Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 6, February 8, 2019

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F E B R U A R Y 0 8 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 0 6 • 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



Pride Media says the check’s in the mail Freelancers angry at non-payment By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Recent media reports about freelancers angry at non-payment by Pride Media turned into an uproar on Twitter and a sudden outpouring of stories by a universe of other unpaid writers and artists. On Feb. 5, they posted an open letter “calling upon the media industry to pay its freelancers fairer, better and faster,” according to a tweet from freelancer Anna Codrea-Rado. Of the 20page letter, 16 pages are names of signatories. They are protesting in a hostile marketing environment. On Feb. 1, Vice Media, McClatchy and Machinima joined Gannett, BuzzFeed, and Verizon (Yahoo, AOL, and The Huffington Post) in announcing layoffs bringing the total jobs lost in 2019 to over 2,200, according Business Insider.

Many of these sites deliver LGBT-content, often written by LGBT writers keen to produce culturally competent news and features. Interestingly, Pride Media is doing well under its new ownership, Oreva Capital. According to ComScore data, Out

magazine had about 1.5 million unique views in December 2018. Additionally, revenue generated by all Pride Media brands “is projected to increase 26 percent to $7.2 million this year,” WWD reported Jan. 28. But there’s a pall hanging over Pride Media’s burgeoning success—the slew of unpaid freelancers becoming increasingly vocal, visible and organized. “My invoices were already several months overdue and they had stopped replying to my emails,” travel writer Adam Groffman (travelsofadam. com) told the Los Angeles Blade by phone from New York. Luckily, he had other work “so it didn’t end up being so traumatic.” Pride Media CEO Nathan Cole told the Los Angeles Blade that a confluence of forces were to blame. Previously, Out magazine was essentially outsourced to independent production company McCarthy LLC and Grand Editorial, a company created by former Out editor-in-chief Aaron Hicklin to handle content and payments. Hicklin sold Grand Editorial to McCarthy, presumably

transferring the pre-existing arrangement to now one between McCarthy and Pride. But three months after becoming CEO, Nathan Cole dissolved the arrangement with McCarthy. Coles says it took his new threeperson finance and accounting team a long time to identify who contracted directly with Pride Media and start payments. Meanwhile, a judge in Manhattan Small Claims Court, recently acknowledged the dissolution, separating Pride Media from a claim filed by two photographers hired by McCarthy/Grand. “I was a successful agent at Creative Artists Agency for half a decade,” Cole says. “One cannot succeed at a talent agency if one doesn’t have a very sincere and very high regard for talent of artistic and creative people and that is something that is so important to me and something that I greatly admire because I have none of those gifts to tell stories or to create beautiful imagery. And it’s soul crushing to me that these folks have not been paid.” Pride Media is now catching up “and paying everyone.”

Anti-LGBT hate crimes rising in LA region Sharpest increase among trans women of color By STAFF REPORTS As the impact of the alleged hate crime against Jussie Smollett in Chicago continues to be felt across the United States, in the Southland, new figures show an alarming increase in reported attacks against LGBT Angelenos and other minority groups. At a previously booked appearance at West Hollywood’s Troubadour club on Feb. 2, the young black, gay, actor and musician performed at his first show since his reported attack. “I’m not fully healed yet. But I’m going to and I’m gonna stand strong with y’all,” Smollett told the crowd of about 300 fans, adding that he fought back. In terms of an overall clearer picture of hate crimes in the Los Angeles region, Brian Levin, director of California State University-San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism told the Los

Jussie Smollett made his first public appearance in LA after his alleged attack in Chicago last week. Photo by Starfrenzy / Courtesy Bigstock

Angeles Blade on Feb. 4 that the studies of the statistics published nationally by various law enforcement agencies revealed that in the Fall of 2018 there were sharp increases in hate crimes in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Levin said that there was a sharp spike upwards that coincided with the 2018 midterm elections. From October to December, hate crimes in LA rose more than 31 percent, compared to the same period a year before, with African-American, LGBTQ,

Jewish and Latino communities appearing to be the most frequent targets. But, Levin told the Los Angeles Blade, LA was the only city showing a decline in anti-Muslim hate crime. Although the Center has yet to finish its annual report, “one reason why these diverse cities may be seeing more severe incidents of hate is that ‘hate-mongers’ feel emboldened,” Levin said. “Our center contends that the most common threat, the most prominent extremist threat right now, is undeniably far right and white nationalists.”

California as a whole had an eleven percent increase, with 56 percent of crimes being racially motivated and 22 percent directed toward the LGBTQ community, with the sharpest increase in hate crimes against minority Trans women. “What we’ve found is that demographics appear to play a role, so that in cities with proportionately larger gay communities like Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, DC anti-LGBTQ hate crime is often the most common in a given year,” Levin added. “In 2018, the LGBTQ community overall in Los Angeles was the target of more crimes at 70, but gay males were second to AfricanAmericans, with 56 and 61 respectively. There were 17 transgender crimes in the city, down from 25 in 2017. That year gay males were the most frequent target in the city with 65 criminal incidents.” Crimes targeting gays, lesbians and LGBT groups represented 21 percent of all hate crimes, according to the LA County Commission on Human Relations report, which also noted that 76 percent of those crimes were violent in nature.



TransLatin@ Coalition to release major policy agenda LA-based national organization celebrating its 10th anniversary By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Many years ago, Bamby Saleco was teaching Spanish-speaking transgender women about HIV prevention at Beinestar Health Services in East LA, information she’d learned from her friend and mentor, Maria Roman. But a big heart and dedication to her trans sisters led Salcedo to earn more, get more experience with eight years at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles coordinating services for trans youth, and become a nationally renowned leader as founder and president of the TransLatin@ Coalition. On Jan. 19, activist Salcedo took the stage at the massive Women’s March in Washington DC and introduced TransLatin@ Coalition to the world through C-SPAN. This year marks the organization’s 10th anniversary. “Today, trans women get to be visible to the whole world. We get to raise our voice and proudly say that trans women are women. Period! Nobody—not the government, not individuals, not companies or individuals— get to dictate who we are as individuals,” Salcedo told the world. “As a community and as a movement we will define ourselves.” Meanwhile, Maria Roman, who cofounded TransLatin@ Coalition and took the Women’s March stage with Salcedo, is getting married in March at St John’s Cathedral—the first trans woman to be married there in the church’s 100-year history. Roman and her musician/artist fiancé Jason Taylorson have been documenting their love story and have created a GoFundMe account to complete their documentary TransTALE. It shows “their journey to finding love against societal bias standards that continue to shame Cis/Hetero/Men who are attracted and in love with Trans women,” Roman says on Facebook. “Maria and Jason’s goal is that their story will inspire other individuals within the Trans spectrum to follow their hearts, spirits and be guided by the resiliency of living authentically.” In addition to their visible activism and annual GARRAS Fashion Show, TransLatin@ Coalition has worked hard on developing

‘Today, trans women get to be visible to the whole world,’ said Bamby Salcedo. Photo courtesy Salcedo via Facebook

policy and political strategies. For instance, organization leaders have been keeping tabs on newly elected Gov. Gavin Newsom, awaiting his specific commitment to trans people. “Thus far, he’s made claims about ending private prisons, protecting immigrant families and continuing strides in reforming the unjust prison system to end overcrowded prisons, but little to no mention has been made about how he plans to address the unjust conditions TGI people are facing daily in California and throughout the country,” Policy Strategist and Organizer Michaé Pulido wrote in their new monthly newsletter. The organization plans to do their own analysis of Newsom’s proposed budget and provide specific recommendations. TransLatin@ Coalition also continues to align with other social justice and activist organizations. For instance, they participated in the JusticeLA coalition’s #CareNotCages rally opposing the construction of a $3.5 million Women’s Jail in Mira Loma. “LA County does not need new jail construction. Through diversion, decriminalization, bail reform, and investment

in community-based resources, the county can successfully lower its jailed population size. Jails and prisons are unsafe facilities for our people, especially because of the biasbased profiling and policing practices utilized by law enforcement against trans and GNC people,” Pulido wrote in the newsletter. “[H]ousing placements for trans and GNC people are based on genitalia, leading many trans women to be housed in men’s facilities and putting us at risk for abuse, harassment, and mistreatment,” she wrote. “We advocate for community-based rehabilitation and demand that this 3.5 billion dollar funding be utilized in ways that help our communities, rather than further incarcerate them.” There is another rally on Feb. 12 at 10:00am, the day the LA County Board of Supervisors plans to re-open discussions about the jail. The next day, on Feb. 13, Salcedo and the TransLatin@ Coalition will launch their Trans Policy Agenda. The report has been in development for over six months, collecting surveys and community input to identify urgent issues, present specify demands and outline policy solutions to real life issues

impacting the trans, gender-non-conforming, and intersex communities nationwide. “It is important that we as Trans people build our political incidence. The #TransPolicyAgenda is a road map for us to understand what needs to be done for us to change the landscape of the livelihood of Trans people,” Salcedo tells the Los Angeles Blade. “No other Trans-led organization in the nation has launched a policy agenda. We are very proud that as an organization, we continue to pioneer some of the work that needs to be done on behalf of our people,” she says. “The collaboration between our community and the young beautiful people who invested their time and their talent in to putting this document together, and the work that needs to be done in collaboration with our elected officials after the #TransPolicyAgenda is released, is what will create the changes that will mark history for our people to be dignified in our society.” The public is invited to the release reception at The California Endowment, located on 1000 Alameda St., Los Angeles. For questions, contact Michaé Pulido at michaep@translatinacoalition.org.

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Final Curtain for the Gay Men’s Chorus? Unsubstantiated accusations rock the chorus as John Duran departs. By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com It was a long time ago when gay men with KS lesions covered up with makeup and frail, thin men propped up by their brothers sang their hearts out to weeping audiences watching their friends defiantly use music to resist the dying of the light, to proudly stand as a band of brothers fighting discrimination and AIDS, sometimes tossing in a sassy gesture of fun flamboyancy. After all, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles started in 1979 as a social organization to give gay men an alternative to the bars. In fact, Jerry Carlson, cofounder of a gay chorus in Chicago, caused some consternation when he took over as conductor in 1980 and started transforming the singing group into a more professional chorus worthy of tackling Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms.” The chorus also realized their larger responsibility of representing gay men in a hostile world. In 1985, a year after AIDS first hit them hard, the chorus won a blind audition to sing at the American Choral Directors Association’s western division conference. However, when the association discovered that the winning group was gay, they tried to withdraw the invitation. Backed by the ACLU, the chorus filed suit and the association relented. “It was a powerful experience,” Jon Bailey, chair of the music department at Pomona College, and former head of the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University, told gay Los Angeles Times reporter David Colker for a huge Dec.1988 feature. “They sang very well, with great confidence. There were standing ovations.” In July 1986, Carlson developed AIDS. The 95-member group met to develop a contingency plan and invite Bailey to take over when the time came. “Jerry was very close to all of us,” Craig Woodbury told The Times. “When we talked about him, we were talking about how all of us had the potential for coming down with the disease.” They pledged to affirm who

Artistic Director Dr. Joseph Nadeau saying goodbye Photo by Troy Masters

they were as gay men and to support each other. Carlson died at his West Hollywood home on Nov. 23, 1987. He was 31. That Gay Men’s Chorus doesn’t exist anymore. At a Jan. 28 meeting, the once famous brotherhood seemed more like “Boys in the Band” meets the Salem Witch Trials as members fumed over how to get rid of longtime GMCLA board chair John Duran and executive director Jonathan Weedman. The basis for their fury was a report in WEHOville that appears to heavily emphasize innuendo and claims from anonymous sources, relying particularly on “[a] person involved with GMCLA and with intimate knowledge of the incident, who asked not to be identified for fear of being thrown out of the organization.” This person suggests having direct knowledge of the report

conducted by “private investigator Steve Rodig of RCS Investigations and Consulting, a former Anaheim police officer.” WEHOville reports that Rodig was hired to investigate an allegation “that Weedman, who is 59, had forced a then-20-year-old chorus member to perform oral sex on him in December 2017…. However, it also has been said that Weedman performed oral sex on the young man.” In Duran’s case, a young man, subsequently identified in the LA Times as Jason Tong, alleged that Duran inappropriately pushed his fingers into the waistband of Tong’s underwear last October as they were dressing for a joint concert with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Mexico City at the chorus’ performance home at the Alex Theatre in Glendale to launch its 40th anniversary.

WEHOville reported that “Duran has denied the allegation, noting that the alleged incident took place in a room full of 150 people. A half dozen of those near Duran said they did not see the alleged incident take place. Duran said he asked to meet with the young man, who was a part-time GMCLA employee, but that he declined to meet Duran and resigned from GMCLA.” In both instances, the allegations were vehemently denied by Weedman and Duran and were investigated by credible outside investigators hired by GMCLA’s own counsel who found no evidence to support either charge. However, since both are Human Resource issues, those reports remain under seal for privacy reasons, having only been seen by the counsel, and the GMCLA’s board of directors—all of whom read through the reports and agreed with the investigators’


GMCLA executive director Jonathan Weedman during bomb threat Photo via GMCLA

conclusions. The board includes longtime activist, politico and attorney Diane Abbitt (MECLA, ANGLE, EQCA) and Betsy Butler, executive director of The Women’s Law Center, neither of whom would shirk their responsibilities or risk their reputations by ignoring or glossing over any allegation of wrongdoing, even for a friend. Abbitt also chairs the HR Committee and told the LA Times for their story that GMCLA has policies and procedures in place to discreetly handle any claim of harassment or abuse. In her 10 years on the board, this is the first and only allegation against Duran. “If there was a problem, if there were allegations of sexual harassment, they would have been brought to the board,” Abbitt told the LA Times. “Nobody has even asked me privately to have a discussion

about allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct.” So what happened and why now, after 40 years, have these dismissed allegations surfaced in the media and been given credibility, causing an existential crisis for the once beloved Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles? The Los Angeles Blade has spoken with a number of people, some of whom would only speak off the record or on background. But three individuals independently told the same story about what was told to investigators for their reports that we think we can reliably report how the allegations came to be dismissed. A number of people believe the crisis started with a behind-the-scenes powerclash between Weedman and Artistic Director Dr. Joseph Nadeau. (The Los

Angeles Blade reached out to Nadeau but received no reply.) GMCLA had not had an executive director for seven months and fundraising was slow with a lot of debt. Weedman, the well-known longtime Wells Fargo Foundation Senior Vice President and fine arts advocate, was hired in Feb. 2017 to “shepherd the organization’s considerable 270-plus choral membership,” and use his relationships with people with money to create new opportunities for donations. Weedman made a number of changes that he deemed necessary but several people grumbled over his management style and his leadership capabilities. Despite celebrity appearances and wider visibility, ticket sales had been declining and audience surveys said the chorus’ quality and sound were declining. Weedman


and some board members wanted to try different artistic approaches. Nadeau was reportedly furious, especially that he had to report to Weedman, as opposed to reporting to the board as he had requested. After six years with the chorus, he resigned, taking his final bow on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018. But before then, odd things started happening. On June 21, there was a bomb threat at the Alex Theatre and everyone was evacuated. On the same day, flyers with photos of Weedman began to circulate accusing him of sexual misconduct. Fearing a crazy person was targeting him, he installed surveillance cameras on his house. A month later, post cards start circulating, this time with photos of Weedman, Duran and board member Steve Holzer. No one can figure out who was doing it or why. Shortly thereafter, the story about Weedman and Duran appeared in WEHOville. What sources say Weedman told the investigator was that the young man came from a troubled background, was looking for money and Weedman offered him a job to help inventory about 300 boxes in his garage. The job took several days, during which Weedman, his husband Ray and the young man went to dinner and the man spent to night in the guest bedroom. Later, when Ray is in Mexico, the man comes over again to work. They go to dinner, a movie and then by the time they get home, it’s late so the man spends the night again. But this time, late in the night, the young man comes into Weedman’s bedroom, pulls down his pants and says he wants to cuddle. He gets into bed, Weedman freezes—he and his husband are monogamous—quickly gets out of bed, goes to the kitchen then curls up on the couch to sleep. The next morning is awkward. Five months later, Weedman started wondering if the young man might be behind the nasty rumors because the man wanted his help getting an audition at a school, which Weedman did not do. When the investigator asked, Weedman said he did not do what he was accused of doing. The investigator’s report was reviewed and discussed by the entire board and no action was taken. “What this all comes down to is what I think has been a well-orchestrated, highlychoreographed, deliberate attempt to slander me, to slander John Duran, and to remove us from our posts in the chorus,”



Weedman told the Los Angeles Blade. “It has been pervasive, it has been persistent, it has been ongoing, and I can’t even – I don’t know when the next bomb is going to drop, because the people who are doing this are hell-bent.” In Duran’s case, the criminal defense attorney and West Hollywood mayor also says he didn’t do what’s alleged, nor did he know Jason Tong. Duran told the investigator that the alleged incident happened 15 minutes before the curtain, five witnesses can attest to not knowing Tong or if Tong was even present and that they did not see Duran supposedly tuck his fingers’ into Tong’s waistband. When the investigator pointed out that Duran had five witnesses, Tong apparently recanted and withdrew his complaint before resigning. The LA Times subsequently reported that two more people had come forward—but neither of them had filed a complaint with the GMCLA board or HR or gone through any of the procedures outlined to the membership. Much has been made of the one filed complaint against Duran (later withdrawn) juxtaposed against the backdrop of the City of West Hollywood’s settlement of a lawsuit filed by his former deputy, Ian Owens, as if the settlement alone suggests guilt. However, as the LA Times reported after the verdict in Michelle Rex’s trial in May 2017, jury found Rex’s allegation of being fired because she supported Owen’s claim to be unsubstantiated. Duran and Owen both took the stand in that trial. “I was called to the stand and testified under oath in the Rex trial where the Owens claim was resurrected. And Owens also testified at that trial,” Duran told the Los Angeles Blade. “Owens testified that I NEVER touched him or sexually assaulted him. His testimony was that I showed him pictures of men that I had been intimate with and that he found it objectionable. “I testified that was true but that Owens also showed me pictures of men he was sleeping with. We were friends before he worked at city hall and what we did by sharing photos of men we had been with – was true,” Duran said. “The difference was that I said he did not find it objectionable and that he never complained about it with HR. Ever. “Remember that Owens had NEVER

GMCLA Board Chair John Duran Photo via GMCLA

filed a claim with the city about sexual harassment until he was walked out of city hall for unlawfully eavesdropping on his colleague. Once that happened, he raised the issue of sexual harassment for the first time,” Duran said. The bigger issue, Duran said, is the culture clash happening right now. Older gay men who lived through the sexual liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s are rooted in finally being free to no longer being ashamed of their desires as if they were perverse and evil and were emboldened to experience and express their sexuality in drag or leather or through safer sex during the AIDS crisis. They could flaunt their sexuality in the same way heterosexuals have flaunted their sexuality as the norm for years. But today, with the MeToo movement reshaping the culture, that open expression of sexuality has to be negotiated in many new ways. “We haven’t figure out how to talk to each other about it yet,” Duran said. “We have to

recalibrate and step up. But the younger generation never had to fight for their lives or fight for the right to sexual identity and culture. It is critical that we figure this out or we’ve going to have one generation constantly at the throats of another.” And meanwhile, with the loss of due process where an accusation is given more weight that the conclusion of an independent investigation, the Gay Men’s Chorus is facing its final curtain. Duran, who credits GMCLA for saving his life after he got sober in 1996 and joined the chorus in 1998, may be leaving before the end of his term this summer. After years of being in the spotlight as a community leader or as an attorney representing an important client in a highly publicized case, Duran enjoyed being “one among many” as a member of the chorus. But the value of his fundraising, his board participation, and his membership has been besmirched by an accusation that was discredited and withdrawn but lives on in the rumor mongering of those who wish

him gone. They may get their way—and with him goes several board members. And Weedman may also depart, taking with him several board members. And then there is the expected decision by many foundations and corporate sponsors not to invest in an organization with any kind of controversy. So that leaves GMCLA without a board chair, without a number of board members, without an executive director or Artistic Director and around $180,000 in debt with upcoming fundraisers that will no doubt have to be cancelled. And right now it appears that the 50 or so members leading this ouster, what Duran called a “coup d’etat,” apparently have no plan other than to “burn it down and start all over. Well, it doesn’t work that way.” Years ago, GMCLA stood up to AIDS and the hate-mongers but today, members apparently cannot stand up to or for their own. – Troy Masters contributed to this story.


Braving rain and the call of Super Bowl Sunday, scores of Black LGBT leaders and community members gathered at the historic Catch One Disco for brunch and to kick off Black History Month with the launch of Ivan Daniel’s new IDP Success, a new organization to provide independent development programs for Los Angeles’ marginalized communities. “We think differently. We act differently. We connect differently,” Daniel told the Los Angeles Blade. “IDPSUCCESS’ mission is to improve the lives of disenfranchised people of color” by providing transformative social model programs and resources for disenfranchised people of color. The goal is to “impart health education, living skills, Phill Wilson, founder, former CEO of Black AIDS Institute; Jewel Thaisknowledge, and sexual health resources.” The kickWilliams, founder of Jewel’s Catch One Disco and The Village Health off was a “culturally sensitive creative event” entitled Foundation; Ivan Daniel, founder of IDPSuccess; Keith Boykin, author and “OUR VOICES I AM MORE THAN” to introduce all CNN contributor Photo by Jerry Morris, Jerry Morris Photography people—but especially people of African descent—to feelings of affirmation, value, worth that is inclusive of all sexual identities. “We know that when people feel better about themselves they will make better quality of life decisions,” said Daniel. “Every generation has its own set of human rights and civil rights opportunities and challenges. The ‘rights’ have to be renewed and addressed with every generation,” he said. “We asked everyone in attendance: ‘What kind of ancestor would you like to be remembered as?’ We intentionally set out to inspire action to unite, to self-care and to self-develop to improve quality of life for ALL people of African Descent. And we achieved every goal and outcome. Attendees were inspired, educated, networked, and attendees expressed an authentic sense of connection, support, and more willingness to individually and collectively heal.” (Visit www.IDPSUCCESS.com for more info)

QUOTES “With a pro-equality majority in the House of Representatives poised to pass the Equality Act and tackle other critical issues, we continue to demonstrate that when we stand together we are a force to be reckoned with.”

– Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin after President Trump’s State of the Union

“The president should not bring threats to the floor of the House.” – Speaker Nancy Pelosi about President Trump’s State of the Union address

“This speech was like watching paint lie.” – Stephen Colbert on his Late Show about President Trump’s State of the Union address Feb. 5

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Buttigieg makes pitch to LGBT voters in 2020 bid Seeks passage of Equality Act, greater trans visibility By CHRIS JOHNSON It’s pronounced “Boot-a-judge.” That was the first thing South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg cleared up for the Blade in response to questions about his 2020 presidential run in a Jan. 31 interview. Buttigieg, a Rhodes scholar and Afghanistan veteran, beefed up his national profile in his 2017 run to become Democratic National Committee chair. The 2020 White House hopeful announced his exploratory committee last month. If successful, the long shot Buttigieg would be the first openly gay person to win the Democratic presidential nomination and the White House. LGBT priorities for Buttigieg, who said he’d run a campaign based on the themes of freedom, democracy and security, include passage of the Equality Act and greater visibility for transgender people. Distinguishing himself from other 2020 hopefuls, Buttigieg said he supports transgender people having access to transition-related care, even when they’re in prison. Other candidates, including Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, have different records on that issue. The Q&A between the Blade and Buttigieg follows; the full Q&A can be found at our website. Blade: You’re running in a field of Democratic candidates, many of whom have been longtime LGBT allies. What do you bring to the table that’s different? Pete Buttigieg: First of all, I’m very mindful of the possibility of being the first out nominee in American history, and you know, I think it’s safe to say for many reasons, I’m not like the others. I also just have a different outlook: I am from the industrial Midwest, I’m in local government and I come from a generation that I think really needs to be stepping forward right now. I think our generation has so much at stake in the future and the decisions that are being made today, and I think it really shows the people in charge, like the current president and administration, don’t care very much about the future because they don’t plan to be here. 2054 is the year when I will reach the

Pete Buttigieg is hoping to become the first openly gay person to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Blade photo by Michael Key

current age of the current president, and I think you just take some of these decisions about climate, about the economy much more seriously if you’re hoping to be here in 2054. What we have here right now is a sequence of decisions that have been made that are very short term, very destructive and it’s time for voices from a generation that has a personal stake in that future to step forward and talk about how we can make that future different. Blade: But what makes you think you can win the White House if you get the nomination? Buttigieg: I think the message needs to revolve around three themes: freedom, democracy and security. I think that you have a very strong, progressive foundation for those issues, but I also think we’ve not done a very good job of communicating them across the aisle. Freedom is something that I think has been monopolized by conservatives in terms of political rhetoric, but when I think about everything from the freedom to marry to the freedom to start a new business knowing you can still get health care, it’s really progressive and Democrats have delivered the kinds of freedom that are most important for our daily lived experience. When it comes to democracy, I think we’ve demonstrated that we are the party that is more interested in making sure that more people can vote, and I think this needs to be part of a national conversation as well. We need to shore up our democracy through a number of reforms, including D.C. statehood, that just make our democratic

republic a little more democratic. And then on security, we’ve got to understand 21st century security means a lot more than just border security and traditional military issues. I was in the military. I certainly spent a lot of time thinking about traditional military issues, but we have to be talking about cybersecurity, election security, climate security, digital security. And I think people are ready for a message that’s just different from what we’ve had before. We have a profoundly, almost historically, unpopular president, but that doesn’t mean he gets defeated on his own if we don’t have a compelling message that’s different and better. Blade: Let’s bring this closer to our LGBT readers. How does support for the LGBT community figure into your run for the presidency? Buttigieg: I think that it will be vital. I think it will be a spruce of lifeblood because we are perhaps the only minority in more or less equal proportion across every racial, ethnic, economic and geographic group in the country, so one thing that will be very important for the success of this project, especially early on when people take your measure based on fundraising is to be able to demonstrate grassroots support from people in the community who believe that representation at the highest levels, actually having someone from the LGBTQ community on the ballot is important, that it will make things better for the next person who comes along and that America needs to be given a chance to demonstrate that it’s ready for this. Blade: In terms of LGBT rights issues,

where do you want to go with that? Buttigieg: I think one of the big things that we’re looking at, of course, is the Equality Act. I live in a state where it is still — not in South Bend because we took local action, but in most parts of my state it’s still perfectly illegal to be fired for who you are, and I think we need better legislation, civil rights legislation that takes care of that. Obviously, we have a lot of issues with hate crimes now in Indiana. At the state level, we’ve been pursuing hate crimes legislation. We have federal hate crimes legislation, but we have to do a lot more, including, not just at the policy level, but at the cultural level. There’s several reasons why hate crimes have gone up by most measures in recent years, and I think, a lot of that starts at the top. It has to do with leadership, it has to do with the tone that it set by those in charge and it has to change. Blade: What concerns you most about how President Trump is handling LGBT issues? Buttigieg: Obviously the attack on trans rights and the trans military ban is extremely disturbing. When I was in the military, the people I served with could not have cared less whether I was going home to a girlfriend or boyfriend. They just wanted to know that I was going to be someone they could trust with their lives and vice-versa. Trans members of the military who are willing to put their lives on the line in order to defend this country deserve to be supported by their commander in chief, and it’s extremely disturbing, especially for someone who, let’s face it, kind of pink-washed his campaign early on and portrayed himself as somebody who might change the way the Republican Party related to the LGBT community to turn around and do this demonstrates that he was never serious about that, not to mention the elevation of Mike Pence to one heartbeat away from the presidency. Blade: What kind of place will transgender people have in your campaign and your presidency? Buttigieg: A very prominent place. I’ve been really heartened to see more people, especially in my generation, stepping forward. I think Danica Roem opened a lot of doors in terms of elected leadership, and I think we will be looking to make sure that our campaign as well as a future administration reflects the diversity of this country. Obviously, that includes making sure there are visible roles for trans people.

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Trump’s SOTU speech includes audience of trans service members Skepticism as president calls for end to HIV epidemic By CHRIS JOHNSON President Trump’s audience for his second State of the Union address on Tuesday included a joint session of Congress — and several transgender service members invited as guests of Democratic lawmakers. Reps. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) invited the trans service members as their guests. The speech itself ignored the issue of trans military service, but President Trump took the opportunity to call for an end to HIV transmission in the next 10 years — a call that was received with skepticism from advocates unhappy with his administration’s approach to the epidemic thus far. Trump talked about the United States having made “important strides” in combating HIV/AIDS, but that the time has come to finish the job. “In recent years we have made remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS,” Trump said. “Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach. My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years. We have made incredible strides. Incredible. Together, we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond.” The part of Trump’s remarks about “important strides” in combatting HIV/ AIDS and defeating the disease not just in the United States but “beyond” were ad-libs from his prepared remarks. Trump’s line about defeating HIV/AIDS was among those applauded by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, including possible 2020 hopefuls Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). The inclusion of the call to end HIV in the State of the Union address was expected. On Monday, Politico reported health officials

From left: Navy veteran Tavion Dignard, Army Maj. Ian Brown, Capt. Jennifer Peace, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Megan Winters and Air Force Staff Sgt. Logan Ireland attend the State of the Union Address on Feb. 5. Blade photo by Michael Key

within the Trump administration were expecting that call to be a component of the speech. The Department of Health & Human Services is also expected to unveil a more detailed plan later this week. Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute, said in a statement Trump is taking a “bold step” in the fight to end HIV/AIDS. A co-chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, Schmid said the remarks were part of a bold initiative to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. “His proposal to increase access to antiretroviral medications for people living with HIV and for prevention in those communities with the highest rates of HIV and where additional resources are most needed will translate into fewer HIV infections,” Schmid said. “Under the president’s proposal, the number of new infections can eventually be reduced to zero.” Trump’s call to end HIV transmission is consistent with the administration adopting Obama-era goals to combat the epidemic in a progress report issued last year on the 2010

National AIDS Strategy. The administration is set to produce an updated version of that strategy by 2020. The announcement also follows Secretary of Health & Human Services Alex Azar’s pledge in December to fight HIV/AIDS in a speech that recognized its disproportionate impact on African-Americans, Latinos and gay men. Among those commending Trump for including a call to end HIV and calling for additional detail was Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Many experts have stated over and over that we have the tools to end the epidemic. What we lack is the political will,” Weinstein said. “AHF looks forward to the details of the president’s plan and hopes it will address primary prevention of new HIV infections – including aggressive promotion of condoms and safer sex education, universal access to treatment for everyone living with HIV, strengthening the Ryan White HIV Program and protecting the 340B Drug Discount Program.” But the general consensus among HIV/ AIDS advocates was Trump — who defeated a Democratic nominee in 2016 who talked of

an “AIDS-free generation” — wasn’t making enough commitments to pull off his stated goal. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who’s gay and one of the co-chairs of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus, told he Washington Blade on Capitol Hill after the State of the Union address he does “applaud” the pledge to end HIV, but said the commitment may fall by the wayside like so many others. “The president made bold promises in the campaign about reducing the costs of prescription drugs and when it came really time to follow through on it, he didn’t do it,” Takano said. “The same thing about infrastructure. Democrats, all of us, are willing to work with him on a true infrastructure bill, but he’s got to follow up on it, so the words I can agree with, whether they are bold true words remain to be seen. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was also cautious about Trump’s commitment to end HIV in a statement after the speech. “The president’s call for ending HIV transmission in America is interesting, but if he is serious about ending the HIV/AIDS crisis, he must end his assault on health care and the dignity of the LGBTQ community,” Pelosi said. Stacey Long Simmons, director of advocacy and action at the National LGBTQ Task Force, also questioned whether Trump was serious about ending HIV transmission despite his words in the State of the Union address. “HIV advocates all agree that ending transmission is an important goal,” Simmons said. “Based on Trump’s repeatedly broken promises, we have cause to question his commitment until we see the necessary funding flowing to strategies that will actually end transmission.” Trump has disappointed advocates fighting HIV/AIDS before. For starters, Trump — in an action first reported by the Washington Blade — fired all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS in late 2017 via a letter without explanation. Those terminations occurred after six members of the council resigned on their own in protest over the administration’s inaction on the epidemic. Continues at losangelesblade.com


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Trans activist Babs Siperstein died last weekend. Blade File Photo by Michael Key

Babs Siperstein, pioneering trans activist, dies at 76 Barbra “Babs” Siperstein, a transgender Democratic activist in New Jersey who’s credited with taking a lead role in pushing a pro-trans state birth certificate law for her state, died last weekend at age 76, according to local media reports. Siperstein died days after the law went into effect on Feb. 1. The “Babs Siperstein Law” allows individuals in New Jersey to change the gender marker on their birth certificate without proof of surgery and offer a gender-neutral option. The law was signed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. The first openly transgender member of the Democratic National Committee, Siperstein was appointed in 2011 to the Democratic National Committee’s executive committee and served there until 2017. Siperstein was a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Speaking with the Washington Blade at the convention, Siperstein was dubious of Trump’s pledge to support LGBT people during his speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention. (Her prediction later proved true.) “There’s nothing behind it,” Siperstein said. “He said unequivocally that he was going to appoint the most conservative Supreme Court justices. He will say anything.” Although she was a Democrat, Siperstein wasn’t afraid to take on members of her own party on the issue of transgender rights. In 2015, Siperstein told the Blade she was “extremely disappointed” in Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), now a U.S. senator and a 2020 presidential candidate, for her actions as California attorney general appealing a court order granting a transgender prison inmate in California access to gender reassignment surgery. “I would think that any political candidate, or any public servant, that would fight to prevent basic and necessary medical treatment for any person would be incompetent to serve,” Siperstein said. “How can you trust any public servant, any elected official, who fights to prevent basic and necessary medical service for any person? Who’s next?” Sean Meloy, who served as the DNC’s Director of LGBTQ Engagement and is now political director for the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said Siperstein built a strong legacy. “For so many in the Democratic Party, Babs was the first openly trans person they ever met and she undoubtedly changed the hearts and minds of many party leaders who were not yet committed to trans equality,” Meloy said. CHRIS JOHNSON

Embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is facing increasing calls to resign. Photo by Craig / Courtesy Wikimedia

Va. LGBT lawmakers call for Northam’s resignation All five LGBT members of the Virginia General Assembly have joined their Democratic colleagues in calling for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to resign following the disclosure on Feb. 1 of a racist photo on his personal page in the 1984 yearbook of the medical school he attended. The statewide LGBT rights group Equality Virginia and the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, have also joined numerous other political and civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus, in calling on Northam to resign. As of Wednesday, Northam was still in his job. The LGBT lawmakers that joined colleagues calling for Northam to resign include Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria); and state House of Delegates members Mark Levine (D-Alexandria); Mark Sickle (D-Fairfax County); Danica Roem (D-Prince William County), who became the nation’s first seated transgender member of a state legislature last year; and Dawn Adams (D-Richmond), who last year became the state’s first openly lesbian member of the legislature. In yet another development that rocked the state’s capital in Richmond, the same conservative online publication that disclosed Northam’s yearbook photo reported on Sunday that a woman has accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) of sexually assaulting her in 2004 in a hotel room in Boston during the Democratic National Convention. Fairfax immediately denied the allegation, saying he and the woman had consensual sexual relations prior to his current marriage. He said the motive for bringing up the allegation after more than 14 years was an attempt to tarnish his reputation at a time when he might become governor. If Northam resigns, Fairfax would be next in line to become governor, making him the state’s second black governor. LOU CHIBBARO JR.



The State of the Union’s immigration mess And a solution to consider

Andrew L. Reback is a Southern Californiabased sole-practitioner attorney.

Washington DC is regurgitating towards another government shutdown over Immigration. Despite this distasteful course, we do have viable options on the political menu, depending on the size of Mr. Trump’s appetite. Some fast food for thought: it’s almost February 15, the next shutdown is quickly approaching and the extra value menu option of Comprehensive Immigration Reform is too much to chew in this short timeframe. So lets boil down two major issues we actually could address quickly: our DACA “Dreamers” and that Wall. Dig in, America. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), created through Executive Order by President Obama, took effect in Aug. 2012. DACA allows persons brought to the United States before their 16th birthday, AND prior to June 15, 2007, to apply for temporary relief from “Removal” (deportation). An applicant must prove they have completed high school or are currently enrolled and attending school, and must prove good moral character—meaning no significant criminal history. Most importantly, along with this temporary relief from Removal, DACA holders may also apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card (Work Permit), renewable every two years, with a government fee of course. Today, the reality for DACA holders is a perpetual cycle of relief and angst. They are a shamefully tossed around like a political football to score points. We have a whole population of young, educated, industrious

folks, legally working and paying taxes, who cannot travel abroad, apply for benefits at home, or get on any pathway towards American citizenship. This is why Trump’s offer to simply extend DACA for three more years in exchange for a permanent border wall is shameful and ridiculous. The ironwilled “Ms. Nancy” and her unified House Democrats are right to reject this proposal. Comprehensive immigration reform is needed but terribly unlikely before Feb. 15 or anytime soon. So instead of shutdown after shutdown, and the constant threat of a fake national emergency about constructing the most idiotic piece of infrastructure humanity has ever imagined, here is one Immigration lawyer’s more practical proposal for a deal. First: permanently legalize DACA holders using the “Dream Act” template that already passed the Senate years ago. That Dream Act essentially was “DACA Plus” that provided a pathway to citizenship. Polling shows there is general consensus for this idea across both parties and amongst the American public. Second: legalize the parents of the Dreamers using the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) model that Obama tried to implement in 2014 before being blocked by the courts. The DAPA program would grant Deferred Action status to the undocumented parents of US citizens and US green card holders. After a certain period of time (to be negotiated), allow DAPA holders to apply for green cards so they, too, can get on the pathway to citizenship. Third: provide the same Deferred Action relief with eventual pathway to citizenship to most, if not all, current holders of Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Fourth: update the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) specifically at Section 245(i). That section allows persons who have either illegally crossed the border, or have overstayed visas, to apply for green cards based on the petition of a qualifying family member or an employer-sponsor, even though they would otherwise be ineligible to apply for a green card by paying a $1,000.00 fine as the penalty fee for their illegal entry or visa overstay. An update to Section 245(i) would create a path to legalization for the large undocumented population that has

ballooned due to the law called “Unlawful Presence” (the legal ramification suffered once someone has been found unlawfully inside US territory beyond their allotted time. Once tagged with “Unlawful Presence,” a series of “Bars to Reentry” can kick in that prohibit an immigrant’s lawful reentry to the US for periods of 3 years, 10 years, or sometimes permanently. Since taking effect in 1997, the Bars to Reentry resulting from Unlawful Presence have fueled a persistent rise in the undocumented immigrant population, and the reason is simple. Someone with Unlawful Presence is unlikely (and ill-advised) to ever leave the United States, because once they leave, there is little hope of ever returning legally under current law. The risk of family separation for 3 years, 10 years, or possibly forever, is not worth the risk of stepping out of the shadows. Congress’ last update of INA Section 245(i) set a cutoff date for April 30, 2001, meaning anyone with a valid petition filed by that date could continue the process towards obtaining a Greencard by following current laws, and by paying the $1,000.00 added penalty fee. Reviving INA Section 245(i) with a new cutoff date, perhaps April 30, 2020, would pave the way to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants. At the same time, billions of dollars from penalty fees would be paid to the government by those same intending immigrants. The revenue from penalty fees could then be used to further fund enhanced border technology, add customs and border patrol agents, and hire more Immigration Judges—which are sorely needed to clear a terribly backlogged system. There could also be money for additional physical border barriers (where locally approved and deemed appropriate). Another sweetener: these additional border barrier funds would come from the penalty fees paid by intending immigrants, not from direct Federal tax dollars. This is just the opinion of one concerned immigration attorney on the front line, who represents dozens of DACA and TPS holders, and who is married to a Mexican immigrant. Please digest with care. Millions of lives are at stake.

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The nuclear winter of our discontent Liberal infighting only helps a divisive despot

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. Reach him at rrosendall@me.com.

A theater critic once left a play at intermission and submitted a review as if he’d seen the whole thing, only to be called out because the theater burned down during the second act. Despite such a cautionary tale, I feel confident in offering this thumbnail review of Trump’s 2019 State of the Union in advance (written the previous Sunday): he lied a lot, insulted everyone’s intelligence, and made it all about himself. Trump’s mischief requires many helpers. Let’s consider a few. Mitch McConnell is like a man who sees his toddler reaching for a loaded handgun on the coffee table and does not stop him lest he throw a tantrum. Roger

Stone, who threatened radio host Randy Credico’s therapy dog and said, “Prepare to die,” claims that the FBI treated him “worse than bin Laden.” Wouldn’t that have made him the late Roger Stone? Sarah Huckabee Sanders says that Trump was chosen by God. I can’t say we don’t have it coming, but I doubt Sanders meant that in the same spirit as Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time.” The 2020 campaign has hardly begun and already we are awash in caricatures of progressivism, peppered with comparisons to Venezuela and scoldings by deficit hawks who were strangely silent in the face of ruinous tax cuts for the wealthy and new splurging on our massive military. Venezuela’s problem is not socialism but a corrupt autocrat. Munitions cannot make up for having a Russian asset in the White House whose daughter won trademarks from China amid trade negotiations. Trump reflexively rejected his intelligence chiefs’ public testimony on the top international threats, none of which involved our border with Mexico. He then withdrew America from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. “Only Russia benefits from the US withdrawal,” writes Richard A. Clarke, who helped design the accord. We are being conned and endangered, yet often our response is liberal infighting caused not only by competing ambitions

(which are all in the game), but by unresolved issues and lack of courage in our convictions. One problem is the blind arrogance of privilege that impedes cooperation. It oozes, for example, from a planned monument marking the 2020 centennial of the 19th Amendment. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who erased contributions by black women in their six-volume History of Woman Suffrage, are to be honored with a Central Park sculpture in which they are reviewing a scroll of suffragists. Their century-old belief that race and gender were separate issues, and their paternalistic entitlement, are recapitulated in the sculpture’s design. Even now, many people scorn intersectional activism, whether out of ideological considerations, aesthetic distaste, or eagerness to house their concerns in separate silos from others. How is that working? Progress on a range of issues is being rolled back by a president whose power is based on dividing us. Trump has no moral authority when he condemns the racist and homophobic assault against “Empire” star Jussie Smollett, or criticizes Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s obtuse and contradictory statements regarding a racist yearbook photo from 1984. Trump discriminated against black tenants; attacked the Central Park Five even after

they were proved innocent; launched his presidential campaign with a racist smear of Mexicans; won election in part by the suppression of black votes; and failed to rebuke violent Nazis after Charlottesville. An arsonist does not become a firefighter by changing hats. Trump’s deflections often rely on false equivalency. Northam’s policy record, for instance, is a good deal better than that old photo suggests. His positive actions ought not be erased amid the pressure to resign, by which Democrats demonstrate higher standards. But let us pause and reflect. The tragedy for our nation is not in Trump’s incitements, but their success. POTUS talks of unity while attacking America’s highest values and traditions. This is a time not for losing our nerve and conceding to fear, but upholding a better vision for our country. Caricatures of Democrats as radicals need not prevent us from connecting with voters’ imaginations. In our diversity we bring a wealth of gifts, which can bear fruit if only we summon the courage to welcome them and not be threatened by their cultivation. The work awaits us. Copyright © 2019 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

Bess Myerson’s ‘Ugly Daughter’ finds forgiveness onstage Working through emotional dysfunction of early years By JOHN PAUL KING

Asked to describe her mother, actress and playwright Barra Grant marvels, “She was gorgeous!” “She was 5’10, she had a beautifully sculpted face, and flowing black hair,” she continues, with a kind of awe. “And she used her beauty, all throughout her life.” Grant herself, in contrast, was a chubby child, with frizzy hair, buck teeth, and no immediately discernible talents. In other words, she was an “ugly duckling” – something to which many of us can relate. What was different for her was that her mother was Bess Myerson. Myerson was the first and only Jewish Miss America, reason enough for a claim to fame; but she was also an accomplished pianist, television personality, New York City’s first Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, an adviser to Mayor Ed Koch, a candidate for U.S. Senate, and a national spokesperson against anti-Semitism. Then, in her sixties, she fell in love with Carl Andrew Capasso, a sewer contractor half her age with Mafia connections, and allegedly helped him to bribe a judge. Though she was acquitted after a four-month trial, the highly-publicized scandal turned her fame to infamy. She passed away in 2014 at the age of 90. Growing up in the shadow of such a spectacular mother has its challenges, according to Barra Grant – who was Myerson’s only child, the product of her first marriage, to Allan Wayne, and who later adopted the surname of her stepfather, Arnold Grant. “My mother always wanted me to be very pretty, so she could show me off,” she says. “And I never was.” “When you grow up,” she reflects, “even if you improve, you carry this picture of yourself as a little girl. I became OK looking, but the

initial part of my spirit was very affected” To help work through some of the lingering emotional dysfunction of those formative years with her famous mother, Grant – who is herself a veteran actress, producer, screenwriter, playwright and director – wrote “Miss America’s Ugly Daughter: Bess Myerson and Me,” which is now being remounted by director Eve Brandstein at Hollywood’s Greenway Court Theatre after a successful, sold-out run last summer in the Edye at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. In the show, Grant performs as herself, having a middle-of-the-night phone conversation with her mother, who is played by actress and stand-up, Monica Piper. “We like to bill it as a one-woman show with two characters,” she says. “I learned through a lot of people over the years,” she muses, “that their relationships with their mothers were not great. They just don’t talk about it – it seems irreverent to do that. But I found a way to talk about it through comedy – when you do that, it’s acceptable.” “The two of us banter throughout the show,” she continues. “It makes it way more interesting than just me standing there talking to myself. It’s much more dramatic to have her enter my life, that way.” Giving Myerson a presence in the play helps to ensure the audience will get the chance to connect with her side of the story, too; whatever difficulties may have arisen from being raised an iconic beauty queen, Grant has been able to find empathy for her mother’s struggles, too. “She had a tough life,” she says. “She was given her title during a time of anti-Semitism – people spit on her, there were signs saying, ‘No Jews No Dogs.’ She had a really tough

experience, and after that she carried with her a kind of fighting mentality – which is great – but she didn’t really carry a sense of how to love, or how to parent.” “And she was unlucky with men,” Grant continues. “My real father drank too much, and he was an embarrassment. My stepfather was extremely wealthy – but also an embarrassment. And then she fell in love with the guy in the mafia – and that doesn’t help your life.” “His friends were called ‘Manny the Fish’ and ‘Louie the Horse,’” she adds, chuckling. “She was close to the Gambino crime family because she thought they were lovely people.” To add perspective, Grant reminds us that, though her mother’s fame has faded from public consciousness in recent decades, at the height of her fame, Myerson was big news. “People followed her scandal in the same way they followed Marilyn Monroe – it was so profound,” she says. “Her whole world collapsed because her reputation was ruined. Her life was changed drastically.” Though Grant’s experience as the child of a famous icon might seem a bit specific for the rest of us to relate, she thinks it strikes a chord with anyone trying to measure up to the image presented by a role model. By way of explanation, she tells a story about listening to a radio interview with filmmaker John Waters one day while she was driving. “He said, ‘Look, all I wanted was to be Bess Myerson when I was growing up – she was my hero, I wanted to look like her, I wanted to be her – but somebody else was her, so I couldn’t be.’” Myerson’s name on the lips of one of America’s biggest queer icons speaks volumes about her appeal and relevance to a certain generation of gay men – who

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‘Miss America’s Ugly Daughter: Bess Myerson and Me,’ starring Barra Grant, opens Feb. 8 at the Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., where performances continue through March 24.

traditionally have embraced the stories of strong, powerful women who struggle to rise above the obstacles in their lives. Still, “Miss America’s Ugly Daughter” is not the Bess Myerson story – rather, Grant says, it’s the story of how to grow up and move on. “One of the themes is that it’s okay for your mother not to be your role model,” she says. “You can pick someone else, like your kindergarten teacher or a sweet-looking lady

on the subway.” “And of course,” she hastens to add, “you have to try and forgive the trespasses that your mother may have inflicted on you – because she is your mother, and it’s healthier to love her. It’s too hard to continue with a chip on your shoulder.” “Underneath the struggle, unless you have it really bad, there is always love,” she stresses. “You can’t help but love your mother

– you just have to figure out how.” Ultimately, though, Grant wants people to know that her show is, above all, “very funny.” “It’s a chance to laugh at all this,” she says. “That’s important, to try and step back and see things comedically. People love to laugh, and what I love to do is to find that humor – that’s the essence of the show.”

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Jussie Smollett attack highlights increasing hate crimes ‘Black queer people are victimized every single day’ By MARIAH COOPER

‘Black queer people are victimized every single day,’ said David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition. Photo Courtesy of NBJC

Jussie Smollett was the target of an alleged homophobic and racist attack on Jan. 29 in Chicago, which is being investigated as a possible hate crime. Smollett, 36, portrays gay singer Jamal Lyon on the Fox series “Empire.” Jamal’s sexuality is a frequent storyline on the musical drama. The actor and singer publicly came out in 2015 on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” He has been an avid LGBTQ advocate and a well-known supporter of the Black AIDS Institute. According to the police report, Smollett was leaving a Subway restaurant location around 2 a.m. when he was approached by two men dressed in black. Smollett recalled that the more aggressive assailant concealed his face with a black mask. The suspects got Smollett’s attention by shouting “Empire f—ot n—er” and began hitting him “about the face with their hands.” The assailants poured an “unknown chemical substance” on Smollett and put his neck in a noose before running away. The actor also said that the attackers yelled “MAGA country.” “Persons of interest” were detected on surveillance footage but they have not yet been identified. Prior to the Jan. 29 physical attack, Smollett was also targeted in a letter sent to Cinespace Studios, where “Empire” is filmed, which contained a white powder. That Grape Juice reported that the letter read, “You will die Black fag.” The letter triggered a response from a HAZMAT unit but the powder was later identified as aspirin. Smollett took the stage on Feb. 2 at the Troubadour in West Hollywood for a concert that had been scheduled before the attack. He was joined by his siblings, who released a joint statement of support for their brother earlier that week, on stage before he began performing. The concert went as planned but the accompanying meet-and-greet was canceled. Ticket holders received the option of a refund or to have their refunded money donated to the Black AIDS Institute. Right before his encore performance, Smollett took the time to clarify details from his attack. “I was bruised, but my ribs were not cracked. They were not broken. I went to the doctor immediately. Frank Gatson drove me. I was not hospitalized. Both my doctors in LA and Chicago cleared me to perform, but said to take care obviously. And above all, I fought the fuck back,” Smollett told the crowd. He also joked: “I’m the gay Tupac.” David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), told the Los Angeles Blade that the LGBTQ black community is “surprised but not shocked” by the attack. “One of the prevailing sentiments I continue to hear from black queer people generally is how frustrating it is that people seem to be surprised at this occurrence,” Johns says. “Black queer people are victimized every single day. I was just thinking about what we’ve experienced just this year reflecting upon Kevin Hart and the jokes about killing his gay son. I mourned the loss of the life of a young, black boy [Giovanni Melton] in Las Vegas because his father killed him suspecting that he was gay last year. Ed Buck, a white donor in Hollywood, is still walking around free as two gay black men have died at his household in the last year. Many of the media outlets that are covering Jussie’s story now didn’t even acknowledge that earlier this year there was a black trans woman [Keanna Mattel] that was murdered by a pastor in Detroit.” Anti-LGBTQ and anti-black hate crimes have spiked during Trump’s first two years in office. In Los Angeles, the number of reported hate crimes increased from 256 in 2017 to 289 in 2018, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. Anti-black violence is the top hate crime in Los Angeles followed by crimes against gay men and lesbians. Johns says the specific discrimination that the black LGBTQ community faces needs to be recognized. During his time lobbying on Capitol Hill, Johns remembers people discussing the black community as if everyone is heterosexual and the LGBTQ community as if everyone is non-black. “The reality is that many of us have intersectional lives and identities,” Johns says. “Beyond a visceral response, we hope people will listen to what Jussie has to say and, what so many of us stand for, which is acknowledging that we have intersectional identities and, in particular, if you’re black and queer in America you’re oppressed in ways that people seldom want to acknowledge.”

B E A U T Y I S A B*T C H “One of the most ENTERTAINING and hysterically funny shows I have ever seen!” –Broadway World

’S SHE ! K C A B

“Grant’s soliloquy is SPELLBINDING, gossipy, heartbreaking ... SHOULD NOT BE MISSED.” –Will Call.org

Written and Performed by

Barra Grant

With Monica Piper Directed by Eve Brandstein

NOW PLAYING! THROUGH MARCH 24 TIX & INFO MissAmericasUglyDaughter.com PHONE LINE: 323.285.2078


Greenway Court Theatre

544 N. Fairfax Ave. LA, CA 90036



Drag’s pivotal powerhouse, Brian Butterick, aka Hattie Hathaway, dies at 62 Behind the scenes maven who nurtured famous talent By SCOTT STIFFLER

Brian Butterick, at 2017’s 3 Teens Kill 4 album reissue launch at Howl! Happening gallery. Photo by Yoon

Brian Butterick, 62, who performed in drag as Hattie Hathaway and played a pivotal role in defining NYC nightlife from the early 1980s onward, is being remembered by friends and colleagues as the definition of kindness and generosity — a far-reaching creative force in his own right, who gave others a public forum in which to both express themselves and evolve. Butterick passed away in the early hours of Jan. 30. “Under treatment and fighting lung cancer for the past six months, he was surrounded by all the friends who loved and cherished him,” read a notice on the website of Howl! Arts, Inc. — a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the past and celebrating the contemporary culture of the East Village and Lower East Side. “His warmth, intelligence, wit and friendship, have sustained all of us throughout his many years as a fierce, visionary creative force in the community,” the message noted, further praising Butterick as a “provocateur, satirist, and magnet for bringing together diverse individuals.” In recent years, Butterick served as a Howl! board member, alongside Chi Chi Valenti, co-creator of Jackie 60, the 1990s Meatpacking District-based nightclub where Butterick worked, after his years at the Pyramid, on Avenue A. In written remarks accompanying the 2015 Howl! Happening: An Arturo Vega Project gallery exhibition, “Secrets of the Great Pyramid: The Pyramid Cocktail Lounge As Cultural Laboratory,” legendary columnist and nightlife chronicler Michael Musto described the club as “the jewel in the East Village crown, a hotspot with a unique set of anything-goes ethics and its own stable of stars… filled with oddballs, outcasts, and fabulosities angling to throw on some tinsel and get their attention-hungry asses on that stage.” As a producer, curator, and creative director at the Pyramid, it was Butterick who fed that desire to perform. NYC-based drag queen Lady Bunny, in a Jan. 30 Facebook post, called Butterick’s demise “the first time that queen ever ‘passed’ in her life!” Recalling the Pyramid as “a crazy yet inspired East Village dump which provided a home to many a fledgling drag queen,” Bunny noted the club’s function as a proving ground, and said there “definitely would be no Lady Bunny or Wigstock without the environment which Hattie fostered.” Deee-Lite, They Might Be Giants, Dean Johnson, Baby Gregor, John Kelly, Billy Beyond, Wendy Wild, Page, Christine, Mr. Fashion, Alexis Del Lago, Tabboo!, Barbara Patterson Lloyd, French Twist, RuPaul, Tanya Ransom, Frieda, Lypsinka, Ebony Jett, Kestutis Nakus, Tom Rubnitz, Peter Kwaloff, Flotilla Debarge, Sweetie, Linda Simpson, Madame, The Now Explosion and Ethyl Eichelberger were among the artists who “honed their crafts” at the Pyramid, Bunny noted. “On invites, the Pyramid proudly proclaimed that it was ‘Drag queen owned and operated.’ Although my favorite thing about the Pyramid was that both its staff and clientele were mixed.” As for recollections of Hattie, Bunny noted “Ya hag!” was among her favorite greetings, “and she was queen of the eye roll, typically with a cocktail in her hand” — a “smart cookie” and a “rocker at heart” who would “often ‘mistakenly’ book a rockabilly band or trans jazz singer Stephanie Crawford to perform on the upbeat Sunday night disco party called Whispers. It was as if Hattie wanted to challenge the disco dollies with something she felt had more substance. And it worked…. Curating all of this was Hattie’s genius. Try booking a rockabilly band or Jayne County or Gwar or ESG at a Hell’s Kitchen gay bar today.” In his written contribution to the “Secrets” exhibition, Butterick noted, “Certainly we had no idea how this would all begin on that cold day in early December 1981. We were a young confused group, like many, searching for something — anything that would shed some light on the murky future that stretched before us… We knew we were dissatisfied. We left what we felt was an oppressive atmosphere. What New York’s West Village had become. And the Castro, and Hollywood. And countless other places. We headed East. Unlike the men who flocked to those places, we loved women. And we rejected labels.” Speaking to the Pyramid’s own take on drag, Butterick noted, “Certainly, we embraced drag and what was then called cross-dressing, which many at the time insisted was a crude parody of all things female. And although we embraced parody wildly because we always loved a good ‘sendup,’ the drag we did was deconstructive. More like gender-fuck at first. Ripped fishnets with hairy legs, panty hose beneath Wall Street suits. Women in top hats and tuxedos.” Blurring the lines of gender, and “beginning to erase the binary world,” the performing artists and patrons of the Pyramid “came to realize (more through instinct than intent) you had to own your own gender, sexual preference or role. And this was the last great revolution of the Twentieth Century. The beginning of what we now call ‘Queer,’ though it didn’t have a name then.” All of this, Butterick noted, “was played out against the horrifying backdrop of the AIDS crisis, and yet it was a time of great joy and revelry.” Continues at losangelesblade.com

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2/6/19 3:36 PM



For Steve Grand, it was always about the music Fans appreciate the songs and his image By JOHN PAUL KING

Steve Grand, in association with Chris Isaacson Presents, brings his concert, ‘Up Close & Personal,’ to the Catalina Bar and Grill at 6725 W. Sunset in Hollywood, on Tuesday, February 12, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets available online at ChrisIsaacsonPresents. com or TicketWeb.com, or by phone at (866) 468-3399. Photo Courtesy of Grand

If you were a member of the LGBTQ community with access to social media in the summer of 2013, you know who Steve Grand is. That was when the video for his debut song, “All-American Boy,” racked up over a million views only eight days after he posted it on YouTube, and made the unknown singersongwriter into an instant celebrity. The self-funded video (Grand maxed out his credit card to have it made) tells the poignant story of a young man in love with his straight male friend and features imagery of country roads, muscle cars and American flags – along with plenty of shirtless footage of its star. It kicked off a whirlwind of media exposure, not only on the internet but on television shows like “Good Morning America,” and caused enough buzz to make Grand one of the LGBTQ community’s shiniest new lights. He even made Out magazine’s “Out 100” list for the year. Eventually, the video’s popularity was enough to fuel a Kickstarter campaign which allowed Grand to record and release his first complete album – titled “All-American Boy,” of course – in 2015. Since then, Grand – who will perform at the Catalina Jazz Club here in LA on February 12 – has maintained a slightly lower profile, and the distance in time from the heady viral sensation that made him famous has given him a chance to reflect on the experience. “It’s something to look back on now,” he says. “It’s almost like talking about a different person, because I’ve grown so much, I’ve changed. It was rough on me, in a lot of ways – when you get a lot of attention all of a sudden, it can be scary, and you feel really vulnerable all the time. I think I still had a lot of things to work through internally, like I was still on shaky ground, just on a personal level. I was still working on my shit.” After all, sudden fame was a big leap for a kid from a quiet Chicago suburb who had always felt like an outsider growing up. “I knew I was different from other boys,” Grand reflects. “I was into creative things, I was a little more sensitive, more into arts and music than sports – I always felt different for that reason.” “Of course, those things don’t mean that you’re gay,” he adds, “but then, when I was about 12 or 13 and I went to my Boy Scouts’ summer camp, I got a crush on my camp counselor.” “I didn’t know what this feeling was,” he reminisces. “It wasn’t sexual, nothing like that – but I remember wanting to have his attention, to be something special to him. Thinking it over, I realized that, for most of my peers who were boys, it was how they felt about girls – and I was having it about another boy.” Later, when he was in high school, he went through the painful process of coming out to his conservative Catholic parents. “There was conflict,” he admits, “but it was with myself – squaring my own values with being gay, and everything I understood about that from growing up Catholic, and from growing up in a household that was definitely more oldfashioned.” “My parents had me a little later in life than a lot of my peers,” he explains. “They were older, and they weren’t into keeping up with the trends – once they had us their whole world was just about us.”

“My experience tends to have more in common with gay men who are a bit older than I am,” he muses. “10, 20, 30 years older – I feel a connection to them that I don’t always feel with my peers, I think because of my parents being oldfashioned.” Through all these early years, of course, Grand was already obsessed with music. He started writing songs at 11, and says, “One of the reasons I wanted to make music was so that I could take what I felt, the pain I felt, and turn it into something beautiful. To me, that was always very powerful.” There was another passion, too – working on his body, something which many of his current fans undoubtedly appreciate. It’s led to Grand being identified in many online profiles as a singer and model, something he disputes. “I had my photo taken by a couple of photographers, just kind of for fun,” he explains. “It wasn’t my profession, or my aspiration – I was just working on developing my body, and I thought it would be fun to do some photo shoots. I did it all as a hobby.” He laughs, “I’m as much of a model as any guy on Instagram that takes their shirt off for the camera.” Even so, Grand has a sex appeal that surely played a role in the big splash of his early success. Even today, his social media profiles – which he describes as “quite active” – are full of Speedo-clad photos of himself, and the beefcake image is an undeniable part of his brand. Still, for him, it’s always about the music. Since his “All-American Boy” days, Grand has completed a second album (“Not the End of Me,” released in July of last year); he’s also spent a lot of time performing live, with longterm residencies in Provincetown for the summer, and, most recently, in Puerto Vallarta. “I would say most of my time is about my live show right now, refining that and getting to be a better musician – right now I’m actually practicing guitar and piano more than I ever have. It’s easy to get lazy, and just rely on people showing up, but I want to make sure that I keep getting better as a live performer.” He says playing live is satisfying for him in a different way than the long-term process of recording an album. “So much of that is over a long period of time – there’s no immediacy to it. But this is more immediately gratifying – people come up to me after the show and they say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know what to expect, we really enjoyed it, you’ve made a new fan.’ Even though it’s only one person at a time, it’s just really gratifying to me.” For his LA appearance next week, Grand returns to a venue he’s played before – and he couldn’t be more thrilled. “I’m so excited to come to the Catalina Jazz Club,” he gushes. “It really is one of my top three favorite venues I’ve ever played. That piano – it’s one of my favorite pianos that I’ve ever played on, and the sound system is just so good, it’s just a great space.” “I feel very lucky,” he grins. “I get to do things that I enjoy.” There’s something heartening about the genuine “geewhiz” glee in his voice when he says things like this; there’s a gratitude there that lays to rest any notion that Steve Grand might be just another social media poser, looking for validation through fame and fame alone. “I’m doing what I love now, and that’s all I ever hoped for,” he says, simply. “I never want to sound anything but grateful.”

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Hold on tight, we’ll muddle through … ‘One Day at a Time’ revamp getting queerer with age By BRIAN T. CARNEY

Isabella Gomex, Justin Machado and Marcel Ruiz in ‘One Day at a Time.’ Photos by Ali Goldstein; courtesy Netflix

Like fine wine and stinky cheese and (insert your favorite cliché here), some things get better with age. That’s certainly true of the Netflix reboot of the classic sitcom “One Day at a Time.” Season three drops tonight (Friday, Feb. 8) and the show continues to crackle with great comedy while tackling meaty social issues in interesting and sensitive ways. LGBT characters and issues are still a central concern of the series. To bring queer fans old and new up to date, the original show ran on CBS from 1975-1984, part of Norman Lear’s ground-breaking stable of socially relevant and gay-friendly sitcoms. The series starred Broadway baby Bonnie Franklin as Ann Romano, a divorced mother of two in Indianapolis. Mackenzie Phillips (who has appeared as a guest star in the new series) played her rebellious older daughter Julie and Valerie Bertinelli played the wise-cracking younger daughter Barbara. Pat Harrington played the building superintendent Schneider. The show boldly tackled Ann’s challenges as a single mother and a working woman, as well as the romantic entanglements of all three Romano women. In 2017, Lear and producing partner Brent Miller approached Netflix with the idea of re-imaging the iconic series with a Latinx family at the center. Gloria Calderon Kellett and her husband Mike Royce were brought in to develop the series and serve as show-runners. Kellett, who is Cuban American, drew on her own family stories to create the characters and story arcs. (Her family photos are included in the visual montage that plays behind the opening credits and she appears as a bride in the season three finale.) The new “One Day at a Time” stars the amazing Justina Machado as Penelope Riera Alvarez, a veteran of the United States Army Nurse Corps and a single mother who is raising Elena (Isabella Gomez) and Alex (Marcel Ruiz) in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Stephen Tobolowsky plays her boss, Dr. Leslie Berkowitz and EGOT winner and legendary gay icon Rita Moreno plays her flamboyant mother Lydia. The central cast is rounded out by Todd Grinnell as Dwayne Schneider, the rich Canadian who owns the apartment building. Like the original series, the new series uses a multi-camera format and a live audience effectively. Like most series, the show took some time to find its groove, but after jettisoning some secondary characters and smoothing out the divergent acting styles of the cast, the show hit a strong stride and became a critical and popular success, especially among the Latinx and LGBT communities. Beyond dealing with Penelope’s struggles as a single mother and a working woman, the series also deals with her struggles with PTSD from her service in Afghanistan. The central storyline for season one was the fiery feminist Elena’s reluctant planning for her quinceanera and her decision to come out to her family as a lesbian. Building on the hard-won success of season one, season two soared and the outspoken series continued to tackle issues of sexuality, sexism, racism, class, citizenship, addiction and mental illness, and modern romance with delicacy and humor. A highlight of the season was Penelope explaining to Lydia how to use the correct pronouns when referring to Elena’s non-binary friends, especially her romantic partner Syd (Sheridan Pierce). Season three continues to delight, combining a lively sense of humor with a thoughtful treatment of social issues. Elena is still dating Syd, who rebukes Elena by saying she’s “woker than a barnyard rooster;” Penelope struggles with her PTSD and juggling dating, work, parenting and school; Leslie continues his lovelorn courtship of Lydia; Schneider deals with addiction and his loneliness; and, Alex experiments with marijuana. In addition to Syd and the entire principal cast, several recurring characters come back for season three, including James Martinez as Victor Alvarez, Penelope’s ex-husband; Ed Quinn as Max Ferraro, Penelope’s Colombian boyfriend; and Tony Plana as Berto Riera, Lydia’s debonair late husband. Raúl Castillo (HBO’s “Looking” and “We the Animals”) joins the recurring cast as one of Penelope’s classmates and Danny Pino (“Law & Order: SVU”) appears as Penelope’s brother Vito. The new season has a lovely story arc, starting with a funeral and ending with a surprise wedding. Midway through is a romantic Valentine Day’s episode that celebrates love in many forms. The funeral episode features several wonderful guest stars, including Gloria Estefan as Lydia’s estranged sister, veteran Latinx actress Liz Torres as “Cousin Bitchy,” and Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz (both from “Brooklyn Nine Nine”) as cousins with secrets of their own. Estefan, who sings the series’ revamped theme song, even performs a delicious duet with Moreno. That alone is reason enough to tune in to season three of the very queer re-imagining of “One Day at a Time.”





City of West Hollywood California 1984




Photo Courtesy of Fary

For the past 20 years, Lash Fary has rewarded music nominees and presenters with an assortment of luxury swag backstage at the GRAMMY® Gift Lounge. His Los Angeles-based entertainment marketing company, Distinctive Assets, are experts in celebrity gifting, working on numerous award shows year round. Performers like Ricky Martin, Miley Cyrus, Arturo Sandoval, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Camila Cabello, Dolly Parton, Cardi B, Katy Perry, Shawn Mendes, Janelle Monáe, and Alicia Keys will be treated to a bevy of thank you gifts in acknowledgment and appreciation of their participation. “We are so proud to celebrate two decades of creating amazing GRAMMY gift magic,” said Fary. “While what we do is a very small part of a very big show, we have so much fun putting together this gift bonanza and love witnessing the effusive response from some of the most talented people in the world.” The official 2019 Grammy Gift bag is valued at over $30,000 and includes gifts ranging from a week-long spa stay at the all inclusive Golden Door, and abstract art by Louisiana-based artist,

Andrea Trantham to a contouring beauty roller and Collagen Enrich beauty drink from ReFa. Other #GRAMMYGiftLounge selections will include 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service; World Qreators Japanese Meditation Zen “Ishiki” VR/360 experience; Alpha Priority Worldwide VIP airport greeters + ground transportation services; gluten-free, dairy-free, naturally-sweetened, guiltfree chocolate from Good Girl Chocolate; Grossé Japan award-winning museum-quality costume jewelry; It’s a 10 Haircare salon-quality hair dryer, He’s a 10 Men’s Collection and Miracle Blow Dry Collection; Millianna feather cuffs and shoewelry; Neoteny Anti-Aging Skincare gift sets from Dr. Lawton Tang; a year’s supply of Oxygenetix breathable oxygenating foundation; PRSVR stylish men’s, women’s and children’s premium apparel; Source Naturals nutritional supplements; and truth “Don’t Get Played” gaming gift sets. Fary’s next endeavor will be creating a fantastic swag bag for the nominees at the Academy Awards. So even if Lady Gaga, Regina King, Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone etc., don’t win, they definitely won’t leave empty handed! Continues at losangelesblade.com


“At least we got a brief opportunity to look at Levine’s 2 percent body fat.” — Esquire magazine on Adam Levine’s halftime performance during the Super Bowl. Virginity is vastly overrated - and I say that as someone who held onto at least portions of his far longer than most (although I made up for lost time). I also think that virginity might cause at least partial mental instability. Two popular shows on network television currently feature high-profile virgins. One is dumb as a stump, and the other is batshit crazy. I don’t mean to disparage either of these people, but I believe perhaps their celibacy has played at least some part in their tenuous grasp on reality. So the next time someone proposes something beyond your level of expertise, give it a try. It may actually help...even if initially it hurts. If there’s one thing that works out less often than being a virgin, it’s being in a throuple. And I’m not talking about casual encounters, in which case I say the more, the merrier. But if you think being in a relationship with one person is hard, try two. Frankie Grande tried his share of combinations before going public around Halloween as being the proverbial third wheel to a very hot couple. Apparently it wasn’t all smooth sailing. “You have double the highs, double the excitement, but also double the lows, double the drama.” Those heady days have passed. “I am single. I’ve been single for about a month now.” Probably spending most of his time in a sitz bath! The big gay story last week was the attack on “Empire” star Jussie Smollett. I was kinda shocked at the reaction. First, some of my dearest childhood friends questioned if the attack really took place, or if Jussie was simply looking for publicity. “Something doesn’t ring true,” one said on Facebook. Yeah, because if I were looking for publicity, I’d tie a noose around my neck and douse myself in bleach! Then someone pointed out to me the social media posts by organizations that used this attack as an opportunity to promote themselves. Shameful. As of the writing of this column, here’s what we know. On the evening of Monday, Jan. 28, Jussie had flown from New York to Chicago - where “Empire” shoots and where Smollett has an apartment. Around 2 a.m., he was hungry and went to a 24-hour Subway (and, if I might inject a bit of levity into this difficult story, let me note that nothing good happens at a Subway at 2 a.m.). When he left the Subway (presumably with his sub), two white men wearing ski masks approached him and yelled out, “Aren’t you that faggot ‘Empire’ n****r?” They then allegedly attacked Jussie, put a rope around his neck, and poured bleach on him, saying “This is MAGA country” as they ran away. After reporting the crime to the police, Jussie got himself to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he was treated for a fractured rib. A couple of days later, Chicago Police released a photo of “persons of interest” that shows two men on a neighboring street around the time of the attack. I will admit, all of this raises several questions - who is walking around Chicago at 2 a.m. with a noose and bleach? There is speculation that Smollett was targeted, as he had earlier received a letter that was sent to the “Empire” set and threatened, “You will die black fag,” with a return address that simply said “MAGA.” Also, a woman who lives in Smollett’s building says that when she took her dog out to pee at 12:30 a.m., she saw a suspicious man lingering. On the flip side, Smollett says that at the time of the attack, he was talking to his manager on his cell phone. So, the police asked to examine the phone - Jussie declined. Police say he was not obligated to share the handset or phone records. And, frankly, as a gay man, I don’t think I’d want the fuzz looking into the bowels of my mobile, either. I don’t regularly watch “Flipping Out.” In fact, I try to avoid it. So, I didn’t realize Jeff and Gage were not married - but who cares? If straights can have kids out of wedlock and be sued by their surrogates, why not gays? I found out the couple wasn’t married because Jeff announced that Gage had moved out last week. He says that for most of the past year, Gage had been in a separate bedroom and the two have primarily been friends with benefits - the benefit, if you ask me, is that you get your own room! I don’t have a dog in this fight (no offense), but I’d like to make one general observation: one doesn’t marry a Gage. One has meaningless sex with a Gage. Hot, meaningless, nasty sex. Like, I once slept with someone named Brick. I can’t swear that was his real name - I never checked his papers. The Gages and Bricks of the world are the guys you fool around with in the bathroom while your boyfriend is waiting at the table in the restaurant. You want a drama-free life? Marry someone with a name out of the Bible. Except Lazarus every time you think you’re done, he’ll spring back to life and you’ll never get any sleep. Until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.


Calling out the Jussie Smollett skepticism ‘Flipping Out’ couple splits and more in entertainment By BILLY MASTERS

Jussie Smollett takes the stage at West Hollywood’s Troubadour. Photo by Troy Masters



Cannabis Culture Provided by NORML

Baltimore prosecutor won’t target marijuana possession BALTIMORE — Officials will no longer prosecute marijuana possession offenses in Baltimore, according to a newly announced public policy by the office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City. Under the plan, which takes immediate effect, the office will also move to expunge the criminal records of an estimated 5,000 citizens previously convicted of cannabis-related offenses. The office’s decision to cease targeting minor marijuana violations is similar to actions recently taken by prosecutors in a number of other major cities, including St. Louis, Missouri; Westchester, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Norfolk, Virginia. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said that the new policy will provide “a major step forward in making Baltimore city safer, fairer, and more equitable, and even more just.” The office will continue to take action against felony cases involving the possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, though prosecutors will refer all first-time offenders to diversion programs.

Cannabis users reduce consumption of other substances: study

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said last week that the new policy will provide ‘a major step forward in making Baltimore city safer, fairer, and more equitable, and even more just.’ Photo via Twitter

VICTORIA, Canada — Canadian patients who consume medical cannabis products in compliance with federal law typically reduce or eliminate their use of alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical drugs, according to data published in the Harm Reduction Journal. A team of investigators from Canada and the United States surveyed over 2,000 federally registered medical cannabis patients with regard to their use of cannabis and other substances. Authors reported, “The most commonly cited substitution was for prescription drugs (69 percent), followed by alcohol (45 percent), tobacco (31 percent), and illicit substances (27 percent).” Of those reporting substituting cannabis for conventional medications, 35 percent said that they used cannabis in place of opioids. Of these, 59 percent said that they ultimately ceased their use of opiates. Investigators further reported: “Of the 515 respondents who substituted cannabis for alcohol, 31 percent suggested they stopped using it completely and 37 percent reported reducing [their consumption] by at least 75 percent. ... Of the 406 participants who substituted cannabis for tobacco, 51 say they stopped using it completely and 14 percent reported reducing their use by 75 percent.” They concluded, “The findings ... add to a growing body of academic research suggesting that increased regulated access to medical and recreational cannabis can result in a reduction in the use of and subsequent harms associated with opioids, alcohol, tobacco, and other substances.” Prior studies have similarly reported an association between medical cannabis access and reduced prescription drug spending, as well as decreased levels of alcohol and tobacco consumption.

Access to medical cannabis reduces opioid use: study LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The enactment of medical cannabis access laws is associated with moderately lower levels of prescription opioid use, even after controlling for potentially confounding variables, according to data published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. A team of investigators from the University of Arkansas assessed prescription drug use data in a nationally representative sample of nearly five million Americans for the years 2006 to 2014. In a finding that is consistent with those of several other studies, authors concluded: “Medical marijuana legalization was associated with lower odds of opioid use, chronic opioid use, and high-risk opioid use when controlling for many state-level and patient-level factors. ... These results suggest that MML (medical marijuana laws) could be one policy tool that may modestly decrease opioid use; chronic and high- risk opioid use in a landscape where pain management options are limited and opioid misuse and addiction are rising rapidly.” Observational studies have similarly reported that medical cannabis access states possess lower rates of opioid-related use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality as compared to jurisdictions without operating medical marijuana programs. Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at paul@norml.org.


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