Young queer LatinX voters must engage P AGE 07
OCTOBER 16, 2020 • VOLUME 04 • ISSUE 42 • AMERICA’S LGBTQ NEWS SOURCE • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Unofficial ballot boxes placed by GOP are illegal: officials Republicans vow to press forward with implementation By BRODY LEVESQUE
A church in North Los Angeles County, Freedom’s Way Baptist Church, known for its anti-LGBTQ and anti-women’s reproductive rights viewpoints, posted a picture on Facebook a few days ago of a grey metal container with a taped sign that read “Official Ballot Drop Box.” The problem with the box according to a spokesperson for the L.A. County Recorder/Registrar’s office is that it’s illegal. According to KCAL-TV 9, the pastor of Freedom’s Way Baptist Church Jerry Cook, had posted the picture with the caption; “Our church has a voting drop box in front of our complex — if you are voting early, drop your ballot on by.” In response to numerous county residents who questioned the legality of the unofficial ballot box, the Recorder/Registrar’s office stated; “This is not an official vote by mail drop box and does not comply with [state] regulations for drop boxes.” The Los Angeles Blade reviewed Freedom’s Way’s website and Facebook page finding that the church is aligned with the American Family Association, a notoriously anti-LGBTQ organization headquartered in Tupelo, Miss., that has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a ‘hate group’ for its lies and deceptive statements about LGBTQ people. The church also lists in its ‘about us page’ entry under human sexuality: “We believe that God has commanded that no intimate activity be engaged in outside of marriage between a man and a woman. We believe that any form of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, beastiality, incest, fornication, adultery, and pornography are sinful perversions of God’s gift of sex.” Freedom’s Way states its position about women’s reproductive rights as; “We believe that human life begins at conception and that the unborn child is a living human being. Abortion constitutes the unjustified, unexcused taking of unborn human life. Abortion is murder. We reject any teaching that abortions of pregnancies due to rape, birth defects, gender selection, birth of population control, or the mental well being of the mother are acceptable.” On both the website and its Facebook page the church also attacks the Black Lives Matter movement. It also hosted events for Republican candidates for local offices. It was under these circumstances that Kaehny and other local residents questioned the church’s intentions and need for the box. The L.A. County Recorder/Registrar’s office didn’t respond to an inquiry from the Blade if there were further actions to be taken in regards to the illegal ballot box. On the website for the L.A. County Recorder/Registrar’s office are listed the location of the 400 county-owned secure ballot drop-off boxes. Freedom’s Way’s box was not the only unauthorized ballot collection box according to media reports and elections officials across the state Monday. The Huffington Post reported Monday that after the Calif. state Republican Party defended the use of unauthorized ballot collection boxes falsely labeled “official,” authorities said they are illegal. California elections officials said on Sunday that the state Republican Party has been breaking the law by placing makeshift, unauthorized ballot dropoff boxes
around the state and falsely labeling them “official.” Secretary of State Alex Padilla issued a memo to county registrars of voters Sunday stating that “providing unauthorized, non-official vote-by-mail ballot drop boxes is prohibited by state law.” The Fresno Bee also reported Monday that the Fresno County Republican Party said Monday it is removing unauthorized ballot drop boxes it promoted in violation of state law after the Secretary of State’s office cracked down on a GOP vote harvesting effort. The locations — which included at least half a dozen gun shops, a gas station and the Fresno GOP headquarters — were previously listed on the local Republican party’s website, but have since been removed. California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks issued the following statement Monday afternoon on the California Republican Party setting up illegal drop boxes throughout California: “Sadly, this is par for the course from the Republican Party – well-versed in making it harder, not easier for Californians to vote. California Democrats are committed to the right of all registered voters to fully, fairly and equally access the ballot box. And we intend to defend that right in 2020.” A spokesperson for the State’s Republican Party Hector Barajas, said that a state law that allows a third party to collect voters’ ballots. “In California, where you can have convicted felons and individuals with a criminal history go door to door and collect ballots from voters, Democrats are now upset because organizations, individuals and groups are offering an opportunity for their friends, family, and patrons to drop off their ballot with someone they know and trust,” Barajas said in a media statement. “The Democrat anger is overblown when state law allows organizations, volunteers or campaign workers to collect completed ballots and drop them off at polling places or election offices,” he added. “We are going to continue on with our ballot harvesting programs,” Barajas said, blaming Democratic legislators for passing laws with few restrictions on who can return ballots or how. “They set up the rules. They set up the chessboard. So we are operating within the rules and the chessboard that they set up for us.” The San Francisco Chronicle noted that California law allows voters to designate someone else to return their mail ballot. That person must provide on the ballot their name, signature and relationship to the voter, and then drop off the ballot or put it in the mail within three days. Late Monday afternoon California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra also sent a cease-and-desist letter to Republican Party officials demanding that they stop using private ballot collection containers marked as “official” drop boxes. Both Becerra and Secretary of State Padilla have demanded that California State Republican Party officials provide by Thursday, October 15 a list of all voters whose ballots have been collected using the boxes to ensure the documents were collected with permission. LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 16, 2020 • 03
From left to right: DR. GARCIA, DR. SOTO, Council member O’FARRELL, Executive Director of Project Angel Food RICHARD AYOUB, and RUNNINGBEAR RAMIREZ (LA Blade photo by Noah Christiansen)
USC, Project Angel Food partner on Native American diabetes study Runningbear Ramirez funds major expansion By NOAH CHRISTIANSEN
In honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2020, Project Angel Food and the University of Southern California (USC) Keck School of Medicine announced Monday the organizations had launched a two year collaborative study into the effects of diabetes among native Americans living in Southern California. The purpose of the announcement today was to bring awareness to the fact that diabetes disproportionately affects Native communities, Project Angel Food Executive Director Richard Ayoub told those gathered at the invitation only event. The study will take place over a two-year period where Project Angel Food tailors specific meals to Native American diabetic clients to work on improving their lives. The study will be used to examine the potential implications of medically tailored meals on Native American diabetics in terms of their physical and mental health. In California, diabetes is a chronic condition afflicting the Native population, so there is a need for a study like this according to one of the USC researchers Dr. Claradina Soto. The goal of this study is to mitigate the harms that diabetes has in the Native American community. Dr. Soto described the vision and goals of the study by saying, “The goal is to lower [Natives] A1C levels which is a number that indicates where their sugar is at.” Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, who attended Monday’s announcement noted in his remarks, “The introduction of refined sugar was something that was brand new to first peoples’ when colonization began centuries ago.” This in reference to the effects processed and modern foods have played a role in affecting Native Americans diets and health. “On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the recognition of the ways in which colonization has affected people and will continue to affect people is important because it is a day where we should focus on communities that are normally not part of the national conversation,“ O’Farrell added. Runningbear Ramirez, a member of the San Manuel Band of Mission 04 • OCTOBER 16, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Indians, a well-respected activist, philanthropist, and fashion advisor for couture brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton also attended. Ramirez had helped launch Project Angel Food’s pilot “food is medicine” program, which offered medically tailored meals and nutrition counseling to all Native Americans living with diabetes in Los Angeles County. The program was made possible by a multi-year partnership grant from Ramirez. “For a long time, you know, growing up there was only so many viable options to be seen in the Native community… I believe that the pilot program that Project Angel Food and I have gotten off the ground is in our way being able to help the Native community here in Los Angeles,” Ramirez said. Although today’s announcement was specifically regarding the study that will be done over the next two years, Councilmember O’Farrell took the opportunity and discussed the meaning of Two-Spirit in the Native community. “This is the era of the Two-Spirit, and that means that we have an orientation that is not binary to [the] heterosexual way of life. There is beauty in that…” O’Farrell said. “People tend to forget that on days that commemorate and recognize groups of people, some people tend to leave out marginalized groups in the western world.” O’Farrell added the Two-Spirit is embraced in the Native community and that the western world seeks to eradicate people that aren’t like them. “Knowing that folks that have a differing perspective and a different orientation in life have so much to offer – and that’s the energy and the power when we celebrate our own diversity amongst one another,” he said. “For all of us, Indigenous Peoples’ Day has a different meaning,” Ramirez said. He told the attendees that Indigenous Peoples’ Day means representation and part of that representation means trying to partner with organizations to solve problems in the Native community. Project Angel Food’s Ayoub summed up Project Angel Food’s mission; “We’ve always been an organization that says, food is love. We’re now really emphasizing, food is medicine.”
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LGBTQ migrants from Central America still seek refuge in U.S. Human Rights Watch report criticizes Trump policies By MICHAEL K. LAVERS
TIJUANA, Mexico – Advocates last week said the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies have not stopped LGBTQ people in Central America’s Northern Triangle from traveling to the U.S. to seek asylum. “It’s not a deterrent in the sense of ‘Oh, I’m not going to do this right now. I’ll go next year,’” said Emem Maurus, an attorney with the Transgender Law Center who is based in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, on Oct. 7 during a virtual press conference that Human Rights Watch organized. “It is certainly having a practical impact, I do want to say that,” added Maurus. “These policies are causing people to be hurt, they are causing people to die, truly. They are causing a lot of harm and in that sense, they are practically impeding asylum, but I don’t know that it’s causing people to be like, ‘Oh, I’ll wait until next spring’ necessarily.” Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador comprise the Northern Triangle. Human Rights Watch on Oct. 7 released a report that highlights persecution in the region based on sexual orientation and gender identity and Trump administration policies that have put LGBTQ asylum seekers from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at even more risk. The report, among other things, notes the U.S. in March “entirely closed its southern border to asylum seekers, leaving them to suffer persecution in their home countries or in Mexico.” “The COVID-19 pandemic served as the pretext for the closure, but for years, the Trump administration had adopted increasingly severe measures aimed at preventing asylum seekers from ever reaching the United States and expelling them quickly if they did cross the border,” reads the report. TransLatin@ Coalition Executive Director Bamby Salcedo during the press conference highlighted the inadequate health care and other mistreatment that LGBTQ asylum seekers face while in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. Bianka Rodríguez, executive
director of COMCAVIS Trans, a trans Salvadoran advocacy group, also participated in the Human Rights Watch press conference. “As long as this kind of violence and discrimination do persist, LGBT people from the Northern Triangle will continue to travel north to the United States to attempt to seek asylum and what the Trump A section of the border fence between the Mexico and administration has done in the last the U.S. as seen from the highway that runs parallel two years—which is to make asylum to Tijuana International Airport in Tijuana, Mexico, on Jan. 26, 2019. (Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers) so restrictive that there’s barely an asylum system left to speak of—is unconscionable and it puts LGBT people at great harm,” said Human Rights Watch Senior LGBT Rights Researcher Neela Ghoshal. “These policies should be reversed.” Maurus during the press conference acknowledged “it was not people’s first choice to leave.” “They had discrimination and abuse throughout much of their live and their first choice is not to leave their home, their family, their community, their friends. It is something happens that truly forces them—I leave or I will die,” they said. “It’s a last choice and it’s the only choice and to that extent it isn’t a choice. I do think people are concerned … about detention, who are concerned about what’s going to happen in Mexico.” “People know, it doesn’t come as a surprise, that right now the policies are awful, but I think for many they need to leave,” added Maurus.
Election a matter of ‘survival’ for LGBTQ Latinos
Activists from across the country took part in Blade-sponsored roundtable By MICHAEL K. LAVERS
A group of LGBTQ Latino activists from across the country who participated in a virtual roundtable on Wednesday said the election results are a matter of “survival” for their respective communities. “As a trans person, these elections are critical for our survival,” said Maria Roman-Taylorson, vice president and chief operations officer of the TransLatin@ Coalition who is based in Los Angeles. “It’s not only the presidency, but our health is on the ballot, us living authentically is on the ballot.” Roman-Taylorson spoke alongside National Center for Transgender Equality Deputy Executive Director Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen and URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity Executive Director Kimberly Inez McGuire during the panel that the Latino Institute, the Latino Equality Alliance, the Hispanic Federation, the Washington Blade and Los Angeles Blade sponsored. Hispanic Federation Director of North and Carolina and Mid-South Operations Daniel Valdez and Louie Ortiz-Fonseca, founder of Gran Varones, a project that documents issues through Black and Latino LGBTQ lenses, also participated in the roundtable. Tony Lima, chief operating officer of Arianna’s Center, a South Florida-based organization that advocates on behalf of trans Latina women, was the moderator. Richard Zaldivar, founder and executive director of The Wall Las Memorias Project in Los Angeles, spoke at the end of the roundtable. “The election in November will be the most important election of our lifetime, in the history of our nation,” said Zaldivar. “Either we can live with this authoritarian leadership of this president or we can raise our voice and objections to his bigotry, racism and defeat this dance with fascism that we are experiencing today.” Lima, who is based in Miami, echoed Zaldivar. “The queer and trans Latinx vote is the most important thing as Latinx people that we could be talking about right now,” said Lima. “We are at a moment where our lives absolutely depend on this coming election.” Heng-Lehtinen, whose mother is former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), among other things said President Trump “is really systematically trying to chip away at all of the health care 06 • OCTOBER 16, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
access that we (trans people) have.” Roman-Taylorson in her remarks noted the White House reinstated the ban on openly trans service members. “Our lives are on the line here,” said Heng-Lehtinen. Florida and North Carolina among the states that will likely determine the outcome of the presidential election. The panelists stressed state and local races are equally as important. McGuire noted state legislatures in recent years have sought to restrict access to abortion, implement anti-LGBTQ sex education curricula and pass religious freedom bills and other measures that discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. “We all want justice at home, which means if you are queer, if you are trans, if you are an immigrant, you should not have to feel like your home is a hostile place,” said McGuire. Valdez agreed. “We have seen our Latinx and immigrant communities vilified, our trans and queer communities used as scapegoats to win elections,” he said. “We have the opportunity to change that in this upcoming election to let them know that kind of divisiveness is not going to work.” “We also need to send a clear message to our elected officials that our country cannot roll back civil right protections to our queer community, to our immigrant communities,” added Valdez. “That message starts on Nov. 3.” This election cycle is taking place against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 people in the U.S. and has highlighted long-standing economic disparities. The nationwide protest movement against police brutality that began in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and the epidemic of violence against trans women in Puerto Rico and throughout the country are two of the other issues the panelists discussed. “If there’s anything that 2020 has taught me, it is that we are the ones who are legitimately and literally going to swim out into the ocean to save ourselves. And that requires communication,” said Ortiz-Fonseca. “It’s going to require us to have deeper and more intentional conversations with our community as opposed to us just talking to them and demanding that they do something.”
Vota con orgullo; ‘Vote with pride’ engaging young LatinX LGBTQ people 2020 is critical election and Latinos play a key role By BRODY LEVESQUE
Since ﬁrst occupying the White House in 2017, President Donald Trump and his administration have waged war against America’s marginalized communities — immigrants, LGBTQ people, Muslims, Black Americans, but a majority of the vitriol and xenophobic actions have been levied against Hispanic communities in the United States. The administration attempted to end the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act, until the intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court this past June which rejected the administration’s eﬀort to end the legal protections for 650,000 young immigrants. The high court ruled that those young immigrants referred to as ‘Dreamers’ would retain their protection from deportation and their authorization to work in the United States. There were however numerous ‘Dreamers’ who were deported prior to the court stepping in. In communities across the nation, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has stepped up immigration workplace raids, arrested immigrants appearing in courthouses for state or local hearings not related to their immigration status, elevated deportations, and at the Southern Border not only incarcerated immigrants but separated families. For LGBTQ people, especially LatinX Trans people, many have languished in ICE detention facilities and several have died. Against this backdrop an atmosphere of fear has developed within the Hispanic communities and their extended families. But there has also been a concerted eﬀort and push back against the president and his administration especially by young people of all races as evidenced by the Black Lives Matter movement as well as a high percentage of young people becoming politically active. The Los Angeles Blade spoke this week with several young queer LatinX activists. One of them, Edgardo Lopez Hernandez, was quick to point out that, “There is so much at stake and the future of this country is in our hands. A recent study shows that in this election, 32 million Latinos are eligible to vote. That is 13.3% of all eligible voters! We must understand that as Latinos and a minority group in this country, our voices must be heard loudly. We must speak our minds because our future depends on it.” Hernandez added, “So much is at stake this year. From climate change issues to ongoing gay rights, DACA, and now Roe V. Wade, Latinos must unite together to go out and vote! Many Latinos are quick to ignore their ability to vote because they simply don’t focus on politics or they simply don’t care. But we must care, we must not be complacent, and we must act. If what is stopping you from voting is not enough knowledge, then look for ways to educate yourself on current political events. Seek guidance from those who can help you make your voting process easier.” There has been a stepped up eﬀort for civic engagement and voter education by the various non-proﬁts and political advocacy groups across the Southland especially in targeting the Latino vote. Yet because there is still a disconnect often because of language barriers many Latino voters who are eligible to vote may need assistance. “My mother became a US citizen three years ago. This is her ﬁrst general election that she is eligible to vote in,” Hernandez said, “I drove up to Fresno, CA to visit my mom and help her ﬁll out her ballot. She does not speak English and does not know much about politics but she wants her voice to be heard.” In a research study and polling by the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law, researchers determined that there are roughly 9 million LGBTQ adults are eligible to vote in the 2020 election. Of that total number nearly half are under the age of thirty-ﬁve. Twenty-two percent of LGBTQ voters are Latino, 13 percent Black, 61 percent white,
and 4 percent other races or multiracial. Christy Mallory, the Legal Director at the Williams Institute and the study’s author noted that “LGBT voters in general are a little bit more likely to support diverse candidates, particularly in terms of race and sexual orientation and gender identity. I think the biggest diﬀerence demographically is LGBT voters tend to be younger.” The study also found that LGBTQ voters were also more supportive of transgender and gender non-binary candidates than non-LGBTQ voters. Among LGBT voters, over one-quarter (28%) said they were more likely to support a candidate because they were transgender or gender non-binary. By comparison, 9% of non-LGBTQ voters said they were more likely to support a transgender or gender non-binary candidate. However, David Johns, the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition told journalist DeAssia Paige, writing for The Nation magazine last month, that ‘the challenges that LGBTQ people of color face were not adequately addressed in the Democratic debates or among the candidates.’ “The safe issues for politicians to talk about were all that they put forward,” Johns said. “There was a lot of basic talk about basic equality for everybody, but not very many candidates had actual policy for meeting the needs of queer voters of color.” There are some advocates in the LGBTQ LatinX community who agree with John’s assessment. But, of greater concern driving activists is ensuring that Donald Trump is not reelected and that in the down ballot races, Congressional allies of the president are also voted out. A Trans Latina activist who asked to be identiﬁed only by her ﬁrst name of Rita told the Blade that she was actively contacting her classmates and other LatinX peers at the Los Angeles Community College where she’s enrolled, urging them to get registered to vote and if they have received their mail-in ballots ﬁll them out and mail them back or drop them oﬀ at one of LA County’s 400 ballot collection boxes. She added that the coronavirus has complicated her eﬀorts so she uses email, Instagram, and instant messaging to get the word out especially among her fellow LatinX queer, non-binary, and trans classmates. Chris Gris, a twenty-something queer Latino who works for the City of San Diego government told the Blade that he has been helping out his extended family. Explaining ballot issues, giving his advice on candidates for federal, statewide and local oﬃces. Gris is also urging his peers and LGBTQ friends to vote. “We can’t aﬀord to not participate or not be educated,” Gris said adding, “Too much is at stake.” The ﬁnal push is on now as according to Calif. Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s oﬃce, more than one million Californians have returned their completed mail-in ballots as of Oct 14. Padilla’s oﬃce told the LA Blade that nearly half of that number, around 435,000, came from LA County alone. Hernandez stressed the importance of engagement; “I urge people my age, younger, and older to be proud of being a Latino living in the US. Be proud and be loud. Go out and vote for what matters most to you. Your rights and pursuit of liberty and happiness. Together, we can build a better future.” California oﬀers voter registration online, by mail, and in person. Online voter registration is available at RegisterToVote.ca.gov. You can also request and complete a paper voter registration form and mail or hand deliver it to your county elections oﬃcial to register to vote. Registration deadlines; Online: Oct. 19 By mail: Postmarked by Oct. 19 In person: Nov. 3 Absentee ballot deadlines Request: Oct. 27 Return by mail: Postmarked by Nov. 3 Return in person: Nov. 3 by 8:00 p.m. LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 16, 2020 • 07
Barrett assailed for invoking ‘sexual preference’ in hearing Supreme Court nominee dodges questions on marriage By CHRIS JOHNSON | firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s pick for the now vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, fended off questions Tuesday during her confirmation hearing on whether she’d undo same-sex marriage, declining to disavow dissents to historic rulings for marriage equality from her mentor Antonin Scalia. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, invoked the memory of gay rights pioneers Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon in questioning Barrett, recalling their wedding in 2008 after the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. Feinstein, recalling when Martin died two months later that Lyon was ineligible for Social Security survivor benefits because of the Defense of Marriage Act, asked Barrett about Scalia’s dissent to the 2013 ruling striking down the Section 3 of DOMA, which barred federal recognition of same-sex marriage. “Now you said in your acceptance speech for this nomination that Justice Scalia’s philosophy is your philosophy,” Feinstein said. “Do you agree with this particular point of Justice Scalia’s view that the U.S. Constitution does not afford gay people, the fundamental right to marry?” Barrett insisted upon her confirmation “you would be getting Justice Barrett, not Justice Scalia.” “I don’t think that anybody should assume that just because Justice Scalia decided a certain way that I would, too,” Barrett said. Barrett, however, then invoked the rule associated with the late U.S. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as is customarily done for judicial nominees, to avoid answering directly how she’d directly rule on same-sex marriage — which is consistent with her testimony and other judicial nominees seeking confirmation. “No hints, no previews, no forecasts,” Barrett said. “That had been the practice of nominees before her, but everybody calls it the Ginsburg rule because she stated it so concisely and it’s been the practice of every nominee since since. So I can’t — and I’m sorry to not be able to embrace or disavow Justice Scalia’s position but I really can’t do that on any point of law.” Feinstein, however, wasn’t satisfied with that answer, calling marriage rights for same-sex couples “a fundamental point for large numbers of people, I think, in this country.” “You identify yourself with a justice that you like him would be a consistent vote to roll back hard fought freedoms and protections for the LGBT community,” Feinstein said. “And what I was hoping you would say is that this would be a point of difference where those freedoms would be respected and you haven’t said that.” Barrett responded to Feinstein’s concerns by insisting she “has no agenda,” then went on to disavow discrimination on the basis of “sexual preference.” “I do want to be clear that I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference, and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference,” Barrett said. “Like racism, I think discrimination is abhorrent.” The term sexual preference is considered inappropriate — and offensive — to describe whether or not a person identifies as LGBTQ because it implies being LGBTQ is a choice. Instead, the standard terms are sexual orientation and gender identity (and in some circles, the term sexual identity is emerging as a broader term to encompass all aspects of the LGBTQ community). Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, criticized Barrett in a statement for using the term “sexual preference,” crediting such terminology with the prevalence of widely discredited conversion therapy. “When Amy Coney Barrett used the term ’sexual preference’ in her testimony before the Senate today, she perpetuated the dangerous and false stereotype that being LGBTQ is not a fundamental aspect of identity, but a mere ’preference,’” Minter said. “This is why so many people, including many parents who send their children to conversion therapy, think being LGBTQ is a choice. As judges know, language matters.” Upbraiding Barrett on the committee for use of the term sexual preference was Sen. Mazie 08 • OCTOBER 16, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Judge AMY CONEY BARRETT at the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing on Oct. 12, for her nomination to the Supreme Court. (Photo by Leah Millis/Reuters; POOL PHOTO used with permission)
Hirono (D-Hawaii), who said that was “offensive and outdated” language and “used by anti LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice.” “It is not,” Hirono continued. “Sexual orientation is a key part of a person’s identity. That sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable was a key part of the majority’s opinion in Obergefell, which by the way Scalia did not agree with. So, if it is your view that sexual orientation is merely a preference, as you noted, then the LGBTQ community should be rightly concerned whether you would uphold their constitutional right to marry.” Although Hirono continued in a tirade against Barrett she didn’t allow the nominee to address those remarks. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) at the start of her questioning, gave the nominee an opportunity to clarify and apologize. “I certainly didn’t mean to use a term that would cause any offense in the LGBTQ community,” Barrett said. “So if I did, I greatly apologize for that. I simply meant to be referring to Obergefell as holding with respect to same-
sex marriage.” The prospect of Barrett’s confirmation leading the Supreme Court to reverse Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 ruling granting full marriage rights to same-sex couples, has emerged as a concern following an unexpected statement from U.S. Associate Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas last week declaring war on the decision. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sought to allay concerns the Trump-appointed nominee would overturn Obergefell — as well as other Supreme Court precedents — with questioning of his own, prompting Barrett to affirm the limited role of justices. “Judges can’t just wake up one day and say, ‘I have an agenda. I like guns. I hate guns. I like abortion. I hate abortion,’ and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world,” Barrett said. Initially asking Barrett to identify the Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage (which Barrett correctly identified as Obergefell), Graham asked if the process for a state seeking to defy the decision would be the same for any legal challenge. “It would and one thing I’ve neglected to say before that’s occurring to me now is that not only would someone have to challenge that statute…if they outlawed same-sex marriage, there’d have to be a case challenging it, and for the Supreme Court to take it up, you’d have to have lower courts going along and saying we’re going to flout Obergefell,” Barrett said. Barrett went on to downplay the prospect of the Supreme Court overturning same-sex marriage based on lower courts rejecting the challenge — flat-out ignoring the prospect of the Supreme Court reviewing those lower court decisions and deciding to overturn Obergefell as precedent. “The most likely result would be that lower courts, who are bound by Obergefell would shut such a lawsuit down, and it wouldn’t make its way up to the Supreme Court but if it did, it would be the same process I’ve described,” Barrett said. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), attending the confirmation hearing virtually, asked Barrett whether she’d respect the principle of stare decisis — the idea the Supreme Court should keep with precedent to ensure consistency in the law — with respect to same-sex marriage. After Barrett initially simply affirmed the holding in Obergefell that same-sex couples have a right to marry, the nominee declined to say whether she agrees with that precedent consistent with her testimony in her response to other cases. “Senator, for the reasons I’ve already said, I’m not going to as Justice Kagan put it, give a thumbs up or thumbs down to any particular precedent,” Barrett said. “It’s precedent of the Supreme Court that gives same-sex couples a right to marry.” Upon further questioning from Leahy, however, Barrett affirmed she would not seek to overturn decisions just because a majority of the court supported it, saying “the doctrine of stare decisis requires that.”
No LGBTQ questions in Harris, Pence VP debate Democratic senator assails response to coronavirus By CHRIS JOHNSON | email@example.com
In the wake of President Trump contracting coronavirus after being disdainful of efforts to contain the disease, the pandemic took center stage at a debate last week between Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence that left supporters on both sides declaring victory. Early on during the debate in Salt Lake City, Harris tore into Pence for the more than 200,000 deaths as a result of coronavirus and the economic hardship that has resulted from the epidemic. “Here are the facts: 210,000 dead people in our country in just the last several months, over 7 million people who have contracted this disease, one in five businesses closed,” Harris said. “We’re looking at frontline workers who have been treated like sacrificial workers. We are looking at over 30 million people, who in the last several months had to file for unemployment.” Harris concluded, “Frankly, this administration has forfeited their right to re-election.” Pence, who led the White House Coronavirus Task Force, turned the issue to the resilience of the American people, citing statistics that without the Trump administration’s actions the death toll would have reached a larger figure of 2.2 million people. “The American people, I believe, deserve credit for the sacrifices that they have made putting the health of their family and their neighbors first, our doctors, our nurses are first responders and I’m going to speak up on behalf of what the American people have done,” Pence said. Taking a jab at Joe Biden, Pence said he looked at the Biden plan to address the coronavirus by advancing testing and developing a vaccine and concluded “it looks a little bit like plagiarism, which is something Joe Biden knows a little bit about.” Harris, however, said the American people had to endure hardship because the Trump administration was inadequate in addressing the coronavirus, making a visceral appeal to debate watchers. “I want to ask the American people: How calm were you when you were panicked about where you’re going to get your next roll of toilet paper, how calm were you when your kids were sent home from school and you didn’t know when they could go back, how do you think when your children couldn’t see your parents because you were afraid they could kill them?” Harris said as she looked into the camera. Moderator Susan Page of USA Today, in the aftermath of the slapfest debate last week between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, sought to enforce the rules in speaking time for participants and asked thoughtful, well-researched questions in a debate the Associated Press called “a rare return to some semblance of normal politics.” LGBTQ issues didn’t come up during the debate, despite calls from LGBTQ advocacy groups for a question to distinguish Harris’ record of support for the LGBTQ community with Pence’s draconian anti-LGBTQ record. Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, publicly criticized Page in a statement for not bringing up LGBTQ issues during the debate. “Tonight, Susan Page had the opportunity to highlight the stark contrast between Mike Pence — the Vice President with the longest and most problematically anti-LGBTQ record in decades — and Kamala Harris, a true champion of our community,” David said. “Unfortunately for the 57 million Equality Voters and 11 million LGBTQ voters eager to hear from the candidates on these issues, Page did not ask any questions about the candidates’ LGBTQ records — a disservice to voters across the country.” The Washington Blade has placed a request with Page seeking comment in response to David’s criticism. Social justice, however, did come up in the form of a question on whether Breonna Taylor, a Black woman in Kentucky who was killed in an incident of alleged police brutality, received justice after the state declined to prosecute officers who shot her multiple times during a raid on her home. Harris talked about her personal experience with Taylor’s family, then shifted to the video widely seen by Americans of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd. “People around our country of every race, of every age, of every gender — perfect strangers to each other — marched shoulder-to-shoulder arm-and-arm fighting for us to finally achieve that ideal of equal justice under law, and I was a part of those peaceful protests,” Harris said. “And I believe strongly that first of all we are never going to condone violence, but we always must fight for the values that we hold dear, including the fight to achieve our ideal.” Pence, in the most uncomfortable moment of the debate for the vice president, declined to say whether justice had been served. 10 • OCTOBER 16, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Sen. KAMALA HARRIS (D-Calif.) criticized Vice President MIKE PENCE for his coronavirus response at last week’s debate.
“Well, our heart breaks for the loss of any innocent American life, and the family of Breonna Taylor has our sympathies,” Pence said. “But I trust our justice system.” After briefly addressing Floyd’s death, Pence said ongoing rioting and looting are taking place throughout the country, dismissing assertions law enforcement agencies are systemically racist. With the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court pending before the U.S. Senate, the topic of the judiciary also came up. Amid criticism Barrett would let her Catholic beliefs dictate her rulings from the bench, Pence said he hoped Democrats wouldn’t come after the nominee for her faith. “Our hope is in the hearing next week, unlike Justice Kavanaugh received with treatment from you and others, we hope she gets a fair hearing,” Pence said. LGBTQ advocacy and progressive groups have been steadfast in their opposition to Barrett as a replacement for the late U.S. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and said her confirmation would leave LGBTQ rights vulnerable to religious claims and even jeopardize same-sex marriage. Harris rejected religion was an issue, saying Democrats objected to holding a vote on a nominee to the Supreme Court with 27 days remaining before a presidential election. As precedent, Harris cited a Supreme Court vacancy in 1864 when Abraham Lincoln was up for re-election. “But Honest Abe said it’s not the right thing to do,” Harris said. “The American people deserve to make the decision about who will be the next president of the United States, and then that person can select who will serve for a lifetime on the highest court of our land.” When Harris was asked if Biden would pack the judiciary as president Harris declined to directly answer, much like Biden in last week’s debate — a point Pence sought to emphasize. David, after criticizing the debate moderator for not asking a question on LGBTQ issues, went on to rebuke Pence for talking over both Page and Harris. “Throughout the debate, Mike Pence talked over both Sen. Harris and moderator Susan Page,” David said. “His condescending display toward these two powerful women is further confirmation of the Trump-Pence campaign’s blatant disrespect for women. Thankfully, Kamala Harris clearly demonstrated that she is not only capable but unrivaled in her ability to lead our nation as Vice President as she prosecuted the case against a reckless president and vice president who have failed at every opportunity to manage this pandemic and the economic fallout that it has wrought.”
VOLUME 04 ISSUE 42 THUẬN NGUYỄN is a long-time resident of the City of Montclair, and currently a sociology Ph.D. student at the University of Southern California.
Snubbed by city oﬃcials in Montclair We asked for LGBTQ History Month recognition but were ignored By THUAN NGUYEN
Created in 1994 by high school history teacher Rodney Wilson, LGBTQ History Month is nationally observed in October. It is a month that recognizes the historical and contemporary contributions of LGBTQ people who have fought for legal protections against harassment and discrimination, to be represented and visible in U.S. culture, and to exist in local communities safely. It is also a time that fosters discussions around much neglected LGBTQ history and issues and promotes a safe learning environment for LGBTQ youth as they come of age. LGBTQ History Month also coincides with National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, which was started after the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. These observances are especially crucial for creating a safe learning and welcoming environment for students when considering that LGBTQ youth feel unsafe at school due to their sexual orientation and gender expression. They are also at higher risk for encountering interpersonal violence and experiencing suicidal tendencies than their heterosexual peers. On Oct. 5, I attended a virtual city council meeting for the City of Montclair, my home city. I spoke alongside Robin Turner, a Montclair High School student, and the high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club president. I drafted and submitted a resolution and asked that the city pass the resolution to recognize the month of October 2020 as LGBTQ History Month and Oct.11, as National Coming Out Day in the City of Montclair. Having lived in Montclair for nearly 30 years, there is a general lack of recognition and awareness of LGBTQ Montclair residents’ issues. For many LGBTQ residents, such as myself, something as benign and taken-for-granted as holding hands with our signiﬁcant other in public places, may often create moments of heightened anxiety because there is always an underlying concern that we may become a target of anti-LGBTQ harassment. Institutionally, there is
lack of resources to provide for Montclair LGBTQ residents. These concerns are further underscored by an increase in hate crimes in the U.S. against LGBTQ people, particularly gay men and transgender people. As such, LGBTQ History Month provides an opportunity for the city to acknowledge the importance of LGBTQ history and recognize LGBTQ residents who are our family members and friends, neighbors, educators, business owners, and everyone in between. In my resolution, I asked that the city commits to recognizing that all Montclair residents should be treated fairly and equally regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and acknowledge the history, freedoms, rights, and equality of all Montclair residents who identify as LGBTQ. In doing so, Montclair would join various California cities, such as Garden Grove, Redlands, and Sacramento, and the State of California, who have, at one point in time or another, passed similar resolutions and proclamations. I came to the Oct. 5 city council meeting with little expectation regarding the resolution’s passing, especially when considering that this would be the only meeting held in October, leaving little time to vote on the resolution. However, at minimum, I expected that the city oﬃcials would have acknowledged something, anything. But after all that was said and done by me and Robin, not a single city oﬃcial made a single comment to acknowledge our requests other than a “thank you” from the mayor. We did not come to demand material resources. We came to ask for a symbolic acknowledgment of the existence of LGBTQ Montclair residents. Instead, our words rang hollow, further exemplifying the very reason why we came and proposed the resolution in the ﬁrst place. I do not know what the next step is, now that I have spoken to city oﬃcials and submitted the resolution. All I can hope for is that our presence was seen, our voices were heard, and our beloved city will respond, at some point and in some way, to signal to us that we are welcomed, accepted, and supported.
12 • OCTOBER 16, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
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KAREN OCAMB is an award-winning journalist and writer for the Yes on 21 movement. She is the former news editor of the Los Angeles Blade.
LGBTQ political groups endorse Prop 21 Fear loss of rights, shelter By KAREN OCAMB
This year LGBTQ people faced a diﬃcult dilemma on Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day: come out, be authentic, and jump into the progressive ﬁght for full equality – or stay closeted, silent, and sheltered from the gathering storm of anti-LGBTQ animus threatening to blow down LGBTQ rights like a house of cards. Since his ﬁrst day in oﬃce, the Trump administration has been rendering invisible or rolling back LGBTQ rights and is now working hard to put ultra conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court to replace iconic Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Many fear that emergency shelters will use “religious liberty” as an excuse to refuse aid to LGBTQ people in the expected eviction tsunami when moratoriums are lifted and renters are required to pay all back rent and fees due to landlords as soon as Jan. 1. That’s why numerous LGBTQ political groups, organizations and individuals have endorsed Proposition 21, the California Rental Aﬀordability Act. In fact, Prop 21 is so important right now, APLA Health, once a policy rival of major Prop 21 backer AIDS Healthcare Foundation, announced their endorsement of the measure, choosing housing rights over ancient history. Prop 21 is the statewide ballot measure that puts limits on unfair, sky-high rent increases, reins in corporate landlord greed, and prevents homelessness. Top experts at USC, UCLA, and UC Berkeley agree that sensible rent limits are key for stabilizing California’s housing aﬀordability crisis. That’s why the California Democratic Party, the ACLU, the California Nurses Association, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, and the Los Angeles Times, among many others, have thrown their full support behind Prop 21. Last April, the Williams Institute issued a 41-page report on “LGBT People and Housing Aﬀordability, Discrimination, and Homelessness.” In a Preface noting that the coronavirus would most likely change the data but not the circumstances, the authors wrote: “LGBT people are more likely than non-LGBT people to be poor, to be renters, to have unstable housing, and to be homeless.” In California, Prop 21 is viewed by many as a key tool to ﬁnding a solution to help protect renters from the coming housing apocalypse. “In a recent needs assessment of trans and gender-nonconforming Asians and Paciﬁc Islanders (TGNC APIs) in the Bay Area, APIENC found that 93% of people are renters,” says Sammie Ablaza Wills, Director of APIENC (pictured above). “Nearly a quarter of our people have been homeless at some time in their life. TGNC API people are vulnerable to rising rents and corporate greed, especially in the age of COVID-19 unemployment and uncertainty. Housing is a right, and stable housing is the foundation of creating meaningful relationships and healing for our communities. Prop 21 is a crucial measure that can help protect our people from being displaced and pushed onto the streets. In order to survive and thrive, we need real legislation that protects renters, provides aﬀordable housing, and improves rent control for ALL Californians.”
14 • OCTOBER 16, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
“The Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club supports Proposition 21 because housing aﬀordability and rent control are LGBTQ rights,” says Kevin Bard, Co-President, Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club. “In the past decade, San Francisco has seen the cost of rent increase dramatically, alongside the ongoing gentriﬁcation of many of our most beloved neighborhoods and communities. Allowing jurisdictions to enact and expand rent control (and to limit rent increases when there is a change in the master tenancy) will ensure that renters can stay in San Francisco, particularly those who rely on aﬀordable housing. As a city that has been a refuge for LGBTQ peoples for decades, it is imperative that we do as much as we can to protect renters and keep greedy landlords in check because LGBTQ people (especially Trans and LGBTQ youth) are much more likely to be vulnerable tenants than the general population. For these reasons, please vote Yes on Proposition 21.” In Los Angeles County, Stonewall Democratic Club President Lester Aponte notes the neglected impact on people with HIV/AIDS. “Rent prices in California, particularly in our biggest cities, are out of control and rising much faster than incomes,” says Aponte. “As millions of Californians face unprecedented economic hardship, there is no relief in sight and many are facing the prospect of eviction or being unable to aﬀord their rent and forced to leave their homes of many years. And among those worst aﬀected are LGBTQ seniors and those living with HIV and AIDS. Prop 21 would allow local governments to adopt rent control on more housing units. It is a long-overdue measure that will bring some humanity to the landlord-tenant relationship at long last. The Stonewall Democratic Club urges a YES vote.” Noticeably absent from the Yes on 21 endorsement list is Equality California. Despite pro-Prop 21 board member Dolores Huerta’s nudge to endorse, the statewide lobbying group decided to oﬃcially remain neutral on this proposition early on. Later, however, Equality California’s candidate-endorsing political action committee accepted $17,500 in August and $100,000 in September from Prop 21 opponent, the California Apartment Association Independent Expenditure Committee, according to records of ﬁnancial contributions on the Sec. of State’s website. Though Equality California is missing in action,both the Bay Area Reporter and the Los Angeles Blade did endorse Prop 21, tied to an acknowledgment of the price of coming out and living an authentic LGBTQ life. “The Los Angeles Blade is breaking its policy of remaining neutral in electoral races because Proposition 21 helps address the severe consequences of the COVID-19 economic collapse,” says LA Blade publisher Troy Masters. “Kicking the can down the road TO FORESTALL evictions is not a strategy. But without Prop 21, landlords could jack up rents just when the back rent bill comes due, with interest. Prop 21 seeks to avert a humanitarian crisis.”
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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 16, 2020 • 15
‘Equal’ explores LGBTQ life before Stonewall
Queer heroes come to our screens during LGBTQ History Month By JOHN PAUL KING
We’re still in October, and that means as we cast our eye on our screens this month, it’s inevitable for us to also be casting our eyes on the past. The most relevant oﬀering this week is surely the debut of a new HBO Max docuseries, “Equal,” designed to ﬁll in a few gaps in our education about what queer life was like in the days before Stonewall - just in time for LGBTQ History Month. Premiering on Oct. 22, it’s four episodes of slick, smart, and star-powered television that proﬁles various “leaders and unsung heroes” of the community who stood up, each in their way, to become pioneers in a movement for equality that might never have happened were it not for their refusal to stay invisible. Narrated by Billy Porter, this look back at the giants upon whose shoulders we stand is not what you might call a “deep dive” into pre-Stonewall queer history; instead, it provides a sweeping overview of LGBTQ life in the middle of the 20th century, through a focus on some of the individuals who cast a long shadow in the ongoing ﬁght for equality. That doesn’t mean it’s short on information though; a lot of detail is packed into each hour-long episode, and viewers are sure to walk away feeling much more informed about this long-obscured era of queer history. From a collaboration of producers that includes the likes of Greg Berlanti and Jim Parsons, “Equal” looks to shine a light on ﬁgures whose stories took place within the shadows of past American culture: founding fathers of the LGBTQ equality movement like Harry Hay, Dale Jennings, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin; pioneering trans women like Christine Jorgensen and Sylvia Rivera; and men and women of color, like Lorraine Hansberry and Bayard Rustin, who brought their queerness with them into the larger ﬁght for civil rights in the arts and politics of the mainstream world. To that end, real-life archival footage is blended with newly ﬁlmed “reenactments” – and a healthy dose of artistic license – to bring their histories to life. Among the cast of queer and allied actors taking part are quite a few familiar names and faces. Cheyenne Jackson stands in for One Magazine founder Jennings, with Anthony Rapp as Mattachine Society founder Hay; Heather Matarazzo (“Welcome to the Dollhouse”) and Shannon Purser (“Stranger Things,” “Riverdale”) play Lyon and Martins, respectively; Jamie Clayton (“Sense8”) is Jorgensen, and Hailie Sahar (“Pose”) is Rivera, while Samira Wiley (“Orange is the New Black,” “The Handmaid’s Tale”) and Keiynan Lonsdale (“Love, Simon”) portray Hansberry and Rustin. The cast also includes Sara Gilbert, Anne Ramsay, Alexandra Grey, Jack Starr, Isis King, and Jai Rodriguez, as well as many additional performers, playing a mix of other real-life and ﬁctional composite roles. If you can’t wait for Oct. 22 to watch, you might be in luck, thanks to NewFest. The series is included as part of the line-up during the long-running LGBTQ Film Festival scheduled run between Oct. 16-27.
16 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 16, 2020
KEIYNAN LONSDALE as Bayard Rustin in ‘Equal.’ (Photo courtesy HBO Max)
Celebrating its 32nd edition in the year of COVID-19 might not have been what this venerable ﬁlm fest would have preferred to do, but like other prominent festivals that have had to adapt to life in 2020, it’s taken its show online – at least for the most part. That means that ﬁlm fans who want to participate in NewFest without actually making the trip to NYC have gained an historic opportunity. Organizers have put together what they describe as “an incredible virtual lineup” of screenings, special events, and panels, available nationwide for the ﬁrst time in the festival’s history; and if you feel you must go in person to really feel a part of it all, there are even a few special drive-in screenings scheduled during NewFest’s 11-day run. If you’re not a documentary person, NewFest has you covered, too. Don’t get us wrong – it features plenty of them. But it also oﬀers a lengthy list of narrative options, both short and long form, from which ﬁlm fans will be sure to ﬁnd something to ﬁt their personal tastes. Among the highlights: “Ammonite,” the new semi-biographical 19th-century period romance from “In God’s Country” director Francis Lee, starring Kate Winslet and Saorise Ronan; “No Hard Feelings,” a debut feature from German ﬁlmmaker Faraz Shariat that explores a romance between two Iranian immigrants who meet in a refugee camp and has already won a German Teddy Award for Best LGBTQ-themed Feature; “Ahead of the Curve,” Jen Rainin and Rivkah Beth Medow’s documentary tracing the legacy of the groundbreaking lesbian publication Curve Magazine; ﬁlmmaker Mike Mosallam’s feature debut “Breaking Fast,” a cross-cultural gay romcom about a Muslim-American (Haaz Sleiman) whose blossoming romance with an AllAmerican white boy (Michael Cassidy) is set against the backdrop of his family’s celebration of Ramadan; Laurie Lynd’s “Killing Patient Zero,” a riveting documentary about the scapegoating of Gaëtan Dugas, the gay French-Canadian ﬂight attendant who was blamed for spreading AIDS to North America; and Stanley Kalu’s “The Obituary of Tunde Johnson,” a timely drama about a black teenager struggling with coming out to his parents while dealing with the trauma he experiences from both being closeted and being black. There’s a long list of other features and shorts, most of which are available for the entire run of the festival after their oﬃcial “screening” times and dates; there are also numerous special events – such as an all-trans cast doing a table read of “Brokeback Mountain. The full line-up can be found, along with all-festival passes, tickets and ticket packages, on the festival’s website at newfest.org. With so much exciting queer content at our ﬁngertips, even in the middle of a pandemic, even the gloomiest among us would have to call it an embarrassment of riches – more than enough to see us through until long past Thanksgiving. If not, don’t worry. LGBTQ History Month is barely halfway through, and there’s sure to be plenty more, still in store.
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SALES@LOSANGELESBLADE.COM LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 16, 2020 • 17
Don’t miss these 2 books from award-winning queer writers Diaz, Shapland pen unforgettable poetry, nonfiction
Often, you enjoy a book. But it’s as ethereal as a lovely snowflake. After a month, you forget about it. That’s not the case with two unforgettable books by queer authors that are among this year’s National Book Awards finalists. Natalie Diaz, a queer, Native American poet is a finalist in poetry for “Postcolonial Love Poem” and queer writer Jenn Shapland is a finalist in nonfiction for “My Autobiography of Carson McCullers.” The winners of the distinguished award will be announced in a virtual ceremony on Nov. 18. Winners of the prestigious prize will receive $10,000; finalists will receive $1,000. Neither Diaz’s or Shapland’s book – one a searing volume of poetry, the other an arresting memoir – will slip out of your mind. Each volume will leave you questioning and pondering yourself, identity, erasure and history. “Postcolonial Love Poem” is Diaz’s second poetry collection. Her first poetry collection “When My Brother Was an Aztec,” was an American Book Award winner. Diaz, who is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe, has received many honors, including a MacArthur Fellowship. She is the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Arizona State University. Poetry is of the body – the body personal, the body political and the body historical. Rarely has this been more true than in “Postcolonial Love Poem.” Diaz’s poetry speaks eloquently and vividly of desire. “Haven’t they moved like rivers/ like glory, like light/over the seven days of your body?” she writes in the poem “These Hands, If Not Gods,” “And wasn’t that good?/Them at your hips/isn’t this what God felt when he pressed together/the first Beloved: Everything.” The narrator of Diaz’s poems knows that desire is often intermingled with worry, anxiety and sleeplessness. She uses striking imagery to evoke desire and the night. “Insomnia is like spring that way – surprising/and many petaled,” Diaz writes in the poem “From the Desire Field,” “the kick and leap of gold grasshoppers at my brow/I am stuck in the witched hours of want/I want her green life.” The volume is a stirring indictment of injustice and erasure. “Police kill Native Americans more/than any other race,” Diaz writes in the poem “American Arithmetic.” “I’m not good at math–can you blame me?/I’ve had an American education,” she adds with incisive irony later in the poem. “Postcolonial Love Poem” is the most provocative, compelling poetry collection I’ve read in eons. Check it out. In her memoir “My Autobiography of Carson McCullers,” her first book, writer Jenn Shapland explores erasure and identity. Carson McCullers, who lived from 1917 to 1967 and is best known for her novel “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” and her novel (as well as its adaptation for the stage) “The Member of the Wedding,” is an iconic writer, playwright and poet. Yet, in biographies and literary history, her queerness has been largely erased. In her genre-defying book (part memoir, part biography), Shapland examines and illumines both McCullers’ and her own identity, queerness, memory, obsession and love. Her nonfiction has been published in “Tin House,” “Essay Daily” and other publications. Shapland won the 2019 Rabkin Foundation Award for art journalism, and her essay “Finders, Keepers” won a 2017 Pushcart Prize. She teaches as an adjunct in creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. When Shapland was a graduate student, she discovered intimate letters that McCullers wrote to a woman named Annemarie. As she uncovers the letters, she becomes obsessed not only with how history has erased McCullers’ queerness but with how queer women’s love stories are told. In short, evocative, incisive chapters, Shapland questions: Why have queer women had to (even now) tell their stories in a way that fits straight narratives? Why have we had to be ourselves – navigate in hetero spaces? As she struggles with her own sexuality, Shapland wonders what McCullers’ secrets and legacy will reveal to her about herself. “To tell another person’s story,” Shapland writes, “a writer must make that person some version of herself, must find a way to inhabit her.” “My Autobiography of Carson McCullers” is an absorbing, revealing story of queer history and identity. 18 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 16, 2020
By KATHI WOLFE
‘Postcolonial Love Poem’ By Natalie Diaz c.2020, Graywolf $16/105 pages
‘My Autobiography of Carson McCullers’ By Jenn Shapland c.2020, Tin House $22.95/288 pages
THE ONLY WEST HOLLYWOOD COUNCIL CANDIDATE ENDORSED BY THE:
LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY
Proven leadership, for change.
A vote for eco-friendly rides
Two ﬁne green machines in the Escape, Leaf By JOE PHILLIPS
While it’s important this year to work with family and friends to help get out the vote, I’ve also needed the occasional distraction. That’s why test-driving cars has been a welcome reprieve. Luckily, the two green machines below turned out to be ﬁne diversions.
FORD ESCAPE HYBRID $29,000 Mpg: 43 city/37 highway 0 to 60 mph: 8.7 seconds
What better way to escape all the political pandemonium than, well, in a Ford Escape? This year marks the return of the hybrid version, as well as the debut of a plug-in hybrid. What’s more, this compact crossover has been fully redesigned, with all the poise and pluck of a Porsche Macan. While the Macan may be twice as fast—and twice the price—the Escape Hybrid has a 200-hp engine that is still fairly quick. Precise steering is a plus, as is the sturdy suspension that translates into almost no body roll. Inside, the front seats are comfortable but not exactly snug. Tasteful gauges and controls are easy to use, including an 8.0-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. As for cargo capacity, a small lithium-ion battery pack takes up a bit of rear-seat legroom but still leaves plenty of space. While it does take a few jujitsu-like maneuvers to fold the rear seats completely ﬂat, this is a minor quibble. Two trim levels are available, both with keyless entry, push-button start, heated seats and smartphone integration. For a $5,000 premium, the high-end Titanium level adds lots of extras: ambient lighting, hands-free liftgate, 10-speaker Band & Olufsen stereo, rainsensing windshield wipers and more. You can even splurge on a panoramic sunroof and head-up display, though the price tag will start to hit $40,000. But at least those hybrid fuel savings will help oﬀset some of the cost.
$32,000 Range: 150 to 226 miles 0 to 60 mph: 8.4 seconds With all the hoopla surrounding ﬂashy high-end electric vehicles like the Audi e-Tron, Jaguar I-Pace or any Tesla model, it’s easy to underestimate the Nissan Leaf. Yet this subcompact has been a tough competitor ever since it was introduced 10 years ago. Back then, the paltry 73-mile range caused battery anxiety every time I slid behind the steering wheel. But the range on this EV has been doubled, thanks to improved technology and a more aerodynamic design—including sculpted headlights that deﬂect wind from the side mirrors. With the new Leaf Plus model, there’s an even more powerful motor and larger battery pack to extend the range to an impressive 226 miles. While the Leaf Plus adds $6,550 to the sticker price, it also comes with a fast-charging port and upgraded stereo, nav system and adaptive cruise control. But even a base-model Leaf comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as safety features like lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitor and collision warning with emergency braking. Options include LED headlights, surround-view camera, heated seats and heated steering wheel. Sadly, the back seats don’t fold ﬂat, and there’s no telescoping steering wheel. Some EV contenders also oﬀer more features and a longer range, though often for a price. Overall, the Leaf seems like something George Jetson would drive, from the almost cartoonish styling to the high-pitched whirring motor. There’s also a geeky e-Pedal driving system, which allows the driver to speed up, slow down and even stop the vehicle using only the accelerator pedal. This makes for a rad ride, especially when tackling twisty switchbacks or weaving through commuter traﬃc. Then there’s the ProPilot semi-autonomous feature, which keeps the car centered in its own lane and automatically brakes/restarts in any kind of gridlock. There are other practical reasons to buy a Leaf, such as Nissan’s renowned reliability and a warranty that covers the battery for up to eight years or 100,000 miles. But as far as EVs go, the Leaf gets my vote because it’s fun and playful. 20 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 16, 2020
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What will happen to the Oscars?
Some calling for ceremony to be scrapped amid pandemic By BILLY MASTERS
The Oscars have been bumped to April.
“I’m retired.” — Joe Manganiello, responding to the idea of doing another “Magic Mike” sequel. I wasn’t following the race for New Mexico’s House of Representatives until I found out one of the candidates did gay porn! Roger Montoya is a Democratic candidate. A conservative blogger reported that Montoya’s “work” was done under the names Joe Savage and Eric Martinez (you can view his work on BillyMasters.com). In another refreshing ﬁrst for a political porn sex scandal, Montoya is openly gay. He was also recognized as one of 10 “CNN Heroes” in 2019 for his work on anti-violence and HIV education programs. By the by, he is also openly HIVpositive. Roger said that he did two ﬁlms to support himself as a young modern dancer in Los Angeles. “Those experiences do not reﬂect who I am, and they are insigniﬁcant in the scope of my life’s work, yet they helped inspire my dedication to my community and the work I do to make sure that youth have opportunities, support and conﬁdence.” Many legends have appeared on “Billy Masters LIVE.” But I don’t think we’ve had anyone as legendary as Ed Asner. I am thrilled to interview him on Thursday, Oct. 15, but I must confess that this plum booking basically fell into my lap. I contacted a publicist of someone who I thought would be a good guest. The publicist is no longer working with that person, but suggested Ed Asner - whose autobiography “Son of a Junkman” is an amazingly revealing read. Before you could say “spunk,” Ed Asner was booked - and I’m frantically researching his fascinating life. You never know what will happen on “Billy Masters LIVE,” 3 p.m. Eastern every Tuesday and Thursday. Check out Billy Masters TV on YouTube, or go to BillyMasters.com/TV. Meanwhile, the world of entertainment continues limping along. You may be wondering what will happen to all those year-end blockbusters? The folks at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences want to help the studios. The Oscars have been pushed from February to April 25. In the past, ﬁlms needed to qualify by screening in a Los Angeles cinema three times a day for at least one week. However, the Academy’s new rules allow ﬁlms that are shown in cinemas OR drive-ins in LA, NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta for a week. In addition, ﬁlms that had scheduled theatrical releases but were seen on a streaming service due to the pandemic also qualify. Some members of the Academy are asking that the Oscars not take place at all. The awards should still be given out. But due to the pandemic, most believe a live ceremony cannot take place safely. They also believe that doing a virtual event would tarnish the reputation of
22 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 16, 2020
the Oscars. Stay tuned. Remember the Tonys? Of course you don’t - Broadway’s biggest night traditionally happens during June (coincidentally, Pride Month). Meanwhile, we haven’t even had nominations from the truncated season. That’s all about to change. The Tony nominations were set to be announced live at 3 p.m. Eastern on YouTube on Oct. 15. As to the ceremony itself, God only knows. Originally, it was supposed to air on CBS. Here is the latest oﬃcial statement: “The 74th Annual Tony Awards will take place digitally in fall 2020.” Well, doesn’t that sound vague and unfulﬁlling. It’s not like I haven’t had memorable moments digitally. Frankly, it depends on the digits. The latest on Broadway is that theaters will not open any earlier than May 30, 2021 and the phrase “don’t hold your breath” springs to mind. What would this mean for the 2021 Tonys, which would typically take place in June? Perhaps whatever shows can open on one weekend will sweep the awards. In light of these delays, it’s no surprise that the Hugh Jackman/Sutton Foster revival of “The Music Man” will now open on Feb. 10, 2022. And the new musical about Michael Jackson will bow sometime in September 2021. Our “Ask Billy” question comes from Frank in Baltimore: “I heard about this movie with Dylan Sprouse playing an escort. Where can I ﬁnd it?” Last week, the short ﬁlm “Daddy” was released. It features Ron Rifkin as an 80-year-old celebrating his ﬁrst wedding anniversary as a widower — with a male prostitute! The hooker is played by the lovely - and actually quite touching - Dylan Sprouse (of the famed Sprouse twins). You’ll recall we previously brought you nude photos of Dylan. Back to “Daddy” - the short was written and directed by Christian Coppola. And before you ask, yes, he is perched on a distant branch of the Coppola family tree. “I’m not close enough to get invited for Thanksgiving dinner,” he quipped. As with the nudes, we’ll post the ﬂick on BillyMasters.com. When my heart belongs to daddy’s boy, it’s deﬁnitely time to end yet another column. There was one curious moment in “Daddy.” A woman standing next to the twosome in an elevator says, “You and your daddy look very handsome tonight.” With a 50-year gap between the two, I might have gone for “Grand Daddy.” But you can decide for yourself when you see it on www.BillyMasters. com - the site that can ﬁll any gap. Of course, I’m always on hand should you need a hand...or a digit. Drop a note to Billy@BillyMasters.com, and I promise to get back to you before my autobiography drops. Until next time, remember, one man’s ﬁlth is another man’s bible.
Congress CA 25
Congress CA 39
L.A. County Supervisor 2
George Gascón L.A. County District Attorney
L.A. County Community College 5
Culver City Council
John Erickson West Hollwood City Council
EQUALITY CANDIDATES U.S. President/Vice President Joe Biden & Kamala Harris
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
California State Senate
Senate District 21 - Kipp Mueller Senate District 27 - Henry Stern* Senate District 33 - Lena Gonzalez* Senate District 35 - Steven Bradford*
California State Assembly AD 39 - Luz Rivas* AD 41 - Chris Holden* AD 43 - Laura Friedman* AD 44 - Jacqui Irwin* AD 45 - Jesse Gabriel* AD 46 - Adrin Nazarian* AD 48 - Blanca Rubio* AD 49 - Ed Chau* AD 50 - Richard Bloom* AD 51 - Wendy Carrillo* AD 52 - Freddie Rodriguez* AD 53 - Miguel Santiago* AD 54 - Sydney Kamlager-Dove* AD 55 - Andrew Rodriguez AD 57 - Ian Calderon* AD 59 - Reggie Jones-Sawyer* AD 62 - Autumn Burke* AD 63 - Anthony Rendon* AD 64 - Mike Gipson* AD 66 - Al Muratsuchi*
Los Angeles County Supervisor LACSup 2 - Holly Mitchell LACSup 4 - Janice Hahn*
Los Angeles County Offices
District Attorney - George Gascón Superior Court Judge 72 - Steve Morgan Superior Court Judge 80 - David Berger Superior Court Judge 162 - Scott Yang
Burbank City Council (2 seats) Konstantine Anthony Nick Schultz Burbank Unified School District (3 seats) Dr. Armond Aghakhanian* Dr. Emily Weisberg Burbank Treasurer Lindsey Francois Culver City City Council (3 seats) Yasmine Imani McMorrin Darrel Menthe Freddy Puza Culver City School Board Anne Allaire Long Beach City Council Seat 8 Tunua Thrash-Ntuk Los Angeles City Council LACC 4 David Ryu* LACC 10 Mark Ridley-Thomas LA Unified School District Board LAUSD 3 Scott Schmerelson* LAUSD 7 Patricia Castellanos Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees LACCD 1 Andra Hoffman* LACCD 3 David Vela LACCD 5 Nichelle Henderson LACCD 7 Mike Fong* Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo Celeste Rodriguez Santa Monica City Council Special Election Kristin McCowan* Santa Monica City Council (4 seats) Gleam Davis* Ana Maria Jara* Terry O’Day* Ted Winterer* Santa Monica Rent Control Board Caroline M. Torosis*
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
* Incumbent LGBTQ+ District Flip
Stonewall Democratic Club @StonewallDemsLA @stonewalldemsla
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