Losangelesblade.com, Volume 06, Issue 01, January 07, 2022

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LA County Parks & Rec wins $15.5 million in grants many Californians today lack access to parks and open space in their own neighborOn December 8, 2021, the LA County Department of Parks and Recreation’s Grants hoods,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “This historic investment will revitalize and creDivision was awarded 15.5 million dollars in funding as part of Governor Newsom’s ate new parks in more than 100 local communities, dramatically expanding access to “Outdoors for All” Initiative, a project that aims to allocate $548.3 million in grant fundthe outdoors across the state and ensuring more Californians from all walks of life can ing to deliver new parks and revitalize older parks all across California. reap the benefits for our hearts, minds and bodies Of the 15.5 million, 6.9 million will be assigned for generations to come.” to the modernization of Ruben Salazar Park, which Salazar Park is over 80 years old — the land was will help address public health disparities by propurchased in 1938 and developed into a park by viding enhanced spaces for physical activity and 1940 — yet has undergone only minor updates over ways to foster community connections. The other the past few years. The community of unincorporat8.5 million will be assigned to the creation of the ed East Los Angeles has very high park need, with San Gabriel Valley Aquatic Center Park. only 1.0 park acre per 1,000 residents, so this invest“Many thanks to Governor Gavin Newsom for ment to improve an aging and well-loved facility to his recent announcement of Statewide Proposimeet the demands of the community is essential. tion 68 funding that the County of Los Angeles’ The aquatic center will provide learn to swim lesDepartment of Parks and Recreation will receive sons, drop-in swim, water fitness classes, lap swim to provide a new park (Aquatic Center) to an area and more. The new aquatic facility will feature a of very high park need, and also transforming playground and picnic shelters. Salazar Park, a well-loved and well-used park, “We are thrilled to have been awarded over $15 serving a densely populated high need communimillion from Proposition 68 as part of Governor ty within the First Supervisorial District,” said Los Newsom’s Outdoors For All Initiative that will proAngeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, First Disvide significant funding to two critical projects locattrict. “The new San Gabriel Valley Aquatics Center ed in our highest need communities as identified will provide families across the region with access L.A. Arboretum Botanical Garden (Photo courtesy County of Los Angeles) by the Los Angeles Countywide Parks & Recreation to lifesaving aquatics programs. In addition, the Needs Assessment,” stated County of Los Angeles improvements planned for Salazar Park in East Department of Parks and Recreation Director, NorLos Angeles will help provide critical cultural acma E. García-González. “Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation tivities and spaces for recreation that will build community social cohesion and inpartnered with Community-Based organization and community members to design troduce new programming opportunities around physical and mental-well-being to these projects that will bring significant recreational programs serving our most vulensure our communities thrive.” nerable communities.” In a press release issued by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, FROM STAFF REPORTS “People from all over the world come to visit our state’s natural wonders, but too

San Diego man charged with hate crime after attack A dispute between neighbors that escalated to physical assault which included homophobic slurs has landed a South Bay man in court charged with a hate crime. Robert Frank Wilson, 40, is accused of directing slurs at his neighbor in a Nov. 10 altercation in the victim’s driveway. According to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, Wilson blocked the neighbor’s driveway, yelled homophobic slurs, then reached into the victim’s vehicle and struck him in the face, KFMB-TV, CBS 8 reported. Wilson, who is currently out of jail on bond, appeared Monday in-person in a Chula Vista courtroom and pleaded not guilty to a felony count of battery, plus a hate crime allegation. “This case and these events demonstrate that those who are motivated by prejudice often spread their hate around to various groups, attacking our neighbors on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation or other grounds,” San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “Hate against one group is a threat to everyone and we won’t tolerate these crimes in our community. Anyone considering committing a hate crime should think again as they will be investigated, prosecuted and held accountable under the law.” In an non-related case, Wilson and several others were charged by the San Diego County District Attorney for hanging “a large anti-Semitic poster on the fence of an Interstate 805 overpass” on Dec. 18, in violation of the San Diego City Municipal Code. In a statement released Monday, the DA’s office noted that although hate speech in and of itself may not always rise to the level of criminal activity, [it] “is relevant


as it could escalate to criminal behavior. Hate crimes are often preceded by hate speech.” The DA’s partial statement on the incident: San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced criminal charges today against a man who attacked his neighbor on November 10 while yelling anti-gay slurs. Robert Frank Wilson, 40, is charged with one count of felony battery and a hate crime allegation. He was arraigned today in San Diego Superior Court in the South Bay and pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors say Wilson blocked his neighbor’s driveway, got out of his vehicle and started yelling homophobic slurs at the victim. At one point, Wilson reached into the window of the victim’s vehicle and struck him in the face. About five weeks after the incident, on December 18, Wilson was cited by the San Diego Police Department for working with a group of people to hang a large anti-Semitic poster on the fence of an Interstate 805 overpass in violation of the San Diego City Municipal Code. The DA is including the code violation as part of the charges it filed against Wilson. If convicted, he faces up to three years, six months in prison. “This case and these events demonstrate that those who are motivated by prejudice often spread their hate around to various groups, attacking our neighbors on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation or other grounds,” DA Summer Stephan said. “Hate against one group is a threat to everyone and we won’t tolerate these crimes in our community. Anyone considering committing a hate crime should think again as they will be investigated, prosecuted and held accountable under the law.” FROM STAFF REPORTS


PaykanArtCar puts LGBTQ rights for Iranians on the map Shojaian’s work a symbol for human rights around the world By ZACHARY JARRELL

To many Americans, the word Paykan probably doesn’t mean much, even if they know what it is. But to Iranians, the Paykan car is iconic. The first Iranian-produced car, colloquially referred to as the “Iranian chariot,” was the pride of Iran while the country was still producing them. Production of the car ended in 2005, but it has forever left its mark on Iranian culture, even if it is mostly nostalgic at this point. But – as the founder of LGBTQ+ nonprofit PaykanArtCar, a group dedicated to the rights of queer Iranians, Dr. Hiva Feizi told the Blade – the culture it represented was one of the oppression and persecution of LGBTQ+ Iranians. A culture that still exists to this day. “Iran is a country where there are still honor killings of gays and systematic oppression by the government,” Feizi said. Equaldex, an LGBTQ+ resource that tracks queer rights and laws, gave Iran a 6 out of 100 equality index score. In the country, homosexuality is punishable by death, and gay marriage is illegal. LGBTQ+ people have virtually no protections in Iran and, according to World Values Survey, live in a society where 90.2% of people do not believe homosexuality is justifable, according to World Values Survey. Worse is how little attention the rest of the world, especially the English-speaking world, gives to LGBTQ+ rights in Iran. “The media doesn’t pay attention to this issue of human rights when it comes to Iran,” Feizi said. She said that it’s not that she doesn’t think Americans don’t care about human rights, but “when it comes to a country like Iran, it’s not in the media, so the average American doesn’t know about it – they don’t hear about it.” That’s why Feizi has made it her mission to give the LGBTQ+ community in Iran a voice with her nonprofit PaykanArtCar. The organization started after acquiring a 1974 Paykan Hillman Hunter limousine, the same car that was gifted to the authoritarian Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu by the former Shah (king) of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. “It adds another layer of importance that we had a car that was once driven by a dictator,” Feizi said. “And what better way to use that car than as a vehicle for freedom.” Under the rule of Pahlavi, the last monarch of the Pahlavi dynasty, homosexuality was criminalized, but conditions for LGBTQ+ people got exponentially worse after the 1979 revolution. Paykan notes the significance of the revolution on their website, saying: “Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran has systematically oppressed, persecuted, and executed thousands of members of the LGBTQIA+ community.” After the acquisition of the car, it was turned over to Iranian painter and visual activist Alireza Shojaian, an artist in exile who now lives in Paris, as a blank canvas. He would be the one tasked with transforming the car into the “vehicle for human rights and human dignity in Iran.” Shojaian left Iran in 2017 due to the dangers of being a queer person in the country. He found refuge in Paris and has been making LGBTQ-themed art ever since. He is the first artist to collaborate with PaykanArtCar. “The aim of this edition of the PaykanArtCar is to shed light on the deadly abuse of LGBTQIA+ people in Iran, a problem that has been repeatedly denied by the regime and neglected by Iranian society, including in the diaspora,” Shojaian said. According to the organization’s website, Shojaian borrowed images from Hossein Qollar-Aghasi’s, a 20th century Iranian painter, paintings titled “Sohrab and Shaban” – inspired by “The Persian book of Kings,” which was written over 1,000 years ago and tells the story of Iran from the dawn of time to the 7th century. “I use these images to narrate the contemporary story of Alireza Fazeli’s death and the brutal repression of the LGBTQIA+ community in Iran,” Shojaian said. He explains: “On the front of the car, I have turned the battle between these two national characters, Sohrab and Shaban, into a romantic moment taking place in a garden under the starry night sky of Shiraz. On the sides of the car are scenes of their deaths as the result 04 • JANUARY 07, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

of their forbidden love. On the left, the scene of Sohrab’s death refers to Articles 233-234 of the penal code of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which makes sexual relations between men punishable by death. On the right, the scene of Shaban’s death refers to the killing of Alireza Fazeli, and to hundreds of similar murders that no one hears about.” (Photo courtesy PaykanArtCar, LLC) Fazeli, a gay Iranian man, was reportedly kidnapped and beheaded in Iran earlier this, drawing outrage from world. According to the BBC, it is believed that he was killed by male family members after they discovered evidence that he was gay. After news of his death broke, celebrities from popstar Demi Lavato to RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Jackie Cox took to social me(Photo courtesy PaykanArtCar, LLC) dia to spread awareness about Fazeli’s tragic death. Now, Shojaian’s art is becoming a symbol for Iranian LGBTQ+ rights around the world, even though it made its world debut in only October. Recently, in partnership with Toronto-based art nonprofit 3.19.27(2), the car made a stop in Toronto, Canada, receiving a spotlight in Canada’s largest newspaper the Toronto Star. It has also been featured in publications like the New York Times and Time Magazine. Still, the organization’s bold message hasn’t been celebrated everywhere. In October, Shojaian was invited by organizers of AsiaNow, a Parisian art fair showcasing the diversity of Asia’s contemporary art scene. But, according to PaykanArtCar, the organizers revoked their invitation just days before the art fair was set to start. After several attempts to convince AsiaNow to reconsider, the group was told that their “political criticism of the Iranian’s regime was too extreme.” “It is a tragic result that the AsiaNow fair refuses to rise above the political pressure and instead resorted to excluding Alireza from the fair,” said PaykanArtCar Co-Founder and Ambassador Mark Wallace in a press release at the time. “Simply put AsiaNow made the wrong choice. Choosing to display galleries in a French Art fair, either approved by Iran’s regime or censored by Iran’s regime to the exclusion of Alireza was the wrong choice.

LOCAL Alireza speaks powerfully for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community inside Iran and out. We will continue to stand in support of Alireza.” Feizi added: “I’m shocked that the Iranian regime that drove him from his home country has now found another way to silence him and his pro-LGBTQ art in France, supposedly a bastion of free speech and liberalism. The PaykanArtCar will not stop advocating for the rights of those oppressed inside Iran and we will continue to display this car.” Feizi knows she cannot let moments like these take away from what the group has accomplished thus far. “It’s been very eye opening and touching the support we’ve gotten,” she said. “And also the negative comments, which I also see as a posi(Photo courtesy PaykanArtCar, LLC) tive because I think that any discourse is good. Let’s talk about it. Let’s put the LGBTQ community topic on the for Iranians.” He added that Shojaian’s “work is going to be in art history.” ISOmap 12647-7 Digital Control Strip 2009 100 60 100 70 30 100 60 100 70 30 100 60 100 70 30 100 40 100 40 70 40 70 40 40 40 70 40 40 70 40 70 40 40 3 25 50 75 100 A Of course, Feizi hasn’t been able to push her message without help from others. In addi-40 100 40 However, both Feizi and Forouzandy know that10the PaykanArtCar will not90stop here. “The tion to Shojaian and Wallace, Feizi has also had the unwavering support of Matt Forouzanconcept of Paykan is going like beyond one artist because they want to focus on Iranian dy, the Artistic Director and Curator for both 3.19.27(2) and Paykan. queer rights,” Forouzandy said. “They’re gonna pass the peg on to so many different artists “Matt has been a big supporter who has been putting his own time and his own energy and each piece of artwork will be a piece of a puzzle to show the bigger picture.” into this,” she said. Specifically, Feizi wants to continue to tour the car around the world to bring “Iran huB 100 100 60 100 100 70 70 30 30 100 100 60 100 100 70 70 30 30 100 100 60 100 100 70 70 30 30 100 40 100 40 40 100 10 40 40 20 70 70 70 70 40 70 40 40 0000 3.1 2.2 2.2 10.2 7.4 7.4 25 19 19 50 40 40 75 66 66 100 100 100 80 70 70 100 Forouzandy, a gay man from Iran, told the Blade that he and his organization 3.19.27(2) man rights issues to the eyes of the public.” From the Canadian parliament and the U.S. were very interested in the PaykanArtCar from the beginning. Congress to Oslo and the rest of Europe, she has big dreams for the car and what it could “[3.19.27(2)] looks for artists being censored, artists speaking out about homophobia, mean for Iranians. women rights, stuff like that,” he said. “So, we were very interested from the beginning of “I want a change in Iran,” she said. “I want a better Iran in the future where everybody is T:10"equal and human rights and human dignity is respected.” what PaykanArtCar was doing.” 3%



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New laws take effect in California for 2022

Protections for workers, measures to increase affordable housing There were a record number of bills signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom last year that took effect starting this weekend. Cal Matters tabulated that over 770 new laws, some which have a buffer window, kicked in on the first day of this year. “In partnership with the Legislature, we’ve advanced hundreds of new bills this year to make meaningful progress on an array of issues that matter deeply to Californians across the state,” said Newsom. “I thank Pro Tem Atkins and Speaker Rendon for their leadership in advancing historic measures to improve the lives of Californians, including new tools to boost our housing supply, improve workplace conditions and build a stronger state. As we head into the new year, I look forward to our continued work to expand opportunity for all Californians.” Among the new laws taking effect January 1 are nation-leading protections for workers and important measures to increase the state’s supply of affordable housing, create a more inclusive state, expand voter access and protect consumers and the environment from harmful chemicals: AB 701 by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) establishes nation-leading transparency measures for companies to disclose warehouse production quota descriptions and prohibits the use of algorithms that disrupt basic worker rights. SB 62 by Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) ends the garment industry’s practice of piece-rate compensation and expands fashion brands’ liability for unpaid wages. SB 8 by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) extends the provisions of the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 through 2030 to accelerate the approval process for housing projects and curtail local governments’ ability to downzone, among other provisions. SB 9 by State Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) facilitates the process for homeowners to build a duplex or split their current residential lot. SB 10 by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) creates a voluntary process for local governments to implement streamlined zoning for new multi-unit housing near transit or in urban infill areas. SB 2 by Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) creates a system within the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to investigate and revoke or suspend peace officer certification for serious misconduct. SB 16 by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) expands public access to police misconduct records related to unreasonable or excessive use of force, discriminatory or prejudiced behavior and other misconduct. AB 338 by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) allows the placement of a monument in Capitol Park honoring Sacramento-area tribes, replacing the sculpture of missionary Junipero Serra. AB 855 by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) removes Columbus Day as a judicial holiday and replaces it with Native American Day in September. AB 600 by Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) ensures that crimes targeting people due to their immigration status are considered a hate crime. AB 37 by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) makes permanent the measure implemented last year to send a vote-by-mail ballot to every active registered voter.


State of California Capitol building

(Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)

SB 389 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) allows restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries that sell food to continue offering to-go alcoholic beverages with food orders, building on state regulatory relief announced in June. AB 1084 by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell) requires retail department stores to provide a gender-neutral section for toys and child care items. AB 652 by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) bans the use of toxic PFASs in products for children, such as car seats and cribs, and AB 1200 by Assemblymember Philip Ting (D-San Francisco) prohibits their use in disposable food packaging. In October, Governor Newsom acted on the final bills of 2021, which advanced his historic California Comeback Plan featuring the most robust small business relief package in the country, unprecedented direct financial and rent relief for Californians, the largest increase in homeless housing in state history, universal Pre-K and a historic $15 billion climate package to advance California’s nation-leading climate agenda. Governor Newsom also signed historic measures that took effect immediately this year, such as SB 796 by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), which authorized Los Angeles County to return Bruce’s Beach property to the Bruce family nearly a century after the land was wrongfully taken from them. Since then, the California Department of Parks and Recreation has amended the property deed, removing restrictions, and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to accept the amended property deed, officially allowing the transfer of the property to the Bruce Family. SB 65, the California Momnibus Act by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) will go into effect in August 2022, helping tackle racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes by improving research and data collection. AB 101 by Assemblymember Jose Medina (D-Riverside) which – upon appropriation of funds by the Legislature – requires high schools to provide ethnic studies starting in academic year 2025-26 and make completion of a one-semester course a high school graduation requirement beginning with students graduating in 2029-2030. Governor Newsom additionally signed the following notable bills which will take effect on January 1: AB 118 by Senator Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) – De-


partment of Social Services: C.R.I.S.E.S. Grant Pilot Program. AB 215 by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) – Planning and Zoning Law: housing element: violations. AB 245 by Assembymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) – Educational equity: student records: name and gender changes. AB 286 by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) – Food delivery: purchase prices and tips. AB 977 by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino) – Homelessness program data reporting: Homeless Management Information System. AB 1003 by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) – Wage theft: grand theft. AB 1220 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) – Homelessness: California Interagency Council on Homelessness. AB 1405 by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) – Debt settlement practices. SB 1 by Senator Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) – Coastal resources: sea level rise. SB 41 by Senator Thomas Umberg (D-Santa Ana) – Privacy: genetic testing companies. SB 109 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) – Department of Forestry and Fire Protection: Office of Wildfire Technology Research and Development. SB 221 by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) – Health care coverage: timely access to care. SB 224 by Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) – Pupil instruction: mental health education. SB 331 by Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) – Settlement and nondisparagement agreements. SB 343 by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) – Environmental advertising: recycling symbol: recyclability: products and packaging. SB 352 by Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) – The military: sexual harassment. SB 395 by Senator Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) – Excise tax: electronic cigarettes: Health Careers Opportunity Grant Program: Small and Rural Hospital Relief Program. SB 510 by Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) – Health care coverage: COVID-19 cost sharing. A signing message can be found here. SB 552 by Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) – Drought planning: small water suppliers: nontransient noncommunity water systems. SB 639 by Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) – Minimum wages: persons with disabilities. California has also become the first state to require health insurance plans to cover at-home tests for sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, chlamydia and syphilis — which could help quell the STI epidemic that has raged nearly unchecked as public health departments have focused on COVID-19. KTLA reported with a brief overview of the legislative efforts this past year highlighting what it called “some of the most important and most bizarre laws” taking effect in 2022: Slower speed limits A law that takes effect on Jan. 1 gives California cities more local control over how speed limits are set instead of using an old rule that essentially caused speed limits to go up every few years. Cities can start working toward lowering speed limits in

LOCAL 2022, but can’t enforce them until June 30, 2024, or whenever the state creates an online portal to adjudicate the new infractions – whichever comes sooner. Sleep in, kids Middle schools and high schools will soon be required to start class no earlier than 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., respectively. Supporters say preteens and teenagers need the extra sleep for their health and development. The new law goes into effect on July 1, 2022, so for most students it will impact them in the 2022-23 school year. The law exempts rural school districts. Compost – or else Starting in 2022, all California residents and businesses will be required to sort their organic waste from the rest thanks to Senate Bill 1383. The program will take effect in phases depending on where you live. If it takes you some time to get used to it, don’t stress – fines won’t start being issued until 2024. Mandatory menstrual products in school Starting in the 2022-23 school year, public schools will be required to stock restrooms with free pads or tampons. The law affects public schools with grades 6 through 12, community colleges, and public universities. Minimum wage bump Businesses with 26 or more employees will be required to pay a $15 minimum wage starting in 2022. That’s more than double the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. California businesses with fewer than 26 employees will have to raise their lowest wage to $15 starting the year after. Some California cities already have higher minimum wages in effect. New rules for bacon making An animal welfare law passed by voters in 2018 takes effect

this year. It requires that breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens and veal calves have enough room to stand and turn around. But many in the pork industry haven’t made the necessary changes and there’s a coalition of restaurants and grocers suing, hoping for a two-year delay. Vote by mail is here to stay An executive order in 2020 sent mail-in ballots to every registered voter in California as a safety measure during the COVID-19 pandemic and presidential election. Assembly Bill 37 makes that change permanent and expands it to include local elections. People can still vote in person if they choose. Seizing ghost guns A new law will make it possible for concerned family members, teachers, coworkers and employers to ask a judge to seize ghost guns from someone they think could be a danger to themselves or others. Ghost guns are guns that are purchased in parts and assembled at home, making them hard to track. The law takes effect on July 1, 2022. Trimmed training for barbers Senate Bill 803 cuts down how much training is required of barbers and cosmetologists to 1,000 hours. Previously, 1,600 was required for cosmetologists and 1,500 was required for barbers. Advocates say it’ll cut down on debt and let trainees in the industry get to work faster. Pour another round for to-go cocktails Senate Bill 389 extends pandemic-era rules allowing the sale of takeout alcoholic drinks through 2026. It also makes it possible to keep ordering cocktails, beer and wine in outdoor dining parklets for the next five years. Removing “alien” from the books Assembly Bill 1096 strikes the word “alien” from the Califor-

nia state code. The word will be replaced with words like “noncitizen” or “immigrant.” Gov. Gavin Newsom said the word alien has “fueled a divisive and hurtful narrative” and this change will allow state laws to better reflect state values. Ask if you need a fork Restaurants will soon be prohibited from handing out single-use silverware or condiments without a customer requesting them. That means you’ll need to ask for chopsticks for your takeout sushi or a ketchup packet for your fries if you don’t have those things at home. Restaurants also won’t be able to package plastic silverware in a way that makes it hard for you to just take what you need. A similar law, also aimed at reducing waste, is already in effect for single-use plastic straws. Cities and counties will start enforcing this new law on June 1, 2022. Assisted death changes Starting Jan. 1, terminally ill patients won’t have to wait as long to request fatal drugs. The waiting period between the two required requests will drop from 15 days to 48 hours. Dog blood donations A new law changes the way canine blood donations work in California. Prior to 2022, all blood used by veterinarians to treat ailing dogs comes from two companies that raise dogs in cages solely to collect their blood, reports the Los Angeles Times. The new law allows for the establishment of more canine blood banks that can collect donations from dogs, much like people donate blood to blood banks. “Stealthing” is sexual assault Assembly Bill 453 makes the non-consensual removal of a condom during sex, also called “stealthing,” a form of sexual battery. California is the first state to ban stealthing.



Meet five trailblazing LGBTQ candidates of 2022 These queer politicians are running to make a difference By KAELA ROEDER Each year, more LGBTQ candidates run and are elected to serve in local, state, and federal offices. And 2022 is shaping up to be no different. As of the 2021 election cycle, there are more than 1,000 out LGBTQ representatives in the United States. Several LGBTQ trailblazers are running for office in 2022; here are five candidates to keep your eye on this year.

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara Current position: Buncombe County Commissioner Position sought: U.S. House of Representatives, District 14 After serving as Buncombe county commissioner in North Carolina, Jasmine Beach-Ferrera is making a change and running for the U.S. House of Representatives. Beach-Ferrara, who is a lesbian, was elected in 2016 and reelected in 2020. She is also an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and the founding executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. She said it’s been a “tremendous honor” to serve as a county commissioner. During her tenure, Beach-Ferrara has been pushing for policy focused on early childhood education and opioid epidemic response, as well as pandemic relief projects. “Local government is such a powerful part of how government happens in our country. It’s so immediate in terms of impacting people’s lives so quickly,” she said. “Personally, I really just love having the opportunity to serve in that way and it’s been a big motivator for me in terms of why I’m now seeking to serve on the federal level.” If elected, Beach-Ferrara wants to focus on building bridges and listening to what her constituents need, which are needed priorities that have been lost under toxic leadership in the state, she said. While on the campaign trail, Beach-Ferrara said being out has been a big strength for her. “The power of people running and being out is that the moment you come out, you’re communicating a few things … honesty and authenticity, and letting people know that you are showing up exactly as you are,” she said. Robert Garcia Current position: Mayor of Long Beach, Calif. Position sought: U.S. House of Representatives, CA-42 Mayor Robert Garcia is running for the U.S. House of Representatives. As the mayor of Long Beach, Calif., Garcia forged a national model for testing and the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. Long Beach was the first municipality to vaccinate educators in California. He is the first mayor of Long Beach to appoint a majority of women to board and commissions, as well. Garcia, who is gay, immigrated to the United States from Peru when he was five years old. Becoming a citizen was “the best thing that ever happened” to him, he said. Now, he is running for Congress to help give people the same opportunities given to him. “Patriotism is about helping people. It’s about taking care of your neighbor. It’s about standing up for the values that made this country and that includes supporting kids like me who are immigrants,” Garcia said.

If elected, Garcia wants to focus on building infrastructure as he has as mayor, expand LGBTQ rights and provide pathways to citizenship for folks that are undocumented. “I understand the immigration system because I went through it,” Garcia said. “I know how people struggle and how folks navigate a complex and burdensome system.” Michele Rayner-Goolsby Current position: Florida House of Representatives, District 70 Position sought: U.S. House of Representatives, FL-13 Former Civil Rights Attorney Michele Rayner-Goolsby wants to bring a fresh perspective to Congress. Currently serving as the first out queer Black representative in the Florida Legislature, her priority is advocating for her constituents. “People are hungry for a different type of leadership — that is rooted in community, that is rooted in transparency, that is rooted in accountability,” she said. Rayner-Goolsby’s experience as a Black queer woman is her “best strength,” she said. “I’ve had to fight and earn everything that I have ever had in my life,” she said. That shapes the way I think about policy and legislation.” As a statehouse representative, Rayner-Goolsby has spearheaded COVID-19 vaccine pop-up distribution sites and passed legislation like an urban agriculture bill to bring community gardens to food deserts and a workforce development bill that establishes an apprenticeship approach to becoming a certified nursing assistant. If elected, Rayner-Goolsby wants to build legislation that outlasts her tenure, she said. She wants to pass comprehensive voting rights legislation, environmental justice protections and address the affordable housing crisis. “We have got to come up with creative solutions,” she said. “And we’ve got to have the political will to figure it out. It’s not the lack of resources, it’s the lack of political will.” Brianna Titone Current position: Colorado House of Representatives, District 27 Position sought: Colorado House of Representatives, District 27 Brianna Titone, an incumbent in the Colorado Legislature, is seeking reelection after serving District 27 for two terms. Titone is the first transgender person to be elected to the Colorado Statehouse. After seeing three trans people win elections in 2017, Titone was inspired to run for the statehouse seat. Her background as a geologist and personal identity combined to give her a unique and powerful skillset. “As a scientist, I’m able to understand and look at the data,” Titone said. “And as a trans person, I know how to be empathetic to people’s issues and problems.” One of her biggest accomplishments was bringing back and passing the bill banning the “Gay and Trans Panic Defense” after the legislation was nearly killed. “I pleaded with the Senate and the House leadership to get that bill back on the schedule. And we were able to do it,” she said. “I wasn’t going to let that issue have to wait another


year to be passed.” Titone has been on the frontlines in pushing against efforts to remove trans kids from sports, as well. “I’m a big advocate for communities coming together,” Titone said. “And sports is a great way for people to come together and rally around the people in their community. When we leave kids out or we force kids out of that kind of activity, we’re really undermining community.” Todd Delmay Current position: Entrepreneur Position sought: Florida State House of Representatives, District 100 Todd Delmay, a father, husband, and entrepreneur, has been on the frontlines of LGBTQ advocacy for years. Delmay, who is gay, adopted his son with his partner in 2010 when it was still illegal in Florida. Delmay’s husband adopted their son Blake as a single parent, and Delmay was told to bring friends and “blend in the background” to not arouse suspicion. Later that year the law was overturned and Delmay adopted Blake as a second parent, but the process was humiliating and upsetting, he said. In 2014, Delmay and his partner were one of the couples that sued for the right to marry in Florida. In 2015, Delmay and his husband were one of the first gay couples to marry in the state. “That was a pretty empowering moment,” Delmay said. Delmay is excited to bring his unique perspective as a gay parent to the statehouse, he said. Adoption rights, for example, is an issue Delmay can speak to personally. “When LGBTQ people are in the room, it changes the conversation,” Delmay said.








Grenell emails hint at initial steps in Trump effort to decriminalize homosexuality State Dept. identified 10 countries to target in int’l efforts By CHRIS JOHNSON | cjohnson@washblade.com

Emails from the State Department — obtained by the Washington Blade from a lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act — reveal the Trump administration had at least laid the preliminary groundwork for a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality to the extent of identifying 10 countries where it was thought most possible. The initial seven-page batch of emails, obtained by the FOIA lawsuit seeking communications from former U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell in his capacity as leader of the initiative to decriminalize homosexuality, was delivered to the Blade last month and hints at initial steps toward a plan shortly after the announcement of the initiative. It’s unclear from the initial production what further efforts, if any, sprang from the identification of these 10 countries. Critics at the time said the campaign was nothing but window-dressing to cover up for anti-LGBTQ policies during the Trump administration. In an exchange dated Aug. 23, 2019, an assistant to Grenell forwards an email from an individual whose identity is redacted on an edited list of 10 countries where “we believe decriminalization is possible.” Copied on the email is Robin Quinville, who was deputy chief of mission in Berlin. “Per your request, attached and edited below is the list of 10 countries where LGBTI decriminalization is possible — with your and Robin’s edits incorporated,” the email is redacted. The names of the 10 countries, however, are redacted in the exchange provided to the Blade, as is an apparent Word document attached in the exchange with a short justification for each of the countries. Also redacted are the names of two agencies an assistant in the email identifies as having “cleared” the list. The assistant tells Grenell the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor hasn’t yet responded, but the embassy “will forward their list when we receive it.” As a result of the redactions, the identity of the 10 countries is unknown at this time. The early production given the Blade in response to a FOIA request filed last year offers no indication on the extent to which the State Department conducted further efforts to change the law in these countries, or whether there was any engagement after identifying them. Grenell didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment for this article on how the identification of these 10 countries

informed efforts to decriminalize homosexuality. Quinville couldn’t be reached for comment. The initial FOIA production also includes an earlier exchange between an assistant and Grenell dated June 11, 2019, shortly after Botswana became the latest country to decriminalize homosexuality, forwarding a link to a Washington Post article on that news. The name of the assistant is redacted and may or may not be the same as the one in the other exchange. “Some good news coming out of Botswana! Their High Court ruled today that parts of the penal code criminalizing same-sex conduct are unconstitutional,” the unidentified assistant writes. Grenell is short in his reply: “I just tweeted about it.” It’s not clear whether or not Grenell contributed to the decriminalization efforts in Botswana other than the tweet he references. The assistant goes on to share a link from a tweet from the State Department spokesperson congratulating Botswana. Other countries addressing the criminalization of homosexuality after the Trump administration’s initiative was announced were Gabon, which became one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa to decriminalize homosexuality, and Sudan, which eliminated the death penalty as punishment for homosexual conduct (although the punishment remains prison time from five years to life). There’s no evidence those changes happened as a result of the global initiative Grenell led. One of the aims of the Blade’s FOIA lawsuit is to shed light on any activity from the U.S. government during the Trump administration in assisting with efforts, successful or otherwise, to decriminalize homosexuality. The redactions on the production in the FOIA lawsuit may not be the last word. FOIA was amended in 2016 to clarify federal agencies cannot redact deliberative language without demonstrating revealing that information would cause “foreseeable harm.” The Blade, represented by attorneys at Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP, will have the opportunity to challenge these redactions once the FOIA production is complete. At the time the lawsuit was filed, the State Department cited a “sizable universe of potentially responsive records” numbering in the thousands of pages as a reason for being unable to produce the records in a more timely manner. The initial seven pages produced by the State Department are an extremely small percentage of that total.

RICHARD GRENELL’s emails hint at the groundwork for a campaign to decriminalize homosexuality. (Photo public domain)

An unnamed State Department official, in response to an inquiry submitted by the Blade’s attorneys on the reasons for the initial limited production, fell back on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and overwhelming nature of the work, citing a need to consult “subject matter experts” before disclosing potentially sensitive material. “That process can take considerable time, particularly given the substantial constraints that have been imposed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” the State Department response says. “Thus, it’s not necessarily the case that the size of the potentially responsive universe returned by your client’s request should dictate the size of State’s first production. Similarly, a small production set does not necessarily entail that State has not processed a sizeable number of records during the preceding processing cycle.” The Blade, through its attorneys, has asked the State Department to determine how much of the “sizable universe” has been reviewed and determined to be responsive or non-responsive (“fully processed”) and how long would the process involving subject matter experts take. Daniel Fiedler, representing the Blade in the FOIA lawsuit as an attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, said the initial production from the State Department was unsatisfactory. “In December, the Department of State made its first production in response to the FOIA request submitted by the Washington Blade over a year ago,” Fiedler said. “This nominal production consisted of two email records, both heavily redacted. Such a token response after so much time is truly disheartening, and we will continue to push to ensure that the Department satisfies its obligations under FOIA.” Fielder concluded: “The American public is entitled access to the records sought, and every additional day without that access causes further harm.”

Longtime ally Betty White dies at 99 Betty White, the beloved actress and animal rights advocate who stood by the LGBTQ community as a strong ally died at her home in Brentwood, in West Los Angeles, her friend and agent Jeff Witjas revealed on Friday. She was 99. White, who was due to celebrate her 100th birthday on Jan. 17 had tweeted on Tuesday, Dec. 28: “My 100th birthday… I cannot believe it is coming up, and People Magazine is celebrating with me! The new issue of @people is available on newsstands nationwide tomorrow.” Reacting to the news about White’s death from their home in Wilmington, Del., when asked by reporters during an informal press gaggle, President Joe Biden said, “That’s a shame. She was a lovely lady.” The first lady, Dr. Jill Biden said, “Who didn’t love Betty White? We’re so sad.” California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement saying: “Betty was a trailblazer, and easily

one of the most beloved and lasting figures in television. She co-founded her own production company in the 1950s, one of two women at the time wielding creative control on both sides of the camera. Her 80-year career is the longest for any woman in television, and her work on Golden Girls created a cultural touchstone that remains relevant almost 40 years after its premiere.” White became a TV sitcom star in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Golden Girls.” Her appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in 2010 earned her a new generation of admirers. A nationwide theatrical event of “Betty White: 100 Years Young — A Birthday Celebration,” was scheduled for Jan. 17, which would have been her 100th birthday, the Associated Press reported. BRODY LEVESQUE LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JANUARY 07, 2022 • 09


Lesbian pop star arrested in Hong Kong

Chinese and Hong Kong government authorities last week held a series of raids targeting Stand News, a pro-democracy media outlet, arresting staff and current and former board members including out Canadian Denise Ho, all charged with conspiring to publish seditious materials. In a press conference held last week, Steve Li, senior superintendent of the Police National Security Department told reporters that over 200 national security police officers were deployed to raid the Kwun Tong offices of the non-profit online outlet the Hong Kong Free Press reported. Ho, a former board member was arrested at home. She was among at least seven others detained including Stand News deputy assignment editor and head of the Hong Kong Journalists Association Ronson Chan, acting chief editor Patrick Lam and former democratic legislator Margaret Ng. Li also related during the press conference that the arrested individuals held “important roles in the company’s editorial direction and strategy.” During the newsroom raid, officers found computers, mobile phones and HK$500,000 ($6412) in cash, he said, adding that other arrest warrants have been

issued. According to Li, Stand News was publishing “seditious materials between the enactment of the security law last June and November 2021 with intent to cause hatred towards the government, the judiciary and cause discontent among the public, which may lead them to disobey the law or the government’s orders.” The Hong Kong Free Press noted that Li added “such articles were typically written by people who were arrested or in self-exile overseas who acted as bloggers for the platform, Li said. Some were also exclusive interviews with such figures, where interviewees described how they lobbied foreign officials to impose sanctions without reservation.” In the case of Ho, the singer-actress-activist was released and tweeted to her followers; “Thank you friends for all your kind messages, I have been released on bail and have returned home safely.” Ho, whose full name is Denise Ho Wan-see, is a Hong Kongbased Cantopop singer and actress. She was born in Hong Kong but was raised in Canada and is a Canadian citizen. The

Israel to allow surrogacy for same-sex couples, trans people The Israeli government last week announced same-sex couples and transgender people will now be able to have children via surrogate. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who is gay, discussed the new policy during a Jerusalem press briefing with Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash. The Israeli Supreme Court last July ruled the government must allow same-sex couples and single men to have a child via surrogate. The ruling directed the government to act within six months. The new policy, which includes single men, will take effect on Jan. 11. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

44-year-old is also a pro-democracy and Hong Kong human rights activist. She came out in 2012, rare for a celebrity in Hong Kong, and began her political activism in 2014 as a member of the student-led Umbrella Movement. In addition to participating DENISE HO WAN-SEE (Screenshot via CBC) in street protests and rallies against an aggressively worsening situation for pro-democracy supporters targeted by the Hong Kong government under pressure by the regime of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, Ho became a global voice for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. In an action that angered Hong Kong’s top leader, Carrie Lam, who was appointed by the Beijing government of Xi, Ho spoke to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva in July 2019 to seek support and protection for Hong Kong’s residents. She also requested that China be removed from the council. BRODY LEVESQUE

Senegal rejects effort to further criminalize homosexuality Lawmakers in Senegal have rejected a bill that would have further criminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country. Media reports indicate the majority of the Senegalese National Assembly on Dec. 25 issued a statement that described the measure as a “bogus debate.” Lawmakers formally tabled the bill. Senegal is a former French colony in West Africa that borders Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea. Article 319 of the Senegalese penal code states anyone convicted of “any indecent or unnatural act committed between individuals of the same sex” faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 1,500,000 CFA (West African CFA) francs ($2,579.70.) Souleymane Diouf, a spokesperson for Collectif Free du Sénégal, a Senegalese LGBTQ rights group, earlier this month told the Washington Blade that “any LGBTI person” would face between five to 10 years in prison and a fine of between 1,000,000-5,000,000 CFA francs ($1,719.80-$8,599) under the bill. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Gender transition in Switzerland simplified New rules written into Swiss law will allow transgender and intersex citizens of Switzerland aged 16 and older to adjust their gender and legal name status on official documents by self-declaration at the civil registry office taking effect starting Jan. 1. The changes were passed on Dec. 18, 2020, when the Swiss Parliament passed a bill for legal gender recognition procedures based on self-determination. Previously, Swiss law required a certificate from a medical professional confirming an individual’s trans identity. In addition, under the current law, legal gender recognition, procedures in Switzerland are still based on court proceedings that vary from court to court or even from judge to judge. The new law will not only simplify and standardize the procedure but will also be less expensive, quicker and based on self-determination. According to Transgender Network Switzerland, costs

will be reduced to an administrative fee of 75 CHF ($81.83). Under the old law, legal gender recognition could cost up to 1.000 CHF ($1091.13). Transgender Europe, (TGEU), a network of different organizations working to combat discrimination against trans people and support trans people rights, welcomed the adoption of the legislation last year. TGEU Executive Director Masen Davis noted: “Especially given the backlash against trans people’s human rights in 2020, we are happy to see this law pass before the end of the year. Some countries have shown major step-backs in legal gender recognition, such as Hungary or Russia. It offers our communities some hope to see the Swiss example.” As the law takes effect, TGEU and the Transgender Network Switzerland (TGNS) expressed criticism that for those younger people and those under adult protection will require parent/guardian consent.


In a media release last December TGNS noted: “The joy that Switzerland has achieved the current human rights standard for adult intersex and trans women and men is, however, severely clouded in the communities concerned. In contrast to today, under-16s and people under comprehensive assistance can only apply for the change in the future with the consent of the legal representative, even if they are capable of judgment. You are the only one whose personal rights are restricted in this way, although the change in the gender entry does not affect anyone other than yourself.” Switzerland joins Ireland, Belgium, Portugal and Norway as one of the few countries on the continent that allow a person to legally change gender without hormone therapy, medical diagnosis or further evaluation or bureaucratic steps, Reuters reported. BRODY LEVESQUE

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an award-winning journalist who now works for Public Justice, has chronicled the lives of LGBTQ people in Southern California for more than 30 plus years. She is the former editor of the Los Angeles Blade.

Thank you, Betty White, for being such a good friend LGBTQ community owes iconic star immense debt of gratitude

Betty White died just 18 days from what would have been her 100th birthday on Jan. 17. The airwaves and social media were ablaze with tributes to this television pioneer – her first TV appearance was in 1939 — and how she used her wit, her wile, her humanity and her sassy self to stay relevant for more than seven decades. White hosted and produced her own shows in the dawn of the television era, going on to become a fun guest on variety shows and a spot-on game show contestant, especially on “Password,” hosted by her beloved husband Allen Ludden. Most of us got to know her through her cheeky star-turn as sexenthralled Sue Ann Nivens aka “The Happy Homemaker” on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the 1970s with her friend Mary Tyler Moore, then as sweetly naïve, St. Olaf, Minnesota story-teller Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls alongside other senior dream girls Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty living in the mid-80s in Miami, Florida. In 2010, she thumbed her nose at youth culture in “Hot in Cleveland” with Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick. White became a social media star after doing a Snickers commercial that year, which sparked a Facebook campaign to get her to host “Saturday Night Live.” But for all the well-deserved accolades — especially for being such a devoted animal rights activist — the LGBTQ community owes Betty White an immense debt of gratitude. Not only was The Golden Girls LGBTQ-inclusive from its pilot episode in 1985 and throughout its run until 1992, the show was sensitive and real in how the golden girls reacted to LGBTQ characters at a time when hate crimes against us were de rigueur and evangelical preachers were proclaiming that AIDS was God’s punishment for homosexuality. Two Betty White episodes stand out as subtle but critical gifts to national cultural competence. In the 1986 episode “Isn’t It Romantic?,” Dorothy’s college friend Pat (Lois Nettleton), who is in mourning following the death of her partner, comes for a visit. Dorothy decides not to tell Rose or Blanche that Pat is a lesbian. When Pat develops a crush on Rose, who responds favorably to the new friendship, Dorothy tells Blanche the secret, only to have Blanche become miffed because Pat chose Rose over her. That night, Rose shares her bed with Jean, who confesses her romantic feelings. Rose pretends to be asleep – but the camera sees her wide-eyed surprise. Embarrassed the next morning, Jean decides to cut her visit short. Rose says that while she doesn’t share the romantic feelings, she’s flattered and is sympathetic to Jean’s loss. The two remain friends. Pat is neither a joke nor is she whisked away to be “cured.” And the reaction from Betty White’s Rose — while she is in bed with a woman professing romantic love in Ronald Reagan’s America — is honest and kind. It’s an episode for which White and Nettleton win Primetime Emmy nominations and director Terry Hughes wins a Primetime Emmy and a Directors Guild Award. But for anyone who received an HIV test during the Second Wave of the AIDS crisis, the 1990 episode “72 Hours” still reverberates with meaning. Rose receives a letter from the hospital where six years earlier she had gallbladder surgery. The hospital advises that she get tested since the blood for her transfusion may have been tainted with HIV. Betty White’s Rose embodies the panic and misconceptions swirling in the public 12 • JANUARY 07, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

imagination at the time. Blanche, who has already had an AIDS test as a realistic response to her sexualized lifestyle, serves as a calming voice of reason as the episode plays out the frenzied distress Rose feels while waiting three days for her test results. Here’s an excerpt: “Blanche: Hi Rose, what’s goin’ on? Rose: Oh I’m just sitting here kicking myself for not taking care of my gallbladder, and for going to that hospital for the operation, and for letting them give me blood without asking first, ‘Oh excuse me, are you sure this isn’t going to kill me one day’? Blanche: Now, now, Rose, take it easy. Rose: Why does everyone keep saying that? I don’t *feel* like taking it easy. I might have AIDS, and it scares the hell out of me. And yet every time I open my mouth to talk about it, somebody says ‘There, there, Rose, take it easy.’ Blanche: I’m sorry, honey. Rose: Why me, Blanche? I’m tired of pretending I feel okay so you won’t say, ‘Take it easy’, and I’m tired of you saying ‘Take it easy’ because you’re afraid I’m going to fall apart. Dammit, why is this happening to me? I mean, this isn’t supposed to happen to people like me. You must’ve gone to bed with *hundreds* of men. All I had was one innocent operation. Blanche: [insulted] Hey, wait a minute! Are you saying this should be me and not you? Rose: No! No, I’m just saying that I am a good person. Hell, I’m a goody-two-shoes! Blanche: AIDS is not a bad person’s disease, Rose, it is not God punishin’ people for their sins! Rose: [quietly] You’re right, Blanche. Blanche: Well you’re damn straight I’m right! Blanche: [pause] I’m sorry I yelled at you. Rose: Oh, don’t apologize, I mean this is what I want. Oh, God, this waiting is driving me crazy! Blanche, when you were tested, how did you make it through? Blanche: Just kept it to myself, and acted like a real bitch to everybody else. Rose: No wonder we never knew!” But what would even a very serious Golden Girls episode be without at least one story from St. Olaf? “Rose: [waiting for her AIDS blood test] I haven’t been this scared since 1952, when St. Olaf’s most active volcano threatened to erupt. Luckily, there were some Druid priests who were in town for the opening of Stonehengeland, and they said they could stop it, if they could sacrifice the town’s dumbest virgin. I don’t know why I raised my hand. It must’ve just been the excitement of the moment. But, they said the only way to prevent the eruption was for me to crawl through their legs, up the volcano, while they gave me my birthday whacks. Well – and you’re not going to believe this – it turns out they weren’t Druid priests at all, just a bunch of Shriners looking for a good time.” These two episodes may not be included in the volumes of stories now being told about her life. But at the time, no one but Betty White could have held up such an important mirror to our humanity – then dart out from behind with such a catching smile that allowed us to enjoy and learn from our Golden Girl lesson. Thank you, Betty White!


CREATIVE DESIGN/PRODUCTION AZERCREATIVE.COM DISTRIBUTION CHRISTOPHER JACKSON, 562-826-6602 All material in the Los Angeles Blade is protected by federal copyright law and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the Los Angeles Blade. The sexual orientation of advertisers, photographers, writers and cartoonists published herein is neither inferred nor implied. The appearance of names or pictorial representation does not necessarily indicate the sexual orientation of that person or persons. Although the Los Angeles Blade is supported by many fine advertisers, we cannot accept responsibility for claims made by advertisers. Unsolicited editorial material is accepted by the Los Angeles Blade, but the paper cannot take responsibility for its return. The editors reserve the right to accept, reject or edit any submission. A single copy of the Los Angeles Blade is available from authorized distribution points, to any individual within a 50-mile radius of Los Angeles, CA. Multiple copies are available from the Los Angeles Blade office only. Call for rates. If you are unable to get to a convenient free distribution point, you may receive a 26-week mailed subscription for $195 per year or $5.00 per single issue. Checks or credit card orders can be sent to Phil Rockstroh at prockstroh@washblade.com. Postmaster: Send address changes to the Los Angeles Blade, PO BOX 53352 Washington, DC 20009. The Los Angeles Blade is published bi-weekly, on Friday, by Los Angeles Blade, LLC. Rates for businesses/institutions are $450 per year. Periodical postage paid at Los Angeles, CA., and additional mailing offices. Editorial positions of the Los Angeles Blade are expressed in editorials and in editors’ notes as determined by the paper’s editors. Other opinions are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the opinion of the Los Angeles Blade or its staff. To submit a letter or commentary: Letters should be fewer than 400 words; commentaries should be fewer than 750 words. Submissions may be edited for content and length, and must include a name, address and phone number for verification. Send submissions by e-mail to tmasters@losangelesblade.com.


RYAN ODA (he/him) is a Program Associate for Equality California Institute’s OUT Against Big Tobacco Program, where he is working to reduce LGBTQ tobacco use throughout Los Angeles County.

COVID-19, isolation, tobacco and the LGBTQ, BIPOC community Research shows that discrimination linked to increased risk of smoking

While smoking rates have declined nationally in the past 20 years, this decline has not been shared equally among Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities or the LGBTQ+ community – and especially among those with intersecting identities. Tobacco is one of many harmful coping mechanisms that are adopted disproportionately by the LGBTQ+ community due to discrimination. Research shows that intense amounts of discrimination is linked to increased risk of tobacco use. This is no coincidence. The LGBTQ+ community is unique because people of all ages, races, and religions can identify as LGBTQ+. Issues that affect one community, such as the increased risk of tobacco use for Black communities, also impacts Black LGBTQ+ folks at even higher rates. In fact, research has shown that Black lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are 225% more likely to smoke than heterosexual Black youth. While many cisgender heterosexual BIPOC folks can rely on their tight knit communities as a support system, LGBTQ+ BIPOC people are often disowned by their biological family and wider community because of their LGBTQ+ identities. These added stressors caused by the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ people are associated with a higher risk of tobacco. Big Tobacco has used flavors, like menthol, to cover up the harsh taste of tobacco which makes it easier to get hooked and harder to quit. Candy, fruit, and dessert flavors are attractive to young people, getting them hooked on nicotine from a dangerously young age. Big Tobacco’s marketing strategy has targeted LGBTQ+ people resulting in an overwhelming presence of tobacco products in LGBTQ+ spaces, clubs, bars, Pride events, etc. OUT Against Big Tobacco Los Angeles, a coalition supported by Equality California Institute, is working in Santa Monica to educate the community and policymakers on the impacts of flavored tobacco and coupons and discounts on tobacco purchases on the LGBTQ+ community. Santa Monica, which has a history of passing

tobacco control policies, has the unique opportunity to create a healthy and safe environment for its residents, including youth. Research has shown that flavored tobacco increases people’s risk of becoming addicted to nicotine; because youth are most likely to begin smoking with flavored tobacco, youth can especially be at risk for becoming addicted due to these products. The City of Santa Monica passed an outdoor smoking ordinance at the Pier, citing its danger and risk of secondhand smoke exposure to youth and tourists. As the pandemic has continued, so have stressors for the LGBTQ+ community, and BIPOC youth. More now than ever, community action based on research is needed to prevent more people from becoming addicted to nicotine. To add to the many stressors LGBTQ+ folks deal with, the past year has resulted in many LGBTQ+ people facing increased risk of social isolation and depression. Due to COVID-19, various support groups that the community often relied on outside of their biological family such as school, Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) or Pride clubs, were no longer available to gather in-person. This lack of in-person support has created room for online influences to now hold even more weight than they previously did. As we reopen, the long-term effects of isolation on youth remain to be seen. Further research is needed to fully understand the impacts that the pandemic and subsequent social isolation has had on smoking rates for LGBTQ+ youth, especially those of color. It’s likely that more LGBTQ+ young people will come out of this pandemic addicted to tobacco. The onus is on institutions to ensure equitable access to resources to quit. Big Tobacco must be prevented, once and for all, from targeting our youth. To find out more about how to get involved in tobacco control work in Santa Monica, please check out OUT Against Big Tobacco’s Twitter: @outtobacco and Facebook: @ OUTAgainstBigTobaccoCoalition


The ‘Real’ deal: An interview with Julia Lemigova of RHOM Navratilova’s spouse on reality TV, her chickens and Martina’s art

If you’ve managed to avoid watching even a single season of any of the “Real Housewives” shows, you now have a reason to watch. Julia Lemigova, who has been married to Martina Navratilova since 2014 is the first openly lesbian member of the cast in the history of the series. Initially introduced as a friend of “Real Housewives of Miami” cast member Adriana de Moura, the statuesque Lemigova towers over her castmates in more ways than one. She has a wonderful sense of humor, and her self-confidence is palatable. More than just a welcome addition to the cast, her presence is essential to making the show a well-rounded experience. Julia was gracious enough to answer a few questions. BLADE: Julia, were you a fan of the Real Housewives franchise before you joined the cast of Real Housewives of Miami, now airing on Peacock? JULIA LEMIGOVA: I had heard about the Real Housewives franchise. I always wanted to find time to watch, but life is busy with me farming or something else. I never watched the show until my dear friend Adriana called me and invited me to try to be her partner on the show. I was so thrilled because my real-life friendship with Adriana is like a show anyway [laughs], so it seemed like a natural fit. That same day, I watched the first season; all the episodes in one day. Then the next day I watched the second season of “Real Housewives of Miami” and the third day I watched the third season, and that’s it [laughs]. I was convinced! I loved it! I became an instant fan. It was like a natural chemistry.


in South Florida as we both do, we have multiple Pride festivals, including Miami Beach Pride, Fort Lauderdale Pride, Stonewall Pride in Wilton Manors, Pride of the Palm Beaches, and Key West Pride. Have you been able to partake in the myriad Pride festivals? LEMIGOVA: Because of COVID, and all the difficulties that come with it, I was not able to participate in that this year, unfortunately, in a lot of Prides that I would have wanted to. However, when I was pregnant with my daughter in 2001, I was there on the street [for Pride] in New York. That was a lot of fun. Then, with Martina, during some of our vacations, we participated in a lot of different LGBT events, and I was a part of Pride in Paris, which was so much fun. Actually, New York again just before COVID started, which was amazing. And then my first time in Miami Pride this year.

BLADE: In addition to living with Martina in Miami Beach, you also have a farm in Broward County. What do you like best about the goats and chickens and all that goes with the farm? LEMIGOVA: I grew up in Moscow. Every summer my parents would send me to this Russian dacha. Being around animals, farm animals is part of my growing up. It’s who I am. Living in Europe, I could never make this dream happen. In Florida, when we decided to be in Miami, it was such a natural fit. Not only did I feel like I could be me here, be open about how I live, who I am, and my sexuality, but I also realized my second dream, which is to live among my four-legged and two-legged creatures. I have an unusual farm. It is a working farm — it keeps me working [laughs], but it’s more like a retreat. They each have their habitat and I am BLADE: I was touched by the story of how you met Martina, to JULIA LEMIGOVA, who has been married to Martina Navratilova since 2014, is the first I am just living with them. I’m part of their life. I talk to them, all of them, whom you’ve been married since December 2014. Did you do anyopenly lesbian member of the ‘Real Houseeven my multiple numbers of chickens. I love milking my goats. Right thing special to celebrate your wedding anniversary? wives’ in the history of the series. now, three of them are pregnant, so I’ll have a lot of milk. I cannot wait to LEMIGOVA: We were actually in the middle of moving houses. We litstart showing my cast-member friends how to make goat cheese. It gives erally moved on that day because everything was kind of going fast and me a sense of kind of belonging, tranquility. What makes it even funnier is that I jiggle between we wanted to get the house to ready for our daughters. So, we haven’t really celebrated. We’re high-heeled shoes and chicken galoshes. I’m comfortable in both [laughs]. I’m at the beach house kind of making jokes to each other that here we are moving boxes and packing on our anniversain high-heeled shoes and I have galoshes in my pickup truck for when I pick up my hay and feed ry. But we did open a bottle of something and had dinner. Now that both of our daughters came for the animals. Then I join Martina later for some glamorous dinner in Miami Beach. back from being abroad, we are looking forward to celebrating it together with them. We had a rain check, and we’ll celebrate it all together; Christmas, wedding anniversary, all of it in the new BLADE: Initially in the first couple of episodes of the new season, you are introduced house. in the new season of RHOM as “Adriana’s friend.” Having only seen the first couple of episodes, it’s obvious that Adriana is a little bit of a flirt. Do you think that’s an accurate BLADE: Another fascinating detail is the way you talk about how you had been closeted, description of your friend? but that living in Miami has allowed you to be more of yourself. Can you please say a few LEMIGOVA: It’s funny because at first people were saying that I was a flirt. I actually looked up words about that? flirtation when people were telling me, “Julia, you are little bit of a flirt.” I hadn’t heard that about LEMIGOVA: I felt free from the second I stepped onto U.S. soil. Being so shy and introverted Adriana. But now that you’re saying so, I’ll ask her if she was told that as well. When I looked in the about my life while living in Paris and then the first time we went for a vacation to the U.S. in Aspen dictionary for the exact definition of the word there are lots. The one I found more accurate to me followed by Miami, it just felt right. We stayed in a small art deco hotel on the beach. I remember and flirt is like a butterfly. You’re flying from flower to flower. That’s how I interact with people, in having breakfast and looking at people walking, Somehow, I found myself walking around Ocean general. Men, women, my chickens. Flirt to me is just a way to say I enjoy talking to you. There is Drive with Martina, and here I am holding hands with her. I was like, “Oh, my God!” It was someno sexual connotation to me at all. It’s just a happy exchange of energy. thing I never ever did in Paris. I love Miami even more for that [laugh]. I’m crazy about it. I said, “Let’s move here.” It was wishful thinking, because back then same-sex marriage was not legal. We BLADE: Well said! In the first couple of episodes, we also learn about Martina’s talent for had to plan ahead and overcome quite a few challenges. painting. How important do you think it is for people to have a creative outlet for expression such as painting? BLADE: We’re very glad you like it here. You have the distinction of being the first openly LEMIGOVA: I think it’s so important. Whether it’s painting or any kind of art or whatever othlesbian cast member in the history of “Real Housewives.” What does that honor mean to er outlet they could have for their emotions, to balance how they feel. To turn the feelings, the you? avalanche of different emotions into something so beautiful like art or, in my case [laughs], interLEMIGOVA: I feel so proud, and I never use this word lightly. Being a visible part of our LGBT acting with the animals. After Martina finishes playing or commentating tennis, she spreads the community is quite new to me. I would not even try to pretend I am a spokesperson for it, but I’m canvas on the floor with paint and takes the tennis balls, smashing them all over my beautiful so happy to be a spokesperson for myself and for my family. I hope that as a family we represent floor [laughs]. Creating with multi-colors, and me being grumpy because, “Oh, my God! How am I our LGBT community well. I’m thrilled and honored to shine a light on how we live; on our family, going to clean this?” An hour later, I come back, and those colors became a beautiful piece of art. and share it with the world, and especially with those who may need it. I’m fascinated by how she can do that. Then she’s fascinated how I talk to my parrots and chickens and tortoises, and all of that. BLADE: Episode three of the new season includes scenes from Wynwood Pride. Living





Looking ahead to a very queer year at the movies A boost in trans representation and bi role for Harry Styles By JOHN PAUL KING

It’s only the first week of the new year and awards season has barely begun – but before we dive headlong into the process of bestowing honors on the best movies of 2021, it seems like a good time to pause and take a look forward to the movies coming our way in 2022 – specifically those with LGBTQ appeal. There are plenty of reasons to be excited. After a year with zero trans representation on the big screen, the next one promises several offerings that not only feature trans characters, but put them front-and-center – and that’s not even counting the remake of queer author Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser” with trans actress Jamie Clayton as Pinhead. There are also a plethora of same-sex romcoms, a notable increase in diversity among the leading players, and at least one high-profile title that hopes to help Hollywood make its tradition of bi-erasure a thing of the past.

can’t come soon enough for us. WHAT IF? Billy Porter makes his directorial debut this year with this teen romance written by Ximena García Lecuona. A love story about a high school senior who must overcome his shyness in order to win the affections of the girl he’s been crushing on. It sounds like typical fare, but there’s a refreshing twist — his crush is trans. With Porter behind the camera, you know it’s not going to be dialing down any of the inherent queerness of that scenario, and with real-life trans actress Eva Reign as the star, it’s a sure bet that this sweet story of teenage love (based, incidentally, on a real-life Reddit post) is going to be a real ground-breaker. Release date TBA. AM I OK? Directed by the wife-and-wife team of Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne, this promising entry is the story of two best friends, Jane and Lucy, whose lives are thrown into chaos when them gets a promotion that requires a move to London and the other comes out as gay. Billed as “a relatable, poignant, and often humorous look at the transformative power of human vulnerability,” it stars Dakota Johnson and Sonoya Mizuno. With its debut slated for the Sundance Film Festival at the end of January, it’s likely to be coming our way for wide release later in 2022.


SCREAM Horror fans are doubtless already aware of (and eagerly anticipating) the return of the “Scream” franchise to the big screen. Set to debut on Jan. 13, the fifth installment of the wildly popular 1990s slasher film series is a reboot in which a fresh crop of teens find themselves being stalked by a killer in a Ghostface mask. The new generation of potential victims – which includes Kyle Gallner, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Sonia Ammar, Jack Quaid and Melissa Barrera – are joined by returning veterans Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courtney Cox, when the emergence of a new killer prompts the return to Woodsboro of original final girl Sidney Prescott (Campbell). The iconic franchise has always had plenty of queer appeal – original screenwriter Kevin Williamson recently revealed in an interview with The Independent that it was inspired by the “gay survival” mindset he developed as an openly gay teen – but the upcoming film ups the ante by introducing an out queer character (played by Brown), and the trailer hints strongly toward a same-sex romance as part of the movie’s plot.

(Photo courtesy Gloria Sanchez Productions)

FRAMING AGNES Also premiering at Sundance is this Chase Joynt-directed historical drama about a pioneering, pseudonymized transgender woman who participated in Harold Garfinkel’s gender health research at UCLA in the 1960s. Described as a “rigorous cinematic exercise that blends fiction and nonfiction” and “endeavors to widen the frame through which trans history is viewed,” it features an impressive lineup of trans stars – including Zackary Drucker, Angelica Ross, Jen Richards, Max Wolf Valerio, Silas Howard, and Stephen Ira – reenacting and bringing new perspective to an important chapter of trans history. Again, we can expect to see this one some months after its January debut at Sundance.

BROS Possibly the biggest news in LGBTQ movies for 2022 is this hotly anticipated romantic comedy spearheaded by gay comedian and actor Billy Eichner — touted as the first gay romcom from a major Hollywood studio — which arrives in August. Co-written by Eichner and director Nicholas Stoller, there’s not a lot of detail about the plot besides the fact that it revolves around two men attempting a relationship despite their shared fear of commitment, but that’s enough to get us all on board considering that the two men are played by Eichner and hunky Luke Macfarlane. Better still, in a reversal of the usual Hollywood standard, all the roles in the film – even the straight ones – are played by LGBTQ performers, including Harvey Fierstein, Amanda Bearse, Guillermo Diaz, Jim Rash, and Bowen Yang. Let’s hope it’s the beginning of a new normal.

MY FAKE BOYFRIEND Another romcom, this Gen-Z and Millennial-targeted offering stars actor/musician Keiynan Lionsdale (“Love, Simon”), Dylan Sprouse (“Riverdale”), and Sarah Hyland (“Modern Family”) in a story about a young man (Lonsdale) who, under the direction of his unconventional best friend creates a fake boyfriend on social media in order to keep his “awful ex-lover” from trying to come back into his life - only to have the plan backfire when he meets someone he thinks might be the real love of his life. Slated for release sometime around Pride month, this one will likely be popular on the strength of its attractive young stars alone.

FIRE ISLAND Speaking of Bowen Yang, the out “Saturday Night Live” star also heads to the big screen this year alongside fellow comedian Joel Kim Booster in this modern-day comedy of manners inspired by Jane Austen’s classic novel “Pride and Prejudice.” Written by Booster and directed by Andrew Ahn, it revolves around two gay besties who head to the titular New York queer retreat for a week of fun and frolic with an eclectic group of friends, setting the stage for a satirical observation of the social behavior and class hierarchies of gay men — not just around economic status, but around such manufactured dividing lines as body type and ethnic heritage. Also starring Margaret Cho, Conrad Ricamora, Zane Philips, and Nick Adams, there’s no release date slated yet for this one – but with a premise like that, it

MY POLICEMAN As far as attractive young stars go, you can’t do much better than pop musician-turned-actor Harry Styles, who stars in this UK-set romantic drama from Michael Grandage and Greg Berlanti as a bisexual policeman who loves a man (David Dawson) but marries a woman (Emma Corrin) because same-sex relationships are illegal. Four decades later, his former lover re-enters his life, and his long-held secret might not be the only thing that comes out. Linus Roache, Gina McKee, and Rupert Everett portray the older versions of the three members of this star-crossed romantic triangle. No release date has yet been announced, but with the star power involved in this one we can be sure it will make a big splash when it lands later this year.



A lesbian Baby Boomer’s relatable story ‘Audacity of a Kiss’ a warm, familiar biography By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

Don’t move. Stay entirely still, don’t even breathe. You’re about to become a symbol of something that’s bigger than you are, something you’ll be proud of for the rest of your days. Don’t flinch, scratch, or sneeze, just don’t do anything. Don’t. Move. Unless it’s to turn the pages of “The Audacity of a Kiss” by Leslie Cohen. Behind every statue is a story, and the one behind those representing four people in Christopher Park in New York’s Greenwich Village is no different. But to explain how this monument came about means also telling a long love story and a tale about a nightclub. Leslie Cohen’s mother was her very best friend, although there were misunderstandings in the relationship. Seven-year-old Leslie couldn’t see why she received pink girly things for her birthday. In later years, she couldn’t understand why her mother deferred to Leslie’s father and endured his abuse. The one thing Cohen did understand was that once puberty hit, the boys in her neighborhood were no longer pals to roughhouse with. She was supposed to want to date them and it didn’t entirely make sense, but Cohen went along with it even after she left home for college. She went out with boys and lost her virginity to one, but meeting Beth was the most remarkable thing about higher learning. She was sure she was in love with Beth, but Beth was obsessed with a boy and so Cohen moved on. She moved on to other men and then women, at a time when women loving women was unthinkable, and the Summer of Love. Cohen embraced her lesbianism, fell in and out of love, and went into a partnership with three other women to open New York’s first lesbian club, where lesbians and straight feminists were welcome to dance and drink. To be sure, it was a heady time. Cohen worked nonstop, gained confidence and learned to run a bar business. She was busy, but happy. And then Beth came back into her life. Let’s face it: author Leslie Cohen’s life story is basically like that of a lot of lesbians born at the beginning of the Baby Boom. A solid childhood, confusion, self-awareness, entrepreneurship all make a somewhat familiar story set apart by one abundant thing: warmth. Indeed, “The Audacity of a Kiss” is an easy tale. It’s comfortable, like a crackling fireplace and a glass of wine on a cushy sofa.There are accomplishments here, told so that you really share the pride in them. Readers are shown the struggle that Cohen had, too, but experiences are well-framed by explanations of the times in which they occurred, with nothing overly dramatic – just the unabashed truth, and more warmth. Opening this book, in a way, then, is like accepting an invitation to own the recliner for an evening, and you won’t want anything else. Younger lesbians will get a lot from this book, but anyone who’s been there will relish it. Get “The Audacity of a Kiss,” then sit down and don’t move.

‘The Audacity of a Kiss: A Memoir’ By Leslie Cohen

c.2021, Rutgers University Press $24.95 | 235 pages



Trans climber completes fifth of seven summits Erin Parisi is first out trans mountain climber to reach such heights By DAWN ENNIS

Erin Parisi just returned from the bottom of the world, but already the out transgender woman has set her sights on her next challenge in her mission to conquer the highest summits of each of the seven continents. ”I have been trying to train and get to the tops of the highest mountain on every continent: Seven Peaks, seven summits, seven continents,” she said. “I just finished Antarctica, which is an extraordinarily difficult climb as far as logistics, as far as dealing with the weather and the environment, a mountain that’s only been climbed 2,000 times before.” It was New Year’s Day when she spoke by phone to the Los Angeles Blade, from a hotel room in Santiago, Chile, where it’s summertime. Five summits down, two more to go. “In order, the first five are Mount Kosciusko in Australia. Then I did Kilimanjaro a second time — I climbed it once manifesting as a dude, and I decided that I wanted to do them all post-transition,” said Parisi. “Next, I did Mount Elbrus in Russia and then I did Aconcagua in South America, not too far from where I’m sitting right now.” Parisi, 45, reflected on both her climb 16,050 feet to the summit of Vinson Massif in Antarctica, and her plans to return later this year to the tallest spot in North America: Mount Denali, 20,310 feet above sea level. Not the highest of the seven summits but


(Photo courtesy of Parisi)

considered by many experienced climbers to be the hardest. “Last year, we got flattened by wind,” said Parisi, who was disappointed that neither she nor anyone on her team were able to reach the summit due to those conditions and injuries. “I want to go back and have a little chat with Denali.” It certainly was challenging for Parisi, who hurt her hand so badly in last summer’s attempt, during Pride Month, that she requires surgery. She posted on Instagram back then, that she thought she had dislocated a finger in a rush to set up camp as they ascended to 14K feet, and it set off doubts that made her question continuing. Alone for two days, stranded for a total of six days in subzero temperatures by a vicious wind storm with gusts up to 60 mph, Parisi wrote that she “rested, journaled, meditated, shed a few tears,” and decided “Climbing isn’t about holding on, it’s about letting go.” Good thing she did; It turns out Parisi did more than dislocate a finger.


“There are a series of tendons that come down your pointer finger and around the base of your palm, called the volar plate, and that tendon got stuck in some climbing gear,” she said. “It looks like a dislocation. When it happened, I relocated it pretty quickly, but the pain was kind of unbearable for the next week or two. So, I finally went to the doctor last fall and they looked at it and they said, ‘It’s not going to get better. You tore up the ligaments and broken the volar plate.’ So, I have to have that reconstructed.” That means she lived with that injury for four months and even climbed Vinson Massif without the benefit of her dominant right hand. Parisi credits her wife with finally convincing her to get it looked at. “I just figured I was getting old, and it was sore, but she talked me into going to the doctor eventually,” said Parisi, uttering the words every spouse loves to see in print. “Yeah, she was right, like usual!” Next up, Parisi said she will make a second attempt to conquer Mount Denali in Alaska. “That’s going to be next, sometime in summer of 2022.” And then next year: Mount Everest, the last of the seven summits, and at 29,050 feet, the tallest. “2023 is the 70th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s expedition, and we want to be up there for the 70th anniversary,” she said. “I think it’s a little-known fact that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay had a trans member on their team. And we want to tell her story.” That would be the story of Jan Morris, a journalist for The Times of London, who died in 2020. Given her location, Parisi has been out of touch with news of the world as well as what’s been happening with her wife and their nine-year-old child in Colorado. She also missed both Christmas and New Year’s as well as her birthday. Well, almost missed, thanks to a surprise celebration organized by her fellow climbers and organizers back home, which she shared on Instagram. “My team and the @climbingsevensummits team surprised me by serving dessert bubbles and cheesecake, and leading the entire camp in 2 rounds of “Happy Birthday.” I was completely embarrassed, but my mind was set at ease and I warmed to the idea that I might just fit with this crew climbing through New Year.” Parisi really needed that boost; She was having doubts again. “Imposter syndrome is real, and after missing the Denali summit last May, I was confident I didn’t belong here,” she wrote on Instagram. That feeling stemmed from feeling as if she was “the only trans person” on the continent, not just last month, but ever. When she returned to civilization, the Los Angeles Blade caught her up on the latest controversies dogging the transgender population: hate directed at both UPenn swimmer Lia Thomas and Jeopardy! champion Amy Schneider, simply because they’re winning their respective competitions. “I don’t understand it, with the Jeopardy! champion, either, because, there’s no way to say she has any advantage, or that it’s unfair to anyone, or that she’s taken something from anyone else. I mean, there’s just no argument to disparage her by,” said Parisi. “It blows my mind how stubborn people are just recognizing somebody’s right to exist. Live and let live. And I’m hoping that 2022 somehow will be a better year.” Parisi is active in promoting transgender rights, and the flag she carries on every expedition incorporates the trans pride flag designed by Monica Helms. “We really take pride in putting the pink, blue and white up there,” she said. “I climb these summits just to kind of remind myself and remind the world that you can be yourself and you can enjoy the things you enjoy. You don’t have to make a choice.” Other than her lifelong love of mountain climbing, which she told TripAdvisor last summer began when she was climbing trees at age 6, Parisi said she finds joy in every part of living her authentic life. “I find joy in the outdoors. I find joy in breathing the fresh air. I find joy in my nineyear-old child. I convinced myself I was unlovable, and now I have probably, not even probably, hands down, the most loving relationship that I’ve ever had in my life, post-transition. I find great joy in being loved and loving. I love cooking and just everything about life is better, when you’re yourself.”

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