Photo by Destin Cortez
TRANS ACTIVIST MARIA ROMAN SET TO MARRY JASON TAYLORSON, PAGE 20
M A R C H 1 5 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 1 1 • A M E R I C A’ S LG B TQ N E W S S O U R C E • LO S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M
02 • MARCH 15, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Photographer says he was not victimized by John Duran ‘To say that I was sexually harassed is absolutely insane’ Murillo says By TROY MASTERS Paulo Murillo, editor of WeHoTimes, an online outlet serving West Hollywood, is annoyed at having been dragged into the center of a sex scandal that has consumed West Hollywood in recent weeks.He says at least one of the assertions made against councilman and former WeHo Mayor John Duran, an incident in which he was named, is unfair. Murillo says he became the subject of a complaint and an investigation brought against Duran without his knowledge or consent. Among the incidents cited as justification for Duran’s removal from the City Council during a series of public protests in February was a formal complaint filed by a city employee that Duran had made sexually suggestive remarks to an independent photographer, working a public event at West Hollywood Park in October 2018. According to the Los Angeles Times, West Hollywood City Events Services Coordinator, Mike Gerle, made the complaint in an email Dec. 5 to Christof Schroeder in the city’s human resources department. Gerle wrote that he overheard Duran make a sexually charged comment to a photographer who was lying on the ground, saying “Paulo’s always on his back.” Gerle reported that the incident had occurred while he was working at a citysponsored rally at WeHo Park where a giant balloon depicting President Trump as an infant was floated. In the email, Gerle also complained that Duran had additionally engaged in a lengthy exchange with Gerle’s husband on Grindr and that Duran had made him feel uncomfortable on several occasions where Duran appeared shirtless at city public events like the Halloween parade and LA Pride. In a reply dated Feb. 11, 2019, the City’s Human Resources department responded to Gerle: “the allegation(s) have not been sustained” and the city “recommends continuing to limit your interaction with Mayor Duran, per your request, without diminishing your job responsibilities or opportunities for advancement” and that his
complaints were “unsubstantiated.” Gerle’s email complaint was part of the debate that led the Council on Feb. 19 to consider censure of Duran. In that meeting during the time allotted for Council member comments, Lindsey Horvath doubled down on a call for Duran to resign. The Council “cannot focus on the work of the people when we have to address new and numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, including whether our mayor used his title to solicit sexual favors,” she said. On March 4, after Duran had voluntarily stepped down as mayor in a social media announcement, the Council, in a 4-0 vote during that regular session, denied Duran the right to travel on city business at the city’s expense for one year, reimbursement for cityrelated expenses for one year, and required the presence of a third person city employee when he interacts with city staff. The Council also voted to monitor his city emails. A further motion to censure also passed after public comments from city residents and community business leaders who had expressed their frustrations with Duran’s alleged sexual misconduct. But City Attorney Mike Jenkins objected to a proposed censure resolution and strongly articulated his view that allegations of sexual misconduct by Duran have not been proven. “We have a lot of innuendo. We have a lot of unsupported allegations and I would be uncomfortable including those in any resolution of censure,” he said. For his part, Murillo says Gerle should have discussed the incident with him before making a formal complaint that involved him. While Gerle may have felt Duran’s comments were unwanted or inappropriate, Murillo did not. “He was so bothered and offended for me, that he ran to WeHo City’s HR department, threw my name in the hat … without even thinking about how this drama would affect me personally,” he wrote in WeHoTimes. The City of West Hollywood has so far declined to comment. In an interview March 12, the Los Angeles Blade questioned Murillo. LA Blade: Why does it matter that you were named in this investigation? Paulo Murillo: I was named as a victim of sexual impropriety without my knowledge or consent.My phone number was given to WeHo City Human Resources and I was an
unwilling bystander in this drama. Blade: Do you think your story helps Duran? Murillo: No. The Trump balloon incident is only a small fraction of his problems. I’m not interested in helping or destroying Duran. I just want to set the record straight. The joke that transpired between us was not sexually charged and a third person was involved who was edited from the story. Duran did not walk up to me while I was lying on the ground, suggest I was a whore, and then walk away. The whole thing was taken out of context. Blade: Does being sober play into this directly or indirectly? Murillo: My sponsor advised me not to come forward with this. He said it would mess with my peace and serenity, but I didn’t get much serenity by staying quiet and watching the drama unfold and knowing that people out there knew I was the photographer and I wasn’t saying anything. That did not sit well with me. Blade: In your article, you say Jussie Smollet has taught us that people make false allegations like the one that was made in your case to get attention. How does this apply in your case? Murillo: We wouldn’t know what we know about Smollett if everyone just took his word on the alleged attack. He’d be writing a hit single about overcoming MAGA hate and none would be the wiser. Gerle misread the situation. He went straight to the press and got his name in the papers. He was not interested in running anything by me. Blade: Have you spoken to Mike Gerle? Murillo: I have not. That may change after this comes out. An apology would be nice. Blade: Do you feel the apparent ‘see something say something’ policy should be re-examined? Murillo: Yes. At the Feb. 19 City Council Meeting, Gerle suggested that the city needed to implement a Sexual Harassment Hotline, so people can make anonymous tips. That would be a mess. The city would be opening itself up for more false allegations and innuendos. Sometimes people misread situations. Blade: Do you feel you were used in a political agenda against Duran? Murillo: I think it’s more personal than political with Gerle. Duran’s alleged GMCLA sexual misconduct took place outside of the city. So did the Grindr encounter between
Duran and his boyfriend. All that changed with the Trump balloon rally. Blade: What made you come forward? Murillo: What I witnessed at the City Council meeting on March 4 is what did it for me. If the alleged incident at the Balloon Rally had any weight in the outcome, then I felt I should say something. Blade: In your article you say, “I sat at the City Council meeting on March 4 and witnessed the Council have an uncomfortable debate about how to handle Duran. It made me sick to my stomach to think that the Trump Balloon incident had any impact on what was being decided that night.” Why didn’t you speak out at the meeting? Murillo: People don’t want to hear anything that goes against their narrative. They were there to do their thing with their anti-Duran signage and their calls for his resignation. Anything that would challenge that was going to get booed and heckled at the podium. The short answer to this question is, I was afraid. Blade: What do you say to those who say Duran’s behavior has been unbecoming of his public office, regardless of how you might have been used to make that point? Murillo: Duran owns his bawdy sense of humor. He admits he’s a big flirt and that he’s inappropriate. People act like they’re just learning this about him in the past few weeks. If you don’t like the way he behaves, then don’t vote for him. I think that’s what burns up Hank Scott at WeHoVille the most and why he’s so obsessed with Duran. All that time he invested in writing all those blogs about Ian Owens, the sex scandal, the drama and a payoff of half a mil, and the residents of West Hollywood didn’t care: they still voted Duran into office. It’s too bad Duran has brought so much criticism on himself lately. He has not been his best spokesperson these past few weeks. Blade: How has this impacted your life? Murillo: Oh God, I have been so spun out over this.It’s been paralyzing and embarrassing. Should I say something? Should I keep my mouth shut? They’re going to hate me. I’m a coward. I want to cover the news, I don’t want to be the news. And so on. Q: What do you hope to achieve? Murillo: I hope I can just say my peace and move on, but something tells me that’s not going to happen.
04 • MARCH 15, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
HIV prevention efforts stall Treatment not reaching those who would benefit most By STAFF REPORTS A report issued Feb. 27 by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention disclosed that a decline in annual HIV infections has stopped and new infections have stabilized in recent years. However, the CDC report details that the rate of new infections coupled with decline in HIV infections in minority communities, especially among LGBTQ Black and Latino people, has plateaued negatively because effective HIV prevention and treatment are not adequately reaching those who could most benefit from them. These gaps remain particularly troublesome in rural areas and in the South and some urban areas among those disproportionately affected populations. Homeless populations, specifically LGBTQ youth remain at the greatest risk. Some urban areas are addressing the problem with intensified local efforts to prevent HIV. Metroplexes such as New York and Washington, D.C., have developed and enacted plans to eliminate their local HIV epidemics — and they are seeing the results of those commitments. New HIV infections decreased about 23 percent in New York and about 40 percent in Washington, D.C., in a six-year period from 2010 to 2016. Los Angeles however, remains a different story. The CDC estimates that from 2010 to 2016, annual HIV infections: • Remained stable among gay and bisexual men, who continue to account for the largest portion (about 70 percent) of new infections. However, trends varied by race/ethnicity and age: • By race/ethnicity, infections remained stable among black gay and bisexual men; increased 30 percent among Latino gay and bisexual men; and decreased 16 percent among white gay and bisexual men. • By race/ethnicity and age, infections decreased more than 30 percent among black gay and bisexual males ages 13 to 24; remained stable among Latino gay and bisexual males ages 13 to 24; and increased
Jennifer Millar lives in a tent with her two dogs under a Hollywood freeway ramp. Millar says she keeps trash bags and hand sanitizer near her tent, and she regularly pours water mixed with hydrogen peroxide on the sidewalk. ‘I worry about all those diseases,’ says Millar. Photo by Heidi de Marco for Kaiser Health News
about 65 percent among both black and Latino gay and bisexual males ages 25 to 34. • Decreased about 17 percent among heterosexual men and women combined, including a 15 percent decrease among heterosexual African American women. • Decreased 30 percent among people who inject drugs, but appear to have stabilized in more recent years. Coupled with the stall in the HIV prevention and treatment is the growing population of homeless people in the United States and especially in California. A report issued in December 2018 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in its annual report to Congress, found that nearly 553,000 Americans were homeless at the end of 2018, with nearly one-quarter residing in California. The issues and challenges of homelessness, especially in Los Angeles, which impacts HIV prevention and treatment has been further exacerbated by an outbreak of diseases that were common during Medieval times and had been reduced in modern times. This rise in those statistics garnered that attention of California’s Chief Executive. “Our homeless crisis is increasingly becoming a public-health crisis,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in his State of the State speech last month. “Typhus,” he said. “A medieval disease. In California. In 2019.”
The Governor also referenced recent outbreaks of hepatitis A in the greater San Diego metroplex as well as a surge in reported cases of syphilis in Sonoma County in Northern California. At highest risk according to public health and policy experts are LGBTQ youth who are homeless. A 2012 study by the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles found that 94% of respondents from agencies who actively are working with LGBTQ youth, discovered that 30% of their clients identified as gay or lesbian, 9% identified as bisexual, and 1% as transgender (for a total LGBTQ population served of 40%). Additionally, more than 75% of responding agencies worked with transgender youth in the past year. Survey findings suggest that 30% of clients in housing programs targeting youth are LGBTQ. There has not been a significant reduction in that overall population of 40% at risk LGBTQ youth since the study was commissioned and released seven years ago. “The hygiene situation is just horrendous” for people living on the streets, says Glenn Lopez, a physician with St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, who treats homeless patients in Los Angeles County, told The Atlantic Magazine in a March 11 article. “It
becomes just like a Third World environment, where their human feces contaminate the areas where they are eating and sleeping.” Those infectious diseases are not limited to homeless populations, Lopez warns: “Even someone who believes they are protected from these infections [is] not.” A Los Angeles based social worker, who asked to remain unidentified, told the Blade that while St. John’s Well Child & Family Center as well as outreach efforts from other non-profits to include the LA LGBT Center and its satellite facilities are crucial, there is still not enough awareness of critical healthcare issues being fostered among the LGBTQ Homeless youth population. Adding to that issue the worker added, was that many of those youth are often involved in survival sex via escort/sex work. Many simply do not know of the healthcare options available unless they learn of those options via word of mouth or search out the clinical resources themselves. This is especially true of Trans youth of colour who are at greater risk for not only sexually transmitted diseases to include HIV, but more often than not are ‘sleeping rough’ in one of the hundreds of encampments spread throughout the LA metroplex. (Reporting by The Sacramento Bee, The Atlantic, and the staff of the Los Angeles Blade.)
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06 • MARCH 15, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Our love, our lives Trans activist Maria Roman set to marry Jason Taylorson By MICHAÉ PULIDO “I want other trans people to know that no matter who they’re in love with, and no matter what relationship they’re in, they deserve love and they should not settle for anything less,” said Maria Roman. She is a woman who has already made a world of difference for the nation’s trans community and saying “I Do” to Jason Taylorson seems like an actuation of the equality she has fought for all her life. In March, when the transgender activist and actress becomes the first trans woman to marry at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral Church of Los Angeles in its 100-year history, she will be paving the way for inclusivity within an institution that has historically excluded the trans community – organized religion. After dedicating her life to the communities and identities she holds, she will finally have the chance to center herself, as she honors the love she shares with her fiancé, Jason Taylorson. The two were born the same month and year (both 48), and they believe “the universe bound them together.” But Roman’s journey in finding Taylorson was not easy. Like many other trans women and femmes, she struggled with isolation and feelings of undesirability – due to the stigma often placed on trans bodies. “Attempting to find love as a transgender person, specifically as a transgender woman of color, can be an extremely difficult and invalidating experience,” Roman told the Los Angeles Blade. “The idea of love is often something that feels out of reach for this community – particularly in a society that views our existence as unsettling,” she continued. “Because of the unfamiliarity with trans identities, it is difficult for society to acknowledge our worth.” She went on to add that trans women are not seen as figures of love. “We are targets of fetishization and hypersexualization,” she says. “Our bodies are often profiled as sex workers and we are targets of sexual violence – physically
Maria and Jason in Echo Park. Photo courtesy Maria Roman
and psychologically. This issue is often not addressed, and the blame is put on our own community. Because of this, love can often seem out of reach for many transgender women” In Roman’s narrative though, after years of her trans identity being a barrier to accessing love, she found Taylorson – and it never became an issue in their relationship. Taylorson, a cisgender heterosexual, is an L.A. musician, songwriter, and producer, known for his intimate, acoustic solo performances, as well as those with his bands, “Mason & Company” and “The Desert Blues Band” are fixtures in the underground musical community. He gained a reputation as a powerful force in Los Angeles music during the 2000s, when, working as an entrepreneur booking agent (and known as “Mason”), he transformed the historic Taix French Restaurant in Echo Park into the nationally
recognized Taix 321 Lounge by booking and promoting over 4000 live concerts and performances. He continues to create, both through his own successful and multi-faceted music, and more recently as an artist. He is also known for his charitable contributions to the community – such as creating and hosting the North Hollywood - Valley Village “Dream Big” community Wellness & Prosperity charity and food drive in 2013. Roman says being with Taylorson has been refreshing because “I feel I found someone that loves me regardless. My transness has not been a hindrance to our relationship.” For many people, the idea that trans people are just people – members of society, the neighbors down the street, the everyday bystander, who deserve access like everyone else – is a difficult concept to grasp.
Unfortunately, that means this ideal is not a reality for nearly all of the Trans community as a whole. “Many aspects of our society have refused to accept transgender people, which limits our ability to participate in society. Because of this, even serious relationships seem unattainable, let alone marriage.” Roman said. So Roman and Taylorson, as they made the decision to move toward the next step in their relationship, saw marriage as an act of resistance. “I wanted to have something that was meaningful,” she said. “I wanted to do it in a place where people have been told that we don’t deserve to be celebrated. I have the same right to hold these dreams and fantasies – that so many people have as children.” For cisgender people – those whose gender identity aligns with their sex assigned at birth – being intimately involved
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MARCH 15, 2019 • 07
with a transgender person often creates internal conflict. Because of this many cisgender people, especially men, typically choose to love transgender women behind closed doors. “Cisgender, heterosexual men are often shamed for loving and being attracted to trans women,” Roman said. “We must change this narrative. Transgender women are women, but society fails to recognize this.” She added, “This often leaves our community feeling unworthy of public love and unworthy of affection.” Acknowledging the historical context in which marriage has taken place, it is a ceremony that has long excluded queer and trans people. It was only in 2015 that samesex marriage was legalized nationally, but even within this larger social dynamic, trans stories were not included. Roman also noted that marriage has always been considered acceptable between a cisgender man and a cisgender woman, but this excludes “many other types” of love, which “manifests itself among many different bodies.” This does not end or differ for transgender people, who are often denied the right to share love in the ways done by the general population. This is influenced by the fact that marriage is, of course, often associated with religion – an institution that has traditionally held negative and ill-minded views about the LGBTQ community. Religion often fuels anti-trans discrimination and impacts the way the trans community is seen by society. Roman has chosen to move forward with her marriage in a religious institution – demanding space that is she points out is rightfully hers. “The church to me means this establishment that tells me that I don’t belong, which makes me want to be there more,” she says. “It makes me want to show our love, show that we are deserving, and that we are a couple just like any other couple.” The trans community hears frequently that they are sinful, deceitful, and a disgrace; it’s pushed many trans people away from the practices of Christianity and Catholicism. With her marriage at St. John’s, Maria is signifying that religious institutions do not have to be inherently harmful, but can be transformed into unifying spaces. Alejandro Escoto, who will be the priest at Maria and Jason’s wedding, is affiliated with the
Metropolitan Community Churches – the first and largest religious and spiritual denomination/ church that has reached out to LGBTQ+ people. He told the Blade that this Church has always “blessed marriages” as “holy unions.” “And now that marriage is legal between people regardless of gender and sexuality,” he says, “we celebrate our relationships as a testimony that God smiles upon relationships that work to better one another.” “My belief is that it doesn’t matter gender or sexuality of the person,” he continues. “God looks at your heart and your spirit. The fact is, two people in love who are better because of their love can celebrate this love by getting married. This tells the world that love doesn’t and should not judge.”
For many Americans, the idea of marriage is not religious at all; it’s a binding ceremony that should not be taken away from anyone. It is a ceremony that can be adapted – transformed – for a person’s love, their relationships, and for both cisgender and transgender people. “Trans people deserve to be loved,” Roman says. “This marriage shows that it is possible, that we should not settle for anything less, and that we can choose to love in the ways that are right for us.” This is what trans people have done for centuries – found ways to bind themselves together in ways adapted to their identities. They have subverted and rejected systems and chosen to live their lives authentically
despite society’s expectations. So Roman sees her marriage to Taylorson not only as the start of their own lives together, but it also an attempt to marry together two communities that are traditionally told not to be in harmony with one another – religion and LGBTQ people. “In a climate of uncertainty and hostility for trans communities, this marriage symbolizes our resilience,” Roman says. “It shows the world that we will continue to exist despite opposition and that we will celebrate ourselves in spaces that tell us that we do not matter.” Roman has been a fierce Puerto Rican Transgender activist for the past 20 years. Among her many advocacy roles, she is a social and political educator. She has presented at the U.S. Conference on AIDS and the LLEGO National Latino Conference. In 2008, she joined 30 other TransLatinas in Washington DC to lobby for ENDA, the LGBT Employment Non-Discrimination Act. She uses her experiences as someone who has survived the streets, homelessness and has become a voice stress voice to speak to the issues transgender women face across the country and the world. In addition to her life as an activist, Roman is an accomplished actor and performer. She has appeared in several independent films and on numerous TV shows including the Tyra Banks Show, Cristina, Entertainment Tonight and The Insider. Today, she is the Board Chair of the TransLatin@ Coalition, a national advocacy organization that works to improve the quality of life for TransLatin@ immigrants that reside in the United States, works to improve housing access for transgender people across the city of Los Angeles, and is a board member of the Los Angeles Transgender Advisory Council (TAC). works as a Housing Specialist for people living with HIV at APAIT. To support Roman’s historical moment of love consider giving to her TransTale Documentary Fundraiser, which will help fund a docu-love-story that will follow Transgender Activist Maria Roman and her fiancé Jason Taylorson as they begin their journey to become the first Trans/ Cis Couple to wed at the historic St John’s Cathedral in its over 100 year history in Los Angeles, California in March of 2019. The staff of the Los Angeles Blade also contributed to this article.
08 • MARCH 15, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Alyssa Milano has apologized after labeling herself transgender, disabled, a person of color, a lesbian and a gay man in one of her recent tweets. On National Women’s Day, Milano gave her support to the transgender community in a tweet writing “My transgender sisters! I am celebrating YOU this #NationalWomensDay!” A user replied to the tweet asking, “Alyssa are you transgender?” “I’m trans. I’m a person of color. I’m an immigrant. I’m a lesbian. I’m a gay man. I’m the Alyssa Milano Photo via Wikimedia Commons disabled. I’m everything. And so are you, Kirk,” Milano tweeted back. “Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know or understand. No one wants to hurt you. We are all just looking for our happily ever after.” Her response evoked plenty of criticism from people who thought her tweet was poorly worded. Milano noticed the backlash and apologized but added that “empathy is not a bad thing.” “I’m glad this tweet invoked conversation. I’m so sorry it offended some. I see you and hear you. But just a reminder, empathy is not a bad thing. Nuance is important and literal interpretation is not always intended. And I can identify with and not identify as. Both are powerful,” Milano tweeted. Mariah Cooper
“I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech,” Chelsea Manning on the day of her arrest after refusing to testify before a federal grand jury about her interactions with Wikileaks.
“I quickly referred to Tim + Apple as Tim/Apple as an easy way to save time & words,” Donald Trump explaining on Twitter why he called Apple CEO Tim Cook “Tim Apple” at a White House meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board.
“I also served with gay and lesbian and trans service members, and we became very good friends, and knew in the most deep and visceral way that I would give my life for any one of them. And I knew that they would do the same for me,” presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard on how being deployed to the Middle East changed her LGBT views.
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10 • MARCH 15, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Equality Act returns — with House Democrats in majority Historic bill would enshrine LGBT protections in federal law By CHRIS JOHNSON Optimistic about the prospects of enshrining a prohibition on anti-LGBT discrimination into federal law with a new Democratic majority in the U.S. House, Democrats on Wednesday introduced legislation known as the Equality Act to make that long-sought goal a reality. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) chief sponsors of the Equality Act in their respective chambers of Congress, were set Wednesday to trumpet the introduction of the legislation with great fanfare during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol. The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to ban anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs and credit. The bill also seeks to update federal law to include sex in the list of protected classes in public accommodation in addition to expanding the definition of public accommodations to include retail stores, banks, transportation services and health care services. Further, the Equality Act would establish that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — a 1994 law aimed at protecting religious liberty — can’t be used to enable anti-LGBT discrimination. Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement passage of the Equality Act was essential to prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination. “The harsh reality is that LGBTQ Americans still face real and persistent discrimination in their everyday lives,” Griffin said. “The new pro-equality majority in Congress has the chance to finally ensure LGBTQ people’s rights are not determined by what side of a city or state line they live on. With the unprecedented backing of 70 percent of Americans, more than 280 members of Congress, 165 leading
businesses and 288 organizations from across the country, now is the time to pass the bipartisan Equality Act.” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement the Equality Act would address the high rate of discrimination against transgender people. “The Equality Act is the long overdue next chapter in our nation’s struggle against the forces of prejudice, animus, and hate,” Keisling said. “The introduction of this bill marks a historic opportunity to improve the lives of tens of millions of people across the country, including nearly 2 million transgender people. Too many of us endure hatred, prejudice, and violence throughout our lives, often waged by those who feel their bias is legally sanctioned by our government’s inaction.” The legislation has more than 230 cosponsors in the U.S. House and 46 co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate. Those numbers represent the strongest level of support the bill has ever enjoyed in Congress. In the House, the number of co-sponsors is well above the 218 needed for majority passage of the bill. The only Republicans who co-sponsor the bill are Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Rep. John Kapko (N.Y.) and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Fitzpatrick explained his support in a statement to the Blade. “LGBTQ Americans are part of the fabric of our society and should be free to exercise the rights guaranteed to every American by the Constitution to participate fully in our society and pursue every opportunity,” Fitzpatrick said. “The Equality Act will protect Americans from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity because discrimination against the LGBTQ community is an injustice which must be confronted.” For the first time, the Equality Act is introduced with Democrats in control of at least one chamber of Congress, giving the bill room for early movement. Civil rights groups other than LGBT advocates are pointing to the Equality Act’s expansion of the Civil Rights Act’s protections for public accommodations and on the basis of sex as additional reasons to
support the bill. Fatima Goss Graves, CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, said in a statement the Equality Act “closes longstanding gaps in civil rights law by adding new protections from discrimination on the basis of sex.” “For a transgender woman who loses her job because of employer discrimination, or a child turned away from a doctor’s office because they have two parents of the same gender, or a woman being refused her birth control prescription at a local pharmacy, or for someone excluded from public places for choosing to breastfeed — there would now be a clear remedy,” Graves said. “In the midst of the #MeToo movement, this legislation would also give new protections to survivors, from those facing inadequate responses from police departments to those facing harassment in restaurants or public transportation. The bottom line is this bill protects the civil rights of all people, and it’s vital and long overdue that it becomes law.” Historically, the legislation hasn’t enjoyed full support of civil rights groups, which have said they support of the goals of the Equality Act without providing a full-throated endorsement. These groups have expressed concerns about opening up the Civil Rights Act to amendments in congressional debate that could water down the historic law. But LGBT advocates have insisted they would pull support for the Equality Act if the amendment process compromised the Civil Rights Act and the views of civil rights groups seem to have evolved. Vanita Gupta, CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, came out in full support of the Equality Act upon its reintroduction. “Discrimination is wrong,” Gupta said. “But in 30 states, people can fire, refuse housing, or deny services to LGBTQ people simply because of who they are and who they love. We need clarity in federal civil rights statutes that help ensure equal opportunity and dignity for all LGBTQ individuals in America. This clarification must protect existing provisions of core civil rights statutes by expanding them and not rolling them back in any way. We urge Congress to pass the Equality Act.”
Despite the confidence about passage of the bill in the House, the other chamber of Congress and the White House are another matter. The Republicans a have 55-member majority in the Senate and President Trump has built an anti-LGBT record that makes it unlikely he’d support the legislation. Among the opponents of the Equality Act is the anti-LGBT legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which issued a statement arguing the legislation would undermine the First Amendment. “Our laws should respect the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of every citizen, but the so-called ‘Equality Act’ fails to meet this basic standard,” ADF Senior Vice President Kristen Waggoner said. “It would undermine women’s equality and force women and girls to share private, intimate spaces with men who identify as female, in addition to denying women fair competition in sports. Like similar state and local laws, it would force Americans to participate in events and speak messages that violate their core beliefs. In the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, ADF argued the First Amendment guaranteed Colorado baker Jack Phillips to right to refuse to make a custom-made wedding cake for same-sex couples on religious grounds. The Supreme Court last year ruled for Phillips, but narrowly and based on the facts of the case, not First Amendment grounds. Supporters of the Equality Act may cling to the hope Trump would support the legislation based on comments he made in 2000 exploring a presidential run as a Reform Party candidate. At the time, Trump said he likes the idea of amending the Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation, which is a key component of the Equality Act. Over the past two years, the Washington Blade has repeatedly submitted requests to the White House seeking comment on whether Trump still holds that view and would support including transgender protections in the bill. The Blade renewed that request today and asked whether he’d support the Equality Act, but the White House didn’t respond.
12 • MARCH 15, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Trump seeks $300 million to beat HIV, but cuts global programs Experts hope Congress will restore int’l funding By CHRIS JOHNSON email@example.com In the aftermath of President Trump’s State of the Union pledge to eliminate new HIV infections by 2030, his newly unveiled budget request for the U.S. government provides additional funds for domestic HIV/AIDS programs in contrast to earlier proposals that sought to cut those programs — but related international programs are facing cuts. The fiscal year 2020 budget requests a $300 million increase in funds to combat HIV/ AIDS, but also seeks to roll back Medicare and Medicaid — programs on which many people with HIV/AIDS rely — and continues the proposed steep cuts to U.S. initiatives seeking to fight the global epidemic. On Monday during a conference call with reporters, a senior administration official said the $300 million “would go a long way to being able to end the epidemic through increased testing and the actual provision of life-saving medication to that population.” The bulk of the $300 million figure is an additional $140 million requested for HIV prevention at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, which is a 19 percent increase in its overall budget from fiscal year 2019. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the money is the first big increase in funds for the agency in two decades. The rest of the $300 million includes an additional $70 million for the Ryan White Health Care Program, which provides health care to low-income people with HIV. That’s a 3 percent increase from fiscal year 2019. Additionally, the request includes $50 million for community health centers at HRSA for expanded PrEP services and $25 million to screen for HIV and treat Hepatitis C. The $50 million for HRSA is notable because it can provide PrEP services, which Ryan White is barred from providing by statute, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Carl Schmid, deputy director of the AIDS Institute and co-chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, told the Washington Blade the $300 million figure
represents a “commitment to end HIV, which is a departure from last year.” “Instead of seeing budget cuts, we’re seeing increases in several programs,” Schmid said. In terms of domestic spending, the request stands in contrast to the first two budget requests from the Trump administration, which sought reductions to the initiatives. The first request sought massive cuts in both domestic HIV/AIDS programs, although the cuts in the second request were smaller. Congress ended up disregarding those requests and maintaining funds for the programs. The Trump administration now seeks increases as opposed to cuts in the aftermath of announcing a plan to end new HIV infections by 2030. The initiative will focus on 48 counties as well as D.C. and San Juan in addition to rural areas in seven states — places where new HIV infections are happening at the highest rates. Jen Kates, director of global health and HIV policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the increases for CDC and Ryan White would be a good start to implementing the plan. “Ryan White and CDC have really seen no increases for quite a while, particularly CDC, so in the context of those HIV specific efforts that the federal government has, it could make a difference for those programs,” Kates said. “If targeted appropriately as they say they’re going to do, using the right public health inventions as they say they’re going to do, it could being to sort of catalyze some change.” But Kates cautioned this budget represents only the first year of proposed funds to end new HIV infections by 2030 and that goal will require a sustained effort. “This is supposed to be a multi-year initiative, so it’s important to see what will happen in Year Two and Year Three,” Kates said. “Will there be additional funding requested? I think that’s the intention. So, from that more HIV specific and more narrowly focused perspective, it’s important for new investments.” But while the budget request seeks additional funds for these HIV programs, it also requests cuts in others, including a $63 million cut to the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program and a $27 million cut to Housing for Persons with Disabilities. Moreover, Schmid said the $50 million requested for HRSA for PrEP work isn’t new money for the program and instead is existing funding for community centers.
“That is not new funding,” Schmid said. “That looks like it’s current funding. And that’s something that we will want to change. We don’t want to take existing money from the community health centers. We want new funding, so we’ll be asking Congress for that.” The budget request also calls for $6 million for the National Institutes of Health to conduct HIV research, but Schmid said that’s not new funding and actually a cut. The most compromising cuts suggested in the budget for people with HIV/AIDS are not in HIV-specific programs, but general health care programs for the American public on which many people with HIV/AIDS rely. Despite Trump’s campaign promises not cut to Medicare and Medicaid, the budget calls for a $845 billion reduction in Medicare and seeks major changes to Medicaid by turning it into a block grant program and eliminating the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. An estimated 25 percent of people with HIV receive care from Medicare and an estimated 40 percent people of people with HIV receive care under Medicaid. With respects to the cuts to Medicaid, Schmid said the proposed changes would “hurt people with HIV.” The modeling to eliminate new infections by 2030, Schmid said, was based on the assumption the Medicaid expansion would remain in place for states that have gone that route, so a rollback of that expansion would change plans. “This is a change,” Schmid said. “That was not considered in these new cuts…It was not considered in the modeling, and so, that’s another question that we need to ask HHS.” Also of concern to observers is the proposed cuts for the global programs confronting HIV/AIDS, including PEPFAR, the Bush-era program that seeks to deliver antiretroviral therapy to countries, where the epidemic is raging, such as Africa, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria. For PEPFAR, Trump’s budget would provide $3.35 billion for bilateral efforts, which is $1.35 billion and 29 percent below current levels. For the Global Fund, the budget seeks $958.4 million, which is also 29 percent below current levels. For the next Global Fund replenishment, the budget proposes $3.3 billion over three years, compared to $4.3 billion in the last round under the Obama administration, according to Kaiser Family Foundation.
The proposal will match $1 from the United States for every $3 from other donors. Previously, the ratio was $1 from the United States for every $2 elsewhere. The cuts are consistent with earlier budget proposals from the Trump administration, which also called for major cuts to HIV programs. But Congress for fiscal year 2019 actually increased funding instead by $50 million, marking the first time in seven years global programs experienced an increase, according to the New York-based Health Global Access Project. A senior administration official defended the proposed cuts to the global HIV/AIDS programs via an email to the Washington Blade, asserting the administration remains on track to reach goals. “The Budget fully funds implementation of PEPFAR’s bilateral HIV/AIDS Strategy that maintains all patients currently on antiretroviral treatment and assists 13 countries to achieve epidemic control by 2020,” the official said. “The U.S. will remain the largest donor by far. The reduction reflects FY-2019 funding levels in excess of the strategy’s need. Combined with this carryover, the Budget fully funds the strategy.” For the Global Fund, the official said the 1 to 3 ratio for donations would encourage other donors to make contributions to the program. “The budget offers to match $1 for every $3 contributed by other donors to the multilateral Global Fund (which also funds HIV/AIDS), providing a $1.1 billion contribution in 2020 and up to $3.3 billion over the three-year replenishment period, using unmatched funds appropriated by the Congress for 2019 from the last replenishment,” the official said. “This new match will further challenge other donors to make new commitments to fighting the three diseases funded by the Global Fund.” Kates said whether the United States can maintain global goals under PEPFAR with this funding request remains “an open question.” “I would want to see the empirical evidence. It doesn’t seem like it would really be possible to do that,” Kates said. “So, just objectively, I haven’t modeled, but an over $1 billion cut from the PEPFAR budget would get to epidemic control in these 13 countries seems like a stretch, honestly.” Continues at losangelesblade.com
14 • MARCH 15, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Trump’s trans military ban set to begin April 12 Critics call it ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ for trans troops President Trump’s transgender military policy says ‘a history of gender dysphoria is disqualifying.’
By CHRIS JOHNSON firstname.lastname@example.org With court orders barring President Trump from enforcing his transgender military ban out of the way, the Defense Department late Tuesday unveiled its plan to make the policy a reality, announcing it would begin April 12. A 15-page memo signed by David Norquirst, who’s performing the duties of deputy secretary of defense, spells out the timeline, procedures and potential exemptions for implementing the plan ordered by Trump and created by former Defense Secretary James Mattis. As stated on the first page of the memo, the new policy “is effective April 12, 2019.” On the date, the policy of open transgender service as implemented June 30, 2016 during the Obama administration will come to an end after nearly three years. The memo takes great pains to demonstrate the policy isn’t a ban because it allows transgender people to enlist, provided they have no diagnosis of gender dysphoria and are willing to serve in their biological sex. “When a standard, requirement, or policy depends on whether the individual is a male or a female (e.g., medical fitness for duty; physical fitness and body fat standards; berthing, bathroom, and shower facilities; and uniform and grooming standards), all persons will be subject to the standard, requirement or policy associated with their biological sex,” the memo says. The memo also includes an exemption to the ban in certain circumstances. These cases include a transgender person with gender dysphoria who enters into a contract to enlist before the new policy takes effect and has remained stable in their gender identity for 18 months. “A history of gender dysphoria is disqualifying, unless, as certified by a licensed mental health provider, the applicant has been stable without clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning for 18 months,” the memo says. As outlined in the Mattis plan last year, that
Blade photo by Lee Whitman
provision would suggest transgender people in the military who came out during the current policy would be able to stay in the armed forces. According to the Williams Institute at University of California, Los Angeles, an estimated 15,500 transgender people are in the armed forces. A 2016 RAND Corp. study came up with a smaller number, estimating between 1,320 to 6,630 are currently on active duty. Transgender people who obtain an exemption also appear to be eligible for transition-related care, including gender reassignment surgery, through the military health care system. “Service members who are exempt may continue to receive all medically necessary treatment, as defined in DoDI 1300.28,” which is the policy outlined during the Obama administration when former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter first implemented transgender military service. Individuals won’t be eligible for an exemption, however, in other situations, such as having “a history of cross-sex hormone therapy or a history of sex reassignment or genital reconstruction surgery is disqualifying.” Moreover, a waiver system seems to be part of the policy. These waivers will be granted “in whole or in part, to the requirements in this attachment in individual cases,” the memo says. Transgender advocates shredded the plan as a discriminatory effort to prohibit qualified individuals from joining the armed forces. Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement the policy represents a “looming purge” and “an unprecedented step backward in the social and civil progress of our country and our military.” “Throughout our nation’s history, we have seen arbitrary barriers in our military replaced with inclusion and equal standards,” Tobin said, “This
is the first time in American history such a step forward has been reversed, and it is a severe blow to the military and to the nation’s values.” Aaron Belkin, director of the San Francisco-based Palm Center, told the Washington Blade the waivers to the ban aren’t significant and the policy as a whole amounts to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “This is a ban that affects all transgender troops in a similar way that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ affected gay and lesbian troops,” Belkin said. “Now we know that during ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ that didn’t mean that every gay and lesbian person was fired and the same phenomenon is going to be true here, where the transgender ban will burden all transgender troops, but that doesn’t mean they’ll all be fired.” Belkin estimated 10 percent of transgender troops currently in the military have received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and said “those folks are grandfathered in under the new policy.” “But it’s really important to remember for those people, they are serving under a double standard that applies only to them, and they’re serving at the discretion at the secretary of defense,” Belkin said. “For all other service members, they have basically job protections. For trans troops, if the secretary decides tomorrow, we don’t want grandfather clause to apply anymore, then trans troops are out.” The Pentagon unveiled the policy on the same day the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders filed a brief in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals against its implementation, arguing one court injunction remains in place against the Trump policy. Jennifer Levi, GLAD’s transgender rights project director, said in a statement the implementation of the Pentagon’s policy was unlawful. “Not only does the Trump-Pence
transgender military ban violate the Constitution, but now the administration is also defying a court order,” Levi said, “With brazen disregard for the judicial process, the Pentagon is prematurely and illegally rolling out a plan to implement the ban when a court injunction remains in place prohibiting them from doing so. The Pentagon unveiled the policy shortly after the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), held a hearing where transgender military service members testified for the first time and expressed a commitment to service. Speier in a statement slammed Trump and his administration for moving forward with a policy undermining and disregarding the service of those troops. “I would like to know what it is that the President is so afraid of? Transgender troops have served for decades and carried out multiple deployments, including Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, to protect our country and freedoms,” Speier said. “These tough, brave servicemembers have never used bone spurs as an excuse to dodge their duty and service to our country. We owe them our gratitude, not governmentsanctioned discrimination. This policy is malicious, demeaning and destructive and it does not serve our country’s interests. I will fight it with every fiber of my being.” Pending before the U.S. House is legislation Speier introduced that would block the transgender military ban. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate. Tobin called on Congress to take action and reverse the Pentagon in the aftermath of the unveiling of the new policy. “The Trump Administration is built on demonizing minority groups; reversing the civil rights gains of immigrants, people of color, women, and the LGBTQ movement will forever remain the hallmarks of their time in office,” Tobin said. “That is why Congress must act now and secure the fate of nearly 15,000 transgender troops. We cannot let an incompetent administration guided by a petulant bigot stand as the mascot of our time. History is watching Congress and will judge them harshly for inaction. That is why we must act swiftly to protect transgender troops, our military, and the dignity of our own legacy.”
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18 • MARCH 15, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
VOLUME 03 ISSUE 11
LA County DA addresses concerns about Ed Buck Lacey seeks continued investigations into Moore, Dean deaths
Jackie Lacey is the Los Angeles County district attorney.
The loss of someone’s child, no matter his or her age or the circumstance, is tragic and heartbreaking. I empathize with the mother, family and friends of Gemmel Moore, who sadly died last year of a drug overdose inside the home of Ed Buck. I also empathize with the family and friends of Timothy Dean, whose death in Mr. Buck’s home remains under investigation. I have asked the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to continue to thoroughly investigate the deaths of both men. I also am calling on the public to come forward with any information that may aid in the investigation and shed light on the circumstances of these tragic deaths. When any allegation is considered for possible criminal prosecution, the issue is whether there is clear evidence that a crime has occurred and whether that is sufficient to convince a jury of 12 people of a defendant’s guilt. Prosecutors cannot ethically file charges without such facts in hand. When there is no independent witness nor other corroborating evidence that
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Ed Buck speaks at a 2011 rally in West Hollywood. Photo from Buck’s Facebook page
another person was responsible for a death, prosecutors have few options. Still, I can understand the desire to want to hold someone responsible. I am not just an attorney, but a mother and a native Angeleno who has witnessed firsthand the economic and personal struggles that so many in our community face. I cannot imagine losing one of my children, particularly to something as destructive as drugs. Yet I am the Los Angeles County district attorney, elected by the people to bring criminals to justice and uphold the law in a fair and ethical manner. I take that responsibility seriously and
have dedicated my life and career to this public service. Some have insinuated that a $100 donation from Mr. Buck to my 2012 election campaign – money that I have since returned – has somehow tainted my ability to impartially consider whether criminal charges are warranted against him in the death of Mr. Moore. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every life, regardless of a person’s age, race, economic status and even whether they use illegal drugs, has value. If that life is lost because of the unlawful actions of another, rest assured that my office will do everything possible to bring the perpetrator to justice.
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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MARCH 15, 2019 • 19
Hollywood should tell queer and disability stories authentically New Van Sant biopic on John Callahan an exercise in mimicry By KATHI WOLFE
Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.
Two cartoons are taped to my filing cabinet. In one, a blind man and his seeingeye dog are boarding a plane. “We’ve arranged a window seat for your dog so you can enjoy the view,” the flight attendant says. The other cartoon is a drawing of an aerobics class for quadriplegics. “O.K., let’s get those eyeballs moving,” the instructor says. The cartoons are by John Callahan,
a quadriplegic cartoonist who died in Portland, Ore. at age 59 in 2010. A biopic about Callahan “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” released last summer and based on his 1990 autobiography of the same name, is now showing on Amazon Prime. His politically incorrect cartoons on disability and other subjects might seem tasteless to you. But not to me or his other aficionados. I’m visually impaired. Every time someone describes one of Callahan’s drawings to me, I laugh. Why are his cartoons so funny to many of us with disabilities? Because they capture the absurdity, gallows humor and spirit of what it’s like to be disabled. Callahan wasn’t someone from the outside laughing at our lives. He himself was disabled. Just as the queer community has often combated homophobia and transphobia with lacerating wit, Callahan cut through disability-related stigma and pity with his razor-sharp cartoons. “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” is directed by Gus Van Sant. Van Sant, known for “Milk,” “Good Will Hunting” and other films is gay. At age 21, Callahan, an alcoholic, got a ride after a party with a friend. Callahan’s buddy, driving drunk, crashed the car into a pole. His pal wasn’t hurt: Callahan, portrayed by
Joaquin Phoenix, became a quadriplegic. After his injury, he kept drinking until he could no longer open a liquor bottle on his own. At that low point, Callahan joined AA. In the 12-step program, he became friends with his sponsor Donnie, a gay man with AIDS. Callahan, who enjoyed art in high school, begins drawing cartoons after his injury. He had partial use of his arms and hands. The movie’s title is from one of Callahan’s cartoons. In the drawing, there’s a wheelchair in a desert. A posse of cowboys looks on. “Don’t worry, he won’t get far on foot,” the caption says. As someone who’s disabled and queer, I’m glad Van Sant made “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.” Just as the LGBTQ community has a culture, the disability community has a culture and history. Though, nearly one in five people in the United States has a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, many in the queer community are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with disabled people and disability culture. “Don’t Worry,” though not a documentary, brings to light Callahan’s transgressive work – an important part of disability culture. Too often, people like me are isolated within the queer community. Frequently, LGBTQ as well as hetero folks don’t see disabled people
as either being able to work or as sexual. I can’t tell you how often I’m asked not about my work or if I’m dating anyone, but about my white cane. In “Don’t Worry,” we see Callahan, who was straight, getting established as a cartoonist and sexual. He has a girlfriend. Yet, “Don’t Worry” doesn’t authentically portray Callahan. Why is the movie’s depiction of Callahan inauthentic? Because Phoenix, though a highly talented actor, is able-bodied. There are talented actors with disabilities. Yet, too often, non-disabled actors, using computer generated imagery (to simulate the loss of arms or legs) play disabled characters. Or they think that they can capture a disabled character’s essence by going by learning how to move in a wheelchair. Non-disabled actors don’t realize how a person’s disability shapes his or her identity, Beth Haller, author of “Representing Disability in an Ableist World, emailed me, “which is something a non-disabled actor can never embody.” “Disability mimicry” is unacceptable, Dominick Evans, a queer, non-binary and trans filmmaker and wheelchair user told me over the phone. “It’s like a cisgender person playing a trans person. It’s degrading.” I hope one day Hollywood will tell queer and disability stories authentically.
Millions of reasons to visit USC’s ONE Archives LGBT history: information and inspiration for everyone By SCOTT STIFFLER
History you can hold in your hand is what awaits visitors to a repurposed frat house, which houses the largest archive of LGBT historic materials in the world. “I think it’s great to be able to read materials online, but coming into the archives, holding diaries of people who passed away from HIV/ AIDS, or being able to read letters people wrote to one another when their relationship was secretive, because they were afraid of being arrested or losing their job, you realize the depth of our history,” said ONE Archives Foundation Executive Director Jennifer Gregg, regarding the more than two million items they donated to the University of Southern California (USC) Libraries in 2010. As for the Foundation’s origin story, Gregg explained, “The name comes from the Thomas Carlyle quote, ‘A mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one.’ The organization started in 1952. It was founded by members of the Mattachine Society, which was the first organized group for LGBTQ rights. The organization’s founders started ONE through the publication of ONE Magazine [1953 to 1967], and from there, the archives began. James L. Kepner (aka Jim Kepner) was a bibliophile, who began collecting in the 1940s. His collection was housed in multiple locations, including his own residence, and grew and grew over time.” Today, USC maintains that collection (three million plus items), and provides a staff of two full-time archivists, a library supervisor, a director, and, at times, curators, and contract archivists. The Foundation supports their work by, Gregg said, “enhancing and diversifying the collection, helping to identify gaps, and making the Archives more visible to the public.”
The Archives serve as a source of information and inspiration for scholars, attorneys, journalists, exhibition curators, teachers, students and filmmakers. (Photographs from the Archives, for example, appear in the 2008 Harvey Milk biopic, “Milk,” and the staff often interacts with researchers to provide information on file, or refer them to other sources, worldwide.) Joseph Hawkins, Director, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries, has been involved with the project since his days as a USC grad student in the early 2000s, when the Archives were moved into their current location, just off the USC campus. “Archives can be pretty daunting places,” Hawkins said, describing his team’s work as “time-consuming… But we try to unpack these boxes and tell you the stories” (A single banker’s box worth of materials can cost $500 or more to process. Tasks include imposing an intellectual order, placing materials in an acid-free environment, and creating a finding aid, so those materials can be easily accessed by researchers.) Echoing Gregg’s observation about the interactive aspect of the Archives, Hawkins noted, “It’s transportive to be in the presence of these materials. When people come here, they’re getting in touch with their history, and we provide objects that illustrate how things came to be. They move you.” There are materials representing 48 languages in the collection, “that we know of,” Hawkins said (about 80 percent of the collection has been cataloged), and “we also have 8,000 magazines with titles nobody has ever heard of. There was one in the 1930s called Bachelor, which is code for ‘gay man.’ RFD is for gay people in rural districts.”
Although materials from the original 2010 donation comprise the vast majority of its current content, the collection will continue to expand, Hawkins said. “We’re always taking in organizational collections,” he noted. “Once professionalization occurred in the gay and lesbian community in the 1980s, all these big organizations were founded. And for many of them, their papers were sitting in garages and storage units. So lately, we’re getting a lot of those.” Recent additions include collections from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, San Francisco’s Center for Sex & Culture, the works of author Larry Townsend and pioneering black filmmaker Cheryl Dunye, and Beth Chayim Chadashim, the world’s first gay and lesbian synagogue. Hawkins also noted the late 2015/early 2016 donation of materials from Edith Edye, who arrived in Southern California in the 1930s, and “gets a job at RKO Studios. She becomes Lisa Ben, an anagram for lesbian. The story is great. But what’s really fun is, when her collection came in, she had a box that was filled with little plastic viewers that had pictures of ladies in the nude, and also a guitar case with a leopard skin exterior and pink crushed velvet in the inside.” In terms of contemporary donations, Gregg cited increased visibility as a reason for the Archives’ expanding collection. “Because we live more openly,” she noted, “people are thinking about their legacies, whether it’s the impact they’ve had on changing the hearts and minds of their families, their impact within the movement, or being out at work. Those are all things we’re looking for.” Gregg said the Foundation is “teaching people how to maintain their collections,” and making sure they know how to gift their
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Interior of the ONE Archives. Photo by Christine Hahn, courtesy of ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries
collections “to places that are meaningful to them — the ONE Archives, their alma mater, or their hometown.” To facilitate this, a presentation called “Archiving is Activism” is given throughout the country. “When you think about it,” Gregg said, “making sure that we’re visible, making sure that our stories are shared in an accurate and authentic way, is activism.” With USC as steward of its collection, the ONE Archives Foundation furthers its mission of “telling the accurate and authentic stories of LGBTQ people, history and culture” through community outreach programs, educational training, and exhibitions. Originating at ONE Gallery in West Hollywood (626 North Robertson Blvd.), Foundation exhibitions tour the country, and they create original exhibitions via collaborations with other organizations and archives. (Upcoming is “Metanoia: Transformation Through AIDS Archives and Activism,” opening March 11 at NYC’s LGBT Community Center.)
Recalling their popular 2017 exhibition, “Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A.,” Green noted it “started around an individual named Mundo Meza, and by researching that one individual, the curators realized there was a huge queer network in Chicano LA, that started in the ’60s.” The resulting exhibition encompassed art, music, and performance from queer Chicana/o artists in Southern California, from the late 1960s to the early 1990s — an era bookended by the gay liberation/feminist movements and the AIDS crisis. Fashion, punk music and performance were among the conduits for artistic expression, cultural criticism and activism. The Foundation’s LGBTQ Research Fellowship Program, now in its second year, welcomes participants from all around the country, Gregg said. “We offer stipends for them to do their research, everything from the history of conversion therapy to lesbian parenting in a welfare state. So they’re very focused in their research.”
Currently in its first year, the Foundation’s Youth Ambassadors for Queer History program came to be, Gregg said, “because we know that LGBTQ youth remain among the highest-risk populations in the United States, and schools across the country continue to be hostile environments for queer youth. So we started it as a mentorship program, for students to become ambassadors for LGBTQ history and culture. It provides students an opportunity to come into the Archives and explore the history and they create additional resources, through their research, which will then be utilized in their schools.” In its first year, the program’s eight students reached approximately 1,000 high school students in LA County. “When they realize how far back their history actually goes,” Green said, “that’s part of making our history visible.” Both the Foundation and the Archives are nonprofits. To make a donation in support of their work, visit onearchives.org and one.usc.edu.
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22 • MARCH 15, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Spoonfed | Bar Joe is a whole heap of loving goodness A new genre of food: SoCal comfort By SUSAN HORNIK
Hollywood has a secret garden restaurant and you’ll be glad you found it. Photos by Spoonfed
If you’re looking for a cozy place to hang out for hours that makes you feel at home, check out Hollywood’s Spoonfed Bistro. The gay owner, Sean Loeffel, is as warm as his restaurant, welcoming guests to try a multitude of delicious dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, that will make you want to return, again and again! “Our cooking style is healthy Southern California cooking with a Midwest comfort food twist,” Loeffel says.“The idea of starting this restaurant has been brewing since I was very young and fresh out of college, but more seriously, at the beginning of 2016. I had a muse which was an old service station, and I fanatisized about turning it into a restaurant. Eventually, that place changed, grew, transformed and became Spoonfed.” A native of Chicago, Loeffel grew up in a big family, which is reflected in his cooking. “As the ninth of 10 children, everyone took care of each other and cooking was always a family affair, involving all the children and gathering around a dinner table. It was passionate, messy, and filled with creativity,” he acknowledged. After graduating from Southern Illinois University, Loeffel began in the hospitality industry early, first as a waiter at the Ritz Carlton and subsequently working his way up the ranks at the Four Seasons for 17 years, where he honed his knowledge of cuisine and service as the Food and Beverage Director, working with top chefs in Chicago, Seattle, Hawaii and Los Angeles. The experience of working with the founder and creator of the Four Seasons Hotel, Isadore Sharp, impressed upon Loeffel the importance and necessity of creating the ultimate experience for guests, and inspired him to continue to learn, grow and be of service to the guests, staff and community. Whether you are eating indoors or outdoors, during the day or at night, you will love the restaurant’s comfortable design. Counter service at the bar allows for guests to move quickly through their day. Alternatively, you can relax on their 3,400 square feet patio, a lovely green oasis of flowering plants and fountains. Menu Highlights A quaint hotspot, celebrities such as LL Cool J, the cast from “Grey’s Anatomy,” Kobe Bryant, Anne Heche, have all been spotted here. The restaurant serves a few different menus all day, and Loeffel has lovely recommendations for each meal. “For breakfast, I really like the steak and eggs, Apollo breakfast, blueberry orange ginger-ale cakes and our avocado toast. That’s one of my favorites!” Loeffel suggests. Opening at 7 a.m. daily, Spoonfed features a coffee/espresso menu in keeping with the burgeoning Los Angeles coffee scene. Other breakfast items include the breakfast tacos, peanut butter French toast and chia seed parfait. For lunch, brunch or dinner, Loeffel loves the Taylor Street Italian beef sandwich, Spoonfed burger with crinkle fries and Jaeger schnitzel Spoonfed’s chopped salad, flat bread pizzas, harvest bowl, tuna melt, housemade chicken soup and a daily rotating selection of 13 salads. All menus include a selection of vegetarian and vegan items as well as gluten-free options. If you are winding down your evening, you can check out’s Spoonfed Bar Joe, which features tasty bites, a selection of innovative custom craft cocktails as well as classic drinks. “I love my families’ paddock cottages clam dip, our Wisconsin cheese curds with honey mustard, salmon tartare and Cook County flatbread,” Loeffel enthused. Spoonfed also has an impressive bakery too, where you can purchase a variety of yummy items. Guests can indulge in a large selection of breakfast pastries, freshly baked daily. Then there’s dessert! While the restaurant has a huge selection of pies, assorted cookies, tarts and cupcakes, Loeffel adores their house-made bread pudding. “But my absolutely ultimate favorite is my mom’s recipe, chocolate buttermilk cake,” he quipped. The restaurant also sells numerous retail products including chocolates, flavored popcorn, sweets and a vast array of confections, a fun happy hour and free events ongoingly happening at the venue. Blade Tips In this crazy cold (for us, at least) weather, check out their delicious oat milk, guaranteed to warm you up on cool nights! While you are at the restaurant say hi to Loeffel and chef, Sergio Preciado, who also make a fantastic roasted tomato soup!
24 • MARCH 15, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Closet cases lining up to defend Jussie Smollett And kudos to Oprah for her ‘Leaving Neverland’ show By BILLY MASTERS
Tyler Perry and Queen Latifah are among the last stars defending Jussie Smollett.
“He is circumcised. I have a gorgeous, circumcised penis and I want him to have the same.” — Andy Cohen is not talking about what he looks for in a prospective paramour’s equipment. He’s talking about his son. One of the statistics I have cited lo these two-plus decades is that most men have their first sexual experience with other men. I realize this is not particularly scandalous to the men reading this column. But we are talking all men - straight and gay alike. Before you go all Corey Feldman on me, the term “sexual experience” often refers to a “circle jerk”, which figures into so many art films in my collection. This came back to me when I read about the proliferation of jerk-off clubs targeting straight men. Before you rush off to buy a membership, it should be noted that these clubs have strict policies against any oral or anal interaction, and one must keep one’s hands to oneself. Kinda takes all the fun out of it. This inevitably leads to a discussion about “Leaving Neverland.” I can’t imagine anything in there shocked or even surprised my readers. Learning that Michael taught these boys how to masturbate fits into the aforementioned statistic. But the similarity ends there. Beyond all that sex stuff - which I believed - these boys (now men) truly loved Michael Jackson. What troubles most people about this - aside from, of course, the idea of falling in love with one’s abuser - is that these men identify themselves as heterosexual. Not only heterosexual, but married with children. I have had numerous discussions with people who cannot comprehend how any of this is possible. But what this doc hammered home was how it is possible to have two completely contradictory feelings at the same time. Kudos to Oprah’s after-show for focusing primarily on Wade and Jimmy’s emotional turmoil. Again, putting the sex aside, these boys who had no romantic experience fell totally in love with Michael and saw themselves tossed aside when the latest Culkin came down the pike. I know how I feel when someone stops returning my calls, or simply moves on. I can’t imagine what someone their age felt like. I suspect this emotional upheaval is what has caused the most psychological damage, and I feel for them. Despite all of the evidence pointing to Jussie Smollett’s guilt, some people are still giving him the benefit of the doubt and holding onto hope that it’s all just a big misunderstanding. His most vocal supporters are Tyler Perry and Queen Latifah, who say it is premature to have an opinion until we hear all of the evidence. The fact that two people with ginormous secrets say we don’t have all the facts speaks volumes. Last week, I went to a gala evening at the Dolby Theatre celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Laugh-In.” For “Still Laugh-In: The Stars Celebrate,” Netflix hoped to assemble the remaining living cast members. They were one short - no Goldie (for reasons well known to them, or so I’m told). In the role of Goldie Hawn we got Miss Loni Anderson (no, not in a bikini). Happily, we did have Lily Tomlin (who did two new Ernestine and Edith Ann sketches - both of which were pre-taped), Jo Anne Worley (who was chewing up the scenery) and Ruth Buzzi (who currently bears a striking resemblance to Ruth Bader Ginsberg). The event was hosted by Tiffany Haddish and self-proclaimed sword swallower, Neil Patrick Harris. Guest stars included Jay Leno, Billy Crystal, Bill Maher, Chelsea Handler, Cheri Oteri, and a bunch of others who I must say neither Bruce Vilanch nor I could place. The low point was a musical number by the two Ritas - Moreno and Wilson. And we had to sit through it twice. I loves me some Moreno, but this was not good. The spunky Latina made sure to let the audience know it wasn’t her fault. “I’m not taking the blame for this shit - we’ve been sitting back there in the freezing cold for two hours!” The evening ran very long and towards the end, people were leaving. At one point, I was pulled from my seat and asked to sit in the front row next to Norman Lear - talk about television royalty! Two seats over was “Laugh-In” creator, George Schlatter - who recognized me and said hi. All I kept thinking was, FINALLY I’m the young one! Then Norman leaned over to George and said, “Can you believe we created being funny on television?” George said, “Yeah, and they’re KILLING it! But we can fix it in post!” Priceless. The special will air later this season. Time for another Fayewatch. You’ll recall I told you that Miss Dunaway would be returning to Broadway playing Katharine Hepburn in Matthew Lombardo’s play, “Tea at Five.” Faye Dunaway playing a legendary Hollywood actress — what could possibly go wrong? Prior to opening on Broadway this summer (theater and date to be announced), the show will run from June 21 through July 7 at Boston’s Huntington Theatre. It’s somewhat of a homecoming for Faye - she studied at Boston University, which operates the theater. Tix are on sale now at HuntingtonTheatre.org. When we’re looking forward to months and months of Fayewatch items, it’s definitely time to end yet another column. For the best dish, be sure to check out www.BillyMasters.com - the site that’ll never jerk you around. Sorry we didn’t have room for an “Ask Billy” question. But I always have time for you. Dash your queries off to Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before Peaches Christ is announced as Faye’s understudy! Until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.
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The people of Nicky Silver’s “Too Much Sun” are people of privilege, there’s no question about that. The play, currently running in its Los Angeles premiere production at the Odyssey Theatre, centers on aging actress Audrey Langham, who suddenly gets fed up with her life and career, walks out of a dress rehearsal for a production of “Medea” in which she is starring, and swoops into her married daughter’s Cape Cod summer home for an indefinite stay while she “figures things out.” Even in that briefest of synopses, one can see the roots Silver’s play has in the classic American theater, particularly in a sub-genre where the uptight decorum of the upper middle-class is confronted with a larger-than-life, usually showbiz-connected character whose sheer force of personality serves as an agent of change. Indeed, in the program notes, director Bart DeLorenzo likens “Too Much Sun” to Kaufman and Hart’s “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” and it’s easy, too, to see some parallels to “Auntie Mame” in the unconventional Ms. Langham. Such plays were usually comedies, of course, and so is Silver’s – although the humor, sharp and zany as it is, runs to the dark side. The collection of characters he brings together for the summer in a beach house are a sophisticated, quick-tongued bunch, and they spend most of the play sparring at each other with zingers – to the good fortune of the audience, who get to hear the playwright’s renowned wit crackling through the dialogue. Audrey, of course, is the storm behind the calm; she’s a mess, on the surface, but somehow under all her deflective histrionics she is in complete control. Her daughter, Kitty, is – unsurprisingly – the opposite, with a composed, very put-together life that she is secretly starting to hate; her husband, Dennis, who has taken time off from work to write a novel, is an easy-going dreamer whose inner life runs deeper – and in a different direction – than his wife might know. Added to the mix are Lucas, a gay teenage boy from next door, his WASP-y widower of a father, and an agent’s assistant named Gil who really would rather have been a rabbi. The resulting clash of neuroses and complexes lays the ground for a comedy that is part New Yorker, part borscht-belt, and all Silver. It would be easy enough to see the play as existing only at the humorous level – the one-liners never stop coming – but it’s the things the jokes reveal about the characters who speak them that takes the show to another layer where things are allowed to get heavier. Silver gives us these revelations – the frustrated desires, the secret fears, the hidden resentments, the unresolved traumas – through the snappy wordplay of the first act; and then, when the story takes us back to these people, two months later, the waves of change that began with those revelations are poised to sweep over them – or sweep them away – and the consequences they face may be grimmer than they know. As the title metaphorically suggests, too much truth can get you burned. It’s the humanizing effect of following these characters through the pain of transformation that lets us see past their almost-stereotypical surfaces. By the end, they are people like us, with a lot of issues around family, that we can connect with – we can forgive them from being privileged, and that allows the possibility, at least, of being ourselves a little transformed. That possibility wouldn’t exist without the actors, who are superbly cast and well-guided by director DeLorenzo. This is especially true of Diane Cary, whose Audrey is the epitome of the temperamental diva and yet infused with the kind of recognizable vulnerability that grounds her completely; she’s a powerful force who knows it – and knows how to use it without looking like she’s using it. As daughter Kitty (Autumn Reeser) is much more than a perfect foil; as we watch her struggle to maintain her rigid composure as her carefully-constructed world falls apart, she, too, becomes more than just a cliché. As husband Dennis (Bryan Langlitz) walks a tightrope while maintaining a believable demeanor of calm, and manages to avoid the danger of letting his character lose our sympathies; Bailey Edwards, as twink-next-door Lucas, gives a great, layered performance that ultimately gives the play’s cathartic twist its power. Rounding out the cast are Clint Jordan, who infuses neighbor Winston with an authentic sense of wonder and nobility, and Joe Gillette, who deftly subverts every one of the stereotypes he personifies as the angsty nebbish, Gil. With all the talent behind it – not the least of which belongs to its gifted playwright – there’s no surprise in the fact that “Too Much Sun” is a completely enjoyable theatrical experience, with just the right mix of the traditional and the edgy to make it feel both less and more “dangerous” than it is. What comes as a bonus is the reflective, almost uplifting calm that comes at the end of a play that started out seeming like a hard-edged, raucous farce. If there’s a sour note in the mix, it’s the unfortunate treatment received by Lucas; without providing any spoilers, it’s fair to say that a gay character ends up suffering the most, and while his journey is no less truthful than any other character’s and he is arguably the most blameless of any of them, the role of the queer as “victim” in our popular entertainment has become, for some, a tiresome and painful reminder of the cultural repression of the past. Still, it’s a thread that’s finely woven into all the others the playwright has crafted in this tale of consequences, in which one momentous change sparks others, and the only glue that can hold the world together are the universal bonds of trust and family. Silver himself said in an interview with the Blade that his script is “much more generous to its characters than I generally have a reputation for being.” His generosity, amplified through the work of DeLorenzo and his performers, shines through this production at the Odyssey, and gives us a play about transformation that acknowledges the pain that comes along with change even as it makes us laugh. It’s a worthy production of a work by one of our most accomplished out playwrights, and a fine example of the kind of great local theater we have access to here in Los Angeles.
‘Too Much Sun’ shines at the Odyssey A play about transformation that acknowledges the pain that comes along with change By JOHN PAUL KING
Bryan Langlitz and Bailey Edwards. Photo by Jeff Lorch
26 • MARCH 15, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Not so suddenly Suzanne Stand-up comic Westenhoefer’s always been out By SCOTT STIFFLER
LA Woman: Suzanne Westenhoefer has a gig on her home turf, March 16. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles LGBT Center
Town to town, gig to gig, the life of a stand-up comic is one long road trip — but Suzanne Westenhoefer won’t have to stray too far from home when a March 16 booking brought her to the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center. The trailblazing lesbian comedian moved to West Hollywood in 1996, when Boys Town was “already well under its fabulous way,” and has been living in her present location, one block outside of WeHo, for nearly 20 years — all the while, making her living as a so-out-she’s-never-been-in entertainer. “I have a white picket fence,” Westenhoefer said, of the home she shares with Jeanine, her lover. (“How very ’80s,” she observed, of that self-supplied term.) “Across the street from me, I’m looking at another white picket fence. Could you be more American, normal, straightlaced than that? No.” But walk two blocks in any direction, she said, of her “little residential chunk,” and “… you can get a tattoo, you can go see strippers, you can probably get heroin. We’re between Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard. So, interesting, interesting hood.” Fans of “The L Word” will likely recognize it. One of those houses across the street, Westenhoefer noted, “was the house they were using for Bette and Tina’s. My house was in the opening credits.” It’s been a full decade since the final episode of that five-season series, whose layered depictions of lesbians delivered unprecedented visibility to the masses (or at least Showtime subscribers) — but not for nothing, it must be noted that Westenhoefer, 58, was uttering the “L” word, in full, years before the show’s cheeky use of capital letter as code. Westenhoefer was the first openly lesbian comic to appear on “Late Night with David Letterman” and have her own HBO special (1994). Today, she finds herself in a cultural moment barely imaginable when she first took to the stand-up stage, on July 31, 1990. (“It was an open mic contest in NYC, and I won $25!!!) “It seems crazy now,” Westenhoefer said, “but then, we could name the openly gay comics on one hand. Open another if you wanted to do openly lesbian folk singers. But that was it.” The Pennsylvania native and Clarion University graduate moved to Richfield Park, NJ in 1983, to “become a big Broadway star!” Coming up short on work, she found herself plunged into activism. “That is when the shit hit the fan,” she recalled, when “every gay guy in New York got sores on their body, and died in a week… or that’s how it felt. Initially, it wasn’t event called AIDS. They called it ‘gay cancer.’ Uhh, that was fun.” ACT UP and Queer Nation, both of whom she was “one of the foot soldiers” for, had a series of public actions in which, Westenhoefer noted, “The whole idea was to create trouble, to get on the news so we could get the president to acknowledge that AIDS existed, and help us… Some people were saying, ‘We have to out famous people, because by them not being out, they’re hurting us.” During that time, Westenhoefer recalled “putting up a sign with [a picture of] Jodie Foster, that said ‘Absolut Queer’ [referencing a vodka ad campaign]. We’d put them up at night, and people would wake up to them. The truth is, I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know if this girl is really gay, or we just think she’s gay.’ I mean, nobody knew for sure. Gosh, that seems kind of tacky. Oh, well, you gotta do what you gotta do.” During that time, while working as a bartender at Houlihan’s in Secaucus, NJ, customers ate up the sardonic humor she served, drawing favorable comparisons to talent booked on late night talk shows and comedy showcases. (Cheap to produce, and a source of programming for the burgeoning cable TV industry, brick wall and mic stand-up showcases were ubiquitous at the time.) Recalling a conversation with a Houlihan’s regular who challenged her to try stand-up, Westenhoefer told him, “I don’t know. I won’t be closeted, and what if they boo me off stage when I announce I’m lesbian? And he said, ‘Yeah, ’cause you’ll never get another job BARTENDING.’ He just cut right to the quick. I’ll never forget it.” Five months into her stand-up career, a producer from the “” saw Westenhoefer’s set at an open mic night in Greenwich Village, and asked, “ ‘Would you be interested in TV?’ And I said, That’s the point.” Soon thereafter, Westenhoefer was beamed into the homes of America, on an episode called “Lesbians Who Don’t Look Like Lesbians.” “It’s funny,” she recalled, “because that would be insulting now. But that stuff has changed so dramatically… When I was in my 20s, I said the word ‘fag’ all the time, because gay guys taught me to say that. ‘Hey, faggot.’ That’s how we spoke.” Now, Westenhoefer duly noted, “that would be incredibly insulting… The first transgender folks I met, they said, ‘Oh god, don’t call me transgender. I’m a trannie.’ Now, if you said that…” No matter. For Westenhoefer, performing has always been a clear-cut case of saying what’s on her mind, consequences be damned. Pitchforks and protest signs haven’t been a problem, though, perhaps owing to the fact that there’s something disarming about her delivery and demeanor, that quicksilver quality that some comedians just have. Then there’s the material, a mix of the personal and the mundane. A good example is her routine about shopping at Home Depot, as the unskilled, designated buyer. “The difference being,” Westenhoefer said, “it was a girlfriend at home who could build, and, as a lesbian, I couldn’t… I don’t think I ever did any material that a straight person can’t possibly understand.”
28 • MARCH 15, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
March movie madness Teen dramedy ‘Giant Little Ones,’ ‘Mapplethorpe’ biopic feature heavy gay content By BRIAN T. CARNEY
Top photo: DARREN MANN and JOSH WIGGINS in ‘Giant Little Ones.’ Photo courtesy Vertical Entertainment
MATT SMITH in the title role in ‘Mapplethorpe.’ Photo courtesy Samuel Goldwyn Films
Two interesting queer indie films are on screen in Los Angeles theaters this week. Both play with classic cinematic genres, with varying degrees of success. Written and directed by Keith Behrman, “Giant Little Ones” is a coming-out story where no one actually comes out. Instead it’s a timely but timeless coming-of-age story about friendship, betrayal and the power of rumor. Refracted through the lenses of John Hughes movies and current notions of sexual fluidity, the script hearkens back in an interesting way to Lillian Hellman’s classic 1934 queer drama “The Children’s Hour” where vicious (and unfounded) rumors about illicit sexual behavior destroy the lives of two school teachers. The play was adapted twice for the screen. The first version (1936), retitled “Those Three,” turned the play into a heterosexual love triangle; the second version (1961) restored the original title and the accusations that the two teachers (Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine) are lesbians. In “Giant Little Ones,” the rumors about homosexuality are started by one of the boys involved. Best friends since childhood, Frankie Winter (Josh Wiggins) and Ballas Kohl (Darrin Mann) are popular members of the swim team. Both have girlfriends, but while Ballas brags about how often he and Jess (Kiana Madeira) have had sex, Frankie remains a virgin, much to the frustration of his girlfriend “Cil” (Hailey Kittle). After Frankie’s wild 17th birthday party, a moment of unexpected sexual intimacy between the boys becomes the subject of high school and family drama when one of the boys starts to spread rumors that the other one is gay (no spoilers here). Things get especially complicated for Frankie because his father (Kyle MacLachlan) has recently left his mother (Maria Bello) for another man. Behrman’s script is uneven. He’s great at capturing the complicated sexual zeitgeist from gay dads and their new boyfriends to genderqueer high school girls with strap-ons and high school survivors of sexual trauma, along with the more traditional gay panic defense and violent homophobia in the locker room. But, some of the characters are underdeveloped and their actions don’t make a lot of sense. Behrman’s work as a director, however, is confident and assured, especially his work with cinematographer Guy Godfree and editor Sandy Pereira. The movie is lovely and the flows freely with a sure-footed pacing. The film is nicely grounded in Wiggin’s fine performance as Frankie. Like most teenaged boys, he’s not always likable, but Wiggins is always available and engaging. He’s surrounded by a great supporting cast, including Niamh Wilson as Mouse, the young lady with a dildo; Taylor Hickson as Frankie’s friend (and Ballas’ sister) Natasha; Maria Bello as his frazzled mother; and, especially Kyle MacLachlan as a dad who’s carefully trying to rebuild his relationship with his son. Quirky and frequently charming, “Giant Little Ones” has earned a place in the LGBT teen movie canon. Directed by Ondi Timoner and written by Timoner and Mikko Alanne, “Mapplethorpe” is a conventional biopic about an unconventional artist. Robert Mapplethorpe (Matt Smith from “Doctor Who” and “The Crown”) rocked the art world with his stunning and crystalline black and white photography that captured a variety of subjects from celebrities to flowers to black and white men (including himself) engaged in explicit BDSM scenes. Unfortunately, Timoner takes a timid connect-the-dots approach to Mapplethorpe’s tumultuous life. We meet all the major players as they rotate in and out of Robert’s life, but we never really see the drive and passion beneath his chilly façade or understand why his lovers/muses/patrons are drawn to him. The actors, including Smith, fill out their roles as well as they can, but the film never really catches fire despite fine performances by Carolyn McCormack as Mapplethorpe’s mother, Marianne Rendón as rocker Patti Smith, John Benjamin Hickey as Sam Wagstaff, McKinley Belcher III as Milton Moore, Rotimi Paul as Ken Moody and Brandon Sklenar as Robert’s little brother Edward. One exception is a thoughtful cameo by Brian Stokes Mitchell as Father Stark, the Mapplethorpe family priest, who visits an ailing Robert on his mother’s behalf. Because the priest is not part of the traditional Mapplethorpe story, Timoner and company have some fun with his scene. The father and the prodigal son discuss God and the devil while Mapplethorpe takes pictures and Father Stark is literally blinded by the light of the camera’s flash. It’s a welcome change from the boilerplate biography. Still, for anyone who’s not familiar with Mapplethorpe’s life and work, the film is a great introduction to this recent queer hero. For fans of his work, it’s a great chance to see some of his most iconic photos on the big screen and to learn some of the stories behind them. Stay for the credits which include more photography.
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30 • MARCH 15, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Cannabis Culture Provided by NORML
The APA is asking Attorney General William Barr to review more than two-dozen applications for federal marijuana grow licenses. Blade photo by Michael Key
Justice Dept. asked to take action on marijuana grow applications The American Psychological Association is urging Attorney General William Barr to review more than two-dozen pending applications for federal marijuana grow licenses. In a letter dated Feb. 27, the association urged the Justice Department to “act immediately” on 26 applications pending before federal officials — applications that were initially submitted to the agency more than two years ago. Currently, the sole federally licensed producer of cannabis for clinical research is the University of Mississippi. The university has held the exclusive license for more than four decades. In August 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced in the Federal Register that the agency was “adopting a new policy that is designed to increase the number of entities registered under the Controlled Substances Act to grow (manufacture) marijuana to supply legitimate researchers in the United States.” The agency said that the policy change was necessary because the existing system provides “no clear legal pathway for commercial enterprises to produce marijuana for product development.” Last year, however, former DEA director Robert Patterson testified to Congress that the agency believed that approving additional applicants would likely violate international anti-drug treaties. Patterson said that DEA could not move forward granting any new applications until the Justice Department clarified the issue. In its letter to the newly appointed Attorney General, APA CEO Arthur C. Evans urged the Department “to take immediate action on the existing pool of cannabis grower applications so that the United States scientific community can continue to expand the study of both the harmful and potential therapeutic effects of cannabis and its derivatives. ... Without access to an expanded range of cannabis products engineered under FDA-approved Good Manufacturing Practices, scientific research cannot hope to keep pace with the ever expanding recreational and medicinal cannabis marketplace.” The APA represents nearly 120,000 researchers and clinicians. The longstanding federal prohibition on privately licensed cannabis producers exists despite a 2007 ruling by the DEA’s own administrative law judge striking down the ban because it was not “in the public interest.” Although that ruling ordered DEA to lift the ban, the agency failed to do so.
Licensed marijuana businesses employ 200,000: report SEATTLE — The state-licensed cannabis industry gained over 64,000 new employees in 2018, and now employs over 200,000 full-time workers,
according to data compiled by Whitney Economics and the online content provider Leafly.com. The report, entitled Cannabis Jobs Count, identifies some 211,000 full-time jobs in the legal cannabis sector. This total increases to 296,000 jobs when ancillary employers are also included. By comparison, 112,000 Americans are estimated to currently work in the textile industry, while only about 52,000 people are employed by the coal mining industry. “[T]he legal cannabis industry remains a substantial and unrecognized engine of grassroots job creation,” authors concluded. “In fact, cannabis job growth is proceeding at double digit rates in many states despite being overtaxed locally and heavily penalized at the federal level.” California (67,000 jobs) led the country in cannabisrelated employment, followed by Washington (47,000 jobs), and Colorado (44,000 jobs). Commenting on the findings, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said: “The federal government needs to deschedule marijuana to allow states to better and more fully benefit from the economic growth engine that is the legal marijuana industry. Further, state regulators need to ensure as this sector expands its economic benefits are shared by all, including and most especially by those who suffered most under the failed policy of criminal prohibition.”
Vt. Senate passes bill permitting pot sales MONTPELIER, Vt. — Members of the state Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation establishing a system of retail marijuana sales to adults. Members passed Senate Bill 54 by a vote of 23 to 5. The measure expands existing law to permit the state-licensed production and sale of cannabis to those age 21 or older. Under the plan, the state would begin issuing growers’ licenses by December 2020. In February, NORML’s Deputy Director testified in favor of the legislation before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers last year enacted legislation permitting adults to legally possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis. That legislation does not permit commercial production or sales. The measure now awaits action from members of the House, which historically has been more hostile to proposals seeking to regulate the marijuana market. Republican Gov. Phil Scott has also expressed his intent to veto the legislation if it fails to adequately fund efforts directed toward youth prevention and traffic safety. (Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at email@example.com.)
TURN OUT FOR THE
2019 HRC LOS ANGELES DINNER PRESENTED BY
CHRISTINA AGUILERA HRC Ally for Equality Award
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SHEA DIAMOND Special Guest Performer
DANA GOLDBERG Comedian
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Losangelesblade.com, Volume 50, Issue 11, March15, 2019