Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 16, April 19, 2019

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Illustration by Tiara Slater

Change has arrived, from new federal laws to WeHo cafes, PAGES 24-32

A P R I L 1 9 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 1 6 • A M E R I C A’ S LG B TQ N E W S S O U R C E • LO S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M



Shea Diamond in new ‘Americans for the Equality Act’ video Trans singer’s travel restricted by lack of protections By KAREN OCAMB The Human Rights Campaign recently launched a new campaign to raise public awareness about the Equality Act, the recently introduced bipartisan legislation that would extend comprehensive nondiscrimination protections to LGBT people throughout the nation. The first in the “Americans for the Equality Act” video series featured Academy Awardwinning actress Sally Field and her gay son, Sam Greisman. The second video, launched April 16, features Los Angeles-based trans singer/songwriter Shea Diamond— who almost stole the HRC/LA show from presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Cory Booker last month. In this video, shot in front of a cozy fire (presumably during one of LA’s colder, rainy

Shea Diamond Screen grab from HRC video

days), Diamond shares part of her story. Fans of the late beloved poet Maya Angelou may be a bit taken aback by the similar tone in Diamond’s voice, almost as if the black trans singer also knows why a caged bird sings. “I’m a Southern woman from the dirt roads of Little Rock, Arkansas,” Diamond starts off. Even as a “little young queer” she knew there were no protections for a person like her.

“[B]ack in the South, I was just signing my head off. And nobody would see anything besides my queerness. They wouldn’t hear my talent, they wouldn’t hear my songs.” She also came to realize that some states actually fought for protections of other people. But Diamond makes a key point that artists and others who travel know too well, but those who beckon them might not. “As an artist, as a singer/songwriter who

travels a lot, it’s imperative that when I go to your state, I have rights – or I can’t come to your state and perform,” Diamond says. “When I go into these places – I know what I’m going to experience. I’m going to experience some type of violence – whether it’s going to be mis-gendered, harassed, or somebody’s going to throw their Bible at me and tell me that I don’t have the same Godgiven rights as everyone else because I don’t look like everyone else or I don’t express myself like everyone else, that my gender expression looks different. “It is imperative that there is some law put into place protecting not only me – but people who look like me and experiences the same experience. There has to be something put into place that says this is not OK,” Diamond says. “And this is it. This is what we need. “Passing the Equality Act sends a powerful message to LGBT youth that they are affirmed, welcomed and protected,” she says. “Join me and the Human Rights Campaign in this fight.” (See video at losangelesblade.com)

41 HIV, PrEP patients sue Gilead They claim pharmaceutical company sought profits over patient health FROM STAFF REPORTS Pharmaceutical giant Gilead was hit with a lawsuit filed by 41 people from 12 states on April 11 who allege they suffered bone and/or kidney damage after taking Gilead’s tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, (TDF). The personal injury suit, filed in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, alleges the pharmaceutical company knew in 2001 that TDF was “highly toxic in the doses prescribed and risked permanent and possibly fatal damage to the kidneys and bones” —and that there was a safer alternative. “More and more plaintiffs are coming forward to tell their stories of how they

have been harmed by Gilead’s practice of putting profits over patient health,” said Liza Brereton with HIV Litigation Attorneys. The suit is part of an ongoing effort to hold Gilead accountable for its alleged failure to rectify a known defect in the drug formulation of TDF, knowing that a safer alternate existed—tenofovir alafenamide (TAF). Additionally, AIDS Healthcare Foundation spokesperson Ged Kenslea told the Los Angeles Blade, the suit also includes Gilead’s failure to warn patients of TDF’s damaging side effects and its active misrepresentation of TDF’s efficacy and substantial risks. AHF is paying for the litigation and only seeks legal costs in return. “Gilead had their safer alternative available and suppressed it in a malicious deliberate way for over 15 years just so they could maximize and extend the profits on

TDF,” Kenslea said. The suit also asserts that Gilead deliberately and maliciously kept information about TAF quiet to extend its patent, FDA exclusivity, and sales of its existing medications, including TDF. Gilead netted over $18 billion in profit in 2015. The lawsuit alleges that “thousands and thousands of HIV/AIDS patients may have been unwittingly exposed to significant kidney and bone damage from TDF” during their antiretroviral drug regimens. Additionally, “many HIVnegative individuals seeking to prevent HIV acquisition may have suffered similar harm to their kidneys or bones from taking Truvada as part of their PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) protocol.” Gilead sells TDF under the brand name Viread. TDF is also a component of Gilead’s Truvada.

“Gilead knowingly continued selling a drug that had debilitating side effects while keeping a safer version in the wings until the patent on the first, more dangerous version had been exhausted. In other words, Gilead allowed serious injuries to occur so they could make a few more bucks before releasing a safer version,” prominent AIDS activist and “My Fabulous Disease” blogger Mark S. King told the Los Angeles Blade. “Meanwhile, Gilead continues to own our governmental and community-based HIV response lock, stick, and barrel by throwing endless cash at national organizations that should have our best interests at heart. Their behavior has been truly vile.” King added: “I have been critical of AHF in the past for the quickness to sue, primarily other HIV organizations with which they differed. But this lawsuit is righteous and I hope they win, big time.”



LGBT delegation goes to Mexican border to help Delegation hears horrific stories of violence By KAREN OCAMB Hate crimes may be on the rise in the United States, but in some countries in Central and South America violence against LGBT people is acceptable. Transgender, intersex and gender-nonconforming people, in particular, are at extremely high risk of death and persecution. Until the Trump administration—which is inclined to disavow even lawful asylum seekers—LGBT asylum seekers were recognized under the “particular social group” designation. However, at least two trans asylum seekers have died as a result of immigration callousness while trying to save their lives. Roxana Hernandez was beaten and died of AIDS while in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center and Camila Diaz Cordova died after being deported to El Salvador. Other LGBT asylum-seekers are at high risk as they flee to the U.S. border, facing homophobia and transphobia and violence along the way, in the camps, and in detention centers when they arrive. On April 16, a delegation of more than 30 LGBTQ elected officials, artists, athletes and activists traveled across the Mexican border to see for themselves the conditions faced by LGBT asylum seekers in Tijuana. Hosted by Equality California and This Is About Humanity, Border Angels at El Bordo and the shelter La Embajada del Migrante/ Undocumented Café, the delegation also included TV designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent of TLC’s “Nate and Jeremiah by Design” to contribute a significant gift to keep Casa Jardin de las Mariposas — one of the city’s only shelters serving the LGBTQ population — open and allow them to move into a new, safer facility. “When people know better, they do better,” said Berkus and Brent in a press release. “We’re committed to shedding a light on the injustices that members of our community face and helping to uplift the stories of those who have been forgotten.” Also on the trip were California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the state’s first

Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Hansen, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, and Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur Photo courtesy Equality California

openly LGBTQ statewide elected official, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Hansen, Los Angeles Board of Public Works President Kevin James, openly gay former NBA star Jason Collins and others. The delegation heard horrific stories of LGBT people under dire circumstances. “In my country, it is a crime to be a trans woman, or a gay guy…a horror,” said one transgender woman who fled violence in Honduras at the hands of a family member and local gangs. The delegation also heard from a lesbian who had only arrived in Tijuana less than 24 hours earlier. She described a brutal rape and how she was pursued and persecuted by gangs. Another trans woman and her family tearfully recounted how they simply wanted safety and school for their kids, after losing everything in El Salvador. On a more hopeful note, the delegation visited Movimiento Juventud 2000 in the Zona Norte, where they met families and children and handed out books and snacks. There was also a panel discussion about border issues. “As LGBTQ Californians we have to be

at the forefront of the human rights crisis at our southern border being fueled by our federal government’s policies,” Lara said in a press release. “I am inspired by the brave humanitarian leaders on both sides of the border who are helping to reunite families and protect the rights of asylum seekers fleeing homophobia, transphobia and racism.” “Today’s trip across our Southern border reminded us just how inhumane the Trump Administration’s treatment of refugees is,” said Wiener, who serves as Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus. “LGBTQ asylum seekers face unique challenges as they attempt to find refuge, including increased violence due to homophobia and transphobia in their countries of origin and on the journey to the United States. It was both enlightening and heartbreaking to hear individuals tell their stories of identifying as LGBTQ and thus subjecting themselves to discrimination and violence. We must do more to stop this humanitarian crisis for our LGBTQ community and for all asylum seekers.” “Immigration issues are LGBTQ issues. Hearing LGBTQ asylum seekers share stories of such profound violence, persecution and danger — some from gangs and some

from their own family members — it’s heartbreaking to know that our government continues to violate our own laws and values to deny them safety,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. Immigration and asylum issues are of special concern to the state of California, which has declared itself essentially a “sanctuary” state. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first foreign trip was a three-day fact-finding visit to El Salvador. Newsom heard first hand about the gangs, police brutality and the discrimination experienced by LGBT people. In addition to the violence, he found that, according to the World Bank, nearly one-third of Salvadorans live in poverty. In direct response to President Trump’s cancelation of U.S. aid to that country and his continued attempts to build a wall along the Mexican border, Newsom is hoping to stimulate the economy and create jobs in El Salvador. “Helping stabilize El Salvador directly helps California by mitigating the border challenges, by mitigating migration, by tempering the rhetoric with the Trump administration,” Newsom told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s about finding a different angle in the debate.” No word if that also includes protecting LGBT people.


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Rep. Katie Hill getting death threats Says Rep. Omar’s dehumanization is ‘worst of all’ By KAREN OCAMB It’s spring recess, a time when elected officials return to their districts to share what’s happening in this new world of quicksand politics. But Stonewall Democratic Club’s “Stoney Awards” on April 13 offered a sense of optimism that the darkness of Trump era is only a blip on the progressive trajectory of American democracy. Stonewall honored Rep. Katie Hill, Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, transgender rights activist Karina Samala, Black AIDS Institute founder Phill Wilson and Stonewall’s member of the year, John Erickson—and Rep. Adam Schiff received a hero’s welcome. Though the 2020 elections are still 19 months away, races are well underway with Democratic candidates seeking Stonewall’s endorsement. In fact, Hill told the appreciative crowd, during the 2018 primary, she was accused of faking her sexual orientation to win their endorsement. “One of my favorite moments in the entire campaign was in the primary,” Hill said, “when I was told that I was pretending to be bi because I wanted the endorsement of the Stonewall Democratic Club. So clearly this is an endorsement that carries a lot of clout.” Republicans want Hill’s purple 25th District back in 2020. She won handily in 2018 as part of California’s blue wave winning the House of Representatives. The millennial activist defeated longtime conservative Rep. Steve Knight, son on the infamous anti-LGBT state legislator Pete Knight. But while her district includes Lancaster, Palmdale and Simi Valley where “The Gay Agenda” was produced and anti-LGBT hate crimes were routine, the old GOP stronghold went 50.3% for Hillary Clinton and 43.6% for Donald Trump. By 2018, Democrats held a nearly 4-point edge in the working class district. Hill defeated Knight 54.4% to 45.6%, becoming California’s first out LGBT woman in Congress. Hill was assigned to three significant House committees, including the important Oversight and Reform Committee where she is Vice Chair to Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Rep. Katie Hill and Stonewall Democratic Club President Lester Aponte Photo by Karen Ocamb

Oversight is holding hearings on climate change and prescription drug prices, as well as accountability in government. Additionally, Hill is co-Freshman Class Representative with Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top leadership. Hill will be holding a “conversation”

with constituents about her first 100 days on Sat, April 27, 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM PDT at Santa Clarita City Hall. RSVPs are required: https://katiehill.house.gov/ Mike Garcia, son of a Mexican immigrant and a fighter pilot Iraq War veteran, announced on April 10 that he is challenging

Hill. His strategy is to tie her to Bronx Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and others pushing a “Socialist agenda”—the new official Republican Party talking point. “I have been at the edge where bullets fly and lives are lost,” Garcia said in a press release, reports Politico. “I believe America


is the greatest country in the world. I’ve seen men and women lose their lives defending this country. And I am disgusted that politicians in Washington are voting in lockstep with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to push a Socialist agenda that jeopardizes everything we’ve risked blood and treasure to defend.” Hill took the announcement in stride. “I know how tough these primaries can be. With three Republicans now filed to run and likely more who will jump in, I wish them all luck,” she told Politico. “I am deeply grateful to Mr. Garcia for his service to our nation and thank him and his family for all they have given to keep America safe.” Hill reported a little over $607,000 in first quarter filings for her re-election bid, according to Politico. Her SoCal 2018 fellow candidates also have done well. Finance whiz Rep. Katie Porter raised about $416,000; Rep. Gil Cisneros brought in $260,000; Rep. Harley Rouda collected around $495,000; and Rep. Mike Levin reported about $442,000. The other member of the group, Ammar Campa-Najjar, lost by 3.4 points to longtime anti-LGBT Rep. Duncan Hunter, who is under federal indictment for allegedly using campaign funds for personal matters. Campa-Najjar raised more than $345,000 in the first quarter to Hunter’s reported $93,000. Hunter, meanwhile, has resurrected his nasty claims that the devout Christian Campa-Najjar has secret ties to Islamic terrorists. “He’s just trying to fearmonger,” CampaNajjar told Politico, calling Hunter’s claims “totally devoid of moral character and facts” to “distract from his criminal indictment.”

But nowhere has the ugly trope of Islamic terrorism been used as harshly as against Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee who came to the US as a teenager with her family seeking asylum. She and Rep. Rashida Tlaib are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and are in Hill’s freshman class. Omar is also the first to wear a hijab on the House floor, becoming a powerful symbol for both refugees and Muslims—and a prime target for Trump’s anti-Muslim aggression. Trump tweeted a video using a fragment of remarks Omar delivered to the Council on American-Islamic Relations against the backdrop of graphic images showing the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center. Omar was describing how CAIR was founded after 9/11 “because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” “Since the president’s tweet Friday evening, I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life — many directly referencing or replying to the president’s video,” Omar tweeted. “This is endangering lives. It has to stop.” In an interview during the Stonewall event, Hill said death threats have become commonplace. “I think that people have really diminished the fact that she [Omar] and Alexandria and Rashida—and even myself have—we’ve been under death threats for quite some time,” Hill told the Los Angeles Blade. “Theirs have been worse—I don’t want to pretend I’m even on the same level as them. But hers [Omar’s] have been the worst of all. “I don’t know exactly what makes people think they can do that. But I do think it’s a

dehumanization,” Hill said. “This idea of people being dehumanized as second class citizens—however you want to put that in your mind—is that you are able to put them to a point where they are getting death threats or you feel like you can do that to somebody. We have to say unequivocally that that behavior is unacceptable.” The interview was before Speaker Pelosi’s response to Trump’s tweet about Omar, which some Democrats felt was too tepid, and before Pelosi’s appearance on “60 Minutes” where she seemed to minimize the impact of AOC and the more outspoken newer members. Hill seems to have a good working relationship with Pelosi. “It feels very much like she’s preparing for the next generation of leadership and I’m really honored and humbled and feel a great deal of responsibility to be part of that,” Hill told the Los Angeles Blade. “And I think it shows how much I’ve got to learn. She’s just an incredible role model and I would say unequivocally that we’re not quite ready for her to go.” Hill, who has endorsed Sen. Kamala Harris for president, thinks candidates should focus on issues while providing a contrast to Trump. “As far as I’m concerned, people’s opinions of Donald Trump are set. So from where I’m at, we have to do our constitutional obligation in Congress to hold the President accountable and to provide the oversight that hasn’t been done for two years. We’re going to keep doing that,” Hill said. “We’re also sent there to work on healthcare and to work on rebuilding the middle class, doing the infra-structure,


raising people’s wages, and providing accountability within government—so we’ve got to do that at the same time,” she said. “In terms of the presidential campaign, I think what people want to see is what alternative you bring. And to me that’s honesty and integrity and an alternative that is not Donald Trump. I don’t honestly think that people need to have a whole lot pointed out about him, because everyone knows if you’re with Trump—that’s not moving, no matter how much you try,” Hill said, noting the importance of voters in the middle. “We can acknowledge what he’s done but we should not let him drive the narrative, which is what he’s done for four years.” Hill is also practical regarding calls for Trump’s impeachment. “Honestly, I think that what we have to just say across the board is that impeachment is a political process. If we don’t have the votes in the Senate, there’s no point,” she said. “So what we have to do instead is bring to light all the information for the American people and make sure that they have that information going into the election and can make their own decision.” Hill’s own focus is her district, her committee assignments and her leadership post. “In large part, I see a responsibility to be a messenger on behalf of the new class as the Freshman Leadership representative and as somebody who is from this purple kind of middle,” Hill said. “It’s kind of figuring out what that messaging is and being able to deliver it and do both jobs at the same time.” And run for re-election to keep the House in 2020.



TransLatin@ Coalition trying to save trans asylum seeker Alejandra faces indefinite detention or deportation By KAREN OCAMB Bamby Salcedo didn’t know about Attorney General Bill Barr’s announcement late in the night of April 16. Barr, in a long memo, Barr said that asylum seekers will no longer be granted bond to get out of ICE detention while their claim is being processed. Even those with “a credible fear of persecution or torture” in their country of origin could face indefinite detention, a new policy apparently designed to further President Trump’s desire to get “tougher” on immigration. The night Barr changed the immigration rules, Salcedo, founder and CEO of TransLatin@ Coalition, was focused on her April 17 news conference with Amnesty International and New Mexico Immigrant Law Center at the Scales of Justice in Albuquerque, N.M. They called for ICE to stop the deportation process for trans asylum seeker Alejandra Barrera who fled violence in El Salvador in 2017 and has been held in Cibola County Correctional Center, ICE’s for-profit contracted detention center in Milan, N.M. ever since. “Alejandra should have been released on parole over a year ago. It is outrageous that she faces deportation after being denied fair access to protection and being kept in inhumane conditions,” Rebekah Wolf, Barrera attorney, said at the news conference. “There is no reason why she should be in this devastating situation today.” An online petition to #FreeAlejandra has collected close to 50,000 signatures and 60 national and local organizations have signed on. “The community is worried about her well being and healthcare needs,” Salcedo told the Los Angeles Blade. “She has sponsors in New Mexico willing to take her in and support her as she goes through the process.” Barrera, who now has a serious medical condition after detention authorities failed to give her early medical treatment, called into the news conference. “She expressed gratitude for what everyone is trying to do. But she was very emotional, very depressed, very depleted, ” Salcedo said. “She knows she faces a death sentence if she gets deported.”

CoreCivic’s Cibola County Correctional Center Photo courtesy of KOB News 4 via Reveal

Salcedo was not surprised hearing about Barr’s announcement against asylum seekers. “This is one of the strategies the system uses to make money off people,” she said by phone from New Mexico. “We know that corporations are the ones that are contracted with the government to manage the facility and we know that the immigration system really is set up exactly the way the correctional system is set up. The more people that they have detained is how they make money. Obviously, promoting this kind of policy is inhumane. It continues to criminalize people, to make money off of people in detention.” Salcedo said she is going to ask the TransLatin@ Coalition lawyer to see if there are any human rights or due process violations. The ACLU already filed a class action lawsuit filed against then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his administrations treatment of asylum seekers. In 2017, Cibola County Correctional Center garnered scrutiny after an in-depth investigation by The Center for Investigative Reporting. Its corporate owner, CoreCivic, is the country’s second-largest for-profit prison contractor with 84 correctional properties, according to reporter Sarah Macaraeg. “ICE is the primary source of contracts for the private prison giant, whose CEO, Damon Hininger, recently highlighted

ramped-up immigration enforcement in the interior of the country under Trump as a harbinger of new demand,” she reported. “The facility’s new role took shape after inmate deaths involving medical neglect came to light last year, prompting the federal Bureau of Prisons to cancel its contract with CoreCivic as part of a drive to minimize private prisons in its operations. That reliance conversely has grown under ICE, which commenced talks with CoreCivic to adopt Cibola soon after.” Reveal reported that “CoreCivic will be paid $150 million for detaining immigrants at Cibola over the course of a five-year arrangement with county officials and ICE that amounts to a no-bid contract with the federal government…..Cibola County serves only as a pass-through payment mechanism for federal funds to flow from ICE to CoreCivic.” It is not a stretch, then, to understand Wolf’s complaints that ICE deliberately falsified documents regarding Barrera’s requests for asylum. “ICE is operating with impunity,” Wolf said in an extensive interview with the Los Angeles Blade (now online). “There was tons of new evidence, medical records, et cetera. So when I challenged that

[denial] determination by saying this is a first parole request that you’ve ever considered,” Wolf said, “they created a letter that they claimed was the original decision. So they said that in March of 2018, they made a determination and they sent me that letter in July of 2018.” But Wolf never received the letter – because it was made up in response to the second request. “The reason I know that they made it up is because it’s signed by someone who wasn’t in the role that was that actual position at the time that it was supposedly signed,” Wolf said. “The other reason why we knew it was false was because they’re claiming that the original interview, for the original parole determination, happened on a day that happens to be my birthday (February 28, 2018), which is why I remember that she had court that day. So there’s no way that they did a parole interview on that day, because I was with her.” Wolf has other evidence, as well, that ICE falsified documents that hurt Barrera’s chances to escape deportation. But would the health and fate of a trans activist escaping violence in El Salvador matter to an Attorney General apparently intent on doing Trump’s bidding? Bamby Salcedo hopes someone with power and a conscience will intervene before it’s too late.


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10 • APRIL 19, 2019

Performance artist Tim Miller in the “O” of the Hollywood sign Photo via Tim Miller

Decades before Kesha fans (Ke$hawood) and weed fanatics (Hollyweed) commandeered the visuals of the Hollywood sign, internationally acclaimed performer Tim Miller climbed into the letter “O.” Celebrated photographer Dona Ann McAdams snapped a photo and this moment graces the cover of A Body in the O, Miller’s new book of stories and performances. Miller writes in the introduction of that moment perched inside the giant “O” as a young man: “I climbed up into the enormous letter “O” on the Hollywood sign high in the hills above Los Angeles. This was in 1984 when you could still scamper up the Hollywood Hills goat paths and get close to the huge, world-famous landmark. If you were brave enough to confront the scary precarity and climb up one of the several stories tall letters, you had a perfect moment in time and space that must be recorded. I seem to be wearing hot pants and a crop top, a young gay boy’s uniform of the time when returning home to hot L.A. from chilly NYC and risking his life climbing the decrepit Hollywood sign.” Tim Miller has been forging new ground in queer culture as a performer, activist, and writer since the early 1980s. His new book A Body in the O is out just in time to mark the 30th anniversary of Highways Performance Space, which Miller co-founded in 1989. He will be premiering a new performance made up of excerpts from the book at Highways on May 4. – Steven Reigns (Please see Steven Reigns with Tim Miller at losangelesblade.com)

“The good news is, the condition of my soul is in the hands of God but the Iowa caucuses are up to you.” Out presidential candidate, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg in response to anti-gay hecklers April 17 in Iowa.

Visit restorestudy.umn.edu to learn more and take the eligibility survey Email: restorestudy@umn.edu Phone: 612-568-8860 NIH grant #1RO1CA218657-01

“I look at what’s going on in our politics today and I want to say: ‘Can somebody please send the manager over. This doesn’t look like the country or the state that I know and that I want to live in.’” – Out former Obama ambassador Dan Baer announcing his challenge to Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020 on April 15.

“Her courage, in the face of those who wished to silence her, galvanized Americans.” – Sen. Kamala Harris on Professor Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony during Bret Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS confirmation hearing, for Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People issue.



Buttigieg makes it official Days after announcing 2020 bid, Mayor Pete faces hecklers By CHRIS JOHNSON cjohnson@washblade.com Before a crowd of adoring supporters in South Bend, Ind., who braved the rain to hear him speak, Mayor Pete Buttigieg made his 2020 presidential campaign official on Sunday. “I’m here to join you to make a little news,” Buttigieg said. “My name is Pete Buttigieg. They call me Mayor Pete. I am a proud son of South Bend, Ind., and I am running for president of the United States.” Previously, the South Bend mayor had formed an exploratory committee for a possible run, but hadn’t yet declared his candidacy. His announcement changed that, making his campaign official. The crowd responded to Buttigieg’s announcement with roaring applause, chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A” as they waived American flags. A key component of Buttigieg’s message was the economic recovery of South Bend under his watch as mayor after stagnation following the loss of manufacturing — a situation with which many cities in the Midwest are familiar. “More people are moving into South Bend than we’ve seen in a generation,” Buttigieg said. “Thousands of new jobs have been added in our area, and billions in investment. There’s a long way for us to go. Life here is far from perfect. But we’ve changed our trajectory, and shown a path forward for communities like ours.” Touting the reinvigoration of his city under a new economy, Buttigieg — without ever mentioning President Trump by name — also criticized the notion the American Dream can be restored by seeking to go back to the past under a “Make America Great Again” mentality. “Because there is a myth being sold to industrial and rural communities: the myth that we can stop the clock and turn it back,” Buttigieg said. “It comes from people who think the only way to reach communities like ours is through resentment and nostalgia,

Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign rally at City Winery in Washington, D.C. on April 4. Blade photo by Michael Key

selling an impossible promise of returning to a bygone era that was never as great as advertised to begin with. The problem is, they’re telling us to look for greatness in all the wrong places.” Policy items Buttigieg mentioned were ensuring climate security, abolishing the Electoral College, preserving the right to abortion, ensuring access to health care and confronting a growing threat of white nationalism. At one point, Buttigieg invoked his inner Bill Clinton by disparaging the Reagan economic policies of supply-side economics he says were embraced by both Republicans and Democrats. “That era, too, is now over,” Buttigieg said. But just days after the announcement, Buttigieg was heckled in Iowa by two antigay protesters, who invoked the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah that the Bible says were destroyed due to sins like sodomy. “The good news is the condition of my soul is in the hands of God, but the Iowa caucuses are up to you,” Buttigieg said in response. Much of Buttigieg’s campaign announcement was deeply personal. He told the story of his immigrant father who died last year after a battle with cancer, his mother who needed heart surgery as well as his personal story of accepting his sexual orientation. Buttigieg referenced the struggles of his youth — in terms of his sexual orientation and intellectual curiosity — when he said the only time he’d go back to the past was 20 years ago to allay the fears of his youthful self.

The candidate said he would tell his younger self he’d be “all right” and “one rainy April day, before he even turns 40, he’ll wake up to headlines about whether he’s rising too quickly as he becomes a top-tier contender for the American presidency, and to tell him that on that day he announces his campaign for president, he’ll do it with his husband looking on.” Prior to his speech, campaign staffers warmed up the crowd at the rally with a chant holding up three separate signs guiding attendees in saying Buttigieg’s often mispronounced name: “Boot-Edge-Edge.” Nan Whaley, mayor of Dayton, Ohio, praised Buttigieg during the rally in a speech explaining her support for her fellow mayor. “He’s someone who’s both a great friend to me, someone who is a compassionate leader for everyday people who have elected him to office, he is the smartest person I know and he is deeply committed to serving our country,” Whaley said. Whaley concluded with a zinger about the current occupant of the White House that generated significant applause from attendees. “Folks, in short, he’s the polar opposite in every way to Donald Trump,” Whaley said. Annise Parker, CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, was in South Bend for the announcement and said in a statement Buttigieg “shattered a lavender ceiling once thought unbreakable, becoming the first openly LGBTQ Democratic presidential candidate in American history and our first real shot at the Oval Office.”

“There is enormous power in an openly gay presidential candidate stumping at town halls in Iowa and speaking to Americans from the presidential debate stage – it changes perceptions of our community and raises the bar for candidates who seek LGBTQ support,” Parker said. A Victory Fund spokesperson said the organization has not yet endorsed the candidate, but “we recognize the power of this moment for our community and have been working with his team quite closely.” The newly official candidate — who was largely unknown when he started exploring a presidential run at the start of the year — has enjoyed a boost in the polls. Dazzling many supporters with his demeanor and skill at answering questions, Buttigieg also has a captivating personal story as an openly gay mayor, Harvard graduate, Rhodes scholar and Afghanistan war veteran. A Monmouth University poll published last week found Buttigieg in third place in Iowa with nine percent support behind Joseph Biden and Bernie Sanders, who polled at 27 percent and 16 percent respectively. Following Buttigieg were Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker. In New Hampshire, Buttigieg is also running in third place. Biden had 23 percent support and Sanders had 16 percent, but Buttigieg followed at 11 percent support. Parker said Buttigieg’s “meteoric rise is most notable for the support he’s receiving from diverse groups of voters.” “There are enormous minefields and hurdles to running as an openly LGBTQ candidate, and so far, Mayor Pete has gracefully leapt over them on the world’s largest political stage,” Parker said. “He’s the real deal.” After Buttigieg concluded his speech, his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, joined him on the stage, where the two embraced as the crowd cheered — but not before the candidate offered encouraging words to his audience. “If you and I rise together to meet this moment, one day they will write histories, not just about one campaign or one presidency but about the era that began here today in this building where past, present, and future meet, right here this chilly day in South Bend,” Buttigieg said.



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Gay former ambassador to run for Senate Court won’t undo death penalty for inmate alleging anti-gay bias

Gay U.S. ambassador Daniel Baer is running for U.S. Senate in Colorado. Blade file photo by Michael Key

A gay foreign policy expert who worked in the Obama administration on international LGBT issues has declared his intention to run for U.S. Senate in Colorado. Daniel Baer, who’s 42 and a former U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe, announced his candidacy Tuesday in an email blast referencing his spouse, Brian Walsh. “Like many of you, Brian and I are dismayed by the chaos unfolding in Washington under this president,” Baer said. “But we’ve also realized that the best way to find hope and optimism is by putting ourselves on the line, taking risks for the values we believe in, and fighting for the country we want.” If Baer succeeds, he’d become the first openly gay man elected to the U.S. Senate and would join Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the first out lesbian elected to the Senate, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the first openly bisexual person elected to the Senate. One of seven openly gay ambassadors in the Obama administration, Baer as U.S. ambassador to OSCE was charged with deescalating tensions in Europe during the Ukraine crisis in 2014. Previously, Baer served as deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor under Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state. Baer worked on international LGBT issues, including the integration of LGBT human rights abuses in the State Department’s annual human rights report.

In a campaign video announcement titled “Driving Change,” Baer touts his foreign policy experience at OSCE as well as his relationship with his spouse. It’s not the first time Baer has pursued a run for Congress. In 2017, Baer launched a campaign to run for a U.S. House seat representing Colorado’s 7th congressional district. But Baer later dropped that bid after incumbent Rep. Ed. Perlmutter (D-Colo.) changed his mind and decided to keep the seat he said he’d vacate. By seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, Baer is potentially challenging Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), one of the most vulnerable senators up for election in 2020. According to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Gardner is currently polling eight points behind a generic Democrat on the ballot. In an interview with the Denver Post, Baer touted his foreign policy experience in explaining why he’d be superior to the sitting Republican incumbent. “Cory Gardner sits on the Foreign Relations Committee,” Baer said. “I think one of the things I offer as a candidate going up against him is that I can go toe-to-toe with Cory Gardner on foreign policy issues.” But Baer is one of seven Democrats seeking the party’s nomination to run against Gardner and it remains to be seen if Baer will claim victory. The filing deadline and primary for Colorado aren’t yet scheduled. CHRIS JOHNSON

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday it won’t hear a case contesting the death penalty of a gay man in South Dakota despite evidence suggesting the jury invoked the punishment based on his sexual orientation. Without explanation, the Supreme Court announced in an order list it wouldn’t hear the petition filed by a public defender in February on behalf of Charles Rhines, who’s been on death row for 22 years and sought to have his penalty reviewed. The order list reflects decisions justices made at a conference on a previous Friday. It takes a vote of at least four justices to agree to grant a writ of certiorari, or take up a petition, but that vote isn’t made public. Among the groups that filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to take up Rhines’ case to reverse his penalty was the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund. Daniel Harawa, assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, said in a statement the refusal to hear the case “defies constitutional protections and breaks with Supreme Court precedent.” “Bias of any kind has no place in the jury box, especially in a death penalty case where the Eighth Amendment’s protections against the arbitrary imposition of a capital sentence is implicated,” Harawa said. According to briefs filed before the Supreme Court, jurors in Rhines’ case signed an affidavit suggesting anti-gay stereotypes and biases played out in deliberations. One juror recalled during deliberations “lots of discussion of homosexuality” and “a lot of disgust.” CHRIS JOHNSON

Morehouse College to admit trans men in 2020 Morehouse College, the only all-male historically black college in the United States, will admit students who identify as transgender men starting in 2020. The policy was approved by the board of trustees last week. “In a rapidly changing world that includes a better understanding of gender identity, we’re proud to expand our admissions policy to consider trans men who want to be part of an institution that has produced some of the greatest leaders in social justice, politics, business, and the arts for more than 150 years,” Terrance Dixon, Vice President for Enrollment Management at Morehouse, said in a statement. “The ratification of this policy affirms the College’s commitment to develop men with disciplined minds who will lead lives of leadership and service.” The school’s press release details the new policy, which requires that transgender students identify as men while attending Morehouse. Transgender women will not be considered for admission. Students who transition from male to female will also not be allowed to matriculate from the university but students will have the option to appeal to a committee. Morehouse College is the only all-male college with a transgender student policy. Tuskegee University, Howard University, Florida A&M University, Southern University, North Carolina Central University, Morgan State University and Spelman College are also HBCUs with transgender policies. Spelman College, a women’s college near Morehouse College in Atlanta, began admitting transgender women for the 2018-2019 school year. According to the policy, transgender men will not be admitted. Students who are already enrolled at the school and transition from female to male are allowed to matriculate at the college. MARIAH COOPER



Blade contributor seeks asylum in U.S. González fleeing persecution in Cuba By MICHAEL K. LAVERS A Washington Blade contributor has asked for asylum in the U.S. based on the persecution that he said he suffered in his native Cuba because he is a journalist. Yariel Valdés González legally entered the U.S. on March 27 through the Calexico West Port of Entry between Calexico, Calif., and Mexicali, Mexico. Valdés is currently in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Tallahatchee County Correctional Facility, a privately run prison in Tutwiler, Miss. Valdés told the Blade last week during a telephone call from Mississippi that he had his “credible fear interview” on March 30 while he was at the Imperial Regional Detention Facility, another privately run prison in California’s Imperial Valley. A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer conducts the “credible fear interview” to determine whether an asylum seeker’s claim is valid. Valdés told the Blade he does not know when ICE will release him to the custody of his aunt and uncle who live in Miami. Valdés also said the conditions at the Tallahatchee County Correctional Facility are “not very good,” specifically noting the food is “bad.” Valdés, 28, is from Cuba’s Villa Clara province. He graduated from Universidad Central Marta Abreu de las Villas in 2014 with a degree in journalism. Valdés in a letter that outlines the reasons for which he is requesting asylum says he worked for Vanguardia, a newspaper published by the Cuban Communist Party in Villa Clara, for two years while he was earning his degree. Valdés writes he began to contribute to independent media outlets in 2015. Valdés writes he signed a letter against the “censorship and harassment” of independent media outlets in 2016. He says the Cuban Communist Party began to harass him and his “life became hell.” Valdés also writes current President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who was the county’s vice president at the time, became aware of the situation and went to Villa Clara “to discuss with the newspaper’s directors how to

Yariel Valdés González photographs a portion of the fence that marks the Mexico-U.S. border in Tijuana, Mexico, on Jan. 26. Valdés, who is from Cuba, is seeking asylum in the U.S. on grounds that he suffered persecution in his homeland because he is a journalist. Valdés is currently in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Mississippi. Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers

control that public demonstration by some journalists who questioned the authority of the Cuban government.” Valdés in his letter says Vanguardia launched an investigation against him and one of his colleagues “based on a complaint filed by two institutions, which, without foundation, alleged that we had deceived them to obtain statements for these independent media.” Valdés writes he was docked a month’s pay and was left “without work.” “The accusations and the upcoming sanction were the pretext to exercise their control over me and (make an example of me to) the rest of the journalists,” he says. Valdés writes the Union of Young Communists, a branch of the Cuban Communist Party that publishes the Juventud Rebelde newspaper, later expelled him. Valdés says he was also fired

from the state-run radio and television stations for which he had been an announcer. “A few months after I left the newspaper, they closed my contract on the radio and on television because I was no longer a ‘reliable’ person to sit in front of a microphone or in front of a camera and be a voice or face of the revolution,” he writes. Valdés writes he continued to contribute to independent media outlets in Cuba. These include Tremenda Nota, an independent online magazine that is the Blade’s media partner on the Communist island. Valdés writes the Cuban government in August 2018 summoned him to a meeting after a university in Colombia and the International Center for Journalists in D.C. invited him to participate in a program for Cuban journalists. “These ‘meetings’, which are no more than harsh interrogations, is another strategy

to pressure and psychologically attack reporters,” he says. “The meeting was full of intimidations and threats, which reached the point of compromising my freedom in Cuba.” Valdés writes he soon realized Cuban officials had prevented him from leaving the country, which he describes as a “macabre mechanism to prevent, at all costs, my departure to Colombia.” Valdés says he asked authorities to “evaluate my situation” with the assistance of Maykel González Vivero, publisher of Tremenda Nota, and several of his colleagues. Valdés writes the Cuban government allowed him to leave the country because he said he was going to visit his father who has lived in Mexico for more than eight years. Valdés writes he traveled to Colombia and completed the program for Cuban journalists. He arrived in Mexico last fall and soon began to contribute to the Blade. Reporters Without Borders notes Cuba is ranked 172 out of 180 countries on its 2018 World Press Freedom Index. Freedom House in a 2017 report notes Cuba “has the most repressive media environment in the Americas.” The Cuban government on Feb. 23 blocked access to Tremenda Nota’s website on the island. The State Department in its 2018 human rights report notes, the Cuban government “does not recognize independent journalism, and independent journalists sometimes face government harassment, including detention and physical abuse.” “State security, as a last resort of control over me, keeps my colleagues, as well as my family, under surveillance,” writes Valdés in his letter, noting an email he received from Cuba that said authorities are harassing his relatives because of his work as a journalist. “If I return to the island, I fear that they will initiate a process that deprives me of my elementary rights as a human right because in Cuba, in the name of national security, atrocities are committed and the established laws are shamelessly violated,” he adds. Valdés ends his letter by saying there is no freedom of expression or press in Cuba. “Those of us who choose the path of truth and serious journalism without concessions are punished as vulgar criminals,” he says. Editor’s note: Yariel Valdés González has given the Blade permission to report on his asylum case.


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Mayor Pete marries progressive politics with benevolent faith Gay 2020 hopeful believes in Jesus and democracy

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

Even for someone who religiously follows politics, it is difficult to keep track of who has announced a candidacy for the Democratic nomination. One candidate, however, who has clearly risen above the cacophony of contenders is South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Somehow with a nearly impossible to pronounce name, his polls and fundraising match those in the lead based on name recognition. For many reasons, Mayor Pete resonates with voters fed up and turned off by the soap opera of contemporary discourse. Though only 37, Buttigieg sounds like a real adult compared to the tantrums and Twitter tirades to which we’ve become accustomed. His measured, nuanced responses bring legitimately fresh ideas to the table. And, strategically speaking, he appeals to demographics the Democrats need to win back in 2020. He is appealing because he challenges conventional political labels—chief among them is that he proudly identifies as a gay Christian. Despite the rapid progress made since Barack Obama sought the nomination, the idea of a gay Christian still strikes some as an oxymoron. That’s not surprising. An entire generation of millennials grew up thinking

the principal purpose of Christianity was to discriminate against LGBTQ people. If you’ve followed politically active Christians for the past 30 years, it’s hard to see how they could come to any other conclusion. So, even among the young and progressive, Buttigieg’s faith, marriage, and sexuality require some explanation. So far, that explanation involves drawing a contrast between his faith and that of Vice President Mike Pence. But the more important distinction is not theological—it’s political. Mike Pence has made antipathy toward gay people based on his interpretation of the Christian Bible a chief component of his political career. As governor and as vice president, he has opposed equal treatment under the law for LGBTQ citizens at every opportunity. Pete Buttigieg, however, surgically severs political discrimination from scriptural interpretation. He repeatedly asserts that people of faith can come to differing conclusions without insisting their religion be translated into law. With that critical distinction, he obliterates the supposed conflict between religious freedom and equality that the gay rights debate has been stuck in since the marriage equality decision in Obergefell. Pence believes the Bible condemns homosexuality. Buttigieg does not. That is a matter of personal faith. The correct interpretation of the will of God or sacred text is an intrafaith conversation best had among believers of that faith. Pence believes it is the role of government to penalize citizens for insufficiently obeying his religion. Buttigieg emphatically does not, and THAT is the critical distinction when it comes to politics. Buttigieg is not making his interpretation of scripture his selling point, but rather his understanding of how liberal democracy works. Sure, he calls Pence out for having a problem not with him but with the God that created him. But he always does so by drawing the distinction between personal faith and public policy. It’s as if Buttigieg’s affably saying: “Hey buddy, you get to be wrong about God. That’s part of a free country. You just don’t get to make your

beliefs about God the law for everyone else.” Buttigieg demonstrates an understanding of the history and philosophy behind a government in which all citizens are guaranteed political equality while believing whatever they want about religion. He gets that his personal faith would mean nothing if it were the product of legal coercion. In other words, Buttigieg understands the limitations put on the government he is trying to lead. That ability to cut through rhetorical entrenchment and express disagreement cogently and cordially is exactly what America needs. Voters of all political persuasions bemoan the divisive lack of civility that rips us apart. Along comes a sincere person of faith who believes in Jesus and democracy and it completely changes the political landscape. For too long, the Mike Pences of the world have been the only face of public Christianity. The proverbial frog in the pot has been slow boiled to believe the only democratically appropriate posture is anti-religious. Buttigieg gives us hope, not just of another equality milestone in the White House, but of moving beyond the bigotry and divisiveness of the culture wars. By rejecting the nakedly political hegemony of Vice President Mike Pence’s theology, Buttigieg is demonstrating how to gain popularity without relying on exclusion and discrimination. He’s showing a unifying message is still politically salient in an age when broadly disparaging whole groups of people is commonplace and advantageous. Democracy will never be completely secular because leaders and voters will always be guided by deeply held beliefs. It’s how those beliefs get applied to policy that matters. For many voters, the most attractive candidate is the one that bellows the loudest against their chosen targeted identity. LGBTQ voters and their allies must resist that trend and be more democratic than their opponents. Regardless of the outcome, Pete Buttigieg’s unique presence, rhetoric and candidacy pulls the discourse in the correct, unifying direction. In reframing faith, he’s restoring faith in our institutions.

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Bernie Sanders destroying Democrats’ chances in 2020 Healthcare bill is flawed and would hand GOP potent weapon

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

Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a new version of his Medicare-for-All bill, which he and everyone else knows is going nowhere. This year’s version has even fewer cosponsors than the one he introduced in 2017. What is frustrating is 2019 is the lead up to the presidential primaries and the far-left of the Democratic Party is pushing candidates to jump on the bandwagon with bills like this threatening them with withholding support if they don’t. So a number of the senators running have become co-sponsors of a bill they know is dead on arrival including Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris,

Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker. Since co-sponsoring they all seem to be backing off in more nuanced statements. There is an alternative that Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and others like Pete Buttigieg are closer to supporting called Medicare for America. It shares the long-term goal of universal healthcare but starts with a public option for all those currently uninsured to enter Medicare and doesn’t force those happy with their current plan into it. The goal is to make the public option attractive enough over time for people to voluntarily move toward it. Pandering to Sanders is wrong and misreads the general electorate. The Sanders bill ends private insurance in four years without any clear way to pay for a public plan. Today nearly 60% of Americans are covered by employee insurance plans. Medicare is a plan for seniors covered by taxes people pay throughout their careers; even then it isn’t free. People pay for it after age 65 and it covers only 80% of their healthcare costs. To cover the rest they must purchase additional insurance from a private insurer. They also pay extra to cover drugs and Medicare doesn’t cover dental or vision insurance, which many have through their employer. Add to that estimates it will eliminate up to 1.5 million well-paid jobs in the insurance industry and Sanders has no

adequate answer on how to replace them. There is a plan to fix the Affordable Care Act proposed by Democrats in the House of Representatives, under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, who understands if we force Republicans to vote on a series of these bills they get into trouble with the electorate when they don’t support them. The first three coming to fruition include: Expanding the tax credits available under the law, both reducing costs for lower-income families and expanding eligibility so middle-class Americans can receive federal assistance; creating a national reinsurance program to offset high medical bills for insurers and thereby keep premium increases in check; and rolling back Trump actions expanding skimpier health insurance plans that gave states the freedom to undermine the law’s benefits requirements and reducing enrollment outreach funding. Passing these and others ensuring people with pre-existing conditions can get affordable healthcare insurance; reducing drug prices; and making sure they can keep their children on their plan until the age of 26 is a much better plan than campaigning on the Sanders bill, which everyone knows will not pass anytime in the foreseeable future. Democrats doing what the Speaker has proposed will keep the pressure on Republicans in one area that helped them

win the House in 2018. Even if these bills don’t pass the Senate they make it clear to Americans what they will get if they give control of government back to Democrats. Don’t misunderstand me. I am for Universal Healthcare and a single payer system. But the reality is everyone knows that won’t pass at this time. Proposing and campaigning on something that threatens taking away private insurance from nearly 200 million Americans without any real plan to pass a replacement hands Republicans and Trump an issue that they will easily exploit. Some call it a bold move, I call it a dumb move. What Democrats should avoid doing is what Republicans did in 2016 when they promised to rescind and replace the ACA and found out they couldn’t agree among themselves on how to do it. That is what a focus on Sanders’ bill by the electorate would end up like if Democrats take back the government. There is no agreement among Democrats today to pass such a bill made clear by the meager 14 co-sponsors on Sanders’ bill. Let’s be bold but if we are to win in 2020 we can’t be so bold we get ahead of the voters and lose their support. Sanders has thus far opposed the House leadership plan to fix the ACA. Democrats cannot allow him to once again take us down a garden path and sabotage our chances leading to defeat in 2020.

The latest buzz is cannabis, cannabis everywhere Legislation and hospitality arenas see movement amidst weekend full of events By SUSAN HORNIK

MAXWELL REIS, beverage director at Gracias Madre Weho. Photo by Susan Hornik

It may be 4/20, but in a matter of months, West Hollywood could very well become the new Amsterdam, with numerous cannabis cafes and bars opening for consumption all year round. Last December, the City of West Hollywood announced the arrival of these new weed restaurants with many slated to open later this year. Officials approved several consumption licenses where cannabis, vaping and edibles will be permitted.

Legislation John Leonard, the city’s manager of community and legislative affairs, has been thrilled with these new businesses. “We continue to be very impressed by the quality and caliber of the consumption lounge concepts that will be coming to West Hollywood, many of which are unique, innovative and world class,” he says. “The range of visions among all of the approved

applicants, retail and consumption, reflect an entirely new era of integrated marketplaces, consumption lounges and cafes, cannabis restaurants and immersive experiences all of which go far beyond models currently seen in the state, or even the world. We believe these business will set West Hollywood apart and solidify the future success of the cannabis industry in the city.” Weho officials are working with the selected cannabis consumption lounge applicants to


move them through the city license process, Leonard says. Some have secured location and will be going before the Business License Commission in coming months. Officials are also working on clarifying legislation at the state level. Currently, there are differences between state and local law regarding the operation of these lounges. Proposition 64 allows cities the ability to license businesses for the consumption of cannabis. However, since no cannabis consumption license is available at the state level, businesses that receive local licenses must obtain a state adult-use retail cannabis license and conform to those regulations, Leonard said. Current state adult-use cannabis retail regulations do not allow for the onsite sale of non-cannabis food. “This is problematic, because cannabis consumption lounges are more aligned with hospitality-based businesses, a very different business model than cannabis retail businesses; requiring consumption lounges to conform to retail regulations significantly hampers their business model,” he says. To correct this issue, West Hollywood has been working with Assemblymember Richard Bloom on AB 1465, which creates a new license category for consumption cafes/lounges. If approved, the Bureau of Cannabis Control will create regulations for the license type. In the interim (until regulations are adopted) AB 1465 allows the bureau to issue retail licenses with a consumption designation. “These unique interim retail licenses will require the consumption businesses to adhere to state retail regulations, but with certain exceptions, such as allowing the preparation and the sale of food,” Leonard says. Cooking and drinking LKSD Kitchen owner/chef Marc Branden Shelton has been asked to consult for a location in West Hollywood and is very interested in the upcoming project. “Time will tell how the industry and customers take to the new flavors, but

nevertheless, it’s an exciting time,” he says. “WeHo is stepping up their game for sure being one of the first cities to welcome the new legislation passed. Working with the community, these new cafes will need to help guide the consumer base to make sure its successful and safe.” For 4/20, LKSD will offer several CBD cocktails and a CBD compound butter for their restaurant’s 40-ounce, 28-day Dry Aged Tomahawk Steak, which might become an ongoing addition to the menu. Shelton enjoys cooking with cannabis and CBD. “The flavor profiles are extremely intriguing. Trying to meld them together to compose a dish is quite the challenge. The newer watersoluble isolate for CBD is awesome to work with, especially for newcomers to cannabis and CBD.” While CBD cocktails were popular throughout Los Angeles, recently it has seemed like these drinks are no longer prevalent. Maxwell Reis, the beverage director at Gracias Madre Weho, believes this happened because the new laws that are designed to help cannabis, also regulate it more closely. “California has always feared the legalization of marijuana as much as it has advocated for it,” Reis says. “Many of the powers that kept the cannabis movement at bay are now defining its progression. With both money and progress to be made, the playful loopholes some found to introduce cannabis products to the mainstream have unfortunately become casualties. The CBD cocktail is the most notable local example of this.” Reis believes that West Hollywood, being such a progressive and conscious neighborhood, is the perfect place to kick things off and figure it all out. “It’s a hell of time to be alive and I’m excited to see where things land,” he says. Celebrating around town With so much happening to commemorate 4/20, here’s a roundup of all things cannabis: • Bellacures has created Los Angeles’ first

cannabis infused manicure and pedicure, the Canna-cure. Using CBD, or cannabidiolbased products from Kush Queen, the Cannacure will provide the ultimate relaxing and therapeutic experience. “Bellacures is a place to come unwind,” says Gerard Quiroga, owner of the Bellacures nail salon brand. “With the legalization of cannabis in California, we wanted to offer our clients a new way to feel relaxed and refreshed. CBD products can provide relief from everyday tension or heel-wearing aches and pains while creating a state of unparalleled relaxation.” • Island will host a treat tour in partnership with Coolhaus Ice Cream Saturday and Sunday at select dispensaries around Los Angeles. Customers of these locations will be able to receive a free ice cream sandwich from the Coolhaus truck parked outside. • Dixie Brands, a popular cannabis edibles provider in California, is launching “GO Green,” a brand commitment to transition Dixie towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future. They are partnering with One Tree Planted, a nonprofit that works with reforestation organizations around the world to get trees in the ground in order to help with forest fire recovery, expanding wildlife habitats, improving watershed health and providing a social impact to local communities. To support the organization’s mission and to help offset its carbon footprint, Dixie will donate $1.00 from every Dixie Brands product purchased on 4/20. For every $1 Dixie donates, One Tree Planted will plant one tree in North America. • If you have the munchies after partaking, check out Humphry Slocombe’s 4/20. It’s got two scoops of vanilla ice cream with chocolate potato chips, pretzels and hot fudge. • If you’re looking to relax on 4/20, Kurvana offers a selection of new wellness-inspired products to benefit mental health, skin, digestion, joints, sleep, and overall health. Their line of vape pens combine fruits and botanicals with perfectly balanced ratios of CBD and/or THC for a soothing experience that maximizes the wellness benefits of the cannabis plant.


Marijuana intersections Overlap of gay, cannabis advocacy efforts goes back to ‘80s in California By JAMES WELLEMEYER

Khadijah Tribble says the history of marijuana legalization has deep overlap with queer people. Blade photo by Michael Key

Marijuana legalization is often seen as a criminal justice issue. In 2017 alone, more than 600,000 people were arrested on marijuana violations and advocates across the country are pushing for its decriminalization to reduce arrest rates.

But many say the legalization of pot is also an LGBT issue. Not only are LGBT people more likely to use marijuana, but the initial push for medical marijuana legalization in the U.S. started in response to the AIDS epidemic. Khadijah Tribble, an HIV and cannabis

activist who studied marijuana policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and now leads a social enterprise organization called Marijuana Matters, says she saw an intersection between the LGBTQ community, the HIV epidemic and marijuana legalization


in her research. “The LGBTQ community out in California were the first main activists pushing for medicinal marijuana laws,” Tribble says. This push came in the early 1990s, says Paul Scott, a longtime marijuana and HIV activist and current president of the Los Angeles Black Gay Pride Association. Scott lived in San Francisco in 1994. “The AIDS crisis was so damaging at the time,” he remembers. But the northern Californian city was “progressive” in addressing it. “Marijuana was just part of the treatment,” Scott says. “It helped alleviate some of the symptoms of AIDS and the horrible cocktails they put them on initially, which were almost proving as deadly as the virus was.” According to Scott, “a guy named Dennis Peron worked with City Hall, got the District Attorney of San Francisco involved, and got the ball rolling.” Peron, whose partner Jonathan West died of AIDS in 1990, sold weed in The Castro to men with HIV. In 1991, he gathered support for Proposition P in San Francisco. The resolution, which passed with 79 percent of the vote, demanded the state government allow marijuana for medicinal use. Peron went on to start the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club and in 1996, co-authored California Proposition 215. The proposition, which passed and remains in place today, permits the use of medical marijuana in the state. “We had all these other diseases that marijuana helps for. But it wasn’t until the visual effect of young white men dying in the hospitals with AIDS that it shook the

conscience of America and began to change the law,” Scott says. “It wasn’t because of black folks getting arrested. It wasn’t because it was the right thing to do. For the first time, this country saw young white men dying and sprung into action to do something.” More than 20 years after 1996, Scott and Tribble both believe marijuana legalization remains an LGBT issue today. “For me, marijuana matters in the LGBTQ community because it always has,” Tribble says. “It’s still an LGBT issue because it’s still not accessible to everybody everywhere,” Scott says. “HIV/AIDS is still high in black populations in the South. And they can’t get pot. They still have to break laws. So absolutely it is.” Tribble also says the criminalization of marijuana disproportionately affects some LGBTQ people. “Any prohibition on civil liberties tends to impact marginalized communities the most,” she says. “When you have identities that have been systematically discriminated — your gender, your sexuality — you are primed to be more marginalized by marijuana laws. If you are a cisgender white male, you are the least likely to be stopped for marijuana. If you are a person of color who is trans, you are more likely to be stopped, more likely to do time and the time will be longer.” The sale of marijuana remains illegal in D.C., but private use is no longer outlawed. However, in some states, such as California, Colorado, Maine and others, selling weed is now legal. As the number of these states rises, some hope marijuana will bring new business opportunities for LGBT people. “I am an LGBT-owned business in the

cannabis community,” Tribble says. “Because LGBT people have been marginalized in the prohibition, LGBT communities should be privileged when we talk about access to employment, access to entrepreneurship opportunities.” Amber Senter is the co-founder and executive director of Supernova Women, a group of women of color in the cannabis industry. She also hopes marijuana legalization will increase LGBT business ownership but worries the reality may look different. “When cannabis started out, it was for people who weren’t seen as normal in society,” Senter, who’s queer, says. “So in the beginning, you had a lot of obviously LGBT people.” “Now with everything moving toward being corporate, they’re pushing everyone who was in it before out,” she says. “There will be more opportunities overall, so there will be more opportunities for LGBT people. But at the same time, the culture is not the same.” Scott holds a similar opinion on the issue. He got into the marijuana business early, starting the second cannabis club in the U.S. He then decided to open another in a primarily black area of Los Angeles when he moved to the city. “I want to say yes,” Scott says on whether legalization will bring more opportunities for LGBT people. “I think there’s a small window. I think I was lucky enough to create that window. But I’m being pragmatic here and once it becomes legal, it’s competitive. And if you don’t have the money, you won’t have the business.”


Congress gets serious on cannabis laws Bills address banking reform, veterans’ access, medical research By JACK JACOBSON, THOMPSON COBURN & BECKY DANSKY

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will need to be convinced to bring legislation to the Senate floor for a vote.

Democratic control of the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years has given Congress its first opportunity to bring federal laws and regulations more in line with recent dramatic shifts in state cannabis policy. A slew of bipartisan cannabis bills are getting their first public hearings and votes on issues ranging from banking to veterans access to reforming the criminal justice system. And cannabis activists are winning. Currently, 47 states acknowledge the medical benefit of cannabis, 33 states allow the purchase of cannabis for medicinal use, and 10 states, Guam and the District of Columbia allow adult recreational use. Yet cannabis is still considered a Schedule I Drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which means it is still federally illegal. The discord between state and federal law has prevented many in the financial industry from offering services to cannabis related businesses. As a result, most of the $10.4 billion in legal marijuana sales last year occurred using cash-only transactions. This Congress started with swift action on cannabis banking reform, with a successful subcommittee hearing on the “SAFE Banking Act,” legislation that would prohibit federal regulators from discouraging or interfering with financial institutions working with state compliant cannabis businesses. On March 28, the House

Committee on Financial Services approved the bill in a bipartisan vote of 45-15. The legislation now moves to the full House for consideration. On April 4, legislators introduced the “STATES Act,” which would effectively amend the Controlled Substances Act and defer to the various states regarding the legalization and regulation of cannabis and limit federal agents from raiding state licensed businesses. The bill provides that transactions which comply with state law would not constitute trafficking and thereby result in proceeds of an unlawful transaction. The “Marijuana Justice Act” has been introduced in the House and Senate, and would radically transform how the federal government treats cannabis. The legislation goes beyond simply de-scheduling the drug, making it legal to buy, sell, consume, and transport; the bill would also expunge “each conviction for marijuana use or possession offense entered by the [Federal] court.” The “Marijuana Justice Act” only has Democratic cosponsors at this time, but is likely to be raised at a House Judiciary Committee hearing in the coming months. Congress is also making a strong push to allow veterans access to cannabis. From PTSD to chronic pain, marijuana can be a safer, non-addictive alternative to opioids.

Members of Congress have introduced legislation to allow and to require the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct research on the medical effects of cannabis. The “Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act” would protect veterans who use, possess or transport medical marijuana, and would allow VA doctors to issue recommendations to veterans for legal medical marijuana programs. With approximately one million LGBTQ veterans living in the U.S. and about 250,000 LGBTQ veterans accessing the VA medical system, these changes could make an enormous difference in the care and treatment of thousands of LGBTQ veterans. In addition to veterans research, legislators are also working to pass legislation to make it easier for institutes of higher education and medical professionals to conduct research on medical marijuana more broadly. Current federal laws and regulations significantly restrict the ability to research the medical effects of cannabis, including derivatives THC and CBD. The “Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act” would establish a new registration process to facilitate medical marijuana research and open to new avenues to potentially groundbreaking medical cannabis applications. Major legislative victories are far from certain this year, but progress is being made. Banking reform, veterans’ access, and medical research are among the lowest-hanging fruit and have better-than-even shots at becoming law. Hurdles remain, however. There is limited floor time in the House before the 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns overtake Congress’s legislative and policy work. Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) will need to be convinced to bring legislation to the Senate floor for a vote, either individually or as a part of a larger package. And finally, the White House has shied away from major statements on cannabis legislation; whether President Trump would sign legislation that loosens federal cannabis laws is anyone’s guess. Jack Jacobson, Thompson Coburn and Becky Dansky are with the Safe and Responsible Banking Alliance.





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Countries slow to legalize recreational marijuana New Zealand to hold referendum on issue in 2020 By MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau backed a law that legalized recreational marijuana in his country. Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers

Only a handful of countries have legalized recreational marijuana, even though public opinion toward the drug continues to change. Uruguay in 2013 became the first country to legalize recreational marijuana. A law then-President José Mujica signed allows residents of the South American country who are at least 18 to buy 1.4 ounces of marijuana a month from pharmacies that have agreed to sell the drug. The statute also allows Uruguayans to grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes and establish smoking clubs. The Cannabis Act, which legalized recreational marijuana across Canada, took effect on Oct. 17, 2018. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier in the year defended the law during a press conference after the Canadian Senate approved it. “We will soon have a new system in place, one that keeps cannabis out of the hands of our kids and keeps profits away from organized crime,” he said. South Africa’s Constitutional Court on Sept. 18, 2018, ruled adults can use marijuana in “a private place.” Georgia’s Constitutional Court

less than two months earlier issued a ruling that struck down fines for marijuana use. A referendum on whether to legalize recreational marijuana in New Zealand is expected to take place in 2020. The Make It Legal Campaign, which supports the drug’s legalization, on its website says its goals are to “turn out and vote” and “vote yes to progressive law reform, whatever the question.” Those who support the legalization of recreational marijuana argue it will expand economic opportunities and reduce crime, among other things. Opponents insist marijuana has an adverse impact on a person’s health and contributes to higher rates of substance abuse among teenagers. “When people think about ‘cannabis,’ they probably immediately think about a joint,” said Bob McCoskrie, national director of Family First New Zealand, a group that opposes the legalization of recreational marijuana in the country, in a March 13 press release. “But legalizing marijuana will be far more than that. People will be popping it between classes, sucking on it while driving, drinking it before work, chewing on it while they talk to

others, and eating it as a dessert.” Dozens of other countries around the world in recent years have also decriminalized recreational marijuana and/or legalized medicinal uses of the drug. The sale of marijuana in licensed coffee shops is “tolerated” under Dutch law. Jamaica, Chile, Vanuatu, Luxembourg and Israel are among the countries that have legalized the use of medicinal marijuana. The European Parliament on Feb. 13 approved a non-binding resolution that, among other things, calls upon the European Commission and members of the European Union “to address the regulatory, financial and cultural barriers which weigh on scientific research into the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes and on research into cannabis in general.” The resolution also calls upon the European Commission “to determine the priority areas for research into cannabis for medicinal purposes in agreement with the competent authorities, drawing on pioneering research in other countries and focusing on those areas which may bring the greatest added value.”


cannabis delivered

Cannabis Culture Provided by NORML

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis Blade photo by Michael Key

Colo. governor signs bill permitting cannabis for autism DENVER — Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed legislation, House Bill 1028, expanding the pool of patients qualified to access medical cannabis to include those with autism spectrum disorder. The measure also mandates the state Board of Health to prioritize grant funding to study the use of cannabis for autism and other pediatric conditions. Recent clinical trial data report that the adjunctive use of cannabidiol is associated with reduced ASD symptoms and is well tolerated among patients.

THC limits not correlated to driving impairment LANSING, Mich. — The presence of THC in blood is not correlated with driving performance and is not a reliable indicator of psychomotor impairment, according to recommendations made by a stateappointed traffic safety task force. A report issued by the Michigan Impaired Driving Safety Commission finds that peak THC blood levels are not associated with

maximal behavioral impairment and further finds that the compound’s influence upon driving performance varies significantly among individual consumers. As a result, “The Commission recommends against the establishment of a threshold of delta-9THC bodily content for determining driving impairment and instead recommends the use of roadside sobriety tests to determine whether a driver is impaired.” The Commission’s recommendations are similar to those previously issued by the American Automobile Association, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and other traffic safety experts who have similarly opined against the imposition of per se thresholds for the presence of THC. NORML similarly argues that the identification of THC in blood is a poor predictor of either recent cannabis exposure or impaired performance. The Commission’s report further opines that subjects influenced by cannabis “typically drive slower, keep greater following distances, and take fewer risks than when sober.” They add, “While there is some uncertainty as to the crash risk associated with cannabis impairment alone, the research is clear that the risk is lower than that of alcohol impairment.” Five states — Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington — impose various per se limits for the detection of specific amounts of THC in blood while eleven states (Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin) impose zero tolerant per se standards. In those states, it is a criminal violation of the traffic safety laws to operate a motor vehicle with detectable levels of THC in blood. Colorado law infers driver impairment in instances where THC is detected in blood at levels of 5ng/ml or higher.

FDA seeks public comments on CBD marketing rules SILVER SPRING, Md. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has scheduled a public hearing to address issues surrounding the

“safety, manufacturing, product quality, marketing, labeling, and sale” of products containing hemp-derived cannabinoids such as CBD. Outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced that the public meeting will take place on May 31 at the agency’s White Oak Campus in Silver Spring, Md. The agency is also accepting public comments on the issue, which may be submitted through July 2, 2019. Speaking before Congress on multiple occasions, Gottlieb has stated that it may take “years” for the agency to establish rules and regulations governing the marketing of hemp-derived cannabinoid products. He further expressed concerns about the prospect of chain retailers like CVS and Walgreens carrying certain CBDinfused products, such as topical lotions and sprays, on their shelves. In December, Congress enacted legislation removing industrial hemp (defined as cannabis containing less than 0.3 percent THC) and products containing cannabinoids derived from hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act. The following day, the FDA stated: “Congress explicitly preserved the agency’s current authority to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabisderived compounds under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and section 351 of the Public Health Service Act.” The agency further opined, “[I]t’s unlawful under the FD&C Act to introduce food containing added CBD or THC into interstate commerce, or to market CBD or THC products as, or in, dietary supplements, regardless of whether the substances are hemp-derived.” The agency continues to selectively target manufacturers who it believes are marketing CBD-infused products in a manner that violates the agency’s interpretation of the law. Public comments on this issue may be submitted electronically to the FDA. The FDA Questions and Answer page: ‘Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabinoid-Derived Products’ is online. Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, visit norml.org.








Mash-up madness ‘First Wives Fight Club’ features Peaches Christ, ‘Drag Race’ vets By SCOTT STIFFLER

From left, Peaches Christ, Raja, and Ginger Minj. Photo by Sloane Kanter

The first rule of promoting a show called “The First Wives Fight Club” is you do talk about “The First Wives Fight Club.” Legendary San Francisco-based drag queen and pop culture parody powerhouse Peaches Christ took that directive to heart, while speaking with the Blade about her latest unholy creation. Landing at The Montalbán on April 20, this merging of ’90s-era flicks “The First Wives Club” and “Fight Club” gets its mojo from a stellar ensemble featuring Raja (“RuPaul’s Drag Race” season three winner), Brooke Lynn Hytes (“Drag Race” season 11), Ginger Minj (“Drag Race” season seven, All-Stars season two), and the Christ child herself, who shares writing and directing duties with Varla Jean Merman. This “First” is hardly virgin territory for Peaches Christ Productions, known for bawdy, improv-friendly scripted stage shows that proudly lack polish, yet manage to nail the particulars of their much-loved source material, while playing on the drag personas of its cast. Last month saw Peaches’ “Mean Gays” at The Montalbán, with Kim Chi, Laganja Estranja and Willam doing their “Mean Girls” thing. “There are times we come up with a mashup based only on the title,” Peaches says. “But this one, the films really lend themselves to a mashup, which was important to both Varla and I. ‘First Wives Club’ is obviously about female empowerment and ‘Fight Club’ is about male empowerment, in some ways, but also toxic masculinity. So we were able to take elements and plots from both films, and mash them up into a universe where these three women find their strength through fighting each other. … It really gets crazy and intense. They make bombs out of soap.” As to this collaboration with Varla, “It’s almost like sharing an extra mind, like you’re just listening to another person speak your voice,” Peaches says. “We take a joke the other person makes, and make it more disgusting and more ridiculous.” Case in point, their cross-pollination of the show with characters who “exist in different universes,” says Peaches, who plays “a mashup of Helena Bonham Carter and Brad Pitt. I’m the element who shows up and pushes Annie into fighting and starting this club.” Elsewhere in the narrative, Peaches notes, the “First Wives” girlfriend originally played by Elizabeth Berkley is, “in our show, Nomi Malone, from ‘Showgirls.’ And Bette Midler’s husband, his girlfriend is played by Sarah Jessica Parker. In our show, she’s Carrie Bradshaw.” That led to an elephant in the room for the writer/ director duo, Peaches says. “Are we doing horse jokes? If we are, we’re going all the way. We’re not going to do one. We’re going to do two million.” With a supporting cast that’s “larger than the press release lets on,” Peaches notes, the core players are familiars — but in the case of Brooke Lynn Hytes, Peaches credits her Canadian friends for “alerting me. We cast her before the TV show (‘Drag Race’) started, knowing the world had not yet met her.” On stage, Peaches assures, Brooke Lynn, as the Goldie Hawn character, will make good use of her background as a professional ballet dancer, when it comes to executing

the outlandish fight scenes. In the Diane Keaton role is Raja, who Peaches knew for years, but “also became close to her through (gigs in) Provincetown. … I really give her credit, because she was walking through a completely new experience. She’s got great instincts.” Of her first-ever casting in a theatrical production, Raja says, “Peaches was like, ‘Well, we really want to find a personality that could fit the Diane Keaton part,’ in the sense they wanted her to be stoned. I was like, ‘OK, I can do that. I’m always stoned … but not ditzy.” Of accepting the role, Raja said, admirably, Keaton’s “always played with gender and clothing, and has a badass style. I knew I couldn’t say no. … I’m at a point where all drag seems the same, and I wanted to challenge myself in a whole new way.” For veteran thespian Ginger Minj, who plays the Bette Midler role (“Well hey, what little gay boy doesn’t want to be Bette Midler when he grows up?”), the three-day rehearsal period was an anomaly for this self-described “theater kid,” accustomed to “where you really break down every beat of the script and you work on every moment. … But from a ‘Drag Race’ perspective, it’s run of the mill.” Recalling her time on “Drag Race All-Stars” season two, she says, “You’ve got 24 hours to put on an entire musical performance (Minj portrayed Kathryn the Great in the “HERstory of the World” Rusical). That gave me the mental mindset to grab this and say, ‘Let’s make it work.’ I think if I hadn’t been through ‘Drag Race,’ I’d still be nauseous in the corner.” Acknowledging there was a moment in the rehearsal process when “I broke down and cried a bit,” Raja rallied for the San Francisco premiere, buoyed by the advice of her codirector, who “said there’s no such thing as a flawless Peaches Christ show, and that made me feel very comfortable.” Ginger has her own defining moment, following in the footsteps of Midler, LuPone, and, lest we forget, Tyne Daly. “I always wanted to be Mama Rose in ‘Gypsy,’ and I get to do a version of ‘Rose’s Turn,’ ” she says. “So I’m feeling my Broadway affinity in every fiber of my being.” As for chemistry with her co-stars, Ginger says, “Brooke Lynn and I have known each other for years, from the pageant circuit, so we already had this built-in friendship and Raja was one of my biggest supporters on season seven, so I’ve always had a love for her. The three of us just have a natural rapport.” So whether it’s mutual support in the rehearsal process or riffing in the face of unexpected disaster (as happened in performance, when one of their pearl necklaces popped off and scattered all over the stage), “the three of us trust each other enough to just go with it.”

‘The First Wives Fight Club’ Saturday, April 20 8 p.m. The Montalban 1615 Vine St. $20; VIP $120 themontalban.com












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WEST LOS ANGELES The Landmark at W. Pico & Westwood (310) 470-0492 landmarktheatres.com


10" x 10"

FRI 4/19


HOLLYWOOD ArcLight Cinemas At Sunset & Vine (323) 615-2550 arclightcinemas.com



Drawing and journaling Veteran performance artist John Kelly revisits past in new work By JOHN PAUL KING

JOHN KELLY has been called a ‘queer Renaissance rebel.’ Photo by Paula Court

After more than 35 prolific years as an artist, John Kelly is still hard to categorize. Once referring to himself as an “aesthetic octopus,” he’s been mounting his performance pieces since the early 1980s, when he appeared in New York’s East Village at clubs like the Limbo Lounge, the Pyramid Club and Club 57. Since then, his works have been presented at a diverse range of venues around the country and the world. He’s been praised as a choreographer, a theater artist, a writer, a vocalist, a filmmaker, dancer, a visual artist and more. He’s won two Obies, two Bessies, The Herb Alpert Award in the Arts and an NEA Masterpiece Award. More than that, he’s a survivor, a living piece of queer cultural history who served as a leading light in New York’s downtown arts community during the height of the AIDS crisis, an experience recorded in both memory and journal. Those journals serve as the basis for “Time No Line,” a “live memoir” that Kelly brings to REDCAT, CalArts’ downtown center for contemporary arts, for its West Coast premiere April 25-27. In the performance, which premiered last February at La Mama, Kelly combines text from the journals with movement, video, music and song and live drawing, to create a theatrical rendering of his experiences within the East Village performance art scene of the 1980s which touches on gender performance, the AIDS epidemic and a shared cultural history he sees as being threatened by cultural amnesia. As Kelly tells the Blade, he’s doing it to add his voice to “our interrupted cultural and generational dialogue.” “My generation was wiped out,” he says. “It’s kind of like living in the aftermath of World War I, where an entire generation of men was wiped out and an entire generation of artists, both in their prime and just about to hit their prime. It’s like a sinkhole in our culture, in the dialogue between generations, the dialogue between gay men, specifically.” He says the devastating loss of so many queer elders has been “exacerbated” by the advent of the digital technology revolution in the 1990s, which led to what he calls “more and more of a youth culture.” “A lot of things conspired to erase the histories that were being written, or just coming to be written,” he says. “I feel a duty as a survivor both of the virus and of the catastrophe, to make my voice heard but also to connect some of the dots that maybe aren’t being connected that frequently. I try not to sound like a complainer,” he says, “and I try to be an example – but for me and a lot of other people, it’s like we carry this history of loss and struggle with us, and there’s really no escaping it. Yet at the same time one moves forward. It’s not like I’m trying to linger on that in my work, so much. It’s about a lot of other things.” Since the piece has been derived from his own journals, kept since 1976, much of what Kelly presents is his own personal history. He relates his discovery of dance as a teenager and his pursuit of

a ballet education only to realize that he had started too late and was “not going to be able to mold my body into a ballet body,” a reckoning that prompted his him to quit dance and go to art school and then to quit art school and go to the East Village, where he started “performing punk drag in clubs like The Anvil.” “The whole story is told with a combination of words, movement, music, video,” Kelly says, “and as I go through each of the episodes, I’m drawing on the floor with chalk, so the history accumulates through the course of the work, and by the end the stage is pretty much covered in chalk drawings which are also getting obliterated, as I walk over them.” “Obviously, there are layers to this piece,” he says. There’s also singing, something for which Kelly is also known. His recent “character study” performance as Joni Mitchell, “Down To You,” was voted by the New York Times as “one of the best opera and vocal performances of 2017.” He sings a Mitchell song in “Time No Line,” too, as well as one by Charles Aznavour and another selection that sounds like one of the performance’s highlights. “I do a duet with myself on a piece of film that I shot, in 1992,” he says. “It’s a duet by Henry Purcell for tenor and countertenor, and I’m dancing and singing with my previous self, reading the words that I wrote 40 years ago and it’s weird.” With his own history rooted so deeply into the New York experience, there are inevitably some aspects of “Time No Line” that Kelly recognizes may put Los Angeles audiences at a bit of a distance. “There are certain references, to the East Village and the Anvil and stuff like that,” he says. “But I guess, in a way the East Village scene embodies kind of a last gasp of bohemia in New York City, for sure, before gentrification came along and raped possibility and I imagine that same scenario exists in every city, in terms of gentrification, and how it forces artists and outsiders to find new places to thrive. So aside from those specific references, I’m hoping that this piece is universal enough that the audience is able to witness my journey as an individual without feeling left behind, through the shaping of the piece, and the performance of the piece. And to my profound charisma.” However he manages to accomplish it, Kelly says that, ultimately, he is just trying “to move people.” “I like to create beauty, I like to take chances,” he says, “and I always feel like I’m a beginner at what I do, and maybe that’s OK, having a beginner’s mind.” “But I’m persisting,” he says. “I’m not good at anything else.”

‘John Kelly: Time No Line April 25-27 8:30 p.m. REDCAT Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theater $18-20 redcat.org



Revolution In Color is an event (see April 24) that links young, Black, gay and bisexual men work to link Black Angelinos to HIV prevention services, treatment, education, and other support services. Black people now represent more than 60 percent of people living with HIV in Los Angeles, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Image Black AIDS Institute

APR 19

The Present, Fri. Apr. 19 @ 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM at The Standard Hotel (8300 West Sunset Boulevard). Artist in resident Norberto Rodriguez is on display in the lobby of the famed West Hollywood hotel says he has a new epiphany everyday that seems to open up other ways of seeing the world. “Because I’m 99% certain I’m a very dumb + very stubborn person, I will continue trying to explain, probably until I’m dead from trying to explain.” At the Whitney Museum in New York, Rodriguez made a seamless white cube designed on the inside to mimic a therapist’s office, where participants shared “their most guarded secrets and deepest desires.” You name it and he’ll do it, even giving free public foot massages, make food, building walls. The artist has done his live performance art in galleries and museums all over the world, a thousand stream of consciousness acts in the name of art. He will perform his art in a big white box in the lobby. FREE.

APR 20

Second Night Seder, Sat. Apr. 20 @ 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM at Congregation Kol Ami (1200 North La Brea). The world’s largest LGBT synagogue celebrates its annual second night seder, a delicious, catered, Kosher Passover meal that welcomes everyone. On the menu: Matzoh Ball Soup, Gefilte fish, Roast Chicken (and vegan main course option), Honey Roasted Carrots, Rosemary Potatoes. And for dessert? Fresh macaroons and fresh fruit. There’ll be plenty of Kosher White and Red Wine, Sparkling Water, Coffee and Tea. Price is $69 per adult, $30 for children 12 years old and younger. Limited scholarship or reduced-rate tickets are available to Kol Ami members who contact the office directly by e-mail to staff@kol-ami.org or by phone (323) 606-0996. To reserve your seats, please RSVP at the link below by Monday April 15, or at kol-ami.org/seder Pawsapalooza, Sat. Apr. 20 @ 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM at West Hollywood Park (647 North San Vicente). PAWS/ LA’s annual PAWSAPALOOZA celebrates all things doggy. This festive family-friendly event includes dozens of exhibitors featuring pet-friendly products and services. A selection of food trucks will serve up a delectable variety of food choices, drinks, snacks and goodies. Bring the kids and the dogs and you are bound to walk

away with a new friend or two. Admission is free. Pink Moon Rise - A 420 Celebration of Full Moon, Sound Bath, and Yoga, Sat. Apr. 20 @ at 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at Evoke Yoga (731 South Spring Street). Celebrate 420 and “Vibe high with your friendly neighborhood Local High Society” on this special Pink Full Moon evening of Cannabis Circle, Yin Yoga and Crystal Singing Bowls Sound Bath at a beautiful DTLA yoga studio. Begin the evening with a Full Moon Cannabis Circle to elevate, breathe, set our intentions, and meditate. Followed by a Chakra Activated Yin Yoga accompanied by Crystal Singing Bowls Sound Bath. Be prepared to journey into a higher dimension and transform to your higher self! Bring your own cannabis.

APR 23

Anita May Rosenstein Campus Tour, Tue. Apr. 23 @ 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM at Anita May Rosenstein Campus (1118 North McCadden Place). Learn all about the greatly expanded services for LGBT youth and seniors at Los Angeles’ LGBT Center.. The dramatic campus includes a hundred emergency and transitional housing beds, 24 apartment units and wraparound services for homeless youth, as well as increased educational and employment programs and opportunities for all LGBT youth. For LGBT seniors, the campus will provide 99 units of affordable housing as well as health, wellness, educational and recreational services offered in a state-of-the-art senior center, representing the product of more than a decade of dreams and hard work. It represents the aspirations and commitment of a community that has historically faced discrimination, violence and marginalization. It will not only provide critical services to the most vulnerable members of the community, it will serve as an iconic symbol of the LGBT community’s resilience and creativity and serve as a beacon to those who need courage and hope, and a rejoinder to those who would seek to reverse our community’s historic progress. The tour, and the inspiration, is free.

APR 24

Black AIDS Institute’s Revolution in Color In the Life, Wed. Apr. 24 @ 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at The Black

AIDS Institute (1833 West 8th Street). Join in a night of poetry and fun and discuss the life of influential poets within our the LGBT people of color community. You’ll hear poem from a wide range of poets as well as create your own. Founded in May of 1999, the Black AIDS Institute is the only national HIV/AIDS think tank focused exclusively on Black people. The Institute’s Mission is to stop the AIDS pandemic in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing Black institutions and individuals in efforts to confront HIV. The Institute interprets public and private sector HIV policies, conducts trainings, offers technical assistance, disseminates information, and provides advocacy mobilization from a uniquely and unapologetically Black point of view. Food and refreshments will be provided. So, put on your creative hats and we’ll see you there. The event is free.

APR 25

John Kelly: No Timeline, Thu. Apr. 25 @ 8:30 PM to 10:00 PM at REDCAT: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (631 West Second Street). Kelly once referred to himself as an “aesthetic octopus” – he cannot be easily categorized, and critics have wildly praised him as a choreographer, theater artist, writer, vocalist, filmmaker, dancer, visual artist and more (winning 2 Obies, 2 Bessies, an Alpert Award in the Arts and an NEA “Masterpiece Award”). He’s also been called a “warrior” and a “survivor,” who served as a leading light in New York’s downtown arts community during the height of the AIDS crisis. He beautifully reflects on his decades of creativity with elegance and rare emotional depth in his “live memoir” “Time No Line”, a solo performance work based on 42 years of journal writing. As a survivor in New York’s evolving cultural landscape, Kelly uses his personal experiences to add his voice to our interrupted cultural and generational dialogue, as our shared history is threatened by cultural amnesia. Tickets at redcat.org.

E-mail calendar items to tmasters@losangelesblade.com two weeks prior to your event. Space is limited so priority is given to LGBT-specific events or those with LGBT participants. Recurring events must be re-submitted each time.

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