BISEXUAL NFL FREE AGENT COMES OUT, PAGE 6
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02 • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Equality California launches political organization in Nevada Silver State Equality portfolio includes 2020 elections By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com On Aug. 29, Equality California announced the launch of Silver State Equality, a new Las Vegas-based statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization, just as political season is heating up in that early primary state. “Equality California is proud to launch Silver State Equality, Nevada’s LGBTQ civil rights organization,” Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur told the Los Angeles Blade. “Together, California and Nevada are leading the nation on LGBTQ civil rights and social justice, united by our shared commitment to create a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. Defeating Donald Trump and protecting the pro-equality majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is one of Equality California’s top priorities
Silver State Equality State Director André Wade, Nevada Youth Legislature Chair Olivia Yamamoto, Williams Institute Founding Executive Director Brad Sears, Nevada Youth Legislature Co-Chair Rachel Rush Photo courtesy EQCA
in 2020, and Silver State Equality hopes to play a key role in doing just that in a pivotal battleground state.” André C. Wade, former executive director of the LGBTQ Community Center of Southern Nevada, is Silver State Equality’s director with access to all of Equality California’s staff and expertise. He is overseeing politics, including the upcoming
2020 elections; lobbying to pass pro-LGBTQ equality legislation in the state legislature, as well as through Congress; advancing LGBTQ and social justice legal rights in the courts; and taking on a myriad of other LGBTQ-related issues. Equality California already worked quietly behind the scenes during the 2019 Nevada legislative term to help bipartisan passage
of Senate Bill 97, sponsored by the Nevada Youth Legislature, banning the so-called “gay and trans panic defense” since the bill was modeled on the California legislation. Equality California also helped pass State Senator David Parks’ SB Bill 284, creating an Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization that will look for ways to update laws on HIV transmission. “Our goal is to make Nevada an even more equitable and inclusive place to live. A lot of progress has been made over the years to protect LGBTQ Nevadans from discrimination, but we have much more work to do to achieve full, lived equality,” State Director André Wade said in a press release. “We want Nevada to lead the rest of the country as we build a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. And with the 2020 election — perhaps the most consequential in our lifetime — right around the corner, we’re ready to get to work.” Silver State Equality is holding its first fundraiser—the 2019 Nevada Equality Awards —on Nov. 6 in Las Vegas. For information visit SilverStateEquality.org.
Trump coming to Beverly Hills during Emmy Week Fundraiser follows renewed attacks on Hollywood By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org Donald Trump has scheduled a re-election fundraiser in Beverly Hills during the week of the 71st annual Emmy Awards. Given Trump’s latest tirade against Hollywood and Fox News, the red carpet interviews before the parties and the live Sept. 22 Fox broadcast could also prove very “resistance”-oriented. Surely someone will reference the scathing take down in Los Angeles Magazine, “The Biggest Loser: Why Donald Trump Couldn’t Hack It in Hollywood.” But Twitter waits on no one. “Will & Grace” stars Debra Messing and Eric
McCormack each jumped on the platform asking the Hollywood Reporter to publish the list of attendees “so the rest of us can be clear about who we don’t wanna work with,” McCormack tweeted. The “public has a right to know,” Messing tweeted. Even famous conservatives have had it with Trump after he attacked Fox News. “The New FoxNews is letting millions of GREAT people down!” Trump tweeted after Fox journalists interviewed Democrats. “We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!” Fox News star Neil Cavuto replied on air: “First of all, Mr. President, we don’t work for you. I don’t work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you.” Trump’s most recent anti-Hollywood display was on the White House lawn, refusing to answer a question about whether
his rhetoric has had any influence on the epidemic of gun violence following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. “Hollywood is really terrible,” he answered. “You talk about ‘racist.’ Hollywood is racist. What they’re doing, with the kind of movies they’re putting out, it’s actually very dangerous for our country. What Hollywood is doing is a tremendous disservice to our country.” The San Francisco fundraiser is a luncheon on Sept. 17 from which Trump will fly down to Beverly Hills for a gala hosted by Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, RNC co-chair Tommy Hicks Jr., campaign manager Brad Parscale and Trump Victory finance chairman Todd Ricketts. Tickets range from $1,000 to $100,000 per couple for a Trump photo op.
The next day, Trump will head to San Diego for another campaign event. Four days later, the Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theatre will consume Hollywood. And this year the ceremony is rich with LGBTQ talent and nominees, including Pose, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Queer Eye, Laverne Cox, Kate McKinnon,Hannah Gadsby, Ellen Cherry Jones, Jane Lynch and Wanda Sykes. The nominees have a trove of material in Allen Salkin’s investigation into Trump’s Hollywood days in Los Angeles Magazine. “No one cared about Donald Trump in Hollywood,” said Susan Winston, who produced the broadcasts of nine Trumpowned beauty pageants, Salkin reports. “He was nothing. He didn’t mean anything. There were people in Hollywood who had much more power, much more money.”
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04 • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Democrats incur LGBTQ wrath over sex offender registry bill Appropriation Chair Lorena Gonzalez a progressive Democrat in name only? By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com During a week of ﬂurry before Labor Day, the California Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees determined which ﬁnal legislation to pass to the ﬂoor for votes and which to suspend for this session. At the end of the day on Friday, Aug. 30, one bill superseded the usual drama to create a pall over California Democratic unity as LGBTQ legislators and advocates expressed outrage that purported supporters used anti-LGBTQ messaging to woo electoral votes in 2020. Two important Equality California bills did pass the Assembly Appropriations— Sen. Scott Wiener’s SB 132, the Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act to protect trans prisoners and Wiener and Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s SB 159, the PrEP and PEP Access Expansion bipartisan bill to expand access to HIV prevention medication by allowing pharmacists to provide pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to patients without a prescription, as is already done with birth control pills. However, in a move that infuriated LGBTQ advocates and law enforcement allies, Assembly Appropriation Chair Lorena Gonzalez suspended Wiener’s SB 145 that would ﬁx the current discriminatory sex offender registry law written before homosexuality was decriminalized. Under the law, if a straight 18-year-old male was charged and convicted of having consensual sex with his under-legal age 17-year-old girlfriend, the judge has the discretion to determine if the male teen’s name should be added to the California sex offender registry. However, if an 18-year-old gay male is found guilty of consensual sex with his 17-year-old gay boyfriend, the judge has no discretion—the gay teen’s name is legally required to be added to the public sex offender registry, thereby harming his
Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez photo from her Assembly website
opportunities in life. Wiener, the out state senator from San Francisco, and SB 145 co-sponsor Equality California created a bipartisan coalition backing the bill to allow for judicial discretion. That coalition includes formidable law enforcement heavyweight co-sponsor LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and support from the ACLU of California, California District Attorney’s Association, California Police Chief’s Association, California Public Defenders Association and California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, among others. SB 145 is no small matter. “Until recently, the California Supreme Court (People v. Hofsheier) and the Appellate Courts had held that mandatory lifetime registration for sodomy, oral copulation, and sexual penetration, but not vaginal sexual intercourse, violated the equal protection clause, and was unconstitutional. However, in a more recent case, Johnson v. Department of Justice, the California Supreme Court overturned the Hofsheier case, reasoning that since sexual intercourse can cause pregnancy and other sex acts cannot, it is not discriminatory to treat the offenses differently and for harsher penalties to be in
place for non-vaginal intercourse,” Wiener wrote in an April 9 press release after SB 145 passed the Senate Public Safety Committee. “SB 145 will overturn the Johnson decision and end this blatant discrimination.” Equality California was among the fairness and equality advocates angry that Gonzalez seemed to substitute her own judgement over that of law enforcement and LGBTQ and allied civil rights groups and placed SB 145 on suspension to now become a two-year bill, eligible for consideration in 2020. The move was cheered by anti-LGBTQ Christians. “A California bill that could have prevented homosexuals from having to register as sex offenders for having sex with consenting minors has been blocked,” Christian Action Network reported Sept. 3. “We are extremely disappointed with Assembly Appropriations Committee Chair Lorena Gonzalez for allowing an outdated law that discriminates against LGBTQ people to remain on the books. Law enforcement, sexual assault survivors and civil rights groups alike support this bipartisan bill because it would make California’s sex offender registry more effective and end blatant anti-LGBTQ discrimination,”
Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said in a statement. “Regrettably, this is not the ﬁrst time that this Committee, led by this Chair, has stood in the way of LGBTQ civil rights legislation and demonstrated a lack of understanding of LGBTQ civil rights issues. The impact of today’s decision is neither hypothetical nor abstract. When this Committee and this Chair refuse to listen to law enforcement, sexual assault survivors and civil rights organizations, Californians suffer as a result,” Zbur continued. “We will not stop ﬁghting for this common-sense ﬁx because California’s LGBTQ young people deserve better. We all deserve better.” Zbur is referring to Chair Gonzalez and the Assembly Appropriations Committee blocking SB 421 in 2017, also bipartisan LGBTQ civil rights legislation authored by Wiener and co-sponsored by Equality California and LA DA Lacey. That established “a tiered registry for all sex offenders. Proposed tiers are based on seriousness of crime, risk of sexual reoffending, and criminal history. The bill would also establish procedures for termination from the sex offender registry for a registered sex offender who is a tier one or tier two offender who completes his or her mandated minimum registration period under speciﬁed conditions.” That bill was critical for LGBTQ people who had been required to register as sex offenders for life with no recourse to challenge or get off the registry—including gay men who had been unfairly targeted and entrapped by homophobic police from before Stonewall until the present day. Fortuitously, the legislation was later revived as SB 384, and with help from Speaker Rendon, passed on the Assembly ﬂoor and was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. The Assembly Appropriations Committee also blocked two other signiﬁcant LGBTQ bills in 2017—AB 800 by Assemblymember David Chiu and AB 1161 by Assemblymember Phil Ting designed to address rising rates of hate crimes in California after Donald Trump’s inauguration by establishing a statewide hotline for people to safely report
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06 • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Out NFL bisexual Ryan Russell just wants to play The defensive gladiator is also a published poet By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org LOS ANGELES — It was a long two days. NFL free agent Ryan Russell came out twice in a personal column on ESPN on Aug. 29 and during the subsequent whirlwind of press— first as a bisexual and second as a defensive end who writes poetry and romance stories. “My primary objective right now is football and getting back in the NFL and playing. And I think the biggest way that I could also kind of help be a more visible figure in professional football, for other LGBT players, is to be on the field,” Russell who continues to train at the NFL’s Exos sports program in Carson, tells the Blade. “I know that there’s an opportunity for me, and I know that my best years of playing are ahead of me and I can’t wait to show the world what I can do.” Russell is diligent about how he frames what others see as a blatant civil rights issue. “I want to live my dream of playing the game I’ve worked my whole life to play, and being open about the person I’ve always been,” Russell wrote on ESPN. “Those two objectives shouldn’t be in conflict. But judging from the fact that there isn’t a single openly LGBTQ player in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball or the NHL, brings me pause. I want to change that — for me, for other athletes who share these common goals, and for the generations of LGBTQ athletes who will come next.” While football is a life-long dream, writing is a necessity of the soul. Russell, 27, started writing at age seven after his stepfather died. Writing helped keep him sane after his best friend Joe Gilliam, with whom he played football at Purdue, died of cancer on Sept. 11, 2018 at age 27. “Joe’s death definitely brought the aspect of life being short to the forefront,” says Russell. “He was the best man that I knew. And he was a great athlete, a great brother, a great husband. He did everything right.
He never drank, he had an amazing diet. He was, literally, everything that I aspire to be every day. “He died at 27, so of course, it was a wakeup call for me,” Russell continues. “I wanted to live my life openly and honestly and give people in my life the opportunity to know me and support me. It was definitely a moment in my life where a lot of changes happened and I don’t want to take these days or these years for granted.” Russell has written about Joe and his own hopes and dreams in his “poetic memoir” entitled “Prison or Passion,” available at his website, RKRelentless.com. “I’ll always write. That’s a huge part of me,” Russell says. “It’s been a part of this process of coming out and I’ll continue to write stories. But right now, the focus is football. It’s plan A, B, and C.” Russell and his boyfriend Corey O’Brien, a professional dancer and fitness model, also created an 11-minute coming out video for YouTube. In the “more intimate setting,” he and Corey lightly kiss and awkwardly address the camera. Finally, Russell starts sharing what had been a burden for so long, encouraging others to find and share their authentic truth, too. He talks about how he started to experiment with his sexuality while on a full football scholarship at Purdue University. He watched as Michael Sam, all-American at the University of Missouri in 2013 and Southeastern Conference co-defensive player of the year, came out in 2014, was drafted in the seventh round as the NFL’s first openly gay player and was cut, never having played in the league. That prompted Russell to virtually go back in the closet before being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round in 2015. He subsequently played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and briefly for the Buffalo Bills before being sidelined with a shoulder injury that required surgery. It was a recent meeting with the San Francisco 49ers that spurred him to come out as bisexual. “When I interviewed with the 49ers and they talked about just my potential to play in this league again, that I deserved to play in this league again and I have the ability to, I also thought about maybe not being
open and being honest and doing what I did these past three years in the NFL of just keeping these two worlds separate. And that thought, it just kind of seemed unbearable,” Russell says. After talking with manager/documentary producer David McFarland and others, “I realized that my story could reach a larger audience and hopefully impact LGBT athletes—or just even give the NFL a chance to know that there’s an LGBT athlete who knows that they’re ready to open up and to accept players of different sexualities. That’s kind of when the vision got a little bigger,” Russell tells the Blade. “Now that I’ve been in LA and I’ve been living my truth and I’ve lost my best friend and I know how fragile life is—I didn’t want to have to compromise. And I thought that the NFL was in a great place to support an LGBT athlete now and moving forward.” Russell thinks making big plays with ESPN calling out his name “would speak volumes to the NFL and to the organization that had signed me and to LGBT athletes and LGBT kids—and just the whole community,” he says. “I have the drive to do that, I have the ability to do that. So that is at the forefront, the next step, the step thereafter, and the step after.” But Russell does not want to stand alone. “Athletes also have to take the steps to be visible and to let the NFL and to let sports organizations support us and embrace us and stand with us. If we don’t make the step to first come out, then the NFL or any other professional sports organization doesn’t have the opportunity to be there for us,” Russell tells the Blade. “With that being said, coming out is just a journey all on its own and I understand everyone’s journey is different.” But can the masculine-dominated, militaristic-like multibillion-dollar working world of NFL entertainment learn to accept out LGBTQ players, coaches and staff—as the U.S. armed forces did when Congress lifted the ban on open LGBT military service before Donald Trump? McFarland thinks so, as do some of those interviewed in his documentary “Alone in the Game” about homophobia and transphobia in sports.
“If we can end discrimination in the U.S. military, where lives are at stake, we can absolutely do it in the world of organized sport,” says Nathaniel Frank, Researcher at Columbia Law School. Gay former Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning also discusses the injury to athletes when they have to pretend to be someone else on the playing field—a detriment to mental health on the battlefield under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” as well. “There’s a huge psychic cost to either denying that part of yourself or not being able to share it with those people around you, particularly if you are working in a really intense environment like people in sports are,” says Fanning. “I don’t think it’s any secret that leadership in sport, not just the leagues but at the collegiate level and at the Olympic elite level and the age group level have questions come up,” says McFarland. “How do we identify and deal with an athlete that is struggling in the closet? Because until those athletes come forward to either ask for help or come out and take that brave, courageous move like Ryan did, we don’t know. So, it’s really important that athletes follow in Ryan’s footsteps.” Additionally, it’s incumbent on the LGBTQ community to “raise the profile and concern around these issues in sport,” McFarland says.”If the environment and the leadership within sport in general made it more conducive where people felt like they belonged, maybe that’s a starting point.” The Human Rights Campaign sees homophobia and transphobia in sports as an LGBTQ workplace civil rights issue. “No workplace should be free of accountability, and no worker, regardless of their job, should be subject to vile hatred in any form,” Charlotte Clymer, HRC Press Secretary, Rapid Response, tells the Blade. “This is why the Human Rights Campaign has long spoken out against instances of antiLGBTQ conduct within the NFL while praising the moments the league has taken a stand for equality, as well as individual players who speak out against anti-LGBTQ bigotry. “But that’s not enough,” Clymer continues. “The NFL must resolutely fight white supremacy in all forms, sexual and physical violence of any kind, particularly
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • 07
Ryan Russell spoke to the Blade about his desire to play in the NFL again after coming out as bisexual.
misogyny, and ensure that the safety, respect, and dignity of all people is a touchstone of their culture. No business is perfect, but imperfection does not absolve us from improvement.” It’s a personal issue for Clymer. “As a queer trans kid from Central Texas who
grew up loving football, I’m proud of Ryan Russell’s brave authenticity,” she says. “But that will not be enough until everyone in the NFL has a shoulder-to-shoulder pride in the values of true inclusion. If the NFL wishes to maintain its positioning as inextricable from American culture and values, it needs to
realize that the vast majority of Americans demand true inclusion in every workplace. Anything short of that is a failure of morality and patriotism.” “I don’t have a big call to action for the NFL,” Russell says. “I just want young athletes to know that it’s okay to be exactly
who they are. And if you come to terms with your truth at your own pace, that’s fine, too. There is a place for you in this world of sports, and there are players, teams, and organizations who are waiting to support you and encourage you the same way as they have done for me these past couple days.”
08 • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
LGBTQ advocates criticize Dems over failure of sex offender bill Continued from page 4 hate crimes. The bills were also thought to provide local law enforcement access to information to investigate and prevent hate crimes. Those bills and two other hate crime-related bills did not survive Gonzalez’s Assembly Appropriations Committee. Interestingly, Gonzalez is not averse to controversy nor fame. A glowing 2015 profile in The Atlantic touted her as “The California Democrat Setting the National Agenda.” “The breadth and scope of her legislative efforts have helped catapult her ahead of California’s two powerful U.S. senators, its up-and-coming attorney general, and its first gay woman to serve as speaker of the Assembly to become arguably the state’s most influential female politician,” The Atlantic author wrote. “Because she represents a solidly Democratic district— she ran unopposed in her first re-election effort in 2014—Gonzalez has had the luxury of being able to pursue her agenda without fear of voter backlash. But her tendency to gravitate toward controversial topics has cost her some opportunities to shore up support from those who’d otherwise be natural allies.” Some of those “natural allies” in the LGBTQ community are now wondering if Gonzalez—who intends to run for Secretary of State in 2020—is really a progressive Democrat in name only after her anti-LGBTQ actions as Appropriations Committee Chair and after she endorsed Modesto City Councilmember Mani Grewal in his race for California Senate District 5. Grewal has been using SB 145—Wiener’s sex offender registry bill that Gonzalez placed in the Suspense File—as an attack against his primary opponent, out Assemblymember Susan Eggman, in an ugly ad that is consistent with Republican talking points. “SB 145 would open the door for adults to victimize minors by luring them with the intent to have sex and then shielding the predator from being automatically registered as a sex offender,” states a Feb. 19 press release on the California Senate
Gov. Gavin Newsom with LGBT Legislative Caucus members Assemblymember Evan Low, Sen. Scott Wiener, Assemblymember Susan Eggman, and Assemblymember Todd Gloria Photo courtesy Newsom’s office
Republican Caucus website. “In plainer words, certain sexual predators will be able to live among us without our being aware and teens, often the most vulnerable victims of sexual predators, will be even more vulnerable.” The offensive ad paid for by the Grewal campaign features Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse looking directly into camera saying: “Adults who molest our children are criminals, and they must register as sex offenders. Mani Grewal helped keep that law on the books. That’s why I’m supporting Mani Grewal for Senate. He will continue to protect our children.” Outraged ensued. Equality California and Wiener—who is also Chair of the California LGBTQ—could barely contain their disgust while California Democratic Party LGBT
Caucus Co-Chairs Tiffany Woods and Lester Aponte called the ad “shameful” and “a divisive smear campaign to mislead voters and score cheap political points.” On Aug. 15, The Stockton Record published an article noting that Grewal was citing “regurgitated” falsehoods, apparently “referring to misinformation published in February by a website, thewashingtonpundit.com, that has since taken down its debunked online story.” Additionally, the newspaper reported, “Grewal’s characterization of SB145 was debunked in February by Snopes.com, a website that fact-checks rumors and clears up misinformation.” An exchange of letters followed, with the last one from Equality California’s Rick Zbur demanding that Grewal “formally
retract the contents of [his] offensive ad and false statements about the bill; apologize to Senator Wiener, Assemblymember Eggman and the LGBTQ community; and endorse SB 145.” “Unfortunately, your purported commitment ‘to stand up for the LGBTQ community’ rings hollow as long as you continue to engage in these homophobic campaign tactics,” wrote Zbur. “Knowingly spreading misinformation about an LGBTQ civil rights bill supported by law enforcement, sexual assault survivors and LGBTQ Californians is not how you ‘stand up for the LGBTQ community.’” Might the same be said of Grewal supporter, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez?
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • 09
QUOTES “Religion should never be exploited as a license to discriminate. This incident is yet another glaring example of how white supremacy and anti-LGBTQ bigotry are not merely things of the past. We must take action against these blatantly illegal practices.” – Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David on Christian owner of Mississippi wedding venue refusing service to interracial and LGBTQ couples.
“America’s outdated labor laws haven’t kept up with our changing economy and are useless to most people working service and tech-driven gig jobs.” – Out SEIU President Mary Kay Henry Aug. 26 on being appointed co-chair of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Future of Work Commission.
“For all of you who still think our VP is anti-gay, I point you to his and the Second Lady’s schedule tomorrow where they will join Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner Dr. Matthew Barrett for lunch in Ireland.”
– Gay White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere tweeted Sept. 2 about anti-LGBTQ Mike Pence meeting the Prime Minister of Ireland and his spouse.
The Trump-supporting organizers of the “Straight pride” parade in Boston Aug. 31 tried to resurrect gay ﬂame-throwing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, using him as their grand marshal for what counter-protesters considered a white supremacist exhibition. The “Super Happy Fun Provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos as grand marshal of the America” organizers apparently Straight Pride parade in Boston. Screengrab from WCVB TV didn’t care that Yiannopoulos has been shunned since he was forced to resign in Feb. 2017 as a senior editor at Breitbart News and rebuked by Conservative Political Action Conference after he joked about pedophilia and having sex with a Catholic priest when he was a teenager. Yiannopoulos was notorious for couching provocative outrageous remarks in humor and calling it free speech on college campuses, a tactic that pleased “snowﬂake” hating conservatives, caused outraged protests outside the venue, and created headaches for campus administrators spending lots of money to keep the peace, including at UCLA. Counter-demonstrators overwhelmed the “straight pride” participants. Police used pepper spray and arrested 36 people after the rally as counter-protesters threw eggs and dirt at riotclad police, accusing them of protecting Nazis, some of whom prominently displayed Nazi tattoos during the parade. But only a handful of people showing up to hear “straight pride” organizers claim heterosexuals are America’s new victimized “oppressed minority” or bombast from Yiannopoulos. “My fellow homosexuals have been embarrassing me for decades,” he told AFP. “Finally I found my crowd.”
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10 • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Gay State Dept. official oversees sale of military tech to allies Former Log Cabin leader Cooper on his new job and experience fighting for equality By CHRIS JOHNSON If you hear about the United States announcing the sale of military technology to a foreign ally, R. Clarke Cooper will have had a hand in it. As assistant secretary for politicalmilitary affairs at the State Department, Cooper is charged with advancing national security interests by coordinating with allied nations the sale of U.S. conventional weapons, such as F-35 aircraft, bombs, missiles and firearms. Each year, his bureau facilitates more than $190 billion in U.S. defense transfers. Among the recipients are democracies like the United Kingdom, Italy and Japan — although others, such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, have repressive governments notorious for criminalizing gay relationships and restricting women’s rights. As a gay combat veteran, Cooper said he’s aware the United States supplies weapons to countries with less than stellar — even abysmal — records on human and civil rights. “I’ve probably spent a good chunk of my life serving in places where one’s orientation like mine, would be either defined as criminal or even under the threat of a death sentence,” Cooper said. “But it doesn’t preclude us from presenting our people forward into these places, and it certainly doesn’t suspend our bilateral relationships.” Cooper is acquainted with policies that suppress gay people. In the early Obama years, Cooper, as executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, worked with Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and coordinated litigation that compelled the Pentagon to support open service. Speaking with the Blade in his office at the State Department on Aug. 21 about his present role, Cooper said the weapons sales are about a different thing entirely:
Assistant Secretary R. Clarke Cooper (right) consults with a senior U.S. Air Force Pilot as he tours the U.S. corral at the Paris Air Show. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of State
Maintaining global security with U.S. allies to limit the influence of adversaries like Russia and China. “It is always going to be what U.S. interests do we have in that particular country, in that region that we need to protect,” Cooper said. “That is overriding. Full stop. Always will be.” Although Cooper is a Trump appointee (making him one of the handful of openly gay officials in the administration), the sale of weapons to these countries spans both Democratic and Republican administrations, including those of Trump, Obama, Clinton and both Bushes. It’s the wiggle-room in between, Cooper said, that enables the United States to advocate for decriminalization of same-sex relationships and women’s role in society. Among these efforts, he said, are the United Nations’ Women, Peace & Security initiative and requirements on troop-contributing countries in global peacekeeping operations. “There are a number of countries that have been challenging either statutes or policies on women and the LGBT community, who
are significant troop contributors to U.N. peacekeeping operations or African Union peacekeeping operations,” Cooper said. “That does provide us a point of entree as a department to advocate for those communities.” Cooper said the process for the arms transfer can take years, and during that time, red flags addressed in the State Department Human Rights Report or regional contextual issues could come into play. “At the end of the day, though, regardless of whatever outlying issues there are, it’s always going to be about what’s in our interest,” Cooper said. “Again, not a new protocol, that is sustained.” Weapons sales are but one part of the job of managing the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. The responsibilities also include helping coordinate diplomacy and defense policy, assisting countries with clearing explosive hazards and building a capable and accountable staff of political-military practitioners. Cooper won Senate confirmation in May after his nomination by President Trump
was pending for about 10 months. Since that time, Cooper said his day-to-day life on the job is unpredictable and “predicated on what’s happening globally.” “I can have a day where I know that, OK, I’ve got calendar items, there’s either a meeting at the National Security Council, or there’s a briefing on Capitol Hill, or I’ve got to make sure I got to get a decision up to Secretary [Mike] Pompeo,” Cooper said. “Those are things that are on our calendar, and I can plan [for], what we don’t plan for is a particular reaction from an adversary or a posturing or threatening act by an adversary, and how that might be disruptive, and how we have to react.” Cooper knows his stuff. Over the course of the interview, he quickly rattles off military acronyms, policy initiatives and recalls historical policies set by the Untied States and allies in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Although Cooper said he’s forced to speak in generalities because much of his work is sensitive and classified, he identified both Russia and China as adversaries the United States is seeking to limit through weapons sales to allies. “When we’re talking about the national security strategy that is very much focused on China and Russia,” Cooper said. “So when we’re looking at how we’re prioritizing not only foreign military financing, and foreign military sales and security assistance, all of that is looking to bolster and support our security partners who may be either directly challenged by Moscow or Beijing.” In historical context, Cooper said those partners have been limited to countries bordering Russia and China, but in an asymmetric environment where the world is flat, those partnerships are “much broader than that.” “When we are looking at security assistance, when we’re looking at presence and when we’re looking at influence, countering China is inclusive of Africa, and the African continent, countering Russia is inclusive of, well, this hemisphere as well,” Cooper said. Continues at losangelesblade.com
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12 • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Hong Kong turmoil raises questions about 2022 Gay Games Organizers of LGBT sports event to discuss situation at October meeting By LOU CHIBBARO JR. The escalating violent street clashes between Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement protesters and local authorities taking orders from China that have taken place each week since June have raised questions about whether Hong Kong can remain a viable host city for the 2022 Gay Games. In 2017, the Federation of Gay Games, which organizes the quadrennial international LGBT sports event that attracts as many as 15,000 athletes and thousands more spectators, selected Hong Kong as the host city for the 2022 Gay Games. The decision by the FGG to select Hong Kong over D.C. and Guadalajara, Mexico came after all three cities – which the FGG named as finalists in its competition to select a host city – presented detailed proposals on why they believed they were best suited to host the 2022 LGBT mega sports event. In keeping with the Gay Games tradition, the three cities’ proposals included cultural events such as LGBT rights related gatherings to accompany the athletic events associated with the Games. Although the Gay Games in Hong Kong are scheduled to take place in November 2022, more than three years from now, international observers of Hong Kong and China have said it is hard to predict how things may be in Hong Kong at that time. Among other things, China has hinted that it will send in military forces to crush the pro-democracy street protests that have halted much of Hong Kong’s downtown business and transportation system during the weekend protests despite local police crackdowns. Hundreds of thousands have taken part in the protests. A full China takeover of Hong Kong could raise questions about whether an LGBT event like the Gay Games would be welcome, some observers have said. Sean Fitzgerald, co-president of the FGG,
Recent unrest in Hong Kong has some wondering about viability of the Gay Games there in 2022. Photo by Studio Incendo via Flickr
told the Washington Blade the FGG has asked Hong Kong organizers to address the situation in Hong Kong at the FGG’s annual General Assembly meeting scheduled to take place Oct.31-Nov. 2 in Guadalajara, Mexico. “Since successfully winning the host city bid, the Gay Games 11 Hong Kong team has been making good progress on our plan to organize a successful and inclusive sports and cultural event in November 2022,” Fitzgerald said in a statement to the Blade. “Mindful of the importance of safety and security, the team has been working closely with the Hong Kong Government Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong Tourism Board, security companies, and other key stakeholders to develop, amongst others, a full security plan to ensure that we deliver a safe and inclusive event for all participants and spectators,” he said. “Although the current events in Hong Kong are unsettling, we note that all major trade fairs, events and exhibitions scheduled for the second half of this year, are reported to be going ahead,” Fitzgerald said. “We are closely monitoring the evolving
situation, and remain vigilant to ensure that the security plans for our event will be operational and effective for everyone 3+ years from now.” The Hong Kong Gay Games organizers will also make a presentation to the FGG Board of Directors during the time of the General Assembly meeting in Guadalajara, “which I am sure will be asking questions about the current situation,” Fitzgerald told the Blade. China has been tolerant of LGBT-related organizations and events in recent years, observers have said, as long as those groups and events steer clear of politics and do not challenge the Communist Party government. The local, semi-autonomous government of Hong Kong has been generally supportive of the LGBT community, according to Hong Kong Gay Games organizers. But experts have said China has taken an increasingly more assertive role in local Hong Kong affairs in recent years following the 1997 agreement with the United Kingdom in which the British turned over Hong Kong, a longtime British colony, to China. The
agreement calls for China to allow Hong Kong to govern itself in a semi-autonomous way for 50 years after the 1997 agreement, but experts say there would be little that the U.K. or other countries, including the U.S., could do if China violates the agreement other than possibly imposing economic sanctions. It couldn’t immediately be determined whether D.C. would make another bid to host the Gay Games if it is determined that Hong Kong is no longer a viable host city. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Gay Games Bid Committee Chair Brent Minor were part of a 32-member D.C. contingent that traveled to Paris in October 2017 to advocate for the D.C. bid before the FGG. “I really have no specific comment on the situation in Hong Kong,” Minor told the Blade in an email message on Tuesday. “Team D.C. plans to send our representative to the Annual Meeting in October and have them report back on any updates,” he said. “Team D.C. remains a strong supporter of the Gay Games movement and will support the efforts for Gay Games XI.”
14 • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has sparked further outrage among LGBT activists in his country with his decision to suspend public funding of LGBT-specific television programs and films. Photo by Agência Brasil Fotografias; courtesy Wikimedia Commons
More than 6,000 people attended Bermuda’s first Pride parade that took place on Aug. 31. Photo courtesy of Linda Bogle-Mienzer
6,000 attend first-ever Bermuda Pride More than 6,000 people attended Bermuda’s first-ever Pride parade that took place in the British island territory’s capital of Hamilton on Aug. 31. Activists from Barbados, Jamaica and other English-speaking countries in the Caribbean are among those who traveled to Bermuda for the parade and other Pride-related events. Clarien Bank, which is based in Bermuda, ahead of Pride announced a $10,000 donation to OUTBermuda, a local LGBTI advocacy group. “It was historically epic,” Linda Bogle-Mienzer, a long-time LGBTI activist in Bermuda, told the Blade. “It was this incredible feeling of a sense of belonging … it felt like I had been welcomed home by this big wave of rainbow hugs.” “It was incredible,” added Bogle-Mienzer. The parade took place roughly 14 months after Bermuda became the first jurisdiction in the world outside the U.S. to rescind marriage rights for same-sex couples. Supreme Court Justice Charles-Etta Simmons in May 2017 issued a ruling that paved the way for gays and lesbians to legally marry in Bermuda. The Domestic Partnership Act — a law Gov. John Rankin signed that allows same-sex couples to enter into domestic partnerships as opposed to get married — took effect on June 1, 2018. Bermuda’s top court last November ruled the Domestic Partnership Act is unconstitutional. Same-sex couples are currently able to legally marry in Bermuda, even though the territory’s government has appealed the ruling to the Privy Council in London, which has the final say in legal cases from Bermuda and other British territories. “Yesterday sent a powerful message to the world that there is a place in Bermuda where, for a couple of hours, everybody just came together,” Bogle-Mienzer told the Blade. “I was happy. That’s really was what it was all about. They just came together, were happy. And there was love and there was peace and there was laughter and there wasn’t any fear. It was just acceptance of whether you were black, white, gay, poor, straight or whatever.” “There is a lot of places we can move from there,” added Bogle-Mienzer. MICHAEL K. LAVERS
Brazil ends gov’t funding for LGBT films, TV shows SÃO PAULO — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has suspended public funding of LGBT-specific television projects and films. The decision, which was published in the Official Gazette on Aug. 21, specifically applies to four LGBT productions and others from categories that include youth, quality of life, society and the environment. Bolsonaro’s government has said the suspension, which will remain in place for 180 days, is necessary to compensate members of the Audiovisual Sectoral Fund Committee. The regulation also requires a review of the applied criteria to select projects. Bolsonaro, on the other hand, in a Facebook Live video on Aug. 15 spoke about LGBTspecific projects that were slated to receive federal funds. One of the things he said was he was able to search for government-funded projects with sexuality and LGBT-specific issues on the go and he was planning to stop it since they shouldn’t receive public incentives. “If someone from the private sector wants to put money into those productions that is fine,” said Bolsonaro. “But they won’t receive public money since these projects go against the values of traditional Brazilian families.” It was, therefore, not a surprise when a week later the decision was made public. A known homophobe, Bolsonaro incited anti-LGBT prejudice and hatred during his campaign as he did when he represented Rio de Janeiro in the Brazilian Congress. But Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, who has been nominated to become Brazil’s next ambassador to the U.S., during an interview with the PBS NewsHour last week said he was sure his father would love him if he were gay. The president’s record is far from what Eduardo Bolsonaro claims, and that is why his decision about federal funding of LGBT-specific television and film projects has already received strong reactions from both the audiovisual sector and from within the government itself. Culture Secretary Henrique Pires resigned in protest against what he called censorship of public television projects as soon as Jair Bolsonaro made his announcement. Senator Fabiano Contarato challenged the decision in the Brazil’s Supreme Court, arguing it is unconstitutional. Julia Katharine, a transgender actress, screenwriter and director, has sharply criticized Jair Bolsonaro. “LGBTIQ+ filmmaking was building a story,” she told the Washington Blade. “There were some advances in the last 10 years in visibility especially in regards of transgender issues. And now we arrived in a place where our stories are being censored.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS
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16 • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
VOLUME 03 ISSUE 36
California Democrats are ready for 2020 We must mobilize to protect our communities from Trump
Mark Gonzalez is chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. (Photo courtesy LACDP)
Recently, we celebrated the rolling blue waves still crashing into Orange County well past the 2018 Mid-Term Elections. Flipping long-held Republican congressional seats in 2018 was one thing—but overtaking Republicans in voter registration in Orange County is the kind of momentum that Democrats need as we go into 2020. As of now, we are less than 200 days away from the California primary on March 3, Super Tuesday, and Democratic voters are ready to take on the unhinged, xenophobic, misogynistic, narcissistic, demagogue running our country into the ground. While all the attention is on the White House, it would be a great disservice to ignore the local races that will play out in Los Angeles County and across the state. 2020 will be the first year that all municipal contests will be on the ballot—down ballot voting will be crucial to all Democrats running for office. The March Primary and the November General Election will be different than the Special Elections we saw this year. Our Democratic base of voters are excited to get to the polls. Orange County was only the beginning—for the first time San Bernardino
and Riverside are within the margin of taking more pro-equality seats. Our local Democratic Party activists have their shoes ready to hit the campaign trail and knock on doors, whether it is here locally or in neighboring states like Arizona and Nevada. We will stand by and coalesce around whoever we select as our Democratic Party presidential nominee, making sure to get voters out to the polls. The most vulnerable in our society will suffer if we stand idly by and do nothing. Our Democratic Party message is not one of fear but of raising the bar and reigniting hope for a better future where our nation does not turn its back on the helpless. This White House and administration have fomented the ugliest, nastiest rhetoric against everyday citizens and those who are reaching our shores for a better life away from violence and disaster. And with Donald Trump’s crony candidates running for office at every level of government, Democrats must take this election with extreme seriousness, for defeat will drive our country over the edge of civility. As Democrats, we are dedicated to empowering working families here in our state and protecting our communities from Donald Trump, his administration and the GOP’s assault on our neighbors, our civil liberties, and our values. This past month has been defined by Trump’s continued reckless tweets that compromise the safety of our brave men and women in the military, finding petty excuses to avoid representing this nation in the G7 meeting and the harm he is callously inflicting on hundreds of thousands of families held hostage over his racist wall, and more. We will fight to regain the greatness and compassion of the America we know and love and reject the America that isolates itself by building walls or creating trade wars that harm the bottom line of everyday Americans.
We do not compromise when transgender men and women can no longer serve our great country. We do not compromise when a woman’s right to reproductive choice is being decimated. And we do not compromise when voters are disenfranchised. We will unite behind our Democratic candidates who address the serious challenges that face our nation, finding real solutions to deadly gun violence threats to our students in schools, making higher education more affordable, and providing access to health care for all. We are taking a page from our sisters and brothers in the labor movement. From the teachers’ unions, to the healthcare workers, grocery store workers and longshoremen— they are all re-energized, igniting a growing movement in Los Angeles, California and across the nation. Labor unions are in the fight of a lifetime for their rights and the future of working people in this country. Their momentum and their energy in the lead up to the 2020 elections will help us reengage with voters and remind them of the great promise of the American Dream. Democrats must unite in the fight to maintain the two-thirds super-majority in the California Legislature and continue to grow the size of our Congressional delegation to maintain leadership in the House. And we must elect a Democratic President. Though we have come a long way, we must commit to electing leaders who will challenge the injustices that continue to keep so many of us down. The members of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party remain united and dedicated to electing good forward-thinking Democrats who will fight for justice and equality for all. We won big in 2018. But we must—and we can—win bigger in 2020 if we commit to building toward victory!
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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • 17
Should queers support Palestine? Yes, queen! We need to show our solidarity By KHELIL BOUARROUJ Recently, pro-Israel partisans had a ﬁeld day mocking queer solidarity with Palestinians in response to the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) decision to ban an event hosted by the Palestinian queer group alQaws. The social media schadenfreude was exempliﬁed by Emory University professor and pro-Israel advocate Deborah Lipstadt’s tweet, “When a LGBT group on your campus supports BDS in solidarity with the oppressed tell them this: Palestinian Authority bans LGBT activities in West Bank.” The whole affair raises the question: Should queer solidarity activists continue to support the Palestinian cause for selfdetermination? Yes, queen! A Palestinian grassroots organization being harassed by the PA isn’t a reason to suspend support for the Palestinian people. Maybe Lipstadt and her fellow partisans confuse Israelis with the Israeli government and both of them with Jews, but the distinction between people and state (or, in the PA’s case, proto-state) isn’t lost on BDS activists. When occupied Palestinian queers are denied freedom by the PA, that’s more
reason for solidarity. The PA is no longer a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Its legislative arm hasn’t met since 2007. Its president’s term expired a decade ago. Its popular support has long evaporated; in fact, Palestinians rate corruption in the PA as more detrimental to their daily lives than the occupation. The authoritarian PA maintains power through its security alliance with Israel and suppression of dissent. Its leaders are widely derided by many Palestinians as collaborators. Its action must be judged in the context of occupation. As alQaws wrote in response to the event cancellation, “Singling out incidents of homophobia in Palestinian society ignores the complexities of Israel’s colonization and military occupation being a contributing factor to Palestinian LGBTQ oppression.” Homophobia is common in Palestinian society, but that doesn’t delegitimize Palestinian aspirations for selfdetermination. Liberation movements have almost always had moral blind spots. The post-Stonewall gay rights movement, for instance, was heavily dominated by men and marginalized women and people of color. Anti-colonial struggles beneﬁted from the sacriﬁces of women but then built postcolonial states restricting female autonomy. The ﬁrst Intifada (1987-93) was largely led by Palestinian women after Israel imprisoned
and exiled many of the men. It was women who helmed the committees that organized demonstrations and support networks to sustain popular resistance. But after the Oslo Accords were signed, Palestinian women were sidelined; the men were back in charge. It is for this reason that many on the left have embraced intersectionalism: to avoid the pitfalls of the past when certain struggles for equality were deemed irrelevant to the main cause. Calling out homophobia in Palestinian society is right and necessary, but what was wrong and opportunistic about Lipstadt’s representative tweet is that it expresses no concern for Palestinian queers but only in gleefully instrumentalizing their setback as a wedge against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. It should be noted that Israel’s Knesset has repeatedly voted down pro-LGBTQ laws and Israeli Prime Minister “Bibi” Netanyahu has an electoral alliance with an avowedly anti-gay party. According to Lipstadt’s logic, queers shouldn’t support Israel. But Lipstadt implicitly argues queers should stand with Israel because of its relatively more progressive record on gay rights. This is a reductivism of queer lives that, as Maya Mikdashi has argued, is arguably homophobic. Queers do not derive their politics solely from their sexuality. Queer solidarity activists are not oblivious to the fact that Palestinian society is socially
conservative but know solidarity is an opportunity for disarming homophobia through the power of queer visibility. At heart, the social media mockery of LGBTQ solidarity with Palestine illustrates the bad faith and willful blindness all too common amongst pro-Israel partisans who see nothing abhorrent about Israel’s occupation and assume critics of Israel must be animated by ignorance or malice. Bill Maher called BDS a “bullshit purity test” whose supporters only oppose the occupation because of identity policies pitting the “browner” Palestinians against the “mostly white” Israelis. Support for Israel is falling among liberals and many of Israel’s supporters remain befuddled. Several pro-Israel campaigns have failed to reverse this trend. Neither smearing Palestinians as radical Muslims nor selling Israel as a liberal paradise has worked. Here’s a suggestion in good faith: Keep calm and try to honestly grapple with the arguments and history put forth by Palestinian solidarity activists. You might learn something, and we might all get closer to a better place.
Khelil Bouarrouj is an activist who writes about LGBTQ issues.
New role for Candace Gingrich Long-time HRC staffer moves on to cannabis advocacy By KEITH LORIA
Noted LGBTQ leader Candace Gingrich, who spent 23 years working for the Human Rights Campaign, has a new gig. The longtime advocate was named vice president and head of business development for Revolution Florida, a cannabis operator that’s the sister company of Illinois-based Revolution Enterprises. Working with the Human Rights Campaign, Gingrich traveled throughout the U.S. discussing the importance of coming out, mobilizing the next generation of activists and promoting LGBTQ equity, including in health care. Gingrich saw first-hand the barriers LGBTQ people face to medical treatment, including with cannabis. For that reason, Gingrich — half-sister of Newt, with whom she’s cordial — will also serve as the company’s LGBTQ ambassador. In Gingrich’s role, organization leaders have plans to establish LGBTQ-focused medical cannabis treatment centers and increase economic opportunities for LGBTQ people. Gingrich, who is married to Illinois state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D) — the lead House sponsor of a landmark marijuana legalization measure signed into law this summer, won’t be involved in any financial or voting interest in any Illinois-based business license that might be issued to Revolution under the new law for two years. Additionally, Gingrich’s business development work will only be focused on non-Illinois markets. Gingrich recently chatted with the Blade about the position and plans for the future. BLADE: What got you interested in this position? CANDACE GINGRICH: It was a number of things. One was looking at Revolution as as an entity itself and their reputation as a company that not only cares about the bottom line, but cares about the people that are involved — really focusing on social justice, social equity and providing the best science to make the best product for medical cannabis patients. Here is a company that is doing a lot of things well. Plus, I had an opportunity to kind of mesh that with my queer activism, because
in a lot of the conversation, we talk about the failed war on drugs and we talk about the importance of bringing black and brown people into the industry to be part of it and to be engaged. But a lot of times, we weren’t talking about queer people, which has also been a historically marginalized community. With Florida, it’s a purely medical market. All of the dispensaries are a medical cannabis market. And with HRC, I’ve learned how often queer people have issues interfacing with the health care community and oftentimes they have to work with health care providers that are not culturally competent and are not fully aware of the particular needs of LGBTQ patients. This was a way to kind of combine those two things to be part of a company that’s bringing a first-class product to market for patients and also finding a way so that we can bring LGBTQ people into it, as patients and also as a part of the company as well. BLADE: You talked about a barrier of medical treatment being understanding needs. Are there other barriers as well? GINGRICH: Well, there’s still stigma in using cannabis, even when it is medically called for. I see some parallels to the LGBTQ movement in that there still remains a lot of ignorance and a lot of misconception and stereotypes about cannabis use that we need to kind of get beyond and do the educating on. The studies show that cannabis is a health care product that can vastly improve peoples’ lives, but there’s still those stereotypes of that dude on the corner selling you a dime bag. We need to get beyond the stigma and help people view cannabis as a medical treatment. BLADE: As part of this role, you’re going to help establish LGBTQ-focused medical treatment centers. What are your plans there? GINGRICH: We’re still figuring that out. Florida is one of our newest markets and we have a vertically integrated license, and we are building a great center—the place where the plants will all be grown and then a processing center where they can be processed. And then we have a license for 35 dispensaries
throughout the state of Florida, doing a couple at a time and we will build from there. One of the ideas that we had was why not create a couple of the dispensaries as LGBTQfocused and LGBTQ forward. That’s to provide not only a welcoming place for queer people to go, but an informing place. We really want to bring in queer people, we want to bring in people of color, we want to bring in veterans. Because we’re going to have a need for staff at the dispensaries, we’re going to have a need for people to work in the growth center, to work in the processing, to do transportation. I see it as not only queer people as patients, but also as a way to provide job opportunities for people that sometimes still face barriers to employment. BLADE: What are some of your other main responsibilities? GINGRICH: With every place that we want to put a dispensary, we have local stakeholders that we need to develop relationships with and we’re building relationships with. There’s still municipalities that are still relying on stereotypes and the misconceptions about what it means to have a medical dispensary. So part of it is getting to know them and building partnership. It’s Revolution working with local government, working with the regulators, and making sure that we are good corporate partners. I also see building relationships with the community in general. One of the things that Revolution does in Illinois is really partners with the community. There is an MS walk that we were a cosponsor of. There was a letter writing effort for cancer patients where the community came together, created care packages for people in the community who were going through cancer. That’s the kind of thing that drew me to Revolution — it is about doing good business, but it’s also about doing good, period. BLADE: What’s the future look like for Revolution? GINGRICH: Just that Florida is one of the newest markets and we’re looking to expand around the country. We’ve got a growth site in Arkansas. We are going to be opening a
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Candace Gingrich says the stigma associated with marijuana needs to be erased. Photo by Angelika Bermingham; courtesy Revolution Enterprises
medical dispensary in Maryland. Looking at what we’re going to do in Florida over the next six months to a year, I’m hopeful that the LGBTQ-focused-facing work will help us create a template so no matter what state
Revolution is in, we’re able to engage those communities and replicate it. BLADE: What else are you excited about in your life?
GINGRICH: I’m excited to be living in Chicago and being here full-time with my family. We have a 5-month-old massive puppy named Jack who is ridiculously fun. And I’m always excited about the Chicago Cubs.
S E P T E M B E R 0 6 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 3 6 • A M E R I C A’ S LG B TQ N E W S S O U R C E • LO S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M • 1 9
20 • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
You want the best of alternative LGBTQ London? Ask the locals at the Eagle in Vauxhall for a glorious Queen’s eye view By MICHAEL JORTNER
There was The Dane from Kings Cross, the black guy from East London, and another white guy from West London. They agreed to a brief chat on the back patio of the Eagle in London’s Vauxhall neighborhood, as long as I didn’t use their names. All around 30, they wore jeans, shorts and T-shirts, with one revealing a black leather harness underneath his plaid button down. Our interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. If a visitor from LA wanted to do something “alternative” in LGBTQ London, what would you tell them? Black Leather Harness: Obviously, we are here at Eagle, which has great theme nights. But also Royal Vauxhall Tavern, on a Saturday they have Duckie. They play David Bowie, Elastica…and they have…sort of cabaret. East London Guy: There are quite a few places, actually, where you can have a good night. In Shoreditch there’s a place called Queen of Adelaide. It’s a bar-slashclub. Underground. Good music. Very young crowd. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays. I’ve heard Shoreditch and Whitechapel are trendy areas. ELG: Yeah. Yeah. BLH: And there’s The Glory, which is in Dalston. G-LO-R-Y? Like glory hole? BLH: Yeah, exactly. There are no glory holes, although there are venues like that. It’s a pub and its got a cabaret night every weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I think the drag queen who set up The Glory [is] Jonny Woo. She spent some time over in New York. And she’s very alternative. And what about you? The Dane: Well, in Kings Cross it would have to be Central Station. ELG: Oh, right. TD: It’s a pub. A bit quiet some evenings but they do stuff like Eurovision and theme nights. It’s a bed and breakfast. And there’s something happening in the basement, as well, which is— BLH: [interrupting] A sex club. ELG: Is it? I’ve never been there before. Speaking of backrooms or saunas, would you have a thought? TD: Oh shit. This is anonymous. TD: Yeah, so right. Guys help me now. So XXL is still open. That gets pretty hot. But it’s closing in three months’ time. Why is that? TD: They’re going to build flats there. BLH: Redevelopment and all that shit. TD: That’s probably the best…that’s the place I would go. BLH: I’ve only been there once. I’m such an old maid.
Many London residents feel Vauxhall is now the premier LGBTQ area in London. Shown here is signage at the Vauxhall tube station. Photo by Michael Jortner
But the one time I did go I got to XXL at 10:30 in the evening and I didn’t leave until six. And for a dormouse like me that is quite an undertaking. I was very proud of myself. It hasn’t happened since. And I sucked a lot of c*ck. You’re the one wearing the harness. BLH: [laughs] Yeah, I know. I’m a massive contradiction. ELG: Vauxhall, where we are right now, it’s got several nightclubs. Gay clubs. Sex clubs. Anything you want. There’s Fire down the road. I think they’ve got an event tonight, actually, because they handed us some flyers. Lots of porn stars are gonna be performing. Not my thing, but you know…. Why isn’t it your thing?
ELG: I’m not that adventurous. And, yeah, it’s very, very alternative. A lot of younger, sort of youngish, you know, frequent there. And there’s quite a few nightclubs down the road. Union, I think it’s called. And there’s another one called Brute or something like that. They’ve all got darkrooms and glory holes and stuff. From what I hear. BLH: I’ll tell you a story about my mum. Sorry this is a bit of a…sidetrack. It’s a 180. BLH: What was that? It’s a 180. 180 degrees? BLH: I thought you said, “Is she 80?” No, she’s 62. When I first graduated from uni they got the house valued so they could sell it. And my mom was leading
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • 21
Hyde Park on a sunny weekend provides the perfect playground for LGBTQ volleyball.
Kings Cross in North London has a number of LGBTQ-friendly businesses, including Housmans Books selling t-shirts and books during Pride.
Photo by Michael Jortner
Photo by Michael Jortner
the estate agent around and she said, “Now, at the top of the stairs, on your left, there’s a glory hole. And in my older son’s room there’s another glory hole.” I said, “Mum, you can’t say that!” And she said, “It just means an old room where you put old junk.” “No, Mum. It hasn’t meant that in, like, 50 years.” She was like, “Oh! You young people.” I was like, “Mum!” [laughter] I had no idea it was actually an innocent phrase. BLH: In my mum’s mind it’s a very innocent phrase. But it’s meant a hole that you suck cock through for at least 50 years, right? It is Stonewall 50 right now. BLH: Her references are very out of date. Oh, you know what’s alternative? On Tuesday you have Bar
Wotever…and it’s cabaret. It’s five pound or less if you’re unemployed. And you have people from all over the LGBTQ+ spectrum. ELG: I think Vauxhall is the most gay area in London now, in terms of bars. It used to be SoHo. But SoHo is not what it used to be. All the gay bars and clubs left that area. There’s one called The Yard…and there’s Ku Bar. But London residents don’t tend to go there. So Vauxhall is the place. Lots of alternative bars [and] clubs. Theatre as well. There’s Above The Stag. I think most of its shows are LGBTQ+ plays, shows and musicals. TD: London has changed a lot. BLH: It has changed, yeah. TD: Nowadays, me and my friends, we go to straight
clubs and pubs because…well first of all, [being gay is] more widely accepted. You can go to a straight restaurant and still hold hands and all of that. People don’t even lift their eyebrows. [I detected an accent] Are you German? TD: Denmark. Danish ELG: He finds your accent a bit hot. [He was right] TD: I actually try to avoid SoHo…because it’s just a bit too much. Not in a bad way. It’s…very gay sometimes. It’s not as interesting? Sometimes you find more interesting things happening outside [that area]. It’s London. Things are happening all over the place.
22 • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
‘Handjob’ playwright spills all Transactional relationship leads to examination of privilege By JOHN PAUL KING
“Handjob” runs Sept. 7 – Oct. 21 at Atwater Village Theatre. For tickets and more info visit the Echo Theater Company at echotheatercompany.com.
As a summer winds down that has already brought a gay porn musical and dark comedy about transgender sex workers to the stages of LA, the Echo Theater Company is preparing to offer up a play called “Handjob.” In it, a middle-aged gay writer hires a younger man as a “shirtless” cleaner, and their transactional relationship calls up questions about racism, homophobia, and issues of consent. As the Theater’s official synopsis puts it, it’s a dark comedy that “explores the deepest sensitivities in our culture — with unexpected and hilarious consequences.” If you have any doubt this will be a provocative evening of theatre, consider that the press release also includes a “mature content” warning that promises “graphic adult content including male nudity.” The show, directed by Chris Fields, comes from the imagination of Erik Patterson, an Ovation-nominated, boundary-pushing gay playwright who also happens to be an Emmynominated and WGA-winning screenwriter of TV content aimed at young adults. The Blade sat down with Patterson for a Q&A about what the writer of “Another Cinderella Story” is trying to do with a play called “Handjob.” LOS ANGELES BLADE: Can you expand a little on the synopsis? Without giving anything away, of course. ERIK PATTERSON: As “Handjob” progresses, it constantly reveals itself. I want to let the play tell the audience what it is, so I won’t go too deep into the plot. But here’s what I can say: the play starts with two men in a New York City apartment. There’s an older gay white man and a younger straight black man. A transaction takes place, which they define in fundamentally different ways, and that leads to… well, the play’s called “Handjob,” so… You know what Chekhov said about guns, right? If you introduce a gun in Act One, then it better go off in Act Three. Well, instead of Chekhov’s gun, we have Chekhov’s handjob. If you’re gonna promise a handjob in the title of the play, then that gun better go off. BLADE: This play seems to address today’s environment of identity politics and “call-out culture.” How much did that intention inform the process of writing it? PATTERSON: My sexuality informs how I see the world. And acknowledging privilege is important. I’m gay, yes, but I’m also a white male, and I’ve benefitted from that privilege. If I pretend that’s not true, then I’m part of the problem. The more layers of privilege you have, the more you need to sit back and listen. There is a call to action in this play: listen more. There are a lot of privileged people out there who refuse to grow and adapt. Listening is
not a passive act. Privileged people who don’t see their privilege deserve to be called out. “Handjob” speaks to that directly. BLADE: How difficult is it to negotiate the minefield such a cultural context creates for an artist? PATTERSON: We’re all fallible, we all make mistakes. But again, we’ve got to learn from those mistakes. I think of “Handjob” as a “fight play,” the characters get into several big arguments. And there are moments in the play when each one of them is right – and then moments when they each go too far, when they say the wrong thing. Moments where each character steps directly on a landmine, so to speak. That’s one of the things I wanted to explore in this play: how do we learn from our mistakes? BLADE: You seem to have managed to build two successful careers as a writer, one creating television for younger viewers and one as a playwright crafting edgy theatre. Can you talk a little bit about how much overlap there is between the two? Both creatively and in terms of entertainment industry “politics?” PATTERSON: Compartmentalization! I like to say I write princess movies for kids and plays about fucked up people for adults. But that’s a simplification. I don’t like to be pinned down by one, or even two, genres. I’ve been fortunate to make a living writing kids’ movies and romcoms and genre stuff, and the plan is to keep branching out by telling different stories. My writing partner (who I do my film and TV with) and I are currently writing an action comedy, a period drama, and teen soap opera. The key to any genre is crafting compelling characters an audience will invest in. One of the things that makes “Handjob” successful is: every character on that stage has a strong point of view. If I’ve done my job correctly, the audience will go back and forth in terms of who they identify with most. BLADE: We’re not asking you to interpret your work for us, or to give us any spoilers, but can you talk about what reactions you’re hoping to evoke from audiences with “Handjob,” and a little bit about the approach you took to facilitate that? PATTERSON: I hope people walk out of the theater and feel compelled to go to a bar or a late-night restaurant because they need to continue arguing the ideas brought up in the play. BLADE: Is this play going to make people angry? PATTERSON: I hope so.
24 • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
‘Vita & Virginia’ sadly vapid Lesbian affair of yesteryear doesn’t translate well to film By BRIAN T. CARNEY
Gemma Atherton as Vita (left) and Elizabeth Debicki as Virginia in ‘Vita & Virginia.’ Photo courtesy IFC Films
As writer/director Chanya Button’s new film “Vita & Virginia” demonstrates, sometimes the journey from stage to screen can be a perilous one. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) and Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962) were central figures in the Bloomsbury Group, a loose-knit collective of intellectual and sexual rebels. The legendary “set” also included Virginia’s husband Leonard, founder of the Hogarth Press; Virginia’s sister Vanessa, a post-impressionist painter and her husband Clive Bell, an art critic; the painter Duncan Grant; the economist John Maynard Keynes, the biographer Lytton Strachey; and author E.M. Forster. Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki, “Widows”) became a literary icon, a modernist pioneer known for “Mrs. Dalloway,” “Orlando: A Biography” and “To the Lighthouse,” as well as the highly influential feminist essay “A Room of One’s Own.” Although her works were popular at the time, Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton) is now best known for her scandalous extra-marital affairs with women. Woolf met Sackville-West at a dinner party in 1922. While their sexual affair was passionate but brief, they remained devoted friends until Woolf’s suicide in 1941. Their relationship propelled both women into the most productive periods of their literary lives, and Sackville-West’s popular novels helped keep the Hogarth Press solvent. The two women exchanged hundreds of letters which became the basis for “Vita &Virginia,” a 1992 two-woman stage play by actress and playwright Dame Eileen Atkins (“Gosford Park” and “The Crown”). Atkins played Virginia to rave reviews; her Vitas included Penelope Wilton and Vanessa Redgrave. Filmmaker Chanya Button decided to turn the play into a movie, but sadly her adaptation never really catches fire. She expands the cast by adding the two husbands, but never really fleshes out the two fascinating marriages. Peter Ferdinando is Leonard Woolf, Virginia’s devoted husband who encourages her writing and cares for her during her periods of severe depression. Rupert Penry-Jones is Vita’s husband, the diplomat Harold Nicholson. Both Nicholson and Sackville-West had numerous affairs with same-sex partners, but Nicholson was frequently upset at her lack of discretion and her inability to be a proper society wife. Neither husband gets much screen time. Button also adds Lady Sackville (Isabella Rossellini), Vita’s imperious mother, to the cast. Button reduces the eccentric schemer to a haughty English aristocrat, but Rossellini looks great in the period costumes and has fun with the role. Button also adds a few of Vita and Virginia’s Bloomsbury friends to the mix, but she never captures their groundbreaking intellectual accomplishments or their rebellious queer sexuality. Duncan Grant (Adam Gillen), for example, comes off as a silly but pleasant fop, a characterization which does not do justice to his complicated relationship with Vanessa (Emerald Fennell), his many male lovers (none of whom are seen in the film) or his art. Button portrays the Bloomsbury Group as a bunch of decadent dilettantes who give cute costume parties and that lack of context robs the lead characters of depth. Woolf becomes a neurotic genius and Sackville-West becomes a predatory party girl. Debicki has a few fine moments, but Arterton and the rest of the cast seem adrift. The pacing is slow and the chemistry between the leads is weak. Arterton keeps throwing smoldering glances everywhere, but no one seems to notice, especially Virginia. The costumes and décor are lovely but bland, except for the imposing door to Virginia’s study. There are a few moments that do show some cinematic life and give a hint of the movie that might have been. Sparks fly when Vita finally gets Virginia to bed. The camerawork is lush and the passion is intense as Virginia finally lets down her guard and yields to Vita’s insistent advances. Virginia’s hallucinations, including an attack by a flock of crows, are also an interesting expression of her unspoken panic that help to break the film from its stage roots. Debicki and Button also create some fascinating sequences that show Woolf at work. It’s lovely to watch and hear Woolf’s fountain pen scratch across the page as she writes “Mrs. Dalloway;” it’s a great reminder that writing is hard work and that the past was a very different place than the present. It’s fascinating to watch Woolf dive into the writing of the gender- and genre-busting “Orlando.” The lead character, who switches genders, is based on Vita, who seems both pleased and rather startled by the intense scrutiny. There’s also a beautiful passage where contemporary music underscores Vita’s arrival at her first Bloomsbury party. It’s an effective evocation of her temporary disorientation and a reminder that Virginia and her friends really were ahead of their times. But overall, Button’s adaptation of Atkins’ wonderful script doesn’t work. She never really finds the cinematic tools to move the material from the stage to the screen. You may be better off exploring other works inspired by Virginia Woolf (like Michael Cunningham’s novel “The Hours” or its fine cinematic adaptation by Stephen Daldry, or Sally Potter’s magical adaptation of “Orlando” with Tilda Swinton, Billy Zane and Quentin Crisp as Queen Elizabeth I) or just diving into Woolf’s brilliant novels and letters (pro tip: read them aloud).
“Not to be missed.” — The New York Times
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26 • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Silence speaks volumes in sexy Argentine romance ‘The Blonde One’ Talented actors bring electric chemistry to complicated love story By JOHN PAUL KING
‘The Blonde One (Un Rubio),’ a new work from Argentine ﬁlmmaker Marco Berger opens for a limited theatrical run on Sept. 6 at the Laemmle Music Hall Theater. For tickets and showtimes visit laemmle.com/theater/music-hall.
There was a time not so long ago when a same-sex movie romance was almost unheard of. Today, a quick search for LGBTQ titles on Amazon or Netﬂix will yield enough such ﬁlms to keep an avid viewer occupied for a good long while. With such a bounty of queer cinema so readily available, the thrill of seeing something that tells a queer love story has largely worn oﬀ, and featuring a non-heteronormative couple is no longer enough to guarantee audience appeal. As a result, many of these movies end up being overlooked in the sea of similar-looking oﬀerings – but If you’re a fan of smart, sophisticated cinema, make sure you don’t let that happen with “The Blonde One (Un Rubio),” a new work from Argentine ﬁlmmaker Marco Berger that opens for a limited theatrical run on Sept. 6. The title character is Gabriel (Gaston Re), a woodworker at a Buenos Aires factory who moves in with his co-worker Juan (Alfonso Barón) when the latter oﬀers to rent out his extra room. Juan’s on-again/oﬀ-again girlfriend makes frequent overnight visits, and there’s a constant crowd of heavy-drinking work buddies coming around to watch football; but despite the macho façade, an undeniable attraction sparks between the two men, overcoming Juan’s mixed signals and Gabriel’s timidity until they are on their way to becoming much more than roommates. Even as they settle into comfortable domesticity, however, social taboo and cultural expectation soon encroach upon their tender fantasy, and each of the would-be lovers must grapple with the pressures exerted by their own preconceived ideas if they have any chance of overcoming the obstacles that seem destined to keep them apart. That could easily be the synopsis for any number of gay romantic dramas from world cinema; with so many countries still struggling with issues of acceptance around LGBTQ people, there’s no shortage of movies exploring the same themes. What makes this one stand apart from its ﬁrst few moments is the nuanced simplicity of its storytelling. With only the sparest dialogue to establish details, the ﬁlm’s essential plot is revealed almost entirely through observed behavior on an extremely intimate scale, aided by the eﬀortless ﬂow of visual cues provided by Berger’s skillful direction and the deft handling of its complex subtext by his two leading men. The love story unfolds wordlessly, in the spaces between words and the subtleties of glance and gesture, until it becomes almost too much to bear. Indeed, that’s part of the point of “The Blonde One.” The blue-collar Buenos Aires world in which they live make the feelings between Juan and Gabriel literally “the love that dare not speak its name,” and the two are already having some of the steamiest and most authentically passionate sex scenes in recent memory long before either of them ever works up the nerve to talk about what’s happening between them. The intensity that comes from this is great for building sexual tension, but the resulting lack of communication means that neither man is ever sure exactly what this relationship is – they can only fumble through on assumption, hope, and a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” compartmentalization that sends red ﬂags ﬂying for anyone who understands the dynamics of healthy coupling.
That, too, is part of the point. Berger’s ﬁlm (which he wrote as well as directed) happens in an environment that might be unrelatable to audiences used to the freedom of a city like Los Angeles. For such viewers, Juan and Gabriel’s plight might come across as just another woeful tale of doomed queer passion; but these star-crossed lovers don’t have the luxury of living in a culture growing more open to things like sexual ﬂuidity and polyamory – both subjects that emerge, among others, in the mix of Berger’s spicy narrative – and they remind us that for many LGBTQ people around the world, it’s still much easier (not to mention safer) simply not to talk about it. Yet it’s also true that most people, regardless of orientation, have diﬃculty communicating their secret thoughts and desires. In our modern world, it’s easier than ever to avoid those uncomfortable conversations by staring at one of the omnipresent screens that surround us. Berger shrewdly highlights this with numerous scenes in which the characters sit staring at a television, while their unspoken passions broil silently beneath a carefully neutral exterior. Most of us will ﬁnd these scenes more familiar than we would like, but it helps to deepen our identiﬁcation with these two men. It also helps that Re and Barón, in addition to being easy on the eyes, are tremendously talented actors; they make it easy to empathize and not to judge, and their chemistry – not just the kind they exhibit in those aforementioned sex scenes, but their emotional chemistry as well – is electric. It’s the strength of their performances that breathes thrilling life into “The Blonde One” and elevates it to the level of that “great gay love story” that so many of us crave but rarely get from these kinds of ﬁlms. Handled with a heavier touch, it might have little more than a shallow tearjerker with gratuitous sex and fullfrontal nudity, or just another well-meaning-but-dreary “social agenda” movie. Instead the irresistible pull of their attraction comes through loud and clear, even if they can’t speak honestly about it. How things end up, of course, is directly related to that lack of honesty – or perhaps, more precisely, that lack of trust, which comes from living an entire life in a culture where some things can simply never be said out loud. We want these two attractive, endearing men to ﬁnd a way, but we know from the start that the odds are against them, and even when they ﬁnally start opening up to each other, the consequences of all that silence – tangled up in generations of homophobia – continue to stand in their way. That’s doesn’t mean Berger’s movie is without hope; there’s a palpable undercurrent in which can be felt a younger way of thinking that is fed up with the prejudices of old, and Juan – by far the more repressed of the lovers, though Gabriel has considerable baggage of his own – proves capable of surprising growth as he recognizes the depth of his long-buried feelings; and it’s proof of the power of the ﬁlmmaker’s gifts that the ﬁlm’s ending packs an emotional wallop that catches you completely oﬀ-guard, the cumulative product of a layered and deeply felt narrative meant ﬁnally to deliver the message that, after all the years of toxic silence, maybe it’s time to start speaking up.
Invertigo Dance Theatre:
Photo by Joe Lambie
Formulae & Fairy Tales
SEP 13-14, 2019 / 7:30PM A multi-dimensional story casting Alan Turing into his favorite film, Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
thebroadstage.org 310.434.3200 SANTA MONICA COLLEGE PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
Formulae & Fairy Tales is made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
26 • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Milo fronts Straight Pride flop in Boston And Harry Styles on flying the rainbow flag By BILLY MASTERS
Milo Yiannopoulos served as grand marshal for Straight Pride but no one knew who he was. Blade file photo by Michael Key
“Maybe at a show you can have a moment of knowing that you’re not alone. I’m aware that as a white male, I don’t go through the same things as a lot of the people that come to the shows. I can’t claim that I know what it’s like, because I don’t. So I’m not trying to say, ‘I understand what it’s like.’ I’m just trying to make people feel included and seen.” — Harry Styles on why he brandishes the rainbow flag at his concerts. You know the summer is over when hurricanes start hitting Florida. As we go to press, we’re bracing to see what Dorian will do to the East Coast. When flying out of Fort Lauderdale Airport days earlier, I read the account of a transgender woman who had gone through the same airport two years ago. According to the 36-year-old, she required a pat-down because TSA’s full-body scanner detected an issue around her groin area. A female officer took her to a private room, gave her the pat-down, and seemed surprised at what she found. “If the issue is what you are feeling, let me tell you what this is - it is my penis,” said the woman. This apparently caused quite a stir and required two more officers and a supervisor. They determined the trans woman would need a second pat-down by a male officer, which I would have thought made sense since a penis was detected. But I’m wrong. Apparently policy dictates pat-downs must be done by an officer of the same gender as that which is presented by the traveler. So, penis or no penis, since this person presented as female, the pat-down by a female officer was correct. When the traveler in question refused to be patted-down by a male officer, TSA refused to let her through security. “Can I just show you?” she asked. Although this too is against policy, nobody objected. The penis was presented, and the lady made her flight. While I find this story informative, I also find it insulting. With all the flying I do, not once has anyone patted me down - and I’ve never been shy about whipping out my dick in public! Two big events are going on in Los Angeles on All Emmys Eve. I am going to give you the facts and you can decide which to attend - unless you wanna be like me and try to attend both. On Saturday, Sept. 21, the Los Angeles LGBT Center is celebrating 50 years with a huge Gala. There will be an elegant dinner for sponsors and high donors, followed by a star-studded Hearts of Gold concert at the Greek Theatre, which will include people like Sia, Rufus Wainwright, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Kathy Griffin, Nico Santos, Tig Notaro, Ty Herndon, Bruce Vilanch, and Lee Daniels. To grab a ticket, go to LALGBTCenter.org/gala. On that same night, Seth Rudetsky and hubby James Wesley are producing one of their big Concerts for America at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Some of the talent includes Billy Porter, Rachel Bay Jones, Melissa Manchester, Grant Gustin, Eric McCormack, Caroline Rhea, Cheyenne Jackson, Jane Lynch, Keala Settle, Wayne Brady, and oodles of others. The concert is benefitting the National Immigration Law Center, which defends the rights of low-income immigrants and their family members. Tickets are available at ConcertsForAmerica.com. On Labor Day, I zipped down to Provincetown to hang out with some more contemporary queens and pay homage to the incredible Marilyn Maye - 91 and still going strong. She’s in outstanding voice and has more energy than ever. The crowd loves her, I love her, and she loves us all. She really is our Queen Mum. This lovefest took place at the Ptown Art House, where she has held court for the past nine years, so it’s truly one big happy family. As usual, the show was expertly led by the spectacular Billy Stritch, who never disappoints. Boston got the dubious distinction of hosting the first-ever Straight Pride Parade. But the organization was somewhat lacking. Not only did most people not know that the grand marshal was Milo Yiannopoulos - most people had no idea WHO he is. I’m not saying it was a poor turnout, but the parade kicked off at high noon and was over by 12:13 p.m. Officially, we are told that about 1,000 people showed up - or, to put it in perspective, roughly the same number of people I slept with in February of 2013 (one of my slower months). If you ask me, the whole thing was kinda on the down low. Maybe it should have been called Boston’s Down Low Pride. When Maye’s played Ptown, it’s definitely the end of summer and end of yet another column. When I grow up, I want to be Marilyn Maye. Of course, I realize that will lead to endless patdowns...but I’m OK with that. I’m far less OK with the passing of Valerie Harper - one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. As nice as you thought she was, she was exponentially more so in person. She had time for everyone - until her time simply ran out. But, remember, she was given six months to live in 2013 and got six years! She made sure to fill that time with as much living as one can. “Don’t go to the funeral until the day of the funeral”, she was fond of saying. She will be missed. You can always keep up with me at BillyMasters.com - the site that delivers through rain, and snow, and particularly dark of night. For your questions, send them along to Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before you blink and the parade passes by. So, until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s Bible.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • 29
50 years of the Los Angeles LGBT Center is something worth celebrating. Join Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Kathy Griffin, Rufus Wainwright, Sia, Jennifer Lewis, Bruce Villanich and many more at the Greek Theatre, Sat. Sept. 21. Visit LosAngelesBlade.com for tickets.
FRI SEP 6
National Recovery Month Celebration is today from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at My 12 Step Store (8730 Santa Monica Boulevard). My 12 Step Store celebrates its 16th year with a newly expanded Recovery Superstore just in time for National Recovery Month. The store will host a meet-and-greet with two celebrity authors, Emily Lynn Paulson and Ana David. Paulson’s book “Highlight Real: Finding Honesty and Recovery Behind the Filtered Life” is the true story of a perfect mother and businesswoman” finds her authentic self, a memoir of healing that also takes a modern look at what happens when the filters fall off and real life emerges into the light. David specializes in helping people share their darkest experiences with humor in her latest book “How to Get successful by F**king Up Your Life”. My 12 Step Store specializes in 12-step literature and the world’s largest collection of recovery medallions, jewelry and sober apparel. Rainbow Shift - A Queer Homecoming Celebration is today from 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM at The Montalban (1615 Vine Street). We Choose Art and The Montalban presents “RAINBOW SHIFT 4.0 - A queer Home Coming Celebration” curated by Baha H. Danesh and Tiger Munson, a collaborative community of artistic expression, and in celebration of LGBTQ awareness. This unique exhibition presents each artist’s visions in the context of the changing social and legal landscape. “RAINBOW SHIFT” was created to fuse art with social justice and explore notions of aspiration, socialization, and representation within the LGBTQ community through artists employing thread-based craft materials, visual illustrations, paintings, sculptures, and photography techniques. Pre-sale tickets are $10.00 online or $15.00 at the door. Contact RainbowShiftArtShow@gmail.com for more information.
SUN SEP 8
LA GayBros LACMA Museum Day is today from
6:30 PM to 9:00 PM at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (5905 Wilshire Boulevard). Gay, bi, queer, and trans-identifying folks (as well as any straight allies who would like to come support their friends) from the LA area are invited to mingle and enjoy the artwork on display at LACMA. Especially enjoy the “Art of Korean Writing.” LACMA offers ticket discounts for LA County residents. Please bring your current ID with your LA County address to prove eligibility. Tickets are available for up to $25 dollars per person at lacma.org/tickets. URJ Introduction to Judaism is this morning from 10:15 AM to 12:15 AM at Congregation Kol Ami (1200 North LaBrea). Just in time for Rosh Hashanah, Kol Ami proudly offers an 18-session Sunday morning course starting September 8! Explore Judaism and decide if you want to join the tribe. This chance to explore Judaism will be taught by Rabbi Denise L. Eger and Rabbi Max Chaiken along with rabbinic student Noah Diamondstein. It’s a modern take on Jewish life, values, celebrations, and spirituality. Voice your questions, discover multiple perspectives, and find what could be meaningful to you in liberal Judaism. Open to anyone considering conversion and to Jews who want a meaningful adult Jewish learning experience.
TUE SEP 10
Human Rights Speakers Series, Birthright: A War Story is today from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM at West Hollywood City Council Chambers (625 N. San Vicente Blvd.) The City of West Hollywood presents a feature length documentary that exposes the truth of how American women are being jailed, physically violated and even put at risk of dying as a radical movement tightens its grip across America and allows states, courts and religious doctrine to govern whether, when and how women will bear children. Writer/ Director Civia Tamarkin, Founding Director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy Michele Goodwin, Founder / Executive Director, Women’s March Los Angeles Foundation Emiliana Guereca, and Director, Feminist Majority Foundation’s Feminist
Campus Program and National Clinic Access Project duVergne Gaines will be part of a panel at the event. Free Admission. RSVP Required: http://bit.ly/HRSSSep2019
WED SEP 11
End-of-Summer Mixer with Men’s Health Foundation is today from 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM at Hi Tops (8933 Santa Monica Blvd). Mix & mingle with leading voices and team members from Men’s Health Foundation. You’ll share some healthy conversation and fun over beverages and complimentary appetizers; there’ll even be a prize giveaway. Learn more about Men’s Health Foundation and our expanding work serving gay, bisexual, straight and questioning men and non-binary and transgender people across Los Angeles and beyond. The event is free.
THU SEP 12
HRC Democratic Debate Watch Party is tonight from 4:30 PM to 7;30 PM at The Abbey Food and Bar (692 North Robertson). Join HRC Los Angeles at The Abbey for a viewing party of one the last Democratic Presidential Candidate debates ahead of October’s big event at UCLA, the only LGBT focused Presidential Debate. It’s a great way to get your political nerd out of the way and down a few cocktails and tacos. Co-Hosted with WestHollywood BeverlyHills DemocraticClub, Heart of L.A. Democratic Club, and ROAR Resistance. It’s free.
E-mail calendar items to firstname.lastname@example.org two weeks prior to your event. Space is limited so priority is given to LGBT-specific events or those with LGBT participants. Recurring events must be re-submitted each time.
30 • SEPTEMBER 06, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
N.Y. law reducing possession penalties takes effect ALBANY, N.Y — Legislation reducing marijuana possession penalties and facilitating the expungement of past cannabis convictions took effect last week. Assembly Bill 8420-A reduces the penalty for minor marijuana possession violations (up to one ounce) to a $50 fine. It also amends penalties for offenses involving the possession of more than one ounce but less than two ounces of cannabis from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly punishable by up to three months in jail) to a non-criminal violation punishable by a $200 fine – regardless of an offender’s prior criminal history. The new law also amends the classification of offenses involving the use or possession of marijuana in public from a criminal misdemeanor, formerly punishable by up to 90 days in jail, to a fine-only offense. In New York City, police have made over 700,000 arrests for ‘public view’ violations. Eighty-six percent of those arrested were either black or Latino. Finally, A. 8420-A establishes procedures to allow for the automatic expungement of criminal records specific to crimes involving the possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana. Several hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are eligible for expungement under the plan. Assembly Bill 8420-A was negotiated in the closing days of the 2019 legislative session after lawmakers failed to agree on provisions of a marijuana legalization measure.
Poll: Alcohol, cigarettes worse than cannabis BOSTON — Most Americans perceive cigarettes and alcohol to pose greater risks to public health than cannabis, according to survey data compiled by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and first reported by MarijuanaMoment.net. According to the survey, 81 percent of respondents believe that tobacco cigarettes are “very harmful.” Fifty-one percent of respondents similarly view alcohol as “very harmful.” By contrast, only 26 percent of those surveyed ranked marijuana as “very harmful.” Eighteen percent of those surveyed opined that cannabis was “not harmful at all.” By contrast, only two percent of respondents believed the same about alcohol and only one percent said so about tobacco.
N.J. governor vetoes expungement measure New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a compromise measure after lawmakers failed to agree on provisions of a marijuana legalization bill. Photo by andykatz / Courtesy Bigstock
TRENTON, N.J. — Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed Senate Bill 3205, which sought to expand the pool of crimes eligible for expungement and establish an expedited process for those with minor marijuana offenses to petition the court to have their records vacated. “I believe this bill can go further for the cause of justice, and I am hopeful that we can move forward together with a bill that provides a path to automatic expungement and allows for relief for those convicted for those convicted of lowlevel marijuana offenses,” the governor said. “I will continue to work with the legislature to build a more complete system of expungements, so that more New Jerseyans are given a second chance and can better reintegrate into our society.” The governor recommended several changes to the bill, including having criminal records specific to low-level marijuana offenses “immediately sealed” upon disposition and passing a supplemental appropriation of $15 million to hire additional employees to facilitate the expungement process. It remains unclear whether lawmakers will revisit the legislation this year and amend it in a manner that concurs with the governor’s recommendations.
Okla. sees expanded protections for cannabis patients OKLAHOMA CITY — Legislation took effect last week expanding protections for state-qualified medical cannabis patients. House Bill 2612, which was signed into law in March, strengthens patient protections by explicitly stipulating that registered cannabis consumers may not be denied public assistance, access to firearms, or certain types of employment solely based upon their patient status. It states, “No employer may refuse to hire, discipline, discharge or otherwise penalize an applicant or employee solely on the basis of a positive test for marijuana components or metabolites.” Oklahoma is the 15th state to explicitly protect medical cannabis patients from workplace discrimination, according to California NORML. The new law also seeks to facilitate standards for banks who wish to partner with medical cannabis businesses, and prohibits local governments enacting “guidelines which restrict or interfere with the rights of a licensed patient or caregiver to possess, purchase, cultivate or transport medical marijuana.” It also allows podiatrists to make medical cannabis recommendations, among other changes. More than 146,000 Oklahomans are registered with the state to access medical cannabis therapy. Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, visit norml.org.
GAY TOUR OF
$2,439.00 (not incl. airfare LAX- DEL-LAX $778.00)
Delhi, Taj Mahal, Camel Safari, Lake Palaces, Blue City, 5-Star Hotels, Gay Guide(s), Spectacular Shopping. Departures: Nov 9 - 22, 2019; 2020: Jan, Feb., March
L D YWOO ER GIR COV STAR ON HOLLROVE RSY S CONT AMID UL LAND RUPA OF FAMEPAGE 16 WALK
For information: email@example.com Phil Walker: 415-816-3527 This is our Fourth Tour since Oct., 2018
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