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Christy Smith faces Trump super fan in May 12 special election CA 25th CD race close because of low Democratic turnout By KAREN OCAMB
The contrast couldn’t be more stark. Assemblymember Christy Smith is bright, effusive and clearly enjoys engaging with her community in campaign ads shot before the stay at home order. Mike Garcia loves fighter jets and his family. Voters with mail-in ballots must decide by May 12 which candidate will better represent the 25th congressional district in filling out former Rep. Katie Hill’s term. The Los Angeles Times’s April 17 endorsement is straightforward. “There’s no question which candidate is better prepared to step into the debate and help shape smart policy. That’s state Assemblywoman Christy Smith, a quietly accomplished and centrist Democrat whose background includes stints as a U.S. Department of Education policy analyst and as a longtime member of the Newhall School District board. Her experience guiding a school district through the last economic downturn and now the state through its pandemic response makes her uniquely qualified for precisely this job at precisely this moment,” said The Times. “Smith’s opponent, by comparison, is simply not a good fit for Congress at any moment,” with the editorial noting that Republican Mike Garcia‘s “nice backstory…doesn’t translate into legislative competence.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, after several Garcia supporters chimed in on Twitter about proving the LA Times wrong, on April 20, President Trump pecked out two tweets endorsing Garcia, the second of which hyped the Second Amendment: “[Garcia] is Strong on Crime, the Border, and the Second Amendment. Mike has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” “Thank you @realDonaldTrumpfor your support. I am running to keep this nation safe, lower taxes, grow jobs and to ensure we protect the Constitution through all times!” Garcia tweeted. He later added: “It is crucial to know the difference between the candidates, especially during times of crisis. I’m a former fighter pilot who believes CA taxes are out of control.” “Like most voters in our community, I trust and prefer the endorsement of our doctors, nurses and firefighters,” Smith said in response. “Donald Trump is failing to provide testing to millions of Californians and encouraging citizens to go against the advice of public health professionals, putting their lives at risk, and delaying the re-opening of our economy.” She, meanwhile, is completely focused” on getting “protective equipment to medical personnel, financial assistance for workers who have lost their jobs, and funding our health care system to lower costs.” Smith’s campaign posted an online video with Trump on the coronavirus side by side with Garcia. “I think Trump is a good President,” says Garcia. “No, I don’t take responsibility at all,” says Trump. “Everyone should have to figure out how to fend for themselves,” says Garcia. Smith criticized Trump for encouraging supporters to protest, to “LIBERATE” three states. “While millions of Californians are staying home to protect their families, emergency responders & frontline workers, @realDonaldTrump’s remarks spurred reckless protests that could jeopardize public health for all,” she tweeted. “I saw this firsthand in Sacramento today.” Smith was at the Capitol for the legislative budget subcommittee hearing on COVID-19. As the daughter of a nurse, she applauded the nurse “patriots” who tried to block the unmasked, ungloved protesters. That day, April 20, Los Angeles County reported preliminary results from a new scientific study suggesting that coronavirus infections “are far more widespread - and the fatality rate much lower – in L.A. County than previously thought,” according to a county press release. “The research team estimates that approximately 4.1% of the county’s adult population has antibody to the virus,” says the release, “which translates to approximately 221,000 to 442,000 adults in the county who have had the infection.” On April 21, Yahoo News reported that the protests were organized around the country
California 25th CD candidate CHRISTY SMITH (Photo courtesy Smith)
by Trump Republican groups, including a longtime political advisor to the wealthy family of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the leader of an organization called Minnesota Gun Rights, and InfoWars screamer Alex Jones. But April 20 was important to Smith for another reason: it was the 21st anniversary of the Columbine school shooting, “which took the lives of 13 innocent souls and injured 24 others, we remember and honor the fallen by renewing our resolve to end senseless gun violence. #NotOneMore.” Garcia offered no similar sympathy post. In an April 22 phone interview, the Los Angeles Blade asked Smith if she was concerned that Trump’s promotion of the Second Amendment might be dangerous. She noted that her 25th CD has “a decidedly strong common-sense advocacy around gun control” with local high schools creating chapters of the March For Our Lives movement, as well as a strong and sizable Moms Demand Action group. “While a number of us respect responsible gun owners’ rights, there is also a much, much greater proportion of the community who believes the time is now to take greater action, especially because one of the most recent school shootings that occurred prior to the COVID crisis and more people staying at home was at Saugus High School,” in Santa Clarita. So, says Smith, Garcia’s “not going to get a lot of traction fighting about that issue in this district.” Additionally, “Donald Trump lost this district in 2016 by six points, and he was rebuked here again in 2018 when Democrats won this congressional seat. So, there is no love lost here for the president and his positions on a number of issues.” Nonetheless, Smith says, the race is still close because Democrats traditionally skip voting in special elections. She wants to reverse that trend. If you want help with remote phone banking, go to: https://www.mobilize.us/mobilize/ event/263189/ For more of the interview with Christy Smith, go to www.losangelesblade.com
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • APRIL 24, 2020 • 03
Sen. Wiener on fears of a ‘mass extinction’ of LGBTQ non-profits Lawmaker talks ‘ugly’ COVID-19 state budget and more By KAREN OCAMB Equality California held its second “Power Hour” tele-town hall April 21 featuring State Sen. Scott Wiener, chair of the California LGBT Legislative Caucus, answering questions about the impact of COVID-19 on the LGBTQ community — questions that have been largely ignored by politicians and healthcare officials, so far. Wiener, who represents San Francisco, told EQCA’s Legislative Manager Tami Martin on the hour-long Facebook Live event that he felt healthy and “very privileged” to have a roof over his head and the ability to buy groceries. “So many people are hurting right now, people have lost their jobs, people whose businesses have shut down, people who can’t afford even to buy food for their families,” Wiener said. But he’s been busy at his home in the Castro in San Francisco, holding remote meetings, working on legislation and helping constituents navigate the system. This year, the LGBT Legislative Caucus prioritized securing “significant funding” for the trans community, ending the HIV and STI epidemics, and training teachers in cultural competency. But they have pivoted with the advent of COVID-19 and the declaration of an official state of emergency. “We know that the LGBTQ community has increased risk factors in terms of HIV, higher cancer rates, higher smoking rates, higher rates of homelessness, and so forth,” said Wiener. “So we are very focused on making sure that the state of California is responding to the needs of LGBTQ people in our budget and otherwise. And we’re trying to be there for people who need help,” while at the same time promoting the importance of completing the US Census form. Unlike stereotypes persistently promoted by the media, the LGBTQ community “is everything and everyone and we’re everywhere. And we intersect with every single community.” That means “we have to really be intentional about supporting everyone in our community and not just the people who have the biggest voice or the most resources,” Wiener said. He emphasized the need to support immigrants, including undocumented immigrants; the homeless, particularly homeless youth where LGBTQ youth are over-represented; communities of color, in particular “our API siblings when they are being attacked because of stereotypes around COVID-19 and the President’s attacks on China.” Wiener noted that in mid- March, the Legislature passed a $1 billion emergency appropriation for COVID-19 with broad latitude for Gov. Gavin Newsom. “We are starting to do a lot of oversight of how the money is being spent,” he said, noting that most of the emergency funding is dedicated to “basic healthcare capacity needs.” But about $150 million has gone to cities for homeless and child care programs. “We know that there are a lot of LGBTQ parents and our community is disproportionately represented among frontline workers who are still going to work, hospital workers, supermarket and pharmacy workers,”
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Sen. SCOTT WIENER during the Equality California town hall.
Wiener said. “We want to make sure that they have access to childcare and the paid sick leave,” which has been expanded. “There’s more to do,” he said, “a lot more” as they tackle the California budget in a global pandemic. This is going to be “an ugly budget because we don’t know the numbers yet,” Wiener said. “It’s going to be a dramatic drop in revenue, and so it’s going to be a very difficult budget. But we need to make sure that we’re really caring for all members of our community.” That includes undocumented residents of California left out of the CARES Act. Newsom has allocated a portion of funds for support payments for undocumented people who can’t get the $1,200 payment or unemployment enhancements. More testing for the novel coronavirus is needed “for us to effectively start ratcheting down the shelter-in-place” prevention precautions, Wiener said. “We have to get to a point where we have infections going down but we have to have widespread testing and contact tracing. So, we need to expand testing” including of asymptomatic people, and the hiring of public health workers to do contact tracing and have those people self-quarantine. California has been behind but is starting to catch up, having made the assumption early on “that the federal government would be competent and would do what it was supposed to do around testing.” Legislators need to support innovation, including rapid testing “so that you can go get tested and if you’re positive, boom, you get quarantined immediately, not five days later,” he said. “It’s a work in progress, but it is progressing and we’re seeing more and more collaborations to expand access.”
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Wiener talks need for LGBTQ data in COVID fight Martin noted that “it’s hard to fully understand how the funding is helping people if we don’t have the data on how COVID is hurting vulnerable communities.” So, what efforts has the state made “to collect and report data on how COVID is affecting people in various demographics by race, gender and age, but also by sexual orientation and gender identity?” “Data is so important,” said Wiener, but it is surprisingly hard to get agencies to collect data. “It seems like common sense that if you’re going to make good public policy decisions, good budget decisions, you should collect data. But sometimes it’s like pulling teeth,” said Wiener. “Part of it is that it can be challenging to collect data sometimes. And I get that, but it’s still important and it costs money.” Former Gov. Jerry Brown, for instance, “vetoed a lot of data collection bills and I never knew why. I speculated that it might be that you thought that once you start collecting data, then we’re going to come back to asking for money, say, ‘look, our community’s being impacted and isn’t getting the services it needs so we need more money to do it,’” Wiener said. “And for in the LGBT community, data collection becomes extra complicated because sometimes there’s an attitude that ‘Oh, we don’t want to violate people’s privacy.’ And so, if we started asking people about their sexual orientation or gender identity, it might make people uncomfortable,” Wiener said. “But there’s a way to do it where you don’t mandate it. It’s voluntary. So, you’re forcing people to tell you what whether they’re LGBT? “And so, for COVID-19, the data collection is putting aside LGBTQ
Lawmakers sent a letter to Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM asking for data collection for the LGBT community and COVID-19.
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people. We’ll get to that because it’s not going well there,” he continued. “But for other communities it’s getting better. And we’re starting to see, not surprisingly, severe disparities in terms of the disproportionate impacts, particularly for black people. Just outrageous disparities in terms of percentage of the population and a much higher percentage of people who are being hospitalized or put in the ICU or dying.” “We’re also seeing it with the Latino community in San Francisco,” Wiener said. “We just learned yesterday that our Latino community is 15% of the population but 25% of the hospitalizations. And there are various reasons for this. Lack of access to healthcare, income status. And so people living in more overcrowded situations, more likely to have frontline jobs that expose you, whether it is in healthcare work or working at a supermarket or a pharmacy or delivery and just general racism and our healthcare and economic systems that have led to huge disparities.” While there is better data for marginalized communities, that is not the case for the LGBTQ community. “I’ve yet to see any real data for the impacts of COVID-19 in our community, even though we know we have higher risk factors,” Wiener said, noting that both he and LGBT Legislative Caucus Co-Chair Todd Gloria, Assemblymember from San Diego, sent a letter to Newsom asking for data collection for the LGBT community and COVID-19. “We’ve not heard back yet and in fairness, they’re drinking water from a fire hose right now. But we will be following up because this is incredibly important,” Wiener said. Wiener also discussed the difficulty in getting any kind of healthcare that isn’t an emergency. “Hospitals have canceled all of their elective surgeries,” he said. “You can’t really can’t get any treatment, for the most part, other than emergency treatment. And community clinics have also really, really scaled back. I was talking to Planned Parenthood, they’re one of our critical community clinics, and they have dramatically scaled back what they’re doing. So there’s this general issue of people not being able to get healthcare.” Wiener said that for 30 years he’s suffered from Crohn’s disease, a chronic condition that is well under control. “But I have just been really crossing my fingers that I don’t have a significant flare and I haven’t in years and years but you never know. Anything can happen” and he doesn’t want to go to a hospital where he probably wouldn’t get healthcare, “other than talking to my doctor on the phone.” A lot of money is going to shore up hospitals which are “hemorrhaging money” because they can’t do anything but COVID-19 care. “But our community clinics are hurting, as well, and we need to make sure that our community clinics are getting the financial support that they need,” Wiener said. “So, I know that will be an issue in our budget and I hope that Congress addresses that, as well.” Meanwhile, Martin noted, “a lot of LGBTQ-plus nonprofits across the board, which collectively kind of make-up that social safety net for our community, are in near-term jeopardy of needing to close their doors.” Is anything being done to ensure their survival?
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Hospitals ‘hemorrhaging money’ during pandemic “Non-profits play such an incredibly important role throughout our state in providing some of the basic safety net services,” Wiener said. “In the LGBTQ community, our non-profits are really part of our family. And the reason is that they’re just so interwoven in the fabric of our community. And if you think of a history of the LGBTQ community — don’t get me wrong, we have some amazing, amazing, amazing straight allies. But typically, when we need anything, we typically have to do it ourselves, whether it’s literally doing it ourselves or really asking and demanding that other people help us to do it.” Wiener harkened back to the worst of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1980s and 1990s. “We were pretty much in it alone with a small set of allies who were helping us, you know, heroic people,” he said. “But we had to really save ourselves. And this has been true, whether it’s with our kids or LGBTQ youth who are getting bullied and are committing suicide, whether it’s about our homeless youth, whether it’s about our seniors who are in long term care facilities and not always doing so well because of stigma and discrimination or any of our trans people who are incarcerated and misgendered and so forced to be housed according to their birth gender, not their gender identity. “I can go on, on, on — and it’s our LGBTQ community- based organizations that are overwhelmingly leading the charge to make sure that we are providing services, that we’re advocating, that we’re getting changes in the law,” said Wiener. “So these are critical — life critical— organizations.” Wiener mused: what would the LGBTQ community be like without HIV service providers, LGBTQ community centers, or organizations like Larkin Street Youth Services or Transgender Law Center? “These are not wealthy organizations,” he said. “These are not organizations with massive endowments that have accumulated over the last 50 to 100 years. And these are not organizations that have a huge group of hyper-wealthy donors who will write whatever check is needed. These are overwhelmingly grassroots organizations that do grassroots organizing in the community. A lot of their budget is funded by events that they hold a couple of times a year. “And so,” he continued, “when you have a shutdown like we have right now, these organizations are in major, major jeopardy. And what I am concerned about is the possibility that we will have a mass extinction event of LGBT non-profits where we’ll see scores of LGBT non-profits in California shut down. Maybe some of them will be able to reopen again later, but that’s really hard and this will damage so many members of our community and so we need to do what we can do to help support them. The federal small business loan program, the PPP paycheck protection program, nonprofits are eligible for that.” But a lot of non-profits were not able to get loans because they didn’t have previous banking connections. “We have to make sure that with this next round that we were helping LGBT nonprofits get those loans. We also, as a state and our budget, even though it’s going to be a hard budget year, we need to put resources from the state of California as a fund to support LGBTQ nonprofits. So, we got to make sure for the future of our community that we protect these organizations.” Asked about lessons learned from the HIV/AIDS crisis, Wiener noticed the “amazing public health system in San Francisco” with leaders who
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The coronavirus, in addition to killing tens of thousands of Americans, is wreaking havoc on state budgets and the viability of many businesses and non-profits.
got their start fighting AIDS in the 1980s, “due to an absent federal government.” The heavy investment in the healthcare system then built the “sensitive” infrastructure that exists today. “When you have a pandemic, it tends to put a spotlight on all of the inequities in society. And so, in HIV, we saw that. It was a virus that at the beginning was perceived to only affect two groups — gay men and IV drug users. These are two groups that were not very popular then. They’re not that popular now, either,” Wiener said. “And so, the federal government did nothing. And people just died.” The death of straight, white hemophiliac teenager Ryan White changed that. “It’s when it might possibly threaten you or your family, that society comes along,” Wiener said. “COVID, of course, affects everyone…. But there are definitely disproportionate impacts on low income communities, communities of color, LGBTQ communities. But everyone is affected and now the prime minister of the United Kingdom in the ICU. So you see a very different response: instead of the government dragging its feet for almost a decade before doing anything, we see an immediate response. Should’ve been a month earlier. “The response from the federal government has been because of this President’s incompetence,” Wiener continue. “But we have seen a massive mobilization of resources that within a month or so, we see now close to $2 trillion in investment from the federal government just within a month or two. And we see this massive mobilization, all hands on deck to test drugs to try to start trials on a vaccine. Can you imagine if we had seen this kind of mobilization around HIV in the 1980s? How many lives would have been saved?” Bottom line: “We got caught with our pants down by COVID-19,” Wiener said. “And so that is another lesson we learned from HIV, which apparently the US didn’t learn that well and hopefully we will now learn.”
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LGBTQ businesses improvise to stay afloat amid pandemic Some fear a second-wave ‘killing blow’ in the fall By CHRIS JOHNSON firstname.lastname@example.org
With the economy frozen amid the coronavirus crisis, small businesses across the country are feeling the pinch and LGBTQ-owned companies — some of which have dramatically altered their business models to stay afloat in trying times — are no exception. Faced with their traditional sources of revenue being cut off amid government-imposed shutdowns aimed at containing COVID-19, LGBTQ business owners who spoke to the Blade said they’ve had to improvise by facilitating different services than they did in their roles prior to the epidemic. Amy Tiller, a lesbian and co-owner of the Portland, Ore.-based Inspired Results, said her company immediately pivoted from brand management in print and apparel for client businesses to sending supplies of PPE to hospitals in regions hardest hit by the coronavirus. “We did a couple of large volume orders for hand sanitizer and gloves and things like that, and then people just started you know started referring us to other health care companies,” Tiller said. “It just became this thing in a matter of weeks that we were securing for traditional hospitals and clinics as well as senior living communities, as well as also we do a lot with our local retail grocery stores.” The clientele base for Inspired Results, Tiller said, was around 70 percent in health care related industries, so pivoting to PPE was a natural shift, and the business that followed “just kind of blossomed.” “We will quite literally send out millions of pieces of PPE between gloves, sanitizer, face masks and gowns — primarily those four are huge — and kind of with no end in sight,” Tiller said. Typically, Tiller said a day for Inspired Results consists of sending emails at 3 a.m. to China, where the supply chain starts, to ensure the PPE is available for clients, which she said has built off the company’s mission to supply those in need without price gouging. “I think that that has really resonated: The combination of speed, agility and access to the supply, combined with the fact that we’re not going to charge you $10 for a gown,” Tiller said. “We just won’t deal with suppliers that are doing that.” Among her clients across the country, Tiller said, is a large health system in the United States as well as other highly regulated industries in health care, logistics companies and telecom. The shift, Tiller said, has made her clients take a
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second look at the company and realize it has more to offer beyond its initial focus on brand management. “It’s felt really good to be able to be there for them in their time of need and I think that they see us differently as well,” Tiller said. “Like, one you could do so much more than maybe what I thought your capabilities were before because like big organizations are using us for one or two things, right? Now, it’s kind of opened up this world now.” The change in business model for Inspired Results is just one many for LGBTQ-owned businesses throughout the country, many of which are coordinating with the National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce for assistance. Jonathan Lovitz, senior vice president for the National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, said his organization has been coordinating with the U.S. Small Business Administration to ensure they get that help. “As the business voice of the LGBT community, the NGLCC is uniquely positioned to connect public and private sector resources to our network of affiliate chambers and partner organizations who urgently need the economic relief and emotional connection our community can always be counted on to provide,” Lovitz said. Prior to enactment of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce sent letters to members of Congress demanding the inclusion of LGBTQ entrepreneurs as well as support for non-profit, micro businesses and independent contractors. Justin Nelson, president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, said via email the CARES Act and initial call with SBA were “positive first steps to ensure our community is financially protected during this crisis,” but more is needed. “Many were left out and more will certainly be needed, especially as many of our business owners faced difficulty in applying for these essential funds,” Nelson said. “This is why NGLCC, in collaboration with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce (USBC), and the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce (ACE) and over 100 of our collective affiliate chambers will continue advocating for expanded funding for small business relief in upcoming rounds of relief, the inclusion of 501(c)(6) organizations in relief for nonprofit organizations,
LUCAS MENDIETA (left) and NATHAN PERRY own Cutting Edge Elite in New York. (Photo courtesy Cutting Edge Elite)
and the eligibility of— and increased assistance for — diverse small and micro businesses.” Other businesses are finding other ways to cope during the COVID-19 epidemic, even at the expenses of profit margins if it means keeping workers on payroll. Nathan Perry, who’s gay and co-owner of the Brooklyn-based Cutting Edge Elite, said his company — a staffing agency for New York residents seeking to moonlight as hospitality workers at events — has shifted to find them work without any profit. “Recently, with everything that’s happened, obviously, events wiped out completely,” Perry said. “So sales, 100 percent gone, and nobody should be having a party right now, frankly, but it was our mission to our staff, so now it’s just our mission to get them work without any profit.” Among the staff at Cutting Edge Elite are New York performers in the gig economy, some of which are doing theater work. As a result, Perry said many of these workers don’t qualify for unemployment benefits. Perry said he created a relief division, priced it at cost to cover their staff wages and employer tax insurance and then moved to “getting them out there to good work.” “I think from a mental health perspective this is hard on so many levels,” Perry said. “And one of them is just not having work during this tragedy, which leaves you stuck at home watching CNN way too many hours, and our staff are among the most financially vulnerable.” Lucas Mendieta, who’s gay and also a co-owner of Cutting Edge Elite, said among the new clients for staffers includes the New York Department of Aging. And the tasks have changed as well. CONTINUES AT LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
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Census 2020 is complicated, but it counts Critical funds for LGBTQ Americans at risk By now, everyone should have received a mailing from the U.S. Census Bureau to get counted. I have complicated feelings about the census. While the census is critically important to ensure a fair allocation of funding for services and political representation, it will not deliver the full acceptance and freedom of the LGBTQ community. After all, it’s a government survey. It will not capture the breadth of human experience in America today. So why are my feelings complicated? Some aspects of my identity are reflected in the census. I’m gay. There is no census question asking about sexual orientation. Yet, the relationship question counts same-sex married spouses and unmarried partners. While being a same-sex couple is a poor proxy for sexual orientation, the 2010 census uncovered more than 700,000 same-sex couples in the U.S. I’m a dad of an adopted AfricanAmerican child. Many LGBTQ people build families through adoption. The census counts transracial families. In fact, every year census data is used to allocate $8 billion for foster care and adoption assistance that can help queers start families. At the same time, my community is erased. Trans and gender nonconforming people must respond to a binary sex question. They must choose between their sex assigned at birth or how they identity today. The census asks about biology, not identity, and today while Facebook has more than 52 genders, the U.S. government only has two. It sucks.
Even India, Nepal, Pakistan (and Washington and Oregon) recognize a third gender. I and my organization, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance have urged the Census Bureau to recognize all of our community. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care is especially critical. The census is used to allocate $311 billion in medical assistance annually, according to the George Washington University Institute for Public Policy. More resources flow to where there is greater need based on the relative size of the population. I teach a class on Asian American Queerness at Hunter College CUNY. So many of my students benefit from the $29 billion in financial aid (Pell Grants) for college every year. The census continues to be used to allocate $645 million in HIV funding. I could go on and recount the importance of an accurate census: • $457 million for community mental health services; • $133 million for domestic violence prevention programs; • $48 million for community arts programs and for queer and trans artists; • $4.7 million to prevent abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elders. The more people who respond to the census, the more likely resources will flow to under-resourced communities. But for me the most importance aspect of the census is the political influence that the data drives. The census can be a check on the outsized political influence that some intolerant states command when apportioning congressional seats among the states based on population.
GLENN D. MAGPANTAY is a long-time civil rights lawyer who led community education and advocacy efforts for Census 2000 and 2010. He is executive director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.
Census data is also used to redraw congressional, state legislative and city council district boundaries to make them equal in population. Sure, some districts can be gerrymandered. But voting rights advocates can also use the data to draw districts that give communities of color, and those who have be traditionally underrepresented, a voice in the halls of power. The census is required by law. People can be fined $100 for not responding. Federal law also ensures that personal information is private and may not be shared with the immigration service, IRS, or law enforcement. NQAPIA is monitoring the census to keep our community safe. We have lawyers ready to sue if there are breaches and who are available to answer questions. You can report problem to us at http://bit.ly/2ULyiLy. The census holds a lasting impact. To be missed is to be gone for the next 10 years. Let’s be counted.
Together in Pride, apart GLAAD joins wave of online fundraisers with star-studded streaming event By JOHN PAUL KING
In an ordinary year, this would be high season for GLAAD. For 30 years, the venerable LGBTQ advocacy organization has presented its annual Media Awards in the spring, using its platform to acknowledge outstanding representation of the LGBTQ community in the media. It’s a celebration of the advancement of queer visibility in the popular culture, a high-profile event dripping with Hollywood glitz and glamour that serves as a marker to measure our progress in the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ acceptance and equality; it’s also a chance to reward the movies, television shows, and other forms of media that have achieved excellence in representing LGBTQ people and the issues that affect them, as well as to recognize and elevate the voices of the artists and creators behind them. Just as importantly – and arguably even more so, in the long game – the GLAAD Media Awards provides a golden opportunity to pass the hat. The ceremonies (there are two scheduled each year, one in New York and one in Los Angeles) are the organization’s biggest fundraising events, and they generate a substantial portion of its annual financial support in an ordinary year. But as everyone is painfully aware, 2020 is no ordinary year. Last month, as the nation grappled with the seriousness of the encroaching COVID-19 pandemic, GLAAD was forced to cancel its 31st Annual Media Awards – first, the New York City presentation, scheduled for March 19, and then, five days later, the second event, slated for April 16 in Los Angeles. It was not a decision the LGBTQ media watchdog group made lightly. As the organization’s president and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis, told Variety at the time, “This is a $2 million implication to our bottom line. They are our biggest fundraising events and they help support a lot of our programming.” Fortunately, GLAAD’s supporters are passionate and loyal; not only did big corporate sponsors like Gilead, Hyundai, Bud Light and Ketel One agree to honor their financial commitments regardless of the cancellations, individual donors have stepped up to do the same. “We called them individually and the majority of them without even having to ask offered and said they would turn it into a donation. It is amazing. It is phenomenal,” Ellis told Variety. “Same with our major ticket buyers. These are expensive tickets and we said, ‘Instead of being a ticket buyer, we’d love to turn you into one of our major donors.’ Over 90% of them said, ‘Yes, please.’”
APRIL 24, 2020
ADAM LAMBERT is among the special guests slated for Sunday’s ‘Together in Pride’ live streaming event. (Photo courtesy Lambert)
That generosity has allowed the GLAAD Media Institute to continue its work, such as providing media training to local activists and advocates to help fight anti-LGBTQ legislation and candidates during the all-important 2020 election cycle, and consulting with creatives and writers in the entertainment industry as they work to incorporate LGBTQ characters and stories into upcoming projects. As for the Media Awards, the organization may be able to reschedule those for later in the year, though the future is anything but certain right now – but in the meantime, they are taking their accustomed place in the vanguard of not-for-profit advocacy groups by jumping into the newly blossoming world of virtual events, with this weekend’s “Together in Pride: You are Not Alone,” a livestream event airing Sunday on GLAAD’s YouTube channel and Facebook Live. In keeping with the organization’s reputation for drawing on a spectacular list of talent, it will feature a “who’s who” of LGBTQ and allied celebrity participants, with headlining performances from Kesha and Melissa Etheridge, and an array of special guests, including Billy Eichner, Matt Bomer, Lilly Singh, Adam Lambert, Bebe Rexha, Dan Levy, MJ Rodriguez, Wilson Cruz, Kathy Griffin, Gigi Gorgeous, Nats Getty, Michelle Visage, Javier Muñoz, Sean Hayes, Sharon Stone, and Tatiana Maslany – with the tantalizing promise of more guests to be “announced soon.” “At a time when some LGBTQ people could be isolating in homes that are not affirming, GLAAD is bringing together the biggest LGBTQ stars and allies to send
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messages of love, support and acceptance,” says Ellis According to GLAAD’s press release, the event is intended to “highlight the LGBTQ response to COVID-19,” as well as to “amplify messages of acceptance and affirmation to the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV during this unprecedented time.” Prior to the livestream, the group plans to launch a storytelling campaign on its site, spotlighting LGBTQ people responding to COVID-19 and to remember community members lost in the pandemic. The need for such an effort is real – COVID-19 has had a far-reaching impact on LGBTQ people. Higher rates of cancer, HIV, and tobacco use - all which factor into higher susceptibility to negative outcomes from COVID-19 – result in a heightened vulnerability to the virus within the community, and the continued discrimination and hostility experienced by LGBTQ individuals in medical settings make many reluctant to seek medical care. In March, these factors and more led GLAAD to join with over 100 LGBTQ organizations in an open letter calling on U.S. public health officials and media to address the heightened vulnerability of LGBTQ people to the virus, and to join AIDS United and over 90 other organizations in calling on Congress to recognize the increased vulnerability of people living with HIV to COVID-19. “Together in Pride” is intended to do more than just spread the word about the impact of the pandemic on LGBTQ lives; it will also raise critical funds for CenterLink, a coalition of more than 250 LGBTQ community centers from 45 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, as well as Canada, China, Mexico, and Australia. Such centers are still providing critical services – from medical care, mental health counseling, and HIV-related services to distributing food, providing shelter for homeless youth, and providing support for the welfare of older adults – even as the pandemic rages. GLAAD’s Chief Communications Officer, Rich Ferraro, says, “With COVID-19 disproportionately affecting LGBTQ people and their livelihoods, these centers and organizations are the ones on the front lines every day providing critical direct services to millions of LGBTQ Americans in need. During this unprecedented crisis, it is our responsibility to come together as a community to help these organizations stay alive, and to ensure that LGBTQ people are not left behind.” According to its website, CenterLink works both to assist newly forming LGBTQ community centers and to help strengthen existing ones, through “networking opportunities for center leaders, peer-based technical
assistance and training, and a variety of capacity building services.” Their efforts are based “on the belief that LGBT community centers are primary change agents in the national movement working toward the liberation and empowerment of LGBT people.” “As a result of this pandemic, many LGBTQ community centers and organizations across the country are facing serious financial troubles, with many even at risk of closing permanently. With COVID-19 disproportionately affecting LGBTQ people and their livelihoods, these centers and organizations are the ones on the frontlines every day providing critical direct services to millions of LGBTQ Americans in need. During this unprecedented crisis, it is our responsibility to come together as a community to help these organizations stay alive, and to ensure that LGBTQ people are not left behind.” Denise Spivak, CenterLink’s Interim CEO, is keenly aware that the coalition’s mission is vitally important during the current time of crisis. “LGBTQ centers are the heart of the community, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic these centers have continued to provide vital connectivity and services, pivoting to virtual programming, modifying inperson services when possible, and ensuring that their communities have resources and support when they need it the most,” she said in a statement. Indeed, time is of the essence when it comes to opening up the flow of funding. Many vital organizations, both large and small, are facing the challenge of remaining viable during what looks ever more to be a lengthy period of shutdown for public gatherings.
Samuel Garrett-Pate, communications director of Equality California, told the Blade his organization has had to cancel or postpone a number of major fundraising events due to COVID-19 restrictions, such as its Sunday brunch in Los Angeles and its Equality Awards galas in Sacramento, San Francisco and San Diego. “This is obviously a huge financial threat to the organization, right when the community needs us most,” he says. “We can’t afford to stop fighting for LGBTQ+ civil rights, connecting LGBTQ+ people with the resources and support they need or advocating for our community in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. — that work is more important than ever.” Like other groups, EQCA has begun holding virtual events online, and on Tuesday night announced its first big virtual fundraiser – “Evening For Equality,” which will stream April 30 at 6 p.m. PST on Facebook Live, Twitter and YouTube, and is scheduled to include special guests including Rep. Katie Porter, Angelica Ross, Jason Mraz, Billie Lee, Jai Rodriguez, and others still to be announced. Michaé Pulido, manager of Policy and Community Engagement for TransLatin@ Coalition, told the Blade her organization is focusing on efforts to gain support for those serving the needs of Trans, Gender NonConforming and Intersex (TGI) people, who according to a report released March 20 by Funders for LGBTQ issues receive only four pennies out of every $100 raised for organizations serving the LGBTQ community. They’ve launched a petition calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom “to address the significant needs of […] (TGI) people in the midst of COVID-19” by facilitating opportunities in key areas
MELISSA ETHERIDGE is headlining GLAAD’s ‘Together in Pride’ live streaming event on Sunday. (Photo courtesy Etheridge)
such as housing, employment and economic stability, and health care. They’ve also written an open letter “From TGILed Organizations to Philanthropy Organizations,” calling for help and solidarity in this time of crisis. Madonna Cacciatore, executive director of Christopher Street West, says that the cancellation of this year’s LA Pride presents a unique challenge for her organization. “As a non-profit, CSW relies heavily on the funds raised through our sponsorships and the ticket sales for the annual LA Pride Parade and Festival,” she says. “Since the pandemic changed our lives, we’ve been working closely with local government officials to monitor the situation. We’ve also started reimagining the ways we can continue to celebrate Pride in 2020 in a socially responsible way.” She promises, “With the support from our partners and potential sponsors, LA Pride will unite the community through unique digital experiences.” The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, another of the city’s biggest LGBTQ advocacy organizations, faces an equally difficult obstacle; with its revenue largely dependent on the ability to function as a performing arts body, the inability to bring music to audiences in an in-person setting leaves them severely handicapped, but Executive Director and Producer Lou Spisto also points to the virtual landscape as the natural venue for the group’s continuity during the crisis, citing the recent premiere performance of “Earth Song,” by renowned USC composer Dr. Frank Ticheli, performed as a celebration of Earth Day by nearly 100 chorus members in their individual homes, as an example of their ongoing mission “to help heal people with the power of music during this difficult time.” Even Free Mom Hugs, a group of parents and allies dedicated “to educating families, church, and civic leaders” and “encouraging them to not only affirm the LGBTQ+ community but to celebrate them,” which (as the name implies) was built on an up-close and personal approach to sparking engagement and dialogue, has turned to the digital world to spread its message. “One of our signature annual fundraisers is the Free Mom Hugs Tour, a curated experience where we visit cities and sites of historical significance to the LGBTQ+ community,” says Sara Cunningham, the organization’s founder. “In respect to social distancing protocol, we’ve had to quickly convert this largely physical effort into a virtual online experience in a way that still uplifts and brings the LGBTQ+ community and allies together. It’s taken some creative reimagining on our part, but we are also grateful to be able to work with allied partners, such as Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, who made a donation so we can continue our hard work in the face of COVID-19 and continue to support our mission during these uncertain times until we are able to safely gather and hug in-person again.” When that time will come, of course, is still very much unknown. In the meantime, we’ll all have to get not just all our hugs but all our entertainment online – starting this Sunday, when “Together in Pride: You are Not Alone” streams live at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • APRIL 24, 2020 • 13
COVID-19 can’t keep Jackie Cox down Drag performers staying busy in digital realm By SCOTT STIFFLER
We’re navigating the current COVID-19 crisis as best we can—but each day forces us to admit how little we’ve learned from what pandemic-themed science fiction, countries with universal health care, and people who cut their own hair have been trying to tell us for years. Yeah, everybody’s pretty much making it up as they go along—and in the case of entertainers displaced from shuttered clubs, bars, and theaters that are sources of income as well as community, stay-at-home drag queens are keeping the cobwebs off their wigs by entertaining fans in the digital realm. The Blade recently reached out and touched one such indefatigable gal (via email), to get her take on innovation in this time of isolation. Thanks to her presence as a contestant on the currently airing season 12 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the whole world has been discovering what New York City has known for years: There’s nobody out there quite like Jackie Cox. Born in Canada, the Star Trek-loving “Persian princess of drag” wears her nerdy nature, Iranian heritage, obsession with Disney, and love of ’80s/’90s pop culture as badges of honor. Pin those badges on a dress as pick-and-choose accessories, and they work just as well on the “Drag Race” runway as they have on the cabaret stages of New York City, where writer/ performer Cox fashioned and refined the sharp, sassy, clever, campy, and occasionally political persona that’s put more than one smile on the hard-to-please faces of Mama Ru and Michelle Visage. That persona changes slightly according to the hat Cox wears. As writer/star, she put her own spin on Barbara Eden’s iconic bottle-dweller, in the three-part “I Dream of Jackie” series, which followed the adventures of a magical genie who emerged from underneath the stage of Manhattan’s Laurie Beechman Theatre to find a chaotic and cynical world that was no match for her sweet, optimistic nature. Also at the Beechman, Cox appeared in a series of shows with The Hell’s Kitchenettes, an Andrew Sisters-like trio of singing waitresses whose wacky schemes to save their diner always backfire, but never fail to bring it back from the brink of disaster. And last year, also at the Beechman, Cox and frequent collaborator Chelsea Piers put the Romy and Michelle/Laverne & Shirley friendship dynamic into a blender, added some iconic songs from the ’80s/’90s, and created the tasty comedic smoothie that was “Jackie & Chelsea’s High School Reunion.”
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The Blade: On April 18, you presented “The Jackie Cox Variety Show” as part of StageIt.com’s Digital Drag Fest series. What songs and segments did you serve fans, and how was the experience? Can we expect to see more of you on the Digital Drag Fest platform? Jackie Cox: I’ve now done two editions of the “The Jackie Cox Variety Show,” with a new, politically minded version performed on April 21, as part of the campaign to “Drag Out The Vote,” and get the LGBTQ+ community registered to vote! Both versions keep a similar structure, in that it’s a variety show with different comedy segments and songs. I do a cooking segment, a faux-news segment, and recurring gags that happen throughout. It very much harkens back to that 1960s and 1970s variety show feel. I hope to continue doing them, and it’s a great creative space for me to try new ideas in this format. Visit stageit.com/digitaldragfest for the latest information on all their upcoming events. Blade: Has this forced time away from public performance impacted your creativity, creative output, and approach to using online/social media as an expression of your artistry? Cox: I think this time away from performing on stage has definitely given us a new frontier of what drag can be in the future, and live performance in general. Having the ability to connect with fans through live streaming platforms presents a lot of fun ways to creatively think outside the box. I’ve been finding myself actually able to engage with fans online in meaningful ways that I probably wouldn’t have been able to if I had been traveling and performing all over the country, as was originally planned. Blade: Spoilers and gag orders aside, tell us everything you can/want, about part of “RDPR” Season 12? Cox: Participating in this season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has truly been a dream come true. I learned so much about myself and about my drag from participating in the competition. Spoilers aside—I think from what the audience has already seen, this season is filled with so much talent, personality, and heart. Blade: Have you had any notable virtual interactions with fans during this period of social distancing? Cox: Well, the fans have CERTAINLY been vocal and I must say, I feel a bit behind in how the kids talk these days, but I’m learning. (Cool Aunt here.) That said, I’ve
‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ season 12 contestant JACKIE COX
been trying to engage with fans as much as I can. I have had so many fans reach out saying they feel represented by who I am and what I’m doing on the show. I’ve also had fans who are either too far away, or otherwise would be unable to come see a live show, and are just so thrilled they get to see live drag from the comfort of their own homes. Blade: How did you come to be involved in the April 25 Community Strong Identity panel (via witch.tv/ popculturehero)? What can we expect? Cox: I have known Randy Frank, the founding member of the Lambda Quadrant non-profit, which is putting on the event, for a number of years, since we originally connected through our love of “Star Trek.” (It’s not just the glasses—I really am a nerd!) The panel will be moderated by Chase Masterson (from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”) and Raymond Lister, in support of their “Pop Culture Her Coalition”— the first-ever organization to teach empathy, resilience, and real-life heroism over bullying, racism, misogyny, LGBTQ-bullying, cyberbullying, and other forms of hate, by using stories from TV, comics, and movies, which kids find relatable and accessible. In our panel (which includes “Drag Race” alums Silky Nutmeg Ganache and Pandora Boxx, among others), we will be discussing how we tackle these issues in our lives, and share our experiences. Blade: Are there any other ways, now or upcoming, that fans can access you in the digital realm? Cox: Yes! I’m @jackiecoxnyc across all social media platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook... even TikTok!), where I will post the latest information on any and all upcoming shows and appearances. Blade: The all-clear is called and we’re allowed to gather in public again. What are the first things you’re going to do? Cox: Definitely go have a good laugh and a margarita (and HUGS!) with friends at any of my favorite bars in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC! I miss salty rims!
The Wu touch ‘The Half of It’ director says screenplay characters eventually speak up in development By BRIAN T. CARNEY
Writer/director Alice Wu did not set out to make a teen movie. She started writing — in what became “The Half of It” (Netflix, May 1) — about her own coming-out story. “My best friend in college was a straight white guy,” she says. “He helped me accept myself as gay more than anyone. But his new girlfriend was wary of our relationship, despite knowing I was gay, and slowly, ineffably, the delicate calculus of our connection eroded.” Wu started to write about her heartbreak over the loss of their friendship, but hit a wall. “As I started outlining it, I realized I couldn’t do justice to these themes in a 100-minute movie. I couldn’t find an ending that felt both satisfying and earned.” Then revelation struck. “At a certain point, your characters tell you what they want, and I thought maybe I should just set this thing in high school. I love teen movies. Only in high school is every feeling so intense. Because it’s the first time it’s happened to you, you think it’s the only time it’s going to happen to you. Everything is heightened in a way that allows you to cover a lot of emotional territory.” “Frankly,” she says, “when it comes to love, don’t we all regress to being teenagers? Then the whole Cyrano component slipped in and the film became something else entirely.” Cyrano is the swash-buckling hero of an 1897 play by French playwright Edmund Rostand. A brilliant poet and swordsman, Cyrano is also renowned for his remarkably large nose. He’s in love with his beautiful and intellectual cousin Roxanne, but she’s in love with the handsome and dim-witted Christian. Cyrano helps Christian woo Roxanne. Most famously, he even hides in the shadows beneath her balcony and pretends to be Christian. Christian and Roxanne marry, but Cyrano gets a dramatic death scene where he finally confesses his love for Roxanne. In “The Half of It,” Wu moves the Cyrano story to a small town in eastern Washington state and adds a lesbian twist to it. The famous French romance
becomes a contemporary queer coming-of-age story. Her story centers on Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), a shy, straight-A high school senior who helps pay the bills by ghost-writing papers for classmates. One of her clients, a football player named Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer), hires her to write love notes to their classmate Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). Ellie agrees, but there are obstacles. Aster is the daughter of a local minister and the girlfriend of quarterback Trig Carson (Wolfgang Novogratz). Ellie also realizes she has a crush on Aster. Wu says the title has a double meaning. It refers to a speech from Plato’s Symposium where the playwright Aristophanes explains that humans spend their lives searching for their “other half.” Ellie tells the story over the opening credits; the story may also be familiar to LGBT audiences from the song “Origins of Love” from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” But as Wu explains, the title also refers to the saying, “you don’t know the half of it.” “Everybody has a secret they’re harboring. Paul has a lot to say, but his family doesn’t give him any space to say anything. Aster wants a different life than the one that’s been prescribed for her.” Ellie hides her dreams and desires. As the story unfolds, Wu focus on the deepening friendships between the characters. “For me, she says, “the point of the film isn’t about who ends up with whom. It’s about people who collide in a moment in time.” Wu admits that “endings are tricky because we expect answers.” Some critics felt the ending of her first film, “Saving Face,” which premiered at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals in 2005, was “too happy.” At the time, Wu said the ending was grounded in the truth for her characters and now proudly declares that history has proved her right. Now she’s proud of the hopeful ending for “The Half of It.” “The end of the film is each of their beginnings,” she says. “That is the happiest ending for all of them.”
Director ALICE WU (left) and actress LEAH LEWIS on the set of ‘The Half of It.’ (Photo by KC Bailey; courtesy Netflix)
LEAH LEWIS and DANIEL DIERNER in ‘The Half of It.’ (Photo by KC Bailey; courtesy Netflix)
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • APRIL 24, 2020 • 15
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