A SPECIAL REPORT ON IMMIGRATION • Trump’s racist attacks, PAGE 06 • Trans detainees describe abuse, PAGE 14 • Blade writer suffering in ICE custody, PAGE 18
Illustration by Rafael Alejandro García/Tremenda Nota
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02 • JULY 19, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Gilead hit with more lawsuits over harmful side effects of AIDS drug AHF seeks $10 billion fund to compensate patients injured by TDF By LOU CHIBBARO JR. Another two lawsuits were filed last week in California against the U.S. pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc. by several dozen patients who claim the company withheld from the market for more than a decade a drug for treating HIV that it knew was safer and more effective than the drug it promoted during that period. The two personal injury lawsuits accuse Gilead of intentionally continuing to promote the HIV medication tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF), which was known to cause serious kidney and bone damage, so it could profit from the drug before its patent on the medication was to expire in 2015. At the same time, the lawsuits charge, Gilead withheld from the market a far safer version of the drug called tenofovir alafenamide (TAF), which it knew would more effectively treat HIV without causing any of the serious side effects caused by TDF. The lawsuits charge that many patients taking one of five Gilead HIV drugs for which TDF was a key component needlessly suffered debilitating and sometimes fatal kidney and bone damage as well as damage to their teeth. Also adversely impacted by TDF, the lawsuits claim, were HIV-negative people taking the Gilead drug Truvada, which contained TDF, as part of the HIV prevention regimen known as PrEP. In response to these and as many as a dozen or more similar lawsuits filed by HIV patients and PrEP users in state and federal courts in California over the past two years, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation on Monday called on Gilead to create a $10 billion fund “for victims harmed by its TDF-based drugs.” Michael Weinstein, executive director of AHF, the nation’s largest AIDS advocacy and HIV/AIDS patient care organization, said a large compensation fund would benefit both Gilead and the more than 1,000 patients that
Michael Weinstein, executive director of AHF, said a large compensation fund would benefit both Gilead and the more than 1,000 patients that are plaintiffs in the multiple lawsuits against Gilead over the TDF issue.
are plaintiffs in the multiple lawsuits against Gilead over the TDF issue. “We had two goals in putting this out,” said Weinstein. “One was to underline the significance of the liability that they are facing based on their conduct,” which could amount to billions of dollars, he said referring to Gilead. “And second of all is simply to plant the idea in Gilead’s mind that ultimately the best resolution of this is to compensate the people who were harmed,” Weinstein said. “For years, Gilead represented its TDFbased medications as safe and effective, misleading Plaintiffs, their doctors, and the medical community into believing that no safer alternative design existed that would have saved Plaintiffs from TDF’s dangerous effects,” says one of the two lawsuits filed July 12 in Alameda County, Calif., Superior Court. “Indeed, it was Gilead that discovered and helped develop the safer design around the same time it developed TDF in the mid to late 1990s,” the lawsuit says. “Gilead, however, shelved TAF, the safer design, in 2004. Gilead marketed and sold only the dangerous and less effective design – TDF and TDF-based
combination pills – for approximately 15 years,” the lawsuit continues. “Then, when its monopoly on those TDF drugs was about to expire, Gilead sought and received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell, and market TAF-based drugs, allowing it to extend its exclusivity on tenofovir and keep its HIV drugs branded and priced high to increase its profits,” the lawsuit says. A spokesperson for Gilead Sciences didn’t immediately respond to an email and phone message from the Blade asking the company to comment on this and other similar lawsuits filed against it during the past two years over the TDF and TAF drug allegations. Gilead’s attorneys disputed the allegations that the company failed to adequately alert patients and doctors of the adverse side effects of TDF in a July 10 motion filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in a motion calling for the court to dismiss yet another lawsuit filed against it over the TDF-TAF issue. That case, Adrian Holley, et al vs. Gilead Sciences, Inc., was filed in March 2018 and is one of several TDF-related cases filed against Gilead in federal court in California. In its motion to dismiss, Gilead argues that plaintiffs have failed to provide sufficient evidence that “newly acquired information” surfaced to that would have allowed Gilead to “strengthen warnings contained in TDF medication labeling after 2008.” Gilead has stated in the past it has included warnings about possible harmful side effects of TDF for people who have a history of kidney or bone related ailments. The lawsuits, however, have charged the company with failing to issue an alert that TDF could cause serious kidney and bone damage for people who did not have a history of kidney or bone related problems. ‘Plaintiffs still have not alleged, inter alia, facts supporting when they or their doctors were exposed to any alleged misrepresentations, what misrepresentations they or their doctors were exposed to, or if or how their or their doctors’ conduct changed based on any such misrepresentations, as required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures 8(a) and 99(b),” Gilead attorneys state in their motion
to dismiss the federal lawsuit. The motion to dismiss makes no mention of the other key allegation in this and the other lawsuits – that Gilead withheld the release of the safer HIV drug TAF to enable it to reap its profits from TDF until its patent on that drug expired in 2015. The lawsuit filed on July 12 in Alameda County, entitled Gary Smith, et al vs. Gilead Sciences, Inc. includes 41 plaintiffs who are seeking financial compensation for damages of an as yet undeclared amount on grounds that Gilead violated “Strict Products Liability – Failure to Warn” requirements; engaged in “Negligence and Gross-Negligence—Design Defect and Failure-to-Warn” related to the harmful effects of TDF; Fraud; and “Breach of Express and Implied Warranty.” The Smith v. Gilead lawsuit was filed five days after a separate lawsuit accusing Gilead of the same allegations of failing to adequately alert patients to the harmful side effects of TDF and withholding the release of the safer drug TAF was filed in San Diego County Superior Court under the case name Timothy Williams, et al vs. Gilead Sciences, Inc., et al. “This case is a shocking example of corporate greed,” said Elizabeth Graham, one of the lead attorneys with Grant & Eisenhofer, an Oakland, Calif.-based law firm that filed the San Diego case on behalf of the plaintiffs it is representing. “Gilead owed its consumer patients the safest possible drug, but opted to withhold that drug from the market in the name of profit,” Graham said in a statement. Liza Brereton, an attorney with HIV Litigation Attorneys, a law firm created to focus on personal injury and class action lawsuits filed against Gilead related to TDF, said judges with the multiple California state courts in which the pending lawsuits against Gilead have been filed have scheduled a hearing in Los Angles for July 30 in which the cases were expected to be consolidated into one large case. “So it’s taken a while but pretty soon we’ll be all in front of one judge in one court and things will be moving pretty quickly,” Brereton said. She said the cases in federal courts will continue as separate cases.
04 • JULY 19, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
There was an uglier time in America than now Three decades ago, Rock Hudson’s AIDS death was a line of moral demarcation By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com To many Americans, racism is not partisan, nor is it a special interest issue or ideology. At least since the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, racism and its spawn have been anathema to American values. Until now. President Donald Trump’s xenophobic and racist tweets targeting four women of color duly elected to the U.S. Congress and his backing by the Republican Party has thrown a splitting axe into an already divided country. And with the 2020 elections already in full swing, the stark political weaponization of racism will only made America uglier. The LGBT community has seen this before—three decades ago when “good people” deliberately ignored the mysterious illness devouring the gay community. It wasn’t until July 25, 1985—three years after the Centers for Disease Control announced the burgeoning epidemic that would become known as HIV/AIDS—that America took notice after Rock Hudson’s French publicist confirmed that the one-time Hollywood “heartthrob” had AIDS. “At first, when case numbers were small, America ignored AIDS. Next, it was pigeonholed as a ‘gay disease,’ important only to ‘those’ people. There was no sign of a compassionate response,” Dr. Michael Gottlieb wrote in a June 2011 essay for the blog LGBT POV. It was his article, written with out gay Dr. Joel Weisman, about a mysterious new disease in five gay men in the L.A. area that the CDC published on June 5, 1981. Rock Hudson was Gottlieb’s patient. “Before Rock Hudson, the media did not consider AIDS to be a legitimate news story deserving coverage. The disclosure of his AIDS diagnosis changed all that,” Gottlieb wrote. The pioneering HIV/AIDS doctor cited gay journalist Randy Shilts, who wrote in “And The Band Played On” that “Rock Hudson riveted America’s attention upon this deadly new threat for the first time, and his diagnosis became a demarcation that would separate the history of America before AIDS from the history that came after.”
Rock Hudson with Elizabeth Taylor in a publicity still from ‘Giant.’
While Hudson’s announcement yielded some compassion, it also made everyday people even more afraid of gays. They didn’t want to catch AIDS. There was no cure. Buff gay men would shrivel up, sprout purple spots of deadly KS, develop cancerous white thrush in the mouth, go blind or have HIV breach the blood-brain barrier, spew up or shit out whatever medication venom they couldn’t keep down and if they had any energy at all, would painfully shuffle around carting an IV pole in an act of defiance against the death taking their lives by inches and seconds. Ironically, Hudson had been diagnosed with HIV on June 5, 1984, three weeks after attending a state dinner in his friend Ronald Reagan’s White House. Reagan called Hudson when the actor was in a Paris hospital desperately seeking a cure — but Reagan failed to even mention AIDS until many years later pressed by their mutual friend, Elizabeth Taylor. AIDS Project Los Angeles, which started in a small room with a helpline phone at the LA Community Services Center, seized the moment and created a Hollywood benefit entitled “Commitment to Life.” Hudson sent a telegram to that September event, attended by numerous Hollywood stars. “I am not happy that I am sick. I am not happy that I have AIDS. But if that is helping others, I can at least know that my own misfortune has had some positive worth,” he wrote. But it was actually another fundraiser
organized by APLA (now APLA Health) that enabled people from all walks of life to show their support for people with AIDS. On July 28—three days after Hudson came out about his AIDS diagnosis—APLA held its first AIDS Walk Los Angeles. The overwhelmed organization hoped to raise $100,000. But 4,500 walkers showed up at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, raising $673,000 and inspiring regular people to get involved in fighting HIV/AIDS. “AIDS may not be in the headlines as much as it used to be,” Craig E. Thompson, CEO of APLA Health, who has been HIV-positive since 1985, tells the Los Angeles Blade. “HIV and AIDS are still very real in Los Angeles County where more than 60,000 individuals are living with HIV, and unfortunately, around 1,500 people are diagnosed each year.” Thompson thinks AIDS Walk Los Angeles – which has raised $88 million since its inception - has endured because of its importance to the community. “This is a chance for individuals who lived through the height of the epidemic to walk in memory of the friends and loved ones they have lost,” Thompson says. “It’s a chance for people to give back to the community by raising critical funds to support their community. It’s an opportunity for young people to fight a disease that has been omnipresent their entire lives. It’s also a chance for people to come together to celebrate life and the very real possibility
The Aug. 13, 1985 cover of The National Enquirer after Rock Hudson confirmed he had AIDS. Photo via Amazon
that we can see an end to one of the greatest epidemics in our lifetime.” There’s another epidemic in the country right now, spread by a president infected by cruel, toxic inhumanity. It will be interesting to see if the public response is as courageous as those who turned out on July 28, 35 years ago, to stand up to AIDS. To register for the 35th annual AIDS Walk Los Angeles on Oct. 20, visit aidswalkla.org.
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06 • JULY 19, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Trump triples down on racism, changes asylum rules Is America hurling toward a schism? By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org Donald Trump’s normalized habit of creating distractions may have reached a tipping point July 15, as the president instigated a white nationalist twitter attack against four duly elected women of color in Congress and announced a new policy that essentially ends asylum in the US, potentially condemning terriﬁed and tortured LGBT asylum seekers to their deaths. Trump’s public throw-down telling progressive Democratic LGBT allies Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Bronx), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), Rashida Tlaib ( Michigan) and Ayanna S. Pressley (Massachusetts) – nicknamed “the Squad” -- to “go back” where they come from was considered so overtly racist, even journalistic standardbearer The Associated Press called Trump’s tweets “racist” in a headline. The political and cultural signiﬁcance has been so jarring that historians may well regard July 2019 as the moment when the 2020 elections started to boil down to candidates either supporting white supremacist or advocating for diversity. And it may have all started as a distraction. Trump needed to divert media scrutiny away from his association with billionaire registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein— and his heavily criticized Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, who, as a Florida federal prosecutor, had given Epstein a sweetheart deal in 2008. Suddenly, the day before Acosta resigned, the New York Times reported on Thursday, July 11 about a new plan for massive ICE sweeps of undocumented immigrants. This was an abrupt reversal of Trump’s scuttled previous announcement of ICE “removing the millions of illegal aliens,” tweeted on June 17. This time, there was a list of 2,000 “criminals” with ﬁnal deportation orders who could expect shockand-awe-like ICE sweeps in 10 named cities, including Los Angeles, on Sunday, July 14. The ICE raid was a harsh counter to
President Trump Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
extensive media coverage of the Squad criticizing the inhumane treatment of migrants, including caged separated children, after their July 1 tour of detention centers in El Paso and Clint, Texas. The ACLU reports that despite a court-ordered injunction, Trump’s child-separation policy is still in effect, where an infant can be taken from its “unﬁt” mother for a years-old traffic violation. Lights for Liberty organized 800 rallies around the country on Friday night, July 12 protesting the expected massive ICE raids and alerting immigrant families about their rights. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Police Chief Michel Moore took to Twitter to alert undocumented people that law enforcement would not help ICE in the raids. They also posted “know your rights” cards. About 400 people rallied in downtown LA, while a much smaller group gathered in West Hollywood Park to hear former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, local leaders
and several members of the West Hollywood City Council decry Trump’s inhumanity towards immigrants and asylum seekers. As thousands protested, Vice President Mike Pence visited two migrant detention centers in Texas, one with children and the other a Border Patrol station near McAllen with nearly 400 men crammed inside a cage. Some of the detainees said they had been there for more than 40 days, were hungry, and could not shower or brush their teeth. According to the pool reporter from Politico: “The stench was horrendous. The cages were so crowded that it would have been impossible for all of the men to lie on the concrete.” “I was not surprised by what I saw,” Pence said later. “I knew we would see a system that was overwhelmed. This is tough stuff.” He blamed Democrats for the situation. Meanwhile, on a quieter parallel track, an internal Democratic Caucus dispute was developing between the Squad and Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the inadequacies
of an emergency border aid package. The dispute intensiﬁed after AOC’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, called out Rep. Sharice Davids, a moderate out lesbian Democrat and Native American from Kansas, for voting for the aide bill. Chakrabarti, in a tweet he later deleted, wrote that the liberals “certainly seem hell bent to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s.” Of Davids, he tweeted: “I don’t think people have to be personally racist to enable a racist system.” Friday night, the House Democratic Caucus’s official Twitter account slapped back: “Who is this guy and why is he explicitly singling out a Native American woman of color?” Saturday, a pall hung over the City of Angeles as undocumented immigrant families, friends, allies and advocates cowered in fear, having heard that anyone nearby, even US citizens, could be swept up as “collateral” damage during the raids.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JULY 19, 2019 • 07
Reps. Ayanna S. Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez , Rashida Tlaib Screengrab of news conference
At a Netroots Nation panel Saturday morning, three members of the Squad shared their experiences and were received as rock stars. They also encouraged conference attendees (including TransGriot’s Monica Roberts) to run for elective office – but only as their authentic selves. “We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice,” Pressley said. “We don’t need anymore black faces that don’t want to be a black voice. We don’t need any more Muslim faces who don’t want to be a Muslim voice. We don’t need any more queers that don’t want to be a queer voice.” On another panel, Omar, who came to the US from Somalia as a child, talked about criticism of her as unAmerican. “I believe, as an immigrant, I probably love this country more than anyone that is naturally born,” she said. “We export American exceptionalism—the great America, the land of liberty and justice. That is, you ask anybody walking on the side
of the street somewhere in the middle of the world, they will tell you: ‘America the great.’ But we don’t live those values here,” Omar said. “And so that hypocrisy is one that I’m bothered by, I want America the great to be America the great.” Sunday, the waiting was unbearable. But the shock and awe didn’t materialize. Some pundits questioned whether inﬂicting trauma, fear and intimidation was Trump’s sole intention. Bamby Salcedo, founder and CEO of the LA-based TransLatin@ Coalition, noted it was Sunday, when most undocumented immigrants do not work. Normally, “ICE preys on people” in the early morning hours. “Trump and ICE said they were only targeting criminals. But that’s not true because in their minds, all of us are criminals. Everybody who comes from Mexico—I’m part of that—people who come from ‘shit-hole’ countries. People from Central America. Muslims. All people of color in his eyes are criminals,” Salcedo tells
the Los Angeles Blade. “We have seen all those images [of migrants in cages] and images don’t lie about the realities of people,” says Salcedo. “This administration knows what is happening because this is what they think of us—as criminals….This is completely inhumane. They are violating the human rights of people.” Additionally, the detention facilities are privately run or owned with contractors making $750 per day per warehoused person. “ICE is a monster money-making machine,” says Salcedo. “They found a way to create wealth by caging people.” Trump also used Sunday morning to unleash a Twitter tirade attacking the Squad, all U.S. citizens, three of whom are American-born and one, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a naturalized citizen like Trump’s wife Melania. Trump tweeted: “So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen,
who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help ﬁx the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.” As Democrats cried foul, news outlets noted the deafening silence of Republicans. “Are you OK with a racist president, Republicans?” asked the editorial board of the Charlotte Observer, the newspaper of record in the city that will host the Republican National Convention in August 2020. “’Go back where you came from’ is among the worst of racist tropes. It divides us by ethnicity and skin color. It says that even if someone is a citizen or legal immigrant, they are not part of the rest of us. That runs contrary to who we should be as Americans,” they wrote. Trump sloughed off the criticism, saying the centers had received “great reviews” and the overcrowded adult male areas were “loaded up with a big percentage of criminals.” On July 15, as a judge heard arguments for granting bail to billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, and more Russian interference news broke in advance of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s appearance before Congress--Trump threw his white supremacist base more raw red meat. He defended his racist remarks at a White House event, alleging the four women of color “hate our country” and are “free to leave if they want.” He also repeatedly alleged that Omar is a Qaeda sympathizer — a false charge. Trump said he was unconcerned that his tweets were racist. “It doesn’t concern me, because many people agree with me,” he said. “All I’m saying is if they want to leave, they can leave now.”The four women, Trump said, “are people that hate our country. They Continues on page 8
08 • JULY 19, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Activists denounce Trump’s ‘inhumane, racist policies’ Continued from page 7 hate our country. They hate it, I think, with a passion.” And, contrary to evidence, Trump said the ICE raids “were very successful….Many, many were taken out on Sunday, you just didn’t know about it.” On the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Squad showed their mettle. “We ran on a mandate to advocate for and represent those ignored, left out and left out and left behind,” Pressley said. “Our squad is big. Our squad includes any person committed to building a more equitable and just world, and that is the work that we want to get back to…And given the size of this squad and this great nation, we cannot, we will not be silenced.” “This is the agenda of white nationalists,” Omar said. “He would love nothing more than to divide our country based on race, religion, gender, orientation, or immigration status.” “We don’t leave the things that we love. And when we love this country, that means we propose the solutions to ﬁx it,” said AOC. “Sadly, this is not the ﬁrst nor will it be last time we hear disgusting, bigoted language from the President,” said Tlaib, who joined Omar in calling for Trump’s impeachment. On July 16, Trump asserted his tweets were not racist. “I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” he tweeted. California Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy held a news conference backing him up, saying the tweets were not racist. “I believe this is about ideology. This is about socialism versus freedom.” California Rep. Karen Bass, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, told MSNBC that Republicans who used to tell her privately that they were embarrassed by Trump haven’t approached her. “He always throws a racist bomb when he wants to divert our attention,” Bass said, noting the upcoming Mueller hearing. “But I am seriously worried about the lives of our four members,” worried that Trump’s racist hateful rhetoric “will trigger somebody.” Bass agreed that Trump “already has” blood on his hands. Meanwhile, as the country convulses over Trump’s overt racism, many LGBT leaders are worried over the grave consequences
Masked, caged migrants in custody. Photo from pool reporter Josh Dawsey
for LGBT asylum seekers and how other countries may now also feel free to end their asylum policies. “The new rule, published in the Federal Register and set to take effect Tuesday, would bar asylum claims from anyone who has passed through another country en route to the U.S., which essentially would cover anyone other than Mexican residents, who make up a small fraction of asylum applicants,” the LA Times reports. “Only in rare cases, such as when a migrant applies for asylum elsewhere and is denied, would a person be eligible to apply for protection in the U.S.” “This rule is inconsistent with both domestic and international law, and we intend to sue immediately to block it,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s national Immigrants’ Rights Project, who ﬁled suit in San Francisco federal court Tuesday. “If allowed to stand, it would effectively end asylum at the southern border and could not be more inconsistent with our country’s commitment to protecting those in danger.” The rule requires migrants to apply for
asylum in their country of origin or a “safe third country,” which for migrants who travel from South and Central America means Mexico, which denies 75% of petitions for asylum. Trans asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable. Two trans women, Roxana Hernández and JohanaMedina, died in ICE custody. Another, Camila Díaz Córdova, was murdered when she was returned to El Salvador, the country she ﬂed. “Right now in TJ (Tijuana) the situation is really bad for LGBTQ people, specially for Central American trans women. It is not safe at all,” Salcedo tells the Los Angeles Blade. “What this administration wants to do is really eliminate the right of people for asking for asylum. Seeking asylum is a human right, but obviously, this administration does not see certain people as humans.” Out LA Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur were part of a delegation that visited the LGBT center, Jardín de Las Mariposas, in Tijuana. “I have seen ﬁrst-hand the humanitarian crisis at our border with Mexico, a situation
made worse by the inhumane and racist policies of Donald J. Trump,” Farrell tells the Los Angeles Blade. “His recent order requiring that asylum seekers to the United States petition their country of origin ﬁrst is yet another step in his efforts at normalizing the pain and suffering of migrants from Central America. This puts everyone who dreams of becoming an American-- and hoping for a better life-- directly in harms way, including those who identify as LGBT who are already facing persecution at home.” “Seeking asylum is a legal right under American law and a matter of life and death for many LGBTQ people escaping danger and persecution,” says Zbur. “We’ve seen ﬁrst-hand the crisis at our southern border, but make no mistake: the crisis has been created by the Trump-Pence Administration -- not asylum seekers. We in California will continue to show compassion for immigrants even when this Administration attempts to close the door on them.” Speaker Pelosi set July 16 for a vote on a resolution in which the House “strongly condemns President Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.” “Let me be clear, our caucus will continue to forcefully respond to these disgusting attacks [against the Squad],” Pelosi said. “The House cannot allow the president’s characterization of immigrants to our country to stand. Our Republican colleagues must join us in condemning the president’s xenophobic tweets.” That night, America bore witness to chaos and a House divided. The House voted 240 to 187 along party lines, joined by four Republicans— Will Hurd, Brian Fitzpatrick, Fred Upton and Susan Brooks—and now independent Justin Amash, on a resolution condemning Trump’s racism. Rep. Al Green immediately announced his intention to ﬁle articles of impeachment against Trump, which he has done before. However, most Democrats think impeachment proceedings should start with hearings in the House Judiciary Committee ﬁrst. Undoubtedly, the LGBT and other minorities will have to endure many more distractions before the November 2020 elections determine the fate of American democracy.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JULY 19, 2019 • 09
The Bank of England announced that Alan Turing, the famous closeted gay mathematician, WWII codebreaker and father of the computer, will appear on Britain’s £50 note, scheduled for 2021 circulation. A 1951 photo of Turing will be superimposed over the “British Bombe” machine that helped crack the German Enigma codes. The bill will also feature a Turing quote: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come and only the shadow of what is going to be.” “This is great news. It’s really wonderful that Alan Turing is being recognized in this way. He was one of a kind. He helped change the world. It’s an enduring tragedy that the British government destroyed his life because he was gay. Hopefully having his face on the 50 pound note will allow more people to appreciate his life and remember his legacy,” Patrick Sammon, creator and executive producer of the 2011 documentary “Codebreaker,” told the Los Angeles Blade. Turing was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 for his relationship with a 19-year-old man. He committed suicide at age 41 in 1954. He was granted a posthumous royal pardon by Queen Elizabeth in 2013 after homosexuality was decriminalized. He was portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game” in 2014. In 2017, the British government passed the “Alan Turing Law,” pardoning thousands of men convicted of homosexual-related offenses. “This is a truly momentous day. We can never undo the hurt caused, but we have apologised and taken action to right these wrongs. I am immensely proud that ‘Turing’s law’ has become a reality under this government,” said Justice Minister Sam Gyimah. – Karen Ocamb
“I served on active duty in the U.S. Air Force and currently serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Yet I still experience people telling me to ‘go back’ to China or North Korea or Japan.” – Rep. Ted Lieu, who represents California’s 33rd District, in the Washington Post July 16.
“It will be a nightmare from which this nation may never recover.”
— Evangelist Franklin Graham warning about passage of the Equality Act in Decision Magazine, via The New Civil Rights Movement, July 17.
“His balancing of legal precedent with the Constitution’s call for equal justice and an understanding of Americans’ daily lives helped the court — and the country — navigate controversial and deﬁning questions of who we are and who we can be.” – President Barack Obama on the July 16 death of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
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10 • JULY 19, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Trump Defense pick rebuked over trans ban testimony President Trump’s choice to become the next secretary of defense Mark Esper was rebuked Tuesday during his confirmation hearing for “misleading” testimony in which he asserted transgender people who “can meet the standards with special accommodations” can serve in the military. Esper made the comments, which largely defer to the Trump administration’s anti-trans report on transgender people in the military, in response to written responses to advance policy questions made public the day he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The 2018 report, which former Defense Secretary James Mattis signed off on before leaving the Pentagon, has been criticized for relying on junk science in seeking to justify that ban after Trump directed the Defense Department to implement it in the first place. In response to a question on the impact on allowing transgender people in the military consistent with their gender identity, Esper wrote the military is “a standards-based organization.” “Whoever can meet the standards without special accommodations can serve,” Esper writes. “Transgender individuals may serve so long as they can adhere to all military standards, including the standards associated with the biological sex.” The transgender ban technically allows transgender people to serve, but only if they’re willing to serve in their biological sex (which is very few transgender people). The policy forbids the enlistment of individuals who’ve obtained transition-related care, such as gender reassignment surgery, and requires the discharge of service members if they obtain a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. Esper hinted at the details of this in his response, referencing the 2018 report and stating individuals who don’t meet the criteria “could adversely impact military readiness and effectiveness and should be evaluated for the purposes of either accession or retention.” The Trump administration instituted a small exemption in its new policy: Transgender people who were in the military before the ban was implemented in April and obtained transition-related care are allowed to stay. Esper references this exemption in his response when asked which transgender service members should be grandfathered into the Obama administration’s policy, which as of 2016 allowed all qualified transgender people to stay in the military. Transgender people either contracted for enlistment or selected for entrance into an officer commissioning program before April 12, Esper states, are “considered exempt” from the new policy, as are contracted ROTC and military service academy cadets. Aaron Belkin, director of the San Francisco-based Palm Center, criticized Esper for his response on transgender service, saying the nominee’s testimony is “misleading, and goes to the heart of the distortions that sustain the transgender ban.”
“For every medical condition except gender dysphoria, troops are evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they meet standards,” Belkin said. “For gender dysphoria, by contrast, service members are simply assumed to be unfit, and fired on that basis, even though research and experience show that transgender troops, including those who need medical care, are as fit as their non-transgender peers.” Last year, Esper was among the defense officials who, under questioning from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), asserted allowing transgender people in the military has had no impact on unit cohesion. In testimony with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Miller, Esper said, “Nothing has percolated up to my level.” “Young kids tend to raise the issue in front of them at the day,” Esper said at the time. “It could be that they’re performing allnight duty or didn’t get their paycheck, and this was just not an issue that came up at that moment in time.” This year, in his written responses, Esper similarly said in response to the same question he has “no specific reports on such impacts.” But Esper undercuts his own response, explaining why he might not have information about disruptions to unit cohesions one way or the other. “DOD policies protect the privacy of all service members, prevent discrimination against them, and preclude the systematic tracking of transgender service members to assess their performance and impact on unit cohesion and effectiveness,” Esper writes. Esper concludes his response on the issue with a vague comment about supporting the service of individuals who meet can meet the standards (which under the current policy would exclude transgender people). “I believe that anyone who can meet the standards (physical, mental, conduct, and security) without special accommodations and is worldwide deployable should be able to serve,” Esper writes. No member of the Senate Armed Services Committee — Democrat or Republican — queried Esper during the oral portion of his testimony Tuesday on transgender military service. Gillibrand, who’s currently in the middle of her 2020 presidential campaign, wasn’t there and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asked about ethics issues. Transgender service comes up in another part of Esper’s written response to questions on the “Deploy or Get Out” policy, which under the Trump administration discharges all service members who are unable to deploy in combat for a period of longer than 12 months Asked how this policy should apply to individuals who have HIV or are transgender, Esper writes the policy “should be applied equitably to all service members, and each service member is evaluated for retention on a case-by-case basis.” CHRIS JOHNSON
New Republic retracts controversial Buttigieg op-ed The New Republic, a magazine that covers art and politics, has retracted a controversial op-ed about Pete Buttigieg written by gay literary critic Dale Peck. NBC News reported that the op-ed, titled “My Mayor Pete Problem,” references the South Bend, Ind. mayor as “Mary Pete” throughout the article. Peck also refers to Buttigieg as “the gay equivalent of Uncle Tom.” Peck questions Buttigieg’s ability to be president because Buttigieg came out later in life. “The last thing I want in the White House is a gay man staring down 40 who suddenly realizes he didn’t get to have all the fun his straight peers did when they were teenagers,” Peck wrote. In another part of the op-ed, Peck writes that the difference between Buttigieg and the other “well-educated reasonably intelligent white dude who wanna be president is what he does with his d—.”‘ The article was published on Friday and by Saturday had been taken down by New Republic after it was slammed on social media for its offensive content. New Republic editor Chris Lehmann claimed to CNN that the op-ed was intended to be taken as satire. “The New Republic recognizes that this post crossed a line, and while it was largely intended as satire, it was inappropriate and invasive,” Lehmann told CNN’s Brian Stelter. However, Peck shared the story on his Facebook page and appeared to indicate that the story wasn’t meant to be satirical. CHRIS JOHNSON
12 • JULY 19, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
House approves amendment to restore trans military service
Bernie Sanders highlights his vote against DOMA in new campaign video. Screen capture via YouTube
Sanders invokes vote against DOMA in new video On the anniversary of his 1996 vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, Bernie Sanders through his 2020 presidential campaign issued a video in which LGBT supporters in New Hampshire highlight his record. The three-minute video, titled “Even When It was Hard,” shows images of Bernie Sanders with LGBT supporters, including a march through a Pride parade. The video includes clips from New Hampshire Constituency Director Mo Baxley, who led the fight for marriage equality in Freedom to Marry, New Hampshire for Bernie steering committee member David Holt and New Hampshire deputy state director Carli Stevenson. “Thirty to forty years ago, there weren’t people standing up to support the LGBT community,” Baxley says. “Bernie Sanders was one of the very few, and it meant all the world to us.” Among the featured newspaper clips in the video is an article from 1996 in “Out in the Mountains” on DOMA, which says, “Both of Vermont’s Senators, Leahy and Jeffords, voted in favor of DOMA, while Congressman Bernie Sanders voted against the act.” The Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriage, came for a vote on July 12, 1996. The vote was 342-67. Sanders was one of the lawmakers in the minority against DOMA. Current presidential candidates Sanders and Joseph Biden were on opposite sides of DOMA. When the bill came up for a vote in the Senate on Sept. 10, 1996 Biden voted for the bill. CHRIS JOHNSON
The U.S. House approved last week an amendment as part of major defense policy legislation that would not only restore only transgender military service, but prohibit the U.S. armed forces from discriminating against LGBT service members. The House approved the measure, introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), by a party-line vote of 242-187 as part of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization bill. Speier said in a statement the House vote on the amendment is “a watershed moment in the fight to celebrate and protect open transgender military service,” which the Defense Department banned in April following a directive from President Trump. “Courageous transgender servicemembers continue to fight for our country despite the president’s hateful ban and deserve to know we stand with them,” Speier said. “Our country has a shameful history of preventing people from serving based on bias, ignorance and malice. This is the first time Congress has voted to ensure that no discriminatory standard based on race, religion, national origin or sex can prevent qualified individuals from serving their country. Our military is strongest when it embodies our nation’s values.” Joining the united Democratic caucus in voting in favor of the bill were 10 Republicans: Reps. Susan Brooks (Ind.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Trey Hollingsworth (Ind.), William Hurd (Texas), John Katko (N.Y.), Tom Reed (N.Y.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Steve Stivers (Ohio), Fred Upton (Mich.) and Greg Walden (Ore.). When the vote was initially being tallied, a total of 11 Republicans, not 10, were shown as having voted in favor of the amendment. A Democratic aide said the number went down because Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) changed his vote from “yes” to “no” at the last second. The Blade has placed a request in with Waltz’s office seeking comment why on the lawmaker changed his vote. Known as the “Harry Truman” amendment, the measure is modeled after the 1948 executive order President Truman signed desegregating the military. The amendment states the military must consider applicants based on gender-neutral occupational standards and military occupational specialty, but “may not include any criteria relating to the race, color, national origin, religion, or sex (including gender identity or sexual orientation) of an individual.” CHRIS JOHNSON
‘Pose’ scores history-making 6 Emmy noms “Pose” landed six Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series and a Best Actor nomination for Billy Porter, marking a historic milestone for the television series to feature the largest cast of LGBTQ actors. Porter, who portrays Pray Tell on “Pose” is the first openly gay black man to be nominated for an Emmy. “I just haven’t been breathing for the past day,” Porter told Deadline about his nomination. “So today, I was able to breathe — that was my first reaction!” Other LGBTQ nominations include “RuPaul’s Drag Race” for Outstanding Competition Program and “RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked” for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program. RuPaul also was nominated for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program up against Ellen DeGeneres for “Ellen’s Game of Games.” Laverne Cox is nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for “Orange is the New Black” and Jane Lynch is nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Kate McKinnon was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for “Saturday Night Live” and Ben Whishaw is nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for “A Very English Scandal.” “Schitt’s Creek,” which stars out actor Dan Levy, was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series. “Queer Eye” was also nominated for Outstanding Structured Reality Program. Outstanding Short Form Variety Series is full of gay nominees including “Billy on the Street,” “Gay of Thrones” and “The Randy Rainbow Show.” “Game of Thrones” also made history with a total of 32 nominations, the most nominations received by a television series in one year. The Emmys air on Sunday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. on FOX. MARIAH COOPER
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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JULY 19, 2019 • 15
Trans ICE detainees in N.M. describe mistreatment 29 women allege inadequate medical care, verbal abuse By MICHAEL K. LAVERS Twenty-nine transgender women who are in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at a privately run detention center in rural New Mexico have signed a letter in which they complain about the conditions in which they are living. The trans women who are detained at the Cibola County Correctional Center signed the handwritten letter written in Spanish that is dated June 26. Trans Queer Pueblo, a Phoenix-based group that advocates on behalf of undocumented LGBT immigrants, provided a copy of it to the Washington Blade. The letter says there is not “adequate” medical attention to “treat people with disabilities, people with HIV, skin infections” and there is “a lack of medications for many” trans women. The letter also states Cibola County Correctional Center staffers “psychologically and verbally” mistreat them. “We are afraid of reprisals, but (we are) more afraid to be in this situation,” reads the letter. CoreCivic, a private company that was once known as the Corrections Corporation of America, operates Cibola County Correctional Center, a minimum-security men’s facility that is roughly 80 miles west of Albuquerque in Cibola County. A unit for trans ICE detainees opened at the facility in 2017 after the agency’s contract with Santa Ana Jail in Orange County, Calif., which had a unit specifically for trans detainees, ended. The Cibola County Correctional Center also houses cisgender men who are in the custody of ICE, the U.S. Marshals and Cibola County. Reporters from the Blade; the Associated Press; Univision and a television station in El Paso, Texas, on June 12 visited the unit. The tour, which ICE organized, took place less than 13 months after Roxsana Hernández, a trans Honduran woman with HIV who had been briefly detained at the Cibola County
Transgender women in U.S. ICE custody get their hair done at a beauty salon inside the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M., on June 6. ICE provided this picture to reporters after they visited the unit last month.
Correctional Center, died in ICE custody at an Albuquerque hospital. The reporters, among other things, saw six trans detainees playing volleyball with a male staffer in an outdoor recreation area that was adjacent to the unit. The reporters did not tour the portion of the facility in which detainees are kept in solitary confinement. Alejandra, a prominent trans rights activist from El Salvador who has been in ICE custody since 2017, is detained at the Cibola County Correctional Center. Alejandra is among those who signed the letter. “This unit’s employees in recent days did activities that are only an opposite image of reality,” it reads. The Blade has reached out to an ICE spokesperson for comment on the letter. ICE officials have repeatedly defended its treatment of trans people who are in their custody. A 2015 memorandum then-ICE Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations Thomas Homan signed requires personnel to allow trans detainees to identify themselves based on their gender identity on data forms. The directive, among other things, also contains guidelines for a “respectful, safe and secure environment” for trans detainees and requires detention
From left: Johely, a transgender woman from Mexico’s Nayarit state, speaks with Alma Rosa SilvaBañeulos of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project’s offices in Albuquerque, N.M., on June 11. Daniela was in U.S. ICE custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M., for several months until her release in January 2019. Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers
facilities to provide them with access to hormone therapy and other trans-specific health care. Adrien Lawyer of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, an Albuquerque-based advocacy organization, on June 12 told the Blade his group “liaisons with ICE” on the treatment of the trans women who are in ICE custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center.
The Blade on June 11 visited the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, an Albuquerquebased group that advocates on behalf of immigrants, and spoke with three trans women who were previously detained in the facility. Inadequate medical care and bad food at the Cibola County Correctional Center are among the issues about which they complained.
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MOST IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT BIKTARVY BIKTARVY may cause serious side effects, including: } Worsening of Hepatitis B (HBV) infection. If you have both HIV-1 and HBV, your HBV may suddenly get worse if you stop taking BIKTARVY. Do not stop taking BIKTARVY without first talking to your healthcare provider, as they will need to check your health regularly for several months.
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18 • JULY 19, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
VOLUME 03 ISSUE 28
Living an ‘American nightmare’ Blade contributor endures horrific conditions in ICE custody By YARIEL VALDÉS GONZÁLEZ Editor’s note: Yariel Valdés González is a Washington Blade contributor who has asked for asylum in the U.S. Valdés has previously described the conditions at the Bossier Parish Medium Security Facility in Plain Dealing, La., where he remains in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody as a human rights violation. An ICE spokesperson in response to Valdés’ previous allegations said the agency “is committed to upholding an immigration detention system that prioritizes the health, safety, and welfare of all of those in our care in custody, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals.” The Blade received Valdés’ piece below on June 29. PLAIN DEALING, La. — The American dream to live in absolute freedom — safe from the threats, persecution, violence, psychological torture and even death the Cuban dictatorship has imposed on me because of my journalistic work — fell apart in my hands as soon as I arrived in Louisiana. The Cubans here who are also seeking protection from the U.S. government welcomed me to the Bossier Parish Medium Security Facility with an ironic surprise. They opened their arms and told me, “Welcome to hell!” I could hardly believe they have spent nine, 10 and even 11 months asking, waiting for a positive response from immigration authorities in their cases. I was under the illusion that after an asylum official who interviewed me at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Center in Tutwiler, Miss., on March 28 determined I had a “credible fear of persecution or torture” in Cuba, one hearing with an immigration judge would be enough to obtain my conditional release and pursue my case in freedom as U.S. law allows. But I was wrong. The locals (here at Bossier) once again took it upon themselves to dash my hopes. “Nobody comes out of Louisiana!” they proclaimed. It only took a few minutes for my dream, like that of many others, to turn into a nightmare. The more than 30 migrants who arrived in
Yariel Valdés González is a Blade contributing writer who is seeking asylum in the U.S.
Louisiana on the afternoon of May 3, coming from Mississippi after more than a month detained at Tallahatchie, were plunged into a deep depression that continues today. Only the tears under the blanket that nobody can see are able to ease my desperation for a few minutes and then I once again feel it in my chest when I think of my family in Cuba who continues to receive threats of jail and death from the Cuban dictatorship because of my work with “media outlets of the enemy.” This reality is the only thing that awaits me back there. I therefore see the situation in Louisiana and I am once again afraid. I cannot see an exit. Prisoner here, prisoner if I return to Cuba. I feel trapped. I realized a few days after I arrived in Louisiana the subjectivity of who makes the decisions matters, not objectivity or attachment to those who are being held. Louisiana feels like a lost piece of “gringo” geography at which nobody seems to look, or to the contrary, it is a coldly calculated strategy that triumphs on authoritarianism, abuse of power or intransigence. I don’t know what to think. More than a few who have arrived here have come to the conclusion the U.S. has made migrants its new business. Keeping migrants in their custody for so long keeps hundreds of employees and lawyers in business, as well as generating huge profits for the prisons with which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracts. It has become clear the government prefers to waste more than $60 a day per migrant
than set us free under our own recognizance. “Louisiana is an anti-immigrant state,” Arnaldo Hernández Cobas, a 55-year-old Cuban man whose asylum process has taken 11 months, tells me. “It is not possible for any of the thousands of people who go through the process to leave victorious.” Hernández tells me ICE agents have not met with him once during his confinement and the deportation officer has never seen him. “I don’t know if I am allowed to have bail,” he says. “Judge Grady A. Crooks affirms that we do not qualify for this and he does not give it to those who qualify for it because they can flee. This only happens in this state because migrants in other places are released and can pursue their cases on the outside after they make bail.” Another way to obtain conditional freedom is through parole, a benefit the federal government offers to asylum petitioners who enter the country legally and are found to have a credible fear of suffering, facing persecution or being tortured in their countries of origin. “To grant it, ICE asks for a series of questions that relatives should send to them, but what is happening is that they don’t give them enough time to do so,” says Arnaldo. This is exactly what happened with me. My family managed to send the documents the next day for my parole interview, which was scheduled for the following day. ICE nevertheless denied me parole because I did not prove “that I am not a danger to society.” I am sure they didn’t even take my case seriously. There are stories that border on the absurd because many migrants have received their parole hearing notifications the same day they should have filed their documents. One therefore feels as though ICE mocks you to your face and your feelings of helplessness reach the max. The awarding of parole is a new procedure ICE must complete, but it does not go beyond that. They use this and other crafty strategies to “stay good” in the eyes of the law and they therefore keep asylum seekers in custody for months. They bring them to hearings they will not win, pushing for the deportation of those who do not succumb to the pressure of confinement without properly assessing the risk to their lives that returning to their native countries would entail. ICE is required to free us a few days after it grants parole, and we already know it doesn’t want to do this. Their goal is to keep us locked up
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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JULY 19, 2019 • 19
at all costs. “The cruel irony is that the majority of asylum seekers who follow the law and present themselves at official ports of entry don’t have to ask an immigration judge for their release from custody,” declared Laura Rivera, a lawyer for the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that provides legal assistance to immigrants, in an article titled, “Stuck in ‘hell’: Cuban asylum seekers wither away in Louisiana immigration prisons.” “To the contrary, their only avenue to secure their freedom is to ask the same agency that detains them, the Department of Homeland Security.” But DHS — as Rivera details in the article published by the Southern Poverty Law Center — is ignoring its mandate to consider requests for release in detail. And to the contrary it denies conditional release without justification. “Men are kept hidden from the outside world, locked up and punished for defending their rights and are forced to bring their cases before immigration judges who deny them with rates of up to 100 percent,” affirmed Rivera. Another of the process violations in Arnaldo’s case was he was assured where he was first detained that he could win his case along with that of his wife, “but when he came” to Louisiana the judge “told me this was not allowed, that each case is different.” Arnaldo’s life cannot be different from that of his wife because they have been together for 37 years. His wife has been free for nine months, but he remains behind bars. And so, it happens with mothers and sons, brothers and people who have identical cases. Once again, subjectivity determines a person’s fate. During his hearing with Crooks, Arnaldo declared he feels “very uncomfortable” because he considers him an extremist. “He said that he only recognizes extreme cases,” says Arnaldo. “Doors mean nothing to him. He describes himself as a deportation judge, not an asylum judge. In the entire time that I have been here nobody has won asylum, not even bail, only deportations.” Conclusive proof of the judge’s extremism came one day when another judge ran the hearings and the migrants who presented their cases that morning received asylum. The example could not have been more illustrative. Douglas Puche Moxeno, a 23-year-old Venezuelan man who has spent nine months in Louisiana, also said the detainees “did not receive more information on how the process should be followed and how one should do it.” “I don’t know if they explained to us the ways to obtain a conditional release,” he says. In relation to their hearings, Douglas says, “the judge told me that he knew the real situation in Venezuela, but he did not grant me asylum because I am not an extreme case. He is waiting
for someone to come to the United States without an arm or a leg to be accepted.” The migrants in Louisiana are trying every way possible to be released. They have made these complaints on television stations and have even gone to Cuban American U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “We have reached the point of filing a lawsuit against ICE,” Douglas explains. “A team of lawyers from the Southern Poverty Law Center have proposed a lawsuit seeking a reconsideration of parole. This is one of the most hopeful ways that we have to obtain freedom. If we are successful, the benefits will be for everyone.” “Various protests to pressure authorities and to reclaim our rights as immigrants have been organized,” says Douglas. “Relatives, lawyers and various institutions have come together in Miami, Washington and even here in Louisiana to make ICE aware of the injustices that have been committed against us for more than a year.”
‘This is not your country’ Bossier is a jail deep in Louisiana, hidden in the woods that surround it. Each day inside of it is a constant struggle for survival that takes a huge toll on my physical, psychological and above all emotional capacities. More than 300 migrants live in four dorms in cramped conditions with intense cold and zero privacy. My stay here reminds me of the school dorms in Cuba where we were forced to share smells, tastes and basic needs. Here we also share Hindu, African, Chinese, Nepali, Syrian and Central American migrants’ beliefs, cultures and ways of life. My personal space is reduced to a narrow metal bed that is bolted to the floor, a drawer for my things and a thin mattress that barely manages to keep my spine separated from the metal, which sometimes causes back pain. The most painful thing, however, is the way the officers treat us. For “better or for worse,” you feel as though you are a federal prisoner. “According to ICE, we are ‘detainees,’ not prisoners, but we have still suffered physical and psychological abuses,” says Arnaldo. “I remember one time when an official dragged a Salvadoran man to the hole for three days simply for eating in his bed. They don’t offer anything to us and they don’t talk to us, they yell. They wake you up by kicking the bed.” “The slightest pretext is used to disconnect the microwave, the television or deny us ice, affirming this is a luxury and not a necessity,” alleges Arnaldo. “When we complain about these situations. They tell us, ‘This is not your country.’” Smiles are not common inside the dorm. The faces of affliction and sadness predominate. Good news is almost always false and the frustration
and stress this confinement causes us therefore returns. “I feel very sad, afflicted here, as though I had killed someone because of the mistreatment that we receive, the place’s conditions,” declares Damián Álvarez Arteaga, a 31-year-old man who has spent 11 months as a prisoner in the U.S. “Freedom is the most precious thing a human being has,” he adds. “I hope that I will receive a positive response to my case after spending so much time detained. We have demonstrated to the U.S. that we are truly afraid of suffering persecution or torture in Cuba.” Hours in here seem to have no end: They stretch, they multiply, but they never shorten or pass quickly. Our only contact with the outside the world are telephone communications or video calls (at elevated prices) with relatives, friends or lawyers and sporadic trips to the patio to greet the sun and take fresh air. “In all of the time that I have been here, I have seen the sun a few times and only for 15 minutes and this is because we have complained,” recalls Arnaldo. The yard, as we also call it, is a small rectangle of fences and surveillance cameras with a cement surface at the center of it where some of us play soccer when they give us a ball. I roll the pants of my yellow uniform up to my knees to allow the sun to warm my extremities a bit while my eyes wander towards the lush forest that is a few meters away from me. I admire the sky, the few vehicles that are driving on the nearby highway and I take deep breaths of oxygen because I know I had just come out of the deep sea and desperately needed air to keep me alive. “Everyday is the same here from the same food to the same activities,” says Douglas. “This prison does not have sufficient spaces to accommodate so many people for so long. We don’t have a library or family visits.”
‘Soup is currency’ My day at Bossier begins a bit before 5 a.m. With the call to “line-up,” I receive a plastic tray with my breakfast. Today is cereal day, low-fat milk, bread and a small portion of jelly. The menu is the same each day of the week. I always save part of it because there is nothing more to eat until midday. “The food is not correct,” opines Damián. “My stomach is already used to that small portion. A piece of bread with hot sauce and some vegetables or mortadella cannot sustain an adult man, nor can it keep you in shape to resist such a stressful process.” The last meal of the day is at 4 p.m., and because of this it is a fantasy to be in bed at 11 p.m. with a full stomach. I reduce the hunger pains with an instant soup to which I add some carrots
and a hot dog that I steel for myself from the day’s meals. Since I still have some money, I can buy soups and extra things to make Bossier’s bad food a little better. Bossier classifies those who don’t receive economic support from their families as “indigent” and they are forced to clean up for their fellow detainees in exchange for a Maruchan soup. Here soup is currency. Everything begins and ends with it, the savior of hungry nights. “You can buy these and other things at elevated prices in the commissary, the only store to which we have access and for which we depend on everything,” says Damián. Bossier’s medical services on the other hand are so basic that there is not even a doctor or nurse on call, nor is there an observation room for patients and consultations only take place from Monday to Friday. “One who gets sick is put in punishment cells, isolated and alone, which psychologically affects us,” notes Arnaldo. “People sometimes don’t say they don’t feel well because they are afraid they will be sent to the ‘well.’ In extreme cases they bring you to a hospital with your feet, hands and waist shackled and they keep you tied to the bed, still under guard. I prefer to suffer before being hospitalized like that.” Yuni Pérez López, a 33-year-old Cuban, experienced this unfortunate situation first hand. He was on the hole for six days because he had a fever. “I felt as though I was being punished for being sick,” he says. “And even when the doctor discharged me, they kept me there. It was like being in an icebox: Four walls, a bed, a toilet and a light that never turns off. To leave from there I had to stop eating for an entire day to get the officials’ attention and they returned me to the dormitory.” Bossier also leaves you chilled to the bone because we cannot use blankets or sheets to cover ourselves from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is not a question of aesthetic or discipline because the officials are not interested in whether your bed is made well. The only thing that bothers them is when we are cover ourselves from the dorm’s intense cold. The migrants interviewed by the Blade are those who have been at Bossier the longest. They are all appealing Crooks’ decision not to grant them political asylum. I have not presented my case yet, so I am still a little hopeful that I will receive the protection of the U.S. Like them, I am trying to get used to this harsh reality and be strong, although most of the time sadness consumes me and erases positive thoughts. The U.S. to me — like for many — does not represent a comfortable life, the newest car or McDonald’s. None of this will ever be able to fill the void of my family, friends or passionate love that I left behind. The U.S. represents the opportunity to LIVE, so I will hold on to it until the end.
OutFest’s ‘Unsettled’ charts difficult journey of LGBT refugees Timely exploration of the impact of immigration policy on LGBT asylum seekers By SCOTT STIFFLER
During the course of a 20-year career, the documentaries of Colorado-based filmmaker Tom Shepard have been screened at more than 150 film festivals throughout the world, with four of his feature projects—“Scout’s Honor,” “Knocking,” “Whiz Kids,” and “The Grove”—airing nationally on PBS. His latest work will make its way to PBS in 2020, but Los Angeles audiences can see it on July 22, when “Unsettled” has its Southern California premiere, as part of Outfest, July 18-28’s LGBTQ-themed film showcase. Shot in an unobtrusive, commentary-free style, and a mode that invites compassion rather than imposing it, “Unsettled” follows four LGBTQ refugees fleeing their dangerously inhospitable native counties for the relative safety and security of San Francisco. Syrian émigré Subhi has a very public coming out, when an invitation to speak at the United Nations makes him the face of the queer refugee movement. Angolan lesbians Cheyenne and Mari arrive on temporary student visas, then must navigate a bureaucracy fraught with potential deal-breakers. And Junior, a gendernonconforming person from the Congo, deals with homelessness and heartbreak. For Shepard, whos started research for the project in mid-2014 and completed the work just in time for its recent premiere at April’s San Francisco International Film Festival, “Unsettled” was inspired by the filmmaker’s feeling of “some complacency in the queer community,” he recalls. “This was
in light of the push for Marriage Equality, and ultimately, the Supreme Court’s ruling on that, and just an appreciation for the dissonance of what’s happening in other parts of the world. I was looking at myself, and saying, ‘I read a lot about the Syrian crisis, but I don’t actually know the difference between refugees and asylum seekers.’ ” Shepard began volunteering for Jewish Family & Community Services of the East Bay, “one of the big resettlement organizations. They got money, at that time, to start resettling LGBTQ refugees. They were pioneers of this work, so I approached them [about making a documentary].” The organization was understandably reluctant, he recalls, given their clients “are all trauma survivors. Many of them have even been tortured, and it didn’t seem wise to put a camera in front of them as soon as they get here.” Six months into his volunteer work, Shepard had established a track record of showing “my approach, which is pretty gentle.” Still, very few were willing to talk on camera, and share their stories publicly. Protecting their anonymity meant that as work on “Unsettled” began, “We couldn’t do any Kickstarter [or other such fundraising] campaigns that would show their faces.” A slow process of trust-building began, and yielded, through his coming to know Melanie Nathan, a refugee and asylum advocate with Marin County’s African Human Rights Coalition, the opportunity to work with
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Cheyenne and Mari. “When she found out they actually were able to get visas and flee to the U.S.,” Shepard recalls, “she said, ‘You’ve got to know about this story.’ ” As for what Shepard hopes will happen with the stories “Unsettled” has to tell, he says, “We’re working with a number of organizations that work with refugees and, generally, LGBTs—in particular, Childrens Community Services and IRC (the International Rescue Committee)—and also, other religious organizations that have historically resettled refugees.” Ministering to the unique needs of LGBTQs, Shepard notes, is particularly challenging, in that, “The refugee model in this country is predicated on families. A family will flee a country and be plugged into members of their own diaspora. But LGBTQ refugees are at very high risk of isolation, because they don’t have those footholds when they come to the U.S.” With money from the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, Shepard’s “Unsettled” team, in partnership with various community organizations, will embark, this fall, on a “national impact campaign all over the country. We feel we can introduce “LGBTQ refugees [and the plight of refugees in general] to middle parts of the country, where we can do a screening, a panel, and find refugees being resettled in those communities, to make it very local. That’s our mission, before the public broadcast of the film—to be on the road and spark conversation. Given the toxic discourse coming from the Trump
‘Unsettled’ follows four LGBTQ refugees fleeing their dangerously inhospitable native counties for the relative safety and security of San Francisco.
administration, where refugees are being maligned to support the president’s base, it feels like a yeasty moment to counter the inflammatory rhetoric. In addition to telling the stories of young LGBTQs, Shepard’s Colorado Springsbased Youth Documentary Academy, which he founded, “has become the passion of my life right now. We work with young people from underrepresented backgrounds. There are many, many films about underserved communities, but when people form those backgrounds take the reigns and tell their own stories, that’s when we’re going to see change,” he says. Many of the Academy’s enrollees come from “first generation families,” Shepard notes, “and they make films about queer issues, teen suicide, mental health—social issues told through the lens of young people. Asked for the current status of the four
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young LGBTQ refugees who share their stories via “Unsettled,” Shepard says Junior and Subhi, who were granted refugee status by the UN, were able to get green cards, while Cheyenne and Mari, who came here with temporary student visas, “had to adjudicate their case over three years—and that’s a tough row to hoe, even for these two women who have the wherewithal to cultivate this loving relationship. When you get to the U.S., you can’t work for about six months after the time you file the asylum claim. So you’re either forced to work under the table and jeopardize your status, or rely on the generosity of strangers.” The couple did find an attorney to help, and “have since moved to Las Vegas, where the cost of living is cheaper than San Francisco.” Junior, Shepard notes, “was able to finally secure public housing after being on a waiting list, although he still struggles. When we premiered
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the film in San Francisco, he shared with the audience that he’s thinking of moving to Atlanta.” Subhi, Shepard says, worked as an Uber driver and a translator after having become “famous, rather quickly” when he testified before the UN Security Council, and “unwittingly became a poster boy for refugee rights.” After two years of that notoriety, Shepard says, Subhi, like so many LGBTQ refugees who finally become “settled,” is “sort of exploring, ‘I want to live a normal life.’” For more information, visit unsettled.film. NOTE: The Outfest screening of “Unsettled” is preceded by the eight-minute short, “Carlito Leaves Forever.” Directed by Quentin Lazzarotto, it tells the story of Carlito, a young man living in an indigenous village at the heart of the Amazon, who decides to leave and change his life. Learn more at festival.outfest.org/2019/ movies/unsettled
22 • JULY 19, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Meet Outfest’s new programming director Mike Dougherty on goals, memories and must-see films By DAN ALLEN
Mike Dougherty is director of programming for Outfest.
This year marks a new chapter for Outfest, with a justnamed new executive director, Damien Novarro, and a fresh director of programming, Mike Dougherty. Dougherty takes the programming reigns from the beloved Lucy Mukerjee (who’s now a senior programmer at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival), and is a veteran of the industry’s creative, acquisitions and distribution realms. He’s also programming director for LA’s Indian Film Festival, as well as an associate programmer for AFI Fest. As Outfest 2019 kicks off, we spoke with Dougherty about his own Outfest history, his goals for its future, and his top film and event picks from this year’s excellent lineup. How long have you been attending and involved with Outfest? This is my first year officially on the Outfest team, but I’ve been going to Outfest events since I moved to Los Angeles almost 15 years ago. Do you have any particularly fond personal Outfest memories? One of the first Outfest events I went to was a special Outfesthosted screening of the ‘Strangers with Candy’ movie at the Egyptian Theater. I was a die-hard fan of the original TV series and I worship Amy Sedaris, but never knew many people who’d even heard of her at the time. I was relatively new to Los Angeles, and I walked into that screening surprised to see a packed house, and when the lights went down, people in the theater started screaming ‘Hobo camp! Fandango!’—which if you know the show, is hilarious. It felt like I’d found my people. Lucy Mukerjee did such a fantastic job as Outfest’s director of programming these past few years. Are there any specific aspects of her legacy you hope to carry on? Lucy has always been a great champion of under-represented LGBTQ voices, and did a tremendous job of making sure her programs reflected the diversity of our community. This is something I think is crucial to Outfest, and I’m proud we carried on that mission, with more than two-thirds of our 2019 program directed by women, people of color and trans filmmakers. Do you have any particular new goals of your own for Outfest programming? I’m a big proponent of the idea that stepping outside of your comfort zone is the best way to enjoy a festival. I like to program films and events that encourage audiences to connect with a view of the world that’s unfamiliar to them. I’m sure they’re all your babies, but what are some of your top must-see film picks at this year’s Outfest? Any that you were particularly excited to get? Any below-the-radar gems that people should be sure not to miss? You’re right, I’m so proud of the lineup that it hurts to pick just a few to highlight. I will say that I’m overjoyed to have the world premiere of Elegance Bratton’s documentary PIER KIDS, about the queer and trans homeless youth still gathering at New York’s Christopher Street pier. It shines a light on some of the most vulnerable members of our community, and the young people we meet in this film are vibrant and courageous and unforgettable. There are a pair of films that won prizes from the Teddy Jury in Berlin—BRIEF STORY FROM THE GREEN PLANET and A DOG BARKING AT THE MOON—that feel like the
beginnings of major filmmaking careers, as does Lucio Castro’s END OF THE CENTURY. I’m very excited that we’ll be joined by all the young trans athletes featured in our Documentary Centerpiece CHANGING THE GAME, by the hilarious cast of the charming comedy CUBBY, by Trixie Mattel, Kathy Griffin, and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus at our several nights at the Ford Theater, and by drag-racer Rusty Tidenberg, who is the focus of the wonderful doc WHY CAN’T I BE ME? AROUND YOU. And I’m still amazed at the panel we have lined up following our screening of the great doc QUEERING THE SCRIPT, about queer female representation on television. We’ll be joined by Angelica Ross, Isabella Gomez from ‘One Day at a Time’, Amber Benson from ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, and Marja-Lewis Ryan, who created the upcoming revival of ‘The L Word’. Of course people go to movies for different reasons, so I’m going to just rattle off a few categories, and tell me if you can which film or films from this year’s Outfest lineup you think best fit them. Most romantic: CARMEN & LOLA, about two young Romani women living in Spain. The leads have such amazing chemistry. Most moving: Rodney Evan’s doc VISION PORTRAITS, about artists—including Rodney—who continue to create despite losing their eyesight. Most daring: The entire Platinum section of our program, curated by Tiffany Naiman, highlight avant-garde, experimental, and wonderfully strange features and short films. Most eye-opening: JONATHAN AGASSI SAVED MY LIFE is an unflinching and very sensitive portrayal of porn star Jonathan Agassi, and the toll that life in the public eye takes on him. Most hot: END OF THE CENTURY and THE DAUGHTERS OF FIRE And what are some of your best bets for non-screening events at this year’s festival? Angelica Ross will be giving what’s sure to be a galvanizing keynote address at our third annual Trans Summit, we have fantastic talent like Nik Dodani, Lauren Moon, and Vincent Rodriguez on a panel called Crazy Queer Asians to discuss queer Asian representation in media, and our Screenwriting Lab fellows will be doing live reads of the screenplays that secured them a spot in the lab. Outfest will be temporarily shifting its hub this year to Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatres, a venue you must be well familiar with through your work with AFI Fest. Do you think it will change the Outfest vibe dramatically? I think the most dramatic changes will be cosmetic—it’s a whole new venue and some new systems will have to be in place. But the strong sense of community and fun will remain. And there will be a concession stand, which we’ve not had before! Are you excited about working with Damien Navarro [Outfest’s new executive director]? Absolutely. I see the same enthusiasm from Damien that I had when I joined the Outfest team earlier this year. I think we both feel humbled by the responsibilities ahead of us, but completely thrilled to be part of an organization we’ve admired for so long. Outfest 2019 runs through July 28. For full schedule and ticket info, go to festival.outfest.org
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24 • JULY 19, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Gay ‘Elm Street’ actor takes charge of his narrative in new doc Patton revisits controversy over homoerotic camp of ‘Freddy’s Revenge’ By JOHN PAUL KING
Mark Patton in ‘Scream, Queen.’ Photo courtesy The End Productions
When Mark Patton landed his first leading role in a major motion picture, he believed his dream of becoming a movie star was really coming true. That motion picture was 1985’s “A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge,” and instead of being launched, his career was destroyed. Now, Patton is returning to the big screen – as himself, this time – with the documentary “Scream, Queen: My Nightmare On Elm Street,” which tells the story of how his “big break” became a controversial flash point for Hollywood homophobia and drove him away from the industry for 30 years. Directed by Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen, it explores Patton’s experiences while also examining how “Revenge” was branded as “the gayest horror movie ever made.” It then goes on to follow Patton – now 62 – as he embarks on a quest to confront David Chaskin, the “Freddie’s Revenge” screenwriter, who originally claimed not to have intended a queer subtext and implied that it was Patton’s performance that introduced that element into the film. Talking to the Blade ahead of the documentary’s Outfest screening, Patton explains that he initiated the project because he felt it offered a valuable window on hidden gay history. “This was not old Hollywood,” he says. “The tropes that existed in the 30s, 40s and 50s were not the same. This was after the 70s, there had been a liberation. We were beginning to break through. Then HIV/AIDS arrived, and that ended that, very quickly.” As the sequel to one of the most successful horror films of its era, “Freddy’s Revenge” was a hit, financially speaking; but in 1985, with the AIDS crisis in full bloom, many audiences were uncomfortable with what they perceived as an overtly “gay” subtext. Patton’s character, a teenager possessed by the spirit of murderer Freddy Krueger, essentially assumes the role of the “last girl.” His screams are noticeably feminine, and the script is peppered with unabashed double entendres (“He’s inside me, and he wants to take me again!”); to make matters worse, he is subjected to a series of homoerotic scenarios, including sequences in a locker room shower and a leather bar, that make the movie’s queer undercurrent impossible to ignore. In an early display of toxic fan culture, the movie was denounced by many viewers. Patton – who was himself gay and suddenly at the center of a controversy that put his private life under scrutiny – soon found the homophobic environment of the movie industry had become too much for him. He turned his back on Hollywood and disappeared for nearly three decades. Then, in the new millennium, “Freddy’s Revenge” enjoyed a reassessment from fans and critics, claiming its “gayness” as a campy badge of honor. In 2010, Patton – who had by then been living in Mexico for years, working as an interior designer and artist – was invited to participate in a documentary about the “Elm Street” franchise (2010’s “Never Sleep Again”). At that point, says Patton, he “had no idea” the movie was now being embraced. He began traveling to horror conventions, meeting with fans and signing autographs. It was at these events, where he encountered both enthusiastic welcome and still-festering homophobia, that he realized it was important for him to take control of his own narrative and set the record straight about what happened.
In the early 80s, he explains, things had gotten easier for gay people in Hollywood. “I was in a position as a film star where I could have a private life, and a public life,” he says. “You could have both, you just had to learn to put those things together.” That relative freedom was over when AIDS came along. “It was no longer acceptable. You just had to disappear. You just didn’t talk about it.” “And then, after 1985, you just never shut up again,” he quickly adds. “It was too important. The death of a whole generation of people was more important than making a movie. At least it was to me.” Patton believes the setbacks of that time may have felt like a crushing blow, but that they were ultimately a catalyst for change because people were fighting for their lives. “It was painful,” he acknowledges. “It was hideous, but I don’t think gay marriage would have happened so quickly without HIV.” “Scream, Queen” brings much of this to the surface as it tells Patton’s story, underscoring his intent to make a film that educates queer audiences about their history. “I have a good sense of humor, but I’m deadly serious about this stuff,” he says, “because I don’t think that young people really quite understand what they’re dealing with here. I’m cynical enough at this point in my life to think, ‘What if the protease inhibitors stop working? What if they’re only good for 20 years, and then the virus mutates? What if this all happens again?” “The same thing applies to the things that are happening politically in this country,” he continues. “There’s a wave going on right now, and unless you’re really tuned in and you’re paying attention, you say, ‘Oh you’re exaggerating, you’re making too much of this.’ And that’s the thing that people said to Larry Kramer, and those guys, in the 1970s and 80s – ‘You’re making too big a deal out of this, we’re fine.’ I think it’s better to be cautious.” Still, he adds that it’s important to “keep your eye on history and also celebrate the victories you are having right now.” He cites the story of Connor Jessup, a young actor (“American Crime”) who recently came out as gay for his 25th birthday. “He just decided it was time,” beams Patton. “I’m so inspired by that. I love that it’s happening. It’s a wave – and it will really break when the first person becomes a movie star being out from the very beginning, and not only after achieving success.” As for his own achievements, Patton’s rise and fall in Hollywood was only the beginning of a long personal journey, in which he faced not only shame and hurt over his movie experience but dire challenges to his physical health; ultimately, he emerged from those struggles transformed, more deeply spiritual, and able to revisit the events which cast such a shadow over his life in order to seek closure. In the process of making “Scream, Queen,” did he find it? “I found it within myself,” he says, withholding further detail in order to avoid spoilers. “I’m looking forward to putting all of this aside, to be honest,” he admits. “It’s been a long journey for me.” In the meantime, he’s looking forward to this weekend, when the documentary screens at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood as part of Outfest. Patton will be there, reuniting on the red carpet with other members of the “Freddy’s Revenge” cast. No doubt, it will be a hot ticket. For tickets and more information, visit the Outfest website.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JULY 19, 2019 • 25
There are so many musical artists you long to hear on the radio, knowing that even if a song of theirs came on, it would put you in just the right mood for your day. And if it’s a George Michael song you want to hear, there is also that nostalgic feeling, appreciating the music of a man sorely missed. Reelz Channel feels your pain, putting together a “Price of Fame” docu-drama episode based on the dynamic singer’s life, airing July 28. Actor Casey Dolkas recreates moments in Michael’s life during the series, everything from his road to stardom when he was in his late teens to all his struggles along the way in the 1990s. The format of the show features one-on-one interviews from the real people in his life, such as Simon Napier-Bell, the manager of Wham! This will be mixed with archival footage, and then important scenes from his life will be played out. Rob Lamberti plays George in his later days. Dolkas was “honored” to portray Michaels. “I had of course, known his hit songs, and a little bit about him as a person, so that is what originally intrigued me about the role. However, the more I did my research, the more I became a bit nervous, because he is just such a beloved icon. He had such a dedication to his craft, so this made it really fun to play as an actor.” As much as he was controversial at times, Dolkas saw so much good in Michael’s life. “I believe one of George’s best qualities was his love for the music. He did not care about fitting in the mold of a certain genre, and once he was already successful, he just wanted everything to be about the music, as opposed to his public appearance. He had a tremendous work ethic and of course, passion for what he did,” said Dolkas. “I also love the overall positive vibe his band, Wham! created. At a time when music became a bit dark and heavy, George and his bandmate Andrew Ridgeley broke out with these feel good pop bangers. Their iconic shirts with the slogan ‘CHOOSE LIFE’ was promoting anti-drug and anti-suicide. Such great messages through music.” Through his research, Dolkas learned much about Michael, including that he had anonymously donated millions of dollars to different charities. “It wasn’t until after he died that the charities and the public knew it had been Michael. He was a major LGBTQ rights campaigner and HIV/AIDS charity fundraiser, with proceeds from his music and shows supporting such causes.” Dolkas described Michael as the “quintessential” example of being true to who you are. “This was apparent in his music,” emphasized Dolkas. “From the beginning of his career, he broke barriers in genres and shook up the music industry. He felt that he had to suppress his homosexuality because he was such a sex icon for female fans. Later, he let that go and made everything about his music and spreading positivity and love.” To take on such a tremendous role, Dolkas did extensive research, creating a music playlist. “This was heavily influenced with George’s music, but I also listened to a lot of music that he loved, like Gladys Knight and Freddy Mercury. In addition, I listened to other music that was popular at the same time, for example, David Bowie, Dire Straits, and The Police. I studied everything that I could, mostly YouTube videos of his interviews to get down his dialect, diction, and movements. I received some great advice to record his interviews and drive around in my car playing them on repeat, and repeating everything he said. I also kept a journal of important dates and milestones of his life.” When fans watch the series, they will be surprised at how much Dolkas looks like Michael. “My girlfriend is a colorist/stylist at Andy LeCompte Salon in West Hollywood. So, I was able to hire her to get my hair just right, as this was such a staple of George. We had a few reference photos, but I had never had this done. She is the best in the biz, so it came out perfect. I also had to have my eyebrows threaded... This I hope I don’t have to do again! The hair, makeup and wardrobe on the set were all so amazing. I had about 25 different clothing changes in a few days. Because I played ages late teens to early thirties, and we shot out of sequence, I think everyone did a great job at applying that great George stubble.”
The careless whisper of fame at any price Reelz Channel unveils docu-drama on life of George Michael By SUSAN HORNIK
Casey Dolkas stars as George Michael in Reelz Channel documentary on the singer’s life. Photo courtesy Reelz Channel
26 • JULY 19, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Cars with muscle Ford Mustang Bullitt is limited edition Steve McQueen tribute By JOE PHILLIPS
Ford Mustang Bullitt
Ford F-150 Raptor
As a gearhead who still fawns over Matchbox cars and Gran Turismo video games, it’s the cars with muscle that really get my motor running. Of course, toys are one thing but reality is even better. FORD MUSTANG BULLITT $48,000 MPG: 15/24 Zero-60 mph: 4 seconds
For muscle car mavens, it doesn’t get much better than a Ford Mustang Bullitt. Introduced last year in time for the 50th anniversary of the action movie “Bullitt,” this is the third tribute model since Steve McQueen’s legendary car chase through the streets of San Francisco. This limited-edition version — available for only two years or so — comes in select colors, including the iconic dark green on the original. Some of the same barebones styling is here, which means no Mustang badging on the wide black grille (though you’ll find a shiny Bullitt badge on both the trunk lid and steering wheel). And while the V8 in the 1968 sportster churned out an impressive 320 horsepower, today’s fastback, based on the high-test Mustang GT, boasts a whopping 480 horsepower. A simple tap to the accelerator lets you fly down the road. Premium Brembo brakes give you plenty of control. Adding to the fun is the six-speed manual transmission with a nifty shifter knob that looks like a white billiard ball. The deep, guttural exhaust growl courses through your veins and becomes louder and more menacing each time you downshift. Despite the macho appearance and performance, there’s plenty of pampering: heated/ventilated seats, smartphone integration, voice-control infotainment system and more. There’s also a blind-spot monitor and cross-traffic alert to help keep things safe. Most of all, this retro pony car neatly combines today’s tech gear with old-school cool. FORD F-150 RAPTOR $54,000 MPG: 15 city/18 highway Zero-60 mph: 5.1 seconds
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
With the surging popularity of crossovers and other haulers, today’s muscle cars aren’t just two-door coupes anymore. Ford took its popular F-150 pickup truck — the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for the past 37 years — and gave it the heart and soul of a hard-charging Mustang. Power comes from a 450-hp twin turbo V6, which easily propels this 5,600-pound beast around corners and twisty roads. The Raptor’s overall look is imposing, with harshly chiseled corners and a towering presence. At 250 inches
in length, the mammoth SuperCrew Cab model is almost two-and-a-half times longer than a Smart Fortwo. And the 8,000-pound towing capacity is impressive. Yet beneath the Hulk-like demeanor lies a refined ride, with handling that’s light and nimble. The electronically adaptive suspension helps. So do the massive 34-inch tires, which also come in (yowza!) 35 or 37 inches. Despite the high ground clearance, the aluminum running boards allow you to easily get in and out of the truck. As in the Mustang, you’ll find Recaro racing seats (this time with Raptor stitching) and a throaty exhaust note. There’s also smartphone integration, 360-degree camera and 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo. Plenty of safety features are included, along with tons of interior storage and a power-sliding rear window. With so many amenities, the Raptor almost feels like a luxury car. But make no mistake, this is one tough Tonka toy on steroids. JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE TRACKHAWK $89,000 MPG: 11 city/17 highway Zero-60 mph: 3.5 seconds
Over at Jeep, known more for its off-roaders and family haulers, the automaker is also flexing its muscles. The result is the amazing Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, a premium crossover where all hell breaks loose. Literally. Powered by the 707-hp supercharged Hellcat V8 — a phenomenal engine used in the Dodge Challenger and Charger — this track-worthy contender is faster than an Aston Martin Vantage or Porsche 911 Carrera. Mash the accelerator into the floorboard, and suddenly you can imagine what supersonic flight must feel like. Luckily, as you hurtle down the road like a screaming banshee, the superb braking can bring you back to reality. You can also select from various drive modes (Auto, Sport, Track, Snow and Tow) depending on the weather or your mood. And there’s plenty of cargo space and stowage compartments. The cabin is loaded, featuring an Audi-like steering wheel and gauges, along with carbon fiber trim, panoramic sunroof and 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system. A spectacular Harman Kardon stereo with 19 speakers is also available. Of course, such power and panache come at a price, which is why the Trackhawk is the most expensive Jeep ever. Toss in all the options, and suddenly you’re shelling out more than $100,000. Still, that’s less than most exotic cars. And who knows, you may be able to save in other ways. After all, who needs all those Red Bolts when the Trackhawk can jolt you awake.
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28 • JULY 19, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Gus Kenworthy is single! And Meghan McCain reportedly considers leaving ‘The View’ By BILLY MASTERS
Gus Kenworthy has broken up with beau Matt Wilkas. Photo by kathclick/Courtesy Bigstock
“My driver asked me if I went to the Pride parade yesterday. Why would I go? I knew I would see everyone there here tonight.” — Barbra Streisand shares an anecdote during her recent concert in Hyde Park the day after London Pride. Having watched nearly every episode of “LA Law” and countless hours of “Judge Judy,” I consider myself somewhat of a legal expert. So, it is my unaccredited opinion that there is no precedent for retroactively applying the Fifth Amendment. And yet, that is what Kevin Spacey’s accuser, Will Little, did last week. After cockily answering questions on the stand, Little was reminded that, should any of his statements prove to be false, he could face several charges, including a felony for tampering with evidence. Suddenly a recess was called. I don’t remember exactly how long it lasted, but I was able to find out that psycho Thomas killed Emma on “The Bold and the Beautiful.” When we returned to the Nantucket courtroom, not only did Mr. Little refuse to answer any more questions - citing the Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself - he also asked that everything he had said earlier be stricken from the record. The judge then told the prosecutor that given that they suddenly had no evidence (i.e., the cell phone) and no witness (i.e., Mr. Little), they may want to reconsider proceeding with criminal charges lest he make the decision for them. The next hearing is scheduled for July 31, but I believe a decision will be forthcoming much sooner. And now, time for a sad story, which I predict will make many of you happy. Gus Kenworthy and his beau Matt Wilkas have broken up. See? Aren’t you conflicted? You’re like, “Aww...they made such a cute couple and they seemed so happy.” On the other hand, you’re thinking, “Hmm...two really hot gay guys are suddenly single.” I wish I had some dirt for you - or even rumors of a third party. For now, we rely on the official statement: “Gus and Matt are taking time apart. They love and support each other and remain close friends.” Someone in the know says it happened at the end of June. That’s Pride month for you - some relationships make it, some don’t. Several media outlets are reporting that Meghan McCain is considering breaking her contract and not returning to “The View” next season. The most shocking part of this story is the revelation that Meg only makes $1 million a year. That may sound like a lot of money, but it’s peanuts by TV standards. ABC dismissed the rumor, saying, “The co-hosts and ‘The View’ have had an incredible season, and we expect them all back for an epic year ahead.” It stands to reason that the panel will not play musical chairs during an election year. There has even been some speculation that Barbara Walters will be back for the election.
A pair of interesting priest stories came across my desk. First we heard about Father Pierre Valkering, who is a Catholic priest in Amsterdam. The controversy began when he published a memoir in which he talked about his past as a sexually active gay man. Obviously not an Earth-shattering revelation when it comes to Catholic priests. He spoke openly about going to gay sex clubs - in particular, “dark rooms.” Then during his priest days, he became addicted to gay porn. Despite all of this being in the past, the Amsterdam Peace Church dumped him. Father Pierre wasn’t surprised. “It is clear that with this book I am going on particularly slippery ice, or even a minefield.” Should Pierre be considering a change of profession, he may want to consider becoming a gay porn actor. Scoff if you must, but he wouldn’t be the first ex-priest to make this transition. Norm Self has appeared in four gay porn films since his retirement in 2017. Oh, did I neglect to mention that he’s 85 years old? I think he’s outlived a cougar and could possibly be considered a tyrannosaurus rex! He went public about his vocation in the documentary, “On The Game: The Sex Business.” He came to the decision pretty matter-of-factly. “We are going to have sex anyway, so why not make it a liberating and bonding experience instead of hiding it away in the shadows?” Our “Ask Billy” question concerns a summer replacement. Jed in San Francisco writes, “The star of ‘Blood & Treasure’ is really hot. Where did he come from? Do you have any photos of him naked?” That would be Matt Barr, who I think of as a good-looking Bradley Cooper. If that interests you, read on Macduff. The young Mr. Barr was born a day after moi (well, a day and a couple of decades). And like me, he’s blond-ish. He’s scruffier and buffer and certainly not opposed to showing off his impressive physique. Perhaps you’ve seen him in “Hellcats” or “Harper’s Island” - which don’t ring any bells with me. Well, they say a photo is worth a thousand words. Since we’re well over that limit, we’ll simply post some photos of Matt Bare...eh, Barr. Well, both. You see, he showed quite a bit in the film “Ten Inch Hero” - let’s just say the title pretty much says it all. If that whets your appetite, check out BillyMasters.com. By the time you read this, I’ll be off on my regularly scheduled summer sojourn to parts unknown. Unlike Anthony Bourdain, I fully intend to come back alive. In the meantime, keep checking www.BillyMasters.com - the site that’s all the rage in the rectory. If you have a question, send it to Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before I plead the Fifth. Until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JULY 19, 2019 • 29
Our Pick of the week is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences screening of Common Threads, a documentary by Producers Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman and Bill Couturié that tells the story of the giant patchwork AIDS Quilt was momentously unfurled during the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987 to protest the government’s refusal to acknowledge a growing crisis. See July 22.
SAT JULY 20
Venice Beach Music Fest is today from 11:00 AM to tomorrow at 7:30 PM on Venice Beach (1 Windward Avenue, at the Boardwalk) in Santa Monica. The annual Venice Beach Music Fest celebrates its fourteenth year of totally free entertainment at the beach with a twoday festival on Saturday and Sunday, Both days are chock full of music, art, and literature, and, as always, are free to the public. This year’s two-day festival is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the music festival that went down in history — Woodstock! Many of the musical performers over the two-day event were selected to celebrate and remember Woodstock’s musical history and the spirit of peace and love that influenced so many. FREE. 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 is today from 12:15 PM to 4:15 PM at Paley Center (465 N. Beverly). Eight years after President Kennedy committed the country to the goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade, NASA fulfilled that mission on July 20, 1969 with more than a half a billion people watching live around the world. View what the world was watching live that evening, July 20, 1969, as history was made when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, one at a time, climb out of the lunar module and walk on the moon. This momentous segment ends with the astronauts placing an American flag on the lunar surface, which Aldrin described as “magnificent desolation.” The Paley Center honors this historic achievement by screening the first hour of the moon walk, along with two documentaries and a scripted program that illuminate the enduring legacy of our first journey to the moon. Tickets available at paleycenter.org.
SUN JULY 21
Burning Man Newbie Orientation & Costume Swap is today from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM at Big Art Labs (651 Clover Street). If you’re going to Burning Man for
the first time, just want to learn some useful playa tips or survival skills, even if you are a veteran Burner with a lot of good advice and experience, this event is for you. It includes a costume swap and time to work on crafting your costumes or accessories to playa ready state. Swap and exchange, reinvent that old piece with some scissors and glue! Most of all, be set with a soaring imagination. Think big. Just show up and take what you need but be prepared to give. Steve Arnold: Heavenly Bodies is on the big screen tonight from 6:45 to 9:45 at The Museum of Contemporary Art (250 South Grand). Hosted by Outfest, Anjelica Huston narrates this exploration of the spectacularly dreamlike world of Salvador Dali’s protégé, Steven Arnold, and his strikingly creative and influential body of work filled with occult rituals, Hollywood camp, and surrealist art nouveau whimsy. Taken from more than 70 hours of original and archival footage, including rare scenes of Holly Woodlawn, director Vishnu Dass digs deeply into the decadent countercultural and inspiring life of this unheralded multimedia artist of the queer community. Tickets available at festival.outfest.org.
MON JULY 22
Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt will be shown tonight from 7:30 PM to 10:30 PM at AMPAS Samuel Goldwyn Theater (8949 Wilshire Boulevard). Perhaps nothing in our lifetime has been more moving than the emotional intensity and effort that was put into the making of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a tribute to people who died of AIDS that grew so large in display that it took up the entire National Mall in Washington, DC. Recently Common Threads was preserved by The Academy Film Archive, Milestone Film & Video, and Outfest UCLA Legacy Project, a partnership between Outfest and UCLA Film & Television Archive and is now viewing for the public. Sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on view for ticketholders before and after
the screening. In addition, sections will be on view for free during the following times, hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, Bill Couturié will be on hand. Puchase tickets at festival.outfest.org
TUE JULY 23
Lat Laugh WeHo is tonight from 7;30 PM to 9:00 PM at Mickey’s (8857 Santa Monica Boulevard). Join host Ha Ha Herby Moore and enjoy a free night of giggles as Herby introduces to LA’s newest and funniest line of queer comedians! Feast on $6 ALL YOU CAN EAT TACOS & $5 WELL DRINKS and get in the mood for a hilarious afterparty!
FRI JULY 26
Outfest Under the Stars is tonight from 8:30 PM at Ford Theater (2850 Cahuenga Boulevard). Gay Chorus Deep South is Director David Charles Rodrigues’ turn under the stars. In the wake of the 2016 election, when conservative U.S. lawmakers launched efforts to roll back the progress made on LGBTQ rights, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus responded with a bus tour through the Southern red states. Their mission: Carry a message of visibility, acceptance and hope to the LGBTQ communities affected by these discriminatory laws. Joined by the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, the chorus harnesses the power of music to unify rather than divide. The film won the 2019 Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival. Members of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus will perform before the screening. Tickets are available at fordtheaters.org E-mail calendar items to email@example.com two weeks prior to your event. Space is limited so priority is given to LGBT-specific events or those with LGBT participants. Recurring events must be re-submitted each time.
30 • JULY 19, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Congress hears testimony on ending fed’l marijuana ban
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was among the public officials who testified last week.
Members of the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security heard expert testimony last week challenging the federal government’s policy of cannabis prohibition. The hearing, entitled “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform,” debated the merits of various alternative policy options – including abolishing cannabis’ longstanding Schedule I criminal status under federal law. The hearing marked the first time in decades that members have entertained debate regarding the need to end the federal criminalization of cannabis and to de-schedule the plant from the Controlled Substances Act. Archived video of the proceedings is online. Witnesses testifying at yesterday’s hearing were Dr. David Nathan of the group Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Marilyn Mosby, State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Dr. G. Malik Burnett (formerly of the Drug Policy Alliance), and Neal Levine, Chief Executive Officer of the Cannabis Trade Federation. Their written testimony is available online. Members of Congress in attendance at the hearing included: Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), David Cicilline (DRI), Ben Cline (R-VA), Stephen Cohen (D-TN), Doug Collins (R-GA), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Sheila Jackson-Lee (DTX), Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Lucy McBath (D-GA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), and Greg Stube (R-FL). Several members, including Reps. Cohen and Lieu, concurred with witnesses’ testimony that Congress should completely remove the cannabis plant from the federal Controlled Substances Act. A coalition of social advocacy groups – including NORML, the ACLU, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, The Immigrants Legal Resource Center, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Center for American Progress – released a joint Statement of Principles to coincide with the hearing. The Principles, which were entered into the record, highlight legislative priorities and provide Congress with a roadmap for ending America’s ongoing policy of cannabis criminalization. Commenting on the hearing, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said: “For the first time in a generation, members of Congress engaged in a candid conversation that acknowledged the failures of marijuana prohibition in the United States, how this policy has adversely impacted tens of millions of Americans, and how it must be reformed at the federal level.” He added: “The ongoing classification under federal law of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance – a categorization that treats it in the same manner
as heroin – is intellectually dishonest and has been scientifically debunked. It is high time that Congress address this Flat Earth policy and move forward with a plan that appropriately reflects marijuana’s rapidly changing cultural status in America.”
Cannabis use associated with lower risk of liver disease SANTANDER, Spain — Subjects with a history of cannabis use are less likely than abstainers to develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to longitudinal data published in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. A team of Spanish investigators assessed the relationship between cannabis use and liver steatosis over a three-year period. They determined that those subjects “who reported continuing cannabis use were at lower risk for developing NAFLD.” They concluded: “Our results suggest that using cannabis could have a protective effect on liver steatosis. The beneficial effect of cannabis at the level of the development of steatosis seems to be secondary to its modulation effect on weight gain and the reduced development of obesity. ... These results are in line with previous studies in the general population, in which cannabis showed significantly lower NAFLD prevalence compared to non-users.”
Delaware to expand expungement eligibility DOVER, Del — Democratic Gov. John Carney has signed legislation into law permitting those with a broad range of non-violent misdemeanors to petition the state to have their criminal records expunged. Senate Bill 37, which takes effect on December 27, 2019, permits those with criminal records for certain non-violent misdemeanor offenses to petition the State Bureau of Identification to have their history either sealed or expunged. The stated intent of the new law is to “protect persons from [the] unwarranted damage which may occur when the existence of a criminal history continues indefinitely.” Separate legislation signed into law last year already provides “mandatory expungement eligibility to individuals who were convicted of the possession [of one ounce or less], use or consumption of marijuana prior to Delaware’s decriminalization of these offenses.” State lawmakers in 2015 enacted legislation reducing the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis from a criminal act to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine only – no arrest, and no criminal record. Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, visit norml.org.
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Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 29, July 19, 2019