Losangelesblade.com, Volume 4, Issue 46, November 13, 2020

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Gloria wins historic race in San Diego SAN DIEGO – California Assemblymember Todd Gloria, (D), has won his race for mayor of San Diego and is the first openly LGBTQ person and first person of color elected mayor of the city. In the final months of his campaign, Gloria overcame coordinated false and homophobic attacks on his record that led to him receiving threats of violence on social media. Gloria will be the second-highest ranking LGBTQ mayor currently serving in the U.S. and the third-highest ranking openly LGBTQ mayor in U.S. history when he takes office. Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, released the following statement about Gloria’ victory: “It is an uphill battle for LGBTQ people of color to be in a position to run for high-level office, much less win, so Todd’s victory is a pivotal moment for San Diego and the country. Todd shattered a rainbow ceiling and is now the second-highest ranking LGBTQ mayor in the country. His voice and his impact on critical issues – and especially civil rights – will extend far beyond the boundaries of his city and state. Todd will undoubtably become a role model for many LGBTQ young people who too rarely see someone like them in a position of power.” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is the highest-ranking mayor in U.S. history based on the number of residents represented. Mayor Parker, the former mayor of Houston, was the first LGBTQ mayor of a major U.S. city and the second-highest ranking mayor in U.S. history. STAFF REPORTS

Assemblymember TODD GLORIA (D) (Blade Photo by Karen Ocamb)

San Jose voters elect bisexual progressive to Calif. Assembly Milpitas, as their parents divorced when they In a set of firsts in California legislative history, ALEX LEE (Photo courtesy of Lee campaign) were young and the siblings shuttled between voters in the San Francisco South Bay Area’s their homes in the two cities. After graduating Assembly District 25 have elected the youngest from Milpitas High School, Lee earned a B.A. in lawmaker since 1938. But that first doesn’t stop political science and communication from UC there as Alex Lee is a 25-year-old progressive Davis in 2017. Lee’s family is Cantonese Chinese; Democrat who says that he is part of “many his parents emigrated from Hong Kong to the marginalized communities,” including being South Bay. His father is a semi-retired engineer Asian American and openly bisexual. and his mom is a nurse at Valley Medical Center. Endorsed by the LGBT Victory fund, Lee was The family still has relatives in Hong Kong, one of Victory Fund’s 155 endorsed LGBTQ thus the recent unrest and protests against the state legislative candidates who had won their Chinese government’s control of the former races in Tuesday elections. There are currently British territory “resonates with me,” Lee told 150 out LGBTQ state legislators serving in state the Bay Area Reporter’s Bajko. houses across the United States. With his win, Lee becomes the youngest AsianLee, however, is no rookie when it comes American lawmaker, a place formerly held by to the machinations of state government Assembly-member Low who was elected at age having worked for five different lawmakers in 31. Lee said that he was finding support among Sacramento as an intern or as a political aide. the older generations in his district. From 2017 until 2019, Lee worked for State “Older people will say to me, ‘Yeah, my generation’s time is up, it is your guys’ time.’ Senator Henry Stern, (D-Canoga Park) representing the 27th district, encompassing parts People have been surprisingly very positive over all,” said Lee. of Los Angeles and Ventura counties. “Alex Lee is a fantastic addition to out growing Legislative Caucus. Our Caucus will now Stern told the Associated Press, Sacramento capital reporter Don Thompson Friday, that have either eight or nine members, potentially the most ever,” the Chair of the California his former aide had “encyclopedic knowledge” of pending legislation that “he became kind Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, State Senator Scott Wiener, (D-SF) told the Los Angeles Blade. of the local Wikipedia for what’s happening on the Senate floor.” “Alex brings an unapologetic voice to the Legislature, at a time when we must aggressively After his work for Stern Lee worked as a field representative for Assemblyman Evan Low, tackle our most pressing issues including climate change, housing, and criminal justice (D-Campbell) representing the 28th Assembly District, which encompasses parts of the reform,” Wiener said. Northern CA South Bay and Silicon Valley and is adjacent to the Assembly District Lee now “As a Gen Z’er, Alex has the ability to remind all of us- in a very personal way- that the represents. Low is a member of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus (and served as decisions we make today will have profound impacts on young people for generations to chair from 2017 to 2018). Lee left his staff to commit full time to his campaign in late 2019. come. I’m thrilled to welcome Alex to the Legislature and to our Caucus,” Wiener added. In a profile by the Bay Area Reporter’s Matthew S. Bajko published last January, Bajko STAFF REPORTS writes Lee and his younger brother grew up in the Berryessa district of San Jose and LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 13, 2020 • 03


First openly gay Black state Supreme Court justice confirmed State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Former U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins, a widely outgoing Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) respected veteran of the state and federal benches — Chair and Vice Chair of the California Legislative was confirmed Tuesday to California’s State Supreme LGBTQ Caucus applauded Governor Newsom’s Court. He would become the first openly gay man on appointment of the first LGBTQ justice to sit on the the California Supreme Court, and only the fifth Black California Supreme Court. man ever to serve on the state’s highest court. It has In an emailed statement to the Blade the lawmakers been 29 years since an African American man has wrote: served on the California Supreme Court. “We commend Governor Newsom for once again Jenkins, 67, a San Francisco native served for thirty making history by appointing the first ever LGBTQ years on California and then federal courts before Justice to the California Supreme Court. The LGBTQ leaving the U.S. District Court for Northern California community is dramatically under-represented in the to serve as Governor Gavin Newsom’s judicial judiciary, and particularly so at the appellate level. appointments secretary. Newsom nominated Jenkins, This appointment is a major step toward a judiciary a registered Democrat, to fill the vacancy created by that represents the entire community. Justice Jenkins the retirement of Associate Justice Ming W. Chin, who is superbly qualified to serve on the Court. retired at the end of this past August after 24 years on His distinguished legal career, particularly as a the high court. Justice on the California Court of Appeal and a United The Commission on Judicial Appointments, which States District Judge, will serve him and all of us well. consists of California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Moreover, as a Black gay man, Justice Jenkins brings Cantil-Sakauye, the state’s Attorney General Xavier an important perspective to the Court during a period Becerra and senior Presiding Justice of the state Court of time when our society is moving through a longof Appeal, the honorable J. Anthony Kline, approved overdue reckoning on race. We applaud Governor Jenkins’ confirmation by a 3-0 vote after a hearing on Newsom for this strong pick.” the nomination. Newly confirmed Associate Justice California State Supreme Court His confirmation gives Democratic appointees a “Living his truth about being African American and MARTIN JENKINS. (Photograph courtesy of the office of the governor) 5-2 majority on the state’s high court, the Chronicle gay,” Jenkins “knows what it means … to struggle and noted adding; But the current court generally reaches agreement across ideological lines, to be an outsider,” William McGuiness, a retired state appeals court justice in San Francisco and nearly 90% of its rulings this year have been unanimous. and former colleague of Jenkins, said at the commission’s one-hour hearing, the San STAFF REPORTS Francisco Chronicle reported.

Philadelphia suspect in Trans woman’s murder arrested in LA DOMINIQUE ‘REM’MIE’ FELLS

(Photograph via Facebook)

A Pennsylvania fugitive wanted for the murder and dismemberment of a 27-yearold Black trans woman was arrested in Los Angeles this week and currently is in the custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department awaiting extradition. Akhenaton Jones was developed as a suspect and tracked to the LA area although investigators in Philadelphia are not forthcoming with further details citing their departmental policy of no comment regarding ongoing investigations. Philadelphia police investigators recovered the dismembered body of 27-year-old Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells on the banks of the Schuylkill River last June 9. Her remains were discovered stuffed into a suitcase with both legs severed midthigh floating near the riverbank, and there were also evidence of stab wound trauma to her face and head. Philadelphia police divers later found her legs inside a trash bag at the bottom of the river during an unrelated search for two missing teens a


spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Dept. told the Los Angeles Blade. NBC News OUT reported on June 17 that police searched the home of Akhenaton Jones near N 39th Street and Powelton Avenue in the West Powelton neighborhood of Philadelphia where they reportedly discovered blood and a cutting instrument. They warned the public not to approach Jones and said he is considered armed and dangerous. Jones will be charged with murder, possession of an instrument of crime, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse, according to a police statement. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw called Fells’ murder “yet another act of hate and violence against a member of the LGBTQ community.” The Philadelphia Mayor’s office of LGBTQ Affairs posted “with deep sadness” the news of Fells’ death on social media at the time her body was discovered. “The pain of such a loss is always difficult, but it is especially deep as we are in the midst of Pride month — a season typically filled with joy and celebration for many in our community. As thousands take to the streets to proclaim that Black Lives Matter, it is critical we remember that this includes Black trans lives. Dominique Rem’mie Fells’ life mattered, the LGBTQ Affairs office wrote. “We are reminded with this, and countless other painful losses — especially within our transgender communities — that there is much left to do until we achieve full equality, respect, and support for us all. The murder of transgender people — especially those of color — is truly an epidemic, and a crisis that we cannot afford to allow to persist any further.” According to reports from the Human Rights Campaign seven transgender women have been murdered in Philadelphia since 2013. Fells is one of 34 Trans people to lose their lives so far this year. STAFF REPORTS


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COVID-19 surges in LA County as nation tops 10 million cases Biden reiterates calls to wear a mask


As the United States surpassed 10 million confirmed COVID-19 cases Monday, President-elect Joe Biden pleaded with all Americans to wear masks. The president-elect’s appeal comes as the pandemic data from Johns Hopkins University bore out the alarming fact that in the past two weeks alone, the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus has risen nearly 65%. In one three day period there were rates of nearly 100,000 new infections per day. According to the data recorded by Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. now accounts for nearly one-fifth of all of the global infections which are now at 50 million. This amount is greater than any other nation affected by the pandemic. The U.S. also is also in the unenviable position of recording more deaths than any other country. More than 238,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the nation since the pandemic begun and more than 1,000 are dying on a daily basis. According to the data from Hopkins, the daily average rate jumped from 66,294 cases on October 25 to 108, 736 on Sunday, November 8. The CDC told the Los Angeles Blade Monday afternoon that several states are running out of hospital beds, ICU space, experiencing extreme staff shortages, and one in 433 was being diagnosed with COVID-19. Biden speaking today in a televised press briefing after being walked through the situation by health experts, called on Americans to stop making the pandemic a political issue- especially over the need to wear masks. “The challenge before us right now is still immense and growing, and so is the need for bold action to fight this pandemic,” the president-elect said. “We are still facing a dark winter.” “We could save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months. Not Democratic or Republican lives, American lives. Please, I implore you, wear a mask,” he added. Biden also noted the disproportionate impact that the coronavirus pandemic is having on minority communities. “Focusing on these communities is one of our priorities, not an afterthought,” Biden said. The incoming administration’s transition team formed an advisory board dominated by leading medical and health experts. In his acceptance speech this past Saturday, Biden emphasized that his number one agenda item was dealing with the pandemic’s impact on Americans. Biden also spoke by phone on Monday with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and much of their conversation was focused on the pandemic. The difference is stark between the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic and Biden’s approach as President Trump has mocked the president-elect and others for always wearing masks; has openly fought with his experts most notably by disparaging the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH. As Biden announced his initial actions to combat the pandemic, Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced progress with its human vaccine trial. A Pfizer spokesperson said Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine may be a remarkable 90% effective, based on early and incomplete test results that nevertheless brought a big burst of optimism to a world desperate for the means to finally bring the catastrophic outbreak under control, the Associated Press reported. “We’re in a position potentially to be able to offer some hope,” Dr. Bill 08 • NOVEMBER 13, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

(Photo courtesy of Yes on Prop 21 campaign)

Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of clinical development, told The Associated Press. “We’re very encouraged.” Public health officials warn that the nation could be entering the worst period yet for the pandemic as winter sets in and the holiday season approaches, increasing the risk of rapid transmission as Americans travel, shop and celebrate with families. In Los Angeles County, Coronavirus cases are again surging prompting renewed alarm from health officials. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) released the latest data on COVID-19 Monday that showed that from mid-September to late-October, new reported cases went from a little over 750 cases per day to almost 1,400 cases per day. Over the past weekend, Public Health reported for Saturday and Sunday, a total of 4,656 cases; 2,418 new cases for Saturday and 2,238 new cases for Sunday. A spokesperson for the department told the Blade that “these numbers are demonstrating real and alarming increases.” During the seven-day period that ended Sunday, Los Angeles County reported more than 13,000 cases, a 38% jump from the previous week and the highest number of weekly cases in more than two months. Public Health officials also noted that there have been 322,207 cases to date, 7,172 deaths to date an with nearly 3,257,000 individuals tested; 9% of all people had tested positive. As of Monday noon there are 851 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 of which 29% of that total are in the ICU. “We are once again at a pivotal point in our recovery journey. There is no real path forward until we get back to slowing the spread. We don’t have the luxury of ignoring our individual and collective responsibilities if we want to see more children go to school and businesses remain open.” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health. “Recovery doesn’t continue when you have thousands of new cases each day, and many of these new cases stem from people taking risks that are frankly not appropriate. It isn’t that hard to play by the rules, especially since these rules are what keeps some people alive and allows our economy to improve,” she added.

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After Prop 21, LGBTQ-led Housing Justice Movement presses on LA sees annual double-digit increases in homelessness By KAREN OCAMB

There was excitement in the air. Pollsters and pundits predicted a “blue wave” that would sweep the country Election Night and definitively toss Donald Trump, his spawn and cronies from their gilded seats of power. That didn’t happen. In fact, Republicans flipped one Orange County congressional seat while two others remain too close to call and stunned progressives try to grasp why propositions considered “no brainers” were defeated. One of those measures, Proposition 21, the Rental Affordability Act, would have helped staunch an expected eviction tsunami at the end of January. Surely, any post-election “autopsy report” by the California Democratic Party will transparently dissect not only the Republican performance but the political power plays that resulted in silence or self-imposed sideling or outright conflicts — such as Gov. Gavin Newsom becoming a poster boy for the misleading No on Prop 21 campaign. His endorsement and massive campaign contributions from corporate landlords such as Blackstone Group, Essex Property Trust, and Equity Residential — which contributed a whopping $86 million to No on Prop 21 — should also raise the question about whether California’s initiative process is really an effective device for voters to independently create law or yet another tool for the rich and powerful to achieve their usually profit-oriented goal. Exhibit A: the real estate industry is gloating about “cleaning up on Election Day.” Prop 21 was the statewide ballot measure that put limits on unfair, skyhigh rent increases, reined in corporate landlord greed, and would have prevented homelessness. It was supported by 342 organizations and individuals. Interestingly, the movement for housing justice is in large part being organized, led and fueled by LGBTQ political activists. René Christian Moya, for instance, was the Campaign Director for the Prop 21 campaign, and is the Director of AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Housing Is a Human Right. HHR was founded by Michael Weinstein, who co-founded the AIDS Hospice Foundation in June 1987 that transitioned into the AHF in July 1990 to meet the critical treatment needs of people with HIV/AIDS. AHF was the primary funder of Prop 21. “AIDS Healthcare Foundation was born of moral outrage over the mistreatment of people with AIDS. We began as a hospice provider when people were dying in the hallways of the county hospital,” Weinstein told the LA Blade last year. “Today’s housing crisis is a similar crisis of indifference to suffering. Our patients and employees are feeling the devastating impact of skyrocketing rents. AHF has jumped into the breach with advocacy and by directly creating affordable housing units.” Weinstein vows to fight on. “The Prop 21 campaign was outspent more than two to one by our opponents, opposed by Democratic outlier Governor Gavin Newsom—going against his own California Democratic Party, which unanimously endorsed 21—and received full-throated endorsements from a who’s who of respected local, state and federal California Democratic office holders. We built a broad, diverse coalition of over 300 organizations, elected officials and individuals and ran an honorable, hard-hitting campaign. Nevertheless, we fell short,” Weinstein told the LA Blade. “However, this is not the end: our fight for housing justice will continue. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Together with our growing coalition, we will carry on in the fight for housing justice!” Elena Popp, the out lesbian Executive Director of the Eviction Defense Network, has been fighting for housing justice for decades. “I am frightened. They’re 191,000 of our families at risk of eviction for nonpayment of rent — and that doesn’t include all of the other people who are going to get evicted because their owners want to raise the rent and so they’re looking for an opportunity to get them out,” Popp told a Yes on Prop 21 rally in DTLA. Francisco Duenas, director of Housing Now! California, a statewide housing justice 10 • NOVEMBER 13, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

(Photo courtesy of Yes on Prop 21 campaign)

advocacy coalition, noted that Newsom actively collaborated with Trump corporate donors backing the No on Prop 21 campaign. “Gov. Newsom has shamefully chosen to align himself with corporate real estate interests to the detriment of everyday Californians, especially communities of color most impacted by the twin crises of coronavirus and exorbitant housing costs,” Duenas said. “Unfortunately, year in and year out, these corporate interests and their billionaire CEOs give lots of money not only to ballot initiatives but to political campaigns so that elected officials know who is calling the shots.” Duenas, formerly an attorney with Lambda Legal, thinks LGBTQ advocacy in the housing justice movement is “about community building. It’s about belonging and that is so central to LGBT identity, like finding a community, being able to belong and -- this housing issue is a threat.” AHF is considering the next move. “Unfortunately, for several years now the California legislature and Governor Newsom have not come up solutions commensurate with the monumental problems we face here in California with housing and homelessness,” said Weinstein. “That is why we took this measure, and Prop 10 before it, directly to voters. In the immediate future, AHF will now concentrate more energy directly on housing the homeless and extremely low-income people through AHF’s Healthy Housing Foundation and our innovative, far less costly housing model adapting and refurbishing old SRO hotels repurposed as longer-term housing solution. We pioneered this model in late 2017 and now have nearly 700 people—including many parents and their children—in eight former hotels and motels throughout Greater Los Angeles. We are pleased to see that some other organizations and cities--notably, San Diego—are exploring and deploying this adaptive reuse model to address their housing crises.”


President-elect JOE BIDEN addresses the American people in his acceptance speech delivered Nov. 7. (Screenshot of NBC News live broadcast coverage)

Biden calls for unity, says ‘this is the time to heal’ President-elect cites support for LGBTQ Americans in speech By BRODY LEVESQUE

In his first address to the American people as the president-elect, Joe Biden told a national broadcast audience that now was a time for unity and to come together as Americans. Speaking from a platform constructed in front of the Chase Center on the Riverfront in his hometown of Wilmington, Biden gave an acceptance speech in which he stressed that “This is the time to heal in America.” Biden was introduced by the Vice President-elect, California U. S. Senator Kamala Harris, who addressed the watching broadcast audience and the hundreds of supporters and dignitaries gathered in the parking lot watching from automobiles and remaining socially distanced in compliance with coronavirus requirements. Wearing a white suit adorned with an American flag in homage to women suffragettes, Harris walked on stage to the song “Work That” by Mary J. Blige. “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” Harris said as the hundreds gathered at the Chase Center cheered. “Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities,” she added. After citing a remembrance and tribute of her late mother, the vice president-elect looked directly into the camera, expressing gratitude for the work by poll workers, campaign workers and voters saying, “For four years you marched and organized for equality and justice, for our lives and for our planet. And then you voted. And you delivered a clear message: You chose hope and unity, decency, science, and yes, truth. You chose Joe Biden as the next President of the United States of America.” The president-elect jogged up the ramp to the podium, and after acknowledging supporters in the crowd told the audiences at the Chase Center and those watching, “I am humbled by the trust and confidence you have placed in me. I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify. Who doesn’t see red and blue states, but a United States.” Biden called out his gratitude poll workers and elections officials noting the difficulties presented by the coronavirus pandemic. Then he expressed his appreciate for the supporters who were instrumental in his accession to the White House. “To all those who volunteered, worked the polls in the middle of this pandemic, local election officials — you deserve a special thanks from this nation. To my campaign team, and all the volunteers, to all those who gave

so much of themselves to make this moment possible, I owe you everything. And to all those who supported us: I am proud of the campaign we built and ran. I am proud of the coalition we put together, the broadest and most diverse in history. Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Progressives, moderates and conservatives. Young and old. Urban, suburban and rural. Gay, straight, transgender. White. Latino. Asian. Native American.” He then gave acknowledgement to Black Americans for their support of his campaign saying; “And especially for those moments when this campaign was at its lowest — the African American community stood up again for me. They always have my back, and I’ll have yours.” Biden’s speech also targeted supporters of President Trump, telling them, “And to those who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of elections myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again. To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans,” he said. He then stressed that “I ran as a proud Democrat. I will now be an American president. I will work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me — as those who did.” The president-elect’s references in particular to Trans Americans was well received by leading LGBTQ activists including writer-transactivist Charlotte Clymer who tweeted; “This is the first time a presidential election victory speech has specifically mentioned the word “transgender” and made a commitment to us. Joe Biden has got our back.” Biden laid out his vision for the nation and the path he felt his administration would take, but he was careful to stress that his number one priority was gaining the upper hand in the battle against the COVID19 virus. “I will name a group of leading scientists and experts as Transition Advisors to help take the Biden-Harris COVID plan and convert it into an action blueprint that starts on January 20th, 2021. That plan will be built on a bedrock of science. It will be constructed out of compassion, empathy and concern. I will spare no effort — or commitment — to turn this pandemic around.” LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 13, 2020 • 11


Trump doubles LGBTQ support from 2016

Gay conservatives find small victory in 61-28 margin for Biden By CHRIS JOHNSON | cjohnson@washblade.com

Amid celebration in the LGBTQ community over the wins of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the 2020 election, gay conservatives are claiming a small victory of their own with President Trump claiming a better than expected percentage of the LGBTQ vote. Trump won 28 percent of the LGBTQ vote compared to the 61 percent won by Biden, according to exit polling from Edison Research, which compiles demographic information for every U.S. election, published last week in the New York Times. Self-identified LGBTQ voters also represented 7 percent of the electorate — the highest percentage in any election since the LGBTQ vote was first recorded in 1996. Charles Moran, co-chair of the Trump Pride coalition and managing director of Log Cabin Republicans, said the LGBTQ vote demonstrates Trump was a “candidate who is unlike previous Republicans.” “Donald Trump was the first president elected who supported gay marriage and had a long, deep relationship with the LGBTQ community before he got into politics,” Moran said. “We didn’t have to play the ‘how comfortable are you with LGBTQ issues’ game with him like we did with other candidates. It was a given from Day 1.” To be sure, Trump has built an anti-LGBTQ record that includes a transgender military ban, arguing against LGBTQ inclusion in civil rights in court and green lighting antiLGBTQ discrimination in the name of religious freedom. In many respects, that record makes Trump’s claim to a higher percentage of the LGBTQ vote even stranger. The 28 percent of the LGBTQ vote Trump secured is the highest percentage for any Republican presidential nominee since George W. Bush in 2000, when polls showed he won 33 percent of the LGBTQ vote. It’s also significantly higher than Trump’s share of the LGBTQ vote in 2016, when LGBTQ voters backed Hillary Clinton over Trump by a lopsided 78-14 margin. Biden, on the other hand, with 61 percent of the LGBTQ vote secured the lowest majority of any Democratic presidential nominee since that demographic was first recored in 1992. The national polling company Edison Research conducted the presidential election exit poll, as it has in past years, for the National Election Pool, a consortium of ABC News, the Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News. Moran said the large number of LGBTQ people who backed Trump is the result of the Republican Party having “an actual LGBTQ strategy/focus.” “There had never been an official LGBTQ coalition on a Republican presidential campaign before,” Moran said. “There had never been a senior adviser at the RNC focused on our issues: Ric Grenell. There had never been a dedicated LGBTQ outreach effort — (the Trump Pride events we did in eight cities — with some of the best surrogates out there (Lara Trump, Tiffany Trump, Kimberly Guilfoyle, etc).” Moran also attributed the relatively strong performance by Trump among LGBTQ voters to Outspoken, the newly created media arm of Log Cabin Republicans, in addition to expanding the national chapters network and adding tens of thousands of new members. As a result, Moran said he thinks Trump in reality secured

support from the LGBTQ community “up in the low 30’s — so a third of the community.” Concurrent with those efforts was the “Walk Away” campaign founded by Brandon Straka, which sought to convince minority groups traditionally associated with the Democrats to abandon the party ahead of the 2020 election. Straka didn’t respond to a request to comment for this article. The relatively strong showing by Trump among LGBTQ voters is consistent with high margins of support he won among other minorities. According to result from exit polls, Trump won the highest percentage of non-white voters for a Republican presidential candidate From left, JON MILLER of Blaze TV and BRANDON STRAKA, whose #WalkAway since 1960. Trump won 32 percent of Latino sought to convince the LGBTQ vote to leave the Democratic Party. votes, thanks in part to a strong showing (Blade photo by Michael Key) among Cuban-Americans in Florida, and has continued to increase, solidifying our community as a key doubled his support among Black Americans from 2016. rising constituency that politicians must court,” David said. “Our Gary Gates, a retired expert in LGBTQ data collection in issues matter, our votes matter and politicians around the surveys, came up short when asked why Trump had a stronger country have taken notice.” showing among LGBTQ respondents. But whether the seven percent of exit poll respondents who “If that group, for instance, skewed older or skewed very identified as LGBTQ represents a growth in turnout or just a white, then you might expect somewhat higher numbers for greater number of voters willing to tell pollsters they’re LGBTQ Trump,” Gates said. “If you think that LGBT population, in some remains unknown. way mimics characteristics of the general population which is Gates said the seven percent figure is greater than the five certainly at least if they’re more white, they’re more likely to percent of people identifying as LGBTQ in U.S. surveys, which vote for Trump, so I think it’s very difficult to know.” suggests LGBTQ people were more eager than the general Gates, however, said the low support Biden won from public to go to the polls. LGBTQ voters is the “more interesting statistic,” because that’s “I think it is evidence of the broader trend of more LGBT a historic low for a Democratic candidate. people being willing to identify as such in surveys,” Gates said. “Some people have observed that Biden didn’t specifically call “But I think it does also still indicate that it could be that LGBT out LGBT issues in many of the debates this year,” Gates said. “I people are actually a bit more likely to be voters than the don’t know if people feel like their outreach to LGBT voters was general population because that number, 7 percent is still a bit more muted this year than other candidates, Democrats have higher than most other population surveys.” done in the past. It’s hard to tell, but that 61 percent is quite a Gates lamented additional demographic information wasn’t bit lower than other Democrats have gotten.” included in the exit polls. If that showed the exit poll skewed During the election, the Republican National Committee more toward younger voters, which are more likely to identify hired Grenell as its face of LGBTQ outreach in the aftermath as LGBTQ, Gates said that would explain why LGBTQ voters of serving in the Trump administration as acting director of appeared as a greater portion of the electorate. national intelligence. But are the findings accurate? Just ask John Kerry, who based Last week, however, Grenell was in another role in Nevada on exit polls in 2004 was supposed to win in a blowout against on behalf of the Trump campaign, claiming voter fraud based then-President George W. Bush before losing badly, to find out on scant evidence. Grenell didn’t respond to the Washington about the lack of quality of the data. Blade’s request to comment for this article, nor did the Trump Brian Schaffner, a political scientist at Tufts University, said campaign. the LGBTQ vote “is obviously difficult to capture for most In addition to finding an unusual split among LGBTQ voters surveys because it’s such a small share of the adult population, in terms of candidate choice, the exit poll finding seven percent but some of these large election surveys have a sufficiently of the electorate identified as LGBTQ is noteworthy because it large sample size that allow for a reasonable sample of this was a record. In 2016, when LGBTQ voters were considered to group.” have come out in full force, they represented five percent. “That said, the exit poll only has a sample size of 15,590 Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, this year,” Schaffner said. “That means the sample size for the capitalized on the seven percent of voters identifying as LGBTQ LGBTQ group is probably somewhere in the 1,000 range. So in a statement upon the release of the exit polls as evidence of there is definitely a margin of error around those estimates record turnout. that we need to keep in mind.” “Over the last three elections, the share of LGBTQ voters



Activists around the world celebrate Biden-Harris victory ‘Massive relief when Trump lost the election’ By MICHAEL K. LAVERS | mlavers@washblade.com

Activists around the world are celebrating the election of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern in a statement said “the outcome of this election has far-reaching implications for LGBTIQ people globally.” ILGA World Executive Director André du Plessis was with his husband in Richmond, Va., on Nov. 7 when the Associated Press and television networks declared Biden and Harris had won the election. Du Plessis on Monday told the Blade that LGBTQ people around the world over the last four years “have been subject to increased hate that has been unleashed in copycat imitation of the poor presidential leadership in the United States” and “have experienced first-hand what happens when society is encouraged to bully, shame, mock, harm and belittle others who are different.” “The citizens of the United States have this week voted—albeit closely—to reject this kind of leadership,” said du Plessis. “The planet is crying out for more compassionate, mature, visionary, unifying and empathetic leaders, and we now look to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to be an example.” Hila Peer, chair of the Aguda, the Israeli National LGBT Task Force, also celebrated the election of Biden and Harris. “We are celebrating with the U.S. LGBTQ+ community for one that seems to place human rights and in that LGBTQ+ rights as one of great importance,” Peer told the Blade from Tel Aviv. “I hope the winds of positive change will be obvious soon across the U.S. and from there will send ripples of progressives (sic) and true equality to the world-at-large and Israel.” Tiziana Fisichella, coordinator of Milan Pride in Italy, agreed. “We are so happy for America,” proclaimed Fisichella on Tuesday in a WhatsApp message to the Blade. “New President-elect Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will be tasked with restoring social justice and democracy to the U.S.” Leandro Rodríguez, an activist in Cuba who is a vocal critic of his country’s government, on Monday told the Blade that Biden’s public support of LGBTQ rights is a sign of “hope.” Danilo Manzano, director of Diálogo Diverso, a group that is based in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, said the election results mean the U.S. will become a “more just, less discriminatory and much more equal country.” The promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad was a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy during President Obama’s second term. Biden in 2016 described LGBTQ rights as the “civil rights issue of our time” when he spoke at a U.N. LGBTI Core Group event that took place on the sidelines of that year’s U.N. General Assembly. Caleb Orozco, an activist in Belize who successfully challenged his country’s colonialera sodomy law, on Sunday recalled meeting Biden at the event. “I got an unplanned, but welcomed hug as I was aware of his pain as a father who lost his son to cancer,” Orozco told the Blade in an email. “During the meeting he waved his pencil at me and I was left shocked because I did not realize he was speaking to me,” he further recalled. “A man with so much loss in his life can become remarkable in leadership, shaped by personal pain.” The White House in 2019 launched an initiative that encourages countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. Trump named five openly gay ambassadors, but activists with whom the Blade has spoken after the election sharply criticized the outgoing administration over myriad other issues that include the repeal of legal protections for transgender Americans and its hardline immigration policy. The U.S. in 2018 withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, on Monday during a telephone interview from his native Costa Rica noted to the Blade that the council gives him his mandate. Madrigal-Borloz also said he was “glad to congratulate all of you on the election of the 46th president and I very much look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration in the furtherance of U.S. support in relation to global furtherance of LGBT issues.” “There’s a reason why explicit and unambiguous political statements are important and that is because they do have an impact all across the world,” he said when the Blade asked him about the impact the Biden-Harris administration will have on countries with anti-LGBTQ human rights records. “While that is true of any political leadership, it is especially true of the United States given that it is, of course, a global power around the world.”

Vice President-elect KAMALA HARRIS’s mother was born in India, prompting celebrations there and elsewhere.

African Women for Sexual Health and Gender Justice (AWOSHe) Managing Director Hazel Mokgathi, who is based in Botswana, on Monday told the Blade the Biden-Harris administration has pledged to lift the so-called global gag rule, which prevents the U.S. from funding international organizations that provide abortions. Mokgathi also noted Biden in his victory speech specifically mentioned trans people. Glenroy Murray, director of strategy and impact for J-FLAG, an LGBTQ advocacy group in Jamaica, on Monday said he “was pleasantly shocked that the Biden-Harris campaign won out.” “The Jamaican in me is claiming this victory as a victory for us in the small way,” added Murray. “The USA has positioned themselves as a global leader for LGBT rights and in the last four years that status fell into doubt, particularly from the eyes of an LGBTQ person of color from the Global South.” “That was very moving for me as a transgender leader, because that on its own has ripple effects to the rest of the world leaders—and including my very own president of Botswana—to protect and acknowledge underserved communities in their own countries,” she said. Harris’s father, Donald Harris, was born in Jamaica. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was born in India. Harris is the first woman, first Black person and first American of South Asian descent elected vice president. Meera Parida is a member of India’s National Council for Transgender Persons. She is also the state secretary for the Biju Janata Dal, a socialist party that governs India’s Odisha state. “Being an Indian, I feel proud myself to see a lady of Indian origin being elected,” Parida told the Blade. Dédé Oetomo, founder of Gaya Nusantara, an Indonesian LGBTQ rights group, on Tuesday also noted Harris’ background when he discussed the election results. “The reaction among Indonesian LGBTQ folks is one of hope and excitement, given Mr. Biden’s track record in advocating for LGBTQ human rights when he was vice president,” Oetomo told the Blade from the Indonesian city of Surabaya. “There has also been excitement about a half Asian vice president-elect.” Elias Jahshan is the former editor of the Star Observer, an LGBTQ newspaper in Australia. Jahshan is also a gay man of Arab descent who now lives in London. Jahshan on Monday told the Blade he “felt massive relief when Trump lost the election.” “He is quite possibly the worst kind of leader, by Western democratic standards, for LGBTQ people—especially for the trans community and queer people of color,” he said. “He is absolutely toxic in so many ways. Good riddance that he won’t be around for another term.” Jahshan described Biden as “a step in the right direction,” especially on LGBTQ rights, but he added his position is “hardly revolutionary.” Jahshan told the Blade that he is “not holding my breath in Biden doing anything to bring about genuine equality and freedoms for Palestinians who lives in the West Bank or Gaza.” “Time after time we’ve seen both Democrat and Republican leaders use their imperialist powers to reward countries that pander to their exceptionalism, regardless whether they’re dictatorships or not,” he said. “Israel is an example of this—as are Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Palestinians are always thrown under the bus, and this includes LGBTQ Palestinians.” LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 13, 2020 • 13

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. Broadly, Thuận’s research work explores topics such as race, racism, and race relations in U.S. society, and the development of small American cities.

Anti-LGBTQ candidate wins race in Montclair Lopez to join City Council By THUẬN NGUYỄN

Pro-LGBTQ candidates made a rainbow wave toward public office across the U.S., with some making historic wins. Meanwhile, a different story unfolded in a small California city: Ben Lopez, a staunch anti-LGBTQ figure, has secured a seat on the Montclair City Council. Starting as early as 2003 to as recently as 2015, Lopez served on the Anaheim chapter of Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), a designated anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). During those 12 years, he served as its director, lobbyist, and spokesperson and publicly advocated against and attacked same-sex marriage, LGBTQ history curriculums, and the legal recognition and protections of transgender people. He also made highly exclusionary and rejectionist anti-LGBTQ remarks. Although Lopez eventually left TVC, there is little detail regarding why he left. However, it is important to note that SPLC labeled TVC as an anti-LGBTQ hate group in 2008, while Lopez was still an active member. Lopez has remained steadily silent about these matters even as his record of anti-LGBTQ views resurfaced and the details of his association with TVC reemerged. When my initial op-ed about Lopez’s anti-LGBTQ views was published, Lopez reached out to me and asked why I wrote it without soliciting him for comment. I responded to him with a letter and expressed that he already had years of opportunity to clarify his positions, and whether his positions have changed, but he never did clarify. He even had an opportunity to clarify his LGBTQ views during the Montclair 2020 City Council Candidate Forum when the moderator posed a question regarding Lopez’s conservative views: “If elected, would you advocate that the city council take stances on issues that are in agreement with the conservative positions of the San Bernardino Republican County Central Committee such as religious freedoms, abortion, immigration, LGBTQ rights, et cetera?” However, Lopez failed to address any specific points, such as LGBTQ rights, directly. Instead, he deflected the question by stating that his political leaning is irrelevant to public office and vaguely referenced his non-partisan track record. Yet, his anti-LGBTQ advocacy is anything but nonpartisan. Some of Lopez’s defenders also questioned the op-ed’s moral integrity because it was published one week before the election. They accused me of playing dirty

politics to “smear” a candidate. I reject their accusations. I learned about Lopez’s antiLGBTQ views two weeks before the election. It took about a week to write, revise, and publish the article. If I had learned about the candidate’s views sooner, I would have written about it sooner, especially considering that many residents had already cast their votes. Nevertheless, no matter when the piece was published— whether it was a year, a month, a week, or even the day before the 2020 election—residents have the right to know about Lopez’s anti-LGBTQ views and association with an anti-LGBTQ hate group. “Smearing” also suggests that the cited information that I provided was fabricated. It was not. Lopez expressed his anti-LGBTQ views publicly and on the record on numerous occasions. There is nothing “smearing” about holding a candidate running for public office accountable for harmful views that they publicly expressed about LGBTQ residents. Some accused my op-ed of playing dirty politics. It did not. Lopez is receiving the scrutiny because no other candidates have expressed anti-LGBTQ views as publicly as he has. The only thing “dirty” is how Lopez spent over a decade actively advocating harmful political and social views against LGBTQ folks, many of whom are Montclair residents. Lopez’s anti-LGBTQ views and past association with TVC are not trivial matters. His words and actions are highly concerning because he will be in a position to help shape local policies and initiatives that affect all community members, including Montclair LGBTQ residents. Now that Lopez is about to serve on the Montclair City Council, he owes the Montclair community a clear explanation regarding his views on LGBTQ folks and related issues. We need to know how he will serve as a Council member and that Montclair LGBTQ residents and allies will be safe, protected, and supported under his service. Lopez also owes the public an apology for his decade-long harmful anti-LGBTQ advocacy. Residents will not be kept in the dark, and voices will not be silent for demanding clarity, transparency, and accountability. The threads that keep the fabric of our democracy intact, our liberty strong, and our freedom secure depend on our voices to hold our public officials accountable to high standards.


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is the executive director of Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization. Zbur is a candidate for Los Angeles City Attorney in 2022.

A pro-equality agenda for Biden’s first 100 days Rolling back Trump’s executive orders is just the start By RICK ZBUR

Unwinding the devastating and compounding impacts of the Trump-Pence administration and, as the president-elect would say, “building back better” will take far longer than 100 days, but I’m confident that the Biden-Harris administration will have accomplished a great deal before spring wildflowers carpet California’s rolling hills. Given both President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris’s longstanding commitments to LGBTQ+ equality, our community has a lot to look forward to. First on their agenda will be regaining control of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately devastated the LGBTQ+ community and claimed over a quarter of a million American lives, and the corresponding economic crisis. But the next administration will need to walk and chew gum at the same time — something the president-elect and vice-president elect have repeatedly highlighted during the campaign. And we expect the new administration to waste no time in jump-starting the process of rolling back dozens of anti-LGBTQ+ executive orders and regulations enacted by the Trump-Pence Administration across the federal government. From rescinding the transgender military ban to reinstating guidance to protect LGBTQ+ students in our schools to safeguarding healthcare nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ patients and fully restoring the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, we expect the new Administration to undo the current one’s hateful attacks against LGBTQ+ people and vulnerable communities to which we belong — communities of color, immigrants and mixed-status families, women and religious minorities, people with disabilities and those living with HIV. Low-income people who rely on federally subsidized assistance programs, such as Title X-funded health clinics, public housing and shelters, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (sometimes referred to as “food stamps”) were particularly hurt by the Trump-Pence Administration’s policies — a list of which the Biden-Harris transition team is currently assembling for urgent action. All of these need to be reversed as soon as possible. But undoing the damage done by President Trump and his allies over the last four years will be just the first component of the first 100 days of a Biden-Harris Administration. On the campaign trail, the president-elect outlined the boldest, most comprehensive plan to advance LGBTQ+ equality of any major party nominee in history. And while some of the legislative priorities may be put out of reach if Democrats fail to regain control of the U.S. Senate in two Georgia runoff elections on January 5, don’t expect the new administration

to walk away from any policy goals. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Elizabeth Warren have already floated a proposal to cancel federal student loan debt through executive action. If the self-proclaimed “Grim Reaper” of the Senate Mitch McConnell is still setting the chamber’s agenda on January 20, expect the Biden-Harris Administration to pursue equally creative strategies to expand access to HIV prevention medications, support and protect LGBTQ+ youth and protect LGBTQ+ Dreamers without Congressional action. Regardless of which party controls the U.S. Senate, we know that the incoming administration will champion the Equality Act, which would amend existing federal civil rights laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. President-elect Biden repeatedly identified the bill as a top legislative priority We know that a majority of members in both chambers of Congress support the bill. But a Majority Leader Schumer would be far more helpful getting the bill to the president’s desk than McConnell, who has to date refused to allow a vote on it. In addition to tackling COVID-19 and investing in a bold economic recovery, the BidenHarris transition team has already highlighted racial equity and climate change as two priority policy areas for the first 100 days. Dismantling systemic racism and solving our impending climate crisis are both essential steps toward achieving full, lived equality for all LGBTQ+ people. And while we recognize that neither goal will be fully realized in a single presidential term — let alone 100 days — we share the president-elect and vice president-elect’s commitment to taking bold, concrete actions to advance racial equity and address our climate emergency. Before Biden and Harris are sworn in, we expect them to begin assembling a cabinet that looks far more like the United States than the current president’s team of mostly straight white men. A Biden-Harris Administration will almost certainly include highly qualified and accomplished LGBTQ+ people at all levels of the federal government, including the first openly LGBTQ+ Senate-confirmed cabinet member and the first openly LGBTQ+ women, LGBTQ+ people of color and transgender people to serve as U.S. ambassadors. James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” After four dark years under President Trump, there is no shortage of work ahead for the incoming administration. But we know they’re up for the task. LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 13, 2020 • 15


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

Some scary trends, lessons in 2020 results

Biden’s historic win offset by demographic shifts, GOP Senate By KEVIN NAFF

The Champagne flowed last weekend after the AP and other media outlets declared Joe Biden and Kamala Harris winners of the 2020 race. The world celebrated with joyous marches and even fireworks in some cities in scenes that recalled the Rebel Alliance destroying the Death Star in “Star Wars.” But the euphoria of that moment was quickly tempered by the realization that the “blue tsunami” many pollsters had predicted failed to materialize, as Susan Collins, Mitch McConnell, and the closeted Lindsey Graham all won reelection fairly handily over well-funded and hyped Democratic opponents. The pundits quickly engaged in a bit of revisionist history, falsely claiming they were right all along about the 2020 election being close. In fact, the final polls of 2020 showed Biden winning Wisconsin by 12 points and Michigan by seven. It’s true that Biden won more votes than any presidential candidate in history, but it’s also true that Trump won the second largest share, and that’s after four years of outrageously incompetent and racist behavior and amid a pandemic that’s killed nearly 250,000 Americans. Although the final Senate tally remains to be determined by two runoff races in Georgia, it’s unlikely both Democratic challengers there will prevail in January and result in a 50-50 Senate tie to be broken by Senate President Harris. Thus, we’re likely back to divided government with the odious McConnell running the Senate and


already threatening to continue his practice of blocking legislation and appointees he doesn’t like, which will undoubtedly include the Equality Act, Biden’s No. 1 legislative priority. Meanwhile, in even more ominous news for Democrats, their House majority shrank as Republicans picked up an unexpected five seats. Almost no one outside of President Trump predicted the GOP would pick up House seats this year. That stunning result led to warnings from centrist Democrats that the party needs to distance itself from allegations of “socialism” and even Rep. Jim Clyburn has since said that calls to “defund the police” ended up costing Democrats some House seats. And in yet another surprise development, demographic information gleaned from exit polls revealed that Trump won 28 percent of the LGBTQ vote, double the 14 percent he won in 2016 and the highest percentage for a Republican presidential candidate since George W. Bush in 2000. Biden’s 61 percent of the LGBTQ vote is the worst performance of any Democratic nominee since that demographic was first recorded in 1992, as the Blade reported this week. There were warning signs that Biden and Harris would underperform among LGBTQ voters, who comprised an unexpectedly high 7 percent of the electorate, according to the exit polls. Neither candidate addressed LGBTQ issues during the presidential and vice presidential debates, a missed opportunity especially for Harris who faced notorious homophobe Mike Pence but failed to draw a contrast with him over queer issues. Biden’s campaign also refused multiple requests for interviews with the Blade, a break in tradition as the Blade has a record of interviewing presidential hopefuls, including John McCain in 2008, the first time a GOP presidential nominee granted an interview to the LGBTQ press. Taking LGBTQ voters for granted was a sloppy mistake and Trump capitalized on it as his campaign launched an LGBTQ outreach effort headed by prominent surrogates like Ric Grenell and Tiffany Trump and included marches in eight cities. Many laughed off those efforts, but they helped Trump double his support among LGBTQ voters. Make no mistake that ridding Washington of Trump and his Cabinet hell bent on destroying the federal government marks a huge win and sigh of relief for thinking people everywhere. But the results were not the resounding Trump rebuke the country needed. Instead, we’re left to cope with the fact that more than 70 million Americans — and 28 percent of LGBTQ voters — wanted four more years of this madness. A McConnell-led Senate will block our legislative priorities and progressive appointments. And with a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court that looks poised to rule against same-sex couples in a discrimination case next year, the road ahead appears rocky at best, and riddled with more setbacks at worst.





Street view artist’s rendering of future WeHo AIDS Monument.

WeHo to honor those lost to HIV/AIDS City backing AIDS monument to be built in 2021 By NOAH CHRISTIANSEN

While impossible to truly reconcile the negative effect that AIDS had and continues to have in the LGBTQ+ community, it is worth remembering and celebrating those whose lives were lost to the deadly virus. This is why the City of West Hollywood is backing an AIDS monument to be built across the street from the Pacific Design Center in 2021. This planned monument will be located in the West Hollywood park, notably because WeHo was the epicenter in the Southland during the AIDS crisis. During the early days of the crisis, WeHo was a city transitioning from an unincorporated 1.9 square mile section of Los Angeles County into an officially incorporated independent City. On its website, it proudly proclaims “The first City Council in 1984 established West Hollywood as the first City in the nation to have a majority openly gay governing body.” The City had long been a magnet for LGBTQ people. The counterculture, with hippies, musicians, and artists flooded its streets in the 1960s and ‘70s. WeHo was also a hub for nightlife and entertainment in the Los Angeles metropolitan area long before its incorporation. Famed ‘Sunset Strip’ clubs such as The Troubadour, The Whisky a Go Go, and The Roxy drew sizable crowds as now musical legends such as Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Elton John played. The Strip continued to be a cultural center for punk rock and New Wave during the late 1970s, and evolved into the epicenter of the colorful glam metal and heavy metal scenes during the 1980s. Groups including Van Halen, Motley Crue and Guns N Roses redefined the standard for excess in the city and at the same time came the rise of the LGBTQ clubs, bars, and restaurants. It was these factors for its LGBTQ population that made many of its residents vulnerable to the AIDS pandemic. The West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce noted that the dispossessed and underserved minorities, most notably gay, lesbian and genderqueer-identifying people, flocked to WeHo to escape the persecution they faced at the hands of the Los Angeles police. During that same time, an influx of Russian Jewish émigrés who had fled the Soviet Union began to settle in and around WeHo. 18 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 13, 2020

In 1984, a coalition of gay men, Russian Jews and the elderly successfully held a vote to officially incorporate the area as the City of West Hollywood, electing a city council with an openly gay majority. Soon the city developed a reputation nationally as well as California-wide as a leader in progressive legislation, social change, and LGBTQ culture John Gile, a major fundraiser on the WeHo AIDS Monument Project spoke with the LA Blade about his thoughts on the monument and what it means to him. “Never in a million years did we think we would be building this monument in the midst of a pandemic. It’s exciting – it’s been a long time coming. So many mixed emotions now with the COVID pandemic,” he said. When asked about the purpose and goals of the monument, Gile said, “Our hope is that we will educate the millions of young people that will visit the monument.” There is a website dedicated to the new AIDS monument that will be built. Both the County of Los Angeles and the city endorse and support the project. In terms of its funding, Gile told the Blade that “over 1,000 people have contributed to the monument.” Notable figures and organizations including comedian Kathy Griffin and the Elton John AIDS Foundation have contributed. Lisa Belsanti, communications manager for the city of West Hollywood, talked about the specific goals in the creation of the monument. “[The goal is] to crystallize and memorialize the shared pain and struggle through the arc of this pandemic and to bring more awareness to the lives lost and progress gained.” People tend to forget that the fight against AIDS is more of a collective one rather than an individual one Belsanti noted. “Without the shared mission and vision to confront the public health emergency that had no governmental response — I don’t think West Hollywood would have been successful.” Commemorating and remembering people who were lost to AIDS is important and something that society should do because history tends to repeat itself if people aren’t paying attention, both Gile and Belsanti stressed.


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Construction fence at the site of the WeHo AIDS Monument due to be completed in 2021.


Shining a light on some social inequalities Although COVID-19 is unique, there are prevalent structural inequities with the current pandemic. “The pandemic is shining a light on some social inequalities. Issues around racism and the disproportionate number of people of color testing at higher rates and dying at higher rates,” Belsanti said. This connection Belsanti stressed should not be overlooked because it only exposes the social inequities that currently exist – just like how the AIDS epidemic exposed blatant homophobic policies and practices across the United States. So, through the creation of this monument, are people truly able to examine these past injustices in a way to break down and dismantle structural inequities that currently exist? People can donate directly through the website dedicated to the AIDS monument to help fund the AIDS monument as well as read stories given by individuals whose family members and friends were lost to AIDS. “You get involved generally by making sure it never happens again and that is to register and vote, number one,” Belsanti noted. “Your vote is your voice. And to experience some of these interactive stories and really educate oneself on our shared history.” The monument is a tangible reminder of the battle cry of the AIDS activists – Fight AIDS, Not Gays, Silence = Death.


(Blade photo by Noah Christiansen)


Hallmark, Lifetime, others embrace LGBTQ holiday romance Cheesy seasonal fare becomes more inclusive at last By JOHN PAUL KING

As we move firmly into November, there’s no escaping the fact that holiday season 2020 is upon us – and with the election result and news of a vaccine breakthrough, it feels like we might feel OK about celebrating this year, after all. Making that easier for us all, of course, is the annual influx of holiday viewing fare that has already begun showing up on our screens, right on cue, to help us get in the mood. For LGBTQ+ audiences, that has traditionally meant having to settle for getting our fix of seasonal spirit vicariously through stories about straight people – but giving us even more reason to celebrate, this time around, is a plethora of inclusive options in which, at long last, we get to see our queer romantic holiday fantasies played out without having to filter them through a heteronormative lens. Probably the most significant of these new entries – from the standpoint of cultural politics, at least – is “The Christmas House,” which comes amid the heavy slate of holiday-themed romantic movies from the Hallmark Channel, and represents a seismic shift at the formerly conservative network by placing a loving same-sex couple at the center of its warm and fuzzy storyline. Starring out gay actor Jonathan Bennett (best known as high school heartthrob Aaron Samuels in 2004’s “Mean Girls”), it focuses on a gay couple trying to adopt their first child, and co-stars Robert Buckley, Ana Ayora, Treat Williams and Sharon Lawrence. To recognize why “The Christmas House” (which premieres Nov. 22) is as meaningful as it is, it’s necessary to look back at Christmas 2019. A lot has happened since then, but if you prod your memory, you’ll likely recall the debacle that took place when Hallmark caved to pressure from right-wing homophobic activists (particularly the misleadingly named “One Million Moms,” a front for known hate group the American Family Association) and pulled several ads for the wedding planning website Zola over the inclusion of a lesbian couple. The backlash from the LGBTQ+ community and its advocates was swift and profound, and a week later the ads were reinstated, with Hallmark vowing to work with GLAAD on a plan to move forward with more inclusive programming. It was an unequivocal victory in the “culture wars,” made even more sweet by the context of a flagrantly anti-LGBTQ political administration and the false perception of legitimacy bestowed upon homophobic social attitudes that it enabled. For proof that the climate had changed – even before last week’s election – one only has to look at the words of Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming for Hallmark, whose statement when “The Christmas House” was announced late last month as part of the network’s seasonal lineup opened by saying, “Our holiday table is bigger and more welcoming than ever.” It might have the ring of carefully manufactured corporate-speak, but that sentence still represents the culmination of a decades-long struggle – and while not every member of the LGBTQ+ crowd may be excited about being represented in the kind of feel-good fare that straight couples have been enjoying together since forever, we can all still look at the fact that it’s finally happening as an important milestone worthy of celebration – though it’s worth noting that One Million Moms has another homophobic petition circulating in protest of this one, too. Hallmark isn’t the only cable titan unveiling its first same-sex Christmas romance this year; the Lifetime Channel, similarly known for being a family-friendly seasonal juggernaut, is dropping “The Christmas Set-Up,” which stars two actors (Ben Lewis and Blake Lee) who are not only openly gay, but are an actual couple in real life. While the network last year aired “Twinkle All the Way,” which featured a same-sex kiss between two supporting characters, this time they are putting the gay love story front and center. This one follows Hugo, a New York lawyer (Lewis), whose matchmaking mom (played by Fran Drescher) decides to set him up with Patrick (Lee), his old high school friend – and secret crush. According to the synopsis, things go smoothly between the two men at first, but they take a dramatic turn when (in true made-for-TV romance fashion) Hugo gets a promotion that comes with a relocation to London, forcing him to choose between his career and the man of his dreams. It also stars Ellen Wong (“G.L.O.W”) as Hugo’s best friend. “The Christmas Set-Up” represents Lifetime’s efforts to bolster its own reputation for diversity and inclusion, in a Christmas lineup that also features the network’s first movie centered on an Asian-American family, “A Sugar & Spice Holiday.” In a statement

KRISTEN STEWART and MACKENZIE DAVIS star in ‘Happiest Season.’ (Photo courtesy of Hulu)

made in September, when Lifetime’s holiday slate was announced, head of programming Amy Winter said, “The world we create on camera should reflect the world we live in.” She went on to add, “Our hope with these inclusive films and others is that people will see themselves while enjoying universally relatable holiday romances.” “The Christmas Set-Up” won’t drop until Dec. 12, but for fans of gay romance, it should be well worth the wait. It’s laudable that these once-resistant cable networks have opened up their programming to include more diverse representation, of course; but while we have been waiting for them to get on board, we should not forget that streaming giants like Netflix and Hulu have already been leading the charge for quite some time. Both of them continue that tradition this season with LGBTQ-centric holiday offerings of their own. While Netflix doesn’t have a specifically LGBTQ-centered title coming for the holiday season, it is bringing us “Dash & Lily,” based on the popular YA romance book series by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, which includes queer characters – not to mention the non-holiday-themed Ryan Murphy adaptation of the Broadway musical, “The Prom.” Hulu, however, is putting LGBTQ love in the spotlight with “Happiest Season,” a romantic comedy from director Clea Duvall, who also co-wrote with Mary Holland. Featuring two queer icons (Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis) in the leads, and yet another (Dan Levy) in prominent support, Duvall’s film revolves around girlfriends Abby (Stewart) and Harper (Davis), and Abby’s plan to propose at the annual Christmas dinner held at Harper’s family (Davis) home. When Abby arrives for the big night, she discovers that not only is Harper’s family ignorant of their relationship, they don’t even know that Harper is gay, prompting her to question how well she knows the person she’s planning on spending the rest of her life with. That synopsis might give the impression that “Happiest Season” is more a soul-searching downer than you might want from holiday-themed romance, but official descriptions assure us that this latest lesbian-themed Hulu Original is “a holiday romantic comedy that hilariously captures the range of emotions tied to wanting your family’s acceptance, being true to yourself, and trying not to ruin Christmas.” And if you are enthusiastic to see the movie – which premieres Nov. 25 – you are in good company. Its star, Stewart, said in a statement: “I think I’ve wished to see a gay Christmas rom-com my whole life.” LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 13, 2020 • 21


Perez Hilton seeks forgiveness

New biography chronicles shift from gossip to fatherhood By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

You’re allowed to change your mind. You grow, get a few experiences under your belt, and things might look a bit different. You can have a change of heart then, and pivot your life in a different direction. You can take do-overs and take-backs, but carefully. And as in the new book “TMI” by Perez Hilton (with Leif Eriksson and Martin Svensson), you can ask for forgiveness, too. If you knew Mario Armando Lavandiera Jr. when he was a child, you’d be surprised at the man he is today. He says he had a good childhood but he was a “different” kid then, and was often bullied: among other indignities, his classmates called him “the Fat Kid” because he loved to eat. That last part hasn’t changed. What has is that Lavandiera is now thinner, famous, and known by a nicer name: Perez Hilton. And no, if you’re wondering, Paris Hilton “never bothered” to sue him over the lookalike name, “though she definitely could have.” This transformation didn’t happen overnight. By the time he moved to New York to attend college, Hilton knew for sure that he was gay; while there, he gained friends, a pile of debt, and a mitt full of credit cards. Down but not out, he started a series of jobs and launched a series of websites that both spanned time in New York and L.A., and that got him into trouble in one way or another. Then a photogra-friend leaked a few celeb pictures his way, Perez posted them on his website, and he was famous, literally overnight. And that was good – for a while. Hilton partied near-constantly, busted into celebrity events, became “wifey” with Gaga, clubbed with Jessica Simpson, and hung with Paris Hilton. And then he made a video for a national cause that caused him to see the hurt he’d left. Could it be that the infamous author and gossip blogger Perez Hilton has softened? Yes, mostly. There’s a whole lot less venom inside “TMI” than you might expect from Hilton, but fans won’t be entirely bereft. There’s still a little spark of gossip here, names dropped, and stories propped up and left on the roadside for embarrassment or for examination. Those are accompanied in this memoir by a glint-in-his-eye tone, and the sneakiest of snark hidden here and there, but that’s often tendered by tenderness. The surprise – or the shock, depending on your level of fandom – is that Hilton apologizes to several people he feels he hurt; and he expresses a degree of regret for having lost good, close friends because he reported gossip about them despite the friendship. It’s contrition that feels like it came from a battered schoolyard bully, only genuine. Hilton is a father now and he writes with unabashed love for his kids, from a refreshing, seemingly happier place in his life. “TMI” still includes plenty of Hiltonized Too Much Information, some snickers, and a hint of tattle-tale, but if you’ve never been much of a fan, here’s a chance to change your mind.

‘TMI: My Life in Scandal’ By Perez Hilton

c.2020, Chicago Review Press $26.99/229 pages 22 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 13, 2020

JOIN US FOR A DIGITAL SERIES ON WHERE WE GO FROM HERE NOVEMBER 19 Meet the LGBTQ Winners NOVEMBER 26 The next administration NOVEMBER 3 LGBTQ Non-Profits and their next fights DECEMBER 10 The Importance of LGBTQ Media