Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 49, December 6, 2019

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D E C E M B E R 0 6 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 4 9 • 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



Duncan Hunter pleads guilty to corruption charge End of a four-decade anti-LGBTQ legacy FROM STAFF REPORTS Anti-LGBTQ Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. acted as if he was contrite after formally pleading guilty Dec. 3 to one count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds for personal expenses, including extramarital affairs, totaling more than $200,000. “I made mistakes and that’s what today was all about,” Hunter told reporters after uttering “guilty” before US District Court Judge Thomas J. Whelan, in San Diego. Hunter was joined by his even more antiLGBTQ father, Rep. Duncan L. Hunter, who served for nearly three decades, before his son assumed his seat for nine years. Last June, Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty to conspiring with her husband, father of their three children, to “knowingly

Rep. Duncan Hunter screenshot from KUSI

and willingly” using campaign funds for personal use. She agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and both were indicted in August 2018.

Hunter subsequently blamed his wife for the misuse of funds, “She was also the campaign manager, so whatever she did that’ll be looked at too, I’m sure,” Hunter told Fox News in August 2018. The indictment forced him from his congressional committee assignments but he squeaked out re-election in 2018. The guilty plea, for which he could be sentenced up to five years, is expected to lead to a resignation from Congress soon. In a Dec. 2 interview with San Diego station KUSI, Hunter sounded as if he had been the victim of prosecutorial overreach and was seeking a pardon from President Trump, to whom he has been obsequiously loyal. In fact, the Hunter used the Trump playbook in August 2018 when he claimed the federal investigation was a “witch hunt” instigated by Hunter’s early support of Trump. He called news reports that led to the investigation “fake news.” Portions of the agreement were read in court, the San Diego Union reported,

revealing that “Hunter began using campaign funds improperly ‘no later than 2010,’ meaning barely a year after he arrived in Congress. The criminality continued to at least 2016, it adds.” Despite his indictment and loss of power, Hunter was running for re-election to what would be his seventh term. His ratings, however, recently dropped to fourth behind his rivals for that 50th Congressional District seat, including prominent Republicans – gay former San Diego Councilmember and radio talk show host Carl DeMaio, former Rep. Darrell Issa, and State Sen. Brian Jones. The Democratic contender, businessman and former Obama administration staffer, Ammar Campa-Najjar, came very close to defeating Hunter in 2018. DeMaio started fundraising right away. “This bombshell news comes a mere 90 days before the election (March 3) and just 60 days before voting begins - so we MUST ACT NOW to save the 50th Congressional District,” DeMaio emailed supporters.

Impulse Group celebrates 10th anniversary Choosing fun and a healthy lifestyle By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Globally, more than 38.9 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, according to UNAIDS and the World Health Organization. Additionally, an estimated 2.3 million people become infected annually and approximately one million die of AIDS-related illnesses each year. And while millions now have access to lifesaving antiretroviral drug therapy, millions more do not have access or may not even know help is available. Jose Ramos’ HIV awareness was more personal. “The reason I started doing this work,” Ramos told the Los Angeles Blade in September 2017, “is that my best friend got diagnosed with AIDS. The doctor told us we had a week left.” Ramos’ friend survived with treatment but Ramos was deeply shaken. “I had never seen AIDS.” But a lot of his friends “were

Impulse Group 2019 international summit Photo courtesy AHF

becoming HIV positive,” Ramos said, which he attributed to “how the information [to remain negative] was presented.” Ramos took action and in 2009, he founded Impulse Group, a nonprofit with the intention of helping gay men make healthier lifestyle choices. The message is simple: “Don’t stigmatize HIV. Know your status. Look into getting on PrEP. Incorporate condom usage.” Even the name sends a message. “When

you’re being intimate there’s an urge, an impulse, to either be protected, or not,” Ramos told the Los Angeles Blade. “We wanted to ensure…when we have that urge, people in the community have information they need to make the best choice for them.” Recently the group has also sought to “bringing awareness to drug use, especially meth” since right now “in a lot of our cities, meth is killing a lot more people than HIV.”

On Dec. 1, Impulse Group, which is now under the umbrella of AIDS Healthcare Foundation where Ramos works, celebrated its 10th anniversary at the historic Wilshire Ebell Theatre with a concert hosted by Emmy winner Billy Porter and performances by Faith Evans, Daya, and Miss Shalae. “Achieving 10 years of Impulse Group was never a thought in my head,” Ramos told the Los Angeles Blade after the event. “To create a volunteer-based social group whose main focus is to engage, support and connect gay men globally has been extremely gratifying. Throughout the years, I’ve learned that gay men care about their community much more than I originally thought. They want to help but, until Impulse came along, many of them did not know how. Impulse Group has offered thousands of gay men a platform to connect with, care for and support each other. It has strengthened our sense of community and given us a sense of brotherhood. By evoking that genuine passion for our community and the need of unity, Impulse Group has thrived all around the world. “

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The arc of Michael Weinstein’s moral outrage AHF president compares homelessness to 1980s AIDS crisis By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com California is caught in a conundrum. While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff are steadily guiding America through the divisive impeachment process, President Donald J. Trump seems more and more determined to punish the big blue state for its resistance to his draconian pronouncements. On Nov. 3, for instance, Trump threatened to withhold federal funds for the devastating wildfires, tweeting that Gov. Gavin Newsom “has done a terrible job of forest management.” “No more,” if Newsom asks for funding, Trump tweeted. But there is an odd, unrecognized disconnect between concern for the burned-out fire victims and the larger issue of homelessness in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego – 981 human beings died on the streets of LA County in 2018. And the expectation of more turmoil looms large with Trump’s anticipated intervention into California affairs after the Nov. 15 firing of Matthew Doherty, the gay executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. According to the Los Angeles Times, Doherty is likely to be replaced by Robert Marbut, a Texas-based consultant who “has long encouraged elected officials to stop coddling people on the streets.” For instance, The Times reports, in 2012, Marbut “pushed the Florida city of Clearwater to stop ‘renegade food’ donations from churches and other charitable organizations. At the time, he characterized Clearwater as the second-most enabling city in America.” Marbut’s philosophy, which broadly includes expanding police authority to crack down on the homeless for minor offenses, “is in line” with the Trump administration, The Times reports. And what is that philosophy? “We have people living in our … best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings ... where people in those buildings pay

AHF President Michael Weinstein and his husband Kevin Tran Nguyen with Diana Ross at AHF’s free World AIDS Day concert in Dallas Photo courtesy AHF

tremendous taxes, where they went to those locations because of the prestige,” Trump said during a September LA site visit by administration officials. “And all of a sudden they have tents.” Trump’s options are legally limited. But when has that stopped him? If officials order sweeps of streets and homeless encampments, where would they go? Or might they be rounded up and placed into unspecified federal facilities? But Newsom may now have a muchneeded resource. On Dec. 4, he hired fired federal homeless expert Matthew Doherty to be his senior adviser, perhaps even figuring out how to pry loose millions of dollars in stalled funding for the state with half the nation’s unsheltered homeless population. Doherty has a daunting job. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority estimates approximately 50,000 to 60,000 people were homeless in LA on any given night in 2019, more than 44,000 on the streets. About 34% are Black, hugely

disproportionate to their 8% of the population; 31% are females; and minors through age 24 make up 8,915 of the county’s homeless population, up from 8,072 in 2018. The jump comes “despite over $619 million in spending on the [homeless] problem in the region over the past year,” AIDS Healthcare Foundation co-founder and President Michael Weinstein said in a June 2 statement. The LAHSA did not post LGBTQ-specific statistics but last June, when out City Controller Ron Galperin introduced an online map to help link homeless and atrisk LGBTQ youth to services, he noted that up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. “The homelessness crisis gripping our region spans the spectrum of age, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation and expression, but is particularly difficult for LGBTQ youth,” Galperin said. Within this context, a majority of voters recognize homelessness as a crisis —

exacerbated by a paucity of affordable housing, escalating rents, retaliatory evictions and gentrification. But, The Times notes, “there is some appetite among L.A. County residents to have law enforcement be more involved.” To Weinstein, the humanitarian calamity on the streets and the criminalization of homelessness is a moral outrage. “AIDS Healthcare Foundation was born of moral outrage over the mistreatment of people with AIDS. We began as a hospice provider when people were dying in the hallways of the county hospital,” Weinstein says. “Today’s housing crisis is a similar crisis of indifference to suffering. Our patients and employees are feeling the devastating impact of skyrocketing rents. AHF has jumped into the breach with advocacy and by directly creating affordable housing units.” In 2017, AHF created the Healthy Housing Foundation by AHF, which bought and renovated SROs in Hollywood and Downtown LA. AHF has also sued to prevent destruction of available housing units by developers proposing luxury housing with some affordable units set aside. Weinstein, whose first apartment at 19 was in West Lake for $100 a month, believes the supposed “trickle down” of luxury complexes actually makes surrounding housing units too expensive for someone living on minimum wage. Watching this, Weinstein turned to his board of directors and his management team and asked: “What can we do to not just say how bad it is, but create a solution?” “And so we went out in the marketplace and we bought our first single room occupancy hotel that was two thirds vacant and we rehabilitated it to put people in there,” Weinstein told the Los Angeles Blade. “And now we have seven of them and we have almost 800 rooms. The average cost is $100,000, including the renovation — whereas the city is spending $500,000. And the first units from Proposition HHH, which was the city initiative around building affordable housing, have yet to come online, not one single unit. “It’s an urgency to meet human need,” he continues. “So not only are we criticizing and advocating, we’re also providing a solution.

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AHF: ‘fight like hell for the people you love’ Continued from page 4 And I’ve committed to 10,000 rooms over the next five years,” including building from scratch. “We’ve amassed three lots and we will eventually build a project that hopefully will be 800 units there. So we’re very, very serious about creating solutions.” Weinstein remembers the 1986 fight with his best friend Chris Brownlie against Lyndon LaRouche’s Prop 64 initiative to quarantine people with HIV/AIDS. After the measure failed, they asked what they should do next. Seeing poor gay men evicted from their apartments, dying homeless and loveless on the streets or in the halls of County General Hospital or the overcrowded 5P21, they founded the AIDS Hospice Foundation to give them death with a modicum of dignity. Nov. 29 was the 30th anniversary of Chris Brownlie’s death in the AIDS hospice that bore his name. “Not only is homelessness and housing affordability akin to the moral outrage of AIDS in the ‘80s, but AIDS seemed like an insoluble problem, right? It just seemed like an overwhelming thing that you couldn’t get your arms around. And AHF and others who worked on this issue made it a solvable problem. Same thing can and should happen with housing affordability.” On Nov. 30, AHF announced it would appeal a dismissed lawsuit filed last August in Superior Court against the City of Los Angeles, the City Council and four Hollywood developers. The lawsuit sought to enforce the federal Fair Housing Act and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act regarding developments that AHF asserts were “approved without providing adequate measures to ensure that the projects would not displace protected minorities.” In addition to the gentrification of minority neighborhoods, AHF is tackling the issue of escalating rents. On Dec. 5, AHF announced it has secured nearly one million signatures — far more than the required 623,212 voter signatures needed — to qualify the Rental Affordability Act for placement on statewide ballots for November 2020. The RAA is sponsored by Housing Is A Human Right, AHF’s housing advocacy division. It is endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Rep. Maxine Waters, and civil rights icon

AHF relief to hurricane-stricken Bahamas Photo courtesy AHF

Dolores Huerta, among others. If passed, the initiative would remove restrictions in state law to give cities and counties the ability to devise rent control policies that limit how much rents can increase each year. “Seventy-five percent of Californians hold a positive to very positive view of rent control,” Weinstein said at a Dec. 5 news conference. “The housing affordability and homelessness crises are the most pressing social justice and public health emergencies in our time, especially in Southern California. We must take action to stop it now. To that end, we intend to bring the issue directly to California voters next November.” Last year, a similar measure, Prop 10, was defeated. The effort cost $96.66 million – with Coalition for Affordable Housing raising $25.30 million (AHF contributed $22.52 million) and the No on Prop 10 real estate PACs raising $71.37 million. Big PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association) also chipped in $500,000 to the No on 10 campaign. When the medical news organization STAT asked why, a PhRMA spokesperson claimed

they had over 900,000 people living and working in California (thus 2.3% of the state population) and they were concerned that the measure “…could make housing harder to find,” according to a Sept. 20, 2018 report on Business Wire. Weinstein has a long history of tangling with Big PhRMA, from the late 1980s when AIDS Hospice Foundation and ACT UP protested drug companies profiteering from outrageous drug pricing, to his lawsuits challenging Gilead Sciences drug patents making “untold billions off of tenofovir in its various treatment combinations since its introduction in 2001.” AHF’s lawsuits have paved the way for hundreds of other lawsuits, including a recent patent infringement case by the federal government involving Truvada. “A rift between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences ruptured further Wednesday when the Trump administration sued Gilead in U.S. District Court, asserting that Gilead made billions of dollars on HIV prevention therapy while repeatedly ignoring government patents,” the Washington Post reported Nov. 7.

Weinstein is also a favorite target of critics who tend to repeat the same debunked claims, even into the pages of the New York Times. “To his many critics in AIDS activism, Weinstein is the Koch brothers of public health,” Christopher Glazek wrote in a New York Times feature story, citing a slew of old allegations, including “giving kickbacks to patients, overbilling government insurers.” “AHF has always been and remains clean as a whistle and at the same time, because our advocacy and our outspoken voice, we are a huge target,” Weinstein said. “Plus, oppression sickness that’s still very alive and kicking in the LGBT community does not allow anyone to rise to a level of leadership without being subjected to this kind of malicious attack.” Weinstein encourages simple fact checking. For instance, in the so-called “Whistleblower Kickback case” in Florida, the original judge validated the AHF clinic’s business model of giving bonuses to employees to get people tested and using incentives and gift cards for clients who returned for a second appointment, now


Herbert Butler at home in Skid Row Photo courtesy AHF

a more common practice in public health. After the initial lawsuit by former employees failed, they went to both the U.S. Department of Justice and the state government alleging Medicare fraud – but both declined to pursue the case. “They lost, they appealed, they lost again. And not only did the court rule in our favor, but the [Florida] government intervened to say that what we were doing is not only OK, but what they wanted us to do, which is to put everything under the same roof,” Weinstein said. Not only did AHF win the case, “but they’re having to pay us back the legal costs.” Regarding the criticism around LA funding, Weinstein said, “there’s been a lot of prejudice against us because of the advocacy, which we have fought and won in 90+ percent of the cases.” In one instance, LA County strenuously asserted that AHF overbilled for the services for which they were contracted. “They spent $3 million fighting us on that and then they wound up settling without any claim that we had done anything wrong,” Weinstein said. Weinstein has been excoriated for calling PrEP a “party drug,” which was translated

into his opposition to the drug. In fact, AHF dispenses PrEP after a medical checkup to ensure the client should take it and is advised about side-effects and accompanying condom use. “It’s a mischaracterization to say that we were opposed to PrEP,” Weinstein told the Los Angeles Blade. “We said that we did not believe it would be a successful public health strategy. And the jury is in on that, right? The people who are taking it are not the people who need it most. They’re older, white, middle-class men. The infection rate has not gone down. The STD rates have gone up, the condom culture has been damaged. We went from a variety of different prevention approaches to basically all PrEP and that has not been successful.” Weinstein said the reason PrEP has not caught on, “despite the tens of billions of dollars that’s been invested in it, is because it’s very difficult to get people to take a drug for a disease they don’t have. It’s hard enough to get people to take a drug for disease they do have. “One size does not fit all,” he continued. “That’s what we said from the very beginning -- that PrEP would help individuals who

were certain not to use condoms but that it would not be effective as an overall public health strategy. It’s been seven and a half years since the approval and we have not seen any significant change in the situation,” especially in reaching people of color. Weinstein pointed out that most of the stories critical of him and AHF “give such short shrift to our humanitarian efforts,” often in “very extremely dangerous and difficult circumstances across the world — not to mention our work on Ebola and our disaster relief where we air-lifted into the Bahamas and into Puerto Rico and Haiti before the U.S. government could get there.” Since 1987, AHF has developed funding streams through a network of pharmacies, thrift stores, healthcare contracts and strategic partnerships. Today, AHF’s budget is $1.6 billion – with 96% of the funding going to patient care; with 6,500 employees caring for 1,332,868 patients in 43 countries, including 664 free global treatment clinics. AHF also operates in 38 of the 48 US counties the Trump administration wants targeted for HIV prevention, care and treatment. “You can talk all day long about whatever your political issues are with AHF. But the

LOCAL bottom line is that 1.3 million people are entrusting us with their care,” Weinstein said. “We started out as a tiny grassroots organization. Our budget in the first year was $50,000, approximately. We were a fraction of the size of APLA. And now we’re a hundred times their size,” Weinstein said. “It’s a tremendous amount of hard work, dedication, and most of all really having our finger on the pulse of what the needs were. And now we’re taking on homelessness and affordability and housing and we’re taking on trying to build a sustainable public health structure in the world. None of the snark, none of the attacks, and none of these so-called legal arguments have slowed us down one iota.” In fact, AHF’s Healthy Housing Foundation is buoyed by the help they’ve been able to give people such as Herbert Butler, an 88-year-old homeless veteran of the Korean War who has been on the Hollywood streets for 20 years. “Butler, an avid amateur pianist, long resisted going to shelters (for myriad reasons known best to him), preferring his life on the street,” AHF’s Ged Kenslea told the Los Angeles Blade. “However, one ritual remains sacred to him: several times a week he travels from Hollywood to Union Station to wait his turn for the chance to play — and entertain harried commuters — for 20 minutes or so on the community piano in the station’s waiting room.” Nicole Farley, from Jewish Family Services, worked to earn Butler’s trust and bonded with him over his deep admiration for her grandfather, the famous alto sax jazz musician Captain John Handy. In October, Farley connected Butler to AHF’s Healthy Housing Foundation and they secured him a spot in the Baltimore Hotel, a 1910 SRO hotel on Skid Row in downtown LA that AHF has repurposed for homeless and extremely low-income housing. “Inspired by Mr. Butler’s story, his service to our country and his passion for music,” Kenslea said, “AHF recently obtained a secondhand mini baby grand piano and placed it in the lobby of AHF’s King Edward Hotel, directly across the street from the Baltimore. Now, Mr. Butler, and other musically inclined residents of AHF’s residences, can play to their hearts’ content.” “The bottom line is love,” Weinstein tells the Los Angeles Blade. “The bottom line is love of humanity. The bottom line is love of sisters and brothers. And you know, sometimes you really need to fight like hell for the people and the things you love.”


LGBTQ ally Gabrielle Union has garnered substantial publicity standing up for herself in dealing with NBC Universal after being fired as a guest judge on “America’s Got Talent” for complaining about backstage sexism and racism. One constant criticism was that her different hairstyles were “too black” for the audience of “AGT,” according to Variety, which also reported that Union was the most popular “AGT” judge on social media. But Thanksgiving brought another round of criticism – and support – after she posted a family photo on her Instagram page showing her husband Dwyane Wade, a retired basketball star with the Miami Heat, their daughter Kaavia and Wade’s 12-year old son Zion showing off fancy long fingernails. Last year, Union posed with Zion at the Miami Pride parade and last October, Wade posted a photo of Union, Kaavia, and Zion identified as “My girls.” When trolls attacked the Thanksgiving photo, Wade responded on Twitter. “I’ve seen some post-thanksgiving hate on social about my family photo. Stupidity is a part of this world we live in—so i get it. But here’s the thing—I’ve been chosen to lead my family not y’all. So we will continue to be us and support each other with pride, love & a smile!” he wrote. Wade received an outpouring of support and praise. Miyoncé @Miata_Shanay wrote: “Idk if @DwyaneWade & @itsgabrielleu know how POWERFUL & MOVING it is that they’re embracing their son’s individuality. (Damnit I’m crying) In our community, being given autonomy over your body, beliefs, image, & statements as a child isn’t a thing. That child is free & happy.” To which Wade replied: “As a parent my only goal is that my kids feel that I see them, love them and support them.” - Karen Ocamb

“What got me involved with her was her care for the LGBTQ community. And it’s been a struggle with that, with people close to me.”

- Gay Waterloo, Iowa resident Raelyn told ABC after asking Sen. Elizabeth Warren a question about acceptance that caused the presidential candidate to choke up.

“Shelley’s greatest pride as an actress was in playing the indomitable Rosario, in a comedy series that furthered the cause of social equity and fairness for LGBTQ people.” - Walter Dominguez, husband of “Will & Grace” actress Shelley Morrison, a longtime LGBTQ/AIDS ally upon her death on Dec. 1 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from heart failure at age 83.

“Honestly, his demeaning fake orgasm was really the straw that broke the camel’s back.” - Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page on breaking her silence after President Donald Trump faked an orgasm at a Minneapolis rally in October, regarding text exchanges with Page’s boyfriend disparaging Trump, which the president calls “treason.”



Trump unveils free PReP program But admin also seeks religious exemptions for providers By CHRIS JOHNSON In the same week World AIDS Day was recognized, the Trump administration has unveiled a new program to provide free PrEP as part of the initiative to beat the epidemic by 2030. Secretary of Health & Human Services Alex Azar announced the plan, known as “Ready, Set, PrEP,” in a conference call Tuesday with reporters, calling the initiative “a major step forward in the president’s plan to end the HIV epidemic in America.” “We believe the president’s HIV initiative is and will come to be seen as one of the major health initiatives of the early 21st century,” Azar said. “The president’s HIV initiative is a huge opportunity to make an impact on Americans’ health and well-being. We have the tools to stop the spread of HIV in its tracks. Now it’s about execution.” Among the details Azar enumerated was the number to call to enlist in “Ready, Set, PrEP,” 855-447-8410, and the website, GetYourPrEP.com. To receive the free PrEP, Azar said an individual must have no prescription drug coverage, test negative for HIV and have a valid on-label prescription for PrEP. Azar said HHS will cover the cost for the free PrEP through March 30 2020, but then private pharmaceutical retailers — CVS Health, Walgreens and RiteAid — will donate their pharmacy dispensing services to HHS and distribute the medication at its stores and via mail with no cost delivery. “Although many programs already exist to expand PrEP access and affordability, our program is of a totally different scale,” Azar said. “It is a national comprehensive approach to free PrEP access to the uninsured, which differs from programs that focus on particular areas or on co-pays in particular.” Asked about the cost, Azar said HHS is using a system through the pharmaceutical giant Gilead that costs the U.S. government about $200 per bottle and goes to the company, but avoids other costs such as retail and distribution. The new free PrEP program, Azar said, is

President Donald Trump has made free PrEP available in his plan to beat HIV by 2030. Photo by palinchak / Courtesy Bigstock

the implementation of the announcement earlier this year that Gilead would donate the medication to the U.S. government, which President Trump touted on his Twitter account. At the same time, HHS and Gilead are in the middle of litigation over a patent dispute over PrEP, but Azar said is unrelated to the free PrEP initiative. “Ready, Set, PrEP” is part of the Trump administration’s plan to reduce the rate of new HIV infections by 90 percent by the year 2030. As part of that initiative, which Trump touted in his State of the Union address, the White House requested an additional $300 million in HIV funding for domestic programs, but at the same time made drastic cuts to global programs. Azar said 57 target jurisdictions by the year’s end will have received HHS grants to design their implementation strategies, and four jurisdictions have already received funding to begin hiring and implementation: Atlanta, East Baton Rouge, Baltimore and the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. However, Congress has yet to pass an appropriations bill to fund the U.S. government for fiscal year 2020, let alone this HIV/AIDS initiative in particular.

Azar said he hopes lawmakers will include that money as part of a continuing resolution or the upcoming budget for the Department of Health & Human Services, but failing that will seek funds from reprogramming through the White House Office of Management & Budget. The free PrEP initiative came the same day the Centers for Disease Control unveiled a new report finding only 18 percent of the estimated 1.2 million people at risk for contracting HIV, or about 219,700 people, are on the medication. Coverage, the CDC reports, is especially low among young people, black people and Latinos. “The time is now to end HIV in America. We have the right tools, the right data and the right leadership to get this done,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement. “Those living with HIV are our best teachers. They are key to helping us reach people where they are so that we can better diagnose and link patients to care.” The free PrEP initiative comes the same week as World AIDS Day. Unlike President Trump, who declined to mention LGBTQ people in his World AIDS Day proclamation, Azar enumerated in his statement “gay men

and black Americans, Hispanic Americans, and American Indians and Alaska Natives” as among the groups predominately affected by the disease (although he still made no mention of transgender people). Azar unveils the free PrEP initiative as the Trump administration continues to make policies allowing health care practitioners to refuse treatment to patients based on religious objections, which critics say could allow for denial of care for people at risk of HIV. Asked by the Blade during the conference call whether it was disingenuous to promote both an HIV program and a religious freedom initiative allowing health practitioners to opt out of it, Azar dodged and instead was critical of the Obama administration. “President Trump has grabbed on to this initiative and let this initiative to end the HIV epidemic America because we have the right tools, the right data and the right leadership,” Azar said. “The previous administration had the same tools, and the same data to be able to take this on, but what President Trump and this whole team are providing is the right leadership to say, ‘This is a commitment we’re making to end the HIV epidemic in the United States.”



Utah to become 19th state to ban conversion therapy

Sen. Kamala Harris, a former frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, dropped out on Tuesday. Photo by DFree / Courtesy Bigstock

Kamala Harris drops 2020 bid Sen. Kamala Harris, once on the trajectory to become a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has dropped her bid to run for the White House in 2020. The California Democrat made it official Tuesday with an email to supporters saying her campaign lacks the financial resources to continue. “In good faith, I can’t tell you, my supporters and volunteers, that I have a path forward if I don’t believe I do,” Harris writes. “So, to you my supporters, it is with deep regret — but also with deep gratitude — that I am suspending my campaign today.” Harris informed her staff on Tuesday morning she would discontinue her presidential campaign and made an official announcement later in the day. In an interview with the Los Angeles Blade, Harris — who was born five years before the 1969 Stonewall riots — said she never needed an epiphany to discover LGBT people were OK. “I grew up in a community and a culture where everyone was accepted for who they were, so there wasn’t a moment where it was like, ‘OK, now let’s let this person in.’ Everyone was a part of everything. It was about community,” Harris said. “It was about coalition building. It was about equality, inclusion. I mean, I had an uncle who was gay.” Equality California released this statement from Executive Director Rick Zbur: “Kamala Harris has dedicated her life to fighting for the people. From the battle for marriage equality to the struggle for safety and justice for our transgender friends and family, Kamala has always been on the front lines our movement, standing shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ community. She’s had our back when we needed it most, and we’ll always have hers.” CHRIS JOHNSON

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced last week that his state would implement regulations prohibiting mental health experts from engaging in “ex-gay” conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth, making Utah the 19th state to prohibit the widely discredited practice. The announcement from a Herbert, a Republican, comes after a tumultuous debate over conversion therapy in the heavily Mormon state, where family rejection of LGBTQ youth is known to contribute to Utah’s homeless population. “I have learned much through this process,” Herbert said. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has announced an agreement with the Mormon “The stories of youth who Church to ban conversion therapy. have endured these so-called therapies are heart rendering, and I’m grateful that we have found a way that will ban conversion therapy forever in our state. I’m grateful to the many stakeholders who came to the table in good faith, with never-ending patience.” After legislation seeking to prohibit conversion therapy failed in the state legislature, Herbert in June announced the Utah Division of Occupational & Professional Licensing would seek to establish rules to regulate conversion therapy. At the time, the results of that undertaking weren’t known. Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, praised Herbert in a statement for ending that process with regulations to prohibit conversion therapy. “Utah is once again leading the way in protecting LGBTQ youth and their families,” Minter said. “We salute Governor Herbert for taking action on this important issue and for this historic accomplishment.” Therapy aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or transgender status is considered ineffectual at best and harmful at worst. Major medical and psychological institutions — including the American Psychological Association, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics — widely reject the practice. Although the Mormon Church last month issued a statement urging Utah not to ban conversion therapy, the Church of Latter-day Saints signaled in a statement it supports the agreement. “We are opposed to conversion therapy and our therapists do not practice it,” said LDS spokesperson Marty Stephens. “However, we are grateful for the clarifications the new rule provides, and we support its adoption.” According to Herbert’s office, the Division of Occupational & Professional Licensing is working to file the rule, which will be published on Dec. 15. A 30-day public comment period will follow that will end on Jan. 14, 2020. The new rule could be effective as soon as Jan. 22, 2020. The regulation is expected to have the same language as H.B. 399, legislation introduced by Rep. Craig Hall that failed in the state legislature, and will apply to all licensed therapists in Utah. (However, that won’t apply to practitioners of conversion therapy who aren’t therapists, such as clergy, and for LGBTQ adults seeking to participate in the practice with a licensed therapist.) “I am grateful we have developed language that both prohibits conversion therapy and also protects the legitimate interests of health care professionals, patients and families,” Hall said in statement. Conversion therapy for youth is banned in D.C. and 18 states: Connecticut, California, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington State, Maryland, Hawaii and New Hampshire. (Former Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed an executive order against conversion therapy after the legislature failed to pass legislation against it.) Mathew Shurka, a conversion therapy survivor and “Born Perfect” strategist for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, commended the Utah agreement in a statement. “It is vital that our leaders support LGBTQ youth,” Shurka said. “We are grateful to Gov. Herbert for his leadership and for making sure all youth know they are born perfect. It is lifesaving.” CHRIS JOHNSON




Sunday, December 8, 4:00-6:30 pm Congregation Kol Ami 1200 N. La Brea Avenue West Hollywood, CA 90038 Come mingle, nosh, drink, play & laugh with our inclusive community & friends! FEATURING COMEDIAN

LIZ GLAZER For entry tickets visit kol-ami.org/goldengelt or call (323) 606-0996

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$250 sponsorship, includes v 2 entry tickets, plus v $100 contribution to selected Chanukah values candle



Living bravely with HIV Sharing in the nonprofit industrial complex

Gabriel Maldonado, MBA, is founder and CEO at TruEvolution. (Photo courtesy Maldonado)

For those of us living with HIV, World AIDS Day brings up a complicated set of emotions. And for those of us who call this a part of our profession, it’s a day that tugs on both our hope and our rage. I first stepped foot into organizing and advocacy in an attempt to understand my own identity and struggle. I had hoped that along the way, I might be able to help liberate others too. It is a conflicting experience to do so, however, in a profession that requires you to confront and engage with your traumas so casually and frequently. Let me be clear: HIV is not only a public health issue, it’s a social justice one. Confronting HIV for me is to address the oppressive and traumatizing realities of racism, poverty, stigma and homophobia. When you confront, articulate, and mobilize against these issues, it represents an act of violence against the advocate. We do so all the while trying to discover who we are and how we will become something meaningful in this world. It was a remarkable moment the first time I spoke openly as an Afro-Latino gay man living with HIV. I discovered that I could captivate a room in a way my identity never had as a young biracial boy from Compton. I discovered that there is transformational healing in hearing another’s story and sharing your own. But sharing one’s story is not only empowering — it’s also sacrificial. It requires the speaker to give a piece of their personal history, their sacred moments, their trust.

It’s a scabbed wound that requires an advocate to pick at it daily so that others may see how we healed it. If our story is not shared gently and with intention, it can cause violence unknowingly against the person sharing. You must hold yourself tightly in those moments. Every day, community-based organizations, particularly those led by Black and Latinx leadership, witness the toxic effects of the nonprofit industrial complex. It is not only a skill but an art to balance and maneuver the interests of so many stakeholders — community members, funders, boards, government, and, of course, staff. In truth, the very narrow margins left for innovation often leave the clients we serve with the short end of the stick – a diluted version of what had been imagined when programs and policies were first conceived. And the titan-like warring between grant deliverables and scopes of work too often suffocate the risk-taking and nimbleness needed to remedy the historical inequities in community. As I am growing my own organization, TruEvolution, I am soberly realizing that like all things, advocacy and activism are touched by the corrosive effects of corporatization and politicization. The HIV movement today struggles with redefining itself amidst a complicated season of social media, consumerism, polarization, rigid ideologies, and the precarious state of politics in America. As a chief executive, my responsibility is to ensure the organization’s survival and impact. At times, these two mandates become in conflict with one another. The precarious state of politics in America manifests itself into the “HIV industrial complex” which has been layered in a system of power structures with government, industry, nonprofits, and political interests. Each of these factors strive to make an impact in the community while simultaneously advancing the interests of their own institutions. Grassroots organizations are left to persuade our constituents to remain engaged in a system that at best, gives them an opportunity to succeed and at worse,

tells them to try again. This is a paradox that has resulted in a disparity of funded and under-resourced institutions, spawning an adversarial culture, and encourages competition where there should be solidarity amongst organizations. The HIV industrial complex often finds itself hypocritically espousing ideas of sexual freedom and celebration for difference while expecting conformity and “respectability” within its ranks. I have watched young folks of color exit the field simply in search of recovery from the demands of advocacy. This is not about victimhood. We must remember that the decision to work in the HIV field is a calling and deliberateness. The sharing of this narrative is meant to sensitize an unaware reader to the bravery of the enduring advocate. It is imperative to demystify the romanticism of social justice and empower the advocate with truth and perspective. This is critical to inspiring and nurturing the next generation who seek a seat at the table. We must approach our resistance to injustice with our ideals and principles but also with strategy and tactics. Understanding the sometimes messy realities of our work equips us with the tools to make decisive decisions for ourselves and our people. Why do we still do this work? Why do we choose to press forward amidst all the reasons to exit or to never have engaged at all? Each of us has own personal testimony that keeps us grounded and passionate in this work. However idealistic, I continue to serve because I still believe in us. I believe that in spite of the many shortcomings of institutions, there is a league of incredible activists within the system who are pushing forward a progressive agenda from within. I believe we serve bravely in the hope that each day we move closer to preventing new cases of HIV and eliminating the stigma endured by those living with HIV in America and around the world. I believe what fuels change is bravely sharing our personal stories to build and create community.

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Even a flawed Democrat is better than Trump Voters must put aside differences and support eventual nominee

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

I have lost count of how many candidates are still in the Democratic primary with some dropping out and others dropping in. They are all different but all have one thing in common: each is far better and more qualified to be president than Donald J. Trump. No candidate is perfect but then neither is any voter. We are only two months from the Iowa caucuses when voters will finally get their chance to chime in about what they think.

Until now it has been a game of polling and the media seeming to decide whom they think is best. I have been a little disappointed in some of the mainstream media reporting on this race. It seems they are lemmings; if we see a story in one outlet we are sure to see the same story in all of them and usually without any original reporting. Yes they report on the ups and downs of the polls, and they try to tell us why that person is in the lead. It seems political reporting in the print media has often become more like opinion pieces than real journalism and that’s sad. Now I am an opinion writer, a columnist. I try to adhere to what I see as the truth but what I write is clearly my opinion. That is not what reporters should be doing. We see headlines claiming one or the other candidate is failing and people are no longer interested in them and we read the column and that reporter has gone to one event and spoken to three people. We read columns from a reporter who has gone to an event in Iowa for a candidate where 100 people attended and they end up quoting two people they talked to who didn’t even go. I may just be nostalgic but in the past that wasn’t the case. The press recently seemed to dismiss

Sen. Kamala Harris’s campaign citing an employee who wrote a letter saying they were terrible to staff. I remember the original attacks on Sen. Amy Klobuchar about dealing with her staff long since forgotten. They are now writing about how smart Mayor Pete Buttigieg is but forgetting to mention Sen. Cory Booker has the same credentials. Some had close to written Joe Biden off because of his flubs and suggested Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the odds on favorite only to see that dynamic turn around again. Many wrote off Sen. Bernie Sanders after his heart attack and yet he just doesn’t seem to fade away. The dynamic keeps changing and now three candidates who initially said they weren’t going to run — Tom Steyer, Deval Patrick and Michael Bloomberg — have entered the race. Bloomberg announced he is willing to spend $1 billion. Someone suggested he spent about $100 million to buy his third term as mayor of New York and figured at that rate to buy the presidency he would have to spend at least $12 billion. Some thought that was a joke but who knows? So we will know soon who Democrats will vote for when they actually attend a caucus or go to the ballot box. Let’s hope political reporters will be more open to the broad spectrum of candidates and not try to shut

things down as they have seemed to try to do. It will also be important for Democrats to stop charging someone who disagrees with their candidate’s positions of using ‘Republican talking points.’ The Democratic Party has worked for many years to make sure the party is a big tent, welcoming to everyone, which results in strong opinions and often strong disagreements. It also means there is great agreement on a host of issues. As we continue to fight out the primary let us try to focus a little more on the agreements. It will be hard enough without the rancor for all the candidates and their passionate supporters to figure out how to unite after all the strum and drang of the long primary season. Democrats will first have to agree, which shouldn’t be hard, that all of their candidates are better by far than Trump. They are all decent human beings and the world will be better off with them than with Trump and his acolytes. The country will be better off with judges nominated by a Democratic president and confirmed by a Democratic Senate. To ensure that happens Democrats will have to put their hearts and souls into supporting whoever is the nominee.

Kinda-sorta Christmas movies Seen the staples a zillion times? Here are a few with holiday settings off the beaten path By JOEY DiGUGLIELMO

“Eyes Wide Shut”

“The Lion in Winter”

still courtesy Warner Bros.

still courtesy AVCO Embassy Pictures

“Bell, Book and Candle”

“Has Anybody Seen My Gal”

still courtesy Columbia Pictures

poster courtesy Universal Pictures

Christmas movies are funny. Some folks never tire of the classics — “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947), “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) or “A Christmas Carol” (1938). But maybe you’ve worn those into the ground and are ready for something else. If you can’t stomach the saccharine heteronormativity of the Hallmark schlock, here are 10 movies that aren’t ostensibly about Christmas but feature either a significant holiday scene or happen to take place around the holidays. From the warm fuzzies to outright terror, these run a surprisingly wide emotional gamut. In no particular order …

some consider it Kubrick’s final masterpiece, others say it’s a steaming, meandering turd — uses lights of the season to ominous effect as Dr. Bill (Tom Cruise) pursues his ritualistic labyrinth. Opinions vary as to what it all means — some have even hypothesized it’s ultimately a depiction of the dark side of Christmas consumerism.

1. “Eyes Wide Shut” (1999) — The final movie by legendary cinematic auteur Stanley Kubrick was released in July but is famously set in December. This polarizing sex mystery —

3. “Bell, Book and Candle” (1958) — Fresh off “Vertigo,” Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak reunite for this frothy romantic comedy in which Gillian (Novak) casts a spell on her

2. “The Lion in Winter” (1968) — It’s Christmastime, 1183 and King Henry II (Peter O’Toole) decides to let his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn in an Oscarwinning role) out of jail. Literary-caliber wit and one-upmanship ensue.

new neighbor Shep (Stewart) and, of course, calamity ensues. If a jazzed-out, ‘50s-set authentic Greenwich Village Christmas vibe sounds appealing, this one has it. 4. “Has Anybody Seen My Gal” (1952) — Another Technicolor wonder from Hollywood’s boom years, this one finds Rock Hudson as soda jerk Dan; the object of his affection Millicent (Piper Laurie) is from a family grappling with sudden wealth. The Christmas scene is beautifully shot. Look for James Dean in an uncredited cameo. 5. “Female Trouble” (1974) — The convoluted and increasingly dark plot of this John Waters classic gets started all because Dawn Davenport (Divine) discovers on Christmas morning that “nice girls don’t wear cha-cha heels.” It’s a queer Xmas classic.

1 4 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 4 9 • 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 • D E C E M B E R 0 6 2 0 1 9

“Female Trouble”

“Die Hard”

still courtesy New Line Cinema

still courtesy 20th Century Fox

“Rosemary’s Baby”

“The Bells of St. Mary’s”

still courtesy 20th Century Fox

still courtesy RKO

6. “Stella” (1990) — Bette Midler breathes new life into this third screen adaptation of a ‘20s novella (Barbara Stanwyck had the role in 1937) as the feisty, brash title character who mothers a child with a man from the other end of the social spectrum. Tender Christmas scenes add poignance to a genuine weepy. 7. “Die Hard” (1988) — An office Christmas party goes horribly awry but John McClane (Bruce Willis in his prime) saves the day. “Die Hard 2” (1990) also takes place on Christmas Eve. The films have become de facto seasonal classics in recent years. Ironically, they were both summer blockbuster releases in their first runs. 8. “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968) — Christmas scenes are tangential in this Polanski-directed thriller about a young woman Rosemary

(Mia Farrow) experiencing a very unusual pregnancy. But if you want a Satanic twist on the Annunciation, this is always a fun one to revisit. 9. “The Bells of St. Mary’s” (1945) — Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman play a priest and a nun who join forces to save their school from being shuttered. Crosby revives his Oscarwinning role of Father O’Malley (whom he’d played in “Going My Way” the previous year). Its original Dec. 6 release date dovetails with its warm holiday scenes. 10. “The FBI Story” (1959) — Taken literally, this brisk, Jimmy Stewart vehicle may seem initially like little more than a J. Edgar Hoover puff piece. As a consultant on the film, Hoover made sure his agency comes out looking stellar throughout. As a pure thrill ride,

however, I found it vastly more watchable than the leaden 2011 biopic J. Edgar. A Christmas passage finds Vera Miles (who has great chemistry with Stewart) decorating their home in full, mid-century holiday splendor. HONORABLE MENTION — “Psycho” (1960) — You may have forgotten, but the Hitchcock classic takes place over the course of nine days starting Dec. 11. Odd, then, that Norman (queer actor Tony Perkins) and Mother have no tree up when Lila (Vera Miles) comes snooping in their creepy house just five days before Christmas. Hitchcock chose the December setting because a second unit crew sloppily picked up Christmas decorations when filming process plates prior to principle photography. You can spot them briefly in the scene when Marion (Janet Leigh) sees her boss from her car just before leaving town.

D E C E M B E R 0 6 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 4 9 • A M E R I C A’ S LG B TQ N E W S S O U R C E • LO S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M • 1 5



Theological pesticide? ‘The Two Popes’ is bird’s eye view into relationship between Francis, Benedict By BRIAN T. CARNEY

Anthony Hopkins (left) and Jonathan Pryce in ‘The Two Popes.’ Photo by Peter Mountain; courtesy Netflix

Emily Beecham in ‘Little Joe.’ Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures

Like so many Hollywood religious epics, “The Two Popes” imaginatively recreates a monumental meeting between two spiritual and political figures. (Think Charleston Heston in one of the leads.) This time it’s the conservative Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and the more liberal Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce), who will become Pope Francis. “Inspired by true events,” the movie opens in 2005. The Catholic Church is in disarray. The beloved Pope John Paul II has died and as one frustrated prelate puts it, “our churches are beautiful but empty.” The Cardinals have gathered for the conclave to elect the next pope. A chance meeting in a Vatican bathroom brings together the two men who will dominate the voting: the austere German Cardinal Ratzinger and the man-of-the-people Argentinian Cardinal Bergoglio, who delightfully hums ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” while he washes his hands. When the infamous white smoke clears, Ratzinger has been elected Pope. His tenure is marked by conservative policy positions (including a condemnation of homosexuality) and financial and sexual scandals. Bergoglio returns to Buenos Aires; he enjoys cheering on the Argentinian soccer team and advocating on behalf of his impoverished parishioners, but he has no interest in the pomp and circumstance or administrative duties associated with the position. Bergoglio writes to Pope Benedict asking to return to life as a parish priest; in fact, he decides to visit Rome to plead his case in person. At the same time, Benedict decided to invite Bergoglio to the Vatican to discuss the state of the Church. The fascinating conversations between to the two prelates forms the bulk of the magnificent and witty script by Anthony McCarten, the award-winning screenwriter of “The Theory of Everything,” “The Darkest Hour” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” McCarten does an amazing job at humanizing both men, balancing their theological positions with interesting personal quirks. Benedict is a snappy dresser and a loner who loves playing the piano; Bergoglio wears simple vestments and enjoys talking to the gardener about oregano plants Award-winning Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles, whose credits include the acclaimed “The Constant Gardener” and the spectacular Opening Ceremonies for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, stages the conversations with amazing clarity and appealing simplicity. He never loses sight of the significant spiritual and emotional stakes at play and he allows wonderful moments of humor and whimsy to rise to the surface from time to time. Perhaps most notably, Meirelles never lets the amazing scenery upstage the action. The production design by Mark Tildesley; art direction by Saverio Sammali; set decoration by Livia Del Priore, Veronique Melery, Natalia Mendilburu and Germán Naglieri; and costume design by Luca Canfora is simply stunning. Netflix spared nothing in allowing

this talented team to recreate numerous locations in the Vatican (including the Sistine Chapel) and the magnificent Papal Palace at Castel Gandolfo where most of the nation takes place. Under the eagle eye of cinematographer Cesár Charlone, the breathtaking combination of shimmering marbles, precious metals, sumptuous fabrics and beautiful scenery form an impressive backdrop for this amazing story. Both Hopkins and Pryce are wonderful in their meaty roles. The chemistry between them is electric. Both men create fully rounded characters; each is sympathetic in his own way. There is, unfortunately, one major problem with “The Two Popes” — an extended flashback that details Bergoglio’s controversial role as head of the Society of Jesus of Argentina during the terrible Dirty Wars of 1976. Juan Minujin does a great job of playing the young Bergoglio, but the flashback slows the film’s momentum. Since Benedict’s own controversial past does not get a similar examination, it also unbalances the film. Nonetheless, “The Two Popes” is a remarkable accomplishment. It’s an important film for LGBT Catholics and for all LGBT film fans and should be experienced on the big screen, “Little Joe” is a sleek and stylish rethinking of the “pod” movies like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Emily Beecham, winner of the Best Actress Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, plays Alice Woodard, a single mother and plant biologist at England’s Planthouse Biotechnologies. She’s developed a beautiful crimson flower that has a symbiotic relationship with humans. When the plant is talked to and lovingly cared for, it releases a pollen that makes people feel better. Alice’s problems begin to mount when she breaks company protocol and takes a plant home for her son Joe (whom the plant is named after). She also starts to encounter problems in the laboratory. Her colleague Chris’ courtship of her becomes increasingly aggressive and Bella’s behavior becomes erratic. In her first English-language film, award-winning Austrian director Jessica Hausner (who co-wrote the script with Géraldine Bajard) moves the action along at a steady pace that progressively and plausibly ratchets up the tension. Her collaboration with composer Jeiji Ito gives the movie a suitably eerie soundtrack that combines traditional Japanese instruments with electronic buzzes. Filled with gleaming white and glass surfaces and beautifully filmed by Martin Gschlacht, the set has an effectively abstract feel. The acting is outstanding. As the increasingly isolated scientist and mother, Beecham creates an intriguing aura of increasing panic. Out actor Ben Whishaw (“Paddington,” “London Spy” and “A Very English Scandal”) is delightfully creepy as her colleague and suitor Chris, Kit Connor is great as Joe and Kerry Fox offers a nuanced portrait of a woman on the edge. For LGBT fans of sci-fi, “Little Joe” is a must-see.


Each November and December, Angelenos experience a type of celebratory cheer that goes beyond the traditional Holiday reveries: “For Your Consideration” television and film media campaigns pop up like Christmas trees all over town. Film production and distribution companies from across the globe snap up media vying for the attention of Golden Globe and Oscar members who nominate and ultimately vote for Hollywood’s most coveted film prizes. There was once a time (say five years ago) where all we saw plastered around town were big budget movies, one dimensional stories that lacked multiculturalism and — in particular — LGBTQ images. But marketing now demands diversity and a ride along Sunset Boulevard from Echo Park to West Hollywood features beautiful LGBTQ images and cast members from shows like STARZ’s “VIDA” to HBO’s “Euphoria,” showcasing inclusion at its finest. You may soon find media promotions everywhere for “Everybody Changes,” a Best International Picture entry into the Golden Globes and Academy Awards race, a Panamanian film that tells the story of Frederico, played brilliantly with tenderness and compassion by Arantxa de Juan, who is determined to undergo gender reassignment surgery and live the rest of his life as a woman, Lizzie. Just one little thing in the way – his marriage to his wife Carol and their three young sons. Initially the family struggles but is ultimately able to remain united in the face of a society that ostracizes them as Lizzie begins to live her truth. Written and directed by Arturo Montenegro, “Everybody Changes” is based on a true story and gives us an example of how difficult life can be like for someone living in a repressive nation that allows discrimination against LGBT people. Montenegro, who is an out gay Latino, says the film “uncovered an even more taboo subject (aspect) in Panamanian Society: the existence of diverse families. The real-life of trans people in the country is submerged in homophobia, the product of a crisis in freedom of thought.” The powerful story that is “Everybody Changes” motivated New Cadence Productions to buy the North American rights to the film and to push it during the “For Your Consideration” run up to Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. “Everybody Changes is a deeply moving film and will hopefully shed a light on the issues facing the LGTBQ community. We hope Hollywood will support it for its social importance, ” said New Cadence principal, Jeff Valdez. New Cadence executives are aware that part of the marketing puzzle during FYC time is outreach to Los Angeles’ LGBTQ groups and leaders. Their recent screening welcomed LGBTQ community organizations. representing such as Latino Equality Alliance and Somos Familia Valle who brought one of their own members, Justin, a 15 year old Transmale who was recently kicked out of his house by his father. Justin tearfully stood up during the Q&A and thanked the producers and filmmakers. “Now that I have seen this movie, I have hope that I can really live,” he said. At the post-screening dinner, hosted by transgender activist, model and actress, Carmen Carrera, the New Cadence team mentioned that after listening to Justin’s story at the screening they knew they had made the right decision acquiring “Everybody Changes,” and underscored their commitment to the film’s visibility. “We are thrilled that New Cadence Productions believes in this film not only for its film artistry, but also its social impact. This is the very first LGTBQ film produced in Panama and selected to represent our country for the Academy Awards and Golden Globes. Its production has not been an easy ride as many right-wing groups have tried to boycott the film. We even had bomb threats during its release,” said producer Gina Cochez. A long way to go indeed and Hollywood and “awards season” we hope will be instrumental in this compelling journey for the transgender community in Panama, internationally and domestically as well. “Everybody Changes” is currently up “For your Consideration.”


‘Everybody Changes’ is a Panamanian cinematic breakthrough A deeply moving film based on a true story By ROMAN RANDALL

Jassiel, Gretel Roux, and Gaby Gnazzo in Todos Cambiamos. Photo from IMBD 2019



Late bloomer? Classically trained actor McKellen found film roles later in life By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

Image Courtesy St. Martin’s Press

Any old stick would do. When you were a child, that’s what it took to become a wizard: a stick became a makeshift wand, an old towel turned into a cape and you were ready for spell-making. It worked for imaginations everywhere although, as you’ll see in “Ian McKellen: A Biography” by Garry O’Connor, sometimes, reel magic helps, too. On May 25, 1939, mere months before the beginning of World War II, Ian Murray McKellen made his debut into the world. The only son of parents who lived large, passionate lives, young McKellen grew up securely happy despite the war. Alas, that ended when his beloved mother died of cancer when McKellen was just 12 years old. As years passed, he always regretted that she never knew about him what he knew about himself: he received his “first gay kiss” at age 9 and understood even then that he preferred boys to girls. Though his original plan was to graduate school and work as a journalist, McKellen was denied the chance and instead opted to attend Cambridge. There, others noticed that he had a great aptitude for Shakespearean acting; it was nurtured and a “most extraordinary explosion of talent happened.” His time at Cambridge helped him sharpen his craft; it was also there that McKellen lost his virginity to another man. O’Connor says that McKellen is “a slow-progress stickler” and never minded using “modest roles” as stepping-stones; every role he played led to bigger parts on better-known stages in larger venues. In 1964, he landed a small part in a BBC-TV production as his first foray into television, and he continued to eye a career in film, a career that “still eluded (him) until the late 1990s.” At that time, he was able to transition from stage to screen, fast racking up a Tony, a Golden Globe, a SAG Award and an Oscar nomination. And then a “quick perusal of the Marvel comics … caught his fancy.” For readers who are wild about Shakespeare, “Ian McKellen: A Biography” will be a delight. Those who are not to be, however, may find this book quite tedious. Author Garry O’Connor, who’s known McKellen for decades, explains in his first chapter how this book came about, in opening words that are carefully off-the-cuff. That chumminess feels as if you’re real-time eavesdropping on a semi-scripted conversation between two friends. Get past the account of McKellen’s early life, though, and much of the rest of this book is uber-deep into theater, with the occasional reminder of McKellen’s gayness in the narrative. Serious followers of British stage performances will find the former to be irresistible and the latter to make one feel like a close backstage insider. Those who prefer McKellen’s later work might find this all mildly interesting, but far too extra until toward the end. And so there’s the break-down: Theater fan, yes. You’ll love “Ian McKellen: A Biography.” If you’re a fan of McKellen’s later movie career only, this book is OK if you can stick with it. ‘Ian McKellen: A Biography’ By Garry O’Connor St. Martin’s Press $29.99 356 pages


San Antonio makes for a perfect winter get away. Temperatures stay mild, the historic city offers plenty to do complete with a great LGBTQ nightlife scene with all the bars except one located close together on Main Street. The historic city is a mix of Mexican, German, Spanish and native cultures and of course features the River Walk. Getting there: I paid just $200 on Southwest Airlines round trip to SAT (the airport code for the city airport). Once there, catch the VIA no. 5 bus Yto downtown for just $1.30. You can take VIA all around the city and they have two cultural buses to all the attractions. An all-day pass is just $2.75. Plan your trip at viainfo.net. Where to stay: I stayed at the Grand Hyatt one night and the Marriott River Center the other four. Both were great. Bargain hunters will want to stay at the LaQuinta or TRU by Hilton. All are near the famous RiverWalk area downtown. What to do: Make your first stop to the Alamo, site of the famous battle against Mexico which resulted in the creation of the Republic of Texas. The building was constructed in 1724. Walk north on the RiverWalk to the Art Museum which is located in an old Brewery. The Museum is open until 8 p.m. on Fridays. Take the 11B VIA bus to the Botanical Gardens which features three different areas of Texas botany. The region is unusual as plants from the east meet plants from the Southwest. They also have endemic species unique to the limestone-covered Hill Country. Palms, oaks, cacti, pines and Mexican species make for an interesting biogeography. Take the VIA 11A bus to The Witte Museum to learn about Texas culture, history and biogeography. The museum is free and open until 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Learn about the regions of the state and its colorful history. Don’t mess with Texas. It still has an independent streak. Don’t miss the Pearl District just north of downtown. The former brewery has interesting shops and restaurants. The food everywhere is excellent and features great Tex Mex and Mexican as well as German. The San Antonio Gayborhood may be found on Main Street just north of downtown. Make your fist stop Pegasus Bar (1402 Main St.) which features great drink specials and a friendly crowd. Fierce Fridays features $2 wells and $2 beers. Try the Shiner Bock or Lone Star beer. Nearby is Heat, a dance bar at 1500 N. Main. You can pick up new clothes or leather gear at Ouch Apparel and Hard Core Leather. Knockout Pizza is good for a bite. Across the street on Main is Luther’s Café and Bar which features Wigstock Karaoke on Fridays. Dance the night away at the Bonham Exchange. The two-story building is located in an old German meeting hall. The mixed crowd allows minors and can be found at 411 Bonham downtown. On Saturdays, they have strippers plus a great dance area on two floors. They were having a Studio 54 birthday party the night I was there. Travel tips: Out in San Antonio is its LGBTQ publication (outinsa. com) and has bar ads to help you plan your visit. The Current is the city’s weekly paper, which also has great ideas. Visitsanantonio.com is your one stop shop for information on all the attractions and upcoming events. Thanks to Eva Alvallotis for the help. San Antonio makes for a great winter get away and is a big city with a small town feel without the attitude of Austin or the big city hassles of Dallas and Houston. Plus a great gay scene. Bill Malcolm is an Indianapolis-based traveler whose syndicated LGBTQ value travel column appears in publications around the country. He does this as a hobby.


San Antonio makes great gay winter escape spot Tex Mex food, biodiversity and thriving nightlife among features By BILL MALCOLM

The Alamo is a must-see attraction in San Antonio. Photo by Bill Malcolm



Another study links Vitamin E additive to lung illness

The presence of Vitamin E acetate in illicit market, e-liquid vape products is likely associated with lung injury, according to a new report.

Data published last week in the weekly publication of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides further evidence that the presence of Vitamin E acetate (oil) in illicit market, e-liquid vape products is likely associated with EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury). Minnesota investigators identified the presence of the oil additive in 24 of the products used by 11 patients with the lung disease. Virtually all of the patients interviewed in the study acknowledged obtaining THC vape products on the underground market. A previous analysis in 2018 of illicit vape products seized by police in Minnesota failed to identify the presence of Vitamin E. “Whereas Vitamin E acetate was not detected in the limited number of tested products seized in 2018, it was detected in products seized in 2019, suggesting that Vitamin E acetate might have been introduced recently as a diluent or filler,” investigators reported. They concluded, “According to these and other published data, using THC-containing products with Vitamin E acetate appears to be associated with EVALI; however, it is possible that more than one compound or ingredient could be a cause of lung injury, and evidence is not yet sufficient to rule out contribution of other toxicants.” Weeks earlier, CDC representatives for the first time identified Vitamin E acetate as a “very strong culprit of concern” in EVALI. The online publication Leafly.com has issued several extensive reports regarding the recent rise in popularity of Vitamin E among illicit market vendors of e-liquid products. Their reporting indicates that beginning in late 2018, some vendors began to use the oil as an additive in an effort to thicken the consistency of their e-liquids and to mask dilution. Full text of the study, “Characteristics of e-cigarette, or vaping, products used by patients with associated lung injury and products seized by law enforcement – Minnesota, 2018 and 2019,” appears online in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Study finds little support for cannabis impacting cognitive abilities The occasional use of cannabis during late adolescence is not independently associated with adverse effects on cognitive abilities in young adulthood, according to longitudinal

data published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. A team of investigators affiliated with the University of Colorado at Boulder assessed the impact of cannabis use on cognition, executive function, and working memory in 856 individual twins. Cannabis consumers were compared to their non-using twins in late adolescence and then again in their early 20s. Most of the cannabis consuming participants in the study reported occasional use of the substance, but not daily use. Authors found “little support for a causal effect of cannabis use on cognition. This conclusion is consistent with those from previous twin studies, which suggest that cannabis use does not cause a decline in cognitive ability among a normative cannabis using sample.” They concluded, “Results suggest that cannabis use may not cause decline in cognitive ability among a normative sample of cannabis users.” The findings are consistent with several prior studies which also failed to show significant changes in either cognitive performance, brain morphology, or intelligence quotient due to cannabis exposure. Specifically, a 2018 literature review published in JAMA Psychiatry concluded: “Associations between cannabis use and cognitive functioning in cross-sectional studies of adolescents and young adults are small and may be of questionable clinical importance for most individuals. Furthermore, abstinence of longer than 72 hours diminishes cognitive deficits associated with cannabis use.”

Adult-use marijuana sales begin in Michigan Licensed storefronts are now eligible to engage in retail cannabis sales to adults. The first adult-use sales began on Sunday, December 1. Michigan voters last year approved a statewide initiative authorizing state officials to regulate the plant’s production, use, and sale. In October, state regulators began accepting applications from medical cannabis dispensaries wishing to also engage in adult-use marijuana sales. As of this week, six storefronts — including four retailers in Ann Arbor — are licensed to sell cannabis to adults. Several other businesses have applications pending. Nonetheless, a statewide rollout of marijuana-related business is anticipated to be slow because many communities have passed local ordinances prohibiting adult-use establishments. On Jan. 1, Illinois will become the 11th state to permit adult marijuana use. Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, visit norml.org.

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Sandra Bernhard continues to wow And Debbie Allen celebrates 10 years of ‘Hot Chocolate Nutcracker’ By BILLY MASTERS

Sandra Bernhard rings in the New Year in South Beach. Photo by kathclick/Courtesy Bigstock

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“Camila [Cabello] was performing with that man, Shawn Mendes. They’re still trying to make us believe that he’s into her...if you know what I’m sayin’, and I think you do. He looked so awkward up there with that girl. How you doin’, Shawn?” — Wendy Williams after watching the American Music Awards. Yes, she just said what we’ve all been thinking. With Thanksgiving over, I now am finally able to focus on Christmas — as opposed to CVS, which had seasonal fare available prior to Halloween! Unlike my men, I like my holidays one at a time. Before Thanksgiving, I had more than my hands full when I went to see the iconic Sandra Bernhard at the lovely Faena Theater in South Beach. This gorgeous little gem is tucked away in the Faena Hotel, and I was there courtesy of Sandra’s musical director, the lovely Mitch Kaplan. He posted something on Facebook about the show in Miami, and I had just arrived at my Fort Lauderdale abode. Within a few hours, I was in the presence of the lady - and what a show she put on. I loved watching the audience because they clearly had no idea what to expect from Sandra. She’s not easy to categorize. She shares interesting insights, bon mots from her life, surrealist stories constructed with impeccable skill, hysterical observations, and then belts out a song with the power of a Janis Joplin. Quite a lot to take in for the denizens of South Beach. But by the end, they simply paid homage, as we all do. Sandy, Mitchy, and their motley crew will be ringing in the New Year at Joe’s Pub for the 10th year in a row. In fact, they’re doing 12 shows at the venue between December 26 and 31. Get the full schedule at SandraBernhard.com. Meanwhile on the West Coast, Debbie Allen is celebrating the 10th anniversary of her “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker,” which is always sinfully sensational. The show takes place Dec. 5-8 at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center and will feature Debbie and many of her talented friends performing alongside her students. However, Dec. 7 will feature an especially star-studded lineup, including my play mama Jenifer Lewis, Savion Glover, Phylicia Rashad, and Shemar Moore. My, my, my...a Hot Chocolate Nutcracker - with his own nuts! To get tickets, head on over to DebbieAllenDanceAcademy.com. Tell ‘em Billy sent ya! I’ve been following this next story for a couple of weeks. Try and follow along. The names Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow probably don’t mean anything to you. But in 1999, these very wealthy Brits won a legal battle to list both of their names on the birth certificate of the daughter they had with a surrogate. This was a landmark case for Great Britain since they were the first gay couple to fight for this right - and win! Fast-forward 20 years, and the couple is splitting up. Why? Because Barrie has fallen head-over-heels in love with Scott, the ex-boyfriend of their daughter, Saffron! Not only that, but the entire family (complete with exboyfriend/current boyfriend) continue to live in a mansion in Florida. Here’s the best part — Scott came into the family as Barrie’s “personal assistant” five years ago. So, lemme get this straight (so to speak) - the gay guy hires a young personal assistant, who dates the gay guy’s daughter, and then the gay guy leaves his husband to be with the personal assistant, who is suddenly into men, and they’re all living in the same house. If you’re wondering why don’t these people have a TV show, they actually filmed a pilot last year which went nowhere - probably because the couple was still together and Scott was being paid to be there (as if he’s not still getting a check). With this new wrinkle, they may get a deal. For now, you can see the pilot on BillyMasters.com. Very quickly before we close, I want to acknowledge the passing of someone who made us laugh for years and touched our hearts. Shelley Morrison, you were truly a lady. Moving swiftly back to me, send your questions to me at Billy@ BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before I start interviewing candidates to be my “personal assistant.” Until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.





















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