A M E R I C A’ S
02 • MAY 10, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Lawsuit filed over fatal shooting of young black homeless gay man Walgreens security guard shot Jonathan Hart for allegedly shoplifting By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com Attorneys representing Jonathan Hart’s twin sister Psykyssyanna Hart filed a wrongful death civil rights lawsuit on May 7 in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Walgreens, American Protection Group, S.E.B. Security Services, and Donald Vincent Ciota II of Covina for the Dec. 2, 2018 shooting death of the 21-year-old black gay homeless man. The lawsuit describes how Hart, also known as Sky Young, was essentially abandoned by his mother at age 11 and wound up homeless at 21. On Dec. 2, 2018, he and two friends went into a Walgreens in Hollywood
Jonathan Hart Photo courtesy Douglas Hicks Law
and started shopping. The suit alleges that armed security guard Donald Ciota started hassling them, apparently assuming they
were intent on shoplifting, though the lawsuit says they were innocent of the charge. Hart complained to the Walgreens employees, but nothing happened. At some point, the lawsuit says, Ciota pulled his weapon, went into a crouched position and yelled “Freeze!” Hart started running to escape through an aisle, his California ID in hand, when Ciota opened fire, shooting Hart in the neck. Ciota apparently then pronounced Hart dead, even though he was still alive. When help finally arrived, Hart was taken to Cedars-Sinai where he was operated on but eventually died. Ciota is facing one count of murder with an allegation that he used a firearm as a deadly and dangerous weapon, according to a press release. Hart’s sister and his estate are now faced with huge medical bills, as well as funeral expenses and other costs she can’t cover. “Walgreens is responsible for the death of Jonathan Hart because of the despicable
choices that they made to place profits over safety,” attorney Carl Douglas said at a news conference. “Walgreens owns and operates more than 9,500 retail stores in the United States. Over 640 retail stores in California and over 54 stores in Los Angeles County, but the lawsuit alleges that in their senseless pursuit of profits over the safety of its millions of customers, Walgreens has chosen to despicably place armed security guards in several of its stores” that specifically serve predominantly African American and Hispanic customers. “I really miss my brother,” said Psykyssyanna Hart, crying at the news conference. “Everyday I have to look at this necklace and carry him around and I don’t want him in this position. I want him here. Our birthday passed — the first birthday without him and I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.” “We intend to fight to the finish to make sure that the life and death of Jonathan Hart will not have been in vain,” Douglas said.
State Dept again trying to deny citizenship to gay couple’s son Appeal of District Court ruling also challenges gay marriage rights By STAFF REPORTS Binational married Los Angeles couple Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks are squaring off again with the State Department as the legal battle over the right of citizenship for one of the couple’s two-year-old twin sons escalated May 7 when the Trump administration filed an appeal of a pro-gay decision. The State Department had only conferred citizenship status to twin brother Aiden, which DNA showed was the biological son
of U.S. citizen Andrew. Ethan’s biological father is Elad, an Israeli citizen. The twins were born by the same surrogate mother minutes apart. On Feb. 21, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter ruled that Ethan “has been an American citizen since birth.” He wrote that the State Department statute does not contain language “requiring a ‘blood relationship between the person and the father’ in order for citizenship to be acquired at birth.” Immigration Equality, which filed a lawsuit on the couple’s behalf, told the Los Angeles Blade in February that, “the children of a U.S. citizen who marries abroad are entitled to U.S. citizenship at birth no matter where they are born and even if the other parent is a foreigner.”
Andrew was studying in Israel when he met his future husband, Elad. Because they couldn’t marry at the time in the U.S. or in Israel, they moved to Canada where they wed in 2010. The children were born by a surrogate in September 2016. The family moved to Los Angeles on June 24, 2017. “Once again, the State Department is refusing to recognize Andrew and Elad’s rights as a married couple. The government’s decision to try to strip Ethan of his citizenship is unconstitutional, discriminatory, and morally reprehensible,” Aaron C. Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, told The Daily Beast. Morris successfully argued before Judge Walters that the State Department’s policy requiring genetic testing for the children of same-sex binational couples created a new
double standard for citizenship: one for the children of same-sex couples and one for the children of straight couples. Morris also noted that in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the State Department has filed its appeal, the standard of using DNA testing to ensure a biological relationship between a child and a married U.S. citizen parent in order to confer citizenship has already been soundly rejected. “This is settled law in the Ninth Circuit, which has already established that citizenship may pass from a married parent to a child regardless of whether or not they have a biological relationship,” Morris said. A State Department spokesperson told The Daily Beast that the department “does not comment on pending litigation.”
04 • MAY 10, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Crucial LAUSD election on May 14 Jackie Goldberg launches ‘First Friday’ movement By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org Imagine the stunned suppressed chuckles when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said this: “As much as many in the media use my name as clickbait or try to make it all about me, it’s not.” DeVos also admonished the journalists at the National Education Writers Association conference in Baltimore on May 6 to “get the terminology right about schools and school choice” when writing about charter schools and public education. But for progressives and parents who care about LGBT children, the story is always about DeVos, especially her cruelty toward trans students. One year ago, in May 2018, the Human Rights Campaign went so far as to project data onto the Education Department’s headquarters in Washington to get her attention, asking DeVos: “How do you sleep at night when only 26% of LGBTQ youth always feel safe in class?” Longtime LGBT advocate Jackie Goldberg also thinks DeVos is more dangerous than ‘clickbait’ suggests. It’s central to her election campaign for the LAUSD District 5 run-off election on May 14. “You can count on me to be a strong, effective voice for public schools who will ably defend public education from federal attacks by Betsy DeVos and all others,” she says on her campaign website. “I will attempt to bring stability and leadership to LAUSD and will fight to keep public schools truly public and welcoming to ALL students.” Though California is a predominantly Democratic state, it is not immune from attacks by Trump/DeVos supporters. In addition to the constant degrading of trans students, the perennial Religious Right-fueled parents’ rights movement has long targeted California’s inclusion of LGBT people and achievements in class curriculum. On May 6, for instance, conservative Sacramento parents kept at least 700 students out of school to protest LGBT curriculum inclusion, according to TV station KTXL. The anti-LGBT Capitol Resource Institute is also attacking out Assemblymember
Jackie Goldberg with local Democratic and environmental justice activist, Christine Louise Mills Photo courtesy Goldberg’s campaign
Todd Gloria’s bill, AB 493 that would require charter schools to conduct LGBT-supportive sensitivity training. The bill, CRI writes in a press release, “seeks to undermine the authority of charter schools and force them to adhere to a set of principles they might object to for moral reasons.” Goldberg’s heard all this before. A teacher, she was first elected to the Los Angeles Unified School District Board in 1983 when she fought anti-gay Rev. Lou Sheldon on behalf of Project 10 and to have honest sex education in the era of AIDS. After that, she was elected to the LA City Council, then the California State Assembly, leaving in 2006, though she remained active. Once again, she feels the call to public service— this time to fight against the decimation of public education by the rich charter school privatization movement, led by Betsy DeVos. Goldberg has tremendous progressive backing in the May 14 run-off. But she is not without serious opposition. “Jackie Goldberg is the most recent progressive Democrat strongly supporting public education who has faced a glut of opposition spending from SEIU,” says Goldberg-backer Hans Johnson, president of the sizable East Area Progressive Democrats club. “Various locals of the union are taking increasingly regressive stands
in local and state contests, in a disturbing alliance with promoters of charter schools. This SEIU bond with billionaire charter promoters is tightening even as demands from Democrats and watchdogs for honest government multiply for charters to face sunlight and accountability to the public.” Another strong backer is Rep. Maxine Waters who Goldberg says she’s known “pretty much for my entire adult life.” “The thing that’s so important about having someone like Congressmembers Waters involved is it tells you that what we’re really building here is a movement,” Goldberg told supporters at a recent event. Goldberg not only wants to win the LAUSD 5th District seat, she wants to force the State Legislature to allocate considerably more money towards public education. “New York is spending $22,000 a kid. We’re spending not quite $12,000,” Goldberg said. So on the first Friday of every month, public education advocates must go to their local elected officials in the state and say, “we gave you two-thirds in the Assembly. We gave you two-thirds in the Senate. We need $22,000 minimum to match New York. You figure out who to tax but it’s got to be the rich,” noting there are 144 billionaires and thousands of multi-millionaires living
in California. “If you cannot find a way to tax the rich and invest in our children again, we will find a Democrat who will.” Goldberg said she’s already talked to public education advocates in Fresno and Sacramento about her First Friday crusade, including State Sen. Pro Tem Toni Atkins, to whom she gave much background material. “We are going to make this a statewide campaign to increase the public spending not just on pre-K through 12,” but the UC system, as well,” she said. “This is a campaign not just about today, not just about May 14, but it’s about the movement that actually began with the [successful] teacher’s strike.” And there are a myriad of ways to get the money. For instance, tax the air cargo that comes into LAX at 5 cents and tax private charter planes at 5 cents as a state sale tax, she said. “That’s 9.2 billion a year!” Goldberg gave a nod to the social justice Moral Mondays movement created by Rev. William Barber in North Carolina. But “we have folks here who would debate for 10-12 hours what ‘moral’ was so…,” she joked. But Goldberg’s First Friday crusade is no joke. She wants public education advocates to go to the elected offices every single month “until we get the money our children deserve and need.”
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06 • MAY 10, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
When in crisis, turn to the people Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee seeks to flip GOP-held statehouses By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com “We are in a constitutional crisis,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) told reporters on May 8 after the committee voted along partisan lines to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress. Barr refused to testify before the committee and refused to turn over the full, unredacted report from special counsel Robert Mueller, to which the congressional committee is constitutionally entitled, in direct defiance of a congressional subpoena. In fact, as if trigger-happy for a High Noon gunslinger showdown, President Donald Trump has escalated the direct confrontation with Congress by asserting executive privilege over Mueller’s report and ordering a blatant defiance of all subpoenas. Some politicos expect Trump to defy court orders, too. It is unclear if Trump knows or understands that American democracy relies on adherence to the rule of law and the system of oversight with checks and balances being observed by all three branches of government—the executive, the legislative and the judicial. Trump seems determined to shun that precious system as he careens his authoritarian ship of state, manned by a cultstruck Republican crew, toward dictatorship where he is above the law. Meanwhile, with American democracy at stake and the hubs of power in the nation’s capital stymied by dissention and division, perhaps the only place to turn for a remedy is to the American voters. But there’s a catch: Republicans are still in control of 30 state legislatures while Democrats control 18, an increase from 14 before the election. Republicans control both the governorship and are the majority in 21 states, while Democrats have majority control in 14 states, including California. Enter the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee with the mission of flipping those GOP state legislatures. “Diversity is key to our success at the DLCC. One of our secret weapons against
The DLCC’s Matt Harringer and Jessica Post Photo by Karen Ocamb
Republicans. We’re proud to have helped elect almost 100 out-LGBTQ legislators,” says Matt Harringer, the DLCC’s out National Press Secretary. “In 2018, we had 145 LGBTQ candidates; 92 won (63 percent). That’s up from 85 candidates in 2016. We have more than 2,000 women candidates (twice as many as Republicans); more than 1,000 people of color (four times as many as Republicans),” adding that the DLCC works closely with the Victory Fund, noting the dually endorsed candidates. “Looking at the electoral landscape, obviously we can make progress as Democrats in the House and pass things like the Equality Act, but the Senate is still Republican controlled so it’s going to be difficult to get that through the Senate. And the Supreme Court is very conservative. Where we can see real progress is in the states,” says Jessica Post, DLCC Executive Director who, with Harringer, met recently with the Los Angeles Blade at The Abbey in West Hollywood.
“There are a number of states where we still don’t have equality or gender identity protections, and many of those states are at the top of our target list. Places like Arizona, where we’re two seats away from flipping the Arizona House, three seats away from flipping the Arizona State Senate. We see that as a real possibility,” she says. “That’s a place where they don’t even have favorable laws around adoption.” “The truth is state legislatures are fundamental to democracy,” says Post. “If we think about how we’re ever going to win back the United States Senate or the presidency, we also have to make sure that we have better voting rights in the states. We have to make sure that we’re putting these fundamental building blocks by winning back legislatures. If we ever want to win back the United States Senate we have to improve the voting laws in these states.” One major reason to be concerned about flipping state legislatures in the super significant 2020 election year, especially
given the current constitutional crisis, is the issue of redistricting. “The census will be done in 2021. The people that are elected in 2020 will control redistricting,” says Post. “So if we want a sustainable majority in the United States House, and not just a rental, we have to make sure that there are fair districts.” Democratic control of the House now is “a rented majority. We don’t own it. We’re renting it.” In addition to flipping state legislatures to save democracy from authoritarianism made easier through redistricted cultRepublican majorities, DLCC is working to protect the wins Democrats now have— including LGBT seats. For instance, Colorado Republicans are running a bigoted recall campaign against LGBTQ Rep. Rochelle Galindo, a Latinx lesbian, who won by the largest number of votes in her District 50’s history in 2018,” says Harringer. However, she is facing a huge recall effort
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MAY 10, 2019 • 07
Rep. Rochelle Galindo Photo from Galindo campaign
organized by Pastor Steve Grant, who has called Galindo a “homosexual pervert.” He has received pledges of support from state Republicans and the oil and gas industry has pledged up to $300,000. “They want her out,” says Post. The Colorado Legislature is now a Democratic majority with out Gov. Jared Polis as governor and passed a lot of progressive bills. So Republicans see Galindo’s seat as a soft target because it was a tough seat to win. “It’s in Greely, so north of Boulder, the mountains, rural,” says Post, “so it was a huge win.” The pastor/Republican coalition apparently sees her seat as “low-hanging fruit,” since she’s a woman, a lesbian. So they are willing to spend $300,000 to collect less than 6,000 signatures by June 3. If the recall goes on the ballot, “it’ll be $1.7 million to protect her,” says Post. The DLCC is supporting an antirecall campaign, having invested $50,000 to prevent the recall. Polis is planning
fundraisers to help—but he’s the subject of a recall effort, too, says Post. It’s important for progressives and the LGBT community to take a stand and protect her, says Harringer. “Not just for Californians, but specifically for the LGBTQ community here, which is one of the biggest and leading in the country— putting a stake in the ground and showing that when there’s a recall effort that’s explicitly anti-LGBTQ and bigoted, like this one is, that we’ll stand up for our own in other areas.” In fact, California lawmakers are already working with DLCC to help other states. “We’ve worked really closely with the California Legislature. They’ve gotten involved with DLCC. They’re helping to fundraise for a couple of reasons. One they always say, ‘California is America before America is America,’” says Post. Who says that? “Anybody in the California Legislature that you’ll ask—like Speaker Anthony Rendon,” she says. “One thing that they’re
really interested in doing is making sure that they’re coordinating on public policy, especially on things like climate, with some of these other states. The other thing is they’re concerned about redistricting. They don’t feel like California is getting their fair share back from the federal government. They have to spend a lot of California resources suing the Trump administration.” Post notes that the legislature is funding all the lawsuits against the Trump administration being brought by Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The Legislature had to create a California Endangered Species Act because of the “backslide at the federal level.” And, Post says, “California legislators have gotten very involved with us at DLCC to try to help flip other state legislatures for redistricting to be able to enhance California’s position, but also to make sure that stronger public policies are being passed in the states.” Legislators realize “they’re in a strong position, they’re surrounded by well-resourced progressives
so they’re interested in helping states like Michigan, Minnesota and Montana, which may not have the same.” “California, for sure, is first priority for everyone, but they see the big picture, which is helpful,” says Harringer. “It’s very much like party building, sharing best practices. We are able to bring people together and share what’s working in California to say how to do it there.” “If I was a Californian right now,” Post says, “I would be thinking to myself: ‘we live in this incredible state where we’ve made a lot of public policy progress. But the rights that I have as a Californian or as an LGBTQ Californian, those rights are not enjoyed by people in border states like Arizona or in other states across the country. What are the things that I can do to bring the progress that we have to them?’” It’s an interesting point: in a constitutional crisis—what can “We, the People,” do to help? Find out more at www.dlcc.org.
08 • MAY 10, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
StudyLA: 27% of LGBTQ Angelenos are hate crime victims Research suggests many attacks going unreported From STAFF REPORTS A new report from the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University found that more than a quarter of respondents surveyed who identify as LGBTQ say that they or an immediate member of their household were victims of a hate crime in 2018. The study, conducted earlier this year in the city and county of Los Angeles and released last month, used a representative sampling of around 2,000 Southland residents to conclude that overall, 73 percent of residents think different racial and ethnic groups are getting along very or somewhat well. The report noted that this number is down from a high of 77 percent in 2017. However, StudyLA found that 11 percent of Angelenos say they or someone in their household was a victim of a hate crime last year. Additionally, the survey noted that. “Trust in their neighbors decreases from 71 percent to 50 percent if they are a victim household.” Most shocking to researchers was the spike in the LGBT community: 27 percent of LGBTQ Angelenos say they or their household was a hate crime victim. “For me seeing that number is so very sad. No one should feel victimized—no exceptions,” Brianne Gilbert, Associate Director, Center for the Study of Los Angeles (StudyLA), told the Los Angeles Blade. “In our research at StudyLA, we know that perceptions of hate and actual acts of violence reported and classified by the police as hate crimes are two different things. The actual reporting of hate crimes to the LAPD or Sheriff’s Department is greater than the number of crimes deemed to be hate crimes. However, we also know that many, many hate crimes go unreported. At the end of the day, whether those incidences were either reported and not considered a hate crime or they were not reported is not a source of debate—the issue is that people believe they or members of their household were victims
Brianne Gilbert, associate director, Center for the Study of Los Angeles Photo courtesy Gilbert
of a hate crime in 2018 alone. In one year alone! That’s terrible.” The data is skewed by fear. “The fact that those numbers are so high compared to police data leads me to believe that individuals are too afraid to speak up or believe nothing can be done. That’s not OK,” says Gilbert. “We need more people to speak up and feel empowered to share what happened. Hopefully data points like the ones in our report will contribute to that empowerment. People are not alone. Hopefully moving forward, when we give hate a name, we identify it and condemn it…and then the tides can turn. Until that happens let’s not stop talking about it.” Gilbert presented the study on May 2 to California State Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s Select Committee, which held a session on the “State of Hate” at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center. The public policy panel featured representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, the LA County Human Relations Commission, StudyLA and the LA Police Department’s CounterTerrorism & Special Operations Bureau. A spokesperson for Bloom told the Los Angeles Blade that the Select Committee’s hearings are happening at a time when
anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic, transphobic and racist behavior is on the rise not only nationally, but within the state with experts exploring ways to more effectively address the issue of hate. The Select Committee’s first meeting came less than two weeks after a gunman armed with a semiautomatic rifle walked into a suburban San Diego County synagogue and opened fire on the congregation. That shooting killed one person and injured three in an attack that authorities believe was motivated by hate, according to the Los Angeles Times. Brian Levin, director of California State University-San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism told the Los Angeles Blade last February that there were sharp increases in hate crimes with last year’s midterm elections. California had an 11 percent increase, with 56 percent of crimes being racially motivated and 22 percent directed toward the LGBTQ community, with the sharpest increase against minority trans women. From October to December 2018, hate crimes in LA rose more than 31 percent, compared to the same period a year before, with African-American, LGBTQ, Jewish and Latino communities appearing to be the most
frequent targets; LA was also the only city showing a decline in anti-Muslim hate crime. “In 2018, the LGBTQ community overall in Los Angeles was the target of more crimes at 70, but gay males were second to AfricanAmericans, with 56 and 61 respectively,” Levin said. “There were 17 transgender crimes in the city, down from 25 in 2017. That year, gay males were the most frequent target in the city with 65 criminal incidents.” An FBI report released in Nov. 2018 detailing hate crimes across more than 3,000 police agencies showed a more than 17 percent uptick in 2017, fueled by increases in attacks against religious and racial minorities, The Times noted. But the lack of documenting LGBTQ victims continues to be a problem, as Gilbert noted, with many agencies not identifying crime victims by sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, a spokesperson for the LAPD confirmed to the Los Angeles Blade, hate crimes are often underreported or not reported at all. The StudyLA survey suggests how much more extensive the issue of hate crimes may be and how much work remains for LGBTQ Angelinos to feel safe.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MAY 10, 2019 • 09
“For my family and me we simply can’t walk away until this draconian law is no longer on the books.” – Actor George Clooney continuing his boycott of Beverly Hills Hotel and other properties owned by Sultan of Brunei, who halted execution of gays or adulterers under Sharia Law, in The Wrap May 6.
“Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.” - Excerpt from statement by more than 700 federal prosecutors as of May 7 on Medium.com.
“Nature’s current rate of decline is unparalleled, and the accelerating rate of extinctions ‘means grave impacts on people around the world are now likely.’” – Washington Post on landmark UN report saying more than a million plants and animals threatened with extinction.
Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg landed the cover of Time magazine with his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, for the May 13 issue. The couple stands outside of their Indiana home with the headline “First Family.” Underneath it reads: “The unlikely, untested and unprecedented campaign of Mayor Pete Buttigieg.” In the story, Buttigieg describes his time in the military and some of the homophobia he encountered from fellow officers. However, he says now, some of them have reached out with their support. “I bet some of them still go back and tell gay jokes because that’s their habit, you know? Bad habits and bad instincts is not the same as people being bad people,” Buttigieg says. “We’ve got to get away from this kill-switch mentality that we see on Twitter.” “This idea that we just sort people into baskets of good and evil ignores the central fact of human existence, which is that each of us is a basket of good and evil,” he adds. “The job of politics is to summon the good and beat back the evil.” Chasten Buttigieg, 29, is a former junior high school teacher who serves as his husband’s adviser and campaign spokesperson. The couple met on a dating app in 2015 and married last year. “If only 13 year old Chasten could’ve seen 29 year old Chasten,” Chasten wrote about the cover on Instagram. – Mariah Cooper.
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10 • MAY 10, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Biden’s early support for marriage equality made major impact 2012 interview expedited Obama’s own endorsement By CHRIS JOHNSON Seven years ago this week, former Vice President Joseph Biden gave an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that fundamentally altered the course of the marriage equality movement. Biden — now the front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination — stepped out on a limb with moving remarks on extending marriage rights to gay couples, a memorable act on behalf of LGBT rights that distinguishes him in the field of Democratic candidates. On May 6, 2012, Biden was asked on “Meet the Press” whether his views had evolved on same-sex marriage. The vice president replied the matter “is all about a simple proposition. Who do you love. Who do you love?” “I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties,” Biden continued. “And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction — beyond that.” Biden had just come out for marriage equality at a time when same-sex couples could marry in just six states and D.C. and then-President Barack Obama was still in the middle a years-long evolution on samesex marriage. During the interview, Biden added he had just visited the home of a same-sex couple in Los Angeles for a fundraiser, where he had an epiphany after seeing the young children the couple was raising. “And I said, ‘I wish every American could see the look of love those kids had in their eyes for you guys,’” Biden said. “And they wouldn’t have any doubt about what this is about.’” Moe Vela, who’s gay and served at the time as Biden’s director of administration and senior adviser, said Biden’s comments on same-sex marriage weren’t a surprise to him because the vice president and his wife, second lady Jill Biden, had previously confided
Seven years ago this week, Joe Biden gave an interview that altered the course of the marriage equality movement. Blade file photo by Michael Key
to him they backed marriage equality. “I have tell to you from the first personal and private conversation I had with them as an openly gay senior member of his staff, both of them…in that early time period had already shared with me that they were passionately supportive of marriage equality,” Vela said. But Vela said Biden’s interview was also a source of conflict: On the one hand, it was “one of the most affirming emotional moments of my life,” on the other he “knew the president wasn’t there yet.” “I was so proud…to work for these two people and to manage the office of these two people, I mean, had our back…but the conflict for me was I developed almost an antsy-ness,” Vela said. “If my boss could be for this, why isn’t this something this White House is going to support, right?” A Biden campaign spokesperson told the Blade this week the Democratic presidential candidate still remembers his 2012 words on “Meet the Press” and they remain important to him.
“Joe Biden’s parents instilled in him an obligation to stand up to the abuse of power or discrimination from the time he was a child,” the spokesperson said. “When the question of marriage equality came up in 2012, at a time when nearly every pundit and prognosticator said that it was politically unwise, Joe Biden spoke up. He stated clearly that for him, and he believed for the vast majority of Americans, it was a simple proposition: who do you love.” Although many, including stars like Debra Messing of “Will & Grace,” saw Biden’s words as an endorsement of same-sex marriage, there was significant confusion about whether Biden had, in fact, come out for same-sex marriage. After all, saying “men marrying men, women marrying women” should have “the same exact rights” other couples enjoy isn’t the same as saying gay couples should be able to get legally married under the law. Arguably, Biden was articulating the position of the Obama administration at the time, which was support for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that barred the federal benefits of marriage from flowing to married same-sex couples. The vice president’s office at the time pushed back on interpreting his comments as an endorsement of same-sex marriage, issuing a statement declaring his position was consistent with Obama’s. “The vice president was saying what the president has said previously — that committed and loving same-sex couples deserve the same rights and protections enjoyed by all Americans, and that we oppose any effort to roll back those rights,” the statement said. “That’s why we stopped defending the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in legal challenges and support legislation to repeal it. Beyond that, the vice president was expressing that he too is evolving on the issue, after meeting so many committed couples and families in this country.” Vela said Biden, in fact, had come out in support of same-sex marriage at the time and the initial statement downplaying the remarks was the vice president’s way of making trying to make Obama not look bad.
“I think that the vice president is a very loyal man,” Vela said. “He’s loyal and he had the utmost respect for his boss, Barack Obama, president of the United States, and so I don’t know why we would hold Joe Biden to any different standard than any of us would hold ourselves. Would you get out in front of your boss on an issue?” A little PR at the time helped move along the widespread interpretation of Biden’s remarks as an endorsement of marriage equality. Chad Griffin, who at the time had been chosen as the new president of the Human Rights Campaign, but was not yet in the role, was among those pushing that interpretation forward. In an interview with the Washington Post, Griffin said “only in Washington and only in politics could someone parse the words of what the vice president said” and Biden was “very clear and very direct when asked if he was comfortable with gay marriage.” That seemed to do the trick. The next day, then-White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was hammered with questions throughout his regular briefing on Biden’s remarks and whether Biden had gotten in front of the president and why Obama continued to oppose same-sex marriage. The fallout was immediate. Days later, Obama gave his own interview with Robin Roberts of ABC’s “Good Morning America” (who was closeted at the time) to declare his evolution on same-sex marriage was complete and say he “just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” Senior administration officials at the time told reporters, including the Washington Blade, Obama had actually completed his evolution on same-sex marriage a while back and was planning to make the announcement in conjunction with the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Biden’s remarks, officials said, just made that announcement happen a little sooner. Nonetheless, the perception — which remains to this day — was Biden had taken the lead from Obama and come out first in support of marriage equality.
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12 • MAY 10, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Congressional Black Caucus probes black youth suicide
The U.S. House under Nancy Pelosi is expected to vote next week on the Equality Act. Blade file photo by Michael Key
House poised to vote on Equality Act The U.S. House is expected to hold a floor vote next week on the Equality Act, legislation that seeks to ban anti-LGBT discrimination, a senior Democratic aide told the Blade this week. The official announcement on the vote, the aide said, was set for Friday, which is the normal day for when the next week’s schedule is announced in the House. The floor vote on the Equality Act, legislation that was introduced for the first time this year with a Democratic majority in the House, will mark the first time either chamber of Congress has considered the pro-LGBT legislation. The floor vote is expected shortly after the House Judiciary Committee reported out the legislation without any Republican support. Additionally, no GOP amendments were adopted to the legislation. With 240 co-sponsors, including three Republicans, the bill should easily surpass the 218-vote threshold in the House necessary to approve legislation. (The next step, passing the bill in the Senate where the Republican majority controls 53 seats is another matter, as is President Trump signing the legislation into law.) However, Republicans in the House have an opportunity to thwart the bill with a motion to recommit, a legislative maneuver that forces a vote on an amendment the majority would otherwise not allow to come up. It remains to be seen what the nature of the motion to recommit might be for the Equality Act. For example, during the vote on gun background checks, Republicans claimed victory on a motion to recommit requiring the notification of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement when an undocumented immigrant fails a background check when attempting to buy a firearm. A similar motion to recommit on the Equality Act could complicate the effort to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination. Introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to ban antiLGBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs and credit. The bill also seeks to update federal law to include sex in the list of protected classes in public accommodation in addition to expanding the definition of public accommodations to include retail stores, banks, transportation services and health care services. Further, the Equality Act would establish that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — a 1994 law aimed at protecting religious liberty — can’t be used to enable anti-LGBT discrimination. The House is advancing the Equality Act shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would take up legislation seeking clarification on whether the existing prohibition on sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to cases of antiLGBT discrimination. A decision in those cases isn’t expected until June 2020. CHRIS JOHNSON
The Congressional Black Caucus last week announced it has created an emergency Task Force on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health that will address what it calls a growing problem of suicide and access to mental health care among black youth, including black LGBT youth. The CBC officially launched the new task force at an April 30 news conference at the House Rayburn Office Building on Capitol Hill. Immediately following the news conference, the task force held its first hearing that included testimony by experts on the subject of black youth and mental health issues. Among those who testified was David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, a D.C.based LGBT advocacy organization. CBC members selected Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) to serve as chair of the task force. Watson Coleman, Johns, and others who spoke at the news conference and the hearing mentioned the recent death by suicide of several black teenagers that have been widely reported in their home communities. Among them was 15-year-old Nigel Shelby of Huntsville, Ala., who took his own life after being bullied and harassed at school for being gay. Another case mentioned was that of McKenzie Adams, a 9-year-old girl also from Alabama, who authorities say took her own life after being subjected to racist bullying and taunts by classmates telling her to kill herself. “High-profile cases, like the deaths of McKenzie Nicole Adams and more recently Nigel Shelby, demonstrate how difficult it is to categorize the circumstances that are taking our children’s lives – there are elements of race, trauma, of socioeconomic status, of sexual orientation and gender identity and many more issues at play,” Watson Coleman said. “Today we begin the work of identifying the causes for this crisis, and how to formulate those solutions,” she said. “Over the next several months, in addition to events like this in Washington, D.C., we hope to bring what we learn to communities across the country, connecting parents and other community leaders to the knowledge and tools to be the ‘first responders’ who identify students at risk and get them the help they need.” In a statement released at the news conference, the Congressional Black Caucus noted that a 2018 report published by the American Medical Association journal Pediatrics found that the rate of suicide for black children between the ages of 5 and 12 in recent years has exceeded that of white children. The report also found that more than a third of elementary school-aged suicides involved black children. “The task force will seek to identify causes and solutions, and will empower a working group of academic and practicing experts led by Dr. Michael Lindsey and the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University, with the goal of developing and producing a report from the task force by the end of 2019,” the statement says. Johns is among those who will serve on the working group. In addition to leading the National Black Justice Coalition, he is a former elementary school teacher, former congressional staffer, and is currently a doctoral student at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College. He told the Washington Blade he is confident that the task force, with the full support of the Congressional Black Caucus, will address issues and seek solutions to LGBT youth suicide, especially suicide and mental health issues related to LGBT youth of color. In his testimony at the April 30 hearing, Johns pointed to data showing that nearly 80 percent of LGBT teens report feeling depressed and that LGBT youth experience violence and bullying nearly twice as much as youth who identify as or are presumed to be heterosexual. Johns told the Blade that among the objectives he will push for in the working group and for the task force is cultural competency training for teachers and school administrators to ensure that students who are racial minorities and LGBT students are treated in a welcoming way at school. He said mistreatment in schools of students of color and LGBT students, including bullying, is widespread throughout the country, including in so-called “progressive” areas like D.C. “What we need most is for every teacher who stands in front of a student to have the kind of cultural competence that’s required in order to create spaces where everybody feels supported,” he said. In addition to Watson Coleman, members of the CBC Taskforce on Youth Suicide and Mental Health include Reps. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Emanuel Clever (D-Mo.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), John Lewis (D-Ga.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.). LOU CHIBBARO JR.
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14 • MAY 10, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Bolsonaro nixes U.S. trip after outcry
The National Center for Sexual Education, directed by Mariela Castro said the ‘uncertainty the country is experiencing’ prompted the decision to cancel pro-LGBT marches. Blade file photo by Michael Key
LGBT marches cancelled in Cuba The organizer of Cuba’s annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia marches this week announced they have been cancelled. The marches were to have taken place in Havana on May 11 and the city of Camagüey on May 17. The National Center for Sexual Education, directed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro who spearheads LGBTI issues on the island, in a statement it posted to its Facebook page said the “current uncertainty the country is experiencing” prompted the decision. The statement added the country’s Ministry of Public Health that oversees CENESEX directed the events to be cancelled. “The new tensions in the international and regional context directly and indirectly affect our country and have tangible and intangible impacts on the normal development of our daily life and on the implementation of the Cuban state’s policies,” it reads. The announcement comes less than a week after Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act — a law that allows Americans and Cubans who became U.S. citizens after the 1959 Cuban revolution that brought Mariela Castro’s uncle, Fidel Castro, to power, to sue companies based in the U.S. and Europe who use confiscated property to do business in Cuba — took effect. A U.S. embargo against Cuba has been in place since 1962. President Trump last week threatened to impose a “full and complete embargo” and additional sanctions against Cuba over its continued support of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Trump made this threat, even though media reports indicate his company and four of his associates violated the existing embargo in 1998 and again in late 2012 or early 2013. The White House has also said it plans to further restrict Americans from traveling and doing business in Cuba. “Down with Yankee imperialism and its lackeys,” wrote Mariela Castro in a Facebook post that coincided with May Day commemorations in Cuba. “Respect Cuba, Trump.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has cancelled an upcoming trip to the U.S. amid growing outrage among LGBT activists and other groups. Bolsonaro was scheduled to accept an award from the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce at its gala that is scheduled to take place at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York on May 14. The American Museum of Natural History last month announced it would no longer host the event with Bolsonaro. Delta Air Lines is among the companies that withdrew their sponsorship of the event because of Bolsonaro’s participation. GLAAD also called upon the Marriott Marquis not to host the gala at which Bolsonaro had been scheduled to receive the “Person of the Year” award. “President Jair Bolsonaro’s cancelled trip to the United States is a victory for LGBTQ Brazilians,” said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement. Bolsonaro’s spokesperson, Otávio Santana do Rêgo Barros, on Friday announced the trip’s cancellation. The statement, which CNBC reporter Ryan Ruggiero posted to his Twitter page, described “deliberate attacks from the mayor of New York and the pressure of interest groups on the institutions that organize, sponsor and host the event annually.” The statement also said Bolsonaro cancelled his trip to the U.S. after he consulted with his government. Bolsonaro, a former Brazilian Army captain who previously represented Rio de Janeiro in the country’s Congress, took office on Jan. 1. Bolsonaro continues to spark outrage over his rhetoric against LGBTI Brazilians, women and other underrepresented groups. Bolsonaro shortly after taking office issued an executive order that directed Brazil’s human rights ministry not to consider LGBTI-specific issues. Bolsonaro a few weeks later tweeted “great day” after Jean Wyllys, a member of the leftist Party for Socialism and Liberty who is the first openly gay man elected to the Brazilian congress, resigned and fled the country because of death threats. Bolsonaro on March 19 stressed his government’s “respect of traditional family values” and opposition to “gender identity” as he spoke alongside President Trump during a press conference in the White House Rose Garden. Bolsonaro later met with Pat Robertson and other evangelical Christians and prayed with them. Bolsonaro last week said he does not want Brazil to become a “gay tourism paradise.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS
Clooney stands by Brunei boycott despite moratorium George Clooney has pledged to continue boycotting hotels owned by Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah despite Brunei’s announcement that it has placed a moratorium on executions for same-sex sexual relations. In March, Clooney called for a boycott of the nine international hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei, including the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel BelAir in Los Angeles. Celebrities such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Elton John and Ellen DeGeneres echoed his call. J.P. Morgan, The Goldman Sachs Group and Bank of America also prohibited their employees from staying at the hotels. On Sunday, Brunei announced it would no longer impose the death penalty from its new penal code based on Shariah law. However, Clooney still wants to financially pressure the hotels with a boycott. “This is a huge step forward after a giant leap backwards. It promises that the citizens of Brunei won’t be executed for being gay. It also sends a very crucial message to countries like Indonesia and Malaysia that there is a cost for enacting these laws,” Clooney said in a statement. MARIAH COOPER
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16 • MAY 10, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
VOLUME 03 ISSUE 19
‘Who will cry for the little boy?’ Do what you can to stop Black youth suicide
Darryn Harris is District Director to Rep. Karen Bass and recipient of the Better Brothers Los Angeles’ Truth Award.
Washington, D.C. has perfected the happy hour. Right after work, tons of politicos leave their desks and head to various bars to talk politics and policy. So it was no surprise that I found myself at happy hour discussing the Equality Act, a bill that will amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, federal jury service, public accommodations. We knew that history is on our side. We toasted polls showing that an overwhelming majority of Americans support banning discrimination against LGBTQ people. Despite the current hateful rhetoric, LGBTQ folks are making progress in our country. But there’s sadness, too. David Johns of the National Black Justice Coalition once posted a smiling young Black teenager on Instagram with the caption: Black gay boys deserve to grow up too! #NigelShelby #SickOfThisShit #ProtectTheBabies ALL of them!” Nigel Shelby was a 15-year-old high school freshman in Alabama who committed suicide because of homophobic bullying. I wonder, “Who will cry for the little boy?” Bullying and hateful rhetoric have become increasingly normalized and suicide statistics and the dire consequences of bullying can get lost. I want people to cry for Nigel. Black children—and gay teens of all races—are taking their lives because of bullying. Nigel’s story is not unique. I
personally know Black boys and young men who have contemplated suicide and are in the closet to avoid bullying. I was picked on for being “different” in middle and high school, too, and as much as I try to bury those memories, Nigel’s story reminds me that not only is bullying on the rise, but the consequences are tragic and fatal. Recently, YouthTruth released statistics showing that most teens are bullied because of their appearance, their race or skin color, and/or because other students thought they were gay. Last year, the Journal of the American Medical Association ( JAMA) Pediatrics published a heartbreaking report that found that for the first time in the history of such research, the rate of suicides for Black children between the ages of five and 12 exceeded that of white children. More than a third of elementary school-aged suicides involved Black children. Stunned, outraged, I am still hopeful. For years, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), often called the “Conscious of Congress,” have recognized that many LGBTQ youth around the world face bullying and harassment daily and has committed to finding a remedy. They CBC have cosponsored legislation such as the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, which would require colleges and universities to develop policies to fight harassment and the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, which would ban for-profit, so-called “conversion therapy,” which seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Shortly after introducing the Equality Act, the House of Representatives passed legislation reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. During debate, CBC Members highlighted that transgender people, particularly minorities, suffer from some of the highest rates of violence and sexual assault and noted that the bill would ensure guaranteed protections for them. Recently, the CBC launched a new, emergency task force specifically focused on the growing problem of suicide among Black youth. This newly formed task force will (1) convene experts in Washington, DC and around the country; (2) raise awareness among Members of Congress and staff; and
(3) identify legislative recommendations to address Black youth suicide. As an LGBTQ advocate, I applaud the CBC and their leadership on Black and LGBTQ issues. However, as a congressional staffer, I also know that the best public policies are informed by the communities and individuals that are most affected by the issue. Policy made in isolation from affected communities can lead to unintended consequences or, worse, do harm, while active participation from those affected can help. The evidence shows that first-hand awareness aids in identifying strong policy solutions. Issues like mental health are discussed in various capacities every day on Capitol Hill, in the White House, in federal agencies, and by state and local decision-makers. However, without the voice of those who possess both expertise and experience in suicide among Black youth, legislation, regulations and other policy decisions may not reflect what is best for our youth. In addition to the CBC’s Black youth suicide task force, individual advocacy is key. Ally Sen. Edward Markey says it best: “Every policy issue goes through three stages: education, activation and implementation. Congress is a stimulus-response institution. And there is nothing more stimulating than having hundreds of public health professionals, families and caregivers meeting with you about an important issue.” But I believe that my late mentor, Willis Edwards of the NAACP, says it even better: “Do what you can, from where you are, with what you have.” I don’t expect that the silent crisis of Black LGBTQ youth suicide will be resolved overnight. However, I do know that a person can either shape policy, or policy can shape them. I believe that with some of our most vulnerable Black LGBTQ youth at stake— we must get this right. We all must lift our voices, whether we know a “Nigel” in one of our communities or personally, secretly identify as a “Nigel.” Our stories are needed. So here’s my short call to action: the next time I ask myself, “who will cry for the little boy?” - my answer will be simple: Congress will. Experts will. Advocates will. I will. And you will. Will you? You must.
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17 • MAY 10, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Transman James Wen honors motherhood Community trans mothers revered on Mother’s Day, too
James Wen is a trans activist and the son of Howard and Mona Wen.
Dear Mom, Remember our annual family tradition of visiting the Jefferson Memorial in the spring to see the cherry blossoms? The flowers seemed to always bloom around Easter. And on some occasions we would attend Sunday service and then drive from our Chinese Christian Church across the Key Bridge into Washington, D.C. to enjoy this yearly sight to behold! The magnificent blooms adorning the cherry blossom trees varied in its pink color year to year, as if to say they had all survived the same winter and awoken into a new spring. We had a ritual of hilariously attempting to look for the same tree that we took in last year’s family photo, though truthfully it could not be found again. Yet we pretended that it was.
Here, I begin my Mother’s Day tribute and send you my love. You were 35 years old and I was 4 years old. You were just learning how to cut hair, and I was not afraid until the haircut I showed you, a picture of a little boy, was clearly not okay with you. You were 20-something and I was not yet to be born. You attended a finishing school and I was not even in your imagination. I was rendered invisible and you were sure you gave birth to a daughter. Not a tomboy, not a rambunctious child, not a free creative spirit, and most certainly not a boy. You gave birth to a girl and that was that. Some people stereotype Asian people as reserve, mild and not opinionated. Right…. Mom, for you, that is called a myth, and the reason why Dad would call you a Tigress Queen, referring to your Chinese horoscope. Yet you managed to stay married for 48 years. You had your choice of suitors but you always told me that the reason you stayed married was because you knew Dad loved you. And when I separately asked Dad why he stayed married, he said, “Because I love your Mom.” You and Dad were grounded in his enduring love for you. I remained invisible until I was 40 years old. Only by happenstance did I learn that a greater transgender community existed at age 46. At 41 years old, someone once close to the family decided to call you and Dad to out me. I remember sitting on the edge of my girlfriend’s bed listening to my
stereotypical stoic and logical Asian dad sobbing as I confirmed the truth—that I was his transgender son. Then I listened some more—trying to stay with him in that moment and not disappear inside of myself. Mom, thank you for helping him to see me. I remember our first lunch together, post-revelation, at your dining room table. On any other Saturday afternoon, I would have been helping you to prepare the meal, set the table, and wash the dishes. But on this visit, and every visit thereafter, I would be invited into the house and seated across from my Dad while you prepared our lunch and then served us. Thankfully, I was still welcomed into your house, but Dad would not begin recognizing me until you suddenly passed away, just a few short years later. I still find it incredibly painful to remember your death, let alone to write about it, so we will just not go there today. On this Mother’s Day, my thoughts also turn to our community’s mothers. There are many in Los Angeles, including Chela, Michelle, and Gina. And there are mothers who lovingly teach others to be activists such as Karina, who holds a special place of honor and Bamby and Maria, who recently got married at my church, St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral. Faith, cherry blossoms and trips to D.C. spawn renewed hope as we also give thanks to our foremothers before them. In 2011, I found my way to my first
Transgender Law Center Summit. It was there that I learned about Stonewall and listened to Miss Rocket share about our history and the transgender movement. Shortly afterward, I attended my first transmen group meeting. Alexis Rivera was our substitute moderator in lieu of her transbrother, who was not available to lead the meeting on that particular day. It wasn’t until 2015 when I re-engaged with community that I learned more about Alexis’s life calling and her local and greater contributions. Mom, these are only a few of the fierce Mothers in community. They live all across the United States and they have collectively given birth not only to new generations of leaders, but also an incredible movement about the respect and dignity of people. Mom, like you, Mothers in community know just what to do for their family, how to heal wounds, how to forgive, and how to move forward. They are fighters and they are lovers of justice and peace. They know how to share their knowledge and how to keep strong, even when faced with adversity. They are storytellers and they also know when to let loose and have fun! So Mom, although you are no longer here, I am reminded of your spirit through the many Mothers in community. I love you and wish you and the very long list of Community Mothers, a Very Happy Mother’s Day! Much love, James.
The ‘Mommie’ that won’t ‘Die’ Busch revives classic role in radio-esque stage adaptation By SCOTT STIFFLER
She seeks only to please and protect — suffering and sacrificing, often in silence, to ensure the ones she loves will lead better lives. So why do you push her away? If that’s the Mother’s Day shade that gets thrown in your direction through direct conversation, subtext or those familiar dagger eyes, L.A. Theatre Works has a could-be-worse scenario sure to serve as a soothing balm for hapless victims — and hungry voyeurs — of family dysfunction. The nation’s leading producer of audio theatre is once again teaming up with legendary drag artist, cabaret performer, playwright, and pre-code-to-’60s cinema aficionado Charles Busch, for radio-style live tapings of his camp classic, “Die, Mommie, Die!”—branded by Works as “DIE MOMMIE DIE.” “Angela Arden wants to be free of her suffocating marriage to film producer Sol Sussman,” read the promotional materials. “What better way than poison! Distraught by her father’s death and convinced of her mother’s guilt, Edith Sussman plots to get the truth out of Angela using any means necessary.” From its 1999 premiere at West Hollywood’s Coast Playhouse to a 2003 movie adaptation to a 2007 run at New York’s New World Stages to this upcoming Works gig, Busch happily noted he’s “played Angela Arden on film, stage and radio. I just gotta figure out a way of bringing it to TV.” First things first, though, as the preternaturally prolific writer/performer adapts, for audio, “one of the greatest and most challenging female roles in the history of the American Theater,” according to a highly respected source (Busch himself, in a cheeky Facebook posting promoting this latest incarnation). “It’s an odd thing,” says Busch, in anticipation of the May 17-19 run at UCLA’s James Bridges Theater. “We do it in front of mics, with a sound effects table on stage, and in front of a live audience. You have to play to your audience, and also the microphone. So it’s an interesting challenge. … I had to go
through the script and adapt it ‘for radio.’ In approaching it that way, it got my imagination going, and I came up with dialogue, new lines that do not have anything to do with radio. I wish I thought of them 20 years ago.” The lady knows of what she speaks, when speaking of adaptation. This is not Busch’s first rodeo with Works’ “Live in Performance” series, having directed “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife,” which “was interesting for me, because I’m not really a stage director. So it was a nice way to dip my toe into directing and not have to do full staging.” That 2007 production had JoBeth Williams and Richard Kind among its cast. In 2013, playing the title role, Busch adapted his nuntastic romp, “The Divine Sister,” for Works audio audiences, and, in 2009, played Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” As for his return to the role of Angela Arden, Busch said the character is “very much in line with so many of my heroines … I’ve played different kinds of women over these decades,” he says, “but they [usually] have things in common,” such as coming from “humble origins and pulling herself up to a higher station. And often, the women I play have a certain kind of ‘surface tough glamour,’ but an underlying vulnerability.” The Arden character handily distinguishes herself, however, as the one who managed to gobsmack Busch, the writer, during a 2003 Sundance screening of “Mommie.” “I was siting there,” he says, “and all of a sudden, I realized how emotionally autobiographical it was. When you strip it of the comic melodrama and the parody of Bette Davis/Joan Crawford ’60s suspense movies, it’s essentially the story of a woman who’s raising her dead sister’s children, and just wants them to love her. That’s the story of my aunt, who raised me.” That realization left Busch, “shaken, like somebody had thrown a bucket of water on me. … Often, I believe, the writer himself isn’t even aware of where it spins from.” Armed with this insight, “when I play that part again, it just feeds that.”
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Busch is dining out these days, on the notion of playing with the ensemble that’s been assembled. Willie Garson (Stanford on “Sex and the City”) plays Arden’s husband, making his debut as a member of a Buschled stage ensemble—and Ruth Williamson’s presence as a “Mommie” cast member is destiny fulfilled. Busch called Williamson “a wonderful actress I’ve worked with numerous times,” noting, “I had written the role of the housekeeper, Bootsie, for her.” During its 1999 LA premiere, Williamson was in New York. “Years later,” Busch says, “when we did it in New York, she was already living in L.A.” Stars further align this time around, with Mark Capri in the role of Tony Parker, which he originated. “He was so perfect,” Busch says. “I hesitate saying somebody was the best portrayal of a character, but it’s certainly my favorite, so I was thrilled he was able to play it again, 20 years later.” Busch says having these prior relationships creates “a shorthand, where you can move fast” — good news, since the fourperformance run will be rehearsed and mounted, so to speak, within a matter of days. “It sounds kind of saccharine, but I truly mean it. My whole career has been based on love — the fact that I often play characters based on old movies I love, and that I work with the same directors,” he says. “In this case, Carl Andress. We’ve done dozens of plays together. I’ve known him since he was 23 and I adore him. And I often write plays for specific people I love, and want to be with. So it’s interesting. My career isn’t necessarily built around just professional ambition.” Busch has long maintained his affinity for limited runs that court neither press coverage nor extensions. Nonetheless, he says, in a 2018 interview with this reporter via The Villager, “It just so happens twice, we have actually transferred these plays commercially (“Shanghai Moon” and “The Divine Sister”) … One could think it’s sort of a dotty thing to do, because we put a lot of effort into these … honestly, there’s never any ulterior motive or agenda.”
Charles Busch as Angela in ‘DIE MOMMIE DIE.’ Photo by Jim Cox
Bereft of agenda, an irresistible opportunity recently came knocking, when New York’s Primary Stages approached Busch to be part of its 35th anniversary season, by revisiting, for an eight-week run in early 2020, what he says “might be my favorite role I’ve ever written for myself” — the title character in “The Confession of Lily Dare.” Having made its debut last year via a 24-performance run at New York’s Theater for the New City, Busch says he “wanted to see if
we can have a lot of fun with the outrageous conventions of these old (pre-code) movies, but also get the audience to have the same emotional reaction as (one might when) watching those old tearjerker movies.” “Lily Dare” hit that mark well, as this reporter can attest to. “I was thrilled,” Busch says. “You could hear people sniffling and reaching for the Kleenex. I’ve got a little bit of that in ‘DIE MOMMIE DIE.’ ” It’s interesting, he says, “that no matter
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how we might think we’re so sophisticated and post-modern, the old archetypes and conventions can still move an audience.” ‘DIE MOMMIE DIE’ May 17-19 (times vary) James Bridges Theater UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television 235 Charles E. Young Drive $15-65 latw.org charlesbusch.com
20 • MAY 10, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
The ‘Trouble’ of modern dance Veteran choreographer builds solid reputation despite obstacles By JOHN PAUL KING
A scene from ‘Boys in Trouble.’ Photo by Lydia Daniller
Some arts arenas — even those devoted to contemporary art — aren’t as progressive as you might think. Choreographer Sean Dorsey is dismayed at the lack of trans representation in modern dance. He leads an acclaimed, five-person, multi-generational, eponymous dance ensemble that will perform his latest creation “Boys in Trouble” at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, this weekend. “Boys in Trouble” is being presented as part of Behold!, Highways annual queer arts festival designed to roughly coincide with Pride. It continues throughout the months of May and June and includes many significant highlights, including works by longtime Highways alumni such as solo theater legend Tim Miller, eminent artist/activist/ playwright Michael Kearns, and Black Lives Matter Cofounder Patrisse Cullors (highwaysperformance.org). “While other performing arts are starting to celebrate trans artistry,” he says, “modern dance continues to totally exclude trans and gender-nonconforming people. Sadly, even some of our own rainbow flag family is complicit. I can’t count the number of cis gay and queer choreographers who continue to make only hetero duets and dances. Why? Queer and trans bodies, love and creativity are gorgeous.” Dorsey has worked hard throughout his career to create space for other trans, gender-non-conforming and queer artists in the dance community. Fresh Meat Productions, which he started 17 years ago, organizes a variety of year-round events, including education programs, community engagement, free community forums and workshops. With Sean Dorsey Dance, he’s tried to lead the way in the charge toward inclusion. When “Boys in Trouble” had its premiere in San Francisco earlier this year, he told an interviewer he was “really proud” of “paying, commissioning, hiring and supporting over 500 artists in the Bay Area.” He called it “activism,” something he’s well-versed in after a long history of fighting for social justice causes. In between rehearsals, he has spent a fair share of his time going to coalition meetings, blocking traffic with protests and lobbying at City Hall. That first-hand community involvement is part of what has energized him in carving out a career for himself in the face of prejudice and exclusion. It took time to build the reputation he now enjoys. “The first thing I had to overcome was misconceptions about my work’s quality,” he says. “Presenters and funders had never seen anyone like me. Before they’d see my work, they’d dismiss me and be like, ‘Sooooo… you do drag?’” In those early years, Dorsey and his company worked hard against the assumption that work from a transgender artist must be amateur or be experimental. He takes great pride in pointing out that after 15 years of receiving national awards, “we’ve kind of obliterated that misconception.” Even so, he says it’s still not easy to be a trans dance artist. “I tour constantly and I can’t even go pee in some of the airports or theaters I tour to, because of mounting
anti-trans ‘bathroom bills.’ I have to navigate harassment and potential violence wherever I go.” His latest show, co-commissioned by Highways, makes its L.A. debut as both he and the enduring queercentric alternative art space celebrate milestones. Sean Dorsey Dance turns 15 this year; Highways marks the 30th anniversary of involvement with LGBTQ arts patrons through its prolific co-presentation of up to 250 performances and 50 new works per year. “Boys in Trouble,” conceived by Dorsey as an urgent and timely commentary on toxic masculinity, was built upon material gathered from visits to communities across the country, where Dorsey hosted forums on masculinity, recorded interviews and taught free movement workshops for transgender, gender non-conforming, cisgender, gay, bi and queer people on the masculine spectrum. Designed to “move seamlessly between dance and live speaking for an evening of super-vulnerable storytelling,” the piece is described as “an extravaganza of full-throttle dance, raw emotion, irreverent humor, exquisite queer partnering … performed with signature precision, guts and deep humanity.” “I developed each of my last three shows in collaboration with Highways,” Dorsey says, “and it’s significant that this beloved institution generously invested in my work as a trans artist long before most American theaters would even consider presenting trans artists.” “In fact,” he says, “most of them still aren’t.” Leo Garcia, executive director and former artistic director of Highways, says Dorsey first came to the organization’s attention in 2002, and they felt, “the work Sean was producing reflected the work of our transgender and queer artists.” “Sean’s work is our work,” Garcia says. “It is truth telling. He works within the communities and tells their stories. He serves compassionate historical accuracy along with beautiful dance. And he’s irresistibly enthusiastic. He includes me in the conversation, and he collaborates well. And for me, personally, he flips gender identity on its head so my understanding of my own binary, cisgender evolution catches me short. His work helps me figure it all out.” Dorsey says he thinks of his work as “deeply human and accessible.” “I don’t make ‘abstract’ modern dance,” he says. “My dances are meant to be understood, and to be felt. It’s a fusion of full-throttle dancing, theater and storytelling. We get feedback constantly from our audiences that people leave the theater transformed.” His company’s audiences are as diverse as one might expect. “It’s beautiful seeing this diversity of communities sitting shoulder to shoulder in the theater and in the lobby after the show.” Dorsey says being transgender affords him, “a level of self-awareness and consciousness” that “profoundly” affects his work.” “My journey as a trans person informs my choreography, enriches it,” he says. “I consider it a tremendous blessing to be transgender.”
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MAY 10, 2019 • 21
With his first single “Walls,” singer-songwriter Ruben made a solid entrance to the Scandinavian music scene in a way rarely seen with a first release, climbing into the top 10 in his native Norway and eventually earning 38 million streams worldwide. His follow-up, “The Half,” also made a strong showing in the charts and a third, “Lay By Me,” placed him in the top 10 once more in December. Now, with three hit singles and 65 million streams under his belt (along with a nomination as 2018’s “Newcomer of the Year” from Norway’s “P3-Gull” music awards), the 24-year-old musician is introducing himself to a much wider audience with “Melancholic,” his debut EP, which was released in the U.S. (and throughout the world) on May 3. Alongside the EP, a short film was released, written by Ruben in collaboration with director Thor Brenne. The EP, which contains Ruben’s previously released singles along with some additional material, comes as the next step after a whirlwind year that he called “very surrealistic.” It’s a leap that feels enormous to Ruben, who spent the first 16 years of his life in a town called Bjarkøy, on a tiny coastal island of around 400 people. “I’m really excited,” he says, “but it scares me, because it’s so big. This world is so big.” It’s not unusual for the young musician to face something that feels overwhelming, though. He’s struggled with social anxiety since before he even knew it had a name, but it was music, he says, that helped him learn how to live with it when he was still just a boy at a school with only 40 students. “There was not really a lot to do,” he says. “I was interested in doing creative stuff, so to pass the time I used to dance and make videos and take photos and edit them and stuff like that. But music was always the thing that captivated me.” Ruben was 13 when he had his first experience with social anxiety. He’s used it as fodder for songwriting. He says writing helped him understand what was going on. “I had to find the right words, and actually look things up on Google, and figure out what I was going through, because I didn’t even know what social anxiety was.” This is part of the reason he’s eager to share his music. “The point is to try to start a conversation and talk about this, like it’s maybe a normal thing,” he says. “I’ve always been happy and energetic and shown people love and I wanted to show a different side of me, to show that people like me, that are usually happy, can also have these dark times in their lives, to show it’s OK to not be 100 percent happy all the time. You just can’t do that.” Ruben’s distinctive songs have been described as “perfect pop” with “cinematic depth and mood-altering melodies” that hit deep into the soul. It helps that his rich, soothing voice exudes tenderness and empathy, two qualities that emerge in his lyrics and reinforce his stigma-busting message, while also reminding us that there is strength and empowerment in vulnerability. Being gay, he says, hasn’t been as hard because he doesn’t think “there is that much negativity” around being gay in Norway. That doesn’t mean coming out was easy. “It was scary of course,” he says. “Growing up, there were always jokes. If you did certain things, people would say, ‘Oh, are you gay?,’ just to joke around and stuff, and I guess, because of that, I guess I was scared to come out in case it would make me less popular, or people wouldn’t want to be around me.” Even so, he came out to his family at 14. “Everyone was totally cool with it,” he says. “I thought my dad was going to have a different reaction but he was the most calm of them all. He was like, ‘Are you sure?,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m pretty sure.’ And he was like, ‘Cool.’” It was also easier to come out to his friends than he expected; in most cases, he didn’t have to. “At this party, I was sitting with some friends and I saw this guy that I thought was very handsome. I said, ‘Shit, he’s handsome,’ and they were like, ‘Yes! I knew it.’” Accidental self-outings aside, he says, he never had any issues with his friends over being gay. “It was just the normal thing,” he says. “It was just … fine.” Perhaps it’s the level of support with which he has been blessed from friends and family (and also from fans with whom he’s connected over the issues he explores in his songs) that has led to the reassuring, positive vibe of Ruben’s songs, even when they delve into the darker corners of his experience. Whatever the reason, this young queer artist is brave enough to tackle topics that are difficult to talk about in his music and he’s grateful to be passing on the same love and acceptance to his listeners that he’s received from others in his own life. “Support from my listeners has helped me out of dark periods multiple times, in a way that is very difficult to put into words,” he says. “There is nothing that would make me happier than my music being able to do the same thing for others.”
Breaking down ‘Walls’ Out Norwegian singer finds strength in struggle with debut EP By JOHN PAUL KING
Ruben says there’s a lot of himself in his songs.
22 • MAY 10, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Surreal ’Skin’ questions identity in the Grindr age Well acted, well paced thriller packs unexpected punch By JOHN PAUL KING
Pascal Arquimedes and Donal Brophy in ‘The Skin of Our Teeth.’ Photo courtesy TLA Releasing
Filmmaker Matthew Wollin describes his new movie “The Skin of the Teeth” as “a fever dream.” That might be because the film, which is getting a New York premiere ahead of its May 14 release on DVD/VOD platforms, was shot over the course of 13 days in the New York summertime by a handful of people crammed into a “sweltering, windowless room,” an environment that seems highly likely to make one feel feverish. Whatever the reason, it’s an apt summation of a film that has been called “’Get Out’ meets Grindr.” It begins with an awkward hookup between John (Donal Brophy), a handsome and obviously affluent New Yorker, and Josef (Pascal Arquimedes), a younger black man from Mississippi who might have previously met him under cloudy circumstances. Despite a rocky start, the two men seem on the verge of hitting it off when an unexpected mishap plunges Josef into an increasingly surreal nightmare in which he finds himself at the center of a Kafka-esque interrogation. To say it’s full of twists goes only halfway to explaining its convoluted plot; it also takes its narrative to a place where reality itself becomes blurred. In Wollin’s taut, terse screenplay, we are introduced first to John, in a way that captures, perhaps, the essence of his Grindr profile; but when Josef shows up, our perspective is shifted to this newcomer on the scene, and we follow him, like Alice, down the rabbit hole that opens up when his perceptions become unexpectedly altered. To reveal any more than that would be a spoiler, but the journey on which Josef takes us leads through a series of tense, edgy, exceptionally acted two- and three-person scenes, with a small ensemble cast sharing roles (and vice-versa) in a way that heightens the dreamlike tone of the film. The meticulously careful crafting Wollin has executed as director would be enough to make “The Skin of the Teeth” fascinating to watch. It’s more than just an artful head trip, however. There are some deep undercurrents in this story that starts out as a psychological thriller about a hook-up gone wrong and turns into an exploration of racism, homophobia and the ever-shifting politics of power, gender and identity. To begin with, it offers us a lead character who is a gay man of color, something rare even in small, independent film projects like this one. Almost immediately, it subverts the expected trope of portraying a black hero by making him an “unreliable narrator,” in a sense, and throwing us off balance in our understanding of the relationships we are seeing on the screen. It casually, but pointedly, confronts us with our own assumptions about race, sexuality, gender and the rest of it. It effectively builds suspense by playing on our fears, the uncomfortable “what if?” thoughts that plague a generation who make their sexual connections on hookup apps, and evoking thoughts of date rape, gay-bashing, hate crimes and worse, without having to actually take the story down any of those dark pathways. Ultimately, though, “The Skin of the Teeth” is a
movie that, as Wollin puts it, “is at heart about how we determine who we are. What actually comes from us, and what comes from the world around us? How much of what we see is really there, and how much is just what we expect to see? And after all this push and pull, what is left? What have we — actually, accidentally and thrillingly — become?” His movie benefits from the work of an impressive cast of players. As Josef, Arquimedes strikes the balance between affable and opaque, making him a perfect blank slate for audiences to identify with even if they can never quite trust him or even know who he really is; he also offers a believable portrayal of a man forced to recognize that he can never quite trust or even know himself, either, something made even more impressive by the layers of unreality through which his performance must filter itself within the conceits of the film. Brophy, as John, is a perfect counter to him. Broad, beefy, charismatic, he exudes the confident sexuality of a “daddy” who knows what he’s got to offer; he strikes a commanding presence, but he undercuts the aura of entitlement with a not-so-hidden tender streak. He and Arquimedes do a remarkable job of charting their fluctuating dynamic throughout the early segments of the film, building what could easily develop into a believable relationship if things didn’t take an unexpected turn. That chemistry plays an important part in establishing the “uncertain ground” that lies beneath most of the film’s action as it progresses, and these two actors deserve kudos for it. As various cops, lawyers, and other, more ambiguous authority figures, Tom Rizzuto, Chuja Seo and Chris Rafaele commit to each of their interchanging roles with intensity and skill, and David Cruz has a hypnotic one-scene turn as a cigarettesmoking convict with whom Josef enjoys a few minutes respite in his ordeal. Also worth singling out is the film’s score, by Todd Maki, which broods elegantly underneath and in the margins to help maintain Wollin’s ethereal cinematic ambiance. “The Skin of the Teeth” is an intriguing, surprising and provocative thriller that keeps us on edge even as it evolves into something more esoteric. That’s a feat many bigger productions, with more money and more powerful studios behind them, fail to accomplish. What shouldn’t go by without notice is that it’s also a movie that uses LGBTQ characters to tell a story in which their sexuality is integral to a story that is, at the same time, not dependent upon it. In other words, it doesn’t use “gay” as a gimmick, but merely as a condition of a narrative which tackles universal themes that go beyond sexuality. It’s an example of visibility done right, and a promising reminder that, for an up-and-coming generation of queer filmmakers, the transformation of the LGBTQ presence in the narratives that emerge within our popular culture is already well under way.
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24 • MAY 10, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
African gay-cation Travel Indaba conference attracts industry VIPs with open arms By SUSAN HORNIK
With LGBTQ travel generating more than $100 billion each year in the United States, many tourist companies in Africa are eager for travelers with valid passports to visit their beautiful continent. During a business talk at Africa’s Travel Indaba conference, which brought together numerous VIPs in the travel industry, Justin Barnette, who heads up head of marketing and communications for South Africa Tourism’s USA and Canada Hub, pointed out that South African people warmly accept LGBTQ travelers. “As the first country in the world to include a sexual orientation protection clause in our Constitution to ensure the rights of all people, and the fifth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, South Africans can take immense pride that our LGBTQ citizens are full and equal members of our society,” he said. Barnette is excited about the increase in LGBT travelers throughout the continent. “Our remarkable variety of tourism offerings from world-class safari, to adrenalinepumping adventure, along with inspiring explorations of culture, make South Africa uniquely suited to market our destination to LGBTQ travelers.” During his presentation at the panel, Barnette described Honorable Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom as an “especially vocal champion” of LGBTQ rights, quoting his keynote address at the 2016 International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association’s annual global convention held in Cape Town. “What I can say without any shadow of a doubt is that, as a country, we need you and want you here,” Hanekom said during his speech. “Not because of who we are, but because of who you are … We want you here to be a light to the millions of LGBT people in our country, so that wherever they are, they might know that they are not alone, that they are quite normal and that they should live their lives unafraid. For that is the kind of country we are trying to build.” Decades ago, travel was an important escape from the oppression many queer people felt at home. “Today travel is part of our cultural identity and this represents a huge opportunity to operators in the tourism industry,” said panelist Thomas Roth, founder of Community Marketing & Insights. “The LGBTQ community’s travel patterns are nearly double that of the average population and they are very destination loyal,” he said. However, to tap into this market, tour operators need to acknowledge this market in their marketing material.
“Use the correct terminology on your marketing material and ensure this is followed through by your tour operators. For example, use the term marriage equality not gay marriage. Make sure your website includes the LGBTQ community.”
Local tour operators While there are very few LGBT-specific companies in South Africa, The Travel & Event Company’s Michael Gladwin’s is working on become the leading LGBT travel supplier in the country. “Our LGBT initiative, AfriGay, is a unique concept in South Africa, offering travel products and events specific to the LGBT market, both locally and abroad. We are members of the IGLTA (International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association), so we have access to a wonderful global network who support the community and provide us with valuable information and insight into destinations and the challenges faced as LGBT travelers.” A huge part of Gladwin’s role is to ensure his customers have a safe experience as they travel. “I recently returned from Africa’s Mauritius where I facilitated a lesbian wedding. It was a wonderful experience because of the work we had done in the months prior to educate, train, inform the resort (their staff, etc.), so that the experience for the brides and their guests was welcoming and wonderful. It was a huge success.” Gladwin is launching two trips: an inbound All Gay tour of South Africa, and the first of its kind ever on African soil: an all-gay, five-day vacation in Mauritius. Lipian Bongani Mtandabari, a Zimbabwean gay tourist operator, has been a tireless advocate of LGBT travelers since he started his own tourism company at age 17. “Our greatest fear is getting service from an tour operator who is homophobic or staying in a property that will impose their beliefs on same-sex travelers on me,” he said. “In our African community, we still find and experience a belief based on the dogmas imposed by religion, and this makes traveling to be very difficult as an LGBT traveler.” Nevertheless, Mtandabari is working hard to educate. “In fostering human rights and promoting equality through travel, we are providing diversity and inclusion training, workshops and programs for travel professionals and tourism facilities across Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. We take pride in this program, as it ensures that we profile local and regional destinations that are LGBT-inclusive.”
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26 • MAY 10, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Buttigieg, Jussie (the story that keeps giving) and ‘Superbitch’ In other news, ‘Magic Mike’ musical appears to be on ice By BILLY MASTERS
A Michigan college student has renounced his claim of being sexually assualted by presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg. Blade file photo by Michael Key
“There’s a whole lot of sins that will keep you out of the Kingdom of God. Here’s just a sample: sexually immoral can’t get in, idolaters can’t get in, adulterers can’t get in. Men who practice homosexuality, and the term that Paul uses there, he uses two different terms: one for the active participant and the other for the passive. In the homosexual community, one is called the bottom; the other is called the top.” — American Family Association radio host Bryan Fischer explains more over the free airwaves than anyone teaches in sex ed. Who knew the apostle Paul got specific about tops and bottoms? As you know, I typically don’t get embroiled in the political arena. But in my capacity as a television pundit (my latest appearance on “The Take” can be seen on billymasters. com), I’ve been asked for my “take” on the Democratic candidates for president. I may have predicted Miss Gillibrand would go low, but the story circulating about Pete Buttigieg is so low, it’s ludicrous. In an inept attempt to smear Mayor Pete, a rightwing operative hired a Michigan college student to say he had been sexually assaulted by Buttigieg. I hate to say “as if”, but AS IF! The 21-year-old agreed when he was told the operative would buy him “any house I wanted” (an offer nobody has ever made me!). At the last moment, the kid felt that lying would “cost me the two most important things to me: honesty and integrity.” See, this is why nobody has ever made this offer to moi! Even before the fakery was revealed, some Republicans were skeptical. “Not a fan of Mayor Pete but this whole thing seems shady as hell,” Tweeted Gregory T. Angelo, former head of the Log Cabin Republicans. Thank God — some sanity! I’ve avoided it as long as I could — back to Jussie Smollett. Do you want me to start with the good news or the bad news? OK, the good news is that Jussie will no longer have to commute back and forth to Chicago, a city he’s not particularly welcomed in. While FOX renewed “Empire,” there are no plans for Jussie to return to the show. But it’s not all bleak for Smollett. The network did extend his contract through next season, while also saying there are no plans for him to appear in any episodes. Sigh, why can’t I get a job where someone pays me to stay home? Lest you think Smollett’s troubles are behind him, a judge has subpoenaed prosecutor Kim Foxx in regard to how she handled the case — specifically, why she dropped all charges against Jussie (something we’re all wondering). Meanwhile, the actor’s brother has revealed Jussie is having trouble sleeping due to “night terrors.” You know what might help? A brisk 2 a.m. stroll to his local Subway sandwich shop. Taking a break from all the “Empire” drama, creator Lee Daniels revealed some details about his gay superhero flick to CNN’s Van Jones. “It’s true! It’s called ‘Superbitch.’ I found him on Instagram of all places. He does back flips and he has a cape and he does karate and, oh my God, he’s going to be a hero. I’m not putting that much money behind it ... a couple million dollars for a gay superhero movie is pretty f-king exciting.” Jones replied, “With a name like ‘Superbitch,’ you ain’t gotta promote it.” I’m a little bit psychic. Last week, I answered a question about actor and CK model Noah Centineo and his nude
JO video. This week, it’s been announced that Sony will include He-Man in the “Masters of the Universe” flick. And, who will appear in the Speedo and harness? Yup, Noah Centineo. When discussing the gig with Jimmy Fallon, Noah said, “I have an affinity for being in my underwear.” And out of it! Stories about Noahs always come in pairs. In fact, I came with a pair of Noahs once, but that’s another story. This time it’s Noah Galvin, from “The Real O’Neals” and that scandalous interview where he trashed basically everyone he’s ever met. Last year, he made his Broadway debut with a short-lived stint playing the titular role in “Dear Evan Hansen.” Now he’s headed back to Broadway. On April 29th, he’ll take over the role of Ogie in “Waitress.” I recently went to a special live benefit reading of “Valley of the Dolls” which starred Sheryl Lee Ralph as Helen Lawson and Wilson Cruz as Neely O’Hara. To see Wilson pull off Deena Jones’ wig was heaven, however, it was Alec Mapa who stole the show. As Anne, he mimicked Barbara Parkins’ stilted line delivery to a T. Rounding out the glamorous trio was Bruce Vilanch as Jennifer, who pined over “Tony” with all the music of a buxom Sharon Tate. Marissa Jaret Winokur was great as Miss Steinberg, but it was her giggling at everything onstage which made me laugh out loud. Gordon Thomson (from the original “Dynasty”) played Lyon with suave assurance. Joan Van Ark was Miriam and told me, “What I really want to play is Helen Lawson — wasn’t Sheryl Lee incredible?” A lithe Greg Louganis played Tony Polar, Tom Lenk was Mel, Mo Gaffney took on Mr. Bellamy, and Joely Fisher was the narrator. The event benefited the L.A. LGBT Center and the Alcott Center for Mental Health Services. Our “Ask Billy” question comes from Harry in Providence: “What is going on with the stage version of “Magic Mike”? I have tickets for the premiere in Boston over Christmas, but a friend told me it may not happen.” Your friend is right. There is trouble in the world of “Magic Mike: The Broadway Musical.” After Channing Tatum’s public endorsement of composer Tom Kitt and lyricist Brian Yorkey, the pair have exited the production taking the book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa with them. The official word is that people were butting heads prior to a workshop planned for this week in New York. So the entire creative team left due to “creative differences” and the workshop was scrapped. So, to recap, the musical has no book, no lyrics and no music. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play? People are saying the show may not happen and Channing will simply fill the Boston run with the burlesque show “Magic Mike Live” he mounted in Vegas. Who knows what else he may be mounting. When Channing Tatum may be stuffing more than stockings over Christmas, it’s definitely time to end yet another column. Whether you’re naughty or nice, you can get your fill at billymasters.com, the site that always delivers. If you have a question, simply send it along to email@example.com and I promise to get back to you before Jussie is cast as someone’s “Superbitch”! Until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.
28 • MAY 10, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
One of the biggest events on the SoCal rainbow calendar, Long Beach Pride is considered the official kick off for the entire Pride season nationwide. It’s also on the nation’s most diverse celebrations. Photo by Kevin Le
SUNDAY, MAY 12
Mother’s Day atop Montage Hotel is all day today at The Rooftop Grill (225 North Canon Drive). It’s mom’s special day and where better to celebrate it than the most luxurious spot in Los Angeles. Endless views of the Hollywood Hills enhanced by flowing gallons of champagne and the best food Beverly Hills has to offer. It’s all you need to show the love, really. Every international celebrity in the world hangs out here and you’re bound to spot a few. You’ll need to reserve your spot at opentables.com or call 310-860-7990. You might also clear your visit with American Express.
MONDAY, MAY 13
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Finale is tonight at 5 p.m. at The Orpheum Theater (842 South Broadway). VH1 and World of Wonder present the grand finale of season 11, the big event that will be capped by the beginning L.A.’s DragCon. Season 11 queens with reunite and RuPaul will crown America’s Next Drag Superstar Supernova. We recommend the season 11 VIP Squirrelfriends Package, a steal at only $250 that includes premium orchestra seating and exclusive access to a pre-show happy hour with “Drag Race” royalty and other VIPs. Must be 21 years or older for alcoholic beverages.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 15
Gay Male Speed Dating L.A. is tonight at 8 p.m. at Brü Haus (11831 Wilshire Bouleveard). A no-pressure approach to finding a man in the social pressure cooker of L.A. Preferring a “less is more” environment devoid of typical event trappings — no name-tags, no shouting and no over-the-top, overly assertive gladhanding. Organizers are banking that you will meet your special someone and enjoy a relaxed and comfortable experience in this private club atmosphere. They also “refuse service to anyone we don’t think you’ll
fancy meeting.” Unleash your inner foodie, adventure junkie or health and wellness guru with someone just like yourself. $40. For more information visit speedlagaydate.com. Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast is today at 9:30 a.m. at Palm Springs Convention Center (277 North Avenida, Palm Springs, Calif.). A time-honored breakfast to honor the memory of Harvey Milk, strengthening coalitions among the many diverse community organizations that support justice and equality for all in the Desert. This event is one of the most significant LGBT calendar markers and brings out not just the stars but the movers and shakers of the entire California political and activist LGBT world and has a significant impact on the youth who attend. For more information or to purchase tickets please call 760-416-8711. Up to $25,000 per table, $65 per seat individually.
THURSDAY, MAY 16
Lesbians Speed Dating in Long Beach is tonight at 8 p.m. at La Traviata (301 North Cedar Avenue, Long Beach, Calif.). We bet you will want a date for Long Beach Pride, so just in time to make that happen, Lesbian Speed Dating comes to Long Beach. One of the most sophisticated and best ways to meet new people in a glam setting in this magical beach city. If you are like many young people, adjusting socially can take time and just the right environment. You will meet lots of like minded women and will learn a thing or two about yourself. $40. For more information visit speedlongbeachgaydate.com.
FRIDAY, MAY 17
Sean Dorsey Dance’s “Boys in Trouble” is tonight at 8:30 p.m. at Highways Performance Space and Gallery (1651 18th St, Santa Monica, Calif.). Trailblazing transgender choreographer Sean Dorsey returns to the
stage with “Boys in Trouble,” a new evening of dance that unpack masculinity with unflinching honesty — from unapologetically trans and queer perspectives. True Transsexual Confessions is an unabashed love letter between queer black men, a sendup of all things macho and a queer spin on butchness. As John Paul King reports in this issue of the Los Angeles Blade, “Boys in Trouble” is designed to “move seamlessly between dance and live speaking for an evening of super-vulnerable storytelling,” the piece is described as “an extravaganza of full-throttle dance, raw emotion, irreverent humor, exquisite queer partnering … performed with signature precision, guts and deep humanity.” $12.50.
SATURDAY, MAY 18
Long Beach Pride Festival 2019 begins today at 11 a.m. and goes round the clock until May 19 at 10 p.m. at 450 East Shorline Drive in Long Beach. A million moments of Pride is the theme this year as the Long Beach LGBTQ community invites all of Southern California to the Beach town to kick-off celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall. It’s a two-day LGBTQ event (May 18-19) that includes powerhouse live musical names (think Big Freedia and Ada Vox or think Cher), community programming, and food and drinks from local eateries. The Long Beach Pride Festival likes to distinguish itself by saying it “is inclusive and strives to promote an environment that is free from prejudice and bias.” Think Diversidad, muy. Parade will kick off on Sunday at 9 a.m. The event requires entry tickets and is dog friendly.
E-mail calendar items to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
323-347-7000 959 Seward St Los Angeles, CA 90038 located on the corner of Seward and Romaine in Hollywood
30 • MAY 10, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Cannabis use not associated with psychosis in young
N.D. pushes to reduce possession penalties
LOGRONO, Spain — Adolescents’ cannabis use history is not an independent predictor of an elevated risk of psychosis, according to data published in the journal Adicciones. Investigators affiliated with the University of La Rioja in Spain explored the relationship between psychotic-like experiences and cannabis use in a representative sample of over 1,500 Spanish adolescents. They reported that initially identified associations between cannabis use and psychosis were no longer present once researchers controlled for confounding variables, such as socioeconomic status, alcohol use, tobacco smoking, and comorbid psychopathology. Authors concluded, “In this study, it was found that after controlling for the effect of the multiple relevant co-variables, the use of cannabis was not related to the frequency and distress associated with psychotic experiences reported by adolescents. ... These results suggest that the relationships established between psychoticlike experiences and cannabis are complex and mediated by relevant variables.”
BISMARCK, N.D. — House and Senate lawmakers have passed legislation, House Bill 1050, reducing marijuana possession penalties. The measure now awaits action from Republican Gov. Doug Burgum. Under the proposal, the possession of up to one-half ounce (14.175 grams) of cannabis or marijuana-related paraphernalia for a firsttime offender is reclassified from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, to an infraction punishable by a fine but no possibility of jail time. Those charged with subsequent infractions over the course of a calendar year may face the possibility of misdemeanor charges. In 2016, North Dakota ranked sixth in the nation in per capita marijuana possession arrests. Separate provisions in the measure reduce penalties for the possession of up to 500 grams of cannabis from a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, to a class B misdemeanor. Penalties for the possession of greater amounts are amended from a felony to a Class A misdemeanor. If signed into law, the new penalties will take effect on Aug. 1, 2019.
Hawaii decriminalizes low-level possession HONOLULU — House and Senate lawmakers last week finalized and passed legislation, House Bill 1383, decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession offenses and vacating past convictions. The legislation now awaits action from Democratic Gov. David Ige. The measure reduces penalties involving the possession of up to three grams of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a $1,000 fine and a criminal record, to a non-criminal violation punishable by a $130 fine. It also provides a mechanism for the courts to grant an expungement order for those previously convicted of a marijuana possession offense involving no more than three grams. The measure also establishes a task force to review cannabis policy and to make recommendations to the legislature by 2021. If signed, the new law takes effect on Jan. 11, 2020. To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia have either legalized or decriminalized (eliminated the possibility of jail time) the adult possession and personal use of marijuana.
Iowa approves medical cannabis expansion bill DES MOINES — House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, House File 732, to expand the state’s medical cannabis access program. The measure now awaits action from Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. Under existing law, licensed dispensaries may only provide qualified patients with plant-derived extracts possessing CBD and no more than three percent THC. House File 732 eliminates the THC cap. It also permits physician assistants and/or advanced registered nurses to make medical cannabis recommendations, and expands the pool of patients eligible for cannabis therapy to include those with “severe or chronic” pain. The new measure imposes restrictions regarding the total amount of THC a patient may possess in a 90-day period (25 grams). However, this limit may be waived at the advice of a health practitioner. About 1,000 Iowans are currently authorized to access low-THC cannabis oils. Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. Visit norml.org for more information.
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