Losangelesblade.com, Volume 05, Issue 44, October 29, 2021

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(Photo by Lindsay Melanie Photography)



‘It’s about service to others’ A conversation with Rick Chavez Zbur By ZACHARY JARRELL

watching the 1968 Democratic Rick Chavez Zbur has left Equality convention as a kid and just being California, the nation’s largest statewide glued to the tube,” he said. “I always LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, much thought that I would do something in different than he found it. The group government somehow.” has quadrupled in size, been at the How he would come to work in forefront of passing some of the most politics was less clear, however. Zbur progressive LGBTQ+ rights bills in grew up in a rural farming community the country and took on the Trump in New Mexico. His father, Richard administration. Thomas Zbur, dropped out of high Earlier this month he passed the school to support his family. He would reins over to a new leadership team led later join the Air Force and serve in by Tony Hoang who succeeded him as the Korean War before moving to New executive director on Oct. 16. Mexico. Zbur’s mother, Erlinda Chavez, Zbur is proud of his work at Equality came from poor farmers who lived in California. From passing legislation the Rio Grande Valley for generations. that made PrEP and Pap available to His father attended college in New challenging the Trump administration’s Mexico and graduate school in Utah, trans military ban, he was upfront largely thanks to the GI bill. Zbur and and center for it all — championing his family ended up moving back social justice for the whole LGBTQ+ to New Mexico to care for his aging community, even when there were grandparents. The farm and parents questions about if that model would taught him the values of hard work — work. RICK CHAVEZ ZBUR (center) (Photo by Lindsay Melanie Photography) values he learned well as he became “Will your membership and your base the first person in his small hometown continue supporting an organization to attend an Ivy League university. that has much more of a social justice “I mean, they didn’t even administer the ACT or the SAT because there were not mission?” Zbur recalls hearing when he took over Equality California in 2014. enough kids in my graduating class,” he said. He tells the Blade he thinks the stereotypes and misperceptions about the LGBTQ+ Growing up in rural New Mexico also brought its fair share of problems. “I think community being primarily white and affluent led to the skepticism. But “that’s not I knew back in my bones that I was probably gay,” said Zbur. “The farm community the case,” he said. “Our community supports equality, and everyone understands was really oppressive — you couldn’t admit that you were gay.” that in order to improve the lives of LGBTQ people, we need to focus on all the “I wanted to get out,” he said. vulnerable communities that we’re a part of.” He wouldn’t start to reckon with the fact he was gay until law school. “I just wouldn’t Now, Zbur is ready for a new challenge: running for Assembly District 50. The even let myself think about it because of my background, coming from this little farm death of his sister Jackie, who lost her three year battle with ALS in September 2020, community,” he said. “It was just something that was viewed with such a stigma that was at the forefront of his decision. He recalls his sister sitting him down to make I wouldn’t even let myself go there. But as I started getting older, I started grappling him promise he would try to find some way of doing something in public service. with it. I had my first relationship, and I told my sister and a few friends.” “Since Jackie passed, I’ve thought long and hard about the next phase of my life In realizing he was gay, he also realized there was not a clear path forward in — how I can make the greatest impact on the toughest issues our communities government. “Other than Harvey Milk, who seemed really far away, no one in the face: healthcare, the environment, civil rights and economic inequality,” he writes on country could run and win as an openly gay person.” his campaign website. After graduating from Yale and Harvard Law School, Rick moved to Los Angeles One of the most significant factors contributing to his decision was watching his and joined Latham & Watkins, one of the nation’s most respected law firms. He sister’s struggle financially after her diagnosis. stayed for over 25 years, becoming one of California’s leading environmental and “By the time she got ill, she had saved up enough to put down a down payment government law attorneys. He didn’t think much about politics much during his first on a very modest two bedroom condo and was starting to save for her retirement,” few years at the firm — that was until the AIDS epidemic. said Zbur. “And then she got sick. When that happened, she couldn’t work anymore, “I was just angry about it,” said Zbur. ” And I was a relatively idealistic, so she quickly got on Social Security disability, which was $2,100 a month. — it was unsophisticated, young person, and I decided that I was going to try to take my barely enough to pay her mortgage. She quickly spent down her savings, and that’s Congressman out.” when I started helping her.” He lost the race, not realizing how difficult it would be to defeat a sitting incumbent, “I was, luckily, someone with great privilege and had those years of savings from but he did win the Democratic primary. “I decided that I tried the government service when I was at Latham & Watkins as an attorney, but what do what do average thing, and now I was going to go back and just really try to contribute through the people do when they’re in similar circumstances, if they don’t have the resources organizations that I cared about,” he said. themselves or someone in their family, they can sort of step up?” he said. “That’s Since then, Zbur says he has learned plenty of lessons and feels more than ready part of the reason why we have so many people in wheelchairs that are sitting out to serve the people of Assembly District 50. on the streets.” “It’ll be an honor and a privilege to be able to serve the community in this capacity,” Since he was a child, Zbur has been interested in politics, handing out literature he said. “Should I have the privilege of being elected.” at polling places with his father when he was as young as 10 years old. “I remember



Equality Calif. backs trans candidate for state Senate

passionate public servant who brings solutions-oriented optimism to Equality California and LGBTQ Victory Fund jointly announced their challenges big and small – from filling potholes to healthcare access endorsements of Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton in her to climate change. Her constituents’ quality of life will always be the race for California Senate District 28 Thursday. priority, but Lisa’s election will also inspire a new generation of trans The endorsements demonstrate an early commitment from the leaders to follow in her footsteps.” LGBTQ political community to elect Middleton, who would be the “I am deeply humbled and thrilled to receive the joint endorsements first out transgender state legislator in California history. In 2017, of Equality California and LGBTQ Victory Fund,” said Lisa Middleton became the first out transgender person elected to a nonMiddleton. “Since launching my bid for State Senate, the profound, judicial position in California, when she won her race for Palm Springs extensive support I’ve received from the LGBTQ community has been City Council. a tremendous honor and boost to my campaign. I remain committed Only eight out transgender people have ever been elected to state to being a leader who helps to unify and proudly stands for respect, legislatures in the United States. All are currently serving. inclusion and opportunity and that my campaign can also show the “Lisa Middleton is an accomplished leader who has made her region transgender community that nothing is out of reach, and we can win more inclusive, just and equitable,” said Equality California Executive at all levels of government. I look forward to hopefully partnering Director Tony Hoang. “That’s why Equality California is thrilled to with both incredible organizations in Sacramento to continue being announce our early support for Lisa’s campaign for Senate. The 28th LISA MIDDLETON an unrelenting advocate for our community and fighting for full, lived District needs Lisa’s courage, innovative thinking and unique ability (Blade file photo by Karen Ocamb) equality.” to build coalitions in Sacramento, where she will be a trailblazing As Mayor Pro Tem and a member of the Palm Springs City Council, champion for full, lived equality while delivering critical resources to Middleton ensured PPE and vaccines were available to residents, led efforts on solar her community. We’re with Lisa 100 percent and look forward to helping her make history requirements for all new homes and worked to address inequities in the city – including once again as California’s first transgender state legislator.” the unique challenges LGBTQ+ seniors face. Middleton’s primary will be held on June 7, “A victory for Lisa will shatter a long-standing political barrier in California and will be a 2022. milestone moment for the state and the country,” said Annise Parker, President & CEO of FROM STAFF REPORTS LGBTQ Victory Fund. “Yet Lisa is not running for state senate to be a trailblazer. She is a

285,000 American Indian, Alaskan Native LGBTQ adults live in U.S. A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that the estimated 285,000 adults in the U.S. that identify as American Indian or Alaskan Native (AIAN) and LGBT report high rates of mental health concerns. The study examines the demographics and well-being of AIAN adults, including separate findings for individuals who identify only as AIAN and those who identify as AIAN plus another race or ethnicity. Results show that more than one-third (35%) of AIANonly adults and 43% of AIAN-multiracial adults have been diagnosed with depression. AIAN women have the highest rates of depression, including more than half (51%) of AIAN-multiracial women. In addition, researchers found that AIAN-multiracial LGBT people fare worse than their non-LGBT counterparts in many measures of economic and social vulnerability, including unemployment, income level, and food insecurity. All AIAN LGBT adults face disparities in physical health, such as asthma, heart attack, and other chronic health conditions. “Economic insecurity and health status within the AIAN LGBT population may be related to factors that are unique to LGBT people and that are shared with the overall Indigenous communities,” said lead author Bianca D.M. Wilson, Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “It is critical that policies and service interventions consider the LGBT status and multiracial identities of AIAN adults.”


Demographic Characteristics • There are an estimated 285,000 AIAN LGBT adults in the US. Approximately 6% of all AIAN-only adults in the country identify as LGBT. • The AIAN LGBT adult population is younger than their non-LGBT counterparts: 57% of AIAN-multiracial LGBT adults are under age 35, compared to 33% of non-LGBT adults. • More than 60% of AIAN LGBT adults in the U.S. live in the West and South. Economic Characteristics • Over half (54%) of AIAN-only LGBT adults and 42% of AIAN-multiracial LGBT adults live in low-income households. • 41% of AIAN-multiracial LGBT adults report experiencing food insecurity, compared to 29% of non-LGBT adults. • Among AIAN-multiracial people, more LGBT adults are unemployed than non-LGBT adults (15% vs. 10%), and the difference is most pronounced among women (19% vs. 11%). Mental and Physical Health • Among AIAN-only adults, 35% of LGBT people have been diagnosed with depression, compared to 23% of nonLGBT people. • Among AIAN-multiracial adults, 43% of LGBT people have been diagnosed with depression, compared to 25% of non-LGBT people. • One-quarter (25%) of AIAN LGBT adults are uninsured, compared to 20% of non-LGBT adults. • 57% of AIAN LGBT adults reported experiencing physical assault and threats, and 81% reported experiencing verbal assault or abuse at some point in their lives.


AMBROZ SAMUEL, an LGBTQ member of the Navajo Nation in Pinon, Ariz. in 2012. (Photo by Harrison J. Bahe)

Social Support • The majority (55%) of AIAN cisgender LGB adults and 37% of AIAN transgender adults reported feeling connected to the LGBT community. • About three-quarters (75%) of AIAN LGBT adults reported feeling supported through their social circles. This study is part of the Williams Institute’s LGBT WellBeing at the Intersection of Race series, which examines demographic characteristics and key indicators of wellbeing, including mental health, physical health, economic health, and social and cultural experiences, of different racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. The series also includes analyses by region. FROM STAFF REPORTS


Awareness fight continues 11 years after start of Spirit Day

A decade and one year ago there was a pandemic across the United States and in Canada of LGBTQ+ adolescents killing themselves. Nearly every week saw another Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Queer young person die, and in all cases, bullying very much factored in. In one high profile case, the anti-LGBTQ bullying escalated in a university dorm room where one roommate secretly live-streamed his closeted gay roommate having intimate sexual relations with another guy. That closeted roommate was 18 year-old Rutgers University Warner Brothers Studios water tower lit for Spirit freshman, Tyler Clementi, who in his Day in North Hollywood. despair drove to the middle of the (Photo courtesy of Warner Media) George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey and New York’s Manhattan Island, where he parked and lept to his death into the Hudson River below on September 22, 2010. A 15-year-old Canadian high school student Brittany McMillan founded Spirit Day in 2010, creating a Tumblr post that asked students to wear purple following the suicide deaths of several LGBTQ and LGBTQ-perceived young people. In interviews McMillan said, “”Ultimately, I want Spirit Day to make just one person feel a little bit better about his or herself, to feel safe enough in their own skin to be proud of who they are.” Partnering with LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization GLAAD, McMillan asked people around the world to take a public stand against bullying and show support for LGBTQ youth. Since then, Spirit Day has become the most visible annual LGBTQ anti-bullying campaign in the world, garnering support from celebrities, landmarks, media, sports teams, brands, and

so many others. This year as Trans youth are targeted by lawmakers and anti-LGBTQ+ organizations in areas of youth sports and medically necessary healthcare, Spirit Day has taken on a greater sense of urgency. In 2021, Spirit Day takes on a renewed importance due to the unprecedented challenges facing LGBTQ youth. Over the last year and a half, many LGBTQ youth have not been in school, unable to attend in-person meetings of Gay-Straight Alliances, Gender-Sexuality Alliances or on-campus colleges LGBTQ organizations. During this time, LGBTQ youth have also become increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of cyberbullying, specifically with heightened levels of anti-LGBTQ hate and harassment on social media. Some LGBTQ youth may be confined to a home environment that may be unsupportive or abusive. As well, an unprecedented number of anti-LGBTQ bills in state legislatures specifically targeting trans and nonbinary youth have been in the news. Calls to The Trevor Project’s hotline for LGBTQ youth have at times more than doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This year, GLAAD asked Brittany McMillan reflect on her top 5 #SpiritDay moments since the campaign began. Here’s what she had to say: 1. Seeing 28,000 likes/reblogs on the first #SpiritDay Tumblr post in 2010. 2. Receiving the celebrity tweet from Paula Abdul. I didn’t have Twitter at the time, but lots of my friends saw it and sent it over to me. It was the first sign for me that things were getting big! 3. Visiting Times Square and GLAAD in New York in 2012 and seeing all the billboards lit up in purple. It was so cool to see the huge screens turning purple and promoting #SpiritDay. It was also really cool to meet the people at GLAAD who I had worked with online over the past couple of years. 4. All the years the White House turned their icon purple and President Obama wore a purple tie. I’m not an American but to know my creation reached the President of the United States was so cool. Also, I really admire the Obamas and all that they do, so it made me really excited to see them supporting something that I started. 5. The release of the #SpiritDay board book last year, by Little Bee Books and illustrated by Joy Yang. As soon as I found out about it, I purchased a copy. I love books and reading and to know that there is a book out there about #SpiritDay blows my mind each and every day. BRODY LEVESQUE

LA Council bans homeless camps in 54 locations Setting up or creating encampments by homeless persons in 54 select locations across the city is now banned after the LA City Council voted 12-2 Wednesday to outlaw sitting, sleeping and lying in those places. Utilizing new laws passed over the summer after contentious and at times acrimonious debate, the council enacted new rules regulating sitting, sleeping and storing property near fire hydrants, building entrances, driveways, libraries, parks, elementary schools and several other locations. The council also directed city staff to ensure that the homeless were given proper notifications prior to action and that all departments expand staff and make available resources to help those affected by the new ban. On Wednesday, U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced that the VA is going to place more than 500 unhoused

LA Homeless Service Authority workers GIOVANNA MIRANDA, (left) & TANIA TRIGUEROS (Photo courtesy County of Los Angeles)

veterans living in Los Angeles into permanent housing. According to McDonough, the efforts will be in two steps, the first to assist approximately 40 veterans living on the street in what is colloquially referred to as the ‘Veteran’s Row’ encampment, located adjacent to the VA campus in Brentwood on San Vincente Boulevard. That encampment has been highlighted by mayoral candidates visiting it frequently including last week by U.S. Representative Karen Bass, (D) who was accompanied by the VA Secretary. The next step is move another 500 veterans into permanent or transitional housing by December 31, the VA Secretary said. In the last census count of homeless people conducted by the County of Los Angeles, of the nearly 66,000 people experiencing homelessness, roughly 3,900 are homeless veterans. BRODY LEVESQUE



Visalia Council proclaims October ‘LGBTQ history month’

“Thank you to the council for doing this, it means a lot to us. When we started this In a proclamation last week, the city council paid tribute to The Source LGBTQ+ Center’s work five years ago, we didn’t know how we would be received in the city,” Vargas said. “It work in the Visalia LGBTQ+ community, including Tulare and Kings Counties over the past means a lot to be here today, I would love it if you all showed up to PRIDE Visalia… but just five years. The council also proclaimed October as LGBTQ+ history month presenting knowing we have the support of the council and the ‘The Source’ a plaque noting the nonprofit’s recent city, is a lot.” expansion. On its website, ‘The Source’ specifies that the “In 5 years, The Source has become the largest LGBT center’s mission is to “provide spaces within our center between Los Angeles and Sacramento,” the communities for the LGBT+ population to Learn, plaque reads in part, The Visalia Times-Delta Grow, Belong, Transform, Question + Support.” newspaper reported. Visalia, the Tulare County seat, is the gateway “We started with just an idea that we came up with to Sequoia National Park, and only forty-one on Main Street – back when it had antique stores,” said miles south of Fresno located in the conservative Nick Vargas, director of development and cofounder San Joaquin Valley region of central California. In of The Source. “From that idea, other people have Congress, the area, California’s 22nd congressional joined us and I have been able to do the best work district, is represented by Republican Devin Nunes, of my life, helping the citizens of Visalia, particularly who has been unresponsive to LGBTQ+ concerns, the LGBTQ youth, those living with HIV, and their having been labeled anti-LGBTQ+ by the Human families.” Rights Campaign and Equality California. On Saturday, the fifth annual Pride Visalia organized The Times-Delta also reported that The Source is by ‘The Source’ was held at a different time of year also hosting its first-ever AIDS Walk to raise and in a brand new location, Valley Strong Ballpark, Downtown Visalia, Calif. awareness as well as funds. The walk is scheduled at supported by communications giant T-Mobile. (Photo by Devon Jones, City of Visalia Economic Development Manager) 11 a.m. on Oct. 30 on NW 2nd Avenue. The center’s annual Halloween Gala was also held FROM STAFF REPORTS Saturday night at the Bello Vita Venue.

LA Council suspends Ridley-Thomas over corruption charges The city council voted Wednesday to suspend Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, 66, who was was indicted a week ago by a federal grand jury on 20 federal counts of conspiracy, bribery, mail and wire fraud. The 11-to-3 vote to suspend vote came two days after Ridley-Thomas announced that he would “step back” from participation in City Council meetings and committees. RidleyThomas, who has denied any wrongdoing, has said he will not resign and will fight the federal charges against him, KTLA and the Los Angeles Times reported. The federal grand jury’s indictment alleged that Ridley-Thomas took bribes from a former dean at the University of Southern California, (USC) when he was a member of the County Board of Supervisors. In a letter sent to fellow councilmembers Monday, he indicated that he would step back from his duties but he declined to resign from his seat. He said that he planned to fight the “outrageous allegations” and would resume participation on the legislative body “at the earliest appropriate time.” The Los Angeles Times reported that in exchange for the payoffs, Ridley-Thomas allegedly supported awarding county contracts worth millions of dollars to USC. In the indictment Ridley-Thomas is charged with conspiring with Marilyn Louise Flynn, 83, then dean of USC’s School of Social Work, to steer county money to the university in return for admitting his son Sebastian into graduate school with a full-tuition scholarship and a paid professorship, the Times reported. BRODY LEVESQUE


Councilman MARK RIDLEY-THOMAS speaking at a press conference. (Blade file screenshot photo)


Friday Nov 5

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A’keria Chanel Davenport Mariah Paris Balenciaga Jasmine Masters Delta Work Jessica Wilde


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George Zander Candlelight Hate Crime

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Gov. Abbott signs anti-trans youth sports bill K-12 trans student-athletes barred from competition

By BRODY LEVESQUE Project said in a statement released Monday afternoon. Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law “To every trans Texan who may be feeling hurt and Monday H.B. 25, an anti-transgender youth sports bill attacked by this legislation and months of ugly political banning trans K-12 student-athletes from playing on debate — please know that you are valid, and you are sports teams consistent with their gender identity. deserving of equal opportunity, dignity and respect. H.B. 25 is the 9th statewide bill signed into law this year The Trevor Project is here for you 24/7 if you ever need banning transgender youth from participating in school support, and we will continue fighting alongside a broad sports and the 10th in the country. This bill also comes coalition of advocates to challenge this law,” Paley said. during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed Research consistently demonstrates that transgender nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills and nonbinary youth face unique mental health that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth challenges and an elevated risk for bullying and suicide — far more than any other state. risk compared to their peers. “We are devastated at the passage of this bill. Despite the The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ powerful testimony of trans kids and adults, families and Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of advocates, and the many emails and calls our community transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered placed to the Governor’s office to veto this harmful piece suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. 94% of legislation it is now law,” said Ricardo Martinez, CEO of of LGBTQ youth reported that recent politics negatively Equality Texas. Texas Republican Gov. GREG ABBOTT signed H.B. 25 this week. impacted their mental health. “Most immediately, our focus is our community and (Blade file screenshot) A newly published research brief on “Bullying and integrating concepts of healing justice to provide advocates Suicide Risk among LGBTQ Youth,” found that 61% of who have already been harmed by this bill with spaces transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) students reported being bullied either in-person to refill their cup and unpack the acute trauma caused by these legislative sessions. or electronically in the past year, compared to 45% of cisgender LGBQ students. Our organizations will also begin to shift focus to electing pro-equality lawmakers who TGNB students who were bullied in the past year reported more than twice the rate understand our issues and prioritize representing the vast majority of Texans who of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who were not. And TGNB firmly believe that discrimination against trans and LGB+ people is wrong,” he added. students who said their school was LGBTQ-affirming reported significantly lower rates Earlier this month, the Texas state government was criticized for removing web of being bullied (55%) compared to those in schools that weren’t LGBTQ-affirming pages with resources for LGBTQ youth, including information about The Trevor Project’s (65%). crisis services. The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis A 2020 peer-reviewed study found that transgender and nonbinary youth who report intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people. experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity had more than double the “Transgender and nonbinary youth are already at higher risk for poor mental health odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not experience and suicide because of bullying, discrimination, and rejection. This misguided legislation discrimination based on their gender identity. will only make matters worse,” Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of The Trevor

State Dept. acknowledges Intersex Awareness Day The State Department on Tuesday acknowledged the annual Intersex Awareness Day. “We proudly recognize the voices and human rights of intersex people around the world,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a statement. “The Department of State is committed to promoting and protecting the rights, dignity, and equality of all individuals, including intersex persons.” Price in his statement said U.S. foreign policy seeks to “pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics, while acknowledging the intersections with disability, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, or other status.” Price also acknowledged intersex people “are subject to violence, discrimination, and abuse on the basis of their sex characteristics” and “many intersex persons, including children, experience invasive, unnecessary, and sometimes irreversible medical procedures.” “The department supports the empowerment of movements and


organizations advancing the human rights of intersex persons and the inclusion of intersex persons in the development of policies that impact their enjoyment of human rights,” he said. Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad, on Tuesday moderated a virtual panel with intersex activists from around the world. Intersex Awareness Day commemorates the world’s first-ever intersex protest that took place in Boston on Oct. 26, 1996. Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who identifies as nonbinary, in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their application for a passport with their sex listed as “X.” The State Department in June announced it would begin to issue gender-neutral passports and documents for American citizens who were born overseas. The U.S. and more than 50 other countries earlier this month signed a statement that urges the U.N. Human Rights Council to protect the rights of intersex people. MICHAEL K. LAVERS


Ohio school cancels play with gay character A Southwest Ohio high school’s play was abruptly canceled after Jeff Lyle, a local pastor from Good News Gathering, complained about a gay character. Hillsboro High School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month, until students learned the play would be canceled last week, reports Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate WCPO. The story follows a high school senior as she learns about her late sister’s life. It is implied throughout the play that her sister is gay, according to the news Hillsboro High School canceled its production after a station. pastor complained. The play’s cancellation comes a week (Screenshot via Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO-TV) after Lyle, a longtime voice of the antiLGBTQ+ religious right in Ohio, and a group of parents confronted the production’s directors at a meeting, according to Cincinnati CBS affiliate Local 12. Lyle denies pressuring school officials, but tells WCPO he supports the decision.

“From a biblical worldview this play is inappropriate for a number of reasons, e.g. sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity between unmarried persons, repeated use of foul language including taking the Lord’s name in vain,” Lyle said. Some families say they believe Lyle did influence the school’s decision. “I think that’s wrong,” Jon Polstra, a father of one of the actors, told WCPO. “All they would have had to do if they objected to something in the play was not go to the play.” In a statement to Local 12, Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis said the play was canceled because it “was not appropriate for our K-12 audience.” The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the school planned to perform a version intended for audiences as young as 11 years old. Students were “devastated” and “blindsided” by the news, according to WCPO. “It felt like we had just been told, ‘Screw off and your lives don’t matter,’” Christopher Cronan, a Hillsboro High student, said. “I am openly bisexual in that school and I have faced a lot of homophobia there, but I never expected them to cancel a play for a fictional character.” Students have started a GoFundMe in hopes of putting on the production at a community theater in 2022. ZACHARY JARRELL

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McAuliffe: Youngkin ‘most homophobic’ candidate in Va. history A tight race in bellwether for 2022 House Democrats By MICHAEL K. LAVERS | mlavers@washblade.com

Terry McAuliffe described Republican Glenn Youngkin as the “most homophobic” and most “anti-choice candidate” in Virginia history during an Oct. 21 telephone interview with the Washington Blade. “I’m running against the most homophobic, anti-choice candidate in Virginia history,” said McAuliffe. “I ran against Ken Cuccinelli. That’s saying something.” McAuliffe, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee, in 2013 defeated Cuccinelli, Virginia’s thenattorney general who vehemently opposed LGBTQ rights, in that year’s gubernatorial race. Youngkin, the former coCEO of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, is running against McAuliffe in the race to succeed current Gov. Ralph Northam. State Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William County) is running for lieutenant governor, while Attorney General Mark Herring is seeking re-election. They are running against Republicans Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares respectively. The entire Virginia House of Delegates is also on the ballot on Nov. 2. The outcome of those races will determine whether Democrats maintain control of the chamber.

McAuliffe last month said during his first debate against Youngkin that local school boards “should be making their own decisions” with regards to the implementation of the Virginia Department of Education guidelines for trans and non-binary students. McAuliffe during his second debate against Youngkin stressed “locals” should provide input on the policy, but added “the state will always issue guidance.” McAuliffe told the Blade he has “been so offended about how many folks have tried to really demonize our children here in this state.” McAuliffe referenced children with “self-identity issues” during the interview, but he did not specifically cite those who identify as trans or nonbinary. “We’ve got to help our children … we got to help our children who are desperately in need today,” he said. “And we got to show them that we’ll be there for them, as I say, no matter how they identify or who they love.” Former President BARACK OBAMA campaigns with TERRY Youngkin on Saturday during a campaign event in MCAULIFFE in Richmond, Va., on Oct. 23. Obama is among the prominent Democrats who have traveled to Virginia in recent weeks to Henrico County said he would ban the teaching of critical campaign on behalf of McAuliffe. (Photo courtesy of McAuliffe for Governor) race theory in Virginia schools. McAuliffe criticized his opponent on this issue when he spoke with the Blade. “Critical race theory is not taught in Virginia, nor has it ever been taught,” said McAuliffe. “These are dog whistles that are used, and especially in the CRT, it’s a racist dog whistle and it just fits into this whole pattern of using our children as political pawns and I hate it.” The Associated Press a day after McAuliffe spoke with the Blade published an interview with Youngkin in which he reiterated his opposition to marriage equality, but stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and he would “support that” as governor. The anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has McAuliffe has continued to portray Youngkin as an extremist on other issues that range categorized as an extremist group, earlier this month endorsed Youngkin. The Human Rights from abortion and vaccine mandates as polls suggest the race between the two has grown Campaign and Equality Virginia’s political action committee are among the groups that have tight. McAuliffe also continues to highlight former President Trump’s support of Youngkin. backed McAuliffe. McAuliffe told the Blade that Youngkin is “100 percent against abortion” and said his Youngkin earlier this year said he does not support allowing transgender children to play opponent would “bring those Texas-style type abortion” laws to Virginia. on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Youngkin has also expressed The law, which bans almost all abortions in Texas and allows private citizens to sue doctors support for Tanner Cross, a gym teacher at a Leesburg elementary school who was suspended and anyone else who helps a woman obtain one, took effect last month. The U.S. Supreme in June after he spoke against the Virginia Department of Education guidelines that are Court on Nov. 1 will hear oral arguments in a case that challenges the law. designed to protect trans and non-binary students. “We always knew that the Supreme Court would be a backstop on women’s rights issues: HRC in 2019 named the Carlyle Group as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its Roe v. Wade. That is gone. It’s over,” said McAuliffe. “Donald Trump’s Supreme Court is going to annual Corporate Equality Index. McAuliffe scoffed at this recognition. overrule the basic tenants of Roe v. Wade.” “They should have checked with their co-CEO who’s against marriage equality,” he told the McAuliffe added the Supreme Court “is going to allow these states to roll back women’s Blade. “That would have been the first place I would have gone to ask.” reproductive rights, so that’s no longer a talking point.” McAuliffe’s first executive order as governor after he took office in 2014 banned “This is reality,” said McAuliffe. “Every woman in Virginia needs to understand it.” discrimination against LGBTQ state employees. He also vetoed several anti-LGBTQ religious Youngkin, for his part, has said he would not have signed the Texas law. freedom bills, created Virginia’s LGBTQ tourism board and became the state’s first governor to Trump on Oct. 13 described Youngkin as a “great gentleman” when he called into the “Take declare June Pride month. Back Virginia Rally” in Henrico County that John Fredericks, host of “Outside the Beltway with McAuliffe noted to the Blade that he is also the first governor of a southern state to officiate John Fredericks” who co-chaired the former president’s 2016 campaign in Virginia, organized. a same-sex wedding. The lesbian couple whom he married has recently appeared in one of Participants recited the Pledge of Allegiance to an American flag that was present at the U.S. his campaign ads. Capitol insurrection. Youngkin in a statement his campaign released said he “had no role” in “I spent four years vetoing every single legislation Republicans brought forth and came the event and said it was “weird and wrong to pledge allegiance to a flag connected to January across my desk that would have discriminated against the LGBTQ community,” said McAuliffe. 6.” “I’ve always been out front fighting to protect everybody.” “As I have said many times before, the violence that occurred on January 6 was sickening McAuliffe noted that CoStar, a D.C.-based commercial real estate company, moved more and wrong,” he said. than 1,000 jobs to Richmond from Charlotte after then-North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory McAuliffe told the Blade that Youngkin would make Virginia “a dangerous place to live and signed House Bill 2, which banned trans people from using public restrooms consistent work.” with their gender identity and prohibited municipalities from enacting LGBTQ-inclusive “His governorship, if he were to be elected, would roll back individual liberties,” said McAuliffe. nondiscrimination measures. McAuliffe described HB 2 to the Blade as the “anti-gay bill.” “He doesn’t support gay marriage, he is for eliminating abortion here in the commonwealth “There’s real consequences … to discriminatory actions and I will not tolerate any of it,” he said. of Virginia and he will drive businesses out of our state and finally it is dangerous for people.”

Youngkin opposes marriage equality

Youngkin ‘would drive businesses out’



Venezuelan man with AIDS dies in ICE custody

A Venezuelan man with AIDS died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody on Oct. 1. An ICE press release notes Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, 40, died at Merit Health River Oaks in Flowood, Miss., which is a suburb of Jackson, the state capital. The press release notes the “preliminary cause of death was from complications with acute respiratory failure, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), pneumonia, acute kidney failure, anemia and COVID-19.” ICE said U.S. Border Patrol took Sánchez into custody near Del Rio, Texas, on May 17. He arrived at the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss., four days later. “Upon arrival to an ICE facility, all detainees are medically screened and administered a COVID-19 test by ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) personnel,” said ICE in its press release. “Sánchez’s test results came back negative.” The press release notes Sánchez on July 28 received another COVID-19 test after he “began showing symptoms of COVID-19.” ICE said he tested negative, but Adams County Detention Center personnel transferred him to a Natchez hospital “for additional advanced medical care.” ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations staff in its New Orleans Field Office, according to the press release,

“coordinated with hospital staff to arrange family visitation” after Sánchez’s “health condition deteriorated.” Sánchez was transferred to Merit Health River Oaks on Sept. 25. “ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases,” says the press release. Venezuela’s political and economic crises have prompted more than 10,000 people with HIV to leave the country, according to the New York-based Aid for AIDS International. Activists and health care service providers in Venezuela with whom the Washington Blade has spoken in recent years have said people with HIV/AIDS in the country have died because of a lack of antiretroviral drugs. Andrés Cardona, director of Fundación Ancla, a group in the Colombian city of Medellín that works with migrants and other vulnerable groups, told the Blade last month that many Venezuelans with HIV would have died if they hadn’t come to Colombia. The Blade has not been able to verify a Venezuelan activist’s claim that Sánchez was gay. It is also not known why Sánchez decided to leave Venezuela and travel to the U.S. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

PABLO SANCHEZ GOTOPO, who was living with HIV/ AIDS, died in U.S. ICE custody in Mississippi on Oct. 1. (Courtesy photo)

Putin describes trans rights as ‘crime against humanity’ Russian President Vladimir Putin last week described transgender rights as “a crime against humanity.” The Washington Post reported Putin made the comment in a speech he delivered in Sochi, a resort city on the Black Sea where the 2014 Winter Olympics took place. Putin specifically said the idea that children are “taught that a boy can become a girl and vice versa” is “on the verge of a crime against humanity.” Putin, according to the Post, also said trans activists are demanding an end to “basic things such as mother, father, family or gender differences.” Activists in Russia and around the world have sharply criticized the Kremlin’s LGBTQ rights record, including

a 2013 law that bans the promotion of so-called gay propaganda to minors. Putin also has close ties to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is behind a brutal anti-LGBTQ crackdown in the semi-autonomous Russian republic. The European Court of Human Rights in July ruled Russia violated the rights of a trans woman who authorities prevented from visiting her children because of her gender identity. The decision is the first time the court used Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights in an anti-trans discrimination case. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN

(Photo public domain)

White House urged to protect LGBTQ Afghans More than 10,000 people have signed a petition that urges the Biden administration to do more to help LGBTQ Afghans who remain in Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control of the country. The Human Rights Campaign; the Council for Global Equality; Immigration Equality; Rainbow Railroad; the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration and the International Refugee Assistance Project on Friday presented to the White House the petition that urges the administration to adopt “a 10-point action plan … to expedite and ease the refugee and asylum process for LGBTQI Afghans.” The same six groups last month urged the Biden administration to adopt a plan that would “prioritize the evacuation and resettlement of vulnerable refugee populations, including LGBTQI people, and ensure that any transitory stay in a third country is indeed temporary by expediting refugee processing.” The groups, among other things, asked the White House to “speak out forcefully against human rights abuses by the new Taliban regime and any increased targeting of vulnerable communities, including LGBTQI people, and use existing mechanisms to sanction and hold accountable perpetrators of human rights abuse.” The Taliban entered Kabul, the Afghan capital, on Aug. 15 and regained control of

the country. A Taliban judge in July said the group would once again execute people if it were to return to power in Afghanistan. Rainbow Railroad and Immigration Equality are among the other groups that have continued their efforts to evacuate LGBTQ Afghans since American troops completed their withdrawal from the country on Aug. 30. Some of the 50 Afghan human rights activists who Taylor Hirschberg, a researcher at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health who is also a Hearst Foundation scholar, has been able to help leave the country are LGBTQ. “We reiterate our call for President Biden to adopt the 10-point policy plan which will expedite and ease the refugee process for LGBTQI Afghans,” said Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof in a press release. “The 10,000+ people who signed our petition have demonstrated that they want the United States, long a beacon of refuge for those fleeing persecution, to take action to protect LGBTQI Afghans—a vulnerable group who risk oppression, even death, simply for who they are or who they love. Now is the time for action.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 29, 2021 • 11


is editor of the Los Angeles Blade.

The Darkening, the Republican Skeksis run amok ‘We are part of their communities, not enemies to be destroyed’

In the Legend of the Dark Crystal, a young Gelfling named Jen sets out to repair the crystal with a missing shard while the Blight, a noxious energy emanated from the Crystal whenever it was abused or maipulated by the evil Skeksis, affecting the fantasy world of Thra. The Blight manifested itself in the form of a purple light or black vapour, and caused plant life to wither and animals affected by it are poisoned to the point of aggression. One person on a message board noted; “the most prominent theme we see in The Dark Crystal is the lengths people will go to in order to hold onto their power. There is no line that the Skeksis won’t cross in order to prolong their lives and maintain their rule of Thra and it often comes at the expense of everyone else.” It was a 1982 fantasy film brought to life by filmmakers and puppeteers Jim Henson and Frank Oz that conveys a message that needs to be heeded in the real world of American politics, contrasted in a stark analogous way when observing the battles between the far-right and progressives. The real world equivalent to the Skeksis are the Republicans and most assuredly their never-ending assaults on the freedoms and liberties of those people they deplore and in many cases despise. The real world equivalent to the Dark Crystal are those very freedoms such as women’s reproductive rights and choices, the very existence of transgender Americans, the right of same-sex couples to adopt or have fair access to healthcare and countless other rights. Then there are the ongoing efforts to disenfranchise the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of Black Americans and immigrants. Texas these days seems to be ground zero for the Republican Skeksis in their bid to rid their world of the “Gelflings” represented by the aforementioned groups. In the most recent example, just this week Texas State Republican Representative James White sent a letter to fellow Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, in which he asked, “Whether Obergefell v. Hodges … requires private citizens to recognize homosexual marriages when the law of Texas continues to define marriage exclusively as the union of one man and one woman.” White hammers away at his point writing to Paxton in his letter that the Constitution of Texas defined marriage as between one man and one woman and another law in the state Family Code that read “A marriage between persons of the same sex or a civil union is contrary to the public policy of this state.” He then argues “The State of Texas has not amended or repealed its marriage laws in response to Obergefell v. Hodges … and the Supreme Court has no power to amend formally or revoke a state statute or constitutional provision — even after opining that the state law violates the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution.” This inane rubbish follows on the heels of the Texas legislature passing a measure that greatly restricts voting rights in the state

directly impacting its minority citizens, less than a month ago the passage of a draconian law that prevents Trans youth from playing sports in the K-12 grades in the state, and of course the battle over abortion rights which has led to the U.S. Supreme Court granting a a writ to hear the case in early November. Never mind that the rulings in these cases became settled case law that an overwhelming majority of Americans support. Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights in an email to the Blade noted; “The escalating extremism in Texas is a symptom of our national culture, which has become ever more toxic and polarized. Now is the time for LGBTQ people and allies to remind our elected officials and leaders that we are part of their communities, not enemies to be destroyed, and that campaigns to target vulnerable groups pit neighbor against neighbor, to the detriment of all. Whose rights will be next?” But it is not just Texas. The Republican Skeksis are taking over school boards or disrupting school board meetings with fights over Trans youth, about a theory about race that isn’t even taught in schools, and the ongoing battle of vaccination mandates and even facial masks still. The hypocrisy of the Republican Skeksis over vaccine mandates is rich in irony. They protest that they want the freedom of choice over their bodies- yet they deny that very right to women. The socalled Critical Race Theory? Actually its a truth of the American experience in the ugly history of the treatment of Black Americans and their ancestors. Indeed the ‘Blight’ manipulated by the Republican Skeksis permeates every aspect of the contemporary American political landscape. Anyone who identifies as a progressive and dares to suggest a more humane communal/societal approach to problem solving is instantly labeled a “commie” and an enemy of “true American Patriots.” Worse is the propensity of the Republican Skeksis to engage in violent acts such as the insurrection that was attempted to topple American Democracy on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol. Even if not directly engaged in such action then giving it a pass of approval by downplaying the events or blaming the Democrats. Again the irony being that the so-called ‘law and order” types were the very people attacking the law enforcement agencies and personnel they claim to uphold and support. These are troubling times and the Blight is very much a daily factor negatively impacting the ‘Gelflings’- LGBTQ+ people, Black, Latino, Asian, and poor people who value freedom, equality, for all, bereft of the so-called ‘values’ and decrees of those on the Republican right who seek to maintain their grasp on the institutions of government and society. “The most prominent theme we see in The Dark Crystal is the lengths people will go to in order to hold onto their power. There is no line that the Skeksis won’t cross in order to prolong their lives and maintain their rule of Thra and it often comes at the expense of everyone else.”


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is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, a regular columnist for queer news outlets, and an “agented” but unpublished novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com.

Queer students face rising tide of bullying Debunking insidious notion that LGBTQ identity is controversial

Two teens walk into a high-school classroom during period change. While the teacher yells at them, they rip a Pride flag off a wall then sprint through a crowded hall. They outrun the teacher and disappear. Soon after, several students film themselves crowding into a school toilet cubicle as they try to flush the flag. When they fail, one of them drops his pants, squats, and defecates on the flag while the rest of them laugh and shout homophobic/transphobic slurs. This happened in September at Paso Robles High School outside central California’s San Luis Obispo, which dubs itself the “Happiest City in America.” Soon the whole student body was buzzing. Most of them watched the video, which got posted to TikTok, but administrators did not respond for two weeks, saying they were unaware. The incident surprised nobody. LGBTQ students at Paso High say the region’s famed happiness doesn’t include them, writing in an editorial that they feel constantly targeted and harassed at school. They’ve told a reporter at the San Luis Obispo Tribune they don’t feel safe, that they face bullying and hatred every day. Sophomore Eve Barajas, president of the school’s Equity Club, says “micro aggressions” are common but physical violence is a real problem. When the administration finally responded, LGBTQ students, allies, and teachers gasped in collective shock They didn’t expect leadership to validate the bullying, but that’s what happened. In an interview, Paso High teacher Geoffrey Land called the defecation video, “an act of hate directed at the LGBTQ community,” adding, “And a lot of students felt it, you know, felt that attack very acutely.” He expected administrators to take the strongest possible stand against bullying. Defecating on a symbol of inclusion is an act of hatred. The symbol isn’t the problem, the hatred is. Banning the symbol endorses the hatred. So did science teacher and swim coach Evan Holtz, the man who chased the bullies down the hall. He told reporters he wants LGBTQ students to know they’re safe with him and can come to him for support. That’s why he and a few other teachers used to display Pride flags in their classrooms, a popular custom in schools around the U.S., where over half of all LGBTQ students report being bullied, according to a new survey conducted by the queer youth advocacy organization The Trevor Project. They report that contrary to popular narrative, anti-LGBTQ bullying in U.S. middle and high schools has been getting worse in recent years instead of better, and that the bullying often equals acts of physical violence. In a very recent example, 13-year-old transgender student Ian Ring was badly beaten by bullies at his school in Spokane, Wash., while a crowd of students looked on, laughed, and filmed. Local police have charged one student with misdemeanor assault, but Ian’s mother says she doesn’t know how to keep him safe. She’s considering homeschooling. Back at Paso High, Coach Holtz says he was happy three students brought him replacements for the stolen Pride flag. He hung one on his classroom wall, but that’s when the other shoe dropped. District Superintendent Curt Dubost banned the flag, not the bullying. Dubost sent a letter to teachers saying he opposes bullying, then ordered them to remove any LGBTQ Pride flag bigger than two feet by two feet, which students say is an


effective ban, noting almost all commercially available flags are larger than that. The ban is the ONLY action Dubost announced. He announced no comprehensive antibullying programs and no plans to make life better for queer kids in the schools he runs. In a later interview, he claimed rainbow flags are partisan like “Blue Lives Matter” flags supporting police officers. He did not cite any incidents of teenage police officers being bullied in school or needing to know where they can find support from teachers. Queer students’ jaws dropped at the inanity of his message. Jaws dropped harder over Dubost’s statement that LGBTQ Pride flags “mean different things to different people,” which students and teachers say they received as an overt endorsement of anti-LGBTQ hatred. In what world, they ask, should a symbol of love, safety, and inclusion mean something different? To add insult to injury, students say the bullies who stole the flag and posted the TikTok received only “minor discipline.” The upshot is that anti-LGBTQ bullies sent a message of hate, got a slap on the wrist, and then saw their message validated and actively enforced by the school district. Paso High Senior Danny Perez reacted like this: “My identity has been politicized. Someone defecated on a Pride flag. So the school takes away the Pride flag, not the homophobia?” LGBTQ student Ava Hughes added, “We’re minors, and they’re forcing us to hide or protest.” Superintendent Dubost threw away a fantastic teaching opportunity, but students aren’t letting it slip by Students have announced that in cooperation with Paso High’s performing arts department, they will hold a “Coming Out Against Hate” community forum in the high school auditorium. Local news media have cooperated with a blitz of free publicity. LGBTQ students will “share their experiences and visions for a more welcoming, inclusive educational environment,” in person and via a self-produced short film. They say they will focus on personal stories about bullying they face in school. Superintendent Dubost did not respond immediately to an email asking if he would attend. No students are required to attend the forum, which is taking place after school hours and is not an official assembly. Meanwhile, LGBTQ and allied students have been plastering school walls with rainbowthemed posters and drawings filled with messages of love and support. LGBTQ students, especially transgender students, are facing a rising tide of bullying and violence in U.S. schools. Even on the coasts, queer kids are struggling. San Luis Obispo and Spokane are not as politically liberal as Los Angeles or San Francisco, but they’re still “left coast” communities with reputations for tolerance and acceptance. They’re not the kinds of places where we expect 13-year-old trans kids to be beaten or school superintendents to endorse anti-LGBTQ hatred. They’re not the kind of places where we expect queer students to write that they feel physically unsafe in school every day. But you know what? This is real. This is happening. Right now. Nothing is going to get better unless we work together collectively against the insidious notion that LGBTQ identity is or should be controversial. The Paso Robles High School community is doing a great job educating students and parents as they send their superintendent a strong message that he must do better. What about you and your community? What can YOU do to stem a rising tide of hate?

Sharon Gless on new memoir and connection to LGBTQ community

Beloved TV icon’s book was seven years in the making By GREGG SHAPIRO

Have you ever read a memoir that is so intimate, so revealing, so honest, that as you were turning the pages it felt like the writer was sitting next to you, speaking directly to you? Kudos to multiple Emmy Award-winning actress Sharon Gless for making that a part of the experience of reading her new memoir “Apparently There Were Complaints” (Simon & Schuster, 2021). The Los Angeles native with Hollywood in her veins (her maternal grandfather was a hotshot entertainment lawyer), Gless rose to prominence via her portrayal of New York police detective Christine Cagney in the popular and groundbreaking 1980s TV series “Cagney & Lacey” (alongside Tyne Daly). As if she hadn’t already established an LGBTQ following through that show, she went on to play Debbie Novotny, the smart and SHARON GLESS’s new memoir ‘Apparently There Were sassy mother of Michael Complaints’ addresses her deep connection to the queer on Showtime’s equally community. (Photo courtesy Simon & Schuster) groundbreaking “Queer As Folk” in the early 2000s. Gless sat down for an interview in advance of the publication of her book. BLADE: Your new memoir, “Apparently There Were Complaints” opens on a serious note with your 2015 pancreatitis diagnosis. So, I’d like to begin by saying that, from one Gemini to another, I hope you are in good health. SHARON GLESS: Thank you, honey, I’m in very good health. Thank you, my fellow Gemini. BLADE: Why was now the time to write your memoir? GLESS: Well, it’s taken seven years. It’s not like it was yesterday. I never actually intended to write a memoir, Gregg. I was called in to a meeting by CBS for what I thought was a conversation to offer me a new series. We talked for an hour and, apparently, I was so entertaining that at the end of the hour meeting, the president of CBS said, “You know we own Simon & Schuster.” I said, “I didn’t know that.” She said, “We do, and I think you’ve got a book in you.” I said, “I don’t usually write.” She said, “That doesn’t matter. You’re a storyteller, Sharon.” So I walked out with a book deal [laughs] with Simon & Schuster and not the series I was hoping for. Actually, I didn’t meet (with) Simon & Schuster for another year. I sort of let it go. The next day there was a text from the president of Simon & Schuster. I sort of ignored it because I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to act! A year went by, and I wasn’t so busy, and I was in New York, and I said, “What the hell!” I went to meet him. I read one chapter to him, one chapter that I had written in case he asked for anything. He signed me that day [laughs]. BLADE: Were you a journal or diary keeper or did you rely on your memory for the details? 16 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • OCTOBER 29, 2021

GLESS: Never. No. My very best friend Dawn (LaFreeda), who’s been my best friend forever and … I’m a talker, a storyteller, and I would tell her stories about my life throughout our relationship. She kept them! She said, “You have a book in you.” So, there’s another person saying so. She kept the stories. When Simon & Schuster made me the offer, Dawn dragged out all my stories. A couple of times I had gatherings at my house where I had four people over, and I said, “Ask me some questions,” and put a recorder down. I’d just start talking. Then as more of my life coming out on the page, which is hard to do, I started remembering more and more. It took a form that I had always intended. I came up with the title, “Apparently There Were Complaints,” very early on. I made the book about all the complaints people had about me throughout my life. It helped that Dawn had kept records of all the stories I’ve told. Some of those I used in the book. It’s funny, as you write, as you keep going, you start remembering more and more and more because one emotion leads to the next emotion or the next time someone hurts your feelings or the next complaint. BLADE: I’m glad you mentioned the emotional part of it, because writing a memoir means revisiting the past, including your complicated relationship with your grandmother, whom you called Grimmy, as well as your parents. Did you find it to be painful, freeing or both? GLESS: Sometimes because some of the memories were painful. There were times when I was reading some of it that I would go back to that place. I just finished recording [the audio book] a couple of weeks ago. What surprised me is when I’d get to certain places, especially about Grimmy, you can hear on the recording, my voice breaks. I left it in. They asked me if I wanted to rerecord it and I said, “No. Leave it in.” She was really the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s that she was tough. BLADE: One of the things that stood out to me about “Apparently There Were Complaints” is the way that not only does it sound like you — I’ve interviewed you before so in reading the book, it sounded like you… GLESS: Thank you! It’s very important to me that you hear my voice in that. BLADE: It totally comes through. The other thing that shines through is your sense of humor and comic timing. GLESS: Thank you! BLADE: How important was it for you to make that aspect of your personality a part of the book? GLESS: Very important. I do have a sarcastic, not a mean sarcastic, a funny sarcastic side. Some of the complaints and some of my addictions and some of the things I talk about…you’ve got to take some of it lightly or who’s going to want to read that? Clearly, I survived. It’s not all bad news. When I came up with the title, [laughs] which was perfect because there were so many complaints about me in my life, sometimes you just have to

laugh, even at the sadder stuff. I’m still standing, Gregg! BLADE: Yes, you are! Memoirs, like TV shows such as “Finding Your Roots,” are a way for both the subject and the audience to uncover fascinating details that might not otherwise have been public knowledge. The story about your boarding school classmate Gibbie, also known as the late Abigail Folger, in chapter seven feels like an example of that. Would you ever consider being on one of those genealogy tracing shows? GLESS: I didn’t know a show like that existed. I would never do something like “This Is Your Life” [laughs], remember that? I didn’t know about a show that traces your genealogy. I’m always fascinated in my background. I’m certainly not opposed to anybody scraping up my genealogy. BLADE: You write about your interactions with LGBTQ+ people in your life, personally and professionally, and Chapter 43, titled “I’ll Be There,” which is about your experience playing Debbie Novotny in Showtime’s “Queer As Folk” made me weep, it was so beautiful. This is less a question than it is an expression of gratitude for, well, being there. GLESS: Thank you! The pleasure, for lack of a better word, is all mine. You have all changed my life. I became so much more educated. I thought, “Oh, I know it all. All my best friends are gay.” Right? But I learned so much on “Queer As Folk.” The stories that they wrote and the performances. I didn’t realize the real plight, the behind-the-scenes pain that went on in the gay community. Because of “Queer As Folk” I became quite educated and impassioned. I meant it when I said, “I’ll be there.”

Where ALL GUYS come together Visit www.squirt.org today to join the action

BLADE: The Peacock streaming service is doing a “Queer As Folk” reboot. What do you think about that? GLESS: Yes, I’m aware they’re doing a reboot of it. What I think about it is I’m so sorry they’re not using the original cast. It’s never going to be better. But good luck to them, and I hope they have even close to the hit we were. I think the biggest star of that show right now is going to be the city of New Orleans. We’ll see how the stories go. BLADE: Because the entertainment industry is a central component to your memoir, if “Apparently There Were Complaints” was to be made into a theatrical movie or TV miniseries, who would you want to play you? GLESS: It would take several actresses because there’s a lot of years. If there was somebody who could span it. I’m a big fan of Jennifer Lawrence. She has a husky voice, too. And there’s also an irreverence and a sensitivity to her. If anybody ever wanted to do that, I think she’d be great. BLADE: Finally, in addition to us both being Geminis, we also share South Florida as our home. What do you like best about living here? GLESS: The happiness on my husband’s (TV producer Barney Rosenzweig) face. When he retired he moved us here. I’m married to a man who if he’s happy, everybody’s happy [laughs]. He adores Florida. Los Angeles was always my home. I was born there, raised there. I’m an Angeleno, through and through. I’ve been to Los Angeles over the last year and I don’t like what’s happened to it. Now I’m grateful to be returning to an island as beautiful as the one I live on. Los Angeles needs a total reboot, rebuild, re-everything. It’s fallen on hard times, L.A. I remember it when I lived there. It was a magical city.



‘I Am Samuel’: A family portrait too real for Kenya? Country banned LGBTQ-themed documentary

If there has been one thing missing in LGBTQ storytelling for a while it has been the framing of LGBTQ people as cogs in greater family mechanisms. The 2020 Kenyan film “I Am Samuel” not only fills this gap but also disrupts how stories of African people of marginalized sexual orientations have been told to the world. When Peter Murimi started chronicling this story more than five years ago, he might have imagined that his locale would be primed to receive it as Kenya has a thriving human rights activist scene. That was not the case, and his intimate family portrait was banned from being screened in its proverbial motherland. When you hear that a film has been banned you immediately think that it contains gratuitous displays of something or the other that goes against the fabric of the country or humanity in general. In dictatorial states you might think the film to be excessively progressive. With the film in question, neither of those things is the case. If anything, Murimi’s telling of Samuel’s story is in service of nationwide unification. While the principal characters are Sammy and Alex, whom he calls “the love of my life” in the first minute of dialogue in the film, the story really is about the strength and value of family ties with Sammy’s aging parents. The Kenya Film Classification Board’s penchant for banning films it expects to sway people toward cultural enlightenment, what it would frame as corruption of morals, is nothing new at this point with regard to LGBTQ-centric films. This very board banned Wanuri Kahiu’s internationally acclaimed “Rafiki,” which was released in Cannes in 2018, due to its “homosexual themes.” The case built around “I Am Samuel,” however, is a different one since it shows Sammy’s gayness not as rebellion but as affirming his truth — something that his parents grow to not fault him for. In their justification of why Murimi’s film violates the Films and Stage Plays Act, the acting CEO Christopher Wambua pointedly stated that “additionally, the film tries to influence the viewer into believing that the older generation that was once against LGBTQ+ is slowly buying into the practice and accepting same-sex marriage as a normal way of life.” What is sad, yet not unsurprising, about Wambua’s statement is that it reminds us that homophobia is as inherited as colorism in Africa and across former colonies. Given the chance to see what elders growing into their acceptance of what they had been conditioned to believe is foreign, even if they knew better than to buy into that lie, it would appear that Kenya’s moralistic cultural gatekeepers refuse to engage in the decolonial project one of their own, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, continues to challenge the world toward. What Murimi offers in this family portrait is for Kenyans, Africans and all those conditioned to believe that hating one of their own is intrinsic to self-preservation, to view the protagonist’s life from the perspective of the aunt/uncle/cousin/sister/mother/father who is in fact their confidante. Murimi allows viewers to see a family thrown into turmoil by the revelation of someone’s truth, and to watch as each party grows to learn how to coexist with the other in an effort to rebuild the tangible love they once had, which is now just hidden behind shame and misunderstanding. “I Am Samuel” isn’t without expressions of romance, sexuality, and attraction. When Sammy’s father professes that he was happy that he’d found his “sweetie” and he wants the same thing for his son, you feel both bashful and pitiful. Sammy’s parents, being aging subsistence farmers, are the Africans of anthropologic development reports the West feeds its colonialist appetite with, but Murimi gives them a chance at being multidimensional — being people who not only suffer their environment, but also have histories that don’t involve the hardships of their present. Similarly, this film does away with many of the hallmarks of “third world LGBTQ documentaries” in that it really is just about Sammy’s



(Image courtesy of ‘We Are Not The Machine’)

life and doesn’t try to paint a broad-stroke picture of how gay men live in Nairobi or rural Kenya. The commitment that Sammy and Alex show to each other is also given its space without dramatization. Their personal hardships are mundane. What strikes the viewer, however, is that this documentary is not sanitized from the horrors that state-endorsed homophobia can bring to people’s lives. A case of mistaken identity resulting in unwarranted scars for one of their friends is a reminder that generalist understandings and portrayals of LGBTQ people are dangerous and can be life threatening. “I Am Samuel” is a timely offering to the world of LGBTQ storytelling in that it’s a story of perseverance, acceptance, teaching, mundanity, destiny, faith and simple humanity. The film is by no means a finished story, Murimi doesn’t venture to envelope it in fancy facts or Aristotelian catharsis—we are left with where the family that we spend the good part of an hour getting to understand are at the point the screen fades to black. We are left hoping that the family unit is able to re-imagine its future. Where questions of offspring might otherwise be framed through surrogacy or adoption, we understand that these are socio-economic privileges that don’t immediately apply in this particular family. We are left hoping that the health of the elders improves and they get to celebrate many more harvests and muse over wedding photos and cake. “I Am Samuel” is the kind of African story that shelves being brave in favor of being seen as human by those closest to you and many families need it. Whether they are in Kenya, Botswana, Russia or the U.S., they need it. “I Am Samuel” premiered across Africa on Oct. 14 on Afridocs’ website, and the producers invite you to stream it there for free.

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‘Not Like Other Girls’ is not your mom’s musical Lockwood was an LA kid who escaped to New York for adventure By ROB WATSON


(Photo by Jessika Stocker)


“The Brooklyn Alt-Comedy scene is WILD!” musician and comedian Ian Lockwood tells me in our sit down on Rated LGBT Radio. “It is even wilder than I thought it was going to be!” It is from that fertile ground of creativity that Lockwood has given birth to his sophomore EP titled Not Like Other Girls. Girls follows up his debut EP Nasty, which critics described as a “tantalizing display of talent.” Lockwood is a Brooklyn-based comedian and pop musician and the co-host of the stand-up show ‘Hot Teens’ at the Brooklyn Comedy Collective and has had recurring appearances on the Earwolf podcast Earwolf Presents. The Nasty EP released in 2020 introduced the comedy-pop style that has become Lockwood’s signature in the Brooklyn alt scene. He is an alumni of NYU Tisch’s Experimental Theatre Wing, Second City’s Comedy Studies, UCB, and The Annoyance Theatre NY, and his shows have been covered in Time Out, Brokelyn, Brooklyn Paper, Bedford+Bowery, and more. Lockwood’s work hinges on infectious pop musical creations, layered with camp concepts and then polished off with a satirical boundary-pushing wit that unveils the human hypocrisy of its subjects. The song Not Like Other Girls follows the Katy Perry-like “be queer, be your special self” pattern, until its character starts reaching desperately for hilarious outliers to prove her individuality. No Homo is a fun poke, pardon the expression, at guys who have sex with guys but do anything to proclaim they are “no homo.” You Can’t Keep Me Down is a tribute to the feelgood, “I shall overcome” anthems…until you realize that the singer may in fact be someone who DOES need to be kept down. Lockwood finds fascination in the cognitive dissonance that many humans exhibit (especially in this overly socialized media world), and capitalizes on it in songs that both make you want to dance, and that get stuck “ear worm” wise in your head. Lockwood was a Los Angeles kid who escaped to New York for big adventure and rebellion. He found his home in the Brooklyn entertainment scene. That venue is all about pushing boundaries, experimenting to see what works and has put forth a rich and long tradition of artists that developed the East Village post-modern dance music of the 60s, to punk rock in the 70s and 80s. “I came up in the dark basements, backyards, and back rooms of bars that is the Brooklyn comedy scene where, believe it or not, singing songs about banging someone’s dad or saying “no homo” in the 1800s or driving a tractor through the wall of a middle school is not that out there. On stage I’ve dumped cold soup on my head, coated a stage in lotion, made out with tons of people, performed an entire musical about female masturbation in drag, and done improv in a thong. I’ve learned from so many amazing gay and queer artists in my community, and I’m proud and grateful to carry their influence into my work,” he says. The core of the songs on Lockwood’s EPs are the characterized persona each song represents. They do not pretend to be a sweeping classification of people or generalization, but rather individuals who have taken their passions and points of view a bit too far. Hilarity comes as the listener realizes that Lockwood’s characters become so empowered and immune to haters that they are unaware they have themselves become monsters. The result, is listening to fun music, getting shocked by some twisted mindsets, having a good laugh… and then pondering at the deeper meaning and exposure to the downside to some of the current popular sensibilities. Your ultimate experience from Not Like Other Girls is, as Lockwood would say, “Wilder than you even thought.” Enjoy!


‘Raising Ollie’ a delightful read about raising non-binary child Teachers will appreciate this, though it’s not a parenting book

‘Raising Ollie: How My Nonbinary Art-Nerd Kid Changed (Nearly) Everything I Know’ By Tom Rademacher

c.2021, University of Minnesota Press | $18.95 | 200 pages


By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER Fill-in-the-blanks. That’s what you get when you have a baby: unknowns. Its birthdate is often a guess, length and weight are surprises. Will it have your eyes, long fingers, Dad’s smile, Grandma’s nose? Fill in the blanks: not boy, not girl but, as in the new memoir, “Raising Ollie” by Tom Rademacher, neither, thank you. When his daughter, Olive, was an infant, Tom Rademacher says he “struggled in those early months ... to enjoy much of parenting.” There were vast amounts to learn, and little “Ollie” was a patient teacher. As a toddler, Ollie was particularly talented in language and arts, attributes their teacher-father and therapist-mother encouraged. Early on, they were super-observant, wise, and curious about completely everything; when they were in second grade, suspicions that they were an intelligent kid were confirmed when they were labeled as an “advanced learner.” But school was a trial, even for a uber-smart seven-year-old. Ollie suffered from anxiety. They hated crowds and making friends and unwanted attention; they had the wit, open-mindedness, and understanding of an adult sometimes, but with little-kid coping skills. Normally a voracious lover of learning, they began to dread each school morning, and they seemed tearfully fearful of some classes and teachers. Obviously, a change in schools was needed; Ollie did their own research. Shortly after starting third grade, Olive, who prefers “daughter” and uses they/them pronouns begun loudly, confidently, assertively identifying as a nonbinary kid. At around this same time, their father had school issues of his own. A 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year, Rademacher had been unemployed due to budget cuts but was beginning a semester teaching language arts to eighth graders in northeast Minneapolis. He was also working on how to offer the best support for his students, just as he wanted for his child. “Raising Ollie” is absolutely delightful. It’s filled with funny stories that will make you laugh. It’s a peek inside today’s classroom, with a teacher who offers relatable lessons to a notoriously tough audience of teens. It’s also less than half about actually raising Ollie. Author Tom Rademacher starts this memoir with a teasing warning to readers that stories are important in his family. He fulfills his promises to tell tales about his life, his parents, racism and his efforts to eliminate it in the schools where he works, and the stellar students he’s had. His stories make you want to be seated at his table at a conference and yes, he tells stories about his smart, funny, talented child who is an “artnerd” and loves cosplay and wore girly dresses until about age seven – but just not enough. These are sometimes-hilarious tales of a Midwestern growing-up, idyllic and happy and nostalgic, followed by a typical, angsty, identitysearching teenage-hood. But Ollie? Just not enough. Sigh. Teachers will adore this book. There are laughs all over the place for just about every reader who can appreciate a little self-depreciation. But if you’re looking for a parenting book about rearing a nonbinary child, “Raising Ollie” may leave you blank.