Losangelesblade.com, Volume 05, Issue 32, August 06, 2021

Page 1

(Photo by JayBeez)



Delivering justice and equity, Cannick has ‘the receipts’ Fighting for Ed Buck’s victims and exposing those who enabled him By BRODY LEVESQUE

In the world of popular culture the use of the slang phrase ‘has the receipts’ translates to bringing proof that someone was/is lying. Conversely it also is used to define that a person is being genuine. Over the past several years as the crimes committed by West Hollywood resident and political activist Ed Buck, as he preyed on Black men were made public, the person holding the receipts was journalist turned advocate Jasmyne Cannick. Frustrated and angered by what she perceived as lack of serious engagement by local law enforcement in the initial stages of the investigation into the death of 26-year-old Gemmel Moore, Cannick rallied the community and publicly called out law enforcement to take more aggressive action. She orchestrated and led a grassroots effort to get the criminal justice system of Los Angeles to listen to Gemmel’s mother LaTisha Nixon’s plea for justice. She used Gemmel’s own words, written in his journal to alert authorities to the depths of the debauchery occurring inside that second floor flat in West Hollywood. She pleaded with law enforcement including the District Attorney for the County of Los Angeles Jackie Lacey to take action.

JASMYNE CANNICK (Photo by JayBeez)

Her activism and fueling the rage of the greater community finally received the attention of federal law enforcement and action that culminated in Buck’s arrest and the trial. She stood by the families even as to the horror of many, another Black man died nearly two years after Gemmel (2017) in January of 2019 and like that young life snuffed out too early, Timothy Dean, 55, was found deceased on the trash strewn floor of Buck’s flat. In her own words, Cannick writes after the jury delivered guilty verdicts on nine separate federal counts: “It’s been a long four years on this road for justice–justice that a guilty verdict would be but one small part of. Real justice is making sure that this never ever happens again. We can’t do that with the enabling parties still acting like Ed Buck didn’t happen” She adds, “Ed Buck only got away with it for so long because he was white and because we still don’t believe Black victims–even when they tell us what

happened to them. Buck was not all that he was portrayed as in the media, but he parlayed his influence, funneled through donations from others, and did ingratiate himself into the Democratic party in California over the years. There is plenty of photographic evidence to substantiate those claims to fame showing Buck rubbing elbows with politicians from all quarters. Worse though was that rumors of Buck’s fetishes were well known and yet even after the death of Gemmel Moore there seemed to be a collective shrugging of shoulders and zero calls for accountability. Cannick however, wasn’t having it. “Former district attorney Jackie Lacey was sitting on a mountain of evidence and still did nothing to prosecute Ed Buck for the deaths of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean,” she said. Appearing on BNC’s Black News Tonight anchored by journalist Marc Lamont Hill last week, Cannick told Hill that the case intersected race and sexual orientation. Cannick is not just a gadfly community activist, in fact far from it. She is a powerful voice for those who have had no voice reminding people that Buck happened because the community allowed him to happen. In her own words she points out, “Paul Koretz, a candidate for Controller in 2022, who is backed by the Black Democratic establishment and has taken thousands from Ed Buck, told a group that Buck’s victims were all “disadvantaged Black hustlers.” “So while this fight is as much about getting justice for Ed Buck’s victims it’s also about calling out all of the people and entities along the way who failed them and enabled Ed Buck. Not doing so ensures a repeat of this situation because Ed Buck isn’t the only Ed Buck,” she pointed out. “Entities like the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department who many of Ed Buck’s victims said didn’t take their complaints about Ed Buck seriously.” “But even though Ed Buck’s crimes have been made public throughout his trial, not much has changed. The silence in Los Angeles is deafening. If I wasn’t sitting in the courtroom myself, I probably wouldn’t know the trial was happening. “There’s been no mention of the trial or justice for Ed Buck’s victims from the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, California Democratic Party, Stonewall Democratic Club, or any of the dozens of elected officials he gave his money to,” she noted. In a conversation with the Blade on Monday Cannick said that the next phase for her advocacy is to seek financial compensation for Buck’s victims. But beyond that is challenging community leaders and elected officials to address the very causes of what gave Buck ready access to the disadvantaged Black men in the first place — homelessness and helping the unhoused is her top priority. She also serves now as an elected “At-Large” member of the leadership team of the Stonewall Democratic Club, the very place where Buck donated sums of money and rubbed elbows with Democratic Party leadership who gave Buck credibility and status. For now there are some community leaders who are stepping up to acknowledge Cannick’s holding the receipts including the City Council and Mayor of West Hollywood who honored her community work during a regularly scheduled Council meeting Monday. West Hollywood Mayor Linsey Horvath tweeted afterwards, “Thank YOU for your fearless leadership in pursuit of truth and justice, @Jasmyne Our community is safer, and survivors have more confidence that they will be heard & believed, because of you.”



Equality California employees form union By BRODY LEVESQUE

with unions in support of workers’ rights to organize and collectively A supermajority of workers at Equality California, the nation’s largest bargain,” the statement read. statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, announced the formation of “We remain fully committed to these pro-worker values, and we a union, Equality Unites, with the Communications Workers of America intend to support our employees’ organizational efforts and voluntarily (CWA). recognize a bargaining unit. We look forward to continuing to provide In a letter sent via email last week, the staff urged Executive Director a supportive and equitable environment for all of our employees and Rick Chavez Zbur, who is leaving his post at the end of 2021, and to working collaboratively with them going forward,” bur and Hoag Executive Director-designate Tony Hoang to voluntarily recognize their added. union, inclusive of all non-Director level employees. bur and Hoang’s voluntary recognition of the union is significant. The union organizers laid out issues that merit the need for the Employers often resist efforts to unionize by forcing employees to vote union and what is felt to be critical concerns including addressing or engaging in other practices to dissuade workers from organizing. employee hiring and retention — particularly among employees of But the outgoing and incoming executive directors of the nation’s color, trans, gender nonconforming and intersex people — salary, Equality California staff volunteers for largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization immediately made raise, and promotion transparency, guidelines around overtime and congressional candidate Christy Smith (Photo courtesy Equality California) clear that they have no intent to do so, and instead will support the fair compensation, a healthy culture of feedback, and any decisions employees’ efforts. that impact their health, safety and lives. Employees at other progressive and LGBT nonprofit organizations, Organizers also pointed out that the staff at the non-profit including the ACLU, Lambda Legal and the Center for Reproductive Rights, have formed unions organization had exceeded all expectations and kept the organization afloat during the in recent years. CO ID-19 pandemic. The organizers also want to ensure that all employees have a voice as Throughout the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement, labor unions have played an important role the organization undergoes a change in and restructuring of leadership, as well as a shift in in advocating for LGBT Americans. In 2007, ride at Work — an official constituency of the goals and mission. AFL-CIO — signed onto an amicus brief in support of marriage e uality in In re marriage cases. “CWA Local 900 is proud to welcome our newest bargaining unit, E uality nites,” said CWA Unions like the Communications Workers of America, California Teachers Association, Local 900 resident Marisa Remiski. “We are urging management to voluntarily recognize nited Food and Commercial Workers, and more staunchly opposed California roposition them and CWA Local 900 as their nion. We look forward to working together ” and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which sought to prohibit marriage e uality. Late Thursday afternoon Executive Director Rick Chavez bur and Executive DirectorMore recently, unions have played a crucial part in advancing protections for LGBT designate Tony Hoang responded in a written statement workers, including the overwhelming 90 of union support for the E uality Act (H.R. 5) and “This morning, Equality California received notice from our employees that they intend celebration of the historic Supreme Court decision in Bostock, which affirmed that LGBT to organize a collective bargaining unit and a request that we voluntarily recognize it. As a workers are protected from discrimination under federal law. progressive civil rights organization, E uality California has always stood shoulder-to-shoulder



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After Newsom’s vaccination measures, employers follow suit


Encouraging shots without negatively impacting economic recovery FROM STAFF REPORTS

Throughout the past week, some of California’s largest employers – both private businesses and local governments – have followed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s lead in implementing vaccine and testing measures for employees. After California implemented new vaccine verification and testing requirements for state and health care workers, and with resident Biden following suit this past Thursday, employers have Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM implemented similar measures implemented vaccine and for thousands of employees testing measures for state employees. throughout the state. (Blade photo by Michael Key) City of Los Angeles: “Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council resident Nury Martinez announced today that they would push for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for City employees, beginning with a requirement that workers either submit proof of vaccination or a weekly negative test.” City of San Francisco: “City officials said that the re uirement would promote safety in municipal workplaces and among the general public, given that police officers, firefighters, building inspectors and other city workers come into regular contact with members of the community. ‘With those two things in mind — the safety of our employees and the safety of the public we serve — we made this decision,’ said Carol Isen, San Francisco’s director of human resources. ‘We believe this step is a simple one to take. It’s safe, it’s very effective, and it’s going to guarantee the safety of all.’” San Diego County: “The County will begin re uiring its employees to verify COVID-19 vaccination or undergo regular testing. Details being worked out but implementation expected by mid-August. Vaccination is the key to fully and safely reopening the economy.” City of Long Beach: “We are announcing today that all @ LongBeachCity employees will need a mandatory vaccination or be required to show a weekly negative COVID-19 test. Thank you to the 72% of employees who are already vaccinated. It’s important that public institutions model responsible leadership. I strongly support Governor @GavinNewsom’s action to do the same for state employees. The standard for those who serve the public must follow the best science available. I hope that cities and counties across the state will take similar actions. It’s time we beat this pandemic.” Google: “Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,’ Mr. ichai wrote. He added that the vaccine mandate would apply to .S. office locations in the coming weeks’ and to other regions ‘in the coming months.’” Facebook: “As our offices reopen, we will be re uiring anyone coming to work at any of our S campuses to be vaccinated,” of eople Lori Goler said in a statement. “How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations.” Netflix: “Netflix has become the first major studio to implement a mandatory vaccination policy for its U.S. productions. The move comes after studios and Hollywood

unions last week finalized an agreement that allows producers to require vaccines for the people who are potentially at highest risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19 on set: actors and the crew who work most closely with them. Netflix was particularly uick to implement the policy. More major studios are expected to follow in the coming weeks as they work out the challenging logistics of overhauling their approaches to pandemic safety on set.” Lyft: “As of August 2, all employees working in Lyft’s offices are required to be vaccinated, according to an email Lyft (LYFT) CEO Logan Green sent to staffers that was viewed by CNN Business.” Uber: “ ber Technologies Inc ( BER.N) is pushing back its back-to-office date to late October globally, and all employees in the United States will have to be fully vaccinated before returning to office, a spokesperson said on Thursday.” California Business Roundtable: “The governor’s approach will allow economic recovery to continue while redoubling efforts to encourage vaccinations. From the beginning of the pandemic, the business community has been a partner with the governor and public health officials by implementing mitigation protocols and testing, hosting vaccination clinics, communicating the need to get vaccinated, promoting the vaccine through its own SA, and offering incentives to employees and customers. We will continue to look to work with the governor on additional ways we can help encourage vaccines without negatively impacting employment opportunities or our economic recovery at this critical stage, while paying special attention to continued outreach to Black and Latino communities, of which 51 percent and 49 percent remain unvaccinated, respectively.” Here’s what health, labor, and other local leaders have also said about Governor Newsom’s vaccine and testing measures: California Hospital Association President & CEO Carmela Coyle: “The new public health order announced today by Gov. Newsom will help ensure that California remains ahead of the curve in the fight against the CO ID-19 pandemic. The unfortunate reality is that COVID-19 is again on the rise nationally, and in California, driven by the highly infectious Delta variant. It is imperative that we all do everything possible to protect patients and our communities from COVID-19 illnesses and death. Everyone should get vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective — and they are free. The evidence is clear — vaccination against COVID-19 has prevented people from becoming seriously ill, re uiring hospitalization, or dying from the virus, as well as spreading it to others. To date, 75% of eligible Californians have received at least one dose, with minimal side effects. Re uiring health care settings, including hospitals, to verify the vaccination status of all health care workers — and to expect those who are unvaccinated to wear masks and be tested regularly — are important and necessary steps that must be taken in this extraordinary situation. The Governor’s announcement is essential to keeping patients and those who care for them safe.” California Primary Care Association Vice President & Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mike Witte: “The California rimary Care Association supports twice weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated healthcare workers. The science is clear: the vaccines work, and they are safe. Over 97% of people seriously sick or dying from COVID-19 viral infections are unvaccinated. This trend is completely preventable with increased vaccination, to the point of herd immunity of our population, when we

can begin to look at the pandemic ending. Twice weekly CR testing for all unvaccinated healthcare workers fits the model for good prevention: accessible, accurate, inexpensive and easy to administer. This is an important addition to prevention of CO ID-19 infections. C CA is in full support.” Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California President/ CEO Jodi Hicks: “Once again, the state of California is leading by example, using data, and following best scientific practices to protect millions of people from COVID-19. We commend Governor Newsom for today’s announcement: implementing a vaccination verification system for employees in high-risk environments – a critical step in helping curb the recent uptick in spread across the state and get us back on track. lanned arenthood continues to work closely with providers and government officials across the state to ensure access remains equitable and the communities hardest hit by the pandemic have access to correct information about the vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and lanned arenthood will continue to encourage every Californian who can to get vaccinated as soon as possible.” California Medical Association President Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D.: “Throughout this crisis, health care workers have been a source of strength, sacrifice and perseverance. Ensuring all of us are vaccinated against COVID-19 sends a strong message that the safety of our patients and our colleagues is top priority. It is a duty that comes with our responsibility as people who care for others. We can all do more to keep each other safe, and health care workers in particular have a moral and ethical obligation to do all we can to protect our patients. When someone comes into a health care setting, they deserve to know the medical personnel who care for them are doing everything in their power to keep them safe. Ensuring that all health care workers are protected against COVID-19 will help put patients at ease and will help us bring this deadly pandemic to an end. So many physicians, nurses and medical workers have sacrificed so much over this last 1 months. We know what this virus can do. Many of us have witnessed the devastation first-hand. After going through so much, it is heartbreaking to see cases rise once again, especially when we have vaccines that can stop the spread of this deadly disease. We’ve come too far to ease up now in our fight against COVID-19. It makes sense for the health care community to lead the way in requiring vaccines for our employees. We will continue to do all we can to help convince all Californians that vaccines are safe, effective and critical as we come together to bring this pandemic to an end.” SEIU-UHW Executive Committee Member Gabe Montoya, EMT: “California’s frontline workers in health care and frontline jobs serving the public are growing increasingly concerned as the number of COVID-19 cases rises. We support Governor Newsom’s efforts to ensure vaccinations reach more Californians because these life-saving shots not only prevent death and grave illness from the virus but also prevent more dangerous variants from taking hold. Since this pandemic began, belonging to a union has given workers the strength we needed to speak up for our own safety and the communities we serve, from demanding E to creating the conditions for students to return to schools safely. For this reason, we will continue to bargain with our employers to ensure that implementation of the policy includes workers’ voices and push for recognition of all essential workers who have risked their lives during the pandemic.”



LA Council votes to ban sidewalk camping In a 1 -2 vote last week, the Los Angeles City Council voted to stop people from camping in public spaces including the areas around parks, schools, homeless shelters, bridges and overpasses, and other similar structures, as well as any encampment that would block sidewalks in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A spokesperson for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he will sign the ordinance. Once signed, the measure will go into effect 0 days later. The ordinance bans encampments on sidewalks and driveways, freeway overpasses and on-ramps, and near libraries, parks, schools and homeless shelters.

Former Echo Park homeless encampment prior to clearing (Photo courtesy County of Los Angeles)

It specifically bans homeless encampments from within 500 feet of schools, day care facilities, parks and libraries. nder the ordinance people who don’t move would be fined, not arrested, and only after they are given two-weeks notice and offered shelter. The homeless crisis in California and in the greater Los Angeles region in particular has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic which saw thousands losing their jobs and some being evicted although moratoriums implemented by state and local officials have greatly reduced the evictions numbers. Opponents of this ordinance are decrying it as another effort to criminalise the homeless population. Councilman aul rekorian who represents Council District 2, North Hollywood, Studio City, Sun alley, alley Glen, alley illage, and an Nuys, takes issue with that characterization saying “This ordinance, first of all, does not make homelessness illegal. It does not criminalize homelessness. It does not make any conduct that is fundamental to being human illegal. What it does do is it guarantees that we will reestablish passable sidewalks. It protects the users of our public infrastructure and the unhoused residents of our city from being put into positions of interaction with automobiles, around loading docks, driveways and so forth. It guarantees access to our fire hydrants, entrances to buildings.” Homeless and civil rights activist Eddie Cruz told TLA, “this ordinance is targeting a specific group of people in the unhoused community. We believe that this is an irresponsible attack from the City Council and an irresponsible way to deal with the homelessness crisis that is occurring in Los Angeles,” Cruz said. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, whose Council District encompasses Echo ark, scene of a series of confrontations over the homeless encampment that ultimately was cleared in part with the Los Angeles olice Department assisting, said in a statement that the ordinance “helps regulate shared public spaces while acting with compassion and purpose to help put people experiencing homelessness on a path to wellness.” “This ordinance establishes fair and clearly defined rules for how sidewalks in Los Angeles are regulated — while linking those rules to a comprehensive, compassionate strategy for street engagement that will establish reasonable pathways to positive outcomes and, ultimately, permanent homes,” O’Farrell said. FROM STAFF REPORTS

Disney to require vaccinations for employees The Walt Disney Company sent a company-wide message to employees based in the nited States that they must soon be fully vaccinated to come into the workplace. With Friday’s announcement Disney joined a growing number of American companies re uiring a CO ID-19 vaccination. Disney said it will give all salaried and non-union hourly employees both vaccinated and unvaccinated who are on-site 0 days to provide verification of vaccination. The company is having conversations around this topic with the unions representing their employees under collective bargaining agreements. According to a company spokesperson, “This decision was based on the recommendations of scientists, health officials and medical professionals that vaccinations provide the best protection again CO ID-19.” “At The Walt Disney Co., the safety and well-being of our employees during the pandemic has been and continues to be a top priority,” according to a statement from Disney. “Toward that end, and based on the latest recommendations of scientists, health officials and our own medical professionals that the CO ID-19 vaccine provides the best protection against severe infection, we are re uiring that all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the .S. working at any of our sites be fully vaccinated. “Employees who aren’t already vaccinated and are working on-site will have 0 days from today (Friday) to complete their protocols and any employees still working from home will need to provide verification of vaccination prior to their return, with certain limited exceptions.” The company also said all new hires would be re uired to be fully vaccinated before their employment begins. FROM STAFF REPORTS 08 • AUGUST 06, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM


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Barbara Barrett Attorney


Jenner’s gubernatorial campaign in debt By BRODY LEVESQUE

CAITLYN JENNER’s campaign is in more than $150,000 of debt. (Screenshot via CNN)

The gubernatorial recall campaign of trans reality TV personality Republican Caitlyn Jenner to replace Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom has amassed significant debt, according to campaign filings. In re uired disclosure of campaign finances to the California Secretary of State, Jenner’s campaign has raised through to the end of July from its launch 7 7,000 and spent some 910,000, leaving her campaign with about 15 ,000 in unpaid bills and roughly 21,000 on hand for the race’s critical final stretch. olitico noted that, “The campaign has sent about 7,000 to arscale Strategy, LLC, the firm run by former Trump campaign strategist Brad arscale. It spent 25,000 on former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer’s media strategy company Ari Fleischer Communications. Among arscale Strategy’s reported spending was a 1, 00 “staff meeting” at Nobu, a pricey Malibu restaurant, and 1, 00 for a limousine service that ferried Jenner to Los Angeles meetings.” Jenner is temporarily residing in Australia filming a reality-television show, although her campaign told the online portal for the San Francisco Chronicle in a statement that “Caitlyn has not paused her campaign at all,” and will be back in California for a bus tour in August. Jenner,71, has barely gained momentum since her entrance to the race in April. A recent Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies Los Angeles Times poll showed her tied for fifth place with percent support. olitico pointed out that media buys statewide in California are several million dollars and with her campaign in debt it makes gaining traction with potential voters difficult. The date set for the recall is Sept. 1 and midway through this month the mailin ballots will be sent out by elections officials statewide.



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Threats of violence shut down Nebraska drag queen story hour By BRODY LEVESQUE

investigation and as such would not comment A private LGBTQ event scheduled for after other than to acknowledge that the threats were hours last Saturday at the Lincoln Children’s found to be credible. Museum in Nebraska’s capital city was cancelled In an Instagram post the museum expressed after the museum and the event’s organizers its dismay over the event’s cancellation. received a torrent of abusive violent threats, Community reaction was swift and uniformly including death threats. in support of OutNebraska and the drag ueen Longtime local drag performer Waylon story hour event with the city’s Mayor weighing Werner-Bassen, who is the president of the in along with a supervisor with the Lincoln olice board of directors of LGBT advocacy group Department. O TNebraska had organized the event OutNebraska and the museum have both alongside Drag ueen Story Hour Nebraska. stated that they will reschedule the event. In a Bassen told the Lincoln Star-Journal in Facebook post Out Nebraska noted “We look an interview last week on Tuesday that the forward to working with Lincoln Children’s scheduled RS only two-hour event, which was Museum to reschedule this as an entirely private accessible through Eventbrite, had garnered a event. It’s so sad when hate threatens families conformed attendee list of approximately 50 with children. All parents want their children to people. be safe. Because we could not be certain that it Mandy Haase-Thomas, director of operations would be safe we will cancel this weekend and and engagement for the Lincoln Children’s The Lincoln Children’s Museum in Lincoln, Neb. (Screenshot via ABC News) reschedule for another time — this time without Museum in an email the Star-Journal confirmed a public portion of the invitation. We will be in the event was invitation-only private, not touch with the families who have already registered with more information about when we sponsored by the museum and to be held after museum’s open-to-the-public hours. are rescheduling.” According to Bassen, immediately after the event was announced the threats commenced, In related news the L D not only recently celebrated LGBT ride Month, but the designated some of which included death threats. After discussions and consultations with officials from person nominated at the end of June by the Mayor to be the department’s new Chief, is SF D the Lincoln olice Department, the Lincoln Children’s Museum and Bassen’s group citing safety Commander Teresa Ewins, the San Francisco California olice Department’s highest-ranking concerns cancelled the event. LGBT member. Officer Luke Bonkiewicz, a spokesperson for the L D said that the matter was under



Peru activists concerned about new gov’t Activists in Peru have expressed concern over their country’s new government and whether it will actively oppose LGBTQ rights. President Pedro Castillo, a teacher from Cajamarca region of northern Peru who is a member of the leftist and socialist Free Peru party, in June narrowly defeated Keiko Fujimori, his right-wing opponent who is the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, in the second round of Peru’s presidential election. Castillo’s inauguration took place in Lima, the Peruvian capital, on July 28. The Associated ress reported Castillo during his campaign expressed his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples, but stressed LGBTQ issues “are not a priority.” Castillo named Congressman Guido Bellido, an indigenous man who represents Cuzco, as his prime minister. Bellido in a 2019 Facebook post praised former Cuban President Fidel Castro and specifically his 19 comments in which he said “the (Cuban) revolution does not need hairdressers and work will make them men. The ‘new man’ cannot be a faggot. The socialist society cannot allow this type of degenerates.” Media reports indicate Bellido in 2020 made transphobic comments in response to gender-based coronavirus prevention measures that activists said discriminated against trans people. Bellido also reportedly said “the woman is so destructive and ruthless when it comes to mixing her grudges and selfishness” and “I don’t see any lesbian or gay (person) mobilizing” against it. “Violence is going to intensify every day if things continue as they are,” Bellido said. Bellido has also been criticized for his previous comments in support of the Shining Path rebel group. “(Shining ath) has been the biggest violator of human rights in the history of Peru and it concerns me a lot,” Alberto de Belaúnde, an independent congressman from Lima who is openly gay, told the Blade on Monday as he discussed Bellido’s comments. “It is not a good scenario for the human rights agenda in general and specifically for the LGBT agenda.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Peruvian President PEDRO CASTILLO (Screen capture public domain)

Harsh anti-LGBTQ bill introduced in Ghana A bill that would criminalize LGBT identity and allyship in Ghana was officially introduced in the country’s parliament on Monday. The “ roper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family alues Bill” went to the Constitution and Legal Affairs Committee after its first reading. Eight conservative lawmakers who are from the opposition and ruling parties sponsored the bill. Thomson Reuters Foundation News reports Samuel Nartey George, a member of the National Democratic Congress party, is the lead sponsor. The bill, if passed, would outlaw LGBT identity and subject anyone who identifies as part of the LGBT community or as an ally with up to 10 years in prison. A draft of the bill that was leaked online last week listed some of the punishable offenses that include “gross indecency,” which is defined as “the public show of amorous relations between or among persons of the same sex.” This act, labeled a misdemeanor, can result in “a term of imprisonment no less than six months and not more than one year.” Activists in Ghana and across the world have sought to raise awareness of the bill on social media with the hashtags illTheBill and GhanaIsEnoughFor sAll. A Change. org petition that urges Ghanaian lawmakers to oppose the measure has been created. Critics say the measure would violate human rights and would make LGBTQ people more vulnerable to persecution and violence. The Coalition of Muslim Groups in Ghana and other religious organizations have welcomed the bill, with Thomson Reuters reporting they say it is needed to “prevent the dilution of cultural values and beliefs in Ghanaian society.”


Naa Seidu Fuseini Pelpuo, the overlord of the Waala Traditional Area, and other traditional leaders have condemned the LGBTQ+ community as “unnatural and [perverted].” Pelpuo has also banned activities between LGBTQ individuals in the Waala Traditional Area and warned of “firm and swift” punishment if found engaging in “such acts,” according to the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation. The bill’s introduction comes after the May arrest of 21 activists and paralegals who attended a conference on how to advocate for LGBTQ rights. PRINCE CHINGARANDE


P governors tell Supreme Court to overturn oe


In a brief filed last week by 12 Republican governors, joined by 22 Republican members of the .S. House in a separate brief, all are asking the .S. Supreme Court to overturn the 197 ruling of Roe v. Wade, which protects women’s reproductive rights to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. This most recent push by Republicans comes as the high ( lade le photo y ichael ey) court is set to hear Mississippi’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, based on the Mississippi law that bars most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. There are no provisions for rape or incest either. The governors from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas and South Carolina signed the brief. “The Court’s decisions in Roe are prime examples of invading an area that has not been committed to the Federal Government and remains reserved to the States,” the brief stated. In the brief submitted by House Republicans they argued that the high court should revisit the viability line established in its legal precedent set, because it “binds the States in a one-sided constitutional tug-of-war in which they are subject to intense factual scrutiny on the abortion advocates’ issues but unable to establish the factual basis for their own vital interests.” SCOT S Blog noted that oral arguments along with the briefs as submitted will center on

whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional. The arguments made by the Mississippi Attorney General are chilling and pose a direct threat to the many members of the LGBT community who have a vital interest in reproductive freedom and choice. “Substantial research has documented that lesbian youth, in particular, are at high risk of unwanted pregnancy due to sexual coercion and attempts to hide their sexual orientation,” Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told the Blade. “And more broadly, the same groups and officials who are attempting to turn back the clock on women’s freedom are also seeking to roll back e uality for our communities. Every LGBT person in this country has a stake in this case and in the ongoing battle for the fundamental right to make personal decisions free of government intrusion and control,” he added. A .S. District Court blocked the law after the Jackson’s Women Health Center, the only remaining clinic in the state, brought the challenge arguing the law was a direct violation of the High Court’s precedent. The primarily conservative leaning nited States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December of 2019, “In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability. States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not ban abortions.” The appellate court upheld the lower court and concluded that, “the law at issue is a ban.” The 5th Circuit blocked enforcement of the law, finding it in conflict with Roe v. Wade and subse uent abortion decisions. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, abortion would remain legal in 21 states and would likely be prohibited in 2 states and three territories if Roe v. Wade is overturned, Axios reported. In 201 , an Axios-SurveyMonkey survey showed that the vast majority of Americans want to leave Roe v. Wade in place.



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O L M E 05 I S S E

ISAAC AMEND (he/him/his)

is a trans man and young professional in the D.C. area. He was featured on National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ in 2017 as a student at Yale University. Isaac is also on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Find him on Instagram @isaacamend.

Most people are transphobic

Nearly half of Americans oppose inclusive military service Most people are transphobic. Start with the fact that in 2020, 45 trans people were killed in the United States, most of them Black trans women. Worldwide, that number jumped to above 350 people. Seventy percent of Republican parents say they’d be unhappy if their child’s spouse identified as transgender. That’s a mild statistic, so let’s jump to the fact that at least 2 Republican state legislatures pushed bills this year that would ban trans athletes from competing in high school sports, and ban trans children from receiving medical care. But Republicans are the obvious culprits in American society’s hatred toward trans people. Let’s turn to the less obvious culprits. If you think Democrats were angels, think again. About 30 percent of parents who identify as Democrats state they would be unhappy if their child’s spouse married a trans person. That poll was conducted by PRRI-Atlantic in February 2019, not 10 years ago, or five years ago, but just two years ago. Migrate to Hillary Clinton’s offhanded remarks to Britain’s The Sunday Times that for trans people, “it’s going to take a lot more time and effort to understand what it means to be defining yourself differently.” Move on to corporate CEOs, mainly white guys with a lot of ambition and agendas to push. Elon Musk tweeted “pronouns suck.” Even if there was not that much thought behind the tweet (at best), Musk still alienated all of the trans employees who actually work at Tesla or SpaceX. And, of course, how could I write a piece about transphobia without mentioning J Rowling, who famously stuck up for Donald Trump’s bigoted policies tweet after tweet, only to essentially state that trans women are not real women, and outline “five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism.” Take a look at corporate America big companies, with billions in revenue and company outings to Europe, love to post rainbow flags come June, but seemingly would

never hire a trans woman in 1,000 years. If that trans woman doesn’t pass well, you can forget about her job prospects at a Fortune 500 company. Certain statistics that are used to signal growing support for trans people, are actually quite dismal. Some like to tout the fact that 63 percent of the United States population wants trans people to serve in the military, as a positive statistic On the flip side, this still means that almost 4 out of 10 Americans don’t want trans people to serve in the armed forces, just because of their gender orientation. That’s dangerously close to half of the American population that would deny a well meaning soldier from potentially sacrificing their life to serve this country. Why would you ever not want someone to give their life for your homeland when you wouldn’t give your life to begin with But what is most shocking, is the seamlessness in which almost half of all Americans would be uncomfortable with their own child being trans. According to RRI, around percent of Americans would be “uncomfortable” with their own child being trans. In the same poll, only 60 percent of Democrats would be “somewhat or very comfortable” with their child being trans. This means that 40 percent of polled Democrats would be overtly uncomfortable with their own child living their truth. Then take a step back, and evaluate all of the dayto-day, uotidian occurrences that highlight how weird and transphobic the public is. I’m talking about small gestures, like when your boss would rather have you not use pronouns in email correspondence to clients. Or when That Guy ou Went To High School With just loves tearing Caitlyn Jenner apart, uncontrollably, ferociously. Or when your favorite buddy just loves Joe Rogan, who happens to go on regular tirades against trans athletes in his podcast. Or when you pray to God that a consulting firm you’re applying to actually doesn’t learn you are trans, so you can get the job. Or when you can’t find a priest for your Indian wedding. I repeat: most people are transphobic.




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Everything you need to know about WorldPride 2021 Party in Scandinavia with the happiest people on Earth By MI E


It’s been two years since Stonewall 50 – WorldPride NYC 2019 became the largest international Pride celebration in history, but the “bye” year of 2020 wasn’t due to the pandemic. The global celebration has been held every odd-numbered year since 2017 given its massive logistical undertaking (with sporadic celebrations in 2006, 2012 and 2014 before then), and WorldPride Copenhagen – Malmö 2021 couldn’t have come at a better time. Hundreds of thousands of cooped-up ueer revelers and allies will flock to the twin host cities in Denmark and Sweden, respectively, from Aug. 12-22, to party with the happiest people on the planet, a delightful distinction provided to the Scandinavian countries by the United Nations’ famous World Happiness Report. (The United States ranked No. 19 in the most recent report, FYI.) So what’s in store for this year’s all-out progressive-flag-flying festival Read on for more.

EuroGames ill be held simultaneously If you enjoy watching athletes compete in variety of sports that range from boxing and badminton to dancing and dodgeball, add the spectator-friendly EuroGames to your list of to-dos while you’re in Copenhagen. If you want to get hands-on, consider signing up to become a volunteer at the games, to be held Aug. 18-20; EuroGames’ website is currently accepting those applications.

Two LGBTQ anniversaries in Denmark If you can believe it, it’s been 70 years since Danish doctors in 1951 performed the world’s first successful genital reconstruction surgery, a medical marvel that provided hope to transgender people the world over. This year is also the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Gay Liberation Front’s Danish chapter, which has been instrumental in blazing trails toward equality for the country. Look how far it’s come.

S read out and ex lore other WorldPride villages While World ride S uare will serve as the jump-off for the 10 days of festivities, other available villages will allow crowds to spread out and explore their individual interests. In addition to Sports Village for EuroGames athletes and fans, other villages will focus on kids and families, youth, women, and the queer community, among others. Programs and content of these villages will be target-audience specific but open to everyone.

O ening ceremonies kick o in Co enhagen In conjunction with Copenhagen ride, World ride will officially start late afternoon on Aug. 13, but in adherence with COVID-19 protocols the opening ceremony won’t be held in WorldPride Square (at least not as of press time; things could – and probably will – change). That potential snafu notwithstanding, Denmark welcomes vaccinated U.S. travelers, and if any testing is needed, both PCR and antigen tests will be available free to everyone, including tourists, 24/7. Copenhagen is OPENhagen again.

ou might have a brush ith royalty Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, Countess of Monpezat, is patron of Copenhagen 2021, making her the first-ever royal to serve in the role for a major LGBT event. Say hi if you spot her; she knows a queen when she sees one.

WorldPride S uare ill be o en for the rest of the fest WorldPride Square, a makeshift village of sorts (similar to the Olympics) located within Copenhagen’s main square, will provide a gathering place for all attendees that have traveled far and wide. LGBTQ+ and non-governmental organizations spanning the globe will set up shop in the square to greet pedestrians, provide information, and invite folks to get involved. Art exhibits also will be a centerpiece of the village, alongside a street-food market and bars with plenty of space to relax.


Confetti rained down in New York’s Times Square at Stonewall 50 WorldPride New York’s closing ceremony two years ago. This year’s WorldPride events take place in Scandinavia. (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Des ite andemic rotocol, the sho ill go on Organizers have said in an official statement that despite some CO ID-19 restrictions, they’re “continuing to plan for full delivery of all Copenhagen 2021 events taking into account the guidance and recommendations” of government agencies. Doubling down, organizers have promised they will not cancel or postpone events. Now there’s only one thing left to do: Let’s go! (Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels)


‘Pray Away’ exposes horrors of ‘conversion therapy’ The fraud is still out there, actively claiming victims By JOHN PAUL KING

It’s fitting that Blumhouse roductions should be among the array of associated companies behind the new documentary “ ray Away,” which debuted on Netflix Aug. . Now a major Hollywood player, Blumhouse roductions spent a decade building its success on creepy horror movies like “ aranormal Activity,” “Insidious,” and “The urge.” The horrors revealed in “ ray Away” are every bit as disturbing as anything in those movies the difference is that these are horrors that take place in real life, and that makes them even more chilling. As its title suggests, the ristine Stolakis-directed documentary dives into the world of “conversion therapy,” specifically in the form of the Christian “Ex-Gay” movement, and unspools its history from its beginnings in the 1970s. That was when five men, struggling with being gay in their Evangelical church, started a Bible study to help each other leave the “homosexual lifestyle.” They uickly received more than 25,000 letters from people asking for help and formalized as Exodus International, the largest and most controversial conversion therapy organization in the world. After decades of spreading anti-LGBT propaganda and touting methods based on discredited and pseudoscientific practices, the company was rocked when a multitude of former “success stories” began to come forward and renounce their claims of having become heterosexual. Faced with public outcry and an inescapable recognition of the untold harm they had perpetrated, Exodus officially ended its operations in 201 . “ ray Away” is not really about Exodus, though, nor is it about scandal – at least not the salacious kind. It’s about the real human pain underneath all of that, and it follows the stories of several men and women who were once connected with Exodus. Once among the leaders and high-profile representatives of the organization, these are individuals who spent years as “Christian superstars” in the religious right before coming out as LGBT and disavowing the very movement they helped to start. Through the stories they tell of their personal journeys, and the resolve with which they dedicate themselves to debunking the notion that being ueer is something that should or even can be “cured,” they underscore the depth of the influence that conversion therapy – and its proponents – exerts not just on its participants but on LGBT society as a whole. There’s Mike Bussee, one of the co-founders of Exodus, who ultimately became one of the first high-profile members to denounce the group and come out as gay John aulk, another former Exodus leader, who along with his “ex-lesbian” wife was the face of the movement through appearances on television and magazine covers until being caught in a gay bar and exposed in the press and vette Cantu, who became a highly visible spokesperson for conversion therapy and even served as a “policy analyst” for the Family Research Council – a virulently anti-LGBT organization that has been designated as a hate group by the Southern overty Law Center – before crippling anxiety forced her to confront her feelings of guilt over the harm she was helping to inflict. These narratives, interwoven throughout to form a bigger picture, bear witness to the personal damage caused by conversion therapy, but many of them also cast light on the even more ominous nature of the movement’s machinations behind the scenes, as it aligns itself with politicians to gain the power necessary for turning its anti-LGBT stance


into legislative and judicial policy. Randy Thomas, the former Exodus vice president who disassociated from the group shortly before it disbanded, relates how the movement allied itself with conservative politicians eager to stir up their constituents with a “moral” issue and facilitated the passing of roposition , the California referendum that effectively banned same-sex marriage before being struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015. The implication – that a well-organized minority can gain enough political traction to impose its extreme views on a whole society – is something of which most viewers will already be keenly aware, given the shape of the last few years, but it serves as an chilling reminder of the very real and widespread harm that has been perpetrated by fundamentalist bigots acting in the name of religion. Of course, “ ray Away” is also a A scene from ‘Pray Away.’ story of triumph the subjects who ( mage courtesy et i ) share their stories are shown clearly to have moved beyond the lies of conversion therapy to live much happier, fulfilled lives one, Julie Rodgers, who was once groomed as the poster child for an Exodusaffiliated “ex-gay” ministry, is even in the process of planning a wedding with her girlfriend – perhaps the most appropriate “happy ending” of all, considering the circumstances. Still, though, the dis uieting realities exposed by Stolakis’ documentary are never uite erased by these positive outcomes. Outdated notions that are perennially used to sex-shame ueer people and frame their identity as a dysfunction – the parents are to blame, masturbation is bad, gay people are child molesters, girls become lesbians through fear of men, and other such infuriating tropes – keep turning up in the discourse throughout a procession of pious, white male faces (some belonging to disgraced former “moral leaders” like Jerry Falwell) decry homosexuality as sinful in archival media clips and in perhaps the most unsettling se uence, we see footage of a notorious “reparative therapy” psychologist – the late Joseph Nicolosi – manipulating a patient (or rather, a victim) through psychological torture. Most horrifying of all, perhaps, is another narrative that is woven among the others. The film begins with Jeffrey McCall, a Christian activist who was once a transgender woman but claims to have renounced his trans identity for Jesus. We watch as he works to organize a misleadingly named “Freedom March” for “ex-trans” awareness, guides a mother over the phone toward rejecting her child’s trans identity, and participates in a ritualistic “warrior” chant with a group of other former trans people – all without a trace of joy in his face, his voice, or his manner. It’s that last se uence in which “ ray Away” becomes most reminiscent of one of Blumhouse’s horror films in the feverish, histrionic abandonment to which they give themselves in their chant, these struggling people evoke the unnatural fervor of a possessed congregation at a cult. Watching the spectacle, it’s easy to see them as deluded and dehumanized. Even so, one can’t help but sense that the tears in their eyes are real they draw our compassion, and they remind us that the fraud of conversion therapy is still out there, actively claiming victims. The evil of Exodus may have been van uished in “ ray Away,” but like any good horror film, it makes sure we know there’s still plenty of room for a se uel.



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Leontyne Price book will inspire you to embrace opera

A dazzling hybrid of memoir, prose, uotations, and poetry By KATHI WOLFE

ears ago, my boss, who had the flu, insisted that I use her ticket to hear avarotti give a recital at Lincoln Center. I knew nothing about opera, but was thrilled by this opportunity. After the performance, I ended up in a receiving line to meet the famous tenor. When I shook his hand, he put me at ease about my ignorance of opera. “Don’t worry,” he joked, “I listen to Waylon Jennings.” I tell you this not to name drop, but because “The Monster I am Today Leontyne rice and a Life in erse” by San Francisco-based writer, poet, and musician evin Simmonds makes me want to do nothing but eat, sleep, and breathe opera. Between the pandemic and other problems of life, it’s easy to become desensitized to poetry, other people’s pain – even beauty. As you read “The Monster I am Today,” Simmonds, who grew up Black and gay in New Orleans, will awaken your deadened senses. Through a dazzling hybrid of memoir, prose, uotations, song lyrics and poetry, Simmonds brings rice, the first African-American to achieve international acclaim in the opera world, to life. rice, 9 , was born in Laurel, Miss. In 1955, rice was the first Black singer to appear in an opera on T when she sang the title role in “Tosca.” She performed in major opera houses from the Metropolitan Opera to the San Francisco Opera to La Scala. rice has received many honors. In 19 , she was awarded the residential Medal of Freedom. et, though she’s so renowned, even some of her most ardent fans might not know much about her life. rice, Simmonds says, didn’t believe in talking about herself too personally or complaining about her struggles publicly. “Have I talked too much,” rice says, “ ou know, talking a lot isn’t good for a singer.” It’s ironic that Simmonds puts this uote from rice right after one of several (fictitious) FBI files of her in the book. As Simmonds notes in the endnotes, the FBI files in the volume aren’t official FBI files, but the content in them is factual. The faux FBI file notes that rice attended a production of “The Dutchman” by “Negro agitator Leroi Jones, who is married to agitator Hettie Jones, a Jew.” “The play is insolent filth and undisciplined rage toward the white race,” the file added, “ rice endorsed the performance from her seat in the audience by shouting, Right on ’” ou can’t help but wonder Does rice mean that talking too much would hurt her singing voice Or is she also thinking talking too much wouldn’t be good given white society’s racial prejudice “The Monster I am Today” isn’t a bio of rice. et, through taut, incisive poems and prose fragments, Simmonds makes her up close and personal. “Dear, this wasn’t no Chitlin’ Circuit not Ella’s or Lena’s crowd,” Simmonds writes in a poem in rice’s voice, “This was box seats passed from one generation of anderbilts Carnegies Astors and Guggenheims to the next.” rice is the life in the title of the book. But you soon realize that Simmonds is remembering — riffing — on his life. rice is the monster (in the sense of marvel) etched in Simmonds’ DNA. Opera, music, and high school chorus saved his life when Simmonds was a young ueer kid. “Opera Italian for a work, a labor’ the feminine Latin root op to work, produce in abundance,” writes Simmonds of his young self, “Feminine work of abundance – that’s what I sought to behold and become.” Simmonds studied music at anderbilt niversity and the niversity of South Carolina. He is the author of two poetry collections, “Mad for Meat” and “Bend to It.”


‘The Monster I am Today’ By Kevin Simmonds

c.2021, Tri uarterly Books $20 | 1 0 pages

Because “Monster” is structured as overture, performance, and postlude, reading it is like being at the opera. Its beauty and heartbreak will tear your heart out. “The steady, anesthetizing racism of the campus police, professors and classmates poisoned and debilitated me,” Simmonds writes of his time at anderbilt, “I thought I’d lost my voice.” A standing ovation for “The Monster I am Today.” It’s a monster of a book.