Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 9, March 1, 2019

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M A R C H 0 1 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 0 9 • 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



Police say Smollett staged attack over salary dispute ‘This publicity stunt was a scar Chicago didn’t earn’ By MARIAH COOPER Actor Jussie Smollett allegedly paid $3,500 to orchestrate a “bogus” hate crime because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on the Fox series “Empire,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a press conference last week. Smollett is charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. He was taken into custody on Feb. 21. Johnson says that Smollett sent himself a fake letter, which included “racial and political language,” addressed to the studio

where “Empire” films. When the letter didn’t receive enough attention, Smollett allegedly paid brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo $3,500 to stage the attack. “When that didn’t work, he paid $3500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process. The stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary [on FOX’s Empire]. He concocted a story about being attacked,” Johnson said. Smollett currently earns $65,000 per episode. Police say that the Osundairo brothers punched Smollett with gloves on but the scratches to his face were self-inflicted. Johnson also confirmed that police have the check Smollett gave to the brothers.

Johnson also fired back at the national attention the story received saying, “This publicity stunt was a scar Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.” “Bogus police reports cause real harm. They do harm to every legitimate victim who’s in need of support of police and citizens. Chicago hosts one of the largest pride parades in the world. We do not, nor will we ever, tolerate hate in our city, whether that hate is based on sexual orientation, race or anything else. This publicity stunt was a scar Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve. To make things worse, this phony attack received national attention for weeks. Celebs, news commentators, and even presidential candidates weighed in on something choreographed by an actor,”

Johnson said. In the wake of the press conference, President Trump spoke out about the alleged hate crime hoax tweeting, “what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?” 20th Century FOX Television issued a statement about Smollett’s future with “Empire.” “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options,” the statement reads. It later announced that Smollett’s role has been cut from the final two episodes of the season.

Sen. Harris calls Trump a racist 2020 hopeful endorsed by top LGBT officials By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com With Donald Trump’s long history of racial remarks, it’s a question his 2020 presidential challengers can expect to get during their campaigns: is President Trump a racist? On Feb. 26, Sen. Kamala Harris, the popular Californian running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, said yes. “When you talk about him calling AfricanAmerican countries s-hole countries. When you talk about him referring to immigrants as rapists and murderers, I don’t think you can reach any other conclusion,” Harris told The Root. The Root: “So you definitely would agree that he’s a racist?” Harris: “I do yes, yes.” Gov. Gavin Newsom agrees. Last year he took to Facebook to call Trump out for disparaging migrants from Africa, Central America and the Caribbean. “Why do we want all these people from shithole countries?” Trump said in the Oval Office, adding that he welcomed immigrants from countries like Norway.

Sen. Kamala Harris Photo by Karen Ocamb

“You’re a joke and a racist, President Donald J. Trump. Resign,” Newsom wrote. Recently, Newsom endorsed Harris in her presidential race and joined Rep. Barbara Lee and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta as California Co-Chairs for Harris’s campaign. Other California congressional representatives who back Harris include out bisexual Katie Hill, Ted Lieu, and Nanette Barragan. Harris also picked up 21 members of the

California State Senate Democratic Caucus, including Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins and two other members of the California LGBT Legislative Caucus, Sens. Cathleen Galgiani and Scott Wiener on Feb. 7. “While serving California, she has defended civil rights and stood up to the forces that would divide us or take us backwards,” Atkins said in a statement. “As San Francisco District Attorney, Attorney

General of California, and United States Senator, she has been a strong proponent of criminal justice reforms, protecting homeowners and immigrant communities, and strengthening the middle class. As President, I know she will continue to prioritize the needs of all the people.” “My campaign is about returning power to the people in this country, and these leaders represent California’s diversity and reflect the broad commitment we share to move our state and our nation forward,” Harris said. “This level of support from my home state of California makes me so proud, and I am honored to have them fighting beside me.” The California primary is now on March 3, 2020. On Feb. 26, out Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Sec. of State Alex Padilla, State Treasurer Fiona Ma, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond added their names to her endorsement list. “Kamala Harris has been a champion, fighting for working families, immigrant rights, and health care for all. I have seen up close what she has done for Californians and strongly endorse her candidacy for President of the United States,” Lara said in a statement. “Her proven track record and progressive vision is what we need from our next President.”



The money in 2019 West Hollywood City Council may surprise you Does money drive the vote? By STAFF REPORTS Eleven people are vying for three city council seats, including three incumbents, in the General Municipal Election Tuesday, March 5, with campaign monies raised totaling over $400,000 so far. A review of public documents by the Los Angeles Blade regarding those campaign contributions released by the City of West Hollywood and the California Fair Political Practices Commission show that a majority of contributions were made by real estate developers, advertising concerns, cannabis industry companies, and political action committees. Funds were provided by well-known lobbyists, attorneys, or other representatives raised by the political action committee, West Hollywood United to Support Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico for Council 2019. Documents indicate it was largely funded by real estate interests and billboard companies. The PAC’s focus appears to be the re-election of two of the three incumbent city council members running for reelection, John D’Amico and Lindsey Horvath. The PAC had raised $98,000 for D’Amico and Horvath and also included a $30,000 donation by Keff Times, on behalf of Integral Associates founder and CEO Armen Yemenidjian, a Las Vegas, Nevada based businessman. Integral Associates operates the Essence Cannabis Dispensary in Las Vegas and last December qualified for a City of West Hollywood issued license in the recreational, smoking and vaping lounge and delivery categories of cannabis as Essence Weho LLC. Integral Associates also runs AY Festivals. As of the February 21 reporting, Horvath’s campaign led in total contributions with $102,930.00 in donations, followed by D’Amico, with $77,200. However, these figures are not inclusive of $98,000 supporting them raised by the West Hollywood United PAC. The third city council incumbent up for reelection, Lauren Meister, raised $44,896. Meister’s name was included in the West

2019 West Hollywood City Council Candidates answer questions during the January 29 Candidates forum held by the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Ted Green

Hollywood United PAC but was omitted before funds were raised and she is not a beneficiary. Candidates Brendan Hood raised, $2,800, Marquita Thomas, $12,000, J Duke Mason $46,722 and Sepi Shyne, $22,400. The remaining candidates Jack Cline, Tom DeMille, Shawn Mooney, and Eric Schmidt reported no financial activity. Businesses that have current contracts as vendors for the city also contributed minor amounts to individual council campaigns. Athens Services, the city’s waste management and trash pickup vendor, donated $500 to each of the three incumbents D’Amico, Horvath, and Meister. Hollywood Tow, the company contracted to remove illegally parked cars from the city’s streets, donated $250 to D’Amico. The marketing and advertising company Symblaze, which has previously worked on several projects for the city, donated $150 to each of the three incumbents. The statistical analysis of all campaign donations show that real estate developers were the most significant source of campaign contributions. Together D’Amico and Horvath received well more $50,000 in individual contributions from people affiliated with real estate interests. (WeHoville.com posted an analysis analysis)

The third incumbent councilmember, Lauren Meister, received only $2,950 from real estate interests, inclusive of agents. Family members of Jason Illoulian, the owner of Faring Capital, developer of 661 Robertson Boulevard, made individual contributions collectively totalling $3,500 to each of the campaigns of Lindsey Horvath, John D’Amico and Marquita Thomas. The city council voted 4-1 last June 4 for the new mixed-use project that includes the plans for a nine-story hotel, new shops, restaurants and a night club. Lauren Meister was the sole-holdout. Candidates James Duke Mason received $2,900 in donations from real estate interests, and Sepi Shyne received $1,400, also from real estate contacts. A majority of the remaining contributions by individuals or small businesses in the city ranged from $100 to $500. The races this year have also competed with ongoing controversy surrounding the public allegations of sexual misconduct against the incumbent Mayor John Duran, with fellow council members calling for his resignation. About 50 members of the #MeToo Movement/LA joined with protesters from Black Lives Matter and Justice4Gemmel to demand Duran’s resignation at a rally on Feb. 19 in front of the West Hollywood City

Council Chamber. The rally occurred before the council meeting that drew intense media attention after three councilmembers, Meister, Horvath, and D’Amico were joined by Councilmember John Heilman in a call for the mayor to step down. Duran recently drew the ire of many community activists after it was revealed that a member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles had accused him of making an unwelcome physical contact by touching the waistband of his underwear. A third party investigator found there was no evidence of wrongdoing and the matter was dropped, it served to revive memories of prior instances where the mayor’s behavior had drawn similar scrutiny and unleashed reports of new ones. At the council meeting, councilmembers voted unanimously to end his previouslyextended term as mayor early, in May instead of September, thus returning the term limit to the standard one year. The last required campaign finance disclosure before the election were submitted on 2/21 and covered donations and expenditures through 2/16. Final activity will not be reported until after June 30. The spreadsheets, as provided to the general public through 2/16 and from which the data above was culled are posted here on


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Gay dads win Judge rebukes State Dept. in citizenship case for twins By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Andrew Dvash-Banks and Elad DvashBanks always knew they wanted to have a family. They just didn’t know how difficult it would be. “That was one of the earliest conversations that we had when we first started dating,” Andrew told the Los Angeles Blade by phone days after they won a federal lawsuit over the citizenship of one of their twins. “It’s obviously a very important conversation that any couple has when they start dating, because that could be a deal-breaker. So we were both on the same page about it: we both wanted children.” Andrew, 38, was an American in Israel pursuing his Master’s degree in 2008 when he met Elad, an Israeli, now almost 34. Having a family “was always on the radar,” a goal they knew would only be achievable through alternative reproduction technology. The couple also they wanted to raise their family in California. “The thing that kept us from being with all my family—my parents, my five brothers and sisters, my 14 nieces and nephews—was DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act),” says Andrew. DOMA was the federal law that prohibited samesex marriage and thus prevented Andrew from sponsoring his foreign husband in emigrating to America, an automatic right for married heterosexual couples. After they finished their degrees in 2010, Andrew had to choose between his family in Los Angeles or “being with the man I love. I don’t think anyone should ever have to be in that situation, to have to choose between the two. Obviously, I chose the man I love,” says Andrew. The coupled moved to Toronto in 2010 and got married. Three years later, after DOMA was overturned, they started the application process for Elad to get a green card. That was finally approved in 2015, so they started to plan their family. “For same-sex couples, family planning is a different process from different-sex couples,” says Elad. “It requires research, it requires preparation, it requires saving, it requires a lot of things that other couples

Black and white family portrait of Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks with their children Aiden and Ethan . Photo courtesy Immigration Equality

don’t have to go through.” They decided on surrogacy that was “allconsuming, mentally, financially, and timewise,” says Elad. Both contributed genetic materials and subsequently chose “the two highest quality embryos that coincidentally were one from my genetic material and another from Andrew’s genetic material to be used in the pregnancy.” Aiden and Ethan Dvash-Banks were born four minutes apart in Sept. 2016. Four months later, Andrew and Elad went to the US consulate in Toronto to prepare for their permanent move to LA. “We came prepared with the boys’ birth certificates—obviously, we are listed on each birth certificate, exclusively, the two of us on each— and all the documents that are required and all the fees to pay,” says Andrew. “We were shocked and baffled and hurt by the response that the State Department official gave us—that she was going to require us to take a DNA test to prove

the genetic connection between myself, the American citizen, and both children.” The official referred to a State Department manual “that interprets the Immigration and Nationality Act and has a biological requirement that does not exist in the actual immigration law,” Elad says, when assisted reproduction technology is involved. “Her question not only undermined the fact that we are one family, not only created a distinction between both of our kids—that we were legally on their birth certificates from the day that they were born—she also created a distinction between us and other, heterosexual couples, that she would never have asked this question,” says a still angry Elad. “If Andrew and I were a man and a woman, we would show up at a consulate with two beautiful children that have both of our names, on both birth certificates, she would never ask that.” Elad asked the official directly if she would have required a DNA test of an infertile American man in a heterosexual

relationship who used a sperm donor. “It’s at my discretion who I ask for proof of genetic connection,’” Andrew recalls the official saying. They took the DNA test only to have Aiden granted citizenship and Ethan denied when the results determined that Andrew was not his biological father. However, Ethan was granted a tourist visa that expired last December. Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks reached out to Immigration Equality and with the law firm of Sullian & Cromwell LLP, filed suit against the State Department on Jan. 22, 2018. “The State Department is refusing to acknowledge the citizenship of children whose parents are same-sex married couples. This policy is not only illegal, it is unconstitutional,” Aaron C. Morris, Executive Director of Immigration Equality and the couples’ attorney, said in a statement. “This action by the State Department disenfranchises children born



Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks with their children Aiden and Ethan and their mixed pug/terrier dog London. Photo courtesy Images of Life by Ashi Shapiro

to bi-national same-sex parents and places an undue burden on their families.” This past Feb. 21, they won. Los Angelesbased District Court Judge John F. Walter wrote in his 11-page ruling that 2-year-old Ethan Dvash-Banks “has been an American citizen since birth.” He also called the State Department official’s interpretation of the citizenship law “strained” at best. But Walker did not rule on the constitutional merits of the overall State Department policy, making the ruling limited in scope and therefore not necessarily applicable to other families. Immigration Equality is hoping a similar case the advocacy organization filed on the same day and is fighting in Washington on behalf of a lesbian couple living in London will tackle the inequality of the policy’s application to same sex and heterosexual couples. A judge in that case is considering whether or not the case should be dismissed or go to trial. Immigration Equality had been working

with the Obama administration on updating the policy and Hillary Clinton’s campaign also seemed interested, Morris tells the Los Angeles Blade. When the Trump administration wouldn’t even talk to Immigration Equality, they started looking for alternative ways to help with legal services and advice. The State Department issued a statement saying “it was reviewing the ruling, but did not respond to questions about what it would mean for the policy going forward,” the New York Times reported. They have 60 days to appeal the ruling. “I’m an American citizen, my tax dollars are going the State Department. This consulate is representing me and my interests,” says Andrew. “Who are they to turn to me and tell me that my son is not my son? I cut his umbilical cord. I’ve been there since the minute he took his first breath. I’ve changed every poopy diaper. I’m his father. I’m on his birth certificate. Just because I

don’t share a genetic connection with him doesn’t make me any less his father than Elad. So it’s very hurtful.” “I think there’s a fundamental problem with presumption of parentage,” says Elad. “When you see a heterosexual couple with kids, you assume that both of those parents are the genetic parents of those kids. But that might not be correct, and in fact there are many heterosexual couples who are not both genetically related to their kids. In same-sex couples, this presumption does not exist. We don’t enjoy the presumption of parentage because we are in a same-sex relationship. And that is, in our mind, the problem with the distinction that the State Department is making.” The couple say they feel “so relieved, and so happy, that the court agreed” that Ethan is the same as his twin brother,” says Elad. But “with all the happiness and the joy of the decision, no one can give us back the two years of stress, of sleepless nights, of

worries, of health issues for us, that we had to endure—wrongfully, because it wasn’t our fault. The State Department made the wrong decision. The judge’s decision says that clearly—that Ethan was an American citizen at birth. So, with the joy and the happiness of the decision, things are now corrected and are as they were supposed to be. But no one can give us back those two years we lost.” Morris notes the internal harm caused to both parents and a child who is told they are not equal to their sibling. But he also sees hope ahead. “We’ve been fighting for a very long time to ensure equality and we are still winning,” says Morris. “It’s a never-ending struggle. But it’s always worth the fight.” The Immigration Equality hotline is 212714-2904. But Morris suggests going to the organization’s website where there is a lot of useful information to help get you to the right person: immigrationequality.org.



Civil rights leader Vanita Gupta on fighting the Trump administration Prison reform, voting rights, the courts, Census are key issues By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com NYU Magazine dubbed Vanita Gupta “A Head with Heart” in a 2015 profile on the alum’s new job as acting head of the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division two months after the uproar over the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. At West Hollywood’s Human Rights Speakers Series discussion entitled Defending Civil Rights in the Trump Era on Feb. 27, Gupta said she was surprised President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder offered her the job, considering how often she had sued the federal government over civil rights issues. Gupta’s former boss, openly gay Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, was not surprised. “Vanita knows where true north is, how to navigate choppy water, and keeps her hands firmly on the tiller,” he told the magazine. He credits Gupta, who was Deputy Legal Director, for pioneering the ACLU’s National Campaign to End Mass Incarceration. Gupta, who has a lesbian sister, is perhaps best known to the LGBT community for spearheading the DOJ’s lawsuit against the state of North Carolina over the infamous HB2 in 2016. “H.B. 2 violates the laws that govern our nation and the values that define us as a people,” Gupta, then Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said in a May 9, 2016 press release. “Transgender men are men – they live, work and study as men. Transgender women are women – they live, work and study as women. America protects the rights of all people to be who they are, to express their true selves and to live with dignity.” Today, Gupta is helping steer the Resistance movement against the Trump administration as President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization founded in 1950. Gay Bayard Rustin and Dr.

Vanita Gupta Photo by Jon Viscott for the City of West Hollywood

Dorothy Height served as board chairs as the organization lobbied Congress to pass historic civil rights legislation. Discussion host Karin Wang, Executive Director of the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law, asked Gupta a series of questions about herself, key issues of concern and what people can do to protect the ideals and institutions of democracy. An American-born daughter of Indian immigrants, Gupta says she first experienced discrimination at age four when she and her grandmother were harassed and menaced by skinheads in a McDonalds in London. “Mortified” and “embarrassed,” she turned that frightening humiliation into a lifetime of seeking justice and holding authorities accountable, especially law enforcement and the corrupt criminal justice system that uses race to railroad poor African Americans into jail. After Trump’s election, Attorney General Jeff Sessions “started to undo almost

everything we did” at the DOJ, she said. That’s why work at the state and local level “matters” to keep civil rights protections in place. Under Trump, “there has been a systematic erosion of civil rights,” she said, and offices have been “weaponized” for partisan gain. Fortunately, Gupta noted, states attorney generals and non-profits have been “stepping into the breach” and actively organizing against anti-civil rights efforts. Gupta expressed alarm about how the progressive community has been “asleep at the switch” regarding judicial nominees, noting that 25 percent of federal appellate judges are now Trump extremist conservatives. She called for presidential candidates to be grilled about their views on the prison reform, voting rights and the courts. “This is no time to sit on the sidelines,” Gupta said, urging grassroots activists to visit members of Congress in their state offices. “It matters when people show up.”

Gupta also stressed that the upcoming US Census is “deeply at risk,” with the great potential of leaving many uncounted out of fear of giving the government any information. This is exactly what Republican activists hope for to maintain political power. On the other hand, Gupta found hope seeing DREAMers out door-knocking during the 2016 election. The Census, which begins on April 1, 2020, informs congressional reapportionment and redistricting and is considered in appropriating $800 billion annually for necessary services such as first responders, medical facilities, and education. In an interview with Gupta after the event, the Los Angeles Blade noted that there is no way for the Census to count LGBT individuals, other than perhaps a question about same sex relationships. “We had been really close actually at the end of the Obama administration to adding that question on the Census,” Gupta said. “There had been a lot of really important advocacy by LGBTQ groups to get that question added and unfortunately, it wasn’t.” LGBT questions have been included in the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which goes out to a smaller sampling of families, households and individuals. This is largely thanks to the hard advocacy work done by gay demographic expert Dr. Gary Gates and colleagues in conjunction with the Williams Institute. “But it is still really, really important for us to understand the economic picture, the broad ways LGBTQ people and their families are actually living and experiencing our economy,” Gupta said. The Los Angeles Blade also asked if The Leadership Conference, with its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations, might take on the project of getting a question about sexual orientation and gender identity included as a standard demographic question in political polling. It is hard to identify the impact of LGBT voters without the numbers. “It’s a great question that we should focus on,” Gupta said. “I don’t know. I appreciate the question because it’s something I’d like to look into now.” For more on The Leadership Conference, go to www.civilrights.org.

MARCH 01, 2019 • 09


This is what bravery looks like. After Robert Curren, the out Artistic Director of the Louisville Ballet, announced that this season’s theme would be “Romance,” including a gay romance entitled “Human Abstract” with an advertisement showing two men holding hands, the dance company was attacked with a slew of homophobic comments and threats. One prominent doctor from a nearby hospital wrote that he was “shocked and profoundly offended” by the image of the “two sodomites…You should be ashamed of promoting perversion, immorality, and filth.” He promised to boycott the company and tell his friends. “Your organization is EVIL. You people are minions of Satan, polluting our culture with your repugnant ideology and peddling perversion and immorality.” Curren and his young company didn’t fold but stood strong, posting an open letter on Facebook Feb. 20 thanking the Louisville community for sticking by them in the face of hate. “Our hearts are filled with gratitude for those that have reached out in support. We will always stand for love and acceptance,” the post’s introduction reads. “It was really tough to take,” Curran told the Los Angeles Blade in a phone interview. “But ‘LGBT’ needs to be part of all conversations. And the creativity that artists bring to the table, the problem solving, the different points of view, the flexibility—all of that that artists bring to the table is so undervalued and could have a huge contribution to make to all sectors of our society.” For more, go to losangelesblade.com. – Karen Ocamb

“You put forth your best effort every single day, something that you love doing and then to be told you shouldn’t be in the military ... when you are fully capable and competent of serving. I don’t see why there should be an issue.” – Trans Army Sergeant First Class Kai Landeros, 38, to Reuters regarding a new Reuters/Ipsos poll reporting that nearly 60 percent of Americans support trans service.

“It’s clear that Walmart is on the path of elevating homosexual relationships to the same level as the male-female model of marriage.” - American Family Association President Tim Wildmon calling for a boycott Feb. 26 after a Walmart ad featured a gay couple.

“Michael Cohen on Trump: ‘He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a shithole. This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States.’” – Out Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Keith Boykin live-tweeting Cohen’s testimony before Congress Feb. 27.

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Polis on his experience as an out gay governor Colo. exec seeks to ban ‘conversion therapy,’ abandon Electoral College By CHRIS JOHNSON Seven weeks after his inauguration on Jan. 8, Jared Polis is already seeing progress in his new job as governor of Colorado. A teacher’s strike in Denver is resolved and legislation is heading to his desk aimed at shifting toward a winner in presidential elections based on the popular vote. The first openly gay person inaugurated governor also awaits two pieces of pro-LGBT legislation advanced in the Colorado House, but still pending in the Senate: a ban on widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy for youth and a birth certificate bill easing the process by which transgender people can change their gender marker. Polis talked about his experience — including the role of his spouse, Marlon Reis, the first-ever spouse of a governor in a samesex relationship — during an interview Sunday with the Blade as he sipped on a Red Bull. The Colorado governor was in town for a meeting of the National Governors Association. The Blade’s complete Q&A with Polis follows — including his thoughts on Jussie Smollett and 2020 candidates. Blade: Has anything unexpected occurred as result of being the first openly gay person inaugurated as governor? Jared Polis: In terms of the unexpected, Denver’s had a teachers’ strike…things like that hit, and the job of governor really has nothing to do with your orientation or identity. It’s just you always expect the unexpected, like you’re always worried about fires in Colorado, [working] with the legislature on some historic progress, including equality. We’re looking forward to hopefully banning conversion therapy for minors essentially in our state. Blade: What was going through your head during the inauguration? Polis: It’s a blur. It was just crazy to be there and have thousands of people with my partner Marlon and our family. Really, I was looking forward to being done with it because I just was looking forward to doing the job. I was not really comfortable with the ceremonial aspects of it. But I wanted to put together a thoughtful

Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado was in town for a meeting of the National Governors Association. Blade photo by Michael Key

ceremony. We had people from multiple faith traditions. We had a Sikh blessing, a Native American blessing, we had a Christian minister and Rabbi. We had the gay men’s choir kick it off. We wanted to do a thoughtful, inclusive ceremony. I set the theme as “Colorado for All” to highlight how our state welcomes and includes everybody regardless of where you live, who you love, who you are, your ethnicity or your race, your gender, so that’s kind of what we wanted to celebrate. Blade: I’m not terribly familiar with how Colorado handles the office of first spouse. Polis: So, yeah, Marlon is first gentleman. His cause is animal welfare. He’s going to be hosting a pet adoption at the governor’s mansion in the next few weeks. He’s going to be advocating for animals as well as other causes near to his heart, like equality, and other causes. Blade: Is there anything different in handling the office of first spouse? After all, Marlon is the first first spouse of a governor in a same-sex marriage. Polis: He’s attending the spouse track at NGA and the other spouses, Republican and Democrat, are all very welcoming and warm to him. A lot of them are just figuring it out, too. They’re all of a sudden first spouses, right, of first-time governors? They have to figure it out

on their own in their own way. And there’s no model. I mean, some of them do literally zero with their spouse. Others are full-time with a different cause. Many of them are kind of in between managing a career or being a homemaker along with some causes. So, that’s what the spouse track here is kind of all about. They’re just kind of figuring how to do it and what to focus on. And Marlon is ahead of many of them in already identifying his cause and already putting together, you know, some events around it. Blade: Let’s talk about LGBT policy. You mentioned the legislative ban on conversion therapy. There’s also the birth certificate legislation easing the process so transgender people can change their gender marker. What’s your expectation for timing for when those would become law? Polis: When they reach my desk, they’ll become law. So, you know, it’s the legislature and I don’t know when they’ll be considered by the other chamber and pass, but they’ll become law when they reach my desk. And I’ve signed a few bills so far, which is pretty cool just to think that’s the final act, and then I sign it and all of sudden it’s the law of Colorado. It was different than as a congressman. You vote on something and then maybe vote on it again. I attended some signing ceremonies with President Obama, but now to be on the other end, and seeing this act of signing it makes it law is pretty cool. Blade: What would be the significance of those two bills in particular becoming law? Polis: It’ll be exciting and they’re the result of years of hard work. We have a strong equality advocacy organization called One Colorado in Colorado. We have many LGBT members of our legislature, including our first transgender legislator, Brianna Titone. And so, this’ll be really getting it across the finish line after years and years of work from advocates in our state. Blade: One other bill that’s coming to your desk soon is the bill that would throw the electoral votes in Colorado to the popular vote winner in presidential elections under certain circumstances. You’ve indicated you support that. Can you talk a little about that? Polis: When I was in Congress, I supported moving to popular vote for election for president. I believe in one person, one vote. I think the Electoral College is an undemocratic relic that potentially could

cause a constitutional crisis, and was nearly done twice in the last two decades. Blade: I think critics of the proposal would say that if you’re giving up this process for the popular vote, then Colorado will have to give up its nine points in the Electoral College and presidential candidates won’t go to Colorado and make campaign promises. What would you say to that? Polis: It means that every vote counts in Colorado, right? It means that even if our state is leaning Democrat, every vote counts because they all go into the national total. So I think it’s particularly important for people who believe in states that lean in one way or the other. And our state’s competitive, of course. But it’s nice to know that even if the Democrat is winning, then all the Republican votes won’t just be thrown away. Blade: I also want to ask you about the Equality Act. I know you’ve been away from Congress, but are you hearing anything from Congress about it? Polis: No. I’m hopeful that it will be brought to the floor, hopefully this summer. It’ll be an historic occasion. Hopefully, the House has the opportunity to pass the Equality Act. Blade: What makes you say this summer? Polis: What are we in now? March? So, I guess it could be spring. As soon as they have time on the floor of the House, I’m confident they’ll bring it to the floor in the coming months. Blade: Let’s get to some stories in the news. One high-profile story is the case of Jussie Smollet. When you heard about the story as it unfolded, what was your reaction? Polis: I haven’t been following it that closely because you know I’ve been following what I have to do as governor. I mean, I see the headlines, but I haven’t read all the articles in detail. I have to focus on Colorado, and we’re focused on our agenda of free full-day kindergarten, renewable energy, saving people money on health care and tax reform. Blade: You must be aware that he’s accused of having faked a hate crime against him. Do you have any reaction to that? Polis: It’s hard to figure out what his motive would have been. He probably needs some kind of help to work through whatever issues he has and I’m sure he’ll likely be facing criminal charges. If he did fake it, then he deserves to be convicted. Continues at losangelesblade.com







In first, trans troops testify about military service Capitol Hill hearing includes Trump officials backing ban By CHRIS JOHNSON A hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday became a veritable tale of two cities as transgender troops testified about their commitment to military service while Trump administration officials sought to explain why they would seek to deny them from enlisting in the armed forces (while at the same denying their proposed policy was a ban). Each of the five transgender service members told the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee about their military records, which consisted in some cases of years of military service and deployments overseas. Meanwhile, the Trump administration — at a time when the Army is falling short of making its recruitment goals — is seeking to implement a policy to bar transgender people like them from enlistment, although for the time being the courts have blocked the policy. Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann, president of the transgender military group SPARTA, has been in the Navy for 14 years and talked about experiencing firsthand — as a lesbian who later came out as transgender — changes in policy allowing women on submarines, and end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and transgender people in the military. “Good leaders can take a team and make it work,” Dremann said. “Great leaders mold their teams to exceed expectations because it doesn’t matter if you’re female or LGBT. What matters is that each member is capable and focused on the mission.” Capt. Jennifer Peace, who has served for 15 years in the Army and currently serves as an intelligence officer for Iran in the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified there had never been an issue within the unit she commanded because she was transgender. “We were out for extended time periods in the theater, in the deserts of California, in the forest of Wisconsin,” Peace said. “There were never any issues that arose to being transgender. Between the time of the initial announcement of open service and the tweets of our commander-in-chief, the fact that I was transgender never came up. It wasn’t something that needed to be discussed.” As a company commander, Peace said she knows the importance of readiness

Trans service members testify on Feb. 27 Blade photo by Michael Key

and would “be the first person to kick out a transgender service member if they are not able to meet the standards, if they are unable to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies of the United States.” Army Staff Sergeant Patricia King, who has served in the Army for 19 years, talked about her experience having been deployed three times to Afghanistan and being transgender in the military. “From the get-go, none of that mattered to the soldiers to my squad,” King said. “Most of them are 21 years old or younger, and people in Generation Z simply aren’t worried about trans very much. Much like their iPhones or Facebook, they grew up with trans people in their lives.” King concluded, “Laverne Cox is a household name for Generation Z, much like we grew up with Laverne & Shirley.” The quintet of witnesses were the firstever openly transgender service members to testify before the U.S. House. (But they weren’t the first openly transgender witnesses more generally. That distinction belongs to Vandy Beth Glenn, who testified before the House in 2009 on employment non-discrimination legislation.) The transgender service members testified in civilian attire and not their uniforms. A Speier aide said they weren’t in uniform because they aren’t testifying in their official capacities as department representatives. Testifying alongside the transgender service members was Jesse Ehrenfeld, a combat veteran who deployed to Afghanistan and is now a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Although he testified in a personal capacity, Ehrenfeld expressed views similar to those of the American Medical Association, which has concluded there’s

no medical need to bar transgender people from military service. “I would like to say unequivocally for the record that there is no medically valid reason, including a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, to exclude transgender individuals from military service,” Ehrenfeld said. Chairing the hearing was House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee Chair Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who has introduced legislation that would bar the Defense Department from excluding qualified transgender people from the military on the basis of their gender identity. “Despite living in a nation where many discriminate against you, you made a choice that fewer and fewer Americans make,” Speier said. “You joined the military, and risked your lives and your family’s wellbeing for our safety. And how has the administration thanked you? By treating you like a liability, not an asset.” Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), one of two of the first female Native Americans elected to Congress in 2018, was visibly emotional as she thanked the transgender witnesses for their service, recalling her experience as a child growing up in a military family. “Regardless of what the president says, there are millions of Americans who appreciate the service that you give to our country,” Haaland said. Making a veiled criticism of President Trump, Haaland said, “If there’s one person that isn’t fit to serve — we all know who that is right now, because that person devalues things that people want to do to make our country better and to move forward.” “And although I can’t apologize for that person, I can tell you that I can do everything in my power to make sure that we can bring back some civility and respect to the people who are serving our country,” Haaland said.

Two Trump administration officials, however, came to the hearing to defend the administration policy: James Stewart, who’s performing the duties of under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, director of the Defense Health Agency. Stewart repeatedly said the Trump policy was not a ban because it wasn’t an exclusion of transgender people, but a blanket medical policy requiring discharges and inadmission for individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria (which is often a defining characteristic of being transgender.) “The new policy ends the practice of providing special accommodations for individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria and transitionrelated treatment,” Stewart said. “Rather, it approaches the condition in the same manner as the department manages any serious medical condition for recession and retention purposes, ensuring equal application of military standards for all persons regardless of gender identity.” A key moment came when Stewart — who insisted the policy would grandfather openly transgender people currently in the armed forces — was asked whether those individuals would be eligible for certain promotions, a change in services or readmission to the military if they dropped out to pursue an education opportunity. Stewart simply repeatedly his line the policy grandfathers openly transgender people currently in the military. Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), who took part in the hearing as a guest of the subcommittee, sought to expose the Trump policy as a ban in a fiery exchange when he pointed out even individuals who have treated their gender dysphoria wouldn’t be allowed to enlist in the armed forces. “We are not talking about heart surgery and diabetes,” Brown said. “We are talking about a group of Americans who identify as transgender. I’ve never seen a group of Americans, OK, who are prone to heart attacks who come lobbying Congress and say give us the right to serve even though the risk of heart attack is very great because I’ve already had three or four. That’s mixing apples and oranges and I don’t appreciate that.” The only Republican who came to the hearing and asked questions was Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), top Republican on the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee.


• Replace the unsightly

Hustler building with a magnificent cultural hub on the Sunset Strip

• Bring a world-class public

art gallery to WeHo and invest another $1 million in arts funding

• Generate new revenue for

the city to help fund critical services

To read who’s supporting YES on B: www.yesonbforweho.com Ad paid for by Yes on Measure B, Residents to Preserve the Sunset Strip; committee major funding from 8431 Melrose VE Zachary Vella



Cubans approve new constitution

Juan Carlos Cruz is a gay man from Chile who is among the hundreds of people who were abused by a notorious pedophile priest in the country’s capital of Santiago over three decades. Photo courtesy of Cruz

Gay man joins Vatican clergy sex abuse summit A gay man from Chile who was sexually abused by a notorious pedophile priest participated in a summit on clergy sex abuse that took place at the Vatican last week. Juan Carlos Cruz told the Blade on Monday during a telephone interview from Philadelphia that he and a dozen other survivors of clergy sex abuse met with bishops before the 4-day summit began at the Vatican on Feb. 21. “It was positive because it was a very constructive dialogue, but at the same time (it was) painful and difficult and good,” he said. “It was all kind of things.” Cruz told the Blade he was also asked to record a video for Pope Francis and the bishops from around the world who traveled to Rome. The video was shown at the beginning of the summit. “You are the doctors of souls and yet, … you have become, in some cases, the killers of souls, the killers of faith,” said Cruz in the video, according to La Nación, an Argentine newspaper that covered the summit. Fernando Karadima, who has been defrocked, sexually abused Cruz and hundreds of other people over three decades at Parroquia Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, a parish in a wealthy neighborhood in the Chilean capital of Santiago. Cruz and two other men who Karadima abused — José Murillo and James Hamilton — in a 2013 lawsuit accused Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, the archbishop of Santiago and his predecessor, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, and the Archdiocese of Santiago of covering up the abuse. Errázuriz and Ezzati conspired to block Cruz from being named to a sex abuse commission that Francis created. Cruz in a previous interview with the Blade said Errázuriz dismissed his allegations against Karadima, noting he is “gay and he liked it.” Francis in January 2018 sparked widespread outrage during his trip to Chile when he publicly defended Rev. Juan Barros, a Karadima protége who was the then-bishop of the city of Osorno, and dismissed allegations that he witnessed the abuse and covered it up. Francis faced additional criticism over his assertion that he did not know about the allegations against Barros. “As a Catholic, the first thing that I thought was I am going to go to the Holy Mother Church, where they are going to listen and they are going to respect me,” said Cruz in his video, according to La Nación. “The first thing that they did was treat me as though I was a liar, turn their backs on me and say that I and others were enemies of the church.” Francis last May met with Cruz, Murillo and Hamilton at the Vatican. Francis subsequently asked for the resignations of all of the 31 bishops who were active in the Chilean Catholic church after he met with Cruz, Murillo and Hamilton. Francis accepted Barros’ resignation last June. Chilean Bishop Luis Fernando Ramos attended the summit. Cruz told the Blade that Bishop Santiago Silva, president of the Chilean Episcopal Conference, did not travel to Rome because he remains under investigation over the church’s cover-up of clergy sex abuse in the South American country. The Associated Press reported Francis at the end of the summit acknowledged “people’s justified anger” over clergy sex abuse. The summit began four days after the Vatican announced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was the archbishop of Washington from 2001-2006, had been defrocked after he was found guilty of sexual abuse. An Australian court on Tuesday announced the conviction of Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s economic minister who was a close advisor to Francis, on charges he sexually abused two choirboys in the 1990s. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Cuban voters on Sunday overwhelmingly approved the draft of their country’s new constitution. Maykel González Vivero, co-founder of Tremenda Nota, an independent online magazine that is the Blade’s media partner on the Communist island, reported 86.85 percent of Cubans who participated in Sunday’s referendum voted for the new constitution. Official results indicate 9 percent of voters voted against it, but González reported this figure may be higher because of abstentions or ballots that were either left blank or thrown out. Independent LGBTI rights advocates in Cuba sharply criticized the government’s decision in December to remove an amendment from the draft constitution that would have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples in Cuba. The issue also sparked a rare public debate in the country, with evangelical church groups highlighting their opposition to nuptials for gays and lesbians. Francisco Rodríguez Cruz, a gay Cuban blogger who supports Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro who spearheads LGBTI issues as director of the National Center for Sexual Education, on Monday wrote the new constitution “backs the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in a specific way.” Mariela Castro and her supporters have said they plan to push for changes to Cuba’s Family Code that would extend marriage rights to samesex couples. Those who publicly campaigned against the new constitution argued it will not improve Cuba’s economy or overall human rights record. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Ariana Grande to headline Manchester Pride Ariana Grande is scheduled to headline Manchester Pride in England later this year. The event will take place from Aug. 23-26. Manchester Pride CEO Mark Fletcher on Monday in a statement said his organization is “truly honored to be welcoming Ariana back to the city to help us celebrate LGBT+ life.” “I’m so thrilled to be headlining pride,” said Grande in a tweet. A suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured more than 100 others when he blew himself up at Manchester Arena after a Grande concert on May 22, 2017. Grande hosted a benefit concert in the city less than two weeks later. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Councilmembers HORVATH & D’AMICO are Champions for LGBTQ Rights While Washington, D.C. is trying to take away our hard-fought rights, Councilmembers Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico are working tirelessly to “RESIST” and protect them. Horvath and D’Amico have a long history of making West Hollywood a beacon of human rights and social justice. As Mayor, Lindsey created a Resource Guide to LGBTQ youth that was made available in 88 cities in L.A. County. As Councilmember, she created “transition guidelines” that were adopted by our state Attorney General. An architect and project manager, John served as co-Director of Policy and Planning at AIDS Project L.A. Working together, Horvath and D’Amico have: fought to protect marriage equality; supported programs to achieve “HIV ZERO,” sober living, and prevent LGBTQ youth suicide; and made WeHo one of the safest, most discrimination-free communities in the country. In these uncertain times, it is critical to re-elect Councilmembers like Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico — candidates who know how to protect our rights locally.

COUNCILMEMBERS LINDSEY HORVATH & JOHN D’AMICO ARE ENDORSED BY Rep. Adam Schiff State Senator Ben Allen Assemblymember Richard Bloom L.A. County Assesor Jeffrey Prang West Hollywood Councilmember John Heilman Estevan Montemayor, Christopher Street West/L.A. Pride Board President

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Catholic hypocrisy reveals repression is the real harm Oh, that Catholic hedonism

Gabriel S. Hudson, Ph.D., teaches at George Mason University’s Graduate School of Education and The Schar School of Policy and Government. He is the author of ‘Christodemocracy and the Alternative Democratic Theory of America’s Christian Right.’ (Photo by Oliver Lawrence)

For years I have made some version of the same joke: What do you call a man that campaigns relentlessly against gay rights or chastises the immorality of gay people in sermons? Answer: Gay! People immediately get the joke. The list of famously homophobic politicians and ministers that turned out to be gay is as voluminous as it is comical. Ted Haggard had secret liaisons with a “masseuse!” Have you heard his sermons? George Rekers was caught with a boyish prostitute! He’s a proponent of ex-gay therapy. Stereotypes can be so funny when they’re true— but still sting with realization Andrew Sullivan’s recent column in New York Magazine— “The Corruption of the Vatican’s Gay Elite Has Been Exposed”—which heavily quotes the recent research of Frédéric Martel, takes the anti-gay-while-secretly-gay trope to an absurd but sadly true level. Martel’s exhaustive research reaffirms that the richest, most influential and reliably homophobic institution in the world— the Catholic Church—is really super gay. It’s hard to read Sullivan’s column without laughing. One gets the sense that he’s both shocked but unsurprised. It’s horrifying… but it makes perfect sense. Cardinals, bishops and their subordinates interact in a confusing cloud of gay prostitution, lover swapping, and utter contempt for gay people. Men resplendent with wealth and power tend to have unchaste sex lives and homophobes tend to be quite gay underneath.

Sullivan notes, “Many of the Vatican gays — especially the most homophobic — treat their vows of celibacy with an insouciant contempt.” They campaign for state-sanctioned discrimination while schnogging their seminary students. This contrast between doctrine and lifestyle, proscription and predation can seem humorous to an outsider but present a life or death struggle for a young man growing up in the Church. I was never Catholic, but I was raised quite religious. Like many Catholic penitents, I was taught that homosexuality was a profound and intrinsic disorder requiring strident spiritual and psychological intervention. I was told any act of worship or service in the name of God was hypocrisy if I harbored homosexuality in my heart. The relevant, decontextualized selections of scripture were always used to sell the message that I was bad because I was insufficiently masculine. These messages were woven deep into my personal reality and my growing understanding of the world around me. The message that sticks with me the most involves the purported harm gay men pose to society and themselves. Nothing wrecks religion, culture, or social stability like a gay man. A major component of my path to self acceptance required carefully dismantling those assumptions. That a gay man can be happy, healthy, and contribute positively to society should not have been so hard to grasp. But it was because I, like so many, were ingrained with the opposite conclusion. The revelations of gay hedonism from Frédéric Martel combined with the latest revelation that the Vatican maintains secret rules for priests that father children despite vows of celibacy reinforces the long assumption that the rules of piety apply to the sheep, not the shepherds. It brings new light to the clergy sex abuse scandal in which thousands upon thousands of children had their lives ruined by men in venerable robes. These men kept their jobs because the institution cared more about unfavorable reporting than keeping children safe. Over and over again, facts reiterate that the real harm derives from repression. It’s the shaming and restriction of sex that results in harmful expressions of sexuality. It’s the hiding, lying, denying that’s all too familiar to every

gay adult who grew up devoutly religious. It’s the shaming of sex that requires secrecy and suppression. And yet, the Catholic Church, like many churches, like the church I grew up in, continues to produce a theology of condemnation and exclusion. The ones making us feel the least whole are, in fact, the most unholy. It’s healthy for the individual and society to realize that. In California, progress has been made in banning “ex-gay conversion therapy.” AB 2943 was introduced in the California Assembly last year, but it was pulled by its gay author, Assemblymember Evan Low, in hopes of gaining more religious support. When it passes, it will not only ban the vicious chicanery of “ex-gay therapy” but also the profitable literature used in such programs. The supporting materials characterize homosexuality as a disease in need of a cure. These materials are medically unsound and condemned by every reputable scientific and professional association. But, the proposed legislation banning on their usage in therapy was predictably decried by the professionally homophobic as a ban on religious belief and doctrine. Bans on such literature are an attack on religious freedom, they claim. Only if one cannot distinguish between faith and political persecution. Politically imbued snakeoil is about as “Christian” as a bishop’s orgy. It is in fights like these that the hypocrisy at the highest levels of Catholicism becomes rhetorically illustrative. Being gay is not something in need of a cure and those that push that idea are, well, likely quite gay. Sexual repression causes more personal and societal harm than anyone’s orientation. External oppression reveals internal suppression. Add the swinging hypocrisy at the Vatican to the long list of moral and sexual failings of the Church. From its inception, the celibacy vow was motivated by the pursuit of wealth and power. Doctrine has been selectively fitted to demonize the enemy de jour ever since. Except now, we know more about the scam. A religious kid who questions his sexuality has information to help him untangle the net of shame. The joke above works because its too often true. Homophobia masks homosexuality. Efforts to treat or cure gayness fix nothing but hide too much. There’s something rotten in the doctrine of homophobia. Hopefully, in the next assembly,

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Medicare for All, Green New Deal are aspirational Democrats should tell voters what we plan to do if we win in 2020

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

The current various discussions of Medicare-for-All and the resolution set forth for the Green New Deal are aspirational goals and that is not a bad thing. With both of these goals we must find the right pathway that will allow us to achieve them. The Democratic Party and its candidates need to determine how we bring people along with us, especially those who might tend to agree with our long-term goals but are afraid some pathways will cause major

upset in their lives. Politically if we are to win we must find a way to have the majority of the country with us and not have everyone else so upset they are poised to use every lever at hand to stop any progress. The current Green New Deal resolution has been attacked by many conservatives. Those who developed it tell us not worry but to plow ahead. They urged other Democrats in Congress to just go ahead and endorse it. They will get many endorsements and some of our announced and unannounced presidential candidates have already done so. Some without comment others like Amy Klobuchar calling it “aspirational” as a way not to pick it apart. Sherrod Brown has not yet endorsed it. Diane Feinstein was clear it couldn’t get through the Senate but she has another version. What has been overlooked by some is there are more than just conservatives who have issues with the resolution as presented and behind the scenes many unions and environmentalists and rational progressives who share the long-term goals are saying they see problems. The issues they are talking about include what we do about nuclear energy and the call for cutting air travel to name just two. On the other issue, there is nearly universal

agreement among Democratic candidates to embrace the words “Medicare for All.” Yet go just one layer below the words and there is widespread disagreement on what they mean. Some believe it’s immediate universal healthcare or a single-payer system; some like Sherrod Brown want to open up current Medicare to younger people, while to others it means an end to private insurance. There is no current consensus on how to move forward. The best case scenario for Democrats, with the leadership of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, would be to have the Democratic caucus in the House come to agreement on legislation they can introduce and pass in the next year on a host of issues including healthcare. They could potentially pass a bill with fixes to the Affordable Care Act, including reducing the cost of prescription drugs and guaranteeing affordable care for those with pre-existing conditions. They can pass bills leading to real progress in the fight against climate change. There are a host of other issues they could address including immigration with a bill to allow Dreamers to stay in the country and giving all immigrants a pathway to citizenship. They could pass an infrastructure bill and another bill guaranteeing equal pay for

women and one to ensure equality for the LGBTQ+ community. They can pass a voting rights bill and maybe one to help ease the burden of student debt and making at least community college free to everyone. They should do these things because the nation is sliding backwards, and will continue to move backwards, as long as the clearly unhinged man remains in the White House and his sycophants control the Senate. I am not naïve enough to think if the House passes even some of these bills they will be passed by the Senate or signed into law by the president. But what they accomplish is to lay out a blueprint for progress and allow candidates to say to voters, “If you elect Democrats in 2020 and give us control of the Congress and the White House, this is what we will do.” The worst thing that can happen to Democrats is we take back government and find like Republicans did when they tried to get rid of the ACA and pass a replacement, they couldn’t agree on anything to pass. Democrats can and must do better. We must be prepared to act on day one if the people give us back the ability to do so. We must do it both for the nation and as a symbol to the world the Trump administration is an aberration and not who we are.

LGBTQ+ Studies Web Archive is a welcome act of ‘Congress’ Documenting the story of our liberation and our lives By SCOTT STIFFLER

While Congresspeople come and go, and that legislative branch’s approval rating ebbs and flows (it rated a paltry 20 percent in January), a self-described “arm of the United States Congress,” established in 1800, is increasingly inclusive, within its steadfast commitment “to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations.” “It’s on the wall when I walk in, in the morning,” said Meg Metcalf, Librarian, Women’s, Gender, & LGBTQ+ Collection Specialist at the Library of Congress, of the abovementioned motto. Metcalf, who joined the Library in 2015, began work last year on establishing its LGBTQ+ Studies Web Archive, which is dedicated to capturing material meant to “both compliment and strengthen the collections with content that has historically been difficult to collect,” such as selfpublished, nonprofit, and ephemeral formats. Metcalf is tasked with seeking out worthy websites, blogs, zines, and other forms of born-digital content — such as comics, films, oral histories, and databases — throughout the world. The criteria is based on “how many people read it, the quality of the site, and how well-established it is,” she said, noting, “I’ve archived a lot of websites that have different data sources, collecting surveys, questionnaires, and hard data — the kind of stuff researchers want to dig into and pull apart.” While the Library of Congress, set to mark its 219th year in April, has over 167,000,000 items in its collection, the LGBTQ+ Studies Web Archive, at 210 cataloged sites, is in its relative infancy — and soon, a wave of new content will be accessible to the public, as the first cycle of work comes to fruition.

“Since I formed these collections at various points in 2018, the collections will begin to appear at various points in 2019,” Metcalf explained, noting, “Once we crawl a website, there is a one-year embargo before it will be seen on the public-facing website.” (Content is currently available upon request to scholars, researchers, and other information-seekers.) Since web archiving began at the Library, in the early 2000s, Metcalf noted, “there were people who were archiving these [LGBTQthemed] websites, and recommending them as important cultural artifacts.” As a result, Metcalf said, a robust collection of LGBTQ+ websites are currently available online, “because they had been archived prior to the establishment of these collections as singlesites, or as part of another collection, most often the Public Policy Topics Web Archive.” Currently available collections include the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, No Justice No Pride, Lambda Literary, and the Human Rights Campaign. Additions set to make their debut this year include The Trevor Project, the Queer Vietnamese Film Festival, Queerty, the Digital Transgender Archive, Homosaurus Vocabulary Site. Outsports, OutHistory, LGBTQ Nation, Lesbian News, Radical Faggot, and Gays Against Guns. News of their inclusion into the collection recently came to NYC-based drag queen Chiffon Dior, who founded WERRRK.com, a drag, fashion, and pop culture website. “We consider your website to be an important part of this collection and the historical record,” read the notification, in part. “I had an email show up in my inbox like a bolt from the blue,” Dior recalled. “I opened it and kind of froze for a moment. I looked at it went to verify it, and it turned out to be legit.”

For Dior, it’s a welcome vote of confidence for the passion project, which celebrates its fifth anniversary in April, and began as “a distraction for my brain,” she said, while taking care of an ill family member. “It really vindicated the amount of time and money we’ve put into this,” Dior said, noting the site is “a lot more of a labor of love than a money-making project.” With Dior from the site’s beginning, and remaining today, are Poppy Fields (senior creative director) Sidney Stokes (managing editor/pop culture correspondent), and Spencer Williams (deputy editor/social media manager). Dior noted the site’s frequent intersection of interests. Any given piece of content might address aspects of drag, fashion, comedy, TV, or film. “And,” she noted, “a couple of us are pro wrestling fans. One of the first articles we did compared drag to wrestling.” WERRRK.com also distinguishes itself as a source of original material. “We’re not an aggregating site,” Dior proudly pointed out. “We’re not just pulling somebody else’s story and reposting it.” Currently, the site’s output ranges “in the vicinity of 200 long-form interviews with various drag queens — from the pinnacle of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ to ones who are just staring out. We’ve also got dozens and dozens of interviews in video form, on our YouTube channel, from DragCon and the Laurie Beecham Theatre.” As for how Metcalf came to know of the site, she said, “It’s my job to be aware of what’s happening, both topically and in publishing. I go out and see where these conversations are happening. Drag is a huge cultural phenomenon. It’s not new. We have a lot of resources here about the history of

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Meg Metcalf, Librarian, Women’s, Gender, & LGBTQ+ Collection Specialist. Photo by Shawn Miller, courtesy of Library of Congress

drag… And I’m aware of drag as something that’s getting more and more attention.” Dior said recognition from the Library of Congress has further energized her creative team to continue chronicling contemporary drag, with plans expand the brand “to a bigger media group in its own right.” Preserving the work of niche interest sites such as WERRRK.com are of particular value. “As a queer person myself,” Metcalf said, I rely on LGBTQ-specific sources.” Other sites are, Metcalf said, “vulnerable to loss,” as was the case when she spent much of 2018

collecting material related to midterm elections. “We had a year of historic firsts,” she recalled, “of people running for office, like Teri Johnson, the first [openly] lesbian mayor to be elected in [Florida’s] history. So we’re trying to capture this moment in American politics.” Johnson’s campaign website, Metcalf said, is already offline — “But it’s archived here,” she noted. As her own work expands in volume, so too will the amount of collaboration and crossover. “Because it is an interdisciplinary, intersectional area,” Metcalf said, “I’m trying

to work with [selection] officers, who speak foreign languages. I’m interested in making it more of a community effort, to find more global and foreign language websites.” Looking forward to websites set to cycle into what will be posted throughout 2020, Metcalf said she’s “keeping my eyes on Stonewall 50. I’m definitely planning to capture as much information that I can, because it’s such a historic moment.” For more information about the Library of Congress Web Archive Collection, visit www. loc.gov/programs/web-archiving.

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Oscars so gay: LGBTQ films win big at 91st Academy Awards Queer influence on every level By JOHN PAUL KING

Rami Malek won Oscar gold for playing queer icon Freddie Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ Photo by Starfrenzy / Courtesy Bigstock

After a lead-up marked by public relations missteps, the 91st annual Academy Awards race concluded Sunday night at a presentation which, by and large, distributed its statues relatively evenly among the evening’s favored contenders. Despite the controversies it faced ahead of this year’s ceremony, the Academy managed to put together a smooth and efficient – if unremarkable – broadcast. The lack of a central host kept the evening’s success from hinging on a single personality, and the result was a more relaxed atmosphere that managed to stay, for the most part, controversy free. In the biggest show of LGBTQ inclusion in Oscar history, three of the four acting awards went to performers playing queer characters and the eventual Best Picture winner featured a queer character in a central role. Going into the ceremony, the year’s nominations were already stacked with nods toward the LGBTQ community. Among the major acting categories, 7 of the 20 nominees were for actors playing queer roles, and 5 of the 8 Best Picture contenders featured queer characters either in central or significant supporting roles. Indeed, from the opening moments, when out singer Adam Lambert hit the stage with Queen – the classic rock band at the center of one of the year’s mostnominated films, “Bohemian Rhapsody” – the telecast seemed poised to be the gayest Academy Awards ever. Mahershala Ali of “Green Book” took home his second Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for playing real-life gay jazz pianist Dr. Don Shirley; Rami Malek won the Best Actor prize for his acclaimed performance as LGBTQ icon Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody”; and, in a semi-surprising upset, Olivia Colman was named Best Actress for portraying the queer Queen Anne in “The Favourite.” The Academy had faced criticism this year not only for the debacle surrounding Kevin Hart, who resigned from the gig after controversy arose over his history of homophobic comments and tweets, but for its announcements that this year’s awards would include a separate category for “Best Popular Film” and that several technical awards would be presented during commercial breaks in order to keep the broadcast within a shorter running time. Both decisions were rescinded after objections from both the public and the Academy membership. The evening’s first presenters – the popular comic trio of Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler – set the tone for the show by spoofing all the expected topics right out of the gate. The evening was full of gay moments. When Helen Mirren appeared with “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa to present the award for Best Documentary, both dressed in pink evening wear, she quipped, “Jason and I didn’t coordinate our outfits tonight – but it just goes to show that these days, a Hawaiian god and very mature English woman can both wear the same color. We can both wear pink.” There was also a significant presence of established LGBTQ icons throughout the evening. Lady Gaga (who

is openly bi) and Glenn Close, both favorites of the gay community, were among the nominees. Bette Midler made an appearance to sing the nominated song, “Where the Lost Things Go,” from “Mary Poppins Returns,” and Barbra Streisand introduced the clip showcasing Best Picture nominee “BlacKkKlansman.” Streisand, who was met with a standing ovation as she took the stage, made one of the evening’s few overtly political remarks when she acknowledged the importance of a movie based on the truth by saying “truth is especially precious these days.” The evening’s winners also included a record number of people and films representing communities of color. The acting awards in supporting categories both went to African-American performers, Ali and Regina King, who won for her role in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Best Actor Malek is of Egyptian heritage. The trio of winners marks the first time in Oscar history that the majority of acting prizes went to non-white performers. For many, the evening’s most satisfying moment was the win for Spike Lee, who shared the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for his film “BlacKkKlansman” with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott. Presenter Samuel L. Jackson, a longtime friend and collaborator, turned his announcement of Lee’s name into a jubilant whoop of triumph as the iconic black director took the stage with his co-winners. It was Lee’s first win after five nominations, and he took the opportunity to deliver a passionate speech acknowledging the importance of honoring black history in America. Production Designer Hannah Beachler, who shared the Oscar for Best Production Design with set decorator Jay Hart, became the first African-American woman to win the prize in that category for her work on “Black Panther.” The Marvel superhero adventure, thought by many industry observers to be the most culturally significant film of the year for bringing black inclusion to a new level in mainstream Hollywood, also won several other behind-the-scenes awards, including Best Original Score and Best Costume Design, but it failed to take home the Best Picture prize, for which it was also nominated. “Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón’s gorgeously cinematic love letter to the Mexico City of his childhood and the women who raised him, was another highly-respected contender that took home several prizes, including both Best Director and Best Cinematographer for Cuarón. It, too, failed to win Best Picture despite being a front-runner – though it did take home the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, the first Mexican film to win that award to date. In his acceptance speech for the Director prize, Cuarón thanked the Academy “for recognizing a film centered around an indigenous woman… a character that historically had been relegated to the background in cinema.” It was his second win in the category (his first was for 2013’s “Gravity”), and the fifth time in six years that the award has gone to a Mexican director. Continues at losangelesblade.com



‘Giant Little Ones’ offers coming out tale without labels Growing up in the post-millennial age By JOHN PAUL KING

Josh Wiggins and Darren Mann in ‘Giant Little Ones.’ Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment

It wasn’t that long ago that there were precious few movies about young people struggling with their sexuality. “Coming out” stories, for obvious reasons, have been very important in the fight toward greater acceptance and inclusion in the LGBTQ community. In the post-Stonewall era, when taboos against non-heteronormative subject matter in films began to lift, such narratives were among the most popular vehicles for artists working in the developing queer cinema. Mainstream Hollywood was, of course, far behind the curve; that changed in 2018, when “Love, Simon” became the first big studio production to tell a positive, normalized story about a gay teen coming out. There will always be a need for such stories, of course; but in the post-“Simon” world, perhaps, the need might feel a little less urgent. That’s why a movie like “Giant Little Ones,” a new Canadian offering about two teen boys whose lifelong friendship is threatened by a sexual transgression between them, could easily slip by unnoticed. In a queer cinematic landscape now dominated by other subjects, such as conversion therapy or the experiences – longmarginalized, even within the broader queer community – of trans people and people of color, who wants to see yet another movie about the struggles of young white males dealing with their sexual identity? To brush it aside so quickly, however, would be a disservice to a thoughtful, nuanced, and fresh film that deserves your attention. Written and directed by Keith Behrman, it follows Franky and Ballas, two high school boys who have been close friends since childhood. On the night of Franky’s 17th birthday, something happens between them that puts a strain on their relationship; a further wedge is driven when rumors start to spread around the school. As Franky finds himself being ridiculed and bullied, Ballas pulls further and further away, and the turmoil forces both teens to confront their own developing feelings – for each other, and for themselves. In unfolding the story, Behrman reserves the full picture and reveals it only slowly, piece by piece, so that the audience is in step with the characters – or, more specifically, with Franky, who serves as the central point of view – all along the way. It’s a tactic that serves his purpose well; as we discover, with Franky, the answers to the questions about what is happening in his young life, we also join him in the discovery of answers about himself, allowing us to share with him the same emotional reactions. What makes the journey refreshing is that, unlike other coming out movies, “Giant Little Ones” does not present the story from the perspective we have come to expect. More accurately, the “coming out” it depicts is not the kind of revelatory milestone that has almost become a trope; rather, the movie tells more of a “coming of age” story – not about expressing an identity but about taking stock of conflicted feelings around sexuality before trying to decide what that identity is. Franky’s path through the upheaval in his life gives Behrman the opportunity to introduce multiple threads that explore the subtle influences of homophobia, both from without and within. The dynamics within both boys’

families reflect attitudes, prejudices, and resentments that stand out in stark relief against the backdrop of the inner questions they are facing; a culture of toxic masculinity pervades their high school, just below the surface, and social pressure subjects anyone who doesn’t fit within its boundaries to ostracization or worse; sexual experiences outside the norm – even traumatic ones – are used to shame those who have had them, reinforcing the defensive instinct to keep them as guilty secrets. It’s a lot to pack into one small, intimate story – but Behrman’s insightful screenplay and his organic, tenderly cultivated directorial approach make it all fit together in the service of what is essentially a simple, slice-of-life character study. He’s helped tremendously by his cast. The two boys, each of them “high school royalty,” as the press material describes them, are played by a pair of attractive young actors who fit the bill perfectly. As Franky, Josh Wiggins manages to maintain a warmth and generosity of spirit even as his turmoil takes him through anger and despair; he’s tremendously likable, an ideal access point for promoting empathy which extends to all involved in his situation. As Ballas, Darren Mann (of “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”) is bristling with masculinity, a charismatic figure that becomes increasingly opaque as he struggles to keep his own self-doubt to break the surface; he complements Wiggins’ more sensitive, heart-on-thesleeve portrayal and retains our sympathy even in his most cruel and callow moments. There’s also a lovely, layered performance from Taylor Hickson, as Ballas’ sister Natasha, who becomes an unexpected ally to Franky in his turmoil and may be the bridge that can bring the two friends together again. For big name power, Kyle MacLachlan plays Franky’s estranged father with a subdued version of his iconic “Twin Peaks” earnestness that brings a quiet nobility to the film, and Maria Bello, as Franky’s mother, shows us the struggle of a woman trying to understand her son while still reeling from upheavals in her own life. “Giant Little Ones” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of last year; it has since played a few other fests around the world, and will have its U.S. premiere in New York on March 1. In the wake of Oscar madness, it runs the risk of being overlooked while everyone scrambles to catch all the winners before they disappear from the big screen – but it shouldn’t be. While it’s by no means a major landmark of LGBTQ cinema – at least from the immediate perspective of the here and now – it’s certainly worthy of a look. It’s a new take on the teen process of coming to terms with sexuality, one which carefully avoids tropes and formulas as it lays out a tale of learning to go deeper than labels. In a culture consumed with identity politics, a movie that encourages us to avoid defining ourselves and to concentrate simply on loving each other seems almost radical – something “Giant Little Ones,” at least on the surface, is not. Even so, it’s a message that, while it may not be fashionable in the current moment, is always important; that, along with Behrman’s shrewdly understated handling of the subject matter, is enough to give his movie staying power, and makes it worth seeking out when it comes to LA on March 8.



Kicking back with Karamo ‘Queer Eye’ favorite prepping wedding, memoir and more life advice By MARIAH COOPER

Karamo Brown of ‘Queer Eye’ fame says now is the right time for a memoir because he’s learned so much about life. Photo by Alex Rhoades

Karamo Brown has become known as a gay, male version of Oprah as the resident culture expert of the Netflix reboot “Queer Eye.” Over the show’s past two seasons, Brown, who has a background in psychotherapy and social work, has offered life advice and shared a different perspective in a way that seems to profoundly change the “heroes” of each episode. Before he landed “Queer Eye,” he also unexpectedly made history as the first out gay black man on reality television during his stint on “The Real World: Philadelphia.” However, Brown’s life view wasn’t always so grounded. In his memoir, “My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing and Hope” (out March 5), the 38-year-old chronicles how he came from a broken place of drug addiction and other traumas and was able to build himself into the advice guru he is today. He also brings light to rarely talked about topics such as how he discovered he was a father when his son was 10 years old. Now, Brown has full custody of his son and his son’s brother and is engaged to his fiancé, director Ian Jordan. Brown spoke with the Blade from another speaking engagement in Raleigh, N.C., about his memoir, new episodes of “Queer Eye” and an update on the stress of wedding planning. BLADE: Let’s take it back to when you were on “The Real World: Philadelphia.” You were the first out gay black man on reality TV in the U.S. When that happened were you trying to be a pioneer? Did you find out before the show? KARAMO BROWN: I found out after the fact. I was not even that strategic to say, at that age, “You know what I’m going to go on here and do something that’s never been done.” It wasn’t even that. I was like, “How can I go in this house and have a good time and party and have fun.” There was no thought in my mind about “Am I the first?” Once I came off the show and that was immediately told to me by MTV and that narrative started getting pushed, I immediately started to feel the pressure as people wrote to me and said, “Oh my god I haven’t seen anyone that looked like me. Thank you,” and I was like, “Wow, there’s a whole lot of eyes on me right now and if I don’t do what’s right I’m not screwing up myself I’m screwing up others.” And that was difficult but also pretty amazing because I opened up a door, just a little bit enough, so that other people could run through and do what they do. BLADE: How did the audition come about to be a “culture expert” on “Queer Eye”? BROWN: Being in bed I hear Carson Kressley and Andy Cohen talking about the reboot. I got on the phone with my agent and said, “I have to be a part of this,” and he told me it was done. Luckily, he pushed for me to get in because the casting was already finished and they took a chance on me. But once I got in there I realized that culture couldn’t be what everyone else had seen it be the first go around where it was about Broadway tickets and art museums. Having training as a psychotherapist and a social worker, I was like, “Someone has to fix the hearts and minds.” Change is great, it is phenomenal, but if you only have outward change and no inward change then what happened?” You just go back to what you did before because you haven’t acknowledged the behavior. So when I think about culture, I think about the

shared attitude and values that make people do the things they do. That’s how I approach culture. BLADE: How is the fame circuit now different than it was when you did “Real World”? BROWN: Oh my gosh, it’s great now. The first time around people were thinking, “Come here and come fight” and now people come to me and they’re like, “Please help me remove the drama from my life.” That is a major shift. Before, they wanted to be in the drama and now they’re like, “Please remove the drama from my life. I want to be happy with myself and with my boyfriend and my girlfriend and my family.” They’re like, “Help me understand how I can be drama free” and I think that’s what the biggest shift is. BLADE: You come off as though you have such a wealth of knowledge and life advice. Were you always this way? BROWN: No. I wish that could say that I came out of the womb knowing the answer to every question but it’s not true. I went through a lot of hard times dealing with abuse, domestic violence, drugs, colorism, religion. I think what makes me so happy about my book is that I’m showing people that even in my darkest moments, I try to find what the lesson was in it so I can use that as a springboard to get toward my greater self. I think that’s hard to do for most people because we don’t have the language or the tools. In my book, I try to show people that you can find the tools, here’s the language, here’s how you do it. So who I am today is not who I was even on “The Real World.” And I’m glad because I was able to grow through and heal from all the traumatic things that have happened to me and still be able to do that work. That’s what I show people that they can do as well in my book. BLADE: The third season of “Queer Eye” returns in March. The show has become known for the memorable stories of people like Tom and Skyler. Can you give me a preview of any memorable stories coming up in the next season? BROWN: They won’t let me tell you about the heroes but I will tell you this. For my category, I am most proud. Season one I was embarrassed for the fact that I didn’t fight for what the culture category was, being more about fixing the inside. I was doing that work but I didn’t have a clear conversation with executives. Even though they weren’t fighting against me, it was my own internal battle. Season two you saw me be more, “Oh he’s fixing the inside. Oh, he’s the mental health expert.” But season three, it comes full forward. If you loved the laughing and the crying, we do it so much. We have real conversations, really deep, real growth for these individuals. It’s more diverse. I think it’s almost half and half men and women, which is great. So more diverse in race. I think it’s great when people are able to say, ‘Wow, great I see myself” and a large part of that is what I’m doing and I’m really proud of that. My brothers and I when we first came into this a year ago, the Fab Five, we didn’t know each other. We were so worried. Someone said to us, “OK, we’re going to put you on a treadmill and you can’t crawl you have to run full speed.” And at first we were like, “Oh can we do it?” and we locked hands and we have done it. I’m so proud of us. Continues at losangelesblade.com


A queer American playwright in London Nicky Silver talks theater and transformation By JOHN PAUL KING

Playwright Nicky Silver’s ‘Too Much Sun’ makes its LA debut at the Odyssey Theatre, March 2 - April 21. Photo courtesy Nicky Silver


Playwright Nicky Silver is American, but he moved to England last June. “There were lots of reasons,” he says over the phone. “I had always wanted to live in London, and I used to come to here every year for my vacation.” He adds, with pointed understatement, “I would certainly add that the politics in America were not my favorite.” “But also,” he continues, “I had lived in New York for so many years, and I thought ‘you can just stay in New York and look at the same thing out of your window for the next 30 years, or you can try to make your life a bit more interesting. So that’s what I did.” “And I had enough miles to fly first class,” he quips in conclusion, “so I thought ‘Now’s the time to do it, before you waste those miles on snow boots or something.’” Such remarks are characteristic of Silver, a celebrated playwright who rose to prominence in the New York theater scene of the 1990s; his work, peppered with the kind of bon mots that also fill his conversation, has been characterized by noted theater scholar David Savran as being “in the tradition” of witty, gay writers like Oscar Wilde, Joe Orton and Christopher Durang. He enjoys the comparison to Orton, the iconoclastic British dramatist whom he calls “my favorite dead writer.” Known for his satirical farces, Orton is also remembered for his salacious, posthumously-published diary – and for being beaten to death with a hammer by his longtime boyfriend. “I always wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Silver says, echoing the famously black humor that was at the heart of Orton’s plays. “I was hoping to be bludgeoned to death at 36 but I wasn’t with anyone at the time. So, it’s still on my to-do list.” Local audiences will get a chance for a deeper dive into Silver’s dark wit when his 2014 play “Too Much Sun” makes its LA debut, mounted by Indie Chi Productions at the Odyssey Theatre, where it opens March 2. He wrote it after the success of his 2012 Broadway play, “The Lyons” – but he’s written another play and moved to a different country since then, so he claims not to remember much about it. “It happens in linear time,” he says coyly. “It begins, things happen, and then it ends. I remember that.” Fortunately, more details are provided by the play’s synopsis – a celebrated actress abruptly walks out of her career and into her married daughter’s summer home in Cape Cod, where her unexpected and unwelcome arrival sets off a chain of hilarious and harrowing events – and director Bart DeLorenzo, who is helming the Los Angeles production, offers some additional insights by saying, “This is a play about how you can remake your life. It starts out with one character making a dramatic change, and by the end, every single character has made a huge transformation, for better or for worse.” Personal transformation, says Silver, is something he believes the theater can facilitate – but he is skeptical about its power to transform on a cultural level. “The reality is,” he says, “that theater communicates on too small a scale, and to too rarified an audience, to really effect social change.” He hastens to add, “I’m not diminishing its role in the world, it has important things to contribute – but I think it’s generally a reflection of the culture, as opposed to a leader,” he says. “Theater is to the culture what haute couture is to The Gap.”

He elaborates on that proclamation with a reminiscence about first moving to New York when Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song Trilogy” was on Broadway. “People were all talking about what an important thing this was,” he says. “It’s a masterpiece and all that, but I don’t think the people who were fag-bashing in Central Park went to see it.” On reflection, however, he adds, “But I know entertainment effects change. If you look at something like ‘Will and Grace,’ I think having a gay-focused sitcom did change the culture. And I think ‘Will and Grace’ would not have happened without ‘Torch Song Trilogy.’ So, maybe theater doesn’t really affect the main culture, but it lays the seeds that grow into things that can.” When asked if he has any ideas about how theater could reach wider audiences, Silver can’t resist the opportunity for another pithy remark. “I think theater should be made less accessible,” he says. “Too many people are allowed into the theater these days – with their naked toes overflowing out of their sandals, and their Slurpees, and their bottles of wine. I liked the days when it was just rich old ladies in fur coats.” More earnestly, he continues, “One of the great differences between theater in London and New York is the cost. The cost to see a Fringe show, certainly, is dirt cheap, but even the cost to see a hit West End musical is a third of what it costs to see a Broadway show, and probably a third to produce. The answer is clearly economics.” Still, he thinks the theater is in a healthy place. “There have been a lot of voices that have been shut out for a very long time,” he says, “and I think that those voices are being welcomed now, in great numbers.” He’s quick to point out that he is not referring to the voices of queer artists like himself. “The reality is that gay people – or as I like to call them, homosexuals – were never shut out of the theater,” he says. “In the ‘90s, I sat in the offices of a lot of theaters, and I looked though a lot of scripts – great mountains of verbiage. Gay people were never shut out of the theater – we ran the theater.” “So, I never had a sense of being shut out,” he insists. “I’ve been shut out of many things, but the theater is not one of them.” Does his sexuality shape the sensibility that comes across in his work? “I don’t know how I could answer that,” he says, thoughtfully, “because it’s the only sensibility that I have.” “There’s a lot of me in every character,” he concedes. “Every character has some element of me that sort of has exploded and found new voice – but I write the world as I see it, and as I inhabit it.” Steering the conversation back to “Too Much Sun,” he observes that it’s a little different than many of his plays. “It’s funny and sad,” he says, “but it’s full of hope. It’s much more generous to its characters than I generally have a reputation for being – I think people see me as a misanthrope.” Is that how he thinks of himself? “No,” he insists, going for one last zinger. “I think of myself as 35 and very thin.” “Too Much Sun” will perform March 2 – April 21 at the Odyssey Theatre (2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.). Tickets and more information are available by calling (310) 477-2055 or at OdysseyTheatre.com.

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Oscar so queer Lambert’s ‘Bohemian’ cameo, a snub of Carol Channing By BILLY MASTERS

Adam Lambert and Queen opened this week’s Oscars celebration. Screenshot via Youtube

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“I’m not crying because I’m on my period or anything. I can’t believe a film about menstruation won an Oscar!” —Rayka Zehtabchi during the acceptance speech for Best Documentary Short Subject for “Period. End Of Sentence.” Another Oscars go down in history as well, the word that springs to mind is “uneventful.” You know you’re in trouble when it took a quip about the female menstrual cycle to grab the attention of this very sexually active gay man. Speaking of being grabbed, I couldn’t help but notice that none of the four winners for “Bohemian Rhapsody” thanked the person responsible for those wins. So I’ll say it — thank you, Bryan Singer. An Oscar highlight was the performance by Queen. And even I learned something. Did you know that Adam Lambert was in “Bohemian Rhapsody?” He’s the guy who hooked up with Freddie Mercury in the truck stop restroom. Since he’s now lead singer of the band, it’s like he had sex with himself - probably not the first time. It seems each year notable people are inevitably omitted from the “In Memoriam” segment, and this year was no different. Egregiously absent was Carol Channing, who was also an Oscar nominee. And, where was Kaye Ballard? Oh, the humanity! I can understand skipping Sondra Locke - they probably wanna stay on Clint’s good side! Let me give some advice to all singers out there. When the note is flat, you know what doesn’t help cover it up? Holding it longer and screaming. And, for heaven’s sake, learn the lyrics. It’s pretty obvious who is hugging the teleprompter for words and who is actually connecting with the song and the audience. Last week, I accompanied Jenifer Lewis to the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards. When asked how she felt, Jenifer said, “Well, I’m honored. I’m honored to be honored.” Now, who else could pull that off? Her award was presented by original “Dreamgirls” Sheryl Lee Ralph and Loretta Devine, along with Jenifer’s daughter Charmaine. The other honorees were Regina Hall, KiKi Layne, and Amandla Stenberg. Some of the people in attendance were my dear Sherri Shepherd, Angela Bassett, Iyanla Vanzant, CCH Pounder, Regina King, Spike Lee, Billy Porter, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and even Puff Daddy (who I was sitting next to). The event was hosted by Kelly Rowland, who remembered me from hosting LA Pride. How did this little white boy from Boston end up in the middle of a gala event celebrating Black women? Dare to dream. Despite the wattage of the room, Jenifer managed to weave her unique magic, steal the show, and touch upon a story we covered earlier. “I was asked on the carpet so many times, ‘What do you think, Miss Lewis?’ I have no comment. Today is a day to celebrate. But this is what you will be hearing tomorrow.” She then sang her latest song. “Before you lie to us, remember Rosa sat on that bus. Before you tell your tale, remember Mandela sat in that jail. Before you do anything, remember Dr. Martin Luther King. Before you connive and steal, I dare you to Goggle Emmett Till. Before another dawn, and I speak to everyone, remember whose shoulders you stand on.” The next night, I was with the incomparable Sam Harris (assisted by the phenomenally talented pianist Todd Schroeder) who was featured in concert at the Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood, and my God, he just gets better and better. He’s so good, he almost pisses me off! So many highlights, but I think having him recreate the opening number from “The Life” knocked me out the most. It took me back to seeing the show on Broadway - a show that had a first act that lasted almost two hours! But, here’s the thing - any amount of time you can spend with Sam is never enough. Thanks to Chris Isaacson for continuing to produce such great events in Hollywood. Upcoming concerts include Brian Justin Crum on March 7th, Joey Arias & Sherry Vine on April 7, Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal on April 15 and 17, and the fabulous Erich Bergen on April 24 and 25. Get more info at ChrisIsaacsonPresents.com. Last week, we lost acclaimed fashion designer, Karl Lagerfeld. He was 85. There was much speculation about where his vast fortune would end up. Turns out, his primary beneficiary is Choupette, his beloved cat. The bequest is not without complications. According to French law, pets cannot inherit cash. “Well, it’s lucky I’m not French then,” Lagerfeld told an interviewer this past year. Touché!


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Cannabis Culture Provided by NORML

Lawmakers have sent two bills to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk expanding access to medical cannabis.

Va. lawmakers pass bills expanding medical cannabis access RICHMOND, Va. — Legislation is heading to the Governor’s desk to expand patients’ access to medical cannabis products. Senate Bill 1557 expands the pool of health professionals who can approve cannabis therapy to include nurse practitioners and physician assistants. It also permits qualifying patients access to a broader spectrum of products containing both plant-derived CBD and THC. Lawmakers in both chambers unanimously passed the bill. Senate Bill 1719 facilitates greater patient access to cannabis products by permitting “registered agents” or caregivers to pick up or receive deliveries. The measure also passed unanimously in both chambers. Under the state’s access law, medical professionals may recommend plant-derived cannabis extracts to those patients for whom they believe will benefit from them.

Wis. guv calls for overhaul of marijuana laws

Photo by Lee District Democratic Committee / Courtesy Wikemedia

MADISON, Wis. — Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has publicly announced his support for amending the state’s marijuana laws in a manner that would permit its medical access and decriminalize its recreational use. Speaking last week at a press conference outlining the state’s budget, the governor said that Wisconsin should join the other 33 states that regulate medical cannabis access. He also called for decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses (involving up to 25 grams) and expunging past marijuana-related convictions. The governor opined that police often make marijuana arrests in a racially disproportionate manner. Historically, African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession crimes in Wisconsin at approximately six-times the rates of whites. Under existing state law, the possession of marijuana is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six-months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and a criminal record.

Cannabis not associated with changes in morphology Cannabis exposure is not associated with significant changes in brain morphology in either older or younger subjects, according to a pair of newly published studies. Commenting on the two studies, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “These findings dispute the long-standing

‘stoner-stupid’ stereotype and should help to assuage fears that cannabis’ acute effects on neurocognitive behavior may persist long after drug ingestion, or that cannabis exposure is associated with any sort of significant changes in brain morphology.” In the first study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine compared brain scans of occasional (one to two times per week) and frequent (more than three times per week) marijuana consumers versus nonusers. Subjects were between 14 and 22 years of age. Investigators reported: “There were no significant differences by cannabis group in global or regional brain volumes, cortical thickness, or gray matter density, and no significant group by age interactions were found. Follow-up analyses indicated that values of structural neuroimaging measures by cannabis group were similar across regions, and any differences among groups were likely of a small magnitude.” They concluded, “In sum, structural brain metrics were largely similar among adolescent and young adult cannabis users and non-users.” The findings appear in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. In the second study, researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder compared magnetic resonance imaging scans in 28 cannabis users over the age of 60 versus matched controls. Cannabis consumers, on average, had used marijuana weekly for 24 years. Authors reported that long-term cannabis exposure “does not have a widespread impact on overall cortical volumes while controlling for age, despite over two decades of regular cannabis use on average. This is in contrast to the large, widespread effects of alcohol on cortical volumes) that might be expected to negatively impact cognitive performance.” Researchers also reported “no significant differences between groups” with regard to cognitive performance. They concluded: “The current study was able to explore cannabis use in a novel older adult population that has seen recent dramatic increases in cannabis use while controlling for likely confounding variables (e.g., alcohol use). The participants in this study were generally healthy and highly educated, and it is in this context that cannabis use showed limited effects on brain structural measures or cognitive performance.” The findings appear in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging. The studies’ conclusions are similar to those of prior trials similarly finding no significant longterm changes in brain structure attributable to cannabis exposure. 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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