FEBRUARY 25, 2022 • VOLUME 06 • ISSUE 08 • AMERICA’S LGBTQ NEWS SOURCE • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
City of West Hollywood plans Pride 2022
Board, Arts and Cultural Aﬀairs Commission, and community partners. WeHo Pride LGBTQ The City of West Hollywood announced dates for WeHo Pride 2022, the city’s inaugural Arts Festival projects are funded by the City’s Arts Grant Program. “WeHo Pride” event to celebrate Pride in June. Additional details about WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, including a full calendar of WeHo Pride Weekend will take place from Friday, June 3 through Sunday, June 5, in and events and downloadable brochure with times and locations, will be made available in the around West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard. coming weeks at www.weho.org/pride. Some programs from 2021 are still available to be WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival (formerly known as the One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts viewed online at https://bit.ly/OCOPYouTube. Festival) will take place during 40 days from Harvey Milk Day on Sunday, May 22, 2022 to For more than three decades, the City of West Hollywood has been home to the largest Thursday, June 30, 2022 at various locations throughout the City of West Hollywood with Pride celebrations in Southern California, as hundreds some online programs. of thousands of LGBTQ people and allies from around Additional details about WeHo Pride Weekend will the world make West Hollywood their destination for the be made available in the coming weeks at weho.org/ Pride season. Home to the “Rainbow District” along Sanpride. ta Monica Boulevard, which features a concentration of WeHo Pride celebrations during WeHo Pride Weekhistoric LGBTQ clubs, restaurants, and retail shops, the end and during June 2022 will include a diverse array City consistently tops lists of “most LGBTQ friendly cities” of LGBTQ+ community groups as part of visibility, exin the nation. pression, and celebration. The City of West Hollywood Since incorporation in 1984, the City of West Hollyinvites community groups to take part in WeHo Pride wood has become one of the most inﬂuential cities in 2022. The city has launched a submission form for apthe nation for its outspoken advocacy on LGBTQ issues. plications from community groups that wish to particiNo other city of its size has had a greater impact on the pate in WeHo Pride: w.eho.city/applywehopride national public policy discourse on fairness and incluCommunity groups may apply to participate in one siveness for LGBTQ people. More than 40 percent of resof two ways: idents in West Hollywood identify as LGBTQ and three of • Activate a designated space in the event area for the ﬁve members of the West Hollywood City Council are WeHo Pride Weekend (in the area of West Hollywood openly gay. The City has advocated for nearly four dePark and N. San Vicente Blvd. during the weekend of cades for measures that support LGBTQ individuals and June 3-5, 2022); or the City is in the vanguard on eﬀorts to gain and protect • Request city funding for a unique event, produced Pride is set to return to WeHo in June. (Blade ﬁle photo) equality for all people on a state, national, and internaentirely by your group. tional level. Community group applications will be reviewed by The City of West Hollywood is one of the ﬁrst municipalities to form a Lesbian & Gay Adthe City of West Hollywood and a limited number of approved groups will be chosen as visory Board and a Transgender Advisory Board, which each address matters of advocacy. WeHo Pride participants. The deadline to apply to receive funding for a community event is As part of its support of the transgender community, the City has a Transgender Resource 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 31, 2022. If an organization or group is proposing to host a paGuide available on the City’s website, which provides information about a variety of resourcrade, please upload a proposal for the City’s consideration and City staﬀ will follow up with es including legal, health, and social services, available in the Greater Los Angeles area to a supplemental application for completion. Parade proposals and supplemental parade apenhance and improve the well-being of transgender people. plications must be received and deemed complete by 5 p.m. on Monday, February 28, 2022. For more information about WeHo Pride, please contact Megan Reath, Event Services Each year, the City of West Hollywood celebrates the artistic contributions of the LGBTQ Supervisor, City of West Hollywood at (323) 848-6495 http://voice.google.com/calls?a=nc,%community with its vibrant LGBTQ Arts Festival, which is now known, starting in 2022, as 2B13238486495or email@example.com. the WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival. Formerly called the One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts For more information about the WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, please contact Mike Festival, the festival has a new name. The theme for 2022 is With Liberty, Diversity, Inclusion, Che, Arts Coordinator, City of West Hollywood at (323) 848-6377 http://voice.google.com/ and Progress For All. The WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival runs for 40 days, from Harvey calls?a=nc,%2B13238486377or firstname.lastname@example.org. Milk Day through the end of Pride month and is organized by the City of West Hollywood’s TROY MASTERS Arts Division with input from the City’s Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board, Transgender Advisory
Non-binary counselors enrage parents in Los Alamitos A three-day overnight science camp for ﬁfth-grade girls in the San Bernardino Mountains near Running Springs has erupted in controversy after a group of parents found out that non-binary counselors slept in the same cabins. A group of parents of students at Weaver Elementary School in Los Alamitos are upset with the Los Alamitos Uniﬁed School District after their children informed them that “biologically male counselors,” who use they/them pronouns, were sleeping in the same cabins as the girls. KTLA 5 reported that one parent Rachel Sandoval, said: “I contacted the school and asked them if they were able to conﬁrm that there was not a man actually sleeping in the same cabin as the girls. They were not able to conﬁrm that.” “No parent should feel the way I feel after knowing what could have happened to my daughter,” another parent Suzy Johnson, told KTLA. The parents told the station that they weren’t alleging that a crime was committed just that the policy of the camp was not disclosed. Speaking with KTLA, Emmi Teige, the assistant director of Camp Pali said, “Per California law, we place staﬀ in cabins they identify with.” “It’s awful that children had to even experience this in ﬁfth-grade camp,” Johnson told KTLA. “If I was aware of it and I had initialed something saying this was going to be done at
this outdoor science camp, I would have kept my children home.” The Los Alamitos Uniﬁed School District has had LGBTQ+ issues escalate previous to this incident. Tensions ran high in the Los Alamitos Uniﬁed School District after parents learned that a teacher at Oak Middle School at the start of the school year asked his students to let him know what their preferred pronouns are during classes. One of the parents who is organizing a recall petition for the school board implied that the teacher was acting in a deviant manner. “[The teacher] had been asking students to share their gender identiﬁcation and gender preference and not be scared to do that, but you could see it as a certain way of communicating with children,” Robert Aguilar said to Spectrum News outside a school board meeting. “However, there are parents that believe that is not the place for a science teacher. There was some concern, ‘Why would an adult man be asking minor children under the age of 14 about their sexuality?’” The battle over the use of pronouns in the Los Alamitos Uniﬁed School District is reﬂective of controversies in thousands of school districts across the United States over the past 14 months, driven in part by severe disagreements over requirements for face masks and vaccinations to battles over the rights of transgender students. BRODY LEVESQUE LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 25, 2022 • 03
WeHo launches ﬁrst pilot project in U.S. for guaranteed income Pandemic has exacerbated challenges facing those in poverty
FROM STAFF REPORTS The City of West Hollywood, in collaboration with nonproﬁt partner, National Council of Jewish Women/LA, will open applications for the ﬁrst pilot project for guaranteed income in the nation aimed at evaluating the impact of cash payments on the ﬁnancial stability and quality of life of LGBTQIA older adults. Guaranteed income is a direct and regular cash payment – no strings attached – provided to a speciﬁc group of people for a designated time. Guaranteed income pilots are a way to test the impact of these payments, while also providing a service to help ﬁnancially stabilize community members and learn information to help create future, evidence-based policies and programs. Community members who are interested in applying for the West Hollywood Pilot for Guaranteed Income must reside in the City of West Hollywood, be 50 years or older, identify as LGBTQIA, and have an individual income of $41,400 or less. The application period will open on Feb. 25, 2022 and will close on March 6. The program will be facilitated by the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles. Learn more and apply online at ncjwla.org/whpgi. Those who need assistance applying may call 323-852 8500 or may send an email message to email@example.com. A total of 25 qualifying participants will be randomly selected from the pool of eligible applicants to receive unconditional monthly $1,000 payments from April 2022 through September 2023. In January 2021, the West Hollywood City Council approved an item for the City of West Hollywood to join the Mayors for Guaranteed Income (MGI) network and directed staﬀ to develop a guaranteed income pilot program for West Hollywood, including identiﬁcation of research, funding, community implementation, and evaluation partners. There are numerous cities, counties, and private guaranteed income pilots happening throughout the nation, all providing unconditional cash payments to determine the impact of guaranteed income. The City of West Hollywood seeks to test the emerging promise of guaranteed income to help prevent homelessness, support community members as they age in place, and to reduce the stressors of poverty and ﬁnancial insecurity. The city, with the help of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) and the Center for Guaranteed Income at the University of Pennsylvania (CGIR), has developed a data-driven guaranteed income pilot that will be the ﬁrst LGBTQIA-focused pilot and the ﬁrst older adult-focused pilot in the nation. The West Hollywood Pilot for Guaranteed Income seeks to examine impact in the following areas: • Eﬀectiveness of guaranteed income on participants’ housing stability, health and mental health, and economic security; • Quantitative data to evaluate the collective impact of guaranteed income on diﬀerent populations; • Unique qualitative narrative and ethnographic information to provide greater understanding into the income challenges faced by LGBTQIA older adults in West Hollywood and inform the creation of evidence-based policies and programs to better support the health and well-being of LGBTQIA older adults; and • Test the concept of guaranteed income to evaluate whether to expand the initial pilot or create new/additional pilots in the city. Focusing these eﬀorts on LGBTQIA older adults living on a low income aligns with the city’s history, current demographics, and data indicating the vulnerability of this population. According to the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law, LGBT older adults are ﬁnancially less secure than their non-LGBT peers due to lifelong disparities and barriers to accessing programs that support aging adults; the national poverty rate for LGBT people is 21.6 percent as compared to 15.7 percent for cisgender non-LGBT people. The local community’s high percentage of older adults living in poverty and the high percentage of LGBTQ+ residents makes West Hollywood an ideal location to pilot this focused intervention. The 2019 West Hollywood Community Study previously identiﬁed the ﬁnancial vulnerability of LGBT individuals, older adults, and community members living on ﬁxed, low incomes. According to Community Study data, residents ages 55 and older make up 23 04 • FEBRUARY 25, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
(Photo courtesy City of West Hollywood)
percent of the City’s population but represent 44 percent of the residents living in poverty. Overall, 22 percent of the city’s residents live on a ﬁxed income, 14 percent live below the Federal Poverty level, and 27 percent of households have incomes of up to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Additionally, nearly 80 percent of West Hollywood residents are renters, and the cost of rent is higher in West Hollywood than many other areas and is not a ﬁxed cost. The economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the challenges facing people living in poverty and created ﬁnancial stress for countless others who have lost jobs/wages. Since March 16, 2020, the City of West Hollywood has provided more than $1.5 million dollars in rental assistance to West Hollywood residents that were unable to pay their rent due to COVID-related impacts. The city will engage two nonproﬁt partners in the pilot. The ﬁrst is the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at University of Pennsylvania as the research and evaluation partner responsible for creating and administering the research instruments, conducting the randomized selection of eligible applicants to participate in the pilot, collecting/processing/analyzing the data, and providing a report on the ﬁndings. The city’s second partner in the pilot is the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles (NCJW|LA) as the nonproﬁt administrator implementing the pilot. NCJW was selected for its knowledge, experience, and understanding of the nuances of guaranteed income. NCJW will be responsible for conducting outreach to the community about the pilot, assisting community members to complete applications, verifying that West Hollywood residency and other pilot criteria are met to ensure the eligibility of each applicant, submitting the completed and veriﬁed applications to CGIR for the randomized selection of participants, and notifying the participants selected by CGIR. They will also conduct onboarding and provide individualized beneﬁts counseling for each participant, manage a storytelling cohort and storytelling activities that complement the research component of the pilot and provide the participants an opportunity to share their experiences in their own voices. In addition, the nonproﬁt administrator will subcontract and coordinate services with a nonproﬁt ﬁnancial distributor (utilizing debit card services) to ensure that funds are distributed to participants in a timely, predictable, and seamless fashion. More information about research and evaluation, as well as pilot partners and pilot funding is available in the December 2021 City Council item staﬀ report available at this link. For more information, please contact Corri Planck, the City of West Hollywood’s Strategic Initiatives Manager, at 323-848-6430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
LA Council OKs renaming Boyle Heights street for Vicente Fernandez Controversial star won three Grammy Awards By BRODY LEVESQUE
The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a proposal Tuesday to rename a portion of Bailey Street in Boyle Heights after the renowned mariachi and one of the great icons of ranchera music, the late Vicente Fernandez. The measure, backed by Councilmember Kevin de León, had gotten the backing of the areas residents including the musicians who gather to play in Mariachi Plaza, which is considered ground zero for the mariachi-ranchera music in the greater Los Angeles region. “The legacy of Vicente Fernandez continues to resonate and inspire people worldwide, making us proud to call ourselves Latino,” said de León. “Today, our city council took the rare action to recognize “Chente” for his cultural contributions by memorializing him at one of our city’s most cherished venues, Mariachi Plaza. Through his music, he has etched his place in history and on VICENTE FERNÁNDEZ-GÓMEZ the hearts of fans who will forever (Publicity photo courtesy of SONY Entertainment) cherish him.” The renamed block, “Vicente Fernandez Street,” will be located along what is currently Bailey Street, between First Street and Pennsylvania Avenue which runs adjacent to the Mariachi Plaza (see map below). The community outpouring for the renaming was signiﬁcant and noted as especially ﬁtting that El Rey de la Música Ranchera (The King of Ranchera Music) be named where fans of mariachi music gather to hear performances. There was opposition to the renaming of the street by The Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council and others over aspects of the singer’s history that were claimed had homophobic and misogynist conduct that disqualiﬁed him from receiving the honor. Fernández known as the “El Rey de la Música Ranchera” (The King of Ranchera Music) to his millions of fans, led a life that arguably was ﬁlled with success, tragedy, and scandal. In an unauthorized biography, El Último Rey, (The Last King), released just prior to the singer’s death at 81 this past December after four months of being admitted to a hospital in Guadalajara due to a fall that injured his spine, Argentine journalist Olga Wornat details the singer’s more than ﬁve decades-long career. Wornat writes that family tragedy, “a life absent as a father” and inﬁdelities to his wife María del Refugio Abarca, “Cuquita,” plagued the musical maestro. In an email to the Blade last month, David A. Silvas, Vice President and Chair of the Planning and Land Use for the Boyle Heights
Neighborhood Council noted; “[…] feedback that has come to my attention about singer Vicente Fernández’s past history of sexual allegations as well as his views on not wanting to receive any organ transplant from an “addict or “homosexual” […] the Planning and Land Use Committee came out with a Community Impact Statement opposing Councilmember Kevin de Leon’s proposed motions.” “The community impact statement letter has had mixed reactions – many support it – but there has already been homophobic remarks on social media about how “the gays need to get over this – they are just a minority.” That sort of rhetoric cannot be tolerated.” Fernández in an interview with Spanish language media outlet El Universal in May of 2019 told the paper that while he was a patient in Houston to undergo a liver surgery, he decided to reject a transplant because he did not “want to sleep with his wife while having the liver of another man, who could have been a homosexual or a drug user.” Accusations of womanizing also had plagued Fernández. In January of 2021 a photograph of a 2017 ‘meet & greet” with fans went viral as in the photo Fernández appears to be cupping a female fan’s breast. According to media accounts a few days later, Fernández issued an apology to the woman’s family, stating that “I admit that I was wrong, I don’t know if I was joking, maybe it was a joke […] I don’t know. I do not remember, there were many people (with whom I took photos), sincerely I oﬀer an apology.” A month later the news broke that Fernández was accused of sexual assault by a singer named Lupita Castro nearly forty years previously when she was still a minor at age 17. That case ultimately went away as Castro refused to take Fernández to court. The problem, as one source told the Blade, is that the very culture and the times of his career in some ways gave Fernández cover with many in the public especially Latinos. The source insisted this did not excuse the behavior, adding that also the inﬂection of the still highly prevalent ‘machismo,’ the strong or aggressive masculine pride- exaggerated masculinity, is still very much a component of Mexican culture. “When one considers the place “Chente” occupies in Mexican culture and among Latinos- his music is the background to virtually their entire daily lives, it is not surprising that especially the older generations will give him a pass,” the source told the Blade. Generations of Latinos grew up listening to “Chente’s” music. Carlos Montes, a member of the neighborhood council, who spoke for residents in support of the name change in an interview with LA Fox aﬃliate KTTV; “I’m just saying his career, what he has contributed culturally and emotionally to millions of people outweigh these allegations,” Montes stated. Fernández received countless awards and accolades, including three Grammy Awards, nine Latin Grammy Awards, fourteen Lo Nuestro Awards, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. With more than 50 million recordings sold worldwide, and 51 albums listed on the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for gold, platinum, and multi-platinum-selling records, he is one of the best-selling Mexican artists of all time.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 25, 2022 • 05
Newsom announces $116.3 million for homeless housing Seven new Homekey projects will provide 387 units
FROM STAFF REPORTS homeless. The project is located near oﬀ-site amenities including public transportation, Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced more than $116 million in funding for seven Hometwo large supermarkets and a major hospital. Supportive services provided will include key projects across the state. The seven new projects will provide 387 housing units for on-site case management, housing stability support, job readiness classes and income people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. coaching, along with adult education classes to help clients obtain their GEDs. Tenants will Since the governor announced a $2.75 billion extension of Homekey in September 2021, have full access to community building activities such as art therapies, cooking community the state has awarded $470 million to 23 projects that, when completed, will create more dinners and gardening. than 1,700 housing units for Californians most • The City of Salinas has also been awarded in need of a safe place to call home. When commore than $16.3 million to acquire a former bined with the original Homekey program from hotel and transition it into 57 units of housing 2020, the Governor’s nation-leading initiative for people experiencing chronic homelessness has provided $1.3 billion for 7,700 new homeand at risk of homelessness. The project, which less housing units. will start as interim housing with a plan to “Our historic response towards homelesstransition to permanent housing over time, is ness has housed thousands of individuals at located near oﬀ-site amenities including puban unprecedented rate since the start of the lic transportation and nearby grocery stores. pandemic,” said Governor Newsom. “Today’s Supportive services provided will include onannouncement will bring 387 housing units for site case management, housing stability supthose most in need of a home, oﬀering several port, job readiness classes and income coachessential supportive services with easy access ing, along with adult education classes to help to public transportation.” clients obtain their GEDs. “California is making deep investments that • The County of Ventura has been awardcontinue to reap beneﬁts for thousands of indied more than $4.2 million for the acquisition viduals experiencing homelessness or at risk of of manufactured housing. When fully operabecoming homeless,” said Business, Consumer tional, this project will oﬀer 12 units of interim Services and Housing Agency Secretary Lourdes housing for homeless youth or youth at risk of Castro Ramírez. “We are grateful to the many homelessness. Supportive services provided communities that are continuing to leverage will include on-site case management, behavHomekey dollars as they work with care and ioral health services, physical health services, speed to provide aﬀordable, digniﬁed places for (Photo courtesy County of Los Angeles) assistance obtaining beneﬁts and essential people without a place to call home.” documentation, education and employment “You can’t have a strong economy without services, and assistance with a variety of other services including legal assistance, famistrong, stable, healthy communities where people can live, care for their families, get edly ﬁnding/connection, and housing retention once participants transition into permanent ucation and beneﬁt from transportation and all the health and social amenities that come housing. along with it,” said Department of Housing and Community Development Director Gustavo • The County of Orange has been awarded $17 million to acquire a former hotel and Velasquez. “Homekey projects don’t just pop up overnight – it takes a coordinated eﬀort transition it into 62 units of housing for people experiencing homelessness and chronic between the state and local jurisdictions to focus on the greater good of providing housing homelessness. The project, which will start as interim housing with a plan to transition to for those most in need.” permanent housing over time, is located near oﬀ-site amenities including a bus/rapid tranThe awards include the following projects: sit station, full-scale grocery store, medical clinic, public library and pharmacy. Supportive • The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles has been awarded nearly $37 milservices provided will include on-site case management, behavioral health services, assislion for the acquisition of multifamily rental housing projects located near oﬀ-site amenitance obtaining beneﬁts and essential documentation, education and employment serties including public transportation. When construction is completed, this project will oﬀer vices, and a host of adult daily living skills groups which include housing retention/conﬂict 126 units of permanent housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness or at risk resolution skills, advocacy and referrals to family reuniﬁcation agencies. of experiencing homelessness. Supportive services include intensive case management • The City of Napa has been awarded more than $18.1 million to convert a motel into 54 services, linkages to behavioral and physical health services, assistance obtaining beneunits of permanent housing for the homeless, homeless youth and the chronically homeﬁts and essential documentation, and educational and employment services emphasizing less. The project is located within a half mile from oﬀ-site amenities including transportaHousing First principles, trauma informed care and operate according to harm reduction tion, full-scale grocery store, health facility and pharmacy, and within a mile of youth-orimodels. ented facilities. Supportive services for all residents will include employment readiness • The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles has also been awarded more than services and educational support. $10.5 million for the acquisition of a newly constructed apartment building located near Additional Homekey awards will be announced in the coming weeks. Completed apoﬀ-site amenities including a transit station. This project will oﬀer 34 units of permanent plications will be accepted on a rolling basis until funds are exhausted or May 2, 2022, supportive housing for people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. Onwhichever comes ﬁrst. site supportive services include client-centric individualized case management such as inThe Department of Housing and Community Development has created the Homekey come support, linkages and access to physical and behavioral health services, substance Awards Dashboard where Californians can track Homekey project awards by dollar totals, abuse treatment and eviction prevention. project type, progress and region. The dashboard is updated in real time as additional • The City of Salinas has been awarded more than $13.2 million to acquire a former projects are approved. hotel and transition it into 42 units of permanent supportive housing for the chronically
06 • FEBRUARY 25, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
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Man sentenced to life in prison for 1992 murder of gay sailor recommended for parole Family of Allen Schindler organizes campaign opposing release
By LOU CHIBBARO JR. | email@example.com A former U.S. Navy sailor sentenced to life in prison for the 1992 anti-gay murder of fellow U.S. Navy sailor Allen Schindler while the two were stationed in Japan received a recommendation for parole at a Feb. 17 hearing, according to Schindler’s sister who attended the hearing. Members of Schindler’s family, who expressed strong opposition to approving parole for former Navy Airman Apprentice Terry M. Helvey, are calling on the LGBTQ community and others to send email messages and letters opposing parole for Helvey to an oﬃcial with the U.S. Parole Commission, which is an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. Kathy Eickhoﬀ, Schindler’s sister, told the Washington Blade that a parole examiner issued the recommendation that Helvey be approved for parole at the Feb. 17 Zoom hearing after listening to testimony by Helvey and his sister. Eickhoﬀ said she, her mother, and her daughter also gave testimony at the hearing in their role as the victim’s family. “He was given a recommendation to be paroled on Oct. 26, 2022,” Eickhoﬀ said. “It will now go to a parole board for a ﬁnal decision,” she said. “That will happen in the next week to three weeks.” Porcha L. Edwards, the Parole Commission oﬃcial that Schindler’s family members are urging people to contact to oppose parole for Helvey, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Schindler’s murder triggered expressions of outrage by LGBTQ activists when news surfaced that Schindler, 22, had been subjected to harassment and threats of violence on board the Navy’s amphibious assault ship Belleau Wood when rumors surfaced on the ship that Schindler was gay, and the ship’s captain ignored Schindler’s request for protection.
Where ALL GUYS come together Visit www.squirt.org today to join the action 08 • FEBRUARY 25, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Naval investigators disclosed that Helvey and another one of Schindler’s shipmates, Airman Charles Vins, attacked Schindler on Oct. 27, 1992, in a men’s bathroom at a public park in SaseTerry M. Helvey pleaded guilty to the 1992 murder of gay Navy sailor ALLEN SCHINDLER. bo, Japan near where their ship was docked. A Naval investigative report says a witness to the attack saw Helvey repeatedly stomp on Schindler’s head and body inside the bathroom. An autopsy later found that Schindler’s head and face were crushed beyond recognition, requiring that his body be identiﬁed by a known tattoo on his arm. Another Naval investigator, according to media reports, presented evidence that Helvey admitted to his hostility toward Schindler when Helvey was interrogated at the time of his arrest the day after the murder. “He said he hated Homosexuals. He was disgusted by them,” the investigator said in a report. In describing Helvey’s thoughts on Schindler’s murder, the investigator, Kennon F. Privette, quoted Helvey as saying, “I don’t regret it. I’d do it again…He deserved it.” Helvey, 21, was later sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to killing Schindler. The guilty plea was part of a plea bargain oﬀer by military prosecutors not to seek the
NATIONAL death penalty, which could have been pursued under military law. Charles Vins, the other sailor implicated in Schindler’s murder, whose lawyer argued that he was an accomplice to the attack who did not actually physically assault Schindler, also pleaded guilty to three lesser charges, including failure to report a serious crime, as part of a separate plea bargain oﬀer by prosecutors. As part of that plea oﬀer, Vins cooperated with prosecutors in the case against Helvey. He was released after serving 78 days of a one-year prison sentence. After being dishonorably discharged from the Navy, Helvey was transferred to a federal prison and has been an inmate in several federal prisons for the past 29 years. He is currently an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Greenville, Ill. Eickhoﬀ, Schindler’s sister, said Helvey has been applying for parole and clemency almost every year for at least the past 20 years. She said federal parole authorities have turned down all those requests until last week, when, for the ﬁrst time, a parole examiner issued the recommendation for parole. According to Eickhoﬀ, Helvey, who is now 50 years old, has expressed remorse for what he did 29 years ago and claims he is a diﬀerent person. She said the Feb. 17 parole hearing, in which the parole examiner asked Helvey questions, appeared to focus on whether Helvey would “reoﬀend” if released from prison. “He [Helvey] said what he has lined up,” Eickhoﬀ told the Blade. “He’s going to go home. He’s got three diﬀerent jobs lined up. His mother and his stepfather need him. He wants to be a truck driver,” Eickhoﬀ said. “And then, of course, all of the things he has done while he’s been in prison,” she recounted Helvey saying at the hearing. “All of the mentoring and all of the classes and all the wonderful things he’s done.” Eickhoﬀ noted that if Helvey is approved for parole and is released on Oct. 26 of this year, it will take place one day short of the 30th year after her brother’s murder. She said the parole examiner also stated at the hearing that 30 years of incarceration in a federal prison can sometimes become a threshold for when a prisoner becomes eligible for parole under federal law. “And he does have a parole hearing every two years and a clemency hearing every other year,” Eickhoﬀ said. So, it’s more or less every year we are going through this,” she told the Blade. “Twenty-nine years ago, we thought that was it,” she said when Helvey was sentenced to life in prison. “But no, that’s not what happened.” The U.S. Bureau of Prisons website says all federal and state prisoners are eligible to apply for clemency, which can be granted by a state governor or the U.S. president depending on the circumstances of the case. Among those joining Schindler family members in urging opposition to parole for Helvey is longtime gay activist Michael Petrelis of San Francisco, who called on the Navy to publicly recognize the Schindler murder as a hate crime shortly after the murder took place in 1992. In 2015, Petrelis released to the public a 900-page Naval investigative report he obtained from the Navy through a Freedom of Information Act request that revealed new information that the Navy had withheld in earlier years. Among other things, the investigative report provided further details that the captain of the ship on which Schindler was stationed discussed Schindler’s request for protection from anti-gay harassment in front of other shipmates. Doing so further spread the word that Schindler was gay, a development that subjected him to intensiﬁed anti-gay harassment on the ship, according to Petrelis. Eickhoﬀ and her family are urging members of the LGBTQ community and others supportive of what they say is justice for Allen Schindler to send letters and email messages expressing opposition to parole for Helvey to:
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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 25, 2022 • 09
Kentucky elects ﬁrst out state representative
(Photo via Keturah Herron for Kentucky House District 42 campaign)
Keturah Herron won the Kentucky special election for House District 42 on Tuesday. With this victory, Herron is now the ﬁrst out LGBTQ person ever elected to the Kentucky state House of Representatives. There are currently 13 out LGBTQ elected oﬃcials in Kentucky. Herron will be the only out LGBTQ person serving in the state legislature and one of just 25 out LGBTQ Black state legislators anywhere in the U.S. Herron previously worked for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, where they worked to pass Breonna’s Law, which bans no-knock warrants in the city of Louisville. Now, she intends to leverage this experience and champion a variety of policies, including advancing voting rights, increasing the minimum wage, enacting criminal justice reform and improving access to education. Mayor Annise Parker, president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, issued the following statement in an email: “This is a momentous night for Kentucky, especially for LGBTQ people and Black people who have lived without equitable representation in the state legislature for far too long. Keturah is a seasoned community organizer and policy expert. She has the experience — and political stamina — to advocate for all Kentuckians and stand up against the deluge of anti-LGBTQ legislation perpetrated by anti-equality lawmakers. Her election is a strong rebuke to this hate.” Chris Hartman, executive director of the Kentucky LGBTQ group C-FAIR, released the following statement: “We couldn’t be more excited about tonight’s historic election of Kentucky’s ﬁrst openly LGBTQ state representative, Keturah Herron. Representative-elect Herron will ﬁll a nearly 15-year gap in LGBTQ representation in the Kentucky General Assembly, and we need her now more than ever before.” While Herron is now the ﬁrst out LGBTQ member of the Kentucky state House, in 2003, Ernesto Scorsone made history as the ﬁrst out LGBTQ member of the Kentucky state Senate when he came out in a public speech. FROM STAFF REPORTS
Supreme Court to decide if web designer can turn away LGBTQ couples In a move that pits laws against LGBTQ discrimination against freedom of speech under the First Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to take up a case of a Christian web designer in Colorado who seeks to refuse to work with same-sex couples despite a state law requiring her to open to LGBTQ customers. An orders list issued Tuesday lists the petition in 303 Creative v. Elenis, brought by Lorie Smith, as among the cases for which the Supreme Court has granted a writ of certiorari, or agreed to review. Although the vote tally isn’t included in the order the move would be consistent with expectations for the conservative 6-3 court after former President Trump remade the judiciary with the addition of U.S. Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The case bears similarities, and even originates from the same state, as a case brought by Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who refused to make a custom-made wedding cake for a same-sex couple based on religious objections despite requirements under Colorado law. The Supreme Court, however, issued a narrow decision based on the particular facts of that case that stopped short of a far-reaching carve-out for civil rights laws. Alliance Defending Freedom, the anti-LGBTQ legal ﬁrm that also represented Phillips before the Supreme Court, is representing Smith in her case and in the petition seeking review argued Colorado law unfairly targets her for her religious beliefs. “Lorie Smith faces real and imminent harm,” the petition says. “Five years after leaving her corporate position to open her own website-design business, she remains in limbo, unable to oﬀer her design services for marriage celebrations—prohibited even from posting a statement about her marriage beliefs—and losing income.” Smith ﬁled the petition before the Supreme Court after the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against her last year, concluding in the decision “grave harms caused when public accommodations discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex or sexual orientation.” The court found Colorado non-discrimination law withstands scrutiny under judicial review and is a generally applicable law that isn’t constitutionally vague or overly broad. No same-sex couple as of now has alleged 303 Creative Services has denied them services because the company has yet to engage in wedding-related services over concerns
10 • FEBRUARY 25, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
over Colorado law. Per the decision from the Tenth Circuit, Smith is seeking to post a statement on its website stating the company “will not be able to create websites for same-sex marriages or any other marriage that is not between one man and one woman.” With the Supreme Court term ending in June, it’s unlikely the high court would be able to schedule briefs and oral arguments before the justices adjourn for the summer, when U.S. Associate Justice Stephen Breyer has announced he would step down. It would then fall to whomever Biden has named as a replacement for Breyer to weigh in as one of the nine justices on the court. Biden has said he would name a Black woman for the role and Ketanji Brown Jackson, J. Michelle Childs and Leondra Kruger are the names most mentioned. A White House announcement could come as soon as this week. The case will be a test of the breadth of the First Amendment, to which the Supreme Court has previously given substantial deference under legal precedent. For example, the Supreme Court determined in 1977 the state of New Hampshire couldn’t require residents to display the state motto on their license plates over objections to the messages. Although the petition to the Supreme Court presented the question of whether it should overturn the 1990 decision in Employment Decision v. Smith, which determined states are able to enforce general applicable laws over objections based on freedom of religion, the court only took up the case on freedom of speech claims. It’s unlikely to address Smith. Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel for the LGBTQ group Lambda Legal, said in a statement the Supreme Court should use the opportunity to deliver a ruling upholding the principles of non-discrimination laws and “reaﬃrm and apply longstanding constitutional precedent that our freedoms of religion and speech are not a license to discriminate when operating a business.” “The constitutional protections for religious freedom and free speech were never intended as weapons of discrimination for those doing business with the general public,” Pizer said. “More than ﬁfty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ﬁrmly condemned use of personal freedoms to excuse businesses’ discrimination. But the justices’ decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop lacked that clarity and invited discrimination. The Court can and should clear up that confusion by upholding the well-reasoned decision of the Tenth Circuit.” CHRIS JOHNSON
LGBTQ Ukrainians on Russian aggression Criticism for ‘Biden’s war’ and a pledge to defend country
By BRODY LEVESQUE As Western eﬀorts to defuse the crisis in Ukraine over the aggressive military moves taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin intensify, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Tuesday night that he was calling up the country’s military reservists after the Russian Parliament signed oﬀ on approving Putin’s decision to send combat troops into Eastern Ukraine. Western media and governments, particularly the United States and its NATO partners, have painted a grim picture of the state of aﬀairs along Ukraine’s borders with President Joe Biden declaring in a White House East Room press conference Tuesday that the U.S. would impose immediate sanctions after Putin ordered Russian troops deployed across the frontier. Speaking with reporters afterwards, a senior administration oﬃcial said, “Russia’s long-previewed invasion of Ukraine has now begun, and our response has also begun. Today, we responded swiftly and in a united fashion with our allies and partners. The speed and coordination of the response was historic. We announced our ﬁrst tranche of sanctions in less than a day with allies and partners from the European Union, from the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, and Australia.” The oﬃcial added, “And let me be totally clear: No Russian ﬁnancial institution is safe if this invasion proceeds. We are ready to press a button to take further action on the very largest Russian ﬁnancial institutions, including Sperbank and VTB, which collectively hold almost $750 billion in assets — or more than half the total in Russia as a whole. “Third, together with our allies, we’ve also cut oﬀ the Russian government, the Russian Central Bank, and its sovereign wealth funds from U.S. ﬁnancing. Europe has taken a very similar measure. That means the Kremlin can no longer raise money from the U.S. and Europe, and its new debt can no longer trade in U.S. or European markets.” A spokesperson for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council said that in addition to calling up reservists, Ukrainian President Zelensky will also enact a 30-day state of emergency and would impose curfews and restrict mass gatherings in certain regions and cities to include the second largest city in the country, Kharkiv, which lies 42 km (26 miles) from the Russian border in Eastern Ukraine, “if necessary.” Human rights activists and Western governments are also alarmed at the prospects of a Russian invasion. In a letter sent this week to the United Nations Oﬃce of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, Ambassador Bathsheba Nell Crocker, the U.S. Representative to the Oﬃce of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva wrote, in part: “I would like to bring to your attention disturbing information recently obtained by the United States that indicates that human rights violations and abuses in the aftermath of a further invasion are being planned. “These acts, which in past Russian operations have included targeted killings, kidnappings/ forced disappearances, unjust detentions, and the use of torture, would likely target those who oppose Russian actions, including Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists, and vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ persons.” American oﬃcials have stated that the Russian governmental security and intelligence agencies have come up with “kill lists” of Ukrainians to be killed or detained as indicated in Ambassador Crocker’s letter. A spokesperson for the oﬃce of the Director of Information and Press Department of Ministry of Foreign Aﬀairs of the Russian Federation, Maria Vladimirovna Zakharova, denied these claims in a phone call with the Blade, labeling it propaganda Tuesday. The majority of Ukrainians seem nonplussed at Western reaction to what they are terming “Biden’s war.” However, many of the LGBTQ activists are not fazed by the claims alleged in the ambassador’s letter and are prepared to defend their homeland, some of them also disputing that they would be facing arrest and ‘mortal danger.’ Taras Karasiichuk, a leader of the Ukrainian LGBTQ community in Kyiv, spoke with the Blade by phone Monday. Karasiichuk, in 2012 was viciously attacked by anti-LGBTQ Ukrainians opposed to his eﬀorts as an activist for LGBTQ rights organization Gay Alliance Ukraine and also as the head of the Kiev Pride 2012 organizing committee. He granted an interview to the Daily Beast in 2015 after unrelenting attacks and death threats caused him to ﬂee to the United States seeking asylum.
“Right now I don’t see any possibility to come back because of security—all the threats we get because of our international campaign,” he said. “We get threats sent to our LGBT rights website, promises to punish us with Kalashnikovs. It’s diﬃcult to say if they are really serious about the threats but after all the times I’ve been attacked I can’t really be sure. “I also get threats on social networks. My colleagues and I at the rights organization will PRESIDENT BIDEN meets with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister DMYTRO KULEBA on Tuesday. (Oﬃcial White House photo) even get threats sent to our personal cell phone. And on June 19 there was an attempt to attack me on my way home from the oﬃce—it was around 7 pm and I had to call a taxi and leave quickly,” Karasiichuk said to the Daily Beast at the time. He later returned to Ukraine after spending a few years in the U.S., returning to an active role in LGBTQ+ advocacy to push for greater equity and rights for his fellow LGBTQ+ citizens. In Monday’s phone call with the Blade, Karasiichuk strongly emphasized that there was no fear among the LGBTQ+ community, in fact far from that. He said that he and every other LGBTQ Ukrainian would defend their homeland, their cities, and that they would support the armed forces. Like many of his fellow citizens that the Blade spoke with, he criticized the Western response to Russia’s actions, characterizing it as hyperbolic interference without merit. Several other Ukrainian LGBTQ activists put it more bluntly as ‘hashtag Biden’s War.’ Karasiichuk said that Western people were not well informed as to the reality of life in Ukraine and especially in regard to the LGBTQ community in the country and “should not impose their ideas or values.” Another LGBTQ activist living in Poltava, a city in central Ukraine, which is also the capital city of the Poltava Oblast (province), who asked that he and his partner only be identiﬁed by their ﬁrst names, told the Blade over this past weekend that the strength of his culture and country would defend against any Russian aggression. Sergeii told the Blade that he and his partner Mykhailo felt safe and would defend their home, their city, and their fellow Ukrainians. “Our ﬂag is blue and yellow, not divided into many colors in this example,” he said. “We are all united in this eﬀort. If we need to ﬁght then we will ﬁght.” His partner Mykhailo said that one only needed to see the progress LGBTQ people are making in Ukraine. “We showed strength as in September, over 6,000 people gathered to Kyiv for the March for Equality. This is our message.” “This is made-up crisis — Biden’s and Putin’s wanting to ﬁnish the situation in Donbas,” Sergeii said referring to the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine by Russian-backed separatists. “Everyone needs peace, to be peaceful in this manner and not provoke more fear, but still be willing to defend our homes,” he added. Russian separatist forces of Donbas are the military formations aﬃliated with the pro-Russian breakaway regions in Ukraine called the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, which Putin has now oﬃcially recognized. Those forces are designated as terrorist groups by the government of Ukrainian President Zelensky. Mykhailo pointed out that a vast majority of Ukrainian families were made of both Russian and Ukrainian parents or heritage but that above all was loyalty to Ukraine. While there is a sense of anxiety among the Ukrainian LGBTQ+ community there is also quiet uniﬁed determination to defend the nation. Almost all also expressed hope that the NATO partners and others would ﬁnd a peaceful solution to the crisis but without a continuing sense of exaggerated claims and allegations that would further inﬂame tensions. Continues at losangelesblade.com LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 25, 2022 • 11
V O L U M E 06 I S S U E 08
is the out editor of the Los Angeles Blade and a veteran journalist.
Why does the Blade identify LGBTQ sources? It’s about erasure and equality
Everyday one of my tasks is to quickly go through the comments left by our readership to gauge their reactions, be informed by their viewpoints, maybe get a laugh, or in the case of the haters /trolls zap their ignorant butts by hitting the delete key. That said, I’ve noticed that the following comment and its sentiments have increased in frequency as of late: “Is there really no way to simply celebrate the talent without labeling the sexual identiﬁcation of these amazing athletes? I’m so tired of posts that feed oﬀ of info that tries to exploit and target personal information. This world gets more “snarky” and judgmental every day.” The variants of that comment’s theme cover a broad spectrum of human engagement. The truth put simply is the obvious: The Los Angeles Blade is Southern California’s LGBTQ+ News Source. The Blade is also a national marquee news source for not just the LGBTQ+ community writ large but its allies and families as well. The LGBTQ+ community is in a ﬁght for its very existence as school boards and libraries across the United States are facing down calls to ban books or materials that mention LGBTQ+ characters, plotlines, or stories. In the states of Florida and Tennessee, Republican lawmakers are attempting to pass legislation that would make mention of LGBTQ+ people a violation of the rules. The proposed laws are colloquially referred to as ‘Don’t Say Gay.’ In Alabama, a state Senate committee passed a measure on to the full Senate for a vote that would make treatment of trans youth under the age of 18 by a doctor or healthcare provider a felony. In more than 15 other states, laws are being proposed or have been passed that would ban participation of trans youth in sports that align with their gender identity. This is met by an alarming rate in LGBTQ+ youth considering suicide or actually attempting it. Simply put, this publication and ALL media must identify members of the LGBTQ+ community because they are a persecuted and maligned segment of humanity that needs to be recognized. This has nothing at all to do with the mechanics of the sexual aspects of their lives but virtually does have everything to do with who they love and who they are. It’s about role models, it is about history, but it is most assuredly about preventing erasure and ensuring equity and equality. So the next time you are about to leave the what does [ﬁll-in-the-blank] have to do about it comment? The answer is everything and if you are unable to understand that then I’d ask you do not leave a comment at all rather than blatantly display your ignorance, or callous disregard, whichever it is, for your fellow humans.
12 • FEBRUARY 25, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
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BRANDON J. WOLF is the Press Secretary for Equality Florida, the statewide advocacy group for LGBTQ+ human rights and civil rights equality.
‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill erases LGBTQ parents, youth
Our families deserve to be celebrated and schools should be a safe space ORLANDO – I remember the feeling of isolation everywhere I went. I remember the sense of despair when butterflies exploded in my stomach after my crush passed by me in the hallway. I remember the terror that a conversation around the dinner table might expose me for who I was. Being a queer young person meant being perpetually weighed down by the secret I was carrying and tortured by the internalized fear that something about me was broken. No space felt safe enough to be in authentically, every moment of every day was spent clinging to a carefully constructed mask designed to shield me from the prying eyes of the world, and when I finally collapsed onto my pillow at night, I often screamed into the pages of my journal wondering in hurried scribbles why I had been punished with this curse. Home wasn’t a safe space. Church wasn’t a safe space. The hallways between classes weren’t safe spaces. It was only once I had ducked into a familiar classroom and slipped into my seat near the front of the room that I could finally exhale and let go. A classroom – a teacher – were my refuge. Shelter. A place to belong. A classroom – a teacher — saved my life. That wasn’t just the reality of a younger version of myself, it is the world that LGBTQ young people face every day. For many, affirming classrooms are their only lifelines; safe havens where the things that make them unique are first celebrated and they learn to see themselves not as a lonely outlier, but as an irreplaceable part of a rich, vibrant society. Those safe spaces give LGBTQ youth a chance to thrive – and they’re under attack in Florida right now. I’ll fill you in on the worst kept secret in our state. Governor Ron DeSantis desperately wants to be elected president in 2024. And he understands that to do that, he must outwrestle another Florida resident for the adoration of the most extreme segment of his party’s base: Donald Trump. That jockeying for political power has led to a legislative agenda being championed by the governor and fast tracked by his allies in the legislature that is designed to whip up right-wing fervor by banning books, muzzling teachers, censoring classroom conversations, replacing curriculum with propaganda, and giving the state government license to police us in every aspect of our lives. But while the bills being proposed in Tallahassee were birthed from a cynical lust for power, they threaten to usher in a terrifying new reality in Florida. The Stop WOKE Act (HB 7) would censor honest conversations about this country’s history of slavery, racism, and injustice. It would upend diversity, equity, inclusion, and even sexual harassment trainings in the workplace, seeking to preserve the “comfort” of some over the lived experiences of others. A 15-week abortion ban (HB 5) would insert the state government into doctor’s offices and clinics across the state, putting the prying eyes of the legislature over people’s shoulders while they make personal decisions about their own bodies. And the “Don’t Say Gay” bill (HB 1557) would ban conversations about LGBTQ people in
schools across Florida, effectively erasing our community from classrooms and curbing efforts to create more inclusive school environments. These bills serve their intended purpose. They turn schools, workplaces, and doctor’s offices into political battlegrounds and serve up a buffet of culture war issues to fuel the far-right outrage machine. But beyond the sloppily written campaign rhetoric on each page, these dangerous pieces of legislation will have real impacts on real people. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill erases LGBTQ parents, making their presence on Career Day or in a show-and-tell project a potential legal liability. It terrorizes LGBTQ educators, forcing them to consider whether being themselves in the workplace might invoke a lawsuit. And it isolates LGBTQ young people, reinforcing the bigoted notion that their existence is something to be ashamed of. Rainbow “safe place” stickers will be peeled off. Pride Month displays will be stuffed into trash cans. In their effort to avoid being sued by an outraged parent, cash-strapped schools will be forced to shut down conversations and put a stop to the work of making schools safe for every child. And the impact of that chilling effect on LGBTQ inclusion will rest squarely on the shoulders of society’s most vulnerable. Those who most need our affirmation and support have once again fallen into the crosshairs of a governor and legislative leaders determined to score political points at any cost. LGBTQ young people suffer higher rates of depression, anxiety, and are four times as likely as their peers to attempt suicide before graduating high school. And nearly 40% of transgender Americans reported attempting suicide at some point in their lives. This crisis is fueled by the social isolation, family rejection, bullying and discrimination that is all too familiar to LGBTQ people. And its solutions must be rooted in affirming people and creating safe spaces for them to feel a sense of belonging, not further stigmatizing and shoving them back into the closet. Simply put, efforts to legislate LGBTQ people out of society will have disastrous consequences on young people who are already fighting for their lives. LGBTQ people are a necessary part of the fabric of society. Our historical contributions deserve to be recognized. Our families deserve to be celebrated. Our lives deserve to be valued. And schools should be a safe space for all young people, no matter who they are or how they identify. As the next generation of LGBTQ young people looks on, we must send a clear message to them: you are perfect exactly as you are. And we will not allow the governor or his allies to use you as fodder for their runaway political ambitions. I remember the feeling of isolation everywhere I went. The sense of despair when butterflies exploded in my stomach after my crush passed by me in the hallway. The terror that a conversation around the dinner table might expose me for who I was. And I remember the safe spaces that saved my life. Those spaces are worth defending. And defending them from political assault is the task we are called to now.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 25, 2022 • 13
How a gravity-defying straight man practices allyship James Crutcher says, ‘Just be a nice human being’
You have to see it to believe it. James Crutcher, 21, leaps high into the air, seemingly defying the laws of physics as he ﬂips and spins more times than the human brain can fully comprehend in a video shared to his more than 19,000 followers on Instagram. Crutcher practices ‘Tricking,’ a training discipline that combines the kicks, ﬂips and twists of both martial arts and gymnastics, and since he was young, it was his dream to be the best. “Not in the world,” he told the Blade. “But if I walked into a gym, the competitive side of me wanted to be the best one in that gym.” Unlike most people the Blade proﬁles, Crutcher isn’t gay. He’s not bisexual or trans. In fact, he is not part of the LGBTQ+ community at all. “I’m straight,” he said. But that’s not to say he doesn’t contribute to the LGBTQ+ community in a meaningful way. LGBTQ+ allies have long played an essential role in the queer rights movement and the overall well-being of people in the community. According to Jean-Marie Navetta, director of Learning and Inclusion at national LGBTQ+ nonproﬁt PFLAG, allies hold “tremendous” power. “We can set the direction; we can show up; we can tell our stories; we can say what needs to happen. But we unfortunately can’t do it alone,” she said. Navetta added there are countless examples of communities working alongside their allies to move legislation social change along – from military service to marriage equality to Gay-Straight Alliances in schools. “It takes more than us,” she said. “The whole idea is that if we can bring people from our community together with our allies, we can educate people, we can change perceptions, we can reach people who may not be listening when we speak sometimes,” Navetta said, adding: “When allies are speaking, it tells the biggest, scariest truth of all, which is inclusion is for all of us.” According to Navetta, the biggest part of being a strong ally is knowing that “ally is a verb, not a title you get to give yourself. It’s something that you do every day.” In the eyes of Navetta and PFLAG, a good ally must: Commit to learning more, face the barriers that keep you from being active and acknowledge that allyship means action. “It is more than just putting a sticker on your car; it’s more than showing up at Pride in June,” she said. “It is about that year round commitment to those conversations and it doesn’t have to be activist work.” Crutcher considers himself to be one of these people. “It’s not just about being tolerant,” he said. “But it’s mainly being supportive and making people feel comfortable.” Born in Boise, Idaho, Crutcher said he “deﬁnitely” heard “negative and hateful” comments toward queer people growing up. “I always thought ‘why do you actually carry this much hate?’” he said. “We’re all just people just living life? Why not just be nice? I never understood it.”
By ZACHARY JARRELL
(Photo courtesy of Crutcher)
LGBTQ+ rights in Boise, the capital and largest city in Idaho, have largely improved over the last decade. In 2012, as Crutcher was growing up, the city received a 26 out of 100 from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ organization, in its Municipal Equality Index (MEI). Last year, the city received a 77 from the organization – a signiﬁcant improvement but far from perfect. However, Crutcher, who now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, said he went to a high school that was, by and large, supportive with “a lot” of LGBTQ+ people. “I think that’s where a lot of me supporting people came from,” he said, adding that many of his closest friends were in the community. Still, there were moments when Crutcher would have to step in and stick up for one of his friends. None, in particular, stuck out to him, but he did say his general philosophy was “just don’t be a dick.” Crutcher’s move to Salt Lake City was a fairly recent one, spontaneously submitting an application about two and a half years ago for his current job at Woodward Park City, a state-of-the-art action sports hub, according to its website. Crutcher and his roommate decided, “Hey, we’re going to put in an application, thinking if we get the job, we get the job. If not, it is no big deal,” he said. “We got the job,” he added. “And then we’re like,’ Oh, we got a week to move to Utah.’ And then did it.” Crutcher coaches kids at Woodward Park City who want to learn the complex, challenging craft he taught himself years ago. He ﬁrst remembers developing the itch to trick watching the Olympics with his grandparents growing up, especially gymnastics. “It always fascinated me how people were able to just ﬂip it, especially when it was like double ﬂips,” Crutcher said. “It just
14 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 25, 2022
blew my mind.” He made learning gravity-defying tricks his mission from then on, starting by back-ﬂipping down hills in elementary school. “That’s kind of where the addiction started,” he said. “I never had a coach growing up,” Crutcher said. “It was just watching YouTube videos and trying to copy it. I got frustrated all the time with that because stuﬀ wouldn’t click for me. I wouldn’t understand what I was doing. So it always fascinated me how coaches are able to help students learn.” But much like tricking itself, Crutcher turned what fascinated him into something he excels at – and he couldn’t be happier. “I love watching kids learn a new skill and just the joy on their face when they learn it because I remember when I was learning these new skills and how happy I was,” he said. “Seeing that I was able to provide that for them just makes it worth it.” “James is incredibly passionate and driven with his tumbling, tricking and coaching,” said Morgan McNeil, 32, the progression assistant manager at Woodward Park City. “You can feel the energy he brings to the ﬂoor when he’s working on his own skills, as well as when he sees the opportunity to coach others to achieve their goals.” Crutcher did say that he occasionally has to keep his competitive side at bay when he is coaching. “I’m jealous of them,” he said. “At their age, I wasn’t able to do a quarter of the things that they can do.” Given its strong Mormon inﬂuence, some may be surprised to hear that Salt Lake City has one of the highest LGBTQ+ populations in the country. According to a 2015 Gallup study, 4.7% of people who reside in the city self-identify as LGBTQ+, which is more than the 4.6% of people who identiﬁed as queer in Los Angeles. People “don’t realize what a gay-aﬃrming and gay-friendly city Salt Lake has become,” Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, told the Salt Lake Tribune at the time. In addition, the city scored a perfect 100 on the HRC’s 2021 MEI. Surrounding Utah is more of a mixed bag. The state earned a “fair” score, 15.25 out of 42.5, from the LGBTQ+ research nonproﬁt the Movement Advancement Project (MAP). Still, Crutcher and his friends, some of whom are queer, haven’t run into any problems in the city. “I know Utah is Mormon-ville,” Crutcher said. “I mean, I’m not Mormon, so it’s kind of nice sometimes. On Sundays, nobody’s out doing anything, so you have the whole place to yourself.” Crutcher is not an activist. He isn’t well versed in LGBTQ+ issues or the politics of being queer. He can’t fully comprehend what it feels like to come out and live openly. But he does know how to listen, learn and stand up for people. All in all, he can sum up his way of thinking in one sentence: “Just be a nice human being.”
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To fight book banning, it’s time to get loud
Librarians, queer activists, free speech supporters unite to combat frightening trend By KATHI WOLFE
Cynthia Sherman, executive director of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, recently saw something she never thought she’d see in the United States. Sherman was online, and suddenly she says, “I saw a book burning, I couldn’t believe it!” Sherman wasn’t imagining things. Earlier this month, in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., Greg Locke, a pastor, led a book burning, CNN reported. Copies of books in the “Harry Potter” series and “Twilight” series were burned. There’s been an alarming increase in the number of books nationwide that have been removed from school classrooms and libraries, according to free speech advocates, writers, and LGBTQ activists and allies, interviewed by the Blade by phone and email. Many of the books being banned, they said, are written by LGBTQ and/or BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) authors, and deal with racism, sexual or gender identity. Over the last year, calls for the banning of LGBTQ books have frequently taken an ugly turn. In October, Jen Cousins and Stephana Ferrell attended an Orange County Public Schools school board meeting in Orlando, Fla. Cousins and Ferrell are parents. Cousins has a 12-year-old daughter named Saffron, who came out as nonbinary a month before the school board meeting. Ferrell has two children, aged six and eight. “I don’t know what their sexual or gender identity will be,” Ferrell said. At the school board meeting, a man read a short excerpt from “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” a graphic novel by Maia Kobabe. “He was thrown out,” Ferrell said, “but based just on that brief excerpt the book was removed.” Sometimes anti-LGBTQ attacks have been aimed at school board members and/or their families. Rebecca Bender is a parent in Hastings, Minn. Bender and her partner have a son named Reese and a daughter named Reagan. Reese and Reagan, age 5, are twins. Reese is transgender and out and proud. At two-and-ahalf, Reese knew he wasn’t a girl. “I’m a boy, Mom,” he told Bender. “I’m the brother!” Reese said, referring to his twin sister Reagan. Reese, who is autistic, attended an early childhood program run by his school district. “We had to advocate for the correct pronouns to be used for him,” Bender said. People in the community and school district knew Reese. His experience as an out transgender kindergartner has been good, Bender said. But things worked out badly for another mom with a transgender child in Hastings, Bender said.
Kelsey Waits’s youngest child is transgender (and uses they/them pronouns). Waits, who had served on the school board, ran for another term. During the campaign, a group called Concerned Parents outed her daughter as trans (before they were ready to come out). “I have no issue with people critiquing votes that I have taken or stances I hold that they disagree with,” Waits wrote in a letter to the Paper Boy News. “However, even in this time of political division, a line must exist. Surely, this line was crossed when a group of parents decided not only to attack me, but to attack my children.” Those concerned about censorship ALEX GINO’s ‘Melissa’ is slated to be published in April. have reason to worry. “Book challeng(Photo by Blake C. Aarens ) es and removals are significantly up rector, American Library Association, Office for Intellectual this school year from last year,” said Freedom. Nora Pelizzari, director of communications, National Coa“Heather has Two Mommies” is about a family headed lition Against Censorship. “The most frequently challenged by same-sex parents, and “George” is about a transgender books are by and about people of color and LGBTQ+ peogirl named Melissa. ple. All of the intersections apply.” In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, peoThe American Library Association tracks reports of chalple have “challenged books about slavery – the lived exlenged books. From Sept. 1 to Dec. 1, 2021 alone, the ALA perience of Black people,” Caldwell-Stone said, “along with tracked 330 book challenges. books about LGBTQ+ people.” In normal times, a book challenge takes the form of a The ALA encourages libraries to file reports with “us if formal request to have the book reviewed, Pelizzari said, they’ve had challenges or encountered censorship,” Cald“to review if it should be removed or included in a school well-Stone said, “we promise confidentiality.” curriculum or school library.” The attempt to censor and ban books by queer writers The challenge is filed with a school or school district dewith LGBTQ+ characters, shouldn’t be viewed as an isolated pending on the policy, she added, “this initiates a process phenomenon, said Mary O’Hara, a GLAAD rapid response by which a school or district reviews the book to determine manager. (For info on GLAAD’s #BooksNotBans campaign, whether to take action or not.” go to glaad.org.) These reviews are conducted by committees of librariThe battle for marriage equality has been won. More ans, teachers, pedagogical experts, such as curriculum than 21 percent of Generation Z adults identify as LGBTQ, developers, parents, and, ideally, older-grade trained stuaccording to a Gallup poll released on Feb. 17. “It’s no codents, Pelizzari said. incidence that anti-queer groups have made schools their But these are not normal times, Pelizzari said. This year, new battlegrounds,” O’Hara said. increasingly, people, often parents, are circumventing the The effort to ban LGBTQ books is connected to proposed review process. anti-trans bills that would limit transgender and nonbinaThey are demanding, frequently vocally, in school board ry students’ access to health care, rights to participation meetings that books be removed without going through in sports and use the bathroom, O’Hara said. (In the first the review process. week of this year alone, seven states proposed such anMost of the books that have been challenged, such as ti-trans bills.) “Heather Has Two Mommies” by Lealea Newman and “We’re seeing bills [such as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill before “George” by Alex Gino (to be published in April as “Melisthe Florida Legislature] advance in state legislatures that sa”) have LGBTQ content, said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, di-
16 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 25, 2022
would prohibit conversation about sexuality or gender identity in schools,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at Pen America. People seeking to ban LGBTQ books have an unrealistic view of the world, author Newman said, “they want to show kids a society where all families are white, cisgender, Christian, able-bodied – with one mom and one dad.” In October, Matt Krause, a Texas state legislator, compiled a list of 850 books that he would like to see removed from schools because they might make students feel “discomfort...because of their race or sex.” Kalynn Bayron, author of the YA novel “Cinderella Is Dead” and the forthcoming middle-reader novel “The Vanquishers,” lived in San Antonio for many years. She was disheartened to hear that “Cinderella” is on Krause’s list. “I write about Black, queer protagonists,” Bayron said. “Representation is so important. When books are banned, Black, queer, disabled and other marginalized kids don’t see themselves in ‘Melissa’ was previously published as ‘George.’ stories.” “And kids who aren’t marginalized won’t see people who are different from themselves,” she added. LGBTQ activists and allies are fighting back against censorship. Lily Freeman is a transgender and Jewish activist, and a member of GLSEN’s 2021-2022 National Student Council Cohort. Freeman and her mom run the Instagram and TikTok account @projectuncensored. “Having representation in books creates acceptance and empathy,” Freeman said. “In online videos, my Mom and I talk about books that have been banned that folks should read.” Bender and her partner held a fundraiser so that LGBTQ books could be donated to libraries and teachers in her community’s schools. Early this year, Cousins and Ferrell established the Florida Freedom to Read Project, a group that advocates for the right for students, hetero and LGBTQ, to access ideas and information in schools. Lisa Keating, director, My Purple Umbrella, and sweet pea Flaherty, owner of King’s bookstore in Tacoma, Wash., co-run the Queerest Book Club Ever. Flaherty, through her bookstore, runs 11 book clubs, including the Banned Book Club. “We try to select books that tell stories that for so long haven’t been told,” Flaherty said. It might be time to break through the stereotype of the “quiet librarian,” said Jennisen Lucas, president of the American Association of School Librarians, a division of the ALA. The effort to ban books could place some librarians’ jobs in jeopardy, said Lucas, who is a librarian for seven schools in Cody, Wyo. “It might be time [for librarians] to get loud,” she said, “about standing against censorship and supporting the First Amendment.” “It’s what makes the news,” Lucas added. In December, NCAC issued a statement, “The Attack on Books in Schools,” which was signed by more than 600 organizations. “It is freedom of expression that ensures that we can meet the challenges of a changing world,” the statement said. “That freedom is critical for the students who will lead America in the years ahead.”
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 25, 2022 • 17
GLAAD TV report acknowledges progress — and some setbacks Media watchdog challenges industry to do better By JOHN PAUL KING
As we move further into 2022 and away from the pandemic-fatigued rollercoaster that was 2021, it’s perhaps more important than ever for us to look back together and take stock of where we are. This is particularly true when it comes to matters affecting communities that have historically taken the hardest hits in times of cultural stress – the disenfranchised among us are always the ones who slip most easily between the cracks, after all. Obviously, that includes the LGBTQ population, whose advances in recent years often tempt us to assume that, while all things may not yet be entirely equal, they are at least so much improved that we can stop paying attention. There’s a danger, however, in taking our progress for granted. That’s why it’s wise for us all to take heed when GLAAD issues its annual “Where We Are On TV” report, as it did last week. Its findings show that, despite some shortfalls, there’s clear reason to celebrate our progress since the days when the only queer representation on our home screens was coded, stereotyped, and mostly tragic when it wasn’t played for laughs at our expense – but there’s still a long way to go before we can safely pause to rest on our laurels. Looking at that report, which analyzes the overall diversity of primetime scripted series regulars on broadcast networks, as well as assessing the number of LGBTQ regular and recurring characters on primetime scripted cable programming and original scripted streaming series, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the good news. While LGBTQ representation was down in last year’s report among regular characters on broadcast scripted series, this year saw a 2.8% increase in that total. Even better, this increase brings the total figure up to 11.9% – a new record-high percentage since the inaugural report 17 years ago. That means that out of the 775 series regular characters appearing in content that premiered or is expected to return between June 1, 2021 and May 31, 2022, 92 of them are LGBTQ. In addition, there are 49 recurring LGBTQ characters, bringing the total number of queer characters on broadcast television up to 141. When we add streaming platforms to the mix, the picture gets even brighter. On original scripted programming across eight platforms (expanded from the three tracked in previous reports), there are 245 regular and 113 recurring LGBTQ characters, bringing the combined total to 358. When it comes to cable, however, there’s a deficit. While the report from two years ago (covering the last pre-pandemic TV season) featured 215 queer cable characters, that number fell to 118 with last year’s report and has only risen by 20 this year, bringing the total to 138 (87 regular, 51 recurring) – still far fewer than counted in the prior report Despite that disappointing nuance, LGBTQ people clearly enjoy a greater presence on TV overall than ever before. In the more granular details, however, it’s obvious there’s room for improvement. This year, lesbian characters represent a majority of LGBTQ regular or recurring characters on broadcast television for the first time in the report’s history. Lesbians make up 40% (56 characters), up six points from the previous season. Gay men make up 35 percent (49 characters), a decrease of five points from last year (though still an increase of 9 characters), but bisexual+ representation, after decreasing for the past two years, has increased – albeit slightly – to reflect 19% (27 characters) of the total, up a single point from the 2021 report. Notably, bisexual+ representation is still skewed heavily in favor of women (124 total characters), with bi+ men (50 characters) and bi+ nonbinary individuals (9) trailing far behind. In addition, the number of transgender characters has increased across broadcast, cable, and streaming programming, with 42 regular and recurring transgender characters tracked across all three platforms, an encouraging improvement over last year’s 29. Of those characters, 20 are trans women, 14 are trans men, and eight are nonbinary trans characters. A further 17 characters are nonbinary and not trans. Yet there 18 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 25, 2022
CHARLIE BARNETT (left) and RUSHI KOTI in ‘Ordinary Joe.’ (Photo courtesy NBC)
were only two asexual characters – one of which appeared on HBO Max’s now-cancelled “Genera+ion”, and one slated for inclusion in an unspecified upcoming streaming series. No asexual characters are expected to be featured on broadcast or cable. More troubling are the figures on racial diversity among LGBTQ characters, which has increased on broadcast and streaming, but dropped significantly on cable. GLAAD previously issued a challenge to ensure that more than half of LGBTQ characters on television were also people of color, and while this year’s report confirms that broadcast content continues to meet that challenge, with LGBTQ people of color representing 58% of its LGBTQ characters for the fourth year in a row, cable programming – which met and surpassed the challenge last year – shows an alarming drop to only 45% of overall total LGBTQ representation. Representation of LGBTQ people of color still lags on streaming but increased to 49% in this year’s report. Similarly underwhelming are the figures on representation for people with disabilities, down to 2.8% of all series regular characters from last year’s 3.5%. This number is disproportionately lower than the actual number of those with disabilities in the United States (13.3%) and includes only a small handful of LGBTQ characters within the overall total. Perhaps the most disappointing finding is the decrease of representation for people living with HIV or AIDS – a demographic with an already-abysmal showing on TV. This year’s report marks only two HIV+ characters across all platforms (down from last year’s three, all of whom appeared on FX’s “Pose”), and a significant decrease from the nine tallied in the study prior to that. Both of this year’s POZ characters are recurring. These findings are particularly worrisome considering the challenge issued by GLAAD and Gilead Sciences with last year’s study, which called on the entertainment industry to grow representation of HIV with the goal of driving cultural and societal change in ending the stigma around the millions who live with it. What does all this mean, and why does it matter? For those who recognize the dire importance of positive queer representation in the media in the ongoing struggle to expand LGBTQ+ acceptance, the answer is obvious. For anyone who questions the need for advocacy groups like GLAAD to continue placing pressure on content providers in their effort to ensure continued progress, the answer is summed up in the statement issued with the report by GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis: “The growing state of LGBTQ representation on television is a signal that Hollywood is truly starting to recognize the power of telling LGBTQ stories that audiences around the world connect with. At a time when anti-LGBTQ legislation and violence continues to increase, it is cultural institutions like television that take on the crucial role of changing hearts and minds through diverse and inclusive storytelling. Networks and platforms must continue to prioritize telling LGBTQ stories that have been long overlooked, with a specific focus on the trans community, LGBTQ people of color, people living with HIV, and LGBTQ people with disabilities.” Read the full report at glaad.org.
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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • FEBRUARY 25, 2021 • 19