(Photo courtesy of Warner Media)
DE CE MB E R 0 3, 2021 • VO L U M E 05 • ISSUE 4 9 • AMERICA’ S LGBT Q NEW S SO U R C E • LO SAN G ELESB LAD E. C O M
‘The Power of Stories,’ WarnerMedia rethinks Equity & Inclusion Company focus was on diverse nature of workforce among its brand components
By BRODY LEVESQUE The last two years have brought signiﬁcant changes of our strategy. to American corporate culture, particularly by way of Transparency treatment of the workforce. We want our leadership team to reﬂect the talent of Fostered in a societal climate inﬂuenced by the our community, so we’re sharing the global coronavirus pandemic and accentuated by metrics of our race and ethnicity. This will hold social unrest over the deaths of Black people at the us accountable as we focus on recruiting, hiring, hands of law enforcement, the Black Lives Matter development and retention. movement which resulted from those deaths, many Measurement businesses found themselves struggling to best serve We know that what gets measured gets done, so underrepresented minorities within the ranks of their our diversity numbers are included in the leadership employees. team’s weekly operational report, along with ﬁnancial Perhaps the most impacted ﬁrms in corporate and other America were the media conglomerates of which the essential business metrics. top four, Comcast, the Walt Disney Company, AT&T, Pay and ViacomCBS, found themselves rethinking their We’re making adjustments to ensure that people Graphic courtesy of WarnerMedia strategy. who are doing the same job, with the same level In October one of the four, WarnerMedia, released of experience, skills and performance are not paid its ﬁndings from the company’s 2020/21 Equity and diﬀerently. Inclusion (E&I) report, The Power of Stories. The focus for Warner’s review was entirely on Accountability the diverse nature of the workforce spread out amongst its brand components of Cartoon We’ll be adjusting our internal performance management process to include how we Network, CNN, DC, HBO, HBO MAX, TNT and Warner Bros. Television and Pictures. perform on inclusion initiatives. The company looked at how it as a employer, but more-so how its employees navigated Development signiﬁcant moments in 2020-2021 and did so by using personal stories and accounts as We’re building our own talent development programs focused on increasing visibility, the basis for the report’s foundational structure that highlights equity and inclusion across access and opportunities for underrepresented groups at all levels of the company. four areas at WarnerMedia: Storytelling • Workforce (including workforce composition and business resource groups for The stories we tell, and who gets to tell them, matters. We’re making employees) changes to ensure that we have creators and stories that reﬂect the breadth of our • Content (including scripted TV, ﬁlms, news, and animation) global audiences. • Programs (including creative development and pipeline programs) Training and education • Community (including industry and local outreach partnerships and initiatives). The education we all need to unravel a century’s history in our industry is immense, so Workforce Global Gender analysis shows 54% of the workforce are men and 46% women. we are expanding our inclusion learning and development work. U.S. Ethnicity and Race analysis shows a workforce that is 58% White, 12% Asian “Eﬀectuating inclusion for any identity group, particularly those who’ve been historically American 12% Black, 11% Hispanic/Latinx, 3% two or more races, 0.3% Native Hawaiian/ marginalized and ignored, requires a restructuring of systems that were, in many cases, Paciﬁc Islander, 0.1% Native American/Native Alaskan and 3% declined to state. designed to perpetuate inequality. We must be intentional in our eﬀorts to be better WarnerMedia U.S.-based Scripted Shows On-Screen Representation: 36% women, up and understand that social impact work is quickly becoming an expected and essential 2% from 2019. 29% people of color, up 5% from 2019. element of doing business. Failing to understand the nuances of identity and experiences Warner Bros. Pictures’ On-Screen Representation: 30% women, down 4% from 2019. is simply not an option for any business that intends to engage with diverse employees 29% people of color, up 5% from 2019. and consumers,” Dennis Williams, SVP, Corporate Social Responsibility, WarnerMedia told WarnerMedia U.S.-based Scripted Shows Behind-the-Camera Representation: 28% the Blade. women, up 5% from 2019. 29% people of color, up 6% from 2019. “Not only do we get to work on this, but we get to work on this at scale. We are a Warner Bros.’ Pictures’ Behind-the-Camera Representation: 27% women, up 4% from missionary team of nearly 30,000 team members… inspired, passionate and, of course, 2019. 27% people of color, up 4% from 2019. with the potential to do far more. And that is a good thing given there is so much more Animation: 54% of animated protagonists in development at Cartoon Network are to do. These were important steps towards making WarnerMedia more equitable and female and 52% of lead characters in development at Warner Bros. Animation are female. inclusive. And yet we all acknowledge that the bulk of the work is still in front of us,” said With emphasis on contextualizing the experiences of its workforce, WarnerMedia across Jason Kilar, CEO at WarnerMedia. all brands examined itself with a workforce that also included the LGBTQ+ community and “But just because there’s a willingness to talk about systemic issues like racism doesn’t the uniqueness of the experiences of those employees. mean that everyone can do it easily, or comfortably or constructively. It can be really “I ﬁrmly believe that talent is distributed equally in the world we live in today, but daunting to have conversations with Black colleagues about race when you are white. opportunity is not always evenly distributed,” said Christy Haubegger, EVP, Communications Or conversations about the experiences women have when you’re male, or the LGBTQ+ and Chief Inclusion Oﬃcer at WarnerMedia. experience if you’re straight. “That is why we have an Equity & Inclusion strategy that has been put into place to Real inclusivity, real diversity means everyone. So we asked the Equity and Inclusion open those opportunities — across our workforce, our content, our pipeline programs, team to create an expert-led program that not only gives people the tools and language to and the work we do within our communities. It is not about random acts of diversity. It’s have those conversations, but also a space in which to be clumsy, to ask diﬃcult questions,” about ongoing, measured and systemic change if we are going to achieve true equity for Jim Cummings the EVP, Chief Human Resources Oﬃcer noted in the report. everyone.” One WarnerMedia source told the Blade that even having these conversations and The company laid out its goals: a report laying out the type of ambitious plan for real equity and inclusiveness for the An action plan: company’s employees is a solid goal- but there needs to be follow though and meaningful To ensure equity and inclusion are core to our business priorities, we shared the tenets dialogue. 02 • DECEMBER 03, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Family Acceptance Project launches resource to help LGBTQ youth First-of-its-kind online tools to help decrease isolation FROM STAFF REPORTS
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into another year, the toll on children, youth, and families has escalated. Last month, leading national child and adolescent medical groups designated a national emergency for children’s and adolescent’s mental health in response to soaring rates of mental health challenges that disproportionately impact communities of color and call for trauma-informed services to reduce risk and support family resilience. The impact on LGBTQ young people has been signiﬁcant. Research over a period of years has documented high levels of risk for suicide, substance abuse, depression and homelessness for LGBTQ youth, related to social stigma. Before the pandemic, LGBTQ youth were 4-6 times more likely to attempt suicide compared with non-LGBTQ peers. During the pandemic, stress, attempted suicide and emergency department visits have ballooned for children and youth, overall. Of particular concern, lack of services for families with LGBTQ children has been an ongoing problem and is a major gap in prevention and care for diverse LGBTQ children, youth and families, nationwide. This has become more urgent given the early ages when children and adolescents self-identify as LGBTQ today – increasingly in childhood and pre-teen years – as a result of widespread access to information and positive images of LGBTQ lives, inconceivable for earlier generations of LGBTQ people who came out as adults and often led closeted lives. “The Family Acceptance Project’s work provides critical information to help parents and caregivers learn to support their LGBTQ children and to help youth and families ﬁnd access to urgently needed resources,” Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Oﬃcer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention said. “Their research has shown that when adults learn and demonstrate speciﬁc supportive behaviors in the home and community, LGBTQ youth not only feel more connected, but their health outcomes, including suicide risk, can be improved. A critical component of FAP’s work is providing evidence-based guidance to decrease family rejection and increase acceptance in ways that are culturally and linguistically relevant,” she added. Dr. Caitlin Ryan, Director of the Family Acceptance Project, noted: “Although awareness has increased signiﬁcantly of the risks that LGBTQ youth experience, there is still widespread lack of understanding of the essential role of family support in protecting against mental health risks and increasing wellbeing for LGBTQ youth. Our social media and online resources will help educate parents and caregivers on the compelling impact of family rejecting and accepting behaviors on their child’s risk for suicide, drug use and other serious health risks. Simple changes in how families respond to their LGBTQ children can make a powerful diﬀerence in preventing risk and building healthy futures. As families gather for the holidays this year, we are releasing this new resource to help decrease isolation and increase support for both LGBTQ youth and their families.” Historically, services for LGBTQ youth have been provided to LGBTQ youth alone, like adults, or through peer support since
(Art by Sam Kirk via Family Acceptance Project)
parents and families were seen as rejecting and incapable of learning to support their LGBTQ children. The perception that parents and caregivers are unable to learn to support their LGBTQ children – particularly in families that are culturally and religiously conservative – has impeded the development of family-based services and care to help diverse families learn to support their LGBTQ children. Twenty years ago when the Family Acceptance Project (FAP) initiated the ﬁrst research on LGBTQ youth and families, when conﬂict erupted, LGBTQ youth were routinely removed from their homes and placed in custodial care since providers did not believe that it was possible to increase family support. Moreover, providers saw their role as helping to protect LGBTQ young people from their families, not to promote family connectedness. This perception began to change as the Family Acceptance Project (FAP) started to publish the ﬁrst research on LGBTQ youth and families and showed that families play a critical role in contributing to health risks, including suicidal behaviors, and helping to protect against risk and promote well-being. FAP’s research identiﬁed more than 100 speciﬁc family rejecting and accepting behaviors that increase risk for suicide, depression, drug use, HIV and other health risks and promote well-being. These behaviors provide a foundation for FAPs behavior-based family support model that helps diverse families learn to support their LGBTQ children in the context of their families, cultures and faith traditions – even when they believe that being gay or transgender is wrong. Recognizing the growing crisis in adolescent mental health for youth of color and LGBTQ youth, the Upswing Fund for Adolescent Mental Health, a collaborative fund powered by Panorama, was launched in 2020 to provide resources for frontline services and to support organizations that work to transform mental health systems of care. Supported by this fund, the Family Acceptance Project with collaborative partners and cultural leaders are launching for the ﬁrst time a new national online resource that provides access to accurate information and aﬃrmative services to increase family and community support for LGBTQ children and youth to help decrease mental health risks and to promote well-being. This new website – which is the ﬁrst targeted resource for LGBTQ youth and families – includes a national searchable map of community support services that aﬃrm LGBTQ young people and help to increase family support, along with multilingual and multicultural evidence-based resources to increase family support for LGBTQ children and youth. Resources accessible through the new online site
04 • DECEMBER 03, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
include: support services for LGBTQ youth; peer support for parents, caregivers and families; LGBTQ community centers; LGBTQ health clinics; gender clinics; school supports; aﬃrming faith-based organizations and resources; and a national list of culture-based resources for ethnically and racially diverse LGBTQ communities. To carry out this work, FAP is collaborating with the Institute for Innovation & Implementation, a research-based organization at the University of Maryland School of Social Work that focuses on transforming systems to address the needs of children, youth and families, with a speciﬁc focus on LGBTQ and gender diverse children and youth. Since 2005, the Institute has been building the capacity of the nation’s health and mental health systems to care for vulnerable children and youth, most recently with national education and training centers to help decrease risk and increase well-being for LGBTQ children and adolescents. Cultural leaders and community members from diverse backgrounds have helped FAP to develop culturally grounded educational resources for families, youth, providers and religious leaders that show how speciﬁc family rejecting and accepting behaviors aﬀect LGBTQ children’s and adolescent’s risk and well-being in 11 languages with a speciﬁc version for American Indian families and communities. This new web resource will provide a series of webinars and family guidance materials that range from integrating FAP’s family support model into Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to guidance from Asian parents on supporting their transgender children. The website will be updated over time as new resources are added. This initiative includes an on-going social media component, disseminating graphics that illustrate how family accepting and rejecting behaviors impact health and well-being for LGBTQ children and youth, featuring the work of multidisciplinary artist, Sam Kirk. Founder of Provoke Culture, Kirk is a young queer artist whose murals and visual narratives explore culture, diversity and identity and vitalize communities across the U.S. Family accepting and rejecting behaviors studied in FAP’s research, have been transformed by Kirk’s art into social media memes that are being deployed across platforms to connect LGBTQ youth, parents, caregivers and others with critical family support messages and resources through the website to help decrease isolation, increase connectedness and provide access to aﬃrming services. The Family Acceptance Project is a research, intervention, education and policy initiative, aﬃliated with San Francisco State University, that is designed to: 1) prevent risk, including suicide, substance abuse and homelessness, and promote well-being for LGBTQ children and adolescents in the context of their families, cultures and faith communities; and 2) implement and disseminate the ﬁrst research-based, family model of wellness, prevention, and care to build healthy futures for LGBTQ children and youth. For more information about the Family Acceptance Project visit: https://familyproject.sfsu.edu/ For information about the Institute for Innovation & Implementation visit: https://theinstitute.umaryland.edu/
Inmates sue Calif. over trans women in female prisons custody with transgender women. A lawsuit ﬁled in the U.S. District Court In a statement to the Blade on Friday, for the Eastern District of California is Senator Wiener said; seeking to overturn Senate Bill 132, the “We passed SB 132 so that trans law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom people who are incarcerated can be safer in September 2020 which allows and can be who they are. SB 132 is about incarcerated transgender, non-binary respecting the basic dignity and agency and intersex people to be housed and of trans people. The proponents of this searched in a manner consistent with lawsuit have a long history of attacking their gender identity. trans people – trying to erase them, The measure, authored by state denying their existence, and classifying Senator Scott Wiener, (D-SF) SB 132 them as scam artists and rapists. was designed to ensure the California The bogus rationale for this lawsuit Department of Corrections and – that trans people are faking it so Rehabilitation’s eﬀorts to provide a safe, they can rape cisgender women – is no humane, respectful and rehabilitative diﬀerent than the bogus rationale for environment for the incarcerated the North Carolina trans bathroom bill. transgender, non-binary and intersex These attacks fuel violence against trans community. women and the high suicide rate among However, the inmates and the group trans youth. I’ll continue to support our that ﬁled the lawsuit, the Women’s trans siblings and will always ﬁght for Liberation Front, which also opposes (Photo courtesy California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) them.” transgender athletes’ participation in In the court documents ﬁled, the girl’s and women’s sports, are alleging Women’s Liberation Front along with another group listed as a plantiﬀ, Woman II in the suit that the law is unconstitutional and that the requirements of SB132 Woman, that advocates on behalf of incarcerated women, the groups misgender creates an unsafe environment for women in female facilities. inmates who transfer to female facilities referring to them as men and not as The Sacramento Bee reported that several of the plaintiﬀs report being victims female or using nonbinary pronouns such as she or they. of domestic violence in the past. Additionally, several of the plaintiﬀs also cite FROM STAFF REPORTS their religious beliefs, which they argue are impaired by being placed in shared
Google erases part of LGBTQ community in glossary A new online tool designed to help mainstream, freelance and even LGBTQ journalists LGBT.” At the same time, a GLAAD report found 45% of non-LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. say navigate deﬁnitions of what can be a complex world of LGBTQ vernacular, left out they’re confused by the diﬀerent number of terms to describe individuals who comprise deﬁnitions of bisexuality and pansexuality in a new Google “LGBTQ+ language initiative.” the LGBTQ+ community. The Google News Initiative announced the In a response late Friday evening, a spokesperson project in partnership with VideoOut, titled the for Jordan Reeves in a direct message on Twitter gave “LGBTQ+ language and media literacy program,” last the Blade a statement from Reeves: week in a press statement. According to the company, “Recently we launched The LGBTQ+ Language they partnered with Men’s Health magazine to “help and Media Literacy Program, a living and breathing contextualize the research and data in the program.” resource that we will continue to add to over time. The tool, a glossary of 100 words that used the We left out some terms and phrases at launch — company’s Google Trends to track the popularity bisexual, for example — that should have been of LGBTQ+ terminology and deﬁnitions, was created included from the very beginning! with the assistance of several queer Ph.D. linguists. “We are keenly aware of bi-erasure and the However, in a review of the glossary the terms persistent confusion around bisexual identity. and deﬁnitions for bisexuality and pansexuality were We are sorry we didn’t include it at luanch, [sic] missing. but we are adding it (along with pansexual) very According to the Google release: “It’s a way to soon. We started with 100 entries (deﬁnitely not a understand the LGBTQ+ community, and hopefully, comprehensive list…yet), and we are really excited to it will transform the way journalists – and all of us – add entries as the community gives us feedback and write and talk about LGBTQ+ people.” suggestions. Jordan Reeves, executive director of VideoOut, “We are really proud of the depth and breadth of (Photo via Bigstock) an LGBTQ nonproﬁt and the founder of VOE, a terms that exist in the resource and hope it continues production company centering LGBTQ narratives to be more and more useful as we add to it. in television and ﬁlm, answered the self-asked question of: “WHY WOULD VideoOut, an “We’ll also be adding features so that this resource is the most useful for anyone using LGBTQ+ nonproﬁt, partner with Men’s Health magazine?” language about the LGBTQ+ community. If there are other words you can think of that “So many people assume that Men’s Health is only for cisgender, heterosexual, masculine we’ve left out, or ways to make the tool more dynamic, let us know and we’ll queue them presenting men. I’m here to tell you, as a queer trans nonbinary human, that’s false.” up to be added!” According to a recent Gallup poll, “One in six [U.S.] adults in Generation Z identiﬁes as BRODY LEVESQUE 06 • DECEMBER 03, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Trans non-binary artist féi hernandez awarded grant Announcing winners of the 2021 Creative Fellowship project
FROM STAFF REPORTS An Inglewood raised immigrant trans non-binary visual artist, writer, and healer has been awarded a $5,000 grant to write and illustrate the ﬁrst volume of a three-part children’s book series. Los Angeles-based féi hernandez will write and illustrate Heart of a Moth (Corazón de una Mariposa Nocturna), the ﬁrst volume in the three-part children’s book series. The story will center Iká, a mixed-race diﬀerently abled queer young spirit warrior, that protects their hood from shadow beasts bred from corrupted hearts. The Books are anticipated to be distributed in multiaccessible formats including: audio books, Braille format, and plushies for kinesthetic readers to enrich a new generation of diﬀerently abled, queer and trans, Black, Indigenous, youth of color to embrace what makes them powerful. Deﬁne American, a culture change organization that uses the power of narrative to humanize conversations about immigrants, announced the winners of its 2021 Creative Fellowship project grant. The organization’s Creative Fellowship, which awards a $5,000 grant to each recipient, is one of the few U.S. artistic fellowship opportunities that welcomes applicants regardless of immigration status, including undocumented creatives. The other awardee is New York-based ﬁlmmaker Ash Goh Hua who will produce an abolitionist political cultural
event around political prisoner liberation, focusing on the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal. Free Mumia. Free Them All! will screen two short ﬁlms, I’m Free Now, You Are Free and By Your Side; feature a panel conversation between the ﬁlmmakers, Ash Goh Hua, Mike Africa Sr and Debbie Africa and cultural worker Kazembe Balagun, and host a teach-in by Campaign organizer Johanna Fernández. Abolition is a political vision with the goal of eliminating imprisonment, policing, and surveillance and creating lasting alternatives to punishment and imprisonment. By engaging the issue through art and ﬁlms, it allows a story/ narrative shift that moves people emotionally into the humanistic, cultural dimension of this struggle, which is crucial in political organizing, and thus will bring people closer to the issue at hand. Past winners of Deﬁne American Creative Fellowship include Danyeli Rodriguez Del Orbe (2020), a community organizer with UndocuBlack, spoken word poet, and writer who is based in Los Angeles and New Orleans art duo Karla Rosas and Fernando Lopez (2019). The Deﬁne American Creative Fellowship supports immigrant creatives working in narrative art forms as they build their professional practice and network. Recognizing the unique hurdles that immigrant creatives in these ﬁelds may face, the fellows selected for the Deﬁne American Creative Fellowship participate in workshops and conversations geared towards furthering their network
(Photo via Instagram)
and impact, connecting with additional resources, and supporting their community engagement eﬀorts. The Deﬁne American Creative Fellowship has been supported by the Kresge Foundation. This year, the CAA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of talent and sports agency Creative Artists Agency, also joined as a supporting partner as part of its Full Story Initiative eﬀorts. “At least 95% of artists have lost income due to COVID-19. Additionally, the immigrant community in the U.S. has been largely overlooked by pandemic aid and stimulus checks,” said Deﬁne American Founder Jose Antonio Vargas.
CONTINUED AT LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 03, 2021 • 07
U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS being held virtually Fauci, Levine, Pelosi among speakers
By LOU CHIBBARO JR. | firstname.lastname@example.org Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Other workshop sessions include: HIV CURE – Hot Topics Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and Dr. Rachel Levine, the in HIV Cure Research; A Town Hall on Aging and HIV; COVID, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health who became the nation’s HIV, and Racism – How Providers Can Make a Diﬀerence; highest-ranking transgender public oﬃcial earlier this year, Expanding the Pleasure and HIV Prevention Toolkit: Kink are among dozens of experts scheduled to participate in the As Harm Reduction; It’s About Time – HIV Research Just 25th Annual U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS scheduled to take For Transgender Women; and Impact of COVID-19 on HIV place virtually Dec. 2-3. (For updates, visit washingtonblade. Prevention Services Among U.S. Centers for Disease Control com.) and Prevention-Funded Community Based Organizations. Fauci and Levine were scheduled to join Harold Phillips, The conference’s fourth and closing plenary session, director of the White House Oﬃce of National AIDS Policy; Foundation Stones to Building the EHE Eﬀort in Indian and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), speaker of the U.S. House County, “will highlight the work of those addressing HIV of Representatives, as speakers at the conference’s opening and COVID in Indian Country, rural states and among plenary session at noon on Thursday, Dec. 2. Alaska Natives with limited infrastructure,” according to a Phillips and Levine were expected to provide information conference agenda statement. about President Joe Biden’s plans for updating the National “This plenary addresses these challenges and provides HIV/AIDS Strategy, which Biden was scheduled to announce innovative solutions by the Indian Country – making the Dr. RACHEL LEVINE, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health, is on Dec. 1 at a White House World AIDS Day event. case to support Native HIV care by providing essential among speakers at this week’s U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS. (Blade photo by Michael Key) Members of the U.S. People Living With HIV Caucus were building blocks,” the agenda statement says. also expected to discuss the federal policy agenda on HIV/ Paul Kawata, NMAC’s executive director, says in a AIDS at the opening plenary session. statement in the conference’s agenda booklet that he and In addition to the opening plenary and three other plenary sessions, one more on his NMAC team are disappointed that the 2021 conference is being held virtually for the Thursday, Dec. 2, and two on Friday, Dec. 3, the conference was scheduled to include 140 second year in a row. workshop sessions on a wide variety of HIV/AIDS related topics. “But we felt the issue of safety was simply too critical to ignore,” Kawata said in his The annual United States Conference on HIV/AIDS is organized by the D.C.-based national statement. “I’ve been very concerned about our loved ones over 50 living with HIV through HIV/AIDS advocacy organization NMAC, which was formerly known as the National Minority the whole COVID pandemic,” he said, noting that people in that category were dealing with AIDS Council before it changed its name to that of its widely known initials NMAC. isolation as well as a higher risk for COVID. “NMAC leads with race to urgently ﬁght for health equity and racial justice to end the HIV “I hope this conference, even though it is virtual, will help alleviate some of that isolation,” epidemic in America,” the organization states on its website. “Health equity with communities Kawata said. “We’ve worked very hard to make this conference not just an opportunity for of color is everyone’s challenge.” training and education, but a chance to connect with others, reinforce those strands in your Several of the workshop sessions cover the topic of expanding the local, state, and national support net, and hopefully, establish some new connections.” eﬀorts of using pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs known as PrEP as a means of preventing HIV More information about the U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS and instructions on registering infection. to attend can be obtained at nmac.org.
Biden recognizes LGBTQ survivors in World AIDS Day statement Trump failed to mention community during his administration By CHRIS JOHNSON | email@example.com
President Biden recognized LGBTQ people as among the survivors of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on Tuesday in a statement recognizing World AIDS Day, marking a departure from consistent omissions of the LGBTQ community under the Trump administration. “Ending the HIV epidemic is within our reach, and we are committed to ﬁnishing this work,” Biden said. “On World AIDS Day, we rededicate ourselves to building on the progress of the last 4 decades; upholding and advancing human rights; supporting research, science, and data-driven solutions; expanding access to housing, education, and economic empowerment; and ﬁghting stigma and discrimination. No one living with HIV should suﬀer the undeserved guilt and prejudice that too many continue to experience.” Biden, as the world recognizes World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, enumerated LGBTQ people as survivors in a paragraph acknowledging the coronavirus pandemic has presented new obstacles in eﬀorts to beat HIV/AIDS. “The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the challenges our heroic health care and frontline workers face, yet they continue to deliver essential HIV prevention services and provide vital care and treatment to people living with HIV,” Biden said. “The pandemic has also interrupted HIV research and highlighted the work that still remains to achieve equitable access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment in every community — particularly for communities of color, adolescent girls and young women, and the LGBTQI+ community.” The inclusion of LGBTQ people in a statement recognizing World AIDS Day stands in 08 • DECEMBER 03, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
contrast to statements from President Trump, who consistently declined to mention the LGBTQ community in each of his statements. The consistent omissions took place even though top health oﬃcials under the Trump administration started the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, which seeks to beat HIV/AIDS by 2030. Last year, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, asked by the Washington Blade why the LGBTQ community was missing from the 2020 statement, responded with a false statement that Trump was the ﬁrst to observe World AIDS Day by adorning the White House with a large red AIDS ribbon. In fact, the practice began under President George W. Bush and had continued through the Obama and Trump administrations. The inclusion of LGBTQ people in Biden’s World AIDS Day statement is consistent with former President Obama mentioning LGBTQ people as among the survivors of HIV/AIDS in his ﬁnal World AIDS Day statement. In 2016, Obama acknowledged “gay and bisexual men, transgender people, youth, Black and Latino Americans, people living in the southern United States, and people who inject drugs are at a disproportionate risk” of the disease. Biden in his World AIDS Day statement says his administration “remains steadfast in our eﬀorts to end the HIV epidemic,” ticking oﬀ policies his administration has pursued, including a budget request of $670 million to ﬁght HIV/AIDS domestically and support for global initiatives to ﬁght HIV/AIDS, which he said has save more than 21 million lives. “This remarkable progress over the past 18 years has been made possible through strong, bipartisan United States leadership and American generosity,” Biden said.
Kick Big Tobacco OUT of California Political Campaigns launches FROM STAFF REPORTS
legislation to prohibit the sale of ﬂavored tobacco The OUT Against Big Tobacco coalition supported products — products disproportionately targeted by Equality California Institute launched a pledge last towards LGBTQ+ people, people of color and our week urging California legislators and candidates to young people. voluntarily refuse campaign contributions from the “The tobacco industry serves no purpose other than tobacco industry. to make people sick. Tobacco money is not essential A total of sixteen legislators and candidates have for people to win” states Senator Scott Wiener. taken the pledge thus far, with more expected to sign Initial signers of OUT Against Big Tobacco’s pledge on as the 2022 campaign season gets underway. not to take tobacco industry campaign contributions The pledge was launched in conjunction with the include: American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) a national day in recognition of tobacco users who Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine) are looking to quit tobacco for good. LGBTQ+ people Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) are more than TWICE as likely to smoke as our nonAssemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona) LGBTQ+ peers, and nearly 30,000 LGBTQ+ people Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath across the country die every year of tobacco-related (D-Encinitas) causes. Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris “For decades, Big Tobacco has used their proﬁts to (D-Laguna Beach) place themselves as friends of our community. This Annie Cho, candidate for Assembly District 38 year we are kicking them OUT; out of our Pride, out (Los Angeles Blade graphic) Supervisor Matt Haney, candidate for Assembly of our organizations, and out of our politics,” said District 17 Equality California Program Manager, Dr. Shannon Daniel Hertzberg, candidate for Senate District 18 Kozlovich. “We are calling all 2022 California State legislative candidates to stand with Mayor Christy Holstege, candidate for Assembly District 42 us and pledge to run tobacco free campaigns. Bilal Mahmood, candidate for Assembly District 17 “The tobacco industry is killing our children, killing people of color, killing people that Mayor Lily Mei, candidate for Senate District 10 have underlying health conditions. We have to take a stand by not accepting tobacco Caroline Menjivar, candidate for Senate District 18 contributions!” said Senator Lena Gonzalez. Andrea Rosenthal, candidate for Assembly District 36 In California’s 2020 Senate and Assembly election cycle, tobacco companies spent Rick Chavez Zbur, candidate for Assembly District 50 $6 million on campaign contributions, while spending millions more lobbying against
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 03, 2021 • 09
NATIONAL ‘Very familiar’: Mark Glaze’s story brings into focus mental health for gay men Experts see common story as LGBTQ people enter middle age By CHRIS JOHNSON | firstname.lastname@example.org
The death by suicide at age 51 of Mark Glaze, a gun reform advocate who was close to many in D.C.’s LGBTQ community, is striking a chord with observers who see his struggles with mental health and alcoholism as reﬂective of issues facing many gay men as they enter middle age. Glaze’s story resonates even though much of the attention on mental health issues in the LGBTQ community is devoted to LGBTQ youth going through the coming out process and transgender people who face disproportionate violence and discrimination within the LGBTQ community in addition to a growing focus on LGBTQ seniors entering later stages of life. Randy Pumphrey, senior director of behavioral health for the D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Health, said Glaze’s story was “very familiar” as a tale of mental health issues facing gay men in the middle stage of life. “You’re talking about a gay-identiﬁed man who is in his 50s, somebody who has struggled with alcohol misuse — or maybe abuse or dependence— and also depression,” Pumphrey said. “I think that there has always been a higher incidence of suicide for men in general in their middle age 50 and above, but this increases when you’re talking about gay men, and also if you’re talking about gay men who suﬀer with mental health issues, or substance use disorder issues.” Several sources close to Glaze said his death did not come as a surprise. His family has been open about his death by suicide last month while he was in jail after allegedly ﬂeeing the scene of a car accident in Pennsylvania and a long history of depression and alcoholism. Pumphrey said Glaze’s situation coping with mental health issues as well as the consequences for his role in the accident, were reﬂective of someone who might “begin to perceive that this is an issue that they can’t get away from, or the consequences they can’t get away from exposure and that can lead somebody to a fatal outcome.” “My experience is that there have been gay men that I have worked with over the years — particularly in their 50s and early 60s — it’s taken them a long time to recognize the severity of the problem, whether it’s their depression or their substance abuse, and then they ﬁnd themselves in a very precarious situation because of shame, and so they may not necessarily seek help even though they need help.” A 2017 study in the American Journal of Men’s Health found the prevalence of depression among gay men is three times higher than the general adult population, which means they are a subgroup at high risk for suicide. The study found “scant research exists about gay men’s health beyond sexual health issues,” most often with HIV, which means issues related to depression and suicidality “are poorly understood.” “Gay men’s health has often been deﬁned by sexual practices, and poorly understood are the intersections of gay men’s physical and mental health with social determinants of health including ethnicity, locale, education level and socioeconomic status,” the study says. The study acknowledged being male itself is one factor incorporated in addressing mental health issues in this subgroup because “regardless of sexual orientation, men can be reluctant to seek help for mental health problems.” Another study quoted in the report found 23 percent, less than one quarter of gay men, who attempted suicide sought mental health or medical treatment. In addition to mental health issues facing gay men in Glaze’s age group, others saw his situation as a common story in the culture of Washington, which is notorious for celebrating and prioritizing success with little tolerance for personal setbacks. In the case of Glaze, who had sparred on Fox News with Tucker Carlson as executive director of Everytown for Gun Safety, the threat of exposure and threat to his career may have seemed overwhelmingly daunting. Steven Fisher, who knew Glaze since the 1990s and worked with him at the D.C.-based Raben Group, said one factor that contributed to Glaze’s condition was “he could only see upward in terms of his career trajectory.” “We saw that in him and it had me very concerned because I felt like he might end up in a place that wasn’t good once he left Everytown, and that’s tragically and sadly what happened,” Fisher said. “I think he just had trouble adjusting to what is usually a roller coaster ride, I think, in people’s careers, especially in the D.C. world.” Along with Glaze, Fisher has worked on gun issues for Everytown, which has been a client of his since 2015 after he worked for them in 2012 after the Newtown shooting. Compounding the challenges that Glaze faced is a culture among many gay men focused on sexuality, which prioritizes youth and appearance and presents problems as those qualities 10 • DECEMBER 03, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
start fading when men enter middle age. Fisher said another factor in Glaze’s condition was social media, pointing out public perception about his identity was important to him. “If you look at his social media — I think this is instructive to the rest of us — a lot of the MARK GLAZE’s death by suicide is comments are about how Mark was so good bringing into focus mental health issues faced by gay men. looking and he was charming, and he was so smart and so funny,” Fisher said. “That’s all true, and that’s why he was very appealing to many people, but those qualities don’t really tell you everything about a person. In fact, one could argue they’re superﬁcial in a way, and people have to remember people are more complicated than what you see on social media.” One issue for gay men facing mental health issues as they enter middle age is they don’t have the same resources as those available to LGBTQ youth, who have been more of a focus in terms of mental health issues in the LGBTQ community. Among the leading organizations for LGBTQ youth is the Trevor Project, which has resources and a hotline for LGBTQ youth facing mental health crises. Kevin Wong, vice president of communications for the Trevor Project, said his organization would be receptive to an older LGBTQ person who calls the hotline, but ultimately would refer that person elsewhere. “If an LGBTQ person above the age of 25 reaches out to The Trevor Project’s crisis services for support and expresses suicidal thoughts, our counselors will listen, actively and with empathy, and work with them to de-escalate and form a safety plan, like any other contact,” Wong said. “However, our organization has remained youth-centric since its founding and our volunteer crisis counselors are speciﬁcally trained with younger LGBTQ people in mind.” Much attention is focused on the coming out process for LGBTQ people, a time that can upend close relationships — as well as reaﬃrm them — and a process more commonly associated with youth. Ilan Meyer, senior scholar of public policy at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, said data is scant about suicide rates among LGBTQ people, but information on suicide attempts shows they tend to be at a heightened rate for LGBTQ people as they go through the coming out process. “What we do know is that there is a connection with the coming out period at whatever age coming out happens,” Meyer said. “And so, we see a proximity to coming out whatever age that happened, we see the suicide attempts proceeding and after that.” Suicide attempts, Meyer said, are much higher for LGBTQ people than the population at large. The self-reported rate of suicide attempts in the U.S. population as a whole, Meyer said, is 2.4 percent, but that ﬁgure changes to 20 to 30 percent among LGBTQ youth, which about to 10 to 15 times greater. Black and Latino people, Meyer said, have been less likely to make suicide attempts in their lifetimes, although he added that may be changing in recent years. With the primary focus on mental health issues elsewhere in the LGBTQ community, Glaze’s death raises questions about whether suﬃcient resources are available to people in his demographic, or whether individuals are willing to seek out care options that are available. Meyer said whether the resources for suicidal ideologies among LGBTQ people are suﬃcient and what more could be done “is the the million-dollar question.” “It’s deﬁnitely not determined by just mental health,” Meyer said. “So many people have depression, but they don’t attempt suicide. And so, then the diﬃcult thing is to ﬁnd the right moment to intervene and what that intervention should be.” Meyer said much of the focus on mental health is on a person’s last moments before making a suicide attempt, such as making suicide hotlines readily available, but some of the stressors he sees “are more chronic, ongoing things related to homophobia and the kind of experience that LGBT people have as they come to terms to realize their sexual identity.” Pumphrey said another factor in mental health issues not to be underestimated for almost two years now is “dealing with the COVID and loneliness epidemic,” which appears to have no immediate end in sight with the emergence of the Omnicron variant. “There was always this piece of sometimes the experience of being in your 50s and early 60s…we talk about the invisibility factor,” Pumphrey said. “But when there’s just this sense of being disconnected from community, especially in the early days of the pandemic, and kind of being locked down, I think that just raised the risk.”
Canada introduces bill to ban conversion therapy The Canadian government on Monday introduced a bill that would ban so-called conversion therapy in the country. The bill that Attorney General David Lametti and Women and Gender Equality and Youth Minister Marci Ien introduced would amend Canada’s Criminal Code to speciﬁcally ban: • Causing another person to undergo conversion therapy; • Removing a minor from Canada to subject them to conversion therapy abroad; • Proﬁting from providing conversion therapy; • Advertising or promoting conversion therapy. A press release the Canadian government issued said the bill would allow courts “to order the seizure of conversion therapy advertisements or to order their removal from computer systems or the internet.” “The pain and trauma caused by conversion therapy practices continue to have a devastating Canadian Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU said conversion therapy impact on LGBTQ2 communities across Canada,” ‘is discriminatory and degrading.’ (Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers) said Ien. “Our government is focused on promoting equality rights and tackling discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit people. Criminalizing this
practice upholds basic human rights, while also ensuring that every Canadian is free to live their authentic lives.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a tweet said conversion therapy “is discriminatory and degrading, and has had devastating impacts on LGBTQ2 Canadians.” “It has no place in our country,” he said. Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault, who previously advised Trudeau on LGBTQ issues, also applauded the bill’s introduction. “Conversion ‘therapy’ is akin to torture,” said Boissonnault. “I encourage all of my colleagues in the House (of Commons), to support this bill that will move to criminalize conversion therapy in Canada once and for all.” Canada would join Malta and a handful of countries that ban conversion therapy. Trudeau, who won re-election in September, has previously called for a prohibition of the widely discredited practice. The Canadian Senate earlier this year tabled a separate conversion therapy ban bill. MICHAEL K. LAVERS
Dutch gov’t apologizes for sterilizing trans, intersex people The Dutch government on Saturday formally apologized to transgender and intersex people who were forced to become sterile in order to legally change their gender. The Gender Change Act, which was also known as the Transgender Act, was in eﬀect in the Netherlands from 1985 until its repeal in 2014. Education, Culture and Science Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven and Law Minister Sander Dekker last year on behalf of the Dutch government apologized to trans and intersex people who had undergone forcible sterilizations. The Dutch government also agreed to pay 5,000 euros ($5,633.68) to around 2,000 trans people who had sterilization surgeries. A ceremony did not take place because of the pandemic. Van Engelshoven issued Saturday’s the formal apology during a meeting with trans and intersex people that took place at the Ridderzaal, a 12th century building in The Hague that the Dutch government uses for speeches from the country’s royal family and other important ceremonial events.
“For decades we have had a law that has harmed transgender and intersex people,” said van Engelshoven. “People have undergone medical treatment that they did not want, or have been forced to postpone becoming themselves. Today, on behalf of the entire Cabinet, I make our deepest apologies. Recognition of and apologies for what has been done to these people and which has caused a lot of grief for those involved is extremely important and is central to this special day in the Ridderzaal.” Transgender Netwerk Nederland in a press release said the Netherlands is the ﬁrst country in the world to issue such an apology. The advocacy group notes the Dutch government last month began to compensate trans and intersex people who were forcibly sterilized, but adds the amount of money they will receive remains too low. “The government has structurally disadvantaged and damaged transgender and intersex people for almost 30 years,” said Willemijn van Kempen, who spearheaded the campaign for the formal apology. “It is important that it now apologizes for that.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS
Hungarian lawmakers back LGBTQ referendum Hungarian lawmakers on Tuesday approved a resolution that paves the way for a referendum on LGBTQ issues. Reuters noted Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who is running for re-election in 2022, earlier this year proposed a referendum on a law that bans the promotion of homosexuality and sex-reassignment surgery to minors in Hungary. “The Hungarian government proposes that citizens should have a chance to express their stance on the issues of gender propaganda,” Deputy Minister Balázs Orbán told Hungarian MPs, according to Reuters. “We are committed. We believe that we … have to say no to LGBTQ propaganda in schools carried out with the help of NGOs and media, without parental consent.” Orbán continues to face criticism over his government’s eﬀorts to curtail LGBTQ rights in Hungary. 12 • DECEMBER 03, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Lawmakers late last year amended the country’s constitution to deﬁne family as “based on marriage and the parent-child relation” with “the mother is a woman, the father a man” and eﬀectively banned same-sex couples from adopting children. Hungarian MPs in April 2020 approved a bill that bans transgender and intersex people from legally changing their gender. Hungary in August issued a decree that restricted the sale of children’s books with LGBTQ-speciﬁc themes. The European Commission in July announced legal action against Hungary after the law that will go before voters took eﬀect. Orbán in September said Brussels has withheld funds for the country’s pandemic recovery plan because of his government’s anti-LGBTQ policies. An EU spokesperson said LGBTQ issues did not factor into the decision to withhold the money. MICHAEL K. LAVERS
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Publish trans employment stats Not enough corporations that march in Pride are hiring non-binary staﬀ On Nov. 10, the top-tier consulting ﬁrm McKinsey published a report on discrimination toward trans people in the workplace. The report came out with numbers that we have all known true for a long time and lead to one conclusion: Trans people have a harder time ﬁnding jobs, holding them down, and advancing in their careers. Speciﬁcally, McKinsey cited the fact that cisgender people are twice as likely to be employed as trans people, and that more than half of trans employees are uncomfortable being out at work. Meanwhile, cisgender employees make 32% more than trans employees in the workplace, even if those trans employees hold the same positions or higher positions. On top of this, trans people are 2.4 times more likely to be working in the food and retail industries, which pay entry level wages that are much less than decent pay. These statistics are true based on a number of factors. For one, many trans people have a harder time passing at work, and people who don’t pass well face worse job prospects. (As a side note, on top of that, the study pointed to the fact that many trans people exert undue emotional and psychological energy into trying to pass really well and not be discriminated against, which takes a toll on their mental health.) So what is a concrete step that corporations can take to make the trans experience in the workplace better? It’s time that corporations step up their game by publishing and making transparent the number of trans employees
that they actually hire. Such numbers can be published in any kind of company document: a pamphlet, online report, or even annual shareholder’s report. As it is, most corporations do not publish numbers on LGBT employees. “Rainbow capitalism” is a term we know all too well: major corporations and multinationals ﬂaunting a rainbow and trans pride ﬂag during the month of June, but seemingly doing little to hire more trans people or give back to the community during other months. Every corporation surely has the time and company-wide infrastructure to get statistics on their trans employees. All they need to do is implement a company-wide survey to new hires. This takes extremely little eﬀort and time in the grand scheme of company workings. If major corporations like McKinsey, Bain, Deloitte, defense contractors, and hundreds of other huge companies published statistics on trans employees, they would be held accountable for their actions and words. If these statistics were to be published today, we would probably ﬁnd out that not enough corporations that march in Pride parades are hiring trans and gender nonconforming employees. Turning the numbers against corporations will ensure that these same corporations ﬁnally live up to their words about workplace inclusion and diversity. It won’t cure everything about the issue of being trans in the workplace, but it’s a step in the right direction.
14 • DECEMBER 03, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
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Kathi Wolfe a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.
Sondheim’s art will be with us for the ages Iconic work explored sadness, rage, irony, and love of humanity
Sondheim didn’t come out as gay until he was 40. Yet, even in the 1970s, it was hard not “The only regret I have in life is giving you birth,” his mother wrote in a letter to Stephen to think that Bobby in “Company” wasn’t gay. Sondheim. Once you’ve heard Elaine Stritch sing “The Ladies Who Lunch” from “Company,” it The only regret so many of us feel now is that Sondheim, the iconic composer and becomes indelibly etched in your brain. lyricist, died on Nov. 26 at his Roxbury, Conn. home at age 91. Who else but Sondheim could have written, “And here’s to the girls who play/smart-/Aren’t He is survived by Jeffrey Romley, whom he married in 2017, and Walter Sondheim, a they a gas/Rushing to their classes in optical art,/ half-brother. Wishing it would pass/Another long exhausting F. Richard Pappas, his lawyer and friend, told day/Another thousand dollars/A matinee, a the New York Times that the cause of death was Pinter play/Perhaps a piece of Mahler’s/I’ll drink unknown, and that Sondheim had died suddenly. to that/And one for Mahler!” The day before he passed away, Sondheim In September, I, along with legions of other celebrated Thanksgiving with friends, Pappas theater lovers, were thrilled when Sondheim told told the Times. Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show,” that he was “Every day a little death,” Sondheim wrote in “A working with David Ives on a new musical called Little Night Music.” “Square One.” This isn’t the case with the passing of Sondheim. In his musicals from “Follies” to “Sweeney Whether you’re a Broadway star or a tone-deaf Todd” to “Sunday in the Park with George,” aficionado like me, you’ll sorely miss Sondheim, Sondheim, through his lyrics and music, revealed who the Times aptly called “one of Broadway the internal depths of his characters and the history’s songwriting titans.” sadness, tenderness, bitterness, rage, irony, wit, Like multitudes of his fans, I don’t remember and love of humanity. Sondheim’s wordplay was a time in my life when a song from a Sondheim so brilliant that he did crossword puzzles for musical hasn’t been in my head. New York magazine. When I was a child, my parents repeatedly Over his decades-long career, Sondheim won played the cast album of “Gypsy,” the 1959 every award imaginable from the Pulitzer Prize musical with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by for “Sunday in the Park with George” to the Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents. My folks President BARACK OBAMA awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Presidential Medal of Freedom (awarded to him loved the story of the show, which was loosely STEPHEN SONDHEIM Nov. 24, 2015 (White House photo by Pete Souza) by President Barack Obama in 2015). He received based on the life of the burlesque artist Gypsy more than a dozen Tony Awards for his Broadway Rose Lee. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard musicals and revivals as well as a Tony Award for lifetime achievement in 2008. Ethel Merman belt out “Everything’s Coming Up Roses!” When I need to jumpstart my Thankfully, Sondheim’s art will be with us for the ages. creative juices, I remember that “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” A remake of “West Side Story,” directed by Steven Spielberg with a screenplay by Tony In college, I felt that “Company,” the 1970 musical with music and lyrics by Sondheim and Kushner, premieres this month. book by George Furth, spoke to my generation. Sondheim is a character in the Netflix film “tick, tick BOOM!,” directed by Lin-Manuel As was the case with Sondheim’s musicals, “Company” didn’t have a conventional plot, Miranda. The movie is based on an autobiographical posthumous Jonathan Larson (the happy ending, or tidy resolution. It takes place during Bobby’s 35th birthday party. Bobby, composer of “Rent”) musical. Sondheim is supportive of Larson’s work. who is single, is celebrating with his friends (straight, married couples). Bobby likes having Thank you Stephen, for your art! R.I.P. friends but doesn’t want to get married.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 03, 2021 • 15
The ultimate guide to queer gift giving 2021 These handpicked presents will leave recipients jumping for joy By MIKEY ROX
Stumped over what gifts to give your family, friends, and neighbors this year? Check this list then check it twice, because while you’ve been naughty, they’ve been nice.
YUJET SURFER ELECTRIC JETBOARD
If ocean-based watersports scare the bejesus out of you – because sharks! – the YuJet Surfer Electronic Jetboard oﬀers a compromise to satisfy your thrill seeking, all limbs intact. With a top speed of 24 mph, range of 16 miles, and a 40-minute ride time, users can sit or stand on the batterypowered, remote-operated board that quietly glides across lakes, rivers, canals, and other bodies of water devoid of man-eating monsters. $10,000, YuJetUSA.com
MIND-POP CASSEROLE PANS
Perfect for campground cooking or gourmet meals made at home, Darling Spring’s ultra-pretty Mind-Pop enamel casserole pans by Kapka add a Pollock-splashed joie de vivre to the meal-making experience, which seamlessly moves from stovetop to serving table without dirtying another dish. $45, DarlingSpring.com
OCLEAN WATER FLOSSER
Traditional ﬂoss isn’t exactly a budget buster, but the Oclean W10 Water Flosser is a sleek, no-waste and, yes, cheaper-in-the-long-run alternative with ﬁve distinctive modes and four high-performance nozzles to keeps the crevices between those pearly whites crud- and cavity-free. $60, Oclean.com
FLAT BRIM WINES
Bring a trio of varietals to the holiday table with Flat Brim Wines’ Not Series, including the 2020 “Not Tragic” Pinot Noir, 2020 “Not Basic” Picpoul/Roussanne, and 2020 “Not Extra,” which, if it were a T. Opposite Day, two out of three would describe you to a
PLAYCRAFT SHUFFLEBOARD TABLE
Playcraft edges out its at-home gaming competition with the Georgetown Espresso Shuﬄeboard featuring solid wood construction, richly stained accent features, and furniture-grade ﬁnishes that are a far cry from the warped, frat boy-abused tables dying slow deaths in dive bars everywhere. $1,595, SawyerTwain. com
Round up your favorite rice, soybeans, nuts and oats for homemade vegan milk alternatives that cost pennies on the dollar compared to pre-packaged versions of the same at your local supermarket. Just add water and a handful of your desired ingredient to churn out 20 ounces of liquid health in about 15 minutes. $200, MyChefWave.com
CAMBRIDGE AUDIO EVO 75
You may not regard London as synonymous with audio innovation, but you’ll change that tune after listening to your favorite artists streaming through Cambridge Audio’s Evo 75, the sleek, cutting-edge, all-in-one system pumping out crystal-clear sound quality ﬁt for a queen. $2,250, CambridgeAudio.com
16 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 03, 2021
WILD ROOTS SPIRITS
Wild Roots Spirits’ ﬁve-times ﬁltered, ﬁve-times distilled corn-based vodkas – in seasonal ﬂavors like pear, cranberry, and apple-cinnamon – will spice up your soft and hard holiday seltzers and sodas for a little added zip on your lips. $30, WildRootsSpirits.com
TAKUMI BY YOKAI EXPRESS
Not only can the Takumi machine cook ramen, dim sum, rice, dumplings, pasta and more, but it also has the dubious distinction of being the choice ramenmaking machine of Tesla’s oﬃces – because of course it is: Elon Musk wouldn’t be caught dead microwaving Oodles of Noodles like the rest of us. $400, YokaiExpress.com YokaiExpress.com
OLIVER CHARLES SWEATER
What do you get when Tibetan yak wool meets the world’s most advanced 3D-knitting machines? An antimicrobial, soft-as-cashmere, day-to-night sweater that instantly becomes one of the most versatile and comfortable pieces in your closet that rarely needs washing. $220, Oliver-Charles. com
KNITTING KNOWLEDGE STARTER KITS
If the summer Olympics taught us anything it’s that Tom Daley is a multitalented athlete poised to take knitting gold someday, and you can train for your spot on the team with Knitting Knowledge starter kits, including beginner socks, baby blankets, and beanies that include everything you’ll need – from yarn to needles to patterns – to complete the project with a perfect score. $18-$80, KnittingKnowledge.com
If you’ve been on the fence about installing a backside-cleansing bidet in your bathroom, consider this: Toilet paper isn’t getting any cheaper, and it only takes a moderate COVID-induced run on the supermarkets before you’re forced to hunt it down on the black markets – again. $140-$650, Brondell.com
STARK CUSTOM KITCHEN KNIVES
Upgrade your store-bought block knives to a set of Stark Creations chef’s, paring, and nakiri custom knives, forged from scratch to complement your personality or overall kitchen aesthetic. $265$515, StarkCreationsUS.com StarkCreationsUS.com
AMERICAN BLOSSOM ORGANIC BLANKET
Roast your nuts by an open ﬁre during an in-the-buﬀ cuddle sesh featuring your fave holiday ﬂicks in American Blossom’s herringbone weave blanket made from West Texas Organic Cotton. $195, AmericanBlossomLinens.com
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Words never fail in MacIvor double bill by Open Fist Theatre A contemplation of life & death, experience & memory By JOHN PAUL KING
There has long been debate among theatrical scholars about whether going to a play has been traditionally considered an auditory or a visual experience. The argument goes that, before the advent of modern technology which enabled cinema and other forms of filmed entertainment, the theatre was a place where sound was the primary vehicle by which an audience’s imagination could be transported out of the here and now, and that visual elements such as costumes, props, or mechanical stagecraft were secondary factors meant to reinforce and enhance the effect; for evidence of this, many point to Shakespeare, who in “Hamlet” had his lead character say “we’ll hear a play” (a phrase which was subsequently long-used preferentially by many theatre-goers in his homeland) and whose works are still renowned five-and-a-half centuries later for their masterful use of language to accomplish… well, pretty much everything required, from setting the scene and telling the story to exploring the deepest nooks and crannies of the human psyche. Though the whole question might seem a bit pedantic in today’s world, it certainly touches on a major difference between the way we experience live theatre and the way we experience a film or television show, one which hinges on the main route these relatedbut-separate art forms take – through the ears or through the eyes – in transmitting information to the human brain. And if you want a good example of what a difference that difference makes, you couldn’t find a much better illustration than the plays of Candadian wordsmith Daniel MacIvor – two of which are currently being performed by the Open Fist Theatre Company at Atwater Village Theatre. MacIvor, who is known also as a filmmaker and actor, garnered acclaim in the 1980s and 1990s for a series of plays, crafted in a minimalist style and reliant on an intricately constructed tapestry of words to convey situation, narrative, and intent. Standard conceits of theatrical storytelling, such as a linear flow or the assumption of a fourth wall, are often jettisoned in these works, which invite comparisons to absurdists like Beckett and Pinter and challenge audiences to connect the dots as they go in order to decipher meaning. Two of these pieces, both directed with a confident hand by Open Fist’s associate artistic director Amanda Weir, are paired by Open Fist into a brisk and engrossing double bill which leans hard into the award-winning playwright’s unique, meta-theatrical approach to maximum advantage. The shorter of the two works, “Never Swim Alone,” is the more directly abstract. Taking place on stage that is bare save for a lifeguard stand and two chairs, it presents a ruthless competition of one-upmanship between two men, Frank and Bill (Bryan Bertone and Dylan Maddalena), who demonstrate an escalating series of scenarios under the watchful eye of “The Referee” (Emma Bruno) – a young woman with a secret connection to the boys these men used to be. Slyly witty and unexpectedly suspenseful, it examines the competitive machismo hidden beneath the slick and stylish suits of these two “Type A” businessmen with a dark and scathing sense of humor, as it slowly draws a connection between their never-ending battle for supremacy and the deep trauma of a shared childhood experience. Originally produced in 1991, the roughly 30-minute exercise taps into the rich vein of toxic masculinity in order to make its points about the deep-seated fears and insecurities that drive so much of what our culture has long accepted as “typical” male behavior, with the two men vying for “points” against each other – awarded, of course, by the female referee, who holds absolute and irrefutable power in the game despite the clear lack of regard with which each of the participants reveals themselves to hold women in general. It’s unapologetically clever and disarmingly comedic, reveling in its theatricality and its tactics as it explores the men’s rivalry and breaks each confrontation down into the all-toofamiliar clichés in which they are mired. The elegant simplicity of its construction, which distills a far-reaching and deep-rooted phenomenon into clear and concise shapshots of
18 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 03, 2021
SCHUYLER MASTAIN, DAVID SHOFNER, and SCOTT ROBERTS in ‘The Soldier Dreams.’ (Photo by Frank Ishman)
social dysfunction, feels as effective today as it surely did over two decades ago. From a 2021 perspective, however, the subject matter no longer seems as fresh. In the last few years (especially since the “Me Too” movement), the topic of bad male behavior has been rehearsed so frequently, and in so many different and brilliant ways, that many audiences may find themselves getting ahead of the play’s revelations before they fully land, and the conceit which ties the whole thing together – which we’ll not reveal here – may ultimately strike some viewers as too pat an explanation for what makes these men (and presumably, somehow by extension, all of them) tick. Nevertheless, MacIvor’s wordplay never fails to be crisp and exciting as it trips from the talented tongues of the players (especially the charismatic Bertone and the sublimely expressive Maddalena, who take on the lion’s share of the work), and those who enjoy watching skillful actors engaged in an exercise of their craft are bound to find the pleasures of doing so more than enough to make up for the familiarity of the themes being explored. More satisfying from a narrative standpoint, and more engaging on an emotional level, is “The Soldier Dreams,” which MacIvor – who is gay – wrote in 1998 as a response to the AIDS crisis. Again, the setting is sparse, suggesting an empty nightclub with a single bed, occupied by an ailing man, facing upstage in the center. The man is David (David Shofner), who is in the process of dying as his lover Richard (Conor Lane) and dysfunctional family spar with each other over his comatose form, each clinging to their own perceived special relationship with him and examining their memories to find an answer to the lingering mysteries about his life. Meanwhile, David himself is revisiting a secret memory, from years before, involving a one-night stand with a German student (Schuyler Mastain) that may or may not have led to something more important to him than any of the people standing around his soon-to-be deathbed. Here, the same linguistic tricks used by MacIvor to form the intellectual exercise of “Swim” are employed to illuminate the web of human relationships at the center of a bittersweet story; as a result, they strike us with deeper resonance and more urgency than in the other piece. Through the myriad pathways of language, the playwright offers a contemplation of life and death, experience and memory, honesty and deceit, and a host of other dualities that make up human existence. There’s sharp humor and cutting observation along the way, along with a fair amount of painful and hard-to-watch bitterness, but it’s all tempered with compassion and the three-dimensional layers revealed by each character as we go, and in the end, we are left in a place of hope – or, at least, of acceptance. And making it all come together, a talented cast succeeds in the essential task of breathing life into MacIvor’s words, with Shofner, Lane, and Mastain as standouts among a solid and capable ensemble. The two complementary plays continue their run at Atwater Village Theatre through December 12. Check the Open Fist website for performance dates and times.
Verhoeven returns with subversive tale of lesbian nun in ‘Benedetta’
Period drama delivers sex, violence, and horrors of the Black Death
By JOHN PAUL KING to contemplate such questions for themselves. There was a time when Paul Verhoeven was a What concerns “Benedetta” more than any big deal in Hollywood. esoteric debate is a sly-yet-candid commentary The Dutch filmmaker first attracted on the various levels of societal hierarchy and international attention during an early career the ways in which the flow of power perpetuates in his homeland, with critically acclaimed itself through their devotion to maintaining the movies like “Turkish Delight” and “Soldier of status quo. As Benedetta’s perceived holiness Orange,” which found an audience outside carries her upward through the strata, from of the Netherlands and brought him greater unwanted daughter of the merchant class to opportunities in America, Once here, he Mother Superior and beyond, more important adapted his style to fit a more commercial mold than the veracity of her claims of divinity are and forged a niche for himself with violent, the shifting and carefully calculated responses action-packed sci-fi blockbusters, scoring major of those she encounters along the way. Fearing hits with “Robocop” and “Total Recall” before the loss of their own power, they ally and reaching a pinnacle with “Basic Instinct” – oppose themselves in whichever direction arguably still his most influential and iconic film. will help them maintain it. It’s a Machiavellian Then came “Showgirls.” Although the Joe game of “keep-away” in which those at the top Eszterhas-scripted stripper drama is now will not hesitate to use economic class, gender, revered as a “so-bad-it’s-great” cult classic, it sexuality, and – if all else fails – torture and was a box office bomb on its initial release, and execution as weapons to repress those they its failure, coupled with the less-spectacular deem unworthy. but equally definitive flopping of his next film, Inevitably, the above scenario provides plenty “Starship Troopers,” effectively put an end to his DAPHNE PATAKIA and VIRGINIE EFIRA in ‘Benedetta.’ (Photo courtesy IFC Films) of fodder for Verhoeven’s movie to make points climb up the Hollywood ladder. about religious hypocrisy, systemic oppression, That was not, however, the end of his story. and the way white heterosexual cisgender men keep the deck eternally stacked in their Verhoeven moved back to his native country (where he was hailed as a returning hero) and own favor – all of which invites us to recognize how little things have changed in the five rebounded with the critically lauded “Black Book” before spending the next two decades centuries since Sister Benedetta’s time. That, too, is right in line with the director’s usual developing and producing new projects with other filmmakers. In 2016, he assumed the agenda. director’s seat again, this time in France, and the resulting work (“Elle”) put him once more Ultimately though, the signature touch that makes the movie unmistakably his is the way into the international spotlight. it revels in the lurid and sensational. Verhoeven delights in presenting imagery designed Now, he’s back with another French film, and fans of his signature style – a blend of social to shock us, and key elements of the film – from hyper-eroticized religious visions and satire, psycho-sexual themes, graphic violence, and near-exploitation-level erotic imagery explicit lesbian sex, to the prominent inclusion of a blasphemous wooden dildo as an that has prompted some commentators to label him as a provocateur – have every reason important plot point – feel deliberately transgressive. This should be no surprise when one to be excited. remembers that this is the director who brought us not only “Basic Instinct” and “Showgirls” “Benedetta,” which receives its long-delayed (due to COVID) release in the U.S. on Dec. but also “The Fourth Man,” a homoerotic psychological thriller from 1983 still capable of 3, is the real-life story of a Renaissance-era Italian nun (Virginie Efira), whose passionate making audiences squirm uncomfortably today; and while all this titillation may trigger the devotion to her faith – and especially to Jesus – sparks disturbing and dramatic visions. most prudish of viewers, it makes “Benedetta” into a deliciously subversive, wild-and-wooly When young novice Bartolomea (Daphne Patakia) enters the convent and is assigned to ride for the rest of us. More to the point, it underscores the film’s ultimate observation her as a companion, it awakens a different kind of passion, and as their secret relationship about the empowering nature of sexual liberation. escalates, so too do her miraculous episodes, which expand to include the physical Helping Verhoeven make maximum impact with this obscure historical narrative is a manifestation of stigmata. Soon, despite the skepticism of the Mother Abbess (Charlotte cast that clearly relishes the material as much as he does. In the title role, the statuesque Rampling), she finds herself heralded as a prophet by the other sisters and the local Efira successfully creates a compelling and charismatic figure while remaining an enigma, community, leading to controversy, investigation, and a power struggle that threatens the someone we can believe in equal measure might be sincere or corrupt and with whom we authority of the church itself. can empathize either way; likewise, Patakia exudes savvy and self-possession, transcending Inspired by “Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy,” Judith C. moral judgment as the object of her affection, and the two performers have a palpable Brown’s biography of the real Sister Benedetta, Verhoeven’s latest work is perhaps his most chemistry, which is made all the more compelling by their thrillingly contemporary approach quintessential to date. In his screenplay (co-written with “Elle” collaborator David Birke), the to the characters. Rounding out the triad of principal roles is Rampling, a cinematic icon who Dutch auteur – who is also a widely recognized, if controversial, religious scholar – gives free brings prestige and sophistication to the table in a masterful performance as the Abbess; reign to his now-familiar obsessions, weaving them all together into a sumptuously realized more than just a grounding presence for her younger co-stars, she provides an important period drama that delivers copious amounts of nudity and sex, bloody violence, and the counterbalance with a subtle and layered performance as a woman who has devoted her horrors of the Black Death while exploring the phenomenon of faith itself. Is Benedetta a life to a belief in which she has no faith, only to find herself overshadowed by a charlatan. saint or a harlot? Is she chosen by God or mentally ill? Are her visions real or is she a fraud, “Benedetta” is not exactly the kind of film that’s likely to put Verhoeven back on the cynically exploiting the beliefs of those around her in a bold-faced grab for power and Hollywood fast track – it’s far too radical in its underpinnings for that. Nevertheless, it’s glory? And if she’s lying, in the larger context of a world held firmly in the grip of a church a welcome return to form from a unique and flamboyant filmmaker we’ve missed for far that treats salvation as transactional and levies its presumed moral authority to unlimited too long, and his fans – along with anybody with a taste for provocative cinema – should financial and political gain, which is greater evil? Though the film strongly implies the consider it a must-see. answers lie somewhere between the “either/or” of absolutes, it shrewdly leaves the viewer 20 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 03, 2021
‘Capote’s Women’ is catnip to older pop culture fans Revisiting iconic author’s seven ‘swans’ By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER
Her lips are locked tight. Your best friend knows all your secrets, and she’s keeping them; you told her things you had to tell somebody, and she’s telling nobody. You always knew you could trust her; if you couldn’t, she wouldn’t be your BFF. But as in the new book “Capote’s Women” by Laurence Leamer, what kind of a friend are you? For months, Truman Capote had been promising a blockbuster. Following his success with “Breakfast at Tiﬀany’s” and “In Cold Blood,” he was “one of the most famous authors in the world” but he needed a career-booster. The novel he was writing, he teased, would be about “his swans,” seven wealthy, fashionable women who quite personiﬁed “beauty, taste, and manners.” His ﬁrst swan was Barbara “Babe” Paley, whom he’d met on a trip with the David Selznicks to Jamaica. For Capote, “Babe was the epitome of class,” simply “perfect” in every way; it helped that the famously gay writer was no threat to Paley’s “madly jealous” husband. Babe’s “dearest friend” was Nancy “Slim” Keith, who quickly learned that if a lady wanted her conﬁdences kept, she didn’t tell Capote anything. She shouldn’t have trusted Babe, either: When Slim left for a European trip, Babe asked if Slim’s husband could accompany Babe’s friend, Pamela Hayward, to a play. Slim was aware of Pamela’s predatory reputation, but what could she say? Of course, Pamela, another of Truman’s swans, stole Slim’s man, a scandal that Capote loved. Gloria Guinness was highly intelligent, possibly enough to be a spy in Nazi Germany. Lucy “C.Z.” Guest was an upper-crust “elitist” with a “magical aura.” Marella Agnelli “was born an Italian princess”; Lee Radziwill, of course, was Jacqueline Kennedy’s sister. Through the late 1960s, Capote claimed to be writing his masterpiece, his tour de force based on his swans, but several deadlines passed for it. He was sure Answered Prayers “would turn him once again into the most talked-about author in America.”
Instead, when an excerpt from it was published, his swans got very ruﬄed feathers. Every time you stand in line for groceries, the tabloids scream at you with so much drama that you either love it or hate it. Or, in the case of “Capote’s Women,” you cultivate it. And that’s inﬁnitely fun, as told by author Laurence Leamer. Happily, though, Leamer doesn’t embellish or disrespect these women or Capote; he tells their tales in order, gently allowing readers’ heads to spin with the wild, globe-hopping goings-on but not to the point that it’s overdone. While most of this book is about these seven beautiful, wealthy, and serially ‘Capote’s Women’ married women – the Kardashians of their time, if you will – Capote is Leamer’s By Laurence Leamer glue, and Truman gets his due, as well. c.2021, Putnam | $28 | 356 pages Readers who devour this book will be sure that the writer would’ve been very happy about that. “Capote’s Women” should be like catnip to celeb-watchers of a Certain Age but even if you’re not, ﬁnd it. If you’re a Hollywood fan, you’ll want to get a lock on it.
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HOPPY HANUKKAH EXPERIENCE + SANTA CLAUSTHALER
Celebrate a “Hoppy Hanukkah” with Brewvana’s nontraditional advent calendar that conceals eight beers, one for the ﬁrst night of the Festival of Lights and a full week after. If you’re laying oﬀ the hooch this holiday season but still want to participate in the spirit of it all, throw back a few non-alcoholic Santa Clausthalers, infused with cinnamon and cranberry for a cider-like refresher. $75, Brewvana.com; $10, Schoﬀerhofer.us 22 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 03, 2021
WILDWOOD CANDLE CO.
Sick of pumpkin spice stinkin’ up the joint? Fill your rooms with more nuanced fall scents – like maple, sandalwood, cypress, and birch – available in a bundled seasonal foursome from eco-friendly Wildwood Candle Co. and inspired by the enchanting, well-traveled trails of Portland, Ore.’s Forest Park. $88, WildwoodCandleCo.com
Whiskey lovers who grab life by the horns will count this hand-blown, lead-free bull decanter among their prized possessions this Christmas while you enjoy the holly-jolly feeling of knowing that each purchase plants a tree. $80, PresitgeHaus.com tree. (Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBTQ lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels.)
THE CITY OF WEST HOLLYWOOD’S HUMAN RIGHTS SPEAKERS SERIES PRESENTS A PANEL DISCUSSION:
PRAY AWAY: LGBTQ IDENTITY, SPIRITUALITY, AND LIBERATION
Wednesday December 8, 2021 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. PST
Special Guest Panelists: Kristine Stolakis Director and Producer
Online Event. Free Admission. RSVP: weho.org/hrss Questions? email@example.com or (323) 848-6360
Julie Rodgers Film Participant and Author Moderated by City of West Hollywood Councilmember
John M. Erickson, Ph.D.
City of West Hollywood California 1984