Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 44, November 1, 2019

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N O V E M B E R 0 1 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 4 4 • 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



Sec. of State Padilla to protect trans, non-binary voting rights Training for poll workers, census takers By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com With California’s Super Tuesday primary election on the horizon, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced a special effort to protect access to the ballot box for transgender and gender-nonconforming voters who might skip exercising their constitutional right for fear of facing culturally incompetent poll workers. Padilla announced the initiative on Oct. 25 in San Francisco at Equality California Institute’s annual Fair Share for Equality policy convening as part of a joint partnership with the LGBTQ civil rights organization to encourage civic engagement in 2020. For instance, while California does not require showing identification in order to vote, many transgender and gendernonconforming voters may be registered under a name with which they no longer identify, causing confusion when they check

Social justice legend Dolores Huerta, Sec. of State Alex Padilla, Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur Photo by Ryan Greenleaf for Equality California

in to get their ballot. “Every eligible voter has a right to cast a ballot free from any unnecessary burdens or intimidation,” Padilla said in a statement. “Elections officials have a duty to facilitate the participation of all eligible voters. By partnering with Equality California we can benefit from their expertise and experience to better train poll workers and ensure a welcoming voting environment for LGBTQ citizens. California is proud to be proactive in protecting the

voting rights of LGBTQ voters and fostering an inclusive democracy.” The voter education initiative includes developing training materials for county registrars intended to educate poll workers on best practices for engaging with voters “whose gender identity, expression or pronouns do not appear to match their name on the voter rolls,” according to an Equality California press release. Additionally, the team will create informational guides for transgender and gender-nonconforming

voters to alert them of their rights. The partnership will also develop a specific, targeted nonpartisan “Get Out the Vote” effort—and 2020 census outreach— ”to increase civic participation within the LGBTQ community.” The Williams Institute estimates that approximately 218,400 Californians identify as transgender. Looking at eligible and registered California voters as of February 2019, Equality California estimates that there are “at least 190,000 eligible voters and 150,000 registered voters statewide who identify as transgender.” “No one should be denied the right to vote because of their gender identity or expression — and there’s certainly too much at stake next year to let that happen in California,” said Equality California Institute Executive Director Rick Zbur. “While other states impose strict, unnecessary voter ID laws targeting people of color and the LGBTQ community, California is making sure every single eligible voter has a chance to cast a ballot. We’re grateful to Secretary Padilla for his leadership and partnership in the fight to protect access to the ballot box and advance LGBTQ civil rights.”

Williams Institute studies reveal high rates of LGBT poverty Fewer than half trans Medicaid beneficiaries have access to affirming care By STAFF REPORTS A pair of recent studies by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found that nearly 21.6% of LGBTQ people in the United States are experiencing poverty, compared to 15.7% of cisgender straight people. Additionally, fewer than half of transgender Medicaid beneficiaries have access to coverage for gender-affirming care. The report on poverty found that among LGBTQ people, poverty rates differ by sexual orientation and gender identity, with transgender people and cisgender bisexual women faring the worst. Nearly one in three (29.4%) transgender people and cisgender bisexual women fall below the official

poverty threshold. “Our study shows that all subpopulations of LGBT people fare the same or worse than cisgender straight people,” said M.V. Lee Badgett, a Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute. “And factors like living in a rural area can prove especially challenging to their economic stability. As a whole, LGBT people have at least 15% higher odds of being poor than cisgender straight people.” Researchers analyzed data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, a representative sample of LGBT people in 35 states from 2014-2017, to assess poverty rates of LGBT people, examining the effects of a number of categories, including age, race and disability. Medicaid in 18 states and D.C. include coverage for gender-affirming care or are in the process of extending coverage. However 12 states exclude coverage for such care and 20 states have not expressly addressed coverage. Gender-affirming

care includes a range of services, such as surgical procedures, hormone therapy, and other forms of treatment related to gender transition. “This patchwork of protections creates uncertainty for transgender people who are enrolled in Medicaid,” said Christy Mallory, State & Local Policy Director at the Williams Institute. “Absent further policy changes in states that have bans or lack clear language addressing coverage, many transgender people in the U.S. will continue to face obstacles when seeking health care just because of where they live.” The second study reveals that of the estimated 152,000 transgender adults who are enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half (69,000) of those transgender Medicaid beneficiaries live in states with express policies guaranteeing coverage for genderaffirming care. KEY FINDINGS on poverty rates: Cisgender gay men: 12.1%

Cisgender lesbian women: 17.9% Cisgender bisexual men: 19.5% Cisgender bisexual women: 29.4% Transgender people: 29.4% One in five (21%) LGBT people in urban areas live in poverty and one in four (26.1%) in rural areas are poor, compared to about 16% of cisgender straight people in both areas. KEY FINDINGS on trans coverage: 1.4 million US adults identify as transgender, with approximately 152,000 enrolled in Medicaid. Fewer than half (69,000) of transgender Medicaid beneficiaries live in states with policies guaranteeing coverage for genderaffirming care. An estimated 32,000 transgender Medicaid beneficiaries live in states with bans that deny access to covered genderaffirming care.

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Becerra seeks summary judgment in Refusal Rule healthcare case ‘Religious Conscience’ measure worse than imagined By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com While much of California is focused on the fires now ravaging the Golden State, Attorney General Xavier Becerra is trying to prevent another kind of wildfire: the unchecked spread of the Trump Administration’s “Healthcare Refusal Rule,” which is set to go into effect on Nov. 22. The new Denial of Care rule would permit anyone—from emergency care providers to pharmacy assistants dispensing medication— to deny basic healthcare based on their private religious or moral objection. The California Department of Justice and several other legal groups, including Lambda Legal, swarmed the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco Oct. 30 to present oral arguments in California v. Azar and County of Santa Clara v. HHS, San Francisco v. Azar, cases challenging and seeking an injunction in implementation of the Trump Administration’s Denial of Care Rule. Becerra is also asking the court for a summary judgment to stop the proposed rule in its tracks. Oct. 30 “is a very important date,” Becerra said in a press call. “It has nothing to do with Donald Trump directly. It has everything to do with his philosophy and the way he has tried to endanger the lives of so many Americans. That is because he has attempted to extend what has been known in the past as the ‘Religious Conscience Rule’ to a point where, on healthcare, it could become a rule that jeopardizes the health and safety of millions of Americans.” The Trump and Pence Administration is “determined to make it harder for Americans to access critical, life-saving healthcare – and that would include safe and legal abortion access, even in the case of emergencies,” Becerra said. “Healthcare is not a privilege but a right – no matter who you are, where you live or who you love.”

Last year, Becerra submitted a comment letter to the Department of Health and Human Services arguing that the proposed Healthcare Refusal Rule would harm California and interfere with the state’s obligation to protect its residents and laws. Becerra also argued that the proposed rule violates the Spending Clause, the Establishment Clause and the Due Process Clause of the US Constitution and contradicts several federal laws intended to protect patients from discrimination and enable access to healthcare. On May 21, 2019, Becerra filed suit, arguing that the Healthcare Refusal Rule is unlawful and would potentially cost the state billions in federal funding for such crucial health services as Medicaid and the Ryan White Care Act, the federal HIV/AIDS funding program. The California lawsuit intended to prove that the Refusal Rule “cannot become law because it violates the very precepts of our law,” Becerra said. “We’re here to prove that religion and the constitutional protections for religion have nothing to do with the Refusal Rule directly. And that while someone may have religious or moral objections to certain activities, they are not

given the right to refuse to offer healthcare, including emergency care.” Becerra said the proposed rule includes California pharmacists who are now permitted to distribute HIV/AIDS prevention medications PrEP and PEP. “The reason we’re moving so quickly on this case is because this Refusal Rule effects every form of care,” Becerra told the Los Angeles Blade. “But here’s the really insidious part about this Refusal Rule: it’s not just the pharmacists who could decide to deny you care because of who you are, who you love or what you look like. It could be the shelf-stocker at the pharmacy who, if you’re looking for that medication, can say, ‘I’m not going to give it to you.’ Or the pharmacist assistant who says, ‘I don’t want to give you that medication you just got a prescription for.’ That person could refuse because of so-called ‘religious conscience’ and deny you what you should be receiving. And so it is as insidious as you can think.” The Refusal Rule is expansive and “would allow denials of care to LGBTQ individuals, women, minorities, immigrants throughout the country and certainly here in California and it would be devastating to our fiscal status here in the state of California,”

Becerra said. Lambda Legal concurred. “For more than five months this rule has hung over women, LGBTQ people, religious minorities, and other already marginalized and vulnerable populations, threatening at any moment to cut them off from critical and in some cases life-saving care,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Jamie Gliksberg said in a statement, noting that Lambda attorneys argued about how devastating implementation of this rule will be. “We look forward to the court issuing a ruling that the facts overwhelmingly support.” Becerra was forceful. “We’re not interested in backsliding,” he told reporters. “Our state will not be strong armed by the Trump Administration and we won’t be forced to roll back the process we’ve made while the Trump Administration jeopardizes the lives and well-being of millions of Americans from California to Maine. Every Californian has the right to seek medical care. We will defend that right every step of the way. We don’t believe there’s a place for discrimination anywhere in the medical field. This is 2019, not 1920 and so we’re ready to go to court to stop this Refusal Rule dead in its tracks.”

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Stonewall to DA Jackie Lacey: Restore trust or resign Lacey answers questions about Ed Buck non-prosecution By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Jackie Lacey was shaking. The District Attorney for Los Angeles County, the largest local prosecutorial office in the nation serving more than 10 million residents over 4,083 square miles, was surrounded by burley bodyguards and scores of sheriff’s deputies with six squad cars standing by at the West Hollywood Library lest a scuffle broke out with the roughly 20 angry members of Black Lives Matter. Lacey apparently expected a more traditional, parliamentary rules-driven meeting of the 44-year-old Stonewall Democratic Club on Oct. 28. Facing a difficult re-election campaign, the LA DA came to the public political meeting to respond to a scolding resolution that the LGBTQ-focused club was presenting for a membership vote. Authored by Stonewall member Jasmyne Cannick, Legislative Action Chair Dr. John Erickson and Political Vice President Jane Wishon, the non-binding resolution focused on the erosion of trust in the District Attorney’s office after allegations of “racial bias, unfairness, lack of communication, lack of public transparency” and failure to meet publicly with communities of color; mishandling of the case against West Hollywood resident Ed Buck in the deaths of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean; failure to prosecute “police officers and Sheriff’s deputies who use deadly force against unarmed civilians, particularly AfricanAmerican and Latino people; and for seeking the death penalty despite voters’ rejection and Gov. Newsom issuing a moratorium in March 2019. Lacey was perhaps unaware that Stonewall stood with Cannick and the families of gay Black victims Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean as their families painfully expressed frustration and demanded action at numerous news conferences over what

Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey at a meeting of Stonewall Democratic Club. Photo by Karen Ocamb

appeared to be the favored treatment of white Democratic donor, Ed Buck. After establishing the caveat that she couldn’t say much because of the ongoing investigations, Lacey opened with an apology. “I want to say something I should have said a long time ago. I’m sorry, to the Moore family and the Dean family for the loss of their loved ones,” Lacey said, interrupted by cat calls of “too late.” Lacey tried to explain the required filing criteria in a criminal case. “We have to have legally sufficient and admissible evidence, and we have to have evidence of the identity of the perpetrator, and we have to make sure that the investigation is complete and thorough,” she said. “Finally, after looking at the prosecution’s case, we have to look at not just the evidence proving guilt, but also look at any sort of defense that may be plausible given our evidence. Here is the posture that we found ourselves in the Gemmel Moore case.”

The audience listened respectfully until she mispronounced “Gemmel.” “Learn his name, that’s basic respect,” said one. “Wow,” said another. Lacey stood her ground but softened at bit, looking as if she was preparing to be pummeled. “Gemmel Moore. I’m sorry,” she said. Lacey explained that state law required proof that “Buck injected meth” into both Moore and Dean, resulting in their deaths. But there were mitigating factors: Buck called 911 and appeared to have attempted to administer aid. “He gave very self-serving statements that could not initially be rebutted by the physical evidence,” she said. But the primary hinderance to prosecuting a case after Moore’s death on July 27, 2017 was that “the original sheriff’s deputies on the case were not homicide deputies. They were deputies from the [West Hollywood] station, and at first they treated it as though it were an overdose,” she said, which is what the coroner ruled in both cases – accidental

overdose from methamphetamine. But the deputies noticed a red toolbox they wanted to investigate and a “coroner’s investigator gave them information that turned out to be incorrect” – the misapplication of a government code, which meant they were not able to use the evidence of methamphetamine they found. “So that presented a challenge and we continued to look for evidence in this case,” Lacey said. “At some point we began to hear that there were more victims of Mr. Buck. However, when those victims were interviewed after being granted immunity, there were things that we couldn’t corroborate because we knew that they were going to be cross-examined about some of the things that they said. For instance, sometimes the victim would say that he received medical treatment at a particular hospital and we would go to that hospital and not be able to get those medical records.” In another case, Lacey said, “we would have a victim who said, ‘I made a police



Black Lives Matter at the Stonewall Democratic Club Photo by Karen Ocamb

report,’ and we couldn’t find any record of that police report. It wasn’t until that third credible witness came forward that we caught a break in this case.” The credible third witness survived a meth overdose at Buck’s North Laurel Ave apartment and talked to law enforcement. In the meantime, Lacey said, “before that third victim came forward, the federal government, the FBI and the DEA began working with the Sheriff’s Department to see if they could prove a case under federal law, because under federal law you would not have needed to prove that Buck injected either of these gentlemen. You would just need to prove that he furnished the drugs.” The third victim was found credible, had information they could corroborate, and was able to testify. That gave the DA sufficient evidence to file charges against Buck. “The charges that we filed were a maximum sentence of five years and eight months and the bail, the maximum bail was going to be $4 million,” Lacey said. “After searching Mr. Buck’s home and other things during his arrest, we discovered that $4 million bail, he was able to make that bail, and we did not want him out. About that time the feds decided they would go ahead with their case and they asked us to relinquish Mr. Buck’s body so they could prosecute their case.” Since federal prosecutors only had to prove that Buck furnished the drugs, not that he injected Moore or Dean and since

they could charge Buck with 20 years to life, with no bail, Lacey decided to turn Buck over to the feds. “You will note, though, that the feds also had problems in the sense that originally in their complaint they said they had 10 victims, but when the grand jury indicted there were only five victims,” Lacey said. “Nevertheless, the case continues, and we are holding our case in the event they are not able to convict Mr. Buck. And that’s where that case stands.” There were a number of unasked questions, such as what took Lacey so long to talk to the Black and LGBTQ impacted communities after the deaths of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean? Though the Sheriff’s Department launched several investigations, they failed to share information and only glancingly offered sympathy for Moore’s mother and friends. With the dearth of accurate, fully explained information, the community relied on the media and stories emerging from others involved with Ed Buck. Some of those accounts were detailed, such as the coroner’s report in Moore’s death that noted the evidence tainted for prosecutors, including “24 syringes with brown residue, five glass pipes with white residue and burn marks, a plastic straw with possible white residue, clear plastic bags with white powdery residue and a clear plastic bag with a ‘piece of crystal-like substance,’” according to the LA Times. That Nov. 18, 2017 LA Times story also

notes that a notebook had been collected by the coroner, which the paper reviewed. “Ed Buck is the one to thank,” Moore appears to have written, The Times wrote. “He gave me my first injection of chrystal [sic] meth.” Lacey also made no mention of whether the federal civil rights lawsuit filed against her and LA County by Gemmel Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, played any role in her decision to relinquish the case to federal prosecutors. Nor did she go into more about Buck’s finances regarding that $4 million that he apparently had to make bail and pay attorney Seymour Amster, who vigorously defended his client. But inexplicably, Buck apparently is now being represented by a public defender. Lacey has agreed to an interview with the Los Angeles Blade in the near future. Lacey came prepared to respond to Stonewall’s resolution but she seemed unprepared for the encounter with angry family members of young Black men shot by law enforcement officers who screamed their agony at her, trying to hold her accountable, trying to get her to listen to them, to meet with them, to commiserate, to share their pain then take action. In some ways, the Stonewall meeting was reminiscent of the early days of ACT UP when dying protesters or their loved ones screamed at blank-faced government bureaucrats who blandly explained that medications take a very long time to develop. The Black Lives Matter families screamed for

justice and the prosecution of the officers involved in shooting their unarmed loved ones, calling out their names: Albert Ramon Dorsey. Grechario Mack. Ryan Twyman. Eric Rivera. Lee Jefferson. Christopher Deandre Mitchell. Stonewall’s Wishon got Lacey to agree to meet publicly with the families and a small group from Black Lives Matter. But Stonewall members voted to push Lacey even further in their non-binding resolution: “THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Stonewall Democratic Club recognizes that Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s actions and reports of alleged misconduct have eroded the trust of the public, the District Attorney Department’s governmental partners, and this body; we call upon District Attorney Jackie Lacey to take immediate actions to restore trust in her department and to meet publically with members of the black community, indigenous communities and the communities of color before the end of the calendar year or resign; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED this resolution shall be communicated to the members of the County Board of Supervisors and all elected individuals who have endorsed her 2020 re-election campaign.” For an extended version of this story including the exchanges between Lacy and Black Lives Matter, please visit losangelesblade.com.



Rep. Katie Hill explains abrupt resignation Sen. Harris calls her victim of ‘cyber exploitation’ By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Rep. Katie Hill is determined to fight against the smear campaign designed to humiliate her. But first she’s relinquishing her personal pinnacle of success. On. Oct. 27, Hill announced her resignation from Congress to avoid becoming a distraction as the Democrats continue their work and consider the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump. After praising Hill for her “great contribution as a leader of the Freshman Class,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement: “She has acknowledged errors in judgment that made her continued service as a Member untenable. We must ensure a climate of integrity and dignity in the Congress, and in all workplaces.” Hill, 32, a bisexual rising leader as vice chair of the House Oversight Committee, acknowledged having an “inappropriate” relationship with a female campaign staffer. “I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment,” she wrote in a letter to her constituents. But Hill has vigorously denied a rumored relationship with a male congressional staffer, a violation of House Ethics Rules that triggered an ethics investigation. “It is with a broken heart that today I announce my resignation from Congress. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I believe it is the best thing for my constituents, my community and our country,” Hill wrote in a letter posted on Twitter. Politico reports that she is expected to officially step down on Nov. 1. It is unclear if Hill’s resignation will halt her request to U.S. Capitol Police to investigate the origin of the nude photos that accompanied stories in the conservative online site RedState on Oct. 18 and a British tabloid that Hill calls “revenge porn” distributed by her estranged husband, Kenny Heslep, whom she is divorcing. Revenge porn is against the law in California. Hill’s supporters include California Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democratic candidate for president. The photos were “clearly meant to

Rep. Katie Hill resigned last week. Screengrab from Oct. 28 YouTube video

embarrass her,” Harris told BuzzFeed News. The “public shaming,” she said, “sends a signal to other women that’s discouraging them from running for office.” But “let’s also speak the truth that men and women are not held to the same standards.,” Harris said. “I mean, look at who’s in the White House.” In November 2017, Harris introduced a bipartisan bill with Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) that would have made disseminating “revenge porn” a federal crime, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. “Perpetrators of exploitation who seek to humiliate and shame their victims must be held accountable,” said Harris. In a You Tube video posted Oct. 27, Hill explained why she resigned. “I made this decision so my supporters, my family, my staff and our community will no longer be subjected to the pain inflected by my abusive husband and the brutality of hateful political operatives,” Hill said. “This coordinated campaign carried out by the fight wing media and the Republican opponents enabling and perpetuating my husband’s abuse by providing him a platform is disgusting and unforgivable and they will be held accountable.

“But,” she continued, “I will not allow myself to be a distraction from the constitutional crisis we’re faced with and the critical work of my colleagues. And so I have to take my personal fight outside the Halls of Congress….I cannot let this horrible smear campaign get in the way of that work.” Hill said she will “continue to fight for our democracy, for representation, for justice and equality and for making the world a better place.” And she will fight “to ensure that no one else has to live through what I just experienced. “I’m hurt. I’m angry. The path that I saw so clearly for myself is no longer there. I’ve had moments where I’ve wondered what the last three years of my life were for and if it was worth it. And I know that many of you feel the same,” Hill said in the video. “I never claimed to be perfect. But I never thought my imperfections would be weaponized and used to try to destroy me and the community I’ve loved for my entire life. For that, I am so incredibly sorry.” Hill said she is “so grateful for the outpouring of support” that she’s received and promised a comeback. Reaction has been mixed to both the smear campaign and Hill’s resignation, including from someone Democrats might

never consider – Donald Trump loyalist Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz. “This is just absurd. The only person who seems to have a gripe is @RepKatieHill’s soon-to-be ex,” Gaetz tweeted on Oct. 24 as the Ethics investigation of Hill was announced. “I serve on Armed Services with Katie and while we frequently disagree on substance, she is always well-prepared, focused and thoughtful.” “We are sorry to lose a good public servant in Congresswoman Katie Hill. We thank her for putting her district first over the personal attacks that have been levied her way,” said Mark J. González, Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chair, in a statement. “The double standard that women — and LGBTQ women in particular — face in politics and the workplace is a sad stain on this nation,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “America needs leaders like Katie. She always had our backs — we and thousands of her grateful constituents still have hers.” The race is now on for Hill’s CA 25th District seat, including a possible run by the anti-LGBTQ Republican Hill defeated by nine points in 2018 - Steve Knight and former Trump campaign aide and Mueller squealer, George Papadopoulos.


“Now, you might think that I’m crazy, but about five years ago, there was a fella named Bruce Jenner, and he moved to Calabasas…” - SNL’s Michael Che deadnaming Caitlyn Jenner with an unfunny transphobic “joke.”

“Today, and every day, we celebrate the rights to justice, liberty and equality that are the foundation of our democracy, and remain dedicated to ensuring that every American can live free from fear, violence, persecution and hate.”

– Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Oct. 28, marking the “milestone for justice,” the 10th anniversary of the signing of the historic Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

“Look, California is the fifth-largest economy in the world. That means only the United States, China, Japan and Germany have a larger economy. We do not deserve to be the caboose on the presidential train.” 10.0 in.

4.625 in.

– Former California Gov. Gray Davis to Politico Oct. 29 on the significance of Super Tuesday to the 2020 elections.

Decades ago, the metaphor used to describe the unique American experience of diverse individuals living and working together in democratic unity was the “melting pot.” Not so long ago, as specific cultural, racial and ethnic identities started mattering more, the metaphor changed to a “salad” where each ingredient pointedly contributed to the whole. This year, on Oct. 17, to honor the annual Front and back of Kellogg’s special “Spirit Day” cereal national anti-bullying campaign known as Spirit Day, Kellogg’s brand cereal offered up yet another metaphor – this one aimed at children, the next generation, the future: the “All Together” cereal. “We all belong together. So for the first time in history, our famous mascots and cereals are offered exclusively together in the same box for All Together Cereal. It’s a symbol of acceptance no matter how you look, where you’re from or who you love. We believe that all people deserve an environment where they can be their best selves,” Kellogg’s explained. The brand turned purple, donated $50,000 to GLAAD for their anti-bullying work and filled their $19.99 limited edition box of All Together Cereal with individual boxes of Raisin Bran, Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops and Frosted Mini Wheats. The anti-LGBTQ One Million Moms group, sponsored by the American Family Association, had a cow. “Kellogg’s goal is to normalize the LGBTQ lifestyle by using cereal mascots to brainwash children,” the Moms shrieked. “Supporting the homosexual agenda verses remaining neutral in the cultural war is just bad business. If Christians cannot find corporate neutrality with Kellogg’s, then they will vote with their pocketbook and support companies that are neutral.” - Karen Ocamb

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Amazon doesn’t keep LGBT outreach in stock Critics say behemoth lacks marketing, philanthropy footprint in community By SCOTT STIFFLER From books to booze to pop-up tents to toiletries, tell Amazon what you want, and they’ll deliver almost anything — except a straight answer about their outreach to the LGBTQ+ community, as it pertains to advertising, marketing, and communication. “Hi Scott – we don’t have anything to share at this time. Thanks!” Peppy use of the exclamation point notwithstanding, Amazon public relations representative Mackenzie Ritter’s sole substantial reply (if one can say that of a 12word email) to this reporter’s weeks-long request for comment cut like the whirling blades of a failed drone delivery test. “We don’t provide details regarding our marketing programs – you can find out more about how we support the LGBTQ community here,” said Mackenzie in a quote attributed directly to Amazon, which arrived a few hours after one final appeal. Follow that link (https://www. aboutamazon.com/our-company/ourpositions) and you’ll find “carefully considered and deeply held” progressive positions on everything from the federal minimum wage to immigration reform to heat-induced climate change. It’s the LGBTQ+ rights section, however, that gives credence to the sticking point of Troy Masters, publisher and editor of the Los Angeles Blade. Amazon cites its “early and strong support of marriage equality” and ongoing commitment to “advocate for protections and equal rights for transgender people,” noting they “stand together with the LGBTQ community,” and crowing about their “perfect score” on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index for the last three years. Standing together with our community, says Masters, must translate into direct engagement, by going beyond providing gender transition benefits to employees or

A rare ad from Amazon in an LGBT-identified publication.

advocating for legislation at the federal and state level (both of which Amazon does). “I am unaware that they have a marketing or philanthropy footprint inside our community,” says Masters. “They don’t seem hostile, but they are not an active flag-raiser, except perhaps via employee groups at very select events. To me, that kind of marketing is dark marketing — it’s dark because it is not at all inclusive.” Now there’s a zinger Masters says can be applied to “every other company like them, every company that chooses to rub elbows at our multi-million dollar fundraisers, make a relatively small donation, buy a table at an event, and get their LGBT employees drunk for a night. It’s an offensive strategy, in my opinion, if it is not backed up with general community-wide visibility and outreach.” “They’re missing the chance to reinforce their already pretty good reputation in the gay community,” says Pride Source Media

CFO Jan Stevenson, who, along with her wife, Susan Horowitz, has been publishing Michigan’s weekly newspaper, Between the Lines, for 26 years. “The demographic of the gay community tends to be very close to Amazon’s ideal customer. We’re first adopters. We’re loyal. Even aside from the social aspect of it, I just think it makes good business sense.” Stevenson recalls attempting to engage Amazon, which has “a huge distribution facility not far from our offices. When they were doing ‘Help Wanted,’ we approached them about ads, but they didn’t take us up on it.” Masters has a similar tale of unsuccessful outreach at the local level. “I attempted to get live-streaming release ads from Amazon video,” he says, “since they own nearly every billboard in Los Angeles and they are doing a great deal of LGBTspecific or themed programming as part of their multi-billion dollar content spree in Hollywood.” Nationally, adds Masters, “Todd Evans and his team are the LGBT liaisons for our community, with such accounts.” As noted in two previous similarly themed articles focusing on Apple and Starbucks, Evans is president and CEO of Rivendell Media, which places advertisements for the National LGBT Media Association. Together, the association’s members — including Boston’s Bay Windows and NYC’s Gay City News — reach an estimated 500,000 weekly print and online readers. “In 2013,” Evans notes, “Amazon did the funny Kindle same-sex beach commercial. In 2018, they did another one for Fire TV featuring two gay men,” and also what Evans calls “the lonely ad”—a single-page print ad for Amazon’s wedding registry, in the April issue of Out Magazine. The fact that he’s able to cite three ads that acknowledge LGBT consumers, says Evans, “is what’s different about them. They’re at least doing something, whether it’s to provoke thought or just test the waters, to see what various responses are.” Evans says he’s surprised Amazon didn’t do a deeper dive. “It’s so much easier to carry it to fruition, into LGBT media, where everybody is going

to be paying attention to it,” says Evans. “There are plenty of other gay publications to advertise in.” Of the Fire TV commercial, notes Evans, “There are plenty of digital networks you could run a TV ad on today. You could even run it on Logo, where you have a superfriendly gay audience… More than most companies, they already target consumers based on buying habits. So they should have an understanding of how important the LGBT consumer is. Like Apple and Starbucks, I feel these are all good companies that just really need to be educated on how to reach large numbers of LGBTs in ‘our’ specific media.” One company that got, and continues to get, the message is Absolut Vodka. As of last year, Absolut had spent $31 million on LGBTQ marketing, and donated over $40 million to gay and lesbian charities. Unlike Apple, Starbucks, and Amazon — none of which responded to our outreach with detailed comment — Absolut Vice President Regan Clarke was quick to respond, noting Absolut “was the first spirits brand to publicly support the LGBTQ community, beginning in 1981.” Clarke called that move, unheard of for its time, “a risky decision for mainstream brands, because taking a stand for equality meant risking backlash from conventional culture. Today, Absolut is proud to stand as a beacon of diversity and inclusivity alongside LGBTQ communities, and continues to push the envelope of cultural progress – while celebrating and supporting the people and actions that have made that progress possible.” It’s a far cry from the Amazon approach, says Masters, who is confounded by the chasm between knowledge and action. “They know we are customers,” says Masters, of Amazon. “They believe in marketing, and they even believe in targeted marketing — yet they exclude us intentionally while also appearing to embrace us. It’s been happening much too long, this equation of elite support. We need to reel it in before our own media cease to exist and our journalistic voice is replaced by rubber chicken dinners at five-star hotels.”



Robert Gilchrist was queried on Russia’s hostility in his confirmation hearing.

HRC President Alphonso David speaks at the House Financial Services Committee hearing on Oct. 29.

Blade photo by Michael Key

Blade photo by Michael Key

Trump’s gay ambassadorial pick grilled on Russia Russia’s belligerence — which manifested itself during the 2016 election — was a key issue Tuesday during the confirmation hearing for President Trump’s pick to become the next U.S. ambassador to Lithuania. Robert Gilchrist — who’s gay and a former president of GLIFAA, the affinity group at the State Department for LGBT employees — was skilled in drawing on his foreign policy expertise to answer the questions before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Russia’s aggression. The first question came from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who asked Gilchrist whether he sees Russia as a threat and what kinds of Russian actions would be of concern to Lithuania. Although Gilchrist didn’t use the word “threat” to describe Russia, he did recognize the country is renewing its attention to countries it once controlled as part of the Soviet Union. “Lithuania, I think, over the past decade has seen a number of challenges from Russia as the Russian government has increased military spending, and as they’ve increased their attention toward the Baltic states,” Gilchrist said. For Gilchrist, one of the biggest challenges Lithuania is facing is Russian disinformation — which intelligence experts confirmed was in play during the 2016 election in the United States. “The Lithuanians have been at the forefront in terms of countering that information, including through public private partnerships, but also working closely with us,” Gilchrist said. Pressed by Shaheen on the efforts to counter the disinformation campaign, Gilchrist talked about U.S. engagement in training journalists and supporting the traditional media. “I think if you look through, through some of the recent press, you’ll see how the Lithuanians really in a masterful way have gotten out ahead of an issue before it became an issue domestically,” Gilchrist said. “And so, they are indeed at the forefront in many ways I think there’s some things that we could possibly learn from them as well.” Asked what specifically the United States could learn from Lithuania, Gilchrist emphasized the private-public partnerships throughout the Baltic region. Although he was nominated by Trump in July, Gilchrist — who currently serves as director of the operations center at the State Department — is a career Foreign Service officer and not a political appointee like other ambassadors. Gilchrist was previously deputy chief of mission of the U.S. embassy in Sweden, deputy chief of mission of the U.S. embassy in Estonia and the director of Nordic and Baltic Affairs in the State Department’s Bureau of European & Eurasian Affairs. CHRIS JOHNSON

Data at forefront of hearing on bias in credit, housing As LGBT rights advocates continue to press the Equality Act to ban anti-LGBT discrimination, data was at the forefront of a congressional hearing Tuesday as evidence that anti-LGBT discrimination in housing and credit continues to exist. Among the key statistics that emerged in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee: About half of LGBT adults own their homes compared to 70 percent of the non-LGBT adult population; LGBT adults are twice as likely as non-LGBT people to report having been prevented by a landlord or owner from moving into a home; and same-sex couples experience about three to eight percent lower approval rates in acquiring a loan than different-sex couples. Chairing the hearing was Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), who touted the importance of that data in laying out the case anti-LGBT discrimination persists despite claims to the contrary. “Today we have demonstrated with empirical evidence that this level of invidious discrimination exists, such that it is quite harmful not only to the persons who have been discriminated against, but also to the country,” Green said. Making his debut before Congress as president of the Human Rights Campaign was Alphonso David, who made the case discrimination is a consistent threat to LGBT people, particularly those who belong to other minority communities. “Our community faces discrimination and rejection in every area of life — at school at work and at home,” David said. “Distressingly, the weight of this discrimination falls disproportionately on the shoulders of LGBT people who are racial minorities, specifically black and brown members of our community.” David pointed out black male couples are the type of family most likely to face discrimination when seeking rental housing and 47 percent of black transgender women have attempted suicide over the course of their lifetimes. A key point for David was the importance of the passing the Equality Act, legislation that would define anti-LGBT discrimination as discrimination based on sex in all aspects of federal civil rights law, including housing and credit. The House approved the legislation in May, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to take it up. For David, the importance of the Equality Act was intersectional. After all, the measure would not just institute LGBT protections, but strengthen protections against racial discrimination by expanding the definition of public accommodations under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “If I went into a Gap department store to purchase a shirt, I could be discriminated against because there is no federal protection based on race,” David said. “There are state protections, but no federal protections. The Equality Act would fix that.” CHRIS JOHNSON



Lesbian elected mayor of Colombian capital

From left: YouTuber Nelson Julio Álvarez Mairata and journalist Ezequiel Fuentes are the latest targets of cyberbullying in Cuba. Photos courtesy of Facebook

Cuban gov’t targets queer journalists with cyberbullying “State security kept my telephone and hacked into all of my (social media) accounts,” said YouTuber Nelson Julio Álvarez Mairata, known as Nexy J Show in social media networks, after he was detained this Wednesday, the second time he was detained in less than three days. Nelson was detained for the first time on Oct. 21 in Santa Clara in central Cuba while he was broadcasting live for the Paparazzi Cubano Facebook page. A short time later he was accused of “disturbing public order,” as confirmed by Tremenda Nota. Nexy is one of the few Cuban YouTubers with a queer profile. He has most recently worked as a reporter on social media and has contributed to media outlets like ADAN Cuba and Tremenda Nota. He was arrested for a second time this Wednesday (Oct. 23) a few hours after his release. The police confiscated his cell phone and other items he used for work. Unusual content appeared on the social media pages he manages a few hours after their confiscation. María la del Barrio was the name the hacker assigned to the YouTuber’s profile on Facebook. They added a cover photo with a message in support of the Cuban revolution posted texts under Álvarez Mairata’s likeness to complain about the reported low salary he hade as a freelancer. Dozens of LGBTQ activists and journalists on Facebook denounced the hacking of his account until it was suspended. Nelson responded to María la del Barrio’s denunciation with humor. “They try to ridicule me for being gay, but they don’t understand I can handle these apparent insults well,” he told Tremenda Nota. Yandry García, who operates a page with content that is dedicated to the community in Sagua la Grande, the city from which Álvarez Mairata comes, said another fake Facebook account published “intimate photographs of Nelson” last night. The profile was reported and is no longer available. Another LGBTQ reporter and activist on Oct. 22 reported being harassed on social media. “State security attacks, this time against me and is taking advantage of my breakup,” wrote Ezequiel Fuentes, a contributor to independent media outlets CubaNet, 14ymedio and CiberCuba. Fuentes says state security is behind a post published on Facebook under the name María Lourdes González, a profile without a photo. The post, published as a comment, threatens Fuentes and tells him he is being watched. Cyberbullying is one of the main strategies the Cuban government uses to discredit the work of independent journalists, human rights defenders and political opponents, though it is also one of the most difficult things to monitor and verify. The accounts that are used usually disappear quickly, sometimes with the permission of those who operate them or when those who are targeted and their colleagues denounce them. The release of private photos, often of sexual content, is one of these hackers’ most common practices. TREMENDA NOTA

A Colombian senator on Sunday became the first lesbian and first woman elected mayor of her country’s capital city. Colombian media reports indicate Sen. Claudia López, who ran on the leftist Green and Alternative Democratic Pole party ticket, won with slightly more than 35 percent of the vote. The Associated Press reported López is the first open lesbian elected mayor of a Latin American capital city. “Thank you to all the teachers, mentors, bosses, colleagues, classmates, friends and citizens who taught, loved and supported me to reach this day in my life,” said López in a video with her supporters that she posted to her Twitter account. López, 49, was elected to the Colombian Senate in 2014. She later became a candidate to succeed then-President Juan Manuel Santos who left office in 2018. López’s partner is Colombian Sen. Angélica Lozano, an openly bisexual woman who in 2018 became the first openly LGBTQ person elected to the country’s Senate. López was not out when she was elected to the Colombian Senate. Caribe Afirmativo, a Colombian LGBTQ advocacy group, tweeted a picture of the couple kissing each other after López won. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Uganda urged to drop charges against LGBTQ activists Civil society groups in Uganda have demanded their country’s government drop charges against 16 LGBTQ activists who were arrested last week. Sexual Minorities Uganda, Chapter Four Uganda and Health GAP in a press release say the activists “were initially promised ‘protection’ by police” officers on Oct. 21 after they were “threatened by a mob” in the Kyengera neighborhood of the Ugandan capital of Kampala. The press release indicates the activists “were then arrested, detained and subjected to forced anal examinations — an act of torture that is designed to humiliate and terrify under the guise of collecting ‘proof of homosexuality.’” The groups in their press release say the activists have been “charged with carnal knowledge against the order of nature” under the Ugandan penal code and human trafficking. “Police have stated that the presence of condoms, lubricant and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in their homes is ‘evidence’ that supports the charge of having gay sex,” reads the press release, which also notes Ugandan Health Minister Jane Aceng has criticized the use of condoms and other HIV prevention tools as evidence in court proceedings. The arrests took place 11 days after Ugandan Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo said his government planned to reintroduce a bill that would impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of homosexuality. Ofwono Opondo, a spokesperson for the Ugandan government, said the so-called “Kill the Gays” measure would not be reintroduced. The groups’ press release also notes the Oct. 21 arrests coincide with “multiple reported cases of violence” that include four murders “motivated by homophobia and transphobia” and the “brutal beating” of a lesbian woman by a doctor who is a member of the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council. A State Department official on Tuesday told the Blade “promoting the protection and advancement of human rights — including the rights of LGBTI persons — has long been and remains the policy of the United States.” Uganda is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. “The United States firmly opposes criminalization, abuse and violence against LGBTI persons,” a State Department official told the Blade earlier this year. “We stand with Uganda’s LGBTI community and defend the dignity of all Ugandans.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS





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Honorable Elijah E. Cummings – A Warrior For All Lifelong advocate for justice fought against LGBTQ discrimination

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) represents Culver City and parts of Los Angeles. She is also the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. (Photos of Rep. Bass at Rep. Cummings funeral are courtesy the Congressional Black Caucus.)

We — the nation, the City of Baltimore, the State of Maryland, and the United States Congress — all suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of Chairman Elijah E. Cummings on Oct. 17. As a lifelong advocate for justice, equality, and the truth, Elijah Cummings was the true definition of a leader and his commitment to civility and humanity were invaluable in times such as these. To many, he was a friend and trusted colleague, but to the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, he was a respected and revered member of our family. To me, Mr. Cummings was a mentor. Born and raised in Baltimore to sharecroppers from South Carolina, Mr. Cummings knew firsthand the challenges

of discrimination, segregation, and poverty. At the young age of 11, he stepped into his calling by helping to integrate a local swimming pool in his neighborhood. For his courage and his commitment to justice, he was pelted with bottles and rocks. As throughout the entirety of his life, Mr. Cummings was not deterred by bigotry, he was not swayed by ignorance, and he was not stopped by indifference. In fact, it was incidents at this time in his life that only strengthened his commitment to ensuring his community overcame these obstacles. Once elected to the Maryland House of Delegates, Mr. Cummings became the youngest chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus and the first African American to serve as Speaker pro tempore. In 1996, he was elected to serve the people of Baltimore in the United States House of Representatives. He used his powerful voice to help the poor and advocated for often controversial issues, such as needle exchange programs to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. As the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Mr. Cummings used his gavel to speak truth to power on behalf of the American people. We watched his heartfelt passion as he fought for the rights of children separated from their families, as he fought for everyone to have healthcare, and medications that are affordable, and as he fought for everyone to have the right and access to vote. In 2016, we watched Mr. Cummings swiftly debunk the logic behind a bill which would prevent the government from acting against

businesses or individuals who discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. As he did almost daily here in Congress and in his community, he spoke as a guided moral light for all of those gathered to listen. As a former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and an active member within the Caucus, Mr. Cummings worked fiercely to uplift and empower Black people. He shared his wisdom and strength in his ongoing efforts to ensure Black Americans received equal rights and equal protection under the law. Simply put, he was a civil rights icon concerned about our present and our future. He saw our children as the living messages that we send to a future we will never see. “My position is we have one life to live. This is no dress rehearsal. And this is their life,” he said. Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, Mr. Cumming’s widow and chairwoman of Maryland’s Democratic Party, told 4,000 people at his funeral at the New Psalmist Baptist Church, including two former United States presidents, that her husband was a man of great integrity “This was a man of the utmost integrity! Do you hear me? He had integrity. And he cared about our democracy!” Dr. Cummings said. “He wanted to make sure that we left a society worthy of our children.” The Congressional Black Caucus will continue his fight and honor his legacy by fearlessly seeking the truth and ensuring every person in this country has the opportunity to achieve their dream.

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Don’t let Katie Hill’s abuser steal her legacy Congress loses a champion of progressive causes

Valerie Ploumpis is National Policy Director for Equality California and Silver State Equality. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

I glanced at my phone as I left the gym on Sunday night and my heart dropped. Rep. Katie Hill (CA-25) had just announced her resignation. Hill is one of the good ones. She went into politics for all the right reasons. She seemed to be good at it, too — quickly climbing the ladder of leadership in the House and developing a strong bond with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Who knows — she could have been Speaker herself one day. So, let’s be clear about what Hill’s vindictive, abusive husband has attempted to steal from her — the would-be Congressional legacy of a 32-year old bisexual woman who was a powerful advocate for social justice, the environment, and clean government. Like too many LGBTQ leaders before her, Hill’s time in office was cut short because her gender and sexual orientation made her a target. I, for one, refuse to let him succeed and prefer to remember her service to our community instead: A champion for the LGBTQ community Katie Hill was California’s first openly LGBTQ

congresswoman. She was notably forthcoming and open about her bisexuality in a district where some political consultants would have urged her to hide it. “Since I pass as heterosexual, I could have just not addressed that in my campaign, and I was advised not to” but “I decided to be open about it. It’s part of who I am.” She said. “It’s important to be a voice for a community that I think is so underrepresented.” Co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, Hill stepped up in a big way for our community to advance the Equality Act by forcefully rebutting absurd claims that transgender women would somehow “take away” athletic scholarships and Olympic medals from cisgender women. “Are you kidding me?” Hill challenged her Republican colleagues on the House floor. “Through my work on the issue of homelessness, I saw trans women disproportionately affected by discrimination at every stage of their lives…I can tell you that no trans person is trying to game the system to participate in sports. And that is a sad scare tactic that has no place on the floor of the People’s House. … You, my colleagues, are on the wrong side of history. And we will be waiting for you on the other side.”

A champion for those experiencing homelessness

Just prior to being elected, Hill served as Executive Director of People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), which, during her tenure, grew into California’s largest non-profit provider of permanent housing for thousands of homeless people. In just her first nine months in Congress, she led a bipartisan, bicameral effort aimed at persuading President Trump to drop his

Administration’s policies aimed at slashing or eliminating funding altogether for public housing: “Let us be clear: policing and criminalizing your citizens won’t end homelessness. In fact, providing housing-insecure individuals with supportive housing is significantly less expensive than sending them to jail or an emergency room.”

our communities. She fought for women’s health care on military bases, worked to pass stronger equal pay legislation and advocated for comprehensive sexual health education for students.

A champion for the environment

Hill has long fought to increase Californians’ access to comprehensible affordable, healthcare. Of particular concern to the freshman Congresswoman was Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act — the nondiscrimination clause that addresses health disparities for the LGBTQ community, people of color, those seeking reproductive care and especially transgender patients who might otherwise be unlawfully denied the care they need or forego seeing a doctor entirely for fear of discrimination. As she promised in her emotional announcement video, Katie will “take up a new fight” against cyber exploitation — or “revenge porn,” as some call it — so that her experience cannot be used “to scare off other young women or girls from running for office.” I have every confidence in her leadership on this issue – cyberbullying of LGBTQ young people in particular is a terrible and growing epidemic that too often leads to devastating consequences. While her voice and representation in Congress will be missed, and our country will never know what she could have achieved there if given the time, Hill shattered glass ceilings. I have no doubt she will go on to shatter many more – and support more women and LGBTQ folks who seek to shatter their own.

Hill, an ardent advocate for cleaner air, water and a non-toxic food supply, defeated Steve Knight, a Republican who earned a three-percent lifetime score on the League of Conservation Voters’ National Environmental Scorecard. She campaigned on the transition to 100 percent clean energy and addressing the climate crisis with passion, advocating for the closure of the Aliso Canyon Oil Field and an end to the building of new fossil-fueled power plants. She authored a letter to the president demanding that any renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) include strong, binding climate standards and that the U.S. reenter the Paris Climate Agreement. She fought for the environment because she was a Millennial who knew that her generation — and the generations that come after her — will have to deal with the consequences of climate change, even if her older colleagues do not.

A champion for women and girls Hill is a powerful voice for the vital healthcare services provided by Planned Parenthood and other health clinics that serve the most marginalized members of

A champion for healthcare

Life in Palm Springs means vacation all year long New transplants thrilled with stylish home and desert lifestyle By SCOTT STIFFLER

For Chris Wilmore and Alan Johns, the road leading to a new home was anything but straight, and definitely not made out of yellow bricks — but when they finally arrived in Palm Springs, says Wilmore, “It was like Oz. Coming from a red state which is not always welcoming to the gay community, we really enjoy the fact that we live in such a warm and welcoming place.” Residents of the seldom-sees-rainfall city since June of this year, Wilmore, 48, and Johns, 59, pulled up stakes after residing in Atlanta. The previously peripatetic couple—together for 20 years, married for four—have spent time living in Durham, Richmond, and New York City (with a stint in Atlanta prior to their arrival there four years ago). “With both of our lines of work,” says Johns, “we can live anywhere.” Johns, who once had a career in university finance, is currently an executive vice president with the national executive recruiting firm Cejka Search—and Wilmore, after a career in PR and social media, notes he’s “also in the executive search game,” as an associate consultant who “assists Alan with his searches.” Asked why they chose Palm Springs, Johns notes his work often took him to Southern

California. So a few years ago, “I started looking around at the housing options… In Palm Springs, the prices are much less than Los Angeles or San Francisco. It’s a very affordable town; easy to get around in, and the gay community is very strong here.” It’s also, he notes, “nice to have the city to yourself when the snowbirds have gone.” “We’ve always loved California for the weather and the lifestyle,” notes Wilmore, who, with a tone in his voice that disavows the temptation to indulge in a deep dive diss of Atlanta, says the couple’s diehard Democratic blue streak is just a better match for California’s “diversity and multicultural aspect. It’s like its own country — and Palm Springs is fantastic, because it has more of a vacation atmosphere. Less people, less traffic.” The couple has been taking full advantage of that vacation vibe, which Wilmore describes as a “choose your own adventure” aesthetic. Spending time in the desert, shopping at farmers markets, and hiking in the higher elevations via “a tram that goes to the top of the mountain, which is a great getaway and a great place to take visitors,” says Wilmore, are among their regular activities. “I like to say, ‘You can go at your own pace, and find

something for every taste.’ ” Johns notes the art and culture, sans hustle and bustle, along with “wonderful dining options” and annual events such as the Palm Springs International Film Festival as contributors to the feeling of “being on vacation all year long.” As for where they put down stakes, “We picked a new development called Icon,” says Wilmore, “in the Racquet Club West neighborhood of Palm Springs. It’s a modern development that is still being built.” “The design is very contemporary,” says Johns, “and the finishes they offered were very high-end. Each home has its own pool and hot tub, in a private, walled backyard, so that’s really nice.” Candice Katayama is vice president of sales and marketing at Far West Industries, which created Icon (www.iconpalmsprings.com). Katayama says the projected date for the gated community’s completion is mid-2020, at which point there will be 46 single-family detached homes, up to 2,040 square feet, plus casitas on certain locations. Homes come with a pool and Tesla solar panels, voluminous ceiling heights, and sealed, polished concrete flooring on the first floor. Attached two-car garages are also standard features. Homes

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Alan Johns and Chris Wilmore lounging at their backyard pool with their dog Willoughby. Photo courtesy the couple

start from the high $500,000s. Wilmore says another pleasant surprise in the “standard feature” category was the sheer amount of homes sold to gay men or LGBTQ+ couples. Asked to comment on that robust demographic, Katayama says, “We are blind to all of the different people who are attracted to the community — but I can tell you that the people who choose these homes have really great taste in architecture, as well as what

they choose for inside of their home.” Current residents include, she added, “people who are in the business,” such as interior designers. “Modern living inspired by revered midcentury modern architects of historic Palm Springs, with a savvy contemporary flair” is the Icon tag line, which Katayama says shows itself in the “clean lines on everything, and exterior colors, like blue and the golden yellow. It really pops… very interesting,

when you look at it, architecturally. It’s just a good use of space… And we’re so close to downtown Palm Springs, a little over a mile. It’s an easy walk, or bicycle ride, away.” Johns says he and Wilmore acclimated to life at Icon quickly, and with ease. “We didn’t know anyone” upon arrival, he notes. “And now, our best friends here are our neighbors. We’ve really come home.”

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Blade guide to Palm Springs Pride Dancing in the streets, food and a celebration of diversity By JOHN PAUL KING

The Greater Palm Springs Pride Festival is a destination of choice this weekend for many LGBTQ Angelenos and their allies, and with good reason. It’s the largest LGBTQ gathering in the Coachella Valley, set against the palm tree lined backdrop of beautiful downtown Palm Springs and drawing visitors from around the world to celebrate the diversity and unity of the desert community. Kicking off on Friday evening, Palm Springs Pride is a weekend-long, continuous party, with 4 music venues, cutting edge DJ stages, dancing in the streets, and over 150 food vendors, exhibitors and non-profit organizations on hand to serve your every need. To make this year’s festival even more festive, for the first time in its history, you can enjoy an adult beverage while strolling through the LGBTQ entertainment experience on North Palm Canyon Drive. Best of all, the festival is, as always, a free event – though donations will be accepted at entry points to help keep Pride free for everyone to attend. Keeping visitors occupied all weekend long are a diverse array of artists and entertainers, beverage lounges offering premium cocktails along with wine and microbrews, a selection of festive food purveyors, and a variety of items for purchase including, jewelry, snacks, and sweets. There’s plenty to do, and while many folks enjoy going with the flow at Pride and letting it take them from one experience to the next, it can be helpful to keep a few key times and places on your calendar to ensure you get the most out of the festival – especially when it comes to the entertainment. With that in mind, here’s the schedule of headlining acts that will be appearing throughout the weekend:


Arena Stage: 5:00pm – That ‘80s Band 7:30pm – DJ Autumn Leilani 9:00pm – Kristine W, Queen of the 90’s dance music Pride Stage: 7:30pm – Prince Poppycock 8:15pm – Ada Vox, pop singer, drag queen & top 8 finalist, “American Idol” ‘18 KGAY Stage: 4:00pm – Ray Rhodes

SATURDAY, NOV. 2 Arenas Stage: 7:30pm – Lee Dagger of Bimbo Jones 9:00pm – Heather Small 9:40pm – Black Sabbitch Pride Stage: 4:50pm – Sateen 5:30pm – Pepper Mashay 6:30pm – Betty 8:00pm – TLC KGAY Stage: 2:00pm – Paul Cowling 6:00pm – Ryan Skyy


Arenas Stage: 3:45pm – Maxine Nightingale, Grammy nominated legend of pop and disco Pride Stage: 4:00pm – OneUp, LGBTQ finalists from NBC’s “The Voice” ‘18 KGAY Stage: 12:00pm – DJ Kidd Maddony There are a host of other entertainers scheduled the throughout each day of the festival, on these three stages as well as the US Bank Stage. You can find a complete listing and schedule at www. pspride.org. You might also want to take note of these scheduled events: On Saturday from 11a.m.– 5 p.m, the Pride Youth Zone, a free event open to those 14-21, will be the hub for LGBTQ+ youth and their allies at the Pride Festival. The Youth Zone features continuous entertainment and activities, free food and drink, games, dancing, DJ Eric Ornelas, karaoke, seating, contests, games, youthonly confidential testing, drag and makeup fun, great conversation, creative expression, chalk drawing, shade from the sun, toilets and a washing station, safe sex information. Everything is free, and all youth are embraced. Located on Arenas Rd. behind Lulu California Bistro. Pride Youth Zone is the safe space for queer youth to hang out and meet others within the Pride Festival. On Saturday from 11am – 5pm, and Sunday from 11am- 4pm, you can find the Children’s Garden, a playful place for children — from infants to pre-teen – and accompanying adults, at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive. A private family-only place, offering hands-on fun for you and your kids where all kids are encouraged to have fun during Pride and learn the


importance of being proud with who they are – as well as free kid-friendly activities, complimentary snacks and cool drinks, a nap area, and a clean port-a-potty along with a diaper-changing station, to ensure that the needs of a festival-going family are fulfilled. Parents are required to stay in the children’s play area with their children. Sunday, of course, is also the day of the Greater Palm Springs Pride Parade. Stepping off from Tachevah and Palm Canyon Drive, it travels south on N. Palm Canyon to Amado, where it ends at the festival entrance. There will be emcee commentary at 4 reviewing stands (one at each of the 4 festival stages), remote broadcasts from local radio stations Mix 100.5 and Mod 107.3, and an official online broadcast station at Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge. In addition, a Deaf Pride reviewing stand will feature Sign Language Interpretation. The festival hours are as follows:


5pm – 10pm, Arenas District Pride Kick Off Celebration 6pm-10pm, Downtown street Party


Pride Festival 11 am – 10 pm, Downtown Palm Springs and @ 11:30pm in the Arenas District (exhibitors close at 9pm) 6 pm-11:30 pm, Arenas District Block Party


Pride Festival & Parade 11 am – 5:00 pm, Downtown Palm Springs (exhibitors close at 4:30pm) 11 am - 6:00 pm in the Arenas District (exhibitors close at 4:30pm) 10am - Noon, Pride Parade If that’s not enough to keep you entertained all weekend long, here are a few other Pride-related events that might be of interest:



5pm – 7pm: Kiehl’s Pride Celebration, offering shopping, a raffle, and complementary cocktails and treats (175 N. Palm Canyon Dr.) 5:30pm – 7:30pm: Trina Turk Pride Kick-off. Trina Turk, Mr. Turk and Celebrity Guests invite you to an evening of sipping, shopping and giving back in the Palm Springs boutique. (891 N. Palm Canyon Dr. RSVP requested to palmsprings@trinaturk.com.)


12pm – 4pm: Flagging in the Desert. Gather your friends and come celebrate flagging, magical music and, of course, Pride at Sunrise Park in the heart of Palm Springs, with Los Angeles DJ Michael Duretto providing the day’s soundtrack. Bring your blanket, picnic and refillable bottle – water and ice will be provided. A free event. 12pm – 5pm: Love Boat Palm Springs Pride Pool Party. GED Magazine is proud to present the 2nd Annual Love Boat Pool Party benefiting Greater Palm Springs Pride. So grab your tanning lotion and get ready for an epic day by the pool. This highly anticipated event with multiple big-name DJs, Drag Queens, Live Entertainment, Celebrity hosts, Raffle Prizes and giveaways, and the hottest go-go dancers around. Tickets are $15 to 25 in advance; $30 at the door. (333 E. Palm Canyon Dr.)


9am – 3pm: Pride Champagne Brunch at Eight4Nine. For the 4th consecutive year Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge will offer a Pride Champagne Brunch menu, with parade viewing from the patio, lounge or saved premium seating on the parade route. Additionally, you will be helping your local Pride organization. with 25 percent of the sales donated to Greater Palm Springs Pride to help keep Pride free and accessible for everyone.Call 760-325-8490 or visit www.eight4nine.com to make your reservations early, it always sells out! (849 N. Palm Canyon Dr.) Whether you choose to spend all your time at the festival or spread out and enjoy some of these peripheral offerings, Palm Springs Pride is sure to cap off your 2019 Pride season with plenty of good times to be remembered!

PHOTOS The first LGBT parade in Palm Springs was held in November 1986, then called the Desert Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade and was comprised of 30 contingents and attended by hundreds. That has grown by quantum leaps and this year over 100 groups will march and tens of thousands will watch. Organizers boasted that the event raised $380 for AIDS. Today, it raises hundreds of thousands for LGBT organizations throughout the Desert and California and is one of SoCal’s largest celebrations. These vintage photos of the first year’s parade are a testament to the revolution that has happened in a city that was once a bastion of Republican oppression but which is now one of the nation’s most liberal cities, boasting a 100 percent LGBT political leadership. (All photos courtesy Ron deHarte and Palm Springs Pride)


Palm Springs was a Republican bastion in 1986 when Log Cabin Republican leader Bill Schroff rode in the parade.

Palm Springs Councilmember Jeanne Reller helped get the event off the ground.

The Rainbow Award was given to a restaurant called Red Pepper and Red Tomato, the LuLu’s of the day.

Who even knows what the Skylark Bar was?

Parent’s and Friends of Lesbians and Gays showed their support at the first parade. In the background a sign reads “Wilson is a Bigot,” a reference to then Senator Pete Wilson’s campaign to declare English the official language of California.

Christ Chapel of the Desert Chapel marched in 1986 and their tradition continues 2019.



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THAT ‘80S BAND | HAPPYFORYOU | DJ PETER BARONA | DJ KIDD MADONNY | LUCY WHITTAKER | AUTUMN LEILANI | DJ JEFFREE RAY RHODES | PAUL COWLING | JOSH ZUCKERMAN | KEISHA D Tara Macri | Ted Fox w/Joe Musser & The Roadhouse Rebels | Jessica Inserra | Probe 7 | DJ Eric Ornelas | DJ Galaxy Ryan Sky | DJ Vaughn Avakian | DJ Drew G DJ Aaron C | DJ Addict | Risqué | Now Serving The Chilldren | Modern Men | Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus | A Cabbello | Siobhan Velarde | Arenas Fashion Show Miss Bea Haven | DJ Austin Del Rio | Michael mAr | Krystofer Do | James Sings...Olivia | Cat Lyn Day as Marilyn | Z LA LA | Kendra Dahl Sax-Playing Drag Queen Madyx | Ayline Artin | MARY | Isabelle | Steven Fales | Torrey Mercer Emcees Bella da Ball & Alexander Rodriquez | Anita Rose & Company | Anita Treadmill & Divas On The Dance Floor | Erica September Carrington | Ms. Bea Haven | Iowna Mann | Lilly White Pink Lemonade | Samantha Montgomery | Candace Camera | Charles Herrera | Cher-Javier | Dan Westfall | Desert Rose Playhouse | Eve Holmes | Jason Hull | JB | Jesse Jones | Johnny Gentleman Lola Showgirl & Team Lola | Marina Mac | Maxx Decco | Patsi | Phillip Moore | Randell McGlasson | Robbie Wayne | Sadie Ladie | Steven Michael Dance Machine | The Mod Squad Variety Francesca Amari | Jeff Stewart | Wayne Abravanel | Tommie Douglas | Tommy Dodson | Tony Romano | Willie Rene | Brian Scott | Dammit Jim | Luka





‘Golden Boy’ screenwriter talks process, LGBT representation Recounting the long journey from script to distribution By JOHN PAUL KING

In the streaming era, Indie film fans can rejoice in the fact that there’s a glut of such offerings available at any hour of the day. This holds especially true for audiences seeking LGBT titles; an impressive new array of these appears almost monthly. With so many of these movies being made, it’s easy to take them for granted – but as Indie filmmakers can tell you, it’s no easy accomplishment to take one from the idea stage to being available on your laptop with just a click of your finger. To trace one such journey, the Blade talked to Mark Elias, the actor and writer behind a recent addition to the catalogue of Indie movies available on demand. His film, “Golden Boy,” is the chronicle of a young man’s descent into the seamy underbelly of Hollywood culture, depicting a treacherous network of manipulative social relationships and quid-pro-quo sexuality. Elias stars in the film, which he also co-wrote with Jonathan Browning. Their script won Best Screenplay at last year’s San Diego’s FilmOut festival; the film’s director, Stoney Westmoreland, took home the Jury Award for Best Direction at the California Independent Film Festival. It’s now available through Amazon, iTunes, and Google – a fact that still seems unbelievable to the young filmmaker, who has been struggling to bring it into the world for the last four years – while also working to build a growing career for himself as an actor through his roles on TV shows like “Lone Star,” “Teen Wolf,” “Justified,” “Lucifer,” and “9-1-1.” In our conversation, we talked about the process of getting his project made, along with why he was willing to put in that much work to make it happen and why the story is about more than the sexuality of its characters. Los Angeles Blade: How did “Golden Boy” get started? Mark Elias: I had this script for a couple of years, and I liked it a lot and I didn’t know how it was going to get made – until we did an incredibly aggressive crowd funding campaign and raised about $50,000 off of it. That’s how we did it. Crowd funding is an amazing thing because without it, you can’t make these little Indie films.

Mark Elias (left) wrote and stars in ‘Golden Boy.’ Photo courtesy Elias

Blade: That sounds like a lot of money, but in Hollywood terms it’s small change. Did you have to scale down your vision for the movie? Elias: This story could be simply told – I wanted it, as a writer, to rest on the performances, not on big production values. I mean, you need locations that make sense and all that, obviously, but you didn’t need a big car chase for the story to be told effectively, you just needed to be invested in the characters. And also, we were lucky in the sense that we would lose a location and then we would end up getting a better one, or like when we had to replace an actor and then their replacement had even better chemistry – at one point, someone on the set said, ‘You usually only get one miracle during production,’ and this one felt like we got three or four. But we were really all about the acting, and that because that was great, it all turned out great. Blade: After you got it made, you hit the festival circuit. What was that like? Elias: Part of the festival circuit is getting eyes on the film, you’re getting laurels, which in a way can be just like a filmmaker’s tip of the hat – but it also shows distributors can look at that and say, “this film has played festivals, it’s won

awards, there’s something to it.” If you do independent films, you kind of have to bank on stuff like that. Blade: Did you get distribution that way? Elias: We talked to a distributor, and we didn’t think the numbers made sense, so we decided to bank on ourselves even more, and do it independently. Now, it’s all about doing outreach – we need to encourage people to watch it, and to give us a good review because that helps our algorithm, and add it to their watchlist, because that helps, too. We’re trying to get people to see it through social media, also, getting people to write and talk about it there. Blade: In a way, you’re still working on the film. Elias: Yes, but the response has been so positive, and that’s the thing that’s great. People are finding value in this story that we’ve struggled to tell for four years, and they reach out to you to say that it’s made an impact on them and they’re blown away, and you say, “this is what we struggled for.” Blade: Why did you want to tell this story in the first place? Elias: They always say to write what you know. It was something I wrote that has an autobiographical element, about a world I had lived in, and that I live in now. L.A. has these social tiers, where there are people who can take advantage of other people who want something – there are plenty of examples, you can equate it to people like Kevin Spacey or Harvey Weinstein. This story is somewhere on the fringe of that, but 80% of the entertainment industry lives on the fringe. It felt timely, like something that can and should be told now. Also, there are a lot of LGBT coming-out stories out there, and I thought it would be interesting to see someone coming into the world of Hollywood, where there is all this sexual fluidity, but it’s not a big coming-out story. This is something that I walked into when I came into LA, and I didn’t realize it even existed because I’m from Philadelphia. That was something that you never saw. These people are all partying together, and nobody makes a big deal about sexuality. The problem is that a lot of these people are on cocaine, and nobody’s living the life they want to live. Blade: Were you concerned about the representation of LGBT characters within this environment? Elias: You see the good and the bad, you have these characters representing the community who are giving and open-hearted and have totally redeeming qualities; but also, this is a movie where we took out every label that we could. You have these characters that have lived on all sides of the fence – there’s such an undertone of fluidity that I don’t think you could say there’s a finger pointing at anyone in judgment. In the end it’s not about any of that at all, it’s about this kind of LA lifestyle, this underbelly where there are definitely some bad elements – but the problems have to do with behaviors and drug addiction, not with anyone’s sexual preferences, and we try to show that these characters have dimensions – you see why someone might take advantage of someone else, or make bad choices, out of their own desperation, and hopefully you can feel for them. It’s more than just, “this is the good guy, this is the bad guy.” It’s deeper than that.

Say those words, and you’ll immediately feel the beat, the spirit, the heat of the legendary Donna Summer. Her songs smashed every record. Her story shattered every barrier. Now, the queen arrives direct from Broadway. After a twice extended, sold-out run at San Diego’s celebrated La Jolla Playhouse, SUMMER, The Donna Summer Musical, partied on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre and is now strutting its way across North America on a National Tour. She was a girl from Boston with a voice from heaven, who shot through the stars from gospel choir to dance floor diva. But what the world didn’t know was how Donna Summer risked it all to break through every barrier, becoming the icon of an era and the inspiration for every music diva who followed. From Janet Jackson to Beyoncé, they all began with Donna.

Three actresses play the role of musical icon Donna Summer at different points in her life as “Diva Donna,” “Disco Donna” and “Duckling Donna,” while an inexhaustible ensemble of almost entirely women tear up the stage. Featuring choreography from Tony Award winner Sergio Trujillo, who won a Chita Rivera Award for Outstanding Choreography in a Broadway Show for SUMMER, and directed by Des McAnuff, the Tony Award®-winning director of Jersey Boys and The Who’s Tommy, SUMMER takes us through her tumultuous life and tempestuous loves. Including a mega-watt dream list of musical hits—including “Bad Girls,” “MacArthur Park,” “She Works Hard for the Money,” and “Last Dance”... SUMMER makes Fall the hottest season of all.

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Photo: Francesco Scavullo


“Toot toot, hey, beep beep!”



Gay icons Megan Rapinoe, John Waters among new faces of Nike Ad campaign reintroduces classic looks


Photo Courtesy Nike

Two highly regarded gay celebrities, soccer star Megan Rapinoe and filmmaker and writer John Waters, have been chosen to represent Nike in its latest promotional campaign. Rapinoe and Waters are two of the three personalities who are featured in a marketing campaign for both Nordstrom department stores and Nike, the largest sportswear company in the world. Called “No Cover,” the campaign highlights a collection of five classic Nike shoes that are being reintroduced with new colors and prints, along with more than a dozen new clothing and accessory pieces. Launching Oct. 31, it’s the first collection designed for Nike by Nordstrom’s vice president of creative projects, Olivia Kim. To represent the collection, Nike and Nordstrom brought in Rapinoe, co-captain of the 2019 World Cup champion U.S. Women’s soccer team; Waters, the filmmaker behind “Pink Flamingos” and “Hairspray,” and 23-year-old supermodel Binx Walton. “The collection, in a sense, very much matches the personalities of these people who inspire me,” Kim says on Nike’s website. “It’s amazing to have Megan Rapinoe, John Waters and Binx Walton as faces of the campaign.” Kim said Rapinoe was chosen for the campaign because she “is talking about some really important things.” As for Waters, “I’ve always been inspired by John, because he’s always pushed the boundaries in his work,” she said. “He tells simple stories in a humorous, thoughtful and provocative way.” Walton, who is biracial and was raised largely in Tennessee, is one of today’s busiest models, known for her upbeat attitude as well as her looks. Her brothers gave her the nickname Binx after the Star Wars character, Jar Jar Binks. “Binx is beautiful, and a strong influence to young people,” Kim said. The collection will debut in Nordstrom stores in the U.S. and Canada that have Nike x Nordstrom boutiques, and on the Nordstrom.com/xnike website. Nordstrom x Nike shops are in New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Vancouver and Toronto. Sales will expand to other Nordstrom locations on Nov. 8. No Cover is one of the first Nike campaigns since the company’s 2018 promotion that featured Colin Kaepernick, the former pro football quarterback known for kneeling during the National Anthem to protest oppression and police brutality. Like Kaepernick, Rapinoe and Waters are known as people who don’t hesitate to speak up for a cause or concept they believe in. Rapinoe, a professional soccer player and activist who had worked with Nike previously, was on the U. S. women’s soccer team that won a Gold Medal at the 2012 Olympics in London and has been on two World Cup-winning women’s soccer teams, in 2015 and 2019. Born in Redding, Calif., Rapinoe is an advocate for

LGBTQ organizations such as Athlete Ally, a group that works to end homophobia and transphobia in sports. She drew attention in 2016 when she kneeled during the National Anthem at an international soccer match, later admitting that her action was a nod to Kaepernick. This year, she and other soccer players sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination, as part of an effort to get equal pay for women. Now 34, Rapinoe lives in the Seattle area with her partner, Seattle Storm basketball star Sue Bird. Last year they became the first same-sex couple to appear on the cover of ESPN’s Body Issue. This year, Rapinoe became the first openly gay woman to be featured in the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. In his books, movies and visual art, Waters 73, has always shown a spotlight on the “others” in society, those who don’t conform to “mainstream” standards. Born and still based in Baltimore, and known as the Pope of Trash and the Prince of Puke for early movies such as “Multiple Maniacs” and “Female Trouble,” he uses humor to win people over to his point of view. Besides “Hairspray,” Waters’s more recent movies include “Polyester,” “Cry-Baby” and “Serial Mom,” and his books include “Shock Value,” “Role Models,” “Carsick” and “Make Trouble.” A popular guest on late night talk shows, he recently released his ninth book, “Mr. Know It All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder,” and he just returned from a speaking tour in Australia. This campaign marks the first time he has represented Nike. In their own ways, Rapinoe and Waters each lend a sense of edginess and elan to promoting the No Cover collection, which Nike says is meant to evoke “90s New York street fashion” by drawing on the “rave and hip-hop styles” that defined New York at that time. The collection has four T-shirts: a Striped Tee, a Swoosh Tee, an Air Max 98 Tee and a Peace Sign Tee. Other clothing items include a sports bra, tennis dress, fleece hoodie, puffer coat, beanie and fanny pack. Colors include blue, orange, red and “glitter pink.” The main part of the collection consists of Kim’s redesigns of Nike’s Air Force 1, Air Mowabb, Air Footscape, Air Max 98 and Air Jordan IV. The sidelaced Footscape, first launched in 1996, gets a pink and zebra print. Air Jordan IV stays black but is reimagined with black pony hair. Air Force 1 comes in blue corduroy with a yellow snakeskin Swoosh. Air Max 98 features red, green and yellow accents. The rugged Air Mowabb hiking shoe gains touches of red and teal. The name of the collection refers to the cover charge at a New York night spot, Nike explains on its website. “In Kim’s eyes, this collection is meant for everyone – men and women, the young and the old – in order to promote no judgments and no rules,” Nike says.



Strong cast gives ‘Frankie’ luster ‘Harriet’ is flawed but compelling Tubman biopic By BRIAN T. CARNEY

Isabelle Huppert and Marisa Tomei in ‘Frankie.’ Photo by Guy Ferrandis; courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

Cynthia Errivo gives a stirring performance in ‘Harriet.’ Photo by Glen Wilson; courtesy Focus Features

Awards season just got a little more interesting with two of the excellent movies opening this week. Nominated for the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, “Frankie” is helmed by queer filmmaker Ira Sachs (“Love Is Strange” and “Little Men”) and features a sublime performance by Isabelle Huppert, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2017 for her stunning work in the thriller “Elle.” Huppert stars as Françoise Clemens, known as “Frankie” to her friends and family, a famous French actress who is dying of cancer. Since she does not expect to be alive by Christmas, she has gathered everyone together for a summer holiday at the historic beach resort of Sintra in Portugal. Her extended family includes her first husband Michel Gagne (Paul Greggory) who came out after their divorce. Their petulant bisexual son Paul (Jérémie Renier) is about to leave Paris to start a new job in Manhattan. Frankie lives in London with her second husband Jimmy (Brendan Gleeson). His daughter Sylvia (Vinette Robinson) is unhappily married to Ian (Ariyon Bakare); their daughter Maya (Sennia Nanua) feels torn between the two. The party is rounded out by Ilene (Marisa Tomei), who has worked with Frankie on several films and is her best friend. She’s dating Gary (Greg Kinnear), a cameraman who’s on a break from the latest “Star Wars” movie which is being shot in Spain. There’s also Tiago Mirante (Carloto Cotta) who travels to Sintra every year to serve as a tour guide, despite the jealousies of his suspicious wife. Working with co-screenwriter Mauricio Zacharias, Sachs weaves a series of casual encounters into a complex tapestry of emotions and relationships. Given the reason for the gathering, the overall mood is melancholic and somewhat Chekhovian (in the best possible way) as the characters discuss memories and regrets, dreams and plans and the timeless wonders of nature, love and art. The dialogue is always believable and naturalistic, even as certain phrases and objects begin to achieve rich symbolic values. There are also some delightful moments of comedy to lighten the proceedings. Anchored by a luminescent performance by Huppert, the ensemble cast is splendid. Huppert’s work is a marvel of restraint. With a deliciously dry wit and just a few moments of vanity and drama (she is a famous actress after all), Frankie is approaching death with a minimum of sentiment and self-pity. With her pale, translucent skin and an amazing economy of movement, Huppert offers a powerful portrait of a woman whose body is failing her and who is slowly withdrawing from the world, whether she wants to or not. Tomei is heart-breaking as Frankie’s best friend, a brave woman whose world suddenly turns upside down in the course of a day. Newcomer Nanua turns in a delicate and nuanced performance as Frankie’s granddaughter, easily holding the screen with more experienced actors. Gleeson and Greggory are also wonderful and the scene where they discuss Michel’s

coming out is a highlight of the film. Sachs’ color-saturated collaboration with cinematographer Rui Poças is stunning. They capture the many lovely vistas of Sintra with a vibrant flair and alternate between intimate close-ups and long shots with an startling depth of field to explore the intricacies of the compelling family drama. The long silent final sequence, the only time the entire principal cast is seen onscreen together, is a masterstroke by a major queer artist. “Frankie” includes dialogue in French and Portuguese, but the subtitles are easy to read. “Harriet” will undoubtedly be a significant contender at the major award shows this season. Directed by Kasi Lemmons (“Eve’s Bayou”) from a script by Lemmons and Gregory Allan Howard (“Ali”), the stirring cinematic epic is amazingly the full full-length feature to depict the life of the iconic African-American freedom fighter Harriet Tubman. The film opens on the Brodess farm in Dorchester County, Md., in 1849, a sharp reminder that that the state of Maryland was south of the infamous MasonDixon line. Minty (later known as Harriet Tubman) learns that she is about to be sold to new owners in the South. Alone, but guided by visions, she makes the grueling trip across the Pennsylvania border into freedom. In Philadelphia, entrepreneur Marie Buchanan (a powerful performance by Janelle Monáe) helps Harriet find a job, but Harriet decides to make the dangerous trip back to Maryland to free her husband. Working with William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.) of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, Harriet becomes a full-fledged conductor for the Underground Railroad, a member of the Union Army and a leader in the abolitionist movement. Overall, the script is a sharp combination of action thriller and inspirational history lesson. It’s especially effective at showing the destructive impact of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, scenes that have an unsettling resonance with current events, and in depicting Gideon Brodess (Joe Alwyn) and his mother Eliza (Jennifer Nettles). Lemmons and Allen carefully avoid the standard tropes of melodrama and sentimentality in depicting the slave owners. Instead, they are shown as desperate capitalists for whom Harriet and her family are primarily figures in a ledger. The acing is generally outstanding. Cynthia Erivo, who won the Tony Award for “The Color Purple” and was seen in “Widows” last year, is riveting as Harriet; her transformation from frightened runaway slave to fearless warrior is mesmerizing. While “Harriet” has some significant flaws (the movie loses momentum toward the end and despite Erivo’s expressive performance the film never really captures Tubman’s inner life), it is a must-see for LGBT activists and freedom fighters of all kinds. With lush cinematography by John Toll and a vibrant score by Terence Blanchard, this is an experience to be savored with friends in a movie theater.






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Super majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana A super-majority of Americans, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents support making marijuana use legal in the United States, according to nationwide polling data compiled by Gallup, first reported by Forbes. Sixty-six percent of respondents endorse legalization, a total that is consistent with other recent polls and that is nearly 30 percent higher than 2012 totals — when Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize adult marijuana use. A separate nationwide poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute similarly reported that two in three Americans support legalizing and regulating adults’ marijuana use. Commenting on the poll results, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said: “There is no buyer’s remorse on the part of the American people. In recent years, American’s support for legalization has only grown stronger. At the end of the day, every age demographic below 65, representing the overwhelming majority of the taxpaying public, would rather their dollars be spent to regulate cannabis, not incarcerate its consumers.”

Taxing retail cannabis influences buying behaviors: study CORVALLIS, Ore. — The imposition of taxes on adult-use retail sales of cannabis products is associated with temporary changes in purchasers’ behaviors, according to data published in the journal International Tax and Public Finance. Investigators affiliated with Oregon State University and George Mason University assessed cannabis purchasing trends in Oregon immediately prior to and following the imposition of new retail taxes. Researchers reported that the imposition of retail taxes was associated with a stockpiling of cannabis products just prior to policy’s enactment (e.g., customers purchased larger-thanusual quantities of untaxed medical cannabis products), as well as with an increase in cross-border substitution afterward. “[I]n response to the tax-induced price increase in Oregon, it appears that proximity to the Washington recreational market caused some consumers in Oregon and in Washington to substitute Washington marijuana for Oregon marijuana,” authors concluded. A 2018 study published in the journal Addiction concluded that most consumers are willing to pay higher prices overall for cannabis products available in the legal marketplace, but that excessive taxation on these products – specifically those that drive marijuana’s total price above $14 per gram – induces many buyers to return to the illicit market.

N.M. guv task force issues adult-use pot recommendations SANTA FE, N.M. — A 23-member task force has issued explicit policy recommendations to Democratic Gov. Michelle

Lujan Grisham regarding the legalization and regulation of cannabis. The report proposes a regulatory framework governing the retail production, sale, and taxation of cannabis. Recommendations by the task-force include: Prohibiting local municipalities from completely restricting cannabis sales; Automatically expunging criminal records; Limiting overall taxes on retail cannabis sales to no more than 20 percent; Allocating tax revenues to various programs and state agencies, including the state’s medical cannabis program; and Allowing those with past convictions to participate in the licensed cannabis industry. The report’s authors estimate that adult-use legalization will create an estimated 11,000 new jobs and yield some $620 million in sales within five years. The task force’s chairman stated: “Together, we believe the framework we are submitting is right for New Mexico. It is clear that we have both the necessary apprehension that goes with the venture, as well as the talent to make this happen the right way.” In a tweet, the governor said, “I look forward to working with the Legislature to get a bill to my desk next year.” State House lawmakers passed adult-use legalization legislation this past spring, but the bill stalled in the Senate. Lawmakers ultimately enacted separate legislation decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession offenses.

Medical cannabis laws associated with reduced opioid reliance MIAMI — The enactment of medical cannabis access legislation is associated with lower rates of self-reported opioid use, according to data published in the International Journal of Drug Policy. A team of researchers affiliated with Florida International University in Miami assessed the relationship between medical cannabis legalization and self-reported opioid use and misuse. Authors reported, “[S]urvey respondents living in states with medical cannabis legislation are much less apt to report using opioid analgesics than [are] people living in states without such laws,” even after controlling for potential confounding variables. They also determined that medicalization did not promote any increase in opioid misuse. Investigators concluded: “[T]he present study found that in MML (medical marijuana legalization) states some displacement is occurring away from opioids toward medicinal cannabis. ... [M]edicinal cannabis may be one avenue to combat the consequences of the opioid epidemic without amplifying, beyond perhaps recreational cannabis, further illicit drug use. The association between cannabis and opioid use, however, demands further empirical scrutiny to establish causal order amidst less restrictive environments toward cannabis.” The findings are similar to correlations identified in several prior observational studies but are inconsistent with the conclusions of a paper published earlier this year which failed to identify a long-term association between medical cannabis access and opioid-related mortality. Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, visit norml,org.

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