Welcome to the U.S. LGBTQ migrants on their journey to a new life, PAGE 08
M A RCH 19, 2021 • VO L U M E 05 • ISSUE 1 2 • AMERICA’ S LGBT Q NEW S S O U R C E • LO SAN G ELESB LAD E. C O M
Welcome to the U.S.
LGBTQ asylum seekers closer to a new life but challenges remain By MICHAEL K. LAVERS
MATAMOROS, Mexico — Natasha is a transgender woman from Honduras’ Olancho department. She arrived in Matamoros, a Mexican border city that is across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, on Oct. 12, 2019. Natasha, who ﬂed persecution because of her gender identity, asked for asylum in U.S., but the Trump administration forced her to pursue her case in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols program it implemented in June 2019. Natasha lived in a migrant camp near the Gateway International Bridge over the Rio Grande that connects Matamoros and Brownsville for 11 months until last November when she moved into a shelter run by Rainbow Bridge Asylum Seekers, a program for LGBTQ asylum seekers and migrants that Resource Center Matamoros, a group that provides assistance to asylum seekers and migrants in the Mexican border city, helped create. “We can’t live in our countries,” Natasha told the Washington Blade on Feb. 27 during an interview at the Rainbow Bridge shelter, which is less than a mile from the Gateway International Bridge. “That’s why we entered the United States, to ask for refuge, and they sent us here to Mexico.” Natasha entered the U.S. on March 10. She is now in North Carolina. The Biden administration in January suspended enrollment in MPP. The ﬁrst asylum seekers with active MPP cases arrived at ports of entry in Brownsville and El Paso, Texas, and San Ysidro, Calif. on Feb. 25. Estuardo Cifuentes, a gay asylum seeker from Guatemala who ran the Rainbow Bridge shelter, lived in Matamoros for 19 months under MPP until he entered the U.S. on March 3. Two other asylum seekers who lived at the shelter — including Janeth, a trans woman from Cuba who arrived in Matamoros on May 27, 2019 — are now in the country. Janeth is now living with relatives in Miami. “Discrimination, transphobia, homophobia, police abuse, police persecution and all these aggressions that are directed toward my community are the reasons that force us to leave,” Janeth told the Blade at the Rainbow Bridge shelter, referring to what prompted her to leave Cuba. “They almost expel us.” The Biden administration allowed asylum seekers with MPP cases who lived in the Matamoros camp to enter the U.S. at the Brownsville port of entry ﬁrst. The process to enter the U.S. begins when an asylum seeker signs up online via a U.N. Refugee Agency website. A UNHCR representative then calls them to verify their personal information and provides them with a time to present themselves at the Gateway International Bridge. The International Organization for Migration tests asylum seekers for the coronavirus, and they must test negative before they enter the U.S. They then board a bus that brings them to the Brownsville port of entry on the other side of the bridge. U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel process them before they are brought to Brownsville’s main bus station, which is a couple of blocks away from the bridge. Gaby Zavala, a bisexual woman who founded Resource Center Matamoros, and other local activists who include Cindy Candia of Angry Tias and Abuelas, a group that assists migrants and asylum seekers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, oﬀer the asylum seekers legal advice and help them buy bus tickets once they arrive at the bus station. Michael Benavides, a gay man who co-founded Team Brownsville, and Felicia Rangel-Samporano, founder of the Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers, which taught children who lived in the Matamoros camp, have also helped the asylum seekers once they entered the U.S. “It’s surreal to think that it’s actually happening,” Zavala told the Blade on Feb. 26 during an interview at a Mexican restaurant near the Brownsville bus station. “[It is] something that we hoped for.” 02 • MARCH 19, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Zavala noted the border “is still closed to new immigration,” even though MPP has been suspended and the Biden administration has begun to allow asylum seekers with active cases under the Trumpera program into the U.S. The Associated Press on Tuesday reported more than 4,000 migrant children are currently in U.S. Border Control custody, as the number of migrants at the Southern border continues to grow. The Department of Health and Human Services has announced it plans to open shelters in Texas and California in the coming days to allow migrant children to leave illGABY ZAVALA, a bisexual woman, founded Resource Center equipped Border Patrol stations. Matamoros. (Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers) Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who was born in Cuba, on Tuesday in a statement acknowledged the Biden administration continues to “expel” most single adults and families “apprehended at the southwest border” under Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic. “We are expelling most single adults and families,” said Mayorkas. “We are not expelling unaccompanied children.” “We are securing our border, executing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) public health authority to safeguard the American public and the migrants themselves, and protecting the children. We have more work to do.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and 12 other House Republicans on Monday traveled to El Paso, which is across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The delegation did not include U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), who represents El Paso. McCarthy and other Republicans have sharply criticized President Biden for beginning the process to reverse the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies. Activists who work with LGBTQ asylum seekers and migrants told the Blade on Tuesday the situation on the Southern border remains complex. “Republicans want this to be scary Brown people about to invade, which it’s not,” said Emem Maurus, a supervising attorney for the Transgender Legal Center, told the Blade during a telephone interview from the Mexican border city of Tijuana. “But you got to ﬁgure that Trump eﬀectively blocked migration for upwards of three years and Title 42 has been incredibly successfully in really stopping people, so you have a huge number of people.” “If there’s a crisis, it was very meticulously created by Stephen Miller,” he added. “It was very intentionally created.” Maurus told the Blade that two of his gay clients in Tijuana with active MPP cases have been “able to get out, but we’ve got a couple others who really need to and haven’t been called yet.” “The two that I’m waiting on have just gone through hell,” said Maurus.
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Calif. LGBTQ lawmakers oppose Newsom recall eﬀort Earlier this week California Governor Gavin Newsom said in an email sent from his political campaign that the eﬀort to remove him from oﬃce was a “Republican recall” fueled by backers of former President Trump. “I am not going to take this recall attempt lying down,” Newsom said in a tweet. “I’m going to ﬁght because there’s too much at stake in this moment.” Last Friday, Equality California hosted 8 LGBTQ lawmakers and community leaders in a ZOOM teleconference for reporters decrying the recall eﬀort and backing Newsom. Those in attendance also praised Newsom’s long record of support for LGBTQ+ civil rights and his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, national economic downturn and devastating wildﬁres. Participants included Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, Legislative LGBTQ Caucus Chair Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell), former Chair Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego), Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, League of California Cities LGBTQ Caucus Board Member Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton and BART Board Director Janice Li. The leaders also spoke to the risk that the partisan recall eﬀort, led and funded by anti-LGBTQ+ and pro-Trump extremists, poses to LGBTQ+ Californians and the diverse communities to which LGBTQ+ people belong. Wednesday marks the cutoﬀ for organizers to submit signatures to county election oﬃcials, who have until April 29 to verify the authenticity and notify the secretary of state with the results. So far, more than 80% of the signatures turned in have been validated in a check with elections oﬃcials across the state. After the press conference, 57 LGBTQ+ elected oﬃcials throughout California released the following joint statement opposing the recall eﬀort: “As LGBTQ+ Californians and elected leaders in our communities, we strongly oppose the misguided eﬀort to recall Governor Gavin Newsom. This attempt to remove the Governor — led and funded by anti-LGBTQ+ and pro-Trump extremists — is the product of a coordinated disinformation campaign that will cost the state of California $100 million. Instead, this money should be used to support Californians as our state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The recall poses an especially grave threat to our LGBTQ+ community and the progress that California continues to make toward full, lived equality for all people. “Throughout his career, Governor Newsom has been a dedicated ally of the LGBTQ+ community and an unyielding champion in our ﬁght for civil rights and social justice. He stood with us at times when it was not politically popular, regardless of personal and professional risks, because he knew it was the right thing to do. He has taken bold, principled actions to advance marriage equality,
expand access to life-saving HIV prevention medication, protect transgender Californians from discrimination, and ensure that California’s government reﬂects the diversity of our communities.
(Screenshot courtesy of Equality California)
“Governor Newsom’s leadership has earned the trust of LGBTQ+ Californians, and our community stands ready to defeat a recall.” The recall proposal must move through time-consuming steps along the way, including giving voters a 30-day window to withdraw their names, if they choose. It’s possible Democrats could launch a major advertising drive to urge them to do just that, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. Dates have not been ﬁnalized, but the state Finance Department is expected to take 30 days to produce a cost estimate for the election. Supporters of Governor Newsom noted it could could surpass $80 million plus. After the ﬁnancial report has been executed a legislative panel gets an additional 30 days to review it. The Associated Press notes that only after those steps are completed can the state formally certify that enough valid signatures have been collected. If that happens, Democratic Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis is required to schedule the election 60 to 80 days after that point, though it’s possible a later date could be set. FROM STAFF REPORTS
Many Californians hesitant to return to indoor activities A poll released Monday by Emerson College Polling and Nexstar Broadcasting Inc.’s six California television stations, including KTLA, found that a signiﬁcant number of Californians were hesitant about returning to indoor dining and outdoor sporting events. According to the results nearly half of respondents said they wouldn’t eat indoors at a restaurant and almost the same portion said they wouldn’t go to a sporting event even as oﬃcials are shifting many of the state’s 58 counties back into less restrictive measures. As of Wednesday, according to the California Department Of Public Health, more than 90% of the state’s population of nearly 40 million residents will be out of the most limiting red tier in California’s color-coded coronavirus plan. KTLA reported that COVID-19 was identiﬁed as the top issue facing California by 21.6% of those polled, followed by homelessness at 19.1%, corrupt politicians at 17.5%, housing costs at 14.9%, and the environment at 6%. No other issue topped 6%.
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The poll also surveyed Californian’s on the state’s vaccination rollout. According to the data collected “a plurality of Republicans respondents — 46.6% — said they do not plan on being vaccinated. Only 3.9% of Democrats and 24.5% of independents responded the same way.” Spencer Kimball, Director of Emerson College Polling, said “the data suggests the age diﬀerence is not being driven by who is vaccinated but instead by the 21% who said they don’t plan to get the vaccine: 77% of them plan to eat at an indoor restaurant and 70% of those who don’t plan to take the vaccine will attend a sporting event, suggesting those most vulnerable to getting Covid will be at these events.” On the hot-topic issue of Facial Masks as ordered by Governor Newsom nearly three-quarters said the mandate is “about right” or doesn’t go far enough. The poll surveyed more than 1,000 registered voters across the state, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. FROM STAFF REPORTS
Elliot Page’s Time cover: ‘I’m fully who I am’ Actor Elliot Page in his ﬁrst interview since disclosing in December that he is transgender, spoke with TIME magazine’s Katy Steinmetz about his journey since his announcement, the ﬁght for trans equality and as the ﬁrst trans man ever to appear on the publication’s cover. The interview, which will appear in this Friday’s release of the magazine, in a far-reaching two-part conversation detailing the actor’s sense of where he is headed in his life and his thoughts looking back at his journey so far. Interview highlights: On how he is feeling, Page tells TIME: “This feeling of true excitement and deep gratitude to have made it to this point in my life, mixed with a lot of fear and anxiety.” On how he expected his announcement would be received: “What I was anticipating was a lot of support and love and a massive amount of hatred and transphobia. That’s essentially what happened.” On being allowed to cut his hair short around age 9: “I felt like a boy. I wanted to be a boy. I would ask my mom if I could be someday.” On the disconnect between how the world saw Page and who he knew himself to be: “I just never recognized myself. For a long time I could not even look at a photo of myself.” On how he felt after coming out as gay in 2014: “The diﬀerence in how I felt before coming out as gay to after was massive. But did the discomfort in my body ever go away? No, no, no, no.” On how downtime during quarantine helped Page accept his gender identity: “I had a lot of time on my own to really focus on things that I think, in so many ways, unconsciously, I was avoiding…. I was ﬁnally able to embrace being transgender and letting myself fully become who I am.” On feeling a deep sense of responsibility to share his truth: “Extremely inﬂuential people are spreading these myths and damaging rhetoric—every day you’re seeing our existence debated. Transgender people are so very real.” On the opportunity to advocate for others: “My privilege has allowed me to have resources to get through and to be where I am today, and of course I want to use that
privilege and platform to help in the ways I can.” On political attacks on trans people: “We know who we are. People cling to these ﬁrm ideas [about gender] because it makes people feel safe. But if we could just celebrate all the wonderful complexities of people, the world would be such a better place.” On playing a new spectrum of roles: “I’m really excited to act, now that I’m fully who I am, in this body. No matter the challenges and diﬃcult moments of this, nothing amounts to getting to feel how I feel now.” GLAAD responded to the cover story with a statement from Nick Adams, GLAAD’s Director of ELLIOT PAGE is the ﬁrst transgender man to appear Transgender Representation: on the cover of TIME, (featuring a photograph by Wynne Neilly) “Not only is Elliot Page a ﬁne actor, he is also an advocate for equality and justice who continues to educate the world about who trans people really are and about why the current barrage of anti-trans bills promoted by fearmongering politicians are so harmful and unnecessary.” The issue of TIME is on sale as of Friday, March 19 and at time.com. NOAH CHRISTIANSEN
Equality Act would protect millions: Williams Institute The Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law released information Wednesday collated from research data that shows the tremendous beneﬁts to LGBTQ people should the Equality Act pass the Senate and President Joe Biden were to sign it into law. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Equality Act, as reported by The Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson, put on full display Wednesday the use of fear mongering about women’s safety and the integrity of women’s sports as a tool to thwart attempted progress on LGBTQ rights, although more traditional objections based on religious liberty also played a role. The Equality Act, H.R. 5, is federal legislation that would expressly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, education, public accommodations, housing, credit, and other settings. The Equality Act passed the House in March. LGBTQ people face discrimination in all areas of their lives. Recent Williams Institute research has documented discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment, housing, public accommodations, health care, and other settings. “The Equality Act would make clear that discrimination against LGBTQ people is prohibited under federal law,” said Christy Mallory, Legal Director at the Williams Institute. “It would also help to remedy the widespread harassment and discrimination that LGBTQ people experience at work, school, and when trying to access services.” There are an estimated 13 million people ages 13 and older who identify as LGBTQ in the U.S. • 22% of LGBTQ adults live in poverty in the U.S. compared to 16% of non-LGBT people. • 27% of LGBTQ adults experience food insecurity compared to 17% of non-LGBTQ adults. • LGBTQ people of color are more likely to live in poverty than white LGBTQ people: 37% of Latino/a LGBT people, 31% of Black LGBT people, 23% of Asian LGBTQ people, and 22% 06 • MARCH 19, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
of multiracial LGBTQ people live in poverty, compared to 15% of white LGBTQ people. • Among LGBTQ people, 38% of multiracial people, 37% of Black people, and 32% of Latino/a people report not having enough money for food in the past year, compared to 22% of white LGBTQ people. • There are approximately 8.1 million LGBTQ workers ages 16 and older in the U.S., including 7.1 million LGB and 1 million transgender workers. An estimated 4.1 million of them live in states without statutes prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment. • 9% of LGBTQ adults are unemployed compared to 5% of non-LGBTQ people. Williams Institute analysis of data collected by Gallup found that 60% of LGB people report being ﬁred from or denied a job compared to 40% of heterosexual people. • There are approximately 11 million LGBTQ adults ages 18 and older in the U.S. An estimated 5.6 million of them live in states without statutes prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in housing. Williams Institute analysis of Gallup data found that 15% of LGB people report being prevented from moving into or buying a house compared to 6% of heterosexual people. • 17% of LGB adults and 30% of transgender adults have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, compared to 6% of the general population. There are over 3.5 million LGBTQ students ages 15 and older in the U.S. An estimated 2.1 million of them live in states without statutory protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination at school. An estimated 6.9 million LGBTQ adults live in states without statutes prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in public accommodations. LGBTQ people would also gain express protections under the Equality Act from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in credit, jury service, and federally funded programs. FROM STAFF REPORTS
Yiannopoulos conversion therapy facility is dangerous says LA group The founder and president of the Los Angeles-based Conversion Therapy Dropout Network (CTDN) is speaking out on the plans to open a conversion therapy facility in Florida by right-wing activist Milo Yiannopoulos. CTDN’s Curtis D. Galloway spoke to the Los Angeles Blade Monday after an article was published by the New York Post, which conducted an interview with Yiannopoulos a former Breitbart News editor. According to the Post, Yiannopoulos revealed his plans to launch the “reparative therapy” clinic “to help other people go through the same journey that I’m on myself.” Asked in what sense he is “ex-gay,” Yiannopoulos told The Post that he is in an CURTIS D. GALLOWAY is founder and ongoing process of trying to reorient his president of the Los Angeles-based homosexuality, but for now is in a stage of Conversion Therapy Dropout Network. (Photo courtesy of Galloway via Facebook) abstinence and enjoys using the term to troll his critics. Galloway noted, “Yiannopoulos states that he is currently fundraising to launch a reparative therapy program “to help other people go through the same journey that I’m on myself,” alluding to his current eﬀorts to achieve a change in his sexual orientation. The Conversion Therapy Dropout Network strongly and fully condemns any attempt to create any sort of practice that aims to change the gender identity or sexual orientation of any youth.” “‘Ex-gay’ is a silly expression but it has the virtues of slotting into a print headline neatly and absolutely enraging the opposition. Celibacy is a modest and achievable middle term goal; naturally, in the end, my aspiration would be to take it all the way,” Yiannopoulos told the Post. “Yiannopoulos’ comments on what he sees as the ‘ridiculousness of condemning such a
practice,’ citing what he described as the classic “gay agenda” he credits for the bad press around conversion therapy is typical deﬂection and placing blame,” Galloway said, “His [Yiannopoulos] saying [that] “conversion therapy” and his fundraising- “ has been the easiest thing to raise money for that I’ve ever done. There is an enormous demand for this among people who believe they’ve been led astray by — it sounds silly to call it this — but you know, the gay establishment,” is oﬀensive Galloway added. “This in of itself is an attempt to monetize abusive torture. Many states recognize conversion therapy as such, as it has never been proven and has shown overwhelming results of harm. Conversion therapy always results in long-lasting mental, emotional, and sometimes physical harm,” Galloway stressed to the Blade. “Basically, people who don’t believe in it call it ‘conversion therapy,’ and people who do believe in it call it ‘reparative therapy,’” Yiannopoulos told the Post then stated that “the gay lobby” was “so poisonous and wicked and evil,” Yiannopoulos added that “For those people to suggest that reparative therapy is somehow damaging to people’s self esteem, is so laughably preposterous, I don’t take it seriously,” he said. “Yiannopoulos’ continuous arrogance to support his lifestyle of spreading hate and division has now led him down a very dangerous path; not for him, but for those who will believe the utter nonsense that is conversion or reparative therapy,” Galloway retorted. “Those donating to this campaign have been grossly misled, and are likely unaware of the harm they are perpetuating. Make no mistake, what Yiannopoulos is proposing and fundraising for is nothing more than a money-making scam whose sole purpose is the abuse and torture of LGBTQ+ people,” Galloway told the Blade. The Williams Institute estimates that 698,000 LGBT adults in the U.S. have received “conversion therapy,” 350,000 of whom suﬀered the experience as adolescents. Most medical and psychological professional associations strongly oppose “conversion therapy” as illegitimate. The American Psychological Association has opposed the practice since 1998, arguing that there is “no credible evidence” such procedures proﬀered by adherents of the socalled therapy could change sexual orientation. Conversion therapy has been banned in 20 states and more than 70 municipalities across the United States. California was ﬁrst to do so in 2012. BRODY LEVESQUE
Inclusive UC Healthcare Act advances in state Senate The California State Senate Committee on Education voted to advance SB 379, the Equitable and Inclusive UC Healthcare Act, which ensures that University of California Health System (UC Health) providers and trainees are able to provide a full range of healthcare services, including reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive care, at all facilities where UC providers practice. Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced SB 379 last month in response to the UC having entered into healthcare facility contracts that subject UC medical providers and students to harmful, non-medical restrictions that explicitly prevent them from providing reproductive and gender-aﬃrming care to patients in non-UC facilities. UC Health is the fourth largest health system in California, and plays a central role in training medical students and caring for Californians. Some of the contracts UC Health has entered into explicitly prevent UC doctors and students from providing reproductive and LGBTQ inclusive care, including: contraception, tubal ligation, abortion, gender-aﬃrming care, and urgent care, such as treatment for incomplete miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. The status quo endangers the lives of UC patients, and this legislation ensures that UC providers are able to provide this critical care wherever they practice. The University of California is a public university system and receives a signiﬁcant amount of public funds ($9 billion in 2020-2021) from California’s state budget to conduct its mission. UC Health is the fourth largest health system in California, and it plays a central role in training medical students and caring for Californians. Wiener’s spokesperson in an emailed statement to the Blade indicated; “It is unacceptable to subject patients to discriminatory and harmful restrictions on the types of care they
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can receive, including reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive care. California law recognizes reproductive healthcare, including abortion, as basic healthcare. California state law restricts public health entities from preferring one pregnancy outcome over another, and prohibits discrimination against transgender patients seeking gender-aﬃrming care. Despite existing law, people in California are still being denied these very critical healthcare services.” According to Wiener’s oﬃce these restrictions on care are not based on any clinical criteria, and they disproportionately impact patients of color, LGBTQ people, and low income people, who already face barriers to accessing quality, aﬀordable, and inclusive healthcare. Although there has been signiﬁcant debate within the UC community about these contracts, the UC Regents have yet to adopt an oﬃcial position on them. Equality California and other advocacy groups noted that up to this point, UC has displayed an unacceptable lack of transparency, leaving patients, advocates, and lawmakers in the dark about these contracts and what they could mean for basic or urgent care. As reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive care continues to be restricted across the country, it is up to California to lead by example. “It is unacceptable for UC — one of the ﬁnest and most inclusive healthcare systems in the nation — to enter into contracts that literally ban UC physicians and other providers from performing reproductive and gender-aﬃrming healthcare. […] UC needs to stop undermining its own values, and if UC won’t take that step, the Legislature will need to do it on UC’s behalf,” Senator Wiener said in a statement released by his oﬃce. FROM STAFF REPORTS
Disney to reopen Anaheim parks April 30 as COVID cases decline Two properties were shuttered one year ago By BRODY LEVESQUE
The Walt Disney Company’s Disney There are 857 people with COVID-19 Parks, Experiences, and Products division currently hospitalized and 28% of these announced Wednesday that it is set to people are in the ICU. Average daily reopen its two Anaheim attractions, hospitalizations are now under 1,000, at Disneyland and Disney California pre-surge early-November levels. Adventure, on April 30. To date, Public Health has conﬁrmed a The two properties that were shuttered total of 55 cases of COVID-19 U.K. variant, a year go on March 14 will open 10 months two cases of the B.1.525 variant, which was after the entertainment giant reopened also ﬁrst identiﬁed in the U.K., 21 cases of its four theme parks including its ﬂagship the New York variant and 1 case of the P.2 Disneyworld in Orlando, Fla. variant from Brazil in Los Angeles County. The coronavirus pandemic closures There have been no cases identiﬁed of the forced Disney to a massive reduction in South African variant. its workforce laying oﬀ 32,000 employees Vaccinations coupled with COVID-19 over the past year, most of them in the safety protocols continue to play a major theme-park unit. role in the reduction of the caseloads. The chairman of the Disney Parks, Currently, 79% of skilled nursing home Experiences, and Products division, staﬀ and 78% of residents received at Josh D’Amaro, had announced last least a ﬁrst dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Disney’s JOSH D’AMARO reported that the company furloughed nearly its entire 100,000 member September that, “In light of the prolonged and 74% of all staﬀ and 69% of residents workforce at the height of the pandemic. (Photo courtesy Disney) impact of COVID-19 on our business, received their second dose and are fully including limited capacity due to physical vaccinated. distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the “It’s important to note that there is high turnover rate among residents in these facilities, pandemic – exacerbated in California by the state’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would and this number only reﬂects rates among current residents, not the total number of allow Disneyland to reopen – we have made the very diﬃcult decision to begin the process of residents who have been vaccinated,” a Public Health spokesperson said. reducing our workforce at our Parks, Experiences and Products segment at all levels, having When the vaccine ﬁrst was administered to residents at skilled nursing homes in L.A. kept non-working Cast Members on furlough since April, while paying healthcare beneﬁts.” County in late December, the average daily number of cases was over 200 a day and has At the outset of the pandemic in March Disney had furloughed nearly its entire workforce dropped to 3 a day as of March 9. of 100,000. D’Amaro then noted, “approximately 28,000 domestic employees will be aﬀected, “This is excellent evidence that these vaccines are working and adding a much-needed of which about 67% are part-time. We are talking with impacted employees as well as to the layer of protection among those with signiﬁcant exposures, our healthcare workers, and unions on next steps for union-represented Cast Members.” those most vulnerable, our residents at skilled nursing facilities,” the spokesperson added. Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are among the last of the company’s Currently, residents who are eligible for the vaccine include residents who are age 65 and properties to welcome back customers. While Disney’s Paris resort is still shuttered, the four older and residents of LA County with certain underlying health conditions or disability that theme parks in Florida have been open since July with social-distancing precautions limiting make them at increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19 or make their care very diﬃcult attendance to about 35% of capacity. if they were to become infected with COVID-19. Disney also announced Wednesday the company plans to reopen its hotels in phases, Workers either living or working in LA County eligible for vaccine include the following with Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa set to reopen on April 29, Disney Vacation Club categories: residents and staﬀ at long-term care healthcare, education, food and agriculture, Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa on May 2, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel emergency services and law enforcement and ﬁrst responders. Also included in the new and the Disneyland Hotel at a later date. categories by the State are transportation workers, janitors and custodians, utility workers The Disney announcement comes as Los Angeles County recently moved to the red tier and childcare workers. in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy that allowed the County to reopen several key People who are living in residential settings where there is an increased risk of transmission sectors yesterday including, on-site learning for students in grades 7 through 12, museums, are also eligible to be vaccinated. These include people living in long-term care facilities, indoor dinning at restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters with required safety measures in people who are experiencing homelessness who are living in a shelter or are likely to live in place including masking and distancing requirements. a shelter, people living in residential treatment programs for behavioral health or substance A spokesperson for The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said that the use disorders, and people who are incarcerated. County must remain in the red tier for three consecutive weeks before moving to the less Visit: restrictive orange tier even if the County’s metrics align earlier with the orange tier. L.A. County’s daily case rate must be at or below 3.9 new cases per 100,000 people and the www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) County’s test positivity rate must be at or below 4.9% for two consecutive weeks to qualify and for the orange tier. www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish) In a written statement LA County Public health noted that Healthcare Worker and Skilled Nursing Home cases had signiﬁcantly declined as vaccinations increase. On Wednesday the for more information on who is eligible, how to make an appointment if it is your turn, and County reported 75 new deaths and 897 new positive cases of conﬁrmed COVID-19. what veriﬁcations you will need when you show up for your vaccine. Vaccinations are always The seven-day average number of daily cases by episode date has decreased to 524 new free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status. cases per day as of March 9; the lowest since April 2 of last year.
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Biden working to undo Trump immigration policies CONTINUED FROM PAGE 02
“They should have been ﬁrst.” Maurus highlighted the case of 17 LGBTQ Jamaican asylum seekers in Tijuana whose request to enter the U.S. on humanitarian parole has been denied. Maurus told the Blade that each of them has a sponsor, lawyer and a place to live once they arrive in the country. “I can bring all of them in with a COVID test,” he said. “All of them are represented. There is no reason they couldn’t be let in tomorrow.” Abdiel Echevarría-Cabán, a South Texas-based immigration attorney who is also a human rights law and policy expert, on Tuesday said he welcomes “the end of MPP by the Biden administration.” Echevarría-Cabán nevertheless added “the process has been hectic and there is a lot of confusion among refugees that lost their cases while in MPP who didn’t have access to an attorney or couldn’t gather the evidence they needed to prove their cases living under severe danger and inhumane conditions.” Echevarría-Cabán said one of his clients, an LGBTQ Cuban man, entered the U.S. on the same day the Biden administration announced it had suspended MPP.
Rep. Castro: MPP dangerous for LGBTQ people Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro last week said the situation for asylum seekers on the U.S.-Mexico border remains perilous, even though President Biden has begun to reverse some of the previous administration’s hardline immigration policies. “There is a real humanitarian need among the people who are seeking asylum at the southern border,” Castro told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview. “And unfortunately, over the past few years Donald Trump created a bubble of very desperate people who were unable to have their asylum claims processed and now are anxious to have their day in court, to have their asylum cases heard.” Biden in January suspended enrollments in the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols program. “MPP is dangerous for many folks … and that includes LGBTQ and trans folks,” said Castro. “These folks have sometimes become targets on the other side of the border.” The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 that Democrats introduced in Congress last month would, among other things, create a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who are in the country. The Biden administration shortly after it took oﬃce directed ICE, CBP and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to stop the deportation of “certain” undocumented immigrants for 100 days, but a federal judge in Texas last month blocked the moratorium. The White House earlier this week announced it would request $4 billion in aid to mitigate the causes of migration from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. “MPP of course was lifted by the Biden administration, but you still have a lot of people who are in and around the border cities in Mexico,” said Castro. “And for all folks what we are seeking to do is put people on a path to citizenship.” Castro acknowledged Congress has debated immigration reform for years, but he said, “we ﬁnally have an opportunity with this president and this Congress to get it done.” “It’s still going to be tough because of the numbers in the Senate, but I think there is a greater window here now than there has been in a very long time,” he said.
NATASHA arrived in Matamoros on Oct. 12, 2019, ﬂeeing persecution because of her gender identity. (Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Drug cartels, according to Echevarría-Cabán, threatened to kill his client if he didn’t pay them extortion money. Echevarría-Cabán told the Blade that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained his client for three weeks until they released him under supervision. “The process of letting them cross after two years has been disorganized and there has been poor communication and coordination between UNHCR, immigrants and attorneys,” he said. “Many refugees that crossed the border out of fear ended in detention and ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is releasing them under an order of supervision.” Steve Roth, executive director of the Organization of Refuge, Asylum and Migration, a Minnesota-based organization that works with LGBTQ refugees and migrants around the world, told the Blade the situation on the Southern border is “complicated” and “a bit of a mess.” “Some of these policies were designed to prevent legitimate asylum seekers from making their claims,” he said, referring to the Trump administration. “We recognize that it’s going to take some time to undo that,” added Roth. “But at the same time, it’s really important that the process reopens for asylum seekers to be able to present their case at the border.” Valery, a trans woman from the Honduran city of Comayagua who arrived in Matamoros last March, and other asylum seekers continue to wait for their chance to enter the U.S. “I am very happy that people are leaving, but what about us,” she told the Blade at the Rainbow Bridge shelter in Matamoros. “Where do we go? Where?”
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A view of the border fence in Tijuana.
(Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Fear mongering over women’s safety emerges in Equality Act hearing First Senate debate features multiple attacks on bill
By CHRIS JOHNSON | email@example.com A Senate hearing on the Equality Act, which would expand the prohibition on discrimination under federal law, put on full display Wednesday the use of fear mongering about women’s safety and the integrity of women’s sports as a tool to thwart attempted progress on LGBTQ rights, although more traditional objections based on religious liberty also played a role. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) pulled no punches during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing — the ﬁrst-ever hearing for the Equality Act in the U.S. Senate — in From left, Ranking Member CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-Iowa) and Chair DICK heightening fears about threats to women DURBIN (D-Ill.) at the United States Senate in sex-segregated spaces. Committee on the Judiciary hearing for the Equality Act on Wednesday. (Blade photo by Michael Key) When Abigail Shirer, a journalist who has built a career campaigning against gender transitioning for youth, was presenting testimony as an expert witness, Kennedy went straight to the locker rooms. “Would this bill prohibit the boy with gender dysphoria from exposing his penis to the girls?” Kennedy asked. The questioning put Shirer, who was testifying against the Equality Act, in a bind. The Equality Act does prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity in locker rooms, but says nothing about that particular issue and laws against lewd conduct are in place. “I’m sorry would it prohibit that?” When Kennedy repeated the questions, Shirer replied, “I don’t believe the bill addresses genitalia.” Kennedy went to ask her if it prohibits them from dressing together. “No,” Shirer replied. “Would this bill prohibit them from showering together?” “No.” Kennedy then asked about boys being able to access girls’ sports. “He wouldn’t have to have gender dysphoria,” Shirer said. “Anyone who says they’re a girl at any time under this bill, they don’t have to be transgender-identiﬁed, they don’t have to have gender dysphoria.” Kennedy said he had intended to get to that point and asked her if the Equality Act would require schools to allow boys with gender dysphoria to compete in girls’ sports. Shirer replied, “Yes, anyone who identiﬁes as a woman.” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), top Republican on the committee, brought up a speciﬁc incident in Connecticut where transgender girls were allowed to compete in a girls track event. Grassley named one of the girls who ﬁled a complaint over the situation, Chelsea Mitchell, as he displayed images of three girls involved behind him. “Many women and girls before her fought for legal protections under Title IX, which recognizes that sex speciﬁc distinctions are appropriate in some instances,” Grassley said. “As a father, grandfather and husband, I have celebrated the athletic successes of talented young women in my own family, so I am deeply concerned about this act’s potential negative implications for all girls and women in sports.” The Equality Act says nothing about sports, but would prohibit discrimination against transgender people in education and federally funded programs. It should be noted the ruling last year from the U.S. Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found anti-LGBTQ discrimination is an illegal form of sex discrimination, has broad applications, including for Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in sports. As a result, refusing to allow transgender kids in sports would likely already be illegal. Fears of the impact of LGBTQ rights advances on religious practices also came up during the hearing. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), for example, raised a question about whether churches that conduct services with members of the congregation divided by sex would be liable as a public accommodation under the Equality Act. Mary Rice Hasson, a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics & Public Policy Center, served as a Republican witness and maintained churches could be held liable under the Equality Act “by expanding public accommodations to mean wherever Americans gather, even virtually.” “Compromise your religious beliefs or risk endless litigation,” Hasson said. “Recipients of federal funds are also targeted, even for the simple act of maintaining sex segregated bathrooms.” 12 • MARCH 19, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
HRC President Alphonso David, responding to an earlier question from Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), contested the idea that churches would be liable, which would be consistent with the religious exemption the Equality Act would retain under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “The Equality Act does not aﬀect how religious institutions function,” David said. “That is very diﬀerent than institutions that actually provide public accommodations, institutions that are open to the public and are providing goods and services to the public.” A major issue of contention was a provision of the Equality Act that would preclude the use of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law intended to protect religious minorities, as a potential legal defense in cases of discrimination. Scolding Republican critics who indicated the Equality Act would gut RFRA, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the bill does nothing of the sort, but Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) shot back there was “an explicit carve out in the Equality Act for RFRA.” “I’m aware of no other law that seeks to shred RFRA in this way, and the eﬀect of it basically is that churches, religious ministries, Christian colleges and universities, they’ll be unable to pursue their missions, particularly if they involve service to the poor, service to the needy,” Hawley said. During a hearing in which Democratic members of the committee largely focused on their witnesses and Republicans stuck with theirs, Kennedy was an exception and asked David if there are more than two sexes. David initially deferred to medical experts and noted sex and gender can be diﬀerent concepts, but then concluded “it’s not limited to two,” citing for example people who are intersex. Shirer made an attempt during the hearing to qualify her opposition to the Equality Act, saying her opposition is based on potential consequences of the bill on women’s safety. “If S. 393 merely proposed to extend employment, and public housing rights to gay and transgender Americans, I would be supporting this bill, instead of testifying against it,” Shirer said. “I am here today because the bill does much more, and no one who wrote it appears to have thoughtfully considered what it would mean for women and girls.” Despite the issues raised by Republicans, one key moment came when Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), whose vote would be key to reaching the 60-vote threshold to end a Senate ﬁlibuster on the Equality Act, appeared to make a good faith eﬀort to reach across the aisle. “On the one hand, we have the fact that even in 2021, our LGBTQ friends, family, neighbors, still face discrimination from employment to healthcare to housing to homelessness among LGBTQ youth is a very real problem with discrimination,” Tillis said. “I think it’s wrong, in any aspect. But on the other hand, we have millions of Americans who are people of faith who have serious and legitimate issues of conscience.” Although Tillis said the Equality Act “falls short of the goal” he seeks in addressing both sides, he added he’s “open to ﬁnding a compromise.” The last committee member to ask questions during the hearing, Tillis also lamented members of the committee “were talking past one another” about their concerns without coming closer to an ultimate conclusion. Two issues that appeared to concern Tillis were the provision in the Equality Act against use of RFRA in cases of discrimination and whether the Equality Act’s ban on LGBTQ discrimination in federally funded programs would require prisons to house transgender women consistent with their gender identity. Tillis posed a question on whether a male serial rapist could say he identiﬁed as a woman and be allowed in women’s prisons; Shrier said that “absolutely” would be the case. Meanwhile, proponents of the Equality Act continued to make their case for the bill based on its general objectives, to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in all aspects of public life. Durbin, kicking oﬀ the committee hearing, displayed a video highlighting milestones in the LGBTQ movement, including the election of Harvey Milk and the swearing-in of Pete Buttigieg, as well as media coverage on passage in the U.S. House of the Equality Act. “Unfortunately, some opponents have chosen to make exaggerated claims about what the Equality Act would do,” Durbin said. “Let me be clear, those of us working to pass this legislation are open to good faith constructive suggestions on further improvement and strengthening the bill. In fact, that’s why we’re having this hearing, but many of the texts on this bill are nothing more than the latest in a long, long, long line of fear mongering targeting the LGBTQ community.” Stella Keating, a 16-year-old student from Tacoma, Wash., made the case for the Equality Act as a witness in the simplest way possible: Introducing herself as a transgender person. “Hi, I’m Stella, and I’m transgender,” Keating said, “I’m here before you today, representing the hundreds of thousands of kids, just like me who are supported and loved by their family, friends, and communities across the country.”
LGBTQ ally Deb Haaland conﬁrmed as Interior Secretary N.M. congresswoman has lesbian daughter By BRODY LEVESQUE
its failure to adequately address issues that aﬀect Native New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland was conﬁrmed American students in the past decade plus. Monday in a 51-40 vote by the Senate, becoming the ﬁrst The All Pueblo Council of Governors also issued a statement Native American to serve in a presidential cabinet as the ﬁftylauding their fellow Pueblo member’s conﬁrmation the fourth Secretary of the Interior. Arizona Central reported. The vote to conﬁrm was along party lines, however “This conﬁrmation is a deﬁning moment for Indigenous Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, (SC) joined three other peoples not only in the United States but around the world,” Republican Senators, Lisa Murkowski, and Dan Sullivan, said the council’s chairman, Wilfred Herrera, former governor (Alaska) and Senator Susan Collins, (ME) in voting to conﬁrm of Laguna Pueblo. Haaland. Indigenous peoples are the ﬁrst stewards of the lands, A member of the Laguna Pueblo tribal nation, Secretary waters and living beings, Herrera said, and predicted that Haaland will oversee the management and conservation Haaland’s leadership will provide “a long-overdue opportunity of federal land holdings including national parks and to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship and help our monuments as well as the nation’s natural resources. She nation swing the pendulum on our most pressing indigenous is the third resident from the State of New Mexico to hold and environmental justice issues.” the post and the ﬁrst woman in addition to her historic Rep. DEB HAALAND was conﬁrmed Monday in a 51-40 As a member of the U. S. House, Haaland was a committed conﬁrmation to President Joe Biden’s Cabinet as a Native vote for the Cabinet post of Interior Secretary. ally of the LGBTQ community. In May of 2019, Haaland was American. (Photo public domain) awarded the prestigious Vanguard Award by the National In her role as Interior Secretary overseeing 70,000 Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). The Vanguard Award is given to an outstanding ally who employees, making it one of the largest federal government departments, she will uses their platform to further LGBTQ+ equality. lead agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Geological Accepting the award she stated; “Everyone deserves to love who they love and be who Survey, and the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies that they are without facing discrimination or violence. I truly believe that, and I’m honored to manage lands, waters and coastal areas. receive the NCLR’s Vanguard Award. It means I’m doing the right thing for my daughter, Haaland will also oversee the the Bureau of Indian Aﬀairs, the Bureau of Indian the amazing LGBTQ community in New Mexico, and everyone who has fought tirelessly Education and the Bureau of Trust Fund Administration. The Bureau of Indian Education for equality.” has come under ﬁre from advocates and lawmakers for what is generally perceived as
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LGBTQ people should oppose Newsom recall effort Governor has earned our support after long record as an ally By TROY MASTERS A little over a year ago the coronavirus pandemic exploded, shutting down the country as experts, health officials and scientists struggled to get a handle on combating overwhelming numbers of hospitalizations and deaths. One grim reality emerged: There was a disproportionate number of Americans impacted in certain demographics and very little healthcare providers could do as patients ended up being intubated except wait and hope and in many cases prepare patients’ loved ones for their lonely deaths only to be witnessed by nurses, doctors, or not at all. Complicating this nightmare outbreak scenario was that the nation was being led by a proven liar with a narcissistic penchant for ignoring healthcare professionals’ advice including his own administration’s top experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIH, and the Public Heath Service. Beyond that, once it was well established that COVID-19 was a respiratory illness by which its transmission could be dampened or eliminated with the use of masks alongside social distancing and simple hygienic precautions, he openly disparaged and then in the worst way possible politicized mask wearing. There’s a lengthy list of other outrages foisted on Americans by Donald Trump, but his greatest contribution to the atmosphere of death that enveloped the United States was his unwillingness to use the power of the presidency and the federal government in a central way to assist states as they grappled with seemingly endless deaths and record breaking hospitalizations. Ultimately he also contributed to the economic catastrophe with his stubborn resistance to follow the science and data, which left many governors no choice but to shut down to save their residents. At the end while he finally was able to bring the full power of the federal establishment to bear especially in the unheard of efforts by the scientific and pharmaceutical manufacturing communities to produce viable vaccines- but, his inept mishandling and ignorant behavior at the outset cost more lives than was truly necessary or based in science and data could have been prevented. One of those governors was California’s Gavin Newsom. In fact, he was the first to completely idle a state’s economy and routine with his stay-at-home mandate in an effort to corral the virus. This was uncharted territory for Newsom and his leading health officials including California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mark Ghaly. Initially there was not enough solid information outside of awareness that only a draconian stance would stave off horrific loss of life. As California battled surges and spikes, openings and closures, Newsom kept holding daily press briefings and attempted to govern under less than ideal circumstances. Yes, there were missteps such as his attending a birthday dinner party last fall at the white-tablecloth restaurant the French Laundry in Napa County, which he did apologize for as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle: “I made a bad mistake. Instead of sitting down, I should have stood up and walked back out to my car,” Newsom said. “You can quibble about the guidelines, but the spirit of what I’m preaching all the time was contradicted. I’ve got to own that. So I want to apologize to you.” Then after surges that brought more suffering and pain to Californians, 3.63 million cases and over 56,709 deaths to date, the vaccination roll-out began with numerous hiccups but with a purpose to get the over 40 million California residents vaccinated. No, it hasn’t been pretty and yet Newsom has persevered. There are those however, who only
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see a fraction of the greater truth and reality of the actualities of the pandemic and governmental response to it and they have launched a recall effort. These people who have organized this campaign to recall the governor claim their effort is “fueled by grassroots supporters angry about pandemic restrictions” oh and the previously mentioned attendance at the dinner party despite his own administration’s guidelines. That’s actually not truthful, but given a good deal of the organizers are acolytes of the former president and according to the Chronicle and others the financial engine of the recall campaign has been less populist and largely driven by mega-donors writing six-figure checks. Of the nearly $4 million that recall organizers say they have raised, more than half has come from two dozen contributors — wealthy individuals, deep-pocketed companies and Republican groups. The landscape and tone of the rhetoric to recall Newsom is led by people including Trump’s former ‘gay’ ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who stood by and allowed Trump and his White Christian Nationalist leaning administration officials like Stephen Miller and their allies to ban transgender military service. Grennell also defended former Vice-President Mike Pence who has a long record of anti-LGBTQ animus while attacking now Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg during his presidential campaign run. Let’s examine Newsom’s record regarding LGBTQ equality rights. Newsom has led on rights for LGBTQ Californians since his days as mayor of San Francisco. His record is such that last week 57 LGBTQ+ elected officials throughout California released a joint statement opposing the recall effort. Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur, State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, Legislative LGBTQ Caucus Chair Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell), former Chair Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego), Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, League of California Cities LGBTQ Caucus Board Member Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton and BART Board Director Janice Li praised Governor Newsom’s long record of support for LGBTQ+ civil rights and his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, national economic downturn and devastating wildfires. The leaders also spoke to the risk that the partisan recall effort, led and funded by antiLGBTQ+ and pro-Trump extremists, poses to LGBTQ+ Californians and the diverse communities to which LGBTQ+ people belong. This attempt to remove the Governor — led and funded by anti-LGBTQ+ and pro-Trump extremists — is the product of a coordinated disinformation campaign that will cost the state of California $100 million. Instead, this money should be used to support Californians as our state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The recall poses an especially grave threat to our LGBTQ+ community and the progress that California continues to make toward full, lived equality for all people. Throughout his career, Gov. Newsom has been a dedicated ally of the LGBTQ+ community and an unyielding champion in our fight for civil rights and social justice. He stood with us at times when it was not politically popular, regardless of personal and professional risks, because he knew it was the right thing to do. He has taken bold, principled actions to advance marriage equality, expand access to lifesaving HIV prevention medication, protect transgender Californians from discrimination, and ensure that California’s government reflects the diversity of our communities.
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ANTONIO XU LIU
is a Venezuelan-born Chinese DACA recipient who grew up in Queens, N.Y. In addition to serving as volunteer director of Out for Engineering, he is a Senior Strategy Program Manager at National Grid and lives in Brookline, Mass., with his husband.
For LGBTQ Dreamers, no equality without citizenship Returning to pre-Trump status quo isn’t progress By ANTONIO XU LIU
Last January, my partner of seven years and I married at New York City Hall. His parents and grandparents drove down from Albany, and my parents came in from Queens. After the ceremony, we had a small reception at the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park. In our wedding photos, Keegan looks his handsome self in his royal blue suit. Even still, being the planner I am, I’m looking forward to when we can celebrate our 10th anniversary together and have a proper party, once our college loans are paid and we’re more financially established. There will be 200 of our friends and family, a live band, and a Cantonese translator so that my mother can follow every part of the evening. And I just might take the stage in Elphaba drag and belt out “Gravity” from “Wicked.” When Keegan and I married, we did so with a sense of destiny, grateful to all those who had dedicated their lives to making a journey like ours possible. Legal marriage, however, hasn’t made my life that much more secure. And that’s because of my immigration designation as a “Dreamer,” or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient. When Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act once again in 2011, the Obama administration initiated DACA through an Executive Order. The program allows those who are undocumented and were brought into the country as children, have graduated high school, and have passed a background check, to legally work, attend college, or serve in the military without fear of deportation. My mother sought to escape the violence of Venezuela, where I was born, to give me the opportunity of a better life. When I was 10, we crossed from Mexico into the U.S. to apply for political asylum. The journey took three days, including several hours in the trunk of a car and hiding ourselves in a muddy trench until the sun set. Since DACA was implemented, nearly 800,000 of us Dreamers have qualified for the program, and through it we have contributed mightily to the U.S., the only country most DREAMers would call home. Each year DACA-eligible recipients provide $4 billion annually in federal, state, and local taxes, all while being excluded from federal benefits like financial aid
and Social Security. And in the coronavirus pandemic, 200,000 of us are essential workers, including nearly 30,000 Dreamers who work in health care, staffing the hospitals and nursing homes that strive to keep our country’s newly sick safe and alive. Four years of relentless attacks by the Trump administration have left Dreamers and our families exhausted and fearful. In his first day in office, President Biden committed to fortifying DACA, which was a welcome step. But the program continues to face legal challenges, with a likely negative court decision that could be released any day now. What Dreamers truly need is not a return to the pre-Trump status quo, but real and permanent relief; what we need is a pathway to citizenship. Without a pathway to citizenship, Dreamers will continue to experience unequal treatment in this country, to which we have given our hearts and souls. Many of us worry about being deported to countries that we don’t know, where we have no family, and in the case of LGBTQ individuals, where we may face persecution. My ambitions require contingency plans. Last year, after studying for three months for the GMAT—and completing a $1,400 prep course—I showed up to the exam site, only to be told that I couldn’t take it because my driver’s license didn’t count as valid ID. I needed to present either a Green Card, which I can’t legally possess, or a non-expired passport, which sounds reasonable except that to have one I would first have to return to Venezuela. Despite my gratitude for gay marriage, it has not secured my equality. Without a chance for citizenship, I, like my fellow Dreamers, remain excluded from the opportunity to live openly as my most authentic self. Perhaps unsurprisingly, even now that I’m married, I find that my contingency planning continues. By and large, my life has gone well. I’m in the U.S., I have an education, I can’t be fired for being gay, and I have a marriage certificate honored in all 50 states. Yet to me, full equality will only occur when Keegan and I can build a stable future without fear of being separated.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MARCH 19, 2021 • 17
Astrophotographer may become ﬁrst out gay man in space Carmichael applying to Inspiration 4 program By KAELA ROEDER
“I was so blown away by it,” he said. “Since that day, I Jon Carmichael could become the ﬁrst openly gay man was determined to see this eclipse.” to travel to space, and he says it’s “about time.” Carmichael in 2017 took career-changing images of An astrophotographer and pilot, Carmichael is applying the eclipse on a Southwest ﬂight. to the Inspiration 4 program — the ﬁrst all-civilian space After losing an in-ﬂight viewing party contest hosted mission. The trip will be led by pilot Jared Isaacman, the by Alaska Airlines, he booked a ﬂight from Portland, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, a company that Ore., to St. Louis in order to be in the air while the eclipse supports e-commerce platforms. was in its totality. When the ﬂight crew found out about The spacecraft will take four people to travel in Earth’s Carmichael’s story, the pilot cleaned a window for a orbit for three to ﬁve days. The launch date has not been clearer shot and even adjusted the plane’s ﬂight pattern determined, but it will be no earlier than October. to help Carmichael capture as much of the eclipse as Carmichael, 34, says he has had an interest in space possible. since he was a kid. Carmichael stitched more than 1,000 photos together “It’s my lifelong dream now to go to space, and it’s that he captured in the three minutes of totality to get actually more realistic now,” he told the Washington the ﬁnished product. He said he worked more than 200 Blade. “It actually could happen.” hours on the piece. He loves to take photos of the Earth’s galaxy, the Milky The photo was unveiled privately at #OneTeam, Way, to connect people to the “mesmerizing” experience a Twitter company event where Carmichael was the often lost due to light pollution. JON CARMICHAEL is applying to the Inspiration 4 program — the ﬁrst substitute keynote speaker when Musk, the original “We’ve really lost touch of that — that curiosity and all-civilian space mission. (Photo courtesy of Carmichael) headliner, cancelled at the last minute. A selfthat wonder,” he said “That’s why I like to go out of proclaimed “Elon Musk fanboy,” he was excited my way in the middle of nowhere away from light about the possibility of meeting him, but Carmichael pollution and shoot these night sky images so that said his ﬁrst speech in front of more than 1,000 doesn’t get lost, so I can share that with others, so people was a “beautiful moment” that changed his that people still can feel that inspiration.” life. Carmichael’s application to the contest has been “Moral of this story is things not happening for the recognized by George Takei, the gay actor who better,” he said. “My entire career is still around this played Hikaru Sulu in the original “Star Trek” series. eclipse image years later.” (Astronaut Sally Ride, the ﬁrst American woman in The photo was later publicly unveiled on the ﬁrst space, was closeted most of her life. Details of her anniversary of the eclipse at Twitter’s New York 27-year relationship with Tam O’Shaughnessy were oﬃce. only revealed after Ride’s death in 2012.) Carmichael began photography at 20 when he Carmichael is based in Las Vegas and is helping his moved to Los Angeles after coming out. Two years mother, who was recently diagnosed with Hodgkins later, he made the passion a career, he said. and non-Hodgkins lymphoma after surviving Stage 4 “I was going through a bit of a depression in my life Hodgkins lymphoma ﬁve years ago. She encouraged because I had just come out, and I wasn’t received him to apply to Inspiration 4, he said. very well in circles I was in my life,” he said. “So I ran The Inspiration 4 mission is also raising awareness away to L.A. to start a new life. And I suddenly fell and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. in love with photography while I was there, and that Carmichael gifted prints of his piece, “108,” of the sort of became my escape from my depression.” 2017 total solar eclipse to those who donated $50 or Former President Obama and Lady Gaga are more to the hospital. The 2017 solar eclipse from a Southwest ﬂight. (Photo courtesy of Jon Carmichael) among the celebrities whose pictures he’s taken, Each person on the Inspiration 4 mission but Carmichael has been fascinated with space and represents a “pillar” of leadership, hope, generosity documenting the universe since he was a kid. The astrophotography specialization was a or prosperity. hobby and he rarely shared this work with anyone, but he decided to formally print his work Carmichael is applying for the prosperity seat, which is for an entrepreneur who has used in his father’s honor after he passed away in 2013. Shift4Payments’ Shift4Shop platform to launch a business. The leadership seat is taken by Carmichael’s ﬁrst buyer and collector was Elton John. Isaacman and the generosity seat is for an individual who has supported the St. Jude mission. He met John’s assistant at the Million Dollar Piano show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant at St. Jude and pediatric cancer survivor, will take the while he was meeting another buyer in 2015. hope seat. “We turned his entire living room into like a pop-up gallery,” said Carmichael. “He became The rest of the winners will be announced in late March. my ﬁrst collector because of this, and he was the reason that inspired me to actually follow Inspiration 4 isn’t the only space mission for which Carmichael is vying. this path.” He’s been working on his application to the dearMoon Project, where eight artists from To Carmichael, the curiosity and mystery of space are what drive him. The unknowns, rather around the world can apply to take a trip to the moon in 2023. The mission is created and led than terrifying him, inspire a connection to childhood and allow hardships “to disappear.” by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and Elon Musk. “When you are thinking about the universe, and you’re thinking about the reality of where “It really will ignite a new era of the space race and excitement for space again,” he said. and who we are in the universe, it’s such a humbling experience,” he said. “And that humility Carmichael became fascinated with the total solar eclipse in his seventh grade geography is what actually unites us because it gives us all an ego check.” class in Las Vegas.
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Diverse Oscar slate lacking queer nominees Academy snubs groundbreaking ‘Welcome to Chechnya’ By JOHN PAUL KING
After 93 years of the Academy Awards, we should have a good idea of what to expect from them by now. Not which movies and players will earn those coveted nominations and trophies, of course; we can predict who the winners and losers will be, and we can even be right most of the time, but there will always be surprises. That’s because the Oscars are subject to the changing whims and internal politics of the Academy’s voting body, a closed society made up entirely of people within the ﬁlm industry itself and is therefore always inﬂuenced by a myriad of internal pressures, loyalties, and ambitions. In a larger scope, though, that’s exactly why it’s possible to know that the Academy’s choices will always reﬂect the cultural taste of the moment more than they do the comparative excellence of whichever crop of movies happens to win its favor. That’s not because of some mystical barometer that aligns the aesthetics of the industry’s artists with those of the world at large. It’s because the Academy Awards are all about Hollywood, and Hollywood is all about the bottom line. If the Oscars don’t give the people what they want, the people might not go to the movies as much – and that ensures that the Academy, like the industry it promotes, is bound by an imperative to please as many people (or, more cynically, customers) as possible. Consequently, the winners, whoever or whatever they may be, can be counted on to represent the zeitgeist of their era, every time. Unfortunately, movies take a long time to get made. That means that when a major cultural shift happens quickly, it takes a while for it to trickle down into the ﬁlm industry – and that means that, in recent years, the Oscars have been playing a perpetual game of catch-up they can never quite seem to win. For a large segment of the population, it might certainly look like they came close with this year’s nominations. For a year in which tremendous social upheaval has brought the Black experience in America to the forefront of the public conversation, the Academy has chosen to recognize an impressive number of Black-led ﬁlms and Black artists among an overall slate that oﬀers the most diverse lineup of nominees in its history. Not only that, the concerns of the Me Too and Times Up movements are represented by the inclusion of “Promising Young Woman” among the Best Picture contenders and the ﬁrst-ever two nominations for women – Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) and Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) – as Best Director. On top of that, Zhao, who is Chinese) is the ﬁrst woman of color ever nominated in that category, Steven Yuen (“Minari”) became the ﬁrst Asian-American to receive a Best Actor nod, and in the same category, Riz Ahmed (“The Sound of Metal”) became the ﬁrst person of Pakistani descent to be nominated in any acting category. In the middle of all this diversity, however, an alltoo-familiar sting of disappointment can be felt in the conspicuous dearth of LGBTQ nominees. That said, here’s the good news ﬁrst: Two of the nominees for Best Actress, Viola Davis and Andra Day, were both nominated for portraying real-life
NATASHA LYONNE and Best Actress nominee AUDRA DAY in ‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday.’ (Photo courtesy of Hulu)
bisexual music icons in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” respectively. Pixar’s “Onward,” which featured a queer character (voiced by out actress Lena Waithe) who referred to her girlfriend in a single line of dialogue, was nominated for Best Animated Feature. Nominated for Best Live Action Short was “Two Distant Strangers,” bisexual writer Travon Free’s 30-minute ﬁlm starring Joey Bada$$ in a “Groundhog Day” style story about a guy who keeps dying after encountering police racial violence. Now, for the bad news, here’s the (longer) list of expected queer nominees that didn’t make the cut: Janelle Monáe, whose “Turntables” (from “All In: The Fight for Democracy”) was considered a strong contender for Best Original Song. “Two Of Us,” the French drama about a longtime lesbian couple facing separation due to a health crisis, was snubbed as Best International Feature, despite being shortlisted in the category. Out director Pedro Almodóvar’s “The Human Voice” failed to earn a nomination for Best Live Action Short. In the Best Animated short category, neither Pixar’s “Out” nor the Hawaiian third-gender tale “Kapaemahu” earned a nod. Out of the 20 nominees in the four acting categories, not a single LGBTQ-identifying person was nominated. “Disclosure,” about the history of transgender representation in ﬁlm and television, was not among the nods for Best Documentary Feature. Perhaps most egregiously, David France’s timely and acclaimed “Welcome to Chechnya” was also left out of the Best Documentary Feature category (for which it had also been shortlisted), as well as the Best Visual Eﬀects category
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(for its use of groundbreaking digital identity protection technology). While it’s not – or shouldn’t be, at any rate – a competition between underrepresented groups to see who can snag the most nominations, and while the long-overdue recognition being given to women and communities of color is something to be unequivocally celebrated in the spirit of solidarity, it still cannot be overlooked that the Academy snubbed almost every one of several presumptive LGBTQ nominees. Even so, the fact that two women are nominated for playing queer characters – especially in ﬁlms that are not centered on their sexuality but include it as part of an authentic portrayal of who they are – is worth noting as proof that we’ve come a long way in our quest for inclusion and acceptance on the screen, as is the LGBTQ presence in such nominated ﬁlms as “Promising Young Women,” which features trans actress Laverne Cox in a supporting role. If we are ever going to ﬁnally achieve a world where we can stop keeping a running tally of the amount of representation we are given in the stories on our screens, it will only by raising our voices to remind the Academy – and by extension, the entertainment industry – that we expect them to do better. In the meantime, there’s no reason we can’t stand on the sidelines and cheer for the victories achieved by representatives of other communities who, like us, have long been left out of the frame when Hollywood turns on its cameras. And who knows? Maybe one day, Oscar will ﬁnally get everything right. Just don’t hold your breath. The full list of nominees can be found in any number of places online, including the Academy’s oﬃcial website.
New National Geographic bioseries is musical, visual delight By JOEY DiGUGLIELMO | email@example.com
“Genius: Aretha,” a new seven-episode installment of National Geographic’s “Genius” series is a feast for the eyes and ears. With stellar performances, stunning cinematography, impressive period detail and rousing musical performances, there’s a lot here to like. The long-delayed return of the series follows previous seasons “Einstein” and “Picasso.” “Aretha” debuts Sunday, March 21 on the National Geographic channel at 9 p.m. Subsequent installments will be made available the next day. Pushed back from a May 2020 premiere due to COVID-induced production delays, the series stars Cynthia Erivo — who’s only been acting since 2011 and is already just an Oscar short of EGOT status — as adult Aretha while Shaian Jordan plays young Aretha in a stunning debut. Each episode pivots between “young” and “adult” Aretha. She works on her breakthrough 1967 Atlantic debut album “I Never Loved a Man” in first episode “Respect” while troublemaking husband Ted White (Malcolm Barrett) creates needless drama with the famed Muscle Shoals musicians. Young Aretha goes off with her father (Rev. C.L. Franklin, a famous pastor of his day, played by Courtney B. Vance) in second episode “Until the Right Thing Comes Along” on a summer gospel tour and comes home pregnant. One of the series’ best passages follows young Aretha and singer Sammie Bryant (Tonya Renee Banks) as they sneak out to a nightclub to see Sam Cooke and get busted by her dad on the way back. Episode six, “Amazing Grace,” is named after her doubleplatinum (the biggest seller Franklin ever had in a long career) gospel album and relays its — according to the series — turbulent creation. Everything, though, is turbulent in Franklin’s adult life in “Genius,” the effect of which, the series contends, is the loss of the singer’s mother at age 6 and a loving, nurturing but also overbearing and larger-than-life father. Franklin, who died in 2018, would undoubtedly hate this series. Although the singer longed to have her life story made into a
biopic, she was famous for sugarcoating her past (her memoir “From These Roots” reads like a self-penned hagiography). Anyone who dared to challenge her recollections, such as David Ritz in his 2015 book “Respect: the Life of Aretha Franklin,” incurred her wrath. So that’s not a criticism. It’s sad to say, but it’s probably best that Franklin did not live to see this series or the upcoming biopic “Respect,” due for a summer release, in which Jennifer Hudson will star as the Queen of Soul. Much about the series works. The period detail is almost as good as “Mad Men.” Erivo, who does her own singing, is one of probably very few people on the planet who could both sing and act the demanding part and the supporting cast is uniformly strong. Vance is especially good as Rev. Franklin as is Omar J. Dorsey as Rev. James Cleveland, a towering — and closeted — gospel figure of the day. And the back and forth between child/adult-period Aretha also works better than you might think. The technique, a common one in the Netflix era, feels ping-pongy on some shows, but not here. There are two problems and sadly they are significant. The writing and pacing by showrunner Suzan-Lori Parks, who won the Pulitzer in 2001 for her play “Topdog/Underdog,” often feels leaden and unrealistic. Although brief, there are several scenes that make no sense dramatically. Listening to another singer tackle “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” in the “Amazing Grace” episode, Cleveland, who’d mentored Franklin as a teen, says, “You can’t just outsing ‘em, you gotta outshine ‘em too,” to which Erivo’s Franklin gives a wry smile. It’s a bizarre non sequitur that feels like Parks flipped through a quote book and sprinkled in a down-homey proverb as an attempt at character development. Aretha has just pulled the plug on the project and we’re not told what she’s thinking or feeling. We know Cleveland, who already invested time on the arrangements, is hoping she’ll change her mind (which she
(Photo by Richard DuCree, courtesy National Geographic)
does) but in the moment, the scene makes little sense. In another scene, young Aretha is twirling around the room singing into hairbrushes with her sisters, Erma (Aubriana Davis) and Carolyn (Sydney Hunter). Grandmother Rachel (Pauletta Washington), who raised them, calls them for church. Her sisters leave and young ‘Re dissolves into tears. Nothing prompts it. We’re supposed to realize that music is Franklin’s only real joy. When it stops, she could collapse into tears at any moment. Despite solid execution, it feels forced and clunky. The pacing also drags at times. Erivo also fails to bring Franklin fully to life, but it’s more the fault of the writing. Her Aretha is an imperious bitch who usually doesn’t react to good news, scowls when anyone dares challenge her, rarely raises her voice except in song and seems utterly devoid of joy. One might argue that’s appropriate for that period in Franklin’s life. One of the main takeaways from Ritz’s book was there was the life Franklin wanted the public to think she had and the one she actually had. It’s obvious Parks and the team here did their homework. Artistic license is to be expected on a project like this. But despite the great cast, the gleaming cinematography and the show-stopping soundtrack, the actual dramatization is missing something. The real Aretha, it’s no secret, could be an imperious bitch. That’s all fair game. She was also, at times, her own saboteur. She was a complicated person. Parks and company do a noble job trying to peel back the layers, they just never quite get there. It may be an impossible job but a good biopic — especially at this luxurious length — should leave you with a tad more insight.
Explicit tales of being a young gay man
BOOKS The stool over by the window is all yours. Might be because you’ve spent a lot of time there. It’s the right height, you can easily watch the door from there, and the bartender knows your favorites, so why not? As in the new book “Gay Bar” by Jeremy Atherton Lin, it’s one of the best places to be. Long before it was legal for him to go there, Jeremy Atherton Lin, like most teenage boys, imagined going to the bar – though in his case, Lin imagined what it was like in a gay bar. Ironically, he says, “I can’t remember my first.” As someone with a foot in each of two continents, he does have favorites, places that are now closed, re-named, or been moved. He’s danced in them, had sex in them, drank and moved through gay bars with his “companion, the Famous Blue Raincoat,” and anonymously, and with friends-not-friends. Some bars were carved out of a back room or basement, or a place that used to be something else, maybe another bar. They’re cavernous; or they’re small and packed with men dancing or doing drugs; or they’re thick with bachelorette parties and tourists, to the annoyance of the gay
Aretha Franklin (CYNTHIA ERIVO) records her breakthrough album in Alabama in ‘Genius: Aretha.’
‘Gay Bar’ takes readers inside the scene
men who’ve claimed that bar. Those usurpers don’t know the legacy of feeling gay, but “[I]t goes pretty deep.” Some bars have opened just for the night. Others were raided once upon a time, or will close before a month has passed. Overall, they’re an important part of being a gay man, pre-Stonewall, pre-AIDS, post-epidemic, and now. And yet, says Lin, “...there does remain something embarrassing about a gay bar.” Still, try to stop him from fondly remembering nights in the Castro or Los Angeles or London. Absolutely, you could be forgiven for wondering what you got yourself into while reading the first couple dozen pages of “Gay Bar.” Unabashedly, without preamble, author Jeremy Atherton Lin leaps right into a hazy description of a night out or two, in a chapter that seems fragmented, like a broken strobe light. Clarity comes, but later, and it’s fragile. Part of the haze might be due to the autobiographical nature of Lin’s story: there are bars in his tales, but the focus here is more going to bars, with the implied assumption that readers are familiar with those he mentions or others exactly like them. This, of course, may not be true; still, Lin’s sex-and-booze-
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By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER filled tales of drag, dance, and la dolce vita are compelling, woven with gay history, interesting thenand-now comparisons, and blisteringly explicit tales of being a young gay man. And then again, while these stories take readers through the doors of a gay bar, once we’ve literarily entered, there are times when we’re abandoned, the music’s too loud, and we want to just go. Like a song you don’t particularly like, though, that won’t last ‘Gay Bar: Why We long. Really, the surreal nature of Went Out’ “Gay Bar” is not insurmountable; By Jeremy Atherton Lin c.2021, $28.00 / 320 pages in fact, if you wait it out, you’ll be mostly glad you did. So look for it – and take a seat.
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