Losangeles.com, Volume 04, Issue 50, December 11, 2020

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(Photo courtesy California Attorney General’s Facebook Page)

A California LGBTQ ally goes to Washington Biden taps Attorney General Becerra for HHS, PAGE 04



Biden picks Becerra for HHS Secretary Historic nod for California’s Latino attorney general

Attorney General XAVIER BECERRA

(State of California official photo)

By BRODY LEVESQUE President-elect Joe Biden has selected California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, an ardent LGBT ally and a former congressman who represented Los Angeles, as his nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Biden’s selection of Becerra ends weeks of searching for a candidate who will bring a greater consensus among Washington political insiders over key healthcare issues including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who had expressed grievances over a lack of the selection of Latinos in the incoming Biden cabinet. Becerra has had a strong record in defending LGBTQ Californians. In an interview with journalist Karen Ocamb in August of 2018, he told the Los Angeles Blade that he has never had an issue with LGBTQ people. “I’ve always looked at things from the perspective of someone who remembers my dad’s stories where, simply because he was from Mexican heritage, he couldn’t walk into restaurants because of the signs that said ‘no dogs or Mexicans allowed.’ When I ran [for the California Assembly] in 1990,” Becerra says, “I ran for office to be able to fight against discrimination.” It was a quiet evolution Ocamb noted. “You get accustomed when you’re younger to hearing things,” Becerra says. “I remember in my family it was always taboo if you weren’t Catholic. You begin to think, ‘well, if you’re not Catholic, I guess you’re a sinner all the time.’ And then you begin to realize, ‘wait, maybe you don’t have to be Catholic to be a good person.’ Same kind of thing. I think as time went on, not only were people willing to come out but people who were straight were willing to speak out in defense of, in support of people who were LGBTQ because there were still people who would be very mean-spirited towards folks. Rather than just absorb an attack or a gesture against someone who was LGBTQ, you’d actually say, ‘wait a minute, that’s not right.” During his long congressional tenure, Becerra fought for LGBT issues, including against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 and “to make sure that the standards for immigration were not discriminatory against people who were LGBTQ.” Sworn in as attorney general on Jan. 24, 2017, four days after Trump’s inauguration, Becerra’s first LGBTQ-related action came five weeks later on March 3 when he filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., a case involving discriminatory bathroom policy that segregates transgender students from their peers. Since then, he’s added states to the StateFunded Travel Restrictions law, filed numerous amicus briefs in LGBT-related cases and perhaps most significantly, on Nov. 9, 2017, filed a motion for the state of California to intervene in Stockman v. Trump, a federal case brought by Equality California and other plaintiffs challenging Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. Incoming Chair of California’s LGBTQ Legislative Caucus Evan Low, tweeted Sunday congratulating Biden’s pick of Xavier Becerra as HHS Secretary. The outgoing Chair of California’s LGBTQ Legislative Caucus, State Senator Scott Wiener told the Blade Sunday in an email; “Xavier Becerra is a strong choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services. As Attorney General, he’s been a true champion defending healthcare access, and he has a long history advocating for community health. Xavier is also a stanch ally to the LGBTQ community, and I know that he will work with us to ensure health equity for our community.” The president-elect’s choice of Becerra came as a surprise to some on the transition team according to The New York Times, in part as many had thought with Becerra’s high profile as California Attorney General pursuing criminal justice, immigration, among other high profile legal issues he has championed in federal lawsuits- he would be the front runner for selection as Biden’s pick for Attorney 04 • DECEMBER 11, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

General of the United States. As California Attorney General, Becerra, leading a coalition of 21 state’s attorneys general, has been a tireless voice in defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the healthcare of tens of millions of Americans who are at risk of losing their healthcare. Becerra, a Democrat, has also been a longtime supporter and advocate for women’s healthcare and reproductive rights. “I am immensely proud to say that I have known Xavier since 1994, soon after he began his first term in Congress. Then, as now, he has been a strong ally to the LGBTQ+ community, standing up for true, lived equality when it was not common nor popular to do so, especially for a young member of Congress. During his early service in Congress, Xavier was one of 67 of the 435 members who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. He cosponsored and voted for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2005, and voted in favor of ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the United States military in 2010,” Rick Chavez Zbur, Equality California Executive Director, told the Blade in an emailed statement Sunday afternoon as the news broke. “Soon after he was sworn in as California Attorney General in 2017, Xavier stood up for transgender youth by filing an amicus brief in a case involving discriminatory bathroom policy. Since then he’s been one of our community’s most ardent allies, filing lawsuits and amicus briefs defending LGBTQ+ rights. Xavier filed a motion for the state of California to intervene in Stockman v. Trump, a federal case brought by Equality California and other plaintiffs challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s unconstitutional ban on transgender individuals serving in the military,” he added. If confirmed, Becerra faces a federal department under siege at a critical moment during a pandemic that has reached 15,151,035 active cases in the United States and caused the deaths of over 288,880 Americans as of Dec. 6, an outbreak that has been particularly devastating on people of color. (Additional reporting by Karen Ocamb)


Small business owners fume as lockdowns return No data or science to close salons, outdoor dining, opponents say By BRODY LEVESQUE

As Southern California locked down again in an effort to contain further spread of advising the governor remain ignorant of the hundreds of hours of State Board the coronavirus last Sunday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state’s Health mandated education that our hair/skin/nails professionals complete before passing and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly are under intense criticism from salon the State Board licensing exam, all of which is focused on consumer safety. Our licensed professionals know how to avoid cross-contamination and maximize owners and restaurant owners over another forced shut down. Exacerbating tensions are Newsom and Ghaly’s seeming inability to cite specific disinfection that’s what they’ve been trained and licensed to do! Moreover, our licensed scientific data that detail the increased potential for exposure risks in those establishments have invested considerable resources into PPE and other COVIDcompliant safety protocols, which businesses as both follow heath the CDC publicly endorsed back in department guidelines and in the ROSE IBARRA, owner of Mastery of Hair and Social Salon Suites checking a client’s temperature. July. Our own industry-compiled case of the indoor personal care (Photo courtesy Ibarra) data show that we have not services sector, follow protocols contributed to COVID’s spread,” and procedures that one salon he added. owner told the Blade “was akin to The Blade spoke with Rose pre-surgical prep.” Ibarra, owner of Mastery of Hair During his press conference and Social Salon Suites located in Monday, Newsom was pressed Glendale, Temecula, and Riverside. by journalist Elex Michaelson who Ibarra is annoyed that the asked the governor to explain his governor and health department reasoning. officials are favoring “essential “We’ve heard from so many business,” which she points out, of people whose businesses are citing big box retailers, have fewer being shut down by some of these measures in place to protect the orders, who are really frustrated public than salons have. that they feel like they have not “I actually went to my dentist to seen enough evidence that point see what precautionary measures to outdoor restaurants spreading and PPE (personal protection COVID in a major way, hair salons, equipment) he used with his nail salons spreading COVID in a clients and then I went out and major way,” KTTV LA’s Michaelson bought the same for my stylists told the governor. “I’m wondering and my workers,” Ibarra told the what you say to these people who Blade. say, ‘Look, I’ve done everything “We use N95 masks with you’ve asked, I’ve followed the disposable masks tossed after rules, I spent a lot of money on each client and face shields, along PPE, my staff is on the brink of with hand sanitizer. Plus I make losing their jobs, we’re on the brink of losing our business, it’s the holiday season.’ What do you say to these people sure that every stylist ensures they follow that all proper California State required beauty salon regulations,” she added. who are really desperate and confused and angry right now?” Ibarra also points out that for her stylists and salons this is the third time they’ve “I said it Friday, I said it Monday, I’ll say it again today,” Newsom replied. “I’m deeply empathetic and deeply committed to advancing the cause of supporting our small been forced to cease taking clients. She notes that “people are fed up” and she’s been taking with other owners, some of who are willing to risk fines and remain open. “The businesses in this challenging and trying time.” Dodging the science and data question the governor pivoted to highlighting the fact [health] officials keep lumping us in with businesses that don’t take precautions or that the state making new tax credits and relief grants available to small businesses have damn near no precautions except maybe a temp check and requiring masks? during this new stay-at-home order, although one business owner speaking to the We are trained even aside from the pandemic, in tough protocols to ensure proper Blade on Monday angrily denounced this as “a damn Band-Aid that won’t cover the sanitation and protection for others from cross-contamination or spread of other diseases or infections,” she said. wound as rent and other bills come due.” Salons aside, restaurants that offer outdoor dining are fuming over being shuttered The Professional Beauty Federation of California, (PBFC) spoke with the Blade expressing its frustration over the latest round of closures. Fred Jones, lead counsel again in Los Angeles and elsewhere. The California Restaurant Association had sued for the PBFC said, “What ‘data and science’ justify shutting down these quintessential the Los Angeles Department of Public Health in an attempt to get its Director Dr. small businesses again? We are beginning to conclude that our small businesses, Barbara Ferrer to cite exactly what scientific data or studies show that there were less financed and politically connected, have become the go-to sacrificial lambs to increased risks associated with people dining outdoors. LA County has shut down the COVID gods whenever the health officers are told by their elected bosses to outdoor dining late last month prior to the latest statewide regional closures ordered aggressively address the latest spike. This has been ruinous for thousands of our this past weekend by Newsom. On Tuesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant took issue with establishments and the livelihood of tens of thousands.” “The vast majority of this industry is made-up of women-owned and operated Ferrer’s order labeling it an abuse of emergency powers. businesses, including a huge percentage of first generation immigrants and those from the LGBTQ community,” he said. “Apparently the so-called “health experts” CONTINUES ON PAGE 06 LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 11, 2020 • 05


Latinx podcast embraces variety of identities

Spanish Aquí Presents nominated for podcast of the year By NOAH CHRISTIANSEN

The Spanish Aquí Presents podcast is the first Latinx podcast on the Earwolf network with hosts who embrace a variety of identities. Its name, “Spanish Aquí Presents” was inspired by the “SAP” button on remotes that would turn on the Spanish dubbing for television shows. Oscar Montoya, Raiza Licea, Carlos Santos, and Tony Rodríguez are the hosts of the podcast and a fantastic group of people because they have different experiences through their occupation of varying identities. Gender, sexuality, and place of birth are just a few examples, but they share a common identity with one another – being Latinx. The Los Angeles-based podcast recently won an iHeart Radio’s nomination for the Best Spanish Speaking podcast and is in the running for nomination as iHeart’s Best Podcast of the year 2021. The LA Blade recently interviewed Oscar Montoya and Tony Rodríguez – two of the openly queer members of the podcast’s quartet. When listening to the podcast, you might question what it’s about. While a majority of podcasts have a central theme i.e., a murder mystery or reporting the news, for Spanish Aquí Presents, it’s a bit different. Montoya explains; “I think what we’re trying to do is to capture our personal Latinx experience dealing with the entertainment industry.” Montoya and Rodríguez both described their situations being Latinx/Latino entertainers and how difficult it’s been for them and the lack of people of color in the entertainment industry. So, the message that they’re trying to convey in their podcast? Montoya says, “The message is that we don’t have to have a message every single episode.” Although a specific message may not be intended, Rodriguez comments on what they’re using their platform to achieve. “We can use the platform to talk about politics and identity and we can take a break from that to have fun.” The podcast itself is making waves by being the first Latinx podcast on the Earwolf network. This representation is clearly important, but when asked who the podcast is for, Montoya says, “I think representation is essential… [The podcast] is for everybody – not just for Latinx people.” The hosts themselves occupy different identities between them which is why both Montoya and Rodríguez believe their podcast is going so well. “It’s good to have these different points of view,” Rodríguez pointed out. The podcast is in English mixed with Spanish, but throughout the episodes, it isn’t uncommon to hear Spanglish – the interaction between the Spanish and English language. The hosts embrace their culture by adding the Spanglish into the mix. Although some might find this alienating, Rodríguez finds it to be the opposite. “We do speak Spanglish and it doesn’t feel alienating to people who don’t speak Spanish, Rodríguez says, “For the people that do speak Spanglish… We have an audience that absolutely understands the Spanglish… We’re sort of full on embracing the people who do speak Spanglish.” This is especially true in the context of American podcasts where a majority of them adhere to strictly English.

Top left: RAIZA LICEA Top right: OSCAR MONTOYA Bottom left: TONY RODRÍGUEZ Bottom right: CARLOS SANTOS (Photo Credit: Spanish Aquí Presents)

The experience being Latinx can be difficult – especially with some gendered norms within the culture. This is why Montoya identifies and embraces the Latinx movement. “With this resurgence of the Latinx movement, I felt a lot more politically charged because it added a queer perspective to the label that I am comfortable with.” Montoya leaves a final message for the Blade’s readers: “I challenge people to embrace the new identity. Make Latinx culture work for you. Be proud of who you are. Embrace the queer. Embrace the feminine. Embrace the weird. Embrace the outskirts of that label – that label is yours to control.” Although it may be difficult for some to embrace this movement and identity category, Rodríguez departed with this final message: Be more you. To find the podcast head here: https://www.earwolf.com/show/spanish-aqui-presents/


Business owners slam Newsom over new lockdowns “The Restaurant Closure Order is an abuse of the Department’s emergency powers, is not grounded in science, evidence, or logic, and should be adjudicated to be unenforceable as a matter of law,” Chalfant wrote in a 73-page assessment in which he also wrote that the county’s logic behind the closure “ignores the outdoor nature of the activity, which the CDC says carries only a moderate risk.” “Outbreak data provided to the court,” Chalfant wrote, “showed that cases traced back to bars and restaurants accounted for just 3.1 percent of the non-residential outbreak locations and that the vast majority of those were chain/fast food type restaurants and almost exclusively involved employees rather than customers.” While Chalfant is letting the order stand for now he has ordered Ferrer to provide the court with greater detailed information. Ferrer, who was named in the lawsuit, declined to comment about the case when asked during a briefing Monday by reporters. During a Tuesday news conference, Dr. Ghaly faced questions about the science behind the closures from reporters. “The decision to include among other sectors outdoor dining and 06 • DECEMBER 11, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

limiting that — turning to restaurants to deliver and provide takeout options instead — really has to do with the goal of trying to keep people at home, not a comment on the relative safety of outdoor dining,” he said As the number of cases across the state continues to surge, Ghaly urged Californians to just stay at home. “Right now, we’re seeing such high levels of transmission that almost every activity I should say every activity that can be done differently and keep us at our homes, not mixing with others, is safer,” he said. “Those are going to be the tools that help us get this under control.” “Countless times in recent weeks, we’ve heard public health experts say that the key sources of spread of coronavirus currently are holiday gatherings and other private, household events, which are unregulated,” said California Restaurant Association president, Jot Condie, in an emailed statement Tuesday. “Without evidence, it is unconscionable that the county can close businesses entirely and put thousands of restaurant employees out of work during the holidays.”


Laurie McBride, treasured AIDS and LGBTQ lobbyist, dies at 71

Succumbs to heart attack after suffering earlier stroke Laurie McBride, the highly regarded longtime advocate for people with HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ equality, died Friday of a heart attack, according to her beloved wife Donna Yutzy, whose comment was posted on Facebook by friend Julia Mullen: “Laurie McBride left us for a new adventure beyond the stars when she died from a heart attack on Friday, December 4, 2020. She was so proud of the culture-changing accomplishments you all worked on together and I know she cherished her friendship with each and every one of you. If you wish to make a donation in her honor, here is a link to information about the Laurie McBride Scholarship at Sacramento State: www. sacstonewallfoundation.org/about/ This scholarship has paid for the tuition of a number of young people to help them on the road to making the world a better place. She was the light of my life for 35 years and I will hold every single minute of those memories in my heart forever. We will have a big Celebration of Laurie’s life in Sacramento PostCovid. I was proud to be Laurie McBride’s wife.” McBride was recovering from a stroke, as she pecked out on Facebook Nov. 7. “Laurie McBride: HAD STROKE OCT 12. Lost right side. Still in rehab. Also lost kidneys so now on dialysis 3 times a week. Getting excellent care here in Chico (30 minutes from our home in Magalia. Donna visits every day. Sending group post cuz typing w/left hand sucks. Below is an update from Donna about it all. YAY Biden/Harris — let healing for all begin!” Yutzy reported that, “Laurie is doing remarkably well in rehab,” with movement in her right arm and leg. “She is in either

By KAREN OCAMB physical therapy or occupational therapy 6 hours a day. She is learning to walk….She is in really good spirits. Her Germanic stubbornness is paying off…she’s working really, really hard to recover as much as she can. She is feeling better by the day and is starting to find her “spa prison” annoying on occasion. So it’s really motivating her to come home! The bottom line…Laurie is on-target to make a remarkable recovery. We are both doing well and have settled into this new routine for the time being. I fully expect Laurie to be back on-line and talking to you all in the near future.” McBride came home on Nov. 22: “I’M HOME!!!!! Settling in. Still mostly paralyzed on the right side, although I can now move my arm pretty well, and open/close my fist. Can stand and pivot. But only walk with LOTS of help. Onward! Donna is amazing. So supportive. Depend on her for most everything. She is my rock. Typing is still an ordeal — lefthanded etc. So no more group emails until I can use my right hand again…THANK YOU all for notes of support… greatly appreciated!” Her last Facebook message was about Thanksgiving. Laurie McBride was born on June 8, 1949 in Los Angeles, attended C. K. McClatchy High School and earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of the Pacific in 1971. She served as Secretary for the Golden Gate Business Association from 1982 to1983, after which she became president from 1984 to1986. She also served as President of the GGBA Foundation (now Horizons) from 1983 to1984. McBride married Donna Yutzy on


(Screenshot via Legends of Courage)

May 17, 1985. McBride came to the attention of AIDS and gay rights advocates in 1984 when she chaired the Community Partnership on AIDS for two years. In 1986 and 1987, she co-chaired the successful grassroots No on 69 and No on 64 – known as the LaRouche Initiative that would quarantine and limit employment for people with HIV/AIDS. From 1988 to 1990 she co-chaired the Mobilization Against AIDS. From 1990 to 1991, she was Vice President of the National Stonewall Democratic Club. And then, in 1990, McBride’s life even more hectic when she joined LIFE (Lobby for Individual Freedom & Equality) Lobby as executive director. LIFE AIDS Lobby was formed in 1985 by several statewide gay, AIDS and political groups out of the desperate need for representation in the state Capitol. The anti-gay right wing had their conservative friends in the White House with Ronald Reagan, in Congress with Rep. William Dannemeyer and in Sacramento with Traditional Values head Rev. Lou Sheldon. Gays had to rely on straight liberal elected officials such as Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, Assemblymember Art Agnos CONTINUES ON PAGE 07




‘McBride left us for a new adventure beyond the stars’

and State Sen. David Roberti, who fortuitously used openly gay aide Stan Hadden to craft legislation to encourage a coordinated approach to local AIDS programs and services. Among those who fought Prop 64 was 27-year old law student John Duran, who had been galvanized into action by the AIDSrelated death in June 1985 of his close friend Scott Fleener. Duran volunteered as an attorney for ACT UP in Orange County, during which he encountered Lou Sheldon and his religious zealots and supporters such as the White Aryan Resistance. Duran joined the board of the LIFE AIDS Lobby and wound up serving as co-chair from 1988 to 1992. He and McBride and drafted groundbreaking AIDS and gay rights legislation, including the “gay rights” bill, AB 101. “Laurie and I drove together across the State of California to get our community behind AB 101 – the employment nondiscrimination bill for LGBT people back in 1990. We met activists in Bakersfield, Stockton and Fresno and rallied them to the cause,” Duran says. “Laurie was a lesbian warrior. She fought for her brothers with AIDS. So many gay men alive today are deeply indebted to Laurie for saving their lives. My heart goes out to her wife Donna. She was one of a kind. Gentle and fierce at the same time “ By then McBride was overseeing such a diverse organization of about 80 organizations, Log Cabin Republicans founder Frank Ricchiazzi sat next to ACT UP/LA’s Connie Norman at statewide meetings. Bob Craig, publisher of Frontiers News Magazine, was LIFE Lobby’s Treasurer, have given the first check to hire staff and became close with McBride, giving her a regular column to push legislation. Things changed in 1998. The Republican dominance of California politics ended with the election of moderate/

conservative Democrat Gray Davis as governor and the miraculous new three-drug cocktail was turning HIV/AIDS from a likely death sentence to a chronic manageable disease. With gay rights and AIDS on their way to being “handled,” people stopped contributing to LIFE Lobby and it folded in 1999. Later McBride described LIFE’s “organization of organizations” to this reporter as “groundbreaking work by a bunch of brilliant, dedicated activists who paved the way for non-discrimination laws and eventually marriage equality, not to mention the creation of sane HIV/AIDS policy in California, which was a blueprint for the Ryan White Care Act nationally. On issue after issue, the heavy lifting was done by LIFE Lobby staff and board members – and the activation of organizations around the state.” When LIFE died, McBride moved on, becoming Chief of Staff to California State Assembly Majority Leader Kevin Shelley from 2000 to 2002, then becoming Assistant Sec. of State when Shelley was elected Sec. of State in 2003. Meanwhile, McBride kept up her political activism via the National Stonewall Democrats and the Sacramento Stonewall Democratic Club. In 2007, she was elected northern California co-chair of the California Democratic Party’s LGBT Caucus. “We have a pretty good slate of ideas about how to make the caucus more meaningful and responsive to the clubs and the community statewide,” McBride told BAR https://www.ebar. com/news///237903 about work she and co-chair Jess Durfee, chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, had planned. McBride remained active in educating people about AIDS, including coming to West Hollywood in 2017 to speak at the Paul Starke Warrior Awards on World AIDS Day, preceded by a clip of her from the Legends of Courage project. “It’s important to talk tonight, on World AIDS Day, about how


we fought, how we dug in and how each of us found our place on the front lines, how the epidemic changed us, and how we changed the world,” McBride said. https://www.wehoville. com/2017/12/04/world-aids-day-fought-changed-world/ “Because traditional medicine didn’t want to spend money on us, AIDS became the first disease where treatment and research dollars were allocated by LEGISLATION. And in lobbying, we learned once again that we had to do everything….[E]very way that HIV/AIDS pushed us, we pushed back. We changed the way people with a disease organize, we changed the very nature of the doctor-patient relationship, we changed the way experimental drugs are tested and handed out. We fought back a host of punitive legislation — and we fought for treatment and research funding. We fought discrimination and won our rights. We are proven agents of change. That’s a hell of a legacy, not just to honor, but to live up to.” Assemblymember Evan Low, the incoming Chair of the LGBT Legislative Caucus, told the Blade in an emailed statement; “Laurie McBride was a true warrior for the LGBTQ+ community and a fierce ally during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. While she might not be a household name, Laurie’s leadership on numerous political campaigns and advocacy organizations saved countless lives. It should also be noted that much of this work took place at a time when not a single openly out person held elected office. Laurie was an activist who knew how to craft public policy, and her commitment to equality shaped hearts and minds across California, laying a foundation for the progress we’ve seen in recent years. Her work also led to greater protections for LGBTQ+ workers here in California and across the country. We want to offer our condolences to Laurie’s wife, Donna, and express our gratitude for Laurie’s trailblazing life.”


Frustration builds as Biden Cabinet includes no LGBTQ picks Buttigieg turns down two major roles: sources By CHRIS JOHNSON | cjohnson@washblade.com

With President-elect Joe Biden quickly filling out his Cabinet, fewer opportunities remain for him to make history by nominating the first openly LGBTQ person to a Cabinet-level role for Senate confirmation, which many see as a missed opportunity as Pete Buttigieg has rejected the idea of serving as director of White House Office of Management & Budget and secretary of Veterans Affairs, according to Democratic insiders. Some LGBTQ leaders are quietly expressing frustration that the movement hasn’t pushed more aggressively for representation in Biden’s Cabinet, especially when Black and Latino advocates have been vocal and have had their efforts pay off with prominent appointments. As of now, none of Biden’s major appointees — Cabinet or otherwise — have been out members of the LGBTQ community. Meanwhile, Buttigieg — widely assumed to be a top contender for a Cabinet post in the Biden administration — has reportedly turned down two prominent roles. In talks with the Biden transition team, one Democratic insider said the idea of Buttigieg becoming White House OMB director came up, but he rejected it on the basis of wanting a “real Cabinet” position, not a “staff-level” job. Buttigieg wasn’t formally offered the role because the idea was more a discussion with senior members of the transition team, the insider said. Additionally, Buttigieg in separate talks on Monday signaled to Annise Parker, CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, that he won’t pursue the position of secretary of Veterans Affairs, according to two senior Democratic sources, despite media reports he was in consideration for the job. Buttigieg didn’t respond to a request for comment, nor did his political action committee, Win the Era. Biden has never explicitly made a promise to appoint an openly LGBTQ Cabinet member, notably declining to make that commitment when asked during the presidential campaign in an interview with the Philadelphia Gay News. In an interview last week with CNN, Biden generally recognized the importance of including marginalized communities in his administration, including LGBTQ people. “Every advocacy group out there is pushing for more and more and more of what they want. That’s their job,” Biden said. “My job is to keep my commitment, to make the decisions. And when it’s all over, people will take a look and say, I promise you, you’ll see the most diverse Cabinet, representative of all folks, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ, across the board.” But if Biden declines to nominate an openly LGBTQ person to his Cabinet for Senate confirmation, he’ll miss an opportunity to make history and grant prominent visibility to a community that has a history of talented leaders being sidelined because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. (It would also give Richard Grenell — who as acting director of national intelligence in the Trump administration became the first openly gay Cabinet member, even though he never won Senate confirmation — a reason to celebrate as Trump achieved a first for the LGBTQ community that Biden didn’t

even attempt.) Jamal Brown, a spokesperson for the Biden transition team, pointed out Biden has achieved many firsts for other communities in response to the simmering discontent over no LGBTQ appointees. “President-elect Biden is working to build an administration that looks like America, President-Elect JOE BIDEN hasn’t yet named any out LGBTQ people for his Cabinet. starting with the first woman of South Asian descent and first Black woman to be Vice President-elect, as appointee. We have great relationships with the transition well as a slate of historic nominees and appointees, to date,” team and are in constant communication. There are still many Brown said. “Over the coming weeks, our team will continue appointments to be made and a strength of our applicants is to build upon President-elect Biden’s legacy of advancing that many represent multiple communities.” Parker also touted the Presidential Appointments Project, LGBTQ+ equality by shaping a government that reflects the which seeks to place qualified LGBTQ people in federal breadth and diversity of our nation.” Many observers thought Buttigieg, who made history as a government, in response to an inquiry on efforts undertaken gay presidential candidate in the Democratic primary, would by the LGBTQ Victory Institute to get an out LGBTQ person in be a shoo-in for a Cabinet role. After all, Buttigieg gave Biden a the Cabinet. “Our Presidential Appointments Initiative is unique in that boost in the primary by dropping out before the South Carolina contest and endorsing his fellow moderate, then campaigned our efforts do not end in the next few weeks after the most hard for Biden in the weeks leading up to the general election. high-profile appointments are made,” Parker said. “We are But finding the right role for Buttigieg — who’s talented, but putting in place an infrastructure that will allow us to secure lacks government experience other than serving as mayor of high-level appointments now, but also to work with the administration for the next four years in ensuring LGBTQ the small city of South Bend, Ind. — isn’t easy. The multilingual Buttigieg emerged as a possible pick for people are appointed in every agency and at every level.” Parker had no comment on the Blade’s inquiry about the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as many media outlets reported. It’s a not a Cabinet position, but is a prominent role exchange she reportedly had on Monday with Buttigieg about and would have burnished Buttigieg’s foreign policy credentials the VA role, nor the OMB position. Another member of the LGBTQ community widely for a subsequent run for public office. But with Biden promising to conduct foreign policy speculated to be a possible addition to the Biden administration with seasoned professionals, in contrast to the Trump is Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, the highestadministration’s reliance on dilettantes like Ivanka Trump level openly transgender public official in the United States. and Jared Kushner, the job ended up going to Linda Thomas- The LGBTQ Victory Institute had speculated she could be a Greenfield, who as a Foreign Service officer had multiple choice for U.S. surgeon general. But when the Biden team announced its choices for senior postings in the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia and served as assistant secretary of state for African Affairs in the Obama health officials on Sunday, the role of surgeon general went to Vivek Murthy, who served as surgeon general during the administration. As noted, both the idea of director of OMB and secretary Obama administration. No openly transgender person has ever been confirmed by of VA have come up in talks with Buttigieg, but he rejected them, according to knowledgable sources. The nod for OMB the U.S. Senate, which would have made Levine’s confirmation ended up going to Neera Tanden, president of the Center for a tall order in a chamber with a 50-50 split or Republican American Progress, although she may face a difficult Senate control depending on the outcome of the upcoming Georgia run-off in January. confirmation fight. Levine has also been a lightning rod in conservative circles It should be noted the VA has a long history and reputation for institutional problems in delivering care to veterans. over health restrictions in Pennsylvania amid the coronavirus Anyone running the VA would face criticism for its inefficiencies pandemic, but that’s likely just an expression of animosity and the job is widely considered more appropriate for an elder toward Levine for being transgender, for which she has also statesman as opposed to a young politician eager to make faced bigoted attacks. Nate Wardle, a Levine spokesperson, told the Blade before another run for office. Parker, in a statement to the Washington Blade, pointed the announcement on surgeon general his boss was focused to Biden’s comments during his CNN interview as evidence on her current job and didn’t respond to an additional request for comment this week. LGBTQ people are still in play for major roles. “Dr. Levine is dedicated to her work within the administration “There is no reason to believe he will backtrack,” Parker said. “We understand some are getting anxious about presidential of Gov. Tom Wolf, and is laser-focused on the ongoing challenge appointments, but there is no question the transition team of protecting Pennsylvanians from COVID-19,” Wardle said. knows our community expects an out LGBTQ Cabinet Continues at losangelesblade.com. LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 11, 2020 • 09


Trump Labor Dept. guts LGBTQ workplace protections

With less than two months remaining in the Trump administration, the Department of Labor went through with making a rule final on Monday that would grant religious institutions a broader exemption under former President Obama’s executive order barring anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination among federal contractors. Although no notice was seen on the Federal Register website indicating the process is over for implementing the rule, first proposed in August 2019, the website for the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs indicates the regulation has become final. A note in the final rule indicates it will become effective on Jan. 8, days before President-elect Joe Biden is set to be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. The final rule has language stating its purpose is to “clarify” the religious exemption under Executive Order 11246 signed by former President Lyndon Johnson in 1964 to ban employment discrimination among federal contractors, which Obama amended in 2014 to include a prohibition on anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Recognizing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination in employment, was amended in 1972 to expand its religious exemption, OFFCP regulations under the executive order “should be given a parallel interpretation” with regard to its religious exemption. “This rule is intended to correct any misperception that religious organizations are disfavored in government contracting by setting forth appropriate protections for their autonomy to hire employees who will further their religious missions, thereby providing clarity that may expand the eligible pool of federal contractors and subcontractors,” the rule says. As a result of the rule, federal contractors will be able to claim a religious exemption to discriminate against LGBTQ people in employment without punitive consequences from OFCCP under Obama’s executive order. Religious affiliated colleges and universities that contract with the federal government and

Supreme Court rejects challenge to Ore. trans bathroom policy The U.S. Supreme Court, despite having a 6-3 conservative majority, has rebuffed a request to review a legal challenge against an Oregon school district’s policy allowing transgender kids access to the bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. In its orders list on Monday, the court — without any explanation — indicated it has rejected a petition for certiorari in Parents for Privacy v. Barr, which challenges the policy at Dallas School District No. 2, a public school district located in Pole County in western Oregon. It takes at least four justices to agree to take up case, but the vote on any petition isn’t publicly disclosed. By rejecting the request for review from Parents Rights in Education, the Supreme Court lets stand a decision from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the policy within the district granting transgender students access to school bathrooms, locker rooms and other sexsegregated spaces in accordance with their gender identity. In its petition filed before the Supreme Court in July, Parents Rights in Education entreated justices to take up the case to “untie a Gordian knot of conflicting constitutional and statutory rights” resulting from the school district’s policy. “The district’s directive interferes with parents’ rights to direct the upbringing of their children, schoolchildren’s rights to bodily privacy, parents’ and children’s rights to free exercise of religion and children’s rights to be free from hostile educational environments under Title IX [of the Education Amendments of 1972],” the petition says. Dallas School District No. 2 enacted the plan in 2018 in response to a request from a transgender male student who wanted to use the boys’ locker room. According to the petition filed by Parents Rights in Education, male students at the school “reported embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, intimidation, fear, apprehension, and stress produced by having to use these privacy facilities with a classmate of the opposite sex.” Parents and students challenged the petition administratively within the school district, but the complaints were rejected and officials indicated challenges would be subject to disciplinary action and viewed as bigotry. Andy Bellando, superintendent of the Dallas School District, said via email to the Washington Blade the Supreme Court’s decision to the reject the petition is consistent with the school’s policy. “The mission of Dallas School District is to provide the highest quality education, ensuring every student develops the academic, functional, professional-technical, and social-emotional skills necessary to succeed in life,” Bellando said. “This most recent decision aligns with our mission.” 10 • DECEMBER 11, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

have histories of anti-LGBTQ discrimination, such as Brigham Young University in Utah, may be the intended beneficiaries of the final rule. However, the definition of a religious institution is so vague virtually The Labor Department under President DONALD TRUMP any federal contractor could has gutted LGBTQ workplace protections. assert a religious view to get out of the requirements against anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Further, the rule makes no distinction between anti-LGBTQ discrimination and other forms of discrimination. Because Obama’s executive order was in the form of an amendment to Johnson’s executive order against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, the final rule opens the door to workplace discrimination on the basis of those categories as well as antiLGBTQ discrimination among federal contractors. Jennifer Pizer, director of law and policy at the LGBTQ group Lambda Legal, said in a statement “it is hard to overstate the harm that the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is visiting on LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities and others with the sledgehammer it is taking to federal non-discrimination protections.” OFCCP didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment Monday on why the Trump administration needed to make the rule final with less than two months remaining in the Trump administration and why the final rule doesn’t appear in the Federal Register. CHRIS JOHNSON Parents for Privacy had no comment through its attorney, Mary McAlister of the Child & Parental Rights Campaign, in response the Supreme Court rejecting review of the case against the school. In 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Oregon moved to intervene on behalf of Basic Rights Oregon, an LGBTQ group in the state, and filed a petition before the Supreme Court in October urging justices not to take the case. Among other things, Basic Rights Oregon asserted the Supreme Court should reject the case because it is an abstract dispute, no circuit split exists on the issue among the federal appeals courts and Ninth Circuit was correct in upholding Dallas School District No. 2’s policy. “The record reflects that only a single transgender student ever used facilities consistent with his gender identity at Dallas High School (identified here only as Student A) — and he graduated in 2018,” the filing says. “Plaintiffs challenge an individualized plan drawn up specifically for Student A, which has no continued application since his graduation. There is therefore no basis for prospective relief.” The legal filing also rejects findings the school district’s policy violated the privacy of other kids, asserting based on the actual complaint “no student actually had to disrobe in the view of any other student.” “Students could choose to change for gym or use the restroom in available stalls, or in separate single-occupancy facilities,” the filing says. “No compelled exposure of anyone’s body to anyone — transgender or otherwise — is alleged to have ever occurred.” It’s not the first time the Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to a school district policy assuring transgender kids access to the sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity. In May 2019, justices turned down a challenge to a similar policy in Boyertown Area School District in Pennsylvania. Chase Strangio, deputy director for trans justice with the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT & HIV Project, praised the Supreme Court for signaling “transgender youth are not a threat to other students.” “As we look toward state legislative sessions that will likely continue the attacks on trans youth, the decision not to take this case is an important and powerful message to trans and non-binary youth that they deserve to share space with and enjoy the benefits of school alongside their nontransgender peers,” Strangio added. Barr is listed as a defendant in the case, along with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, based on Obama-era guidance assuring transgender kids access to school restroom consistent with their gender identity under Title IX. CHRIS JOHNSON


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TROY MASTERS is publisher of the Los Angeles Blade.

276,000 and counting…

We called out Reagan in the ‘80s and we call out Trump now By TROY MASTERS

“This is the final surge,” says California Gov. Gavin Newsom. “This is the most challenging moment since the beginning of this pandemic.” Newsom was talking about the catastrophic spread of COVID-19 and the crushing number of grave cases jamming ICU units throughout the Golden State. Left unsaid during his Thursday news conference is a cultural subtext that needs to be screamed out loud. Despite 276,000 U.S. deaths and counting — someone dies of COVID every 30 seconds — people are tuning out, blaming government and public health departments for bad messaging, losing control of this and causing financial disaster for businesses and the millions who’ve lost their jobs. Masks work but haphazard restrictions haven’t stopped the spread. So why believe a vaccine will do the trick? Anxious chatter abounds: the vaccine will take many months to roll out. It won’t go smoothly. It won’t bring the spread of the virus down to a fade-out level until 75 percent of the WORLD’S population is inoculated. As many as 15 percent will have reactions. Some people will certainly die. It will be politicized and there will be a resistance. So why bother being vigilant? A vaccine is but one weapon in the fight against COVID-19. The truest weapons will continue to be social distancing — the need to avoid large gatherings, staying vigilant in public and one on one – and masking up to protect yourself and others from this airborne virus. But some of us have been here before and have already suffered a catastrophic leadership vacuum and just pure evil during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. We called out Ronald Reagan then and we must call out Donald Trump now. Trump has relished in a narcissistic feeding frenzy of conspiracy theories to his followers. He insisted COVID was a hoax and when he got it, he pretended it could be easily conquered though few have access to the same treatment and care he received. Even now, his shockingly soulless and willful spreading of misinformation continues as the death toll mounts. He is the defiant source of Fake News, unconscionably encouraging his followers to defy COVID prevention measures, forgo masks and social distancing. Go back to your lives! Go back to your places of worship! Get back to work! Get schools open again! Superspreader Trump is causing wave after wave of the deadly virus, making it impossible to get back to any semblance of a robust economic or social life or normal. He has fomented a restlessness and exploited it with destructive consequence. And it gives him psychopathic power. Too many in our community seem to have fallen for it. Upset about bar closures, being denied an outdoor dinner experience at La Boheme, having to spend holidays at home instead of tripping on a red carpet to get to another cocktail party to watch the same five people bid on a trip to Baja – too many LGBTQ people swaggered over to Trump’s death cult of defiance. Don’t get me wrong. People are suffering deep economic injury. I certainly am. So is my business reliant business. I even had to keep pushing through to save it while both my mom and I were desperately sick with COVID. I have no savings, no life or health insurance. Nothing. But for a very generous friend, I might have given up. I very personally understand economic injury and fear. But I am patient and I trust the new administration will offer real help, though the now of it all is what matters now. Everyone must be compensated for their losses. I just don’t understand ignoring the reality of what we face. If you are a business owner, you 12 • DECEMBER 11, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

are an inventive person and you will figure out a creative way to survive and advocate for a solution. If you are just restless and ready to get back to The Abbey to resume your social life, think. The messaging may be driving you crazy. Perhaps it’s because Newsom and Garcetti are both facing enormous pressures from the business lobby who are pushing for better solutions. And, as situations change, so does what’s needed. More than a half million people will be dead by the time we celebrate Pride in 2021, probably more than 50,000 in LA alone. Will you be among them? Do you really care? In the earliest days of AIDS, our community struggled as pandemic raged and without governmental intervention. At first, we carried on, refusing to believe the severity of the situation. When no one came to the rescue, we tried to rescue ourselves, coming up with simple useful solutions like wearing condoms and reduction in the numbers of anonymous partners. But, after a while, simple solutions like “wear a condom every time” became boring and people took umbrage at the seemingly anti-sex and homophobic calls to limit the number of sexual partners, the monitoring or closure of gathering spaces and at the constant intrusion into every aspect of their personal lives, liberty, and freedoms. People began fighting for the right to return to life as normal — virus be damned. As AIDS deaths soared, the community, though united on many fronts, splintered into camps, including advocacy groups like ACT UP and a small group of alienated HIV-positive men who touted a kind of not my brother’s keeper barebacking culture. And like the criticism aimed at unmasked MAGA supporters crowded together at an indoor Trump rally, some people understood when HIV-negative men engaged in unsafe sex: it was a personal choice, despite the risks. Yes, it’s all too familiar. It’s hard for a gay man younger than 45 to imagine it, but an astonishingly sophisticated gay scene flourished across the country in the mid and late 1970s, iconic parties filled with thousands and thousands of revelers who joyously celebrated just being. But when AIDS hit, our spaces emptied — and not because our local governments issued stay-at-home orders. The Castro emptied. WeHo changed. The Village emptied. People even retreated to small towns and returned home. Our spaces emptied out of fear, confusion and an abundance of caution. Our businesses failed as fear of gays spread faster than the virus. We were left with nothing. No information, no therapies, no treatment, no infrastructure to support us. No government to bail us out. We were left with nothing but dead and dying friends and fear and a powerful sense of pride that many of us devoted the best years of our lives, our careers, our treasures and our love to saving our community. And we learned that the rage required, the grief and the loss is not sustainable. Vigilance is exhausting. But we also learned that as knowledge and science advances, what is required of our vigilance changes. And so we learned to push through. HIV became a chronic, manageable disease that is now entirely preventable. We have more tools to prevent it than ever, thanks to activists who pushed science in the direction of treatment. But one means of prevention is that simple solution discovered in the heat of the crisis: use a condom until there is a vaccine. And until the new COVID vaccines are proven effective and accessible, use a mask. Don’t become a statistic – 276,001 and counting. Hope to see you at Pride.

My farewell to WeHo

Thank you for entrusting me with this position for 20 years By JOHN DURAN

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Thank you Mayor. I would first like to thank the People of the City of West Hollywood for entrusting me with this position for the past 20 years. I was elected to the West Hollywood City Council 5 separate times in 2001,2005,2009,2013 and 2017. It has really been one of the great chapters in my life to serve this community for the past 2 decades. I have to thank the person that I worked with daily for 13 yearsmy beloved and brilliant deputy Hernan Molina. When I hired Hernan back in 2001,he was an AIDS policy maker at APLA. He has proven to be one of the smartest and most dedicated city employees for these past 20 years. But more importantly, he has become a member of my family and I will forever cherish our friendship. I need to say thank you to Mike Jenkins. There is no better City Attorney in the State of California. I have to thank him for being tolerant of any and every hair brained idea I have ever proposed and his willingness to ask me the hard questions. Some of the novel ideas were best placed on the back burner. Others in the waste receptacle. And others have become important parts of West Hollywood’s municipal codes and customs over the years. To the newbie councilmembers -listen carefully to Mike Jenkins and Lauren Langer- they are both so well grounded in fact,reality and the law- and will not steer you wrong. And then I need to say thank you to my every day 8 a.m. call- our city manager Paul Arevalo. I believe Paul is the longest serving city manager in the State of California. He has guided us through both good and bad times. And he is largely responsible for the great success story that is West Hollywood today. I will miss our daily check ins, exasperations and chuckles every morning Paul. I may have to still call you periodically just to say “whaddya hear?”. I have been talking to you every morning for 20 years. Some habits will be hard to break. I want to wish SepiShyne and Jon Erickson well in their upcoming term. Enjoy the honeymoon while it lasts. Usually about 6 months. Or less. And then the People of West Hollywood will challenge and confront you every step along the way. This is how democracy works. You have a well educated constituency that cares deeply about this city. And these 36,000 people have well over 50,000 opinions, listen to them carefully. And then do what you think is right- even if it is not popular. In a community that is often passionate, divided and polarized – if you try to evaluate issues based upon the heat and energy in the room -you end up satisfying no one and losing people on both sides of any issue. Stick to your values. Bring people along. Patience is truly a virtue. You will have many years to put patience into practice as I did. I want to wish my colleagues John D’Amico, Lauren Meister and Lindsey Horvath well in the upcoming years. Governing during times of prosperity is a great pleasure to utilize the abundant resources that we have merited – to create and expand programs that best serve our many communities. However, governing during setbacks, difficulties and austerity- is the most challenging period of time you will face. Difficult decisions lay ahead as the pandemic rages on and the city’s economy continues to collapse. I say to all 5 of you that are moving forward as a governing council tonight-I am a phone call away if I can ever be helpful. Many hands will be needed for the heavy lifts ahead in the coming years. The road will be harsh and steep. And you 5 will be the lightning rods for the displeasure of many facets of the community. You need not carry the burden alone. And finally, I want to give a special tribute to the other old man on the council-my colleague for eternity —John Heilman. I first met you when I was living in Laguna Beach and you were starting a city in


is an outgoing WeHo City Council member. (Editor’s note: During a televised session of the West Hollywood City Council this past week, City Councilmember John Duran bade farewell after losing his bid for reelection.)

1985. You beamed with enthusiasm and excitement that moved me to leave Laguna and join all of you as a resident of West Hollywood a few years later in 1990- thirty years ago. I have not regretted that decision ever. Thank you for tasking me to build a city with you. To take what we had in our midst -and to dream and build a community from the ground up. The first 10 years were the birthing years. The next 10 years were the growing pains. And the last 20 years with you have been building an infrastructure, an economic base, a network of social services and a community that is the envy of so many Southern California cities. In 1984,the city’s total tax revenues were $15 million. We have expanded that ten fold and built one of the wealthiest, sturdiest and recognizable paradises in Southern California. It has been a pleasure to do this work with you- even with the scars and hits we have both taken for doing the right things at the right time- even when not universally popular- but ultimately the necessary building blocks to the West Hollywood success story. I leave behind my fingerprints and DNA- numerous housing projects, the first robotic garage on the West Coast, the Coast Playhouse, a renovated West Hollywood Park, a newly created Laurel Park, redesigned and reinvigorated Sunset Strip, Santa Monica Blvd and Melrose Avenue (all without ugly telephone poles and lines), the West Hollywood Recovery Center, the acquired Log Cabin facility, Crystal Meth Town Hall meetings, BoomI, SizzleI, a night time Pick up Line free shuttle, a Russian veterans memorial, the permanent placement of rainbow and transgender flags on Santa Monica Blvd that fly daily, rainbow crosswalks at San Vicente permanently marking a gathering space, an upcoming AIDS monument, a getting to zero on AIDS city initiative, dog parks and anti cruelty legislation for animals, marriage licenses for LGBT couples. All of this handiwork is now merged into WeHo community culture in such a way that no one will remember who initiated it, created it or made it happen. Success has many claimed parents and failure is an orphan. As I leave now after 20 years of labor, my enemies and detractors can only see the last few years of infamy. My friends and colleagues see years of toil and effort to make lives better than they were before here in our beloved City. And within a few weeks, nobody will remember these words I now speak. Well…… except for this next part…… West Hollywood is 36 years young. But the place known as West Hollywood spans a century now. Long before legal incorporation there was a place called West Hollywood. I have been venturing up into this city since 1975- for 45 years. So that means I have been part of this city since I had long hair and puka shells in the 1970’s. Heed this. This 1.9 square miles of heaven is not bound by time, customs or tradition. And every attempt to corral, regulate or restrain its energy suffers defeat. We have never been part of the powers that exist in downtown Los Angeles- neither LA City or LA County. We should never ever want to be “just like everyone else.” For these infamous and familiar streets that we call our home have hosted renegades, outlaws, outliers, rebels, non conformists, gender benders, artists, radicals, deviants, homosexuals, cross dressers, hustlers, harlots, escorts, street trade, fanatics, junkies, reefer madness, debauchery, degenerates, weirdos, freaks, leftists, socialists, pornographers, rock stars, nearly celebrities, outcasts, bohemians, beatniks, flower children, free spirits, enchanters, illusionists, prophets, conjurers, brooders and percolators. They do not wish to follow the rules. They do not wish to be regulated. They do not with to be directed. They do not wish to be restrained. Not by downtown. And not by city hall. (The full version of this transcript can be found at losangelesblade.com.)


Holiday gifts for the reader on your list From romance to drag history, something for everyone By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

The holidays this year are going to be, well, unique. Some family members won’t be there. Others are coming, regardless of whatever’s going on in the country. Still others are sending their regards and a box of presents, which is something you might do, too. And here’s the good news: books are easy to wrap, easy to box, and easy to ship. Why not try one of these great books for that person who can’t make it to your table this holiday season? For the person who craves a thriller, “These Violent Delights” by Micah Nemerever is the gift to give. It’s a novel of two young men who meet at college and soon become obsessed with one another in different ways. But one is cruel, the other is fearful, and you know this ain’t good. The person on your gift list who loves drag will love “The Cockettes: Acid Drag & Sexual Anarchy” from the archives of Fayette Hauser. It’s a lavishly illustrated 50-year anniversary look at drag and the counterculture, and it’s absolutely for grown-ups. If your giftee is a die-hard, conference-attending, never-miss-an-appearance fan, then wrap up “Conventionally Yours” by Annabeth Albert. It’s the story of a road trip, two fierce hate-fests, one romance, and two fanboys, but who’s the biggest? Wrap it up with „Date Me, Bryson Keller“ by Kevin van Whye for double the love. Here’s something unique: “They Say Sarah” by Pauline Delabroy-Allard is a best-seller in France, and a skinny book that your giftee won’t be able to stop reading. It’s the story of a single mother who’s living in Paris with her child. The woman has a boyfriend but one New Year’s Eve, she meets a woman who changes everything. Pair it with something nonfiction, like “I’ve Been Wrong Before” by Evan James, a book of essays on life, coming out, relationships, and more. Fans of biographies will want to unwrap “Mama’s Boy” by Dustin Lance Black. Black, a screenwriter and activist tells the story of his childhood, having been raised by a single mother who suffered a lifetime of almost insurmountable issues, and how they came to terms with everything they’d endured together. Pair it with “Daddy” by Michael Montlack, a book of essays on this and that and the other. Another great memoir, “Later: My Life at the Edge of the World” by Paul Lisicky, the story of finding a place to settle down, and watching an epidemic as it changes that newly beloved place. The starwatcher on your list will love “Inside the Hollywood Closet: A Book of Quotes” by Boze Hadleigh. It’s a who’s who and a what-was-what that looks back at who said what about life as a gay star, and it’s fun. The reader who wants something unique will enjoy “The Last Alias: True Stories and a Tale That Might Be” by Ste7en Foster (and no, that’s no typo). As humans, we are many different things. This book will make you think: who are YOU?

‘The Cockettes: Acid Drag & Sexual Anarchy’ (Image courtesy Fayette Hauser)

‘Mama’s Boy’ by DUSTIN LANCE BLACK addresses his childhood. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)



‘Big Tow’ has action, humor, and a lesbian romance Caper story is laugh-out-loud funny By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER Two wheels hooked. That was your vehicle: two wheels on the ground, the other two in the air, safely attached to a bar hooked on both ends to a big truck. Oh, how you hate shredded tires, check-engine lights, busted radiators, dead batteries, and the guy with the rig, but in the new book “The Big Tow” by Ann McMan, a wired starter isn’t the only thing that’s hot. Vera “Nick” Nicholson had put in her time. After six years at Turner, Witherspoon, Anders and Tyler, Attorneys at Law, Nick thought she might’ve achieved partner, but no. Instead, because she was the firm’s only “brown” employee and because senior partners figured “floor-scraping assignments” would be “second nature” to her, that’s what she got – like, for instance, the latest case, a stolen car. Nick didn’t know jack about stolen cars. She had no contacts there in North Carolina to ask for help. And that’s how she ended up at National Recovery Bureau, a back-lot repo business run by a chain-smoking, no-nonsense older woman with zero patience, and a guy named Fast Eddie. For $500, they helped Nick find the car.

When Fast Eddie enticed her with 10 G’s in cash for “profit sharing,” that was a big surprise. So was the offer of a part-time job from NRB. And so was the co-worker NRB assigned to Nick, a gorgeous blonde named Frankie. She had a killer body and enough imagination to figure out how to complete the toughest cases. Meanwhile, Nick used her imagination to think about Frankie’s killer body. Despite the danger and the hassle, working for NRB did have its benefits: the money was great and the company was even better, and Nick cautiously allowed herself to fall in love. She and Frankie were becoming more than just partners at work; they were a couple that happened to work together, and they did a good job. But there was something off about Fast Eddie. Despite that it leans a bit toward wordiness and could have used maybe one less caper, “The Big Tow” is a true delight – but not for the reasons you might think. Author Ann McMan’s two main characters are certainly likable: Nick is one of those people you want in your corner, and Frankie seems like someone you’d have drinks with. The real appeal of this book, though, lies in the world surrounding these two. The dispatcher at NRB and Nick’s gay roommate are spit-out-your-coffee funny, and you must read this book to learn who Carol Jenkins is. There are dotty mothers, wise fathers, a goth girl at a funeral home, and a Yoda-type butcher who speaks in hints. Though he’s really basically a caricature, even Fast Eddie is someone you’ll look for as you’re reading this book. This is the kind of story that, if it happened to you, you’d get plenty of mileage out of it at your next party. It’s got romance, action, humor, and theft – how can you go wrong? Start “The Big Tow” and you’ll be hooked.

‘The Big Tow: An Unlikely Romance’ By Ann McMan

c.2020, Bywater Books |$17.95/340 pages LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 11, 2020 • 15


Get to know queer literary icon Adrienne Rich

New bio presents her as vibrant, 3-dimensional human being By KATHI WOLFE “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” declared the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Many who love poetry believe this to be true. Yet, few would argue that poets, apart from queer bards Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman, are household names. Except for Adrienne Rich. Rich, the lesbian poet and essayist who lived from 1929 to 2012, was as famous as a rock star. Her death was front page news. A queer icon, Rich was beloved by poetry aficionados and all who worked for justice. (Rich donated $1,000 to Split This Rock, a poetry organization that works for social change.) “I contain multitudes,” Whitman said. Rich gave Whitman a run for his money. During her life, Rich, born in Baltimore, was many things: a poet, scholar, teacher, married woman, radical feminist and an out lesbian. Baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church, Rich later in life discovered her Jewish identity. Rich’s fans ranged from renowned hetero poet Robert Lowell to lesbians and gay men who stood in line to hear her read. Looking into her eyes as Rich signed your book at a reading, you felt as if this distinguished, award–winning poet cared about you. “The Power of Adrienne Rich” by Hilary Holladay is the first

biography of this iconic poet. Writing a bio of an icon is a tall order. How do you present your subject with their talents, heroic qualities and failings without falling into hagiography or smackdown? Holladay, a biographer, novelist, poet and scholar of modern and contemporary American literature, deftly pulls off this daunting hat trick. With the skill of a novelist, she illuminates Rich’s life from her birth in Baltimore in 1929 to her death in Santa Cruz, Calif, in 2012. From early on, Rich had a life filled with privilege and success. Her father Dr. Arnold Rice Rich was a prominent Johns Hopkins pathologist. From early on, Dr. Rich considered his daughter to be a “baby genius.” By age 4, she was playing Mozart on the piano). She wrote a small volume of poems when she was six. Rich graduated from Radcliffe in 1951. Queer poet W. H. Auden chose her first poetry collection “A Change of World” (published in 1951) to be published in the Yale Younger Poets Series. Soon after receiving this honor, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and was studying at Oxford. She taught at universities and colleges — from the City College of New York to Swarthmore and wrote more than 24 poetry collections and six volumes of prose. At the same time, she engaged in political activism. In 1997, Rich refused

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I Ineed needaa COVID-19 COVID-19 test. test.

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to accept the National Medal of Arts, the U.S. government’s highest award for artists. In her letter declining the award, she deplored the “increasingly brutal impact of racial and economic injustice.” Rich’s husband, Alfred Haskell Conrad, killed himself shortly after he and Rich separated. Rich came out as a lesbian in the 1970s. Her poems “Twenty-One Love Poems” were among the first lesbian love poems to be widely read. I’d wager that every lesbian remembers where she was when she read them when they were published in 1978. Later, Rich became a staunch supporter of queer men who had AIDS. Rich and the late writer Michelle Cliff were partners for more than 30 years. In the midst of her complex and busy life, Rich, who for most of her life had rheumatoid arthritis, endured pain and surgeries. The many honors Rich received include a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 1994, a National Book Award in 1974 and the National Book Foundation medal for distinguished contribution to American letters in 2005. S E R V I N G T H E LG BTQ+ CO M M U N I Like T Y everyone, Rich had her quirks. She could be imperious. Sometimes Rich drank too much or abruptly dropped friends N LOS A N G E LES CO U N T Y S ERVING S ERVING T HTEHLGBTQ+ E LGBTQ+ C OMMU C OMMU NITNIT Y IY she’d been close to. IN IN LOS ANGELES C OU NTNT Y Y LOS ANGELES C OU Poetry for Rich “was as close to a religion as anything she Free & low-cost resources would ever know,” Holladay writes. Free Free & low-cost & low-cost resources resources In the “Power of Adrienne Rich,” Holladay helps us to know Meet Meet usus at at 211LA.org 211LA.org or or call call 2-1-1 2-1-1 Meet us at 211LA.org or call 2-1-1 a queer literary icon – not as a god, but as a vibrant, threedimensional human being. Amen to that!

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SAOIRSE RONAN and KATE WINSLET in ‘Ammonite.’ (Photo courtesy of NEON)

Winslet, Ronan have seaside rendezvous in ‘Ammonite’ Lesbian love story requires effort to extract its treasures By JOHN PAUL KING

Before sitting down to watch “Ammonite,” the new film from writer/director Francis Lee, it might be helpful to know a little bit about the history of paleontology – specifically, about a woman named Mary Anning. Anning grew up in a poor family in Lyme Regis, a town on the English Channel, where she helped with the family business of selling fossils from the region’s geologically rich beaches and cliffsides to the many tourists attracted by its seaside resorts. At the age of 12, she found what would eventually become the first correctly identified full skeleton of a marine dinosaur known as an ichthyosaur; it was a breakthrough discovery that played a major role in reshaping the way scientists (and the rest of the world) understood prehistoric life on earth, and she would not only go on to make several more important finds, but to contribute significantly to the scientific study of the subject. Unfortunately for Mary, she also lived in the 19th century. That meant that, as a woman, though she was widely known and respected for her discoveries, she was not eligible for membership in the Geographical Society of London or any of the other respected bodies of the scientific community; as a result, credit for her findings was often co-opted by the men who consulted her and bought her specimens, and she continued to toil away in nearanonymity, selling fossils and trinkets out of her seaside shop, for much of her life. Today, Anning gets something much closer to the recognition she deserved in the scientific record. To the world at large, however, her name remains mostly unknown; but, thanks to Lee (whose 2017 debut feature “God’s Own Country” was acclaimed by critics as one of the best queer films in recent memory), that is about to change – though perhaps not solely for the reason she might have preferred. In “Ammonite,” we are introduced to Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) years after that sensational childhood find, living out her days in near-debilitating poverty with her elderly mother (Gemma Jones), still harvesting fossils from the beach. Hard and sullen, she barely bothers to conceal her misanthropy from the tourists who come into her shop, and maintains a near-reclusive distance from residents of the town. The drudgery of her existence begins to change, however, when a “gentleman scientist” offers to pay her handsomely to act as a companion for his wife, Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan), who suffers from “melancholia,” while he is away on an expedition. Unable to refuse the financial boost, she grudgingly accepts, and though their relationship gets off to a difficult start, it soon becomes clear that these two sidelined women are awakening to something between them that has always been denied in a world where their parameters are defined solely by men. It should be no spoiler to clarify that this premise is the set-up for a lesbian romance, played out against a picturesque period backdrop and full of the kind of forbidden, subversive eroticism that seems to come so naturally from the intricate process of unfastening oldfashioned garments. Lee’s movie derives much from all these environmental factors and more as it tells a deceptively simple story about two seemingly complex women who really are only looking for perhaps the most basic need of all; but unlike many such historical tales of furtive and forbidden love, it does not rely solely on the trappings and tropes of romantic fiction, and rather uses them only as a canvas for a studied, near-hypnotic 18 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 11, 2020

exploration of human behavior that, while it may not entirely eschew sentiment, tempers and redefines it in a way that keeps it from becoming inauthentic. To accomplish this, Lee doubles down on the strengths that elevated “God’s Own Country” above the majority of other rural queer love stories on film. Most obvious, perhaps, is the keen sense of environment mentioned above, in which the setting takes on a role in the story itself, and the characters’ interaction with their environment and circumstances defines much of how they relate to each other throughout. The director’s meticulous approach to capturing the world of an early 18th-century oceanside village makes a viewer feel and smell the crisp sea air firsthand. Lee’s greatest gift, however, is both more subtle and more profound, and it’s one that infuses his work both as writer and director of his work so far. Having carefully set up the circumstances of his narrative within a viscerally realistic place and time, he lets it all unfold with an almost ascetic sparseness of dialogue. What is spoken serves to illuminate little more than the necessary details that move the ostensible plot; but what is unspoken is a rich, layered, and nuanced observation of human experience that is both specific and, to most of us, alien, yet also universal and recognizable to any viewer who reads the volumes contained between the lines. It’s that last part that might prove challenging to some viewers; “Ammonite” is the kind of movie that can easily feel slow-moving to audiences who are partial to storytelling that involves more direct action and fewer inscrutable gazes. For those who are up for it, however, the subtext that conveys the real narrative of Lee’s film – the one that charts a shared inner journey, not the external factors that surround it – is every bit as thrilling as a non-stop action blockbuster. While the movie’s filmmaker must get full kudos for his remarkable talent in making that happen, it would be hard for him to pull it off without the help of his leading players. Winslet and Ronan are both among modern cinema’s most accomplished and versatile performers, and it’s clear they each relish the chance to take a deep dive into their skill set for these complex roles. Winslet’s dowdy, frumpish, and middle-aged Mary blossoms before our eyes to reveal the beauty that has been right in front of us all along, while Ronan’s morose, hollow Charlotte transitions into a vibrant, confident woman by her side. These inner evolutions are enacted in tandem, like a dance between two prima ballerinas, complementing and counterpointing each other in a way that seems as effortless as breathing, but is in fact the product of a lifetime of difficult work and study – with a prodigious amount of talent thrown in, of course. It should be noted that “Ammonite” is not a biopic, nor even a true story in the sense that most of us would think; there really was a Charlotte, who was the real-life Anning’s lifelong friend and correspondent after staying with her in Lyme Regis for a few months, but beyond that, much of what Lee shows us on film is pure speculative fiction. This, of course, makes it somehow feel all the truer. “Ammonite” is a movie which, like the fossils excavated by its characters, requires fastidious effort in order to extract its treasures. That might make it unappealing for many, but for those who have passion for the work, the payoff is well worth the labor.


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