Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 50, December 13, 2019

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D E C E M B E R 1 3 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 5 0 • 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



WeHo’s Duran to introduce Sex Worker Task Force initiative Group would look at human trafficking, decriminalizing sex work FROM STAFF REPORTS West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran will introduce an initiative to establish a Sex Worker Task Force at the City Council meeting Dec. 16. According to a staff report, the principal purpose outlined for the task force is to focus on the “lived experience of sex workers in West Hollywood and the greater Los Angeles area” for a report to be shared with Los Angeles City and County officials. Staff recommendations that the task force be compromised of sex work experts, persons with

lived experience, and representatives from the City’s Transgender Advisory Board, Public Safety Commission, and Human Services Commission. The task force should meet five to six times for a limited time, approximately 90 to 120 days. Members will prepare a white paper summarizing the group’s discussions and final recommendations for use by city officials and to be shared with other jurisdictions. City staff coordinated with the Sex Workers Outreach Project LA (SWOP LA), which recommended that the task force concentrate in separate sessions on categories such as: Strippers & GoGo Dancers, Massage Parlors, Porn & Online Sex Workers, Street-based & Criminalized Sex Work, Healthcare, Social Services & Legal Access. SWOP LA will work with city staff to develop the white paper cataloging expert testimonies, relevant research and final Task Force recommendations.

Several LGBTQ advocacy organizations — The Transgender Law Center, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and National Center for Transgender Equality — have spoken out in support of a resolution proffered by Amnesty International in August 2015 that supports sex worker human rights and calls for the decriminalization of sex work. The organizations demand that states are held accountable in preventing and combating sex trafficking, while simultaneously ensuring that sex workers are protected from exploitation. They note that for many LGBTQ people, participation in street economies is often critical to survival, particularly for LGBTQ youth and transgender women of color who face all-too-common family rejection and vastly disproportionate rates of violence, homelessness, and discrimination in

employment, housing, and education. Previous studies have shown that LGBTQ youth and transgender women of color commonly face family rejection and vastly disproportionate rates of violence, homelessness, and discrimination in employment, housing, and education. The advocacy organizations support replacing laws the criminalize sex work with public policies that address sex workers’ real economic and safety needs. City staff also noted: “December 17th is recognized as the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This day was first recognized by the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA in 2003 and has since grown into a global annual event honoring the lives of sex workers lost to violence across the world and calling on an end to sex work related stigma and discrimination.”

Los Angeles man sentenced to death in trans murder Inmate warned officials not to house him with LGBT prisoners FROM STAFF REPORTS A convicted murderer was sentenced to death Dec. 5 in the 2013 killing of a transgender female inmate at the Kern Valley State Prison. Miguel Crespo, 48, was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder in a case stemming from a 1993 shooting in Los Angeles County when corrections staff at the facility in October 2013 assigned Carmen Guerrero, a trans woman, to his cell for just eight hours. In that time, Crespo bound, gagged, tortured and murdered her. During sentencing, Crespo made it a point to tell Kern County Superior Court Judge John D. Oglesby that he warned prison officials that he’s not gay and that he was incompatible

Miguel Crespo Screenshot via KGET

with Guerrero before the prison housed them together anyway. “I had a restriction not to be housed with a faggot,” Crespo said, according to NBC affiliate KGET. On Dec. 6, NBC OUT noted that “the issue of transgender people in California’s prison system is fraught with conflict and even had

become a topic in the Democratic presidential primaries, with former candidate Democratic Senator Kamala Harris facing questions over her stance on granting state-funded, genderreassignment surgeries to transgender inmates” while she served as California’s Attorney General. The Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act, SB 132, a bill sponsored by California Democratic State Senator Scott Weiner that addresses incarcerated transgender people in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), was turned into a two-year bill last September to enable Equality California and a coalition of civil rights groups more time to get input from incarcerated trans people and to consider amendments. The legislation requires that trans inmates be classified and housed based on their sense of health, safety, and gender identity — as opposed to defaulting to anatomy or dictating placement based on sex assigned at birth.

The bill would require CDCR to house incarcerated transgender people according to their gender identity or where they feel safest and: “Require that during the initial intake process, CDCR record the individual’s selfreported gender identity, pronouns, and honorific; Require CDCR to house transgender people according to the person’s preference, including which facility the person states they feel safest in, which may or may not correspond with their gender identity; and Require all staff and contractors of CDCR to consistently use the gender pronoun and honorific the person has specified in all verbal and written communications with and regarding that person.” “As long as transgender people are denied dignity, agency, and respect while housed by CDCR, we will continue to seek solutions and demand justice,” the coalition said in a joint statement.





‘Bye, Jackie’: LA County Dems endorse Gascón for DA Ceballos drops out, slams boss Lacey By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey skipped the LA County Democratic Party endorsement meeting Dec. 10, likely to avoid yet another confrontation with Black Lives Matter and family members of black men slain by law enforcement officers who have not been held accountable. “Bye, Jackie!” they chanted as the local Democrats endorsed former San Francisco DA George Gascón in a slap at the incumbent. Lacey had another issue to deal with as well after the LA Times discovered that she participated in a fundraiser organized by Pluvious Group, which apparently conducted past work on President Trump’s behalf. Her campaign subsequently severed ties with the organizer but it’s not a good look for a political leader whose job involves investigating and vetting people. “This is huge. I’m really honored,” Gascón said of the endorsement. “This is really our entire party looking forward and saying: ‘We’re tired of the injustices. We’re tired of the way that business has been conducted in this county for so long. We’re tired of opposing every reform effort.’ We’re gonna move forward. This is a journey.” “The Los Angeles Democratic Party stood on the right side of history by not endorsing Jackie Lacey,” Patrisse Cullors, the lesbian co-founder of Black Lives Matter and chair of local advocacy group Reform L.A. Jails, told the criminal justice site The Appeal. “They stood on the side of families who’ve been killed by police violence, homeless and mentally ill people who are cycled in and out of L.A. County jails, and so many other vulnerable communities who Jackie Lacey tossed to the side. L.A. made history today. And we will make it again in 2020 when we vote Jackie Lacey out of office.” Lacey issued a statement touting her top tier endorsements, including Rep. Adam B. Schiff, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, four members of the Board of Supervisors, law enforcement unions — and San Francisco

LA DA candidate George Gascón Photo via his Facebook page

Mayor London Breed, “who backed Lacey in a not-so-subtle swipe at Gascón,” the LA Times reports. “Ultimately the endorsement I care the most about is the endorsement of the people of LA County,” Lacey said. Though touted as a progressive prosecutor, lots of San Franciscans were happy to see Gascón leave to run for LA DA instead of running for re-election. As a former LAPD officer, as a DA who has never prosecuted a criminal case and who also failed to prosecute officers involved in high profile police shootings, Gascón may get a closer look by activists now, as well. “I’m not completely shocked that [LACDP] didn’t endorse Jackie Lacey, because they didn’t endorse her when she first ran in 2012,” Ari Ruiz, Political Vice-President for Stonewall Young Democrats told the Los Angeles Blade. “However, I’m shocked that they endorsed Mr. Gascon whose history as a Democrat is quite new. He had been a registered Republican well up into the first two years of the Obama presidency. He became a Democrat in or around 2010,

which means that he was a Republican during Pete Wilson’s term as California governor, during George W. Bush’s term as president and during the 2008 presidential campaign where many of us were working hard to elect Barack Obama.” Ruiz also noted the difference between being DA in the two major cities. I don’t think people realize that San Francisco County is composed of one city, while Los Angeles County is composed of 88 cities,” he said, noting her record of supporting LGBT issues, including co-authoring out State Sen. Scott Wiener’s controversial SB 145 sex offender registry bill. “It is a complicated and messy job, but I believe Jackie Lacey is the only one well equipped to successfully and carefully deliver meaningful reforms during her final term in office.” Longtime public defender Rachel Rossi remains in the race, out Deputy DA Joseph Iniguez withdrew and endorsed Gascón and in light of the LACDP endorsement, out veteran Deputy DA Richard Ceballos announced his withdrawal, as well. “Eight months ago, I led the challenge

against my boss Jackie Lacey and her archaic view of justice. I believed then as I believe now, she has failed as the leader of the largest District Attorney’s office in the United States,” Ceballos said in a statement. “At a time when we should be accepting of new ideas on criminal justice and jurisprudence, Jackie Lacey has continued to perpetuate the mass incarceration of our citizens,” he said. “Her refusal to address the racial and social inequalities that have for too long plagued our criminal justice system have destroyed the communities she has sworn to serve. And her refusal to hold public officials accountable for their actions and inaction is both glaring and indisputable.” Ceballos stopped short of an endorsement but added, “We need a District Attorney who is willing to meeting with community members and leaders and welcome their input and involvement in our criminal justice system.” March 3 is Super Tuesday in California but this race to be LA County district attorney may well garner as much local attention as the presidential primary.



Celebrating Cyndi! UN honors Lauper for LGBTQ advocacy at LA concert By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Donald Trump aside, most Americans believe the United Nations tries to peacefully fix global problems. Feminist historians note, for instance, that Eleanor Roosevelt, as the determined chair of the UN Human Rights Commission, crafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and wooed and cajoled commission members — despite some members’ deeply held misogynistic attitudes toward women — to accept this still relied-upon model of how human beings should behave toward each other. It is something of a symbolic marvel, then, that in this Trumpian era — 71 years after the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration, establishing Dec. 10 as Human Rights Day — that the UN came to Los Angeles to present a prize for LGBTQ advocacy, a component of human rights it took the UN decades to acknowledge. That’s what happened Dec. 10 when Laurent Sauveur, representing the UN office of Human Rights, flew from Switzerland to Los Angeles to present singer, songwriter, actor and LGBTQ icon Cyndi Lauper with the first High Note Global Prize for her LGBTQ advocacy worldwide. The brief ceremony occurred during Lauper’s annual “Home for the Holidays” all-star concert at The Novo benefiting True Colors United, her non-profit organization advocating for LGBTQ homeless youth. “Today is a very special day. Today is Human Rights Day,” Sauveur said, noting the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the international community. “This is why it is a beautiful symbol to award, on this very day, the first High Note Global Prize to Cyndi Lauper. Cyndi is an artist who is fiercely dedicated to make the promise of the Declaration – that all human beings are born free and equal — the reality for everyone.” Musicians, the UN representative said, “hold a very special place in society as they have the ability to inspire people to take action. And we are honored to celebrate one of its greatest tonight – Cyndi Lauper. Throughout her career, Cyndi has been an advocate – a remarkable advocate – for

Backstage after the High Note Global Prize ceremony (L to R): Chantel Sausedo, Executive Producer of The High Note Global Initiative; Laurent Sauveur, Chief External Officer of UN Human Rights; Cindy Lauper, High Note Global Prize Laureate; superstar Kesha; and David Clark, Creator of The High Note Global Initiative. Photo by David Rose

women’s rights, and for the rights of the LGBTQ community. She has written and sung their songs and powerfully embodied the cause of equality, touching the lives of millions through her work with True Colors United.” Other than outbursts of applause, The Novo Theater was still as Sauveur spoke. Yes, entertainment, laughter, and songs by unlikely duets such as Lauper and Marilyn Manson and with Henry Collins was the call of the evening. But there was also a sense that this event served a transformative higher cause. It was there in the catch in Kesha’s voice as she introduced Sauveur before joining him to present the honor. No one who watched the 60th annual Grammy Awards in January 2018 can forget the powerful moment of sisterhood when Lauper and other women clad in suffragette white emotionally backed up a defiant Kesha singing “Praying.” “This Global award holds a special place for artists as it’s given to a remarkable person who uses their musical gifts to promote human rights and to speak truth to power,” Kesha said. “As many of you know,

Cyndi has spent decades fighting for human rights – for LGBTQ rights – and she has never backed down. A recent example was her testimony to the U.S. Senate in which she secured approximately $250 million in new annual funding to invest in preventing youth homelessness – of which a disproportionate number is LGBTQ youth. Cyndi has stated that ‘we each have a personal responsibility to make sure LGBTQ youth are treated with dignity and respect.’ I couldn’t agree more.” Lauper took the large multi-color Venetian plate from Keisha, looked at it, turned to Sauveur and said, “This is like some kind of art! It’s a real piece of art!” Then, in her own passionate fashion, Lauper spiritually channeled human rights activist Eleanor Roosevelt, sharing that her activism is motivated by knowing that 40 percent of the youth among America’s more than 4 million homeless are LGBT kids who are there just because of who they are. But, just as Roosevelt sought a solution for the hatred targeting refugees after World War II, Lauper said she believes the problem of LGBTQ youth homelessness is “fixable.”

The message resonated. “It was a truly incredible night. Not only for me as the son of one of the performers, but it was amazing as a young gay man to see the outpouring of love and support for the most vulnerable in the LGBTQ community. Incredibly moving and powerful,” longtime West Hollywood activist James Duke Mason told the Los Angeles Blade. His mother, Belinda Carlisle, sang a duet with Lauper on the LGBTQ anthem “True Colors.” Lauper initially came to the attention of the LGBTQ community in the early 1980s with the playful “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” with a video full of girls of color. Gay men with AIDS seized the song as a defiantly joyful response to the inevitability of death. “I saw many of my friends ill. I saw everyone ill. It was unfortunate that at that time the president did not acknowledge AIDS even though his friend Rock Hudson was very ill with it,” Lauper told the Los Angeles Blade in a phone interview. “But yeah, I know that it gave a lot of people joy. I wanted it to.” And perhaps that’s the simple genius of



Cyndi Lauper, James Duke Mason, Belinda Carlisle backstage at The Novo at LA Live. Photo courtesy Duke Mason

her soulful connection to humanity: Lauper wants to use her artistic talent to benefit others, as exemplified in this line from “Kinky Boots:” “If your glitter rusts/ Let me raise you up (and up).” In 2013, she made history becoming the first woman to win a Tony Award for best score as a solo female writer for that Broadway hit. “I’m a friend and family of the community,” Lauper told the Los Angeles Blade. And in her life has been enmeshed with the community, through the struggles of her lesbian sister Ellen and her friends, such as her best friend Gregory Natal who had been kicked out of his home at 12 for being gay, survived homelessness on the streets, and subsequently died of AIDS at age 27. “Blue Angel, Gregory—- his nickname was blue because he had blue eyes,” she said. “We did the ‘She Bop’ video together and that was around the time he told me that he had AIDS. And as he got sicker and he was in the hospital, he wanted me to write a song for him like ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ and that’s Burt Bacharach. But I am not Burt

Bacharach remotely, one could only aspire to be like that. “But I wrote about what I knew. So I wrote ‘Boy Blue’ and my grief. And fortunately, that was a song in which I poured out my heart and liver, which is not good for repetitive play,” Lauper said. “I wanted it to be live and I wanted the sound of that drum to have the soul, that archaic part of your soul that you call too, because it was an important song. So I wanted a call to people’s souls and then I wanted to speak to the tender part in their heart. And so that’s why I sung it like that. And in the end, it turned out to be just what Gregory wanted because years later I realized that that song helped a lot of people, a lot of different kinds of people, people who were ill, people who were different, people who were so sad,” Lauper said. Lauper got super creative for her video performance of “The Ballad of Cleo and Joe,” inspired by a “very Fellini-esque” dance troupe of drag performers with whom she’d gone on the road. Very pregnant with her nine pound son, she glued little mirrors on her stomach to make it look like a disco

ball and mimed moves while turning on a turntable. But it was “True Colors” that brought emails, first one, then another, then an avalanche. “It was all these emails about people who were disenfranchised by their friends, their family, and their jobs. They had nothing, nothing. And they were suicidal and they heard this song and it gave them strength and they were able to not kill themselves. And then I thought, “People killing themselves just because of who they are?” So I called my sister and I talked to her it and I said, “El, when the time comes, you and me, we’ve got to get something about this.” And she said, “Absolutely.” And then when the time came and we did that campaign with PFLAG, Stay Close, we did that together.” Lauper says her “ah-ha moment” about becoming the kind of artist/activist the UN honors occurred “back in the aughts (2000s) when I heard actually the president at the time speaking as if hate crimes against LGBTs was okay and it’s not okay. And when civil rights was just being pared down and

down and down, and that made me first say, ‘You know what? Enough is enough now.’ And anything I could do to use my voice, I felt like, ‘Let’s do this.’” Meeting Matthew Shepard’s mom Judy Shepherd and then meeting Gregory Lewis and Kathy Nelson through the Human Rights Campaign that “really changed my perspective on things,” Lauper said, “because I, at one point, felt like, ‘What the heck? No matter what we do we’re just still pawns here.’ And then I felt that you can do something. I stepped into it and then before I knew it, things were actually changing. We were doing something. We had the inclusive True Colors tours,” focused on “LGBT homeless youth because this is a fixable situation because they’re only homeless because they’re LGBTQ. And that means that with programs and advocacy and helping people get back on their feet and back into society. And it will help society itself because throwing away youth because of who they are is not a solution of any kind, it’s just a very close-minded ignoramus kind of thing.”


This is only a brief summary of important information about BIKTARVY and does not replace talking to your healthcare provider about your condition and your treatment.

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CA 25th race getting curiouser and curiouser Papadopoulos uses IG Report as a Trump-ish fundraiser By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com The race to fill former Rep. Katie Hill’s now vacant seat representing the 25th Congressional District is getting a lot of media attention. After a bleak absence, Hill has returned to Twitter to praise her friend, Assemblymember Christy Smith, the only woman running in the March 3 special election, and needle candidate George Papadopoulos, a former Trump aide who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and seems to use Twitter like his former boss. “That’s my seat, Katie. Am coming for it. Flipping it red. #CA25,” @ GeorgePapa19 tweeted recently. “Ooooh boy, better watch out guys. Felons are coming for #CA25. It’s cool, @ georgepapa19, we’re ready for you and we have an army to make sure @ChristyforCA25 keeps the seat blue,’’ @KatieHill4CA replied. Hill’s snark is a long way from the powerful personal Dec. 7 op-ed in the New York Times in which she depicts how the cyber “revenge porn” humiliation forced her to resign and drove her very, very close to suicide. She pulled back thinking of all the girls and young women she would disappoint if she didn’t bounce back and fight. “Many people have nightmares in which they’re naked in public, trapped and trying to escape,” she wrote. “In the days leading up to my resignation, my life was just like everyone’s worst nightmare.” But baring the truth of her deep depression and gratitude toward those who stuck by her — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — freed her to speak her mind in a way the polite constraints of elected office did not permit. Hill explained to MSNBC “All In” host Chris Hayes why her case is so important. When Hayes noted that that younger generation routinely takes and shares naked selfies, which could impair future runs for elective office. Hill said she was not aware that the naked photos were taken or distributed. “But,” she said, “I have taken images like that, right. And I’m not even ashamed to say I’ve taken and sent images like that and so

George Papadopoulos is running for the seat vacated by former Rep. Katie Hill. Photo via Papadopoulos’ Facebook page

have – I think, regardless of your age, the numbers show that 80% of people have done that. So, let’s not pretend that this is some taboo thing that people aren’t doing.” But the question needs to be asked, who are the photos being used against? “And it’s overwhelmingly women. This is the whole concept of cyber exploitation or revenge porn. But mine is the first real example where it’s been used against a public figure, especially a political figure, and the images are published by a mainstream publication, by a significant publication. And that’s why I think the legal action that we’re pursuing is going to be so, so important because I don’t think this is an acceptable precedent that can be set.” Hill said she is “all for” the First Amendment but “there is a line and it comes down to fundamental human decency” and enabling abusers. “That, in and of itself, is going to discourage people from running if we don’t do something to stop it,” as she is by going after the media outlet that posted the photos. Will candidates for the 25th CD be asked about that line or crossing it with Trump? Politico notes, for instance, that Papadopoulos appears in the just released Inspector General’s report “about 400

times, given his instrumental role in the investigation’s origin [into Russian interference in the 2016 elections]. While the report knocks down Papadopoulos’ theory that he was entrapped, Papadopoulos claimed vindication.” In fact, he’s using the Inspector General’s report as a pro-Trump-ish fundraising tool. One of the strangest twists to the 25th CD race is the social media plays by The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur, who describes himself as a progressive journalist while others claim he’s a misogynist and a homophobe, based on past statements from which he has since distanced himself. Uygur’s entrance in the race prompted Equality Armenia executive director Armen Abelyan to also take out papers. Apparently, those old establishment criticisms of Uygur didn’t bother presidential candidate Marianne Williamson who announced her endorsement on Instagram on Dec. 8. After expressing support for Katie Hill, Williamson said: “I’m a big fan of Cenk Uygur. He’s been very good to me both personally and professionally, and I’ve learned a lot from him. I totally support his run in California-25.” Uygur sounded a little like Papadopoulos in a Dec. 3 tweet after a supporter noted

that “reactionary” Sen. Dianne Feinstein had endorsed “meaningless handpicked establishment status quo candidate Christy Smith” against “progressive champion and agent-of-change @CenkUygur.” Uygur tweeted: “I welcome their endorsements of my opponent. They keep saying my opponent has been handpicked by the Democratic Party establishment. I’m pretty sure that’s not how democracy works. I can’t wait to show them who the voters hand pick!” But endorsements can be double-edged. After having to apologize for tweeting a false story that President Trump had pardoned the late murderer Charles Manson, Williamson got hit with a slew of tweetdarts for apparent anti-vaccine comments on Facebook suggesting that vaccines “could contain ‘neurons-toxins’ and demanded an ‘independent commission’ to review vaccine safety,” according to the Washington Post. That prompted a Dec. 10 response tweet from out Sen. Scott Wiener: “Parroting anti-vax talking points is, indeed, antivax. Please re-focus your efforts on actual science. Alternatively, please drop out of the race, since the Democratic Party is the party of science. That’s one of the key things that makes us different than Trump.”


“President Trump abused the power of his office, undermined our national security and jeopardized the next election. He has shown no remorse and is at it still, trying even now to get foreign help in his reelection. No one is above the law. Donald J. Trump must be impeached.” – Rep. Adam Schiff tweeted Dec. 10, 2019.

“The Trump rainbow apparel is not only monumentally hypocritical and insulting; it’s also part of a long list of attempts to grab media attention that momentarily makes Trump appear as an ally of LGBTQ people — at least to those who don’t read past the headlines.” – Sirius Radio host Michelangelo Signorile Dec. 10 on NBCNews.com

“Beyond being a world-famous celebration of the resilience of LA’s LGBTQ+ community, the economic and fiscal impacts that the LA Pride Parade and Festival have on both the city and county are undeniable.”

“Playing the world’s game, on the world’s stage, under attack by a world leader, she dominated. And in doing so without fear, Megan Rapinoe became a voice for so many across the world,” Jenny Vrentas wrote about soccer icon Megan Rapinoe for Sports Illustrated’s Dec. 9 cover story naming Rapinoe its 2019 Sportsperson of the Year. The in-depth profile of the now world-renowned 34-yearold lesbian from Redding, Calif., cites not only her arms-full of trophies but the fight for equal pay for women soccer players and the hits she took for kneeling in solidarity with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick just days after he launched his protest against police brutality and systemic racism during the national anthem in 2016. SI also highlights “The Pose” she struck after scoring the winning goals in the June quarterfinal against France in response to an obnoxious tweet from President Trump. “It was kind of like a ‘F--- you,’ but with a big smile and a s--- eating grin,” Rapinoe says. “You are not going to steal any of our joy.” But when accepting the honor on Dec. 10 in New York, Rapinoe, only the fourth woman to receive the acknowledgement individually, also criticized SI for its lack of diversity on its covers and in its newsroom. “Is it true so few writers of color deserve to be featured in this publication? No,” Rapinoe said. “Is it true so few women’s voices deserve to be heard and deserve to be read in this publication? I don’t think so.” - KAREN OCAMB

- Adam J. Fowler, Director of Research at Beacon Economics on a Dec. 10 report that the 3-day CSW event produced $74.7 million for LA County with $27.7 million concentrated in West Hollywood.

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Facebook pressed to drop ads claiming PrEP is unsafe ‘Inaccurate’ ads blamed for discouraging HIV prevention efforts By LOU CHIBBARO JR. More than 50 LGBT, AIDS, and public health organizations released a joint letter on Monday addressed to Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to immediately remove “dangerous and misleading” ads currently running on Facebook and Instagram suggesting the HIV prevention drug PrEP is unsafe “As organizations attached to this letter – leaders in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) advocacy, public health, and HIV/AIDS prevention – we are urgently reaching out to Facebook and Instagram regarding factually inaccurate advertisements which suggest negative health effects of Truvada PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis),” the letter states. “Using Facebook’s and Instagram’s targeted advertising programs, various law firms are attempting to recruit gay and bisexual men who use Truvada PrEP as an HIV preventative to join a lawsuit, claiming that the drug has caused harmful side effects in this patient population, specifically bone density and kidney issues,” the letter says. Officials with the LGBT advocacy group GLAAD and the HIV prevention advocacy group PrEP4All Collaborative, who organized the joint letter, say the ads in question are lumping together past instances of side effects of Truvada as a treatment for people with HIV who have taken it in combination with other drugs and HIV negative people who are taking Truvada alone as PrEP. They point out that studies conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have found Truvada use in PrEP has had minimal to no side effects and has been deemed safe and effective as an HIV prevention medication. Government studies have shown PrEP to be 99 percent effective in preventing someone from acquiring HIV if taken properly. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is under fire again for the company’s advertising practices. Photo by Anthony Quintano

which oversees HIV prevention efforts, told a congressional briefing last week that serious side effects of PrEP have been shown in studies to be “very few” and “really not pertinent at all, not at all.” The letter released by the advocacy groups expresses concern that Facebook appears to be ignoring these findings in its refusal so far to remove the ads suggesting PrEP is harmful. “By allowing these advertisements to persist on their platforms, Facebook and Instagram are convincing at-risk individuals to avoid PrEP, invariably leading to avoidable HIV infections,” the joint letter says. “You are harming public health.” The letter says the LGBT and HIV prevention groups reached out to Facebook to explain why they believe the advertisements are harmful and for months have urged Facebook to take them down but Facebook has declined to do so. The Washington Post reported on Monday that Facebook said the ads do not violate its advertising policies. “We value our work with LGBTQ groups and consistently seek their input,” the Post quoted a statement it says Facebook released to the newspaper. “While these ads do not violate our ad policies nor have they been rated false by third-party fact checkers, we’re always examining ways to improve and help these key groups better understand how we apply our policies,” the Post quoted the statement as

saying. According to the Post, Facebook’s archives show that the ads have been viewed millions of times in recent months. Longtime HIV patient advocate Peter Staley, who is a co-founder of the PrEP4All Collaborative, told the Washington Blade that LGBT and AIDS activists have tried unsuccessfully to explain to Facebook and its third-party fact checking officials why they believe the ads are misleading and inaccurate. Most of the ads in question have been purchased by law firms and personal-injury lawyers representing clients in lawsuits filed against Gilead Sciences, the drug company that manufactures Truvada. The lawsuits charge that some HIV-positive patients who have taken Truvada in combination with multiple other drugs have experienced serious and potentially life-threatening kidney function and bone density problems. The lawsuits also claim that Gilead withheld releasing a safer version of one of the compounds that make up Truvada for many years until the patent ended on one of the drugs with more harmful side effects. “All of those drugs together can really attack the kidney and it’s really hard to figure out which one is to blame,” Staley said. “But for HIV negative people on PrEP, PrEP is generally the only thing they’re taking except maybe Viagra,” Staley said while laughing. “So that’s why even though it’s the same drug – Truvada is the same drug as treatment and as prevention – it has acted very differently in these two patient populations in these two points in history,” he said. “So we tried to explain all this to Facebook and they’re just pointing to the label,” said Staley. “It’s the same drug so it’s only got one label. The FDA doesn’t issue a separate label for treatment and one for prevention for PrEP. It’s all one label,” Staley points out. “And right at the top on the label are these scary warnings that in rare circumstances this can cause kidney problems, this can cause bone density issues,” Staley says. “So Facebook points to that and says well it’s there, it’s right on the label. These law firms running these ads can say this.” “And we’re like yeah but you’re scaring tens of thousands of people away from a miracle pill that is nearly 100 percent effective and where

we haven’t seen these toxicities in this patient population at all,” Staley said. “And here we are with Facebook just pointing to obscure, undefined advertising policies and third-party fact checkers that know nothing about HIV.” Among the groups that signed on to the joint letter to Facebook, in addition to GLAAD and the PrEP4All Collaboration, are the Human Rights Campaign, AIDS United, the American Academy of HIV Medicine, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis of New York, the National Minority AIDS Council, and the Trevor Project. Representatives of the groups that signed the joint letter have pointed out that Facebook recently agreed to ban ads placed by organizations opposing vaccines on grounds that anti-vaccine messages were refuted by virtually all professional medical organizations and public health experts. The AIDS and LGBT representatives are urging Facebook to ban the ads targeting PrEP on similar grounds that medical and scientific evidence refutes any claims that PrEP is harmful for those who take it as an HIV prevention medication. “As a caregiver I want patients to realize that Truvada is absolutely safe for PrEP,” said Dr. Sarah Henn, Chief Medical Officer at D.C’s Whitman-Walker Health. “We want to make sure that patients who are at increased risk for HIV acquisition don’t get scared away from prevention that could really be important to their long-term health,” Henn told the Blade. Staley said that after months of intransigence by Facebook over the LGBT and AIDS groups’ requests for dropping the anti-PrEP ads, he was encouraged on Monday afternoon when he and a GLAAD official received an email message from Facebook. The message came after widespread media coverage of the release of the joint letter to Zuckerberg by the over 50 groups. “You and your partners raise a number of important issues which we have shared with our leadership, and which will receive our full attention,” Staley quoted the message as saying from Lindsay Elin, Facebook’s director of external affairs. “And they also say they look forward to continuing the conversation,” Staley paraphrased the message as saying. “I think we got their attention.”





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Fauci to Congress: Help us implement plan to end HIV NIH official gives congressional briefing on new federal AIDS plan By LOU CHIBBARO JR. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told an audience of mostly legislative aides to members of Congress at a Dec. 5 congressional briefing on Capitol Hill that scientific advances have made it possible to end the HIV epidemic in the United States within the next decade if not much sooner. In an impassioned description of what he calls “implementation science,” Fauci said he and his colleagues at the National Institute of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other federal, state, and local health agencies are hopeful that a newly launched federal plan to end HIV will be able to overcome socio-economic barriers that have prevented the scientific advances from reaching those who could most benefit from them. The briefing, held at the Rayburn House Office Building across the street from the U.S. Capitol, was organized by the National Minority AIDS Council, or NMAC, a D.C.based AIDS advocacy group that puts on the annual U.S. Conference on AIDS. Fauci said his presentation was based on findings and information presented at the 2019 U.S. Conference on AIDS in August. Among those who attended the briefing were U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.). Fauci has been involved in AIDS research and public policy since the epidemic first surfaced in the U.S. in 1981. He told the briefing the federal plan is based on two major scientific advances that are available today. The first, he pointed out, is the effective anti-retroviral drug treatment regimens that have successfully suppressed HIV in the human body for the past 10 years or longer. More recently, he said, studies have shown that suppression of the virus to the point that it becomes undetectable means an infected person can no longer transmit HIV to someone else through sexual relations.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said that scientific advances have made it possible to end the HIV epidemic in the United States within the next decade if not much sooner. Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro Jr.

The second major advancement, he noted, is the development of the HIV prevention drug known as PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, which Fauci said is 99 percent effective in preventing someone at risk for HIV from becoming infected. “So you now have two, as I call it, game changing issues, treatment as prevention and pre-exposure prophylaxis,” he told the more than 75 people attending the briefing. “Theoretically, if you got everyone or almost everyone who is infected and put them on therapy and bring down the virus to below detectible and you got most of the people who are at risk of infection and put them on PrEP, theoretically you can end the epidemic tomorrow because the people who are infected are not infecting anyone and the people who are at risk have a 99 percent effective therapy to prevent them from being infected,” he said. “And all you need to do is implement that,” said Fauci. “The problem is we don’t live in a theoretical world, we live in a real world. And the goal of any plan is to bridge that gap between what we know is possible and what we can make happen,” he said. “And that’s really what the plan is.” Among the “real world” facts that the plan is intended to address, Fauci said, is the disparities among the diverse groups at risk for HIV who are not taking advantage of the

treatment and prevention options. “Thirteen percent of the population in the United States is African American,” he said. “Yet almost 45 percent of all new infections are among African Americans. Of those, 60 percent are among African-American men who have sex with men and 75 percent of those are young individuals,” Fauci said. “So right now you have a concentration, a real disparity of infection.” He noted that nationwide, only about 260,000, about 20 percent of the 1.2 million people in the U.S. who are believed to be at “substantial risk” for HIV, are taking PrEP. Aside from that, only 53 percent of people in the U.S. who have HIV have a viral load that is undetectable due to effective drug treatment, Fauci said. “We have to do better than that,” he told the briefing. “That’s a big target of the plan.” According to Fauci, he and his government colleagues who helped develop the plan to end HIV in the U.S. determined one important way to address disparities faced by different risk groups was to respond to the geographic breakdown of the HIV epidemic in the U.S. Much to their surprise, Fauci said, data show that more than 50 percent of all new HIV infections in recent years come from just 48 out of the 3,007 U.S. counties plus the District of Columbia and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Also shown to have high concentrations of new infections are seven southern states. “This almost shocked me to the point where I had to go and look at the individual data myself because I almost didn’t believe it,” Fauci said. “That’s really amazing.” Among other things, the new federal plan will target those 50 geographic “areas” along with the seven states for greater resources and outreach to address the disparities that may be causing the higher infection rates there, he said. “So what do we do to do better than that?” Fauci said. “You maximize the tools you have and you develop better tools,” he continued, adding that a “prototype” for the new federal plan is a highly effective program developed in San Francisco called Rapidly We Treat All. “They proactively and aggressively go into the community with community workers,” said Fauci in describing the San Francisco program. “They go into areas where there is high risk – gay bars, bathhouses, homeless shelters,

commercial sex workers. They approach people and they test them and they get the result right there in a test that takes only 20 minutes,” Fauci said. “If you’re positive you immediately are put on therapy because they give you a bag of a month’s supply of a drug and say take it. And then they give you a prescription for when they run out,” he said. “And then they say now if you have any trouble call us. This is our phone number. And if don’t have a phone they give them a phone,” said Fauci. “It’s really amazing how they go into the community,” he said, noting that the incidence of new HIV infections in San Francisco declined dramatically. He said an aggressive outreach program in D.C. has also resulted in a sharp drop in new HIV infections over the past decade, although the new infection rate in D.C. has remained stable in recent years. Still more advances in drug treatment, including PrEP, may further boost the number of people taking PrEP, Fauci said. He pointed to a new form of “long lasting” PrEP that’s in the final stages of drug trials that can be given as an injection that will last a month or more, eliminating the need for taking a daily pill. He said a PrEP implant is also in development that can be placed under the skin similar to birth control implants used by women that can last as long as a year. NMAC, meanwhile, is urging the Senate to follow the U.S. House in approving the full $291 million in funding proposed by the Trump administration for the AIDS plan Fauci outlined at the Capitol Hill briefing. The Senate has approved $266 million in the federal budget for the AIDS plan, $25 million less than the amount approved by the House and called for by the administration. NMAC spokesperson Chip Lewis said NMAC and other AIDS advocacy organizations are calling on the Senate to agree to the House version of the appropriation when the two bodies negotiate differences in their respective budget figures in the coming weeks. “We’re very grateful to Dr. Fauci,” said NMAC Executive Director Paul Kawata. “And our efforts here are to educate members of Congress and their staff so that we can make sure we get the HIV budget that we need to end this epidemic,” he said.


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Activists slam Fairness for All Act

Patrick Bumatay is one of President Trump’s openly gay judicial nominees

SHOCKER: Senate confirms out gay judge nominated by Trump In a counter-intuitive development, the U.S. Senate approved on Tuesday an openly gay federal prosecutor named by President Trump for a seat on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, making him the highest-ranking openly gay federal judge in the country. The Republican-majority chamber approved Patrick Bumatay, who previously worked as a U.S. attorney in Southern California, to a lifetime seat on the federal appeals court. The vote was 53-40. With Republicans voting in his favor and Democrats voting against him, the traditional party roles on LGBTQ rights were shifted on the confirmation vote. Democrats cited Bumatay’s lack of appellate experience as a reason to vote against him. Trump chose Bumatay for the seat after ignoring the recommendations of Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein of California for the seat on the Ninth Circuit. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the only out lesbian in the Senate, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the chamber’s only open bisexual, were among the Democrats voting against Bumatay. Also voting against was Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the chief sponsor of the Equality Act in the Senate. No senator — either for or against Bumatay — took to the floor to speak out on the nominee days before his confirmation or the cloture vote to end the filibuster to end his nomination. Now that he’s confirmed, Bumatay, who’s gay and Filipino, is not only the highestranking openly gay person on the federal bench, but also the highest-ranking Filipino. Previously, the only other openly gay federal appeals judge is U.S. Circuit Judge Todd Hughes of the Federal Circuit, whom the Senate confirmed in 2013 after he was nominated by President Obama. But the Federal Circuit isn’t considered as prestigious or high-ranking as the Ninth Circuit. It’s the second openly gay person Trump has confirmed to the federal bench. The first was Mary Rowland, who was approved in August and is now a federal judge in Illinois. To be sure, Trump has nominated and the Senate has confirmed scores of judicial nominees who have lacked diversity and have anti-LGBTQ records. Among them is Lawrence VanDyke, who was set to have a vote for confirmation to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this week. CHRIS JOHNSON

Newly introduced legislation in the U.S. House backed by the Mormon Church seeks to strike a middle ground on LGBT rights and religious freedom in federal civil rights law, although major proponents of each refuse to support the legislation. Introduced by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) on Friday, the Fairness for All Act would strike a balance between LGBT rights and religious freedom in a way proponents say would protect First Amendment rights. That way, however, permits anti-LGBT discrimination from religious institutions and small-business wedding vendors. “Throughout history, there are times when principles come into conflict, and often they are conflicting good principles, both of them with equal value,” Stewart said at Capitol Hill news conference. The Fairness for All Act is seen as an alternative to the Equality Act, legislation approved by the House in May under the Democratic majority — with five Republican votes. The Equality Act would make anti-LGBT discrimination a form of sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and clarify the Religious Freedom Restoration Act can’t be a justification for discrimination. Much like the Equality Act, the Fairness for All Act would make anti-LGBT discrimination against federal law, but it would also institute an accommodation for institutions like religious groups and small-business wedding vendors. The Fairness for All Act would prohibit antiLGBT discrimination in employment, housing, jury selection, credit, federal programs and public accommodations, but do so without defining anti-LGBT discrimination as sex discrimination. The bill would also expand the definition of public accommodations beyond the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But in contrast to the Equality Act, the Fairness for All Act would preserve the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and protect the tax-exempt status of religious colleges and universities that oppose samesex marriage, such as Brigham Young University, Bethel University and Catholic University. The Fairness for All Act would also extend protections to small businesses whose owners refuse to provide services to same-sex weddings based on religious objections. Among them is Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who gained notoriety when his case reached the Supreme Court and justices ruled narrowly in his favor based on the facts of the case. The measure would prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination at “any store, shopping center or online retailer or provider of online services that has 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year,” but states the threshold doesn’t apply to claims of discrimination based on race, color or national origin or the small business

wedding vendors excluded under the measure. Similarly, the measure says “a property owned or operated primarily for noncommercial purposes by a non-profit religious corporation that holds itself out to the public as substantially religious, has as its stated purpose in its organic documents that it is religious, and is substantially religious in its current operations” is not a public accommodation under the legislation. Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said he “strongly oppose[s]” the Fairness for All Act because it sells LGBTQ people short and erodes existing protections under federal civil rights law. “The so-called Fairness for All Act is an unacceptable, partisan vehicle that erodes existing civil rights protections based on race, sex and religion, while sanctioning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people,” David said. CHRIS JOHNSON

Defense spending bill omits trans ban remedy LGBTQ rights supporters were quick this week to slam an agreement on major defense spending legislation for leaving out language overturning President Trump’s transgender military ban, but the measure retains some minor provisions for LGBTQ troops. Although the House approved an amendment introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) as part of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization bill to ensure transgender people can serve in the armed forces, the final $738 billion package House and Senate conferees unveiled late Monday excludes the provision. However, the defense bill retains language based on an amendment introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) seeking to codify the process by which service members expelled under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” can update their DD-214 paperwork to “honorable” if they had “other than honorable” or “dishonorable” discharges. Additionally, the defense measure contains a provision along the lines of an amendment introduced by Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) requiring the Defense Department to produce reports on waivers granted to transgender enlistees under the Trump ban. Also included as part of that provision is a paragraph encouraging the military to grant waivers to transgender people seeking to enlist in the armed forces in the same manner that would be granted to other applicants seeking waivers. That language goes beyond what the Brown amendment initially sought. CHRIS JOHNSON



Bi, pan, queer people need the Equality Act’s protections I’ve seen firsthand the injustices that bisexual people face By ROBYN OCHS The U.S. Supreme Court is considering three cases that could decide whether LGBTQ+ people will continue to be protected from discrimination under federal civil rights laws. As we wait for the justices’ critical and historic decision — which will literally determine how LGBTQ+ people live our lives in our own country — we must remain stalwart in our commitment to passing crucial legislation that finally clearly and fully protects from discrimination bisexual people, and those who identify as pansexual, sexually fluid or queer. People are often surprised to learn that bisexual people make up the single largest— and fastest-growing—group within the LGBTQ+ community. However, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute and the HRC Foundation’s research, about 50% of people who identify as either gay, lesbian or bisexual, identify as bisexual. Data compiled by the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey suggests that the number of openly bisexual Americans has tripled over the past decade. The Supreme Court’s decision in these cases could effectively decide whether to solidify or take away non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people under federal civil rights laws, which prohibit sex discrimination in contexts ranging from employment to housing, healthcare and education. The workplace—the location of discrimination in the three cases being

considered at the Supreme Court—can be an especially difficult and distressing terrain for bisexual employees. And yet, many conversations regarding these cases— and workplace discrimination in general – have erased the bisexual community. HRC Foundation data shows that 37% of LGBTQ workers have heard bisexual-specific jokes in the workplace. A 2016 study by Prudential found that bisexual women make nearly $10,000 less on average than their lesbian peers, and nearly $16,000 less than the average straight woman. A person’s sexual orientation should never be a barrier to achieving their professional or educational goals, raising a family or simply living their life in the public square without risk of discrimination. Regardless of how the Supreme Court decides, the Senate must join the House in acting immediately to pass the Equality Act to explicitly codify protections for the LGBTQ+ community and address the significant gaps in federal civil rights laws for everyone. The bipartisan legislation has growing, unprecedented support, including from nearly 70% of Americans, hundreds of members of Congress, more than 250 major businesses, more than 500 social justice, religious, medical and child welfare organizations and more than 60 national trade associations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and the Business Roundtable. This legislation would have a widespread and positive impact on the bisexual community. Currently, 50% of LGBTQ Americans live in the 29 states that still lack explicit statewide non-discrimination protections, leaving them at risk of being fired, denied housing, or refused service

because of who they are or who they love. This means, without the Equality Act, it is possible that a man living with his wife could be kicked out of his apartment if his landlord finds out he once dated a man. A bisexual woman could be fired from her job simply because of her sexual orientation. A pansexual person could be denied access to an LGBTQ-focused education or job training program because they are not seen as being gay “enough”— or too gay. For me, enshrining the protections of the Equality Act is deeply personal. I’ve identified as bisexual for 43 years, and I have spent my career advocating for marginalized communities. My wife and I are about to celebrate our 23rd anniversary. I’ve seen firsthand the injustices that bisexual people and other LGBTQ+ people face because we lack explicit legal protections under the law. I know my visibility as an openly bisexual woman matters when we talk about this legislation because our community faces unique challenges that can be all too easily dismissed or ignored. No one should be denied a job or fired simply because of who they are or whom they love. The Supreme Court has an opportunity to uphold this area of law to ensure protections for LGBTQ+ people in many important areas of life. But, regardless of this outcome, passage of the Equality Act is a critical step toward ensuring that bisexual, pansexual, sexually fluid, and queer people, alongside the full LGBTQ+ community, realize the promise of equal opportunity for all.

Robyn Ochs is a longtime LGBTQ rights advocate and editor of Bi Women Quarterly.

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Our country must live in us Rebuilding together against lies and madness

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist at rrosendall@me.com.

I know it’s time for holiday cheer when my building’s lobby is festooned with fake Christmas presents. Fortunately, nearby collection bins for coats and non-perishable food show the real spirit of giving. We are beset, however, by counterfeits. A Russian asset poses as an American patriot. Republicans vilify Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan for a punning reference to Barron Trump as if she had roasted and eaten him like the witch in a folktale, despite their own history of gleeful attacks on teens from Chelsea Clinton to Greta Thunberg. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich laments, “On the eve of Christmas it is really sad to see the dishonesty and the partisanship,”

referring to Democrats, amazingly enough, considering that he himself impeached Bill Clinton six days before Christmas. Think of Donald Trump as a meaner, duller, and less competent version of Eddie Murphy’s Billy Ray Valentine in the 1983 film “Trading Places,” who is caught up in a wager between plutocrats over what will happen if they replace the managing director of their brokerage firm with a street hustler. In our case, the wagerer is Vladimir Putin, who helped dupe American voters into replacing a thoughtful and decent president with a mobbed-up developer to see if he could turn a republic into a third-rate crime syndicate. So far, Trump’s biggest hustle has been remarkably successful: he vandalizes our country by exploiting race- and class-based resentments to profiteer while posing as a reformer. Everyone is onto him except his diehard supporters. Last week, he made himself a laughingstock at the NATO meeting in London, while back in Washington, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked key committee chairs to start drafting articles of impeachment. Trump and his enablers seem to believe that crimes done in broad daylight are OK. As far as they are concerned, we are in a post-factual age. It is easy to wax selfrighteous and hypocritical when glibness

and shamelessness trump logic and evidence. It is easy to sell out your country when you convince yourself that the worst person is an agent of God while you yawn over the teachings of your Savior. Despite his threats to lock up Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server, Trump routinely commits worse security breaches by using cell phones, in addition to constantly blabbing classified information. All but one House Republican voted against the Voting Rights Act restoration bill. They loved the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted the VRA and paved the way for massive voter suppression in the name of fighting imaginary voter fraud. Republicans mock “do-nothing Democrats” while 275 House-passed bills await action on Mitch McConnell’s desk. A Daily Beast headline says, “Ex-Infowars Staffer: We Made Up Shariah Law Threat Stories.” Freedom of speech has become the refuge of disinformation ops. While Democratic candidates argue over healthcare and education, Trump regales a small business roundtable with ignorant musings on light bulbs and low-flush toilets. He waits for Senate Republicans to absolve him of corrupting the election so he can continue corrupting it, while impeachment

critics tell us to resolve our concerns via the election as Rudy Giuliani returns to Ukraine. This is farce without laughter. Trayvon Martin’s murderer sues Martin’s family. Accused child molester Roy Moore, who narrowly lost an Alabama Senate race, rises again. The Border Patrol let a migrant teen die of untreated flu. The devil himself could not be more heartless. Pope Francis (@Pontifex) tweeted on Dec. 3, “God’s works begin by sprouting from a seed, from little things.” First we must see clearly. A demagogue’s incitements have swayed too many fellow citizens. He is at odds with reality, compassion, respect, and the Constitution. He has threatened civil war. Democracy cannot endure one group’s supremacy nor a leader who holds himself above the law and continually sows discord. Belief in our country requires upholding its values, as brave civil servants have done in the face of threats and slander. Against the aggressive lies, against the madness, let us not defeat ourselves by making the perfect the enemy of the good. Let us rebuild together with honesty, accountability, and hope. Copyright © 2019 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

‘L Word’ — the next generation Classic lesbian-themed Showtime ’00s hit returns By SUSAN HORNIK

“Roseanne” (aka “The Conners”), “Fuller House,” “Charmed,” “Will & Grace” — reboots are all the rage on TV. Now it’s “The L Word’s” turn as Showtime revives the classic lesbianthemed series, which ran from 2004-2009. Now called “The L Word: Generation Q,” the original cast members — Jennifer Beals, Leisha Hailey, Kate Moennig and creator Ilene Chaiken — along with newbie stars Jacqueline Toboni, Arienne Mandi, Leo Sheng, Rosanny Zayas, Jordan Hull, Sepideh Moafi, Jillian Mercado, were all at the recent red carpet premiere. Also present was executive show runner/executive producer Marja-Lewis

Ryan, Darren Criss, Cyndi Lauper and Cybil Shepherd. Viewers attending the premiere had all the feels about the show’s Dec. 8 return. Eight episodes have been ordered. It airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. The first episode is available to stream at show.com/lwordgenq. Said Courtney Kist in a tweet: “I went to a pre-screening of ‘The L Word: Generation Q’ hosted by @them and @Showtime and Im feeling EMOTIONAL abt how I used to watch the OG series with the volume all the way down in my parents living room and last night I watched it holding my partners hand in a

theater of queers.” “As it turns out a lot of people were in a similar place last night and I just feel lucky that we were all there in our feelings together, watching this show that will hopefully continue to give us a place to see ourselves and our community represented,” Kist wrote. At the Television Critics Press Tour, Chaiken talked about the reboot. “The world has changed a lot in these 10 years and lesbians still belong on television,” Chaiken said. “We’re telling the stories about what’s happened in those 10 years, where we are now and where we’re headed.”

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Chaiken continued: “The feeling was mounting that we should bring the show back ... the world of these characters was beloved ... it came together in a moment. And then what made it really happen was finding someone, Marja, who had something really fresh to say and who knew how to carry it forward.” For Beals, what’s intrigued her about this new series was the chance to expand the discussion about sexuality and gender identification. “You know, when we were starting the show, nonbinary was a mathematical term, and now we talk about it in terms of identity,” Beals said. “And we’re being able in this new iteration of the show to talk about all the other ways that we now talk about gender identity and sexuality.” Beals pointed out how the Trump administration has an impact on the series. “I think with this administration, they have given people permission to say really hateful things and they are perpetrating hateful

things. I’m hoping that the Equal Rights Amendment can be passed for many, many reasons, but not the least of which that if you’re LGBTQ, you can be fired from your job still in 26 states. You know, you can be denied housing in 26 states. And so, certainly we haven’t reached any kind of state of equality, but I think that’s also the power of storytelling can help that issue.” Beals remembered the first time she watched “The L Word” onscreen. “I usually don’t watch myself at all and Ilene made me watch the first four episodes in a row. And when I came out of the show and I walked outside and I saw all these heterosexual couples, it was really kind of odd, because you’ve been living in this other reality. … You saw these people loving each other and wishing for happiness, and it just seemed completely normal, as it should be,” she said. “But the culture is telling you, ‘Oh, no. This is abnormal.’ And it is not abnormal. You know, everybody wants to find love. Everybody

wants to find happiness. So I think in that way, storytelling can then give you an affinity for the characters. They can have you feel compassion and empathy and you want this character to be with this character. And you don’t care if it’s two women or two men or whatever. You don’t care, because love is love and it’s an energy that’s not defined by gender or sexual preference.” Hailey loves the inter-generational quality “Generation Q” has. “I think it’s actually interesting, that conversation between a newer generation and older generation of, like, who’s done the marches, who’s broken those barriers down,” she said. “I’m always personally trying to respect anyone who came before our show, and I think that’s an important conversation to always have. But it’s also really interesting to learn from a new generation as well. What they have to teach us is part of what we can’t wait to tell on the show.”

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The gals are back First four episodes engrossing, promising for ‘L Word’ reboot By SARAH TOCE

From left Jennifer Beals, Alicia Hailey and Katherine Moennig in ‘The L Word: Generation Q.’ Photo courtesy Showtime

“The L Word: Generation Q” debuted on Showtime this week, breaking a global Sapphic fast lasting over a decade. The expectation by fans and industry leaders to deliver an adequate, if not above par, script was surpassed exponentially with the premiere of this reinvented treatment by original series creator Ilene Chaiken and executive producer Marja-Lewis Ryan. Dubbed by Showtime as “a bold new show, for a bold new generation,” the thought-provoking storyline captured the essence of the LGBTQ culture spanning, literally, generations. Old and new fans of the show should watch and take heed: this isn’t your mother’s “L Word.” Original series cast members Jennifer Beals (Bette Porter), Kate Moennig (Shane McCutcheon) and Leisha Hailey (Alice Pieszecki) were each given dedicated screen time to reprise their roles and placement in lesbian cultural iconic history, resulting in a hodgepodge of storylines tilted here and there. The result was a reunion in the city that birthed them right in front of our eyes — Los Angeles, baby! I’ve had the opportunity to review the first four episodes of “The L Word: Generation Q” and, like a vintage red wine at Jenny Schechter’s memorial service, this show ages with ease. Spoiler alert: This is where you leave if you don’t want to know what happens next. Shane is married and avoiding deliverance of divorce papers like the plague (it’s complicated), Alice is in a relationship with a divorcee with kids and has her own televised talk show (where, oddly, they don’t mention The Chart, but they do talk about vaginal rejuvenation and coffee preferences, not related), and Bette has hot flashes. Tina (Laurel Holloman), although not on-screen for the first four episodes at least, makes a substantial impact in the storyline whenever Bette fails to parent Angelica “properly.” Oh, and for loyal viewers of the original series, did you catch the Easter egg in Angelica’s room during the first episode? There’s artwork hanging on the walls and Mama T is an artist by trade in real life. Time to pull the band aid off: Jenny (Mia Kirshner) is referenced in “Gen Q,” but only when Bette is forced to reveal skeletons in her closet during her mayoral campaign. About that, remember the time Bette had sex with a married woman? That comes back to bite her in the ass as well and the relationship might still have legs. While I wouldn’t quite call the introduction of the new “Gen Q” cast members a hand-off, it might be more or less appropriately referred to as a training sesh for both generations equally involved. The new cast is decidedly more diverse than the original cast, with representation by a transgender actor and several queer people of color. Bette and relative newcomer Arienne Mandi, who plays ultra-fly PR exec Dani Nùñez, are a prime

example of the generations coming together for a common story. Although the two originally butt heads, the stand-off at the end of episode one puts them on the same team where they stand the chance to win it all. As the series progresses, Bette helps Dani with defining her own terms (“How do you sleep at night?”) and Dani helps Bette recover from scars of the past. Bette and Dani could learn a few things about matters of private conscience, but they have room to unite immediately on issues concerning public grit and determination. And we can’t wait to see how their lives continue to intersect on the campaign trail. This brings us to Shane and her mini-me, played by the gorgeous Jaqueline Toboni as Sarah Finley. “Finley” is a captivating new addition to the drama, much like Shane was in the original. Some might argue she demands screen time even more so with her ingénue approach and contagiously wide smile. Finley and Shane connect while discussing their living situations and, to cut to the chase, end up cohabitating in Shane’s massive complex. Sexual escapades in need of fine tuning are no match for the older but wiser Shane as she reluctantly takes Finley under her wing. With her divorce papers not even signed, Shane buys a lesbian bar for a new fling, who happens to be married herself. Lonesome Shane strikes again, but with a ton more money this time around. What else will she do? Trans man Leo Sheng enters the scene as professor Micah Lee, a tender heart with the desire to carve out a spot all his own. In the handful of the first few episodes, we watch as Micah blossoms through love, heartache and a deeper understanding of what it means to live an authentic life — awkward first dates and all. Rosanny Zayas plays Alice’s TV producer Sophie Suarez, an attractive sweetheart who captures Dani’s heart, but also challenges her to rise up and become her own person outside of her family’s fortune and expectations. Sophie works and lives alongside not only her new fiancé Dani, but also Finley (for a time) and Micah in Koreatown. This new group of close-knit friends resembles the old guard, but with a fresh new twist. “Gen Q” cameos so far include lesbian staples Fortune Feimster and soccer champion Megan Rapinoe. Admittedly, if one considers oneself to be antilabel or not a lesbian so much as expected by societal norms, there’s still much to be found in this reboot. “Gen Q” establishes the art of selfdiscovery whether queer, bi, gay, lesbian, trans, gender non-conforming, and on and on down the line of alphabet soup — an antiquated term that might not even be appropriate to use anymore, but the closest thing possible to explaining that if you are a human being, you will be moved by “Gen Q.” Find out more of the scoop by visiting sho.com/ the-l-word-generation-q and following @sarahtoce on Twitter, Facebook and Insta.



GLAAD’s annual holiday party brought together leaders from all over the LGBT community, including many of the city’s leading non-profits. Representatives from GLAAD, including President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis and many board members were present, as were team members of the Ariadne Getty Foundation and Getty herself, Project Angel Food boardmembers, Pete Buttigieg team members, members of the Trans Chorus of LA, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Shelly’s Voice, LA Pride and many others. The event celebrated the work of GLAAD and raised more than $100,000. (Photos by DANIEL SLIWA for Los Angeles Blade)





Gay author offers memoir about dealing with toxic parents A timely read as we prepare to celebrate holidays By JOHN PAUL KING

Author Nick Nolan’s newest book, ‘No Place Like Home,’ might provide some helpful insight for readers struggling to keep their holiday spirit during the dreaded annual pilgrimage home. Photo Courtesy Nolan

The holidays are a time of great joy for people who love spending time with family. It’s a time to get together and relive happy memories while creating new ones. But what if the memories weren’t all that happy? That’s the eternal dilemma the season presents to many whose relationship with one or both parents is problematic, even painful, and who must still somehow muster the ability to walk back into the lion’s den every year in order to fulfill a sense of familial duty – to do the right thing even when it feels like the wrong thing to do. It’s the dark flip side to the season’s festive cheer, and it affects a disproportionate number of LGBTQ people, particularly those in conservative environments or of an older generation, who often face judgment, shame, hostility, and worse when forced to spend time in a toxic home environment. The feelings that rise from such a conflict are something author Nick Nolan knows well – which is why he thinks his newest book, “No Place Like Home,” might provide some helpful insight for readers struggling to keep their holiday spirit during that dreaded annual pilgrimage home. The writer is known his “Tales from Ballena Beach” series, winner of five different Book-of-the-Year awards between the three books – including First Place Gay Fiction at the 2015 International Book Awards; but his latest work, “No Place Like Home,” is a non-fictional departure that was inspired when life events forced him to confront his own mixed emotions around his parents. “I cut my teeth on writing fiction, and I loved it,” Nolan says. Back in 2006, when he started there was what he calls “a great need for gay fiction, especially for younger LGBTQ kids.” His novels, starting with “Strings Attached,” found an audience with queer readers in the YA set, but also resonated with an older generation that had always been starved for narratives in which they could see themselves represented. He went on to write two equally successful sequels and a bestselling paranormal thriller, but an ongoing situation in his private life was simultaneously wearing away at him. “I was going through this long, protracted experience with my father, who had suffered a stroke in 1999, and it was just endless hospital visits, endless phone calls from my mother,” he explains. “At the same time, I was trying my best to maintain my other life – my married life, with my husband, our dogs, my teaching career.” Assisting a parent with their end-of-life needs is hard enough as it is, but for Nolan, like many other LGBTQidentifying people of his generation, the difficulties were compounded by painful memories. “My parents were both very toxic, homophobic,” he shares. “My father once threatened me by saying that if I ever came out to my younger sister, I wouldn’t have to wait for AIDS to kill me. My mother said she sometimes wondered if it would have been easier if I had died of AIDS. There was a lot of resentment that I had that I was stuffing down. “It’s never been lost on my that some of the worst bullying I’ve ever experienced was under my family’s roof… I kept asking myself, ‘Would they do this for me?’ ” The author, struggling to cope with the emotions dredged up by his situation, turned to his craft as a way of chronicling what he was going through. “I got the idea to write this book instead of penning another

novel, because I would be talking to people who would say, ‘Oh my gosh, I was going through that,’” he tells us. He decided to set up interviews with clinical professionals; talking with various social workers, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, even a neurologist, he asked them how they helped their patients manage a balance when dealing with parents who were what he describes with the abbreviation “WANT” (Wounding, Absent, Narcissistic, or Traumatic), or who “looked the other way” instead of being supportive. He explains, “I needed to find out, ‘How do you mitigate? How do you keep your sanity?’ What I discovered is that it’s a process for everyone. Every situation is different, and certain populations have different triggers, which is why I wanted to make sure my interviews covered a wide array of voices. I talked to eight licensed clinicians, and each one had something valuable to offer.” The book that resulted – which Nolan says he wrote in his “novelist’s voice, because that’s the only voice I know how to write in” – documents those extensive interviews, along with those from other men and women who had grappled with the issue in their own lives, in the form of a memoir detailing his father’s decline and death from diabetes and probable Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (Concussion Syndrome). “It’s very user friendly, it’s not an academic read,” he assures us. “But there’s a lot to digest, especially when you get into the interviews with the adult survivors, who are now in their fifties, sixties and seventies, who are still wounded, still bleeding.” So, what do the lessons Nolan took from going through his father’s long, slow death have to do with the anxiety many people feel around going home for the holidays? As Nolan explains, even though the circumstances may be different, the conflict is the same. “We get our sense of right and wrong from our parents,” he says. “If you’re a ‘good person,’ you want to show up and do your best for them even though it feels so bad. “This is what a lot of us face around the holidays, the season brings all these triggers. How do you manage Christmas shopping, how do you manage that potluck when you’re going over to your parents’ house? How do you manage your emotional sanity when you’re sitting there at a holiday dinner and, all of a sudden, your triggers start getting pulled? “The over-arching lesson I learned in dealing with my father’s death is that one needs to take care of oneself during the process,” he concludes. “That’s what this book is about. Taking care of yourself.” He sums up by sharing a quote from Dr. Edward Reed, one of the experts he interviewed for “No Place Like Home”: Most children don’t leave. They’re still emotionally attached. But there’s nothing wrong with finally saying, “I’m out of here.” Anything further will continue to damage you. Process what you need to do for yourself to let that parent die. Focus on what’s in your best interest, you’re going to still be around. “I find that to be very powerful,” the author says. “The idea that you’re still going to be around. You can walk away with your head held high, knowing that you were the better person.” If there’s someone you know (even if that someone is you) who might benefit from the insights Nolan shares in “No Place Like Home,” the book is available on Amazon. It just might be the early Christmas present they need.


When it comes to diversity in general, and LGBT representation in particular, two recent debuts on Netflix show how to get the job done right. Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, the gripping “Marriage Story” centers on the divorce of Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlet Johansson), a power couple in the New York theater scene with an 8-year old son (Azhy Robertson). He’s a famous director and she’s his leading lady, but she’s been offered the chance to star in a television show in Los Angeles. Her imminent departure forces them to realize that their marriage is over, but they decide to divorce amicably and minimize the involvement of lawyers. Things change when Nicole gets to L.A. and is advised to retain the services of Nora Fanshaw (Laura Dern), forcing Charlie to hire his own lawyer (first Jay Marotta played by Ray Liotta, then Bert Spitz played by Alan Alda, then Marotta/Liotta again). The legal and emotional stakes continue to rise until the divorce papers are finally signed. Baumbach is remarkably even-handed in depicting both spouses and all their strengths and weaknesses. In fact, the movie starts out with Nicole and Charlie reading from essays praising each other (it’s an exercise from their soon-to-be-fired mediator). It’s a remarkably effective technique; instead of rooting for one spouse over the other, the audience is encouraged to focus on the breakup of a once promising marriage and its toll on the extended family. Baumbach also creates a wonderfully diverse cinematic world. While most of the principal characters are white and (apparently) straight, Baumbach fills the screen with a rich kaleidoscope of people. Veteran film and stage actor Wallace Shawn, who plays one of the actors in Charlie’s theater company, gleefully underscores this theme when he advises the separated Charlie to “fuck as many people as you can.” He makes it clear that he means both men and women and it’s a delightful and powerful way for Baumbach to open up the world of his film. Netflix’s commitment to diversity is also proudly on display in the new eight-episode series “Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings.” Each hour-long episode is inspired by one of Parton’s hit songs, and the installments range from love stories and inspirational tales to family dramas, westerns and revenge comedies. Each chapter is introduced by the long-term ally for LGBT rights who sings the title song and often appears as a character in the narrative. The uplifting stories bear a family resemblance to the formulaic Hallmark Christmas movies, but they’re marked by a deep commitment to inclusion and representations. Take for example, the funny and moving “Two Doors Down” episode. From her Dollywood theme park, Parton tells the story of how she wrote the song and encourages viewers to “accept the love of the people around you” and says that “what it all comes down to is love is love.” The action then shifts to a small Southern town. The Meegers clan is gathering for a wedding, but as the family matriarch (the wonderful Melissa Leo) ruefully observes, “It certainly is raining surprises tonight.” By the end of the nuptial weekend, things will be very different for the wedding party, including the uptight mama, the bride with dreams of becoming an actor (Katie Stevens), her closeted brother and his boyfriend (Andy Mientus and Michael J. Willett), the stoic family patriarch (Ray McKinnon) and cousin Ren (Aidan Langford), a non-binary teen who is one of the “bridesmates.” Other episodes include a lively variety of LGBT themes and assorted actors. Tammy Lynn Michaels plays a lesbian entrepreneur who is reunited with her high-school friends in “Cracker Jack;” Kathleen Turner plays a mysterious mountain woman in “These Old Bones;” Julianne Hough offers a fine breakout performance as the misunderstood country singer “Jolene;” and Delta Burke makes a stirring comeback of sorts in “If I Had Wings.” These surprisingly progressive and thoroughly heart-warming stories may be a perfect way to spend time with your family, whether biological or “logical,” this holiday season.

A divorce and a wedding Two new Netflix offerings are poignant, inclusive By BRIAN T. CARNEY

Scarlet Johansson and Adam Driver in ‘Marriage Story.’ Photo by William Webb; courtesy Netflix

Dolly Parton in ‘Heartstrings,’ a limited series run of dramatizations of her hit songs. Photo by Tina Rowden; courtesy Netflix




Buttigieg rings the wrong bell Mayor Pete unfairly slammed for work with Salvation Army By BILLY MASTERS

Mayor Pete found himself in hot water with some gay critics for his past work with the Salvation Army. Photo by Sheila_F/Courtesy Bigstock

Mobile is HOTTER THAN EVER CHECK OUT: sexy member videos, hot user stories, and new search filters.

“I didn’t bother going to school. I just found my inner pussy.” — Sir Ian McKellen explains how he prepared for his role as Gus the Theatre Cat in the film version of the musical “Cats.” After a recent brief stay in Florida, I had to dash to Los Angeles to co-host “Sidebar with John Duran” on Channel Q Radio, which is syndicated around the country (you can hear the show on BillyMasters.com). The good thing about when I host something is I bring my own guests. I booked Jenifer Lewis, since she was appearing in Debbie Allen’s “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker” gala the following night. And what a night it was. Shonda Rhimes donated a building to the Debbie Allen Dance Academy! And I learned that Berry Gordy gave Debbie the first $50K to get started. As to the show, there was never such a “Nutcracker.” More than 200 gorgeous kids danced, sang, and acted their tails off. And speaking of tails, Jenifer Lewis played a rat. We were joined backstage by the young and restless Shemar Moore, who has a pretty hot tail himself. You must check out the photos at BillyMasters.com. An old photo has surfaced of Pete Buttigieg raising money for the Salvation Army — he’s even wearing the apron and ringing the bell. Turns out, the mayor has a long history of working with the group and actually held a mayoral event at the Salvation Army center in 2018. As I told you last week after Ellie Goulding performed at the Dallas Cowboys’ Salvation Army halftime show on Thanksgiving, the organization has a long history of anti-gay stances. However, the Salvation Army has said they have “evolved” on some of their views. Instead of people finding fault with Mayor Pete over groups he has volunteered for, why not focus on the fact that he actually volunteers?! I dunno about you, but I sure ain’t standing outside in the cold ringing a bell for NOBODY! And now, time for more of “Billy’s Holiday Gift Giving Suggestions.” Who doesn’t love an ornament? And who doesn’t love Broadway? You put those two things together and you get one of my favorite annual gifts - the Broadway Legends collectible ornament. Since 2008, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has raised money by featuring an iconic Broadway performer immortalized as a handmade glass ornament. For 2019, the honor goes to Angela Lansbury in the title role of “Mame.” You can grab this one at BroadwayCares.org. A couple of months ago, I went to an event that featured celebrities playing the game “You Don’t Know My Life,” which is described as “The TMI Party game with no wrong answers...just #inappropriate ones.” The game was created by my pal Dennis Hensley with Jeb Havens, and is based on Hensley’s experience of interviewing celebrities and asking odd questions to get them to tell offbeat stories. If you play this with the right people (the night I was there, both Frank DeCaro and Melissa Peterman were playing), it can be both hysterical and shocking. On that fateful night, I shared a long-forgotten story about me and Ben Stiller on an airplane - but I’ll save that for another time. This is great to play with friends, both old and new. Grab it at YouDontKnowMyLifeGame. com. Here’s a first - this week’s “Ask Billy” question comes from within my own organization. My proofreader Aaron writes, “I just read about Jason Derulo’s dick being censored online. So now I wanna see it.” Obviously I have the photo in question, but I didn’t plan on running it. Why? They discussed this on “The Talk.” If I live by one rule of thumb: There’s no reason to share a story that has been discussed by Marie Osmond. But rules are made to be broken. Jason posted a photo where he was clad only in some tight-fitting black boxer briefs - briefs that showed a sizable tubular structure across the front. When a fan asked what was in there, Derulo said an “anaconda.” Apparently harboring an animal in your undies is an Instagram no-no. The social media platform said the photo was “taken down for nudity or sexual activity.” Jason shot back, “I can’t help my size.” When they discussed this on “The Talk,” someone wondered if it was discrimination. Why can you show a large-breasted woman in a tight T-shirt but not a large-penised man in tight undies? Food for thought. That food was a bit much for Instagram, but it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet at BillyMasters.com. When being big is bad, it’s definitely time to end yet another column. And be sure to visit BillyMasters.com, the site where size is never an issue. If you have a question, send it along to Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before I tell you which celebrity mentioned in this week’s column actually kissed my hand. Here’s a hint - we have a nude photo of him on the website, too! So, until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.



Fed’l agencies offer guidance for banks, hemp providers Federal banking agencies released a joint statement last week acknowledging that banks and other financial institutions may work with those in the commercial hemp industry. The new guidance memo states, “[B]anks are no longer required to file suspicious activity reports (SAR) for customers solely because they are engaged in the growth or cultivation of hemp in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.” The statement was issued by the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, FinCEN, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors. Banks have historically been reluctant to work with any businesses involved with the production or sale of cannabisrelated products. Legislation signed into federal law in 2018 de-scheduled low-THC hemp and products derived from industrial hemp plants from the Controlled Substances Act. In October, the USDA issued interim rules governing commercial hemp cultivation.

CBD extracts aid patients with autism: study

Photo by Margarita Young / Courtesy Bigstock

BRASILIA, Brazil — The twice-daily administration of plantderived CBD-dominant extracts is associated with symptom improvement in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to observational data published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology. Brazilian investigators assessed the use of CBD-enriched cannabis extracts (75 to 1 ratio CBD to THC) in 15 ASD patients over at least six months. Study participants were between the ages of six and 17 years and subjects consumed between 50 to 100mg of oral CBD capsules daily. Authors reported, “Fourteen out of these 15 patients (93 percent) showed improvements equal to or above 30 percent in at least one symptom category. Most patients that adhered to the treatment had improvements in more than one symptom category: seven patients (47 percent) had improvements equal to or above 30 percent in four or more symptom categories; two patients (13 percent) presented improvements equal to or above 30 percent in two symptom categories, and five patients (33 percent) presented improvements equal to or above 30 percent in one symptom category.” They concluded, “The findings presented here, taken together ... indicate that CBD-enriched CE [cannabis extracts] yields positive effects in multiple autistic symptoms, without causing the typical side effects found in medicated ASD patients. Most patients in this study had improved symptoms even after supervised weaning of other neuropsychiatric drugs.” The findings are similar to those of other recent trials reporting that the use of CBD-dominant extracts reduces symptoms of ASD and is well-tolerated by most patients. Full text of the study, “Effects of CBD-enriched cannabis sativa extract on autism spectrum disorder symptoms: An observational study of 18 participants undergoing

compassionate use,” appears in Frontiers in Neurology.

FDA warns companies against illegally marketing CBD

Representatives of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued warning letters to multiple companies for marketing CBD-specific products in ways that violate federal law. The agency issued warning letters last week to 15 commercial entities. Seven additional companies received similar letters earlier this year. The FDA alleges that the companies marketed CBD as either a dietary supplement or as a food additive, or in a manner that implied it could prevent or cure serious diseases — all of which violate the federal Food, Drug & Cosmetics Act. Following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed low-THC hemp and extracts from the plant from the Controlled Substances Act, the agency advised: “Cannabis and cannabis-derived products claiming in their marketing and promotional materials that they’re intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of diseases are considered new drugs or new animal drugs and must go through the FDA drug approval process for human or animal use before they are marketed in the U.S. ... Additionally, it’s unlawful under the FD&C Act to introduce food containing added CBD or THC into interstate commerce, or to market CBD or THC products as, or in, dietary supplements, regardless of whether the substances are hemp-derived.” Two weeks prior to the FDA’s action, a review of 300 leading online CBD retailers by the group LegitScript. com reported that 92 percent of sellers marketed products in a manner that was non-compliant with current FDA policies. The FDA also issued a separate advisory acknowledging that many commercially available CBD products lack appropriate regulatory controls and may be of variable quality and purity. NORML has previously highlighted several independent investigations identifying product mislabeling and/or the presence of adulterants and/or heavy metals in some commercially available CBD products, such as those here, here, and here. Currently, commercially available CBD products are not regulated by the FDA, despite the fact that some three in four Americans presume otherwise. By contrast, CBD-infused products sold at state-licensed dispensaries are typically subject to state-specific regulations and lab testing protocols. However, such facilities are typically only open to either statequalified patients or to adults in states that legally regulate whole-plant cannabis sales. In May, NORML provided written testimony to the FDA urging the agency to move expeditiously to provide regulatory guidelines governing CBD-infused products, including best practices for their manufacturing, standardization, and purity. In Monday’s announcement, the agency acknowledged that it “plans to provide an update on its progress regarding the agency’s approach to these products in the coming weeks.” Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, visit norml. org.



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