Losangelesblade.com, Volume 05, Issue 06, February 05, 2021

Page 1

Mr. Buttigieg goes to Washington Gay Cabinet member makes history after Senate confirmation, PAGE 08


(Photo courtesy of the Office of the Vice President)


Newsom extends eviction moratorium

California Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM

(File Photo)

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation to extend the state’s landmark eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021, protecting millions of Californians struggling as a result of the economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation pauses evictions for tenants who declare under penalty of perjury an inability to pay all or part of the rent due to a COVID-related reason. Tenants are still responsible for paying unpaid amounts to property owners, but those unpaid amounts cannot be the basis for an eviction, even after the moratorium ends. SB 91 establishes the State Rental Assistance Program to allocate the $2.6 billion in federal rental assistance California will receive. The program will target aid to income-qualified tenants most at-risk with unpaid back rent. Assistance will also be extended to property owners who agree to waive 20 percent of unpaid rent. By agreeing to this waiver, property owners will become eligible for 80 percent in rent reimbursements for amounts owed between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. The State Rental Assistance Program will begin accepting applications from property owners and tenants in March. SB 91 prohibits the selling or assigning of rental debt that was accrued from March 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 until the end of the moratorium. However, the prohibition is permanent with respect to the rental debt of people at or below 80 percent of Area Median Income who meet the eligibility requirements of the Rental Assistance Program. Property owners or other housing providers are also prohibited from using COVID-19 related debt as a negative factor for evaluating a housing application, or as the basis for refusing to rent to an otherwise qualified tenant. STAFF REPORTS

Calif. partners with FEMA/CDC to vaccinate underserved populations Speaking via teleconference in Washington Wednesday morning, President Biden’s Coronavirus Task Force COVID19 Czar Jeff Zients announced a new partnership with the State of California to launch two pilot mega-vaccine community centers in underserved minority communities devastated by the pandemic. These pilot sites, which will be based at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum and California State University, Los Angeles, are part of the wider effort to establish 100 vaccination sites nationwide in the Biden-Harris administration’s first 100 days. The sites will be co-run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State of California through the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). In the east side of Los Angeles, one large site will be situated on the campus of California University — California State University-Los Angeles. Which is one of the most diverse public universities in the country, serving a large Latino community. The second center will be opened at Oakland’s Coliseum adjacent to the communities of Eastmont and Elmhurst, which have some of the lowest health scores in the state. Both centers will be staffed primarily by a federal workforce from agencies such as FEMA, DOD, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and HHS. FEMA has partnered with CDC to launch vaccination sites that use processes and are located in places that promote equity, deploying CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index. The two locations chosen for these efforts are in some of the most diverse and socioeconomically challenged communities in the country. They are also communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and are home to essential workers who have borne the brunt of keeping the economy open over the past year, Newsom’s office noted in a media release. The goal of establishing these joint federal pilot sites is to continue to expand the rate of vaccinations in California in an efficient, effective and equitable manner, with an explicit focus on making sure that minority communities with a high risk of COVID-19 exposure

Coronavirus Task Force COVID-19 Czar JEFF ZIENTS (Photo screenshot via C-SPAN)

and infection are not left behind. Preparations and buildout of these two locations are now underway and the sites are expected to be open to eligible members of the public beginning February 16. Registration for vaccine appointments at these two sites will be available through the state’s MyTurn scheduling system in the coming days. BRODY LEVESQUE LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 05, 2021 • 03


ACTUP/LA’s DAVID REID, longtime activist LEE MENTLEY, ACT UP’s HELENE SCHPAK, at the Lesbians to watch out for: 90’s Queer LA Activism, art exhibit West Hollywood in June of 2017.

Gay pioneer Lee Mentley dies

Activist facilitated creation of the Rainbow Flag By KAREN OCAMB

Gay pioneer Lee Mentley ended his often snarky emails with “HRH Lee Mentley Your very own..., old, miserable, cranky, S.O.B...!” The insightful self-reflection brought a smile to readers who knew the longtime gay movement pioneer as a lovable, astute and kind curmudgeon who participated in and facilitated the San Francisco art scene that created the iconic Rainbow Flag. Mentley, whose 2016 memoir is entitled “Princess of Castro Street,” died January 20 at his home in Sonora, California at age 72. According to August Bernadicou, who wrote a detailed obituary for his LGBTQ History Project, the vibrant activist died of congestive heart failure. For many, Mentley, born June 2, 1948 in East Los Angeles, is being remembered for his activism and service to the San Francisco gay community where he moved in 1972, and for facilitating the creation of the iconic Rainbow Flag. “Once Upon A Time…there was a Gay Liberation Movement that arouse out of the Flower Power & Women’s Movement for Sexual Liberation in the 1960’s. Add Pot and LSD and we were off to the Haight Asbury, Sunset Boulevard & Greenwich Village,” Mentley wrote in an op-ed reflecting on Gay Freedom Day for this news editor. “The mid-1960’s was a time of great joy and sexual comradery. I grew up in East Los Angeles with a strange mixture of being called a ‘faggot’ at school during the day to having the same boys visit me at night for sweet sex play! Then I read in the Free Press there was a Gay Community Center where you could meet men who did not call you ‘fag’ and still wanted to have sex with you, including, of all things, kissing!” That’s where Mentley met Gay Liberation Front/LA founders Morris Kight and Don Kilhefner and Mattachine Society founders Harry Hay and Jim Kepner. “Little did I understand then that I would know them my entire life and out-live most of them,” Mentley wrote. “It was Morris who encouraged me to be a Gay political activist,” introducing him to fellow University of California/Long Beach students Steven Berman and Martin Rice with whom he launched the first Gay Student Union on a California State University campus. “This led to someone nearly blowing up the Theater Department,


including death threats, which forced my early graduation,” he wrote. “So, I moved to San Francisco to do drag Shakespeare with Cockette Martin Worman. It was then I met Harvey Milk. I lived across the street from Harvey at 590 Castro, which was also known as the Hulah Palace where we founded the original Castro Street Fair and actively participated in the growth of the Gay Movement. It was an exciting time 2000 years in the making. Gay kids from around the globe came to be liberated and safe in The Castro, including a fair share of straight kids who just wanted to join in the fun,” Mentley wrote. At the Hulah Palace, Mentley nurtured local gay artists such as LGBT community photographer Dan Nicoletta. That led to Mentley being hired for the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Neighborhood Arts Program, becoming the city’s first openly gay employee. “Lee was an early advocate for me as a budding photographer in 1975,” Nicoletta tells the LA Blade. “I was 20 years old when I hit Castro Street. I fancied myself a theatre photographer, so Lee and I hit it off instantly because of his deep roots to all things theatrical. Lee was a co-founder of a neighborhood art scene which held astrologically selected seasonal art salons. It was called The Hulah Palace and Lee invited me to exhibit work and document the thrilling threeday salon. I found my community of counterculture freaks there and stayed involved with pretty much everything Lee was involved in throughout the ensuing years, as a photo documentarian but also as a student and friend. I will miss his vim and vigor.” It was through the Gay Community Center at 330 Grove Street that he founded with other activists that Mentley truly found his historic calling. He opened the Top Floor Gallery where artists could work, showcase their work and share theories and stories. It was there where he facilitated the creation of the Rainbow Flag in 1978 as a project of the executive committee for the Pride Foundation. “I can confidently write as an LGBTQ historian that Lee Mentley facilitated the rainbow flag, which represents LGBTQ people all around the world,” Bernadicou wrote in an email


LEE MENTLEY outside San Francisco City Hall the day after the infamous White Night riots, May 22, 1979. (Photo courtesy Daniel Nicoletta)

to the Bay Area Reporter, adding that “he was involved in the big picture organization, securing money, etc,” that enabled the Flag to be created and flown during Gay Freedom Day in San Francisco. The artists preferred collective respect and individual anonymity so while applauding sewer Gilbert Baker’s talent at branding and distributing the image and messaging of the iconic Rainbow Flag, Mentley and others were upset that 40 years later, the actual founder of the original flag, Lynn Segerblom or Faery Argyle, had been erased from the Rainbow Flag narrative. Mentley brought the erasure to the LA Blade’s attention, Segerblom wrote a description of her participation – and then all hell broke loose, with the keepers of Baker’s memory minimizing Segerblom’s participation. Neither Mentley nor his poet friend Adrian Brooks allowed that version to stand. “In 1974, Lee had inspired an 18-year-old new arrival from Southern California: Lynn Segerblom or Faery Argyle Rainbow as she was widely known (that name being on her California driver’s license). A tie-dye artist, she’d been making clothing often embellished with rainbows, since 1971. Lee helped her integrate into the local scene where she flourished. In 1977, she rented a workspace at 330 Grove but lived above the Castro district with Gilbert Baker and James McNamara, longtime friends,” Brooks wrote in the LA Blade on March 20, 2020. “In April 1978, a month after being in the show [“Angels of Light”], Lynn told me about her concept for eight-stripe rainbow flags as has been affirmed by some of the 30+ volunteers who worked on the project and who recognize her as originator of the design,” Brooks wrote. “In May, Lee and Paul Hardman (president of the Pride Foundation, with Lee on its executive committee there being no formal parade committee), approved the rainbow design Lynn submitted at a meeting certified by two others present on that day. When Paul and Lee asked for money to fund the project, Harvey Milk gave them $1,000 after which Lee and Lynn went shopping for materials.” Segerblom’s studio “became ‘ground zero’ where fabric was dyed while Lee’s gallery space and the roof were used to dry great lengths of cotton; when hung from rafters, these became a splendid and lyrical installation,” Brooks wrote. “Gilbert didn’t conceive or design the 1978 flags. His accomplishment

lies in transforming what began as local parade decorations into a global icon. But the ubiquitous flags he popularized so brilliantly were his own six-stripe variants of Lynn’s original eight-stripe designs.” As Brooks read his poems to a crowd of 400,000 in City Hall plaza on June 25, 1978, “high overhead, the splendid rainbow flags were billowing in a blue sky as the afternoon sunlight illumined their prismatic colors.” Those Rainbow Flags, produced by Harvey Milk, Lee Mently, Lynn Segerblom, Gilbert Baker, James McNamara “and many others who did the work” for the gathering were to be Harvey Milk’s last parade before his assassination. “Still, he saw the flags he helped midwife serving those he nurtured whole-heartedly, acting in concert with his walk-the-walk friend, Lee Mentley, Godfather of the Rainbow Flag.” “I knew Lee since the first Castro St. Faire in 1975, I think,” Lynn Segerblom, aka Faerie Argyle Rainbow, tells the LA Blade. “Lee was a multi-talented artist. He was the reason I was able to rent a room at 330 Grove St. I had my dye studio there. He was the one who asked me if I’d like to be part of the 1978 decorations group- Parade decorations. When the decision was made to ‘let’s make them Rainbow Flags,’ Lee was there. When we got the money to buy the supplies to make these flags from scratch, Lee wrote the check to the vendors. He didn’t dye any fabric or sew any seams on the flags, but if he were not there, there wouldn’t have been any Rainbow Flags.” “Lee was the embodiment of the ethos of the San Francisco gay liberation movement - anarchy, love, art and sex, steeped in an acute awareness of the arc of history and the very revolutionary nature of what we were doing,” friend Robert Croonquist tells the LA Blade. “He knew we were overthrowing several millennia of oppression and knew very well the reaction would be ferocious, as we are presently witnessing in the Trumpian glorification of toxic masculinity. Although his life and actions embodied his radical ethos, he well understood the dangers of authoritarianism and worked throughout his last four years to restore us to our democratic norms, as imperfect as they might be. His last words to his beloved friend Pamela Goodlow were, ‘We elected Warnock and Ossoff, Biden and Harris. My work is done. What’s left to do?’ And then he died.” Karen Ocamb is the former news editor of the Los Angeles Blade and a longtime chronicler of the lives of LGBTQ Californians.



LGBTQ ally Weber sworn in as Calif. Secretary of State

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday swore in San Diego Assemblymember and Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus Dr. Shirley N. Weber as California Secretary of State. Dr. Weber is the first-ever African American to serve as Secretary of State in California history. “On the eve of Black History Month, California once again makes history in swearing in Dr. Weber as Secretary of State,” said Newsom. “As the state’s Chief Elections Officer, Dr. Weber will continue her lifelong dedication to defending civil rights and will undertake a vital role in protecting our democratic process at a critical time.” In December of 2019 while Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, Dr. Weber worked closely with State Senator Scott Wiener, the then Chair of the California Legislature’s LGBTQ Caucus in petitioning Governor Newsom to posthumously pardon Bayard Rustin, a confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a key organizer of the March on Washington in 1963. Rustin also helped plan other nonviolent protests and boycotts to end racial discrimination. This led to Newsom not only posthumously pardoning the gay civil rights leader in January of 2020, but also addressed the creation of a new pardon process for others convicted under outdated California Penal Code laws which punished homosexual activity. Weber was selected by Newsom to replace the state’s former secretary of state, Alex Padilla. Padilla was appointed by Newsom to fill the U.S. Senate seat that had been previously been held by Vice President Kamala Harris. BRODY LEVESQUE

California Secretary of State designate Dr. SHIRLEY N. WEBER takes the oath of office from Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM. (Photo provided by the Office of the Governor)

UCLA brain imaging study induces gender dysphoria, mental health distress Gender Justice LA and the California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network have demanded the immediate suspension of recruitment and research for a UCLA brain imaging study until further review by the UCLA Institutional Review Board (IRB), alleging its unethical research design for Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, and Intersex (TGI) participants who have induced episodes of gender dysphoria and mental health distress after participating in the study. In early December 2020, researchers at UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior reached out to TGI people across Southern California who are active in the community, work in advocacy, or work for organizations that provide care, resources, or safety for folks who are transgender and nonbinary. After members of the TGI community participated in the focus group to assist in the expansion of this research project, they composed a letter to TGI people in Los Angeles warning them about the dangerous research protocols and goals. Community organizers claim that such research suggests a search for medical “cure.” Dr. Fuesner, the lead researcher of this study, primarily studies Eating Disorders and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). These areas of study are different from the experience of transgender people. The researchers claim that their study can help TGI people, but their own research materials and publications suggested that they are developing tools that may curtail access to gender-affirming treatment. This includes the potential to provide evidence for the creation of therapeutics to treat gender dysphoria as one would treat anorexia, which could have negative consequences on the transgender community in terms of policy and systemic governance, and re-opens the door for advancing the highly disregarded and dangerous practice of conversion therapy. Gender Justice LA and the CA LGBTQ HHS Network and various partnering organizations call on UCLA to: Immediately cease the recruitment of participants and the use of the misleading title “The UCLA Transgender Research Program.” Call on the Vice Chancellor for Research, Dr. Roger Wakimoto, to appoint an ad hoc committee to investigate the community expressed concerns pursuant to Policy and Guidance: Complaints, Concerns and Suggestions, and Reports of Undue Influence Regarding the Conduct of Human Participants Research. The ad-hoc committee should include representation of transgender people. The findings and outcomes of the investigation should be made available to the public. Conduct a thorough assessment of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) focused on aligning IRB decision-making with UCLA’s commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Create clear research guideless that include the participation of transgender researchers and policy advocates on scientific advisory boards and community advisory boards for any trans related research. The community advisory session found that the research team did not consider the mental health consequences for participants in its research design, including providing no direct access 06 • FEBRUARY 05, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

to mental health services for participants. There has also been criticism that the advertising for the study was not clear regarding the expectations of participants. “I find it distressing that a research institution with the reputation of UCLA would approve a study to trigger gender dysphoria episodes without adequate mental health protections for the study participants,” stated one of the research participants, who desires to remain anonymous. In an effort to improve advocacy for TGI research participants, Gender Justice LA and the California LGBTQ HHS Network invite TGI folks to participate in a community forum “TGI Community Chat: Having Value as Research Participants” on February 6, 2021. Topics that will be covered include: What should be considered before participating in a research project How to remove oneself from a research project if it has negative impacts on your person Why it’s important for researchers to collaborate with TGI-led organizations and more! For more information on advocacy for TGI research participants, please visit this website: https://californialgbtqhealth.org/advocacy-for-tgi-research-participants/ (Editor’s note: In response to the publication of this article, Phil Hampton, director of communications for the UCLA Health & David Geffen School of Medicine issued the following statement on behalf of UCLA late Wednesday afternoon: UCLA is dedicated to academic research that humanely serves the public good. We take seriously our responsibility to conduct research in a manner that respects study participants and is sensitive to the broader cultural context in which our work is conducted and received. Concerns were voiced about a study on gender identity and body perception and, as such, the principal investigator voluntarily paused the NIH-sponsored research. This will allow the principal investigator to receive additional input from the transgender, non-binary and gender-nonconforming communities, understand their concerns more deeply and have a dialogue about the study’s objectives and design. In consultation with both the community and the university, the principal investigator will consider whether revisions to the research project’s design and execution could help mitigate any potential unintended negative consequences while still meeting the project’s objectives. The ultimate hope of this study is that it will lead to improved quality of life for those who identify as transgender, non-binary and gender-nonconforming and a better understanding of the effects of hormones on the brain. UCLA believes partnership with our diverse communities is essential to performing research that is culturally aware, socially responsible, improves quality of life and advances our public service mission.)

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In historic first, Buttigieg confirmed as Cabinet-level appointee Racial equity a priority in role as Transportation Secretary By CHRIS JOHNSON | cjohnson@washblade.com

Pete Buttigieg was approved by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday as transportation secretary with bipartisan support, marking the first time an openly gay person has been confirmed to a Cabinet-level position and a long overdue achievement for the LGBTQ community. The vote to confirm Buttigieg, the former South Bend mayor who was nominated by President Biden after making history in the 2020 Democratic primary as an openly gay candidate, was 86-13. The Democratic caucus was united in support for Buttigieg. Among the Republicans joining them were Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Kennedy (R-La.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). The 13 Republicans voting “no” were Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.). Many of them are PETE BUTTIGIEG was confirmed with bipartisan likely 2024 Republican presidential contenders. support as transportation secretary. With that vote, Buttigieg and his spouse, Chasten (Blade file photo by Michael Key) Buttigieg, will leave their lives in the Midwest to become Washington insiders in a script that could be a play on American filmography — “Mr. Buttigieg Goes to Washington.” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor prior to the confirmation vote Buttigieg is an “outstanding nominee” who has “demonstrated an impressive familiarity with our nation’s entire transportation challenges,” including the proposed gateway tunnel from New Jersey to New York City. “I know that Mr. Buttigieg is committed to working with members from both sides to improve rail and transit, highways and more in rural communities, urban centers and everywhere in between,” Schumer said. “I’m excited to call him ‘Secretary Pete’ by the end of the day.” The bipartisan vote reflects the confirmation hearing for Buttigieg, when he enjoyed a relatively breezy reception by lawmakers from both parties on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation (with the exception of hostile questions from Cruz). Buttigieg, during his testimony before the committee, said renewing America’s infrastructure would be key to his approach as transportation secretary. Buttigieg also said any renewal of the transportation system would be sensitive to racial equity, which is consistent with President Biden’s campaign pledge to tackle systemic racism. Annise Parker, CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, said in a statement Buttigieg “shattered a centuries-old political barrier” by winning Senate confirmation to a Cabinet-level role as an openly gay person with bipartisan support. “While his confirmation is historic, Pete is focused on the difficult task ahead,” Parker said. “America is in desperate need of a revitalized transportation effort and his two terms as mayor provide the experience and perspective needed to propose bold solutions. America is fortunate to have Pete as their secretary of transportation.” Buttigieg won the historic designation amid a dispute over whether or not he should be considered the first openly gay person to serve in a Cabinet role. During the Trump administration, Richard Grenell served as acting director of national intelligence, a Cabinet-level role. Grenell, however, never sought or won Senate confirmation for the position, although he was confirmed for his concurrent position as U.S. ambassador to Germany. James Hormel, who became the first openly gay ambassador in U.S. history in 08 • FEBRUARY 05, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

1999 after former President Clinton designated him in a recess appointment as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, said Buttigieg can rightfully claim the title of first openly gay Cabinet official because of the “acting” nature of Grenell’s role, although the Trump White House had insisted the distinction belongs to Grenell. Undisputedly, however, Buttigieg is the first openly gay person to win Senate confirmation specifically for a Cabinet-level position. To be sure, other openly gay people have won Senate confirmation, just not for Cabinet-level roles. The first was Roberta Achtenberg, who was confirmed in 1993 as assistant secretary for the Department of Housing & Urban Development. The long list includes presidential appointees, ambassadors and judicial nominations, many of them for senior positions just shy of Cabinet-level roles. Among them is Fred Hochberg, who served during the Obama years as head of the Export-Import Bank; Eric Fanning, confirmed as Army secretary after a long battle in the Senate in 2016; and Patrick Bumatay, appointed by former President Trump to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and now the highest-ranking out federal judge. In many ways, Buttigieg’s confirmation as first openly gay person to a Cabinetlevel position is a long overdue vote buttoning up the progress and historic confirmations the LGBTQ community has achieved in recent years. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) was among the senators who took to the Senate floor in support of Buttigieg and gave a shout-out to Chasten Buttigieg. “As a Midwesterner, and as a husband to a Michigander who was born and raised in Traverse City, Secretary-designate Buttigieg fully recognizes the need to protect the Great Lakes,” Peters said. “I agree with Mayor Pete’s belief that he says, ‘Good transportation policy can play no less a role than making possible the American Dream.’” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) also praised Buttigieg on the Senate floor and said she “enthusiastically” supports Buttigieg because he’s up to facing the nation’s transportation challenges. “I look forward to the type of focus that he can give to the Department of Transportation,” Cantwell added. “This area of our government, right now, needs to address the COVID crisis, it needs to help us plan for a better transportation system of the future and it needs to understand that this transportation infrastructure and investment in these changes in these sectors of cars and planes and passenger systems are all changing industries, and so our competitiveness will be at stake as well.” Another Biden nominee, Rachel Levine, may soon achieve another first for the LGBTQ community upon confirmation as assistant secretary of health and become the first openly transgender person to win Senate confirmation. Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, congratulated Buttigieg for his “historic confirmation” in a statement. “This confirmation breaks through a barrier that has existed for too long; where LGBTQ identity served as an impediment to nomination or confirmation at the highest level of government,” David said. “Let this important moment for our movement serve as a reminder to every LGBTQ young person: you too can serve your country in any capacity you earn the qualifications to hold.” David also credited President Biden for achieving the historic first for the LGBTQ community, saying Buttigieg’s confirmation follows through on a commitment to diversity. “President Biden promised to deliver an administration representative of the diversity of this nation, and this confirmation is a significant achievement toward that goal,” David said. Ruben Gonzales, executive director of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said in a statement Buttigieg’s confirmation is a “testament” to both Biden’s commitment to inclusivity and the American people’s “willingness to judge a leader by their qualifications, not their sexual orientation.” “Each new political barrier broken inspires more LGBTQ people to consider careers in public service, a virtuous cycle we will accelerate until equitable representation is achieved,” Gonzales added.


Pelosi ‘optimistic’ about LGBTQ Equality Act, calls passage a ‘priority’ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last week she’s “optimistic” about the Equality Act and called its passage a “priority” amid expectations the House could vote on the yet-to-beintroduced measure as early as March. Pelosi made the comments during her weekly news conference in response to a question from the Washington Blade on the timing of the floor vote for the LGBTQ legislation, which President Biden promised during his campaign to sign within his first 100 days in office. “I’m optimistic about it because I do think we will get strong bipartisan support in the House and in the Senate,” Pelosi said. The legislation, which Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) told the Blade he’d introduce in February, has been given new life now that Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House, as opposed to the Trump administration when the bill died in the Senate, as Pelosi noted. “This is such an exciting piece of legislation for us,” Pelosi said. “We passed it in the last Congress. No success in the Senate. It went to Mitch McConnell’s graveyard, the ‘grim reaper.’” A senior Democratic aide told the Blade that Cicilline and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the sponsor of the bill in the Senate, are looking at the week of Feb. 22 to introduce the Equality Act with a vote expected as early as March. Pelosi said she’s working with the two lawmakers “for when we will roll it out,” and said after that “we will calendar it.” “It’s an early priority for us, H.R. 5,” Pelosi said. “And again, it’s about ending discrimination.” Pelosi then shifted to praising President Biden, commending him for signing two LGBTQ executive orders within his first week in office, including a directive barring further discharges under Trump’s transgender military ban. “I’m very pleased with what President Biden has done so far, especially pleased about eliminating the prohibition on trans people from serving in the military,” Pelosi said. “That too, I think, was a triumph for decency and justice in our country, but some other initiatives that he took about contracting and this or that.” Although the Supreme Court decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County extends vast protections for LGBTQ people under federal law, securing a prohibition against anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace sought for decades by movement leaders, the Equality Act would take things a step further. In addition to the explicit declaration that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination in employment, education, housing, jury service and credit, the Equality Act would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex and LGBTQ status in public accommodations and federal programs. Further, the Equality Act would expand the definition of public accommodations under National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director KIERRA JOHNSON. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

federal civil rights law to include retail stores, banks, transportation services, and health care services. The legislation would also establish that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — a 1994 law aimed at protecting religious liberty — can’t be used to enable anti-LGBT discrimination. The Equality Act was the cornerstone of President Biden’s campaign promises to LGBTQ people. Biden said House Speaker NANCY PELOSI (D-Calif.) says she’s ‘optimistic’ he’d sign the legislation into about the Equality Act. (Blade file photo by Michael Key) law within his first 100 days in office as recently as October in an interview with Philadelphia Gay News, although he hasn’t commented on the bill in the week since he took office as president. Reflecting on the absence of such protections under federal law, Pelosi continued, “It’s amazing that we would even have to do such things, but we’re particularly proud of the Equality Act because it’s so comprehensive.” “Again, ending discrimination in the workplace and in every other aspect, not only is good for the LGBTQ community, for our whole society, but also for businesses that want the very best,” Pelosi said. “They should be hiring without any concern of complaint about the diversity that they are introducing.” In the previous Congress, the U.S. Chamber of Congress had come out in support of the Equality Act, which Pelosi alluded to in her remarks as she contemplated passage in the Senate. The challenge is greater in that chamber given the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a legislative filibuster. “That’s why we think we’ll have strong bipartisan support,” Pelosi said. “We think the business community will help us in the Senate.” Pelosi took a question from another reporter as the Blade tried to follow up with an inquiry on whether the White House has reached out to her on the legislation. Pelosi’s office didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up inquiry on whether that conversation has taken place. CHRIS JOHNSON

Task Force holds first virtual Creating Change The 33rd annual Creating Change conference hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force held its events virtually last weekend for the first time due to the pandemic. The country’s largest LGBTQ activist conference brought participants from across the U.S. to connect and share knowledge, skills and mutual dedication to ensuring equity for LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups. Hosted by comic Sandra Valls, the multi-day event emphasized the importance of togetherness and intersectionality. The conference featured special guests like Adrienne Maree Brown, a Black feminist author and women’s rights activist; and American rapper Big Freedia. Dominique Jackson, who plays Elektra Abundance on the hit TV show “Pose,” also attended. “The past election has shown us that when we stand together as a force, we will win,” Jackson said at the event. “But you can’t just show up for (an) election and then sit back.” Topics covered at this year’s conference included the intersections of LGBTQ people and immigration, transgender


activism and recognition, aging as an LGBTQ person and fundraising tips for small and large advocacy organizations. The conference also introduced Kierra Johnson as the Task Force’s new executive director. “As difficult as these last few years have been for us, I think they’ve also given us a map,” Johnson said in Saturday’s “State of the Movement” speech. “I think it’s undeniable how fragile our democracy is. And we’ve got work to do, right? And it is work that the task force is committed to being a part of.” Rea Carey stepped down on Monday after 12 years as executive director. Johnson served as the Task Force’s deputy executive director since 2018. She served as the executive director of Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity for 10 years before working with the Task Force. “It is precisely because of this collective power that we have a conference that looks the way it looks. It is because of our collective power that we are seeing changes that we never thought possible 10, 15, 20 years ago,” Johnson said. KAELA ROEDER



THUẬN NGUYỄN is a long-time resident of the City of Montclair, and currently a sociology Ph.D. student at the University of Southern California.

LGBTQ voices of a small city and the fight for acceptance The fight to maintain a welcoming city for LGBTQ residents continues in the small suburban city of Montclair, California. While it is important to engage with the broader social challenges that LGBTQ folks continue to face, we must also be attentive to local issues that affect LGBTQ folks. Otherwise, the every-day struggles and political threats that they encounter go unheard and unchallenged. Trish, a 32-year-old asexual and pansexual former Montclair resident, explained that growing up in Montclair meant avoiding saying and doing anything queer-like. As she expressed, “I didn’t really dive into my sexual and queer identity until I was halfway through my twenties. I always strayed away from [the queer] side of myself out of rebellion to the people who felt the need to force a label on me. It wasn’t as accepted then as it is now.” For Trish, she explored and embraced her queer identity much later in life when she felt that it was more socially acceptable to be openly LGBTQ. Karlie, a 28-year-old bisexual person, described how her high school principal’s antiLGBTQ attitude negatively affected her sense of belonging. As she shared, “I remember the Montclair principal, at the time, ripping [the] Day of Silence signs off of students and saying that students were not allowed to participate because other parents would pull their students out, which sent the message that my existence meant less.” For Karlie, the principal’s hostility and lack of support toward her show how community members can suppress and marginalize LGBTQ people’s voices and needs. Contrastingly, Alex and Ricardo, two 32-year-old gay men, described Montclair as safe and welcoming. However, both gay men still experienced bullying in their youth due to their sexual orientation. As Alex expressed, “Of course, I dealt with bullies in high school, but it was easy to ignore them and focus on the good parts.” Similarly, Ricardo stated, “Of course, I was bullied in middle school and some in high school, but that just comes with being different.” Although Montclair is generally a welcoming city, LGBTQ residents’ stories reveal how the community can be unaware or unconcerned about their lives as LGBTQ people. Even when it may feel safe, LGBTQ residents still met anti-LGBTQ sentiments and hostility. Consequently, when we are unconcerned about the lives of LGBTQ folks, we end up electing leaders who are active threats to their livelihoods.


Such threat is reflected in Ben Lopez’s election to the Montclair City Council. Lopez is a staunch anti-LGBTQ elected-official who spent over a decade touting anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and advocating some of the most anti-LGBTQ views, laws, and policies while working for an infamous anti-LGBTQ organization. He actively tried to influence California policymakers and affect laws that would result in discriminatory and harmful treatments toward LGBTQ people. Thus, as Karlie explained, “The election of Ben Lopez is not only heartbreaking but terrifying. With his [anti-LGBTQ] beliefs on the [city] council, and in today’s polarizing political culture, more of Montclair’s youth will continue to face threats against their personhood.” Alma, a 32 old-year old Montclair resident who self-identify as queer, similarly expressed, “I am beyond concerned that we have an elected official who has engaged in such toxic and dangerous lobbying both regionally and statewide. I have reached out to Mr. Lopez and asked whether he still holds homophobic views and practices and his plans to ensure that people who live in Montclair feel safe, heard, and welcomed. He has chosen to remain silent and dismissive about these matters while playing the role of a victim.” Despite Ben Lopez’s election, Montclair can still be a welcoming and inclusive city for LGBTQ residents and all those who step foot into the city. The community can still ensure that future generations of Montclair’s LGBTQ residents never have to endure what previous generations experienced. As Alma expressed, “I want the LGBTQ+ residents of Montclair to feel safe, accepted, and represented.” Doing so requires us to care and actively engage with local issues with an open mind and an open heart. It requires us to show up and support LGBTQ residents who are often political anti-LGBTQ targets by people such as Ben Lopez. It requires us to actively hold our elected officials accountable when they work against our residents by supporting policies that inflict harm and pain. As Matthew, a Montclair High School teacher, and an LGBTQ ally, explained, it requires us to think beyond ourselves and think about other people’s struggles and stop thinking that our kindness and inclusion are enough.

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PETER ROSENSTEIN is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is delusional, dangerous

We must not let despotism take root in America By PETER ROSENSTEIN

It is kind of exciting to see the Republican Party disintegrate into a civil war and try to figure out which side will win. Will it be the rational old-line party represented by those who founded the Lincoln Project or the Trump cult who at the moment look like they are ahead? The reality with Trump on the ballot is that he pulled out voters but when the election was about him he lost — both the presidency and then the two Senate races in Georgia. There will now be an impeachment trial and the Senate ethics panel will investigate Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) in secret. In the House, there could be a vote to censure or throw out Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). These impeachment and House votes will put Republicans who run in 2022 on the record. Democratic legislative successes will be what Democrats will use in 2022 but they have more. In the same way Republicans used Alexandra OcasioCortez (D-N.Y.) and socialism against every Democrat in vulnerable districts, Democrats must use Greene and her cohorts, including Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Matthew Cawthorn (R-N.C.), against vulnerable Republicans. There is a lot wrong with Republicans in Congress including the aforementioned as well as Matt Goetz (R-S.C.), Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). But Greene, Boebert and Cawthorn or as I call them the ‘insurrection trio,’ are the scariest since they have publicly been hailed as the future of the Republican Party and the ideal example of a Republican candidate today. Democrats can use Greene’s support of QAnon, the incitement of the Jan. 6 insurrection, and the trio’s delusional views in ads to let all voters connect them directly to Republican candidates who didn’t speak out against them. There may be 30 to 40 Republican seats where this can work because as one of my friends suggested, a former congressperson, what you say to

voters about the incumbent Republican in those swing Districts is: “Aren’t you disappointed in (insert the name). We all thought he/she would have had more decency, common sense and cared more for us and our country.” Greene is the easiest to hang around their necks. We just need to share videos of her stalking a student who had just survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida; video of her claiming 911 was a hoax; video of her supporting those who attacked the Capitol and of her suggesting certain members of Congress should be executed. Then we have Cawthorn videos inciting rioters to attack the Capitol at Trump’s rallies; getting elected even when it was known he is a certified liar like Trump when he lied claiming to have been on his way to the Naval Academy before his accident when he had already been rejected and claiming business success when he had none. Some may just excuse him for being an idiot or could attribute other things to his visit to Hitler’s Eagles Nest home and referring to Hitler as the Fuhrer and then saying he didn’t know that would offend people. Then there is Boebert, the gun-toting congresswoman from Colorado who Newsweek reported “On the day of the riot she tweeted “Today is 1776,” referring to the year of the American Revolution. As Americans we must take a stand and defend our democracy from those who would see it destroyed. We must stand for the truth and fight the lies being fed to the American voter; those who are either less educated or simply susceptible to conspiracy theories. We must be willing to call out the bullies like Cruz and Hawley who are willing to promote these lies and conspiracies for their own personal gain and desire for power. We have seen this before in Nazi Germany with the rise of Hitler. We have seen it in the rise of other despots around the world. We must never let it happen here.



Big gay Valentine’s Gift Guide 2021

Special surprises for your significant other on this very different V-Day By MIKEY ROX

They say that the pandemic and its quarantine restrictions has either brought couples closer together or pushed them to divorce. If your relationship survived the lockdowns, then consider rewarding your significant other with one of our Valentine’s Day gift ideas below.

ATHLEISURE PLEASER fivebyfive athleisure brand’s Origin tank tops are made from sustainable bamboo while its Purpose collection tanks, tees, and shorts are comprised of 100% recycled post-consumer plastic. All items are ethically produced in facilities that have a track record of safe and fair labor practices and are packaged in recycled materials so when you break a sweat you’re helping to save the planet. $45-$59, fivebyfive.cc


Bring sexy back to your bedroom with the rainbow-sequined reusablesilicon pasties from Body Body that are so cheerful and entertaining that even Janet would approve. $13.20; bodybody.com

FIT FOR A QUEEN Oh no she better don’t… forget to subscribe to the Drag Society quarterly boxes curated by a celebrity queen and filled to the brim with her handpicked products. Current box features Mayhem Miller-approved merch, including fashion accessories, cosmetics and tools, collectible enamel pin, signed photo, and more. Yas, gawd, your drag-obsessed henny will love it. $50 quarterly, dragsociety.com


EROTIC EMBROIDERY Does your S.O. carry a galleryworthy weapon between his, her, or their legs? Immortalize and celebrate it on your own hall walls with detailed cross-stitched hoops embellished with vibrant beading handmade by artist Andrew Emel and available on Etsy at StitchedPeensShop. NSFW photos of finished commissions @stitched_ peens on Instagram. $100+; etsy.com/shop/ stitchedpeensshop

If Dry January did a body good, extend the respite into deeper winter – without completely depriving yourself. Crystalinfused wine alternative Rock Grace promotes beauty, energy, and wellness in a non-alcoholic rosé that’s all natural, calorie and sugar free, while Hairless Dog Brewing offers mixed cases for suds lovers who crave that satisfying beer taste sans the bloat. $25, rockgrace.com; $44, drinkhairlessdog.com



Each of Wildwood Candle Co.’s nine USA-sourced, vegan scents represents different trails found throughout Portland’s Forest Park, the longest of which is the company’s namesake. Specific trail details and GPS coordinates are listed under each scent’s description so adventurous couples (or thruples – we don’t judge around here) can find and explore that trail in person someday. Five percent of profits are donated to the Forest Park Conservancy.


Created by designer Lucie Kaas, this adorable collection of gay icons as Japanese kokeshi dolls will delight discerning art lovers and kids-at-heart alike. The armless wooden sculptures popular in Asian culture star a number of your favorite LGBTQ champions and pioneers, including Elton John, Coco Chanel, David Bowie, Anna Wintour, Andy Warhol, Jackie O., and many more. $54-$109, luciekaas.com

$28, wildwoodcandleco.com


Upcycled pages of your favorite classic books that can no longer be donated or sold are turned into lifelike paper roses that never die. Literary Blooms bestsellers include Pride and Prejudice, Alice in Wonderland, Agatha Christie novels, Anne of Green Gables, Sherlock Holmes, and the works of William Shakespeare. The Icons Collection features flowers fashioned from books covering Judy, Cher, Marilyn, and Audrey.



TITteas may sound like an inflated brand name but 5% of each order goes directly to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, so you’re not only feeding your own soul with a hot cup, you’re also sipping your way to saving lives. A free tea ball infuser is included with your first order with email-list signup.

Pique the curiosity of cute cruisers-by in Gumball Poodle’s statement crew socks that give a glimpse into your playful personality. With conversation-starting styles like “I Don’t Wear Underwear,” “Daddy,” “Hung,” and “I’d Rather Be Naked,” you’ll have a couple legs up on the competition.

$5-$15, titteas.com

$6-$13, gumballpoodle.com

$23-$73, literaryblooms.com

FEARLESS BRACELET Alex and Ani’s rainbow “Fearless” bracelet in shiny gold lets would-be harassers know straight out the gate that the 100% That Bitch who’s wearing it is an out-and-proud champion of kickin’ ass and takin’ names. $28.50, alexandani.com


Social-distancing protocol may keep you away from bars and restaurants this V-Day, so make the most of a romantic night in. Plum’s wine appliance holds two standard bottles of vino, automatically identifies varietals using artificial intelligence, chills each bottle to its ideal serving temperature, and preserves wine for 90 days. You’ll be hosting happy hour, not amateur hour. $2,499, shop.plum.wine LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 05, 2021 • 15


Lesbian love story becomes thriller in ‘Two of Us’ More Hitchcockian potboiler than heartfelt sociopolitical drama By JOHN PAUL KING

American cinema may finally have entered an era when there are more LGBTQ stories on our screens, but it must be acknowledged that, as much of a hard-won blessing this may be, an entire generation (or two) of our community’s older members are still being left out of the picture. That’s true, of course, for older people across the board. American movies, focused eternally on profit, aim for a younger, more lucrative demographic, and stories about the over-50 crowd usually don’t make the cut. As the industry shifts to a post-pandemic future that includes more at-home viewing options for feature film releases, that imbalance may begin to change – but in the meantime, thankfully, we can still look to Europe for movies about our queer elders. The latest such offering is France’s official entry for the Oscar category formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film, “Two of Us” (titled “Deux” in its native country), stars two veterans of Euro-cinema as a long-term lesbian couple who unexpectedly find themselves dealing with the consequences of living in the closet. Nina (Barbara Sukowa) and Madeleine (Martine Chevallier) are two retired women who have been secret lovers for decades. Living in separate apartments on the same floor of the same building, they MARTINE CHEVALLIER and BARBARA SUKOWA in ‘Two of Us.’ (Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures) have maintained the illusion of being merely neighbors for the sake of Madeleine’s adult children, who have no idea their mother is gay; now they have plans to sell their homes and move together to Rome, as they have always wanted to do. But before that can happen, Madeleine suffers a massive exploration of social issues. stroke that puts her in the hospital and renders her unable to communicate – forcing Nina At the same time, the film’s primary setting lends itself to a craftily subliminal observation to take increasingly extreme measures in order to be by the side of the woman she loves. about public and private identity. The two women’s nearly identical apartments, separated Decades of experience with narratives like the one presented here is likely to lead by a stair landing, have open doors when we first see them, creating a shared space that audiences to expect a grim-but-important story about the need to fight against cultural they inhabit together; but later, when other people are inevitably brought into the mix by homophobia and discrimination; but while those things may factor into the screenplay Madeleine’s condition, the opening and closing of these same doors becomes an intricate penned by director Filippo Meneghetti and co-writer Malysone Bovorasmy for “Two of Us,” dynamic in Nina’s efforts to reach her lover. Meneghetti has also said the idea for his movie what it delivers has arguably more to do with the habit of being repressed than it does actually came from his encounter with a real-life living arrangement like the one shared with repression itself. In any case, it diverts us from our expectations quickly; after setting by Nina and Madeleine. As a result of this architectural inspiration, the film’s carefully itself up as a late-in-life “coming out” story, it veers without warning into a milieu that more arranged physical geography invites us to contemplate the way our behavior is governed closely resembles a Hitchcockian potboiler than a heartfelt sociopolitical drama. That’s no by privacy. To put it more simply: it confronts us with the notion that who we are, and what accident, according to Meneghetti. The director has said his intention was “to shoot this we do, often depends on whether or not anyone can see us. love story as if it were a thriller,” and it’s a tactic that works across multiple layers. A final revelation from the filmmaker touches on what elevates “Two of Us” beyond The lynchpin on which this approach hangs is Madeleine’s closeted status with her the sum of its eclectic set of parts. In discussing his two leading characters, he has said, children. Once her awareness is dimmed and her ability to speak is removed, perhaps “I didn’t want us to feel sorry for them.” It’s this desire to avoid sentiment that makes us forever, it’s too late for her to come out; moreover, it’s impossible for her to convey engage so fully with the story. Each of the lovers makes questionable choices, and neither her desire to have her beloved by her side, or even that she is anything more than an the script nor the performances (both Sukowa and Chevallier are exquisitely real) make acquaintance. As a consequence, Nina is placed in an impossible position, but one she is any effort to mitigate their culpability in their own unfortunate crisis. At the same time, determined to surmount. Initially, she finds excuses – a visit to check in on her “neighbor” Madeleine’s daughter (Léa Drucker, also giving a delicate, layered performance) serves as at the hospital, an offer to lend a hand with the various burdens of care – but when these the film’s antagonist, but she is no raging homophobe. When she begins to suspect that begin to wear thin, her efforts escalate. Using tactics of stealth, manipulation, and boldsomething is not as it seems with her mother’s overly concerned neighbor, her hostile faced dishonesty, she follows the imperative of her heart into progressively dangerous, response is not so much over any issue of sexuality as it is out of anger about being lied to. even illegal action. As she does, Meneghetti depicts her downward spiral with all the That last point begs the question of why Nina never even considers trying to tell the truth trickery of a slasher film, complete with menacing characters, shadowy hallways, and jump about her relationship with Madeleine to her daughter. The answer to that is something scares; we’re never sure what is waiting for her in the darkness or just beyond the door. the movie never really gives us, but surely challenges us to contemplate. By the time she reaches her desperate endgame, however, he has taken us beyond the “Two of Us,” like the season’s other LGBTQ drama about an older couple facing a health tropes of his faux-horror conceit and brought us squarely into the climax of a caper film. crisis, “Supernova,” faces the obstacle of being perceived as a “downer” in a time when In terms of storytelling, all this genre-jumping technique effectively pulls the viewer out most audiences are likely to prefer lighter fare. But, also like “Supernova,” it is surprisingly of the distanced, intellectual space into which we are initially lulled and thrusts us instead upbeat. It’s also engaging, suspenseful, powerful, and – perhaps most unexpected of all – into a more visceral mindset. More importantly, perhaps, it has the effect of forcing us exciting in an edge-of-your-seat kind of way. That, along with its excellent performances to identify in a more personal way with its protagonists, causing us to experience their and a tour-de-force turn from its filmmaker, should be more than enough to make it a harrowing circumstance more directly than we might from the safe distance allowed by an must-see for anyone who likes their LGBTQ movies to be outstanding cinema, too.



Celebrating Leachman’s wonderful work, fearless life Iconic actress defied ageism, sexism to conquer Hollywood, Broadway By KATHI WOLFE

Some icons seem stiff, formal – ethereal. That was never the case with Cloris Leachman, the queer icon and legendary actress who died at 94 on Jan. 27 at her home in Encinitas, Calif. Leachman was as earthy as your granny, as eccentric as your wacky, but beloved aunt and sassier than any diva you ever met. To me and her many other aficionados, aged eight to 80, it feels as if we’ve lost the actress who could tear your heart out (in movies like “The Last Picture Show”) one minute, and leave you rolling on the floor laughing (as in “Young Frankenstein,” the hilarious Mel Brooks horror spoof) the next. It’s a hoary cliche to say that someone’s a life force. But, how else to describe Leachman? Born in Des Moines, she acted in children’s theater when she was 7. After becoming a Miss America finalist, Leachman studied at the renowned Actor’s Studio. In 1950, Leachman appeared on Broadway in “As You Like It” with Katharine Hepburn. Decades later, she went back to the stage. In 1989 and 1990, she appeared in theaters across the country in “Grandma Moses: An American Primitive.” Some Boomers remember Leachman as Ruth, the mother in the 1957-58 season of the TV show “Lassie.” Leachman told interviewers that the show’s powers-that-be had to remind her that the star of the show was Lassie, not her. You wonder how Leachman could have the energy, stamina, and talent to do all that she did in her lifetime. She won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her heart-rending portrayal of the lonely coach’s wife in “The Last Picture Show” and eight Primetime Emmys (for her work on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Cher” and other shows). Leachman flipped the bird to ageism. Until, the end of her life, she defied stereotypes about getting old. At 82, she appeared on “Dancing with the Stars.” In 2009, “Cloris,” her autobiography (written with her ex-husband, the late George Englund), came out. From it, we learn that Leachman, among her many accomplishments, cooked chili “that was given four stars by both Elizabeth Taylor and the volunteer firemen of East Rochester.” (Englund sponsored a theater in East Rochester, N.Y.) In her 80s and into her 90s, Leachman played zany, bawdy, demented grannies on “Malcolm in the Middle” and other shows. At age 94, the last year of her life, she appeared as a frail, but energetic, grandma in the queer family drama “Jump, Darling.” “At that age, most people are either long since passed or snoozing all day in front of their televisions,” Glenn Gaylord wrote in “The Queer Review” of her performance in the movie. “Cloris, however, is still at the top of the Call Sheet, showing up for work, and delivering powerful performances.” Like many of my generation, I came to love Leachman as Phyllis, the bonkers, exasperating, but lovable, and in her way, loving friend on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” In college, we watched Mary (Mary Tyler Moore), single and the only woman, navigate the newsroom in fictional TV station WJM in Minneapolis. Rhoda (Valerie Harper) was her BFF. Yet, in many episodes, Phyllis (played fabulously by Leachman) was the highlight of the show. As I’ve written in the Blade before, one episode of the program in 1973, “My Brother’s Keeper,” was groundbreaking in its queer representation. The show treated being gay as a normal part of life. Phyllis is dismayed that her brother Ben, who’s visiting, is hanging out with Rhoda. “I’m not going to marry, Ben,” Rhoda says, “he’s not my type.” “Why not?” asks Phyllis, “he’s educated, he’s successful...” “He’s gay,” Rhoda says. At a time when being gay was thought to be a mental illness, the show helped us to come out to ourselves. Thank you, Cloris, for your wonderful work and fearless life. R.I.P.

CLORIS LEACHMAN, the queer icon and legendary actress, died at 94 on Jan. 27.



The transformation of Eleanor Roosevelt

New book reveals surprising flaws of first lady in layered portrayal By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

Life, as they say, is an open book. When you’re born, someone else starts writing it for you, but it doesn’t take long for you to be your own author. Through the years, you’ll scribble ideas, compose thoughtfully, add chapters, and crumple pages. Your life’s book might be a series of quick notes, long essays, one-liners or, as in “Eleanor” by David Michaelis, you could build an epic story. In today’s world, we might call Eleanor Roosevelt’s mother abusive: Anna Hall Roosevelt never had a kind word to say to her daughter, often mockingly calling little Eleanor “Granny.” It’s true that Eleanor wasn’t lithe and beautiful like her mother; she was awkward and stern, a Daddy’s girl for an oftenabsent, alcoholic father. Orphaned by the time she was 12, Eleanor had been long told that she was homely and plain but school chums knew her as a caring girl with a sharp mind. That intelligence later caught the eye of the dashing Franklin Roosevelt, a somewhat-distant cousin who courted her with the nose-holding approval of his mother. It was a good match, but only for a short while: too quickly, it was apparent that Eleanor and Franklin were colossally mismatched. She needed him to need her but he couldn’t – not in the way she wanted, so she found love in the arms of another man and a woman. Her compassion for others, a rather acquired sense, helped buoy his ambition; his ambition gave her a reason to dig in and reach out to their fellow Americans in need. Despite that it invited controversy from Washington insiders, Roosevelt changed the office of the first lady by ignoring what past first Ladies had done. Readers who are not deep historians are in for many layers of surprise inside “Eleanor,” the first being Roosevelt’s early life, and the racism she exhibited as a young woman. Famously, she was a champion of African Americans during the years of her husband’s time as president and beyond, and she strove for equality, but author David Michaelis shows a sort of axis of attitude that the former first lady experienced. His portrayal is balanced with compassion: Michaelis lets us see a transformation in the pages of this book and it’s fascinating to watch. Rather than romanticize Roosevelt, Michaelis paints her as someone with flaws that she may not have overtly acknowledged but that she learned to work around. This becomes abundantly clear in tales of the warmth Roosevelt craved but was denied by her husband and the relationships she enjoyed in open secret, including a passionate love she shared with reporter Lorena Hickock and a much-debated, possible affair with State Trooper Earl Miller. Such tales are told matter-of-factly and without salaciousness, though you may feel a whoop of delight at a supposedly staid Depression-era White House that really was a den of dalliance. Don’t let its heft frighten you away: “Eleanor” may be wide but so is its story. Indeed, you’ll be carried away when you open this book.



By David Michaelis

c.2020, Simon & Schuster $35.00 / 698 pages