Losangelesblade.com, Volume 05, Issue 14, April 02, 2021

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(Photo by Jon Viscott; courtesy City of West Hollywood)

Will we ever get back to this? Pride orgs adjust plans as vaccine rollout continues, PAGE 18



Equality California’s Zbur announces run for Assembly By BRODY LEVESQUE

In 2014, Rick Zbur left his Los Angeles area law firm to become the Executive Director of Equality California, (EQCA) the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization. Tuesday, March 30, some seven years later he officially entered the race for California’s 50th State Assembly District. Zbur took over EQCA at a time when the only clear cut victory in the battle for LGBTQ+ rights had been the dismantling of the “Don’t Ask- Don’t Tell” policy which had barred open military service by gay and lesbians although still without a clear path forward for Trans Americans to serve openly. In 2017, EQCA along with then California Attorney General Xavier Becerra were plaintiffs in the case, Stockman v. Trump. Alongside the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) they sued the Trump administration representing the four active-duty Californian transgender service members, and three transgender people who hope to enlist in the U.S. military to end the discriminatory bad. Earlier this year President Joe Biden signed an executive order ending the ban and clearing a path forward for Trans military service. Federal marriage equality came in the first year of his term as Executive Director with the U. S. Supreme Court decision on June 26, 2015, the Obergefell v. Hodges decision which occurred on the second anniversary of the United States v. Windsor ruling that struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denied federal recognition to same-sex marriages, as being unconstitutional. (Previously in 2013, the SCOTUS decision Perry v. Hollingsworth legalized same-sex marriage in the state of California.) Working closely with the legislative leadership, and in close consultation with the LGBTQ Legislative Caucus, mobilizing the membership of EQ California, Zbur pushed through passage and signature into law major legislation that had impact on the Golden State’s diverse LGBTQ population. Zbur has also pushed hard for intersectional legislative efforts in areas including gun law reform, immigration, and especial racial justice issues. Zbur’s significant accomplishments in shepherding through critical legislative included AB 2943, which made California the first state in the nation to ban the widely discredited practices of “conversion therapy” or “reparative therapy,” from being performed on both children and adults. Senate Bill 239, which modernizes the outdated HIV criminalization laws in California, and then SB 159 which authorizes pharmacists to furnish pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to patients without a physician prescription. In making his announcement, Zbur also indicated he will withdraw from the race for Los Angeles City Attorney in order to run for Assembly. He enters the race as the first declared candidate with a significant cash advantage — as of his most recent campaign filing on December 31, Zbur had $202,632 on hand, which can be moved from the City Attorney Committee to the Assembly Committee. Zbur launched his campaign for Assembly by releasing the following statement: “Last September, my beautiful sister Jackie lost her three-year battle with ALS. She was one of the bright lights of our world and one of the most important people in my life. Watching her fight this truly horrendous disease — both physically and financially, spending her entire life’s savings on her care — broke my heart and devastated my entire family. I’m glad that she’s finally at peace, but losing her was unbelievably painful. Too many families in our community, throughout California and around the world have endured similar pain over the last year — too many empty chairs at kitchen tables, too many empty nightstands on the other side of the bed. “Since Jackie passed, I’ve thought long and hard about the next phase of my life — how I can make the greatest impact on the toughest issues our communities face: healthcare, the environment, civil rights and economic inequality. After many conversations with my family, friends and community leaders, I’ve decided to run for Assembly District 50, and I can’t wait to get to work. “I’m running to represent the people of California’s 50th Assembly District because during this unprecedentedly difficult time, our communities need bold, progressive leadership, an unyielding commitment to equality and an unbending resolve to achieve racial, gender, economic, environmental, educational and health equity and justice for all. I’m running to make sure someday, no one else has to go through what my sister Jackie did — to fix our 02 • APRIL 02, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM


(Photo courtesy Equality California)

broken social safety net for the most vulnerable members of our communities. I know that together, we can build a brighter future for our children and for generations to come.” A campaign statement noted that Zbur grew up in a rural farming community in the Texas Rio Grande Valley, the same area that his mother Erlinda Chavez and her family lived for generations. On the farm, his parents taught him the values of hard work, commitment to family and service to community. He and his siblings worked before and after school on the family farm and helped care for their grandparents. He ultimately became the first person from his rural community to attend an Ivy League university. After graduating from Yale College and Harvard Law School, Rick moved to Los Angeles in 1985 and joined Latham & Watkins, one of the nation’s most respected law firms. There he practiced law for over 25 years, became the firm’s first openly gay partner in 1994 and was recognized as one of California’s leading environmental and government law attorneys. Zbur saw hundreds of his friends become ill during the initial years of the AIDS crisis, which motivated him to become an AIDS activist at a time when the federal government was failing to act. He worked to help elect public officials including former President Bill Clinton and former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer as a part of that effort. In addition to his work as an environmental lawyer, served on the Board of the California League of Conservation Voters for over 20 years — as president for six of those years. As board president, Rick helped shape the organization’s priorities to address environmental justice and a focus on vulnerable communities that are hardest hit by pollution, and to advance sustainable housing and green job programs to address climate change. The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus also released the following statement with their endorsement of Zbur’s campaign: “LA County has had a rich history of strong LGBTQ+ representation in the Legislature for decades — from Sheila Kuehl and Jackie Goldberg to John Pérez and Ricardo Lara. Unfortunately, today there is not a single openly LGBTQ legislator representing the nation’s largest county. The California Legislature should reflect the dynamic mosaic of California’s population — the people we serve. We also need more bold LGBTQ+ leaders who are ready to take on California’s toughest issues and deliver results for our communities. For these reasons and so many others we are proud to support Rick Chavez Zbur in his run for California’s 50th Assembly District.”


Lance Bass to open WeHo mega nightclub

Rage closed its doors permanently in September of 2020, after a near four decade run. Former NSYNC boy band member Lance Bass, 41, announced last week his latest venture Opened in 1983 by Robert Maghame and Saeed Sattari, neither LGBT identifying, Rage – opening the biggest gay club in the United States. Bass signed the lease to rent 8911 catered to a wide variety of customers and served Santa Monica Blvd, moving in to the space formerly as the neighborhood’s only 18+ club. Yet during the occupied by the 37-year old Rage bar. pandemic they stated in a press release that they Bass’s company has yet to release the name, were unable to negotiate a lease renewal. and no official opening date has been announced, In an interview with local tabloid the WeHo Times, however a minimalist website titled WeHoMegaClub. the longtime general manager at Rage, Ron Madril, com promises that the new club will be “the biggest said “I knew it was happening with us being closed gay nightclub in the USA”. for so long, not having any income and the rent being Bass’s new bar is the most recently announced in very high. The building is owned by West Hollywood’s an exciting new string of Weho bars. The glittering ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’, notoriously unforgiving landlord lineup includes Stache, from the charismatic founder Monte Overstreet.” of the Silverlake beer bar 33 Taps, and the rebirth of Overstreet is the man behind the closing of many of Covid-casualty, Gym Bar, which will be neighbors of gay LA’s mainstay. In the past year, he has shut with Bass’s new Mega Club. down three decade old favorites. In August of 2020, The news of Bass’s new venture comes just Faming Saddles, the wildly popular cowboy themed two years after the launch of Rocco’s Tavern, the dance bar, was the first to close up shop. In the successful restaurant and bar he co-owns with following months three other partners. Complete with a wrap around Overstreet closed Gold Coast, a 40 year old classic outdoor patio, enviably large stage and food that’s…. Former NSYNC boy band member and Roccos’s co-owner LANCE BASS with a loyal clientele, and Oil Can Harry’s, a 52 year old passable, Rocco’s opened to instant popularity in being interviewed by West Hollywood boutique luxury property Real Studio City institution, were also forced to shut their May of 2019, and became a go-to watering hole. Estate broker YAWAR CHARLIE in 2019. (Screenshot via YouTube) doors by Overstreet. Each of the bars cited issues Sitting at 8900 Santa Monica Blvd, replacing a with the landlord and pricey rental renegotiations, dilapidated Bank of America, and breathing new life rumors even floated of Overstreet raising prices during the pandemic. into one of most lucrative corners of the ‘Boystown’ bar crawl. Roccos’s became known for Yet the closing of Rage surprised little. In the past several years Rage fluctuated in its buzzing Sunday afternoons, lively drag performances and raunchy go-go dancers. popularity, failing to draw any sort of a crowd most nights. Though they kept a consistent Recently re-opened after conducting a full scale makeover of their back lot, you can following on some theme nights, Rage mostly sat as if it were a showroom of chairs and reserves cabanas and tables online for ‘Rocco’s Paradise’ (aka brunch). Since its opening, tables. Rocco’s has operated at maximum capacity, its crowds providing a stark contrast to those But Rage bar’s 37-year run is nothing to be scoffed at, it was founded when its location’s across the street. The purchasing of the old Rage bar certainly makes for a convenient new owner [Bass] was 4 years old. commute for Bass. Rocco’s and the now-closed Rage sit across the street from one another, FROM STAFF REPORTS two households both alike in dignity.

Trans USMC vet injured in attack police say may be hate crime Police investigators in this coastal city in North San Diego County are investigating an attack on a U.S. Marine Corps veteran as a possible hate crime. Shane Devereaux, a transgender male Marine veteran, was with his girlfriend leaving the Coyote Bar and Grill on Carlsbad Village Drive when he was attacked. According to Carlsbad police, officers were dispatched to the bar’s location last Saturday, SHANE DEVEREAUX (Screenshot via KFMB-TV CBS News 8 San Diego) March 20, just before midnight for a report of a fight. Carlsbad Police Department spokesperson Lt. Kevin Lehan told KFMB-TV CBS News 8 San Diego, that officers found four people were involved in what they called “mutual combat” and two of those involved had left before officers arrived. Lehan said that police believe alcohol played a role in the incident. Officers reported witnesses saw the group involved in an argument, including “name-calling” while leaving the bar. One of the men pushed Devereaux, which caused him to fall backward and hit his head on the ground. According to police they opened a ‘battery’ investigation at that time.


Then, on March 22, police said Devereaux’s girlfriend gave an additional statement to investigators that prompted them to investigate the incident as a “possible hate crime.” “We have received conflicting statements about what occurred, and we are working hard to sort the information and find the facts,” said Lt. Lehan in an email to News 8 on Thursday. “We take allegations like these very seriously in Carlsbad. The investigation is active and ongoing, once completed it will be submitted to the District Attorney’s Office to evaluate for the most appropriate charges.” Friends of Devereaux created a GoFundMe to defray the cost of his hospitalization and in the description they noted: “On 3/20/2021 Shane was involved in a tragic hate crime. Shane is a beautiful soul. […] Shane is a handsome transgender male which many adore and admire him for his bravery. Shane has bravely served in our military and has put himself out there to protect this country. Shane and his girlfriend Jennifer were out casually having drinks at the Coyote Bar&Grill in Carlsbad.” While on their date three men approached the couple and decided to have drinks with them. They were casually talking and having a great a conversation. As the night progressed the three men found out Shane was a transgender male. As the night ended Shane and Jennifer made their way to their car and the three men decided to approach Shane and brutally assaulted him for being who he is. Currently Shane is in the hospital suffering from a fractured skull, broken back, but most importantly a broken heart. Shane can’t talk, can’t move, and can’t use the restroom alone.” BRODY LEVESQUE


LA County Commission on Insurance re-elects Ruiz as vice chair The Los Angeles County Commission on Insurance has unanimously re-elected Vice Chairman Ari Ruiz for his fourth consecutive year of service on the Commission. Originally appointed to the Commission in July 2017 by Los Angeles County Board Chair Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, Ruiz has been noted as an influential civic and political activist who has devoted his life to community and civic engagement, particularly in the areas of immigrant rights, LGBT equality, youth empowerment, and education. He is a former member of the City of Los Angeles Commission for Children, Youth and Their Families and served as the second youngest Commissioner in the history of the City of Los Angeles. In that capacity, he served as an advisor to the Mayor and City Council for policy regarding children, youth, and their families, including health insurance. In addition to his work on the Commission, Ruiz serves as District Representative for Assemblywoman Autumn R. Burke, where he advises her on Lesbian, Vice President (then U.S. Senator) KAMALA HARRIS with ARI RUIZ. (Photo courtesy Ruiz)


Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender issues and education, environment, and insurance issues. Duties of the 10-member Commission include apprising the Board of Supervisors of significant developments concerning consumer insurance matters, crafting recommendations for reducing the cost of insurance, improving public education, and community awareness regarding insurance issues. The Commission holds annual press conferences during fire season to inform the public of the importance of maintaining adequate homeowner’s insurance. Currently, the Commission is focused on the issues of insurance regarding rights and services, fraud, and consumer education. The Commission also unanimously re-elected Scott J. Svonkin, for the 19th consecutive year as its Chairman. Chairman Svonkin was first appointed to the Commission in November 1997 by former Third District Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and was re-appointed in 2017 by current Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. FROM STAFF REPORTS


Half of LBQ women have been physically or sexually assaulted: report

A study released Tuesday by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds about 5% of cisgender and transgender women in the U.S.—nearly 7 million adults—identify as lesbian, bisexual, or queer (LBQ). In addition, 22% of girls— approximately 3 million high school students—identify as lesbian, bisexual, queer, or questioning (LBQQ). The study aimed to provide a comprehensive overview of the demographics, health, and socioeconomic status of LBQ women and girls in the U.S. Results showed that an estimated 46% of LBQ women report being physically or sexually assaulted since they were 18 years old. In addition, one-quarter of LBQQ girls have experienced sexual violence in the last year, compared to 15% of both straight girls and gay, bisexual, queer, and questioning (GBQQ) boys. Results showed that LBQ women and girls, in particular LBQ women of color, experience disparities in many areas of life, including poverty, depression, criminalization, discrimination, and violence. Fewer LBQ women (60%) felt social support in their lives compared with heterosexual women (76%). Demographics • LBQ women make up 55% of the LGBTQ adult population and LBQQ girls make up 66% of the LGBTQ youth population. • 72% of LBQ women identify as bisexual. Among LBQQ girls, 62% identify as bisexual and 25% as questioning. • Approximately 39% of LBQ women and 57% of LBQQ girls are Latinx, Black, API, American Indian, or another ethnic minority identity. Discrimination • About 75% of all LBQ women experienced at least

one everyday discriminatory event in the past year. • Bisexual and queer women were more likely to report everyday discrimination compared with lesbian women; however, lesbians were significantly more likely to attribute the discrimination to their sexual orientation than bisexual and queer women (57% v. 31%). Economic Insecurity • About 48% of LBQ women live in a lower-income household (i.e., income less than 200% of the federal poverty level), compared with 42% of straight women, 38% of GBQ men, and 34% of straight men. • When looking at incomes at the higher end of the spectrum, we also see that only 25% of LBQ women have household incomes over $75,000 compared to 33% of straight women, 40% of straight men, and 32% of GBQ men. • Fewer LBQ women (46%) were employed than straight women (52%) and straight (64%) or GBQ (55%) men. Mental Health • More LBQ women (46%) have been diagnosed with depression than straight women (23%), straight men (13%), and GBQ men (31%). • Over half of American Indian and White LBQ women reported having been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime. • 44% of LBQQ girls reported having considered suicide in the last year, compared to 18% of straight girls, 13% of straight boys, and 32% of GBQQ boys. Criminalization and System Involvement • 39% of cisgender girls in juvenile detention are LBQQ. The majority of LBQQ girls (64%) who were incarcerated are

(Photo by Andrey Mironov, @strekoza.nyc)

girls of color, particularly Black and Latinx. • LBQ cisgender women make up 33% of women in prison and the majority (61%) are women of color. • Almost 8% of LBQ women of color report experiencing serious trouble with the police or the law, compared to 3% of White LBQ women. • About 4% of cisgender adult LBQ women (ages 18–41) reported having lived in foster homes as a child. Lesbians (9%) were slightly more likely than bisexual (1%) and queer (7%) women to report a history of foster care. Resilience • About 68% of transgender LBQ women and 66% of cisgender LBQ women felt connected to the LGBT community. • Bisexual women (59%) were less likely to feel connected to LGB communities compared with lesbians (81%). • Fewer LBQ women (60%) felt social support in their lives compared with straight women (76%).



Fear and loathing in LAX: Flying while trans not easy By NOAH CHRISTIANSEN

When most people go to an airport, they dread having enduring the obligatory process of being screened for security purposes by the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The lines are long, the process takes forever, and you have to remove your shoes. But, for transgender individuals, those concerns pale in comparison to what their process is like. Rosalynne (Rose) Montoya is a Hispanic, bisexual, non-binary transgender woman who uses she/her and they/them pronouns and she decided to share her recent experience with the TSA – on her ‘TikTok’ account. Montoya describes her most recent experience at the airport where she had to go through multiple scanners at the TSA due to her being a trans woman. In an interview by phone Wednesday, the Blade asked how often she gets stopped by the TSA when she travels by air, which is frequently. “99% of the time. I can only count on one hand where I wasn’t flagged, questioned, harassed, made fun of, ridiculed, groped, or touched,” she said. In her TikTok video, Montoya discusses the scanner, noting that the machine has a “cismale scanner option” and a “cis-female scanner option” that checks for potential hazardous items beneath clothes. According to her, at issue with these scanners is that none of these machines are designed to accommodate the trans community as well “intersex bodies, bodies with disabilities, people who are larger bodies, people with extra skin, etc.” TSA agents ended up stopping Montoya due to the fact that there was ‘something in her pants’ when she went through the scanner. “I outed myself and said that I was trans,” she said. The agent then replied, “Oh you’re trans, I’ll just scan you as a man.” Because she presents as cis passing woman, she doesn’t usually have encounters like these outside of her air travel. Montoya acknowledged there are some options she and other trans women can take to make their experience with the TSA better, but it doesn’t make the situation better. “Unless I tuck with tape, very uncomfortably, I can [go through the TSA]… I don’t like tucking, but it does make me feel safer when I fly.” She added that for those that don’t know, “tucking is a term often used in the trans community to indicate literal tucking of one’s body parts between the legs.” Montoya recalled a previous incident with the TSA, noting that the female TSA agent didn’t know what to do and telling her, “I don’t think I should do this, do you want a man to do this?” She replied with a resounding “No”, which then led a private screening. “She drew attention to my body and what was in between my legs,” Montoya said “It was like this terrifying thing for her!” Situations like these can be terrifying for trans people because they have to out themselves. “I have been sexually assaulted, groped, and grabbed inappropriately by a TSA agent,” she told the Blade. Astonishingly, she told the Blade, her ‘TikTok’ TSA experience video went viral online with over 18 million views, over 3 million likes, and 16 thousand shares. Montoya works as a model, actor, makeup artist, and social media content creator. Her goal is to spread love and education about her trans community as she shares her story. Though this situation seems bleak for trans people, she shared with the Blade, “I want to say to all of the trans people reading/watching my story that you are beautiful and you are worthy. You are deserving of the same common decency, respect, human rights as every other individual… You deserve to fly, travel, and feel safe wherever you are… We need the Equality Act to pass – we’re not going anywhere.” The TSA as a result of the tremendous amount of publicity reached out to rectify the situation with Montoya last Friday and also to hear her out on the issues of Trans air travel hazards.


ROSALYNNE (ROSE) MONTOYA (Photo courtesy Montoya)

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Biden issues first-ever proclamation for Trans Day of Visibility

President Biden, in a first for any U.S. president, issued on Wednesday a formal presidential proclamation recognizing the Transgender Day of Visibility, according to an advance copy of the White House document obtained by the Washington Blade. At a time when states are advancing and enacting into law measures that would essentially bar transgender girls from participating in school sports and restrict access to transition-related care for transgender youth, Biden signals support for transgender people by commending their “struggle, activism and courage” and including fellow athletes and students in a list of allies. “This hard-fought progress is also shaping an increasingly accepting world in which peers at school, teammates and coaches on the playing field, colleagues at work, and allies in every corner of society are standing in support and solidarity with the transgender community,” Biden writes. But Biden also recognizes long-standing issues facing the transgender community, calling ongoing violence against transgender people “a stain on our nation’s conscience.” “In spite of our progress in advancing civil rights for LGBTQ+ Americans, too many transgender people — adults and youth alike — still face systemic barriers to freedom and equality,” Biden writes. “Transgender Americans of all ages face high rates of violence, harassment, and discrimination.” According to a study this month from the Williams Institute at University of California, Los Angeles, transgender people are more than four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violent victimization, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated or simple assault. Biden also points out the accomplishments his administration has already achieved on behalf of transgender people, including the executive order he signed on his first day in office fully implementing in all federal agencies the U.S. Supreme Court decision against anti-LGBTQ discrimination, the restoration of open transgender military service and the Senate confirmation of Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health. In terms of the tasks ahead, Biden enumerates the Equality Act, legislation to expand the prohibition on anti-LGBTQ discrimination under federal law he pledged to sign within 100 days of his administration. Although the U.S. House passed the legislation, the U.S. Senate has yet to advance the bill. It remains unlikely 60 votes are present in that chamber to end a filibuster on

PRESIDENT BIDEN issued a proclamation recognizing the Transgender Day of Visibility.

the legislation. “To more fully protect the civil rights of transgender Americans, we must pass the Equality Act and provide long overdue federal civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Biden writes. “The Equality Act will deliver legal protections for LGBTQ+ Americans in our housing, education, public services, and lending systems. It will serve as a lasting legacy to the bravery and fortitude of the LGBTQ+ movement.” Although Biden is the first U.S. president to issue a proclamation for the Transgender Day of Visibility, other U.S. presidents have announced support for the LGBTQ community by formally proclaiming June as Pride Month. Bill Clinton issued the first LGBTQ Pride proclamation, a practice former President Barack Obama renewed in each of his eight years in office after George W. Bush ignored the annual celebration. Donald Trump became the first Republican U.S. president to recognize Pride Month with a tweet in 2017, although he never issued a formal proclamation. CHRIS JOHNSON

Levine becomes first trans person to win Senate confirmation Rachel Levine made history last week by becoming the first openly transgender person to win Senate confirmation as a presidential appointee, sending an unprecedented signal gender identity is not a barrier for obtaining a position in the highest levels of government. The vote on the U.S. Senate floor, which despite its significance took place with little fanfare after senators largely discussed issues other than Levine serving as assistant secretary of health, was along party lines and 52-48. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) presided over the confirmation. Levine in a statement following her confirmation thanked President Biden for the nomination and the Senate, recognizing the importance of her appointment to LGBTQ people. “As I prepare to take my oath of office and begin serving as assistant secretary for health, I would like to take this opportunity to address members of the LGBTQ community,” Levine said. “First, thank you. Only through your work and advocacy over many decades is my story possible. I am humbled to be the first transgender individual to serve in a Senate-confirmed position. As Vice President Harris has said, I recognize that I may be the first, but am heartened by the knowledge that I will not be the last.” Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Maine) joined Democrats in voting to confirm Levine. Sen. Joe Manchin, who recently voted with Republicans for a failed amendment to defund schools allowing transgender kids in sports, ended up joining Democrats to vote to confirm Levine. The assistant secretary of health oversees the department’s key public health offices, a number of presidential and secretarial advisory committees, 10 regional health offices across the nation, and the Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Now that the Senate has confirmed Levine, she’ll be charged with overseeing President Biden’s plan to confront the coronavirus, including the continued distribution of vaccines to make his vision of having a vaccine available to every American by May 1. 10 • APRIL 02, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

Additionally, Levine will be responsible for the Ending the HIV Epidemic program that began during the Trump administration. Biden has said he intends to beat the domestic HIV epidemic by 2025, although observers are skeptical that deadline is feasible. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted the historic implications of the Levine confirmation vote as the start of the morning of the Senate. “As transgender Americans suffer Pennsylvania Secretary of Health RACHEL LEVINE won Senate confirmation to become assistant higher rates of abuse, homelessness secretary of health. (Screen capture via CSPAN) and depression more than every other group, it’s important to have national figures like Dr. Levine, who by virtue of being in the public spotlight will help break down barriers of ignorance and fear,” Schumer said. No openly transgender person prior to Levine had ever sought or won confirmation by the Senate in U.S. history. In the Obama administration, Dylan Orr at the Department of Labor and Amanda Simpson at the departments of energy and defense made history as the first openly transgender presidential appointees, but their roles didn’t require Senate approval. Trump, whose administration was marked by open hostility to the transgender community, had no openly transgender appointments. CHRIS JOHNSON


Two gay men burned in Kenya refugee camp attack

An attack at a Kenya refugee camp earlier this month that left two gay men with seconddegree burns has once again drawn attention to the plight of LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers who live there. A press release the Minnesota-based Black Immigrant Collective sent to the Blade last week notes “petrol bombs were thrown into a group of LGBTQ+ refugees, allies and their children who live in” Block 13 of the Kakuma refugee camp on the morning of March 15. “This attack not only set people on fire, An attack at the Kakuma refugee camp but also destroyed beddings and personal in Kenya on March 15, left two gay refugees with second-degree burns. belongings as many of the refugees sleep in (Photos courtesy of Gilbert Kagarura) the open air,” reads the press release. The press release also notes the men who are described as “organizers” suffered second-degree burns throughout their bodies. Gilbert Kagarura, a human rights activist and refugee from Uganda who lives in Block 13, on Tuesday sent the Blade a series of pictures of the two men that show burns on their arms, legs and other parts of their bodies. Shifra, an 18-year-old refugee who also lives in Block 13, on March 24 during a virtual press conference the Black Immigrant Collective and other advocacy groups and human rights activists in the U.S., Kenya and elsewhere around the

world organized recalled the attack. “I thought we were all going to die,” said Shifra. “Everyday I relive this horrible experience that I have.” The U.N. Refugee Agency in a March 25 statement notes it “organized” the men’s transfer to a hospital in Lodwar, a town that is roughly 75 miles away from the camp. The men are now receiving treatment at a public hospital in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. “UNHCR organized their transfer to a regional hospital in Lodwar and, following expert advice from burn specialists, to a Nairobi hospital,” says UNHCR in its press release. “Both are receiving specialized treatment for their burns and progress in their recovery is being closely monitored by the local medical team and a UNHCR doctor.” Kakuma, which is located in northwest Kenya near the country’s border with Uganda and South Sudan, is one of two refugee camps the UNHCR operates in the East African nation. The other, Dadaab, is located near Kenya’s border with Somalia. Kagarura told the Blade that UNHCR created Block 13 within a section of the camp known as Kakuma 3 in May 2020. The press release the Blade received from the Black Immigrant Collective notes “most of the 135 refugees at Block 13 fled Uganda for Kakuma when the anti-gay bill was introduced.” Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in 2014 signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposed a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The law was known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it once contained a death penalty provision. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

USAID urged to use COVID funds to support LGBTQ people abroad Three members of Congress have urged the U.S. Agency for International Development to use some of the money it received from the COVID-19 relief bill to support LGBTQ people around the world. U.S. Reps. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in a letter they sent to Acting USAID Administrator Gloria Steele on March 24 note her agency received “approximately” $10 billion under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that President Biden signed into law earlier this month. “We write to you to request that particular attention be paid in your deployment of these additional funds to reach the most vulnerable populations,” reads the letter. “From the devastating experience of the first year of this pandemic, we know that traditionally marginalized communities including LGBTQI+, people with disabilities, and racial minorities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.” The letter notes the pandemic “has exacerbated the inequalities and vulnerabilities that LGBTQI+ people in particular face worldwide.” “Amidst ongoing lockdowns, many LGBTQI+ people have lost their livelihoods, are at increased risk for gender-based violence, food insecurity, and homelessness, and face even greater

barriers to services, including access to sexual and reproductive health care,” it reads. “In some countries, those in the LGBTQI+ community have been scapegoated and falsely charged for spreading COVID-19, while other governments have used COVID-19 lock down measures as an excuse to violate the human rights of LGBTQI+ people and other vulnerable groups. LGBTQI+ people have also been excluded from many relief efforts due to binary gendered approaches to distribution, as well as a reliance on unsafe spaces for LGBTQI+ people, non-inclusive definitions of ‘family,’ and discrimination by relief workers.” Transgender activists in Latin America have criticized gender-based rules that officials in Panama, Colombia and Peru implemented in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Activists in South Korea formed a task force to fight anti-LGBTQ discrimination related to the pandemic. The letter that Titus, Castro and Cicilline sent to Steele notes OutRight Action International in April 2020 launched a fund to help vulnerable LGBTQ communities during the pandemic. Biden last month issued a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad. A USAID spokesperson confirmed to the Washington Blade the agency has received the letter. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Germany now allows trans, intersex police officers to serve Julia Monro, a spokesperson for the German Association for Trans Identity and Intersex People (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Transidentität und Intersexualität), in 2017 applied to become a police officer because she wanted to join the fight against Internet crimes. Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office rejected Monro’s application because she is transgender. “I was really disappointed because their own website had a point for LGBTI people, and so I felt very welcome,” Monro told the Blade last month during a Zoom interview from her home near the city of Cologne. “It was a government institution.” Germany as of January has officially amended Police Service Regulation 300 (PDV 300) that was used to prevent openly trans and intersex people to work as police officers. PDV 300 specifically mentioned men and women, but not trans or intersex people. Joschua Thuir, a police inspector who is an instructor at a German Federal Police center for basic training and further education, is the trans ambassador of VelsPol Deutschland, an NGO that represents LGBTQ police officers in the country. Thuir, who is a trans man, has also written a diploma thesis about the experiences of trans and intersex people who have applied to become police officers in Germany. Thuir described PDV 300 as “a list that includes different physical and psychological criterion 12 • APRIL 02, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

of exclusion.” He also told the Blade that he transitioned after his three-year probation period ended to make sure he wouldn’t jeopardize his job. Brett Parson, an openly gay man who previously led the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, is among those who Thuir considers a mentor. Bee Bailey, a member of the Gloucestershire Constabulary in England who is a founding JULIA MONRO member of Trans Cops Europe, is among the other police (Photo courtesy Monro) officers who have also supported Thuir’s work. The new policy took effect in all of Germany’s 19 police departments in January. “We wanted to make a positive report so that a lot of transgender people can now take their chance to go to the police,” said Monro. “We wanted to show the police is a good institution for transgender people to work.” Monro said there has thus far been no backlash against the new policy. She told the Blade she is not sure whether she will once again apply to become a police officer, but added the new regulation sends a positive message to trans and intersex Germans. MICHAEL K. LAVERS



V O L U M E 05 I S S U E 14

EARL D. FOWLKES, JR. is executive director of The Center for Black Equity.

Standing up against anti-Asian violence Stop scapegoating the community for COVID-19

I remember exactly what I was doing when I heard that six Asian women were slain in Atlanta. I got that same sick to my gut reaction I had when I heard George Floyd and Breanna Taylor were killed. It was the same emotional reaction to the Pulse club murder in Orlando. I should be used to it by now, but I still react emotionally to mass murders and hate crimes. There is still something inside of me that is shocked that this still happens in the United States. Communities of color know that regardless of how law enforcement define these crimes, they were hate crimes directed at Asian women. These acts are not simply about the killer’s twisted sexual psychology. This is the result of ongoing anti-Asian sentiment that has festered in this country for hundreds of years. Anti-Asian laws are part of the sad legacy of racial discrimination of this country. Another sad legacy of our nation is this country’s propensity to always have a convenient scapegoat to justify its collective immoral behavior. This started with the near elimination of Native Americans when white Europeans first visited these shores, it continued with the importation of African slaves and later dealing with the “Negro problem” as former slaveowners called it. There was no “Negro Program” until the dawn of emancipation. Many Eastern and southern European immigrants were not always welcomed on these shores and immigration from these countries was effectivity stopped under the guise of preventing the spread of Bolshevism know as the “Red Scare.” Latinos have been blamed for the increase of undocumented immigration yet there are millions of undocumented people living in the U.S. from around the world who have not crossed the border from Mexico. Asians have never been truly welcomed to the United States and their presence has often been referred to as the “Yellow Peril.” Yet again, there was no “Yellow Peril” when Chinese laborers were paid next to nothing to build the Union Pacific railroad with hundreds dying in the process. We cannot forget one of the saddest chapters in American history when Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which forced 120,000 men, women and children of Japanese descent to be removed from their homes on the West Coast to internment (a nicer word for concentration camps) from 1942 to 1945. Sixty-six percentage of those interned were American citizens. During our time, Donald Trump, supported by the bully pulpit of the American presidency, blamed the COVID-19 virus on China; and this has led directly to an increase of violence against the Asian community. Hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community have been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. A report released by Stop AAPI Hate revealed that there have been at least 3,795 hate incidents targeting the AAPI community from March 19, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021. More than 500 of those incidences occurred in 2021. And remember, these are the incidences that are reported. It is time that as a nation, we stop scapegoating communities of color. It’s time that we stop scapegoating the Asian community for COVID-19 and other viruses (remember the Hong Kong Flu). The Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have made incredible contributions to the United States and by virtue of being here have the right to expect to not be subjected to any form of violence. As a proud African-American gay man I stand alongside all Asian and Pacific Islander communities in solidarity, particularly during this time of hate, ignorance, bigotry, and suffering.


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is an activist who writes about LGBTQ issues.

Gay bars: Community or lifestyle enclave?

New book an antidote to our abstinence until we can revive the real thing Walking into a gay bar felt like crossing the Rubicon. I was a grad student dabbling in “the love that dare not speak its name,” but I avoided gay bars. Visiting one would be an admission that I wasn’t just doing something, but, rather, being someone. Until one day, even though I wasn’t ready to attach identity to my experiences, I walked through the doors. Until then, my relationships were on one side of the closet, and coming out portended an empty world on the other side. Gay bars showed me that I wasn’t alone. Being among people, however, isn’t the same as a community, something I’ve struggled with in my expectations of gay bars. What exactly are gay bars: community or lifestyle enclave? That’s a question raised by “Gay Bar: Why We Went Out” by Jeremy Atherton Lin. Part memoir/part anthropology, Lin navigates the history and nature of the storied gay bar. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Homebound, I reminisced about nights out while reading about Jeremy’s. But also got to thinking: what will we be walking back into once the pandemic ends? After coming out, I had expected gay bars to be spaces of bonding. To my chagrin, I found that sense of community wanting. On occasion, I found the fraternity I was searching for, albeit fleetingly. You must always know that there is nothing wrong with you no matter what your parents say, a Latinx lesbian told me one night as we smoked and swapped stories on less-than-accepting mothers. I never saw her again and didn’t even catch her name, but that moment held for me what I wanted in those spaces: To connect with people beyond lookism and sex. Reading “Gay Bar,” I nodded with the observation: “The gay bars of my life have consistently disappointed.” “Gar Bar” advances the theory that communities are born out of shared history. And “where history is forgotten … community degenerates into lifestyle enclaves.” And lifestyle celebrates the “narcissism of similarity” and promotes private concerns, 16 • APRIL 02, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

“namely leisure and consumption.” Most gay bars, I have found, are not cultivators of community. We arrive and depart with the people we already know. Contact with outsiders tends to be ephemeral and skin deep. Consumption is the defining ethos. But “perhaps you could call a gay bar a galaxy: We are held together but kept from colliding by a fine balance of momentum and gravity,” Lin proposes. I’ve learned to think of this galaxy as enough. And to see the beauty in it: We all gather without really knowing each other, but in that transient night, we’re keeping alive the simulacrum of a shared experience. And therein lies the potential of gay bars: Sometimes stars collide and sparks fly. That potential is under threat. “Gay Bar” is partly an obituary as spaces shut down. Reasons abound: the young generation feels less need for them, out-of-control gentrification, and Grindr. Ironically, the fact that gay bars are no longer strictly for gays might end up saving many. One word: Nellie’s. The gay sports bar has become a pitstop for bachelorettes, which can be problematic. “Gay Bar” relates one night where a bride-to-be corralled the gays into a serenade. Our spaces should be welcoming but down with the instrumentalization of gay men as playthings. The Invasion of the Brides, however, speaks to a larger truth. Gay bars are constantly in flux, opening here and closing there, transitioning from the Mean Gays set to a queer subversive vibe, adding drag nights and brunch Sundays. This adaptation has often made them resilient. I should close with a disclaimer: Mine is not the “authentic” experience; there’s no such thing. And that’s what makes Lin such a wonderful guide. There’s something in Gay Bar(s) for everyone. For those dreaming of when the music will start playing again, and cruising will no longer violate the health code, “Gay Bar” is an antidote to our abstinence until we can revive the real thing.





U.S. Pride organizers debate in-person vs. virtual events for 2021 Some cities eye fall for possible return of parades, festivals By LOU CHIBBARO JR. | lchibbaro@washblade.com

It’s unlikely we’ll see crowds like these at Pride for some time.

Pride organizers across the country are grappling with COVID restrictions for a second year and debating whether some, modified in-person events are possible in 2021 as the vaccine rollout continues. Christopher Street West-Los Angeles Pride, which has organized one of the nation’s largest Pride celebrations each year since the early 1970s, states on its website that it will hold this year’s celebration June 11-13. But like several other large U.S. cities, it has yet to announce what type of events it will offer. “Stay tuned for announcements about what we’re [safely] planning,” the website statement says. L.A. Pride spokesperson Chris Prouty, similar to officials with Pride organizations in other cities, told the Blade that L.A. Pride organizers are carefully watching the unfolding developments associated with the COVID-19 pandemic to determine what type of events might be possible in June. “As the pandemic continues to affect the way all organizations plan for events, CSW/LA Pride is committed to producing a safe but impactful Pride 2021 for the communities we serve,” Prouty said. “We’re developing a variety of programming that will be announced soon and will continue to include input from local health officials, community-based organizations and nonprofits,” he said. “We encourage other Prides across the country to do the same.” The San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade and Celebration organization announced on March 24 that it will hold several smaller in-person events throughout the month of June. But similar to last year, its traditional Pride Parade and celebration at the city’s Civic Center, which in past years have drawn thousands of participants, were cancelled this year. “Knowing how deeply people miss being together, we’ve worked tirelessly with our partners at City Hall, public health, and elsewhere to ensure a number of incredible, safe experiences,” said San Francisco Pride Executive Director Fred Lopez. Among the outdoor in-person events planned are two evenings of film screenings on June 11-12 at the San Francisco Giants baseball stadium. In a break from its Pride events in past years, in which thousands of LGBTQ visitors from other cities and states attended San Francisco Pride, organizers this year have bluntly asked people from outside the Bay Area to stay away. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not yet recommend leisure travel, and the organization’s leadership respectfully asks visitors from outside the region to reconsider their attendance,” San Francisco Pride organizers said in a statement. Like LGBTQ Pride organizations in several of the nation’s largest cities, Washington, D.C.’s Capital Pride Alliance is planning to hold several virtual Pride events during the traditional Pride month of June and is considering at least one in-person event for October — a smaller Pride parade. Also like other cities, the traditional June Capital Pride Parade and Festival, which have attracted more than 250,000 participants and spectators in past years, have been cancelled this year following last year’s cancellation, according to Capital Pride Executive Director Ryan Bos. Bos said a “reimagined” parade called Paint the Town With Pride is being planned for June 12 that will consist only of asking LGBTQ residents and supporters to decorate their homes or businesses with creative outdoor displays or signs with LGBTQ Pride messages. He said the locations of the displays will be released by Capital Pride so people can visit the sites while complying with COVID safe-distancing rules. Bos said Capital Pride will organize a possible Pride Brigade of peoples’ vehicles to travel together across the city to view the displays on June 12. He said the displays are planned to be in place through the month of June to enable people to visit the sites when convenient for them. Detailed plans for D.C.’s Pride events can be viewed at capitalpride.org. D.C.’s two main Black Pride events — a conference and outdoor festival that have drawn more than 3,000 participants up until 2019 and that traditionally take place during Memorial Day weekend — have been cancelled this year for the second year in a row. According to Kenyon Hutton, deputy director of the D.C.-based LGBTQ organization Center for Black Equity, which coordinates Black Pride events in about 45 cities across the country, 18 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • APRIL 02, 2021

(Blade file photo)

said D.C.’s Black Pride will hold several virtual events over Memorial Day weekend, with details available on its Facebook page. Heritage of Pride, the group that organizes most but not all of New York City’s LGBTQ Pride events, has announced several Pride events throughout the month of June, including a virtual Pride March on June 27 with “to be determined in-person elements.” In years prior to COVID restrictions, the New York City Pride March has drawn many thousands of participants. The organization’s traditional Pride Rally will take place virtually on June 25 featuring prominent LGBTQ speakers, according to a statement released by Heritage of Pride. Its traditional PrideFest and Pride Island events “will also return on June 27, with further details to be revealed at a later time,” the statement says. It says at least three other events, including a Human Rights Conference, will be held virtually. Reclaim Pride Coalition, a separate New York City organization, announced it will hold its 3rd Annual Queer Liberation March for Pride on Sunday, June 27. The in-person march will include safety precautions, mask distribution for those who don’t have a mask, and other risk reduction strategies, organizers said in a statement. “The struggle for Queer Liberation cannot wait for the passing of the pandemic, as COVID-19 has made surviving even more difficult for far too many of our most marginalized community members,” one of the organizers said in the statement. The Baltimore-based Pride Center of Maryland has announced the 45th Annual Baltimore Pride Festival will take place over the weekend of June 18. The announcement says the event will consist of an “innovative Pride celebration that will incorporate virtual and social-distance considerate, intimate in-person experiences to make Baltimore proud,” but no further details were given. A spokesperson for Chicago’s Pride Fest 2021 said the annual two-day street festival held in the city’s well known LGBTQ neighborhood of Boys Town had been scheduled for June 19-20 but has been postponed due to city COVID restrictions. The spokesperson, Esmeralda Bravo, said organizers are working closely with city officials to determine the best date to reschedule the event, which could be in August or September. In Florida, statements released by organizers of Miami Beach Pride and the Stonewall Pride Parade and Street Festival in Wilton Manors, the small LGBTQ-friendly city located just outside Fort Lauderdale, say both will be in-person events. The Wilton Manors parade and festival are scheduled for June 19. Miami Beach Pride says it will hold several events from Sept. 10-19, with the largest being a festival in Lummus Park that’s expected to draw 125,000 participants. However, organizers of the Miami Beach Pride say a “contingency hybrid event plan is also in place should the planned [festival] event be disrupted by unknowns due to COVID-19.” The contingency plan calls for a significantly reduced number of attendees for the festival and other possible restrictions required by Miami Beach officials. Boston Pride, the organization that had hoped to host Boston’s 50th anniversary Pride events in June, announced the events in June had to be postponed due to COIVD restrictions. The group said in a statement that it was working with city officials to reschedule the Pride events, which include a parade and festival, for the fall “if all conditions are in place for such events.” For the second year in a row, Seattle Pride has renamed itself “Virtual Pride 2021” due to COVID restriction on large gatherings, organizers said on the group’s website. It is scheduled to take place online with several events, including entertainment performances, scheduled for June 26-27. “While we are all missing the Parade, Virtual Pride is our opportunity to commemorate the past, celebrate new wins for equality, and get encouragement for the work yet to come, and quite frankly it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun,” organizers said on the event’s website. “Stay tuned for your link to register for this FREE event,” the organizers said. InterPride, a coalition of LGBTQ Pride organizations in the U.S. and in other countries, is in the process of compiling a comprehensive list of virtual and in-person LGBTQ Pride events in 2021 that’s expected to be completed in a few weeks. Julian Sanjivan, the group’s co-president, said the list will be available on the website: www.interpride.org







Participate in one of LA’s most heart-filled fundraisers in October 2021, benefitting Alliance for Housing and Healing. All contestants must prepare an introduction of their character (name and state you are representing), share costume ideas, and prepare one minute of talent. Self taped audition videos due by the end of April 2021.

Email Jeffrey Drew with questions or to request an audition: jdrewla@hotmail.com


JUSTICE SMITH stars in ‘Genera+ion.’ (Photo courtesy HBO Max)

This queer ‘Genera+ion’ doesn’t care what you think

HBO Max ‘dramedy’ follows the stories of a group of queer students By JOHN PAUL KING If there’s anything pop culture has taught us, it’s that the future belongs to the young. It’s a statement of the painfully obvious, of course; the patterns of our existence are shaped and defined by the repeating cycle of generations succeeding each other, to the point that we take it for granted. Yet for the same reason, it’s a fact that is easily forgotten – or, perhaps more accurately, ignored – when we are living in the present. This is especially true if we belong to the generation that “owns” the present, who have suffered through the frustrations of coming of age under the thumb of our elders and are in no hurry to pass the baton to the kids who are next in line. Pop culture, however, has a way of reminding us that our days are numbered. Driven by the fires of capitalism, which are in turn stoked by the tastes of the most lucrative demographic (and we all know which age bracket they belong to), it repeatedly confronts us with glimpses of our own inevitable irrelevance – and that’s terrifying. Which is why the history of pop culture is also the history of youth rebelling against age, and while the individual skirmishes in that eternal battle might go either way, only the most delusional among us could doubt which side will always prevail in the end. Usually, these are the ones who respond with the most violent distaste when they see a vision of the world as imagined by young people; clinging to the hope they can hold fast against the winds of change, they dismiss, decry and disparage, attempting to exert control by invoking the same core beliefs and traditional values their own elders used to control them. Today’s kids, however, will have none of it. Consider, for instance, the case of gay singer/rapper/songwriter Lil Nas X, who just last week shoved aside the homophobic boundaries of the music industry – yet again – with the debut of the spectacularly subversive video for his newest single, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” in which the out Lil Nas appears first wearing a body-hugging sequined onesie, then sporting full Marie Antoinette drag, and finally clad in underwear and a pair of stiletto heels as he performs a lap dance for the Devil himself. In an Instagram post marking the release, addressed to his own 14-year-old self, Nas fully acknowledged that he was “pushing an agenda… to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.” It was not an apology, nor an attempt at damage control over an inevitable backlash he already knew would be fierce. Nas was throwing down the gauntlet – it was a given there would be an outcry against the no-holds-barred queerness of the video, and he was sending a clear message that he was there to take on all challengers. These included the predictable right-wing suspects, like “Blexit” founder Candace Owens and anti-trans South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, but also fellow musicians like rapper Joyner Douglas, who lamented in a pearl-clutching tweet that Nas had “dropped some left field ish & all our kids seen it” – joining many other homophobic commentators who trotted out the time-worn and long-discredited idea that any expression of queer sexuality is harmful to children. What’s telling is that while many of these attempts at “cancellation” come from younger voices (most, but not all of them, overtly right-leaning), the justifications behind them are based in ideologies that can safely be called ancient. Needless to say, Nas has been more than up to the task of swatting aside all these 20 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • APRIL 02, 2021

objections in the still-ongoing social media fray, and it has been truly glorious to watch. At 21, Lil Nas X is a voice that rises from a generation waiting in the wings, and it’s a generation that won’t wait quietly. They’ve caught on to their own inevitability, and they’ve decided they’re just going to go ahead and claim their time right now. It’s that particularly “now” spirit of youthful rebellion that can be felt in “Genera+ion,” the HBO Max “dramedy” that premiered earlier this month and follows the interwoven stories of a group of queer students at an Orange County high school. Created by fatherdaughter team Daniel and Zelda Barnz, it depicts the struggles of teens as they try to make sense of their sexuality in a world defined by adults – and often, by the baggage those adults carry with them from their own struggles. Widely compared to “Euphoria,” HBO’s other show about the severely dysfunctional hidden sex life of high schoolers, it’s a series that opts for a lighter spin. This manifests in the sure-fire humor to be found in typical comedic cliches of teen stories – awkward gaffes, clueless adults, “Mean Girl” style social politics, etc. – but can be found, albeit more subtly, in its handling of dramatic tropes, too. In its pilot episode, for instance, it introduces the relationship between defiantly queer star student Chester (Justice Smith), who has been slapped with his third violation of the school’s “dress code,” and new school counselor Sam (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) with a scene in which the assumptions of the older man color his perceptions of the younger, resulting in an attempt at guidance that – at least in the beginning – seems more a response to his own inner conflicts than anything being felt by his new charge. The joke might not seem apparent to those conditioned to assume a power dynamic weighted on the side of an older-and-ostensibly-wiser authority figure, but for anyone who can remember being a kid forced to listen to advice from a grown-up who doesn’t even understand your problem, it’s unmistakable. “Genera+ion” teases the possibility of an inappropriate relationship blossoming between Chance and Sam, and introduces similarly salacious storylines as it interconnects its young characters’ lives – we meet closeted bisexual Nathan (Uly Schlesinger), whose Grindr-esque hook-ups include his sister Naomi’s (Chloe East) boyfriend, as well as Greta (Haley Sanchez) a Latina with a deported mom and a lesbian crush on artsy and seemingly free-spirited Riley (Chase Sui Wonders), and all of that is just in the first episode – and in each case, our expectations are smashed in short order, along with any egoistic presumption that we know better than they do. It probably goes without saying that “mainstream” reactions to the show have been mixed. Many critics, such as Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson, have resorted to snark as they attempt to characterize it, according to conventional notions of storytelling and aesthetics, as an angsty teen drama that tries too hard. But “Genera+ion” transcends these kinds of assessments. It may be messy, confusing, shallow, and even shocking – but that’s the world its teen ensemble (as well as their target audience) lives in. They may make questionable choices, they may even suffer for those choices, but in the words of a pop culture boundary-pusher from another era, they are “quite aware what they’re going through.” After all, the clueless adults have already proven they don’t know how to make it better. Why should they listen to anything we have to say?


‘The Storm’ chronicles 15 painful years in the AIDS epidemic Author Zyda on losing partner, coming to terms with cards life dealt him By KATHI WOLFE

Christopher Zyda has been picked on by Joan Rivers, resigned and un-resigned a day after quitting from a high-level job with Disney and given a (widely viewed on You Tube) University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) English Department commencement speech. Zyda, 58, who grew up in Porter Ranch in the San Fernando Valley, a conservative, upper-middleclass LA suburb, has played the piano since he was seven and enjoys CrossFit. Growing up a Roman Catholic, Zyda drove his catechism teacher to distraction. A skeptical young man, he invented many lively sins to confess to the nun teaching them how to practice confession. On hearing his “sins,” the sister quickly kicked him out of the confessional. Zyda’s parents wanted him to become a doctor. But from early on, Zyda’s ambitions lay elsewhere. In his heart he knew: English majors rule. Growing up near Hollywood, he wanted to write screenplays. When he was a freshman at UCLA, Zyda jokes, “I came out to my parents and said ‘I want to be Author CHRISTOPHER ZYDA’s ‘The an English major.’” Storm’ speaks to those who lived Though Zyda knew he was gay when he was a through the height of the AIDS epidemic and to young people who want to teenager, he was closeted then. His first reveal understand that time. was when he came out to his fraternity in 1984. His (deceased) sister Joan, a journalist, was a lesbian. The Chicago Tribune fired her because she was gay. At age 29, Zyda became a widower when Stephen, the first love of his life died from AIDS at age 41 in 1991. Stephen, who grew up in Washington, D.C., was an attorney and an economist. He attended Yale University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale Law School. Zyda met Stephen in 1984 at the Athletic Club Gym in West Hollywood. Stephen lived then in LA’s upscale Windsor Square/Hancock Park/Fremont Place neighborhood. Stephen was 33, Zyda was 21. Late last year, Zyda’s memoir “The Storm: One Voice from the AIDS Generation” was released. “The Storm” covers 15 years of Zyda’s life — 1983 to 1998 — from his first year living as an out gay man to his life in the aftermath of Stephen’s death. It offers “Searing and empowering reflections from a dark, defining era in LGBTQ+ history,” according to Kirkus Reviews. “My story is just one of many stories from the AIDS generation,” Zyda writes in “The Storm.” Yet, though written from his unique perspective, “The Storm” speaks to those who lived through the height of the AIDS epidemic and to young people who want to understand that time. In a telephone interview, Zyda, who lives in the Hollywood Hills in LA and is married to Michael Wieland, spoke about his life and what it was like to write “The Storm.” For decades after Stephen died, Zyda didn’t want to emotionally relive that part of his life. “For 26 years, those painful memories were buried,” Zyda said. “I didn’t want to write about it,” Zyda said, “I didn’t think it would be that exciting. But friends got on me. My friend Karen wouldn’t give up.” Zyda began writing in 2017. A group of his friends critiqued every chapter as he wrote. “I told myself that I’d have to write it in six months,” he said. “I wrote every Tuesday and Thursday night after dinner and for an entire day every weekend.” “I travel a lot to the East Coast,” Zyda added. “If I was on an airplane for longer than two hours, I would write. If I didn’t have to work on business, I’d write in my hotel room.” He wanted his memoir to come from his own experiences, so he didn’t read other AIDS memoirs. At first, facing his memories was difficult. “When I started writing, I got a horrible cold. It 22 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • APRIL 02, 2021

lasted a long while.” But his reading group kept after him to write more chapters. They couldn’t wait to read the chapters as fast as he could write them. After a while, “I realized how much it helped me to put it on the page,” Zyda said. “It helped me to emotionally face my history.” Zyda completed a first draft of “The Storm” in 177 days – just under six months. “My husband was so supportive,” Zyda said, “even when I told him the memoir was about my first partner. And that I’d have to spend less time with him.” Writing “The Storm” brought him back full circle. “I’d wanted to be a writer,” said Zyda, who graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s in English in 1984. Yet, he had to cast his dream aside to care for Stephen when he became ill from AIDS. In 1989, Zyda earned an M.B.A. from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. In 1988, he began working as a summer intern with the Walt Disney Company. Zyda worked for Disney for 10 years, eventually becoming Disney’s Chief Investment Officer. After leaving Disney, Zyda worked with Amazon as its assistant treasurer, treasurer and vice president and international CFO. In 2001, he joined eBay as its vice president of finance. In 2003, he became San Francisco-based Luminent’s senior vice president and CFO. In 2007, Zyda launched Mozaic, LLC, a boutique Beverly Hills-based investment management firm. Today, he is Mosaic’s CEO. Disney was “incredibly supportive” when Stephen was ill with AIDS, Zyda said. But he wasn’t covered under Zyda’s health insurance. (Disney didn’t offer benefits to same-sex couples then.) At that time, LGBTQ people had few, if any, legal protections. People with AIDS, and their partners, were routinely shunned by their families, health care providers – sometimes, even friends. Thousands and thousands – hundreds of thousands of people died from AIDS. “People disappeared,” Zyda said, “it was the AIDS vortex of insanity.” Homophobia was still rampant in the 1980s and early 1990s. “My sister was crushed after she was fired by the Chicago Tribune because she was a lesbian,” Zyda said, “she had no legal recourse and she wouldn’t come out to my parents.” Zyda came out to his parents when Stephen became ill with AIDS. His parents believed then that being gay was sinful. Because of their homophobia, he was estranged from his parents for a time. Later, his folks accepted his sexuality and they and Zyda had a loving relationship. Stephen’s parents, Zyda said, fell completely into the “AIDS vortex of insanity.” Stephen’s parents’ feelings about Stephen having AIDS and toward him were “tied to their religious morality, anger, shock, and fear,” Zyda said. Not all of Zyda’s memories are painful. He and Stephen traveled, studied philosophy and engaged in rousing political debates. Stephen was a Republican – fiscally and socially conservative; Zyda was fiscally conservative and liberal on social issues. Today, he identifies as an independent. Early in their relationship, Zyda and Stephen went to a benefit where Joan Rivers raised money to help people with AIDS. The couple deliberately sat in the front row – hoping that Rivers would pick on them. “It was great! She skewered us!” Zyda said. “Then, she gave us all the plants on the stage because we were such good sports.” Zyda decries the homophobia of the Catholic Church. Yet, its core values of forgiveness and being a good person have remained with him. “Writing this story helped me to come to terms with the hand of cards dealt me,” Zyda said. “There’s a ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ quality about my life.” “Overall, I’ve been forgiving and made the right choices,” he added.