Losangelesblade.com, Volume 4, Issue 3, January 17, 2020

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J A N U A R Y 1 7 2 0 2 0 • V O LU M E 0 4 • I S S U E 0 3 • 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 Log Cabin fate uncertain Recovery community concerned By RANCE COLLINS For decades the building known as the “Log Cabin” located at 621 N. Robertson Blvd has served as an oasis for the Los Angeles sober community with 29 meetings held each week at the site. But the property, while technically within the jurisdiction of West Hollywood, belongs to the City of Beverly Hills. And Beverly Hills wants it gone. The building’s complicated history is murky at best. The Historic Architecture Database lists the date of construction as 1936, although other sources have given dates ranging from 1928 to 1939. The Log Cabin happens to sit on top of a water well that serves Beverly Hills and the western edge of West Hollywood. According to West Hollywood Council member John Duran, it was this well that motivated Beverly Hills to purchase the property. They later allowed the Boy Scouts of America to construct the cabin on the site and for many

The ‘Log Cabin’ has served as an oasis for the sober community for years. Photo courtesy John Duran’s Facebook page

years it was the headquarters for Troop 27. They stipulated, though, that the cabin be demolished upon the troop’s vacating the property. That didn’t happen. Instead, the Lion’s Club moved into the building and signed a lease with the same demolition clause. That lease expired in 1977 but they still control the building. At some

point they began allowing the space to be used for other meetings. It is now utilized for various recovery groups. Selling the property to developers would be profitable for Beverly Hills. The Lion’s Club has been asked to vacate and demolish the building by March 31 – news of

which created a public outcry. The City of West Hollywood and the City of Beverly Hills released a joint press release Jan. 13 saying, in part, that they are “in discussions to determine a shared approach to the current uses at the Log Cabin property.” What that means and how that affects the eviction notice is yet to be determined. Beverly Hills is offering alternative locations to hold meetings, but West Hollywood will be doing its own site inspections. “I’ve been a member of the sober community for over 20 years,” Duran told the Los Angeles Blade. “And that building that some might see as an eyesore is integral to helping stop the use of crystal meth, alcoholism, the spread of HIV/AIDS and so many other issues related to addiction and recovery. To suddenly shut it down takes away an essential ingredient in the city’s addressing of these issues.” There is limited space available for such meetings, with West Hollywood’s own Drug and Alcohol Recovery Center already booked solid each week. “I don’t think Beverly Hills understands how critical the Log Cabin is,” added Duran.

Wiener’s intersex civil rights bill killed in Senate committee Author, co-sponsors vow to bring measure back By KAREN OCAMB Having a Democratically controlled state legislature does not guarantee passage of progressive Democratic bills, including out State Sen. Scott Wiener’s Intersex Autonomy bill, SB 201. On Jan. 13, the California Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee killed the human rights bill by a vote of 4 to 2, with three committee members declining to vote. Equality California, which cosponsored the legislation along with interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, and the ACLU of California, said SB 201 would “protect the rights of

intersex Californians — ‘intersex’ being a term used for people born with variations in their sex characteristics — by ensuring they can provide informed consent before medically unnecessary, often irreversible and potentially harmful procedures are performed on them. SB 201, at its core, is about giving people born with variations in their sex characteristics autonomy over their own bodies.” The bill would “delay elective surgeries often performed on babies in an attempt to ‘normalize’ their bodies until they have the ability to make their own informed decision,” at least until age six. Wiener and the bill’s sponsors made modifications to address committee concerns but the amendments “failed to appease the California Medical Association and other doctors’ groups that vehemently opposed the

legislation as a threat to their expertise and the safety of some of the patients they serve,” the Sacramento Bee reported. “SB 201 treats every child the same, ignoring the potential impact of treatment,” Hillary Copp, a pediatric urologist at UCSF, told the Bee. “We’re not for or against surgery and we’re not performing the surgeries that are being insinuated. We’re offering all medical treatment options and when we’re unsure of diagnoses, the majority of times, we are not offering surgery.” “I’m very disappointed that the Committee voted down this civil rights bill,” Weiner said in a statement. “Intersex people deserve legal protection, and we are committed to ensuring that protection under California law. Today’s vote was a setback, but this is only the beginning. We aren’t giving up on protecting

intersex people from non-consensual, invasive, dangerous surgery. As with many civil rights struggles, it sometimes takes multiple tries to prevail. We will be back.” “Our fight for bodily autonomy is far from over. I’m heartened by the conversations SB 201 started, and by the increased awareness and concern for harmful medical interventions on intersex children,” said interACT Executive Director Kimberly Zieselman. “Today, California stumbled as a leader on human rights and LGBTQ equality,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “This fight is not over, and we remain committed to this legislation and ensuring that California affirms and respects the bodily autonomy of all people.” Please go to losangelesblade.com for a more in-depth report.


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LA LGBT Center opens new huge Center South Center provides HIV testing, access to PrEP, computer lab, more By RANCE COLLINS Balloons, soul food, a giant game of Jenga and a cut ribbon signaled a celebration near the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd and Arlington Ave. in Leimert Park on Jan. 11. The opening of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s new 5,500-square-foot Center South facility in South LA is a huge stride for LGBTQ people of color who have often found themselves steps behind the queer Center milestones in Hollywood and West Hollywood. “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable,” Martin Luther King, Jr. once said. “Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle, and the tireless excursions and passionate concerns of dedicated individuals.” So said Mario J. Perez, Director of the LA County division of STD and HIV programs, commemorating Center South, funded in part by the Department of Public Health. “It is our hope and commitment that the Center’s new programming will further advance efforts to stem the tide of HIV and STDs and help eliminate stubbornly persistent health inequalities.” The department’s 2017 Annual HIV Surveillance Report shows that South LA had the second highest rate of HIV diagnoses in LA County. Center South’s services are provided for free or at low cost, with a special focus on at risk gay and bisexual men of color ages 12 to 29. ““I’m half black, and I’m half Mexican,” said Ryan Wooten, who lives in South LA and also identifies as young and queer. He was diagnosed HIV-positive in 2013. In order to get basic medical services, Wooten had to take two buses and a train to get to the LA LGBT Center’s health headquarters in Hollywood. “[I spent] hours on trains, being embarrassed, wondering, why isn’t there something in this neighborhood?” Despite the arduous travel, Wooten

Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson; Division of HIV and STD Programs Director Mario J. Pérez; Center CEO Lorri L. Jean; Oasis Clinic’s Dr. Wilbert C. Jordan; client Ryan Wooten; Senior Program Manager David Flores; Program Supervisor Percival Pandy.

appreciated the facility. “To be able to go to a center and to be able to always see a rainbow flag when I walk into a building and to see smiling faces and know that not everybody there is getting paid to be there — it resonated with me and it made me feel a sense of family and community,” he told the Los Angeles Blade. Dr. Wilbert Jordan, founder of the Oasis Clinic, also celebrated the opening. He has been on the frontlines of HIV/AIDS in South LA since before the epidemic was identified by the Center for Disease Control in 1981. “I saw my first patient in 1979,” said Jordan. “I didn’t know what he had.” Jordan has seen the fight against the disease progress from the time when patients had to take dozens of pills a day to now, when a single dose of PrEP can help prevent infection. “It think the hardest thing was seeing a young man in the 80s and 90s,” he said, “because in my mind I would wonder — what is he going to look like a year from now? And will he still be alive two years from now? So we have come a long way.” Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, spoke of the journey to Center

South. In 2008, a new long-term strategic plan was approved by the Center’s board of directors focused on how the non-profit could best meet the coming needs of the LGBTQ community. “One message that came through loud and clear,” said Jean, “was that while we did need more services in the Hollywood area, we also needed to expand our services to a much wider geographical area,” she said. These efforts led to the Mi Centro center in Boyle Heights, which came through a partnership with Latino Equality Alliance. The Trans Wellness Center in Koreatown followed. Center South is the next step in the initiative. It comes in partnership with the Black AIDS Institute, Beinastar Human Services, the Wall Las Memorias Project and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. These organizations will help provide linkage to care and auxiliary programs, as well as training and creative opportunities. “Together we are going to be able to serve a wider array of people and do it better than we would on our own,” said Jean. In addition HIV/STD health care, Center South will have mental health services, a CyberCenter computer lab and printer,

funded by the David Bohnett Foundation, as well as hosting social networking groups and providing a safe drop-in space. “Leimert Park has a thriving community of LGBTQ people of color, and I would like to welcome the Los Angeles LGBT Center to South Los Angeles as they continue their 50-year-plus history of life-changing and life-saving work,” said LA Council Member Marqueece Harris-Dawson. Harris-Dawson also paid tribute to the history of the building in which Center South is housed. The Jeffersons actress Marla Gibbs once used the site for her restaurant, Marla’s Memory Lane. “[This was a] place where [Gibbs] trained African American actors, writers and directors to go on,” said Dawson. “It is the spirit of activism that is in the very bones and the cement and all the wood and all the materials — activism and resistance is in the very essence of where you are today.” Center South is located at 2313 W. Martin Luther King, Blvd. For more information, go to www. lalgbtcenter.org. Please go to www.losangelesblade.com for Lorri Jean’s full remarks at the opening.



Phill Wilson calls Buttigieg ‘impressive’ after L.A. fundraiser Black Lives Matter South Bend protesting the gay former mayor By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com The heat is on. The Iowa Caucuses, the first Democratic presidential contest in the nation, are Feb. 3, which is also the first day early voting begins in California before the March Super Tuesday blow out. The latest CNN/Des Moines Register poll on Jan. 10 places Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg in a dead heat, all within points of each other as they battle over the Democratic presidential nomination and who can best beat Republican President Donald J. Trump. Buttigieg and Biden are frequent visitors to Los Angeles, with Biden securing the endorsement of Mayor Eric Garcetti on Jan. 9. But the primary focus of the LA Times story about Buttigieg’s visit to the new A Bridge Home project homeless shelter in Watts with LA City Council member Joe Buscaino where he was “greeted warmly” by many black residents was the appearance of about a dozen protesters, three of whom were from South Bend, “loudly heckled Buttigieg as ‘anti-black and anti-poor’ over his record in South Bend.” Asked by The Times and others who paid for their trip and all the expenses associated with following Buttigieg around, Katheryn Redding, who had been identified in previous news coverage as a Sanders supporter, initially said, “I was told not to release that information.” She subsequently said the ongoing protest was paid for by Black Lives Matter South Bend. “It wasn’t presidentially paid for at all, or anyone that’s running.” The protesters noted the December death of Anthony Young, 44, who died of hypothermia on the streets while Buttigieg was still mayor and should have made Young’s death “his priority.”

Buttigieg told reporters that Young had died “after declining to come into a shelter,” The Times reported. His campaign cited federal statistics indicating a decline in homelessness in the greater South Bend region during the mayor’s tenure. BLM/SB protested Buttigieg’s first fundraiser outside the Sherman Oaks home of Lisa Gregorian, Chief Marking Officer for Warner Brothers TV Group, according to the pool reporter, who did not actually see the protesters and noted the night was a chilly 54 degrees. Buttigieg said that if Trump declined to debate his Democratic opponent, it would be a “show of weakness.” The pool reporter noted that one of the questions came from a gay high school senior who asked Buttigieg about his LGBT policies. Buttigieg said he’d ban “conversion therapy,” sign the Equality Act, and end the war on transgender Americans. He then segued into the “crisis of belonging.” Buttigieg then attended what was a diverse but basically gay black fundraiser co-hosted by “Empire” director/writer Lee Daniels and Jordan Fudge, managing partner of venture capital firm Sinai Ventures, at Fudge’s home. There was no pool reporter at this event. Black AIDS Institute founder Phill Wilson was among the approximately 90 attendees. “I’m very interested in all of the Democratic nominees,” Wilson told the Los Angeles Blade, noting that all the questions for Buttigieg came from black attendees. “I’ve not made a decision on which candidate that I will eventually support. First and foremost, I’m committed to whoever the ultimate nominee is. I’m committed to trying to figure out, quite frankly, which nominee has the best plan for not just winning the nomination but winning the general election.” Winning tops Wilson’s list of criteria so he asked Buttigieg directly about his plan to win. “The mayor had a very thoughtful, interesting answer based in some history,” Wilson says. “Number one, that all of the victorious Democratic nominees over the last 50 years have been generational change candidates; that they’ve all been outside candidates; a candidate that has sparked

imagination; and they have spoken about a new vision for America. He believes, and I actually do concur, that he fits that bill…. I think that he is a candidate that is worthy of serious, serious consideration.” Some of the reasons for that consideration: he represents the Midwest – “an important constituency that is critically important. How is the next Democratic candidate going to win Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin? Having someone who is from the Midwest and has that lived experience may be very helpful, if not critical. I think that’s important. I think that in addition to that, having someone who can speak to populations outside of the large urban centers may be important and may be helpful.” Can he mobilize young voters? While his age “has not given him an upper hand in that regard,” it may in the general election. And he has demonstrated that he can organize and raise money. “I think that in this next election, having the ability to juxtapose a thoughtful candidate against a bombastic demagogue may be important, as well,” says Wilson. “I think that the current resident in the White House demonstrates weakness every single day in ways that have been demonstrative, damaging to our democracy. Being able to call that out is important and essential.” But there are still people who think Buttigieg may be brilliant but can’t win because he’s gay. “I don’t have a crystal ball. I think being nervous and concerned is an extremely understandable position. I don’t think that we should decide or mobilize from a position of weakness,” says Wilson. But Wilson notes that, “under no circumstances” did many people believe “that a black man from Illinois named Barack Hussein Obama had an ice ball chance in hell of being elected president of the United States — and it happened. It happened because we decided to move from a position of our aspiration and not from a position of our fears. We understood that many of our fears were fermented by folks who want and wanted to continue to oppress us. “I think it’s legitimate to worry about that,

but I think that it’s time for all of us, LGBTQI folks included and maybe especially, to embrace our own power,” says Wilson. “It’s our job to decide who we want to be president of the United States and work our asses off to make that happen because the opposition is going to sow doubt among us about whoever the candidate is.” Wilson did not hear about the BLM protest until after the event. “All of the candidates should be challenged on whether or not their policies have been responsive enough to the needs of black and brown and poor people,” Wilson says. “Clearly, Mayor Pete has to be held accountable for how he responded to the needs of the black citizens in South Bend, without a doubt. I think that if we also have been tracking, there have been people that have been calling out Joe Biden on his race position, Kamala Harris on her race position. I think that we should be holding all the candidates accountable.” But Wilson also wonders if focusing on one tragedy without context should be construed as evidence of a belief or policy, as is the case with BLM/SB and the death of Anthony Young. “Having actively been a part of the cold wet weather program here in Los Angeles under Mayor Bradley, I know that in this city and I know in New York — I don’t know but I suspect as well there — if someone refuses to come in, they can’t be compelled to do so,” Wilson says. “In fact, here in Los Angeles, we have actually looked at the civil liberties of homeless people and one of them is that they can’t be forced in if they don’t want to. These are legitimate issues to raise, but we should not have knee-jerk reactions. We should explore actually what really happened.” While other issues were discussed, the issue of race explicitly took center stage. Buttigieg talked about his Douglass Plan and how it came to be — listening and taking counsel and guidance from those impacted communities. Buttigieg made it clear, says Wilson, “that the racism and the racial oppression has not been accidental, that it’s not been benign, that there’s a degree of it that has



Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg talking with Black AIDS Institute founder Phill Wilson at fundraiser. Photo courtesy John Gile

been malicious and on purpose. That’s why the remedy cannot be race-neutral, that the remedy has to be progressive because race-neutral does not address the ongoing impact of past transgressions.” Wilson says he was impressed by Buttigieg’s ability to listen, a quality he has experienced and observed in face-to-face meetings with Democratic candidates prior to them becoming president, including Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, Illinois Sen.

Barack Obama and meetings with President Jimmy Carter and President George W. Bush. “Mayor Pete definitely, definitely demonstrated the characteristic that I first observed the first time I met Bill Clinton, the first time I met Barack Obama in that I felt like he was, without a doubt, very actively listening to me,” says Wilson. “I think one attribute that I will look for is a president who is committed to being a listener. “I was impressed with him. I think that he

deserves a fair shot,” Wilson says. The longtime black gay and AIDS activist also hopes LGBTQ voters think beyond their inculcated oppression. “It does not surprise me that some LGBTQI folks admire Pete Buttigieg and maybe even think he is the best candidate, but don’t support him because they don’t think a gay man can be elected president,” says Wilson, his voice building with the passion of experience. “There are forces

who don’t want us to believe a gay man can be elected president and they are constantly sending us those messages. They are the same forces who don’t want us to believe we deserve equal rights. They are the same forces who didn’t want us to believe that marriage equality could become the law of the land. But, here’s the thing, amazing things happen when we don’t believe those forces.”



Some first responders, such as Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Detective Amber Leist, take their pledge to “serve and protect” not just as a job but as a foundational principle of their lives. Being off-duty does not mean they decline to render assistance when needed. But on Jan. 12, Leist’s call to be of service inadvertently led to her death. She was at a red light at the intersection of Whitsett Avenue and Riverside Drive in Valley Village when an elderly woman fell in the crosswalk. Leist, 41, got out to help the woman cross safely. But as she returned to her car, she was fatally struck by a car heading east on Riverside Drive. The driver tried to help but Leist died at the hospital of her injuries. The LAPD is investigating the tragedy as an accident. Leist “was an outstanding detective who would lead by example, and she definitely led by example through her act of kindness, and we consider this an on-duty death,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a news conference, the LA Times reported. For five years, Leist worked as a patrol officer at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Det. Amber Leist, West Hollywood station, empathetically taking most of 41, was killed while off-duty in Valley Village on Jan. 12. hoto courtesy LA County Sheriff’s Department the domestic violence cases, Capt. Edward Ramirez told KTLA. She also served as a school resource officer and would buy food for the homeless. WeHo City Councilmember John Duran announced on his Facebook page that flags are being flown at half-staff in her memory. “She was a treasured member of our Weho family and we are in mourning,” Duran said. “Deep condolences to all her family and friends.”


“Just like the beautiful ladies from @ poseonfx, we are often born into one stage of life and then cocoon into an incubation of self-discovery, transformation, and acceptance, ultimately being released into freedom as beautiful creatures.” — Pose star Billy Porter on Instagram explaining that the Red Carpet Critics Choice Awards “Gumby butterfly realness” tattoos were an homage to the trans community.

“I find death is a big waste of time when you could be alive doing something. But I’m getting used to the idea.” — Ivy Bottini, 93, to The Advocate’s Jeffrey Masters for his podcast LGBTQ&A, Jan. 14.

“[T]oday I am taking back my own power. When I was younger I was born in the wrong body, which means that I am transgender.” – YouTube beauty star Nikkie de Jager (aka NikkieTutorials) in a Jan. 13 YouTube video titled “I’m Coming Out.”



Will GOP moderate its anti-LGBTQ platform in 2020? Trump’s marriage views at odds with official document By CHRIS JOHNSON With the start of a new decade and another presidential election at hand, the time has come for the quadrennial event of crafting the platforms for the major U.S. political parties, but 2020 presents a unique situation for Republicans because President Trump’s position on marriage equality is at odds with previous platforms. Starting last year, the White House has repeatedly stated Trump, despite his administration’s anti-LGBTQ record, supports marriage equality. That stands in contrast to every recent iteration of the Republican Party platform, including the 2016 version, which calls for a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage nationwide. If the 2020 platform were to maintain the party’s call for a constitutional ban on samesex marriage, the document would defy the position of the Republican standard-bearer in the election, who is also the incumbent U.S. president. That would be a striking contrast. The upcoming drafting process for the 2020 document would be an opportunity for Trump finally to put his money where his mouth is on same-sex marriage and call on the Republican platform committee to drop its opposition. The Log Cabin Republicans, which in 2016 bucked the party to dub the Republican platform the most anti-LGBTQ in history, are sensing the possibility for change in 2020. “In 2016, the RNC platform slid backwards on LGBTQ issues and it is not in line with the president’s beliefs or agenda for our community,” said Charles Moran, managing director of Log Cabin Republicans. “The 2020 convention is a time to bring the platform up to speed.” A potential divergence between Trump and the platform wasn’t an issue in 2016, when both he and the party opposed samesex marriage.

President Trump supports marriage equality, according to multiple recent statements from the White House.

Prior to his presidential run, Trump on CNN in 2015 just after the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges said he’s “just for traditional marriage,” a position maintained through his 2016 campaign. In a Fox News interview just before the 2016 Iowa caucuses, he said he’d “strongly consider” appointing justices as president to reverse the decision. Log Cabin, which issued an early endorsement for Trump for re-election in 2020, may now be in a better position to effect change than in 2016, when the organization kept to its tradition of waiting to make an endorsement decision until after the Republican convention. Log Cabin ended up declining to endorse Trump. Key to changing the platform in 2020, Moran said, will be the selection of delegates to the Republican National Convention, which this year will take place in Charlotte, N.C. “Log Cabin will have a presence at the convention and has already started conversations within the party about what the platform needs to look like,” Moran said. “But we’re still early in the process — we need to see what the delegations look like

from each state, and that’s our focus now — getting our folks teed up to be selected as delegates. It’s different in every state so lots of moving pieces, but we’ll come up with a strategy once we know what the field of delegates looks like.” Any effort to remove the anti-LGBTQ language in the platform would be a Davidand-Goliath effort against anti-LGBTQ groups like the Family Research Council, which dominate the Republican Party and have a significant hand in influencing the quadrennial platform. In 2016, the Republican platform was peak anti-LGBTQ, condemning both the Obergefell decision and the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling against the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. One plank sought to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality, either through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment. “In Obergefell, five unelected lawyers robbed 320 million Americans of their legitimate constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” the platform says. “The Court twisted the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment beyond recognition.” The platform also objected to use of federal law to ensure transgender people can use the restroom consistent with their gender identity, indicated support for widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy and endorsed the First Amendment Defense Act, a religious freedom bill that would enable anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Jennifer Victor, an associate professor of political science at George Mason University and co-author of “Competing for the platform: How organized interests affect party positioning in the United States,” cast serious doubt on any change happening in 2020. “The core groups in the Republican coalition, especially those involved with drafting the party platform, are socially conservative,” Victor said. “It seems likely there will be a strong movement to maintain the party’s explicit position against samesex marriage and other LGBTQ rights issues.”

It’s probably unrealistic to think the Republican platform will endorse same-sex marriage, which the Democrats have done in their 2012 and 2016 platforms. Instead, a more achievable goal might be removing the anti-LGBTQ language, including support for a constitutional amendment against samesex marriage. The American Unity Fund, a pro-LGBTQ Republican group supported by GOP philanthropist and donor Paul Singer, undertook a previous effort in 2016 to keep anti-LGBTQ language, including a call to ban same-sex marriage, out of the platform. The effort, however, didn’t succeed in the face of anti-LGBTQ members of the platform committee despite pleas from members like lesbian delegate Rachel Hoff, who called for a platform more accepting of LGBTQ people. The American Unity Fund didn’t respond to repeated requests to comment on whether a similar effort will be underway in 2020. Something big would be needed for a change in the Republican platform in terms of LGBTQ rights. A call from Trump to remove the anti-LGBTQ language, which would be unprecedented for any Republican nominee, would be huge and might just be the ticket. In 2019, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Trump was the first president to come into office “approving of gay marriage.” The White House has echoed that position in comments that have mostly appeared in articles on the Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ record, including the implementation of a transgender military ban and religious freedom regulations allowing anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Trump, however, isn’t known for standing up to base elements of the Republican Party on LGBTQ rights, or any other issue. Neither the White House nor the Trump campaign responded to the Blade’s request to comment on whether Trump would call for removing support for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage in the 2020 platform. Continues at losangelesblade.com


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POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF BIKTARVY BIKTARVY may cause serious side effects, including: } Those in the “Most Important Information About BIKTARVY” section. } Changes in your immune system. Your immune system may get stronger and begin to fight infections. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any new symptoms after you start taking BIKTARVY. } Kidney problems, including kidney failure. Your healthcare provider should do blood and urine tests to check your kidneys. If you develop new or worse kidney problems, they may tell you to stop taking BIKTARVY. } Too much lactic acid in your blood (lactic acidosis), which is a serious but rare medical emergency that can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: weakness or being more tired than usual, unusual muscle pain, being short of breath or fast breathing, stomach pain with nausea and vomiting, cold or blue hands and feet, feel dizzy or lightheaded, or a fast or abnormal heartbeat. } Severe liver problems, which in rare cases can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow, dark “tea-colored” urine, light-colored stools, loss of appetite for several days or longer, nausea, or stomach-area pain. } The most common side effects of BIKTARVY in clinical studies were diarrhea (6%), nausea (6%), and headache (5%). These are not all the possible side effects of BIKTARVY. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any new symptoms while taking BIKTARVY. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.FDA.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088. Your healthcare provider will need to do tests to monitor your health before and during treatment with BIKTARVY. HOW TO TAKE BIKTARVY Take BIKTARVY 1 time each day with or without food. GET MORE INFORMATION } This is only a brief summary of important information about BIKTARVY. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to learn more. } Go to BIKTARVY.com or call 1-800-GILEAD-5. } If you need help paying for your medicine, visit BIKTARVY.com for program information.

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Ask your healthcare provider if BIKTARVY is right for you. To learn more, visit BIKTARVY.com.

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6/26/19 12:01 PM



Booker drops presidential bid

The six Democratic candidates who qualified for the last debate before the Iowa caucuses line up on Tuesday night. Photo courtesy CNN

Sanders, Warren spar amid foreign policy debate In the aftermath of President Trump’s controversial order to kill Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, foreign policy got a renewed focus Tuesday night in the Democratic presidential primary debate — the last before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3. Out of the gate with a question from moderator Wolf Blitzer on why they’d be the best commander-in-chief, candidates were critical not only of Trump, but also their fellow Democrats. Drawing a contrast between himself and Joseph Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders said he voted “no” on the Iraq war in 2002 and said “it would lead to unprecedented levels of chaos in the region.” “I understood right away, in terms of the war in Iraq, the difference here is that the war in Iraq turned out to be the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country,” Sanders said. “As Joe well knows, we lost 4,500 brave troops. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died. We have spent trillions of dollars on that endless war, money which should go into health care and education and infrastructure in this country.” Following the death of Soleimani, Sanders warned Trump may be leading the United States into a war “even worse than the war in Iraq.” Biden admitted his vote to authorize the Iraq war was a “mistake,” but pointed out former President Obama chose him to be his running mate in the 2008 election and “turned to me and asked me to end that war.” Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, an Afghanistan war veteran, took the opportunity to criticize Trump for sending more troops to the Middle East when he campaigned on a promise of stopping endless war. “And whenever I see that happen, I think about the day we shipped out and the time that was set aside for saying goodbye to family members,” Buttigieg said. “I remember walking with a friend of mine, another lieutenant I trained with, as we walked away, and his one-and-a-half-year-old boy was toddling after him, not understanding why his father wasn’t turning back to scoop him up. And it took all the strength he had not to turn around and look at his boy one more time.” But the moment that got the most attention came at the end when Sen. Elizabeth Warren appeared to reject a handshake offer from Sanders. The two clashed during the debate over whether Sanders told Warren in a 2018 meeting that a woman could not win the presidency. He denied saying it but Warren insists he did. CHRIS JOHNSON

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who had struggled getting his 2020 presidential campaign off the ground from the beginning, announced on Monday he’d drop his pursuit of the White House. With weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, Booker said in a statement to supporters his campaign lacks the funds to continue. “Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win — money we don’t have, and money that is harder to raise because I won’t be on the next debate stage and because the urgent business of impeachment will rightly be keeping me in Washington,” Booker said, “So I’ve chosen to suspend my campaign now, take care of my wonderful staff, and give you time to consider the other strong choices in the field.” Booker has made LGBTQ rights a major component of his political career and took that approach to his presidential campaign. When many presidential candidates said they opposed President Trump’s transgender military ban, Booker went further and said as president he’d reverse the policy and allow transgender people to serve “right away.” CHRIS JOHNSON

Tenn. advances anti-LGBTQ adoption bill A bill that critics says would enable discrimination against LGBTQ families is on its way to the desk of Gov. Bill Lee, who’s expected to sign it following approval Tuesday by the state Senate. In its first bill of the year, the Tennessee Senate approved HB 836, which would allow adoption agencies to refuse placement into LGBTQ homes on the basis of religious objections. The Senate passed the bill 20-6. Lee’s office didn’t immediately respond to the Blade’s request to comment on the bill. According to the Tennessean, a Lee spokesperson “confirmed that the governor would be signing the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.” The bill, sponsored by Sen. Paul Rose (R-Covington), prohibits requiring private licensing child-placement agencies to participate in child placement “that would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions.” The Tennessee House approved the legislation in April 2019, so the measure now heads to the governor’s desk. Despite the report indicating Lee will sign the legislation, LGBTQ advocacy groups are already calling for a veto. Although nothing in Tennessee state law or federal law as of now is stopping adoption agencies from refusing placement into LGBTQ homes, the measure could compromise municipal ordinances against anti-LGBT ordinances. The legislation is similar to other laws enacted by other the states in recent years allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to decline to place children into LGBTQ homes over religious objections. Other states are Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota. CHRIS JOHNSON



Steyer baffled by his own comments on LGBTQ asylum

A scene from Porta dos Fundos’ ‘First Temptation of Christ’ Image courtesy of Netflix

Brazil court tries to censor gay Jesus SÃO PAULO — A Brazilian court’s efforts to censor a Christmas special that depicts Jesus as gay have failed. A Rio de Janeiro court earlier ordered Netflix to remove “The First Temptation of Christ,” a Christmas special that Porta dos Fundos, a production company, made and all trailers and advertising that promoted it. Netflix appealed the ruling to the Brazilian Supreme Court. The court on Friday ruled in Nexflix’s favor, arguing that censuring the special based on the claim it offended Christian values was inadequate. Dom Bosco, a Catholic organization, sharply criticized the Netflix special. A group on Christmas Eve used bombs to attack Porta dos Fundos’ Rio de Janeiro headquarters. A video showed masked people reading a manifesto while they threw Molotov cocktails against the building. The Popular Nationalist Insurgence, which is part of the Brazilian “integralist” movement, claimed responsibility for the attack. Only one of the attackers, Eduardo Fauzi, was recognizable on security video. The Brazilian police have sought Fauzi since the event, and have offered a 2,000 Brazilian Reais ($488.31) reward for tips that would lead to his capture. They nevertheless believe he has fled to Russia, and Interpol has placed him on its wanted list. Fauzi, for his part, doesn’t seem to be worried because he celebrated the Rio de Janeiro court’s ruling to take down the special in a video he posted to his social media networks. Porta dos Fundos has produced humorous Christmas specials on its YouTube channel since 2013 with huge success. “For those who does not value freedom of speech or have appreciation for other values, there are other channels,” said the group in a message it posted to its official Twitter account. “We will keep publishing our skits every Monday, Thursday and Saturday on our channels. We believe in the Judiciary Power to historically safeguard the Brazilian Constitution and move forward with the certainty that the democratic institutions will be preserved.” Netflix Brasil on its official page wrote it “strongly supported artistic expression and would fight to defend that important principle, which is the heart behind great stories.” Netflix never removed the special, and it remains part of its worldwide catalogue.

Tom Steyer, the businessman-turned-Democratic presidential candidate, was baffled by his own comments he previously made on protecting the health of LGBTQ asylum seekers when asked to flesh out his plan during a New York Times interview. Steyer was unaware of his own his words — thus unable to provide more detail about his plan — during an interview with the New York Times editorial board that was published late Monday. Asked to elaborate on his comments, which he made during the CNN Democratic Town Hall on LGBTQ issues, Steyer professed to have no knowledge of them, responding “I did?” when told he said them. “Could you remind me what I said?” Steyer added. When told he said he’d increase oversight of health care for LGBTQ asylum seekers, Steyer replied, “I’m not sure I know what that means,” prompting the New York Times to respond, “OK, So then I guess you cannot elaborate on that.” The conditions in immigration detention for asylum seekers, including LGBTQ immigrants seeking to escape persecution based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, have raised the alarm for some time both during the Obama and Trump administrations. Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a transgender woman from El Salvador, and Roxsana Hernández, a transgender woman from Honduras, were among those who have died after being released from immigration detention. Yariel Valdés González, who’s gay and a contributing writer to the Blade from Cuba, has been kept in various immigration detention facilities in Louisiana for some time. Although a judge granted him asylum in September, ICE has appealed the decision and kept him in a facility as his case reaches the Board of Immigration Appeals. During CNN’s “Equality in America” town hall late last year, Steyer affirmed his administration would put in place stronger measures to protect the health of LGBTQ asylum seekers. “Of course we will. I mean, what we’ve seen from ICE in terms of inhumanity, this is a perfect example, but it’s not the only example,” Steyer said. “I think it’s absolutely critical for the United States of America to treat people in a humane and decent fashion.” CHRIS JOHNSON

Puerto Rico LGBTQ activists join earthquake relief LGBTQ activists in Puerto Rico are among those who have joined earthquake relief efforts in the U.S. commonwealth. A group of volunteers with Waves Ahead, a group based in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan, over the weekend traveled to Guayanilla and other municipalities on the island’s southwest coast that suffered extensive damage from a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck on Jan. 7. A 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the area the day before caused Punta Ventana, a natural rock formation in Guayanilla that was popular among local residents and tourists alike, to collapse into the Caribbean Sea. The Associated Press reported the U.S. Geological Survey has recorded more than 900 earthquakes in Puerto Rico since Dec. 31. Pictures that Waves Ahead sent to the Blade show cracked buildings in Guayanilla and local residents sleeping in tents they have set up in area parks. Buildings in nearby Ponce, which is Puerto Rico’s second largest city, have also been damaged. The earthquakes have caused blackouts across Puerto Rico, and have damaged one of the island’s largest power plants located in Guayanilla. Waves Ahead Executive Director Wilfred Labiosa told the Blade the first assistance that residents of a neighborhood in Guánica, a municipality that is west of Guayanilla, received since the earthquakes began came from members of his organization on Sunday. Waves Ahead also continues to raise money for the relief effort. MICHAEL K. LAVERS



Free Yariel! Blade writer seeking asylum suffering inhumane treatment in ICE detention

Yariel Valdés González is a Washington Blade contributor who has asked for asylum in the U.S.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at knaff@washblade.com.

Yariel Valdés González, a Washington Blade contributing writer from Cuba, is enduring inhumane treatment while in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in Louisiana. Valdés, a professional journalist who works as a freelancer for the Blade, is seeking asylum based on the very real persecution he has suffered at the hands of the Cuban government. An asylum official who interviewed Valdés at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Center in Tutwiler, Miss., on March 28 determined he had a “credible fear of persecution or torture” in Cuba. His family in Cuba continues to receive death threats from government officials because of his work with “media outlets of the enemy.” Early last year, the Cuban government ramped up its persecution of journalists, even detaining Blade International News Editor Michael Lavers at the airport before denying him entry and sending him back to Miami. The State Department’s Human Rights Report notes Cuba’s persecution of journalists. But those seeking refuge in the United States are finding that under President Trump, they not only won’t be welcomed, they may be imprisoned. In a 2019 cover story for the Blade, Valdés described the horrific conditions of his confinement at the Bossier Parish Medium Security Facility in Plain Dealing, La. Other Cuban asylum seekers at Bossier — some

who have been held for nearly a year — greeted him with, “Welcome to hell.” Detainees are treated like prison inmates. And remember: Seeking asylum is not illegal. Valdés has followed the legal process and his claims of persecution and fears of torture back home have already been deemed credible by the government. Yet he describes a harrowing life behind bars in which each day is a struggle to survive. In his own words: “Each day inside of it is a constant struggle for survival that takes a huge toll on my physical, psychological and above all emotional capacities. More than 300 migrants live in four dorms in cramped conditions with intense cold and zero privacy. … My personal space is reduced to a narrow metal bed that is bolted to the floor, a drawer for my things and a thin mattress that barely manages to keep my spine separated from the metal, which sometimes causes back pain. The most painful thing, however, is the way the officers treat us.” He reports the guards routinely disconnect the microwave, the television and deny detainees ice. When they complain, guards tell them, “This is not your country.” The day begins at 5 a.m. with a lineup followed by breakfast. Meals are insufficient and dinner is at 4 p.m. leading to hunger pains by bedtime. Soup is used as currency among detainees. Medical services are inadequate or non-existent. As one detainee put it, “One who gets sick is put in punishment cells, isolated and alone, which psychologically affects us. People sometimes don’t say they don’t feel well because they are afraid they will be sent to the ‘well.’ In extreme cases

they bring you to a hospital with your feet, hands and waist shackled and they keep you tied to the bed, still under guard. I prefer to suffer before being hospitalized like that.” This is what the government is doing in our name and with our tax dollars: treating asylum seekers who are fleeing violence and persecution as criminals. Judge Timothy Cole on Sept. 18 granted asylum to Valdés, but weeks later ICE appealed that decision and kept him in custody. Just last week, ICE transferred him and more than 30 other detainees from Bossier to the River Correctional Center in Ferriday, La. LaSalle Corrections, a private company, operates the facility where Valdés is now held. His case is now before the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is overseen by the Justice Department. It’s now been four months since a judge deemed Valdés worthy of asylum here. The stories of these asylum seekers are harrowing and I urge our audience to read them and to demand reform. There are several LGBTQ and other advocacy groups that could help, including the Human Rights Campaign, Immigration Equality, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and the Southern Poverty Law Center. I urge them to review this case, add their voices to the fight and assist us and his lawyer in freeing Yariel. In his own words: “I hope that I can continue my career as a journalist from here and continue the fight for a more democratic Cuba for those 11 million Cubans who have resisted and resist this dictatorial regime that has been in power for six decades.”

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Thank you, Dr. King Longtime social justice activist reflects on legacy of his mentor By REV. TROY PERRY Who was your mentor as you became an LGBTQ activist? I get this question about twice a year from individuals who are writing either books or articles for publications. Many of them are surprised by my answer. Nine months ago, my husband Phillip and I were in Washington, D.C., for the 51st anniversary of my founding the Metropolitan Community Church. We had some time on our hands and I asked Phillip if he would like to see the monument that was built to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I had already visited the memorial soon after it was dedicated. He said yes and we arrived the next morning just as the memorial opened. We were the only two people there. Phillip wandered off to take photographs of the many sayings of Dr. King that are on walls near the statue. After Phillip disappeared, I bowed my head and quietly thanked God for the life of this wonderful man, who by his actions, told me I didn’t have to be ashamed of who I am — a gay man and a minister. He was my mentor. Like millions of people, I met Dr. King on television. From the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott to his assassination and everything in between, Dr. King was mentoring me even though I didn’t realize it at the time. As our community in Los Angeles prepares

to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the first gay Pride parade in the world that took place in this city, I remember what it was like back then. Because of Dr. King, I had my dream, too. My dream in 1970 was to be treated like every other American, with the same rights as were guaranteed in the constitution. I always said: “I want every right given to my neighbors, no more. But I’ll be damned if I’ll ever settle for anything less.” No second-class citizens! And here we are 50 years later. Some things have been changed, but a lot has not. We can marry on Sunday and in 30 of our states, we can go to work on Monday and be fired from our jobs. Still no job protection in the majority of our states. We can serve and die in the military if we are lesbian, gay, or bi, but god forbid if you are trans. Our young people are still being harassed and bullied at school. Because of internalized homophobia, we have to be careful not to become our own worst enemies. LGBTQ people of color are frozen out of some portions of our community. And at some pride parades, Jews who bring the Star of David flag from their synagogue are told they are not welcome to march. The same goes for LGBTQ members of the police department or LGBTQ military troops. And yet my mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, told me to keep on dreaming. I believe you don’t give up the fight. I still believe that every day of your life you can make a difference. And I believe that we still will win!

Rev. Troy Perry at MLK monument Photo by Phillip Ray De Blieck

Josh Segarra and RuPaul in ‘AJ and the Queen.’ Photo by Beth Dubber; courtesy Netflix

The ‘Ru’-niverse expands ‘AJ and the Queen’ actor Josh Segarra on his new Netflix show with ‘Drag Race’ impresario By BRIAN T. CARNEY

Actor and ally Josh Segarra has been very busy lately. Last Friday (Jan. 10) when this interview took place, his new show “AJ and the Queen” started streaming on Netflix and Segarra and his wife Brace Rice brought their second son Hank home from the hospital. Segarra says the show’s audience will have a fun ride with star RuPaul and a beautiful bevy of queens from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (including guest appearances by Pork Chop, Vanessa Vanjie, Chad Michaels, Trixie Mattel, Valentina and Trinity the Tuck) as well as delicious cameos from Adrienne Barbeau, Marc Singer, Lorraine Bracco, Laura Bell

Bundy, Mary Kay Place, Mario Cantone and Bridget Everett. As for the plot, Segarra says, “You’re going to meet Robert Lee, played by RuPaul, who performs as Ruby Red and you’re going to meet AJ who’s played by this awesome young actress named Izzy G. Ruby Red is going to open up a club but finds out pretty early on that all of his money was stolen by his boyfriend Hector Ramirez (played by me) who is really a con man named Damien Sanchez. You meet Lady Danger, Damien’s partner in crime, played by Tia Carrere in an eyepatch.” He continues, “You travel across the country

with Robert and AJ in their RV and you get to watch RuPaul and the queens do some great numbers. It’s a lot of fun.” Segarra had fun hanging out with the drag queens on the set. “There were days where it didn’t feel like I was going to work,” he says. “There were days when I came in for just one little scene, but I’d stay for a couple of hours and watch the queens come and do their thing. I could see how happy they were to come play. I could see their eyes light up when they came on the soundstage. They are larger than life.” Segarra says there’s a line in the script that

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Josh Segarra in ‘AJ and the Queen.’ Photo by Beth Dubber; courtesy Netflix

sums up his attitude toward acting and life: “Nobody is just one thing.” He applied that to his portrayal of Hector/Damien who is more than just a comic villain (although he is funny). Segarra weaves strands of guilt into the con man’s character and also explores the character’s complicated sexual identity and complex feelings for Ruby Red. Segarra even says the show may have inspired him to do drag. “I told MPK (Michael Patrick King, co-creator of “AJ” and writer for “Sex and the City”) to get me some heels,” he says. “I’ve got some ideas up my sleeve — maybe I’ll pop a little Gloria Estefan number out.” The actor has a strong connection to the Estefan family. In 2015, he originated the role of Emilio Estefan in the award-winning Broadway show “On Your Toes.” “It was an honor and a privilege to play Emilio,” Segarra says. “Just getting to know Gloria and Emilio was amazing; I grew up

listening to their music. When I was a kid, my parents took a dance class and I still have a vivid memory of them dancing to one of Gloria’s songs, so this was a full circle experience for me.” “I was so proud to represent the immigrant community,” he says. “My parents moved from Puerto Rico the year before I was born. They spoiled my brother and sister and I; they worked their asses off to give us the life that we had. And I grew to respect the work the Estefans have put into their lives; they gave up everything to start their life anew. I tried so hard to tell the story of their life the best I could; I am so grateful to them.” He’s also proud to be an LGBT ally, he says. “When I came to New York City I felt like a lost boy. I was trying to find my footing and you learn that everyone is just trying to find a place to fit in. A lot of the people I hold nearest and dearest to me are in the LGBT community and I’ve seen how hard they had to struggle

and I’ve heard their stories about growing up and not fitting in and I realize our stories are similar and different. We all just want to find someone who’ll tell us we’re doing OK.” “I’m there to stand up for the LGBT community,” he says. “I’m so proud that we created this show about love and acceptance.” Besides watching his scene-stealing turn as the well-endowed Staten Island Oli in Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck,” Segarra’s LGBT fans can catch him in two upcoming TV shows. He’ll be appearing in “Katy Keene,” the “Riverdale” spin-off on the CW, and he’ll be reprising his role as aspiring shoe designer Lance on the second season of “The Other Two.” In the meantime, the proud new father is building a swing set and preparing to face the challenges of raising two sons. Segarra says that older brother Gus was fine meeting baby Hank until his wife Brace picked up the baby and Gus started screaming, “No, Mama, no! Put him down.”

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All about ‘Eve’ New memoir relays strictures of ultra-orthodox Jewish upbringing By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

‘Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman’ By Abby Chava Stein Seal Press $28 272 pages Photo courtesy Seal Press

Who are you? There are many possibilities. You can answer with ethnicity, gender, social strata or surname, mention your species, family origins, religion or hobbies. So many things and yet, as in the new book “Becoming Eve” by Abby Chava Stein, only one answer really matters. Yisroel Avrom Ben Menachem Mendel was born on the 24th of Tishrei in the year 5752 — or, for those who are not Ultra-Orthodox Jews, the first of October, 1991. The sixth child and firstborn son, Yisroel’s birth was the cause of great jubilation: one main forebear was Baal Shem Tov, a holy leader and the founder of Hasidism. In their Brooklyn community, that made Yisroel a member of royalty. Almost from the moment of birth, the future was set: Yisroel would follow the same path laid out for the males of the family, starting with ritual circumcision and religious observances, then yeshiva to study the Torah and Jewish law, marriage at age 18 and hope for sons to continue the line. There was no alternative. The entire family lived like this, like “18th-century Eastern Europeans,” and had done so for centuries. The exception came when then-4-year-old Yisroel insisted on having always been a girl. Later, though other childish things were forgotten, those thoughts never were. They were constant, remembered, boxed up, ignored or excused. Even when theological questions roared, when religious texts seemed to confirm Yisroel’s suspicions of girlhood, when sex — a subject no Ultra-Orthodox Jew was supposed to know about until days before marriage — made an all-boy yeshiva more bearable, questions of gender were suppressed. At 18, “matched” with and married to a woman who was nearly a stranger, Yisroel burned with envy that wearing a bridal gown would forever be denied. Naming their firstborn son was devastating. “Oh, and gender?” says author Abby Chava Stein today. “It started punching me in the face.” Without a doubt, “Becoming Eve” may be one of the most fascinating books you’ll read this winter. Certainly, it’ll be one of the most unusual. Set in a community that is meant only for adherents, author Stein’s story is told in rich detail that lets readers imagine everyday life with restrictions most of us would chafe under, and without internet, blue jeans, fast food or English. These day-to-day details are relayed in a matter-of-fact tone that makes the severity of the “laws” seem even more astounding because of the seeming scarcity of emotion associated in their telling. Stein’s lifelong question of gender almost seems secondary to those astonishments, but as the tale progresses, her demand for answers grows quietly in a way you almost won’t notice until it pounces on you. Whoosh, it’s a relief you never knew you were waiting for. And yet, relief is fleeting: Stein leaves readers hanging by not including an up-to-date which could be frustrating in any other story, but this unusual book’s end still feels just right. For that, “Becoming Eve” is a most satisfyingly unsatisfying book, and you’ll love it no matter who you are.


It’s a bit like taking the temperature of pop music of the new decade. The first major pop release of 2020, Selena Gomez is out with her third studio album entitled “Rare.” It’s a well-leveraged, solid composition. The album contains a number of good songs, even if it fails to take any serious risks. On the pop music scene, Selena Gomez is in good company. Like Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, the former Disney Channel star (which hovers somewhere between a hurdle and an asset) has had a number of hits since the conclusion show “Wizards of Waverly Place” where she played the lead as Alex. With Disney Plus’s entry into the streaming world, Disney Channel stardom is likely to still give childhood celebrities like Gomez a boost. But disentangling oneself from adolescent stardom and finding a more adult demographic is something many young artists struggle with. This is even true for performers performers like Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson from One Direction, who have spent several years seeking after a more adult demographic. But this is a well-worn path for artists like Gomez. Miley Cyrus began transitioning to an older target demographic with her 2009 “The Time of Our Lives,” which featured the endlessly played “Party in the U.S.A.” But it wasn’t until her the following album “Can’t Be Tamed” that the break felt complete. The case of Gomez is slightly different, and she released several albums with her dance-pop band Selena Gomez & the Scene. “Love You Like A Love Song” is perhaps still their most popular. Shortly after the group disbanded in 2012, Gomez’s first solo album, “Stars Dance,” was released in 2013. And it was met by immediate commercial success, landing at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200. And her 2015 follow-up album “Revival” quickly followed suit, with singles “Good for You (featuring A$AP Rocky)” and “Same Old Love,” making her something of a pop force to be reckoned with. And her 2016 duet with Charlie Puth “We Don’t Talk Anymore” has remained a fixture of radio play. But “Rare” is the singer’s first full album release in nearly five years. “Rare” is the third and titular single released from the album, cut and balanced with an eye toward radio play. While there is nothing vocally extraordinary going on — Gomez has this in common with Cyrus and Lovato — the production value is high and everything feels very polished. But the heart of an album is so rarely found in the singles, which are more often than not sort of one-offs. Songs like “Dance Again,” with its snappy baseline and dance rhythm, better capture of the aesthetic of the whole: a somewhat darkly colored, dance pop album with a glossy finish. “Kinda Crazy” pops in a mid-tempo groove and features very tasteful instrumentation: a touch of piano, a jazzy guitar riff that sets the tone and even horns. The singer’s breathy vocals hover just slightly above the mix. It’s one of the most nicely balanced pop songs in recent memory and a testament to the attention to detail that Gomez brings to her music. And it would be remiss not to mention “Cut You Off,” a delightful Saturday morning breakfast-bop and relentless earworm. Humorously, the chorus repeats over and over: “So I gotta get/you out my head now.” The second single, “Look at Her Now,” is more evidence of the masterful production and how far it take one in today’s pop music scene. Artists like Kesha (whose new album drops at the end of the month) were pioneers in this regard. And phenomenal production covers myriad other sins. But “Look at Her Now” is the pop equivalent of a nursery rhyme when you peel back the smooth synth hooks: “Of course she was sad/but now she’s glad she dodged a bullet/took a few years to soak up the tears/but look at her now, watch her go.” And the chorus drones on the annoying “Mm-mm-mm, mmmm-mm, mm-mm,” nearly as bad as Justin Bieber’s latest “Yummy.” That leaves us with the lead single, “Lose You To Love Me,” which peaked at No. 1 on Billboard back in November. It stands apart from the rest of the album as a slower break-up anthem. It’s the only track to really showcase Gomez’s vocal power and it will ultimately make for an easy dance remix (or a dozen). Songs like it have guaranteed the commercial success of “Rare,” and in turn Gomez’s staying power. But I was hoping for a little something more from this album. It is a new decade, after all.


‘Rare’ treat? New Selena Gomez effort catchy but lacking By THOM MURPHY

Selena Gomez’s new album ‘Rare’ is catchy and well produced but not quite the breakthrough it could have been. Photo courtesy Interscope



New ‘20s autos Sleek models, full of oomph By JOE PHILLIPS

It’s show time! Auto show time, that is, when gearheads swoon, paparazzi swarm and cars are unveiled like movie stars at a premiere. Look for these and other top rides when they roll into town for the Washington Auto Show next week (Jan. 24-Feb. 2).

COMPACT CAR: NISSAN VERSA $16,000 MPG: 32 city/40 highway Zero-60 mph: 9.2 seconds

With all the hullabaloo about Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan honcho who skipped bail to flee Japan for Lebanon last month, it’s easy to forget the automaker offers really decent rides. This includes the redesigned Versa sedan, long the cheapest new car in America at $13,335. While the updated 2020 model is a bit more expensive, it’s still a heckuva bargain. After all, the average price of a new car today is $36,718. What’s more, this slightly larger Versa is very versatile: it’s a subcompact, but now with the cargo capacity of a compact car and the overall feel of a mid-sizer. Acceleration is a bit chug-a-lug, but steering and braking are better than the previous model. Another plus: This is one of the few vehicles that still offers a manual transmission. Front-end styling is reminiscent of a zippy Nissan Z roadster, while the rear borrows liberally from a VW Jetta. Sadly, back-seat legroom and headroom are tight, thanks to the sloped roofline. But inside, even the base model has plenty of standard features, including seven-inch touchscreen and Bluetooth.

BMW M340i xDrive

SPORT SEDAN: BMW M340i xDRIVE $54,000 MPG: 24 city/34 highway Zero-60 mph: 4.2 seconds

Last year, the BMW 3 Series got a complete makeover, including a larger chassis and better performance. But the only engine available was a four-cylinder turbo in the 330i base model. For 2020, there’s the new M340i with a mighty six-cylinder. Alas, there’s no manual transmission, but at least the exquisite eight-speed automatic with launch control makes for a thrilling ride. I loved mashing the accelerator when driving on the Beltway to see just how much giddy-up was under the hood. Plenty, as it turns out. Despite BMW’s typically firm suspension, this Bimmer felt easygoing and composed. And the optional allwheel drive came in handy during dicey weather. There are tons of safety gizmos, though some are pricey add-ons. And the list of amenities includes automated self-parking, semiautomated steering system, wi-fi hotspot, 16-speaker stereo and more. The gesturecontrol function for the infotainment system is especially cool. Just as impressive is the tasteful cabin, with brushed aluminum trim, widescreen infotainment system and a thickrimmed steering wheel that makes you feel like an Indy contender.

CROSSOVER: KIA TELLURIDE SX $42,000 MPG: 20 city/26 highway Zero-60 mph: 7 seconds

The folks at Kia must have a “Star Wars” fetish. After all, why else create an all-new crossover that’s as imposing as Darth Vader? There’s the menacing grille. Gigantic black alloys. And — yikes! — those sinister-looking headlights. I even started humming “The Imperial March” when I first got behind the wheel. But hey, being a bad ass is what makes the Telluride so good. This hauler is larger than the popular Sorento (more akin to a Ford Explorer or Honda Pilot) with space for eight passengers and tons of cargo capacity. For even more room, you can switch out the second-row bench seat for two captain’s chairs. Four trim levels, but the top-of-the-line SX is worth the extra 10 grand over the base model. Along with dual sunroofs, the Telluride comes with 12-way driver’s seat, automatic high beams and 10-speaker Harman Kardon stereo. The latest safety gear is standard and you can add in a head-up display, heated steering wheel and rain-sensing wipers. Despite the hulking design, I found the handling smooth and responsive. Four drive modes helped, each with plenty of kick. And high ground clearance and a ginormous windshield made for excellent driver visibility. While there is no Jedi mind trick feature, there is Driver Talk, which amplifies the driver’s voice in the rear speakers.


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Oscars 2020: And the loser is … diversity Women, people of color, queer nominees lacking as Academy takes step backward By JOHN PAUL KING

John Cho and Issa Rae announced the nominees for the 92nd Academy Awards on Monday. Image via YouTube

If 2019’s record year of inclusion for LGBTQ and LGBTQthemed nominees was a small step forward for the Academy Awards, then the nominations for Oscar 2020 are a giant leap back. The year’s list of nominations contained few surprises, really. Buzzy films like “Joker,” “1917,” “Parasite,” and “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” were expected to be among the frontrunners, as were most of the contenders in the performance and creative categories. What raises eyebrows is not the films and artists that were included but those that were left out. The LGBTQ community is not alone in being shuffled aside. The “Oscars So White” hashtag of a few years back has resurfaced in the media conversation over the shortage of people of color among this year’s acting nominees. Also glaring is the absence of a single female name in the directing category, despite several of this year’s high-profile films having been helmed by women. While it should be acknowledged, with some satisfaction, that about a third of this year’s nominations went to women (62 in total, the highest number in Oscar history), it’s enough to make us wonder if the “Time’s Up” era is over and forgotten in Hollywood. In retrospect, there was an inescapable irony evident in the Academy’s choice of Korean-American actor John Cho and actress of color Issa Rae to announce the nominees from the new, yet-to-be-opened Academy Museum in Los Angeles on Jan. 13. Indeed, it became obvious before the announcements were even over after the pair read off the nominees in the Best Director category, Rae quipped, “Congratulations to all those men.” Here’s a breakdown of what DID get nominated: Of the 20 acting nominees, none identify as LGBTQ, although two (Margot Robbie, Best Supporting Actress for “Bombshell,” and Antonio Banderas, Best Actor for “Pain and Glory”) portray LGBTQ characters. Only one acting nominee – Cynthia Erivo, nominated for her starring role in the film “Harriet” – is African American. Of the nine Best Picture nominees, only one (Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women”) was directed by a woman. The majority of the nominated films are dominated by masculine themes and characters, with only “Little Women,” “Marriage Story,” and “Parasite” offering significant female presence among their central cast. In the two screenplay categories, only two women were represented, Gerwig (for “Little Women”) and Krysty WilsonCairns for co-writing “1917” with director Sam Mendes. Openly LGBTQ filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory,” besides its Best Actor nod, scored a nomination as Best International Feature. The Elton John biopic “Rocketman” picked up a nomination for John and longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin in the Best Original Song category, for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again.” As for the omissions, space only permits a partial list: Notably left out of the final cut were Latina actress Jennifer Lopez, who was widely expected to score a nod for her performance in “Hustlers.” Recent Golden Globe winner Awkwafina, the PhillipinaAmerican rapper-turned-actress who starred in Lulu Wang’s acclaimed mixed-language film, “The Farewell,” was shut out of the Best Actress category, and the movie itself failed to score a slot in the Best International Feature category. Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o failed to garner a nomination for her strong performance in Jordan Peele’s “Us.”

Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite,” nominated as both Best Picture and Best International Feature, failed to earn nods for any of its Korean cast, including Song Kang Ho, who was thought a likely contender for Best Supporting Actor. Actor Jamie Foxx, another favorite for his supporting performance in “Just Mercy,” was omitted in that category. Besides the snub for Gerwig in the director category, strong female contenders Wang (“The Farewell”), Marielle Heller (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”), Lorene Scafaria (“Hustlers”) and Alma Har’el (“Honey Boy”) were all shut out. Beyoncé, considered a shoo-in for a Best Original Song nod with “Spirit” from Disney’s remake of “The Lion King,” was overlooked. Eddie Murphy received no nominations in any category for his well-received Netflix film, “My Name is Dolemite,” nor did former Oscar-winner Ruth Carter for its costume design. Perhaps the most high-profile omission is the lack of recognition for “Rocketman” which failed to earn nominations for Best Picture or for its star, Taron Egerton, as Best Actor – despite both having been heavy favorites in those categories. It might be easy enough to shrug this all off under the assumption that the nominations are simply an accurate reflection of the number of women, people of color, and LGBTQ artists among the contenders under consideration. While, regrettably, this has is as true as it has always been, a quick look at the number of strong contenders who were passed over is enough to show that the Academy had a diverse array of deserving talent among its potential nominees – and it chose, in almost every case, to pass them over. Activist April Reign, who created #OscarsSoWhite in 2015, pointed up this fact while talking with The Hollywood Reporter after Monday’s announcements. “In the past, the pushback against #OscarsSoWhite was, ‘There just weren’t enough performances to nominate.’ Well, that’s not the case this year,” she said. “There was a wealth of talent – and not just of black performers but of various marginalized communities – that was overlooked. And it’s really unfortunate. I’m interested in what Hollywood and the Academy are going to do to make the entertainment industry reflect those that support it.” As an almost eerie counterpoint to the Academy’s lack of inclusion, Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” which received 11 total nods, was the most-nominated film of the year. The first comic book film ever to lead the race in nominations, its portrayal of the iconic “Batman” villain has drawn criticism from some for glamorizing “incel” culture – an overwhelmingly white phenomenon. Anyone who follows the Oscars knows that the nominations are determined by Academy members voting in their own categories, while the final winners in all categories are chosen by votes from the entire Academy membership. It only takes a small amount of reflection to recognize the troubling implications in the fact that, in spite of a well-publicized effort by the Academy to diversify its membership in the wake of former controversies, this year’s list of nominees looks like a throwback to the very white, very straight, and very male Hollywood of half a century ago. As previously announced, the Academy has chosen for the second year in a row to forego a designated host when the 92nd Academy Awards are presented on February. Given last year’s Kevin Hart debacle, it was probably a wise decision. This year’s ceremony is already assured of all the controversy it can handle.



Fresh episodes ‘We really want to deliver for everybody who’s been there for us’ By SCOTT STIFFLER

Jane Fonda as Grace and Lily Tomlin as Frankie. Photo by Ali Goldstein, courtesy of Netflix

Change comes crashing in like waves at the beachfront property shared by the polar opposite title characters of “Grace and Frankie,” as Season 6 picks up mere seconds after the last one left off. Now available in full on Netflix, the 13 episodes of this penultimate season, deliver game-changing storylines for every member of the ever-evolving, deliciously dysfunctional, San Diego-based Hanson and Bergstein clans. Honeymoon plans, health scares, mobility issues, an arrest warrant, a bacon curfew, and a new invention from the creators of a pleasuring device designed for older females figure into the goings-on. Haven’t seen the series? You’re missing out on a binge-worthy ensemble comedy, and one of the few shows committed to exploring, with sly humor and saucy language, the potentials and limitations of the 70+ set. Loyal fans and curious newcomers alike, be warned: The below paragraph contains backstory tidbits, and the rest of the proceedings drop some current season spoilers. With Jane Fonda as vodka martini-loving, megaWASPish cosmetics company founder Grace Hanson and Lily Tomlin as hard-toking, hearing-challenged free spirit Frankie Bergstein, these two women with only mutual loathing in common are thrust together by a shocking announcement: Their divorce lawyer husbands, ultra-liberal people-pleaser Sol Bergstein (Sam Waterston) and musical theater-loving, comparably conservative Robert Hanson (Martin Sheen) are embarking on a life together. Appropriately stunned, Grace and Frankie both stake their claim to the beach house whose “good investment” purchase served as canoodling central for Sol and Robert. A younger generation is also experiencing upheavals, as the Hansons and Bergsteins each have two children. Respectively, they are brood-tending, troubledmarriage Mallory (Brooklyn Decker) and filterless insult savant Brianna (June Diane Raphael), and adopted sons Coyote (Ethan Embry, as a recovering addict) and Bud (Baron Vaughn, as a divorce lawyer and go-to fixer of family drama). Having made its debut in May 2015, “Grace and Frankie” is the brainchild of veteran comedy creators Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris. “We are, first and foremost, writers,” says Morris, of his working dynamic with “Friends” co-creator Kauffman. “I’ve known Marta since she gave me my first job [as a writer] on ‘Dream On,’ in 1990. We’ve always shared a similar sensibility. It’s comic, but doesn’t leave the realm of the real. We both love complicated situations that are messy and human, and reflect how people really are.” Even though “Grace and Frankie” is, notes Morris, “an absolute, avowed comedy,” he and Kauffman are not afraid “to hit the more poignant moments. We decided early on that this is a show about hope, about what happens when you think your life is over, but it isn’t.” Of the once-contentious, still-tense Grace and

Frankie relationship, says Morris, “They’re always going to be at odds, because whatever they do, they approach it from opposite attitudes.” Citing a pivot in Season 3, Morris recalls, “You’re doing a show about two people who, at the beginning, really disliked each other, and you can’t keep doing that show, reacting to the fact that their husbands left them… So we had them open a business, helping older women with products that people don’t usually talk about.” Frank talk tackled with grace is something “Grace and Frankie” excels at, especially as it applies to people of a certain age. “That’s something we really wanted to explore,” says Morris, “and when there’s something nobody else is doing, it’s often an opportunity. That excited us. So we will always ask, ‘What are we talking about that is true to these characters, and their age?’ It’s not a show that could be done if they were 35.” As for how the narrative evolves, says Morris, “We sit down at the end of the year, watch the previous season, and see what the hanging chads are.” Such reflection has yielded the return of supporting characters, including, says Morris, “Tim Bagley, who cracks us up constantly.” Seen previously as the tyrannical director of a gay community theater troupe who runs a catering business with his husband, deadpan artist Bagley’s hypercritical Peter returns this season, taking a weak stab at amending for his stint as the demanding houseguest of Sol and Robert (whose impossible dream of playing the lead in “Man of La Mancha” was crushed when Peter cruelly downgraded him to Sancho Panza). Ernie Hudson, as the main ingredient supplier of Frankie’s yam-based lube, returns from Santa Fe to vie for her attention, alongside newcomer Michael McKean, as a monied Deadhead with a secret Frankie fails to hear, during a date in a noisy restaurant (“He’s fantastic,” Morris rightly notes, of McKean). Millicent Martin, as former divorce firm secretary (and porn director?) Joan-Margaret, builds on her legacy of straight talk, while Peter Cambor returns as accountant Barry, whose sperm donation to a lesbian couple further complicates his relationship with Brianna. But for all these notable guests who grew into recurring characters, Morris says Peter Gallagher has proven to be “the most obvious” example of, “Oh, wait, there’s something more there, and we’ve got to write this.” Gallagher plays Nick Skolka, the charismatic, confident tycoon whose unyielding commitment to considerably older Grace led to a Vegas marriage at the tail end of last season. “Whenever you cast somebody who’s a potential romantic lead,” says Morris, “it’s so hit or miss. But we immediately recognized Jane and Peter have this great chemistry.” Continues at losangelesblade.com


Grab your passport. Your Detroit weekend getaway may want to also include a trip to Windsor, Ontario (Canada) — just two miles away from downtown Detroit via bridge or tunnel. It’s one of the many amazing things about the Motor City. You might want to take in the shopping (your dollar is worth $1.30), pick up some onlyin-Canada treats (like Cadbury candies imported from Britain) and more.

Getting there You can easily fly there including on Southwest Airlines (my favorite) or on Delta (which has a hub in Detroit). You may want a car — after all this is the Motor City. Detroit has a great freeway system and you can go 70 mph even in town.

What to do The museums of Detroit are amazing and all close together in Midtown which is easily accessed from downtown via the new Q Streetcar or from the suburbs on the SMART FAST express bus. The Detroit Institute of Arts (5200 Woodward Ave.) has a special exhibit now, Michigan’s Great Lakes photo exhibit. Also on display are selection of AfricanAmerican art works (Detroit Collects). Another current exhibit, Humble and Human, features Impressionist-era treasures. The Charles Wright Museum of African American History is nearby at 315 East Warren. It begins in Africa and into America with the horrors of slavery followed by emancipation. It’s a stunning eye opener. Details at thewright.org. Also nearby is the Detroit History Museum where you can learn about the historic city settled by the French in 1734 after being discovered in 1665. Indeed, it was a fur trading hub. The Museum also chronicles the city’s ups and downs including the 1967 riots. The D also has a rich music history which spans from the Motown Sound (the Supremes, the Four Tops, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder and more) to Eminem (aka Marshall Mathers). Beautiful Belle Isle State Park in Detroit is on the Detroit River. You can watch the ships go by or visit the Nature Center. Birmingham is a cute suburb full of trendy shops and great restaurants. Like Royal Oak, Ferndale and Midtown Detroit, it’s very walkable.

Nightlife Don’t miss drag queen bingo and drag Sunday brunch at the Five15 (600 S. Washington Ave. in Royal Oak). Next door is Pronto which features a fun bar and restaurant. Down the road in trendy Ferndale (the gay suburb) you will find SoHo (205 9 Mile) which features a fun mixed crowd. The Hayloft Saloon in Detroit is a lot of fun. Located at

8070 Greenfield, it’s a friendly and frisky crowd. Out in Ann Arbor your will find the Aut Bar which is also a restaurant as well as the Necto nightclub. Up in Pontiac you will find the Liberty Bar and Poutinerie which features music videos on Fridays and Saturdays.

Where to stay and eat A former resident of Royal Oak, I stayed in Troy at the new Towne Place Suites (14 Mile and Stephenson) as well as at the Baymont Inn and Suites by Wyndham (a bargain hunter’s dream). Both are handy to the I-75 Chrysler Freeway and Royal Oak and Ferndale. Nearby is the Powerhouse Gym ($10 daily fee) and next door to it is the new Royal Grill (1467 W. 14 Mile in Madison Heights) which features great Lebanese food. Try the fresh carrot juice. The Marriott Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit has great views. The new Shinola is supposed to be the new boutique hotel and is also downtown as is the fabulous Westin Book Cadillac. Downtown Detroit high rises are mainly from the 1920s and 1930s and have been revitalized to their former glory. Corktown just south of downtown features great restaurants including The Mercury Grille, which is known for its burgers and fries, which are fried in lard.


Revitalized Detroit Easy proximity to Canada is added bonus of bustling city By BILL MALCOLM

Travel tips Michigan roads don’t generally have left turns. Instead, they make you do a U turn. It’s called the Michigan Left. Soft drink cans are worth 10 cents deposit. You will find great Lebanese food everywhere including food to go at gas stations. The region has a large population of Lebanese. For more information, go to visitdetroit.com for information on The D and to windsoressex.com for Windsor. The LGBTQ publications include Metra Magazine which highlights the nightlife as does OutPost which bills itself as Detroit’s gay guide. Between the Lines is now biweekly and occasionally runs my column (pridesource.com). It’s Michigan’s source for LGBTQ news as well as an informative calendar of upcoming events. The weekly in Detroit is known as Metro Times and has a lot of great entertainment ideas. The D has been totally revitalized and is a must if you have not been there lately. Written off for dead by naysayers, it has zoomed back to be an affordable, interesting, fun destination where you won’t have enough time for all there is to do. It is Midwestern friendly without the attitude of Chicago (or Toronto). You owe yourself a visit to the D. Bill Malcolm’s syndicated LGBTQ value travel column appears in publications from North Carolina to California. He resides in Indianapolis but has lived in Detroit, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland.

Drag Bingo at The Five in Detroit. Photo by Bill Malcolm



Just who is Bravo’s biggest bottom? And other important questions in the world of gossip By BILLY MASTERS

Andy Cohen spent New Year’s in South Beach. Photo by DFree / Courtesy Bigstockphoto

“Porn. But art-house porn” — Robert Pattinson’s response to what he’ll do if his turn as “Batman” flops. So there you have it, readers. Pattinson’s assets are in your hands. I am usually unflappable. In fact, I would defy you to look at me and find a flap. But last week, comments on two reality shows took me aback...and afront. First was Tyler on “Project Runway.” After ending up with one of the least successful designs, he quipped, “It’s funny - usually I’m not mad about being on the bottom.” Then he proclaimed himself to be the show’s “most popular bottom” — and he had the nerve to say it right to Christian Siriano’s face! But “Project Runway” is on basic cable, so while all this talk of sexual position seemed slightly risqué, I wasn’t shocked (I also wasn’t shocked when Tyler was eliminated). Then came the season premiere of “The Bachelor.” I’ve gotten used to all of the awkward chit-chat when the Bachelor meets his prospective concubines...err, candidates. But Victoria F. stood out when she proclaimed, “I have a very dry sense of humor...but that’s the only thing dry about me!” And on network television! Come on, ABC, couldn’t you do something slightly more subtle? Like have the camera pan to the puddle forming by her ankles? I’ve waited long enough. Clearly, I - who has something to say about everything - have something to say about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. As you know, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have announced plans to step away from their roles as senior royals, will split their time between the UK and North America, and will (eventually) be self-sufficient. In other words, they no longer want the responsibility and scrutiny that come with being a royal. We’re told that they made this announcement WITHOUT discussing it with either Harry’s father (Prince Charles) or grandmother (Queen Elizabeth II). And that was just their first mistake. One of Meghan’s fiercest critics, Piers Morgan (who was once a close friend), made the following statement: “People say I’m too critical of Meghan Markle. But she ditched her family, ditched her Dad, ditched most of her old friends, split Harry from William & has now split him from the Royal Family. I rest my case.” On the surface, he has a point. But was this completely out of the blue? After all, we know the transition has not been an effortless one for Meghan - her troubles have been well-documented. Now we hear that Meghan has already signed a deal with Disney for “an unspecified project in return for a donation to an elephant charity.” Why is she doing this Disney project? What we do know is that some higher-ups at Disney gave her an original Winnie the Pooh watercolor when Archie was born. Just out of curiosity, what did the queen give her? Elsewhere in the Commonwealth, the devastating fires continue to ravage Australia. Porn star Rocco Steele will send nude photos to anyone who contributes at least $10 to any of the charities helping the victims and firefighters. Of course, this wasn’t an original idea - female porn star Kaylen Ward did the same thing and has already raised over $1 million. So, support Rocco, and the bush! Speaking of bushes, you may bump into Andrew Scott’s if you’re looking for love online. According to the “Daily Mail”, the sexy priest from “Fleabag” has been spotted on Grindr. Your beloved Billy shrugs his shoulders and says, “So?” Like, is that news? A single gay guy is on a cruising app? There must be more to the story, right? Wrong that’s actually the entire story. In fact, the reporter goes to great pains to say that Scott doesn’t show off his naughty bits on the app. “I have a copy of the picture and while Andrew is not naked, it is a little too racy to use here.” You know what I call a non-nude photo that cannot be published? A mirage. Salacious stuff is not limited to the U.K. The New York Post ran a story about Andy Cohen zipping down to South Beach after completing his New Year’s Eve hosting duties with Anderson Cooper. The rag ran photos of Cohen and his son on the beach, making sure to note that he was also joined by his hunky trainer, Stanislav Kravchenko. I will now transcribe verbatim how that story concluded: “He isn’t, however, opposed to finding a companion and was spotted on dating apps Scrugg and Gridr, Page Six reported last March.” Scrugg? Gridr? If they can’t even get the names of the apps correct, what are the chances anything else is right? When I’m trying to figure out what kinda guys are on Scrugg, it’s definitely time to end yet another column. While the mainstream media may get many things wrong, you can always find reliable dish at www.BillyMasters.com - the site that names names, and spells them correctly, too! If you have a question, send it along to me at Billy@ BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before Cohen announces who Bravo’s most popular bottom really is. So, until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.

e started Wheels in order to offer a meaningfully safer option in the micromobility space – not just to create another scooter or e-bike company. While our device provides all the benefits that micromobility has to offer, from making transportation more sustainable and accessible to reducing traffic, our approach to safety actually addresses some of the biggest problems in the industry. That’s why from the beginning, our form factor has been completely different – with bigger wheels, a lower center of gravity, and a seat for more points of contact with the rider. Now, we have introduced a completely new safety initiative that has the potential to significantly advance the industry – we’re outfitting our bikes with a shareable and smart helmet that lives on the bike and is free for riders to use, with a biodegradable headliner that can be peeled off before each use. We at Wheels feel that innovation is important and continuing to improve micromobility allows for so many more people to get to work, school, their favorite restaurant, or your local Pride Celebration. As a local company, founded and headquartered in West Hollywood, we are looking forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary of Los Angeles Pride.



S. Dakota legalization measure lands on 2020 ballot

PIERRE, S.D. — A proposed measure legalizing and regulating the adult use and retail sale of marijuana in South Dakota has qualified for the 2020 ballot. South Dakota’s Secretary of State’s Office acknowledged last week that the proposed constitutional amendment will appear on the November ballot. The measure permits individuals 21 and older to possess and to purchase up to an ounce of cannabis and creates a system to license and regulate retail marijuana businesses. Limited home cultivation is also permitted under the measure. The proposal is the second marijuana-specific initiative to be approved by the Secretary of State’s office in recent weeks. Last month, officials similarly certified Measure 26, which legalizes patients’ access to medical cannabis, for the November ballot. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana by adults. In December, New Jersey lawmakers also decided to place an adult-use legalization question on the November 2020 ballot.

Minor pot offenses decriminalized in Hawaii HONOLULU — Legislation took effect on Jan. 11 decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses. The new law, which was passed in July, reduces penalties involving the possession of up to three grams of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, formerly punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, and a criminal record, to a non-criminal violation – punishable by a $130 fine. It also provides procedures for the courts to grant an expungement order for those previously convicted of a marijuana possession offense involving no more than three grams. The law was enacted absent the governor’s signature. Some lawmakers are hoping to expand the scope of the law in the coming legislative session. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have either legalized or decriminalized the adult possession and use of marijuana.

Italy court rules for marijuana cultivation rights ROME — Italians may grow personal use amounts of cannabis at home without penalty, according to a determination by the nation’s supreme court. Justices opined that “at home, small-scale cultivation activities are to be considered excluded from the application of the penal code.” The defendant in the case was cultivating two marijuana plants. The ruling is similar to a decision made by South Africa’s top court in 2018 when justices concluded that it is not “a criminal offense for an adult to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption.” More recently, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that laws criminalizing the private use and cultivation of cannabis by adults are unconstitutional.

Packaging cannabis in vacuum-sealed plastic masks smell FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Subjects are unable to identify cannabis when it is packaged in vacuum-sealed plastic, but can do so when it is packaged in resealable sandwich bags, according to data published in the journal Science & Justice. A team of investigators affiliated with Colorado State University evaluated whether untrained observers could correctly identify dried cannabis flower based solely on smell. They reported, “[O]pen and casually packaged cannabis was identified with high accuracy, while material packaged in doubly vacuum-sealed plastic was correctly identified at rates no different from chance.” Authors concluded: “Interpretation of the plain smell doctrine is complicated in states where possession of a small amount of cannabis, or possession by persons with medical marijuana cards, has been legalized. ... Given the results of the present study, smell-based searches where the material was vacuum-sealed within one or more layers of plastic may lie beyond the ‘sphere of reliability.’” Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, visit norml.org.



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