(LA Public Library Librarian John F. Szabo Photo by Keith Kesler)
O C T O B E R 08, 2021 • VO L UM E 05 • ISSUE 4 1 • AMERICA’ S LGBT Q NEW S SO U R C E • LO SAN G ELESB LAD E. C O M
YOU ARE INCLUDED Saturday Nov 6
Friday Nov 5
Sunday Nov 7
FLOCK OF SEAGULLS JENNIFER CORDAY
JODY WATLEY THE PERRY TWINS
THE ROBYN PARTY
JEANIE TRACY The Power Cha Cha Heels I’m Your Jeanie
A’keria Chanel Davenport Mariah Paris Balenciaga Jasmine Masters Delta Work Jessica Wilde
Palm Springs PRIDE
Parade Two-Day PRIDE
November 7 10am - 12:30pm
Festival November 6 & 7 Downtown Palm Springs
SHANNON Let the Music Play Bella da Ball
Barbara Barrett Attorney
George Zander Candlelight Hate Crime
Vigil & March
‘Life on a String’
Los Angeles Public Library’s signature legacy collection By BRODY LEVESQUE
The voice was almost giddy, “they kept everything!” That ‘everything’ is the Los Angeles Public Library’s famed ‘Yale Puppeteers and Turnabout Theatre collection’ and the voice belonged to the library’s Christina Rice, senior librarian for its amazing photo collections. The story of the Yale Puppeteers and The Turnabout Theatre covers nearly 70 years of a unique personal and professional relationship and the incredible 15 year tenure of a landmark LA theatre. Driving by 716 North La Cienega Boulevard in today’s modern day West Hollywood, one would hardly notice the non-descript oﬀ white building with a black iron gate in the centre leading to an inner courtyard. But from 1941 until 1956, the Hollywood elite, dignitaries from every ﬁeld of endeavor as well as the general public would ﬂow through that gate after stepping out of limousines, taxi cabs, and private cars into that inner courtyard. They were congregating to attend a unique theatrical performance comprised of magical puppeteering on one The Turnabout Theatre in 1942 from the collection of stage after which there was the Los Angeles Public Library an intermission where they’d make their way back into the courtyard for refreshments and then they would return. However, they would ﬂip the seatbacks of repurposed former streetcar seats to face the second stage at the opposite end of the theatre for a musical revue and hence the reason for the venue’s unique name—the Turnabout Theatre. The theater and its three founders alongside a cast and crew which considered themselves family, won international acclaim with their beloved productions, music, comedy, and atmosphere created in that very special venue. The story though had its beginnings in the 1920’s when Harry Burnett and Forman Brown, Brandon would form an enduring partnership in college, ﬁrst at the University of Michigan and then later at Yale University where the duo were joined Richard ‘Roddy’ and the moniker of ‘The Yale Puppeteers’ was born. In an interview with the Blade, John F. Szabo, City Librarian of the Los Angeles Public Library remarked that the story of the Yale Puppeteers and their Turnabout Theatre was quintessentially a part of LA’s story, its people, and its legacy. “The collection reﬂects LA’s place central to entertainment and ﬁlm, it marks the history in the city that was hidden or not known- but it also is very much a part of LA’s LGBTQ history and legacy,” Szabo said. Forman Brown and Richard “Roddy” Brandon were lovers and partners during a time when being openly gay simply wasn’t possible and in fact exposure could have serious ramiﬁcations including imprisonment as homosexuality was illegal. It wasn’t that the three men necessarily hid their orientation, it was more that knowledge of it was not generally known outside of certain circles of those who knew them well. Harry Burnett was himself also gay. That legacy Szabo felt is the essence of LA and is a valued part of the library’s ongoing eﬀorts to share with the public in the current exhibition ‘Life on a string, the Yale Puppeteers and the Turnabout Theatre’ currently housed at the Central Library, Getty Gallery. Szabo said that he is thrilled with the hard work that Christina Rice, senior librarian
the photo collection and her staﬀ were able to execute in the creation of the exhibition curating an impressive array of artifacts that tell the story. The library acquired the collection in 1998, two years after the death of Forman Brown, when the executor of his estate and longtime friend Michael Bridges donated it. Rice told the Blade that curating the collection for display was a thrill. ‘The coronavirus pandemic stopped their ability to present the exhibition for the public in-person so instead Rice said that the library did a limited virtual presentation with audio tours on the library’s website. Now people can visit the library to see this unique entertainment treasure for themselves. The Turnabout Theatre collection is extensive Szabo acknowledged, but it is also unique owing to its diversity of artifacts. “From the whimsical nature of the puppets to the amazing photographs, posters, and other memorabilia, this exhibit is museum quality,” he said. In addition to the exhibition, the Library is also showcasing Forman Brown’s eﬀorts as a published author. Szabo said that the uniqueness of his personal background as a part of the Yale Puppeteers coupled with his inability to be open about his sexual orientation forced him to use a pseudonym for his ﬁrst book, “Better Angel” an autobiographical novel that chronicled Brown’s awakening as a gay man. First published in 1933 by the Greenburg Press, Brown, writing as “Richard Meeker” found a modest audience Szabo wrote in the new forward of the LAPL’s republished 2020 version. The book gives a rich sense of contextual reference to the author and his times Szabo related. Interestingly enough, the book had been rediscovered by Alyson Publications in the late 1980’s and after a search to ﬁnd ‘Richard Meeker’ despite the fact that the book was in the public domain and permission was not needed, Alyson published it. In his forward, Szabo described an amusing anecdotal story that after Alyson had put the book out in the marketplace, Forman Brown patronized a local book shop to get a copy and was told by the clerk that he’s enjoy the book as it was well written. Brown responded with “I’m sure I will, I wrote it.” Both Rice and Szabo told the Blade that they were deeply pleased that the exhibit is able to bring the story of the Yale Puppeteers and the Turnabout Theatre to life with the visual presentations of the artifacts, especially the puppets themselves, and the plethora of show bills, newspaper adverts, photographs, and memorabilia and now have the public see it for themselves. Rice, in addition to her curatorial and librarian duties, is a published author who wrote a book that chronicles the collection. Published by Photo Friends of the Los Angeles Public Library Publications, the 170 page book in rich detail with photos and text gives an overview to the collection and the uniqueness of the story of the men and the family that was the Turnabout Theatre. Fittingly, Rice ends her book with a poem written by Forman Brown titled Walls, II, Puppeteer. The vastness and completeness of the collection marks a time and a moment in LA’s entertainment history. For more information please visit the Library’s website at: lapel.org.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 08, 2021 • 03
Palm Springs mayor pro tem Lisa Middleton running for state senate By LA STAFF
Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem LISA MIDDLETON and Mayor CHRISTY HOLSTEGE (Photo courtesy Equality California)
PALM SPRINGS – Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton o cially entered the race for California’s 28th State Senate District with the powerful support of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus and former United States Senator Barbara Boxer. Middleton, who made history in 2017 by becoming the ﬁrst transgender person in California history elected to a non-judicial position, currently serves as Palm Springs’ Mayor Pro Tem. She would be the ﬁrst openly transgender State Legislator in California’s history. SD-28, an open seat that went for Joe Biden in 2020, currently has a two-point Democratic registration advantage. Middleton launched her campaign
for Senate by releasing the following statement: “I’m thrilled today to be announcing my campaign for State Senate District 28. I’m running to make a diﬀerence in Sacramento and be an eﬀective voice for the 28th District by bringing pragmatic, practical solutions that will improve the lives of all Californians. I grew up in a working-class ast Los Angeles community. The grandchild of Dust Bowl klahomans, I grew up in a California that made it possible for me to be the ﬁrst in my family to attend college. The California that won the 20th century provided world-class education, transportation networks, communication systems and economic opportunity. We can do this again. I spent my adult life in California state government in our workers’ compensation system. I have seen up close government succeed, and I have seen it fail. The diﬀerence always comes down to leadership. Throughout my career, I have been a leader who listens, uniﬁes and gets things done for the people I represent. It is time that Riverside County and the 28th District receive our fair share of California’s budget. ur region is one of the fastest growing regions of the country. To win the 21st century, we need a local and regional infrastructure built for the 21st century. We cannot wait to address climate change. It is past time we ensure opportunity for all does in fact include everyone. Growing up, I remember standing in line in my elementary school to get the polio vaccine at a time the disease was ravaging America. The government came together to administer a life-saving vaccine, and there was nothing political or partisan about it. Tragically today, when we are yet again threatened by a virus that kills hundreds of thousands of people, some for the sake of partisan warfare are provoking fear, division and irresponsibility. I will lead by example. In the State Senate, I will work to return our state and country back to a place where a crisis— whether it be a pandemic, wildﬁre, or earthquake— is not an opportunity for partisanship but for us to work together to save lives. In our state, it is always going to be not if, but when and how bad is the next emergency. My foundation is the neighborhoods I represent. My path to being the ﬁrst transgender Californian to be elected to a political o ce began by standing up for Palm Springs neighborhoods and street repair funding. I will go to work every day in the State Senate to improve the quality of your life, in your neighborhood. The simpler tasks have already been accomplished. The challenges left for our region are the tough ones — climate change, inequity, crime, economic security, healthcare access, rebuilding our infrastructure and homelessness. I am a clear-eyed optimist who believes our best years are in front of us. This is America. We are Californians. We inherited tremendous opportunity. Now it is our responsibility to build on the investments of our parents and grandparents. My newly-born grandson is expected to live to see the 22nd century. The business of California is building the schools, the equality of opportunity, transportation and communication networks, the jobs and climate that give my grandchild and every child the foundation to build their California Dream. 06 • OCTOBER 08, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Please join me. I would be honored to have your support.” The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus also released the following statement with their endorsement of Middleton’s campaign: “The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus is thrilled to endorse Lisa Middleton’s candidacy for State Senate because we need more bold, innovative LGBTQ leaders who are ready to take on California’s toughest issues and deliver for our communities. Throughout her career, Lisa has been a trailblazing champion for the LGBTQ community as well as a dedicated public servant and activist working to uplift her city, particularly on the Palm Springs City Council. Additionally, the California Legislature should reﬂect our state’s dynamic population, and it’s far past time that transgender Californians were represented in Sacramento. We know that Lisa will be a pioneering, relentless advocate for the 28th District and all Californians, working tirelessly to make the state more inclusive, fair, and just. We’re with her 100 and look forward to helping Lisa get elected.” Additionally, former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer released the following statement with her endorsement of Middleton’s campaign: “I’m thrilled to announce my support for Lisa Middleton’s campaign for Senate District 28. A fearless ﬁghter for the people she represents, Lisa is a compassionate, principled and savvy leader who will ﬁght for those most in need in Sacramento while bringing people and ideas to the table to solve big problems. California needs Lisa’s forward-thinking ideas, compassion, grit and determination in the State Senate. I’m proud to oﬀer her my enthusiastic endorsement.” Middleton is a neighborhood leader and longtime public servant was ﬁrst elected to the City Council in 2017. She became the ﬁrst transgender person elected to a political o ce in the state of California. n the Palm Springs City Council, Middleton helped deliver PP and vaccines to residents during the C ID pandemic, led passage of a solar requirement on all new homes, increased the utilization of green energy by Palm Springs residents and businesses, helped support a booming local economy, increased funding for public safety services and street repairs, helped lead eﬀorts for a generational public works project to bring daily rail service to the San Gorgonio Pass and Coachella alley, addressed inequity, highlighted the unique challenges of LGBTQ seniors and led by example as a transgender woman in elected o ce. Additionally, Middleton currently serves on the Riverside County Transportation Commission RCTC and the Sunline Transit Board of Directors, where she works with partners from neighboring cities to provide high-quality transportation services to the region. She is also a dedicated regional and statewide leader as a member of the League of California Cities Cal Cities Board of Directors, including serving as Chair of the Cal Cities Revenue Taxation Policy Committee, and the California State Department of Transportation ero Tra c Fatalities Task Force. Prior to her election to the City Council, Middleton served as a member of the Palm Springs Planning Commission, Chairwoman of the rganized Neighborhoods of Palm Springs N PS , and Interim xecutive Director of the Desert LGBTQ Center. In April 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Lisa to the Board of Administrators of the California Public mployees Retirement System CalP RS , which provides pensions to 1.9 million people and health beneﬁts to over 1.5 million people with investment assets exceeding 450 billion. She serves as Chair of the organization’s Risk Audit Committee and ice-Chair of the Governance Committee. This came after Middleton retired from her 36 year-career with California’s State Compensation Insurance Fund, where she moved her way up the ranks. Her ﬁrst job in government entailed performing workers’ compensation audits in the factories and meatpacking plants not far from where she grew up. At her retirement, she was the Senior ice President of Internal Aﬀairs she also previously Chaired California’s Fraud Assessment Commission. A ﬁrst-generation college student who grew up in a working-class community in ast Los Angeles, Middleton is a graduate of ast Los Angeles College, UCLA and USC, receiving her Master’s in Public Administration from USC. Middleton has been widely recognized for her work, earning awards from the California Workers Compensation Institute, Palm Springs Pride Association, quality California, Democratic Women of the Desert, SAG LGBT Senior Advocates, Desert LGBTQ Center and the California State Legislative LGBTQ Caucus. Together since 2000, Middleton and her wife Cheryl married in 2013 shortly after they moved to Palm Springs. Middleton is also the proud parent of “two accomplished educators.”
OUR LEG E NDA RY FUND RAI S E R I S B AC K
ARE YOU READY TO CLAIM YOUR CROWN?
AUDITIONS ON OCTOBER 23rd
AUDITIONS BY APPOINTMENT ONLY
Participate in one of LA’s most heart-filled fundraisers in April 2022, 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. Surprise us!
Email Jeffrey Drew with questions or to request an audition: email@example.com
LA County introduces LGBTQ+ certiﬁcation for small businesses By LA STAFF
LOS ANGELES – The County of Los Angeles is introducing a new certiﬁcation status to enhance its Community Business nterprise CB program. The LGBTQQ certiﬁcation creates a new pathway for businesses owned by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning individuals to engage in County procurement opportunities. “It is essential that County dollars are reinvested in our diverse business community that were most impacted by the pandemic. Through this and similar initiatives we ensure that County procurement becomes a tool to grow and support businesses throughout our recovery and beyond,” even Chavez, Public Information cer for Los Angeles County said in an email. The LGBTQQ certiﬁcation is the latest addition to the CB , which helps ensure that businesses owned and controlled by economically and socially disadvantaged individuals are engaged in opportunities to compete for County contracts. The County’s CB Participation Goal for County Contracts establishes more inclusive practices into contracting and purchasing, setting a 25-percent participation goal for CB certiﬁed vendors. To be eligible for LGBTQQ certiﬁcation, a business must be 51 percent owned and controlled by at least one or more LGBTQQ individuals. They must also have an active
(Photo courtesy of County of Los Angeles)
certiﬁcation with the National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce or through the Supplier Clearinghouse as authorized through the California Public Utilities Commission CPUC . “The County wants to improve access to County contracts for LGBTQ-owned businesses. We want to make sure that public resources are fairly allocated as a part of helping to strengthen historically disadvantaged communities,” said Supervisor Sheila uehl. “LA County stands for inclusion and equity in its contracting, including our vibrant LGBTQ communities.” “I am committed to ensuring that inclusive and culturally competent practices are integrated into all County contracting and procurement policies,” said Chair Hilda L. Solis. “This
is particularly important during the C ID-19 pandemic because of the impact on LGBTQQ and minority-owned businesses. I hope this initiative will further move the County toward true equity in contracting. It’s long overdue.” “This is an important and necessary step toward a more inclusive LA County,” said Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell. “From our procurement process to the direct services we provide, our commitment to acceptance, equity, and doing what’s right must be unwavering. It’s imperative that we have suppliers as diverse as the residents we serve.” “LA County is the most diverse county in the nation and our small businesses reﬂect that,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “The CB makes sure at least a quarter of our County contracts goes to diverse small businesses, including those owned by people of color and women. ne group we were previously missing was our LGBTQ owned small businesses. That is why our Board of Supervisors recently voted to ensure these businesses would qualify for this important program.” “Diversity strengthens our business community,” said Supervisor athryn Barger. “This initiative reiterates the Board of Supervisors’ commitment to inclusivity and equity for all aspects of County service. CONTINUES AT LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Newsom signs bills to address homelessness and mental health services By LA STAFF
L S ANG L S Governor Gavin Newsom signed a suite of bills to help address the homelessness crisis and enhance California’s response to people suﬀering from mental health issues on the streets, a critical part of (Photo courtesy of County of Los Angeles) the Governor’s 22 billion housing aﬀordability and homelessness package. The Governor signed the legislative packages while visiting an acute board and care home run by Los Angeles County Wednesday. Altogether, the eﬀorts highlighted today represent a comprehensive strategy to get more Californians oﬀ the streets faster than ever before and into the health services and housing they need — all at a fraction of the cost of previous eﬀorts. “We can’t nibble around the edges of the homelessness crisis, we need to implement bold, transformative solutions investing more money than ever before to get folks oﬀ the street and provide the mental health and other services they need to stay oﬀ the streets,” said Newsom. “Today’s legislation, along with our overall 22 billion housing aﬀordability and homelessness package, will move the needle on creating more housing for the homeless and will allow us to tackle the homelessness crisis in ways California has never done.” The Governor today signed a package of bills to increase coordination and accountability of the state’s homelessness spending, including AB 1220 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas D-Arleta which reforms the former Homeless Coordinating
and Financing Council, renaming it the California Interagency Council on Homelessness, and bolsters the Council’s powers through new data mandates and oversight authorities. Further linking housing with health care, the legislation names California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency Secretary Lourdes Castro Ram rez as Co-Chairs of the Council. AB 977 by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel D- ncino implements new data mandates under the state’s Homeless Management Information System, allowing policymakers to better track and evaluate the eﬀectiveness of homelessness funding around the state. The California Interagency Council on Homelessness will also be the entity responsible for receiving, reviewing and ultimately approving homelessness plans submitted by cities, counties and Continuums of Care as part of the state’s 2 billion local homelessness assistance package through the Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention Program HHAP . Starting now, local governments must commit to quantiﬁable goals across six standardized metrics and make progress towards meeting or exceeding them in order to receive their full share of HHAP funding. Governor Newsom demanded this new accountability as part of his multibilliondollar homelessness investment, and worked with the Legislature to craft these new oversight laws. The following bills were signed today: AB 27 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas D-Arleta Homeless children and youths and unaccompanied youths: reporting. AB 362 by Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva D-Fullerton Homeless shelters: safety regulations. AB 816 by Assemblymember David Chiu D-San Francisco Homelessness: Housing Trust Fund: housing projects.
08 • OCTOBER 08, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
AB 977 by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel D- ncino Homelessness program data reporting: Homeless Management Information System. AB 1220 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas D-Arleta Homelessness: California Interagency Council on Homelessness. AB 1443 by Assemblymember evin McCarty D-Sacramento Mental health: involuntary treatment. SB 400 by Senator Brian W. Jones R-Santee Homeless children and youths: local educational agencies: collaboration, training, and reporting. Wednesday’s bills, along with the four housing bills signed earlier this month and the housing aﬀordability bills signed yesterday, represent the most comprehensive strategy to address the homelessness and housing aﬀordability crisis in state history. California is investing an unprecedented 22 billion to tackle these systemic issues, with 12 billion allocated for homelessness and behavioral health services to help get tens of thousands of people oﬀ the streets or avoid homelessness altogether. Combined, the funding will lead to the creation of over 84,000 new aﬀordable homes for Californians, including over 44,000 new housing units and treatment beds for people exiting homelessness. The new homelessness funding also includes 5.8 billion to add more than 35,000 new housing units through Homekey a national model for homeless housing. Newsom is especially focused on rebuilding the state’s portfolio of housing and treatment options for people with severe behavioral health challenges. CONTINUES AT LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Disney alumnus Tommy Kirk passes at 79
Was forced to hide being gay
now would range from cute, campy ﬂuﬀ such as Pajama Party in LAS GAS A former child actor who was a rising star in ﬁlms 1964 to horrible movies like Mars Needs Women. irk explains, distributed by the Walt Disney Studios in the late 1950’s and into the “After I was ﬁred from Disney, I did some of the worst movies mid 1960’s passed away Tuesday at his home in Las Vegas. Thomas ever made and I got involved with a manager who said it didn’t ‘Tommy’ Kirk was best known for his starring role as Travis Coates in matter what you did as long as you kept working.” Tommy’s the classic 1957 Disney ﬁlm ld Yeller and its sequel, Savage Sam. personal life also took a downward spiral, getting mixed up with Kirk was part of the stable of young people mentored by Walt drugs. “I wound up completely broke. I had no self-discipline and Disney himself and studio producers who were extremely popular I almost died of a drug overdose a couple of times. It’s a miracle and included other actors such as irk Russell, Hayley Mills, and his cothat I’m still around.” star in the 1959 Disney ﬁlm, ‘The Shaggy Professor,’ Annette Funicello. His death was announced on Facebook on Wednesday by friend Throughout his career as an actor Kirk struggled with hiding his and fellow child star Paul Petersen, who wrote, “My friend of many sexual orientation. In a 1993 interview with Starke, Florida-based ﬁlm decades, Tommy irk, was found dead last night. Tommy was and theater journalist evin Minton, titled “Sex, Lies, and Disney Tape: intensely private. He lived alone in Las egas, close to his friend and Walt’s Fallen Star,” irk said that he knew his sexuality would create ld Yeller co-star, Bev Washburn and it was she who called me this problems with his career as well as with his “strict Baptist parents. THOMAS ‘TOMMY‘ KIRK as morning.” “I consider my teenage years as being desperately unhappy” stated Travis Coates in Savage Sam (1963 publicity photo via The Walt Disney Studios) “Tommy was gay and estranged from what remains of his bloodirk. “I knew I was gay, but I had no outlet for my feelings. It was very ISO 12647-7 Digital Strip 2009 family,” Petersen added. hard to meet people and, at thatControl time, there was no place to go to 100 60 100 70 30 100 60 100 70 30 100 60 100 70 30 100 40 40 100 40 100 40 70 40 70 40 40 40 70 40 40 70 40 70 40 40 3 10 25 50 75 90 100 A irk eventually discovered there is life outside of show business Minton wrote in his socialize. It wasn’t until the early ‘60s that I began to hear of places where gays congregated.” interview; Minton wrote that irk describes his early sexual exploration as “desperate and miserable”. “Finally, I said, to hell with the whole thing, to hell with show business. I’m gonna make a Mostly brief encounters and teenage aﬀairs, very “back alley kind of things.” According to irk, new life for myself, and I got oﬀ drugs, completely kicked all that stuﬀ.” “When I was about 17 or 18 years old, I ﬁnally admitted to myself that I wasn’t going to Kirk carpet and upholstery has it 66for twenty change. would be,100 but I had the 70deﬁ feeling B 100 100I60didn’t 100 100 know 70 70 what 30 30the 100consequences 100 60 100 100 100 100 7.4 7.4 25 19 19and 50 40 40 75 66 over 100 100 100 80 70 70 100 years 70 70 30 30 100 60 70 nite 30 30 100 40that 100 40 40 100 started 10 40 40 a 20 70 70 70 70 40 70 40 40 0 0 0 0 cleaning 3.1 2.2 2.2 10.2business now. He told Minton that he wanted to be remembered for the Disney work, especially Swiss is was going to wreck my Disney career and maybe my whole acting career. ventually, I Family Robinson, his favorite. became involved with somebody and I was ﬁred.” In a bit of irony, the Disney company which is now know for its pro-active LGBTQ stance “Disney was a family ﬁlm studio and I was supposed to be their young, leading man. After including its LGBTQ policies to support and a rm its employees, paid tribute via a tweet to they found out I was involved with someone, that was the end of Disney.” It was 1964 and irk was twenty-three and found himself “box o ce poison.” His moviesT:10"Kirk marking his passage. 3%
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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 08, 2021 • 09
C P o cer receives
million after agency settles anti Gay case
n January 23, 2020, the California Court of Appeals heard opportunity to represent. oral argument on the appeal. n January 28, 2020, the “He never gave up on this case. He sat through all these California Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision depositions where people said negative things about him. and reinstated Jay Brome’s complaint. n January 28, 2020, They couldn’t do anything about his performance, which the California Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of the was superb, so some of the lieutenants and sergeants we complaint and remanded the case for trial. deposed would try to say he was too reserved or other According to the Bee, the case was headed for trial with personal attacks.” Grunfeld, lls and attorneys Priyah aul and Benjamin BienThe CHP declined comment on the settlement. ahn when the CHP agreed to settle in July and paid Brome As an out gay man, Brome experienced constant harassment the 2.2 million last week. and mistreatment from fellow o cers and superiors Connie Norman Trans Center ribbon cutting ceremony on e t During discovery proceedings in the lawsuit, Brome’s throughout his career, including verbal insults, refusals to (Photo by Ged enslea) legal team found that the CHP’s promotion process did not provide back-up, and denials of career opportunities. take into account whether o cers had faced discrimination Brome sued CHP in state court and alleged that this pattern complaints, Grunfeld’s law ﬁrm said in a statement. of discrimination and harassment violates California’s Fair CHP for 2.2 million. The Bee also noted that Grunfeld said she still is waiting for Housing and mployment Act, which prohibits discrimination Jay Brome, agreed to the settlement after a the CHP to turn over emails sought through public records act based an employee’s sexual orientation. The Solano County ISO 12647-7 Digital Control Strip 2009 lengthy, contentious legal ﬁght that went through three courts 100 60 100 70 30 100 60 100 70 30 100 60 100 70 30 100 40 40 100 40 100 40 70 40 70 40 40 40 70 40 40 70 40 70 40 40 3 10 25 50 75 90 100 A requests, but added that the agency indicated it had found Superior Court dismissed the case, and Brome appealed. and was set for trial when the agency agreed to settle, the 83,000 hits for emails containing phrases like “gay pride,” n August 13, 2019, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Sacramento Bee reported Thursday. “homophobia,” “Demi Moore” and others. joined by ﬁve other groups dedicated to ensuring the equal Brome, who now runs the Pocket Monkey intage clothing “The Public Records Act requests for emails containing treatment of LGBTQ people, ﬁled an amicus brief in support store in Benicia, told the Bee that the settlement of his longthe words3.1‘fag’ or ‘faggot’ are still pending,” the law ﬁrm’s of Brome. running case was “a70huge relief.” B 100 100 60 100 100 70 30 30 100 100 60 100 100 70 70 30 30 100 100 60 100 100 70 70 30 30 100 40 100 40 40 100 10 40 40 20 70 70 70 70 40 70 40 40 0000 2.2 2.2 10.2 7.4 7.4 25 19 19 50 40 40 75 66 66 100 100 100 80 70 70 100 statement said. The amicus brief details the history of homophobia in “I feel that I won justice,” Brome said. “And justice is not the Grunfeld told the Bee she considers it “shocking” that the law enforcement and ongoing eﬀect homophobia has on outcome, it’s the process. CHP still does not have an ombudsman or support group law-enforcement agencies throughout California and across “They deposed me on four diﬀerent days and I was able to aimed to helping o cers in the LGBTQ community, saying the country. Because of the very serious harms caused by articulate everything that happened to me.” that “illustrates the lack of accountability in the organization.” homophobia in law enforcement to the o cers and LGBTQ His attorney, San Francisco-based Gay Grunfeld told the And she said she hopes the amount of the settlement will community the brief also discussed the important role that Bee, “I am so happy for Jay Brome. He is one of the most lead to reforms in the agency. courts play in addressing those harms. resilient, hard-working, dedicated people I’ve ever had the T:10" BENICIA, Ca. – A twenty year veteran California Highway Patrol o cer who sued the agency after he was forced to leave in January 2015 on medical stress leave after years of constant anti-gay harassment, settled out of court with the
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Wyoming DA may charge librarians with obscenity over LGBTQ+ books By LA STAFF
GILLETTE, Wy. – The culture wars over LGBTQ+ visibility, inclusion, LGBTQ+ materials and library books has now gotten librarians at the Campbell County Public Library facing the potential for criminal proceedings by Campbell County Wyoming, County Attorney Mitchell Damsky. A spokesperson for Sheriﬀ Scott Matheny conﬁrmed that a report ﬁled on Campbell County Courthouse Sept. 29 by county (Photo Credit: Campbell County Government) residents Hugh and Susan Bennett, had alleged that a crime has been committed at the local library and that the Bennett’s brought in several books they alleged contained obscene material, accusing leadership at the Campbell County Public Library of promoting obscenity. According to journalist Ryan Lewallen, the News Director for Gillette-based County 17 News, the County Attorney declined to comment on an ongoing criminal issue, though Damsky conﬁrmed the report has been received by his o ce and is currently being reviewed by his three brightest attorneys. “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Damsky told County 17 News. “Like I said, I have my best minds working on it right now and they’ll decide on whether or not it’s going to be charged.” The books that have ﬁred up local outrage included “This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson, “How Do You Make a Baby” by Anna Fiske, “Doing It” by Hannah Witton, “Sex is a Funny Word” by Corey Silverberg, and “Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy” by Andrew P. Smiler. Susan Sisti, a local pastor with the pen Door Church located in Gillette, has been leading the ﬁght to have the LGBTQ books removed from the Campbell County Public Library “It’s really easy to go into the library and look around a little bit and ﬁnd a ﬁlthy book that should not even be in a public library,” said Sisti. “These books are absolutely appalling.” Sisti has been working with Hugh and Susan Bennett who ﬁled the initial criminal complaint, the Casper Star-Tribune reported Friday. “It’s very challenging to imagine how a child who’s sexually immature, physically immature, if there’s any reasonable purpose for exposing them to sexual behavior that’s far beyond their physical and mental and emotional and intellectual abilities to understand,” Hugh Bennett told the Star-Tribune adding that he viewed the books as “hard-core pornography to children.” This Book is Gay, Sisti pointed out, includes illustrations of male and female genitalia and descriptions of oral and anal sex. But child access to all kinds of material on the internet might be pertinent to the case, suggested the County Attorney. “What 9-year-old kid today can’t access Pornhub or whatever they want, you know what I mean?” Damsky said. According to Lewallen at County 17 News, the criminal complaint report ﬁled by Bennett references Wyoming Statute 6-4-302 c ii , which alleges the library, through dissemination, is promoting obscene material. “ bscene material, per W.S. 6-4-301, is deﬁned as that which the average person would ﬁnd encourages an excessive interest in sexual matters, depicts or describes sexual conduct 12 • OCTOBER 08, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
in a patently oﬀensive way, and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientiﬁc value.” The battle over the books has “gotten contentious and out of hand” when it may have been resolvable by putting the books among material for adults, said Damsky. “Personally, as a parent, I ﬁnd the material to be just inappropriate for children and disgusting. But as a lawyer I’m sworn to uphold the Constitution and that’s why we are dealing with it with a ﬁne-toothed comb,” Damsky told the Associated Press and multiple other media outlets. Investigators haven’t contacted library o cials about the case, leaving them unsure which books got the library in potential legal trouble, the library’s executive director, Terri Lesley told the AP. In all, the library has been working through 35 recent complaints about 18 books, she said, a situation she said appeared to be quite unusual for a public library. “It’s unexpected,” Lesley said. “We are trying to be the force of reason, trying to work through these things using the policy we have in place — review these books and do our due diligence.” This is not the ﬁrst anti-LGBTQ protest and controversary for the library. This past July magician Mikayla z, who has performed hundreds of shows including many comprised of family audiences across the Midwest, was scheduled to perform four in Campbell County, including one sponsored by the Campbell County Public Library System. z was forced to cancel after she and the library received numerous threats received from members of the community. “You ain’t fucking welcome in Gillette,” a community member wrote in one email z received. “If you come here there’s going to be issues,” another told her in a phone call, she said. The reason for the outage is that z is a transgender woman from Iowa. This community outrage was also coupled with the library’s Pride Month book display in June according to journalist Nick Reynolds from the WyoFile. The outrage — ﬁrst at the books, and then at z’s magic show — caught many by surprise, particularly given what little promotion the show which was funded without the use of any taxpayer dollars received, and that it had nothing to do with sex, gender or LGBTQ topics. Library staﬀ involved said they never gave z’s gender any thought prior to booking her. “ Gender identity is not something that we would ask about,” said Terri Leslie, executive director of the Campbell County Library System. “We can’t imagine having a questionnaire for somebody’s sexual orientation. So that’s just not something that we knew. What we did know was that she does a good job, that the kids love her, and that it sounded like a great family event.” There is a long legacy of anti-LGBTQ bigotry in Gillette. Its former mayor, representative in the State legislature and United States Senator, Michael Bradley ‘Mike’ nzi was a longtime detractor of the LGBTQ community. Among his numerous anti-LGBTQ positions, he supported legislation in the state senate to declare all same-sex marriages, including those conducted outside of the state, void in Wyoming. He supported the Boy Scouts exclusion of gay scouts and leaders and supported legislation to end federal aid to schools which prohibited the Boy Scouts due to their refusal to admit gay members. nzi supported fellow Republican and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum’s position regarding the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which Santorum argued was wrong and that sodomy laws must be upheld. Then, he voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act although he had expressed condolences to the Shepard family at the time of the murder of Matthew Shepard. The region around Gillette and a majority of its people still reﬂect that anti-LGBTQ attitude of nzi and many others a local person with knowledge of the ongoing cultural war in Campbell County who requested anonymity told the Blade Saturday: “They won’t give an inch- no compromises cause they think all LGBTQ+ people are sinners and deviants and the ‘Gay Agenda’ is a threat to the American way of life and must be shut down forever.”
Pronoun use sparks battle
LGBTQ publisher attacks policy on Facebook school teacher had asked his students to ﬁll LOS ALAMITOS – Tensions are running out at the beginning of the year noting their high in the Los Alamitos Uniﬁed School preferred name nickname and pronouns. District after parents learned that a teacher By his post, Montemer seemed disgusted, at ak Middle School at the start of the outraged even, with the idea.” school year asked his students to let him “I wasn’t familiar with Mr Montemer so I know what their preferred pronouns are did some Googling and discovered based on during classes. his digital footprint that he was the owner Current and former students told Spectrum of Mirror Media Group which publishes a News range County Bureau that it was the handful of local tabloids in the West LA teacher’s way of creating an inclusive and Santa Monica area and an LGBTQ tabloid welcoming classroom experience. called The Pride LA. The later shocked me “He wanted his students to know that they given Mr Montemer’s ignorant comment on are in a safe space,” said a student who did Facebook,” Tenney told the Blade. not want to be named. “Realizing this, I went back to the Facebook This past week’s school board meeting was Group and decided to leave a reply to conscientious as numerous people spoke Montemer expressing my disgust that the out passionately about their viewpoints, publisher of The Pride LA would be posting with those vehemently opposed saying that such ignorant homophobic things. I also the blame is directly on the school board for creenshot the Los Alamitos niﬁed chool istrict Board eeting informed him that California law requires fostering what they claim is a growing leftist (Photo via YouTube) 7th grade students receive 10-13 hours of woke agenda. sex education and that includes LGBTQ A parent who said she pulled her children awareness and understanding,” Tenney out of the schools told Spectrum News she explained. will run for the school board in part because “The CRT critical race theory , everything has arious other members of the group had replied to Montemer too Tenney said adding gone so woke and so left that I can’t take it anymore.” She then added, “I am concerned that he had tweeted about the comments. about what they are teaching, about what’s being dripped in the classroom with the “After outing Montemer in the Facebook Group as publisher of The Pride LA, he deleted racism, the CRT, the sexual stuﬀ, everything. There’s so many things. ven a tiny comment his comment from the thread in the Facebook Group and blocked me on Facebook but could twist a kid’s brain.” not before I had screenshot his original comment. I don’t know, maybe he didn’t want his Numerous students took to the podium to defend the teacher’s actions telling school right-wing range County friends to know he was publisher of The Pride LA ” Tenney said. board members that a rming support for LGBTQ students was critical. Attempts to reach Montemer or any staﬀ of The Pride LA by the Los Angeles Blade were ne of the parents who is organizing a recall petition for the school board implied that unsuccessful. the teacher was acting in a deviant manner. “ The teacher had been asking students to The battle over the use of pronouns in the Los Alamitos Uniﬁed School District is share their gender identiﬁcation and gender preference and not be scared to do that, but reﬂective of controversies in thousands of school districts across the United States over you could see it as a certain way of communicating with children,” Robert Aguilar said the past 14 months, driven in part by severe disagreements over requirements for face to Spectrum News outside the school board meeting. “However, there are parents that masks and vaccinations to battles over the rights of Transgender students. believe that is not the place for a science teacher. There was some concern, ‘Why would The Los Alamitos school board is not alone. Across the country, conservative parents an adult man be asking minor children under the age of 14 about their sexuality ’” and right wing political groups have organized and protested local school boards over The battle over the pronouns took to social media in a Facebook group as well. In the same issues. an email and a phone call with the Blade Thursday, Los Alamitos resident Larry Tenney The atmosphere has become so alarmingly toxic that The National School Boards explained: Association sent a letter to President Joe Biden this week begging for Federal protection. “Rossmoor is a subdivision in Los Alamitos, CA. Local schools fall under the jurisdiction The group was founded in 1940 and represents over 90,000 school boards nationwide. of the Los Alamitos Board of ducation. Like many communities around the country this The letter read in part “Coupled with attacks against school board members and past year or two, Los Alamitos has seen a rise in activists on the right attacking its board educators for approving policies for masks to protect the health and safety of students of education. At the core are issues re: LGBTQ students education and Critical Race and school employees, many public school o cials are also facing physical threats Theory,” Tenney wrote. “There are rumblings about recalling the members of the Board because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within of ducation who local homophobic MAGAs call liberals marxists. For the most part, classroom instruction and curricula. the school district is simply following the laws and guidelines of the State of California.” This propaganda continues despite the fact that critical race theory is not taught in Neighbors in Rossmoor have created and maintain a Group board on Facebook. public schools and remains a complex law school and graduate school subject well Tenney explained ’ “As an range County local with family living in the Rossmoor beyond the scope of a -12 class.” subdivision, I’m a member of the Facebook Group. Today I noticed one of the group’s According to the Associated Press, there are more than 30 school board recall eﬀorts moderators had posted this article, Spectrum News After reading the article, I scanned nationwide. School boards have become political war zones in the battle for control over the comments on Facebook. I found one comment in particular to be both ignorant and children’s minds and beliefs. oﬀensive. The comment was left by Mr TJ Montemer in regards to a questionnaire a middle
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GOP introduces bill to criminalize Trans youth healthcare in Florida TALLAHASSEE – The Transgender Youth Medical Care Ban Bill, HB 211 ﬁled Wednesday by State Representative Anthony Sabatini R-Clermont would criminalize doctors for providing life-saving care for transgender youth. The language of the bill reads An act relating to youth gender and sexual identity creating s. 456.0335, F.S. providing a short title deﬁning the term “sex” providing criminal penalties for health care practitioners who perform or cause to be performed speciﬁed practices on a minor under certain conditions providing applicability In response, quality Florida’s xecutive Director Nadine Smith said “Make no mistake, this legislation has nothing to do with the health and safety of children. In fact, it gets in the way of (Blade ﬁle doctors providing care and stops parents from doing what is best for their kids. The bill ﬁled today by Representative Anthony Sabatini is cut and paste language from right-wing political strategy groups like the Heritage Foundation that seek to put a target on the backs of transgender youth as an election strategy to mobilize farright voters. Rep. Sabatini has cultivated a reputation for sponsoring extremist bills, and G P leaders in Tallahassee are increasingly embracing his extremism. They’re making passage of language ﬁrst introduced by him a legislative priority, including last session’s Transgender Youth Sports Ban. Leadership has ﬁred their ﬁrst shot across the bow of LGBTQ equality for the 2022
legislative session and we will ﬁght to protect the health and safety of every child they target.” Florida’s Republicans have continuously legislated against the state’s Trans community over the past year’s legislative sessions. Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1028, a bill that bars Trans youth athletes from participating in sports on the ﬁrst day of LGBTQ Pride Month 2021. ne provision of the law stipulates that a transgender student athlete would have to a rm her biological sex by supplying proof such as a birth certiﬁcate. The bill was an education bill amended to include a previous stand alone bill speciﬁcally targeting transgender girls and young women, banning them from playing on female sports teams. DeSantis signed the bill, which includes the so-called hoto) Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, during a news conference at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville. A spokesperson for quality Florida, Brandon J. Wolf wrote in an email to the Blade commenting on earlier anti-Trans eﬀorts “Shame on every lawmaker who embraced discrimination at the expense of the state’s most vulnerable youth. nly through fast-tracked backroom deals could G P lawmakers maneuver this cruel assault on transgender kids to the Governor’s desk. This is not the end. To our transgender youth in Florida: we will never stop ﬁghting for a Florida where you are loved and have every opportunity to thrive.” By BRODY LAVESQUE
Oregon House Speaker wins Victory Fund endorsement WASHINGT N regon Speaker of the House Tina otek, who had announced her run for the governor’s seat to replace incumbent Democratic Governor ate Brown on September 1st, has won joint endorsement from Basic Rights regon, LGBTQ ictory Fund and LPAC. Brown, who is openly bisexual has been steadily working for LGBTQ equality for three decades, is term limited and cannot run in 2022. Speaker otek, if elected, would be Oregon Speaker of the House TINA KOTEK the ﬁrst out lesbian elected governor (Photo Credit: Kotek campaign provided) in the U.S. and just the third out LGBTQ person to be elected governor in American history. When she announced her candidacy, she said, “I am running for Governor because I know that, together, we can reckon with the legacies of injustice and inequality to build a great future for regon.” She also noted, “ regonians are living through a devastating pandemic, the intensifying impacts of climate change, and the economic disruptions that leave too many behind. We must get past the politics of division and focus on making real, meaningful progress for families across our state.” Nancy Haque, xecutive Director of Basic Rights regon, released a statement Wednesday noting “Tina otek is a trailblazer. In 2006, she was the ﬁrst openly lesbian legislator elected into regon House. Six years later, she became the ﬁrst LGBTQ2SIA Speaker of the House, a title she has longer than any other in our state’s history. Her leadership goes beyond identity, she ﬁghts for a better regon for all of us.” “From voting with us on the regon quality Act and Domestic Partnerships in her ﬁrst session to supporting life-changing legislation like Paid Family Leave, Suicide Prevention for all regon Youth, and most recently the LGBTQ Trans Panic Ban, Tina otek has spent
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nearly 15 years ﬁghting to make our state a better place to live. She’s a strong supporter of equity in our state and stands with us in our values around both racial and economic justice for all. I can’t imagine any other candidate for Governor who has the experience and track record to continue to move our state forward, for all regonians,” Haque added. While there is already a list of Republican candidates for governor in 2022 — including southern regon entrepreneur Jessica Gomez and Salem oncologist Bud Pierce, the latter of whom won the Republican primary in 2016 before losing to ate Brown — otek was the ﬁrst major Democratic hopeful to conﬁrm her candidacy, Medford, regon ABC News a liate DR 12 reported. “A victory for Tina would shatter a lavender ceiling and be a milestone moment in LGBTQ political history, yet she is running not to make history, but because there are few people as prepared and qualiﬁed to serve as regon’s governor,” said Mayor Annise Parker, President C of LGBTQ ictory Fund. “Under Tina’s leadership, regon has led in passing legislation to improve roads and education, raise the minimum wage and ensure all residents are treated fairly and equally. As governor, Tina will make regon a role model for the nation.” “Speaker otek embodies the extraordinary candidates that LPAC endorses for public o ce,” said Lisa Turner, xecutive Director of LPAC. “As Speaker she has led the charge in passing progressive legislation that has improved the lives of regonians. Her governing experience and political leadership will allow her to hit the ground running, and we’re excited to see her make history as the ﬁrst openly lesbian governor in the United States.” Speaker otek also released a statement about the joint endorsement: “As the ﬁrst lesbian Speaker of the House in the country, I know ﬁrsthand how important it is for our community to be at the table when decisions are made. We have made signiﬁcant progress toward full equality for the LGBTQ community, and there is still more to do. I look forward to continuing to work as regon’s next Governor to ensure our state remains a leader in the struggle for equality. I am deeply grateful to the Basic Rights regon quality PAC, the LGBTQ ictory Fund, and LPAC for their support and conﬁdence in my campaign.” By BRODY LEVESQUE
USAID seeks to bolster LGBTQ rights in Colombia
LGBTQ-inclusive peace agreement took eﬀect in 2016 By MICHAEL K. LAVERS
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — The director of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Colombia mission says he and his colleagues remain committed to the implementation of the country’s LGBTQ-inclusive peace agreement. “The entire portfolio that we have and all of our work here in Colombia is really to support a durable and an inclusive piece,” Larry Sacks told the Los Angeles Blade on Sept. 21 during an interview in Bogotá, the Colombian capital. “The core principles of what we do are based on equality, inclusion, rights and justice.” The agreement then-President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia Commander Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño signed in Cartagena on Sept. 26, 2016, speciﬁcally acknowledged LGBTQ Colombians as victims of the decades-long conﬂict that killed more than 200,000 people. The accord also called for their participation in the country’s political process. Wilson Casta eda, director of Caribe Aﬁrmativo, an LGBTQ group in northern Colombia with which USAID works, is one of three activists who participated in the peace talks that took place in Havana. Colombian voters on ct. 2, 2016, narrowly rejected the agreement in a referendum that took place against the backdrop of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from religious and conservative groups. Santos and Londoño less than two months later signed a second peace agreement—which also contains LGBTQ-speciﬁc references—in Bogot . “That was a very progressive move,” said Sacks in describing the inclusion of LGBTQ Colombians in the agreement. President Iván Duque, who campaigned against the agreement ahead of his 2018 election, spoke to the U.N. General Assembly hours before the Blade interviewed Sacks. Duque described it as “fragile.” “Peace accords worldwide tend to be made or broken within the ﬁrst ﬁve years of implementation, and Colombia is right at that point,” Sacks told the Blade when asked about Duque’s comments. “There are certain people deep in the territories and others and high governments who are really helping and making sure that it’s successful, and that there’s continuity, and that the gains that have been made are irreversible. And there’s others who may question, but at the end of the day, I think that from our analysis, it’s on pace with what we’ve seen of the implementation of other peace accords worldwide.” “At least from USAID’s perspective, we’re doing everything that we can to help support the implementation on multiple chapters of the peace accord,” he added. USAID speciﬁcally supports the implementation of rural development programs through the agreement, eﬀorts to reintegrate former child soldiers into Colombian society and expand the government’s presence into “violence-aﬀected areas.” USAID also works with the Truth Commission, the Unit for the Search of Disappeared Persons, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, the government’s Victims’ Unit and NG s that support the conﬂict’s victims. USAID’s ﬁscal year 2021 budget for Colombia is 212.9 million. Upwards of 50 million of this money is earmarked for human rights work that speciﬁcally focuses on indigenous
U.S. Agency for International Development Colombia ission irector LARRY SACKS (Photo courtesy of USAID)
Colombians and Colombians of African descent, security, access to the country’s justice system and victims of the conﬂict.
More than 200 LGBTQ Colombians reported murdered in 2020 Sacks said USAID’s LGBTQ-speciﬁc work in Colombia focuses on four speciﬁc areas. “The ﬁrst is really to kind of shine a light on, raise the visibility, raise the proﬁle on issues of discrimination and violence and stigma and all the issues that this population is facing,” he said. Colombia Diversa, a Colombian LGBTQ rights group, on Sept. 15 issued a report that notes 226 LGBTQ people were reported murdered in the country in 2020. This ﬁgure is more than twice the number of LGBTQ Colombians—107—who Colombia Diversa said were known to have been killed in 2019. Sacks acknowledged anti-LGBTQ violence is increasing in Colombia. He said the mission works with mbudsman’s ce of Colombia, an independent agency within the Colombian government that oversees human rights protections in the country, to provide additional support to LGBTQ rights groups. Sacks noted USAID also works with the Interior Ministry to “support the development of their LGBTQI-plus policies” and the country’s attorney general “to hold those accountable.” Sacks told the Blade that USAID also works to provide “technical and legal support to help” LGBTQ Colombians and other vulnerable groups “access public goods, services and justice.”
USAID-supported groups assist Venezuelan migrants The Colombian government earlier this year said there were more than 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants in the
country, although activists and HIV/AIDS service providers with whom the Blade has spoken say this ﬁgure is likely much higher. Duque in February announced it would legally recognize Venezuelan migrants who are registered with the country’s government. The Coordination Platform for Migrants and Refugees from enezuela notes upwards of 5.4 million enezuelans have left the country as of November 2020 as its economic and political crisis grows worse. The majority of them have sought refuge in Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Chile. enezuelan migrants are among the upwards of 570,000 people who have beneﬁtted from a USAID program that provides direct cash assistance—between 49- 95 per family—for six months in order to purchase food and other basic needs. USAID also supports Americares, a Connecticutbased NGO that operates several clinics along the Colombiaenezuelan border and in northern Colombia that speciﬁcally serve Venezuelan migrants with the support of the Colombian Health Ministry. Sacks noted USAID has an “agreement with” Aid for AIDS International, a New York-based group that serves Venezuelans with HIV/AIDS. Aid for AIDS International has used this support to conduct a survey of 300 sex workers in Maicao, Medellín and Cali. USAID is also working with the Health Ministry to provide health care to Venezuelan migrants with HIV/AIDS, among others, who are now legally recognized in Colombia. Caribe Aﬁrmativo has opened three “Casas Aﬁrmativos” in Maicao, Barranquilla and Medellín that provide access to health care and other services to Venezuelan migrants who are LGBTQ and or living with HI AIDS. Medell n o cials have also invited Caribe Aﬁrmativo staﬀers to speak with LGBTQ migrants in the city’s public schools. “Colombia has shown a generosity that you don’t see in many other countries with regard to migrant populations,” Sacks told the Blade. “They really open their borders, their homes, their hearts, to migrants, including the LGBTI community.”
Biden global LGBTQ rights memo is ‘tremendous beneﬁt’ The White House earlier this year released a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad. State Department spokesperson Ned Price in May told the Blade the protection of LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers is one of the Biden administration’s priorities on this front. Sacks said the memo “gives us the political framework with which to operate and obviously sends a message from the highest levels of the U.S. government about LGBTQI-plus rights and equality and inclusion.” “So for us, it’s a tremendous beneﬁt,” he told the Blade. USAID Administrator Samantha Power—a vocal champion of LGBTQ rights—has yet to visit Colombia, but Sacks said she has spoken with Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez. “We hope to get her down,” said Sacks.
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PETER ROSENSTEIN is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.
Democrats don’t screw it up! Biden conﬁdent ‘it will get done’
Democrats could potentially still sabotage their own chances for 2022 and in the process screw with Virginia in 2021. Terry McAuliﬀe needs Congressional Democrats to act and make a diﬀerence for irginia. President Biden went to the Hill last Friday and spoke with Democrats, asking them to come together. He did it to save his presidency because that is what is at stake here. The two bills in question are the major part of what he promised the American people he would do for them if elected. One problem for Democrats is in the debate over the cost of the bills they seem to have forgotten to explain to people what is in them. It is possible this column may come out after an agreement is reached, but whether it does or not we must look at how the process is working. It is beyond time for both moderates, represented in the Senate by Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema D-Ariz. , and progressives, represented by Sen. Bernie Sanders I- t. and in the House by Alexandria casio-Cortez D-N.Y. and Pramila Jayapal D-Wash. , head of the Progressive Caucus, to get over themselves and reach a compromise and pass both a hard and soft infrastructure bill. After Biden’s visit to the Hill, Sen. Manchin said he is willing to go with a bill up to $1.5 trillion and the president said he is now is looking at a bill in the 2 trillion range. So, let’s stop talking about 3.5 trillion and start talking about what can be done for the people. It will still be the greatest step forward since the New Deal. It will take children out of poverty, provide for childcare, help with college and a host of other services making life better for the middle class. After Biden’s visit Jayapal said, “We’re going to have to come down on our number.” Progressive Rep. Jamie Raskin D-Md. said “there were ways to cut the bill’s price tag while preserving many of the programs Democrats want to include. The sweeping bill was to provide funding for universal preschool for all Americans, aﬀordable housing and making homes more energy e cient.” Raskin added, “Maybe not everything can be funded for 10 years maybe it’s going to be a lesser period
of time. At least we’ll be able to develop these programs and make a commitment to the American people. Then we’ll be able to make a judgment after four years or ﬁve years about the programs and whether they are working.” The president has now said he will wait for agreement on the soft infrastructure bill, accepting the bill the Senate passed will wait for a House vote until there is. He said “whether it takes six minutes, six hours or six weeks. It will get done.” Sanders and House progressives need to come to agreement with moderates on the soft infrastructure bill and then let the House vote yes on the hard infrastructure bill he already voted for in the Senate. Sanders must stop what he has done for 35 years in Congress, not compromising, which is why he has no major accomplishments to his credit. As Democrats now determine what will go into a roughly $2 trillion bill they must ensure the American people understand the programs, not just the dollars. They need to show how they will tax the rich and corporations to pay for this over the years and turn the Republicans into the bad guys for opposing what people by large majorities want. If that is done Democrats have a real chance to keep the Congress and thereby have another chance to pass more of what many believe needs to happen. Hopefully the president’s visit to the Hill changed the dynamic and signals a move to real compromise. If it doesn’t it will continue to look like Democrats are doing what they have done best for years, form a circular ﬁring squad. Joe Biden is the ﬁrst president since Johnson to have a real understanding of, and experience with, how Congress works. His problem in trying to move forward like FDR and Johnson is he only has a 50 50 Senate. But if he can get these two bills across the ﬁnish line in his ﬁrst year along with ending the war in Afghanistan, Democrats will be able to run in the mid-term elections with a winner. It’s past time to stop the shenanigans and for Democrats in the Congress to grow up, recognize to make progress compromise is necessary, and move on to victory.
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U.S. must resettle LGBT refugees
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.
Taliban spells disaster for gay, transgender people At the end of August, the last U.S. passenger plane disappeared from Afghanistan’s horizons. The Taliban had ﬁnally taken control of the entire country after several days of battles and ﬁre within the capital city. The leaders of the Taliban declared a new state of rule from the presidential palace formerly occupied by President Ashraf Ghani. Soon after the Taliban’s taking of abul, Afghan men and women panicked in droves to the airport to ﬂee oppressive rule. Getting a ticket onto an American-bound plane was like winning the lottery for many Afghans. Canada declared it would help resettle 20,000 Afghans, purposefully including LGBT Afghans among that mix. Canada made its intention to resettle those who would suﬀer tremendously under Taliban rule: Gay and trans folk, and any other kind of queer person, among a few other marginalized groups. In early August of 2021, when the Afghan crisis was unfolding, a group of Democratic senators urged Biden to prioritize LGBT refugees. This group of senators, including Amy lobuchar, wrote a letter to the State Department asking them to explain in greater detail a statement that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made regarding LGBT asylum seekers. In February of 2021, President Biden signed a memorandum that instructed U.S. agencies to ensure the rights of LGBT persons around the world. After that memorandum was signed, the State Department under Sec. Blinken said that it would make an enhanced eﬀort to protect LGBT asylum seekers. But the group of senators, in their letter, are still asking what has speciﬁcally been done to protect LGBT asylum seekers. What new steps has the Biden administration taken And speciﬁcally, what steps has it taken to protect these LGBT refugees in Afghanistan It’s time that the United States not only resettle Afghan refugees, but purposefully make it part of its mission statement to resettle LGBT people. Although, since 1994, the U.S. has acknowledged asylum claims based on homosexuality, during the latest Afghan crisis, the Biden administration never made any intentional eﬀort to prioritize LGBT folk as refugees. Biden never came out and
aggressively prioritized LGBT Afghans. Under Taliban rule, gay people are killed and thrown oﬀ buildings. Under the former Afghan administration, being gay was a punishable crime and LGBT folk who were outed were sent to jail. Taliban rule also spells disaster for trans people: Being trans is not even an option in Afghanistan, where the Taliban would surely kill trans people as well as those who are gay. Article 130 of the Afghan constitution implements Sharia law, which bans homosexuality. In these cases, men who have sex with men or women who have sex with women can be put to death. Moreover, Sections 645 and 646 of the constitution punish intimacy between two women with jail time. Some recent victims of Taliban rule describe how the Taliban is asking LGBT folk to identify others in the LGBT community within the country. They are promising a safe rite of passage to those who identify members of the queer community. Such targeting is inordinately cruel—asking members of the LGBT community to turn on each other. The Biden administration, armed with a liberal agenda, should create an LGBT refugee resettlement initiative. Some details about this kind of initiative have to be ironed out—take, for instance, the issue of metrics. How would the U.S. accurately assess someone’s LGBT status If you were to argue that this initiative already exists, then I must ask—where is it Where are these concrete steps that Biden has taken to make the lives of LGBT Afghans safer Has he given a speech on this topic Perhaps the administration can start by reaching out to LGBT nonproﬁts in these uncertain regions— Rainbow Railroad, is, for instance, an organization that helps LGBT people in the Middle ast ﬁnd better lives in safe countries. ther groups in countries such as Jordan help smuggle trans people to safer countries, such as Turkey. Preexisting LGBT citizens who seek help from these nonproﬁts can be identiﬁed by the Biden administration to come to the United States, seeking a safe rite of passage. Afghanistan serves as an example to help LGBT people who suﬀer in crisis. It’s high time that the U.S. government not only acknowledge LGBT asylum seekers, but place them on a pedestal, along with other groups who are immune to abuse.
Two men in Kabul, Afghanistan, in July 2021 (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ahmad Qais Munzahim)
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 08, 2021 • 19
Stupid things not to do when you get old Steven Petrow’s new book on aging is funny yet poignant By KATHI WOLFE
Diane Sawyer, the former ABC News anchor, gave award-winning journalist Steven Petrow some advice on what he could do to look younger. “Anchors don’t get older, they just get blonder,” she told him. For many years, Petrow, who is gay, took Sawyer’s wisdom to heart. He had his salt and pepper hair colored. This went well, until a new colorist oﬀered to use a new “natural” coloring process that would remove a third of his gray hair. Petrow came away “a honey brash blonde” whose hair “screamed dye job.” This is one of the many funny, yet poignant, stories that Petrow with Roseann Foley Henry tells in “Stupid Author STEVEN PETROW’s new book addresses Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old: A aging issues. (Photo by Bethany Cubino) Highly Judgmental, Unapologetically Honest Accounting of All the Things Our Elders Are Doing Wrong.” Written by Petrow with Henry, “Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old” is part memoir and part manifesto. Few things are more fraught with fear, anxiety and ageism than knowing that, if we live long enough, we’ll get old. Whether hetero or LGBTQ, no matter how much we love our parents, we don’t want to become like our folks when we’re elders. Shortly after he turned 50, Petrow, who writes about aging, health, manners and civility, began to confront his ageist beliefs and vowed not to let aging limit or diminish his life. As he reached the half-century mark and his parents “entered their sunset years,” Petrow began to make a list of what he called “the stupid things I won’t do when I get old.” The list, which kept growing longer and longer, “proved to be a highly judgmental, not-quitemean-spirited-but-close accounting of everything I thought my parents were doing wrong,” Petrow, now 64, writes in the book’s introduction. Petrow ﬁrst wrote about his list in a popular New York Times essay “Things I’ll Do Diﬀerently When I Get Old.” “Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old” grew out of the essay. Petrow’s list is, by turns, laugh-out-loud funny and incredibly moving. He vows not to, as his Mom did, “forgo a walker because it wrecked my outﬁt.” In one chapter, he promises that, “I Won’t Become a Miserable Malcontent, a Cranky Curmudgeon, or a Surly Sourpuss.” Yet, in other more serious chapters, Petrow says that “I Won’t Lie to My Doctor Anymore (Because These Lies Can Kill),” “I Won’t Burden My Family with Taking Care of Me” and “I Won’t 20 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 08, 2021
Forget to Plan My Own Funeral.” Petrow, a columnist for the Washington Post and USA Today as well as a regular New York Times contributor, talked with the Blade by phone and email. Petrow, whose previous books include “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners,” “The Lost Hamptons” and “When Someone You now has AIDS” 3rd edition , grew up in New York City. In 1978, Petrow graduated from Duke University with a bachelor’s degree in history. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a master’s in history in 1982. A former president of NLGJA (the Association of LGBTQ Journalists), Petrow lives in Hillsborough, N.C. His 2019 Ted Talk, “3 Ways to Practice Civility” has been viewed nearly two million times. Petrow was born with journalism in his DNA. His father, journalist Richard Petrow, taught journalism for decades at New York University. “My Dad was a great teacher,” Petrow said, “He traveled – got to meet people. I wanted to do what he did.” In 1984, Petrow was diagnosed with testicular cancer. This experience is one reason why Petrow became a health care journalist. “I wanted to focus on health and medicine to teach people how to negotiate the health care system,” he said. Negative buzz about aging is everywhere in the culture from magazine ads to birthday cards. “We start to become invisible when we’re in our 50s,” Petrow said, “this may be even more true – ageism may come earlier for gay men, and separately, more true, for women.” “Old age ain’t no place for sissies,” Petrow added, quoting Bette Davis. Research shows that the damage inﬂicted by ageism is real, Petrow said. When we associate getting older with negative stereotypes about aging, our lives are shortened. “This ageism is as bad as smoking,” he said, “it takes seven years oﬀ our lives.” It can be hard for people to ﬁnd support and friends when they get old. But ﬁnding support is often more di cult for many in the queer community. There is more isolation among queer people as they age, Petrow said. “Many in their 60s lost their circle of friends during the height of the AIDS epidemic.” Petrow seeks out multigenerational friendships. “I’m open to diﬀerent perspectives,” he said, “I’ve learned so much from younger people.” Petrow thinks outside the box of generational labels boomers, millennials, etc. . He identiﬁes as a “perennial.” “Perennials are curious, engaged, passionate, and compassionate,” he said, “Millennials can be perennials. Boomers can be perennials. Anyone can choose to be a perennial.” Petrow, who is often referred to as “Mr. Manners,” became interested in manners on a blind date in the 1990s. He and his date ended up as good friends. Through this connection, a book editor asked Petrow to do a book on gay manners. “I’ve always been a bit like the weird person who’s fascinated with collecting and reading about arcane rules,” Petrow said. Wisdom can be found in etiquette books from decades ago, Petrow said. ne of his favorite ﬁnds was in the ﬁrst edition of a 1922 etiquette book by mily Post. Just as we should think before we tweet, “It cautions people,” Petrow said, “not to write love letters that could end up on the front page of the newspaper.” Generally, manners are the same for LGBTQ and hetero people. But there are some etiquette issues that apply speciﬁcally to queer people. For example, what is the etiquette around revealing that someone you know – a family member, friend or co-worker is LGBTQ? “This is for an individual to do for themselves,” Petrow said, “not for any of us to do for another.” Civility and manners are important to all of us in the COVID era, he reminds us. “Throughout the pandemic I’ve been talking about, ‘we, not me,’ which is about thinking about others before self,” Petrow said, “And that’s really the only way we will get out of this.”
Gold medalist Tom Daley battled COVID in hospital prior to Tokyo games By Brody Levesque
LONDON – British Olympic champion diver Tom Daley acknowledged in an recent interview with British newspaper The Times, that he had been secretly rushed to hospital seven months prior to the summer Tokyo Olympic games after contracting the coronavirus. Daley told the paper “ my lungs felt pressurized, as if they had sacks of rice around them”, and added: “Every time I stood up, I felt the room spinning and a blinding white light, as if I was going to faint, and as if I couldn’t get enough oxygen into my body.” He went on to describe his ordeal in graphic details telling Times journalist Jane Mulkerrins that he gave speciﬁc instructions to his husband, screenwriter D. Lance Black one night as he headed oﬀ to sleep, what to do in the event he quit breathing. He also told Mulkerrins he was frightened for their son Robbie if he and his husband both contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus, especially after he was rushed to hospital by ambulance unable to breath correctly. When his head began to feel like it had “a vice tightening around it” and his “oxygen levels were dropping,” it was at that point Daley said he decided to call 111. [The UK’s emergency phone number] He was rushed to hospital in an ambulance and put on oxygen. An x-ray revealed “blotches” on his lungs, and he was kept at the hospital for 10 hours to increase his oxygen levels, The Times reported. “I understood how quickly things could potentially go downhill,” said Daley. “I had ﬂashes of fear about whether I would be put on a ventilator, and my time being up. I was really terriﬁed.” He also described his reasons for keeping his ordeal secret so that his rivals in his
sport wouldn’t know. The episode kept the Olympian diver out of training for nearly seven months although Daley along with his British teammate diving partner Matty Lee won the gold with a score of 471.81 in the men’s synchronized diving on at the Tokyo 2021 games. After tough competition in the Men’s 10m platform diving from China’s Cao Yuan who picked up the Gold Medal and his teammate Yang Jian cinching the number two spot with a Silver Medal, the 27-year-old Daley secured a Bronze Medal win with a score of 548.25. It was the second lympic Bronze Medal for the Plymouth, ngland native, in Cover of The Times magazine individual diving completion since he won (Screenshot via the Los Angeles Blade) bronze at the London Games in 2012. Daley and his teammate Daniel Goodfellow won a Bronze Medal in the 10m synchronized at the 2016 lympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. The Times interview comes as the paper’s magazine is serializing Daley’s new book, Coming Up for Air: What I Learned from Sport, Fame and Fatherhood, which is due to be published by Harper Collins on October 14.
New Zealand University names Trans athlete “sportswoman of the year” By Brody Levesque
Olympian. The director of medicine DUNEDIN, New Zealand – Olympic and science for the International weightlifter Laurel Hubbard was lympic Committee, Dr. Richard named “sportswoman of the year” at Budgett, directly addressed those who the prestigious 113-year-old University had attacked and mocked the New of tago and USA Blues and Golds Zealander and claimed she shouldn’t Awards event this past week. be competing with cisgender women, The 43-year-old Queenstown, South saying “everyone agrees that trans Island, native was the ﬁrst openly women are women.” transgender woman to compete in an “To put it in a nutshell,” he said, Olympics when she competed in the “the I C had a scientiﬁc consensus women’s 87kg weightlifting event at back in 2015. There are no I C rules the 2021 Tokyo Games. or regulations around transgender In a statement to the local newspaper, participation. That depends on each the tago Daily Times, Hubbard international federation. So Laurel said she was ‘‘grateful for all of the Screenshot via CBS Sports Hubbard is a woman, is competing support and kindness received from under the rules of her federation and the teaching staﬀ and students at we have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity in actually competing and Otago University.’’ qualifying for the Games.” ‘‘It is not possible for athletes to complete at the lympic level without the Otago University Students’ Association president Michaela Waiteencouragement and aroha a M ori word meaning “love” of friends, family Harvey told the tago Daily Times that the Blues awards aim to highlight and supporters. Otago students excelling in their chosen sport. ‘‘This award belongs to everyone who has been part of my lympic ‘‘We could think of no-one more worthy of sportswoman of the year than journey,’’ she told the paper. Laurel Hubbard who represented Otago and New Zealand incredibly well at Hubbard’s participation at the Tokyo Games had provoked controversy as this year’s Tokyo Olympics.’’ she had prepared for competing as the world’s ﬁrst out transgender woman
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9/29/21 9:40 PM
New doc sets the record straight about ‘Fauci’ Film oﬀers humanizing overview of hero’s life By JOHN PAUL KING
Still, it’s inevitable that the documentary concentrates most of its attention on his most For those who lived through the AIDS epidemic, the onset of COVID-19 in early 2020 famous contributions—spearheading the ﬁghts against AIDS and C ID in America— was accompanied by an inescapable air of déjà vu. There were plenty of reasons for this, and it does so by highlighting the aforementioned parallels between the two epidemics of course: it was a terrifying new disease, not much was known and even less understood while also giving us a Fauci’s-eye view of how each played out. Throughout, we go back about how it spread, there was no eﬀective treatment or cure available, the government’s and forth across the decades, with the help of news footage and extensive interviews, to response to it sparked a political ﬁrestorm, and—most signiﬁcantly—lots of people were gather insight from the deﬁning moments of each of these historic public health battles dying. As if all that weren’t enough, right in the middle of the public conversation about we are reminded that, while Fauci was seen as the opposition by ACT UP and other AIDS it was the same familiar face, none other than Dr. Anthony Fauci himself. activist organizations seeking to speed up the availability of drugs and treatment for For many who worked as activists during the peak years of that earlier epidemic, Fauci HI . He also listened to their concerns and learned from them. Bucking resistance from was the adversary. Then, as now, he found himself in the crosshairs of a whole angry his colleagues, he gave activists and community members directly aﬀected by AIDS a sector of society, bearing the brunt of the anger that arose from their fear of an uncertain seat at the table and opened the door for their participation in designing the clinical future and becoming, once again, one of the most polarizing public ﬁgures in American trials that would ultimately politics, without even being bring the life-preserving a politician. Ironically, drug cocktails that stopped a this time around, instead positive diagnosis from being of being perceived as a death sentence. While social the face of government media feeds over the past inaction and establishment two years have been full of obstructionism, he has been anti-Fauci posts reminding elevated to the status of us of his early obstructionism progressive icon. in the AIDS ﬁght, few have To understand how that bothered to include the rest seeming transformation is of that story, but “Fauci” sets possible—as well as to look the record straight. past the surface parallels In focusing on this end of between cultural response history, however, the movie to the two plagues and see gives us a refresher course— the profound diﬀerences as if one was needed—on instead—it’s necessary to look the unprecedented level of past the broad strokes of the opposition Fauci faced from headlines and the two-line the very administration it bios that make up most of the was his job to serve in the knowledge most Americans campaign against COVID. It have about AIDS, COVID and reveals the pressures put Fauci, and get a more detailed on Fauci and his family by knowledge of the history the vitriolic hatred of his The good doctor himself in “Fauci” (Photo courtesy of National Geographic) that links them all together. detractors, the hardships Fortunately, a new National imposed on his life and Geographic documentary, routine by the security protocols enacted in response to the death threats that come as which began streaming on Disney Plus on Oct. 6, is here to provide exactly that. a natural consequence of being used as a political scapegoat. And it makes quite clear The ﬁlm came about when two ﬁlmmakers, mmy-winners John Hoﬀman and Janet that those who protest his methods this time around are working from a very diﬀerent Tobias, joined forces after being separately inspired to make a ﬁlm about Fauci, who, motivation than the one that drove the heroes of ACT UP. for those who have been in an isolation module for the past 40 years, was appointed More important than any of this, perhaps, is the chance “Fauci” gives us to get to know director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in 1984 and the man himself. The ﬁlmmakers position him squarely in his rightful place at the center has advised seven presidents on domestic and global health issues during the decades of their movie, allowing us a look past the professional veneer that has become a ﬁxture since. Aided by unprecedented access to their subject, who was not only supportive but on news broadcasts and at press conferences. What we see there is the man we know, fully cooperative, along with access to decades of deep archival material and a wide array ampliﬁed by the freedom to let his compassion, his humanity, his intelligence, and yes, of prominent public ﬁgures eager to participate, the result of their collaboration is an his sense of humor show. It’s a winning portrait that never rings false, and the eager impressive piece of cinematic journalism titled, simply, “Fauci.” participation of a widely varied crowd of interviewees to sing his praises—from George Starting out with a humanizing overview of Fauci’s early life, the ﬁlm oﬀers us a W. Bush to Susan Rice to Peter Staley to Bono—only reinforces its sincerity. protagonist whose dreams of a private Park Avenue practice gave way to a passion for Of course, those who dislike Fauci are unlikely to be swayed by the sympathetic the study of infectious diseases, and whose enduring marriage to Dr. Christine Grady portrait oﬀered by Hoﬀman and Tobias’ ﬁlm—which, though it, like Fauci began with a “meet-cute” that would have been right at home in a Hollywood rom-com. himself, is candid in acknowledging his missteps along the way, oﬀers little in It then tracks his professional career, not just the two epidemics that have bookended the way of negative commentary about its subject—and will doubtless brush his time in public service to date, but details from the intervening years that most people it aside as “woke” propaganda. To answer that phenomenon, it might be best have either forgotten or never known, like his eﬀorts in stemming the threat of bola to oﬀer a quote from the good doctor about why he is so hated by his critics. when it began to appear in the U.S., and his role in ensuring global action to the AIDS “I represent something that is uncomfortable for them. It’s called the truth.” crisis that was unfolding in Africa and the Caribbean. 24 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 08, 2021
‘Two Omars’ is uneven, but remarkable memoir Celebrated actor’s gay grandson charts own path By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER
‘A Tale of Two Omars’
By Omar Sharif Jr.
c.2021 | Counterpoint Press $26.00 | higher in Canada 224 pages
Where ALL GUYS come together Visit www.squirt.org today to join the action 26 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 08, 2021
You always wanted to make your mark. There’d be no footstep-following in your life. You’d carve your own path, select your own adventures, seize the opportunities that appealed to you, and blaze trails for the sake of others’ journeys. You’d take the best of those you knew and loved, and you’d go your own way. As in the new memoir, “A Tale of Two Omars” by Omar Sharif Jr. you’ll also make your own mistakes. Born into a family that had ties on several continents, Omar Sharif Jr. never had to worry about money or a place to live. On one side of the family—his maternal side—the Holocaust left a mark on his mother’s parents, who’d barely escaped the concentration camps. On the other side, Sharif’s paternal grandparents were both famous and beloved actors with roots in Egypt. Sharif was close with his entire family, but particularly with his grandfather, Omar Sharif. Sharif recalls many a dinner party, listening, while his grandfather held court at dinner, laughing and telling stories. Everyone, everything seemed so elegant and reﬁned and those meals showed Sharif a life that he could have if he wanted it. As time passed, the lessons he received were paid back: He was one of the few allowed to help his grandfather as Alzheimer’s took hold at the end of the great actor’s life. But this is not a story of a famous actor or a grandfather. It’s the story of a man who’s not just half-Jewish and Egyptian. He’s also gay, a part of himself that Sharif kept hidden until well into adulthood, although he says that other children must’ve sensed it when he was young. It was a part of himself that he feared revealing to his father. It helped him land a dream job that ultimately became a nightmare. The title of this book—”A Tale of Two Omars”—is a bit of a misnomer. Judging by what author Omar Sharif Jr. writes here, there are several Omars: The activist; a globe-hopper; a son and grandson; a writer and a grandfather whose life was impactful but who has a surprisingly small footprint in this book. Which is not to say that readers will like them all. Indeed, parts of this book may seem as though you’ve read them before: Bullied as a child, fear of coming out, the college revelation, the mismatched ﬁrst love. Those ubiquitous bits are here, but they pale in comparison to Sharif’s ultra-urbane life and the hair-raising, terrifying account of getting and getting out of what seemed like the ultimate job with a wealthy sheikh, a job that slowly grew dangerous. That story-within-a-story is so edgy, so mouth-drying, that you’ll throw away the thriller you bought last week. Then there’s the part about his life-threatening activism, a tale that starts and ends this book ... And so, beware at the unevenness of this memoir, but understand that the tedium doesn’t linger. Skip past the ho-humness of “A Tale of Two Omars” and the rest is remarkable.