Losangelesblade.com, Volume 4, Issue 48, November 27, 2020

Page 1

(Artwork by Paul Richmond)

World AIDS Day arrives amid another pandemic, P 6 & 7 AGES



Young, LGBTQ+, homeless, and thankful ‘They are people and they are family’ By NOAH CHRISTIANSEN With Thanksgiving this week many people are thinking about what they’re thankful for. For some, they’re thankful for their home, job, and loving family. For others, they’re thankful for the smaller things in life such as a place to sleep at night – even if it’s outside in the cold. When examining homelessness in Hollywood, the Blade took a closer look at what homeless people have to go through and what they’re thankful for — if anything at all. In the city of Los Angeles there are 36,300 homeless people with a total of 58,936 in the County according to the annual Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s (LAHSA) homeless count (2019). Over the years, homelessness has dramatically increased all over the county. But during these times of coronavirus, it’s easy to understand why homelessness is becoming increasingly prevalent. With the government failing to provide stimulus checks to the population, unemployment is on the rise and people are struggling to pay for the basic necessities such as rent. Even though people are failing to pay rent – some still have a place to go. It is common for people from their teen years to their late twenties to live with their parents – especially during these difficult times. But what if their parents disown them? This is an issue that many LGBTQ+ young people face. The Blade conducted multiple interviews with homeless LGBTQ+ young people this past weekend to see the struggles that they are facing while also asking what they’re thankful for. James C., a 26-year-old homeless man who asked to be identified only by his first name and last initial told the Blade: “I am thankful for a lot of things even though I have little. I’m thankful for walks and food when I can get it.” James went on to discuss what it was like being LGBTQ+ and homeless. “I don’t know… It’s difficult. The lack of support,” he said. James, like many other homeless LGBTQ+ people, has a lack of financial, emotional, and mental support. Adding homophobia into the mix complicates and often worsens homelessness. James, at the time of the interview, was living on the streets of Hollywood near the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which does provide a litany of resources as well as a temporary youth shelter. On the Center’s website, it reads, “If you’re one of the thousands of homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning young people (ages 12 – 24) without a home, we welcome you as a member of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Youth Center.” Ellia, (a non-binary individual who asked to be identified only by their first name) a Black young LGBTQ+ person expressed what they’re thankful for in an enthusiastic way. “I have so much to be thankful for,” Ellia said, “I’m thankful that God is watching over me. You know… Thanksgiving is celebrated through the pain of my people. They slaughtered my people.” Ellia’s sentiment echoed with the group of homeless people that they were standing around. Justin, one of Ellia’s friends, was asked about LGBTQ+ homelessness in Hollywood. He said, “I’m not part of that group or whatever. But they are people and they are family. We all support each other here.” Though Justin and Ellia are just two homeless people in a sea of thousands in Los Angeles, their positive attitudes and expression of what they were thankful for was incredible to see. All of the stories were powerful – especially Carl’s. Carl indicated to the Blade that “being thankful is difficult.” “How am I supposed to be thankful when I’m out here while I see these homes in the hills,” Carl said. The homes Carl spoke about were the multi-million dollar mansions just minutes away from homeless camps and tents. His description of the wealth inequality is important to understand when examining homelessness because as he pointed out society should question why some people have profited immensely from the

Sleeping along Hollywood Blvd. (Blade photo by Noah Christiansen)

coronavirus while others are in the streets. Although the Blade was able to conduct some comprehensive interviews, most of the responses were one-word answers. Here is a short list of what some homeless people told the Blade they’re thankful for: food; my blanket; when people give me money; God; Jesus; cigarettes. It is easy to be fatalistic when looking at the numbers of homeless people; resources are critical. In greater Los Angeles, the LGBT Center is one resource that homeless LGBTQ+ youth are able to access. They are a welcoming center that will help people in a litany of ways, like finding a shelter while others help with access to health care and long-term planning for the future. West Hollywood-based The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ organization focused on preventing suicides and homelessness in the LGBTQ+ community, talks about homelessness in particular in its messaging on its website: “Family rejection on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity can have extreme effects on LGBTQ youth. In one study, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse, compared to peers from families that reported no levels of family rejection. As a result of family rejection, discrimination, and a host of other factors, LGBTQ youth represent as much as 40% of the homeless youth population. Of that population, studies indicate that as many as 60% are likely to attempt suicide.” LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 27, 2020 • 03



(Photo courtesy of King via Facebook)

Celebrating a long life with HIV

‘AIDS does not have a parallel in the COVID experience’ By ROB WATSON We are about to celebrate Worlds AIDS Day, in the middle of a new pandemic. For those who have survived, and will continue to live strong, it is a good moment to look at what we have learned, and what we can offer a confused world around us. This past week, on my podcast RATED LGBT RADIO, I sat down with Mark S. King, the popular and award-winning blogger of “My Fabulous Disease.” A long-term HIV survivor, King has made a career of being a voice for his fellow HIV-positive community members. He shared thoughts on our current health crisis. “As bad as it is, and certainly, we have not had this level of bat-shit crazy before, that’s true, but it is also true that people like me know this is not our first pandemic. It is also not our first president ignoring it,” King said. AIDS was first brought up to President Reagan’s press secretary Larry Speakes during a White House press conference in 1982. Speakes made a joke about the disease. According to Caitlin Gibson of the Washington Post: “At subsequent press conferences in 1983 and 1984, Speakes — and the White House press corps —continue to respond to the increasingly urgent questions about AIDS with a mix of laughter, homophobic jokes and general indifference.” A journalist, who was in the room at the time, shared, “I was young, deeply closeted and horrified. You cannot imagine my reaction to that display of callousness.” On Sept. 17, 1985, Reagan finally mentioned the disease in the context of answering a question from the press. By comparison, Reagan’s silence makes Trump’s seem like a mere blip. Another difference with the COVID-19 pandemic is that it brings a widespread shared experience. There are fights, resistance, and subversive behaviors, but through all that, there is a broad commonality. You can say to virtually anyone “it is hard because of COVID” and you will get head nods in sympathy and agreement. That was not the case with AIDS. For many it was a pandemic in the gay ghettos and social circles, and life “as normal” everywhere else. Sharing that it had even touched your life brought shame. “COVID is different. HIV is the scuzzy, sexual, drug shooting cousin to it,” King pointed out. “We had to establish our value in the public square,” King observed of the AIDS crisis response versus COVID-19. “It was not the value of killing your grandmother in her nursing home. “We had a much harder road to hoe. It is similar in that masks are the new condoms. Some people just will not… when the threat is invisible, it is hard to get them to take it seriously. This is still about privilege. It was then, and is now, that this is about who has access to healthcare and information, and who does not.” He acknowledges that many young LGBTQ folks do not feel the impact of the AIDS crisis or 04 • NOVEMBER 27, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

understand the weight of the experience it afforded. He also recognizes that there has been an in-community stigma that does not have a parallel in the COVID pandemic experience. “We love to separate ourselves from ‘the other,’ it is human nature. Then we stigmatize them because it is an easy, lazy way, to feel better about ourselves. A hierarchy was created when it came to HIV—and top of the heap were those who were HIV negative,” he said. “The fortunate, the lucky. At the bottom were long-term survivors—the ones with the “scars,” facial wasting, body disfigurement. Many gay men find it hard to face and they wish it would just go die already. For too many gay men… they are young and frivolous, and I get that—and used to be them myself—I am not blaming them. To them, we represent a war they would rather forget,” he added then continued: “I try to be philosophical about these things, and I am more philosophical now than I used to be. I am not one of these people who bag on the young people today — ‘they don’t care! They don’t know history’ I have to be careful of what I call ‘bludgeoning young gay men with my AIDS tragedy’ – we all have our stuff. Every generation, every group. I survived AIDS in the 80s, and I survived years and years before there was a single pill I could take. “But there are people listening to RATED LGBT Radio that have been just as bad—likely worse. If I don’t take my grief and my trauma – my hope and my skills, my gratitude, and use those, to help someone else, to better someone else, then what the hell did we go through all that for?” Many activists worked extremely hard to get to this place—a place where young people could live their lives free from the fear and dread of their sexuality and tying it to a terrifying and deadly threat. So, to activists like King, that possibly “laisse faire attitude” is not a waste, it is a success. That success will parlay into an event on Dec. 16, streaming on Facebook and YouTube, for King, and all others who outran “the Plague.” King is now 60 years old and embracing it with flourish. “With all that is going on in the world celebrating long life with HIV is an act of grace, science, and belief, and hope — so I’m thrilled,” he stated. The proceeds from the party will benefit The Reunion Project, a network of HIV survivors. Sir Elton John, his husband David Furnish as well as Greg Louganis are some of the many celebrities who will appear. (To attend, go to www.Markis60.com) “It will be silly. It will be celebratory. We have left many friends behind, but that does not minimize the frivolous fun we will have. It has been quite a year to be sure. It has been quite a life. Who knew we would make it this far?” King summed up his outlook. “Ultimately, in both pandemics, I believe in the goodness of people, and at the end of the day, we shall overcome.”




Repair our federal courts.


Protect marriage equality.


End policies granting “licenses to discriminate” to those opposed to LGBTQ equality.


Reverse executive orders promoting white supremacy and xenophobia.


End the transgender military ban.


Defend, don’t attack, transgender kids.


Promote LGBTQ access to affordable and nondiscriminatory healthcare.


Stop separating immigrant and LGBTQ families.


End the military’s discrimination against servicemembers with HIV.

10. Remove barriers to asylum for people fleeing persecution, including LGBTQ people. Donations made before December 31st will be matched up to $250,000. To support the fight, visit lambdalegal.org/Challenge21.


Stronger at the broken places Essay on the plague for World AIDS Day By KAREN OCAMB “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry,” Ernest Hemingway wrote in “A Farewell to Arms,” a novel about love, death and grief during World War 1. It sounds like the war people confronting COVID are dealing with now. It sounds like the war gays first faced fighting AIDS. America is at war with herself, again. It’s as if monarch-loving Tory cult loyalists and Confederate white supremacists handed down their bigoted traditions to anxious racists who devised and extended an existential Southern Strategy to keep minorities subservient. Even the lowest of the low white man could feel superior to any Black, brown or Asian individual, tribe or country of origin. And men were inherently superior to women, because the Bible said so. LGBTQ people didn’t exist and if one emerged, they were arrested as criminals, wantonly beaten as perverts who deserved it, lobotomized to be cured, or murdered and disposed of with no need for justification. But unlike other minorities, LGBTQ people were often at war within themselves. However, many found courage when they chose authenticity, seeking each other out while risking arrest, hate and death to love and create community. The secretive Mattachine Society burst into the open through the Stonewall Rebellion, which flourished during the anti-Vietnam War and liberation movements of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. San Francisco-based Harvey Milk and other gays in politics started demanding respected representation. But Milk was assassinated, disco died and religious zealots won over by Florida Orange Juice flak Anita Bryant and her partner in the national anti-gay evangelical crusade, Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority, seduced enough legacy bigots to put biased Hollywood B actor Ronald Reagan in the White House. So America didn’t care when gays started dying of AIDS. It was God’s punishment for homosexuality. The Bible said so: “If any man lie with a man as with a woman, both have committed an abomination, let them be put to death: their blood be upon them.” Leviticus 20:13. But there were Tories and Confederates in the gay community, too. The rich and elite didn’t really feel the sting of racism or sexism or homophobia unless they were outed and pursued and demeaned and couldn’t buy their way out of a predicament. AIDS helped change that. In the beginning, AIDS cut down almost everyone from the poorest to the richest gay man oozing white privilege. The rich man may have had greater access to healthcare in the Betty Ford wing of Cedars Sinai Hospital while the poorest languished in the dank hallways of LA County & USC Medical Center — but escaping death before 1996 was a rare exception. Many of us lost many friends. The grief was constant and unbearable. The grief was so unbearable, it sometimes broke through the numbness of producing or attending memorials twice, sometimes three times a week. The numbness was so crazy, mourners would laugh at macabre jokes – gallows humor – and flirt and flirt and flirt with each other as if this moment was the only moment that mattered. It’s an old instinctive mythology – Eros and Thanatos rolling in the sheets. AIDS survivors had a quiet kinship, much like veterans nod with discreet understanding after spotting insignias or tattoos or 12 Steppers let slip a 06 • NOVEMBER 27, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

program phrase like “Let go, let God.” There was racial and societal crossover there. And in the rooms, it was genuine. But then, after the meeting, survivors and hoping-to-survive people with AIDS separated into their closeted lives or divided LGBTQ communities. Sometimes, if they met in the outside world, a smile, a warm glance, a quick hug would convey a whole secret world of love and well-wishes. Or if the smile was misconstrued, “oppression sickness” – as Morris Kight used to call it – would ensue. Even as ACT UP and Queer Nation made their mark, the

Screenshot of CBS News coverage of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

shame-infused closet dominated. People were afraid to come out lest they be abandoned by their friends and family – which happened too often with the double stigmas of homosexuality and AIDS. Everything was simultaneously heightened and numbing. But every now and then there were moments when the whole world seemed brilliantly clear and people would come together in love and support and soul-exploding celebration. Nov. 18, 1992 was just such a night. For a decade since its founding in October 1982, AIDS Project Los Angeles had been fighting to save lives of people impacted by HIV/AIDS. Willfully taking the advice of anti-gay evangelical and rabid right-wing advisers, President Ronald Reagan ignored the cries of the gay community and even members of his own Centers for Disease Control who warned that the communicable virus would cause an unrelenting epidemic, which it did. By 1992, when Democratic Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton defeated Republican President George Herbert Walker Bush, AIDS had become the leading cause of death in America for men ages 25-44. APLA had its ups and downs, several times facing financial collapse. But fundraisers like the annual Commitment to Life ceremony brought out Hollywood A-listers for the money and offered people with AIDS an opportunity to enjoy a lavish show they might not otherwise get to see.


The Los Angeles Times coverage of Project AIDS LA fundraiser November 1992. (Photo via collection of Karen Ocamb)

That night, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 1992, the Universal Amphitheatre was packed and throbbing with excitement as APLA honored mega-star and gay obsession Barbra Streisand and music and movie mogul David Geffen, who had given $1 million to APLA that year. Additionally, 6,500 people got to celebrate Bill Clinton’s victory. The lobby of the Amphitheatre displayed 80 AIDS Quilts as a reminder to the non-directly impacted that 160,000 Americans had died. Everyone dared to hope that an AIDS cure and vaccine was right around the corner. This CTL fundraiser was chaired by former Fox Inc. Chair Barry Diller and Creative Artists Agency President Ron Meyer with the show itself conceived by producer Bernie Taupin, staged by Vincent Paterson, emceed by Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty with David Foster as music director. APLA chair Steve Tisch read a telegram from Clinton before a slew of stars sang duets and songs from gay composers Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s “West Side Story.” Picture this: “America” done by Natalie Cole, Patti LaBelle and Sheila E; Elton John prancing around singing “I Feel Pretty;” Streisand and Johnny Mathis singing “One Hand, One Heart” and Streisand closing the show with “Somewhere.” The evening netted $3.3 million. The entertainment didn’t produce the biggest jaw-dropping moments, however. Those came from Streisand and Geffen. “I will never forgive my fellow actor, Ronald Reagan, for the genocidal denial of the illness’s existence; for his refusal to even utter the word ‘AIDS’ for seven years and for blocking adequate funding,” said Streisand, whose gay son Jason was outed in 1991. “Then came George Bush, once the moderate, who in a Faustian bargain, allied himself with the same primitive, gay-bashing immoral minority….I keep pinching myself. Finally, a president who is committed to finding a cure for AIDS.” She also called for a boycott of Colorado for passing Amendment 2, an initiative that eliminated protections and equal rights for gays and lesbians. The media talked about that for days. But perhaps the most poignant and heart-enhancing moment came when a nervous David Geffen took the stage and referred to stacks of 341 Rolodex cards placed on top of a stool. He had expected to test HIV positive after his first friend died in 1985 but he was lucky. “When the first person I knew died, I couldn’t bring myself to throw his Rolodex card away, so I saved it. I now have a rubber band around 341 cards,” Geffen said, referring to his friend

Michael Bennett, director of “The Chorus Line,” which Geffen financed. The Jim Parsons/Tommy Boatwright scene in the film “The Normal Heart” is based on that Geffen practice. Geffen spoke about the need to “nurture and protect young gays who look up to us for hope that they, too, can lead a life uninhibited by fear and guilt and shame.” And then the bombshell that shook the rafters with cheers: “As a gay man, I’ve come a long way to be here tonight.” He wasn’t just an elite mogul anymore. He shared their heart – the gay men with KS lesions and medical humpbacks and shriveled skin hanging off a skeleton. He was hugging them now from afar. “And in different places and by different paths, we’ve all come a long way,” Geffen said. “And yet there is an equally long way to go. If I have learned anything, I have learned this – that we must walk this path together.” 160,000 Americans died from AIDS in the decade between 1982 and 1992. But in the face of intentional government neglect and obfuscation, societal cruelty, and internalized shame, gay people forged bonds with their brothers and sisters and created a community that survivors today recognize with a smile and a tear. As of Nov. 23, COVID-19 has killed more than 250,000 people since last February. And just as gays rejoiced when Clinton was elected, now there are huge expectations for Joe Biden to end the coronavirus pandemic after Donald Trump’s unforgivable failure. There are so many similarities between our experience then and the grief of COVID survivors today. Where is the communal sharing of grief, the agony of losing family, friends and a “normal” life that only COVID survivors understand? Perhaps, in some way, AIDS survivors can be of help. We are stronger now in many broken places.

KAREN OCAMB is an award-winning LGBTQ media journalist and the former News Editor of the Los Angeles Blade. She is currently writing a book about friends who died of AIDS. LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 27, 2020 • 07


Federal appeals court voids ban on ‘conversion therapy’ Decision creates split among circuit courts on the constitutionality of measures By BRODY LEVESQUE Blade. The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, The Elbert P. Tuttle U.S. Court of Appeals Building in Atlanta Staver hailed the decision against in a 2-1 decision Friday, voided a pair (Photo courtesy U.S. Government) bans on conversion therapy in a of local ordinances that were passed statement as a win for free speech and by the city of Boca Raton, Florida and predicting similar rulings would follow surrounding Palm Beach County that the Blade’s Chris Johnson reported. prohibited therapists from offering so“This is a huge victory for called conversion therapy to minors counselors and their clients to choose struggling with their sexual orientation the counsel of their choice free of or gender identity. political censorship from government In its ruling the court held that the ideologues,” Staver said. “This case bans were unconstitutional violating is the beginning of the end of similar First Amendment rights on contentunconstitutional counseling bans cased speech and religious freedoms. around the country.” The suit had been brought by two Rep. Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles therapists that the ordinances targeted County) who authored the first ban on prohibiting them as well as other youth conversion therapy in the nation licensed counselors from performing as a California State Senator and who gay conversion therapy on minors. They introduced proposed legislation for were represented by vehemently antifederal bans in Congress told the LGBTQ Mat Staver, founder of OrlandoBlade in an emailed statement: “I am based Liberty Counsel, a law firm that disappointed and dismayed at this seeks out legislation or regulatory court decision. It’s wrong on the facts. mandates which uphold LGBTQ rights Banning conversion therapy doesn’t and challenges them in courts across concern free speech – it’s about the United States to overturn them. fraud. Conversion therapy peddles Robert Otto and Julie Hamilton, who treatments for an ailment that doesn’t have engaged in conversion therapy exist. There is nothing wrong with with minors in Florida despite warnings being gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans or queer. Suggesting someone can sell a ‘cure’ to being against the practice, had challenged the municipal ordinances in the litigation. LGBTQ+ is harmful and dishonest.” Reporting on the lawsuit, Courthouse News this past February noted that the Palm In an email Friday, Palm Beach County Attorney Helene Hvizd told the Blade: “Palm Beach county regulation provides for a fine of $250 for performing conversion therapy on Beach County continues to review the majority and dissenting opinions as we weigh our a minor, with a $500 fine for each additional violation. The laws define conversion therapy options.” as the practice of attempting to change a patient’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Jamie Cole, a partner with Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman P.L. and co-counsel for In court filings Staver argued that the clients of the two therapists claimed that those the City of Boca Raton, said via email to the Blade the legal team is weighing its next steps. persons they counseled had expressed “sincerely held religious beliefs conflicting with “This is a difficult legal issue, as evidenced by the split decision,” Cole said. “The city homosexuality,” and sought counseling to conform their identities and behaviors with is disappointed with the majority decision, but agrees with the well-written and wellthose beliefs. reasoned dissent. The city is analyzing the decision to determine how to proceed.” A federal judge in Miami had ruled that the “plaintiffs have not met their burden of Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, discouraged showing that the ordinances violate the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.” via email to the Blade any attempt to call for resolution of the issue before Supreme Court, In the special hearing before the three judge panel of the 11th Circuit last February, the which now has a 6-3 conservative majority as a result of Trump-appointed picks. therapists fought to dispel the notion that they were engaged in aggressive attempts to “I do not think this issue is ripe for Supreme Court review,” Minter said. “Today’s ruling change patients’ sexual identity. Staver argued that the counselors used neither shaming is an outlier by two Trump-appointed judges. As the dissent points out, the decision is not nor punishment, instead relying solely on conversation as therapy. well grounded in precedent and ignores what the dissent rightly describes as a “mountain Leading mental health professional organizations, the American Pediatrics and of rigorous evidence” that conversion therapy puts minors at risk of serious harms.” American Psychiatric Associations are opposed to what both have termed “the damaging Minter urged the municipalities to take another course of action, saying “because the effects of conversion therapy.” majority opinion here is so off track, seeking en banc review would be more appropriate “There is no evidence that it is helpful and plenty of evidence that it is psychologically than seeking Supreme Court review.” harmful to participants. The practice must be banned in order to protect the mental The Eleventh Circuit decision creates a split among circuit courts on the constitutionality and emotional well being of both children and adults,” a spokesperson for the American of bans on conversion therapy. The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Ninth Pediatrics Association told the Blade. “It can be reasonably argued that members of Circuit Court of Appeals have previously upheld these bans as constitutional. the LGBTQ community experience suicide and assault at greater rates than the general The split among the circuit courts on the issue may prompt the Supreme Court to take it population, in part, due to the continued authorization of conversion therapy.” up to resolve the constitutional issue on a nationwide basis — provided the municipalities “The archaic idea that mental health providers can or should change someone’s submit a petition for review. gender expression or gender identity or their sexual orientation is based on a history of Both appellate judges in the majority of Friday’s ruling were appointed to the bench by stigmatization and subjective, restrictive sexual identities. It increases the risk of suicide President Trump, while the dissenting judge was appointed by President Obama. of our LGBTQ children from trauma via conversion therapy,” Dr. Katya Dobrynin told the 08 • NOVEMBER 27, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM



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Activists call on Biden-Harris to champion LGBTQ rights abroad Advocacy groups are calling for the incoming Biden-Harris administration to make LGBTQ rights a cornerstone of its foreign policy. The Council for Global Equality in a policy paper it released after the election calls for the new administration to issue an executive order within its first week in the White House that would lay “the institutional groundwork for supporting global LGBTI rights, transgender equality and reproductive rights.” The advocacy group is also urging the new administration to “direct that gender issues feature prominently in a Biden foreign policy” and to “rethink religious exemptions to policies, with due consideration given to the public funding and purposes employed.” The Council for Global Equality, among other things, recommends the Biden-Harris administration nominate openly lesbian and transgender people for ambassadorships and “reinstate promptly” the State Department’s special envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights at the level of an ambassador. The Council for Global Equality recommends the U.S. should rejoin both the U.N. Human Rights Council and the World Health Organization. The Council for Global Equality also calls for the Biden-Harris administration to formally renounce the State Department’s controversial Commission on Unalienable Rights that current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo created last year. “We are excited to work with the Biden-Harris administration to center the rights of LGBTI individuals in U.S. foreign policy after four devastating years under the Trump administration,” Center for Global Equality Chair Mark Bromley told the Blade on Monday. The Center for American Progress this week made similar recommendations in its own policy paper that it released. The D.C.-based progressive think tank, like the Council for Global Equality, also calls for Congress to pass the Greater Leadership Overseas for the Benefit of

Cuban authorities detain Blade media partner’s editor Cuban authorities on Sunday detained the managing editor of the Washington Blade’s media partner on the Communist island. Maykel González Vivero in a series of messages he sent to the Blade shortly after 8 p.m. EST said a police car drove him to a “dark road” about 15 miles outside of Havana and released him. González a few hours earlier in a post on his Facebook page wrote he is “a journalist and I am going to get myself detained now by the police. Without force. Without drama.” González has backed members of MAYKEL GONZÁLEZ VIVERO the San Isidro Movement, a group of (Blade photo by Michael Key) independent artists, who are currently on a hunger strike to protest the rapper Denis Solís’ arrest earlier this month. Authorities on Sunday also detained Luz Escobar, a reporter for 14ymedio, an independent website founded by Yoani Sánchez, a prominent critic of the Cuban government. Florida Congresswoman-elect María Elvira Salazar on Sunday in a tweet in response to González’s detention said the “Castro regime continues to arbitrarily arrest, beat-up and persecute all those who dare to speak their minds.” “This latest wave of repression exposes the barbaric tactics the socialist regime employs to oppress the people of Cuba in violation of all basic human rights,” tweeted Salazar. The State Department’s 2019 human rights report notes the Cuban government “does not recognize independent journalists” and they “sometimes faced government harassment, including detention and physical abuse.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS 10 • NOVEMBER 27, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

President-elect JOE BIDEN and Vice President-elect KAMALA HARRIS (Blade file photos by Michael Key and Tom Hausman)

Equality (GLOBE) Act, a bill that would require the U.S. to continue to promote LGBTQ rights abroad through its foreign policy. The Human Rights Campaign and OutRight Action International have also echoed the Center for American Progress and the Council for Global Equality’s recommendations. President Obama in 2011 issued a memorandum that made the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. The Trump administration did not formalize this directive, but some U.S. diplomats have continued to support gay rights abroad. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Pandemic exacerbates inequities for trans people: study A new global study has found the coronavirus pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on transgender people’s mental health and economic stability. The study by a team of seven researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University Center for Public Health and Human Rights found 77 percent of respondents expected a decrease in income. And more than half of them reported losing gender-affirming resources; including surgery delays, inability to purchase beauty products and other factors. The study is one of the first of its kind to analyze the intersections of economy, mental health and gender-affirming care for trans people. The team was also purposeful in making the work community-based by involving queer scientists in the study, said Brooke Jarrett, an author of the study who is a queer woman of color and a doctoral candidate in epidemiology at the university. “I think that this topic is something that … is always lit within us,” said Jarrett. “And so whenever I see an area where there’s an opportunity to highlight, to bring out our voices, I think it’s so important to do that.” LGBT Foundation CEO Sean Howell, who is the founder of Hornet, a queer dating app, also served as an author of the study. He disseminated a survey on the app, as well as on the queer dating app Her, from April to August. It received responses from 76 countries that include Turkey, Thailand and Russia. More than 900 users participated in the survey, which was translated into 13 languages. Howell said the team was purposeful in releasing and analyzing this data during the pandemic in hopes it will point to the need for changes to help trans and non-binary people economically and health-wise. The study found positive screens for depression and anxiety are correlated with access to gender-affirming care, and more than 40 percent of respondents reported losing access to mental health counseling. One in six respondents also expected to lose their health insurance. KAELA ROEDER

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

Even in defeat, Trump has already won Effort to pack courts with right-wing judges bears early fruit By KEVIN NAFF

As progressives celebrate Donald Trump’s defeat and the end of an anti-LGBTQ administration, the cold, hard reality of his damaging four-year tenure hit home last week. A three-judge panel on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that bans on conversion therapy for youth in Boca Raton and Palm Beach violate freedom of speech protections under the First Amendment. The surprise ruling represents a major setback for the movement to ban so-called “conversion therapy,” the absurd and widely discredited practice of attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It also illustrates that while Trump’s disastrous three Supreme Court picks are bad, his effort to pack lower courts with right-wing ideologues could be worse. The Eleventh Circuit ruling was a 2-1 decision; both judges who voted to overturn the bans are Trump appointees. Conversion therapy for youth is banned in D.C., Puerto Rico and 20 states. The result of this decision could imperil conversion therapy bans across the country. Because of the decision, any state or municipality within the jurisdiction — which includes Alabama, Georgia, and Florida — would be unable to enact bans on conversion therapy. Existing bans on conversion therapy in Florida — which are found in two dozen municipalities, including Miami, Tampa, and Wilton Manors — are unconstitutional, as the Blade reported last week. Legal experts are already warning not to pursue an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, due to its new 6-3 conservative majority. Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told the Blade: “I do not think this issue is ripe for Supreme Court review. Today’s ruling is an outlier by two Trump-appointed judges. As the dissent points out, the decision is not well grounded in precedent and ignores what the dissent rightly describes as a ‘mountain of rigorous evidence’ that conversion therapy puts minors at risk of serious harms.” Trump has appointed about a quarter of all active federal judges in the United States, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, which noted that 85 percent of those picks were white. Although President Obama appointed a higher percentage of federal judges in eight years, Pew notes: “Trump, however, stands out for his unusually large number of appeals court judges — the powerful regional jurists who have the final word on most appeals that do not end up in the Supreme Court.” Meanwhile, in her first week as a Supreme Court justice, Amy Coney Barrett heard her first LGBTQ-related case. In the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, Catholic Social Services argues a First Amendment right to refuse to place children with same-sex couples, despite the city’s laws barring anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Oral arguments didn’t go well for the city. As the Blade reported: “During oral arguments, conservative justices — displaying open animosity toward non-discrimination rules for religious institutions — seemed poised to rule to allow Catholic Social Services to reject LGBTQ couples in foster care services.” It’s hard to overstate the negative impact of a bad decision in Fulton, which would trigger an avalanche of discrimination against not just LGBTQ Americans, but religious and racial minorities, in areas of life from housing to hospitals. It may well turn out that 2020 wasn’t the most important election of our lifetime, as many insisted. Instead, that distinction belongs to 2016. Hillary Clinton’s loss will reverberate for decades to come as Trump’s right-wing judges roll back the hard-fought progress of the LGBTQ movement. Today, it’s adoption rights in Philadelphia. Tomorrow, it will undoubtedly be the Obergefell marriage ruling in the crosshairs as the court moves to create the “skim milk marriage” that Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned about. 12 • NOVEMBER 27, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

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is a veteran journalist and Editor-At-Large of the Los Angeles Blade.

Biden’s election a sense of relief, hope — and caution A new president is something to be thankful for this year By BRODY LEVESQUE “There is no necessity to separate the monarch from the mob; all authority is equally bad.” ~ Oscar Wilde The last four years have been grim for the greater LGBTQI+ community. Trump’s presidency unleashed a seemingly endless barrage of hate-filled attacks, a ban on trans military service, and potential future legal landmines because of a sycophantic Republican Senate filling the federal court system with jurists who most definitely are intolerant and in many cases not even qualified. Noting that in fairness, in addition to LGBTQ+ people, intolerant of voting rights for Black Americans, women’s reproductive rights, and immigrants especially those of color. This presidential administration was largely comprised of Trump tweeting then rushed reactions by officials to validate and carry out his craven and oftentimes irresponsible electronic social media executive mandates and madness. Governance suddenly was based on the whims of a volatile, ignorant and petty tyrant, which laid the framework during his last year in office for the disastrous handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the deaths to date of over a quarter of a million Americans. The First Amendment defenders of the press were denigrated, insulted, labeled ‘Fake News’ and suddenly even found themselves subject to death threats at the worst or serious injuries at the least. Peaceful protesters found themselves battling not only law enforcement, but elements of white supremacy or hyper nationalists cheered on by Trump in tweet after tweet or in rally after rally or utterances to far-right media. In one case, people were tear-gassed so that Trump could pose for a picture. Trump attacked immigrants and frankly any group such as Muslims in a blatantly racist way, then when challenged would lie about his actions. Piece by piece Trump and his cronies and enablers in Congress dismantled a government that while at times has functioned as a bloated bureaucracy to be certain, nonetheless it manages to deliver its necessary services. The level of corruptness of Trump administration officials has been breathtaking. Outside of the fact that the president himself was impeached, eight of his top advisers were convicted of serious crimes and the investigations into the Trump administration produced over 100 charges by federal prosecutors and an additional 34 people charged with serious crimes all directly related to this president. That rapidly changed, Trump came promising to drain the swamp instead filling it with billionaire cronies, unqualified administrators for the various agencies and then attacked institutions beloved by many Americans but despised by those on the right who have waited for years to disassemble FDR’s legacy or LBJ’s civil rights accomplishments. Then the all out assault to destroy President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act that will remove protections and health care for over 20 million Americans. (And without a whit of a plausible replacement plan even in existence.)

Then to ensure a legacy of the intolerance of so-called conservative ‘religious-right’ ideals, Trump and his Senate enablers are leaving behind a Supreme Court with the most conservative majority in decades with a potential to undo the gains of the LGBTQ+ community to include same-sex marriage and the rights of same-sex couples or even single LGBTQ+ people to adopt or foster children. A majority on the high court that will ensure that Roe v Wade is overturned, and continue to limit the rights of Black voters. Americans have watched for four years as Trump has blundered with foreign policy by alienating allies. He has cozied up to dictators in Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, North Korea even going so far as to allow the murder of Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian dissident, author, journalist and columnist for The Washington Post. The list is dizzying and sadly incomplete as a book length accounting would be truly necessary. The change though that gives one hope is the election of Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris. It gives the American people a cessation in the incessant lying, coded racist rantings, and the parade of attacks spreading divisive rhetoric. But that renewed sense of hope is also tempered by the reality that an election that saw a record breaking historic number of Americans participate and vote, the fact that 79,887,852 who voted for Biden is overshadowed by the fact that 73,815,488 voted for Trump. Take a pause for a moment, go back over the first few paragraphs, then reflect on the fact that 73+ million Americans are perfectly happy with those behaviors and particularly, the lying. It doesn’t bother them. That’s actually frightening especially when you observe that instead of conceding the election after Biden’s resounding electoral vote count of 306 to Trump’s 232, he still insists that he will be elected and to that end there have been more lies as he tries to claim fraud and malfeasance in the system. This is dangerous and damaging. There has been a bright spot of relief for LGBTQ+ people as this election also saw a record number, of over 500 LGBTQ+ Americans elected to all levels of government from local to state houses to the U.S. Congress. This type of representation is critical along with the out of the gate support given in the acceptance speech the president-elect gave affirming his support and allyship of the LGBTQ+ community. That said, the cautionary note remains that Trump and his Republican enablers as well as his cronies leave behind the wreckage of a government and worse a divided nation. There’s a great deal of work to repair the damages, still given what would have occurred had he been reelected? One can indeed be thankful. (A special editor’s note of gratitude for this week’s cover art by Paul Richmond. He is an internationally recognized visual artist and LGBTQ activist whose career has included exhibitions in galleries and museums throughout the United States. He is also co-founder of the You Will Rise Project, an organization that empowers those who have experienced bullying to speak out creatively through art. Richmond and his husband reside in Monterrey, Calif.) LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 27, 2020 • 13

DARNELL MOORE hosts ‘Being Seen’ (Photo courtesy Harley & Company)

New podcast focuses on stories of Black, queer men Staring down concurrent epidemics and uplifting a community By PARKER PURIFOY

According to writer and activist Darnell Moore, he would accept any opportunity to uplift the voices of LGBTQ people of color. So, when Harley & Co., a New York-based creative company, asked him to host a new podcast on that very topic, he knew he had to say yes. Harley & Co. began partnering with ViiV Healthcare in the spring to put together a podcast that centered the voices of Black, queer men. “Being Seen” launched on Oct. 6 and consists of 10, 35-minute episodes that feature writers, poets, producers, and playwrights to explore the LGBTQ Black male experience. Guests include “Harper’s Bazaar” Editor in Chief Samira Nasr, American poet Saeed Jones, and film and television writer Lee Daniels, among others. “In pop culture, when we think about queerness, we don’t typically center the lives of Black folks,” Moore said in an interview. In the first episode, titled “The First” Moore discusses how powerful firsts can be in the media. “We remember our firsts. . .And then, there are the firsts we encounter in entertainment and culture,” he says. “The tender intimacy of two Black men, a family like the one you came from, the food you eat, queer love, the traditions you celebrate, an HIV-positive person depicted as a whole person, your language depicted as a first language. Those types of firsts are often hard won and the result of years and sometimes decades of a battle to get something made. The result of pushing back against invisibility.” Sarah Hall, one of the founders of Harley & Co. and a producer of the podcast, said each episode of the podcast is meant to parallel different aspects of the storytelling process. One episode is about deciding what types of stories to tell. Another is about the roles different individuals play in telling stories. “On a broader level, we’re trying to say that we can actually change who we are through the entertainment and narrative and storytelling properties that we create,” she said. “We’re not doing that intentionally all the time but we should be because we know that we can change perception and behavior in that way.” These types of conversations centering Black, queer men are more important than ever, Moore said, because of the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in recent months and the COVID-19 pandemic. “This year alone has brought to bear the many old inequities. They were just exacerbated by things like a pandemic,” he said in an interview from his home in West Hollywood. “We are at this moment where we’re seeing the mantra of ‘Black Lives Matter’ being held up and we need to acknowledge that some of those Black lives are queer people. If we are going to hold ‘Black Lives Matter’ as a mantra through which we are inspired, then we have to name the mattering of those other voices too.” Moore also said this type of art is vital during difficult moments in history because it’s important to highlight the joy and creativity of communities of color, in addition to their struggle and hardships. “We need spaces to proclaim our own narratives, to express joy, to express our love for the things that we create outside of the gaze of either whiteness or straightness,” he said. “We need space to think about dreaming beyond where we are.” According to Hall, the producers of the show wanted to turn this project into a podcast because the audio-only format provides a level of intimacy that can’t be found on other 14 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 27, 2020

platforms. “When we are turned into subjects, we almost have this fractured sense of self. So we’re constantly self aware when there’s a visual component because of other people making us into subjects,” she said. “When you’re on the podcast, you can have a little bit of freedom from your image. It’s kind of like when you call someone late at night and there’s an intimacy there that you might not have if you were getting coffee together at 10 a.m.” “Being Seen” was produced in partnership with ViiV Healthcare, a pharmaceutical company that specializes in the care of people living with HIV. Kimberly Smith, head of research and development at ViiV and one of the guests on the podcast, said the company’s work revolves around more than just producing pharmaceuticals. “We feel it’s also important that we stay connected to the community, address stigma, and are seen as being partners to the community, not just some company that makes meds,” she said. “We feel that responsibility, accountability, and desire to be more than a pharmaceutical company. Many of us consider ourselves to be advocates.” This isn’t the first time ViiV has partnered with Harley & Co. on a creative endeavor. The two collaborated in 2017 to produce “As Much As I Can”, an off-Broadway show that centered the lives of Black, gay men. When they were deciding which guests to book for the podcast, Hall said they were looking for people who were not only doing valuable creative work, but also those who could explain their work to an audience. “Some people are creative, but they couldn’t explain to you what they do,” she said. “So we really thought about people who were not only doing the work but had an ability to describe the way they did the work that we felt would be really additive and helpful to the listener.” Hall said they were ultimately “so incredibly fortunate” to include the guests now featured in the episodes. Because of the global pandemic, Hall and other workers at Harley & Co. packaged up professional-grade microphones and sent them all over the country and all over the world so Moore and the guests could hold their interviews. “[Harley] is not producing anything if it isn’t excellent,” Moore said, referring to the production quality of the series. While it is unclear whether a season two is in the works, Hall said season one won’t be complete until the audience hears it. “No creative piece like this is complete until your audience listens to it,” she said. “They’re the final guests on your show so you really need them to listen to it and and share with you their experience so you can understand the impact of what you created.” Moore said he hopes white, straight people will listen and learn something new with each episode, but he said he is more excited for queer people of color to see themselves in a work of pop culture like the podcast. “I hope that black, gay, queer, bi, trans, and non binary folk can listen to this and get some sense of themselves showing up in what they’re hearing and I hope that they receive joy and inspiration,” he said. “I hope that people listen to this and say, ‘Yes, I needed this. We needed this. This is for me.’”

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‘Memorial’ is one of the best books of the year

A brilliant debut from acclaimed queer author Bryan Washington By KATHI WOLFE Many books come out in a year. Often, they’re provocative, absorbing or, at the very least, brain candy. But, like a hastily eaten fast-food meal, they’re quickly forgotten. No matter how worthy, memories of them will vanish as quickly as a fun size pack of M&Ms. “Memorial,” the debut novel by acclaimed queer author Bryan Washington, is unforgettable. You’ll devour it, feasting on every page. Its flavor — tender, spicy, and poignant – will stick to your palate leaving you hungering for more. “Memorial” is the story of Ben (short for Benson) and Mike, a queer couple, who live in Houston’s slowly gentrifying Third Ward. They’ve been together for several years, but their relationship is fraying. Ben, who is Black, is a teacher in a day care center. He grew up in a middle-class household. His parents are divorced. His father, an alcoholic, is a former local TV weatherman and occasional substitute teacher. His parents don’t accept his sexuality when he reveals that he’s HIV positive. Mike, a chef, is Asian. His family was poor. During an argument, Mike tells Ben “you had money.” Growing up, roaches roamed where he slept, Mike says to Ben. Mike’s family came to Houston from Japan. When he was young, Mike’s parents returned to Japan. As “Memorial” begins, Mike’s parents have been living in Japan for years. His mother, Mitsuko, who’s divorced from his father, Eiju, has just arrived in Houston for a visit. But just as his time with his Mom is about to begin, Mike learns that Eiju, in Osaka, Japan is terminally ill. Like Ben’s folks, Mike’s parents aren’t comfortable with his sexuality. Eiju, like Ben’s Dad does to Ben, aims homophobic slurs at Mike. Mitsuko, like Ben’s Mom, knows that her son is queer, but can’t bear to talk about it. Suddenly, Ben and Mitsuko find themselves alone, living for an undetermined amount of time, with a stranger. That would be awkward enough. On top of that, they’re an Asian hetero woman and Black, queer man thrown together in a small space. They have to share not only the bathroom, but the kitchen. Mitsuko, Ben discovers, has rearranged the kitchen. For what seems like eons, she barely speaks to him. Except to say, “so you’re Black.” Meanwhile, Ben keeps waiting for a text from Mike, while wondering when or if they should break up. Mike finds himself in Osaka – on the other side of the world – in close quarters with his father who he hasn’t seen in years. He hasn’t been in Japan since he was a child. He’s trying to be a caregiver for a Dad who he hasn’t connected with for ages. Eiju operates a small bar. One of his caregiving tasks, Mike learns, is to help his Dad manage the bar. He gets to know the regulars while thinking about hooking up with guys. This is awkward on steroids! In lesser hands, “Memorial,” would have been a jumbled mix of second-rate sit-com and soap opera. But Washington is a brilliant writer. “Brilliant” is overused. Yet, “brilliant” is the only apt word to describe Washington’s work. Washington, 27, who lives in Houston, has won numerous awards. He is a National Book Award 5 Under 35 honoree, winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Washington’s first book, “Lot,” his acclaimed 2019 short story collection, was a New York Times Notable Book and on the best-of-the-year lists of Vanity Fair, NPR, and other outlets. He has written for The New Yorker, BuzzFeed, The Paris Review, and many other publications. “Memorial” is narrated in turns by Benson and Mike. Washington’s style is deceptively simple. Reading it feels like you’re eavesdropping on the couple’s private thoughts and conversations. From the beginning as Ben says, “Mike’s taking off for Osaka, but his mother’s flying into Houston,” you might think, “this is how people talk every day, I could write a story like this.” Sorry, you’d hit the skids trying. “Memorial” is one of the best books of this or any year.


By Bryan Washington

c.2020, Riverhead Books $27/320 pages



‘Uncle Frank’ is a coming-out tale full of heart

Alan Ball deftly avoids stereotypes, delivers compassionate film By JOHN PAUL KING

In recent years, the crop of films that emerges around “awards season” always includes at least one high-profile LGBTQ-themed movie clearly aiming for consideration. You know the type of film I mean: glossy and slick, they usually feature at least one or two “name” actors with prestige value, center around a particular “issue” connected to being LGBTQ, explore progressive ideas while still reinforcing “good old-fashioned” cultural values, and are almost always the kind of heartfelt, sentiment-driven feel-good fare that Hollywood has been so adept at producing for at least the last century. This year, right on schedule, that movie is “Uncle Frank.” This Amazon-produced comedic drama is the latest work from writer-director Alan Ball, the out gay film and television icon responsible for creating “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood” for HBO, as well as for penning 1999’s Oscar-winning “American Beauty.” Set in the early 1970s, it follows Beth Bledsoe (Sophia Lillis), a South Carolina teen who goes to New York to attend college at NYU, where her beloved Uncle Frank (Paul Bettany) is a respected literature professor. He’s delighted to see her, but when she shows up unexpectedly at his apartment during a party, it leads to an awkward surprise for them both – her discovery that he lives with his longtime male lover, Wally (Peter Macdissi). Beth is fine with the revelation that her “cool uncle” is gay; but soon afterwards, when an unexpected development at home puts them on the road back to South Carolina together, Frank must confront his fears of a less accepting response – and his memories of a traumatic past – in order to find the courage to come out to the rest of his family, once and for all. Embracing a nostalgic, literary sensibility with palpable echoes of such southern-set coming-of-age novels as “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Harper Lee even gets name-dropped), “Uncle Frank” establishes itself from the beginning as a memory piece; we know right away we are in for a romanticized vision of the past, as seen through eyes that have gained the insight that comes with the distance of years. That allows room for a little forgivable sentimentality, which – because Ball is a superb writer – emerges through the warmth, humor, and humanity of the characters rather than in the kind of forced, cloying payoff moments that turn so many similar stories into unabashed tearjerkers. It’s that same strong writing that elevates the movie above all the attendant tropes that come with the territory in these kinds of stories – and there are plenty, from a tragic backstory that could have been transplanted from an un-produced Tennessee Williams play, to a family of cartoonish southern stereotypes. These elements are part of the game that Ball plays so adeptly; he revels in sagas that find the extreme lying hidden within the mundane, and reveal the dynamics that shape relationships between people, especially families. And if the all-too-familiar story of a middle-aged gay man still closeted to his family is not quite as full of the outrageous twists to be found in the banal suburban hellscape of “American Beauty” or the vampire-infested bayous of “True Blood,” it still provides plenty of fodder for the writer to explore those themes with his customary intelligence and observational asceticism. Of course, it helps a lot that he’s graced with a talented cast. The gallery of caricatures that make up the Bledsoe clan would not be infused with as much humanizing dimension if not for an ensemble of supporting players – led by the always-monumental Margo Martindale in what can safely be described as “the Margo Martindale role” capable of giving us likeable characters we can embrace, warts and all. Still, there are higher stakes in “Uncle Frank” than the ones in Frank’s relationship with his family. Ball shrewdly centers much of his movie on the effects of his protagonist’s internalized homophobia – the lingering consequence of growing up in the closet – on his relationship with Wally. They are clearly a happy, loving couple; yet as the pressures build toward a confrontation back home, Frank pulls further and further away from his partner, trying to escape with alcohol and other substances, sparking domestic conflicts with projected resentments and a fear-based fight-or-flight mentality, and refusing to accept any offers of help and support. The movie doesn’t lean too hard on these themes – it’s ultimately meant to be uplifting, after all – but it doesn’t ignore them, either, and it’s a telling observation that we are never as deeply invested in the outcome of Frank’s coming out to

PAUL BETTANY stars as ‘Uncle Frank.’ (Photo courtesy of Amazon)

his relatives as we are in the hope that these lingering demons from a painful past won’t sabotage his relationship with a partner who obviously loves him unconditionally. Tying it all together, of course, is Beth, the fresh-out-of-the-nest fledgling who serves both as an observer and a catalyst in her uncle’s story. She’s the connecting thread between prodigal and family, obviously; but she is also the link between past and present. It is she whose experience shapes the narrative, finding meaning in Frank’s struggles and ensuring that his story is told with respect and compassion. The actors in these key roles each do stellar work. Bettany’s performance in the title role is a career best, and not just because he is a straight actor who manages to portray a gay character without resorting to a single stereotypical mannerism; Lillis, known for starring in “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase” and “It,” is here a revelation of simple, unaffected acting as Beth; and as Wally, Macdissi (Ball’s real-life partner, who is Lebanese) exudes such an air of warmth and authenticity that he easily overcomes the character’s potential for being seen as a kind of idealized vision of “magic” ethnicity. Together, the three have excellent, believable chemistry that goes a long way toward making Ball’s movie work. “Uncle Frank” is the kind of solid, compassionate, accessible film that pleases, perhaps in spite of having the slick, sanitized feel that comes with being the product of a well-oiled, profit-fueled entertainment machine. In true Hollywood style, its conflicts play out a little too neatly and a little too easily; it allows its audience to walk away at the end feeling like the problems have all been solved; and by couching its observations about homophobia in the quaintness of a bygone era, it makes us feel better about how far we’ve come. Some might question, of course, if that’s really enough, and if the world really needs another coming out story. The answer is, sadly, of course it does. If the last few years have shown us anything, it is that intolerance, bigotry, and hatred of the “other” is still very much alive in our culture; we might not all need to see movies like “Uncle Frank” in order to gain a little empathy and enlightenment, but there are a lot of people out there who do. After all, Hollywood has always been at its best when it gives its artists a chance to change hearts and minds – and when the artists are as gifted as Alan Ball, why should anyone quibble? LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 27, 2020 • 17


Harry’s Mom on why her son likes dresses And Nikki Blonsky comes out By BILLY MASTERS

“I think maybe I had something to do with it, because I was always a big fan of doing fancy dress with them when they were smaller, which Gemma hated, but Harry always embraced. Who doesn’t love playing dress up?” — Harry Styles’ mother explains why the pop singer enjoys wearing dresses - and why his sister doesn’t. The end is near...as in the end of the year. I know that because this is the 47th column of this year. According to my abacus, that means we have only four more columns before we recap 2020. In light of the pandemic, perhaps I’ll skip it - just like I’m skipping Thanksgiving. Yes, Billy is all alone in Fort Lauderdale. Due to some drama at the Filth2Go Beach House, I had to risk life and limb and fly down to Florida. In a typical maternal moment, Big Mama Masters said, “Just stay there. No sense in flying back just to eat turkey with me and Big Daddy.” Or did she say “Big Daddy and I?” Either way, apparently I’m staying put. A recent addition to our community explained one of the things that made it easy for her to come out. Nikki Blonsky said, “The LGBTQIA community has embraced me since the moment I got ‘Hairspray’. They welcomed me with open arms and I felt so a part of the community already. For me, it was a long time coming. I wanted to date women and it just was a moment in my life where I was finally just really ready to be myself.” Shortly after coming out, Nikki came on “Billy Masters LIVE” for a special show alongside the Link from the TV version of “Hairspray,” Garrett Clayton. We even surprised them with members of the original Broadway cast and national tour - because that’s what we do on “Billy Masters LIVE.” We’ve taken HARRY STYLES’s mother says she may have had something to do with her son’s penchant for dresses. a couple of weeks off for Thanksgiving, but we’ll return with new shows on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day. In fact, we’re closing out the year with “Billy’s 12 Divas of December.” Stay tuned for more details. In the meantime, head to Billy fact, he made a strange comment after playing Johnny in the film “God’s Own Country”: Masters TV on YouTube, or our website of BillyMasters.com/TV. “I know I’d dated the Johnny type in the past, emotionally inarticulate, unable to love and While in the middle of my Floridian frenzy, I found myself sucked into six hours of be loved, and I’ve found, through the process of playing Johnny, some kind of peace and the BET miniseries, “The New Edition Story.” Being a Bostonian of a certain age, I vividly hopefully a greater understanding and empathy.” Of course, he may mean that he’s dated remember the splash these boys from Roxbury made - to say nothing of the drama around the female equivalent of Johnny. By the by, his character Johnny has quite a bit of gay sex. Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston. It was the perfect distraction. I took particular note of And, being a British film, there’s quite a bit of nudity. If you’d like a gander of O’Connor’s the scene when the boys’ manager (played by Michael Rapaport) found Bobby in a parked bits and bobs, check out BillyMasters.com. car, high as a kite. It wasn’t so much seeing him do cocaine; it was the sight of two female When we’re revealing Prince Charles’ scepter, it’s time to end yet another column. Come heads bobbing up and down on his lap. Certainly I’m familiar with vehicular fellatio, but I to think of it, we have a nude photo of the real Prince Charles, so we’ll post that as well. didn’t expect to see it on basic cable. Despite being an annus horribilis (and I’ve known my share of horrible annuses), there Days later, it reared its head again. On “Grey’s Anatomy,” Alex Landi (playing Dr. Kim) are still things I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for my health, my sense of humor, and my offered to give Jake Borelli (as Dr. Schmitt) a blow job in the supply closet. On network unfailing ability to satisfy a man even with a six-foot gap. I’m thankful for my friends and television! In primetime! Being responsible professionals during a pandemic, Borelli said, family - even when they tell me to stay away. I’m thankful for everyone who helps make this “Can we leave my mask on?” It’s been my experience that the recipient’s mouth is rarely column possible each and every week. But most of all, I’m thankful for you - my devoted employed during such acts. If you missed it, check out our website. readers (and viewers). You can be thankful by checking out www.BillyMasters.com - the This week’s “Ask Billy” question comes from Kevin in New Hampshire: “I think Josh site that provides a cornucopia of carnal delights. If you have a question, I apparently have O’Connor is super sexy [he plays Prince Charles on ‘The Crown’]. I’ve seen him interviewed, lots of time on my hands. So drop a note to Billy@BillyMasters.com, and I promise to get and he comes off gay. Any thoughts? And hot pics of him?” back to you before our 52nd column of 2020. Until next time, remember, one man’s filth Time for another spirited round of “Gay or British.” It never gets old. Recently, O’Connor is another man’s bible. went public with girlfriend, Margot Hauer-King. Of course, that doesn’t mean anything. In 18 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • NOVEMBER 27, 2020