Fighting for trans equality After four years of Trump’s attacks, a reset P AGES 11-12
NOVEMBER 20, 2020 • VOLUME 04 • ISSUE 47 • AMERICA’S LGBTQ NEWS SOURCE • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Another ﬁrst for WeHo politics Sepi Shyne, a WeHo Business License Commissioner, and LGBTQ and Iranian-American advocate is making history. The 43-year-old attorney is among the city’s elected oﬃcials this past Nov. 3, not only being a queer woman, but the ﬁrst queer woman of color to be elected. The Los Angeles County Register-Recorder/Country Clerk’s oﬃce will certify the election results later this month. On her Facebook page Shyne thanked supporters posting, ““I am incredibly proud of the success of our people-powered campaign. We laid out a broad and progressive vision that protects renters, rejects special interests, and reimagines how we invest in our quality of life in West Hollywood,” she said. The newly elected city council-member also thanked her wife for her support. “I am grateful to everyone who placed their trust in me, and I look forward to earning the trust of those who didn’t vote for me. Together, we will move our city forward and ensure that West Hollywood remains the gem it has always been,” she added. Born in Iran in 1977, a year before the Iran-Iraq War started, her father worked for the government-run oil company but supported pro-Western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, as did Shyne’s feminist mother. Her father “was thrown in jail for a while because he spoke up against the mullahs. After that, we ﬂed the country for our safety,” Shyne says. “My mom is such a feminist. In fact, she’s on Facebook with 5,000 friends, constantly posting in Farsi against the Islamic regime and giving inspiration
(Courtesy of PHOTO20 Art Auction & the AIDS Monument Foundation)
to the women in Iran who are still really treated horribly under this regime.” After moving to the U.S. in 1982, Shyne experienced “regular bullying,” because she looked diﬀerent from other kids at school. But the hostage crisis in Iran raised the bullying to a more intense level. “They started saying I’m a camel and all this race-related bullying,” she says. “My family and friends were very scared. Iranian college kids were threatened and had hate crimes committed against them.” Speaking with the Los Angeles Blade’s former News Editor Karen Ocamb last January, Shyne expressed concern about the dramatic increase in hate crimes in LA County. “I’m deﬁnitely concerned about hate crimes because the MAGA group of Trump supporters thrive on his words and his words are very dangerous. And Trump has made Middle Easterners an ‘enemy’ in the media because of all the wars we’ve been in,” Shyne says. “And now we’re at war again, pretty much.” Shyne is married to actress/writer Ashlei Shyne with whom she shares a dog named Chloe and three cats, Imon and Ameera that are Siamese twins, and Bastet. Ashlei Shyne has “a lot of concerns” primarily related to Sepi Shyne’s political visibility after she received numerous anti-Muslim comments. “This is deﬁnitely a concern,” Shyne says. “But, for me, I think it’s more important to be courageous and stand up because I’m not the Iranian or the Middle Easterner that
SEPI and ASHLEI SHYNE
(Photo courtesy Shyne)
is what everybody thinks, right? I’m an out, liberal, lesbian, born-Muslim Iranian who is very spiritual.” STAFF REPORTS
PHOTO20 Art Auction is oﬃcially open for bidding The Foundation for the AIDS Monument, is pleased to announce that the PHOTO20 Art Auction is oﬃcially open for bidding now through Nov. 24. All proceeds will enable the Foundation to fund the Digital Monument, which extends ‘Stories’; The AIDS Monument beyond West Hollywood Park across the internet to a global audience. The goal is to have a better informed and educated public about the AIDS pandemic. The monument itself will have an oﬃcial groundbreaking in January. More than 30 works of art and photography have been donated by artists, galleries, and collectors including Diane Arbus, John Baldessari, Sylvie Blum, Michael Childers, Greg Gorman, Dennis Hopper, Julian Lennon, Leonard Nimoy, Neal Preston, Herb Ritts, Ed Ruscha, Norman Seeﬀ, Julius Shulman, Nick Ut, Firooz Zahedi and more. The Foundation has seen tremendous support from the artistic and photography community. More than $600,000 has been raised through annual photo events hosted at Milk Studios Hollywood – and many of the
artists have provided photographs with images reminiscent of the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS. The Herb Ritts Foundation has provided a leadership grant to the foundation. The Ritts Family had a design store on Santa Monica Boulevard for many years, and Herb’s iconic fashion photography was noted and collected around the world. Major support has also been provided by Cedars Sinai Medical Center Foundation and Visit West Hollywood. “We are so grateful to all of the photographers and galleries that have participated this year. It’s a remarkable collection –diverse and beautiful – and every purchase will help us with the important work memorializing and telling the stories about the AIDS pandemic,” said Paris Chong, Director of Leica Gallery Los Angeles and event Co Chair. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s auction is completely virtual. All photographs are available for viewing by visiting: Artsy.net/photo20beneﬁt. Information and naming opportunities for the monument can be obtained by calling John Gile at 323-691-4453. The full monument site can be seen at www.aidsmonument.org. STAFF REPORTS
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 20, 2020 • 03
Los Angeles hosts Trans Awareness Month Council member Mitch O’Farrell and Mayor Eric Garcetti are partnering with the city’s Transgender Advisory Council, the Department of Civil and Human Rights, and the Los Angeles Police Department to host a virtual event in celebration of Transgender Awareness Month and observe Transgender Day of Remembrance. The event was slated to be held live on Facebook, on Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 11 a.m. During the event, Council member O’Farrell was to recognize the important work being done through St. John’s Well Child and Family Center and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to improve the health of Transgender individuals across the city. Transgender Awareness Month takes place annually each November, and is held to raise awareness of the transgender community through education and advocacy. “To say that 2020 has been a challenging year would be a vast understatement, however out of the many unprecedented challenges we face there is untold opportunity,” said Councilmember O’Farrell. “Tens of thousands of people rallied for racial and social justice around the ‘All Black Lives Matter’ installation, which stands as a testament to the plight of Transgender people of color and serves as a constant reminder that we are obligated to dismantle the structural inequities faced by all historically marginalized communities. They need the support and resources that organizations like St John’s and Children’s Hospital provide and I am happy to help honor them today,” he added. During the event, a moment of silence will follow the reading of the names of the 34 Transgender and gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed in 2020. According to
the Human Rights Campaign, the majority of the victims were Black and LatinxTransgender women. Oftentimes these cases go unreported or misreported. “Every day, I engage with Transgender men and women who aren’t accepted by their families for who they are,” said Karina Samala, Chair of the City’s Transgender Advisory Council. “This event serves as a reminder that our lives matter, and we are making a diﬀerence in our communities in Los Angeles. Thank you Councilmember O’Farrell and all our City partners for being allies, and elevating the conversation about trans rights.” “We must do our part to ensure all Angelenos are visible and heard,” said Capri Maddox, Executive Director of the City’s and Civil and Human Rights Department. “I look forward to continuing the work with the Transgender Advisory Council to address inequalities and build new partnerships so that all Angelenos thrive.” “Liberty and justice for all has no footnote of exclusion,” said Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala, of the Los Angeles Police Department. “As a community, our collective commitment must be unwavering –to protect, support, and defend the rights and safety of all transgender Angelenos. Nothing and no one thrives in the shadows. Let light, unity, and the goal of equality deﬁne our message during Transgender Awareness Month.” During the virtual event, Council member O’Farrell was slated to present oﬃcial City of Los Angeles certiﬁcates of appreciation to St. John’s and Children’s Hospital, as well as announce that City Hall will be illuminated in the Trans Pride colors on Friday, November 20, in observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance. STAFF REPORTS
LAPD aﬃrms trans support after FBI hate crime report In the annual report issued this week by the FBI that tabulates bias-motivated incidents throughout the United States, nearly one-third of hate crimes were directed at LGBTQ people. The 2019 information was submitted by 15,588 law enforcement agencies, outlines data about the oﬀenses, victims, oﬀenders, and locations of hate crimes. Because reporting hate crimes to the FBI is not mandatory, those statistics likely represent only a fraction of
(2019 FBI Hate Crimes report graphic courtesy FBI)
04 • NOVEMBER 20, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
such violence against the LGBTQ community. The number of law enforcement agencies reporting hate crimes data decreased by 451 from 2018 to 2019 the FBI noted. “Law enforcement agencies submitted incident reports involving 7,314 criminal incidents and 8,559 related oﬀenses as being motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity,” the report’s executive summary read. Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala, of the Los Angeles Police Department told the Blade that the LAPD was completely committed to not only investigating Hate Crimes but working with local community leaders and activists to help stem the frequency of these types of incidents. “As a community, our collective commitment must be unwavering –to protect, support, and defend the rights and safety of all transgender Angelenos, Girmala said. She then added, repeating her statement released for the City of Los Angeles Transgender Awareness Month campaign, “Nothing and no one thrives in the shadows. Let light, unity, and the goal of equality deﬁne our message during Transgender Awareness Month.” The report shows that hate crimes based on sexual orientation represent 16.8% of hate crimes, the third largest category after race and religion. The report also shows an uptick in gender identity based hate crimes rising from 4.2% in 2018 to 4.8% in 2019. “Yet another year with alarming levels of bias-motivated crimes underscores just how urgent it is to address this hate crimes epidemic. This year, we saw a tragic new record of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people in this country, particularly against Black and Brown transgender women.,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David noted in a media statement. “These alarming statistics represent real trauma for individuals and families across this country who have to bear the brunt of these hate crimes. As the Biden-Harris administration assumes oﬃce, we must recommit ourselves to advocating for mandatory hate crimes reporting across the country, better training for law enforcement oﬃcers to recognize bias-motivated crimes, and greater inclusion and equity in our communities,” he added. STAFF REPORTS
LA, WeHo prepare for return to tougher COVID measures Prospect of total lockdown looms as cases spike By NOAH CHRISTIANSEN keeping physically distanced and avoiding gathering with people they don’t live with, but With the increasing surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, it should be no surprise that we need everyone to do their part and follow these measures. Lives and livelihoods are at Los Angeles County oﬃcials announced this week new limits on hours of operation for stake and our entire community will be aﬀected by our collective action if we do the right some businesses while also limiting the size of outdoor gatherings. thing,” she added. LA County oﬃcials are enacting multiple safety measures after Gov. Gavin Newsom Mayor Lindsey P. Horvath in an emailed response to the LA Blade’s inquiry noted, “The announced a roll-back of nearly 30 counties including Los Angeles, Riverside and San City of West Hollywood will abide by the directives of the LA County Department of Public Bernardino Ventura and Orange counties in the purple tier on Monday as well as a countyHealth, as they are the Health Department for our City as well as 85 other cities in LA wide lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. County. We have to listen to the experts.” Eﬀective Friday, Nov. 20, for non-essential businesses permitted to operate indoors— While this may be a necessary measure to combat the rising number of cases, many including retail stores, oﬃces, personal care services—occupancy will be limited to 25% businesses will struggle to make ends meet – especially small businesses. Many well-known maximum capacity; the number of patrons at outdoor restaurants, breweries and wineries LGBTQ+ businesses in West Hollywood are also at risk of losing revenue. Rocco’s, a gay bar will be limited to 50% max outdoor capacity; The number of customers at outdoor miniin WeHo, along with The Abbey have constant foot traﬃc on a normal day and it’s typical to golf, go-karts and batting cages will be limited to 50% maximum outdoor capacity. see these bars/restaurants incredibly busy. Services at personal care establishments However, this type of crowd would be may only be provided by appointment to impossible to get in a world where there is a customers wearing face coverings by staﬀ lockdown implemented. wearing face coverings. This also requires Mayor Horvath acknowledged the that services that require either the customer economic implications of the lockdown by or the staﬀ to remove their face covering, saying, “The most important thing to me – such as facials and shaves, are not permitted. and everyone at City Hall – is the safety of Also food and drinks cannot be served at everyone in West Hollywood. We will follow these establishments to customers. all LA County Public Health guidelines, which Restaurants, breweries, wineries, are meant to protect the health and safety bars, and all other non-essential retail of everyone. They are also designed to limit establishments must close from 10:00 p.m. transmission of the virus and decrease to 6:00 a.m.; outdoor gatherings remain the the number of cases, which prevents only gatherings permitted, and they must overwhelming our health care system. only include 15 people maximum who are Limiting virus transmission and surges in members of no more than three households. cases also protects customers, workers, and Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of LA County the businesses they patronize. Department of Public Health, cautioned “We want to help businesses remain open, in a brieﬁng Tuesday that more restrictive or to re-open, as LA County moves through measures would be implemented if the California’s tiered system for re-openings, numbers surge past a ﬁve-day average of but the only way that’s possible is if we keep 4,000 or more or hospitalizations are more everyone safe,” the mayor added. than 1,750 per day then outdoor and indoor Many residents are experiencing what dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries Mayor Horvath termed “coronavirus and bars will be prohibited and these fatigue,” which has resulted in people failing businesses will only be able to oﬀer pick-up to comply with mandates by Public Health. and delivery. “We are seeing evidence of people But should the ﬁve-day average of cases experiencing “coronavirus fatigue” who are hit 4,500 or more or hospitalizations are failing to comply with Public Health orders more than 2,000 per day, then ‘A Safer at or creating their own standards (i.e. taking Home Order’ will be instituted for three same-day test results as clearance for weeks. The Order would only allow essential attending parties or other large gatherings). workers and those securing essential “This is not the time to become complacent services to leave their homes. A 10:00 p.m. about taking necessary measures to protect to 6:00 a.m. curfew would be mandated, with yourselves and your loved ones,” Horvath essential workers exempt. said. “Los Angeles County is at a critical “Scientiﬁc studies prove that: wearing moment to save lives and curb the spread of a face covering; staying home except for COVID-19. I urge our residents, businesses essential trips; avoiding gatherings with and community leaders to heed this warning people outside your household; washing and follow these heightened safeguards so your hands frequently and thoroughly; and, that additional restrictions do not need to be maintaining social distance when out for imposed,” said Ferrer. Diners at The Abbey on Nov. 16. (Blade photograph by Noah Christiansen) essential needs does slow the spread of “We are so grateful that many of our COVID-19.” residents are wearing face coverings, 06 • NOVEMBER 20, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Emmy-winning producer enlists star power to feed the sick After ‘Lead with Love Telethon,’ Bessey takes role at Project Angel Food By LIEZL BITAS After winning two Emmys for his work as an executive producer on “Entertainment Tonight,” Brad Bessey knows what it takes to keep eyes glued to any TV screen: celebrities. He knew that if he could get stars like Kelly Clarkson, Elton John, Sharon Stone, Josh Groban, Annie Lennox and Jamie Lee Curtis to appear and perform for a TV special, it would be an opportunity to attract thousands of viewers to call the number at the bottom of the screen, to donate to a cause close to his heart. In June, KTLA (the CW affiliate in Los Angeles) aired “Lead with Love Telethon,” which was hosted by actor Eric McCormack and featured special performances and appearances by 60 big-name celebrities organized by Bessey. The telethon helped raise funds for Project Angel Food, a nonprofit that delivers more than 1 million healthy meals annually — a number that has grown due to the pandemic — to chronically and terminally ill people across Los Angeles County who are too sick to buy or prepare their own food. “It wasn’t about booking a celebrity,” said Bessey, who is currently a graduate student in CSUN’s Department of Communication Studies. “I know the difference that [someone like Kelly Clarkson] will make in bringing in an audience, and the difference a name like that will make in actually raising the money that’s needed to keep this work going. It literally is saving lives.” The COVID-19 pandemic pushed Project Angel Food from feeding 1,500 people a day to more than 2,300. But because volunteers could no longer safely show up at kitchens in L.A. — where they normally prepare meals for the homebound — the organization needed the funds to hire out-of-work chefs to continue preparing meals. The telethon was a way to keep the project’s doors open. By the end of the special, Project Angel Food had received more than $700,000 in donations. A little over a month later, spurred by the triumph of the telethon, Project Angel Food created a new leadership role to oversee the organization’s messaging and branding, through channels such as TV specials, social media, public relations and more. With the success of “Lead with Love Telethon” under his belt, Bessey was the man for the job. Since September, he has served as Project Angel Food’s very first head of communications and talent relations. As Thanksgiving draws near, Bessey will join Project Angel Food as it delivers 1,000 meals on Nov. 26, “which is about twice as many as we’ve ever done before,” he said. On Thanksgiving Day, each volunteer driver will pick up five meals — from a celebrity who will distribute the packages, with social distancing and other safety measures in place — from the nonprofit’s headquarters and deliver to Project Angel Food’s homebound clients. “This way, they can actually have a Thanksgiving meal delivered to them on Thanksgiving Day,” Bessey said. Bessey’s connection with Project Angel Food began in the organization’s earliest days, in 1989, during the AIDS epidemic that cast a shadow over the LGBTQ+ community. “I was spending almost every night with a friend who was in a hospital, and our weekends were filled with memorials,” Bessey said. “I realized that we can be part of despair and say, ‘There’s no hope,’ or we could be part of the group of people that offer hope. So, we gathered in a church kitchen, and we would make meals, drive around [L.A.] and deliver them to people.” Bessey returned to Project Angel Food years later, after his career in entertainment took off and he executive produced “Entertainment Tonight,”
“The Insider” and “The Talk.” He served as a consultant to get the organization connected with celebrities who could promote the organization’s mission. One of his most important tasks was coordinating “Lead with Love Telethon.” With his new full-time position at the nonprofit, Bessey already has begun work on 2021’s “Lead with Love Telethon,” which he hopes will raise even more funds for delivering meals to the chronically and terminally ill. While he fulfills his responsibilities at the nonprofit, Bessey is also hitting the books. After years working in Hollywood, he returned to CSUN in 2019 to finish the bachelor’s degree he started at CSUN and put on hold in 1986. “I’m quite fortunate to have had a really phenomenal career, producing over 5,000 hours of television with ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and ‘The Talk’ and winning a couple Emmys — life BRAD BESSEY with actor JAMIE LEE CURTIS. has been really good,” Bessey said. “But it always bothered me just a little bit that I never finished my degree.” After finishing the last few courses he needed to graduate, Bessey said, “I didn’t anticipate I would fall in love with communication studies.” Through his CSUN classes, he said, he realized that in the entertainment industry, he had been one of the people who were “changing the dialogue” in media. Now, with his newfound love, he’s on his way to completing a master’s degree in communication studies. “I’m hungry for the conversation,” Bessey said. “I’m hungry to talk about how these theories impact our lives and how we might be able to use this information to do nothing short of changing the world.” Bessey invited Matadors who want to share their time and lift up others to volunteer in Project Angel Food’s Thanksgiving Day project of helping to deliver meals. Another way to give is to donate — even as little as $5 can help save a life. “Five dollars buys a meal,” Bessey said. He reflected on the trials of this year, as well as how he and Project Angel Food are able to stay hopeful. “You have a choice of being in despair, or leading with love,” Bessey said. For more information about how to give or become a client of Project Angel Food, visit www.angelfood.org. This article was originally published in CSUN Today, the official publication of the California State University, Northridge, University Advancement Marketing and Communications Department. Republished by permission.
(Photo courtesy of Bessey)
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 20, 2020 • 07
New ‘blueprint’ lights way for Biden to reverse Trump policies HRC plan seeks to quickly undo anti-LGBTQ attacks By CHRIS JOHNSON | email@example.com
With LGBTQ advocacy organizations eager for change in the new Biden administration, the Human Rights Campaign has laid out proposals lighting the way forward with a detailed guide on administrative actions to reverse President Trump’s anti-LGBTQ policies. The 24-page document, titled the “Blueprint for Positive Change 2020,” lays out guidance across all federal agencies to reverse the anti-LGBTQ policies under the Trump administration and advance equality after President-elect Biden takes office. Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, pointed out in an interview with the Blade last week his organization prepares a blueprint at the start of a new administration, but this time at the end of the Trump era things are different. “These are steps that the Biden-Harris administration can take affirmatively and administratively to protect LGBTQ people and really not only put us back in positions that we were in before the Trump administration, but advance us forward toward equality,” David said. The Human Rights Campaign, David said, has been identifying policies for the past year under the Trump administration in anticipation of producing the blueprint and having the chance to reverse them if President Trump was voted out of office. Key among the recommendations is implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, thus illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. David pointed out the Trump administration has never implemented the decision even though it was handed down in June. “Bostock is not just simply about employment protections,” David said. “The court clearly says if federal statutes prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, that should also include sexual orientation and gender identity. So we have many federal statutes, housing, credit, other federal statutes that would provide protections to LGBTQ people, so a full implementation of Bostock would take us steps forward in terms of protecting LGBTQ rights and advancing those rights.” Also highlighted in the blueprint is reversing the transgender military ban, establishing an interagency working group to address anti-transgender violence, appointing openly LGBTQ federal officials, and uniform standards in federal surveys for data collection on the LGBTQ community. The Human Rights Campaign isn’t the only LGBTQ advocacy group putting out guidelines for the new administration to advance LGBTQ rights. Other LGBTQ organizations — including the Movement Advancement Project, the Center for American Progress, the Equality Federation, GLSEN, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the LGBTQ elder group SAGE — issued their own document with 10 priorities for the Biden administration. Much of the guidance is similar, including implementation of the Bostock decision, reversing the transgender military ban and restoring non-discrimination regulations for LGBTQ people. David said he has been in conversations with the Biden transition team and provided a copy of the blueprint to them and the reaction was “positive.” “They have been very hospitable, very open to receiving the blueprints, and and very accommodating in discussing any concerns or questions that may arise as we go through the process,” David said. Some of the policy changes, David said, could be done immediately, such as implementation of the Bostock ruling, but others would take additional time because of federal law governing regulations. As the U.S. Supreme Court determined earlier this year in its decision on DACA-protections for undocumented immigrants, the Administrative Procedure Act prohibits any administration from making policy changes too quickly or without going through an open process allowing for due consideration. David identified the Department of Health & Human Services withdrawing an Obama-era rule interpreting Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in health care, to apply to cases of anti-trans discrimination as one Trump-era measure that would take some time to reverse. “We certainly suspect that anti-equality forces will be attacking the Biden-Harris administration in their attempts to protect LGBTQ people,” David said. “So we want to make sure that we 08 • NOVEMBER 20, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
The Human Rights Campaign under ALPHONSO DAVID has laid out a blueprint to reverse Trump’s anti-LGBTQ policies. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)
take all of the steps necessary to implement regulations that would be appropriate in protecting LGBTQ people, so that’s one example of where we would have to go through a process.” Reggie Greer, the Biden-Harris campaign’s LGBTQ+ engagement director, spoke generally about Biden’s support for LGBTQ rights in response to a request to comment on the blueprint. “President-elect Biden has dedicated his life to advancing LGBTQ+ rights and will work to usher in the most pro-equality administration in history,” Greer said. Biden as a presidential candidate, however, trumpeted his support for LGBTQ rights and issued a detailed policy plan on the way forward on LGBTQ issues that encompass many of the same plans. The new blueprint is for administrative actions, so it doesn’t take into consideration legislative items such as the Equality Act to advance LGBTQ rights, which Biden has said would be his No. 1 legislative priority and signed within 100 days of his administration. The failure of Democrats to capture to the U.S. Senate, however, has thrown a wrench into the anticipated majority Biden would have for his legislative agenda. The Associated Press Wednesday morning called the Senate race in Alaska in favor of Republican Dan Sullivan. The Senate would be at most split 50-50, and that would be the case only if Democrats are successful in both races in the upcoming run-off elections in Georgia. Despite the lack of a Democratic majority in the Senate, David said he sees opportunities to move the Equality Act. “If we’re not able to obtain full majority in the Senate, we will expect to work both with the House of Representatives and the Biden-Harris administration to push through with the Equality Act,” David said. “You know, there are certain pieces of legislation that were passed during the Obama administration, with a Republican Senate that were progressive, pro-equality pieces of legislation, so we anticipate that we can do the same here.” David conceded challenges would exist in moving forward with the Equality Act, but pointed out the president-elect has a record of reaching out across the aisle. “Even if we’re not able to control the Senate, the Senate majority will need certain things from the Biden-Harris administration just in order to make sure governments function, and Joe Biden has always been someone who reaches across the aisle to make sure he can get things done,” David said. “So we anticipate working with them, and working with President Biden to make sure that we get through pro-equality legislation.”
Trans veteran joins Biden transition team
Day 1. The work of the agency review teams is critical The Biden transition team has named transgender for protecting national security, addressing the ongoing veteran Shawn Skelly as a member of its agency public health crisis, and demonstrating that America review team as LGBTQ advocates are pushing the new remains the beacon of democracy for the world.” administration to undo President Trump’s transgender In 2013, Skelly joined the Obama administration and military ban expeditiously. was the ﬁrst transgender veteran to serve as presidential Skelly, who co-founded Out in National Security, an appointee, according to her bio. aﬃnity group for LGBTQ national security professionals, Skelly was special assistant to the under secretary and served on active duty in the U.S. Navy for 20 years of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics; as a naval ﬂight oﬃcer, was named a member of the coordinator of the Department of Defense Warﬁghter agency review team for the Defense Department in a Senior Integration Group. Skelly also served as news statement that went out last Wednesday. director of the Oﬃce of the Executive Secretariat at the Ted Kaufman, a former U.S. senator and co-chair of Department of Transportation during the Obama-Biden the Biden-Harris transition team, said in a statement administration. members of the agency review team would rigorously LGBTQ advocates are pressing Biden to reverse evaluate operations of federal agencies as Joe Biden Trump’s ban on transgender military service in short prepares to take oﬃce as president. Transgender veteran SHAWN SKELLY was named a member of the order upon taking oﬃce as litigation against the policy “Our nation is grappling with a pandemic, an economic Biden transition team. (Photo courtesy Skelly) continues in federal courts. According to a memo from crisis, urgent calls for racial justice, and the existential the San Francisco-based Palm Center, Biden could lift the ban against transgender service threat of climate change,” Kaufman said. “We must be prepared for a seamless transfer of members in as little as 30 days. knowledge to the incoming administration to protect our interests at home and abroad. CHRIS JOHNSON The agency review process will help lay the foundation for meeting these challenges on
Sarah McBride prepares to join Del. Senate
Sarah McBride said she didn’t run for the Delaware state Senate to make history or headlines, but her victory on Nov. 3 over Republican Steve Washington did just that. She is the ﬁrst openly transgender person to be elected to a state’s Senate and come January, will be the highest-ranking out trans state legislator in the U.S. “I’m looking forward to being able to roll up my sleeves and help to implement the kinds of policies and changes that we just spent the last year ﬁghting for,” she said during an interview. “It’s an unbelievable privilege to be able to represent this community in the Delaware state Senate, a community that I was born and raised in, a community that’s helped support me and sustain me through some of the most diﬃcult challenges in my own life, a community that reﬂects the vibrant and beautiful diversity of Delaware in so many ways.” McBride was expected to win handily in the heavily “blue” 1st Senate district that includes parts of Wilmington. The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which seeks to elect LGBTQ people to political oﬃce, declared the race for McBride shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m.—she ended up claiming more than 70 percent of the votes. McBride previously worked as national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign. When she addressed the Democratic National Convention in 2016, she became the ﬁrst openly trans person to speak at a major party convention in the U.S. McBride is part of the wave that nearly doubled the amount of trans and gender nonconforming candidates elected to state legislatures around the country. Eight of them were elected or re-elected on Nov. 3. She said the increasing number of trans legislators proves voters are beginning to look past candidates’ identities that were previously considered handicaps in politics. “Whatever message was sent by my campaign was not sent by me but was sent instead by the voters in my district,” said McBride. “Voters are looking for candidates who are authentic and will ﬁght for what they believe in. I think that desire for authenticity and courage in elected oﬃcials transcends geography, political ideology, and party aﬃliation.” While she wouldn’t describe it as pressure, McBride said she feels a responsibility to ensure that she isn’t the last LGBTQ person who can hold a position like hers. “I certainly feel a responsibility to ensure that we grow not just the numbers, but the full diversity of LGBTQ people who have a seat at the table,” she said. “But I also know that the only way that I can fulﬁll that responsibility to the LGBTQ community is to be the best state senator possible for the residents of my district. Ultimately, that’s what I’m focused on.” The coronavirus pandemic, which shut down businesses in Delaware for months, forced McBride’s campaign to “get creative” when reaching out to voters. She said they ramped up 10 • NOVEMBER 20, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Delaware state Sen.-elect SARAH MCBRIDE (Blade ﬁle photo by Michael Key)
their phone banking eﬀorts to have conversations with people safely. McBride’s campaign was already focused around reforming healthcare, the criminal justice system, and providing paid family and medical leave for families in her district. The pandemic, she said, only helped to drive home to her points. “We recognize that no one should have to give up their income in the face of a global pandemic. But whether it’s COVID, or cancer, the more fundamental truth is that no one should have to give up their income in the face of any illness,” she said. “And so from the start of this campaign, I was focused on health care and paid family medical leaves and COVID-19 only reinforced the urgency of those issues.” Delaware voted resoundingly for President-elect Joe Biden. McBride has a close personal relationship with the Biden family, having worked for Beau Biden when he was Delaware’s attorney general. McBride said she has become much closer with the president-elect after Beau Biden died in 2015 and after her husband Andrew Cray died in 2014—both after battles with cancer. “[Biden] is a decent, kind, compassionate, big hearted person and I’m thrilled that he will be leading our country in just a few short months,” McBride said. “I certainly felt like so many people across this country felt unbelievable relief that Donald Trump had lost the presidency and excitement that we will have in the White House, two leaders in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who listen to the data and the science and the experts, will approach issues with compassion, and who have a record of delivering meaningful results for so many people across this country.” PARKER PURIFOY
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is a nationally headlining comedian, former teacher, author, speaker, and woman of trans experience. She was a quarter-ﬁnalist and fan favorite on season 11 of America’s Got Talent on NBC in 2016. She currently has a comedy special on SHOWTIME called ‘More Women of a Certain Age.’
At last, contemplating trans life after Trump Take a deep breath and raise your voices By JULIA SCOTTI I don’t know about you, but as a woman of transgender experience, this election scared the hell out of me. If the worst had happened and Trump had won, I was prepared. My ‘go’ bag was packed and I was ready to hop aboard a tramp steamer as a stowaway and get the hell outta Dodge. I had decided that it would be safe if I relocated to American Samoa because I was 98% sure that Donnie had no idea that it was an American territory in the middle of the Paciﬁc Ocean, and 100% sure that he could never ﬁnd it on a map. The whole idea was fraught with fear and doubt. I don’t speak Samoan, am deathly afraid of sharks and I hate the heat. I’m also reasonably sure there are no diners there and I cannot exist without them. I am, after all, from New Jersey. So now, with my go bag unpacked and comforted in knowing that he will be gone in January, I can exhale on the lanai of my palatial estate in the active adult community in which I reside and contemplate more important things during this Trans Awareness Week; like life after Trump. It would be easy to point to all of the sins he’s tried to commit against our community, but why waste my breath? We know of his hatred for us. No one needs to be made any more ‘aware’ of it than they already are. Instead, I choose to make the world aware of what we have to oﬀer society and ask only one thing in payment; show us your humanity. Don’t pander to us because it’s required. Instead, see us for our wellspring of talent and utilize it. Don’t hurt us because you believe we are not like you, because we ARE you. Let us live in peace among you and welcome us into your community and you will ﬁnd in very short order that you have nothing to fear from us. We want the same things you do; a home, a job, someone to love, a family who loves us. Part of Awareness also means that you know our struggles, especially as they pertain to our minority brothers and sisters. Violence across the board is on the rise. In the ﬁrst seven months of 2020, more Trans folks were murdered than in all of 2019, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality U. S. Transgender Survey. On
November 20th, we remember those humans who left this world against their will at the hands of another person. There are also other statistics that are equally chilling. Out of more than 28,000 respondents, 47% of all Black respondents reported being denied equal treatment, verbally harassed, and/or physically attacked in the previous year for the crime of being transgender. 30% of all Latino respondents reported the same. 57% of ALL respondents were afraid to go to the police when they needed help. 58% of transgender humans reported harassment, abuse, or other mistreatment at the hands of the police. 60% reported being physically assaulted and 64% reported being sexually assaulted by the very people who have sworn to protect them. Humanity means that we should have a chance to do the work we love. See us in business, in the arts, in retail, really everywhere you go. If you do, then we won’t seem so unusual to you. See us as husbands and wives, and loving parents capable of raising children who will make your community proud. You don’t have to like us. But please…just SEE us. I have lived my truth now for over 20 years. I’ve not let obstacles stop my progress. My goal in life is to make myself visible to those who would deny me the right to do the thing I love more than anything; entertain and make audiences laugh. My blessing is that I’ve achieved that goal. But there are so many others out there who want to share their gifts and humanity with you. Let them. And while you’re at it, share yours with them. To our new President-we expect a lot from you. You have stood up for us in the past. Your recent appointment of Shawn Skelly as part of the Defense Department transition team is proof that you have our interests at heart. But more than anything else, Mr. President-elect, I know in my heart and can see in your eyes that your humanity guides you to treat others with respect and dignity. So from me to you, Happy Transgender Awareness Week and please remember those that can’t be here to celebrate it with us. They would have been happy to see this day.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 20, 2020 • 11
(Photo by Eric Schell)
is a nationally recognized trans activist, educator, mentor, and Instagram/social media inﬂuencer. Starting with his breakthrough cover feature in Men’s Health magazine, multiple appearances on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show,’ and a nonproﬁt helping over 8,000 people, Aydian is a household name in the trans community.
Transgender Awareness Week a reminder of work ahead Biden reminds us of the power of being seen By AYDIAN DOWLING
Transgender Awareness Week wasn’t even a reality just a few years ago, let alone when I discovered my true identity as a transgender man in 2009. For me, President Obama was a light at the end of a messy ﬁght for marriage equality and I felt proud that he was the ﬁrst vote I ever got to cast. You can imagine my dismay back in 2016 when President Trump was elected, it felt like we as a community got the wind knocked out of us. It was back into the darkness. The ﬁrst time I heard the word transgender come out of a president’s mouth, was the ﬁrst time anyone else heard it too. In 2015, President Obama acknowledged the transgender community for the ﬁrst time ever, and it was powerful. I felt it, the community felt it, and the world felt it. The year 2015 is the same year Laverne Cox hit the cover of TIME magazine making history as the ﬁrst transgender woman and person to ever land the cover of TIME. This was the same year Men’s Health Magazine featured me on their cover; I was the ﬁrst transgender man to be on the cover of a mainstream men’s magazine. It was as TIME called, a tipping point for the transgender community. Things were moving in a positive direction. The only time I’ve heard the word transgender in the last four years was when the gap of inequality was attempted to be made even larger for trans folks. The Trump administration took away our right to serve our country and with a sense of urgency and rush as if we are in some way ill-equipped for the jobs we have done well for years before Trump came along. They also put in an attempt to write transgender people out of sex discrimination protections in healthcare. Transgender people are the most underserved and most vulnerable of communities when it comes to healthcare and access to care.
12 • NOVEMBER 20, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Getting a new president was a key to survival for Transgender people. It doesn’t ﬁx really anything right now- But the future is a place we can think about again. Hearing our POTUS elect Joe Biden use the word transgender in his acceptance speech may have been missed by the rest of the world, but for the transgender community it rang loudly. For a community that was constantly attacked under the Trump administration, Biden intentionally including us in his speech was meaningful. People Tweeted what it meant for them and for me, it reminded me of a time when I felt safer as a trans person. It wasn’t a big, huge shout out to transgender people or anything. It wasn’t a promise that there will be protections made for us in healthcare, or housing, or even to allow us to join the military openly and safely. But it still meant something to us to be acknowledged. It’s amazing how powerful being seen is. Just to be seen as you are. As you know you are and as you say you are. If LGBTQ+ youth are 50% less likely to commit suicide because an adult supports them, then what’s to say for LGBTQ+ adults? What happens when the president of the United States of America supports the transgender community? It’s meaningful. I never put my transgender ﬂag away during the Trump administration, but for some reason I just felt lighter that Saturday night. I felt a shift on the Saturday after Election Day. I read somewhere “The whole world took a breath.” I think I took three. The POTUS elect’s address is important to the transgender community. A president who speaks not about us but to us feels like a promise for a new future. Transgender Awareness Week is about reminding all trans allies there is so much more work to do. And I truly believe with the future ahead of us we can keep ﬁghting and see that light once again.
Bah, humbug! Pandemic exacerbates holiday blues Take steps to reduce, even eliminate, seasonal stress By KATHI WOLFE
Feasting on turkey with your family. Hanukkah Harry. Santa. “A Christmas Carol.” Sugar Plum fairies. Lighting candles to celebrate Kwanzaa. Ringing in the New Year! It’s the holidays! Happy! Happy! Not so much. Especially during the pandemic, and if you’re queer. There are always holiday naysayers who dread Thanksgiving, loathe “It’s a Wonderful Life” and shout, “Bah, humbug!” Yet, in the pandemic, many of us have the “holiday blues” more acutely than we did in past holiday seasons, psychologists and LGBTQ advocates told the Blade in interviews. The term “holiday blues” is bandied about often. Yet, its meaning isn’t always clear. The “holiday blues” isn’t a mental illness, said Elaine Rodino, a psychologist in private practice in State College, Pa. “It’s not a diagnosable ailment. It’s a feeling of malaise,” she said, “of anxiety – of discomfort that occurs during the holidays.” But just because the “holiday blues” isn’t pathological, doesn’t mean that feelings of anxiety, stress and sadness during the holidays aren’t painful. Our holiday stress is nearly always related to our childhood experiences, Rodino said. “For example, if we grew up with an alcoholic parent, we’ll recall how that parent would ruin the holidays,” she said, “it would start out ﬁne. But, by the end of the night, the parent would be drunk, hostile – angry.” On the other hand, we may recall our childhood holidays as having been absolutely perfect. “You might remember that your Mom baked 300 cookies. They were the best in the world,” Rodino said. “You’ll feel guilty because your present doesn’t match up to your memories of past perfection.” The pandemic with its restrictions, illness and ﬁnancial losses adds an added layer of stress to the holidays, especially for the LGBTQ community and other vulnerable groups. “One way to deal with holiday stress is to volunteer,” Rodino advised, “to soup kitchens. Include vulnerable people in your Zoom events.” Don’t be intimidated by past holiday rituals. “Create your own traditions,” Rodino said. “If we did everything like people did in the past, we’d do things like they did in the Middle Ages.” From Hallmark movies to endless holiday music playlists to ads showing families merrily gathering before the ﬁre, we’re led to expect that the holidays will be ﬁlled with happiness and togetherness. We experience the “holiday blues” when our holidays don’t live up to these cultural expectations, said Nicholas Grant, a clinical psychologist and president elect of GLMA (Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality). In addition to this stress, many LGBTQ people experience overt or subtle homophobia or transphobia when they gather with their family of origin for the holidays, Grant, who is queer, said. The pandemic has added layers to holiday loneliness and insecurity. You can take steps to reduce, if not totally eliminate, holiday stress, Grant added. “Use technology like Zoom to see family and friends who you can’t see in person,” he said. Be proactive about who you want to see over the holidays, Grant advised. If you feel that connecting with someone in your family would be stressful for you, limit your time with them. “My Dad and I have no relationship as of this year,” Grant said, “because of his behavior and politics. It’s brought up for me:
how do I want to experience this holiday season?” Doing something that’s enjoyable to you and in line with your values is a great way to cope with the holidays, he added, “whether it’s writing poetry, riding a bike, baking bread or volunteering.” For information on coping with the “holiday blues” or ﬁnding a therapist, Grant recommends Psychology Today, psychologytoday.com. Most cisgender, heterosexual people who go home for the holidays, even if they are of a diﬀerent faith, are culturally similar to their family of origin, said psychologist Keely Kolmes. “That’s not true for all queer folks,” said Kolmes who identiﬁes as nonbinary. “Their families often direct micro aggressions at them, leaving them feeling isolated.” Sometimes, homophobia or transphobia can be physically unsafe. But, even subtle micro aggressions, such as a snide comment on a celeb coming out, can be hurtful, they added. (Kolmes uses the pronouns they/them.) “I advise clients when they go home for the holidays to have an escape plan with a friend or trusted family member,” Kolmes said, “for where they can go or what they can do if things go wrong.” LGBTQ people seeking support (such as support groups or friendly religious events) during the holidays should contact LGBTQ centers and queer-friendly houses of worship in their communities, Kolmes advised. We often hear this overwhelming, anti-LGBTQ religious voice, said Michael Vazquez, HRC Religion & Faith Program Director. “Yet, the intensity of that voice is disproportionate,” Vazquez added, “the overwhelming majority of American people of faith are welcoming and aﬃrming of LGBTQ people.” “Going home – being with the family for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa – it’s important to remember,” he said, “it’s not antithetical to be both LGBTQ and a person of faith.” (For more information, visit hrc.org/resources/religion-faith. Many queer people (especially trans people) are struggling to survive during the pandemic, said Anneliese Singh, a counseling psychologist and chief diversity oﬃcer at Tulane University. “I think, too, with this election, during the holidays, many of us are going to have to set boundaries with those of our families who supported Trump,” Singh, who identiﬁes as gender queer, said. Sometimes Trump supporters separate their votes for Trump from their love for their queer loved ones, she added, “but, for us, a vote for Trump means a vote against ourselves.” LGBTQ people should reclaim their religious traditions – from Kwanzaa rituals to Advent services, Singh said. “Another way to move through the ‘holiday blues,’‘ she added, “is to have a daily set of gratitude boxes. Not cheesy gratitude. But gratitude that we’re queer and survived and thrived.” Singh and her partner connected 10 years ago during the holidays. “Christmas Eve is a special night for us,” she said, “it’s when we ﬁrst got together. Every Christmas we think: How do we want to celebrate our relationship?” Even before the pandemic, the holidays were diﬃcult for queer and trans youth, said Adalphie Johnson, director of programs for SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders). “Some are homeless. Some are in unsafe spaces,” she said, “they’re not able to express
14 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 20, 2020
‘With this election, during the holidays, many of us are going to have to set boundaries with those of our families who supported Trump,’ said ANNELIESE SINGH, chief diversity oﬃcer at Tulane University.
themselves as far as clothing, etc.” Youth are often unable to bring their partners to family holiday gatherings. “The pandemic with its social distancing adds to the social isolation,” Johnson said. SMYAL is working to create safe virtual holiday events for youth, said Johnson, who is queer. “We’re sending out gift cards so they can order food and virtually eat together,” she added. “We ensure that the young people have all the ﬁxings and trimmings.” When young people get together with their families, SMYAL advises them to have one or two people they can call or text if they feel unsafe. During her youth, “the most diﬃcult thing during the holidays was that I didn’t know who in my family – like my aunts – would accept my girlfriend,” Johnson said. (For more information and resources, visit: www.smyal.org. www.thetrevorproject.org. www.gsanetwork.org. www.glsen. org) The holidays can be hard for everyone of every age, including LGBTQ elders. Older LGBTQ people are more likely to feel lonely during the holidays because they’re more likely to live alone, be single and not have children, said Bill Gross, assistant director of special programs for SAGE. SAGE’s services for older LGBTQ people range from a friendly visitor program to a hotline run by volunteers trained in crisis counseling. The hotline, open 24/7, 365 days a year, including the holidays, provides free support in English and Spanish (with translation services in 180 languages). (For information, visit sageusa.org.) Richard Daniels, a performer, is a member of SAGE’s New York City aﬃliate. Daniels was in “Help,” a play by poet and writer Claudia Rankine. The play shut down after two previews because of COVID. “The holidays will be no diﬀerent. We’ll still be in quarantine,” Daniels said. Daniels and his husband love Thanksgiving. “We’re Jewish. We don’t do much for Hanukkah or Christmas,” he said, “but Thanksgiving’s the one holiday where we love to get together with people — family, friends, out-of-town visitors — people with nowhere to go.” “We still have much to be grateful for,” Daniels added, “we don’t drink. But we’d love to share a piece of pie on Zoom on Thanksgiving.”
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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 20, 2020 • 15
HBO Max’s ‘Veneno’ a triumph of trans storytelling Spanish import full of human truth that can help to sway hearts and minds By JOHN PAUL KING
It’s a tale with its fair share of both triumph and tragedy, to be sure, with plenty enough of November, among other things, is Trans Awareness Month and it probably goes without each to ensure all eight episodes of “Veneno” are packed with memorable moments. But one saying, unfortunately, that anybody who wanted to celebrate that by watching trans stories of the many things that makes the new show stand out above so many other biographical would have a hard time ﬁnding more than a handful of them. dramas is that it is not content to simply show us how things were – it goes a step further, Despite an increase in trans inclusion on television through shows like “Pose,” “9-1-1: Lone tying its La Veneno’s story to that of Valeria Vegas, co-author of her memoirs and another Star,” and even genre series like “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” narratives that explore real-life trans woman, drawing the parallels between their individual journeys and thereby trans experience are still fairly few and far between, and if you’re looking for those that do it tracing a line between past and present that not only reminds us of how much we owe to with an eye toward authenticity – by using actual trans talent, both in front of and behind the the legacies of those queer elders who came before us, but of how their struggles are given cameras, for instance – the list gets even shorter. meaning by the beneﬁts they have bestowed upon the generations to follow. Fortunately for everyone, the folks at HBO Max are doing their part to help change that As envisioned by series creators Javier Calvo and Javier Ambrossi, “Veneno” unfolds in reality. The new streaming giant’s big LGBTQ docu-series from last month, “Equal,” devoted a style that is equal parts ﬂight of fancy and considerable screen time to real-life trans DANIELA SANTIAGO stars in ‘Veneno’ gritty realism, exploding with color, passion, icons like Christine Jorgensen and Sylvia (Photo courtesy HBO Max) and humor. This ﬂuid style, which is set up Rivera, and included among their many other by the show from the start with an opening oﬀerings are trans-inclusive shows from HBO disclaimer pointing out that, like all stories like “Euphoria” and the new documentary, from memory, it’s a blend of fact and ﬁction, “Transhood.” also allows for a considerable number of Now, the platform has brought us what creative, cinematic conceits in the series’ may be the most authentic, engrossing, editing and narrative approach, ensuring that moving, and yes, entertaining show of the it remains a thrillingly wild ride from start to entire crop – and it’s a reason to rejoice not ﬁnish. only for trans people and their allies, but for It’s also a show that, true to the spirit of La anyone who loves good television. Veneno herself, delights in its own over-the“Veneno,” available on HBO Max starting top, boundary-pushing excesses. Thanks at Nov. 19 (the ﬁnal day of Trans Awareness least in part to its Spanish origins, “Veneno” Week and the eve of the annual Trans loves to titillate us with nudity and sex, often Day of Remembrance), is an import from presented with a kind of feigned nonchalance Spain, where it aired earlier this year on the that only serves to surprise and shock us streaming service Atresmedia Premium, and more; but instead of seeming exploitative, tells the story of Cristina Ortiz Rodríguez, a this approach instead translates as sexreal-life trans pioneer better known by the positivity at its ﬁercest, and it’s just one of name La Veneno (Poison). many ways in which the series authentically La Veneno skyrocketed to fame in 1996 captures the lifestyle and attitudes of the trans characters it presents. when a reporter from a popular late-night talk show plucked her from the streets of Madrid The thing that brings the greatest measure of authenticity to “Veneno,” of course, is its cast. to appear in a segment about prostitution. Bold, brash, funny, and fabulous, her unapologetic Portraying La Veneno herself are three genuine trans actresses – Jedet, Daniela Santiago, and no-holds-barred persona made her an instant celebrity in an era when the deeply ingrained Isabel Torres – who each give dazzlingly honest performances; Jedet, who plays the youngest cultural stigma around trans people was even more oppressive than it is today, and she adult version of the character, even went through the process of transitioning during the parlayed her status as a TV personality into a successful career as a nightclub performer, making of the series. In addition, real-life trans actress, model and activist Lola Rodríguez a model, an actress (including both “legit” work and porn), and even a singer with two hit delivers a sensitive, endearing portrayal of Vargas, whose own transition is informed by the singles under her belt. process of writing La Veneno’s life story. Like many trans stories from that era (or any other, for that matter), La Veneno’s was The real Vargas, incidentally, was part of the creative team on “Veneno,” bringing a fraught with hardship, and her time in the spotlight did not mean that those struggles had pedigree to the show that can only come with direct lineage from its inspiration. It’s icing on come to an end. Convicted of arson and fraud in 2003, she spent three years in an all-male the cake, really, since the show is so skillfully – and lovingly – executed that it earns its laurels prison, thanks to having never changed her gender on her oﬃcial identity documents; ﬁrmly on its own merits. despite a brief comeback following her release, she subsequently struggled with anxiety, “Veneno” is a limited series – only eight episodes – but it has the potential for making a far depression, and bulimia due to the weight gain she had incurred during her incarceration. more lasting impact than most shows running 10 times that long. After all, as La Veneno’s She would eventually return to prison again for eight months in 2014, and in 2016 – less own story proves (and as the series itself explores in considerable depth), the media have than a month after the publication of her memoir, “Ni Puta, Ni Santa (Las Memorias de La vast power in shaping the thoughts, beliefs, and opinions of an entire culture, and the story Veneno)” – she died after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in a fall at her home. The death this proud Spanish import tells is full of the kind of “warts-and-all” human truth that can help was ruled to have been accidental, but she had allegedly received threats due to revelations to sway hearts and minds in the direction of empathy in a way that a thousand impassioned she had made about well-known ﬁgures in the book, and not-unreasonable speculation speeches cannot. abounded that she, like so many other trans women, had fallen victim to murder.
16 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 20, 2020
Bomber skis for your Bentley.
Holiday gifts for gearheads
Something for everyone, including your dog By JOE PHILLIPS
For any car fans in your life who have been cooped up indoors for months, here are some fun holiday gifts to satisfy their fast-and-furious fantasies.
Land Rover Teddy Bear
Talk about butch! Land Rover’s golden-brown teddy bear ($65) comes with a stylish flat cap and green overalls, in tribute to the first-ever pre-production Land Rover back in 1948.
Mercedes Hand Sanitizer
In a nod to how much our lives have changed because of the pandemic, Mercedes now offers hand sanitizer ($4) with its name emblazoned on the two-ounce bottle.
Ford Face Masks
In another sign of the times, Ford has three face masks ($27) with the automaker’s logo and branding. The one-size-fits-all masks have adjustable ear loops and are made of two layers of dry-tech fabric.
BMW Dog Bowl
Perfect for any pooch, the BMW dog bowl ($49) is a great way to reward loving companions who have tirelessly tolerated their masters—as we work from home, get sucked into our computer screens and constantly sigh (or yell) at the latest news cycle. Includes a removable bowl insert and rubberized base.
To keep toes toasty, Porsche offers a set of fine-knit unisex socks in two designs, each featuring the automaker’s logo.
Ford Vintage Bronco Turntable
Everything is new again at Ford, which is resurrecting its rough-and-tough Bronco for 2021. But you don’t have to wait for the vintage Bronco turntable ($130), with retro styling, built-in speakers and headphone output. The teal color is a nice touch, as are the lighted headlights. With four-way music capability—belt-drive turntable, radio, aux input and USB—you can play and convert vinyl records to a USB flash drive.
Lexus LC500 Kiddie Car
You may not be driving much these days, but that doesn’t mean kids can’t get behind the wheel. The pint-sized Lexus LC500 ($250) has LED lights, music and—honk, honk!—a horn. This one-seater is battery powered and comes with remote-control access for parents. Doors open and close, and there’s even a safety belt to help kids learn to buckle up.
LEGO Technic Land Rover Defender
The LEGO Technic Land Rover Defender ($170) is a great way to escape from the cares of the world for a while. This detailed toy—with 2,573 pieces—has a working steering
A dog bowl from BMW.
Face masks from Ford.
wheel, four-speed gearbox, all-wheel drive, forward-folding seats and more.
Cadillac Herringbone Wool Blanket
Baby, it’s cold outside, but Cadillac makes it easy to snuggle up with a herringbone wool blanket ($65). Made of Australian fine wool and acrylic, the 50x60-inch blanket has a twistedfringe edge.
Lexus may make some sweet rides, but it also offers other sweets: yummy cookies ($62). With six flavors, these treats were created by a chef from the renowned Culinary Institute of America and come in a basswood cookie crate that can be used later to store magazines, catalogs or papers.
BMW Active Mat
What better way to relieve stress during these challenging times than with yoga or some other exercise or meditation. The two-layered BMW active mat ($40) has a soft surface and comes with a convenient carrying strap.
Bentley Luxe Lifestyle
Most automakers offer branded baseball caps, ballpoint pens and such, but Bentley has a ridiculous number of high-end items in its luxury lifestyle collection, including premium perfumes/colognes, chronograph watches, exquisite jewelry, designer handbags, upscale sunglasses, fine clothing, artisan furniture and even an over-the-top Buxton kitchen made of larch wood and Calacatta Gold marble. Yes, really. Some faves from Bentley this year: limited-edition Bomber skis ($2,750-$3,750), Naim wireless music system ($3,000), precious gemstone jewelry ($7,000 and up), Newent walnut bed ($12,000). Of course, you could just opt for an actual Bentley, starting at $202,500. LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 20, 2020 • 17
Gay actor WENTWORTH MILLER says he only wants to play gay roles. (Photo by watchwithkristin via Wikimedia Commons)
Wentworth Miller won’t play straight anymore And Scott Baio wins praise from Trump By BILLY MASTERS
“You can’t say that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. Until very recently, that’s what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now it’s considered bigotry.” —Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. So much for impartiality. Our opening quote could have been, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Melissa McCarthy’s upcoming ﬂick, “Superintelligence” had a carefully thought out promotional plan. During “20 Days of Kindness,” HBO Max would donate $20K a day to a worthy charity. What could go wrong, right? Wrong. One of the recipients was Exodus Cry, an organization that is against reproductive choice and viliﬁes the LGBTQ community. When Melissa heard about this, she was outraged enough to cry through an apology. “There’s no other way to say it - we blew it. We made a mistake and we backed a charity that, upon proper vetting, stands for everything that we do not. So I want to thank everyone on social media who said, ‘What are you doing? Are you sure you want to back this?’ Because the answer was no, we do not.” How do you rectify that? McCarthy says, “We have pulled it.” So who’s getting that $20K? I got a laugh when one outlet referred to thespian Scott Baio as a “former actor.” Baio’s good deed was to rearrange the mugs in his local Michael’s to read “Trump Is Still Your President.” “Thank you Scott, and stay tuned. You are terriﬁc!” Tweeted Trump in response to Baio’s photo. I don’t know what’s more shocking - that Trump thinks Scott is terriﬁc, or that Baio is into crafting. Or, perhaps he was working in the mugs section that day. Wentworth Miller made a revelation on Instagram regarding his future with “Prison Break.” “I just don’t want to play straight characters. Their stories have been told (and told). So. No more Michael. If you were a fan of the show, hoping for additional seasons...I understand this is disappointing. I’m sorry. If you’re hot and bothered bec you fell in love with a ﬁctional straight man played by a real gay one...That’s your work.” Miller’s “Prison Break” brother, Dominic Purcell, was among the ﬁrst to respond. “It was fun mate. What a ride it was. Fully support and understand your reasoning. Glad you have made this decision for your health and your truth. Keep the posts coming...love ya brother.” Then there’s Viggo Mortensen - who, by all accounts, is heterosexual. He’s writing, directing, and starring in his next ﬁlm. My God - he’s like the male Streisand. All he has to do is sing the theme song wearing Lee Press On Nails! Anyway, “Falling” is about a homophobic and racist man suﬀering from dementia. Viggo plays the man’s son - who 18 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 20, 2020
happens to be a gay, married man. Mortensen claims that this is not “a gimmick, anchor, or some trigger.” In fact, he didn’t originally write the role to be gay - but felt it made for a more compelling story. He added, “I apologize to all the proctologists for casting David Cronenberg” - who plays a proctologist in the ﬁlm. I might add that I don’t believe Viggo ever met any hobbits in real life! FYI, I had already announced I was taking Thanksgiving Week oﬀ. But, due to circumstances beyond my control (and you know how I hate that), I’m going to be indisposed for this week as well. Fear not - we’ll be back right with a special series of shows for December. Stay tuned. Remember Michael Cohen? El Presidente’s former ﬁxer? He appears in a tantalizing video - courtesy of Matthew Camp, who is a former NYC go-go boy. For some reason, Cohen made a Cameo video where he says the following: “I just want to say how amazing Matthew Camp is on OnlyFans. Having a blast enjoying every minute with you guys. Good luck. Love it. Stay safe. Stay Covid-free. And, again, OnlyFans - having a blast with him.” Things that make you go, “Hmm.” I smell an endorsement coming for “Billy Masters LIVE”. In the meantime, you can see both Camp and Cohen on BillyMasters.com. If Cohen loves Camp, he’ll love our “Ask Billy” question. Danny in San Francisco writes, “Did you hear that the Zakar Twins said they’d release some nude photos if Biden won? Well, where are they?” Actually, they promised a whole lotta things. Things like this: “Will post nudes if (when?) Trump loses.” They kinda modiﬁed the deal when they heard of Biden’s win. “Alright, alright, a deals a deal. Butts out for Biden! You want full-frontal? Wait for AOC to take oﬃce.” Of course, you don’t want to wait. You just have to check out BillyMasters.com. When brothers’ butts are out for Biden (or, I venture to say, anyone else who comes along), it’s time to end yet another column. Sorry to take this week oﬀ, but I’m dealing with some sticky situations - none of which concern my penis (at least, not yet). But there are more than enough penii for you on www.BillyMasters.com - the site that shows fullfrontal with or without AOC! Even though I’m tied up, I’m never too busy to answer your questions. Feel free to write me at Billy@BillyMasters.com, and I promise to get back to you before Scott Baio gets promoted to Manager of Mugs at Michael’s! So, until next time, remember, one man’s ﬁlth is another man’s bible.