Losangelesblade.com, Volume 4, Issue 40, October 2, 2020

Page 1

(Photo by Rachel Malehorn; Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License)

Supreme Fight Dems vow to derail nominee, calling her threat to RBG’s legacy PAGE 12


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Madonna Cacciatore, executive director of LA Pride, exits role MADONNA CACCIATORE (Photograph courtesy Cacciatore)

Disney lays off 28,000 Cast Members from theme parks

One of the LA’s largest employers of LGBTQ people By BRODY LEVESQUE

Departure follows leadership change FROM STAFF REPORTS

Madonna Cacciatore, executive director of Christopher Street West/LA Pride, (CSW/LAPride) has stepped down it was announced Tuesday via a press statement. Cacciatore was appointed to that role on July 1, 2018 and had previously worked for Los Angeles area LGBTQ nonprofits starting out at at AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) in 2006 and then as the Director of Special Events for the Los Angeles LGBT Center, 2012 until joining CSW/ LA Pride. On September 1, of this year, Estevan Montemayor stepped down as the group’s President. While serving as board president Montemayor hired Cacciatore as LA Pride’s first full-time executive director. Together they were able to add experienced staffing for fundraising and operations, attract record breaking corporate donations in 2019, and expand the board with a mind toward all aspects of diversity. Highlights of her tenure included an expansion of the Pride festival and parade and a free component called “Pride on the Boulevard.” Cacciatore helped launch the bid to bring the World Pride celebration to Los Angeles in 2025; LA Pride was broadcast for the first time on a major local TV station, KABC 7, a program, which was so successful that it led to a multiyear TV contract deal for CSW/LA Pride. In 2020 it was broadcast as a televised ‘Virtual Pride Special.’ Newly appointed president of the Board of Directors, Sharon-Franklin Brown said, “Madonna, thank you for your boundless contributions to CSW/LA Pride and the LGBTQ+ community and allies It’s with enormous gratitude I wish you well on the next stages of your journey, my friend.” Cacciatore wrote: I am deeply humbled to have been at the helm of Christopher Street West |LA Pride as the executive director for more than two years. It is with deep gratitude, a rich heart, and mad respect that I make the bittersweet announcement that my last day is September 30. Beginning October 1, the organization will be under the executive leadership of members of the board of directors. It is important for me to convey this to you with honesty and integrity. It’s simple: COVID-19 has made it tough for Pride organizations across the globe to sustain themselves. CSW is financially sound and must remain that way in order to provide brave, safe spaces for the next 50 years. LA Pride 2019 seems like a million years ago but lives vividly in my heart today. After months of listening to your voices, we were able to produce new, free events like Pride on the Boulevard, Oil Can Harry’s, Opening Ceremony, a blessing by tribal elders of the Tongva land, and the first live parade broadcast on ABC7. It has been my honor to serve you. You challenged me and touched me to my core. You are the reason the role was important to me. My deepest love and thanks for trusting me with LA Pride. Hope to see you all very soon in person.

The chairman of the Burbank-based Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Josh D’Amaro announced today that his division of Disney would lay off 28,000 staff known in the company as Cast Members at Disney parks in Orlando and Anaheim. D’Amaro placed the reason on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in JOSH D’AMARO (Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Theme Parks) both Florida and California, however he also took aim at the restrictions in California imposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to limit large gatherings. Addressing California operations specifically his statement released Tuesday D’Amaro wrote: “In light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic – exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen – we have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our Parks, Experiences and Products segment at all levels, having kept non-working Cast Members on furlough since April, while paying healthcare benefits.” At the outset of the pandemic in March Disney had furloughed nearly its entire workforce of 100,000. D’Amaro then noted, “approximately 28,000 domestic employees will be affected, of which about 67% are part-time. We are talking with impacted employees as well as to the unions on next steps for union-represented Cast Members. “[...] we’ve been forced to make a number of necessary adjustments to our business, and as difficult as this decision is today, we believe that the steps we are taking will enable us to emerge a more effective and efficient operation when we return to normal.” The Walt Disney Company for the 14th consecutive year this past January earned a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2020 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a national bench-marking survey that measures corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ workplace equality. The Los Angeles Blade reached out to a cast member who identifies as non-binary queer and works in a supervisory position at Disneyland in Anaheim. They spoke to the Blade on the condition of remaining anonymous about Tuesday’s announcement. “The past six months have really sucked because the park has remained shuttered. The virus isn’t getting better, at least not in new infections especially here in Orange County. The state won’t let us reopen and this is hurting most of my friends who also work for the park,” they said. “The unemployment (insurance relief) is all screwed up too and many of us can’t pay rent- one friend lost his car this makes it worse like for the part-timers especially,” they added. Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of California Health and Human Services was asked about theme parks reopening since some parts of the park operations are inside while others are outdoor. Ghaly, responded by noting that they’re “working hard to get [theme park reopening guidelines] out in a responsible way as soon as possible so planning can be done by both the counties that are homes to the theme parks as well as the operators of those theme parks.” LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 02, 2020 • 03


Newsom signs LGBTQ civil rights, healthcare bills into law ‘Our march toward equality takes an additional step forward’ By BRODY LEVESQUE

SACRAMENTO – California’s LGBTQ Legislative caucus Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM speaking to reporters during a weekly virtual press briefing. advanced several critical pieces of legislation in this year’s now-ended session, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law this past week. Addressing the ongoing coronavirus crisis, Senate Bill 932 (SB932) mandates that health care providers in California report sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data, if known, for all reportable communicable diseases. “California has some of the strongest pro LGBTQ+ laws in the nation and with the bills signed today, our march toward equality takes an additional step forward,” said Newsom in a media statement. “These new laws will help us better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on the LGBTQ+ community, establish a new fund to support our transgender sisters and brothers and advance inclusive and culturally competent efforts that uphold the dignity of all Californians, regardless of who you are or who you love.” SB932, introduced by State Senator Scott Wiener, was targeting the specific lack of data points for the coronavirus on the state’s LGBTQ residents. In the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic there was a failure by the health departments at a local level to collect the data point metrics needed to account to will assist organizations serving people that identify as transgender, gender tabulate impact. Wiener later expanded the legislation nonconforming, or intersex (TGI), and help create or fund TGI-specific housing to encompass all reportable communicable diesases. It is the first law of programs and partnerships with hospitals, health care clinics and other its kind in the country that requires healthcare providers to collect LGBTQ medical providers to provide TGI-focused health care. health data for all reportable communicable diseases. Equality California “This is a critical measure for our transgender community and I thank and the LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network co-sponsored Wiener’s Governor Newsom for his steadfast leadership in signing AB 2218,” Santiago legislation. said in an emailed statement. “California’s TGI community has long faced Another critical legislative effort led by Wiener, which was co-sponsored obstacles in receiving safe, non-discriminatory, comprehensive care, and by TransLatin@ Coalition, TGI Justice Project, Equality California, ACLU of COVID-19 has exacerbated these existing health care disparities. This bill California, Lambda Legal, Medina Orthwein LLP, and Transgender Law Center, will help create programs where TGI-identified people can receive safe, was Senate Bill 132 (SB!32). competent, and inclusive healthcare and other social services.” SB132 requires that incarcerated transgender, nonbinary, and intersex The governor’s office noted in a statement that “recognizing that too many individuals in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Californians who are HIV+ experience heightened levels of discrimination by Rehabilitation (CDCR) be classified by their gender identity and housed based insurers, the Governor signed SB 1255 by Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long on their stated health and safety needs and searched according to the policy Beach) and the Senate Committee on Insurance to end the practice of for their gender identity or the facility where they are housed, based on insurance companies discriminating against individuals because of their HIV their search preference. Currently, incarcerated transgender, nonbinary, and status.” intersex individuals are automatically housed by sex assigned at birth, which “Thanks to Governor Newsom and Senator Wiener’s leadership, California can lead to increased violence and harassment. is a beacon of hope to LGBTQ+ people everywhere. Nearly four decades In an email to the Los Angeles Blade this week, Wiener wrote: “Today, after I watched the government look the other way as our community was California took a big step toward LGBTQ equality and inclusion. LGBTQ devastated by the AIDS crisis, I am proud to say California has become the first Californians are no longer invisible in our healthcare system, and we will now state to mandate the collection of voluntary LGBTQ+ data for all reportable have health data so that we can advance health equity for our community. communicable diseases,” Rick Chavez Zbur, Executive Director of Equality And, transgender people who are currently in prison will have a much greater California, said in an emailed statement. opportunity to be safe while incarcerated, and to be treated with the respect “And while President Trump unleashes endless attacks against the and dignity they deserve. I’m proud to be an LGBTQ Californian and proud to transgender community, California is ensuring incarcerated transgender be a part of the coalition working toward a fairer society. Thank you, Governor people are afforded the respect, agency and dignity that every person Newsom, for once again getting it and stepping up to support the LGBTQ deserves. I recently had the chance to hear from currently incarcerated community.” transgender people about their experiences and need for SB 132 — this bill Newsom also signed Assembly Bill 2218 (AB 2218) into law this past is going to save lives. We are so grateful to our coalition partners — many of week. Sponsored by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), whom are trans,” Zbur added. the law establishes the Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund. The Fund 04 • OCTOBER 02, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

Christy Smith

Congress CA 25

Gil Cisneros

Congress CA 39

Holly Mitchell

L.A. County Supervisor 2

Nichelle Henderson

George Gascón L.A. County District Attorney

L.A. County Community College 5

Freddy Puza

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John Erickson West Hollwood City Council

EQUALITY CANDIDATES U.S. President/Vice President Joe Biden & Kamala Harris

U.S. Congress








CA 23 - Kim Mangone CA 25 - Christy Smith CA 26 - Julia Brownley* CA 27 - Judy Chu* CA 28 - Adam Schiff* CA 29 - Tony Cardenas* CA 30 - Brad Sherman* CA 32 - Grace Napolitano* CA 33 - Ted Lieu* CA 34 - Jimmy Gomez* CA 35 - Norma Torres* CA 37 - Karen Bass* CA 38 - Linda Sanchez* CA 39 - Gil Cisneros* CA 40 - Lucille Roybal-Allard* CA 43 - Maxine Waters* CA 44 - Nanette Barragán* CA 47 - Alan Lowenthal


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Senate District 21 - Kipp Mueller Senate District 27 - Henry Stern* Senate District 33 - Lena Gonzalez* Senate District 35 - Steven Bradford*

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District Attorney - George Gascón Superior Court Judge 72 - Steve Morgan Superior Court Judge 80 - David Berger Superior Court Judge 162 - Scott Yang

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Anastasia Foster* Santa Monica School Board Jen Smith Jason Feldman West Hollywood City Council (2 seats) John Erickson

Statewide Propositions Prop 14 SUPPORT Borrowing for STEM Cell Research Prop 15 SUPPORT Schools and Communities First Prop 16 SUPPORT Repeals Proposition 209, ending the ban on affirmative action Prop 17 SUPPORT Free the Vote, grants the right to vote to people on parole Prop 18 SUPPORT Allows 17-years olds to vote if they turn 18 by the general election Prop 19 SUPPORT Property Tax Breaks and Wildfire Fund Prop 20 OPPOSE Tougher on parole, property crimes Prop 21 SUPPORT Rent Control Prop 22 OPPOSE Repeals AB 5, classifies ride-hall, other app-drivers as self-employed Prop 23 SUPPORT Regulates dialysis clinics Prop 25 SUPPORT End Cash Bail

Los Angeles County Propositions Measure RR LAUSD Bond SUPPORT Measure J Reimagine LA County SUPPORT

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L.A. County Dem official on the debate, getting out the vote, Yes on Prop 21 In a nation wracked by civil unrest, a pandemic and economic collapse, the stakes are evident By KAREN OCAMB

on the key problems facing American Historian Jon Meacham summed up families today,” said Gonzalez, a young the contentious Sept. 29 debate between Democrat with more than 20 years of President Donald Trump and former Vice activism who was recently named chair of President Joe Biden simply: “No hyperbole: the Biden/Harris campaign in California. The incumbent’s behavior this evening is “Joe Biden demonstrated the leadership the lowest moment in the history of the and temperament that Americans around presidency since Andrew Johnson’s racist the country are looking for. I look forward state papers.” to the next two presidential debates, and Many debate observers agree, including next week’s Vice-Presidential Debate with out Los Angeles County Democratic Party California’s own Kamala Harris.” Chair Mark Gonzalez, who told the L.A. Gonzalez notes that during the Blade that the president “stoked the coronavirus pandemic, the party has gone burning coals of racism.” completely virtual in its critical Get Out The Trump referred to California several Vote (GOTV) effort before Election Day, Nov. times, including once again blaming 3. “California has a huge volunteer base of the wildfires on “forest floors are people who are calling the 17 battleground loaded up with trees … and leaves and states,” he says, with coalition phone everything else” and a lack of “good banking focused on Arizona and Nevada. forest management.” CalMatters factMARK GONZALEZ, chair of the Biden/Harris campaign in California Mail-in ballots drop on Oct. 5 in checked: https://twitter.com/CalMatters/ (Photo courtesy LACDP) California. In addition to mailing the ballot status/1311130283647803393?s=20 through the Post Office, there are voting “California only owns about 3% of the centers in large arenas open 11 days prior state’s forest. The largest landlord of to Election Day to physically dop off ballots. As long as the ballot is postmarked forestland in California? The federal government.” by Nov. 3, it will be counted. But to Meacham’s point, the greatest post-debate concern was Trump’s “Our focus has always been robocalls, anything digital,” and social media, hedging about whether he would observe the peaceful democratic transfer says Gonzalez. “We’re planning six virtual GOTV rallies across the County… of power should he lose re-election. Not only did he make false statements [and] we’re partnering with the California Democratic Party and doing virtual about discarded ballots, Trump falsely underscored violence in Democraticphone banking” on national and statewide races, including propositions such run cities. “Look at Oakland, look what happened in Oakland. … It was more as Prop 21. violent than what I’m even seeing now,’’ Trump said, ignoring the fact that The L.A County Democratic Party actually endorsed Prop 21 before the state the suspect accused of killing a federal officer last May was a member of the party. A key point: over 30% of California’s 17 million renters pay over 50% of extremist “boogaloo boys” who used peaceful protests as a cover to “incite a their income in rent. race war,” according to the Washington Post. “In Los Angeles alone, not just the County, there is a significant amount of Trump also refused to condemn white supremacy when asked directly by folks who are renters. During the pandemic, a lot of folks who have lost their moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. Instead, three years after he seemed to job, unfortunately, who are renters, are scared in terms of getting kicked out, excuse the neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump said: “Proud being pushed onto the street,” Gonzalez says. “Prop 21 is an initiative on the Boys, stand back and stand by,” which the far right extremist group celebrated ballot that prevents homelessness, preserves affordable housing and gives as marching orders – including creating a new logo emblazoned with Trump’s local communities the freedom to provide renter assistance. There’s over admonition. 150,000 people who are homeless in California and this was before COVID-19. “In a nation wracked by unrest, that was one of the most irresponsible And COVID-19 has left 4 to 5 million people in danger of eviction in California, and reprehensible statements I’ve ever seen from a president,” conservative according to the Aspen Institute study. So, Prop 21 will help get assistance commentator David French tweeted, saying Trump’s comments were “a call to those renters and help prevent eviction, which I think is what the party is to be ready.” standing for.” This is of particular concern to the LGBTQ community in Hawaii where Gonzalez adds: “I think it’s just important. I, myself, am a renter. And I think Proud Boys member Nick Ochs is running against out gay Adrian Tam, both it’s important for these measures and initiatives to go through, to protect those candidates for the Hawaiian state legislature. “TRUMP DIRECTLY ASKED folks. Because most people who are renting — if you’re not a homeowner, ABOUT PROUD BOYS. DOESN’T DISAVOW. DENOUNCES ANTIFA INSTEAD,” you’re obviously in a very different bracket. So, it’s definitely something that’s Ochs tweeted, adding “Standing back and standing by, Mr. President.” needed, which is why the party pushed for it.” “What America and the world witnessed last night reminds us what the Karen Ocamb is an award-wining journalist writing for the Yes on 21 last 4 years have been for our nation - chaotic. While the president lied campaign. A version of this story appeared on the Yes on 21 website. https:// repeatedly directly to the American people and stoked the burning coals of yeson21ca.org/ racism putting his ‘Proud Boys’ on ‘stand by,’ Joe Biden offered strong ideas 06 • OCTOBER 02, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

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ANALYSIS: Kate Kendell on the threat to LGBTQ rights that is Amy Coney Barrett Republicans are the scorpions seeking to kill LGBTQ and women’s rights By ROB WATSON HOLLYWOOD — It is the old story about the scorpion and the frog. The two needed each other to cross a river to survive. The frog was apprehensive, knowing the scorpion had a deadly sting. The scorpion proclaimed that should the frog swim him across, he would obviously not use his lethal sting as they would both then drown. The frog gave into this logic, agreed to take the scorpion across… half-way across, the scorpion DID sting the frog. As they were both on their way to death, the frog asked, “WHY?” The scorpion proclaimed, “I could not help it. It is who I am.” The Republicans are the scorpions of politics. America has been the land of principles. The land of justice. The land of a democratic ideal. Our people have allowed the Republican party to crawl on our back with the promise and common goal of saving those ideals. To make us “great” “again.” Amy Coney Barrett has been nominated to take over Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s seat on the Supreme Court. She has been placed there, not to represent our democracy, but to finish the job of the powerful few, the Republican Party, that started the agenda decades ago. Women’s reproductive rights, protection against gun violence, common access to healthcare, LGBTQ rights…. She holds the lethal injection to wipe them all out. Her willingness to use such an injection is her most important qualification. To quote Donald Trump as a disaster he perpetuated unfolds, “It is what it is” and Barrett will play her part. It is who she is. If she were someone else, she simply would not be the nominee. How will she sting us? I took that question this week to Kate Kendell, Interim Legal Director at the Southern Poverty Law Center on the podcast RATEDLGBT RADIO (https:// www.blogtalkradio.com/ratedlgbtradio). For 22 years, Kendell led the National Center for Lesbian Rights. She stepped down from that role at the end of 2018, and then served as campaign manager for Take Back the Court, an organization committed to structural reform of the U.S. Supreme Court until October 2019. “We are in a full-on crisis,” Kendell declared. “The court’s rightward lurch will make it impossible to correct things like gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the flow of dark money into elections. Any of the corrective actions we need to take to restore a functional democracy will be impossible.” I asked her about Roe v. Wade, theorizing that not only is Barrett the kill switch to women’s reproductive rights in the United States, but the decision will be written with a woman’s face on it… hers. Kendell agreed, “Were Barrett to be confirmed… Roe is gone. There is no doubt about that. The best we can hope for is that they would leave it to the states. It is not inconceivable that they would go even farther and legislate themselves that no abortion is permissible. Barrett is quoted as saying that she believes that all abortions are immoral. Even in the case of the risk to the life of the mother, rape, and incest. She has no regard for a woman to have bodily integrity to choose when and where to be a parent.” Kendell continued, “That is going to bleed over into all sorts of issues of privacy, including the rights of LGBTQ people. The ‘Mack truck’ this court has set up that can be driven through all its past rulings in favor of LGBTQ people … is ‘religious exemption. I don’t think the court would overrule same-sex marriage, but they could rule that if one of your employees legally gets married in a same-sex union, you could fire them if you find that offensive. There are all sorts of ways our enormous victories could be chipped away. If we begin to have exceptions to cases that say non-discrimination is our value, that equality is our value, those erode completely if you asterisk it with ‘unless you don’t like those people’ – that is the environment in which we are heading with this confirmation.” “We are living in Trump’s America. Imagine that worldview being animated by the majority of the Supreme Court. Now, that’s a nightmare scenario.” In the first presidential debate Tuesday night, Donald Trump bragged about stuffing 08 • OCTOBER 02, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

NCLR Executive Director KATE KENDELL

(courtesy NCLR)

the courts. This Republican accomplishment disgusts Kendell. “As a lawyer, and someone who respects the judiciary, who honors judges and their service, the cast of clowns that have been confirmed with lifetime appointments on the bench by the GOP Senate run by McConnell is an insult to what it means to serve on the judiciary. They are unqualified. Their ONLY qualifications to be confirmed was that they WERE hardcore conservatives who would rule in lockstep with the GOP. That perverts the very reason we have a third branch of government.” Scorpions. The Supreme Scorpion will be Barrett. She, and they, cannot help it. It is who they have been. It is who they are. Will they win against us? Ultimately, Kendell says no. “Look, I do feel bereft, about where we are as a nation. But we have a history as a queer community. We have had very dim moments before where we were not sure what the path out of it was. I think of the height of the AIDS crisis. I saw the lives of many of my friends snuffed out. First it was a trickle and then it was a torrent. I remember very vividly, Larry Speakes who was Reagan’s press secretary, being asked at a press conference ‘what is this administration going to do about all these gay men who are dying?’ And Speakes’s response was to laugh. To mock the idea we should even care that gay men were dying. So literally out of nothing… with NO government support, we created an entire movement and infrastructure to save our men and others impacted by AIDS and HIV. We have this in our muscle memory. How to show up and how to be on the front when life or death is on the line. We just have to recall that and reach into that reservoir and show up in this moment in the same way.” The moral of the story is this. They may be scorpions… but they are sadly mistaken if they take us for being frogs.


Former Vice President JOE BIDEN and President DONALD TRUMP faced each other Tuesday in the first presidential debate of 2020.

Trump bullies, Biden holds firm in embarrassing debate President declines to repudiate white supremacism By CHRIS JOHNSON | cjohnson@washblade.com

President Trump sought to bully Joe Biden in a slapfast of a presidential debate Tuesday night, although the Democratic nominee held firm and repudiated his opponent for stoking racism and for his failures in addressing the coronavirus. Throughout the night, Trump talked over Biden in the time allocated for his responses, accusing the former vice president of failing to accomplish anything in his 47 years of public service and raising questions about his son Hunter Biden’s financial ties to Russia and China. Biden, having enough of Trump at times, referred to him as a “clown” and denounced him for stoking racism. “This is a president who has used everything as a dog whistle to try to generate racist hatred, racist division,” Biden said. Even Chris Wallace of Fox News, who was moderating the debate, said Trump was breaking debate rules more than Biden by speaking over his opponent, pleading with both to uphold the deal their campaigns reached. Biden deployed one of his best lines of the night when criticizing Trump for his handling of the coronavirus epidemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Americans. “Two hundred thousand dead, as you said over 7 million infected in the United States,” Biden said. “We in fact have 5 percent of 4 percent of the world’s population, 20 percent of the deaths. 40,000 people a day are contracting COVID. In addition to that, between 750 and 1,000 people a day, they’re dying.” Biden concluded, “When you were presented with that number he said it is what it is. It is what it is because you are who you are. The president has no plan.” Another key moment came up when Trump declined to repudiate white supremacy, shifting the blame for ongoing violence in civil unrest to left-wing groups. Trump specifically declined to denounce the Proud Boys, a white 10 • OCTOBER 02, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

supremacist group that has been labeled a terrorist organization, and instead encouraged its members to “stand by.” “I’ll tell you what: Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem,” Trump said. “This is a left-wing problem.” For his part, Biden refused to give a clear answer when asked whether he’d seek to pack courts with liberals upon his election as president. The climax of the debate was the topic of mail-in voting, which prompted Biden to issue an urgent plea to voters to oust Trump from the White House. “And this is all about trying to dissuade people from voting because he’s trying to scare people into thinking that it’s not going to be legitimate,” Biden said. “Show up and vote. You will determine the outcome of this election. Vote, vote, vote.” Trump, when asked if he was hoping his pick for the Supreme Court Amy Coney Barrett and other justices were watching the tabulations, gave a nebulous answer. “I think I’m counting on them to look at the ballot, definitely,” Trump said. “I hope we don’t need in terms of election itself, but for the ballots I think so because what’s happening is incredible.” There were no questions on LGBTQ issues raised during the debate. Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, said in a statement Trump’s words were damaging to the legitimacy of the Supreme Court. “As part of a breathtakingly horrible display tonight, President Trump again admitted that he is counting on a Justice Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court to help ‘counting the ballots’ in this election,” Wydra said. “This motivation for pushing through a replacement for Justice Ginsburg while people are voting is incredibly damaging to the legitimacy of the Court, which no senator of either party should support.”






Trump pick a threat to RBG’s legacy, activists fear

Coney Barrett asserted need to place faith above law By CHRIS JOHNSON | cjohnson@washblade.com

President Trump has selected Amy Coney Barrett, a federal appellate judge and a favorite among religious conservatives, as his choice to replace progressive champion Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Trump announced his selection of Barrett, who currently serves on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, at a White House Rose Garden event on Saturday, calling for a “straightforward and prompt confirmation.” “For the last three years, Judge Barrett has served with immense distinction on the federal bench,” Trump said. “Amy is more than a stellar scholar and judge; she is also a profoundly devoted mother. Her family is a core part of who Amy is. She opened her home and her heart, and adopted two beautiful children from Haiti. Her incredible bond with her youngest child, a son with Down Syndrome, is a true inspiration.” Barrett in her remarks acknowledged Ginsburg upon her passing, but also the late U.S. Associate Justice Antonin Scalia with whom she worked as a law clerk and who was renowned for his anti-LGBTQ dissents. “I clerked for Justice Scalia more than 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate,” Barrett said. “His judicial philosophy is mine too: A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.” An inside source close to the selection process confirmed to the Blade late Friday Trump’s pick would be Barrett. The news was first reported by CNN and CBS News. Barrett is Trump’s third pick for the Supreme Court after the appointment and confirmations of U.S. Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Senate Republicans have signaled they intend to hold a confirmation vote on the nominee, despite objections from Democrats who say the chamber should hold off given Election Day is less than two months away. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings starting Oct. 12, and Politico reported that Barrett’s nomination could be voted out of committee as soon as Oct. 22. “Senate Republicans are widely expected to confirm Barrett before the Nov. 3 election, eyeing an Oct. 29 confirmation vote,” Politico reported. LGBTQ rights groups, wary of Barrett’s writings asserting a judge’s obligation is to place faith about the law, were quick to denounce the choice after the news was made. Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement the nomination is a slap in the face to Ginsburg’s legacy. “If she is nominated and confirmed, Coney Barrett would work to dismantle all that Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for during her extraordinary career,” David said. “An appointment of this magnitude must be made by the president inaugurated in January. The Human Rights Campaign fervently opposes Coney Barrett’s nomination, and this sham process.” In contrast to Ginsburg, who joined each of the major decisions in favor of LGBTQ rights from the Supreme Court, Barrett has expressed a judicial philosophy suggesting she may undermine LGBTQ rights or rule on the side of religious freedom when it comes into conflict with LGBTQ non-discrimination policy. Most tellingly, Barrett in 2015 co-signed a letter with other Catholic women to bishops affirming marriage is between a man and a woman and the sexual difference between men and women was significant. “We give witness that the Church’s teachings — on the dignity of the human person and the value of human life from conception to natural death; on the meaning of human sexuality, the significance of sexual difference and the complementarity of men and women; on openness to life and the gift of motherhood; and on marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman — provide a sure guide to the Christian life, promote women’s flourishing, and serve to protect the poor and most vulnerable among us,” the letter says. Questioned about signing the letter during her confirmation hearing in 2017, Barrett denied it would have any bearing on her legal interpretation of the Constitution should the issue of same-sex marriage come back to the Supreme Court. “In the context of same-sex marriages and in any context, my religious beliefs really would not bear on that at all,” Barrett said. “I think one of the great traditions in this country is that judges participate in the law, participate in the decision of cases, and rule even when they disagree with the outcome.’” In 2016, when addressing the Jacksonville University Policy Institute in remarks hailing 12 • OCTOBER 02, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

AMY CONEY BARRETT is Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court. (Photo by Rachel Malehorn; Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License)

the originalist perspective of the late Antonin Scalia, Barrett spoke favorably about the dissenters in the Obergefell v. Hodges case that guaranteed same-sex couples across the country the right to marry, including U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts. Refuting the notion the decision was based on which justices of the Supreme Court supported same-sex marriage and which didn’t, Barrett said the majority found it was a “right guaranteed by the Constitution, so therefore states were not free — kind of in that Odysseus tying themselves to the mast — that states weren’t free to say that marriage had to be between a man and a woman.” “The dissenters weren’t taking a view — in fact, Chief Justice John Robert’s dissent was very explicit about that,” Barrett said. “He said if you want same-sex marriage you have every right to lobby in state legislatures and make that happen, but the dissent’s view is that it wasn’t for the court to decide, that the Constitution didn’t speak to the question, and so that it was a change that should occur in the legislative process. And indeed, many states were already moving in that direction and making legislative changes.” Additionally, Barrett confirmed in 2017 she took a speaking fee from Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal group that has argued against LGBTQ rights and brought the Masterpiece Cakeshop case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Kevin Jennings, CEO of Lambda Legal, said in a statement that if confirmed she will “unleash a Supreme Court majority that is hostile to all of our basic civil rights, and the impact will be felt for decades.” “Judge Barrett’s personal belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, coupled with her unwillingness to affirm that the Supreme Court’s decision making marriage equality the law of the land is settled law, should sound the alarm for anyone who cares about LGBTQ people and their families,” Jennings said. “However, her cramped so-called ‘originalist’ view of the Constitution threatens the civil rights of not just LGBTQ people but a host of others, including women and people of color, who have relied on the courts to make progress in the fight for equality and justice.”

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PETER ROSENSTEIN is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

When they go low we kick their asses Time for a new Democratic Party slogan By PETER ROSENSTEIN

Democrats must start to fight back. No more ‘When they go low we go high.’ Our slogan should be ‘When they go low we kick their asses.’ To start and have any real success making needed changes we must win the White House and both Houses of Congress by big margins on Nov. 3. That means from now until Election Day every Democrat, Democratic leaning independent, and decent Republican must stop nit-picking Joe Biden and our other candidates and rather vote and get everyone you know to vote for Democrats up and down the ballot. To make real change and work on all the issues Americans care about we must get rid of as many Republicans as possible at all levels of government. The list of issues we need to deal with is long. It includes using both legislative fixes and Executive Orders. First we need legislation ensuring affordable healthcare for every American with a guarantee of coverage for pre-existing conditions. Legislation to make community college free; raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour; and immigration reform including making permanent the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). We must pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, including automatic voter registration and making Election Day a national holiday. We need to pass the Equality Act to ensure equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community. Then we must look at every government agency and see what needs to be changed and what can be changed by Executive Order. We know many orders Trump signed regarding the environment and education need to be changed immediately. We need to look at what can be done by EO with regard to rooting out systemic racism. The administration can immediately rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Then with the White House and Congress we can begin to tackle what may be harder issues but nonetheless important if we are to ensure fairness and equality for all Americans in the future. This includes getting rid of the Electoral College; making D.C. and Puerto Rico states; and expanding the

judiciary, including the Supreme Court, to represent the growth and diversity of the country. Clearly not an easy list to accomplish even with Democrats in control. A Biden/ Harris administration will not be able to just wave a magic wand and see them happen. But we need to work on them and bring the American people along with us. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg said “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” The road ahead in the next 30 to 40 days won’t be easy. While Joe Biden will likely win the popular vote by millions winning the Electoral College won’t be as easy. We saw that in 2016 when Hillary won the popular vote by three million and still lost the election. So we need to keep working hard every day with a particular focus on about eight states that will make the difference in the Electoral College vote. States like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, and Ohio. Biden doesn’t need to win them all but needs three of them and I think we will succeed in winning them. Then the next step is governing for success. A Joe Biden/ Kamala Harris administration will look like America — diverse and smart. The fights the administration must be prepared for are the ones that will occur within the party in Congress. The focus will be on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) who will need to hold their caucuses together. To do this they will need to work with the administration to craft legislation that can actually pass. We have legislators with diverse views ranging from those of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to those of Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y). Crafting legislation that can appeal to both and getting them each to moderate their views enough to get it passed will not be an easy task. I believe it can be done. So let us move forward with the overriding premise that ‘when they go low we will kick their asses.’ Trump and his sycophants in Congress lie, call people names, and are willing to destroy our institutions and our democracy to get what they want. We must fight back and fight to win.


Fr. BERNARD LYNCH, a gay, Irish Catholic priest, author, activist and founder of the first AIDS ministry in New York City is among this year’s 31 LGBT icons.

Chicago Mayor LORI LIGHTFOOT received the Equality Forum’s 25th Annual International Role Model Award.

JESS O’CONNELL is the first openly LGBT Democratic National Committee CEO. She was honored as an ‘icon’ by the Equality Forum.

Celebrating queer icons during LGBT History Month Politicians, clergy, activists and more honored by Equality Forum By KATHI WOLFE

“Our first and second commandment for ourselves as we ministered with people with AIDS,” Fr. Bernard Lynch, an openly gay, Irish Catholic priest, author, activist and founder of the first AIDS ministry in New York City in 1982, said in a FaceTime interview, “was thou shalt not bullshit anyone!” Lynch, who holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and theology from Fordham University and New York Theological Seminary, recalled what it was like to live during the height of the AIDS epidemic. “It’s hard to even begin to imagine what it was like if you weren’t there,” he said. “Gay men were queer-bashed. The Pink Panthers protected them. People with AIDS would be in the hospital, and the staff wouldn’t feed them – they were so homophobic and afraid they would get AIDS.” Lynch is one of 31 icons being celebrated this October during LGBT History Month. The other icons being honored (national, international, living and dead) are from many walks of life – from politicians to clergy to writers – and time periods – from ancient Greece to 19th century in the United States to present day Russia. The icons range from poets (Sappho) to activists (Moscow Pride founder Nikolay Alexeyev and transgender rights activist Felicia Elizondo) to elected officials (Lori Lightfoot, Chicago’s first openly gay, first Black, female mayor). (For a complete list and bios of all 31 of this year’s icons as well as resources for educators, go to: www.lgbthistorymonth.com.) Beginning on Oct. 1, a different icon will be featured on the site. A 30-second video featuring a different LGBT icon will appear on the site daily. Before Oct. 1 and after Oct. 31, a two-and-a-halfminute overview video of all 31 icons will be on display. History helps us to learn from the past. Stories from history inspire and encourage us to act in the present. Yet, many of us who are queer have only recently started to become informed about the history of our community. Since 2006, the Equality Forum has spearheaded LGBT History Month in October. “In 1994, Rodney Wilson, a Missouri high school teacher, believed a month should be dedicated to the celebration and teaching of gay and lesbian history, and gathered other teachers and community leaders,” according to Equality Forum’s website. The idea was endorsed by GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Education Association and other organizations. In 2006, Equality Forum, according to its website, “assumed responsibility for content, promotion and resources for LGBT History Month.” The Equality Forum is a national and international LGBT civil rights organization with an educational focus. “I grew up in Central Pennsylvania,” Malcolm Lazin, 76, Equality Forum executive director, said in a phone interview. “There was

a very negative view of anyone who was gay when I was growing up. Everybody was deep in the closet.” As was the case with others interviewed for this article, Lazin learned nothing about LGBT history when he was growing up. “In 2006, when we launched Gay and Lesbian History Month [later renamed LGBT History Month], our minority was the only group in the world not taught its history at home, in schools or religious institutions,” Lazin said. Over the past 15 years, more than 400 “icons” (31 per year) have been celebrated during LGBT History Month. Icons honored previously during LGBT History Month range from James Baldwin to Tallulah Bankhead to Barbara Gittings, widely regarded as the mother of the LGBT civil rights movement, to Alexander the Great to Billie Holiday to economist John Maynard Keynes to Billie Jean King to trailblazing transgender, gay rights and AIDS activist Marsha P. Johnson. The Blade’s Lou Chibbaro Jr. was honored as an icon in 2019. The LGBT History Month 2020 and 15th Anniversary launch was held on Sept. 30. At the event, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Jess O’Connell, one of this year’s 31 LGBT History Month icons, who was the first openly LGBT Democratic National Committee CEO, received awards. Lightfoot received the Equality Forum’s 25th Annual International Role Model Award. O’Connell received the 6th Annual Frank Kameny Award. “It was conservative in all the ways you would expect when I was growing up in Arizona,” O’Connell said in a phone interview. O’Connell didn’t learn about gay history as a high school student in the 1980s. But, from early on, she was exposed to all kinds of diversity. “I was raised by a Black father and white mother,” O’Connell said, “I had an aunt in California who was gay.” One of the first times that she grieved was when a family friend died from AIDS. “I learned that love comes in many different forms,” O’Connell said. LGBT rights along with issues of racial and economic inequality were part of her everyday life. Her first job was in AIDS activism. In 2000, she was the first female director of AIDS Walk Colorado, a Colorado AIDS Project program. “The COVID-19 pandemic is triggering to me,” said O’Connell, who served as a senior adviser to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign. “With AIDS, I saw the devastation that occurs when the government pretends a disease doesn’t exist.” There are some similarities between COVID-19 and AIDS, Lynch said. In the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, people didn’t know how it was spread and people died from it. As with COVID, there was fear of contagion and of death. “But, no other disease has the stigma of AIDS,” Lynch said. “The stigma is still there today. It’s rooted in the unease that so many have with sexuality.” Young queer men were trying to face the fact that they would


die from AIDS before they had any idea of the meaning of their lives, he said. One lesson in dealing with COVID-19 that can be learned from the history of the AIDS epidemic is “compassion,” Lynch said. “During the epidemic, friends and lovers fed, visited, and cared for people with AIDS. Even when no one else would. You didn’t think about it – it was the thing to do.” Theater can help us to connect to our LGBTQ history. “The great thing about theater,” Moisés Kaufman, an award-winning theater director and playwright, emailed the Blade, “is that it allows audiences to have several types of intimacy with the LGBTQ characters in history.” They can see the play, and be in the room with the living actors as they encounter our ancestry, said Kaufman, one of this year’s 31 LGBT History Month icons. “Our history is made by other LGBTQ people who had to survive in perilous and forbidding times,” he added. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to learn from them.” His groundbreaking play “The Laramie Project,” inspired by the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard has generated worldwide empathy and dialogue around LGBTQ hate crimes. Actors “get to experience our ancestors first hand,” Kaufman said, “They get to inhabit their humanity.” History tells the stories of LGBTQ pioneers and helps us tell our own stories. Rabbi Deborah Waxman, one of this year’s 31 LGBT History Month icons, is herself a pioneer. Waxman is the first woman and the first lesbian to lead a Jewish seminary and national congregational union. She serves as president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) and of Reconstructing Judaism, the leading organization of the Reconstructionist movement. There were no role models for being lesbian or being a woman, let alone an openly lesbian rabbi when Waxman was growing up. “I just knew I didn’t want to kiss boys,” Waxman said in a telephone interview. Waxman didn’t come out until she was into her 20s. When she said she wanted to be a rabbi, her mother was worried. Because, at that time, there were so few women rabbis. “When I came out to my Mom, she was really worried. She said, ‘It was hard enough being a woman,’” Waxman said. “How would I ever be a rabbi as not only a woman but a lesbian?” Years later, when she was installed in her leadership positions, Waxman told her Mom, “It worked out OK.” Her parents were immensely proud, she said. Waxman is keenly aware that she’s often a pioneer. Frequently, she’s the only woman and only queer person during national conversations among leaders about religious matters. “I try to do it with humility,” she said. “Storytelling helps us make our way through the world, she added.


JIM PARSONS and MATT BOMER in ‘Boys in the Band.’

(Photo courtesy of Netflix)

‘The Boys’ are back

New Netflix film reunites stellar Broadway cast By JOHN PAUL KING

A month out from the highest-stakes election of our lifetimes and with no end in sight to an ongoing global pandemic, now seems like a good time to ask ourselves (with apologies to the late Mart Crowley for the paraphrase), “Who are we?”, “Who were we?”, and “Who do we hope to be?” LGBTQ+ viewers have a chance to do exactly that, thanks to a hotly anticipated Netflix offering that revisits a cultural touchstone from our past. Reasserting once more its position as a heavy-hitter in the effort to bring LGBTQ stories to mainstream screens, the streaming giant’s Ryan Murphy-produced remake/reinterpretation of “The Boys in the Band” is guaranteed buzz by pedigree alone. Slick and star-studded, it brings the aforementioned Mr. Crowley’s groundbreaking 1968 play – by way of director Joe Mantello’s Tony-winning 2018 Broadway production, with cast intact – from stage to screen with an eye toward conveying the historical context in which this once-maligned slice-of-gay-life drama was written and takes place. For those who need a recap, “Boys” takes place in the apartment of Michael, a young-ish gay man in New York, as he throws a birthday party for his friend Harold. As the guests gather and the alcohol flows, their witty banter begins to turn bitter, with secrets, resentments, and fears bubbling to the surface – along with the deep self-loathing that comes from living as a gay man in a world that hates gay men simply for daring to exist. In 1968, it was a bold but bleak expression of queerness, coming on the cusp of a historical breakthrough that would happen a year later at Stonewall. In 2020, it’s still pretty bleak, depicting a subculture full of damaged men tormented by a culturally induced dysfunction for which most of them still had no language to describe, but which we can now easily recognize as internalized homophobia. Borrowing from the then-and-still-influential palette of dramatists like Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee (both gay men, incidentally), its acidic humor and near-tragic psychodrama emerge from the memories and experiences shared by nine such men over the course of their evening, revealing the trauma that dominates all of their lives just beneath the brittle psychic armor with which they both shield and conceal themselves. Inevitably, as the march toward Equality progressed through the 1970s and ‘80s, the characters of Crowley’s gay opus came to be seen as inconvenient, at best, and insulting, at worst. Derided as stereotypes reflecting straight expectations of normalcy, they were viewed by many within the movement as dated relics best swept aside and relegated to the dustbin of history, along with the play they inhabited. Looking back, it’s perhaps easy to see why. Forged in the middle of the fire, it’s a piece devoid of sentimentality, a kitchen sink slice of realism that lays bare the ugliness of its characters’ attitudes and behaviors and leaves it up to the audience to see through the unpleasant surfaces they present. Viewed today, despite the critical reassessment that allowed it to reclaim its rightful place as an important piece of LGBTQ+ history and ultimately led to Mantello’s hit remount, it’s still an undeniably harsh trip down a memory lane that most of us would rather forget. Thanks to historical hindsight, though, the new film manages to find the perspective necessary to make it not only possible to give “Boys” another look, but to make it worth the effort. Driven by Mantello’s sensitive direction, the script reveals layers of subtext that may have been previously obscured for many viewers. Mantello steers his gifted dream cast with an eye toward illuminating 16 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 02, 2020

the lines between cause and effect that make these characters tick, and while purists may quibble over efforts to cast a rosier tint over the play’s message, his spot-on instincts walk the delicate line between apologist gloss and humanistic compassion without significant missteps. In this vision of the play, for instance, it’s possible to recognize the deep hurt that is behind Michael’s devolution into viciousness; a man for whom anxiety is such a constant companion that he’s given it a nickname (“Ix”) and who clings to the cold comfort of his Catholic faith in the hope of being redeemed for the sin of simply being who he is, it’s hard to lose sympathy for him – even at his cruelest – when the pain that fuels both these things and more is laid so bare before us. In the same way, the other problematic behaviors on display throughout – almost all of which can now be understood as symptoms of a disease in which those within a community stigmatized for its “otherness” turn against themselves and each other because they are powerless to strike back against their oppressors – evoke our empathy more than our distaste. The talent of the players bolsters this effect immeasurably. Jim Parsons may be a bit of an acquired taste, for some, but the quirks of his persona and delivery fit like a glove on Michael, whose efforts to conceal his pain only reveal it at a level beyond words. Andrew Rannells and Tuc Watkins (as Larry and Hank) cut through the passive-aggressive vagueness of their characters to make them instantly recognizable and understandable as a couple grappling with the difficulties of an open relationship; Matt Bomer (Donald) once more proves he has much more to offer than his beauty, as does Charlie Carver as the fresh-off-meat-rack hustler hired as a birthday present. The authenticity of Robin de Jesus and Michael Benjamin Washington (Emory and Bernard) breathes thrilling life into roles that have sometimes been criticized for “tokenism,” and even the somewhat thankless character of Alan comes off honorably through Brian Hutchinson’s performance. It’s Zachary Quinto, though, as “ugly, pockmarked, Jew fairy” Harold, who claims his place as the “heart” of the piece; in his magisterial performance, he manages to find not just the hard-earned wisdom of Harold, but also the kindness that lies beneath his surgically precise knack for finding the weaknesses of whichever sparring partner he happens to be up against at the time. With Ryan Murphy as the force behind the new film, it should go without saying that it’s a matter of taste. Like all of Murphy’s productions, it is heavy on the style and glitz; the costuming and scenic designs have that too-perfect aptness to them that often undermines the authenticity of big-budget period pieces, and there’s the predictable but questionable inclusion of “flashbacks” and full-frontal nudity that make for a more visually stimulating experience but seem gratuitous in a piece that is otherwise so true to its theatrical origins. These are all fair points. In the end, however, these surface trappings are irrelevant to the strength and dignity of the play; that, in the hands of Mantello and his talented cast, are preserved in full. Their efforts remind us that these characters are not stereotypes, but archetypes, emblematic representations arising from a life lived in permanent fight-or-flight mode – and it’s sobering to recognize that, even 50 years later, we can all look at our circle of friends and recognize each and every one of them. That alone makes it clear that “Boys” has still not outlived the importance of the message it carries.

FEATURE (Editor’s note: In an update issued Sept. 29, “Timothy died after a battle with leukemia, the cancer that was the catalyst for a stem cell transplant in 2008 that cleared his body of HIV through the use of a blood donor type that was genetically immune to HIV infection. Since the transplant, HIV was never found in his body again.”)

As Timothy Ray Brown faced death, a great love endured Cured of HIV, cancer patient fought to the end By MARK S. KING

occurred. “He’s a person you can’t help loving. He’s PALM SPRINGS – Tim Hoeffgen did a quick Google so sweet. The cancer treatments have been rough. search of his Scruff date as he headed over to meet Sometimes I wonder if it’s worse than the disease.” him. Tim was living in Nevada in early 2013, and the guy Indeed. Many of my friends lost to AIDS would agree he had been chatting with on the dating app looked a with him. “Believe it or not,” Tim adds, “this is the first lot like the man who was on the cover of the LGBTQ time in my life that I will lose someone…” His composure newspaper in Las Vegas that week. breaks again. When the door opened, Tim realized his hunch was Tim and I both know that his partner, confined to correct. Greeting him was Timothy Ray Brown, the first his bed and surrounded by medical devices, bears an man in history cured of HIV and the intense focus of unsettling resemblance to a man dying of AIDS. It’s as if scientific and public fascination around the world. the fates vengefully swept in to claim the AIDS patient “I was charmed immediately by his personality,” Tim who had escaped them. tells me in a call from their Palm Springs apartment. Timothy has dutifully fulfilled countless media “He is just the sweetest man.” The two men, Tim and requests and invitations over the years, becoming an Timothy, have been together ever since. TIM HOEFFGEN assists his partner, TIMOTHY RAY BROWN active public figure in the HIV/AIDS arena in spite of Timothy Ray Brown is terribly shy. He also exudes (Photo by Michael Louella) his social reluctance. He embodies a shared hope for a warmth and humility, and is clearly grateful for his viral practical HIV/AIDS cure. At conferences and community reversal of fortune. He is quite literally an HIV historical events, people living with HIV gravitate to Timothy, reaching out for hugs and thanking him milestone, embraced by the community since he identified himself as “the Berlin Patient” in for the physical gauntlet he has been through. He is a projection of our longing for scientific 2010. discoveries and a marker for just how far we have come. The harrowing details of Timothy’s medical journey, as a cancer patient and a man living Tim, meanwhile, has been Timothy’s loving guardian, intervening as necessary to be sure with HIV, are complicated. Suffice it to say that, while Timothy was living in Berlin in 2008, Timothy wasn’t overwhelmed by requests. He has played the role of media agent and even an ingenious oncologist treated Timothy’s leukemia with a stem cell transplant using a rare bad cop in order to safely buffer Timothy. blood type that is genetically resistant to HIV infection. When all was said and done, HIV was I ask Tim if his partner knows he is dying. “Yes, he knows,” Tim answers. “Well, sometimes no longer found in Timothy’s blood and the scientific breakthrough, first reported at the he doesn’t. It depends. But I have asked him what he wants me to tell people when we make 2008 International AIDS Conference, was celebrated around the world. his situation public. He said, ‘Tell people to keep fighting. Fight for a cure for HIV that works The treatment, it should be noted, nearly killed Timothy and has been successfully for everyone. I never wanted to be the only one.’” replicated exactly once – but has nevertheless provided vital insight into potential avenues Tim Hoeffgen will join a unique group sometime soon: the surviving partners of those of HIV cure research. with an elevated place in history. He will probably be known as the widower of Timothy Ray But that was years ago, and Timothy’s traumatized body has never been the same. Sadly, Brown for the rest of his life. “I would be honored to be known that way,” Tim tells me. “I love his health has been in freefall for the last six months, with a recurrence of leukemia that has him so much. I will gladly carry his message and his legacy.” invaded his spine and brain. His partner, Tim, the Scruff date from Nevada, never left his side. Our time on the phone is growing short, and I know Tim has things to do for Timothy. I That is no overstatement. When Timothy was admitted to a cancer hospital in April, Tim begin to wrap up our call when suddenly I hear Timothy’s voice on the line. camped in Timothy’s hospital room for seven weeks. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, “Hello there, Mark,” Timothy says. “I hope you are doing okay.” I tell him I am fine. I am neither of them could leave the medical campus. “It was a blessing to be there with him,” Tim tempted to thank him for all he has done, as a kind of goodbye, but it feels too intrusive. tells me, “but it was rough. It’s so much better to be home.” Instead, I tell him to fight for as long as he wants. In other words, no longer than he wants. There is a hospital bed in the one-bedroom apartment Tim and Timothy share. Timothy “I’m going to keep fighting,” Timothy replies, “until I just cannot fight anymore.” is bedridden, and is receiving home hospice care. Tim divides his time between caring for Tim takes back the phone, and I know it is time to go. I can tell he is stepping away from Timothy and fielding calls from concerned friends as well as from various researchers to Timothy as he quietly confides something else. whom Timothy has generously provided endless blood and tissue samples over the years. “One of the researchers wanted Timothy’s body, you know, to be left to science,” Tim tells “Timothy is not dying from HIV, just to be clear,” Tim says. “HIV has not been found in his me. “I said, ‘thank you, but no. I think he’s done enough.’” blood stream since he was cured. That’s gone. This is from the leukemia. God, I hate cancer.” (Tim Hoeffgen and Timothy Ray Brown have asked me to tell this story as their way of Tim is speaking on the phone with me only a few feet from where Timothy is resting in his thanking the community and sharing the news of this final chapter of Timothy’s journey. They hospital bed. Tim sounds exhausted, and resigned to what lies directly ahead. ask that we give them the space they need during their remaining time together. Tim Hoeffgen “The hardest part has been seeing Timothy go downhill,” Tim says, bursting into mournful will release further updates at the appropriate time.) tears, the kind that strike without warning, even before the death we are awaiting has



Chronicling the ‘new normal’ amid pandemic ‘How We Live Now’ a lively, bracing read for our time By KATHI WOLFE

One day in March, I went to the movies with a friend. I don’t remember what we saw. It was a lovely afternoon but it didn’t seem that meaningful. The next day, the Washington, D.C. area went into pandemic mode. Since then, my outing with my buddy seems momentous. Everyone, I bet, has a memory from the Before Times etched in their DNA. As I write, a Washington Post news alert comes on my screen. The coronavirus has killed at least 1 million people worldwide, it says, “there is no end in sight.” Yet, despite being sucker-punched by the pandemic, we keep going. “How We Live Now,” released on Aug. 25, by Bill Hayes, a New York City-based gay writer and street photographer, captures how we are going about our lives in the midst of our “new normal.” The slim volume is a time capsule and a memoir (in real time) of Hayes’ life during the pandemic. Don’t be fooled by this book’s slimness. Its short chapters, interspersed with interludes of photos, pack a wallop of poignancy, beauty, love – even joy. I don’t, thankfully, mean joy like a Hallmark Christmas movie. You know from the get-go that this won’t be a sappy book! It begins with an epigraph from “The Way We Live Now,” a 1986 short story by Susan Sontag. (Sontag, author of “Notes on Camp,” was the least sappy of writers.) Sontag wrote it at the height of the AIDS epidemic. The story doesn’t mention the word AIDS. Yet, it’s clear that it’s about how a group of friends feel about living in the midst of the epidemic (when no one is sure what causes AIDS). “Of course, it was hard not to worry, everyone was worried,” Sontag writes, “but it wouldn’t do to panic...there wasn’t anything one could do except wait and hope, wait and start being careful, be careful and hope.” Like many of us in the queer community, Hayes, 59, has been impacted by AIDS. Steve, his partner for 16 years, had AIDS. Ironically, he died from a heart attack. After Steve’s death, Hayes rebuilt his life. He continued to write and to take photographs. When you’re as good a non-fiction writer and as evocative a photographer as Hayes, what else would you do? He moved from San Francisco, where he’d lived with Steve, to New York City. There, some years later, he met, became friends with, then fell in love with renowned gay author and neurosurgeon Oliver Sacks, who died in 2015 at age 82. Hayes, a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a frequent contributor to The New York Times, wrote “Insomniac City,” a moving memoir of his life with Sacks, his grief when Sacks dies and his transformation from an out-of-towner into a New York City denizen. As was the case during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, people are having crushes, dating, having drinks with friends – during our COVID-19 era. Even in the face of loss, despair and death. Hayes falls in love on the Christmas before the pandemic began with Jesse, a young guy he met playing pool in a bar. “He was tall and muscular, but it was the Santa hat he wore with exactly the right amount of irony that caught my eyes,” Hayes writes. The two text and see each other a few times after the pandemic begins. Yet one of the last times they kissed was New Year’s Eve. Hayes writes evocatively about everyday pandemic moments from having a drink (far apart from other patrons) at a bar to shouting your order to a clerk from outside a bookstore. His photographs vividly illustrate the difference between life in New York City before and after COVID. One eerie photo shows Eighth Avenue with no traffic. One of the most trenchant chapters in the book is deceptively simple. It’s a list of the last time Hayes did everything from going to a movie to laughing before the pandemic. You might think, I could write this! But, you’d be wrong. “How We Live Now” is a lively, bracing read for our time.


‘How We Live Now: Scenes from the Pandemic’ By Bill Hayes

c.2020 Bloomsbury Publishing $20/144 pages




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