MILITARY SPECIAL LGBT PATRIOTISM FROM GAY BAN TO TRANS BAN
C O M M E M O R ATIN G THE R E PE AL OF ‘DON ’T ASK, DO N’T T EL L ’ P AGE 0 4
D E C E M B E R 2 1 2 0 1 8 • V O LU M E 0 2 • I S S U E 4 2 • A M E R I C A’ S LG B TQ N E W S S O U R C E • LO S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M
02 • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Calif. GOP lining Trump’s pockets President Donald Trump is facing at least 17 separate investigations. Meanwhile, in California, an investigation by the Mercury News into Federal Election Commission reports show that California Republicans and political action committees associated with them pumped more that $3.5 million into Trump properties in 2017-2018, including outings to Trump’s Los Angeles-area golf course. “They’re literally lining the president’s pockets,” Jessica Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Law School and the former president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, told the Mercury News. “It strains common sense to think that these people are just suddenly interested in Trump businesses.” - KO
Katie Hill’s good deed in Congress Gov. Jerry Brown Photo via Wikipedia
Gov. Brown preparing to leave office California Gov. Jerry Brown is leaving office Jan. 7, 2019, ending a political career spanning five decades, including two separate eight-year terms as governor. He is leaving a projected $14.8 billion surplus for Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, with an additional $16 billion ‘rainy day’ fund stockpiled in case of a recession. Aside from his legendary reputation as a skinflint, Brown, 80, knows about recessions. He was in office in 1975 during the “stagflation” under President Jimmy Carter. He started his second stint as governor in 2011 facing a $27 billion deficit as President Obama worked to get out of the Great Recession, started under President George W. Bush. In an “exit interview” at the Sacramento Press Club Dec. 18, Brown said another recession is around the corner. “We probably have already started the recession, given the behavior of the stock market and the leveling off of home sales,” Brown said, according to the Sacramento Bee. “I think the state is well poised fiscally, but just psychologically it’s very hard to have a big piggy bank in Sacramento. The felt needs in the political world far outrun any available resources.” Brown has stockpiled a $15 million political surplus of his own in his campaign account. “People are always going to the ballot for one thing or another,” he said. “This is a way just to stay somewhat involved – keep my fingers a little bit on the rudder guiding the ship of state.” Brown fought against the Trump administration on climate change and believes the court decision striking down the Affordable Care Act out of Texas is “just a bump in the road.” If it is allowed to stand, Brown says, it will cause a backlash enabling Democrats to retake the Senate and the White House in 2020 to reinstate better healthcare. (The Los Angeles Blade has asked the Governor’s Press Office for an ‘exit interview” since Brown has made so much LGBT history, from appointing the first openly gay judge in 1979 to refusing to defend Prop 8 in court when he was Attorney General and signing the first anti-“conversion therapy” bill as governor. More to come.) – Karen Ocamb
Newly elected Rep. Katie Hill, the nation’s first out bisexual representative who defeated anti-LGBT Republican incumbent Steve Knight in the 25th Congressional District, is starting out her term with a very good deed, indeed. Hill drew number 7 in the Congressional office lottery but swapped it with Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley, the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts, who drew number 38. Hill used her turn to give Pressley the office she dreamed about: the office once occupied by her “shero,” ShirleyChisholm, the first black woman ever elected to serve in the House- on what would have been Chisholm’s 94th birthday. “Wow!” Pressley tweeted. “TY Mommy for the extra bday luck! We just learned my Congressional Office designation will be #ShirleyChisholm ‘s former office How’s that for divine intervention, AND the selflessness of my colleague @KatieHill4CA who drew a better lottery# but still wanted me to have it.” – KO
Baez named to Calif. Hall of Fame Speaking of bisexuals, the California Museum announced Dec. 18 that bisexual Joan Baez is one of eight inspiring Californians picked by Gov. Brown to be inducted into the 12th California Hall of Fame. “For nearly six decades, as a singer and activist, at times when it was neither safe nor fashionable, she put herself on the line. Her life’s work was mirrored in her music and her mission has never wavered,” the Museum said in a press release. “She marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and sang at the March on Washington; co-founded the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence in Carmel Valley; organized resistance to the Vietnam War; shined a spotlight on the Free Speech Movement; inspired Vaclav Havel in his fight for a Czech Republic; helped establish a fledgling Amnesty International on the West Coast; and stood in the fields with Cesar Chavez and the migrant farmworkers.” The other inductees are: Arlene Blum, Belva Davis, Ed Lee, Fernando Valenzuela, Nancy Elizabeth McFadden, Robert Redford, and Thomas Keller. - KO
Nadeau leaving Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles Artistic Director and Conductor Dr. Joe Nadeau has resigned from the position after working with the acclaimed chorus for six years. Nadeau will continue to work with the chorus until January when GMCLA’s Assistant Conductor Gavin Thrasher will take over as interim artistic director and conductor. “Joe’s leadership in every performance he has led has never wavered in its commitment to continuing to drive forward GMCLA’s mission of changing hearts and minds through music. While we are sad to see him go and will miss his great talent, we are excited by the legacy he leaves behind and the latest chapter in his life that awaits him,” GMCLA’s Executive Director Jonathan Weedman said in a statement. – Troy Masters
04 • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Military Special: LGBT Patriotism from gay ban to trans ban Commemorating the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org
Dec. 22 marks the 8th anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” law banning lesbians and gay men from serving openly in the US Armed Forces. Normally, 8th anniversaries are not particularly noteworthy. But normality died during the 2016 presidential campaign and now, with Donald Trump and Mike Pence appearing so eager to erase LGBT progress, it is imperative to recall from whence the LGBT community came and the obstacles overcome. On Dec. 14, Solicitor General Noel Francisco filed three separate briefs urgently asking the Supreme Court to ignore the nationwide injunction imposed by three lower courts in the ongoing legal battles over the Twitterannounced transgender military ban. He wants the Court to allow enforcement of the ban during the appeals process. Fortified with banal superiority, Francisco said the injunction caused “direct, irreparable injury to the interests of the government and the public” and complained that open trans service “threatens to undermine, disrupt unit cohesion and impose an unreasonable burden on the military that is not conducive to military effectiveness and lethality.” The rhetoric is familiar, used in numerous lawsuits since the original ban against homosexuals was imposed in 1953 and after President Bill Clinton reneged on lifting the ban in 1993 and agreed to the horrific DADT “compromise.” Some courts upheld the ban and DADT, others ruled for the individual, ordering reinstatement. But it was the 2004 lawsuit filed by the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) that sent the Defense Department and the Pentagon into a tizzy in 2010. By then, the DoD had discharged more than 14,000 servicemembers, including a slew of Arabic-speaking translators despite America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Straight LCR attorney Dan Woods, an unsung hero, was David to the DOJ’s Goliath at trial
Gay vet in the 1993 March on Washington military contingent. Photo by Karen Ocamb
in the Riverside, California District Court. Discharged translator Alex Nicholson, then-executive director of Servicemembers United, was a plaintiff, buttressed by witnesses including scholars Aaron Belkin, director of the research-based Palm Center, and Nathaniel Frank, author of Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America; discharged servicemembers: former petty officer 3rd class Joseph Christopher Rocha, former Air Force officer Mike Almy, and former Air Force Staff Sergeant Anthony Loverde. Woods also had President Obama’s opinion that DADT “weakens our national security” and eloquent support for a congressional repeal from Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. “We have in place a policy that forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Mullen said before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 2, 2010. “For me, personally, it comes down to integrity: Theirs
as an individual, ours as an institution.” Assistant U.S. attorney Paul Freeborne presented no witnesses, questioned LCR’s standing to bring the case, treated Judge Virginia A. Phillips rudely, and argued that DADT was constitutional because it was passed by Congress, with Republican Sen. John McCain’s firm support. “In my view, and I know that a lot of people don’t agree with that, the policy has been working and I think it’s been working well,” he said in that Feb. 2 Armed Services Committee hearing. The LCR lawsuit proceeded virtually unnoticed—until Sept. 9, 2010 when Judge Phillips ruled that DADT violated the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution. She found the “sweeping reach” of DADT restrictions is “far broader than is reasonably necessary to protect the substantial government interest at stake.” Additionally, DADT violates LGBT personnel’s right of association and due process. “As an American, a veteran and an Army
reserve officer, I am proud the court ruled that the arcane ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ statute violates the Constitution,” LCR Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper told the Los Angles Times. “Today, the ruling is not just a win for Log Cabin Republican service members, but all American service members.” A month later, on Oct. 12, 2010, Phillips issued a permanent worldwide injunction ordering the military to immediately “suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced” under DADT. “The order,” Woods said, “reaffirms the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians in the military who are fighting and dying for our country.” Chaos ensued. The Pentagon said it would abide by the ruling but the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) cautioned personnel not to come out as they had in 1993 believing Clinton would lift the ban. The DOJ appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit and asked Phillips for an emergency stay until the appeal was adjudicated. Phillips said no. DOJ asked the Ninth Circuit for a stay, which it got. LCR appealed to the Supreme Court to vacate the stay. But on Nov. 12, Justice Kennedy said no—without explanation— and DADT was back on. The chaos of the briefly lifted DADT so shook the military, they started advocating for a controlled repeal. McCain continued to stubbornly block passage but Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Patrick Murphy, with Sen. Joe Lieberman pushing Republican Sen. Susan Collins, brilliantly maneuvered the bill through the lame duck Congress and got the DADT repeal to Obama. Before his death, McCain came out supporting openly gay DOD civilian professional Eric Fanning as Sec. of the Army and opposing Trump’s trans ban. This special issue is just a glimpse of the long battle for LGBT full patriotic equality— from gay World War II vets enjoying the freedom of authenticity during the 1993 March on Washington to trans plaintiffs riding in LA’s 2017 CSW Pride Parade.
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06 • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
The ugly history of LGBT discrimination Frank Kameny stood against hate and erasure By CHRISTOPHER KANE
“The theme of the Trump Administration with regard to LGBT people is erasure. And in this time of erasure, it is vital that gay, lesbian, and trans Americans understand their history and the roots of this terrible discrimination in the military,” Charles Francis, President of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., told the Los Angeles Blade. Francis, an archival activist, knows LGBT history as keeper of the Frank Kameny flame. Kameny’s “Gay is Good” picket signs “were placed on the platform. The Smithsonian curator laid them alongside the writing table where Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence; the inkwell used by Lincoln when signing the Emancipation Proclamation; and the pin worn by Alice Paul who went to jail picketing the White House for women’s suffrage. ‘Frank, this is where the pickets fit into American history, the Smithsonian curator said,” Francis wrote in an Oct. 2011 essay for the Washington Blade describing the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. founder’s artifacts in the Library of Congress’ “Creating the United States” exhibit. Kameny famously picketed because he had been fired by the US government for being gay. During the Red Scare of the 1950s, right wing Cold War hawks like Republican Sen. Joe McCarthy and his closeted gay sidekick, attorney Roy Cohen, intertwined communism and homosexuality as national security threats. Gays were hunted down, outed and force to resign on charges of “immoral conduct.” Congress held hearings on the “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts” in government in 1950/ Three years later, President Dwight D. Eisenhower—whose trusted wartime attaché WAC Sgt. Johnny Phelps identified as a lesbian—issued executive order 10450 banning homosexuals from government employment—including in the military—as a threat to national security. The “lavender scare” caught up with Kameny in 1957 and he was fired from his job in the Army Map Service. “The military was finding gay people in their ranks and they didn’t know whether to
Frank Kameny in uniform.
kick them out and criminalize it or kick them out and force them into psychiatric treatment” in a mental hospital,” Francis said. “Progressive voices at the time said homosexuals certainly need to be kicked out of the military, but homosexuality should be treated as a psychiatric problem,” which often meant being “cured” through lobotomies, electrical shock treatments and powerful drugs. Kameny filed an unsuccessful appeal with the US Civil Service Commission—the first ever civil rights claim in a US court based on sexual orientation—and then appealed to the Supreme Court. His petition was denied in 1957, but it marked a turning point for him and the nascent movement. “In World War II, petitioner did not hesitate to fight the Germans, with bullets, in order to help preserve his rights and freedoms and liberties, and those of others,” Kameny wrote in his
petition. “In 1960, it is ironically necessary that he fight the Americans, with words, in order to preserve, against a tyrannical government, some of those same rights, freedoms and liberties, for himself and others.” In fact, World War II changed everything. With the war came defense factories, including in cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco where gay people found each other, developed community, and laid the groundwork for the civil rights and liberation movements of the 1950s and 1960s. At the same time, the military targeted homosexuals, who were considered criminals in states where sodomy was a felony. “The war mobilization laid the groundwork for a national effort to eliminate homosexuals from public life,” David Hurewitz wrote in his 2007 work, Bohemian Los Angeles and the Making of Modern Politics. But, Francis told reporter Michael Isikoff
for “Uniquely Nasty,” a Yahoo documentary, “They fired the wrong guy.” Kameny wore his homosexuality as “a badge of pride,” leading to his organized picket protests in 1965. He demanded that the US government “cease noting that they are homosexuals and ignoring that they are also American citizens,” Francis told Library of Congress historian Ryan Reft in Nov. 2015. Last year, Francis obtained the “truly shocking” transcript of a closed Executive Session hearing in 1950 chaired by infamous North Carolina Sen. Clyde Hoey, who chaired the Senate Investigations Subcommittee. “The Hoey hearings are quite famous as they began the Congressional assault on homosexuals in government,” Francis told the Los Angeles Blade. “What is less well known is the toxic Executive Session interviewing government experts on the homosexual threat to American institutions such as the military.” The most vile and hostile witness was Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, the first Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, whose testimony went “FAR beyond the canard of blackmail,” Francis says. “The testimony documented in that transcript is unvarnished in its ignorance and bigotry.” “It is a fact,” the Executive Session transcript reads, “that homosexuality frequently is accompanied by other exploitable weaknesses, such as psychopathic tendencies which affect the soundness of their judgment, physical cowardice, susceptibility to pressure, and general instability.” Hoey asks Hillenkoetter what effects homosexuality might have “on the will power and moral fiber of the individual.” The CIA Director responded, “It would be a weakening in the moral fiber because we consider it wrong.” Francis hears echoes of such bigotry today. “The old discrimination and the old ignorance and bigotry are finding their way back into public policy with regard to the trans service ban,” Francis says. This is perhaps not surprising since Donald Trump was mentored by Roy Cohen. – Karen Ocamb contributed to this story.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • 07
Sgt. Perry Watkins was out when he was drafted in 1967 and remained out during his entire tour of duty, even performing in drag in Army-sponsored shows. In June 1988, he made history when the Ninth Circuit ruled against the Army trying to discharge him based on his statements.
Air Force Vietnam veteran Leonard Matlovich, recipient of the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, made history coming out on the Sept. 8, 1975 cover of Time Magazine to challenge the military’s gay ban. He died of AIDS in 1988 at age 44.
Sgt. Miriam Ben-Shalom enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1974, coming out on TV after graduating from drill sergeant’s school, which led to her discharge in 1976. In 1980, a District Court said the dismissal was unconstitutional but the Army refused to re-instate her. Her case continued until the Supreme Court declined to hear her appeal in 1990.
Hundreds of gay servicemembers came out during the April 25, 1993 March on Washington expecting the ban to be lifted.
Navy Petty Officer Allen R. Schindler Jr was brutally stomped to death by Airman Apprentice Terry M. Helvey in a toilet in a park in Sasebo, Nagasaki on Oct. 27, 1992. He was only identifiable by a tattoo on his arm. His mother became a fierce advocate for lifting the ban.
Washington National Guard Col. Margarethe “Grethe” Cammermeyer was a late-bloomer, coming out at 46 in 1988. A Bronze Star recipient for her service as a nurse in Vietnam, she was discharged after a security clearance interview in 1992. She won re-instatement in 1994. Keith Meinhold, a Navy veteran and “Master Training Specialist” successfully challenged the military ban after coming out on ABC News in 1992. District Court Judge Terry Hatter ordering his reinstatement on Nov. 7, 1992, big news after Bill Clinton’s election.
08 • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
David Mixner on how DADT happened Clinton’s betrayal was an awakening By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com
Presidential candidate Bill Clinton thanking friend David Mixner at ANGLE event in 1991 Photo by Karen Ocamb
David Mixner is a pacifist, a firm believer in the principles espoused by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. He was prepared to go to prison for five years rather than respond to the draft—or come out as gay. He got a deferment after being beaten up by police during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. The following year, as co-organizer for the October 15, 1969 Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, he met Bill Clinton, a Rhodes Scholar with whom he started a decades-long friendship. AIDS, not gays in the military, was top of mind for Mixner, a longtime Los Angelesbased political consultant. But over dinners, he started hearing about gays serving in
silence. “Clearly there was nothing more visible, more dramatic, more powerful than the image of LGBT Americans wanting to serve their country and going through everything from harassment to beatings to death to court martials to dishonorable discharge, losing benefits, losing families—it was an appalling situation,” Mixner told the Los Angeles Blade. “I can’t have my personal beliefs override the freedom of others.” Then in 1991, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton called to say he was running for President and wanted Mixner’s support. Mixner hesitated, which annoyed Clinton. Mixner explained that he didn’t know where his old friend stood on gay issues. “I cannot go through this era
of AIDS, losing hundreds of friends and just, for power’s sake, sign onto your campaign. It dishonors all of their deaths.” Clinton told him to draw up a list of what he wanted and give it to their mutual friend, Los Angeles-based attorney Mickey Kantor. Mixner sent three issues: the gay Civil Rights Bill, sign an executive order lifting the ban on gays in the military and fund and expedite the process for promising HIV/ AIDS drugs. Not a problem, Clinton replied. The problem was that most of the LGBT community supported Paul Tsongas and didn’t know “this Bubba from the South,” Mixner says. He invited Tsongas and Clinton to meet with ANGLE, a political checkbook
activist group that met in the Hollywood Hills home of Dr. Scott Hitt and Alex Kolezar. Tsongas was arrogant; Clinton was charming. After pledging to support all three issues, attorney Diane Abbitt asked him: “How do we know we can believe you—that you’re not just another hot bag of air?” Clinton said he’d prove himself. Which he did, telling the surprised press that he would have signed AB 101, the gay rights bill Republican Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed. And he promised to sign the military executive order. But the executive order wasn’t without controversy inside the Clinton campaign. But Mixner and ANGLE pushed hard, raising lots of money and insisting “gay rights” be part of Clinton’s talking points. And when the Paula Jones/Jennifer Flowers scandal popped up, ANGLE stuck with Clinton, even as others declared his candidacy dead. ANGLE bought one third of all the tickets to a major Warren Christopher-hosted fundraiser at the Beverly Wilshire, with a gay reception hosted by Mixner and Roberta Achtenberg before the big dinner. “It was the darkest moment of the Clinton campaign and there we were visible, loyal and strong,” Mixner says. “That was a real turning point for us in the Clinton campaign. They never forgot it. And the money we raised really helped them stay alive in New Hampshire.” Mixner pressed Clinton to appear before the gay community. Though it became one of his most famous campaign moment, it almost didn’t happen. Mixner had already sold out the Palace in Hollywood and if the press couldn’t attend, there would be some $200,000 left on the table. Clinton relented and recommitted to lifting the ban, giving money to fight AIDS and supporting gay rights. Then came the nominating convention. Bob Hattoy and Elizabeth Glaser spoke about AIDS in primetime. But an early copy of Clinton’s acceptance speech was missing the word “gay.” Tom Henderson and Mixner organized eight delegations that would walk out if no mention was made. Mixner gave an ultimatum and the campaign was livid. But Clinton included the reference, thrilling LGBTs and allies in the macarena-dancing
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crowd. When Clinton won, the LGBT community started counting down to freedom after the long dark night of Reagan/ Bush years with thousands lost to AIDS. But Mixner saw trouble brewing. A decision was expected soon in Keith Meinhold’s federal court case challenging his discharge under the gay ban. Two weeks before the election, Mixner and his close associate Jeremy Bernard trekked down to Little Rock, Arkansas to discuss how “the reality of rhetoric and implementation after you’re elected is two different things.” They needed someone in the transition team to assume gay issues in their portfolio. “No one wanted it,” Mixner says. “They were all lining up for their jobs and they thought that if this was in their portfolio, that they would not be taken seriously. And quite honestly, I wasn’t taken seriously.” After Clinton won, the community turned to Mixner, Bob Hattoy and Roberta Achtenberg for answers. Meanwhile, the Meinhold case is heating up. Mixner calls the campaign to say someone needs to brief the president-elect. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,” they say. “Well, the morning of Clinton’s first post-election press conference, guess what came down? The Meinhold decision. So the very first question that the New York Times asked: ‘Given the Meinhold decision, are you still going to issue the executive order on the military?’ Clinton, not having been briefed and not realizing that a campaign was different from governing, which I kept trying to tell him, wasn’t prepared and said yes.” The campaign was shocked that the executive order on gays in the military dominated the headlines. “They all were caught off guard,” Mixner says. “They shouldn’t have been. They were all briefed two weeks before the election but no one listened. They went into sheer panic.” But Mixner had an idea: “do what Jimmy Carter did on amnesty for draft dodgers, which was equally as controversial.” Immediately after he was sworn in as president, Mixner says, Carter “signed about twelve tough executive orders that got lost in the press about the inauguration, the parties, the parades, the speech—and it worked. It was just done. Amnesty was granted, some people fought it but it was a done deal and it got lost, it became a side bar story of the inauguration.” Why not do that on the military? About 20 orders, just like Carter “and then it’s done,” Mixner says. “They thought it was a great idea and they sent someone to look at what Carter did. That’s what we believed was going to be done up until just before the Inauguration.”
ANGLE’s Diane Abbitt reading a passage from “Conduct Unbecoming” at an ANGLE event at a Hollywood studio starring several out gay and lesbian servicemembers in 1993 Photo by Karen Ocamb
Mixner was in his hotel, nervous about a big event honoring him that night. He got a call from Clinton top campaign advisor George Stephanopoulos. “He said, ‘David, we need your help.’ I said, ‘sure.’ He said, ‘We’re not going to sign the executive order.’ I said, ‘This is crazy.’ He said, ‘Listen, we feel we need six months to build public support. The president told me to tell you that he gives you his word that he’ll sign it in six months but we want the community to raise money and to do this and we need you to go and deliver that message to the community.’” “I said, ‘Would the president promise me if we do all of that that he’ll sign it in six months?’” “You have the president’s word,” Stephanopoulos told Mixner. Mixner delivered the word that night and the next day to HRCF. “That’s where the idea for the Campaign for Military Service came in,” Mixner says. Tom Stoddard agreed to head the new organization. “There was not a better choice. Everyone was excited. A man of principle, of dignity, a brilliant organizer, one of the kindest people I knew. I was
thrilled,” Mixner says. And with that, they began organizing at Bob Shrum and Mary Louise Oates’ living room with David Geffen and Barry Diller promising to raise “huge amounts of money” and Fred Hochberg agreeing to be Treasurer. “And off we were,” says Mixner. They organized a major campaign with unions and religious groups joining in and polls going up. “We did everything the president asked us to do.” But instead of acting presidential, calling in the commanders-in-chief and announcing that they accept his change in policy or resign—Clinton failed the leadership test. And into the vacuum stepped Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, a Democrat considered by Mixner to be a racist bully. “Sam Nunn supported (Alabama Gov.) George Wallace twice,” Mixner says. “And he was head of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He was a big believer in segregation. And he said, ‘not on my watch’ and he called (Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) Colin Powell and he held hearings and the White House wasn’t prepared.” Nunn also created the media narrative,
going with Sen. John Warner into the sleeping quarters on a submarine and asking sailors lying together in close quarters how they felt about allowing gays in the military. “That picture was on the front page everywhere,” says Mixner. “So that sent them into a panic and Clinton came back and said, evidently, to his staff, we can’t have gays sleep with straights like that.’ And that’s when he suggested that perhaps they would explore the options of segregated barracks and segregated units. They didn’t use the word ‘segregated’ but separate. I went through the roof.” Discharged gay Naval aviator Tracy Thorne was booked on ABC News’ Nightline and asked Mixner to go along. “That’s when I said, ‘Segregation didn’t work for blacks and we wouldn’t accept it and it was nothing more than a segregated plan.’ And I really let loose that this was a totally unacceptable solution,” Mixner says. “Well, that got the White House really angry at me.” Mixner then went to Dallas where on March 27, 1993, he delivered a speech at the mega-MCC Church entitled “the Story of
10 • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
David Mixner, Diane Abbitt, John Duran among those arrested at the White House gate after DADT announced. Photo by Jeremy Bernard
Self-Hatred” about AIDS, segregation, and gay and lesbian civil rights that is now in a collection of great civil rights speeches called “Ripples of Hope.” The Clinton administration was angry and the gay community was annoyed that Mixner’s public pronouncements might cost access to political power after so many years in the wilderness. “Rahm Emanuel decided that if he could make me a target, he could send a message that you’ll lose access and you’ll be punished if you speak out against this administration,” Mixner says. The “first act of that punishment” came in April before the March on Washington when Clinton held the historic meeting in the Oval Office between the President of the United States and the LGBT community “and I was taken off the list.” Longtime LA-based lesbian activist Torie Osborn brought a signed copy of Randy Shilts’ very detailed “Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military” to the meeting, which Clinton held when they posed for pictures. “That was painful for me quite honestly, very painful. It hurt. Because that was one
of my dreams of being in the first meeting,” Mixner says. “But you know, you live your principles and there’s a price sometimes. And sometimes there’s great price.” Then in mid-May, without any notification to Tom Stoddard or Mixner or HRCF, out Rep. Barney Frank announces that a compromise had been reached with the president called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. “We read about it in the fuckin’ newspaper,” Mixner says, his voice rising. “Barney literally betrayed us. He didn’t consult with any of us. They went to him and Barney was in love with Stephanopoulos and cut this deal.” Suddenly, Mixner says, “the concept of an executive order was thrown out the window and the community, caught off guard, sort of started buying into this as a ‘compromise.’ Ending it would take an act of Congress instead of the signature of the president. But Clinton wanted that. He just wanted it off his fuckin’ desk.” Tim McFeeley, executive director of HRCF, was the first to protest and get arrested. After Clinton’s official announcement of the new policy on a military base flanked
by generals, Mixner got a call in LA from Stephanopoulos. “He said, ‘We want your support on this, David. It’s fact. It’s done.’ And I said, ‘Absolutely not. This is going to be a disastrous policy. No one can live like that. It’s going to set up black mail. It will destroy thousands of lives’—and it did. There’s things I’ve been wrong on and there’s things I’ve been right on and this was one of ‘em that I was right on.” Numerous gay people on the inside offered Clinton support, suggesting Mixner was now among the fringe on the outside. He knew the price if he protested and got arrested like McFeeley. “It isn’t like I was naive,” Mixner says. “I knew Clinton and I knew Emanuel. I knew all of them. I knew how the game was played. I went into it with open eyes that I would cut off all access to the White House. And I decided to get arrested.” But first, Mixner met with ANGLE, sharing his decision and that he didn’t expect them to join him. “This is a personal decision. I went around the country. I got him to say this stuff. I got you involved. I feel personal responsibility to give witness, though it’s not
going to change the policy. It’s an old Quaker tradition of giving witness against a great evil, even though you can’t change it. I’ve gotta give witness,” Mixner says. “And much to their credit, most all of ANGLE joined in. And those who didn’t join in getting arrested were responsible for getting us out of jail.” It was front page news and the next day Rahm Emanuel announced that Mixner was no longer welcome in the White House—nor were any of the people that he worked with. “In twenty-four hours, I lost every one of my clients and couldn’t work for four years. I was selling watches to pay for my rent. Jeremy, literally, was taking my watches down to pawn shops to pay for my rent,” Mixner says. The Advocate put him on the cover: “David Mixner, Friend of Nobody,” which added to the pain. “There were people who committed suicide, several were sent to Leavenworth, over fourteen thousand were dismissed without benefits, dishonorably,” he recalls. “Just as we thought would happen. It was horrendous. And it all depended on who their commander was. If you had a good commander sometimes they ignored it. If you had a so-so commander they’d just give you a dishonorable discharge and let it go. If you had a bad commander, they’d go out of the way to make sure you paid a price.” President Obama “had to spend his first four years overturning the damage that Clinton did to us,” he says. Mixner and Clinton eventually reconciled in 1998 at an ANGLE fundraiser in Beverly Hills featuring new California Gov. Gray Davis. Mixner was “very teary” during the ceremony when Obama signed the repeal of DADT. “I never thought I’d see the day and had paid such a price,” he says. “The person who was the kindest to me that day was (Speaker) Nancy Pelosi. She was on the stage with the president, saw me and came down off the stage, gave me a hug, held me by the shoulders and said, ‘None of us would be in this room if it wasn’t for you.’ And I’ll never forget it. That was one of the highlights of my life and made all that I had sacrificed worth it.” Mixner recalls going to the Clinton White House before he was banished with so many gay people whispering “Thank you.” He returned to the Obama White House for a Christmas party, invited by America’s first gay Social Secretary—Jeremy Bernard. “They had a little gay bowling league among some of the gay White House staff, the military people. And they were showing me pictures of their husbands,” Mixner says. “What a different world, right? From whispers to pride.”
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • 11
Evelyn Thomas: going to jail for justice Black women were less than one percent of servicemembers before 2010, but were 3.3 percent of all DADT discharges By EVELYN THOMAS EDITOR’S NOTE: Thomas enlisted in the Army National Guard at 17 in 1986; she was transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps in Camp Pendleton, California where she was outted as a lesbian; she was honorably discharged in 1991.
I watched as the roach crawled down the jail cell wall near my head. I press my head down on the baloney sandwich I used as a pillow. The pressing thought on my mind that night was, “what will I tell my mother?” By this time, I honorably served in two branches of the military. I attended and graduated from college with a Master’s degree. I was a high school teacher. More importantly, I was the first in my family to become an elected official. She was proud of me. My success in life demonstrated that all those hardships she endured rearing me in this crazy world was worth it. I thought, when my mother reads about this in the newspaper, I hope she will understand the reason I risked so much. One of her goals as a Black mother was to ensure I did not end up in jail. She did not want me to become a statistic. She wanted better for me. As a single Black mother, she had the talk with me. She taught me at a young age, some people in this world will hate you because of the color of your skin. She talked with me about the Montgomery bus boycotts, Merger Evers, Rosa Parks, and Dr. King. She had the famous photo of the Woolworth Counter sit-in. She talked of the courage those Black men had to sit at the counter. She would go on to say, the photo does not tell the full story. She said, “In some cases White people would spit on them, throw food at them, scream vile and nasty words while standing inches from their face. They practiced nonviolence. They risked being harmed so that one day, Black people would have justice and freedom in this country.” My mother had this talk with me many times. This message kept playing over and over in my brain, when I was asked to participate in the direct action, nonviolent protest of The White House Six. I had to risk it all and muster the courage to represent the Women of Color of the LGBT community oppressed by this inhuman law of DADT.
Former Marine Cpl. arrested outside the White House Nov. 2010 protesting DADT Blade file photo by Michael Key
Still to this day, I think it was one of President Obama’s greatest achievements. I had the opportunity to thank him the day he signed the bill to repeal DADT. I gave him a Sanctuary Project Veterans wrist band. Then I asked him, “May I hug you on behalf of all the Women of Color impacted by DADT? He said, “Yes.” Then I wrapped
arms around him and hugged President Barack Obama. I never thought it would happen in my lifetime. I had opportunity to meet the first Black man America elected as our President. He was more than the leader of our government. He became a legacy to me when he repealed DADT. It was not an easy decision for me to
become a member of The White House Six. The moment I, as a Black Woman, handcuffed my wrist to the White House fence, I risked becoming an enemy to Black America. To some Black people it was a slap in the face to betray Our President in that manner. It was more important for me to represent the Women of Color impacted by DADT. I had to represent the voiceless women that suffered in silence. In some cases, DADT was used as a tool to commit sexual coercion. Those women never had justice because those women could not report the crime. Lesbians were given a choice: let me rape you or lose your career. I compared it to plantation owners sneaking down to slave quarters at night to rape a female slave. Enlisting in the military was an escape from poverty. I had to take that risk. Now we have Donald Trump. When he was elected someone snatched down the curtain to reveal the psyche of America, as it spiraled out of control. Our democratic process is in shambles. This president’s legacy is to persecute, destroy, and kill. He uses his power to spread hate. He made the decision to erase a population of people with a stroke of a pen, he demonstrated we do not matter to him. He declared war on my people. I was in Washington D.C. on the day of Trump’s Inauguration. I never used my ticket provided by Congressman Darrell Issa. I did not attend the event. I kept the ticket. Instead, I attended the Washington D.C. Women’s March. I witnessed a shift in the cultural climate to something I do not recognize. I saw a sea of Pink Pussy hats down Independence Avenue. Women from around the nation gathered to protest Donald Trump, his anti-human rights administration. I met a 90-year old Black grandmother who came with her family. As she sat in her wheelchair, she said, “it was important for my daughter and grandchild to be apart of this movement. Women are doing it for themselves.” My thought was: I wish my mother was here with me to experience this and see the power of women. I think it is time for Women to take their rightful place. We must because Trump has declared war on us.
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Zoe Dunning, Annapolis graduate and Navy Ensign, came out in Jan. 1993 while at Stanford Graduate School. In June, she appealed a Navy board recommended discharge; she was promoted and subsequently reinstated as a Commander. Sgt. Jose Zuniga, the Sixth Army’s 1992 Solider of the Year, was suspiciously demoted after coming out.
Protests erupted when President Bill Clinton announced “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” instead of lifting the gay ban as promised.
Photo by Karen Ocamb)
Photo by Karen Ocamb
Sue Fulton, West Point graduate honorably discharged as a Captain, worked briefly for the Campaign for Military Service then helped found Knights Out, OutServe, and SPARTA. She married Penelope Dara Gnesin in 2012 at the Cadet Chapel at West Point.
Steve May, an Army officer honorably discharged in 1995, won a seat in the Arizona House as an openly gay Republican. In 1999, he was recalled by the Army Reserves and was subsequently investigated for homosexuality. He refused to resign and honorably discharged in May 2001. Photo by Ed Anderson
Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (now the Palm Center) publicized how the military was discharging Arabic linguists such as Army Spec. 4 Alastair Gamble, who was “caught” fully clothed in bed with his boyfriend Robert Hicks, on the eve of the war in Iraq.
GetEqual’s Robin McGehee organized two silent DADT protests at the White House gate with Lt. Dan Choi. 13 people were arrested during the second action on Nov. 15, protesting inaction by President Obama.
Photos by Karen Ocamb
Blade File Photo by Michael Key
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • 13
SLDN’s long road to DADT repeal Personal stories helped change hearts and minds By TOM CARPENTER, attorney and former Marine Captain
Many in our community never understood why any LGBT citizen would ever want to become part of a military that proclaimed “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service,” often sending LGBT service members to prison because of who they loved. The hard-core anti-war/military crowd wanted no part in the fight to lift the ban on open service. Bowing to these objections, many large LGBT organizations paid nothing more than lip service to this effort. As a candidate, Bill Clinton promised to lift the ban. Clinton had no idea the forces that opposed this change in policy. Those of us, who had served, knew better. The military and Senate leadership blocked him, including members of his own party. Instead of a policy, in 1993, we ended up with a federal law—“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” (DADT). This law proved almost as bad for LGBT service members as the outright ban. Shortly after the law went into effect, two young lawyers, former Army Captain Michelle Beneke and Dixon Osburn, established Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). They realized other LGBT organizations had neither the desire, nor expertise, to take on the task of providing legal assistance to those who would likely run afoul of the law. Their ultimate goal was to repeal the law in its entirety, allowing for open and honest service. I joined the board of SLDN in 1994 and served as its co-chair for 7 years. It was clear to us that it would be another 10-20 years before Congress would be willing to take up this hot button issue again. During the administrations of George W. Bush from 2000-2008, we felt as if we were in the wilderness. Thousands of service members were being discharged as the military asked, and some LGBT service members told. SLDN provided legal assistance to many and saved numerous careers.
SLDN Board Chair Tom Carpenter, OutServe co-founders Ty Walrod and Josh Seefried (aka JD Smith), and Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper in Oct. 2011. Photo by Karen Ocamb
Our arguments of how unfair the law was, and how much it was costing taxpayers to train replacements for highly skilled service members who were discharged, gained little traction. Sadly, it was the brutal murders of a sailor, Allan Schindler, and a soldier, Barry Winchell that finally focused attention on why this law was counterproductive to military readiness, unit morale and discipline. Both these young men were brutally beaten to death because one of their fellow service members merely thought they were gay. These two tragedies captured the attention of the country. At SLDN, we recognized it was personal stories that would humanize this fight for equality. The mother of Schindler, as well as the parents of Winchell actively participated in SLDN’s
lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill. Their emotional appeal to members of Congress was powerful. But it was not enough. Our strategy was to have veterans in the forefront of the lobbying and media effort. Especially effective were those who had been discharged, resigned their commissions, or did not reenlist because of their sexual orientation. The most compelling personal stories came from Arabic linguists, medics, pilots, and infantrymen who had been on the front lines in the Global War Against Terror. Many of these veterans appeared on television and had their stories reported by the press. Through these efforts, it was becoming ever more clear to the public, the law was not working. These veterans made the case by revealing the simple truth—the
law was contrary to the core values of the services. It required them to live a lie. It was not until Barack Obama was elected in 2008 that we started to see an end game. With a Democrat in the White House and a more friendly Congress, we continued our strategy of telling personal stories. By this time over 12,000 patriots had lost their careers. There was much foot dragging from the White House during the early part of President Obama’s first term. The memory of what had happened to President Clinton’s effort, sixteen years earlier, clearly impacted the willingness to spend political capitol on this issue. By 2010, SLDN marshaled Congressional allies and helped draft a bill to repeal DADT. It was becoming clear SLDN”s media and lobbying efforts had changed public opinion. Most Americans now favored repeal of DADT. Further, the Pentagon was being threatened by a series of lawsuits that challenged the law. The turning point was when the Senate held hearings and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testified he favored repeal. In contrast to 1993, the Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed. In the lame duck session of the 111th Congress, notorious for inaction, a true miracle occurred. In a stroke of legislative brilliance, led by Army veteran, Congressman Patrick Murphy, DADT was repealed. On Dec. 22, 2010, President Obama signed the repeal law. With the repeal of DADT, the first leg of institutional bias had collapsed. As predicted, in 2015, after a tremendous effort by LGBT groups, the Supreme Court ruled all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, had a fundamental right to marry. The only institution remaining in the way of equality is ministry. “Religious liberty” is now the rallying cry of the opponents of freedom for all Americans. While progress is being made, many battles still lie ahead. Never give up!
14 â€˘ DECEMBER 21, 2018 â€˘ LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Attorney Tom Stoddard (left, in suit and red tie) leads contingent of the Campaign for Military Service during the 1993 March on Washington
SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis, former Army Capt and SLDN co-founder Michelle Benecke, and former Army Capt. Jonathan Hopkins at OutServe conference Oct. 2011.
Photo by Karen Ocamb
Photo by Karen Ocamb
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifying Feb. 2, 2010 before the Senate Armed Service Committee in support of DADT repeal.
Heading into the auditorium to witness President Obama sign the DADT repeal on Dec. 22, 2010. Left: (using walker) Dr. John Cook from Richmond VA and his assistant; SLDN Board Chair Tom Carpenter; Mattachine Society of Washington DC founder Frank Kameny; retired Marine Sgt. Tom Swann; unidentified man: Pat Kutteles, mother of murdered infantry soldier Barry Winchell; politico David Mixner; and SLDN attorney Aaron Tax.
Blade File Photo by Michael Key
Photo courtesy Tom Carpenter
New Hampshire Army National Guard chief warrant officer Charlie Morgan, who had breast cancer, fought to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act so her wife Karen and their daughter would receive federal benefits. She died Feb. 10, 2013, at 48.
The CIA recruits and hands out swag at first OutServe Conference in Las Vegas mid-Oct 2011.
Photo by Karen Ocamb)
Photo by Karen Ocamb
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • 15
President Obama signs repeal of DADT Repeal strengthens national security, upholds American ideals
EDITOR’S NOTE: President Obama signed the repeal of DADT during a ceremony at the Interior Department on Dec. 22, 2010 before a euphoric, teary-eyed packed auditorium remembering the sacrifices of so many. Here are excerpts from Obama’s remarks. – Karen Ocamb
“You know, I am just overwhelmed. This is a very good day. (Applause.)…Sixty-six years ago, in the dense, snow-covered forests of Western Europe, Allied Forces were beating back a massive assault in what would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. And in the final days of fighting, a regiment in the 80th Division of Patton’s Third Army came under fire. The men were traveling along a narrow trail. They were exposed and they were vulnerable. Hundreds of soldiers were cut down by the enemy. And during the firefight, a private named Lloyd Corwin tumbled 40 feet down the deep side of a ravine. And dazed and trapped, he was as good as dead. But one soldier, a friend, turned back. And with shells landing around him, amid smoke and chaos and the screams of wounded men, this soldier, this friend, scaled down the icy slope, risking his own life to bring Private Corwin to safer ground. For the rest of his years, Lloyd credited this soldier, this friend, named Andy Lee, with saving his life, knowing he would never have made it out alone. It was a full four decades after the war, when the two friends reunited in their golden years, that Lloyd learned that the man who saved his life, his friend Andy, was gay. He had no idea. And he didn’t much care. Lloyd knew what mattered. He knew what had kept him alive; what made it possible for him to come home and start a family and live the rest of his life. It was his friend. And Lloyd’s son is with us today. And he knew that valor and sacrifice are no more limited by sexual orientation than they are by race or by gender or by religion or by creed; that what made it possible for him to survive the battlefields of Europe is the reason that we are here today…. So this morning, I am proud to sign a law that will bring an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” (Applause.) It is a law -- this law I’m about to sign will strengthen our national security and uphold the ideals that our fighting men and
President Barack Obama signs the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 on Dec. 22, 2010 as Vice President Joe Biden, Admiral Mike Mullen, out servicemembers Zoe Dunning and Eric Alva, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Patrick Murphy, Rep. Susan Davis, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. Susan Collins look on. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
women risk their lives to defend. No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were forced to leave the military -– regardless of their skills, no matter their bravery or their zeal, no matter their years of exemplary performance -– because they happen to be gay. No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder, in order to serve the country that they love. (Applause.) As Admiral Mike Mullen has said, “Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well.” (Applause.) That’s why I believe this is the right thing to do for our military. That’s why I believe it is the right thing to do, period…. And finally, I want to express my gratitude to the men and women in this room who have
worn the uniform of the United States Armed Services. (Applause.) I want to thank all the patriots who are here today, all of them who were forced to hang up their uniforms as a result of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” -- but who never stopped fighting for this country, and who rallied and who marched and fought for change. I want to thank everyone here who stood with them in that fight…. [A]s Commander-in-Chief, I am certain that we can effect this transition in a way that only strengthens our military readiness; that people will look back on this moment and wonder why it was ever a source of controversy in the first place…. As one special operations warfighter said during the Pentagon’s review -- this was one of my favorites -- it echoes the experience of Lloyd Corwin decades earlier: “We have a gay guy in the unit. He’s big, he’s mean, he kills
lots of bad guys.” (Laughter.) “No one cared that he was gay.” (Laughter.) And I think that sums up perfectly the situation. (Applause.)…. And so, as the first generation to serve openly in our Armed Forces, you will stand for all those who came before you, and you will serve as role models to all who come after. And I know that you will fulfill this responsibility with integrity and honor, just as you have every other mission with which you’ve been charged…. For we are not a nation that says, “don’t ask, don’t tell.” We are a nation that says, “Out of many, we are one.” (Applause.) We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot. We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal. (Applause.) Those are the ideals that generations have fought for. Those are the ideals that we uphold today. And now, it is my honor to sign this bill into law. (Applause.)
16 • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Trans ban is worse than DADT The Trump era requires a push for integrity By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org Trump did it again. On Dec. 19, President Trump took to Twitter to announce another major change in military policy—the rapid withdrawal of all 2,000 troops in Syria within 30 days because “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” No further details, no plan, no strategy to continue support for allies who count on the US military. Just out in 30 days. Some pundits compared the Twitter shock to Trump’s surprise tweet on July 26, 2017 that “the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” This was on the cusp of implantation of the changed Defense Department policy, adopted by Defense Sec. Ash Carter on June 30, 2016, lifting the ban on open service for transgender servicemembers. Trans people had been left out of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, with the promise—based on the military’s own creed to never leave a soldier behind—that policy makers would come back for them. Many worked hard to achieve that goal, such as former Army Capt. Allyson Robinson and longtime activist Autumn Sandeen, a Navy veteran who got arrested at the White House gate protesting DADT. Others, such as “Warrior Princess” Navy Seal Kristin Beck, came out and told their remarkable stories of patriotism and service. They expected full implementation of the new Carter policy after a nearly two year DOD review determined that there was no valid reason to keep the Pentagon regulation excluding qualified personnel from military service simply because they are transgender. But that was under President Obama, whose administration included a Senateconfirmed openly gay Sec. of the Army, Eric Fanning. Trump, however, has been erasing all-things Obama, regardless of the often devastating toll. “It’s important to remind folks that the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ the 1992 law that prevented gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the military, was just the beginning of our work for equality in the military, not the end, as so
Trans plaintiff Ryan Karnoski and his wife Ester Matskewich in the LA Pride Parade on June 10, 2018 Los Angeles Blade File Photo by Karen Ocamb
much of our movement, and frankly, the country, seems to see it,” Robinson, former executive director of OutServe-SLDN, told Michelangelo Signorile on his SiriusXM Progress July 22, 2014 during Netroots Nation. “Transgender people are still prevented, by a series of outdated, obsolete medical regulations, from serving openly in the military. [This is] despite the fact that an estimated 15,000 trans people are serving in the military today.” As Trump’s Sec. of Defense, Marine Gen. Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis was expected to wrangle Trump’s spontaneous, uninformed tweet-policies. After all, he quietly intervened and helped stop antitrans legislation pushed by (now indicted) Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter and Rep. Vicky Hartzler. But Vice President Pence and his right-hand evangelical associate, Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, simply took their anti-trans advocacy into the Oval Office. At first Mattis appeared taken aback by Trump’s tweet. He put the brakes on his
predecessor’s policy change to allow for more study. But when several top military officials came out publicly supporting open trans service, speculation ran high that Mattis would find a way to go that route, too. Instead, when Trump ordered Mattis to come up with an internal military plan that embraces the Trump/Pence trans-ban policy—he did. “I firmly believe that compelling behavioral health reasons require the Department to proceed with caution before compounding the significant challenges inherent in treating gender dysphoria with the unique, highly stressful circumstances of military training and combat operations,” Mattis wrote in his March 23, 2018 threepage memo of recommendations. Mattis apparently extended that logic, as OutServe and Lambda Legal reported Dec. 19, announcing a lawsuit against Mattis for discharging two HIV-positive compliant and respected members of the Air Force who were suddenly found “unfit for continued military service.”
There are now four lawsuits against the proposed reinstatement of the trans ban, with four injunctions against Trump and Mattis moving forward. And the Justice Department is angry they are not getting the customary deference once shown in military cases. But, as the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson noted in his Dec. 14 story about Solicitor General Noel Francisco’s complaint: “It should be noted the Trump administration has taken advantage of nationwide injunctions in favor of antiLGBT policy.” “By the military’s own account, there have been no problems with transgender service members and they have produced zero evidence of any problems. Their desire to implement Trump’s ban is based on pure bias.” Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told Johnson after the DC Appeals Court heard oral arguments in Doe v. Trump. The DOJ requests are “an insult to the thousands of dedicated transgender people who are currently serving and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country if called on to do so.” Ryan Karnoski is one of nine transgender individuals and three organizations represented by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN in a federal lawsuit filed Aug. 28, 2017, in the Washington District Court challenging the constitutionality of the Trump administration’s trans ban. The state of Washington is also a plaintiff. Karnoski’s story targets the ban on the often-ignored Pentagon accessions policy that prohibits trans service members from recruitment, retention, promotion, and basically having a career in the US Armed Forces. The fight, Karnoski told the Los Angeles Blade as he rode with his wife Ester Matskewich in the LA Pride Parade on June 10, “is not about me. And I am so grateful to have role models in some of the trans service members who made the decision to come out and serve openly.” Hopefully, remembering the joyous feeling of patriotism and freedom after the DADT repeal will inspire advocates to work hard to prevent Trump’s new trans ban.
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18 • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
VOLUME 02 ISSUE 42
What do gay friends want for Christmas? To be seen An effort to be more present in the lives of loved ones
Brock Thompson is a freelance writer who contributes regularly to the Blade.
I’m a real estate agent by trade. And ask any real estate agent how business is or how the market is doing, and you’ll likely get the same answer — it’s great — or some variation on that. This, despite whatever the truth really is. We’re just trained to be optimistic, upbeat. I guess people are more or less like that. Asking anyone, how are you, and you’ll likely get the rote answer — fine. It’s just what we’re trained to say. Also, why do real estate agents also just automatically tell you that the market and their business is going great? Well, they, as human beings, don’t want to be seen as vulnerable, weak, or, God forbid, bad at what they do. I think gay men are a lot like real estate agents. No wonder most real estate agents seem to be gay men. But why is this really? It seems gay men have a lot of walls. And in many ways, it comes from a simple force of habit. From an early age we were taught to defuse and deflect and redirect any questions about ourselves we might find too personal. It’s just what we were trained to do in a lot of
No more, ‘How are you’s?’ I’m trying instead for something deeper. ways. But at the same time, gay men also seem to rely heavily on their friends, as we carve out urban families and support networks. Also, our queer community is just so small, and in many ways, getting smaller. News travels fast and everyone seems to love a bit of gossip here and there. I certainly include myself there. And everyone seems to be one degree removed from someone else. Social media has also made our gay worlds a little tighter, so to speak, and it certainly doesn’t take a degree in forensic science to track down someone to put a face with a story. All this makes it difficult to really share it seems. Beyond that, people seem reluctant to talk about their lives because they may never really be asked. When a friend revealed to me that he was diagnosed with depression earlier this year, I asked him what I could do to help. “Just ask me how I’m doing from time to time.” Such a simple request that was almost jarring to hear. I mean, do I not do this already? We’re friends after all. It occurred
to me that what he was asking was to really ask and to keep asking. And not to settle for cursory answers. When talking to my friend James about this column, he suggested ditching the old standby questions and going in for a deeper connection. Targeted questions could yield connections between friends. No more, ‘How are you’s?’ But trying instead for something deeper. But back to real estate. Yes, our automatic reaction to anyone asking how things are going is to tell you how fantastic it all is. And truth be told, wouldn’t you rather work with someone upbeat and optimistic? When it comes to friends, would you want to be around someone sad or troubled? That’s difficult, right? We tend not to want to be around sorrow; we just want the highlight reels. But really asking is also the hallmark of a good friend. So, for at least two friends I know, I will try to be more present, more available, more of an active player in how they’re doing. Going forward into 2019, it’s really the least I can do.
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Adam Rippon readies for bucket list, and beyond Former Olympic skater prepares for an acting career By SCOTT STIFFLER
You’re on thin ice if you think Adam Rippon plans to rest on his laurels. This year saw the good sport with the winning attitude take home a bronze Winter Olympics team event medal, get the gold (by coming in first on an athletes-only season of “Dancing with the Stars”), and shine, in the face of shade thrown from Donald Trump Jr.’s Twitter account. Having announced last month that his days as a competitive figure skater are over, Rippon is raring to parlay his recent comedic turn on “Will & Grace” into a robust acting portfolio. “Comedy feels like another space where I can feel super-comfortable,” he said late last week, while figuratively lacing up, in anticipation of taping scenes for the “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” holiday special,
“Christmas on I.C.E.” (Dec. 19, TBS). “I know what it takes to be a successful athlete,” Rippon said. “I want to start working with an acting coach, so when I go out for different roles, I’m prepared. I don’t want to be naïve and believe I can be successful in another career without putting in the work.” But what good is all that preparation, to say nothing of a standout wardrobe, if cold and flu season takes you out of the running? To the rescue came Rippon’s press junket, which was brought to us by the folks at Vicks, who partnered with the skating champ for last week’s NYC pop-up experience, featuring new Vicks DayQuil and NyQuil products. Hot soup, and a meet-and-greet with Rippon, awaited attendees. The celebrity draw assured us that his endorsement of the brand stems from
those years of training for competition. Even while under the weather, Rippon recalled, “I wanted to stay on the ice as much as possible. DayQuil and NyQuil, I could always rely on to take, and it helped me get through those practices, when I wasn’t feeling so great.” What’s more, he deadpanned, Vicks products “don’t come up in drug tests.” Deploying a disarming, off-the-cuff comment is a time-tested skill of Rippon’s, albeit one whose purpose has evolved. “Growing up,” he recalled, “I used humor to deflect. As I got older, I became more comfortable with who I was and the people around me, so I would use humor to connect. It’s a way to break down those barriers, where I’m able to meet somebody for the first time, and they feel like they know me.”
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Adam Rippon, at last week’s Vicks pop-up in NYC, has his sights set on TV, film and a Vegas skating extravaganza. AP photo by Diane Bondareff courtesy Rippon and Vicks
Currently at work on a memoir likely to stick its landing in late 2019, Rippon said it will “share my experience as a young kid from a small town, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way.” Expect the tone to be “lighthearted and funny, even when we’re talking about important events that didn’t go in my favor.” And there have been disappointments. After World Junior title wins in 2008 and 2009, Rippon was on the fast track to Olympic glory, and then he failed to make the cut, twice, in 2010 and 2014. But even when he didn’t end up on the podium, or competing at all, due to injury, he wasn’t one to mope — a good choice, since the camera loves sourpuss reaction shots to a poor score, or a competitor’s triumph. “When you can cheer on other people and help them have success,” Rippon reasoned, “it
always helps you. If I could be happy for them when they skated well, I felt I did better… Sometimes, when people come up, it feels like you’ve lost a little bit of yourself. But the real truth is, there’s always room for more. It’s not that one for them meant less for me.” Then there’s the burden, or legacy, or burdensome legacy, of being a pioneer: First out LGBTQ person to compete in the Winter Olympics, and first openly gay person to win “Dancing with the Stars.” “Yes, I’ve been the first to do them,” Rippon said, “but it’s such a small and almost irrelevant fact of my own life, because it’s just a part of who I am… Being gay is a part of me I couldn’t control. It just is. What I want to be known for is the way I treat other people, the dedication I have. Those are things I can work on.”
Looking at 2019 as a year “to transition to a new career,” Rippon hopes “you’ll be able to catch me on TV a lot more.” As for bucket list projects, Rippon envisions finding a regular gig that builds on his work as a special correspondent with “Good Morning America.” He’d also like to be in a comedic feature film. And watch out, Britney — they’ll be no “Oops!” when he does it again. “I’ll always be a skater,” Rippon vowed. “So I would love to have my own show in Vegas. I think that would be a lot of fun, and it would be a great opportunity for so many skaters, who are great performers, to showcase that.” Asked if he has a title in mind for the glittery Vegas marquee, the perennial can-do kid said, “I don’t have one yet, but don’t worry. I’ll think of something really good.”
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QUEERY 20 QUESTIONS FOR JENNIFER GREGG
22 • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
queery JENNIFER GREGG How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? I came out when I was 24. My family was the hardest to tell. I told my mother on New Year’s Eve and was promptly uninvited to my Godfather’s annual New Year’s Eve party. My family and I didn’t really speak for a very long time. We are starting to heal. Who’s your LGBT hero? All of us in the LGBTQ community are my heroes. I am lucky to interact with heroes daily through my work with the ONE Archives Foundation, ordinary people who made an extraordinary difference. I am always in awe of our community’s bravery and resilience.
Photo by Gene Reed
By JASON MIDA
Jennifer Gregg is my best friend. Yes, it helps that she is loyal, kind, smart compassionate and empathic, and, it also helps that she is funny as hell and that we both enjoy a good Indian buffet when we can find one. Yet, these are not the reasons Jennifer is my best friend, it’s because she makes me want to be a better person each and every day. Like many LGBTQ individuals from her generation and from the South, Jennifer’s road to self-acceptance and acceptance from those around her was a rocky road to say the least. She turned this hurt into a fierce empathy to fight for others, to seek out the underdog instead of cozying up to the safe bet, to always look for the person in the corner of a room at a party with no one to talk to, to take the time to genuinely ask people how they are doing rather than a simple pleasantry that is now commonplace, and to bring people together from all walks of life for the greater good, whether through her current work as executive director of the ONE Archives Foundation or when she and I worked together at the LGBTQ Victory Fund to elect openly LGBTQ individuals to office at the local, state and national level. Pain does not always beget pain. Sometimes pain turns itself into a determination for healing, not just for one’s own self, but for those around you. That’s Jennifer’s creed and roadmap for her life. When I finally decided to quit drinking last December, Jennifer was the first person I called, not because I thought she would have all the answers, but because I knew she would support me through this journey, and indeed she has. If you’re ever lucky enough to meet Jennifer, take the time to listen to her, to emulate her empathy and passion for others, and, if you’re as lucky as I have been, become a better person through her friendship. As we often say in our community, we get to choose what our families look like. I’m so blessed that Jennifer choose me to be part of hers.
What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present? Catch One. Jewel Thais-Williams not only started a nightclub, she started a movement. I was thrilled to honor Jewel this year with the ONE Archives Foundation’s inaugural History Maker’s award. Describe your dream wedding. My dream wedding is taking place this year! My partner and I are getting married on Dec. 21, Winter Solstice. It’s a very small and casual ceremony, with my daughter officiating. What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? Animal rights and rescue. I am a big supporter of FixNation and Farm Sanctuary. What historical outcome would you change? Our 2016 presidential election. What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime? When Ellen came out. She provided me with encouragement and a sense of safety (although I’m still waiting for my toaster oven). And, I wish I still had my Member’s Only jacket. On what do you insist? Honesty and humor. I also need to have water with me at all times. What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? The ONE Archives Foundation’s Youth Ambassadors for Queer History’s field trip to Project Angel Food. They learned about the history and mission of Project Angel Food, toured the amazing kitchen, and made holiday ornaments for clients. I love sharing our LGBTQ history with the next generation.
If your life were a book, what would the title be? Flying Free If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do? Make everyone queer. What a wonderful world that would be! What do you believe in beyond the physical world? Energy. Everything is energy and energy is everything. What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? The road to justice and equality is a long one that is constantly winding, with detours and roadblocks. Believe in your leadership. When you need support, ask for it; when asked for support, provide it. Stay the course. What would you walk across hot coals for? My family, those I love, and those in need. What LGBT stereotype annoys you most? That lesbians are handy. Definitely never ask me to fix anything. Also, I don’t own any flannel. What’s your favorite LGBT movie? There are so many wonderful LGBTQ movies! “Desert Hearts” is my all-time favorite: a queer film made by a lesbian filmmaker, presenting a positive portrayal of lesbian sexuality. And those love scenes! What’s the most overrated social custom? Not talking about sex, politics or religion at the dinner table. What trophy or prize do you most covet? I was a competitive swimmer when I was younger. I had a big regional meet at Frostburg State, and became really ill with a terrible head cold. I was swimming the 400-meter individual medley. I almost dropped out because I was so sick. But, I forged ahead instead. Not only did I take first, but I beat my personal best time. That was the day I found my inner strength and will power. I covet that moment—that win, and I lean on it often. What do you wish you’d known at 18? Take risks. Relish in your failures. Embrace change. It’s how you will get to know yourself. Why Los Angeles? I love the energy, the creativity, the push for progress. Los Angeles is where the LGBTQ movement really began. We have such a deep history of social justice in LA.
24 • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Adapting Baldwin Oscar-winning screenwriter/director Barry Jenkins on ‘Beale Street’ project By BRIAN T. CARNEY
Director Barry Jenkins and Kiki Layne on the set of ‘If Beale Street Could Talk.’ Photo by Tatum Mangus; courtesy Annapurna Pictures
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” writer/director Barry Jenkins’s stunning cinematic adaptation of the novel by legendary gay author James Baldwin, got its start when Jenkins was dumped by a college girlfriend. As the award-winning director of “Moonlight” recalls, “She was smarter, wiser, beautiful. I don’t know what she was doing with me.” It didn’t last long. “I was an idiot and she broke up with me,” he says. “She told me, ‘You need to read James Baldwin.’ I had painted myself into such a small box. I think she was telling me, ‘You need to grow.’” She recommended he start with “Giovanni’s Room” (about an interracial gay relationship) and “The Fire Next Time” (a book of essays about race and religion in America). “That was my entry point to Baldwin,” he says, “so that’s what I’m going to tell other folks. For your first experience with Baldwin, start there.” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” the first English-language cinematic adaptation of a Baldwin novel, tracks the romance between Clementine “Tish” Rivers (played by newcomer KiKi Layne) and Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt (Stephan James). Tish and Fonny are childhood friends who fall in love as adults, but their happiness is shattered when Fonny is falsely accused of rape by a racist white policeman. As Tish and her family fight to prove Fonny’s innocence, she discovers she’s pregnant with his child. In adapting Baldwin’s 1974 novel, Jenkins says he wanted to pay homage to the thoughtful and passionate way Baldwin constructed his narrative. “From the very beginning, the lives of black people in America have always been so deeply rooted in degradation and despair and yet we have always managed to manifest joy and love and build community,” he says. “I felt that on one hand we could paint with a brush that was very dark and reference that despair but on the other hand, we could paint with a brush that was leaning into this joy, this love, this beauty. Not that they go hand in hand, but I feel that they are both facts of the black experience.” This approach to Baldwin shaped every aspect of Jenkins’ cinematic adaptation. For example, Jenkins wanted the film to reflect the two different voices Baldwin uses in the book. According to the Academy Award-winning screenwriter, “one is very lush and sensual, very passionate about romance and romanticism. The other is a clear-eyed social critique, especially of how the American government treats the lives and souls of black folks.” The novel is narrated by Tish, but Jenkins notes that, “even though the story is told from Tish’s perspective, a lot of times it’s really Baldwin speaking through her. Film is not the best medium for interiority; literature is. But there was an opportunity to bring this interiority from the novel to the screen through the use of voiceover narration. We could bring Baldwin to the screen fully intact.” Jenkins’ decision to use voiceover narration led to a challenge in casting the character of Tish. “In the film,” Jenkins says, “Tish speaks with two voices. In the present-day scenes, she’s experiencing everything for the first time. She’s very innocent, almost naïve. But in the narration, where her voice fuses with Baldwin’s, she’s speaking from just a step removed. She’s gained experience. I wanted to have someone who could have this fresh innocence and yet speak in this wise way, the girl and the woman. When I saw Kiki’s audition tape, I felt I saw all those things.” In addition to his skills as a writer and director, Jenkins is known for his sensitive and thoughtful presentations of black masculinity. Jenkins credits his colleagues for helping him to explore this challenging territory. “Tarrel Alvin McCraney and James Baldwin have written these wonderful scenarios. I don’t know if it’s because Tarrel and Mr. Baldwin are both black gay men, but I know they are writers who want to push their characters to reveal their deepest truest selves. I feel fortunate that both of these pieces have landed in my lap and that I can go out with people like Trevante Rhodes and Andre Holland and Stephan James and Brian Tyree Henry, all those wonderful richly diverse black men who are willing to go to that place where you can truly see them in their deepest selves.” Jenkins’ next project will take him in a very different direction. He’s writing and directing an 11-part Amazon series based on the acclaimed novel “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead. In the meantime, he hopes audiences enjoy “If Beale Street Could Talk” and keep reading James Baldwin who he describes as “one of the greatest American thinkers of modern times.” “He was a very beautiful human being,” Jenkins says. “We need a lot more Baldwin these days.”
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • 25
It was late summer 2014 when I saw Zayn Malik perform at Nashville’s LP Field, which regularly serves as football stadium for the Tennessee Titans. At the time Malik, who goes by his stylized first name ZAYN, was touring alongside fellow One Direction members Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson in sold-out NFL arenas and mega-stadiums around the world. It was a part of the group’s ambitious 2014 “Where We Are Tour.” But among the over 50,000 people in attendance that August evening, it was clear Zayn was crowd favorite, rivaled only perhaps by Styles. For artists like Zayn, it can be hard make the transition from filling arenas with teenagers to appealing to broader age demographic. And Zayn became aware of the potential challenge earlier than other members of the boy band, make his exit while the group was still at peak popularity. His departure, no doubt, marked the beginning of the end for One Direction, but Zayn wasted no time developing a solo act. He quickly released the single “Pillowtalk,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, followed by full debut album, “Mind of Mine,” also a No. 1 on Billboard. But Zayn’s sophomore album “Icarus Falls,” which marks almost four years since his departure from One Direction, is perhaps the best test yet of Zayn’s ability to appeal to a larger audience. Lead single “Let Me” is a laid back, R&B-infused track that works rather well. It’s nothing spectacular but has catchy, chill rhythm. It would be entirely inoffensive if it weren’t for the excessively banal lyrics: “Sweet baby, our sex has meaning/Know this time you’ll stay ‘til the morning.” Sex is always a given in pop music, but one has the impression that Zayn learned everything he knows about relationships from listening to Top 40 radio. The content is more of a regurgitation of everything else one hears than something with even a hint of originality. The freshness of “Mind Of Mine” makes the banality of certain tracks on the new album appear especially pronounced. The other singles released ahead of the album — and there were five of them after “Let Me” — have been mixed. “Entertainer” abstains from total lyrically inanity but travels little distance musically. The opening hook is ear-catching, but the song seems to be stuck in some sort of limbo, never really changing tenor. “Sour Diesel” is something of a musical outlier on the album and sounds like something that will be used on the runway at Paris Fashion Week. It’s a sort of hollow, monotonous upbeat thing that would pair well with another more stimulating spectacle. The nail in the coffin is a kitschy guitar solo toward the end that was ostensibly borrowed from the rehearsal of a Guns N’ Roses cover band. The single “Too Much,” featuring Timbaland, is much better. It has a sensual pulse that carries the melody and robust synth pads that make for an ethereal sound. “Fingers” is a largely mediocre R&B track and sounds a bit dated. It’s better suited to 2008 than 2018. “No Candle No Light,” featuring Nicki Minaj, is a good uptempo dance track, but the EDM-inspired chorus again sounds a few years out of date with effects not unlike Skrillex and Diplo’s 2015 “Where Are Ü Now” with Justin Bieber. Yet for all its faults, there is no shortage of material. The album clocks in a just under 90 minutes, surprisingly long for a pop record. And there are solid tracks interspersed throughout. The songs “Scripted,” “Fresh Air” and “Imprint” are all musically interesting and avoid the lyrical unoriginality that plagues several of the singles. There is no questioning that Zayn has successfully distanced himself from his boy band days and with more success than his former One Direction bandmates, with the exception of Harry Styles, who has a fairly developed solo project. Yet “Icarus Falls,” unlike the much more innovative “Mind of Mine,” secures his place in the pop music scene by appealing to the lowest common denominator. In 2018 we can do better and so can he.
ZAYN ‘Falls’ Bloated, banal, nearly 90-minute album only intermittently interesting By THOM MURPHY
‘Icarus Falls,’ the new ZAYNE record, sounds like the former One Direction singer got all his sex education by listening to pop radio. Photo courtesy RCA
26 • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Authenticity is the heart of the matter New play ‘Wink’ gives non-binary actor a chance to shine By JOHN PAUL KING
Amy Argyle, Adam Cardon and Euriamis Losada star in ‘Wink,’ which continues at the Zephyr Theatre (7456 Melrose Ave.), 8 p.m. Saturdays and Mondays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 13. Added performances on Fridays Dec. 21, 28, and Jan. 11, no performance on Mondays Dec. 24 and Dec. 31.
It’s easy to lose your way in Hollywood That’s especially true for someone who already faces challenges finding a way – anywhere – to be their authentic self. “Wink,” a new play by Neil Koenigsberg currently onstage in a West Coast premiere at the Zephyr Theatre, explores that experience. It’s a story of the unlikely friendship that develops between the title character (Andrik Ochoa) – a homeless, gender-questioning teenager – and a former A-list actor (David Mingrino) who is now doing B movies. Both down on their luck in Los Angeles, these two souls are connected by a synchronistic meeting. They quickly bond over music, art and life’s unexpected misfortunes; together, they learn that sometimes the best way forward is to stop fighting the past. Playwright Koenigsberg says, “Volunteering at a New York LGBTQ center for homeless youth was a transformative experience for me. It became the inspiration for ‘Wink.’ I wanted to tell a story about a non-binary kid, about the unexpected connections that happen in life and how it can forever change us.” For Andrik Ochoa, the non-binary actor who plays the title character, Wink is a role that feels very close to home. “There are so many aspects we share,” they say. “We are both alone in a big world and thrown into chaos that we don’t fully understand. We get impressed by values and character, not titles or money. Both of us have been outcast, away from family and home, embracing and fighting for our true masculine and feminine selves even when the world may never understand.” “I wish I had Wink’s innocence, such an open heart,” they add. “At some point I was like that too, but now the only people I open my heart to fully are the characters that I play. If I’m hurt or feeling joy, no one really knows. Maybe by the end of the run I’ll learn from Wink to open up a little more.” Ochoa says it wasn’t always easy to navigate gender identity in their work. They recall participating in an acting workshop with some of the cast of “Transparent” while still living as a transgender man. “This was before I was non-binary and I was still finding myself. It was a dark time in my life and I was surviving. It was difficult facing the fact that I wasn’t really as happy as I thought, as a trans man, and my most important relationships were falling apart.” The experience was transformative on both a personal and professional level. A few days after the workshop, Ochoa was contacted by the “Transparent” producers, who invited them to play a small role on the show. “Turns out, I couldn’t take the part,” they say, “because I had not gotten my working permit yet. I was very sad, but it didn’t matter because I knew I had what it takes, beyond my years of drama school and training. Now I was able to understand my emotions like never before and that was a big
change to my advantage. I just needed to keep moving forward.” As a non-binary performer, Ochoa says they have found people in the industry open to evolving around matters of gender identity. “So far, most people seem excited about it,” they say. “My agents, even though they didn’t know much about non-binary or the gender umbrella, were extremely interested and eager to learn. They were not sure how to promote me. Finally, they said, with a smile on their faces, ‘We should present you as yourself.’ Even so, there are challenges. “My biggest challenge, since returning to acting after finding myself, is signing up for auditions on casting websites. They require the submitter to choose if they are male or female. That has been an issue for me, and for them, because I can and want to play both.” They add, with a chuckle, “On some websites I signed up as male and others as female.” They continue, “People ask me if I mind playing female characters or if I find it traumatizing. Not at all traumatizing, ever since femininity is not a prison for me anymore, I feel like I can portray feminine characters with more love, freedom and acceptance than I ever could have before. It’s crazy and it’s beautiful.” As for the inclusion of characters with nontraditional gender identities in Hollywood’s narrative content, Ochoa says they see progress. “Maybe not as much right now, but I definitely see it coming in the near future. People around the world are craving honest and diverse characters. Audiences want to experience real life, they want to see themselves, and Hollywood is maybe ready to deliver now that there is so much positive feedback for other non-binary artists such as Asia Kate Dillon, Liv Hewson, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Jill Soloway, Kaitlyn Alexander and others.” They add, “I am expecting the major streaming networks to come up with something like “Wink,” and I’m optimistic that they’ll start talking more and more about trans, non-binary and all the different gender identities.” The future may be bright, but for the moment, Ochoa is happy enough to be involved with “Wink.” “It’s because of the message it gives to people,” they say. “If we all get to know what every day of our enemy’s lives have been like, we could not hate them anymore, only understand why they are who they are. People are tempted to think non-binary individuals are confused, I’ve been a female and a male and now I know exactly who I am. I am true. This need to classify people so we can treat them better or worse is just a social construct suffocating human nature. ‘Wink’ strives to get to the very core of this.” “And I love that.” For reservations online, visit Plays411.com/Wink or call (323) 960-1055.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • 27
Winter solstices come, and winter solstices go. But this time around the sun, two icy hot queens are bookending Dec. 21 with shows sure to outshine 2018’s shortest day — by supplying Toms, Dicks, Marys and allies with all the requisite shenanigans necessary to embark upon the holiday slog all merry and bright (and possibly tipsy). On Dec. 20, Lady Bunny — legendary NYC drag queen, Wigstock creator, and go-to “RuPaul’s Drag Race” punchline — somehow shimmies down the narrow chimney, to gift Catalina Jazz Club (6725 Sunset Blvd.) audiences with her new holiday show, “The Stockings Were Hung.” Not to be outdone, LA’s own Jackie Beat has two gigs on Dec. 22: “Ross Mathews’ Dragtastic Bubbly Brunch, Holiday Edition” (at Rockwell (1714 N. Vermont Ave.) with its namesake in attendance), then “Hamburger Jackie’s WeHo Holiday Edition” (at Hamburger Mary’s (8288 Santa Monica Blvd.), natch). We spoke with both queens, for a piping pot’s worth of spilled tea sure to rip your funny bone a new one, as if a mug of hot chocolate had aggressively topped a candy cane. One toss of the dice on the part of this reporter (a thinly veiled drinking game only partially sanctioned by the Blade) determined who went first. Fate chose Miss Beat as our winner. Asked how she’ll pace liquid courage consumption and parcel her rage for those two Dec. 22 gigs, Beat answered, “Actually, I don’t drink — unless you count gravy. Yep, no alcoholic beverages for me. That’s why I’m such a horrible c**t. Can we use that word? And as far as my rage is concerned, it’s all an act, honey. I’m the nicest bitch you’ll ever meet. It’s true... ask anyone. F**KING ASK THEM!” Her all-caps declaration heard loud and clear, talk turned to this reporter’s attendance of Beat’s recent run, at NYC’s Laurie Beechman Theatre, of “Menstrual Krampus,” a filthy, tune-filled anecdote to Hallmark-friendly seasonal cheer. Will there be crossover content in any of these LA shows? “Menstrual Krampus,” Beat said, “was my 20th annual holiday show, so I have a lot of material to choose from. I am proud to say that I have ruined just about every holiday song you can think of. I also have songs about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. I try to offend everyone. These shows will probably be more of my time-tested, crowd-pleasing classics. Also, people are eating, so I may have to avoid some of my more repulsive numbers!” As for what makes the Hamburger Mary’s gig a very special Yuletide version of her monthly “Hamburger Jackie’s” show, your hostess promised “holiday looks and numbers” from “me and my special guests, Marta Beatchu and Roz Drezfalez” — both of whom, Beat noted, will also be “pulling a double shift that day” (they’re on the bill for both Dec. 22 Beat gigs). “And the noon brunch at Rockwell will also feature Tia Wanna and the gorgeous Sonique. I’m super excited to see Sonique do her new Christmas song, ‘Santa Please Come Home,’ live on stage! People always ask me how I can push myself so hard, especially at my age, by doing brunch and then a dinner show. You’d be surprised what I’ll do for free food. Free food tastes better!” Now that we’ve given you a Beat, Miss Jackson, prepare to dine out on the wit and wisdom of Bunny, whose “Pig in a Wig” comedy, music and commentary show was seen by this reporter, during a post-Thanksgiving trip to his familiar NYC haunt, the Beechman. The free drink that came with the press comp proved an irresistible draw. That, coupled with the venue’s reasonably priced fried calamari, kept this intrepid correspondent in his seat long enough to fall, all over again, for a very special Lady. (Don’t get your hopes up, mother. Even if the love were requited, this gal lacks the plumbing required to produce those grandchildren you’re forever yapping about.) Ever the trooper, Bunny became a willing sub — substitute, that is — for the divine Ginger Minj, when dental surgery forced her to bow out (Minj makes it to the venue Jan. 18-20, with her “Happy New Queer” collection of mirth and gay anthems). “It was late notice, and I was suffering from throat issues,” Bunny recalled. “But when you’re filling in for someone, you can’t cancel.” Some of the material, she admitted, “wasn’t ready.” And, yes, a cheat sheet was referred to more than once, and there were a few lip synch fails. But witty asides, knowing glances, and a down and dirty reworking of the “Despacito” lyrics combined to provide an effective treatment for Lady Bunny’s lack of prep. (As in preparation, not PrEP. Must you forever be pointed in the direction of the gutter?) As for what makes her Los Angeles show tick, the mother of all tuckers said, “I just thought to myself, ‘Why should Mariah Carey be the only holiday heifer straining to hit her high notes?’ There will be some non-Christmas stuff, but it’s basically Christmas with an atheist.” And trigger warning trolls, beware: “If you think ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ is offensive, and ‘Santa Baby’ should also be banned, as ‘Baby’ has been from Canadian radio stations for being too creepy and rapey, don’t come to my show,” Lady Bunny said. “But do come to my show, if you’d like to hear my classics, like ‘I Saw Daddy Fisting Santa Claus.’ My tunes are intentionally offensive, and, hopefully, hilarious.” For tickets to all of the gigs our queens so shamelessly plugged, visit catalinajazzclub.com, rockwell-la.com, and hamburgermarys.com/weho. Artist info at missjackiebeat.com and ladybunny.net.
OUT & ABOUT
Drag yourself into winter Lady Bunny, Jackie Beat make the season bright BY SCOTT STIFFLER
Lady Bunny gifts Catalina Jazz Club with her new holiday show, “The Stockings Were Hung.” Photo by Steven Menendez
NO RESERVATIONS. This holiday season, embrace the welcoming spirit of West Hollywood and celebrate all there is to LOVE. Now through January 31, book a night in any West Hollywood hotel, and get a $50 gift card to shop to your heartâ€™s content at the all-new Beverly Center. For complete details visit www.visitwesthollywood.com
LAST MINUTE GIFTS
Last minute giving guide There’s still time to find wonderful gifts By SUSAN HORNIK
Luca + Danni
30 • DECEMBER 21, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
If you have waited and waited but don’t know what to buy for your loved one, your boss, your family members, best friends or even your neighbor, Los Angeles Blade presents the second installment of our Holiday Gift Guide. These are a few of our favorite things, Part II. For The Fashionista Luca + Danni is an accessories brand whose story is rooted in embracing the journey of life. Why not gift their lovely, new brass ring, Love is Love, as a reminder to express ourselves freely and celebrate equality. 18kt gold plated or silver plated finish. Vivo Barefoot shoes are thin, wide and flexible, allowing us to feel the ground beneath us, while providing protection from the elements. The company’s Ryder boot gives a nod to the classic riding boot, coupling luxury leather with a stretchyneoprene back panel for a flattering, fitted silhouette. Reaching just below the knee, this sophisticated boot pairs perfectly with winter wardrobes and delivers all the benefits of barefoot in effortless style. Malvados is a lifestyle footwear brand designed for the girl who loves music, travel and fashion. The line boasts unique, comfort-driven design collections, often featuring vegan leather straps in a variety of beautiful colors and metallics. Malvados’ chic designs move you from morning yoga to open mic night in complete style. Malvados now carries a men’s line featuring suede and EVA styles. For The Foodie This year, GODIVA is excited to introduce new “mini-cake” dessert pieces inspired by traditional flavors that people enjoy during the holidays. There are four flavors within this collection including Milk Chocolate Almond Cookie, Dark Chocolate Pecan Pie, Chocolate Ganache, and Dark Pear Vanilla, all packaged in a seasonal gift box. For the coffee lover in your life, how about a monthly subscription of organic, fair-trade cold brew coffee, Wandering Bear, with just 5 calories and zero sugar! Little Secrets Pieces and their brand new Crispy Wafers just launched in Whole Foods this month and are fantastic. They come in amazing flavors like Toasted Coconut Pieces or Dark Chocolate Wafers with Sea Salt. They even have some fun seasonal flavors like Gingerbread Cookie and Peppermint. For the discerning coffee lover, Nespresso has a fantastic new machine, the Lattissima One. Indulge in top-quality cappuccino and latte macchiato without spending money at Starbucks! The machine a new and innovative fresh milk system that delivers the exact quantity of milk you want, eliminating any milk waste, and is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. For That Hunk Who Loves to Be Healthy Recently seen on “Shark Tank,” BoomBoom is an all natural, plant-based, nasal inhaler that is made for people who want stay focused and feel refreshed. The product uses a blend of menthol, essential oils, and other stimulating scents to help you inhale and feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Instead of grabbing an energy drink, soda, or coffee, BoomBoom is perfect while work, driving, or out at outdoor activities and festivals. COBY has a cool, rechargeable, Hands-free Stereo Headphones designed in a Smooth black frame with padded headband and ear cushions. Great to wear when you and your
man go running! SZENT enhances the experience of drinking water with only the scent of all-natural oils infused in a ring around the neck of the bottle. This simple addition channels the flavor experience through your sense of smell, avoiding the need for artificial sweeteners or additives. Propel Water is a fantastic way for your boo to stay hydrated after a workout. A case of the electrolyte water will put the pep back in his step! For Man’s Best Friend Daily Dish stews for dogs from Caru Pet Food look, smell, and taste like a home cooked meal. Packed with essential vitamins and minerals to keep pets healthy, these delicious stews are made with non-GMO ingredients and do not contain any wheat, gluten, soy ingredients or animal by-products. Plus, they’re packed Tetra Pak cartons, a BPA-free sustainable packaging that keeps the stews fresh without preservatives. Biff the Dog, is the character-based brand with a PAWSitively lovable vibe. Biff is known for sporting his signature plush spiked collar and he delivers inspiring messages through themes like “don’t judge a dog by his collar” and “learn to celebrate differences.” The unique SPIKED! by P.L.A.Y. collection lets pets of all sizes, ages and breeds unleash their inner Biff. This adorable array includes eco-friendly beds, toys and collars. Pet parents feel confident in these durable and playfully designed products that are thoughtfully made with non-toxic, sustainable materials. For The Gardener AeroGarden is the the ultimate DIY kit for growing fresh herbs, lettuces, tomatoes, peppers and flowers right on the kitchen counter. With AeroGarden, everything’s included: gourmet herb seed pods, Miracle-Gro plant food, and an LED grow light. Each garden is set up in minutes and begins grow naturally in water – no soil needed. By simply programming the type of plants you’re growing, AeroGarden provides the ideal light and alerts you when nutrients or water is necessary. Stocking Stuffers Ring in the new year with the TENGA Smart Vibe Ring, which enhances partnered pleasure and will be sure to elevate any sex life. It’s an elegant yet extremely powerful vibrator weighing in less than one once, and is waterproof so it’s usable in the bath. LGBTQ-owned company, Coco + Carmen’s Darling Divas Lauren Keychain/Bag Charm is ridiculously cute. If your significant other likes astrology, check out “Your Guide to the Future” from Jonathan and Daniel Cainer. Their chart presents your next year in amazing detail and takes you all the way through to the end of 2019. Every major (and minor) astrological influence that will affect you personally. Not just for your sun-sign... but because it is based on your time and place of birth as well as your date of birth, it’s unique to you alone. Page after page of uncannily accurate predictions and in-depth readings that explain all you’ve lately been going through and what great opportunities await you next. Armed with this precious information and new perspective, you’ll feel ready to take on the world and make the changes you need to make.
LA ZOO LA ZOO LIGHTS N I 16 G –HJAN T L 6Y NIGHTLY NOV LIGHTS NOV 27–JAN 3 *
L.A.’s must-see light experience shines brighter than ever, N I G H T LY with dazzling new additions for the 2018/2019 season. Explore
NOV 3 enjoying seasonal sights and a glowing 27–JAN wonderland while delights, all under the stars at the beautiful L.A. Zoo.
Discount on online purchase only. Not valid for daytime admission. *Closed December 24 and December 25.
12/18/2018 Los Angeles Zoo
Get your tickets today at LAZooLights.org SPECIAL DISCOUNT on L.A. Zoo Lights admission for Los Angeles Blade readers!
Purchase online with code GR1U8P
Losangelesblade.com, Volume 2, Issue 42, December 21, 2018