WeHo Zooms for nightlife Fundraiser to beneﬁt local workers, PAGE 06
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APLA Health can help when LGBTQ Angelinos get the blues Greater privacy with tele-mental health By KAREN OCAMB
COVID-19 is a new virus that is a casually transmitted silent killer. More and more Americans are gradually realizing that life and death may hang in the air tainted by an unmasked asymptomatic coronavirus carrier coughing in public. Mortality is on everyone’s minds, as is unemployment, debt, eviction, and the prospect of dying alone on a hospital ventilator or forgotten in lonely isolation at home. California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to continue the statewide closure of nonessential businesses with societal physical distancing until science says it’s OK to re-open has upset LGBTQ business owners and gig workers whose livelihood and identity depend on the entertainment and service industries. Stress, strain, constant emotional queasiness, loneliness, the sudden surge of repressed abandonment issues – mental health may no longer be someone else’s sad story. Luckily, both California and even the federal government recognize that mental and physical health are critical to a rebounding nation so telehealth – health advice from the safety of home - is now widely available. APLA Health, for instance, is now 100 percent telehealth for existing clients. Sean Boileau, director of APLA Health’s Behavioral Health Services, says telehealth actually has some unique advantages when it comes to helping those with mental, emotional or psychological issues. Boileau started as a communications major before switching to therapy after he found counseling students as a Resident Assistant in the early 1990s to be more rewarding. He received his Doctor of Counseling Psychology degree with a focus on Multiculturalism and Diversity at Arizona State University and completed his post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California/ Berkeley, focusing on LGBT communities. He specializes in, among other issues, internalized homophobia, low self-esteem, and military and combat trauma – experience he gained as a psychologist and clinical supervisor with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Boileau, who is gay, was born in 1974 and was too young to be directly involved with fighting HIV/AIDS. “I’m in that generation where it didn’t wipe out all of my friends and family because I was eight. But it was also very salient and very real,” he tells the Los Angeles Blade. “So I’m in that generation of fear, which is how I refer to it because I feel that my age group came into their own sexuality and puberty and sexual awakening during a time when any time when gay people were mentioned in the news, it was who’s dying of this horrible disease that we don’t know much about.” But coming of age in 2020 is a very different experience with more tools and knowledge available. There’s a new therapeutic approach, too, called “cultural humility.” “One thing about being a psychologist is that you’re going to have some things in common with every patient you work with and there are going to be some stark differences,” Boileau says. “Cultural humility is not assuming that what is true for you is true for everybody else. [It’s] just this keen awareness of your own perspective of what you bring to the room. At the end of the day, I happen to be a cis-gender male. I need to be aware of that. That’s not a default value. That’s not a base value. It’s just what I happen to bring to the table.” A good therapist, he says, “will see opportunities and latch onto them and see where it takes them. I think a trained therapist will not trip over their own feet like a very well-intentioned friend that is at times just tone deaf and actually says something that sets us back. A good therapist avoids those pitfalls and is able to
DR. SEAN BOILEAU, director of APLA Health’s Behavioral Health Services
move forward until the person in front of you is comfortable taking a deep breath and saying, ‘OK, here’s what’s actually going on, I think,’” such as inexplicably yelling at a loved one when the underlying issue is really panic over being out of work. “Millions of horrible things have come about from this virus sweeping the world -- all of the impacts that it has had on every single layer of society,” Boileau says. “If there is one tiny silver lining, it is this: the Centers for Medicaid Services and healthcare providers have really loosened up restrictions around how telehealth can be done,” making it easier than ever to connect with someone. For instance, a shy or too proud person may fear others knowing they are asking for help. That’s no longer a problem. “So for a person who has issues parking in front of APLA Health and walking in the front door and passing people in the lobby and being seen by 100 people that know that they’re going to talk to a shrink – what an amazing opportunity to sit in your apartment, click on a link in your email, and a window pops up and you get to have a private conversation in your home that I promise you no one’s going to know about,” he says. “For people who are shy about connecting with Behavioral Health for those reasons, what great way to see if Behavioral Health is right for you.” There is “110% privacy” to audition a therapist, see what works – and not have to deal with traffic. “So, of the millions of things that are horrible about the situation we’re currently in,” says Boileau, “one of the few, tiny, little streams of silver is that Behavioral Health is easier to access, less restrictive than ever, more private than ever.” For more, visit: https://aplahealth.org/
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Phyllis Lyon: a tribute to a lesbian lion She was not afraid of the L-word By KAREN OCAMB
“Phyllis Lyon is not afraid of the L-word, whether it be lesbian or liberal – or even lipstick. In fact, L-words best describe her life,” writes Del Martin, Lyon’s partner of 58 years, in their friend Vern L. Bullough’s 2002 book, “Before Stonewall.” “‘I am a single Lyon,’ she protests when people persist in adding an ‘s’ to her name,” Martin continues. “She has the largess, pride, and roar of a lion. She is distinguished by her laughter. She loves light and bare windows. She is loquacious, but she also listens. She is loving, loyal, learned, logical. She loves literature and she is an avid reader. She is a lover, a leader, a liaison. She lives up to her ideals. She also likes to live it up. Her concerns are limitless, as are her talents. She hopes to win the lottery so she can support all her causes more lavishly,” Martin died on Aug. 27, 2008, 10 weeks after she and Lyon made headlines and history as the iconic couple that was legally married by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on June 16, 2008. Lyon was at Martin’s side when she died at age 87. Lyon died of natural causes on April 9 at their San Francisco hilltop home, surrounded by friends. She was 95. Now-California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had become personally close with Lyon, broke from his daily coronavirus briefing to commemorate his friend and hero. “I had the privilege of being involved in a marriage ceremony between Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin,” Newsom told the Los Angeles Blade. “The couple had been together for almost a half a century – the manifestation of faith, love and devotion, and yet they were denied on the basis of their sexual orientation the right to say two extraordinary words: ‘I do.’ The power and potency of those two words is profoundly significant.” Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were unquestionably the couple to be the “face” of marriage equality, says Joyce Newstadt, Policy Director for then-Mayor Newsom who helped plan their first history-making marriage on Valentine’s Day in 2004, after which 4,000 other couples sought marriage licenses. “We were already standing on their shoulders and now this would be yet another act of courage on their part,” Newstadt tells the Los Angeles Blade. “We knew that they also would be symbolic of love enduring between two people and that was to be the face of marriage equality. How would you be scared or how could you possibly be so vehemently against these two lovely wonderful, powerful women who’d been together for 50 years being able to declare their love for each other in front of family and friends and then the world and having the same legal rights as other couples, men and women?” Standing on their shoulders, indeed. Martin and Lyon co-founded Daughters of Bilitis the world’s first international lesbian organization, in 1955 during the horrific anti-communist/anti-gay Red and Lavender Scares when homosexuality was illegal, “perverted,” “sick” and “sinful.” Both journalists, the couple produced “The Ladder,” a small publication with a big impact. “In 1959, when I was 17 years old, I got a crush on another girl at the Banff School of Fine Arts in Canada. I ran down to the bookstore and found a booklet called ‘The Ladder.’ In it was written: ‘If you are a woman and you love another
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PHYLLIS LYON with KATE KENDELL (Photo courtesy Kendell)
woman, what you are is a lesbian. Everybody can tell you it is wrong, but if it feels right to you, it is right,’” longtime lesbian and marriage equality activist Robin Tyler tells the Los Angeles Blade. “Because of them, I was not in the closet for one minute after that.” Martin and Lyon were also heavily involved in politics and San Francisco civil affairs. They also wrote the iconic “Lesbian/Woman” in 1972 that also impacted many lives. “The year is 1972. I’m standing in the checkout line of a typical large grocery store in the South Bay contemplating whether I’m going to ever be able to openly love a woman when I look up and in the paperback book by Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin named Lesbian Woman. That paperback book changed my life. It gave me the courage to leave my husband, fight to keep my children and learn to say, ‘I am a lesbian,’” longtime political activist Diane Abbitt tells the Los Angeles Blade. “Phyllis was a light in my life and in the life of our community,” says Roberta Achtenberg, who became the first highest-ranking out person in the federal government during the Clinton administration. “She and Del were the mothers of our movement. They gave us so much—and asked very little— except that we continue the struggle until we prevail.” Lyon’s death has been hard for Kate Kendell, former NCLR executive director who conspired with Newsom and Newstadt to create that 2004 marriage. “I am living the duel reality of this is exactly what I would have wished for her – to be 95, to be able to die at home with caregivers who have been part of her life and family for several years now. Getting phone calls from close friends who just told her stories. And being able to be comforted, not in pain, and then walk through the door to whatever is next. And thinking that I won’t have Phyllis,” says Kendell, pausing to recall her last visit. “She just took my hand and said, ‘You are a real sweetie.’ And I said, ‘Well, Phyllis, I love you.’ “And I love you, too, sweetie,’’ Kendell says. “I’m going to miss her every day.”
What’s next in COVID-19 fight? As number of cases seems to be leveling off, gov’t, businesses looking ahead By BRODY LEVESQUE
The numbers are grim, in California as of Wednesday, April 15, there were 25,712 cases of persons testing positive for COVID-19 and 779 Californians who had lost their lives. In Los Angeles County there had been 10,047 cases with 360 Angelenos who had died. But, undeterred, California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom in his daily press conference Tuesday, April 14, laid out his road map for recovery for the state’s economy as well as public health. Newsom’s strategy revolves around six key factors to bring back the state to a sense of normal albeit the governor cautioned that ‘new normal’ meant serious changes in how the public and businesses went about their daily routines. He also warned that until procedures and protocols were able to alleviate the risks and dangers of the transmission of the virus, for the immediate future there would be no large gatherings of the state’s residents in any setting. The governor cautioned that when things reopen, they won’t be the same. Restaurants will have fewer tables and waiters will wear gloves and masks. Thermometers will be common in public spaces, as will masks and other protective gear. Schools could stagger arrival times of students to enforce physical distancing. Large gatherings such as sporting events, concerts and fairs are “not in the cards,” Newsom said.“This can’t be a permanent state. It’s not it will not be a permanent state,” he added. “This is not about going back to where we were before. It’s about going forward in ways that are healthy for all of us. But it won’t look the same,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health, who was also present at the briefing, in response to a reporter’s question. California’s six indicators for modifying the stay-at-home order are: • The ability to monitor and protect our communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed; • The ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19; • The ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges; • The ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand; • The ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to support physical distancing; • The ability to determine when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-athome orders, if necessary. For the past week, the Los Angeles Blade has been speaking with business owners, workers, suppliers, real estate companies, government officials and others directly impacted in West Hollywood especially. Many of the participants asked to not be identified in fear of their remarks jeopardizing their individual or company’s situation and in some cases because the person wasn’t authorized to speak publicly to the media. In simplest terms, even with an incremental reopening of the economy, the
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California Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM this week laid out his road map for recovery for the state’s economy as well as public health.
practical aspect for many of the businesses and their employees is survivability. Larger businesses have cash reserves or credit lines that will allow for a throttled return to operations, that however is not true of smaller and singleowner establishments. The considerations are more than just rent or mortgages, it is paying staff, suppliers, taxes, and then having money to advertise to draw in customers. In the cases of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, which are the No. 1 draw to West Hollywood’s tourist-based economy, the new restrictive guidelines mean dramatic alterations to their routines and operations. “It’s a practical matter to how I operate — well, will be forced to operate,” a restaurant and bar owner told the Blade. “I’m going to have to make sure that there’s enough space around my customers for this social distancing, means less tables, and frankly less wait staff. Oh then my bar, I’m not sure how that will work, like on Fridays or the weekends before this, it was wall-to-wall crowded. Now?” He paused then went on to note, “I’m going to have to train my security guys to what? Temp check plus check ID’s?” Even now as businesses make plans to reopen, the past three weeks have taken a heavy toll on service workers, especially bartenders, wait staffers, drag performers, dancers and kitchen staffers. Looking ahead, many are scared that even if their employers reopen, they may not have a job to go back to if staffing needs are lessened by the reality of the new restrictions cited by Newsom and public health officials. Kevin Spencer, a former bartender and West Hollywood resident has been
leading a private effort to fundraise for service workers furloughed or laid off by the COVID-19 crisis. “The fundraising effort is to provide support for nightlife workers who are affected,” he told the Blade. “It’s money for food, medical, you know, essentials — I want to foster a sense of community.” Spencer via social media and Zoom virtual community meetings alongside a working partnership with the Alliance for Housing & Healing set-up ‘WeHo’s Nights In.’ The website campaign from April 10 until its scheduled end on April 19 (www.helpweho.com) has already raised $9,387 of its $10,000 goal. Spencer told the Blade that his efforts were also partnered with the website wehocollective.com and that both were focused on small-dollar donations. While his efforts are focused on the current state of affairs, Spencer acknowledged he is very concerned about the path forward. “I plan to keep this effort going as long as the need is there,” he said.
“Times will be tough, but I think we’ll see West Hollywood continue to lead the way,” West Hollywood MAYOR JOHN D’AMICO says. (Photo courtesy City of West Hollywood)
The severity of the economic impact has some WeHo business owners wondering if they’re able to even consider reopening. “What about rent — are the landlords willing to defer payments or even breakdown past due rent in smaller chunks spacing them out until the debt’s repaid?” That question was asked by one owner who admitted that he just didn’t have the cash reserves and that even though he’s applied for the federal relief program passed by Congress, the Paycheck Protection Program, a $350 billion fund for direct business loans as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Package signed into law last month by President Trump, his operating costs meant that even pre-pandemic margins are razor-thin. “If I’m restricted to the number of customers- especially during lunchtime which is my busiest time, I’m just going to lose money. People only have a certain amount of time and I’m not going to set up to a bunch of carry-out and I can’t afford delivery,” he said. “Everyone is going to have to rethink how business will be conducted moving forward,” WeHo City Council member John Duran told the Blade. “There’s not going to be this ‘magical day’ when everything returns to normal,” he said. Duran acknowledges that while WeHo’s larger retail operations will be able to return to normal operations, others, the smaller individual businesses likely won’t. “Property owners, nightclubs, restaurants, they are all going to have to manage a new way of working with how to manage to live with COVID-19.” He reflected that the current pandemic will simply mean that WeHo as a community will have to adapt. “There are three things that historically change things. War, famine, and plague, which if you look at the history of our city, it was founded during the AIDS pandemic and we survived because we adapted to a new reality. The LGBTQ community, which is a greater part of our city, can and will adapt, so will our businesses,” Duran said. Gov. Newsom’s edict on large gatherings, in addition to directly impacting nightclubs, especially also affect conventions and large business meetings. Charles Chan Massey and his husband Joseph Chan co-own Los Angelesbased SYNAXIS Meetings & Events. Charles weighed in regarding the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their business. “The majority of the events we manage are multi-day conferences. We have had three events that have had to shift dates so far: one in the finance industry, held annually in Chicago, originally scheduled for this month, that we have moved to August; a second for a segment of the cancer community, scheduled to be held this year in the LAX-area, where physicians, patients, and caregivers attend, originally slated for July, now rescheduled for October; and a third in the international tourism market, also scheduled for August in Los Angeles, that we’ve moved to late October. In all three cases, we have built contingencies into the revised venue contract addendum(s) in case we need to postpone yet again.” “Conferences and events are by very their nature spaces where people go to interact with others who share common interests. The events industry is having to rethink what we’re all about. We started our company in 1994 so we’ve held events all over the world through civil disobedience, wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, SARS, and 9/11 but we’ve never experienced anything quite like this. We really are in uncharted territory,” Chan Massey told the Blade. John D’Amico, the mayor of West Hollywood, told the Blade in an emailed statement on April 15: “The city’s response to the Covid-19 crisis continues to develop, along with Gov. Newsom’s, even as we are committed to assisting our business community to reopen when we can, modify their current business models and to adapt to new challenges with respect to proper public health guidelines. Times will be tough, but I think we’ll see West Hollywood continue to lead the way in creating new entertainment and community experience options.”
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Trump: COVID-19 data on black Americans ‘within two weeks’ President Trump, responding to a question from the Blade, said Tuesday data he previously promised within days on the coronavirus’ disproportionate impact on black Americans would now be out “within two weeks.” Trump, asked Tuesday by the Blade during a news conference in the White House Rose Garden why that information wasn’t yet available, replied, “Yes. That’s being worked on very strongly.” In response to a follow-up question on when it would be out, Trump declared the two-week timeframe and pointed to Dr. Deborah Birx, response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, who was seated before him in the Rose Garden. “I would say within two weeks, and it’s being worked on, Deborah, we’re working on that very strongly,” Trump said. “OK, CDC is working, but we’re getting reports.” Last week, Trump told reporters his administration in “probably two to three days” would provide nationwide data on the coronavirus’ impact on black people, which states are gathering and compiling. At the same time,
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, echoed the expectation the data would be out within days or the coming week. But the data has yet to be released, nor has any plan emerged from the Trump administration to address COVID-19’s impact on racial minorities in America — or on LGBTQ Americans. Thus far, state data has revealed black Americans are suffering from the coronavirus at rates disproportionate to their numbers. In Michigan, for example, 35 percent of all COVID-19 cases are black or African-American, as are 40 percent of all deceased cases, according to state data. But the African-American population makes up just 14.1 percent of Michigan’s overall population. Fauci — who wasn’t present at the Rose Garden news conference — said COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on black people not because they’re getting infected more often, but because the population suffers from health disparities. “When they do get infected, their underlying medical
ICE releases 4 gay men with HIV Immigration Equality says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has released four of its gay clients with HIV. Two of the men had been in ICE custody at the Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe, La. The other two men were detained at the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, La., and La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, Ariz. LaSalle Corrections operates the Richwood and Winn Correctional Centers. CoreCivic, a company previously known as Corrections Corporation of America, runs La Palma Correctional Center. “All four of these clients are gay men living with HIV who had been persecuted in their countries of origin simply for being who they are,” said Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford on April 10 in a YouTube video. “Unfortunately, when they sought safety in the United States they were put in detention centers where they received horrendous HIV care, and lived in deplorable conditions and with the outbreak of COVID our clients’ lives were placed in great danger.” Immigration Equality on March 23 demanded ICE release detainees with HIV who are at increased risk for the coronavirus. The four men who ICE released are among the six who Immigration Equality named as complainants in the complaint it filed with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Crawford in her video said some of Immigration Equality’s clients in ICE custody “hadn’t even been told about COVID or the ways to protect themselves.” ICE on its website says there are 61 detainees with coronavirus. Two of these detainees are at La Palma Correctional Center. One detainee at Winn Correctional Center has coronavirus, and another at Richwood Correctional Center has tested positive. Those statistics were last updated on April 10. “The health, welfare and safety of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees is one of the agency’s highest priorities,” says ICE in a statement it posted to its website on March 15. CONTINUES AT LOSANGELESBLADE.COM 08 • APRIL 17, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
PRESIDENT TRUMP, missing his earlier target, says data on COVID19’s impact on black Americans will now be out ‘within two weeks.’ (Photo public domain)
conditions — the diabetes, the hypertension, the obesity, the asthma — those are the kind of things that wind them up in the ICU and ultimately give them a higher death rate,” Fauci said. Although states are collecting information on the racial and ethnic identities of COVID-19 patients, they aren’t ascertaining whether patients are LGBTQ. The lack of information has angered LGBTQ advocates, who are calling for greater data collection on the basis LGBTQ people are at heightened risk to COVID-19. CHRIS JOHNSON
More Americans back refusal of service to LGBTQ people A new study on LGBTQ issues made public Tuesday has found a modest — but noticeable and sustained — drop over time in opposition to business owners being allowed to refuse services to LGBTQ people. The study, conducted by the non-profit research organization PRRI, found a 56 percent majority of Americans oppose allowing a small business owner in their state to refuse to provide products or services to LGBTQ people, if doing so violates the owner’s religious beliefs. Meanwhile, 37 percent of Americans support such denials of service to LGBTQ people. Although a majority of Americans have opposed religious-based refusal of services for some time, the strength of that opposition — based on previous iterations of the survey — has fluctuated in the last five years. Opposition rose slightly between 2015, when it was at 59 percent, and 2016, when it was at 61 percent, but that has since dropped each year and was 60 percent in 2017, 57 percent in 2018 and — as the most recent study found — 56 percent in 2019. Further, the study found this decline is most pronounced among groups that have been the most opposed to refusing service to LGBTQ people historically. For liberal Democrats, opposition decreased from 85 percent in 2016 to 78 percent in 2019; for liberal Republicans, 63 percent in 2016 to 51 percent in 2019; for younger adults under the age of 30, 70 percent in 2016 to 62 percent in 2019; and for white Democrats without a college degree, 76 percent in 2016 to 68 percent in 2019. At the same time, the study found support for LGBTQ non-discrimination protections remains strong. According to the study, 72 percent of Americans favor laws that would protect against anti-LGBTQ discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing. CHRIS JOHNSON
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Wild things roam while we hide at home ‘Let’s all keep it together please’
There is a Twilight Zone quality to the stillness of our normally busy cities as most of us stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the healthcare providers, grocers, bus drivers, and other essential workers who cannot stay safely at home are not the only ones keeping busy out there. First among the mischief makers are Republicans using the pandemic as a pretext for suppressing votes, shutting down abortion services, and doubling down on their anti-immigrant policies. Republican legislators in Wisconsin forced voters to choose between their health and their voting franchise. The theft of democracy is an even greater threat than those to the public health and the economy. Republicans distract, divide, and disinform to preserve their minority rule, even as the Red Dawn emails unearthed by The New York Times prove their failure amid a looming health crisis, despite having access to medical expertise and good intelligence, due to their subordination to a vain, delusional, and impulsive president. They believe that elections should only count when they win. They are waging a civil war without guns, yet cannot govern. Next are the conspiracy nuts, who apparently believe that not enough terrible things are happening, so they must invent paranoid nonsense. An example of this is the bizarre claim that 5G towers transmit the coronavirus, the proof of which is supposedly on Britain’s new £20 note. A leading American purveyor of 5G conspiracy quackery is the anti-vaxxer group Children’s Health Defense. Its spokesman is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a Rudy
Giuliani of the left, who has expanded his misinformed mania to include electromagnetic radiation. To stressed-out shut-ins who might fall for this foolishness, my wise friend Ernest Hopkins says, “Let’s all keep it together please.” Amid the tumult, serious medical efforts continue. David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee told The Hill’s Steve Clemons, “Recognize that if we don’t go to this disease and its potential hot spots and tackle them, where they are, then the disease will come back.” Denial is not strength, and a border wall will not protect us. NBC Los Angeles reports about COVID-19 disease, “A growing body of global medical literature ... suggests that in the more severe cases, the most devastating damage is caused not by the virus directly, but by the response of the patient’s own immune system at an extreme level known as a cytokine storm.” Pulmonologist Dr. Tom Yadegar, MD says, “The way to treat it is to suppress the immune system,” which of course is risky. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, suppressed his campaign and conceded that Joe Biden will be the Democratic presidential nominee. Sanders is keeping his delegates to push for his pet policies in the party platform. That aspirational document carries less clout than a child’s letter to Santa Claus, which at least is read by sympathetic parents. No need for a rancorous platform fight. Let him have his paper revolution. It was never real. Reality does not depend on our recognition. Indeed, reality is imposing itself rather brutally at the moment. The Democratic National Convention will
RICHARD J. ROSENDALL is a writer and activist. Reach him at email@example.com.
likely be virtual, given Democrats’ interest in not sickening one another before the fall campaign. The main disappointment of this is that the convention’s main attractions—parties—make lousy Zoom chats. Imagine countless casual yet potentially fruitful exchanges losing their lubricating social ambience because the participants are stuck at home drinking their own liquor. On the plus side, there will be fewer traffic accidents. As for the trolls, authoritarians, and conspiracy nuts planning further mayhem, they are not the only ones with access to technology. Those of us with more constructive aims can use our talents to come together in creative new ways. This was beautifully illustrated last week by a Facebook group dedicated to sharing music despite the quarantine. One fine offering came from four professional opera singers and an opera composer/pianist recording “Wonderful Is Your Name” while isolated in their separate homes. Like opera musicians celebrating their church roots with a rousing gospel performance, we all have gifts that can help make a dark time more bearable. There is no better moment to look around, step up, and put them out there. Copyright © 2020 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.
CANNABIS CULTURE National Cannabis Festival moved to Sept. 19 The fifth annual National Cannabis Festival, originally scheduled for April, has been postponed to Saturday, Sept. 19 at RFK Festival Grounds in Washington, D.C. The move was precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers have announced a full day of live entertainment, including Method Man & Redman, Young M.A., Backyard Band, Antibalas and the Archives. In the meantime, organizers will host the Highstream 420 Festival on April 20. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com for information on how to participate. You must be 21 and older with valid government-issued identification to attend the National Cannabis Festival. The National Cannabis Festival was founded in 2015 by a group of cannabis enthusiasts to celebrate marijuana legalization across the country.
Cannabis advocate dies from COVID-19 in Colo. COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Charlotte Figi, who brought international attention to the use of CBD-dominant extracts as anti-seizure agents, has passed away due to complications related to the COVID-19 virus, according to multiple news reports. She was 13 years old. Charlotte Figi suffered from Dravet syndrome, a rare and highly debilitating form of childhood epilepsy. After conventional therapies failed to stabilize her condition, her parents eventually experimented with the use of cannabidiolrich extracts. The administration of CBD extracts was associated with a dramatic reduction in Charlotte’s seizure frequency, and her case was eventually profiled in 2013 in a widely viewed CNN documentary hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Commenting on her untimely passing, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Charlotte Figi personalized this
APRIL 17, 2020
Due to COVID-19, the National Cannabis Festival was moved to September. (Photo courtesy National Cannabis Festival)
issue in a way that few others have, and her story humanized the medical cannabis fight to such a degree that many politicians could no longer ignore it. There is little doubt that Charlotte’s story emboldened lawmakers in several southern and mid-western states to finally move forward to recognize the need for CBD, and in some cases, wholeplant cannabis access.” In June 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, a prescription medicine containing a standardized formulation of plantderived cannabidiol for the explicit treatment of two rare forms of severe epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
2 of 5 dispensaries shut down in Iowa DES MOINES, Iowa — Two of the state’s five licensed medical cannabis access facilities have shut their doors, according to media reports. The closures leave only three operating dispensaries left in the state. Iowa has only one licensed cultivation center. According to the Iowa Department of Health, an estimated 4,300 are registered to access cannabis extract products. Under state law, those extracts must not
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contain percentages of THC in excess of three percent. Legislation advanced by lawmakers last year to remove the low-THC cap was ultimately vetoed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. Following the recent closures, Democratic state Sen. Joe Bolkom said: “Iowa has the most bureaucratic, expensive, and ineffective program in the country and it just got worse... More evidence is now in with two of our dispensaries essentially going out of business because it’s economically not feasible.” Under the state’s access law, there can be no more than five licensed dispensaries operating in the state at one time.
Fewer vaping illnesses in states with legal cannabis Bloomington, Ind. — Incidences of the vaping-related lung illness EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product useassociated lung injury) are primarily concentrated to jurisdictions where adultuse cannabis consumption is prohibited, according to data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open. Commenting on the findings, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said, “These findings come as little surprise.
In jurisdictions where cannabis is legally regulated, consumers gravitate toward the above-ground retail marketplace where they can access lab-tested products manufactured by licensed businesses.” He added, “Just like alcohol prohibition gave rise to the illicit production of dangerous ‘bathtub gin,’ marijuana prohibition provides bad actors, not licensed businesses, the opportunity to fulfill consumers’ demand – sometimes with tragic results.” According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 3,000 people have sought hospitalization because of the illness, which peaked last September, and nearly 70 people died as a result of it. In November, the CDC publicly identified vitamin E acetate – a diluting agent sometimes present in counterfeit, unregulated vape pen products – as a primarily “culprit” in the outbreak. Writing on Monday in the journal JAMA Network Open, researchers affiliated with Indiana University reported that last year’s sudden outbreak of EVALI cases was not driven by either state-level differences or prevalence in e-cigarette use. Rather, they reported that cases “were concentrated in states where consumers do not have legal access to recreational marijuana dispensaries... One possible inference from our results is that the presence of legal markets for marijuana has helped mitigate or may be protective against EVALI.” A previous analysis of EVALI prevalence in legal cannabis markets versus illegal markets by Leafly.com drew a similar conclusion. In a statement to the online news site MedPageToday.com, the study’s lead author said that the team’s findings are “consistent with the hypothesis that people have demand for marijuana products, and in states where they don’t have access to them in this regulatory fashion, they end up purchasing them elsewhere.” Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. Visit norml.org for more information.
Creating space for queers in cannabis industry Everyone benefits when marginalized are at center of focus By KHADIJAH TRIBBLE
Marijuana matters in the LGBTQ community because it always has. The relationship between the prohibition of marijuana and lack of civil liberties for queer communities is uniquely parallel. History shows that AIDS activists are the unsung heroes of the fight for legalization of medical cannabis. As we begin to see public opinions shifting favorably toward legal access of the plant, queer advocates of color are finding themselves without seats at the table. The black queer community could directly benefit from legalization if properly leveraged. When will LGBTQ communities of color have their moment in the sun? As many know, black queer advocates have made tremendous contributions to the continuing fight for social, racial, and economic justice. This also rings true for the fight for social equity within the cannabis industry. Black queer advocates like Paul Scott who started the first medical marijuana facility in Southern California have and continue to advocate for better prevention services for these marginalized populations. However, almost 25 years later within the LGBTQ community the ongoing fight for the plant’s legalization is still being led by white gay men. Some would argue that today’s cannabis conversation is no longer dominated by who has access to the plant, but who is benefiting and profiting from its legalization. Research from The Williams Institute 2016 study shows that 35 percent of the LGBTQ population lives in the South. It’s no secret that African Americans make up a large majority of the gay and lesbian population in the South and many of these southern states lack statewide non-discrimination protections for this growing population. Similar to what is driving the lack of protections for queer communities in Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee, cannabis legalization efforts are influenced by a perspective that is largely, a conservative, white and male dominated understanding. If we don’t bring our collective voices and organizing capacity to this moment, we will truly miss the opportunity to structure legalization that benefits our umbrella of queer communities that need it the most. The opportunities are endless when I think of ways that the queer community could benefit from the legal cannabis market. A few ideas include support for queer inclusion at HBCUs, industry partnerships to support incubators like TransTech Social Enterprises, and pipeline programs to create desperately needed leadership positions within the cannabis industry. While the LGBTQ community remains underrepresented in the cannabis industry, a recent report published by the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence shows that gays and bisexuals consume more medical marijuana than their heterosexual counterparts by large margins, even larger for lesbians and bisexual women. We must use this spending power to create space for queers in cannabis. As an LGBTQ entrepreneur and founder of Marijuana Matters, a non-profit that identifies and eliminates barriers to economic opportunity in regulated cannabis markets for those disadvantaged by marijuana’s criminalization, I understand the value of investing in the diversity of thought within the cannabis industry. For me, this is more than a talking point. Marijuana Matters hopes to leverage cannabis legalization and present the potential benefits to communities through education, advocacy, and entrepreneurship. Also, as a black lesbian woman, I know how important maintaining discretion is for survival. Holding multiple marginalized identities can hyperbolize discrimination and similar to the negative stigmas associated with gender presentation and sexual identity, the same stigmas exist for cannabis users. However, we can no longer afford to be invisible. But we can and should be hopeful that the cannabis industry will become a genuine ally to members of the LGBTQ community. When people who are the most marginalized are at the center of focus, everyone benefits. The LGBTQ community must lend their voices to the crucial debate surrounding social equity in the regulated cannabis industry and the industry must invest in the advancement of the visible community. Khadijah Tribble is founder of the Marijuana Policy Trust and Marijuana Matters. This opinion was prepared in the author’s personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of the employer or affiliated organizations.
APRIL 17, 2020
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How CBD Can Help the LGBTQ Community Love Every Day. If there is yet one harmony that unites the LGBT community in all of its glory, it is the belief to love—to triumph over hate and oppression in our age-old story. Collectively we are winning the ongoing ﬁght for equality and queer rights…a battle tempered by illness, grit, and strife throughout these years—but for many of us that battle is also fought within. Our relentless urge to persevere, can leave us with higher levels of anxiety, insomnia, depression, and even lead to suicide. For old and young generations, these decades-old scars of discrimination are at the forefront of our psyche. If left isolated, our mental health becomes our highest risk factor. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, upwards of 60% of all members of the LGBT community suffer from anxiety and depression at some point in their lives; a level that is over twice that of our straight counterparts. As these numbers are rising, how are we ﬁnding the support to protect ourselves against the odds? For those who identify LGBT, there may be a fresh, natural wellness approach to their anxiety, pain, and insomnia—Cannabidiol or CBD. In 2018, the US farm bill declassiﬁed hempbased CBD as a controlled substance and re-classiﬁed it as an agricultural commodity, the same category where rice and corn reside. The FDA, which regulates claims that can be made, have yet to give its full approval, however, 80% of those who have used CBD believe it has a positive effect and half the people who used it, use almost every day. A recent study of 2,400 CBD users by the Brightﬁeld Group showed that 42% gave up their prescription drugs completely. The World Health Organization, (WHO), found in their 2018 report, that there is no public health risk in CBD use, or the potential for abuse. (https://www.who.int/medicines/ access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf). Hemp-based CBD, is non-addictive and can contain only miniscule amounts of THC, the element that provides the intoxicating effects in marijuana. Many companies have THC removed from their hemp-based CBD products to better ﬁt daily use. CBD impacts one’s endocannabinoid system, which serves as our body’s thermostat. The endocannabinoid system can be compromised as we get older or is subjected to stressors, injury, and illness. CBD is a natural, plant-based, anti-inﬂammatory and regulates things like sleep, pain, mood and appetite. These functions all contribute to “homeostasis” which refers to the stability of your internal environment. Whether you struggle from social anxiety, work hassles, pain, or if you have trouble sleeping; CBD products like tinctures, mints, and gummies can help ease your tensions. CBD can be used outside these common ailments too, like after an intense workout where your body and mind are left feeling drained or even a water-soluble lubricant for heightened sexual fulﬁllment You can check out all these products and others made by my own company at Outandaboutcbd.com. We provide all the information to help you better understand CBD and start your journey. Natural ingredients are our priority, so we ensure all out products are sourced from organic US farms and tested by third party labs. With the daily life challenges we continue to face, we all deserve a chance at living a more happy and full life. I believe that CBD is one of the most important natural wellness products to come along in many decades and I want to share its beneﬁts with my community. Love Every Day, Wayne T. Carkeek Co-founder Out & About CBD firstname.lastname@example.org
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Former WeHo bartender giving back amid crisis WeHo’s Nights In benefits area nightlife workers By JOHN PAUL KING
Kevin Spencer is a marketing guy these days, working in audience development for Ranker. com, but it wasn’t too long ago that he was making his living as one of West Hollywood’s most popular bartenders. Given the legendary status of WeHo’s nightlife scene, perhaps, it’s not surprising that he looks back upon his former career, which culminated in a three-year stint at Flaming Saddles, with enthusiastic fondness. “I loved my time there,” he tells the Blade. “It was a really unique look at West Hollywood from the other side of the bar. You get a view of the community and the nightlife experience as a whole, whereas as a patron you only get a view of it from your own participation in it – you meet who you’re there to meet, or you’re there for whatever reason.” Those fond memories made it inevitable that when the COVID-19 crisis necessitated the closure of WeHo’s bars and clubs along with all the other such establishments across Los Angeles, Spencer’s thoughts would naturally turn to his former co-workers, and the crushing financial impact such a grave decision would have on their lives. He didn’t just lament their fate, however. Instead, he took action. “Like a lot of people, probably, I have wanted to volunteer, I’ve wanted to give back,” he explains. “We always have our excuses as to why we don’t – we’re too busy or whatever it may be – but then I found myself in this crisis, fortunate enough to have a job, and thinking, ‘I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck, and be out a job and not know where your money is going to come from.’ If this had happened, even three years ago, I knew I would have been in that position with everybody else, not just in West Hollywood but across the country. So I decided this was an opportunity to step up and give back what I can.” His experiences behind the bar also allowed him to see a wider effect of the pandemic, even beyond the economic aspect precipitated by the shutdown. “We’ve lost our community, we’ve lost our gathering space,” he says. “For a lot of people, these places are their connection to the gay world… and yeah, there are the partiers, and the people we see that are making the most noise at the bars – but there are also those people who come and get their drink, and they’re alone. They don’t really talk to anyone, but just being in the room with their tribe is enough for them – that’s how they escape, that’s how they connect to their world, and it’s gone.” He hit upon an idea that could provide some relief on both fronts. “I thought we could do a fundraiser through a virtual community get-together – get people doing DJ sets in their living room, doing Zoom chats with their friends, what a lot of people were doing already, anyway – and then combine that with the added aspect of tipping your service workers while you’re at home making your drink, talking to your friends, and dancing to music in your living room. If you’re fortunate enough to have the resources, you might as well leave the same five-dollar tip that you would leave on a regular Friday night.” He reached out to WeHo Council member John Duran, who promptly put him into contact with Travis Garcia – another fixture in the community that had floated “almost the exact same idea” to him, according to James. The two men connected, and a week later they launched WeHo’s Nights In, with an initial goal to raise $10,000 within a two-week period in order to offer “immediate assistance for food, medicine, and other essentials” to the city’s now-unemployed nightlife workers while they wait for government programs and unemployment to kick in. “People have been able to defer rent and other bills,” acknowledges Spencer, “but once you do that, you know, you still need some cash on hand to eat something.” The project met with surprising success, meeting $9,000 of its target over the first weekend after its April 8 launch. With several days still to go, it’s a certainty that the fundraiser will far exceed its goal – especially considering the lineup of virtual events, such as an April 16 Digital Drag Fest performance by Jai Rodriguez (with all proceeds donated directly to WeHo’s Nights
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Former bartender KEVIN SPENCER is helping to organize fundraisers for WeHo nightlife workers. (Photo courtesy Spencer)
In), which will bring contributions yet to be added to the final tally. “So far, it’s been a great response,” says Spencer. “It’s really important to me that it’s not just a fundraiser asking for a handout, it’s more of a fundraiser that gets people together and gets them talking about what that nightlife really means, as opposed to just giving a certain group of people some money. “At the end of the day, it’s not a lot, but I hope it’s a way to inspire other people to give back, in any way.” This prompts him to share that there have been “some questions” about why the campaign benefits only West Hollywood’s nightlife workers, when the whole city is affected by the shutdown. “My response has been that we just picked a community that means something to us,” he says. “For us, it was a very clear and distinct place to start, with a well-defined community that we knew we had the connections and resources to raise money for – but it’s something that anyone can do, to start a fundraiser for your own community. “I’ve told everyone, ‘Donate to our campaign, donate to any campaign, if you can’t donate then use your time to find people who can.’ I think it’s definitely a time for us to act, and to show that our lives are not transactional – that there’s actually a spirit of giving and helping each other out that exists, as well.” In keeping with that selfless spirit, Spencer is adamant in his insistence to give credit where its due; he wants to make sure that Garcia’s efforts at his side are acknowledged (“Travis is my complete co-partner in all this, I think we make a great team!”), and that thanks are given to everyone who has “tipped” so far – making a point to highlight three mega-donors who each contributed $1k to the fundraiser: Mike Manning, Enrique Martin, and Kevin Huvane. And what happens after the campaign reaches its deadline next week? “We’re going to get through this weekend, and take stock of where we are, see how much we’ve raised,” says Spencer. “I’ve envisioned it as this virtual community where we continue to tip as the weekends go along, so it’s a lot of small donations over a period of time and nobody feels like they’re dropping down huge sums of money.” As to the details about what might be part of a continuing effort, he’s hesitant to say much, preferring to wait for official confirmations before doing more than hint at future virtual events and potential community partnerships designed to cover other communities across LA, such as downtown and the San Fernando Valley. “This shutdown does not look like it’s going to end any time soon, and I’m sure the bars and clubs are going to be the last things to re-open,” he tells us. “As long as we can keep helping people, whoever they might be, I’d love to keep doing it.”
Back from the dead Canceled by Netflix, ‘One Day at a Time’ continues on new platform By BRIAN T. CARNEY
It only takes a few minutes for ingenious show runner Gloria Calderon Kellett to remind LGBT audiences why they fell in love with the reboot of “One Day at a Time.” The fourth season opens with a fast-paced screwball comedy scene that smoothly reintroduces all the characters and reinforces the sitcom’s effortless flair for both humor and social commentary. In a wonderful cameo, Ray Romano plays Brian, a bedraggled census enumerator who has to sort out the three generations of the Cuban-American Alvarez family as well as various members of their “logical” family who keep on popping into the scene. He starts with Penelope (the outstanding Justina Machado), the frazzled head of the family, an Army veteran and a nurse practitioner. Then there’s teenage daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez), an out and proud lesbian, who is in a relationship with Syd (Sheridan Pierce), who identifies as non-binary and refers to themself as Elena’s “syd-nificant” other. There’s also her teenage son Alex (Marcel Ruiz) and her feisty mother Lydia Riera (a delightfully over-the-top performance by EGOT winner Rita Moreno). Brian also meets Schneider (Todd Grinnell), the “rich white cis male ally” who owns the building and is an honorary member of the Alvarez family, and Dr. Leslie Berkowitz (amazingly deadpan show-biz veteran Stephen Tobolowsky), Penelope’s boss and Lydia’s platonic boyfriend. In the midst of all this, there’s also an argument about whether or not the family should participate in the Census. Penelope declares “a guy wanting a list of all the Latinos in my house? No thanks!” but the hyper-socially engaged Elena passionately counters that the census is crucial for determining representation and federal funding. It’s a classic “ODAAT” moment. Developed by the legendary television producer Norman Lear, the original “One Day at a Time” premiered in 1975. It introduced audiences to divorced mom Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) and her daughters Julie and Barbara (Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli), as well as the ever-present building superintendent Schneider (Pat Harrington Jr.). The popular and occasionally controversial series ran nine seasons through 1984. Working with Lear, Kellett and production partner Mike Royce reimagined the groundbreaking sitcom with a Hispanic family at the core. The new series premiered on Netflix in 2017 but was abruptly cancelled in 2019 after three successful seasons. The series was picked up by Pop TV, the network that introduced American audiences to the LGBT series “Schitt’s Creek.” New episodes are dropping weekly, although production on the final episodes of the season has been halted due to COVID-19 concerns. The show remains as vibrant as ever, a proud celebration of Cuban-American culture and queer family values. The writing is sharp and pungent, striking a fine balance between comedy, sentiment and insightful societal analysis. The show is stuffed with zippy quips and great physical comedy, but the humor is always wellgrounded in the reality of the characters and their lives. The characters are wellrounded, appealing and full of interesting quirks. With three award-winning seasons under their belts, the cast has developed an easy rapport with each other and the acting remains excellent. Machado anchors the series with her lively sense of humor, deep compassion, aching vulnerability and fierce resilience. Penelope has been faced with serious issues (including PTSD, addiction, abuse, racism, sexism and economic insecurity), but she’s a survivor, thanks in part to the encouragement of her support group for female veterans. The
The Alvarez family in ‘One Day at a Time.’ (Photo courtesy Pop TV)
group is led by Mackenzie Phillips, who starred in the original series, and includes Ramona (a sparkling Judy Reyes) as a lesbian who loves to flirt with Penelope. The rest of the cast is equally strong. The goofy chemistry between lovebirds Gomez and Pierce is delightful. The sexual bond between them is by turns electric and comic, expressed with lots of PDAs and lots of exasperated explanations of their sexualities, proper pronoun usage and a variety of other social justice issues. The easy-going Ruiz is an excellent comic foil for his more eccentric family members. Moreno is pitch-perfect as the exuberant family matriarch, combining a deep love of her family, a fierce pride in her Cuban heritage and her Catholic faith, brilliant comic timing, a pulsating sensuality and a wonderfully idiosyncratic use of American idioms, as well as terrific dance moves and a well-honed instinct for dramatic entrances. LGBT fans of “One Day at a Time” have a lot to look forward to as the series settles into its new home on Pop TV. The opening episodes include a lively discussion of female orgasms, the return of one of Penelope’s ex-boyfriends, a girlfriend for Alex, lots of funny Halloween costumes and the penny-pinching Penelope shopping for a new couch. Here’s hoping the proudly queer Alvarez family settles in for a long run on Pop.
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