “sexual deviation” from the Immigration and Nationality Act that Bush presided over. But this glosses over the reality that removal of that language was part of a much larger immigration measure. Bush was no LGBTQ advocate. Quite the opposite. He referred to gay men as “those people,” assailed ACT UP for its efforts at fighting AIDS, described same-sex parents as “not normal,” and vocally supported the military’s ban on gay service members. He gave voice to the far-right evangelicals who now dominate the GOP and appointed
Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. But worse than all of that, Bush was one half of the Reagan-Bush administration that was criminally negligent in responding to the emerging AIDS crisis of the early 1980s. Bush is being lauded for his “civility” this week in breathless tributes from the mainstream media that mercilessly mocked him as president. In death, Bush has morphed into a saint because he was “civil” compared to the current White House occupant. The bar is low. Bush’s patrician approach to the job was woefully out of step for the dire times in which he served as president. From a crippling recession to the horrors of the AIDS plague, America needed a bold fighter, not a polite placeholder president. He hated ACT UP because its members represented the direct opposite of Bush’s approach – they were loud, rightly angry and demanded accountability from the government that was ignoring them and the plight of tens of thousands of mostly gay men dying. Fuck civility when we’re losing an entire generation of American gay men. Bush and his predecessor Reagan turned a willfully blind eye to the epidemic because they and
their evangelical base of supporters didn’t care about the lives of gay men, people of color and drug users, three groups disproportionately impacted by AIDS. Bush refused to tackle AIDS honestly, repeatedly calling for “behavioral” changes rather than addressing education and prevention efforts directly and urgently to the communities most directly affected. He was so bad, even the Log Cabin Republicans wouldn’t support him. Fast forward 28 years and all of that easily Google-able, damning information is somehow forgotten or ignored as the country embarks on a weeklong, saccharine embrace of a failed president who time and again chose callous political expediency over doing the right thing. And 28 years later, even some gay men are joining the Bush whitewashing effort. We can express sympathy for Bush’s grieving family without ignoring the unforgivable damage his “service” did to the LGBTQ community. Nostalgia for the Bush era is misplaced. Those who died at the hands of an uncaring government presided over by Bush and Reagan deserved better on World AIDS Day.
Happy Holi-gays Gifts by and for LGBT friends and family By MIKEY ROX
Keep it in the “family” this year by giving these gifts from LGBT-led businesses designed with our queer brothers and sisters in mind. Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. He spends his time writing from the beach with his dog Jaxon. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyrox.
Üllo Wine Purifier
Selective Sulfite Capture technology in the Üllo purifier restores your vintage to its just-bottled taste, removing the artificial preservative suspected to cause those nasty wine headaches. Package includes an adjustable aerator, four replacement filters, travel bag and display base to capture stray drips. Custom hand-blown glassware also is available and designed to work specifically with the device for a chicer presentation. $80, ullowine.com
Furious Goose Pocket Squares
Fancy silken pocket squares — like the luxurious Selim’s Hammer geometric depicting Ottoman flintstock pistols nestled in an arabesque of roses — doubles as an aristocratic neckerchief with anarchist flair to help elevate your Coachella look from basic bitch to baddest. $54, furiousgoose.co.uk
Bullies and Biceps Calendar
Photographer Mike Ruiz panders to your sensitivities by bringing shirtless models and adorable, adoptable dogs together for his 2019 Bullies and Biceps calendar. The just-safe-enough-for-yourcubicle calendar honors the memory of Ruiz’s beloved pit bull Oliver who died this year, and $1 from each copy sold will benefit New York Bully Crew, a rescue op that specializes in rehabbing and re-homing the world’s most misunderstood breed. $25, nybullycrew.org
Haus of Karyn Rolling Papers
As the marijuana-legalization train picks up steam, so are fey ways to get fuzzy, like rolling a fatty in slow burning, 100 percent hemp “Fancy AF” papers from lesbian-owned maker Haus of Kayrn. Stuff a toker’s stocking with the also available “Happy Pride, Bitch” set while you’re at it. $2.99, haus-ofkaryn.myshopify.com
Exotics by Cedrick Heel-Boot
Miss Vanjie will be yelling your name on loop after a death drop in the Sarae Boot from Exotics by Cedrick, featuring a leather upper with faux snakeskin print, side zippers and a five-inch spiked table-leg heel that lets all those hoes know you came to snatch the crown. $1,250, exoticsbycedrick.com
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Marsanne Brands Custom Dog Sweater
Get the most bark for your buck with Marsanne Brands’ custom dog sweaters, available in sizes that range from Chihuahua to Chow Chow, adorned with fabric roses and sequins in you-pick colorways and embroidered with your pet’s name. Canine couture cheaper than from a store. $39, shopmarsanne.com
Upcycled Mixed Print Jogger
Sewing-room floor scraps are redeemed in notwo-are-alike joggers (and other couture clothing and accessories) from Zero Waste Daniel, which makes it its duty to avenge textile pollution and champion fair labor practices one toss-away at a time. $123, zerowastedaniel.com
Mr. Turk x 2(X)IST Smoking Jacket set
Add more merry to your Christmas morning routine in the Hef-inspired velvet satin smoking jacket and matching lounge pants, a collab between gay go-tos Mr Turk and 2(X)IST, that save the best package for last. $596, 2xist.com
Nitro Noir Eau de Parfum
If the Paramount Network’s ill-fated, thrice-canceled, but-nonetheless-delicious Heathers reboot (resurrected on demand) were liquefied and bottled, it’d smell exactly like Kierin NYC’s intoxicating Nitro Noir, with notes of Italian bergamot, pink berries, orris and the envy of all your hangers-on. Isn’t it just? $78, kierin-nyc.com
I Love My Weiner Amenity Bag
You’re so vain, you probably think this bag is about you. Might be, if you’ve got a special doxie in your life or, ya know, just an affinity for what your daddy gave you. $24.95, nakeddecor.com
Smash the Patriarchy Earrings
It’s been all-out war on toxic masculinity in 2018 and there’s no reason to relent now. OHME’s brass (and brash) Smash the Patriarchy earrings put all the men at your holiday dinner table on notice without you having to say a word. $73, wildfang.com
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Stonewall at 50 a time for contemplation, activation History and Legacy as commodity? BY SCOTT STIFFLER
Whether it’s the age you reach, a marriage milestone, or the robust lifespan of a small business, the half-century point can be cause for much celebration — but next year’s 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots calls into question the way in which the LGBTQ community should, and will, observe that galvanizing event’s legacy. In New York City’s Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn serves as a gathering place for occasions both joyful and somber: the passage of Marriage Equality, the Pulse nightclub massacre. Politicians and activists frequently rally outside its door, while the watering hole itself offers a weekly roster of DJs, drag shows, and go-go boys. Some patrons are keenly aware, others barely knowledgeable, of the fact that the drinks they sip and the freedom of assembly they enjoy are rights advanced by those who turned Christopher Street into a conflict zone, from June 28 to July 1, 1969 — when an oppressed community fought back against the NYPD. Stonewall — in its contemporary context — is a contrast between respect for advances made, and the reality of gains yet to be achieved. “I’d like to say it means a lot to me, but it doesn’t,” said Robin Tyler. The veteran activist (and pioneering lesbian, feminist comedian) was at the second night of the Stonewall Riots, and put out the call for 1979’s first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. “The struggle is far from over,” she said. “We have to take a hard look at what’s happened to us. We do not have equal rights in this country. When Diane [Olson] and I sued for marriage [in 2004], nobody wanted to file a lawsuit. They said, “It’s not time yet.’ So frankly, I want to say all kinds of wonderful things about people coming out, and gender expression… but if we take away the cultural
aspect, the rights we have come from grassroots movements.” Street-level organizing is on the mind of the Reclaim Pride Coalition (RPC), currently in the permit application process for a June 30 march, set to take place concurrently, on a different route, with Heritage of Pride’s annual parade, which the RPC feels has strayed too far from its activist roots. “Our idea is for it [the RPC event] to be a march for LGBTQ+ rights, but also global human rights,” said Jay W. Walker, an organizer for Gays Against Guns (GAG), Rise and Resist, and the RPC. With Trump in the White House and “autocrats all over the world, the situation demands that our community take a stand against the global oppression that’s happening to LGBTQ+ people.” Especially since, he noted, “We’re [NYC] hosting WorldPride.” Ross Levi, Empire State Development’s VP/ Executive Director of Tourism, noted they’ve been “making that invitation to the [international] LGBT community for a couple of years now,” at Pride events from Berlin to London, to “let folks know WorldPride is happening for the first time in New York [and America, for that matter]. Niagara Falls has just announced a ‘Pride at the Falls,’ happening July 5 at Niagara Falls State Park, and we’re in discussions with a number of other destinations.” Noting the significance of “visitors of who are from countries that enact horrific oppression against LGBTQ+ people,” Walker said the RPC march intends to “make sure we’re honoring the struggle, globally, and the importance of intersectionality” as a way to “uplift all marginalized communities: people of color, indigenous people, people who are under the vast panoply of prejudices around the world, and at home. It’s important we use
this moment to make it very clear, that this kind of oppression is still rife.” James Fallarino, media director at Heritage of Pride (HOP), said, “We always get some marching contingents from other countries, but we’re preparing to have many more this year. Stonewall is looked at, at many places around the world, as an ignition point of the global movement. So we have to take steps to prepare for even more people to be in the march. For 2019, he said, “We are expecting about 600 groups to participate in the New York City Pride March.” And the mood, he said, will match the intensity of these increased numbers. “I think the 50th anniversary of Stonewall was always going to be impacted by the political climate it existed in. And where it ended up, was with Donald Trump in the White House — and everything that comes along with that.” Responding to criticism about a robust corporate presence (“largest single supporter” T-Mobile is once again “guaranteed placement towards the front of the march”), Fallarino cited the need to raise $12 million necessary to fund HOP’s 20+ events, over a three-week period in June. “Some folks are really uncomfortable with corporate sponsorship,” he said, “and I get that. But the reality is, for events like this, this is how you support them. It’s the only way you can build together the amount of resources that you need to produce this size of an event.” That said, he pointed out that of 470 groups registered to participate this year, 317 (67 percent) were nonprofits, and 142 (30 percent) were businesses. As for paying tribute to Stonewall, Fallarino noted HOP is planning a rally on Friday, June 28, to “commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.” Set to take place in front of the Stonewall Inn, “It’s about
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L to R: Reclaim Pride Coalition’s Dec. 5 Town Hall co-facilitators Colin Ashley and Ann Northrop, with American Sign Language interpreter, Elizabeth. Photo by Scott Stiffler
bringing together community leaders, speakers, Stonewall veterans, and more, for this important anniversary.” HOP will also be expanding the 2018 debut of its Human Rights Conference (a compulsory event for World Pride hosts) from one day, to two. Speaking on behalf of the RPC, Ann Northrop (co-host of TV’s weekly LGBT news hour, “Gay USA”) wondered why HOP, in the year of Stonewall 50, insists on having a corporate presence. In 2017, she noted, Los Angeles Pride “turned its entire parade into a resistance march, and put aside all the corporate float stuff for a year.” But just because they’re locking horns now doesn’t mean they’ll be entirely at odds, come June. Walker said that GAG has “mixed feelings. Right now, there are definitely members who will participate in the Reclaim Pride march, but there might be a significant number who also, or instead, will participate in Heritage of Pride… a lot of that will depend on what information comes from Heritage of Pride.” At a Dec. 5 RPC Town Hall, information came fast and furious — often with flourishes of wit, finger-snapping, and productive brainstorming, all signifying something formidable is afoot. Northrop oversaw the straw poll, in which six proposals were approved: March from the
Village, up Sixth Ave., to Central Park; have a gathering in Central Park; no floats allowed (despite a lone voice who made the case for their presence, as a source of creative expression and artistic merit); have as few barricades as possible, so people can join the march at any point; demand a significantly reduced police presence; and make the march accessible — for the disabled, the economically challenged, and the homeless. It might be cold comfort, then, to know HOP will be making corrective measures. Fallarino confirmed that some of 2018’s most contested elements are to be scrapped, or revamped. There will be no wristbands or size limitations for participating groups, for example — and this year’s lopsided face time for corporate sponsors vs. others, during the over nine-hour event’s comparatively scant period of TV coverage, “is definitely a thing we need to work on.” As for the looming milestone, Northrop said, “I think the Stonewall Riots, in 1969, were fundamentally important. Andy Humm [her “Gay USA” co-host, and an RPC member] is fond of describing them as a particular turning point, where they provoked immediate organizing in the community, politically, in ways that hadn’t happened before… It’s an important moment to acknowledge, and use as a point of reference for considering where we’ve been, and where
we are, and where we’re going.” And we, she added, “have a long way to go… We’ve accomplished a lot, through many twists and turns. But I think we are at a place where we are, at best, halfway… We can look around on any given day and see instances of violence and stigma and hatred — here in our own town, or country. There is no Nirvana. There is no place where full liberation has been established.” Northrop thinks it’s “a mistake to hold a Stonewall 50 Pride Parade that does not acknowledge that, and commit to the work ahead of us. What we [RPC) are trying to create is something that has meaning, and purpose, and values, that gives people a chance to celebrate — but make prominent, the fight we’re still in.” “What we have become since Stonewall,” Tyler said, “is a commodity… I’ve had a great life, but I’m still sitting here, saying, ‘Why aren’t people angry? Why are we fighting each other?’ ” It’s time, she insists, “to rejuvenate our anger. We should not be satisfied, at all, at what is happening. How can we be? We’re not equal citizens in this country.” For more information on the events and activities of groups mentioned in this article, visit nycpricde.org, reclaimpridenyc.org, gaysagainstguns.net, riseandresist.org, and
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24 • DECEMBER 07, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles’ ‘Holiday Spectacular’ kicks off its 40th year Advocacy and music continue to touch lives By MARY JO DE SILVA
GMCLA’S first performance was held Dec. 16, 1979 at the Scottish Rite Temple in Los Angeles. Photo by Fred Camerer
On Dec. 15 and 16, for the 40th year in a row, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles will take the stage to perform its annual holiday concert. GMCLA’s “Holiday Spectacular” (called “supremely magical” by the Los Angeles Times), brings audiences heartwarming, traditional songs alongside unexpected surprises. From raunchy reindeers to sexy Santas, each year the chorus “sleighs” the stage in every way. This year’s “Holiday Spectacular,” taking place at the Alex Theatre (216 N Brand Blvd., Glendale) is themed “Calling All Angels” and promises to be as heavenly as ever. But GMCLA is so much more than an organization that provides one of Los Angeles’ most beloved holiday traditions. GMCLA sings for a world free from homophobia and all other forms of discrimination, and all of these aspects of what it does—brotherhood and community, concerts and performances, arts education programs—have at least one thing in common: they carry the message that all people should be able to live their lives as their authentic selves, free from discrimination and persecution. Conductor and Artistic Director Joe Nadeau, said, “GMCLA is part of an international association of LGBTQ Choruses called GALA Choruses. GMCLA’s work with young people has inspired many other GALA choruses to create their own youth programs, which is making a huge impact across the country. Former Conductor of the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, Gary Miller once said, ‘If you want to sing, join a chorus. If you want to change the world, join a gay chorus.’ Over the past 40 years, GMCLA has lived up to this statement and helped make the world a better place for not just our members, but for everyone who is able to experience our voices.” Members collectively spend thousands of hours volunteering each year. Executive Director Jonathan Weedman said, “The one thing about GMCLA that strikes me the most is the incredible dedication and commitment that the Membership has not only for performing, but equally to give back to their Community, to making our world a better place to live. They are true Citizen Artists.” Through youth music education programs, the Chorus has also reached more than 55,000 at-risk teenagers in underserved areas of Los Angeles County with a message of acceptance, understanding and inclusion. To help carry out its mission of education, GMCLA launched the Alive Music Project (AMP) in 2007, introducing its outstanding music to high school and middle school students. Today, GMCLA also offers 12-week choral music education programs for youth in juvenile detention centers (in partnership with the Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network) and in public schools (in collaboration with the Partnership for LA Schools). With these programs, GMCLA brings a safe space for communication, an artistic outlet and an open forum for free expression to young people who would otherwise have none. One member of the Chorus who has seen firsthand GMCLA’s growth and recalls various times when GMCLA has been by his side, is 24-year member and retired pastor and therapist Steve Pieters. Steve first reflected upon the height of the AIDS crisis, during which members were dying almost weekly and GMCLA became a light of hope and support system. “Two or three times a month we would have memorial services at the end of rehearsal for the fellow who died that week,” Pieters said. While HIV/AIDS treatments improved and the steady march lessened, Pieters continued fighting his own battles, including AIDS and bouts of what was deemed terminal cancer, during which his GMCLA family always remained by his side, as in 2012. “They visited me in the hospital and then at home as I was recovering. They were so encouraging to me. Everything from bringing me groceries to just keeping me company watching TV…I knew I had all these wonderful men at my back,” he said. In 1979, the original 99 members of GMCLA gathered at West Hollywood’s Plummer Park, marking the birth of this Chorus family. A few months later, founding director Harold Kjellberg led GMCLA through its first major event, the March on Washington, D.C. This helped lay the foundation for GMCLA’s mission that we still see today, most recently with Dos Coros, Una Voz, in which the Chorus sang with Coro Gay Ciudad de México, battling hurdles such as homeland security to put on a concert that promoted unity and love during divisive times. GMCLA has become synonymous with artistry and advocacy. GMCLA singer, Chair of GMCLA Board of Directors, and Mayor of West Hollywood John Duran explained: “Art advocates for a point of view. Art can accomplish things more subtly…and can appeal to people’s hearts rather than their heads. GMCLA has been very involved in moving the cause of equality for LGBT people forward over the decades. It continues to do so now in schools, in juvenile detention facilities, in community concerts around the county.” Jerwin Monje is one member who appreciates the advocacy work he is able to do as a GMCLA member. Speaking about the Alive Music Project (AMP), in which chorus members sing and share stories about coming out with students during an anti-bullying assembly, Monje said, “It was so powerful being able to say that to kids and have kids come up to me after saying that my story resonated with them or that they could relate to it, and that they were proud I had the courage to be able to tell my parents that I was gay.” Continues at losangelesblade.com
26 • DECEMBER 07, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
New WeHo church sparkles like its ‘Design Star’ pastor InVision says ‘Yaas’ to God every Sunday at iconic Viper Room By SUSAN HORNIK
The Viper Room is home to a new LGBTQIA worship service. Photo courtesy Viper Room
He sparkles and you may remember fan favorite, Josh Johnson from his time on “HGTV’s Design Star” Season 2 and “Design Star All Stars.” He works as an interior designer, creating backstage spaces for celebrities at the Emmys each year and other major Hollywood award shows and events. But what you may not know is that Johnson is also a Christian pastor, who recently started offering weekly worship services with his husband and co-pastor, Michael Popham, at their church, “InVision LA.” Services are held weekly at the iconic Viper Room, (8852 Sunset Blvd. in WeHo). Services for their InVision church take place every Sunday morning at 11 a.m. This news is promising, offering an inclusive LGBTQIA Christian service in West Hollywood. Johnson’s church has been meeting in a North Hollywood space for almost five years, but the landlord lost the lease on the building. That is when the couple made the decision to move their church to West Hollywood. “We are so thrilled to be here!” exclaimed Johnson. “The Viper Room is world renowned— this is truly a pivotal moment for us! We believe we are a very beneficial resource, as most everyone in the LGBTQIA community has been affected by the Church and their historic abuse, discrimination, and exclusion of gay people.’ Johnson and his husband, Michael Popham, grew up in very conservative, religious households. “We meet in church in Nashville. We knew soon after that God had a very specific purpose for us as a couple.” The dynamic duo feel that the message of their church—“Inclusive Christianity”— is perfect for the West Hollywood community. “InVision exists not only for the LGBTQIA community, but also for anyone who has ever been ridiculed and abused by the church,” Johnson emphasized. “We are about reconciling the forsaken and marginalized individual with an authentic, restorative, and renewed relationship with God.” He added: “We are unequivocally anti-religion. Religion is about ‘rules,’ God is about ‘relationship.’ Johnson and Popham, who have been together 15 years and married for four, have been working on finding effective ways in which to inform Weho locals that they have access to spiritual growth and fellowship, with the support of a real Christian community. They have been on a few outreach adventures, where they go out to the WeHo strip on a weekend night to minister to people and inform them of their new presence in the area. “Most everyone we start a conversation with or give a church business card to are basically astonished that there’s actually a church here for them. They are also quite intrigued with what exactly we’re about,” he acknowledged. “God is so unexpected on Santa Monica Boulevard on a Saturday night!” Johnson quipped. Johnson believes that he will be meeting just the right people who are in need of guidance. “We believe that God already has a ‘guest list’ and will be making a way to put us directly in front of the individuals who desperately need Him, and whom have been seeking Him the most. It’s ‘God’s job’ to send the people, and it’s our job to take care of and nurture them, and to love them ‘back to Him.’ For any Christians who don’t accept what they are doing, Johnson pulls no punches. “God accepts them because He made them in His image, so it doesn’t really matter what or who ‘Christians’ think or cast judgment upon; if they behave in this way, they are not representing the REAL Jesus.” Tennessee-born Johnson (coincidentally from the same small town — Gallatin — as Los Angeles Blade Publisher Troy Masters) continues to see a growing contingent of Christians and churches who do accept and include LGBTQIA people. “Not all of them in the South or elsewhere operate and believe in this discriminatory, condemning fashion,” he asserted. “Inclusivity is becoming contagious, as Christian leaders realize that everyone is connected to someone who is gay, and they cannot continue to cast down or alienate the LGBTQIA community. They will ultimately lose their churchgoers, who love and support the gay folks in their everyday lives. “The Bible says, ‘There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” You can sparkle with Josh and the whole assembly at The Viper Room (8852 Sunset Boulevard) at InVision’s annual Celebration Concert on December 16 at 7:00 PM.
28 • DECEMBER 07, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Taylor Mac serves up some wicked holiday sauce A judy does Royce Hall By TROY MASTERS email@example.com
Taylor Mac performs Dec. 14 and 15 at UCLA’s Center for Art of Performance. Photo courtesy Taylor Mac
For fans of Taylor Mac, the mere mention of the name is enough to summon up feelings of delight. A playwright, an actor, a singer-songwriter, a performance artist, a director and a producer, Mac is a 2017 MacArthur Fellow and is the author of seventeen full-length works of theater. His ambitious 24-hour extravaganza, “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music,” debuted in Brooklyn in 2016, winning the Edward M. Kennedy Award for Drama inspired by American History and becoming a Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Drama; it made The New York “Best of 2016” lists in three categories – Performance, Theater and Classical Music – and has been performed in parts and in its entirety all over the world including Melbourne, London, San Francisco, Philadelphia and, of course, Los Angeles. It’s 2017 production here, split up into four separate six-hour performances, was one of the city’s artistic highlights of the year. Now, courtesy of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance (CAP UCLA), Mac is back with “Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce,” which will take the stage at Royce Hall for a two-night engagement on Friday, Dec. 14 and Saturday, Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. Joined by longtime collaborators – set and costume designer Machine Dazzle, music director and arranger Matt Ray and a band of musicians and special guests – Mac celebrates the holidays in all their glorious dysfunction with unique renditions of the songs we love and the holidays we hate. For those unfamiliar, Mac is a queer performer, winner of the 2017 “Genius Grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and one of the world’s leading theater artists, whose work that has been described as a fight against conformity and categorization. “My job as a theatrical artist,” Mac told The Paris Review, “is to remind people of the things they’ve forgotten, dismissed or buried, or that other people have buried for them.” Mac has pushed back against the gender-binary construct by adopting the use of “judy” (lowercase) – not as a name, but as a gender pronoun – because (in judy’s words) “I chose ‘judy’ because I kinda feel like I wanted a gender pronoun that would immediately make them camp. You can’t roll your eyes and say ‘judy’ and not emasculate yourself.” Called by New York Magazine a “critical darling of the New York scene,” judy’s work has been performed in hundreds of venues including New York City’s Town Hall, Lincoln Center, The Public Theatre and Playwrights’ Horizons, to name just a few. Worldwide productions have been mounted as well – at London’s Hackney Empire and Barbican, Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, LA’s Ace Theater (through UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance), Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, the Sydney Opera House, The Melbourne Forum Theater, Stockholm’s Sodra Theatern, the Spoleto Festival, and San Francisco’s Curran Theater and SF MoMA. Mac is the author of many works of theater in addition to “History of Popular Music,” – including “Hir, “The Walk Across America for Mother Earth,” “Comparison is Violence,” The Lily’s Revenge, “The Young Ladies Of,” “The Be(a)st of Taylor Mac,” “Cardiac Arrest or Venus on a Half-Clam,” “The Face of Liberalism” and “The Hot Month.” In addition, judy has two soon-to-be produced plays in the works, “Prosperous Fools,” and “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus.” The latter will debut on Broadway next spring, with Nathan Lane and Andrea Martin in the starring roles. Sometimes judy acts in other people’s plays, most notably as Shen Teh/Shui Ta in The Foundry Theater’s production of “Good Person of Szechwan” at La Mama and the Public Theater, as Puck/Egeus in the Classic Stage Company’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” and in the two-man vaudeville, “The Last Two People on Earth” opposite Mandy Patinkin and directed by Susan Stroman. Mac’s shows draw inspiration from theatrical history reaching all the way back to the era of ancient Greece – judy cites Charles Ludlam and the Theater of the Ridiculous as particular influences – but they are anything but musty museum pieces. Combining forms such as commedia dell’arte, contemporary musical theater, and drag performance, they can better be described as entertainment with an edge. As Mac’s longtime musical director Matt Ray puts it, “It’s flamboyance with a purpose.” It’s the entertainment factor that has allowed Mac to cross over into the mainstream – for example, in the days leading up to last month’s midterm elections, judy appeared on “Late Night With Stephen Colbert,” performing a cover of Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power.” In an interview with KQED ahead of the recent San Francisco run of “Holiday Sauce,” Mac said that judy didn’t have a lot of “joyous memories” around the season growing up gay in Stockton, because “homophobia, hard-line Christianity, and consumerism” were “hard to swallow.” So judy created the new show as an “antidote” which “practices survival techniques” for the holidays. It’s a wild ride that reframes familiar holiday traditions through the lens of Mac’s subversive politics, reworks popular carols to reflect the cultural climate and lampoons seasonal rituals to expose them as hollow clichés. It aims to “deconstruct the patriarchy of spirituality,” but it also encourages audiences to build a new, more personal holiday experience in a more progressive, inclusive form. It may sound like heavy going, but withMac in the center of it all, it’s sure to be fun. “Holiday Sauce” is presented by CAP UCLA and produced by Pomegranate Arts (Executive Producer, Linda Brumbach; Associate Producer, Alisa Regas) along with Mac’s company, Nature’s Darlings. Tickets for $29– $119 are available now at cap.ucla.edu, via Ticketmaster, by phone 310-825-2101 and at the UCLA Central Ticket Office.
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John Grant doesn’t exactly fit the expected image of a rising star in the music world. Openly gay, openly HIV-positive and well into middle age, he writes unapologetically queer songs, frequently laced with obscenities – hardly the radio-friendly stuff of conventional pop music. Yet this American-born singer-songwriter became a fixture of the European indie-rock scene after his 2010 debut album (“Queen of Denmark”) was named Mojo’s Album of the Year. Since then, he’s continued to draw both critical acclaim – along with a growing number of fans back here in his homeland, as well. It’s a level of acceptance he could not have foreseen when he was growing up gay as a member of a conservative Methodist family in a small Colorado town – an experience he describes as “a perfect storm of horrible.” “My parents were actually quite loving,” he is quick to add, “but it wasn’t okay to be gay outside, in the world. You were sort of seen as sub-human. There were all these reasons – it’s a perversion, it’s a psychological disorder, it’s a sickness – teaching you that either you change or there’s no place for you anywhere, not in this world and not in any other world.” “This all started when I was way too young to even know what sexuality was,” he continues. “I don’t know what other people’s experiences are, but I wasn’t prepared for all that. It’s mind-boggling, even to this day.” Like countless others raised within such a repressive background, it led him down a dark road. Grant struggled with alcohol and cocaine addiction for years before getting sober 14 years ago – something about which he is as open as he is about his sexuality and his HIV status. Even in sobriety, though, it’s been difficult to come to terms with his anger. “I’ve been through a lot of therapy,” he admits with a self-effacing grin. “It’s been a very long process, because even after you figure out that it’s okay to be how you are, that doesn’t make the damage that’s been done to you disappear overnight.” “But the cruel reality of the world is that it doesn’t matter what happened to you when you were a child,” he adds. “If you don’t get over the hatred it’s just going to eat you alive, anyway – so you have to move on.” For Grant, moving on has been a big part of what has shaped his music. He’s used his songs to explore (and process) the difficult emotional landscape carved out by his early experiences. Many of these have been understandably harsh – full of anger, resentment, self-recrimination, self-loathing, and sarcasm – but there have also been beautiful love ballads, anthems of self-affirmation and uplifting messages of hope. Still, it’s his dark side that seems to permeate his music – even the “happy” songs are tinged with it – and he’s okay with that. It’s part of an honest expression of who he is, something he sees as necessary to his survival. For the same reason, he is as out and proud in his work as he is in his life. He writes songs that are candid, often explicitly so, about his sexuality. There are no carefully-worded, gender-masking lyrics; when he is singing about another man, he wants you to know it. He’s keenly aware that his freedom to sing about his truth is something for which he owes a great debt to those who came before. “I feel very humbled and very lucky to be able to do what I’m doing,” he says. “There has been a lot of preparation, coming up to this – by people that came before like Pet Shop Boys, Boy George, Holly Johnson from ‘Frankie Goes to Hollywood’ – that makes it possible for me to say the things that I’m saying in my music without being hung in the town square.” Although Grant’s songs are unequivocally gay in their lyrical content, they don’t necessarily fit into the stereotypical box of “gay” music. Increasingly, he has grown more “experimental,” evolving from the pure singer-songwriter style of his first album toward an eclectic, heavily electronic sound – though the importance of his strong vocals and colorful lyrics has remained central. On his newest album – “Love Is Magic,” which debuted in October at number 20 on the U.K. charts – that evolution has come to full blossom. Full of throbbing beats and robotic synth flourishes, it’s a collection of songs that are distinctly different from his previous work and yet can only be described as pure John Grant. While most of Grant’s fans have embraced his work as it has continued to develop, some have been vocally bewildered by the changes – a fact which he accepts, but shrugs off. “I really do believe, when it comes to art,” he says, “that it’s none of your fucking business what people think of it.” He goes on, “When I was growing up, there was a lot of ‘people pleasing’ that went on – you know, fit in, don’t break the rules, say the right thing, do what you’re told, respect authority. So, I feel quite lucky that I’m able to shut the door on the world when I go in the studio, and simply not transform into something I’m not – to be myself and make my music. It’s sort of a miracle that I’m able to do that, because I’ve always had to adjust myself, to make myself palatable, so that I could survive.” Does that mean he has finally moved on from all his anger? “I still have a lot of it,” he admits, “you can hear it in my music. But for me, mostly, I think it’s turning into compassion for people who are still struggling.” Tickets are available through EventBrite.com.
John Grant’s musical journey is a magic evolution An indie-rock star’s return By JOHN PAUL KING
John Grant brings his world tour to Los Angeles at 8 p.m on Friday, Dec.14 at the Lodge Room (104 N. Ave 56, Highland Park).
30 • DECEMBER 07, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
What do Pence, Pope, Delta and Grindr have in common? Connecting the dots this holiday season By BILLY MASTERS
Mike Pence gives $100 million in PrEP funds to fundies as Trump threatens to end medicare coverage of AIDS drugs. Happy World AIDS Day 2018. Photo White House Twitter feed
“I thought the stain was going to be bigger. Y’know, it was so low. To me, it was probably he hadn’t pulled up his pants and just hit her with a wet tip!” - Wendy Williams’ take-away from “The Clinton Affair” documentary. Last week, we commemorated World AIDS Day. In our current political climate, it almost makes sense that the White House would single out Mike Pence to participate in a ceremony. Why, it’s like OJ speaking on domestic abuse. If you don’t believe me, you obviously didn’t listen to what Pence had to say - or, rather, what he didn’t say. He somehow managed to talk for several minutes about HIV without ever uttering the word “gay” or mentioning the LGBT community! But he did manage to squeeze in this little factoid - the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (known as PEPFAR) has $100 million earmarked for religious organizations. Is it just me, or does that sound a tad excessive? I mean, how much does it cost to hand out condoms to priests? In a related story, Pope Francis made it clear where he stands on gay priests. In the book “The Strength of Vocation,” the Pope says that homosexuality in the church “is something that worries me. For this reason, the Church urges that persons with this rooted tendency not be accepted into ministry or consecrated life.” This includes priests, monks and nuns all of whom take vows of celibacy. What if you have those tendencies and are already in the church? Franny has some advice for them, too: “It is better that they leave the priesthood or the consecrated life rather than live a double life.” A Delta Airlines pilot is hoping to keep his job after sending a Grindr message to a passenger. “I see you’re on my flight. Enjoy the ride to Chicago.” Now, I ask you, in these days of questionable customer service, isn’t that a nice message? Sure “enjoy the ride” on a sex app could be taken a variety of ways, but I’m accepting it as innocuously as I do when a hot flight attendant asks me if I’d like “warm nuts.” Apparently, the recipient of this message was not as blasé as moi. He told the New York Post, “My reaction was I knew I needed to get off this plane as fast as I can.” Again, the phrase “get off” is open to interpretation. Remember a few weeks ago how we told you that porn star Austin Wolf filmed himself fucking a flight attendant in a Delta lavatory? Well, in-flight sex is running rampant. Diego Barros isn’t actually a porn star - he sells underwear and likes to pose in them (and out of them), too. He was recently on a flight where he was sitting in one of those first-class cubby holes. So, what does one do when alone and bored? Yes, exactly. He filmed himself masturbating. I dunno - I guess it’s scandalous. It’s certainly illegal. And you can see it on BillyMasters.com. Without further ado, we bring you more of “Billy’s Holiday Gift Giving Suggestions.” Thom Bierdz has the distinction of not only being the first openly gay actor to appear as a regular on a daytime drama, he also played a character who was openly gay. Of course, neither the actor nor the character started out that way. When Phillip Chancellor III was killed off of “The Young and the Restless” in 1989, Bierdz went into something of a freefall. When his character returned from the dead 20 years later - as soap characters do - it was revealed that he faked his death because he wanted to live openly as a gay man. If you think that sounds bizarre, wait till you read “Young, Gay & Restless.” It’s a gripping story of a handsome young man trying to make it in Hollywood, hitting the heights of daytime drama one day, and then bartending at the Soap Opera Digest Awards the next. While he was being pursued by some of the best-looking men in Hollywood, he was still feeling inadequate about his looks and took some drastic measures to change them. Throw in one brother who committed suicide and another who killed their mother, and you have a story that’s stranger than fiction. By the way, Bierdz is marking his second appearance on our “Gift Giving” list. His previous book about the murder of his mother, “Forgiving Troy,” made our list in 2009. You can get his books - and his artwork - at ThomBierdz.com. The good thing about having lasted so long in this business we call show is that I’ve grown up with many of the people I write about. The acclaimed Thirsty Burlington and I go back a LONG way. Long before I started writing this column, I spent years hosting shows in my native Boston. One of the regulars in attendance was the young Scott Townsend. To have watched Scott transform himself into Thirsty Burlington, one of the world’s premier Cher impersonators, has been a joy for me. But that was nothing next to the joy I felt watching the film “Thirsty” and seeing how this extraordinary person developed. You can watch it on Amazon Prime. When I’m still Thirsty for more Burlington, it’s time to end another column. I forgot the worst part of the holidays - peppermint bark. Don’t get me wrong, I love it...a bit too much. So while I am out doing a few extra thousand steps, until next time. And, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.
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You’ll see so much more than mommy kissing Santa Claus as Gay Men’s Chorus takes your favorite Christmas tunes to a whole new place. See Dec. 15. Photo courtesy GMCLA
holiday season! $20 for non-members. Tickets can be purchased at laglcc.org.
March in Support of the Caravan on International Human Rights Day is today from 4:30-7 p.m. at Placita Olivera (845 North Alameda). Join Union Del Barrio Los Angeles Union del Barrio to protest the U.S. government’s role in the crisis in Central America and in support of those who are forced to flee their countries. Union del Barrio says “the only solution to this humanitarian crisis is that the US change its foreign policy.” Protestors will gather at the Placita Olvera and will march to the U.S. Federal Building and then to the Immigration Detention Center. Free. Search event on Facebook for details.
Ha-ha Hanukkah! Light, Latkes & Laughs is tonight from 7-9:30 p.m. at Congregation Kol Ami (1200 North La Brea). A Hanukkah celebration full of light, laughter and latkes and featuring a great house band. There will not only be music and food but a menorah lighting, so bring yours with you. On hand will be four fabulous comedians: Jason Stuart, Rachel Scanlon, Steve Hasley and Liz Glazer. Bring a toiletry item to donate for the homeless (socks, travel-size deodorant, toothpaste/ toothbrush, shampoo, etc). On Sunday, Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. they will celebrate Hanukah and distribute essential life-kits to the homeless. GLAAD Tidings 2018 is today from 4-7 p.m. at Private Residence. GLAAD’s annual holiday and winter-themed celebration, serves as an opportunity for GLAAD’s supporters to gather for a year in review of LGBTQ equality milestones and look forward to the upcoming year. Join event co-chairs Chris Fraley, Indya Moore, Angela Robinson, Jill Soloway and Tom Whitman for festive specialty cocktails, great music and gourmet hors d’oeuvres. You can even bid on exclusive auction items, including exciting domestic and international vacation packages, dining at fabulous restaurants, beautiful home décor, one-of-a-kind art, health and beauty packages and much more. Tickets must be purchased in advance, $99 to $875, at Eventbrite.com. Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Holiday Mixer is tonight from 6:30-9 p.m. at Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill Los Angeles (800 West Olympic Blvd.). This DTLA Mixer at Wolfgang Puck at LA is a not to be missed opportunity for business-tobusiness networking. Networking mixers are always held the first Thursday of each month and are a benefit of Chamber membership, but this one is special. It’s the
Crazy Gay Asians Panel is tonight from 7:309:30 p.m. at Los Angeles LGBT Center (1125 North McCadden Place) Lively, proud queer Asian men discuss what it’s like being an Asian queer man in our society. Discussing their coming out stories, how to deal with racist comments from our own queer community, how to deal with online trolls, and how to love the skin you’ve been given. Join panelists Nathan Ramos, Chester Lockhart, Dimitri Rojas, Francis Dominic, DJ Vu Tran and moderator Amir Yassai. Search event on Eventbrite for more information.
Love Actually LIVE: A Multi-Media Theatrical Celebration is tonight from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts · Beverly Hills, California (9390 Santa Monica Blvd.). The world premiere production of “Love Actually Live”is presented by special arrangement with Universal Pictures and Working Title Films, transforming the Wallis’ Bram
Goldsmith Theater into a giant, immersive, cinema for the modern day. The production includes songs from the hit soundtrack, including “Christmas is All Around,” “The Trouble With Love Is,” “All Alone On Christmas” and more. It’s performed live by an all-star cast and 15-piece orchestra. Nothing could go wrong. Rave reviews from Los Angeles Blade critic John Paul King. For details, visit thewallis.org/love.
Rooftop Holiday Party for Women Who Love Women is tonight from 6:30-11:55 p.m. at Kimpton La Peer Hotel (627 La Peer Dr.). What could be more superb than a room full of beautiful lesbians taking selfies, sipping drinks, mingling on a WeHo rooftop to a glittering city view of the hills? Not much. It might be more spectacular if you show up. Mecca LA and Lez Connect unite to bring it all together. Tickets are $25 available at the door or at simpletix.com.
GMCLA’s Holiday Spectacular: Calling All Angels is today at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. also on Sun. Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. at Alex Theater (216 North Brand Blvd.). 40 years of decking the halls and tra la la la la. It’s one of Los Angeles’ most treasured Christmas shows and no one does it quite like Gay Men’s Chorus of LA. It’s certainly worth a trip to Glendale. You’ll be dashing through the snow in a 300 man sleigh. All your favorite hits and all your favorite people. Tickets at the gate, $20 to $90. Visit gmcla.org.
E-mail calendar items to firstname.lastname@example.org two weeks prior to your event. Space is limited so priority is given to LGBT-specific events or those with LGBT participants. Recurring events must be re-submitted each time.
Losangelesblade.com, Volume 2, Issue 40, December 7, 2018