Los Angeles Blade, Volume 06, Issue 18, May 06, 2022

Page 1

(Blade photos by Michael Key)

Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe. Is Obergefell next? PAGES 10, 11, 14



Smear campaign launched against Trevor Project as culture wars escalate Weaponized use of term ‘groomer’ is rapidly increasing

By BRODY LEVESQUE consultation with Trevor, Downing writes: The latest round of right-wing attacks on the LGBTQ+ community has included portraying “The Trevor Project, as it grooms children online, gives kids with an exit feature on its liveLGBTQ+ people as groomers and actions taken in defense of LGBTQ+ youth by non-profits, chat function that erases the chat history, so parents cannot monitor who is interacting with political and LGBTQ+ advocacy groups as outright acts designed to commit paedophilia. their children. The latest and highly visible target in this latest round of vitriolic rhetoric aimed at denigratChildren who stumble upon the Trevor Project are interacting with strangers who are taking ing the LGBTQ+ community is The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and an interesting the youngster’s sexuality.” crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people. Downing wrote further about an incident regarding a parent posing as a teenager asking The conservative anti-LGBTQ+ Florida-based ‘Mom’s for Liberty,’ a group that claims to apabout gender issues: proximately 85,000 members with chapters in over 35 states, retweeted a 36-year-old blogger, “The mother, referred to here as Gloria though that’s not her real name, presented herself Colin Wright, who proudly describes himself as a person dedicated to efforts on combatting as confused about many things, but sure of being “not cishet,” and interested in knowing more gender ideology and pseudoscience about sex. about detransitioning. What emerged in the online Research shows that Wright is best described based chat with a representative from the Trevor Project was on his views as an anti-trans extremist. He currently is advocacy for transitioning, no information about dea writer for right-wing site Quillette and founder of Retransitioning, and apparent certainty in the face of an ality’s Last Stand. uncertain teen who didn’t know where to go for help. On Wednesday, April 26, Wright took aim at The The Trevor Project guided Gloria to resources on Trevor Project using a social media cartoon published hormones, including how to get them without parenduring the height of the coronavirus pandemic by the tal awareness, chest binding, and an introduction into organisation to educate LGBTQ+ youth on a safety a community of teen transitioners.” feature of the Trevor website in the case of potential California State Senator Scott Wiener, a member of problematic interaction with parents who may not be the California Assembly’s LGBTQ+ Caucus responded aware or approve of LGBTQ+ feelings, gender identity to the attacks on Trevor: or sexual orientation. “.@TrevorProject literally saves LGBTQ teens’ lives – Moms For Liberty within hours quote-tweeted teens at risk of suicide who have nowhere else to turn Wright and complained that that the organization is for support. This despicable tweet is designed to pre“encouraging children to keep secrets from their parvent — & will have the effect of preventing — teens ents.” from reaching this life-saving service. Kids will die as A spokesperson for a LGBTQ+ advocacy organizaa result.” tion speaking on background pointed out that LGBTQ+ Media Matters researcher Kayla Gogarty noted in a youth have good reason to keep secrets of this naApril 16 article that after Florida Republican Gov. Ron ture from their parents due to justified fears of being (Screenshot LA Times) DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw used an abused, shunned, become homeless, or even killed if anti-LGBTQ slander including use of the word groomer they come out to their parents. Then too there is the to defend Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill on March 4, right-wing media and figures used similar high probability and risk of suicide, the very mission and purpose for Trevor’s existence. absurd attacks to defend the legislation, accusing LGBTQ people of “grooming” children to be Once the two tweets made their presence known in the netherworld of right-wing Twitter LGBTQ or to engage in sexual activity. the proverbial pile-on got worse. Lauren Chen, a 27-year-old Canadian far-right political comThroughout March, right-wing figures and media responded to criticism of the extreme mentator on YouTube and Evie Magazine contributor contributed with a phrase that has since bill with ramped up attacks accusing LGBTQ people of “grooming” children — the same mespicked up as the primary conservative talking point in reference to the LGBTQ+ community, saging initially tweeted by Pushaw on March 4. Simultaneously, right-wing media and figuse of the term ‘groomer.’ ures also used anti-LGBTQ content from Libs of TikTok as ammunition for their arguments. A spokesperson for the Trevor Project declined to comment instead telling the Blade on Libs of TikTok is an anonymous anti-LGBTQ Twitter account that started on TikTok but background; “We’ve chosen not to respond directly to these social media attacks and have no moved to Twitter in November 2020, where it singles out individual TikTok users, including comment at this time.” teachers, for ridicule and harassment in tweets that often go viral. On April 13, Twitter briefly The Trevor Project also pointed to its own research on family rejection + support for LGBTQ suspended the account for violating its policy against hateful conduct. The account has since youth: been restored — even though Libs of TikTok has repeatedly misgendered public figures and Many LGBTQ youth lack access to affirming spaces, with only 1 in 3 saying that their home content creators. to be LGBTQ-affirming. The Trevor Project’s research consistently finds that LGBTQ young Since Pushaw used “grooming” language in her tweets on March 4, she has tweeted simipeople report lower rates of attempting suicide when they have access to LGBTQ-affirming lar language another 22 times, earning over 23,000 total interactions, or an average of 1,000 homes. interactions per post. This average is roughly triple that of her other tweets. Meanwhile, Libs LGBTQ youth who report high levels of social support from family and friends are signifiof TikTok has continued to post anti-LGBTQ content, even replying to a Pushaw tweet and cantly less likely to attempt suicide compared to those with lower levels of social support. praising the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation as “literally genius” for exposing “creeps” and those that As Thursday wore on the attacks on Trevor, many labeling the organization as nothing “identify themselves as pro-grooming.” more than grooming young people continued. Anchorage, Alaska-based Suzanne Downing, One LGBTQ+ activist told the Blade Thursday on background that the end result now is who writes and edits the conservative right wing leaning blog Must Read Alaska, attacked the that weaponized use of the term “groomer” is rapidly increasing and will very likely manifest Trevor Project Thursday. in a sharp up-tick in LGBTQ+ youth harming themselves as Trevor and other safe spaces are Writing in reference to the 2020 ordinance makes it illegal for licensed professionals in Anattacked and more of the so-called “Parental Rights” bills become law. chorage to try to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity, which was passed in LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MAY 06, 2022 • 03


When Los Angeles burned — the 1992 riots’ legacy 30 years later ‘We just want to stop being mistreated by the police’

By BRODY LEVESQUE The rioting spread to other sections of the city as residents set fires, looted and destroyed It was a Wednesday, a verdict from the jury in Simi Valley in the case of four Los Angeles liquor stores, grocery stores, retail shops and fast food restaurants. Light-skinned motorists Police Department officers charged in the brutal beating of a Black man after a felony traffic — both white and Latino — were targeted; some were pulled out of their cars and beaten. stop the previous year was expected at any moment and tensions were running high in LA’s There was more than the Rodney King case that exacerbated racial tensions in LA that minority neighborhoods. Spring. Rodney King, who was on parole for robbery, was beaten by LAPD officers during his arThe same month as Rodney King’s beating the year before, a Korean store owner in South rest after a high-speed chase on March 3, 1991, for driving while intoxicated on the 210 Los Angeles had shot and killed a 15-year-old African-American girl named Latasha Harlins, freeway. When LAPD and California Highway Patrol cruisers finally stopped him, King was who was accused of trying to steal orange juice. It was later discovered Harlins was clutching ordered out of the car. money to pay for the juice when she was killed. The store owner received probation and a What happened next was caught on video by a bystander as four LAPD officers then $500 fine, NPR reported in 2017. kicked him repeatedly and beat him with their batons for approximately 15 minutes. The The incident heightened tensions between Koreans video showed that more than a dozen other officers and African-Americans, and intensified the black comstood by, watching and some even were commenting munity’s frustration with the criminal justice system. on the beating. The other contributing factor was that the LAPD King’s injuries resulted in skull fractures, broken was seen by the city’s minority populations as little bones and teeth, and permanent brain damage. more than an army of occupation. In a 2017 in an The graphic video of the attack was broadcast into interview with NPR’s Grigsby Bates, lawyer and civil homes in Southern California and then across the narights activist Connie Rice said; “What we had was agtion and worldwide provoking outrage and calls for gressive paramilitary policing with a culture that was the immediate removal of then LAPD Chief Darryl mean and cruel, racist and abusive of force in comGates. munities of color, particularly poor communities of Emotions ran so high that the trial of the four officolor.” cers who were arrested on brutality and other crim“It was an open campaign to suppress and coninal charges was ordered moved to Ventura County tain the black community,” she added noting; “LAPD after a state appellate court panel ruled that political didn’t even feel it was necessary to distinguish befallout and community anger was such that the offitween pruning out a suspected criminal where they cers could not get a fair hearing in Los Angeles behad probable cause to stop and just stopping Africause of “excessive publicity and a highly charged can-American judges and senators and prominent political climate,” the Los Angeles Times noted, and Reginald Denny’s truck stopped in the middle of the intersection of Florence athletes and celebrities simply because they were so the trial was moved. Simi Valley was more conveand Normandie. (Screenshot/LNS/KCOP13) driving nice cars.” nient geographically than Alameda County, a venue When 911 calls about the violence started coming the prosecution preferred. in, LAPD units were not deployed immediately. In fact LAPD Chief Gates announced early in The trial got underway in early February of 1992 and in the last week of April the jury got the afternoon of April 29 that his officers had the situation under control. the case. On April 29, 1992, a jury consisting of 12 residents from the distant suburbs of “One of the most astounding things about the 1992 Los Angeles riots was the response Ventura County — nine white, one Latino, one biracial, one Asian — found the four officers of the LAPD, which is to say no response at all,” says author Joe Domanick, who has studied not guilty. and written about the riots, in an interview with NPR’s Grigsby Bates. The acquittals were announced around 3 p.m. and less than three hours later, the unrest That night, Gates went to speak at a fundraiser in West Los Angeles and reportedly orbegan. dered cops to retreat. Police did not respond to incidents of looting and violence around the A news helicopter piloted by trans reporter-photo journalist Hanna Zoey Tur, who was city until almost three hours after the original rioting broke out. then working for Los Angeles News Service/KCOP 13 TV, caught what arguably became the For the rest of the night, the scene at Florence and Normandie repeated itself with rioters epic ground center in what would become a series of moving crowds of rioters spreading across the city. Just before 9 p.m. that night, Mayor Tom Bradley called for a state of emercivil disturbances and massive property damage over the seven day period starting that afgency, and California Gov. Pete Wilson ordered 2,000 National Guard troops to report to the ternoon on the 29th, lasting until May 4, 1992 when authorities ultimately regained control city. of both the city and county. On May 1, the third day of the riots, Rodney King himself attempted to publicly appeal The civil unrest had commenced with gatherings of angered Angelenos especially Black to Los Angeles residents to stop fighting. He stood outside a Beverly Hills courthouse with residents not long after the verdict had been announced. But by 5:30 p.m. mobs had started his lawyer and asked “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get to roam the streets of South Central LA with some limited property damage and vandalism. along?” Then at around 6:46 p.m., a truck entered the intersection at Florence and Normandie. Ultimately there were 50 plus riot-related deaths including 10 people who were shot and Tur and her Los Angeles News Service/KCOP 13 chopper crew caught what happened next killed by LAPD officers and National Guardsmen. More than 2,000 people were injured, and and the live feed from the helicopter was broadcast to the nation and the world. A group of nearly 6,000 alleged looters and arsonists were arrested. Black men who came to be known as the “L.A. Four” grabbed the 39-year-old truck driver, More than 1,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, and approximately 2,000 KoreReginald Oliver Denny and dragged him out of the truck. an-run businesses were also damaged or destroyed. In all, approximately $1 billion worth of Denny was beaten with fists, kicked, and struck with a cinder block, one man hurled a property was destroyed. five-pound oxygenator at Denny’s head and the other kicked him and hit him with a claw The Arlington, Virginia based think-tank the Rand Corporation found of those arrested hammer. While the beating continued Tur and her chopper continued to circle the scene Tur during the riots, 36 percent were African-Americans and 51 percent were Latinos. noting on air that there were virtually no LAPD units within sight of the attack. The Rodney King beating and the riots that came out of social issues that still have not After the beating ended, some men threw beer bottles at the unconscious body and a been resolved as most recently evidenced by the Black Lives Matter movement propelled man searched Denny’s back pockets, taking his wallet. The attackers were chased off by by ongoing killings of unarmed Black men by law enforcement agencies across the nation. locals who ran to assist the badly injured truck driver. Denny suffered a fractured skull and impairment of his speech and his ability to walk, for which he underwent years of rehabilitative therapy. CONTINUES ON PAGE 06 04 • MAY 06, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

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First LGBTQ advisory board to LA County DA’s office sworn in Will advise on policies, best practices related to queer Angelenos

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced Tuesday the creation of the office’s first-ever LGBTQ+ Advisory Board, one of several Advisory Boards that will provide valuable community input into his work building a safer and healthier county for all. “The contributions that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people have made to society make up a rich part of U.S. history. Sadly, LGBTQ+ people have long been subjected to public hostility, discrimination, and violence,” Gascón said. “This new Advisory Board creates a precedent for this office to truly listen and learn from the LGBTQ+ community and inform my policies.” The Board will advise the District Attorney’s Office regarding policies, priority issues, and best practices related to LGBTQ+ Angelenos and the criminal justice system. The Advisory Board will meet regularly, seek input from the greater community, and provide regular feedback on improvements to better serve LGBTQ+ residents and all those who come into contact with the office, as well as improve diversity and inclusion within the office itself. The LGBTQ+ Advisory Board members include: • BAMBY SALCEDO, Chair (SHE/HER/ELLA) is the President and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition, a nationally recognized organization that advocates for and addresses the issues of transgender Latinas throughout the United States. Salcedo is a passionate and celebrated transgender Latina activist and has collaborated with local and national organizations to establish services and visibility for numerous LGBTQ+ issues and topics. • VINCENT JONES, Vice-Chair (HE/HIM) is the CEO of the The Citizen Jones Companies, a collection of socially minded businesses created with the spirit of doing good, having fun and helping others do the same. He is a recognized leader in the LGBTQ+ community for his work in philanthropy, non-profits, politics, government, communications, travel and social entrepreneurship.


LADA GEORGE GASCÓN (center) and some of the newly swornin members of the first LGBTQ Advisory Board. (Left to right) STELLA URSUA, ARI GUTIÉRREZ ARÁMBULA, BAMBY SALCEDO and SKYLAR MYERS. (Photo courtesy LA County District Attorney’s Office)

• ALLISON BLAYLOCK (SHE/HER) is the President of the OUTreachCenter in Lancaster. She also advocates for the awareness and ending of domestic violence within the LGBTQ+ community through the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s STOP program. • CHELA DEMUIR (SHE/HER) is the Founder of the “TransGivingDinner,” a dinner with all the traditional trimmings of a holiday meal that is now celebrated in various states across the country. Demuir is also a founding member of Trans Pride LA and Unique Woman’s Coalition. • ARI GUTIÉRREZ ARÁMBULA, MBA (SHE/HER/ELLA) is an Advocate for the Latinx LGBTQ+ community. Through her career in marketing and advertising, Gutiérrez Arámbula has been able to influence her business, communications and political networks to empower Latinx LGBTQ+ people and their families, as well as producing

the Latino LGBTQ+ Pride Festival and co-founding the HONOR Political Action Committee and the Latino Equality Alliance. • JOEY HERNÁNDEZ (THEY/THEM) is Director of Policy and Community Building Department at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Hernández has engaged in LGBTQ+ rights advocacy for over 15 years and they currently direct the Center’s policy advocacy, grassroots community organizing, and international programs to protect and expand the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. • SKYLAR MYERS (THEY/THEM) is a Victims Rights Advocate for the Anti-Violence Project at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Myers’ work with the LGBTQ+ community has involved serving as a homeless youth advisor and mentor and empowering marginalized and often victimized communities for more than a decade. • BRAD SEARS, J.D. (HE/HIM) is the Founding Executive Director and David Sanders Distinguished Scholar of Law & Policy at the Williams Institute and is the Associate Dean of Public Interest Law at UCLA Law. Sears has published a number of research studies, primarily on discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV; taught courses on LGBTQ+ and disability law at various law schools; and has testified before Congress and state legislatures, authored amicus briefs in key court cases, helped to draft state and federal legislation and has been frequently cited by national media. • STELLA URSUA (SHE/HER/HERS) is the Board President/ Chair at the LGBTQ+ Center Long Beach and Programs & Partnerships Manager of GRID Alternatives-Greater Los Angeles. Ursua can be found in equity-challenged and/or environmentally disadvantaged communities, working to build more awareness for social issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, environmental health, green neighborhoods and careers, and ensuring that all community members have access to the programs, services, education, knowledge and skills that will help them thrive.


30 years later, a look back at LA riots The relationship between the Black community and law enforcement remains frigid. According to a Los Angeles Times analysis, Black people make up less than 10 percent of the population in L.A. County, but 24 percent of law enforcement killings. The economic disparities that concerned Black people in 1992 also persist today, including vast wealth inequality that affects multiple nonwhite groups. Remnants of the uprising still stand in the form of wrecked buildings never repaired. The Los Angeles Times noted on Thursday that for all the strides that have been made since the 1992 L.A. riots, many Angelenos believe their city may still be a powder keg, according to a survey by the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. The share of L.A. residents who expect that another wave of “riots and disturbances” will occur has hit the highest peak since the survey launched in 1997, with 68% saying it was either very or somewhat likely. Nearly 40% believe race relations in the city have worsened over the last four years. Cecil Rhambo, the police chief at the Los Angeles International Airport, who is currently running to replace Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, in an interview with NBC


News journalist Curtis Bunn said that some elements of Black life have improved over the last three decades, but not so much that an unpopular verdict involving a Black person and white law enforcement would not ignite another explosion of emotions onto the streets. “There’s always a potential for riots or an uprising in the future,” he said. “Right now, inflation is running amok, largely in part due to what’s happening around the world that we can’t control. Covid hasn’t gone away. And so, I think there’s always an opportunity for things to get so bad that people repeat history.” That history can be repeated, Rhambo said, because the potential for violence against Black people by law enforcement — with no one held accountable — remains strong. “We just want to stop being mistreated by the police,” he said. “It’s just a basic common decency of how we treat people. That was the tipping point in 1992. If the George Floyd verdict had been different, I would not have been surprised if something happened. In the 1965 Watts riots and in ’92, it was the perfect storm that led to the violence. We have a perfect storm going on now that creates this powder keg. So there’s always a potential for that in the future.”

Medi-Cal to expand to all eligible adults 50 years of age and older Starting on May 1, Medi-Cal, California’s health coverage program for low-income individuals and families, is extending eligibility for full coverage to more than 185,000 individuals who are 50 years of age or older, regardless of immigration status. “We’re delivering concrete results for Californians, continuing to fulfill the promise of a Healthy California for All, and I encourage all those eligible to take advantage of these essential health services,” said Governor Newsom. “This is an investment in our people, our economy, and our future. But we’re not stopping there. California is on the path to expand Medi-Cal to all eligible Californians regardless of age or immigration status, providing the most comprehensive health coverage in the entire country.” Gov. Newsom last year signed legislation making California the first state in the nation to expand full-scope Medi-Cal eligibility to low-income adults 50 years of age or older, regardless of immigration status. Subject to legislative approval, Governor Newsom has this year proposed expanding Medi-Cal to all eligible residents, regardless of age or immigration status. The expansion population includes individuals 50 years of age or older who are eligible for Medi-Cal, who do not have satisfactory immigration status or are unable to establish satisfactory immigration status for full-scope Medi-Cal and are not yet enrolled in Medi-Cal. It also includes individuals 50 years of age or older who are currently enrolled in restricted scope Medi-Cal. “This expansion of Medi-Cal supports the Newsom Administration’s vision of a Healthy California for All by addressing health coverage disparities that disproportionately impact disadvantaged communities. We’re committed to advancing di-

FROM STAFF REPORTS versity, equity, and inclusion on behalf of all Californians,” said Michelle Baass, Director of the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). “This action reflects our fundamental conviction that all Californians deserve quality health care.” Many of these individuals and their communities have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and have had limited access to care. This expansion will improve access to preventive and routine care, improve financial security for those who enroll, and strengthen California’s efforts to address health disparities and inequities, especially among populations of color. The state has worked for the last several years to extend health coverage to more Californians. In May 2016, children under 19 years of age became eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal benefits, and in January 2020, full-scope Medi-Cal was extended to young adults ages 19 through 25, regardless of immigration status. Previously, these individuals only qualified for limited Medi-Cal services, such as emergency, prenatal, and long-term care. Now they can access the full range of benefits available to Medi-Cal beneficiaries, including no-cost/low-cost quality health, behavioral health, substance use disorder services, and dental services through the various delivery systems under the Medi-Cal program. “These Californians now have a place where they can coordinate all of their medical, dental, mental, and substance use disorder needs, and a primary care physician to better manage their health conditions,” said Jacey Cooper, State Medicaid Director. “Everyone benefits from ensuring access for all Californians, and many of us know someone who depends on Medi-Cal for vital health coverage.”


The next step in California’s coverage expansion, subject to legislative approval, is outlined in the Governor’s 2022-23 budget, (Photo courtesy State of California) which proposes to expand Medi-Cal coverage to an estimated 700,000-plus adults ages 26 through 49 without satisfactory immigration status, effective no sooner than January 1, 2024. Extending Medi-Cal to hundreds of thousands more is an important step to help close health equity gaps in the state and get us closer to universal coverage. The expansion to individuals aged 50 and over was included in Assembly Bill 133 (Chapter 143, Statutes of 2021), which amended Welfare and Institutions Code section 14007.8. For nearly a year, DHCS held monthly advocate and county workgroup meetings to implement this expansion. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services do NOT consider health, food, and housing services as part of the public charge determination. Therefore, using Medi-Cal benefits (except for nursing home or mental health institution care) will NOT hurt an individual’s immigration status. When someone applies for state-funded benefits, their information is only used to determine if they qualify. State laws protect the privacy of their information. Individuals ages 50 and over, regardless of their immigration status, who have not applied for Medi-Cal can apply here starting May 1, 2022.



Dave Chappelle assaulted on stage, jokes attacker was a Trans man By JEREMY KINSER genitalia and TERFs (or trans-exclusionary LOS ANGELES – Comedian Dave radical feminists), among other topics, Chappelle was attacked during a perseveral trans employees of Netflix staged formance at the Hollywood Bowl Tuesa walkout. Additionally, trans comedians day night. A suspect is in custody for told CNN they felt that the comments rushing the stage while brandishing a were an example of “punching down” on plastic replica of a gun that shoots forth those with less power and a betrayal of a blade, according to the Los Angeles the astute social commentary for which Police Department. After regaining his Chappelle is known. Chappelle eventually composure, Chappelle joked that the agreed to meet with members of the comattacker “was a trans man,” a reference munity to discuss the tenor of his jokes to the comic’s controversy within the about trans people. LGBTQ+ communities. The Bowl incident echoes the AcadeThe suspect has been identified as my Awards ceremony in March, in which 32-year-old Isaiah Lee, who is being eventual best actor winner Will Smith held by LAPD on $30,000 bail. Chappelle walked on stage and delivered a blow to and the man scuffled on the floor of the the face of Chris Rock due to an off-thestage before the man ran away behind cuff joke the comic made about Smith’s a screen. Security staff surrounded wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s hairstyle. and tackled the man, and according to It also further raises questions about Chappelle, stomped him in the rear corthe safety of comedians who are known ner of the stage. Lee was rushed to a lo(Screenshot/KABC 7 LA) for caustic humor. cal hospital. So far, there’s no evidence The comedian was performing at the that Lee identifies as transgender. venue as part of the Netflix Is a Joke Fest, an 11-day stand-up comedy festival. Rock, who Chappelle, beloved by many for his clever television program Chappelle’s Show, has also performed during the concert took the stage with Chappelle, and asked “Was that long been a controversial figure to the LGBTQ+ communities. Last October, following the Will Smith?” premiere of his Netflix The Closer, which featured insensitive cracks about trans women’s



Roberts verifies leak as Biden urges federal abortion rights law

‘Court has abandoned any pretense of protecting individual freedom’

By BRODY LEVESQUE The reaction to the seismic leak of a working draft opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court continued Tuesday as congressional leadership, the White House, and political advocacy groups on both sides of the abortion issue weighed in on the potential impact of a likely overturn of Roe v. Wade. A court spokesperson issued a statement that verified that the document published in the Politico report was authentic, noting that, “Justices circulate draft opinions internally as a routine and essential part of the Court’s confidential deliberative work. Although the document described in yesterday’s reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.” In the statement, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. is quoted as saying, “To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed. The work of the Court will not be affected in any way. “We at the Court are blessed to have a workforce – permanent employees and law clerks alike – intensely loyal to the institution and dedicated to the rule of law. Court employees have an exemplary and important tradition of respecting the confidentiality of the judicial process and upholding the trust of the Court. This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here. “I have directed the Marshal of the Court to launch an investigation into the source of the leak.” President Joe Biden, in a release issued by the White House prior to the high court’s authentication said: “First, my administration argued strongly before the Court in defense of Roe v. Wade. We said that Roe is based on “a long line of precedent recognizing ‘the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty’… against government interference with intensely personal decisions. I believe that a woman’s right to choose is fundamental, Roe has been the law of the land for almost 50 years, and basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned.” Speaking with reporters Tuesday morning at Joint Base Andrews prior to boarding Air Force One for a scheduled trip Biden in response to a question said: “Well, first of all, I just got a call saying that it’s been announced that it is a real draft, but it doesn’t represent who’s going to vote for it yet. I hope there are not enough votes for it. “It’s the main reason why I worked so hard to keep Robert Bork off the Court. It reflects his view almost — almost word — anyway. Look, the idea that — it concerns me a great deal that we’re going to, after 50 years, decide a woman does not have a right to choose within the limits of the Supreme Court decision in Casey, number one. But even more equally as profound is the rationale used. And it would mean that every other decision relating to the notion of privacy is thrown into question. “I realize this goes back a long way, but one of the debates I had with Robert Bork was whether — whether Griswold vs. Connecticut should stand as law. The state of Connecticut said that the privacy of your bedroom — you — a husband and wife or a couple could not choose to use contraception; the use of contraception was a violation of the law. If the rationale of the decision as released were to be sustained, a whole range of rights are in question — a whole range of rights. And the idea we’re letting the states make those decisions, localities make those decisions would be a fundamental shift in what we’ve done. “So, it goes far beyond — in my view, if it becomes a law and if what is written is what remains, it goes far beyond the concern of whether or not there is the right to choose. It goes to other basic rights: the right to marry, the right to determine a whole range of things. Because one of the issues that this court — many of the members of the court — a number of the members of the court have not acknowledged is that there is a right to privacy in our Constitution. “I strongly believe there is. I think the decision in Griswold was correct overruling; I think the decision in Roe was correct, because there’s a right to privacy. There can be limitations on it, but it cannot be denied.” Political fallout over the leaked draft sharpened political divisions over the already in-


Protests erupted across the country, including at the Supreme Court on Tuesday after the leak of a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

creasing polarization between the parties during an election cycle this has created. On Capitol Hill, U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act following media reports of a draft Supreme Court opinion overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. “It’s time for Congress to get off the sidelines and protect women’s fundamental right to choose. The draft opinion released last night is an urgent warning of the threat an increasingly far-right Supreme Court poses to women’s rights. We must act now before it is too late,” Padilla said. “Make no mistake: the legitimacy of the Supreme Court hangs in the balance. The Court’s power rests in the faith that the American people place in it. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it’s hard to see how the American people can trust this Supreme Court to protect other fundamental rights,” he added. Axios reported that Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Tuesday reacted to the Supreme Court leaked draft document, saying that if it is accurate, it is inconsistent with discussions she had with Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. “If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office. Obviously, we won’t know each Justice’s decision and reasoning until the Supreme Court officially announces its opinion in this case,” Collins said in a statement. The sharpest reaction came from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a speech on the Senate floor taking aim at progressives and Democrats: “Somebody, likely somebody inside the court itself, leaked a confidential internal draft to the press almost certainly in an effort to stir up an inappropriate pressure campaign to sway an outcome. “The radical left immediately rallied around the toxic stunt. The cheerleaders for partisan court-packing applauded what they suggested was the work of, quote, a brave clerk making a last-ditch hail Mary attempt to cause a political firestorm and cause the court to reconsider. “Liberals want to rip the blindfold off Lady Justice, they want to override impartiality with intimidation. They want to elevate mob rule over the rule of law.” The Blade spoke with Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) who said: “That someone leaked this opinion — violating the court’s most sacrosanct rule of confidentiality — speaks volumes about how extreme and dangerous much of the court’s jurisprudence has become. We don’t know if this will be the final decision, but it is shocking to read this assault on an established fundamental right. A court that would issue an opinion like this — if it does — is a court that has abandoned any pretense of protecting individual freedom.”


Roe leak stokes fears that LGBTQ rights are at heightened risk ‘Calls into question underlying liberty that was underpinning of Obergefell’

By CHRIS JOHNSON | cjohnson@washblade.com vor of overturning Roe, which means without question such Fears that same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ rights a ruling has a majority.) could be on the chopping block are at a new high after a Not all observers see the opinion in the same way and are leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that would interpreting Alito’s references to Obergefell and Lawrence as explicitly overturn precedent in Roe. v. Wade, although the less threatening. degree of perceived danger differs among legal observers. Dale Carpenter, a conservative law professor at SouthAlthough language in the leaked draft by U.S. Associate ern Methodist University who’s written about LGBTQ rights, Justice Samuel Alito, which was published late Monday by downplayed the idea the draft opinion against Roe would be Politico and confirmed as “authentic” by the Supreme Court, a prelude to overturning Obergefell based on Alito’s words specifically distances the potential ruling from Obergefell v. denying the connection. Hodges, the general reasoning against finding unenumerat“The opinion tries to make it clear that it does not affect ed rights in the U.S. Constitution could apply to challenges to other unenumerated rights, like Lawrence and Obergefell the landmark 2015 marriage decision. and other fundamental rights cases, like contraceptive cases Karen Loewy, senior counsel for the LGBTQ group Lambda and other marriage cases,” Carpenter said. “So that’s comLegal, told the Washington Blade if the draft decision were to forting, I think, to LGBT rights advocates. Second, it says that become final it would “have no good implications” for either there’s a fundamental distinction between those other cases the Obergefell or Lawrence decisions. and the abortion cases in that the abortion cases involve fetal “The analysis that Justice Alito has laid out really calls into Legal experts diverge on the degree Samuel Alito’s opinion life or potential life. And so, that I think, is a ground for setting would threaten same-sex marriage. (Blade photo by Michael Key) question the sort of underlying liberty and dignity jurisprua difference between them.” dence that really was the underpinning of cases like Lawrence Carpenter, however, conceded the mode of analysis in the and Obergefell,” Loewy said. “It requires a really cramped viopinion overturning Roe “is not very friendly to unenumerated rights like marriage and sexsion of what is constitutionally protected, that is tied to histories of oppression that are reual intimacy,” so while Obergefell and Lawrence may face no immediate threat “there might ally, really concerning.” be a longer term concern about decisions like those.” Alito obliterates long-standing precedent, as defined in the 1973 Roe. v. Wade decision A follow-up ruling from the Supreme Court rolling back the right for same-sex couples to and subsequently affirmed in the 1992 decision in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey, finding marry would be consistent with a 2020 dissent from Alito and U.S. Associate Justice Clarence a woman’s right to have an abortion is protected under the 14th Amendment. Thomas essentially declaring war on the Obergefell decision, urging justices to revisit the “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito writes. “The Constitution makes no case to make greater accommodations for religious objections. references to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional proviJim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the marriage equality case and now a candidate for a sion, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely — the Due seat in the Ohio state legislature, said in a statement after the leak of the draft Alito opinion Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.” he was fearful that the same forces seeking to overturn precedent for abortion rights would Alito makes clear for the Supreme Court to find any unenumerated rights under the 14th go after LGBTQ rights next. Amendment, the right must be “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” and “It’s also concerning that some members of the extreme court are eager to turn their “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” attention to overturning marriage equality,” Obergefell said. “The sad part is in both these Such an analysis would directly impact LGBTQ rights found under the 14th Amendment. cases, five or six people will determine the law of the land and go against the vast majority In fact, three separate times over the course of the draft opinion, Alito compares the right to of Ohioans and Americans who overwhelmingly support a woman’s right to make her own abortion to rights for LGBTQ people as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court. health decisions and a couple’s right to be married.” Those references, however, aren’t to threaten those decisions, but to bolster the case for The Supreme Court, of course, couldn’t willy nilly reverse the Obergefell decision, which overturning precedent as established by Roe and limit the impact of the draft opinion. would require some case or controversy to wind its way through the judicial system before “Roe’s defenders characterize the abortion right as similar to the rights recognized in past justices could revisit the ruling. Mostly likely, such a hypothetical case would be a state passdecisions involving matters such as intimate sexual relations, contraception, and marriage,” ing a law banning same-sex marriage or simply declaring it would no longer allow same-sex Alito writes, “but abortion is fundamentally different, as both Roe and Casey acknowledged, couples to wed in defiance of the Obergefell decision. because it destroys what those decisions called ‘fetal life’ and what the law now before us No state, however, is engaged in a serious effort to challenge marriage rights for samedescribes as an ‘un-born human being.’” sex couples. The last such challenge was in 2020 and from the solicitor general of Indiana, In another instance, Alito includes Obergefell and Lawrence among a multitude of cases in who was seeking to challenge the decision on the basis of birth certificates for the children a multi-page footnote giving examples of where the Supreme Court has decided to overturn of women in same-sex marriages. Even the current 6-3 conservative majority on the court precedent, which the draft opinion would do for Roe v. Wade. Another time, Alito rejects ardeclined to hear the case. guments from the U.S. solicitor general that abortion and marriage are connected, asserting Additionally, as polls demonstrate, the nation is in a different place with abortion rights “our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right.” compared to the right for same-sex couples to marry. A recent Fox News poll found six in 10 Loewy, however, said the fundamental nature of the draft opinion, despite Alito’s rejection registered voters still think the U.S. Supreme Court should uphold Roe v. Wade, but more that abortion is comparable to LGBTQ rights, undermines that analysis no matter how many than half of those responders favored banning abortions after 15 weeks. Comparatively, a times he articulates it. Gallup poll in September 2021 found support for marriage equality is at a record high of 70 “The third time is where he offers a fig leaf saying, ‘This analysis is just about abortion percent and, for the first time, a majority of Republicans back same-sex marriage. rights. It’s not about anything else,’ and so suggests that it would leave untouched a case like A question also remains about what the draft opinion means for decisions on LGBTQ Obergefell, when the analysis that he has offered in this opinion clearly leads to the opposite rights that have yet to come before the Supreme Court but may come at a later time, such result,” Loewy said. as a legal challenge to the “Don’t Say Gay” measure recently signed into law by Florida Gov. Indeed, the sweeping nature of Alito’s reasoning against finding unenumerated rights unRon DeSantis. der the Constitution has led some observers to believe the draft was written by Alito alone Carpenter said he doesn’t think the observers can glean anything about a potential ruling and without the input of the other eight justices, which could mean the final decision would on the “Don’t Say Gay” law based on the fact the legal challenge would be different than be a consensus different from the opinion that was leaked. (Upon publishing the leaked challenges to abortion or same-sex marriage. opinion, however, Politico did report the Supreme Court has five justices who will vote in faLOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MAY 06, 2022 • 11


How teen activist Will Larkins learned ‘Florida is people like me’

Activism has done more than educate others – it’s taught themself

By ZACHARY JARRELL For 17-year-old Will Larkins, moving to Florida felt like the end of the world. The California-born teen activist, whose campaigning against anti-LGBTQ+ bills has gone viral, always looked at the state as “redneck” and “bigoted.” And Larkins’, who uses they/him pronouns, worst fears about Florida came true in their first months living in the state. They told the Blade in a telephone interview that their first semester at Winter Park High School in Winter Park, Florida, was “terrible.” “It was small things, but it was very constant,” said Larkins. “It was comments in the bathrooms and in the hallways and at lunch.” Larkins could not dodge the name calling, whether it was whispers behind their back or slurs hurled directly at them. They went to school administrators repeatedly, but the school took no action, according to Larkins. The Blade attempted to reach Winter Park High School multiple times for additional information on anti-bullying policies, but the inquiries were not immediately returned. In October of last year, Larkins reached their tipping point in October in the face of a series of “horrible things” taking place on the same weekend. It started with a Halloween party that Larkins and a few friends were invited to. “We were very excited,” they recalled. Dressed like a Playboy bunny in a Chanel crop top, Larkins remembers walking in and “everything seeming fine” – until it wasn’t. Roughly 10 minutes after their arrival, a group of boys surrounded Larkins, shouting anti-LGBTQ+ slurs and insults. “You’re going to hell,” one said, as another told Larkins to “fuck kids and animals” – an age-old insult gaining popularity in the face of a historic push for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation by right-wing politicians. (Some Republicans have used similar language in defending homophobic and transphobic bills.) The situation continued to escalate until one threatened to physically attack Larkins if they didn’t leave. “It was really scary,” they said. The next day, Larkins went out trick or treating with a different group of friends. “Faggot,” a classmate yelled at them. The harassment followed Larkins to the bathroom at school the next day. As they tried to use the restroom, three boys appeared and began to make “jokes” about Larkins. “Be careful, we’re homophobic,” Larkins recalled them saying. “You better watch out.” Not being able to handle anymore, Larkins sought out administrators for help — one of which refused to speak with them because “she didn’t feel comfortable,” according to Larkins, forcing them to find another. “It really pushed me to a bad place mentally,” Larkins said. At one point, they broke down in their English teacher’s classroom during lunch. But in that dark place, Larkins found a silver lining. “I was not the only person going through this,” they said. Larkins’ English teacher told them that “she had gone through very similar stuff when she was my age. The only difference was her family was very unsupportive.”

“My family is supportive,” Larkins said. This realization began the Queer Student Union at Winter Park High School, which Larkins said attempts to “make the school better.” Coincidentally, as the club started, Florida Republican legislators introduced H.B. 1557, better known by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The bill, officially titled “Parental Rights in Education,” will ban classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3 and allow parents to sue schools or teachers who violate the legislation. In late March, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill, set to go into effect before the next school year.

(Photo courtesy Will Larkins)

However, days after DeSantis’s signature, a lawsuit emerged against the measure, arguing the statute “would deny to an entire generation that LGBTQ people exist and have equal dignity.” Supporters continue to argue that the legislation is about “empowering parents” and improving the lives of children in the state. After the bill was introduced in early January, Larkins’s club began campaigning against it, starting with an email campaign to legislators in the Florida statehouse. Soon after, Larkins would begin trips to Tallahassee, speaking directly to lawmakers on the floor. In a passionate speech to the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee, Larkins told lawmakers about the harm such a bill would cause – pointing out the already high number of mental health issues and drug abuse in the LGBTQ+ community. But Larkins told the Blade they felt unheard. “They don’t care,” Larkins said. “The Republican legislators sat there, they couldn’t even look me in the eye while I told them my story, and they passed the bill anyways.” One Republican senator, Jeff Brandes, joined Democrats in voting against the bill, saying he could not “support the bill today in hopes that we can find a way to love our neighbors.” But it still easily made it out of committee. After speaking to the Senate committee, rumblings of a


statewide walkout in protest of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill began. Larkins recalls seeing social media posts with general information, but at Winter Park High School, everyone looked at them to be the one to organize it. “I was very hesitant,” Larkins said, explaining that they feared repercussions from the school. But “people expected me to be the one to do this,” they added. Larkins contacted their friend Maddi Zornek, and the two got the word out through social media, made posters and bought Pride flags. “I thought it was going to flop,” Larkins said. “Lo and behold, 9 o’clock hits and upwards of 600 kids walk out of class.” “It was refreshing, honestly,” Larkins added. “I had dealt with so much bulls** for being openly queer and expressing myself in a gender nonconforming way. So, seeing this school, which I believed to be hateful and homophobic, chant in mass, ‘we say gay’ and ‘trans lives matter’ was so powerful.” The walkout was Larkins’ first viral moment, as it garnered national attention. Larkins is trying to use that newfound attention and turn it into change. Activism isn’t foreign to Larkins; in fact, in second grade, they started a construction paper petition to get the school lunch changed. “I’ve always been an activist from a young age,” they said. But now, their activism means survival. “It wasn’t a conscious choice,” they said. “I’m doing what I have to in order to help my community and make sure that I have a safe space at school next year, and that people like me have a safe space at school next year, and that my gay little sibling also has a safe space as for next year.” Once Larkins had their eyes set on fashion school and Europe, the teen now feels like activism could be something they see themselves doing in the future. Whether or not they make a career out of advocacy is yet to be seen, but Larkins shows no signs of slowing down. Shortly after DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, they went viral again. This time with a lesson about the 1969 Stonewall Riots after realizing the topic wasn’t being covered in the class curriculum. On Tuesday, Larkins stood in front of the Seminole County school board during a meeting “overrun by homophobes saying terrible things.” “I have never once learned about sexuality or gender identity in school, and that is the problem,” they said. Larkins’ activism has done more than educate others – it’s taught themself, as well. Florida, for example, cannot just be boiled down to “rednecks” and “bigots.” “Florida isn’t Ron DeSantis. Florida isn’t the Florida Legislature. Florida isn’t the loud, hateful people,” Larkins said. “Florida is people like me and the literal hundreds of student leaders who lead walkouts across the state of Florida. It is the thousands and thousands of people who came together after Pulse. Florida is the kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School standing up for themselves and creating one of the biggest movements in modern history. That’s Florida.”

V O L U M E 06 I S S U E 18

KEVIN NAFF is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at knaff@washblade.com

First they came for Roe; Obergefell is next

Leaked draft reveals another marriage fight on the horizon The unprecedented leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion overturning 50 years of precedent in Roe v. Wade shocked the country Monday night. In it, Justice Samuel Alito writes the apparent 5-4 majority opinion that will lead to roughly half the states outlawing abortion, returning poor women to the back alleys for dangerous makeshift procedures. But Alito doesn’t stop with abortion. He has his sights on two other landmark cases, Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges. In Lawrence, the court recognized a right to private, consensual sex, and Obergefell legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Alito’s draft opinion ominously cites Lawrence and Obergefell several times. And although Alito writes, “Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,” he adds, “None of these rights has any claim to being deeply rooted in history.” Alito and fellow arch-conservative Justice Clarence Thomas have publicly called for the court to revisit Obergefell. Make no mistake that the far right conservative legal movement has made overturning Roe its No. 1 priority for 50 years. Obergefell and Lawrence are next. And let’s be clear about the origins of the Lawrence case: Two gay men, John Geddes Lawrence, Jr. and Tyron Garner, were having sex at Lawrence’s apartment in Harris County, Texas. Garner’s ex-boyfriend called the police, falsely alleging that someone had entered the apartment with a gun. The police showed up and found Lawrence and Garner engaged in sex and arrested them under the Texas anti-sodomy law. That’s right: Two gay men were arrested for having consensual sex in a private home in 1998. Think about that for a moment — and the mind-numbing hypocrisy of Republicans who are supposedly anti-government intrusion into our private lives, until gay lives are involved. It took a Supreme Court ruling to validate the right of two consenting gay adults to have sex in a private home. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the landmark case Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned the previous ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), where the high court failed to find a constitutional right to privacy in sex. The court in Lawrence v. Texas explicitly held that intimate consensual sexual conduct was part of the liberty protected by 14 • MAY 06, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

the substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision in this case was a breakthrough for the gay rights movement and helped to set the stage for Obergefell v. Hodges, which recognized same-sex marriage as a fundamental right under the United States Constitution. All of that precedent is now in question with a 6-3 conservative majority court that lays bare the risk involved in relying on court cases to cement our equality. The LGBTQ movement will need to shift into overdrive to combat the attacks on our rights already playing out with “Don’t Say Gay” bills and the relentless assault on trans rights in state legislatures. The timing for the LGBTQ movement couldn’t be worse, with many advocacy groups struggling from pandemic related funding shortfalls and some philanthropic groups suspending donations to LGBTQ causes. Earlier this year, the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, a leading supporter of state-based LGBTQ equality work, ended its LGBT Equality program, which has given more than $105 million to such causes. As noted by Inside Philanthropy, “LGBTQ+ people make up at least 4.5% of the U.S. population, yet from 2014 to 2018, nonprofits focused on this community received only about 0.18% of grant dollars from U.S.-based foundations.” There is plenty of blame to go around for the stunning revelation of this court’s impending ruling, starting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who thwarted President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the court. That blame game ends with our lazy American electorate. In 2016, after a campaign that highlighted what was at stake — namely the Supreme Court and Roe — only about 60 percent of eligible voters turned out to the polls. So you didn’t like Hillary? Well, now come the consequences. This is truly a frightening time in our deeply divided country that will now become more so, as blue states pass laws and constitutional amendments enshrining abortion laws and establishing “safe havens,” while the shithole states impose cruel, draconian restrictions on women’s rights, even forcing them to give birth after a rape. With Roe gone, LGBTQ rights are next on the chopping block. Time to organize, raise funds, and refocus the movement on state legislatures as our far right opponents have effectively done. Let’s hope it’s not too late.


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JAMES FINN is a columnist for the Los Angeles Blade, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, and an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY. Reach him at jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com.

Hands off Trevor Project and suicidal LGBTQ youth! Helping kids matters more than scoring political points

“Because my parents told me they’d rather have a dead kid than a gay one when I was 13,” tweeted Brynn Tannehill in response to a smear campaign launched this week against Trevor Project, the LGBTQ youth organization that provides suicide-intervention counseling. You can find all the details of the campaign in this LA Blade news story. Tannehill, whose tweet has been “liked” by 200,000 people so far, is a transgender woman, respected national security analyst, Blade columnist, and LGBTQ advocate. She understands deep in her heart the emotional turmoil trans and gay kids can suffer. So do I. I seriously contemplated suicide in my late teens and came within moments of following through. they’d rather I be dead than gay and I’m sure My parents never told me they didn’t think that. They didn’t have to. I grew up in a conservative world surrounded by disdain for people like me. I breathed toxins in with every breath I took. That’s how I found myself climbing onto a railing at the top of a high stairwell at my university, clenching my teeth to find the courage to let go and let it all be over. As an 18-year-old, I lacked the experience to understand the conservative world I lived in did not DEFINE the world, that things would get better, that I would make friends who accepted me, that I would fall in love, marry in all but legal fact, even raise a child. At 18, couldn’t imagine any of that, and I had nowhere to turn for positive perspective. I had no trusted adults to talk to. Nobody with counseling experience. Nobody who understood because they’d walked in my shoes. Trevor Project didn’t exist yet, and the one time I called an Iowa-based gay help group, I was 16 and they had to hang up on me, afraid talking to a teenager would get them labeled as sexual predators. The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide-prevention and crisis-intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people. Their professional counselors and dedicated volunteers take phone calls and respond to messages around the clock from teens, often in tears, who need somebody to show them they’re OK, to help them see that things will get better, to talk them down off that railing. Trevor Project doesn’t do politics, with the exception of advocating against conversion therapy, because they transcend politics. They exist to help suffering kids, and the need is great. LGBTQ youth-suicide statitics are grim. They’ve got their

hands full this year, staffers saying on background that they’re struggling with a surge in help-line demand that’s 4 to 5 times higher than a year ago — in response to a wave of anti-LGBTQ laws consuming public attention. The war on LGBTQ has taken a harsh toll on LGBTQ kids. Then this week, the conservative anti-LGBTQ Florida-based ‘Moms for Liberty,’ which claims 85,000 members in over 35 states, started amplifying claims that Trevor Project is “keeping parents in the dark.” Accusations of “grooming” and “predation” started to fill the air. Obsessed conservatives are dragging a group every loving parent should support into a war, for no reason that makes any sense. Loving parents want troubled children to be able to reach out for help, so what’s the problem? Trevor Project follows industry-standard practice by offering a “safe exit” feature that lets kids using their crisis services quickly hide a webpage and erase browser history. This is not unusual. Mainstream child-advocacy agencies like Childline in the U.S. and the NSPCC in the U.K. have long offered the same feature. The point of “safe exit” is not to keep parents in the dark, but to give kids in crisis the confidence to reach out for help. When your child is contemplating self harm, don’t you want them to have that confidence? Leave suffering kids out of your war Look, the idea that LGBTQ people are “groomers,” sexual predators, or whatever else, is bad enough. Most of us understand few conservative thought leaders and Republican politicians REALLY believe saying “gay” in school sexualizes kids. We know what they really want is for kids not to hear the message that trans and gay people are perfectly normal, minority members of society. Some conservatives are deeply ideologically invested in gatekeeping LGBTQ people out of “normal.” Others are more cynical, using the wedge issue to advance political agendas and careers. When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis collaborated with the proto-fascist Viktor Orbán regime in Hungary on anti-LGBTQ tactics, he wasn’t hoping the U.S. could become more like a failing state. He was looking for ways to cement his personal power like Orbán has done, by going to war against gender and sexual minorities. I don’t know, and I don’t really care, if DeSantis is more sincere or more cynical, but whichever the case, I care that kids are taking the brunt of the fire. I care that Trevor Project, which is something like a field hospital in a battle zone, is now taking direct fire. It’s bad enough that the latest tactic in the War on LGBTQ is to return to the bad old days of calling us sexual predators. It’s bad enough that LGBTQ teens are hearing that message, internalizing it, and contemplating suicide in increasing numbers. Trevor Project itself is staying out of the controversy, above the fray, telling the Blade on background that they intend to keep their focus on helping kids. But at least one member of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, also on background, is sounding the alarm, asking advocates and the general public to tell anti-LGBTQ warriors to back off suffering kids. There’s a fine line to be struck between amping the controversy and educating the public, but all Americans, parents especially, need to understand that helping kids matters more than scoring political points. So if anyone asks you about Trevor Project, tell them this: they help talk kids off railings. Tell them that’s what matters. LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MAY 06, 2022 • 15

Hulu’s joyful ‘Crush’

New film solidifies 2022’s status as banner year for queer representation By JOHN PAUL KING

It’s only May, and already 2022 is shaping up to be one of the queerest years on record when it comes to film. It’s certainly a breath of fresh air, particularly in a cultural environment marked by increased and aggressive anti-LGBTQ sentiment from the eternally bigoted social and religious conservatives of the extreme right, and while it’s impossible to ignore (and unwise to disregard) their rhetoric and their thinly veiled authoritarian attempts to legislate us out of existence, we have every right to take a moment to enjoy the fact that we live in a time when queer lives and queer stories can grace our screens without portraying us as victims, villains, freaks, degenerates or worse. What’s even more gratifying – and definitely a step in the right direction – is the increased diversity on display in these queer stories. Where once most of us had to settle for mostly seeing gay men (usually white) as stand-ins for our entire community, we’re now getting a growing number of movies that place the focus on the other colors of our rainbow, and it’s a welcome reminder of the beauty that exists in acknowledging and accepting the experiences of everyone. Consider, for instance, “Crush,” Hulu’s newest entry to the LGBTQ teen romance genre, which started streaming on April 29, and puts a lesbian love story in the spotlight. It’s true that, in an era before LGBTQ characters could be brought to the screen with the freedom and genuine lived experience that makes today’s queer movies feel so authentic, women in love – or at least, in lust – with each other were often seen as “acceptable” in mainstream cinema. While we had lesbian stories, however, those stories were almost always told by men, and straight men at that, leaving us with romanticized (or more accurately, fetishized) depictions that were hopelessly tainted by the male gaze. While movies like “Basic Instinct” and “Bound” may have been successful films that brought queer women into the public eye, they can scarcely be said to have presented a positive or even relatable image in which any real-life lesbian viewers might be able to recognize themselves. Nothing could be further than the case in “Crush,” a film with the advantage of having actual women building it from the ground up. Directed by Sammi Cohen (making her feature directorial debut) from a screenplay by Kirsten King and Casey Rackham, it’s the story of Paige (Rowan Blanchard), a freshly out high-schooler with a passion and a talent for art. Though she has no interest in sports, she impulsively joins the school’s track team in a bid to get closer to the beautiful and popular Gabriela (Isabella Ferreira), the team’s co-captain, on whom she has harbored a longtime crush. She knows nothing about track, however, so the team’s coach (Aasif Mandvi) assigns her to Gabriela’s twin sister AJ ( Auli’i Cravalho) for training. As their friendship grows, she begins to develop unexpected feelings – a situation complicated by the threat of potential suspension over mistaken accusations of vandalism due to a wave of anonymous graffiti art that has been appearing all over the campus. Desperate to find the real culprit, Paige enlists AJ to help solve the mystery and clear her name, and soon finds herself facing a dilemma over which of the two sisters she really wants to pursue. Written by King and Rackham with the deliberate intention of capturing the joy of growing up queer rather than usual turmoil and trauma that accompanies so many



(Photo courtesy Hulu)

LGBTQ coming-of age stories, the pair were inspired by their own life experiences. Cohen, drawn to the project for similar reasons, directs the film with an eye toward bringing that all-too-rare positivity to the screen, and the result is an upbeat, infectiously happy tale of young love that should, as a perhaps ironic consequence, be eminently relatable to a mainstream (i.e. non-queer) audience, too. Yes, there is some drama – choosing between multiple crushes is hard, after all, and the threat of punishment over something you didn’t do is enough to turn any teenage life into a Hitchcockian suspense – but none of it ever seems to dim the brightness that shines straight from the movie’s proud heart. Equal share of credit for that irresistible optimism is due to the authenticity of a young cast that seems, above all, to be having a lot of fun; Blanchard and Cravalho establish a charming chemistry from their first moments together onscreen, which keeps us rooting for the inevitable outcome even when they can’t yet see it, and Ferreira plays against the stereotype of the ”popular girl” to create a gracious, genuinely lovely persona that makes it easy to see why anyone would have a crush on her. Tyler Alvarez and Teala Dunn, as a couple who are Paige’s best friends and sidekicks, are engaging and well-drawn enough to keep them from being simply a token “straight couple,” and Megan Mullally proves once more why she’s not only a queer icon but a national treasure as Paige’s libido-driven mother, ravenously pursuing her daughter’s track coach in an amusing reversal of pursuer/pursued gender roles that will keep the grown-ups chuckling, too. That’s fortunate, because “Crush,” like many comedies aimed at teens, sidelines its adult characters and relies on them mostly for comic relief, and while younger viewers may be engrossed, the movie admittedly eschews sophisticated nuance in exploring the emotional ups and downs of its romantic triangle. Likewise, in choosing to set this lesbian love story in an environment where queerness is normalized and acceptance is seemingly universal, it provides a welcome template for the world we want to see (not to mention the invaluable contribution of giving young LGBTQ+ people the positive representation they so desperately need), the non-existence of homophobia it presents will inevitably be a bit beyond the capacity of some adult viewers to willingly suspend their disbelief. “Crush” is a movie that is determined to MAKE us believe, however, and to show us what life could be like for our children if we did. Thanks to its unmistakable sincerity and unshakable good will, it goes a long way toward succeeding.


In a world ravaged by global warming, pandemics, and natural disaster, King Lear is a man who has brought his country through turmoil, but at what cost?







TheWallis.org/Lear This production was made possible by generous support from Michael and Meeghan Nemeroff / Vedder Price.

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5/2/22 11:32 AM


Two lively, entertaining new books from Deaf creators DiMarco’s memoir and Novic’s ‘True Biz’ give visibility to oft-ignored community

In the 1970s, while riding the T in Boston, a man tried to get my attention. He seemed to be talking animatedly with his hands. Knowing nothing about sign language, I thought he might be drunk. I ignored him, unfolded my white cane and got off at my stop. I’m legally blind, but have some vision. But, I don’t always recognize people whom I’ve met. Later that day, I learned that the fellow on the T’s name was Fred and that he was Deaf. He’d seen me at a party and was signing hi to me. Fred, I’m so sorry for my rudeness! Then, aside from the sad-sack Deaf character in the novel and movie of the same title “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” Deaf people, like queer people, largely, weren’t present in books, movies, TV – anywhere in pop culture. Except as victims, villains or metaphors for loneliness or deviance. Thankfully, after decades. this is changing. As Troy Kotsur, said of “the Deaf community, the CODA [children of Deaf adults] community and the disabled community,” when he became the first male Deaf actor to win an Oscar, “This is our moment.” Today, Deaf and disabled people, queer and non-queer, from models to artists to filmmakers to authors are pop culture creators and icons. Two of the most lively, entertaining, moving books out now are by Deaf creators. “Deaf Utopia” is a fascinating memoir by Nyle DiMarco with Robert Siebert. DiMarco, 32, is proudly Deaf and queer. His parents and grandparents are Deaf. He knows how to keep your attention. His stories range from his first kiss with a man to auditions with reality show execs (who want him, a Deaf guy whose native language is American Sign Language to “use his voice”) to harrowing accounts of being abused by his father. DiMarco is an activist, producer, actor, and model. In 2014, he became the second male winner and first Deaf contestant on cycle 22 of “America’s Next Top Model.” In 2015, DiMarco, with his professional dance partner Peta Murgatroyd won the Mirrorball Trophy on season 22 of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” His acting credits include roles on “Difficult People,” and “Switched at Birth.” DiMarco, a Gallaudet University graduate and Washington, D.C. resident, was executive producer of the Netflix docuseries “Deaf U.” Growing up, he and his twin brother Nico had “gotten a taste of the cruelty of hearing people toward the Deaf when childhood bullies mocked our signing,” DiMarco writes. As with queer people who are mocked as children, DiMarco as he got older came to see that bullying could “take more harmful and sinister forms: blatant oppression and discrimination.” He learned from his mother that in 1995, five years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, his grandfather was denied an interpreter when he was in the hospital. When he went into surgery, his family didn’t know if his “life was in danger,” DiMarco writes. The Deaf community isn’t immune to homophobia. As a youth, DiMarco was told the story of an acclaimed, handsome Deaf track sprinter. After marrying a woman, having two children and living the life of the “picture-perfect” family


‘Deaf Utopia: A Memoir–and a Love Letter to a Way of Life’ By Nyle DiMarco

c.2022, William Morrow | $22.99 | 336 pages

man, he killed himself. Years later, DiMarco discovered that the legendary athlete was gay, when he met the sprinter’s Deaf European out male lover. The athlete told his lover that he couldn’t come out. “I wondered how long it would be before I saw him again,” the athlete’s lover told DiMarco, “I never did. Soon after that, he took his own life.” Despite these sad stories, “Deaf Utopia” is far from a downer. It is filled with moments of pride and exuberance from DiMarco’s mom being there when he and Murgatroyd were awarded the Mirrorball Trophy to when he was asked to be an executive producer of “Deaf U.” Coming out, DiMarco had to deal with homophobia and being excluded from the queer community because he’s Deaf. He met a lot of “cool” gay people at LGBTQ events and he spoke in American Sign Language at the 2016 Human


Rights Campaign annual dinner. Yet, “my new gay acquaintances were hearing and didn’t know ASL,” DiMarco writes. But he didn’t give up. With time and patience, DiMarco taught hearing queer people ASL, and hearing LGBTQ people began to include him in their conversations. “Deaf Utopia” has entertaining dish about what it’s like behind the scenes of reality shows. But it’s not a celeb tell-all. The memoir is an exhilarating mix of stories of DiMarco’s life and intriguing narratives of Deaf culture. Take just one thing “Deaf Utopia” made me get for the first time: silent movies, with no spoken dialogue, were accessible to Deaf people. If you’re hearing, you’ll likely be surprised by one sobering story of Deaf history: Alexander Graham Bell was instrumental in having sign language, the native language of Deaf people, banned from schools for the Deaf. If you like reality shows, dancing and parties laced with queerness and Deaf culture, “Deaf Utopia” is the book for you. “True Biz” is the dazzling new novel by Sara Novic, a brilliant Deaf writer. Like DiMarco, Novic, author of “Girl at War” and “America Is Immigrants,” is proud of being Deaf. “To be a member of the Deaf community has been a great source of joy in my life,” she writes in an “author’s note,” “it has made me a better writer, thinker, parent, and friend.” Schools for Deaf people have been vitally important for Deaf culture, language and community. “True Biz” is set at the fictional River Valley School for the Deaf. Riverdale is facing closure. The novel’s main characters are February Waters, the headmistress, and two teenage students Austin and Charlie. February is a CODA (child of Deaf adults). She and her hearing wife Melanie love each other. But like many marriages, their marriage has its strains. February must deal with everything from teen sex to Riverdale’s impending closure. Austin is a proud Deaf teen. His family has been Deaf for generations. Nothing shakes up his life until he meets up with Charlie, a new student. Novic is a master of creating characters that burn themselves into your heart. Charlie, who is Deaf, will tug at your heart the most. Her divorced parents are hearing. Her folks won’t let Charlie communicate in American Sign Language. Charlie attends mainstream schools where she meets no Deaf people. Her mom insists that she have a cochlear implant. When she fails academically, Charlie is sent to Riverdale. Adjusting is hard for her because the Riverdale students communicate with ASL. She has to quickly learn to sign. February asks Austin to help her fit in. You’ll miss and root for these characters after reading this page-turning novel. You’ll want February and her wife to stay together and good things to happen to Austin and Charlie. “True Biz” is an American Sign Language idiom. In English, it means “seriously” or “for sure.” Seriously, read “True Biz.”


New York City is ready to dazzle visitors again By HEATHER CASSELL

New York City felt like it was almost its bustling self again as I walked through the streets enjoying the warm spring weather during a recent trip. The city, like many others, is forever changed after more than two years of the COVID pandemic, but in true New York fashion, the Big Apple is coming back. It was my second trip within six months after about a two and a half year break. New Yorkers rolled up their sleeves (more than 80% are vaccinated [LINK: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/ covid-19-data-vaccines.page]), masked up, and have done pretty much everything they can to get their groove back. However, COVID subvariants continue to emerge in the ongoing pandemic. Some venues are still enforcing proof of vaccination and masks. Face coverings are still required (https://www.nytimes.com/article/nyc-mask-mandaterules.html) on all public transportation until further notice and in Broadway theaters at least until May 31. Recently, COVID cases have been on the rise in New York due to the new highly contagious Omicron subvariant, BA.2.12.1. People planning to visit should check the city’s visitor site (under Basic Information) for the latest. (https:// visitnewyork.com/) Some Broadway shows have canceled performances due to COVID. Other shows are taking place. New restaurants are opening, and reservations are harder to get than ever before. New museum exhibits are opening. Big events are coming back like New York Pride [LINK: https://www. nycpride.org/], which returns in-person June 26 with the theme “Unapologetically Us.” “Our community has been through tremendous hardships over the past few years, beginning with the pandemic, and continuing with a reckoning with social justice, threats to our democracy, and more recently armed conflict overseas,” stated NYC Pride’s new executive director, Sandra Perez, in a March 25 news release. “Compounding these struggles is the onslaught of legislation around the country that directly targets LGBTQIA+ individuals. “In spite of these challenges and attacks, we are here to tell the country and the world: we will not be erased,” Perez continued, stating that the community will stand together to face the attacks on the LGBTQ community across the country and around the world. “We will continue to love and live our truth and be our full and complete selves – and we are not going to apologize for it.” NYC Pride board Co-Chair Sue Doster noted the importance of the annual celebration that attracts upward of two million people from across the United States and all over the world. “We’re thrilled to be able to finally invite everyone back,” she stated. Tourism officials said the city is rebounding. “The city is as vibrant as ever,” said Chris Heywood, a gay man who’s executive vice president of global communication of NYC & Company, New York City’s destination marketing and convention and visitors bureau. (https://business. nycgo.com/) The pandemic did not completely stop New York from retrofitting, innovating, and building new hotels, spectacular sites, and opening new restaurants. “That’s the beauty about New York,” Heywood continued.

New York City Pride returns to an in-person march in Manhattan June 26. (Photo: Heather Cassell)

“Resilience is really our middle name. People are going to encounter a city that is continuing to come back.”

New attractions

Some of the new things to see in New York are Summit One Vanderbilt [LINK: https://summitov.com/], the Moynihan Train Hall [LINK: https://moynihantrainhall.nyc/], and Little Island, the latest park near the Chelsea Piers. [LINK: https://littleisland.org/] The city’s newest vantage point is at Summit One Vanderbilt. The Summit is a 65,000 square foot space at the top of the 93-story office and residential building at One Vanderbilt adjacent to Grand Central Station. The observatory deck opened in October 2021. It is much more than the highest view (for the moment) of New York City; it’s an experience with a view. Each room is an art installation accentuating the feeling of being high in the sky or in the clouds. At the very top are Apres and the Summit Terrace, where my girlfriend and I enjoyed a cocktail while admiring New York’s sparkling skyline under the night sky. Tickets to catch the sunset view cost about an extra $16. The Summit does not itemize what the extra amount is at checkout, but it’s for experiencing the Summit at the golden hour, the optimal time of day. It wouldn’t be New York City without the many opportunities to see art. This spring and summer visitors can catch the 80th edition of the Whitney Museum of American Art [LINK: https://whitney.org/]’s “Biennial 2022: Quiet As It’s Kept [LINK: https://whitney.org/exhibitions/2022-biennial],” which opened April 6. The two-floor exhibit brings together a survey of 63 American artists exploring the darkness and disruption of 2020. The title is a colloquial phrase taken from the late novelist Toni Morrison. The show runs through September 5. Henri Mattise lovers can take in a rare exhibit of the French artist’s early works that formed modern art at the Museum of Modern Art [LINK: https://www.moma.org/] exhibition “Mattise: The Red Studio [LINK: https://www.moma. org/calendar/exhibitions/5344],” which opened May 1. The show runs through September 10.

A new view of New York City from The Summit at One Vanderbilt. (Photo: Heather Cassell)

The Brooklyn Museum [LINK: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/] is featuring “Andy Warhol: Revelation” [LINK: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/andy_warhol_revelation], showing now through June 19. Brooklyn Academy of Music [LINK: https://www.bam. org/] is featuring the DanceAfrica Festival [LINK: https:// www.bam.org/danceafrica-festival2022], which is celebrating its 45th anniversary through the end of this month. I rarely leave New York without seeing at least one show on Broadway [LINK: https://www.broadway.com/]. Right now, it’s all about the classics and some new musicals (“Wicked,” “Chicago,” and “Funny Girl”) and plays (“Plaza Suite” and “To Kill A Mockingbird”).

Dining and drinking

Food draws my girlfriend and I to New York just as much as Broadway’s musicals. For this trip, I sought out restaurants that were old favorites that survived the pandemic, some that were reborn, and others that were new. During the day we lunched at the fun, cheeky and very gay diner Cafeteria [LINK: http://cafeteriagroup.com/]; a Chelsea neighborhood staple, Elmo [LINK: http://elmorestaurant.com/]; and famed chef and restaurateur David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar [LINK: https://momofukunoodlebar. com/].




Molly Shannon’s memoir will make you roar Unexpected tragedy and a twist deliver powerful read By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

The audience roars. That’s music to a performer: The best you can ask from a group of people expecting to be entertained is approval for your efforts. Laughter, for a comedy. Gasps for a drama. Tears for a tragedy and tapping toes for a musical, that’s what you want. But remember: as in “Hello, Molly,” the new memoir by Molly Shannon, not all of life’s a stage. For most of her life, Molly Shannon’s mother stood off to one side, a main character with a big role but few lines. She was killed in a car accident when Shannon was just four, as if she made a cameo appearance and then was off the script. But not entirely. With the help of family and friends, Shannon’s father, Jim, raised Shannon and her sister, Mary, to remember their mother and to seize life in every way possible, encouraging his girls to be bold and “wild.” Once, when Shannon was 13 and her best friend was 11 years old, Shannon’s father planted the idea in her head to hop a plane. The girls ended up stowing away in plain sight on a flight from Cleveland (near their home town) to New York City. He paid for their trip back home. And yet, being Jim Shannon’s daughter wasn’t all fun and games. He was an alcoholic, as was his father and his father-inlaw; when he was sober, Shannon recalls parties, spontaneous trips, loving encouragement, and permission to skip school. When he was drunk, she says that she and her sister were always watchful for his mercurial moods and his propensity for a

‘Hello, Molly! A Memoir’ By Molly Shannon

c.2022, Ecco | $27.99 | 304 pages


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different kind of “wild” behavior. She couldn’t wait to leave home. And yet, through college, a fledgling career, and a popular spot on “Saturday Night Live,” her father was always there, always a touchpoint for her past but also an irritation; enormously proud of her, but with a short wall between them. It wasn’t until she was well into her adulthood that Shannon realized he harbored a secret, and then everything made sense. You don’t expect a terrible, gasp-worthy accident to be the foundation for a funny story, but there it is, the opening number in “Hello, Molly.” Quickly, though, author Molly Shannon pulls readers in – somewhat awkwardly, at first, but in the same excited way that your fourth-grade BFF did when there was something important or interesting that you simply had to see. That, in fact, is the feel you’ll get in the first part of this book: like you’ve been taken by the hand and pulled toward something that was going to make this the best day ever. As you read on, that’s not much hyperbole. If you like Shannon’s work, you’re going to adore this memoir, which appears a lot like her skits: hectic, heartfelt, hold-your-sides hilarious, honest, and always, always arms-wide charming. Bring your sense of humor here – but bring tissues, too. So, take a look, fellas. Here’s what you want in a book, fellas. “Hello, Molly!” is gonna make you roar.


New York City is ready to dazzle visitors again At night we hit the town enjoying dishes crafted by some of New York’s finest lesbian chefs. Chef and restaurateur duo Rita Sodi and Jody Williams’ beloved Via Carota [LINK: https://www.viacarota.com/] lived up to the hype. You can’t go wrong with pasta, but this is exceptional pasta. I also dined at the culinary couple’s newest venture The Commerce Inn [LINK: https://www.thecommerceinn.com/]. It veers away from the chefs’ usual turf, French and Italian cuisine, exploring and modernizing American Shaker dishes that hit the mark. Lesbian executive chef Hillary Sterling crafted a distinctive Italian menu at Ci Siamo [LINK: https://www.cisiamonyc. com/], restaurateur Danny Meyer’s latest culinary venture. Lesbian executive chef Mary Attea at the Michelin-rated The Musket Room [LINK: https://www.musketroom. com/] serves a revisioned world on your plate. There was no doubt that I wouldn’t enjoy chef and restaurateur Mark Strausman’s new restaurant Mark’s Off Madison [LINK: https://www.marksoffmadison.com/], which has a warm atmosphere and incredible, flavorful comfort food. Two unique restaurants that might signal a shift in the queer culinary scene in New York are Tagmo [LINK: https:// www.tagmonyc.com/] and Hags [LINK: https://hagsnyc. com/]. Both restaurants are queer-owned and -operated. They actively hire LGBTQ staff and are deeply involved in the community. Queer chef Surbhi Sahni is the heart behind Tagmo, an Indian restaurant that opened in Seaport, a small shopping and dining center near One World Trade Center [LINK: https://www.wtc.com/about/buildings/1-world-trade-center], in September 2021. Tagmo is not your average Indian restaurant. Dining there is a gastronomic adventure through India with all its diverse cuisines. The much-anticipated Hags is targeted to open just ahead of Memorial Day weekend, May 25. The Lower Eastside restaurant aims to be the first upscale queer restaurant, according to business and life partners Telly Justice, a transgender woman, and Camille Lindsley, a queer woman. New York’s nightlife isn’t quite what it used to be like yet. My girlfriend and I enjoyed early nightcaps at Tiny’s & The Bar Upstairs [LINK: https://www.tinysnyc.com/] in Tribeca, the historic Stonewall Inn [LINK: https://thestonewallinnnyc.

Queer chef and restaurateur SURBHI SAHNI brings the world of India to New York at Tagmo restaurant in the Seaport neighborhood. (Photo: Courtesy of Tagmo/Brittainy Newman)

com] in Greenwich Village, and Bar Veloce [LINK: https:// www.winebarveloce.com/] in Chelsea. Village lesbian bar mainstays – Henrietta Hudson [LINK: https://henriettahudson.com/] and Cubbyhole [LINK: https://cubbyholebar.com/] – and Brooklyn’s Ginger’s Bar [LINK: https://www.instagram.com/gingersbar_brooklyn/?utm_medium=copy_link] got makeovers during the pandemic and recently reopened. Catch roving lesbian events hosted by Dyke Beer [LINK: https://lovedykebeer. com/#events] and Dave’s Lesbian Bar [LINK: https://www. instagram.com/daveslesbianbar/?hl=en] on their websites or follow them on social media. The boys are back in action from Midtown to Harlem with bars and nightclubs for every stripe in the rainbow flag. Check out Midtown’s swanky The Townhouse of New York [LINK: https://townhouseny.com/]. Head to the West Village’s Playhouse [LINK: https://www.playhousebar.com/] or get nostalgic at New York’s oldest gay bar Julius’ [LINK: https://juliusbarny.com/] and the historic Stonewall Inn. Head uptown to Harlem for the last remaining Black-owned gay bar Alibi Lounge [LINK: https://www.alibiharlem.com/].

Where to stay

My girlfriend and I stayed at the Smyth Tribeca [LINK:

Restaurateurs chef TELLY JUSTICE, right, and sommelier CAMILLE LINDSLEY, are about to open Hags, New York’s first-ever queer fine dining restaurant. (Photo: Courtesy Hags)

https://www.smythtribeca.com/]. The newly renovated modern 100-room hotel opened in September 2021. The hotel is comfortable, chic, and perfectly located on the corner of Chambers Street and West Broadway above the Westside’s 1 line. The subway line is a direct vein to Broadway, the Village, and many of New York’s most popular destinations.

Getting around

New York’s metro is going touchless with Omny [LINK: https://omny.info/], an app that allows riders to tag on and off the subway and buses with their smartphones and other smart devices. Riders can choose to use the Metro Card or the app to get around the city.



Trey McBride is first NFL player drafted to have same-sex parents ‘They’ve been great role models for me and my brothers’ By DAWN ENNIS

Although not one football player drafted by NFL teams NFL draft pick TREY MCBRIDE and his parents. (Screenshot/NBC TODAY) this weekend publicly identifies as anything other than straight or cisgender, the Arizona Cardinals made LGBTQ sports history Saturday with their second-round pick of Trey McBride. The two-time All American tight end from Colorado State University is the son of two very proud lesbian moms, and the first NFL player ever drafted who has parents in a same-sex relationship. “This has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid,” McBride told the Fort Collins Colorodan. “To finally be drafted and to be officially an NFL player, this is, man, this is so special.” Trey, 22, is 6-foot-4, weighs 246 pounds and caught 90 balls for 1,121 yards last year. He’s one of five children Kate McBride has with her longtime partner, Jen. Trey has a twin brother, Dylan, two older brothers named Bryce and Toby, who was a star linebacker in Fort Collins, and a younger sister named Taya. Their moms said they countered the possibility their children might be bullied because of their relationship, by raising them to recognize what they had as a family. “You always worry about your kids,” Jen told NBC earlier this week. “Because we were all kids. We know how kids are. But the main thing with them is, be confident in who you are. You come from a family that every single one of us are in your corner, no matter what, anytime in the day. events reflect as wide and inclusive a cross-section of our fan So, nobody really talked about bullying.” base as possible.” Trey called growing up with his moms “pretty special.” Joel Horton, who played in Phoenix for the PGFFL and is “It’s heartwarming and they’ve been great role models for currently the league’s Gay Bowl liaison, was joined by NGFme and my brothers, so it’s cool to see how they raised us and FL Commissioner Shigeo Iwamiya and Jodie Turner, who is on it’s just very special for us,” he said. the league’s Board of Directors. “I’m excited to see him just live his dream,” Kate told the “It’s overwhelming,” said Horton, who became the first out Today show. “When your kid comes to you when they’re little gay person to announce an NFL draft pick. and they say they want to be president, you’re like, ‘OK, honey, “They could have easily done this without us,” Iwamiya that’s great.’ He wanted to play in the NFL, and he’s going to told KNXV-TV, “but the fact they went out of their way to do do it.” this means so much to a sports organization regardless of “I’m excited as heck,” the newly-minted Arizona Cardinal who they are.” said after becoming the 55th selection on Friday night. “I feel The player they announced, Cameron Thomas, is 6-foot-4, like I can run through a brick wall right now.” weighs 267-pounds and won the Mountain West Defensive McBride’s selection wasn’t the only LGBTQ highlight of the Player of the Year and was an AP All-American. 2022 NFL Draft, but once again it was the Arizona Cardinals Right now in the NFL, there is only one out gay player, Carl who were responsible for making it happen. Nassib, who was released last month by the Las Vegas RaidWhen the team selected San Diego State defensive end ers. He was the first-ever active NFL player to come out as gay. Cameron Thomas with their third-round pick Friday night, the Free agent R.K. Russell came out as bisexual three years 87th overall, they did so with the help of members of the Naago but has not yet been re-signed by a team. It will be eight tional Gay Flag Football League, who announced Thomas in a years ago next month that Michael Sam made history as the historic move to promote inclusivity. first out gay man to be drafted by an NFL team. After a long “Both the NFL and the Cardinals enjoy strong support from absence, Sam is finally back on the gridiron as a defensive line a large, diverse fan base and the LGBTQ+ community is cercoach for the Barcelona Dragons of the European league. tainly part of that,” Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill told KNXVRetired lineman Ryan O’Callaghan told students in a talk at TV. “Including members of this community among the many Drexel University earlier this month that he expects two or fans representing teams throughout the draft is part of an more players to come out as gay, “probably in this off-season.” important and intentional effort that these types of league




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