(Poster designed by Kaija Sydlowsk)
MAY 20, 2022 • VOLUME 06 • ISSUE 20 • AMERICA’S LGBTQ NEWS SOURCE • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Thousands gather for ‘Bans Oﬀ Our Bodies Rally’ in DTLA
Several thousand Angelenos joined the hundreds of thousands of Americans including women, men, kidsBlack, Latino Asian, LGBTQ+ marching across the nation Saturday to protest the potential overturn of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision after the leak of the U.S. Supreme Court’s draft opinion. The crowds were joined by politicians and dignitaries including U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who gave a speech to the rally, LA Mayoral candidate Congresswoman Karen Bass, (D-37), California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the First Partner and wife to California Governor Gavin Newsom, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Tony Hoang, the Executive Director of Equality California and the President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Alexis McGill Johnson. In his speech Padilla delivered remarks on the importance of defending access to safe, legal abortion at the federal level. The “Bans Oﬀ Our Bodies” was a daylong event organized by groups including Women’s March, Planned Parenthood
Action Fund, UltraViolet, MoveOn, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Abortion Rights Action League. From Pittsburgh to Pasadena, California, and Nashville, Tennessee, to Lubbock, Texas, tens of thousands participated in “Bans oﬀ our Bodies” events. Organizers expected that among the hundreds of events, the largest would take place in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other big cities, the Associated Press reported. “If it’s a ﬁght they want, it’s a ﬁght they’ll get,” Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, said before the march. Saturday’s rallies come three days after the Senate failed to muster enough votes to codify Roe v. Wade. Sponsors included the Women’s March, Move On, Planned Parenthood, UltraViolet, MoveOn, SEIU and other organizations. At the Chicago rally, speaker after speaker told the crowd that if abortion is banned that the rights of immigrants, minorities and others will also be “gutted,” as Amy Eshleman, wife of Out Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot put it, the Associated Press noted.
U.S. Sen. ALEX PADILLA addresses ‘Bans Oﬀ Our Bodies Rally.’ (Photo by Samuel Garrett-Pate)
“This has never been just about abortion. It’s about control,” Eshleman told the crowd of thousands. “My marriage is on the menu and we cannot and will not let that happen,” she added. BRODY LEVESQUE
WeHo in brief: City government in action this week
The City of West Hollywood is reminding community mem(Photo by Uriel Malak Brewer/Facebook) bers about events surrounding the upcoming #WeHoPride season. The City will provide regularly updated information about WeHo Pride 2022 programming as it becomes available: • WeHo Pride Weekend will take place on Friday, June 3, 2022, Saturday, June 4, 2022, and Sunday, June 5, 2022 in and around West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard and will include will include a free WeHo Pride Street Fair representing a diverse array of LGBTQ+ community groups as part of visibility, expression, and celebration. • The annual Dyke March and the new Women’s Freedom Festival will take place beginning on Friday, June 3, 2022 at 5 p.m. The Dyke March will feature the presentation of the Melissa Etheridge and Community Activist awards, a poetry reading, sign-making and supplies, speakers, a DJ, and the Dykes on Bikes contingent. The Dyke March will step oﬀ and return to the corner of Robertson and Santa Monica Boulevards. The Women’s Freedom Festival will take place immediately following the Dyke March at the #WeHoPride Street Fair stage and will feature emerging LGBTQ and BIPOC women and non-binary musicians, comedians, poets, and activists, along with a featured performance from Milck, singing her latest protest song, We Won’t Go Back. • WeHo Pride Weekend will feature OUTLOUD: Raising Voices, the award-winning three-day LGBTQ concert series produced by JJLA at West Hollywood Park. Headliners, artist lineup, and ticket information are available by visiting https://weareoutloud.com. • The City of West Hollywood’s Pride Parade will step-oﬀ at noon at Crescent Heights Boulevard on Sunday, June 5, 2022 and will make its way west along Santa Monica Boulevard to the City’s Rainbow District. • WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival (formerly known as the One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival) will take place during 40 days from Harvey Milk Day on Sunday, May 22, 2022 to Thursday, June 30, 2022 live at various locations throughout the City of West Hollywood, along with selected online programming. The theme for 2022 is With Liberty, Diversity, Inclusion, and Progress For All. The
WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival runs for 40 days, from Harvey Milk Day through the end of Pride month and is organized by the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division with input from the City’s Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board, Transgender Advisory Board, Arts and Cultural Aﬀairs Commission, and community partners. A full calendar of events is available online. More information and details about WeHo Pride Weekend will be posted as it becomes available at www.weho. org/pride. Dyke March and Women’s Freedom Festival is scheduled to take place on Friday June 3, 2022. OUTLOUD: Raising Voices Three-Day LGBTQ Concert Series Produced by JJLA Take Place from Friday, June 3 to Sunday, June 5 WeHo Pride Parade will Step-Oﬀ at Noon on Sunday, June 5 Along Santa Monica Boulevard WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival Will Take Place from Sunday, May 22 to Thursday, June 30 For more than three decades, the City of West Hollywood has been home to the largest Pride celebration in Southern California, as hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people and allies from around the world make West Hollywood their destination for the Pride season. Home to the “Rainbow District” along Santa Monica Boulevard, which features a concentration of historic LGBTQ clubs, restaurants, and retail shops, the City consistently tops lists of “most LGBTQ friendly cities” in the nation. Since incorporation in 1984, the City of West Hollywood has become one of the most inﬂuential cities in the nation for its outspoken advocacy on LGBTQ issues. No other city of its size has had a greater impact on the national public policy discourse on fairness and inclusiveness for LGBTQ people. More than 40 percent of residents in West Hollywood identify as LGBTQ and three of the ﬁve members of the West Hollywood City Council are openly gay. The City has advocated for nearly four decades for measures that support LGBTQ individuals and the City is in the vanguard on eﬀorts to gain and protect equality for all people on a state, national, and international level. For more information about WeHo Pride, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Events Services Division at firstname.lastname@example.org. FROM STAFF REPORTS LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MAY 20, 2022 • 03
LA trans sex oﬀender arrested for murder in Kern County
An individual convicted of violently sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in a Palmdale Denny’s restaurant restroom in 2014, was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Kern County on charges of felony murder and robbery in an unrelated case. H a n n a h HANNAH TUBBS Tubbs, 27, who (Booking photo via the Los Angeles County Sheriﬀ’s Dept.) identiﬁes as a trans female, is charged under her birth name in the most recent charges which stem from the Kern County case in 2019. Tubbs appeared in a Kern County courtroom in Bakersﬁeld to face charges connected to the April 21, 2019 death of Michael Clark. Tubbs is being held in Kern County jail on $1 million bond and is being detained in the men’s section. Kern County prosecutors are referring to her as James Edward Tubbs. Tubbs has a long criminal history in addition to the sex oﬀender conviction in Los Angeles. She was arrested on a 2019 battery charge in Idaho, where in that case her DNA was matched in a national database relative to the LA County case for which she was arrested in November of
2021. Tubbs in 2020 was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon other than a ﬁrearm in Kern County, according to Kern County court records. Ricardo Santiago, a spokesman for the LA County District Attorney’s Oﬃce, said Tubb’s transfer from the juvenile facility to Kern County jail was based on a 2019 warrant that was approved by a judge. “District Attorney George Gascón is committed to protecting the public and especially our children,” Santiago told The Post on Monday. “In this case, Hannah Tubbs continues to serve her Los Angeles County sentence, while being prosecuted on an unrelated robbery charge in Kern County. … A no bail warrant has been obtained in the Los Angeles County case so oﬃcials here will be notiﬁed if she is released from Kern County.” She was at the center of a controversy after Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mario Barrera sentenced Tubbs to a LA County youth facility for two years in isolation. That ruling provoked widespread outrage over Gascón policies in regard to prosecution of juveniles for major felonies. When he took oﬃce in December of 2020, he announced a wide-reaching agenda of reforms for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s oﬃce which included he will stop charging juveniles as adults. In the Tubbs case, Judge Barrera stated that essentially, under current legislation, a person who commits a crime as a juvenile and is jailed in a juvenile facility once they turn 19, the court has no authority to transfer that person to an adult facility. “This court will not disregard what the legislature has put onto it as a limitation,” he said. Since the case remained in juvenile court, Tubbs will not
be required to register as a sex oﬀender. Tubbs could have been sentenced to almost a decade in prison if she was tried and convicted as an adult. As pressure mounted on Gascón, in an interview with LAist reporter Frank Stoltze, the LADA said, “We now have a year under our belt. We have seen the things that are not necessarily working as well as I would prefer.” Going forward, Gascón said decisions on juvenile cases will be made on “a case-by-case basis” and “at the highest levels” of his oﬃce. His position however, abruptly changed when it was learned by his staﬀ that Fox News had obtained a jailhouse recording of Tubbs bragging about getting oﬀ lightly. Fox reported that the explicit recordings of Tubbs reveal her admitting it was wrong to attack a little girl but gloating over the light punishment. “She boasted that nothing would happen to her after she pleaded guilty and then laughed that she won’t have to go back to prison or register as a sex oﬀender. She also made explicit remarks about the victim that are unﬁt to print.” “I’m gonna plead out to it, plead guilty,” Tubbs says in one recording. “They’re gonna stick me on probation, and it’s gonna be dropped, it’s gonna be done, I won’t have to register, won’t have to do nothing.” “You won’t have to register?” her father later in the conversation. “I won’t have to do none of that,” Tubbs replies. “So what are they going to do to you then?” He asks. “Nothing,” Tubbs says in reply, then laughs. In an email to the Los Angeles Times, Gascón said his approach was incorrect: “The complex issues and facts of her particular case were unusual, and I should have treated them that way.” BRODY LEVESQUE
Calif. minimum wage projected to increase to $15.50 per hour
California’s minimum wage is projected to increase to $15.50 per hour for all workers on January 1, 2023. The accelerated increase is required by a provision in the state’s existing minimum wage law when inﬂation exceeds 7 percent. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in persistent supply chain disruptions and labor market frictions have driven inﬂation to its highest rate in 40 years. These conditions have further been exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine. The wage increase will beneﬁt millions of California households that are struggling to keep pace with the highest rate of inﬂation in decades. For years, the state minimum wage has increased steadily while inﬂation numbers remained modest. As people throughout the country face increasing costs due to global inﬂation, Governor Gavin Newsom today announced an $18.1 billion inﬂation relief package to get money into the pockets of Californians. “We enacted the most comprehensive economic stimulus program in the nation last year, getting billions in immediate relief to millions of Californians. But many folks are still struggling, especially with high costs due to inﬂation, so we’re leveraging this historic surplus to get money back into
the pockets of Californians,” said Governor Newsom. “This inﬂation relief package will help oﬀset the higher costs that Californians are facing right now and provide support to those still recovering from the pandemic.” Newsom’s inﬂation relief package includes: • $11.5 Billion for Tax Refunds to Help Address Inﬂation. As the entire country faces increasing costs due to inﬂation, Governor Newsom proposed getting $400 checks to every eligible registered vehicle owner, capped at two checks per individual. • $2.7 Billion for Emergency Rental Assistance. Governor Newsom is proposing signiﬁcant state funds for qualiﬁed low-income tenants who requested rental assistance before March 31, helping these Californians get the support they need. • $1.4 Billion to Help Californians Pay Past-Due Utility Bills. As Californians continue to face diﬃculties in paying for utility bills, this investment expands upon last year’s utility relief program to continue this vital support – $1.2 billion for electricity bills and $200 million for water bills. • $933 Million for Hospital and Nursing Home Staﬀ. Providing up to $1,500 to hospital and skilled nurs-
04 • MAY 20, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
ing facility workers who have been delivering care to the most acute patients during the COVID-19 pandemic and saved thousands of lives. $750 Million for Free Public Transit. Governor Newsom is proposing incentive grants to provide three months of free public transportation for communities throughout the state. $304 Million to Make Health Coverage More Aﬀordable for Middle-Class Families. This extends health insurance premium assistance under Covered California for families of four earning up to $166,500 annually, upwards of 700,000 Californians. $439 Million to Pause the Diesel Sales Tax. Bringing relief to the commercial sector and drivers, Governor Newsom is proposing a 12-month pause in the sales tax rate for diesel fuel that would provide upwards of $439 million in relief. $157 Million to Waive Child Care Fees for Low-Income Families. Making state-subsidized preschool and child care more aﬀordable, beneﬁtting 40,000 low-income California families with savings of up to $595 per month. BRODY LEVESQUE
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Newsom proposes reproductive health package
As the U.S. Supreme Court appears prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade and states throughout the country pass laws to restrict access to reproductive health care and ban abortions, Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a Reproductive Health Package to expand access to these vital services and welcome companies from anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ states. The Newsom administration continues eﬀorts to maintain and improve availability of safe and accessible reproductive health care services and prepare for a potential inﬂux of people from other states seeking reproductive health care and abortion services. “California will not stand idly by as extremists roll back our basic constitutional rights; we’re going to ﬁght like hell, making sure that all women – not just those in California – know that this state continues to recognize and protect their fundamental rights,” said Governor Newsom. “We’re expanding access to these critical services, welcoming businesses and their employees ﬂeeing anti-abortion states, and reaﬃrming our commitment to continuing to work closely with the Legislature and reproductive rights stakeholders to further solidify California’s leadership on abortion rights.” Newsom’s Reproductive Health Package includes $125 million to further bolster California’s health care infrastructure, expand access to services for patients, and help prepare for the inﬂux of people seeking reproductive health care from other states. Today’s announcement, which adds $57 million to January’s $68 million proposal, includes the following: • Cover Uncompensated Care for Peoples Uninsured for Abortion Services. $40 million for grants to reproductive health care providers to oﬀset the cost of providing care to low- and moderate-income individuals who do not have health care coverage for abortion care services. • California Reproductive Justice & Freedom Fund. $15 million for grants to community-based reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations to conduct medically accurate and culturally competent outreach and education on
Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM
(Screenshot via KTLA)
sexual health and reproductive health issues. • Comprehensive Reproductive Rights Website. $1 million to develop and maintain a website that provides accurate and updated information to the public on the right to abortion under state law, information about reproductive health care providers, and options for coverage for reproductive health services, including state-funded coverage and programs. • Research on the Unmet Needs for Reproductive Health Care Services. $1 million for research regarding the unmet needs for access to reproductive health care services. These new proposed investments build oﬀ of Newsom’s California Blueprint in January, a $68 million package to: • Invest in Reproductive Health Clinical Infrastructure. To support California’s clinical infrastructure of reproductive health care services, the Blueprint included $20 million to provide scholarships and loan repayments to health care providers that commit to providing reproductive health care services. • Capital Infrastructure, Improved Security. The Blueprint included $20 million to assist reproductive health care facilities in securing their physical and information technology infrastructure and to enhance facility security. • Make Reproductive Health Care More Aﬀordable. The Blueprint included $20 million to subsidize the cost of abor-
tion care for Covered California consumers due to federal payment limitations for abortion coverage. • Remove Barriers for Reproductive Health. To make it easier to get the medical care needed for family planning and reproductive health, the Blueprint removed Medi-Cal requirements for in-person follow-up visits and ultrasounds if not medically necessary. • Family Planning, Access, Care and Treatment (PACT) HPV Vaccine Coverage. The Blueprint included $8 million to add the human papillomavirus vaccine as a covered beneﬁt under the Family PACT program, eﬀective July 1, 2022. In addition to these critical investments, Newsom is further investing in California’s values and growing the state’s inclusive economy by proposing incentive opportunities for businesses to relocate to California or grow jobs and their economic footprint here from states with anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ laws. By updating existing business incentive programs to provide additional consideration for companies leaving states that have enacted restrictions on reproductive rights and anti-LGBTQ+ laws, Newsom is welcoming companies that share California’s values and doubling down on the diversity that makes our economy a global leader. Newsom’s Reproductive Health Package includes proposals championed by members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. Today’s announcement builds upon the recent action of Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Atkins and Assembly Speaker Rendon to advance a constitutional amendment to enshrine the right to an abortion. The governor has also eliminated out-of-pocket costs for abortion services and signed into law a legislative package to strengthen access and protect patients and providers. And, in October, Governor Newsom announced the Administration’s participation in the California Future of Abortion Council, to collaborate with advocates, policymakers, providers, patients and others on ways to advance the state’s reproductive health leadership. BRODY LEVESQUE
Garcetti announces new outdoor watering restrictions In a press conference last week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and oﬃcials from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) announced that outdoor watering in the city will be restricted to two days a week starting June 1. The announcement comes as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California declared an unprecedented water shortage emergency two weeks ago, imposing restrictions after MWD’s board voted to adopt the emergency measures to “reduce non-essential water use” in certain areas. Cities and smaller water suppliers that get water from MWD are required to start restricting out-
06 • MAY 20, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
door watering to one day a week, or to ﬁnd other ways to cut usage to a new monthly allocation limit. In Tuesday’s press conference Mayor Garcetti said L.A.’s two-day limit was still more lenient than the one imposed by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which has ordered many of its member agencies to restrict outdoor watering to once a week. Sprinkler watering will be allowed on Monday and Friday at odd-numbered addresses in the city, and even-numbered addresses on Thursday and Sunday. BRODY LEVESQUE
West Hollywood’s LGBTQ Arts Festival kicks oﬀ May 22 Virtual staged reading of ‘Dear Harvey’ features all trans, non-binary cast
FROM STAFF REPORTS Celebration Theatre, LA’s oldest theatre Each year, the City of West Hollywood dedicated to producing LGBTQIA+ work. celebrates the artistic contributions of The reading will be available for the the LGBTQ community with its WeHo public to view for free on the City’s WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival (formerly Arts YouTube page (www.youtube.com/ known as the One City One Pride LGBTQ wehoarts) for one week, from May 22 Arts Festival). through May 29, 2022. The festival runs for 40 days, from HarThe City has also installed Our Pride, vey Milk Day on Sunday, May 22, 2022 a mural by artist LaToya D. Peoples on through Thursday, June 30, 2022, which the N. Sweetzer Avenue east-facing wall marks the end of Pride month. This year, of West Hollywood City Hall, located at some events will be presented in-person 8300 Santa Monica Boulevard. The mural and others will be available online. features four hands, symbolic of LGBTQ Note that for all all programming deequality, activism, and pride: the ﬁrst is tails please visit pride.weho.org. a ﬁst, symbolizing the LGBTQ and BIPOC The LGBTQ Arts Festival is presented community’s ﬁght against oppression in addition to WeHo Pride Weekend from throughout history; the next is a painter’s Friday, June 3, 2022 through Sunday, June hand symbolizing the community’s cre5, 2022 and will include a Street Fair, the ativity and openness; the next hand holds Dyke March, the Women’s Freedom Festia sunﬂower, a symbol for self-love and val, the ticketed OUTLOUD Raising Voices the seeking of light; and ﬁnally, a hand in Music Festival, and the WeHo Pride Paa classic peace sign. rade. The background is a gradient bright For decades, the City of West Hollysky, symbolic of the progress the comwood has been home to the largest Pride munity has made and has yet to make. celebration in Southern California. HunOur Pride, a mural by artist LATOYA D. PEOPLES (Photo by Jon Viscott) Each hand is painted realistically, in color, dreds of thousands of LGBTQ people and representing diverse people. Installation allies from around the world make West is complete and the mural will remain on Hollywood their destination for the Pride City Hall through May 2023. season. Home to the “Rainbow District” along Santa Monica Boulevard, which features a The Meringue public art exhibition by LGBTQ artist Kim Kiduck will be lit up in pink, light concentration of historic LGBTQ clubs, restaurants, and retail shops, the City consistently blue, and rainbow colors for the duration of Pride Month. The translucency of Meringue tops lists of “most LGBTQ friendly cities” in the nation. All #WeHoPride weekend programlets sunlight in to glow naturally during the daytime, and at night transforms Meringue ming details: www.weho.org/pride. into a mixing chamber of various light combinations. Meringue is located in the median on “The City of West Hollywood is thrilled to be producing the LGBTQ Arts Festival and #WeSanta Monica Boulevard near N. Doheny Drive. HoPride for our community again this year,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Some highlights of the 40-day festival include: Meister. “The City has a long-standing and proud commitment to both the arts and the LGBTQ • QUEER DIASPORAS: Lavender City of Dreams presented by Rubén Esparza and community, and what better way to meld those commitments than with the #WeHoPride Queer Biennial – May 27, 2022 through August 19, 2022. Free. Online exhibition LGBTQ Arts Festival? Join the City online and in-person for art exhibits, thought-provoking with some in-person events at ONE Gallery. Touching on issues of identity, acpanel discussions, entertaining performances, invigorating creative writing, educational tivism, futurity, and beauty where queerness is the thread that weaves through self-guided walking tours, and even our very own queer ComicCon, where cosplay is enall these personal – yet universal -perspectives. Realized in imagined (no limits) couraged and celebrated. Pride starts right here in West Hollywood and I’m looking fordigital galleries, spaces, and textures as the backdrop, along with up-to-the-minward to seeing you all in-person and virtually!” ute live performances on May 28, June 3, and June 4, 2022. View the exhibition The WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival theme for 2022 is “With Liberty, Diversity, Inclusion beginning May 27, 2022 and ﬁnd in-person event info at www.lavendercity.art and Progress for All” and this year’s festival poster was designed by Kaija Sydlowski through an open call poster competition which received submissions from around the world. • Queer Crossroads – June 1, 2022, 10 a.m. Free. Online at https://www.youtube. The City of West Hollywood will celebrate Harvey Milk Day, kick-oﬀ #WeHoPride, and com/channel/UCcTAimXuIpWYkLkUeRZdxiw – An exploration of queer interseccommence the LGBTQ Arts Festival with a virtual staged reading of the play Dear Harvey: tionality through video performance and conversation! What else do we bring to Stories of Harvey Milk, by Patricia Loughrey. our beautiful queer spaces? Are you queer and Black, diﬀerently-abled, neurodiExtensively researched and beautifully constructed, this documentary-style ensemble vergent, HIV positive, Trans, Muslim, etc.? Let’s meet and share our stories in this play recounts the life and lasting impact of groundbreaking LGBTQ activist and politician workshop where intersectionality is explored and championed. Harvey Milk, as told by the people who knew him best … the real-world ﬁgures whose lives were forever altered by Milk’s too-short career. This spirited play reaﬃrms his impact and • Write Out Proud LGBTQ writing workshops – Wednesdays and Saturdays in June. the continued relevance of his campaign towards equality, three decades after his assasFree. When we Write Out Proud, we share the love of who we are for the world sination. to see, so the world can become better at loving us back. We write fun and ﬂirty This year’s production features an entirely transgender and non-binary cast including: stories of our magical LGBTQ selves inﬂuenced by our personal ideas of gender, Luckie Alexander, Blossom C. Brown, Abdullah “Abby” Rahsheen Hall, Marval A. Rex, Mallsexuality, and sexual orientation. All are welcome, both new and seasoned writery Jenna Robinson, Sydney Rogers aka Miss Barbie-Q, and Emily Westheimer. This perforers. This no-cost four session writing workshop will take place virtually on Zoom. mance is directed by Brittney S. Wheeler and produced by Parnell Damone Marcano and 08 • MAY 20, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
LOCAL There are two workshop groups, each with the same writing prompts and plans. One group meets on Wednesday evenings in June from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the other group meets on Saturday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. culminating on Wednesday evening June 29, 2022 with an online reading of writings for those who care to participate. For more info go to writeoutproud.com. To sign up for this free workshop email email@example.com. • Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Pledge Allegiance to Your Flag: A Festival of LGBTQ Flags – June 4, 2022 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at various locations. Free. The Sisters will delight you as they work their butts oﬀ to erase shame and stigma and lovingly help you to claim your LGBTQ identity by choosing from a myriad of their spectacular LGBTQ color guard ﬂags (or bring your own!) and create your personalized made-up mad cap mad lib Pledge of Allegiance. The Sisters will record content for you for your Pride media posts with Sisters, your ﬂags, and your pledge. For details: http://www.writeoutproud. com/pledge.html • Church of Trans Love – June 5, 2022 at 2 p.m. Free. The ﬁctitious ‘The Church of Trans Love’ presents a queerdo take on ecclesiastical liturgical practices in the tradition of ‘The Book of Mormon’. The audience plays a ‘full, active, and conscious’ role in the show. The Church of Trans Love performance includes music from David Bowie and features Key Exchange, the show’s gospel choir of professional trans and non-binary singers. More information: https://bit.ly/churchtranslove. • WeHo Reads: Pride & Joy in the Matrix – June 7, 2022 at 6 p.m. Free. Online, RSVP: www.weho.org/wehoreads. LGBTQ+ authors are taking a hard look at society IRL and virtually, pinpointing the ways we come up short in connecting with and loving each other. • Pride Poets – “Pledge” Poetry Hotline – June 11, 2022 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again from June 11, 2022 at 11 p.m. to June 12, 2022 at 2 a.m. Free. Call (202) 9983510. LGBTQ poets are standing by ready to tackle all your poetic needs! Call in and have an original poem created for you or a loved one. This year’s theme is “Pledge: come share your allegiances with us!” • Q Con: A One Day Comic Convention Celebrating LGBTQ Comics – June 18, 2022 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Plummer Park’s Fiesta Hall, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. Free. Find an exciting, diverse selection of LGBTQ comics and graphic novels all in one place! Talk to creators, get autographs! Q Con is family friendly, and admission is free. Cosplay is encouraged. Join in the costume contest for fun and prizes! For the latest updates on Q Con, visit https://www. prismcomics.org/q-con. • Trans Pride LA 2022: The VarieTy Show – June 18, 2022 at 7 p.m. RSVP required. Free. For more information and to RSVP: https://transpride.lalgbtcenter.org/. The VarieTy Show serves as the grand ﬁnale of the annual Trans Pride LA Festival.
Our Pride, a mural by artist LaToya D. Peoples (Photo by Jon Viscott)
More detailed information and a full list of the City of West Hollywood’s LGBTQ Arts Festival 2022 programming is available at pride.weho.org. In addition, archived online programs from 2020 and 2021 are available to view. Among these is a collection of short ﬁlms which tell the fabulous, fun, and deep LGBTQ history of the City of West Hollywood called the Stuart Timmons West Hollywood LGBTQ History Tour. Acclaimed author/historian Stuart Timmons (author The Trouble With Harry Hay, co-author of GAY L.A., former executive director of the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives) was in the process of writing his West Hollywood LGBTQ History Tour as the ﬁnal in a trio of walking tours (Downtown Los Angeles and Silverlake are the other two) when he suﬀered a debilitating stroke in 2008. The tour remained incomplete until the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division funded its completion as part of the City’s 2015 LGBTQ Arts Festival, allowing Timmons and a small team to help ﬁnish his research, bringing it to completion as both a self-guided walking tour and a special in-person event featuring performance artists as tour guides. This fun and informative tour returned for two more years, and in 2021, was recorded as a collection of short ﬁlms that can be viewed on the City’s WeHo Arts YouTube channel. The City of West Hollywood’s #WeHoPride LGBTQ Arts Festival is organized by the City’s Arts Division. The City of West Hollywood is committed to providing accessible arts programming for residents and visitors. The City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division delivers a broad array of arts programs including: Art on the Outside (temporary public art), Urban Art Program (permanent public art), Summer Sounds, Winter Sounds, the WeHo Reads literary series, Free Theatre in the Parks, Arts Grants for Nonproﬁt Arts Organizations, Library Exhibits and Programming, the City Poet Laureate Program, Human Rights Speakers Series and the #WeHoPride LGBTQ Arts Festival. For additional information, please visit www.weho.org/arts. For more information about the City of West Hollywood’s WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Coordinator, Mike Che, at (323) 848-6377 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.weho.org/pride. LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MAY 20, 2022 • 09
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5/11/22 10:35 AM
Inﬂuential LGBTQ activist and author Urvashi Vaid dies Former National LGBTQ Task Force executive director succumbed to cancer at 63
By BRODY LEVESQUE of all people,” Carey said. Urvashi Vaid, a powerful longtime inﬂuential attorHer time at the National Gay and Lesbian Task ney and LGBTQ activist whose career spanned from Force, in which she held multiple positions for over 10 the early days of the AIDS pandemic to the contemyears, notably media director, then executive direcporary battles over equality and equity for the LGBTQ tor, saw her bring all aspects of queer life and strugcommunity died Saturday after a bout with cancer at gle into the public eye. While at the Task Force, she her home in New York. co-founded the annual Creating Change conference, Vaid, 63, known for her extensive career as an adnow in its 33rd year. vocate for LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, anti-war “I ﬁrst met Urv in the early 1980s when we were eﬀorts, immigration justice and many other social both young attorneys and lesbian activists in Washcauses, had served as the executive director of the Naington, D.C.,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri tional LGBTQ Task Force from 1989-1992 and served L. Jean. “As we became friends and, eventually, colprior to that as the organization’s media director. leagues, I admired her leadership and all that she “We are devastated at the loss of one of the most accomplished, both within and outside of our moveinﬂuential progressive activists of our time,” said Kiment—for queer people, for women, for people of erra Johnson, current executive director of the Nacolor and against poverty. She continued her work to tional LGBTQ Task Force. “Urvashi Vaid was a leader, advance equity and justice until the very end. a warrior and a force to be reckoned with,” continued “I’ll always be grateful to Urv for being one of the Johnson, “She was also a beloved colleague, friend, people who encouraged me, back in 1992, to accept partner and someone we all looked up to—a brilliant, LORRI L. JEAN, REA CAREY, URVASHI VAID and MATT FOREMAN the job running the Los Angeles LGBT Center. And (Photo courtesy of the National LGBTQ Task Force) outspoken and deeply committed activist who wantwhen the National LGBTQ Task Force faced severe ed full justice and equality for all people.” ﬁnancial challenges in 2001, she played the key role “Her leadership, vision, and writing helped shape in recruiting me to step in and help turn things around, not only the Task Force’s values and work but our entire lending her support every step of the way. queer movement and the larger progressive movement. “Over the years, we spent many an hour laughing and We will strive every day to live up to her ideals and model scheming about ways to advance the causes we cared the courage she demonstrated every day as an activist and so deeply about. Urvashi was a visionary. But she was so a person. She will be deeply I missed. I miss her already,” much more: Brilliant, hilarious, charismatic, loving, deterconcluded Johnson. mined and, above all, courageous. She made life better Vaid’s impact on the politics of the the AIDS crisis and the for all of us. Our community and our nation owe her an battles over full equality was considerable. During former enormous debt of gratitude. Our hearts go out to Urvashi’s President George H.W. Bush’s 1990 address on AIDS, Vaid, wife, Kate Clinton, and to everyone who loves her. If there’s then the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian a heaven, Urv is already organizing the angels.” Task Force, made a statement with her sign: “Talk Is Cheap, Troy Masters, the founder of Gay City News in New York, AIDS Funding is Not.” Her critique made waves, disrupting and current publisher of the Los Angeles Blade noted the press conference, and shedding light on the failures of upon hearing the news, “On a day when millions march the Bush administration. to protect our rights and stand up to a right-wing SCOTUS, Another former executive director of the National LGBTQ we celebrate the life of one of our greatest social justice Task Force, Rea Carey noted in her post on Facebook: “I am LGBTQ and AIDS warriors—keep shining on Urvashi Vaid.” deeply sad that Urvashi Vaid has died. My heart is with Kate In 1995, after resigning from her position at the Task and all of Urv’s beloveds who have been with her these last Force three years prior, she published her ﬁrst book, “Viryears, months and days as she dealt with cancer. My activtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberism has been greatly shaped by the fact that Urv took me ation,” in which she criticized the idea of “mainstreaming” seriously as a young leader in our movement. She seemed what was and is, in fact, a civil rights movement. Rather endlessly excited about the ideas and passion for justice URVASHI VAID with her longtime partner KATE CLINTON. than tolerance, she argued, the objective for the movethat young activists held. She was one of our movement’s (Photo via Facebook) ment should be fundamental, actionable change. It was motivators and north stars. not an immediately popular notion, as media representa“Whenever Urv called, I’d clear my schedule for the next tion for queer people was just beginning to take shape, though it was, for her, of great hour (at least!), pull out a pen and pad of paper and prepare to feverishly write down what moral importance. In 1996 “Virtual Equality” won the Stonewall Book Award. were likely to be 10-20 rapid ﬁre ideas of things she thought I should be doing, or doing In her position as president of the Vaid Group, Vaid advised, mentored, and supported much better … tomorrow! the LGBTQ movement. “Urv pushed me to see connections, dig deeper, and I was a better activist and leader for In 2012, Urvashi Vaid launched LPAC, the ﬁrst lesbian Super PAC, and it has since investit. Her impact within the National LGBTQ Task Force carried on long after she left its staﬀ. ed millions of dollars in candidates who are committed to social justice through legislation. The sheer intellectual and strategic hole in our movement’s drive towards liberation and Prior to that, Vaid held positions on the boards at the Ford Foundation, the Arcus Founfreedom, left by Urv’s death, is hard to grasp. dation (where she served as executive director from 2005 to 2010) and the Gill Foundation. “Up until her last months she was creating projects, mentoring others, pushing for liberShe was a leader in the development of the ongoing National LGBTQ women’s commuation, gathering data through the National LGBTQ+ Women’s Community Survey. The only nity survey. thing I ever saw Urv be more passionate about than her pursuit of freedom and liberation, Vaid was the aunt of activist and performance artist Alok Vaid-Menon. She is survived by was her love for Kate, their family, and her energy for her friends. Alok Vaid-Menon as well as her longtime partner, political humorist Kate Clinton. “The best way we can honor Urv is to continue to ﬁght for justice and the full liberation 12 • MAY 20, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
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Appreciating lesbian thinker, activist Urvashi Vaid ‘A whip-smart lesbian of color who stood up and fought’
By KAREN OCAMB Urvashi Vaid was whip smart. She could look at you with some analysis spinning behind her eyes and then smile a deep broad smile and you could exhale as a shared vision started coursing through your veins — a warrior sisterhood striving and ﬁghting for liberation. And you didn’t even know liberation was on your wish-list. It’s hard to register that Urvashi Vaid is gone. Urvashi could seduce your brain with elevated and clear-spoken common sense. And damn if she couldn’t rile you up and spur you to action as she did in Sacramento in 1991 after Republican Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed AB 101, the gay rights bill he promised to sign, and with her 1993 speech at the March on Washington. And we needed that. After years of excruciating pain losing lovers, family and friends while Ronald Reagan’s spokesperson laughed about the scourge of AIDS in the White House press room, a serious LGBTQ political movement was emerging in the late 1980s. And igniting those righteous ﬂames of fury was this short, thin, proud lesbian of South Indian heritage who exuded the perfume of power. She knew her stuﬀ. And she was at ease with powerbrokers, including Hollywood A+ types who made history attending an August 1991 beneﬁt for the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, thrown by gay Hollywood manager Barry Krost, entertainment attorney Alan Hergott and Hergott’s lover, NGLTF Board co-chair Curt Shepard. Hollywood was ﬁnally showing up for AIDS beneﬁts — but gay rights was still just too controversial. It was a very big deal.
URVASHI VAID died of cancer at age 63.
(Screenshot from The Charlie Rose Show/PBS)
Among our own, Urvashi would let fools yammer on with puﬀed-up opinions. But eventually she would halt us with a glance, a quick quip or a concise Marxist-ish dissertation on any situation and its connection to poverty, rendering you dumbstruck, agog – pick a synonym. Urvashi was a teacher, a mentor — though I don’t think she thought of herself that way. She was merely trying to help a brother or sister — especially younger folks — learn to think diﬀerently, think for themselves, and think of themselves as part of the larger movement for civil rights. One moment perfectly captures that for me. I was a freelancer covering the monumental 1992 Creating Change conference in Los Angeles. That was the year when esteemed gay author Paul Monette (Borrowed Time) ripped up a picture of the Pope, freaking out a lot of Catholic Latinos. I kept an eye on Urvashi and her pal Torie Osborn, head of the
14 • MAY 20, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
LA Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center, as they talked art with closeted LA City Councilmember Joel Wachs, as well as the usual leadership discussions, debates and skirmishes among activists in a heightened political year. I also covered breakout sessions and one proved to be particularly daunting. It was a discussion about race in the gay movement. A young ﬁerce gay Asian artist named Joel B. Tan took over the discussion and challenged my press credentials, my commitment to the movement, and my ability to report ANYTHING accurately or fairly about that meeting because I’m white. He called for a vote on whether I should be allowed to stay or get kicked out. Some folks in the room, familiar with my reporting since the late 1980s, defended me. I was prepared to get shamefully kicked out when Joel went just a tad too far and started claiming the Task Force itself was a cauldron of white racism. In fact, the whole damn gay movement was basically a rich white gay conspiracy to get power and use everyone else as pawns. When Joel ﬁnally took a breath, a muﬄed sound came from just outside the room. We looked and there was Urvashi, casually leaning on the door jamb with Phill Wilson, then co-founder of the National Black Gay & Lesbian Leadership Forum and of the LA chapter of Black and White Men Together. “What about us?” Urv asked very simply. The tension evaporated, I was allowed to stay and racism within the gay community was discussed with passion but without grandstanding. (I called Joel later and he said my report was acceptable.) The tension eased so quickly because Urvashi had been ﬁghting systemic racism at every level for a very long time, including within the gay community. Her power was smarts, compassion, humor — and credibility. Not to say Urvashi was perfect. In fact, I had a serious disagreement with her over an incident that happened in Los Angeles. There was a ballot initiative that called for a new statewide Insurance Commissioner to be appointed by the governor. APLA Board Chair Dr. Scott Hitt and political consultant David Mixner opposed the initiative, which drove some AIDS activists crazy. We were in the middle of the second wave of AIDS and we needed government help. Hitt and Mixner explained that they didn’t oppose the idea, just the method: the Insurance Commissioner should be elected, not appointed. Imagine if we had a governor more horriﬁc than Pete Wilson? I reported that and activist writer Stuart Timmons freaked out. He wrote a 7,000 word thesis in a treading-water alternative weekly bashing Hitt and Mixner. He also showed up at my apartment screaming about how I was afraid of these prominent politicos. I was pissed — so I did my own deep dive into his tome and found people who complained that he quoted them out of context or actually changed their quotes to ﬁt his activist premise. Eventually, we all moved on, including me since Stuart was friends with my friend Harry Hay. But then Urvashi quoted extensively from Stuart’s disinformation piece in her book Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation. I tried to reach her but failed. I later heard her cite Stuart’s story as an example of bad gays. I fumed for a moment, then let that go, too. Besides, Urvashi was doing so much good. And her relationship with Kate Clinton was so cool and extraordinary. I learned what a “soft butch” was — but that’s another story. Urvashi Vaid is appropriately being lauded as an exemplary warrior for justice and civil rights. I remember her as a whip-smart lesbian of color who stood up and fought but also oﬀered peace and hope when possible — as she did appearing with conservative gay writer/editor Andrew Sullivan on the Charlie Rose show before the 1993 march. Last July, Urvashi was the guest on Gay USA, anchored by her friends Ann Northrop and Andy Humm. She talked about the National LGBTQ+ Women’s Survey, an American LGBTQ+ Museum — and about ﬁghting breast cancer. Urv seemed upbeat but a burdened aura of mortality cloaked her Zoom appearance. She seemed determined to approach death as she had lived — educating people about our ongoing ﬁght for liberation and, with a deep, broad smile and thoughtful eyes, telling the truth about her own humanity. Thank you, Urvashi Vaid.
Brian Sims, three other LGBTQ candidates lose races in Pa. Gay, trans hopefuls competing for Philly state house seat lose to straight ally By LOU CHIBBARO JR. | email@example.com
LGBTQ candidates running for the U.S. Senate, lieutenant governor, and a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in Philadelphia’s ‘gayborhood’ each lost their races in the Keystone State’s May 17 Democratic primary. Transgender community activist Deja Alvarez and LGBTQ rights and economic development advocate Jonathan Lovitz, who ran against each other in a four-candidate race for the 182nd District State House seat in Center City Philadelphia, were thought to have the best shot at winning among the four LGBTQ candidates running in the state primary. The two were running neck-and-neck to one another but were trailing far behind straight LGBTQ ally and businessman Ben Waxman as of late Tuesday evening. With the votes counted in 52 of 59 of the district’s electoral divisions, Waxman had 41.6 percent of the vote, Lovitz had 19.1 percent, with Alvarez garnering 18.6 percent. Café owner, community activist, and LGBTQ ally Will Gross had 20.5 percent of the vote. Lovitz and Alvarez along with Waxman and Gross were running for the seat held by gay State Rep. Brian Sims, who gave up the seat to run in Tuesday’s primary as the state’s ﬁrst out gay candidate for lieutenant governor. Sims lost that race to fellow State Rep. Austin Davis by a margin of 63.3 percent for Davis and 24.5 percent for Sims with 88 percent of the votes counted. The Associated Press declared Davis the winner early in the evening. A third candidate in the race, Ray Sosa, had 12.2 percent of the vote. In a development that surprised many observers outside Pennsylvania, more than 40 prominent LGBTQ leaders from across the state endorsed Davis over Sims earlier this year, saying Davis is a strong and committed supporter of LGBTQ rights and has the best chance of winning in the general elec-
more LGBTQ residents than any other tion in November. legislative district in the state, drew the Davis also received the strong backing most attention among LGBTQ activists of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh both in Philadelphia and in other parts of Shapiro, who ran unopposed in Tuesthe country. day’s primary for the Democratic nomBoth have been involved in LGBTQ ination for governor. Shapiro, who also rights issues for many years. Lovitz drew received strong backing from LGBTQ acsupport from a wide range of LGBTQ and tivists, said he considered Davis to be his labor and small business leaders who running mate in the primary. he knew in his past role as senior vice The fourth of the LGBTQ candidates president of the National LGBT Chamber running in Tuesday’s Pennsylvania priof Commerce. Alvarez, a widely known mary, State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta of transgender activist who led local comthe 181st District in North Philly, ran as munity-based organizations providing a longshot candidate for the state’s U.S. BRIAN SIMS lost his race for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor. services to the LGBTQ community, would Senate seat being vacated by GOP in(Blade ﬁle photo by Wyatt Reid Westlund) have been the ﬁrst transgender person cumbent Patrick Toomey. Kenyatta lost to serve in the Pennsylvania General Asto Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, sembly if she had been elected to the State House seat. who was declared the winner with 88 percent of the votes The LGBTQ Victory Fund, the national group that raiscounted. es money in support of LGBTQ candidates for public oﬃce, Fetterman had 59.3 percent, with Kenyatta ﬁnishing in third drew criticism from some activists for endorsing Alvarez over place in a four-candidate race with 10.0 percent of the vote. Lovitz. Some argued that the group should have remained U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb ﬁnished in second place with 26.6 perneutral or backed Lovitz, who had raised far more money for cent of the vote as of early Wednesday morning, with IT spehis campaign and appeared to be the most viable of the two cialist and former small business owner Alex Khalil ﬁnishing candidates. Others expressed concern that two LGBTQ candifourth with 4.2 percent of the vote. dates running in a four-candidate race could result in a split in Kenyatta, who was one of three gay speakers who joined the LGBTQ vote that would help the straight candidates, who others in delivering a joint keynote address at the 2020 Demwere known LGBTQ rights supporters. ocratic National Convention, received the endorsement of the As it turned out, the approximate combined share of the Philadelphia Gay News in his bid for the U.S. Senate seat. vote that Alvarez and Lovitz received — 38.2 percent — still The race in which Lovitz and Alvarez competed for the State fell short of the 42.6 percent of the vote received by Waxman. House seat in the 182nd District, which is believed to have
WNBA players ask White House to ‘prioritize’ Griner’s release Phoenix Mercury center detained in Russia in February By MICHAEL K. LAVERS | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Women’s National Basketball Players Association has endorsed a petition that urges the Biden administration to “prioritize” WNBA star Brittney Griner’s release. “It is imperative that the U.S. government immediately address this human rights issue and do whatever is necessary to return Brittney home quickly and safely,” reads the Change. org petition that Tamryn Spruill, a freelance journalist and author, created. “The WNBPA and its members proudly join Tamryn Spruill, the creator of this petition, in demanding that lawmakers prioritize Griner’s return,” it continues. “White House and Biden adminsitration, we ask that you take action today—doing whatever is necessary—to bring Brittney Griner home swiftly and safely.” More than 135,000 people have signed the petition. Spruill on Saturday in a tweet said the WNBPA, a union that represents WNBA players, partnered with them and Change. org “in demanding that our elected oﬃcials work urgently to gain BG’s swift and safe release.” Griner — a center for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her 16 • MAY 20, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Russian state TV has released a photo of WNBA star BRITTNEY GRINER, who was arrested on drug charges in the country after Russian oﬃcials say cannabis oil was found in her luggage. (Screenshot)
wife — was taken into custody at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February. Russian oﬃcials said customs inspectors found hashish oil in her luggage. The State Department earlier this month determined Russia “wrongfully detained” Griner. A Russian court on Friday extended her detention for another month. “The Russian system wrongfully detained Ms. Griner,” then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday during her last White House brieﬁng. “We take our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens seriously. And we will continue to press for fair and transparent treatment for all U.S. citizens when they are subject to legal processes overseas.” “Now, because the State Department recategorized her as wrongfully detained, it means that our Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Aﬀairs — it’s quite a title but a well-deserved one — is going to be overseeing this case and leading the eﬀort,” added Psaki. “Because it’s a deliberative process and we know from experience of bringing other Americans home, we’re just not going to detail what those eﬀorts look like at this point in time.” Griner faces up to 10 years in prison.
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V O L U M E 06 I S S U E 20
is a candidate for the seat representing Los Angeles County’s 3rd supervisorial district on the County Board of Supervisors. She currently is an elected member of the City of West Hollywood City Council.
Why I’m running
Lindsey Horvath is a candidate for seat representing LA County’s 3rd district on Board of Supervisors My career is deﬁned by tackling the hardest problems, building diverse coalitions, and delivering results for my community. I’m running to be the next Los Angeles County Supervisor from the 3rd District because I have the determination and experience to make a diﬀerence for the people who need it most. Right now, working families are struggling to keep up with a crush of compounding crises. We need Los Angeles County to step up and protect workers’ rights while creating a thriving local economy. We need sustainable, supportive housing and services for the people living on our streets and community-focused public safety services that keep us all safe. We need our government to work for us. I’m ready to use my experience leading the region on issues like homelessness, public safety, transportation, and economic development to put Los Angeles County back to work for the people. Throughout my career as a public servant, I have scored victories for my community on advancing the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people, as well as creating age-friendly, sustainable neighborhoods, and I’m just getting started. Of all the candidates, I bring a proven record of bridge-building, community engagement, and innovative problem-solving on the local level. Like many Angelenos, I am a renter, a millennial, and someone who directly faces the needs of working people. My experience and connections at the local level have delivered opportunities to serve in statewide and national leadership roles. I am the only candidate with relevant, current experience at the local level who has the community connections to implement real, on-the-ground, culturally-competent solutions to our District’s most urgent challenges. I’m currently working within County leadership to implement solutions to our homelessness and housing crises as well as our broken criminal justice system, to improve our health and quality of life through enhanced social programs, and to help Los Angeles transition towards a sustainable, clean energy future. I’m also the only candidate who has direct experience navigating the LA County Sheriﬀ’s Department to implement real and lasting change. This includes my work to clear the backlog of untested rape kit evidence and to hold the Sheriﬀ and the Department accountable. As Mayor during the pandemic, I worked with businesses and employees to keep businesses safely open and to improve working conditions. The unique, diverse coalition of support we’ve developed reﬂects the diversity of our region, and makes our 18 • MAY 20, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
campaign uniquely positioned to connect with ALL communities throughout the district. As a municipal oﬃcial for 15 years, I took action to keep our communities healthy for all of our residents by ﬁghting for investment in public safety services, preserving and building more affordable housing, improving public transit by bringing Metro rail to our District ahead of schedule, and ﬁnding solutions to care for and house our growing unhoused population. We need leaders who know how to deliver for our communities. I’ve done this not just in West Hollywood but as Past President of the California Contract Cities; Board Member for the National League of Cities (NLC); Past President of Women in Municipal Government (WIMG) for the National League of Cities; Chair of the Liability Trust Fund Claims Board & Oversight Committee; and Executive Committee Member and Legislative & Regulatory Chair for Clean Power Alliance of Southern California. Combating homelessness is a top priority for me. My leadership in the City of West Hollywood has produced an intersectional approach to solving homelessness – including housing, services, and community safety – that has delivered results. In addition to inclusionary housing, I have championed the production of transitional, supportive, and long-term aﬀordable housing solutions. I also initiated the City’s request to have dedicated LASD Mental Evaluation Teams (MET), which combine a clinically-trained social worker with a public safety professional to respond to relevant calls. We need to establish teams to meet people where they are with the relevant support they need, including mental health services, addiction recovery, and job training, instead of leaving them to face the additional challenges of navigating the endless bureaucratic process alone. We must invest in solutions that take into account the root causes of homelessness, rather than wastefully spending more public dollars without solving the foundational problems. We also need to take immediate action to transform Los Angeles into a leading clean energy county. Climate change is an issue that requires bold action, which is why I supported the adoption of net-zero policy goals to set my community on the path to becoming a zero-carbon city, and I will work with cities and neighborhoods to do the same across Los Angeles County. Throughout my career, I’ve worked to bring people together to ﬁnd solutions to the toughest local problems. I’m ready to put my skills to work for people of District 3 so that we can build a Los Angeles that works for everyone.
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A Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer,
Aron Solomon, JD,
is the chief legal analyst for Today’s Esquire. He has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world.
Where does wrongful detention of Brittney Griner go from here? She will inevitably be labeled a hostage
It seems like years rather than weeks ago that American political prisoner, Trevor Reed, was released from Russia in a prisoner swap. It also seems like years since an American citizen, basketball superstar Brittney Griner, was taken into custody in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for allegedly having hashish oil in her possession. We now know what many of us believed all along - that Brittney Griner was, in the far too late proclamation by the U.S. government, “wrongfully detained.” In diplomacy-speak, wrongfully detained is synonymous with politically detained, which is super close to what will soon enough inevitably happen - calling Brittney Griner a hostage. Since the beginning of Griner’s detention, I have done dozens of print, radio, TV, and related interviews, and I have a pretty clear view of how and why we got here. As I wrote around six weeks ago, if we read between the lines of what’s being said in traditional and social media, we can extract three key reasons why the Griner situation isn’t getting the attention that it should be and would be if it was a diﬀerent athlete. The ﬁrst reason is that Brittney Griner is not a terribly high-proﬁle athlete. This is patently untrue. As I have been commenting from the minute we learned that she was taken into custody by the Russians, Griner was absolutely the highest-proﬁle American athlete that Russia could have taken into custody as they were preparing for their brutal invasion of Ukraine. The only other high-proﬁle athletes playing in Russia or transiting through at that time were the very few American players in Russia’s top hockey league, the KHL. None are superstars in their sport, as Griner is. The second argument for why Griner isn’t getting the attention she should be is that she is LGBTQ. I have argued that this is a reasonably good hypothesis. It just seems that a straight athlete would be getting a lot more attention and public sympathy than Griner has, in part, yet not in full, because of her sexual orientation. That’s a remarkably harsh position to have to take in 2022, yet it’s clear that Griner doesn’t ﬁt the mold of what many Americans see as that all-American athlete. That one’s sexual or gender orientation should drive the American public’s level of sympathy for one of their own top athletes is a shame, but here we are. The third and most commonly cited reason for Brittany Griner getting less attention than another athlete in a similar situation is that she’s Black. This argument holds little weight with me. Yes, it makes sense that in comparison to a high-proﬁle white athlete, some people are simply going to care less about a Black athlete. Again, that’s a harsh analysis, yet not unaligned with many things going on in the nation today. But I think this is a reductive argument that crumbles under the weight of the analogy that I usually use during TV and radio broadcasts about the Griner case - and that is, what if this was Kyrie Irving? I like to use Kyrie Irving as an analogy because he is a highly controversial
Black athlete. Obviously, NBA players don’t have to have second jobs in places like Russia, Turkey, and China, to make ends meet, as the WNBA women do. But just imagine that Kyrie Irving was traveling alone through Moscow airport. If Irving had been taken into custody by the Russians, I can guarantee that this would be front-page news not just in the sports section but on the front page of all signiﬁcant papers practically every day. That simply hasn’t been the case with Brittney Griner. Every day, I am asked where this goes from here. With Griner’s May 19 hearing delayed “one month” (though at the time of writing, no date has been set), I remained convinced of two things: that this goes to a worse place than we are now and that it progresses painfully slowly. As to the ﬁrst point, to maximize leverage over the United States, it’s likely that Griner will end up somewhere like a Russian labor camp before she ever steps back into the United States. While Russia does not follow the Rule of Law, it would be neither legally nor politically expedient to just hold Griner in a Moscow jail or prison indeﬁnitely. They need to make her situation worse to turn up the urgency of the case for the American government. But this indeed won’t happen overnight. As I’ve also been saying all along, the next hearing date will also be delayed, OR we will learn through a TASS Russian media release that Griner was tried, found guilty of all charges, and sentenced (see labor camp, above). As to what each of us can do, my advice remains the same: Keep talking about it. Make this Brittney as viral as Britney Spears was a year ago. Just as Britney Spears’ freedom from her conservatorship was turbo-charged by the #FreeBritney hashtag, let’s #FreeBrittney now. This is signiﬁcantly less trite than it sounds. There is no indication that the American government doesn’t want you to forget about Brittney Griner. As former hostage Jason Rezaian discussed on an excellent recent Washington Post podcast, he always “calls BS” on those parties, saying we should keep detentions such as Griner’s out of the public spotlight. He advocates being as loud as we can be on this, which is why I keep doing interviews on this issue as much as possible. Ultimately, Brittney Griner will be a political prisoner until the United States and Russia can decide, in crass basketball terms, on a fair player trade. On Friday, we learned that the two sides might actually be in discussions now for a trade involving Griner for notorious convicted arms traﬃcker Viktor Bout, aka the “Merchant of Death.” Unless this can re-enter and remain in the public spotlight, along with any pressure on the government, Britney Griner will not get the treatment she deserves as one of the greatest basketball players of her generation. That the massive disparity between how NBA and WNBA players are compensated laid the foundation for her to be in this position is the harsh reality these leagues face today. Yet it pales compared to the uncertain reality Griner faces today in a Moscow jail.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MAY 20, 2022 • 19
AFTERGLOW ignites minds & heart
By BEKAH WRIGHT play has audiences examining their deﬁnitions of relationships. HOLLYWOOD – Life imitates art, the saying goes. Sometimes, art also serves as a form of During Afterglow’s New York run, Gelman received an inﬂux of messages akin to, “My therapy. Enter Afterglow, a play written and directed by S. Asher Gelman. While he won’t partner of ﬁve years and I went to see the show last week, and we haven’t stopped talking give away what unfolds in the play, Gelman doesn’t hold back about what led up to its creabout it. This morning, we broke up.” Others were from people who refused to bring their ation. So how will audiences view Afterglow? Will they see themselves reﬂected onstage? partners to the play for fear it would open a Pandora’s Box and change their relationship. Will they ﬁnd themselves seeking out therapy? Or will they experience a belief shift? Turn “In relationships, we want to freeze time,” Gelman says. “I’m thrilled Afterglow has engenup the stage lights. The west coast premiere of Afterglow, and its director/writer, are ready dered people with the courage to have these diﬃcult conversations and learn things they for their close-up. might have been afraid of knowing. We evolve as we gain new information about ourCurrently running in Hollywood’s Hudson Mainstage Theatre through June 19, Afterglow selves, and sometimes that information brings us apart.” ﬁrst made its appearance Oﬀ-Broadway and in London. The 90-minute, one-act play opens Gelman realizes he and Mati have been lucky to have their relationship evolve in a parwith a threesome, Josh (Noah Bridgestock) and Alex (James Hayden Rodriguez)–a married allel manner. It’s what made it possible for him to tell Mati he’d developed feelings for couple in an open relationship–who’ve invited Darius (Nathan Mohebbi) to share their bed. Stefano, his now boyfriend. Mati is supportive of the relationship. “Polyamory gets a bad Though Josh and Darius have been chatting online, it’s the ﬁrst time the trio has met. Sudrap,” Gelman says. “People see it as ‘commitment lite,’ but it’s actually commitment heavy, denly, they ﬁnd themselves considering possibilities. “We’ve been brainwashed into a very a delicate balancing act of multiple people’s schedules and needs to ensure everyone’s speciﬁc understanding of what love is, what relationships are, what relationships can be, happiness.” and what love can be,” Gelman says. “The notion of a one-size-ﬁts-all relationship isn’t true Ultimately, Afterglow is a global love story. “It’s a shared experience of what we perceive for everyone. The characters are surprised to learn other possibilities exist.” true love and relationships look like,” Gelman says. “Love is powerful. Love is strong. We It was a similar scenario that led Gelman to pen Afterglow. He and his husband Mati should work towards it, understanding that it doesn’t solve all the issues, and sometimes were a couple of months into opening their relationship when Gelman began seeing somelove just isn’t enough.” one. “The experience almost ended my marriage,” he says. Being brand new to consensual As for Gelman, Mati, Tony, and Stefano, Afterglow’s Los Angeles premiere is giving the non-monogamy, Gelman had diﬃculty navigating the situation. “I was afraid of my feelfour the opportunity to meet in person. “It’s sort of the dream and the nightmare of polyings; I was dishonest about them, which caused a lot of pain.” Guilt-ridden about how he amory when your partners are comparing notes right in front of you,” Gelman laughs. handled the situation, he wrote Afterglow as a way of deconstructing and learning from And for those wondering, Gelman says of his love life, “I’m no longer looking. I’m polythe experience. saturated.” It was during the premiere of Afterglow that reality struck. “We were already polyamorous with our partner Tony, but completely oblivious to it.” Already a great friend, Tony AFTERGLOW did everything with the couple, including spending the night. They embraced the newfound Written and Directed by S. Asher Gelman structure of a throuple. “Our society equates romantic love with ownership and commitOPENS: Thursday, May 5 at 8pm RUNS: Thursday, May 5 – Sunday, June 19, 2022 ment with exclusivity,” Gelman says, “but nobody ever says you shouldn’t be friends with PERFORMANCES: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 7pm. other people because it would take away from your other friendships.” For Gelman, Mati, Ticket prices are $45.00 for General Admission; and Tony, society’s norms didn’t ﬁt. “Loving this other man didn’t mean my husband and I $65 for Premium Admission didn’t love each other as much, or in the same way.” (includes a concessions item plus a souvenir program). As for the characters in Afterglow, the scenario begins with their exploration of an open HUDSON THEATRE - 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles relationship, but the perceived security of their marriage is shaken. Like the three men, the For tickets or more information, please visit www.afterglowla.com S.ASHER GELMAN (Writer/Director) (Photo credit Mati Gelman)
JAMES HAYDEN RODRIGUEZ, NATHAN MOHEBBI and NOAH BRIDGESTOCK star in the West Coast Premiere of “AFTERGLOW” - Written and directed by S. Asher Gelman and now playing at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood. (Photo credit Mati Gelman)
JAMES HAYDEN RODRIGUEZ and NOAH BRIDGESTOCK star in the West Coast Premiere of “AFTERGLOW” - Written and directed by S. Asher Gelman and now playing at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood. (Photo credit Mati Gelman)
20 • MAY 20, 2022 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
NOAH BRIDGESTOCK, JAMES HAYDEN RODRIGUEZ and NATHAN MOHEBBI star in the West Coast Premiere of “AFTERGLOW” - Written and directed by S. Asher Gelman and now playing at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood. (Photo credit Mati Gelman)
NATHAN MOHEBBI (front) and NOAH BRIDGESTOCK star in the West Coast Premiere of “AFTERGLOW” - Written and directed by S. Asher Gelman and now playing at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood.
NATHAN MOHEBBI (front) and NOAH BRIDGESTOCK star in the West Coast Premiere of “AFTERGLOW” Written and directed by S. Asher Gelman and now playing at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood. (Photo credit Mati Gelman)
(Photo credit Mati Gelman)
NOAH BRIDGESTOCK stars in the West Coast Premiere of “AFTERGLOW” - Written and directed by S. Asher Gelman and now playing at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood. (Photo credit Mati Gelman)
JAMES HAYDEN RODRIGUEZ and NATHAN MOHEBBI star in the West Coast Premiere of “AFTERGLOW” - Written and directed by S. Asher Gelman and now playing at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood.
JAMES HAYDEN RODRIGUEZ and NOAH BRIDGESTOCK star in the West Coast Premiere of “AFTERGLOW” - Written and directed by S. Asher Gelman and now playing at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood.
(Photo credit Mati Gelman)
(Photo credit Mati Gelman)
JAMES HAYDEN RODRIGUEZ, NOAH BRIDGESTOCK and NATHAN MOHEBBI star in the L.A. premiere of “AFTERGLOW.” (Photo credit Casey Kringlen)
NOAH BRIDGESTOCK and NATHAN MOHEBBI star in the West Coast Premiere of “AFTERGLOW” - Written and directed by S. Asher Gelman and now playing at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood. (Photo credit Mati Gelman)
NOAH BRIDGESTOCK and NATHAN MOHEBBI star in the West Coast Premiere of “AFTERGLOW” - Written and directed by S. Asher Gelman and now playing at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood. (Photo credit Mati Gelman)
NATHAN MOHEBBI, NOAH BRIDGESTOCK and JAMES HAYDEN RODRIGUEZ star in the L.A. premiere of “AFTERGLOW.” (Photo credit Casey Kringlen)
NATHAN MOHEBBI, NOAH BRIDGESTOCK and JAMES HAYDEN RODRIGUEZ star in the L.A. premiere of “AFTERGLOW.” (Photo credit Casey Kringlen)
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MAY 20, 2022 • 21
Pride is back and better than ever
After two-year hiatus, the season is upon us and ﬁlled with unmissable events By JEREMY KINSER
WEHO PRIDE LGBTQ ARTS FESTIVAL Assorted Locations The gay epicenter’s LGBTQ Arts Festival oﬀers a monthlong array of readings, art exhibits, plays, and concerts at venues around the city. Through June 30. Pride.weho.org.
A BEVERLY HILLS PRIDE CONCERT Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts The ﬁrst-ever Pride celebration in Beverly Hills will feature an evening of live music, poetry, and performances by local luminaries such as Celeste X, Jeshua, and San Cha. Pride.weho.org.
PRINCE AND PRIDE L.A. Kings Burbank Sports Center Who wouldn’t want to go to a funky roller-skating celebration of Prince’s birthday and Pride month? Lakingsburbanksportscenter.com
THE WEHO PRIDE PARADE WeHo’s pride extravaganza kicks oﬀ at noon along Santa Monica Boulevard at Fairfax and ends up at Robertson. CHERRY BOMB WEHO PRIDE TAKEOVER Hotel Ziggy Cherry Bomb, a social group for queer women and gender expansive folks, is colonizing the entire hotel for a weekend of female-friendly dinners, pool parties, comedy performances, and VIP open bars.
JEREMY ATHERTON LIN ON “GAY BAR: WHY WE WENT OUT“ Book Soup Strobing lights and dark rooms, throbbing house music and drag queens on countertops, ﬁrst kisses and last call, the gay bar has long been a place of solidarity and self-expression. The author will discuss his book, as well as the decline of America’s gay bars in a Pride Month chat at the venerable L.A. bookstore. Booksoup.com
DIGITAL L.A. LGBTQ+ CREATORS AND INFLUENCERS Stache West Hollywood An annual WeHo panel with LGBTQ+ creators and inﬂuencers sharing advice on creating content, engaging with viewers, and working with brands. Digitalla.net.
PRIDE PAWTY Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel Reserve your spot for pawdicures and fun activities like a dog-friendly photo booth and crafting matching pup and human accessories. Free puptails and $15 cocktails will be available. A portion of the proceeds will go to the L.A. LGBT Center. loewshotels.com.
LONG BEACH PRIDE Long Beach’s threeday Pride festivities start on Friday night and continue all weekend. The annual event attracts over 80,000 revelers from across the SoCal area and conclude with a dazzling concert featuring Iggy Azalea and Natalia Jimenez. June 8-10, Longbeachpride.com.
THRIVE WITH PRIDE AT THE BEVERLY CENTER The Beverly Center The landmark L.A. shopping mall is throwing the ﬁrst of its Thursday night Thrive with Pride events (also part of Beverly Hills Pride) featuring gay-themed movie nights, special performances, and rainbow cocktails. Lapride.org.
THE YARD X LEZ CROIX Catch One The special Pride lineup at the historic venue that provided a safe place for queers of color will feature performances by local performers and a band of musicians who will ﬂy in from across the gay universe. Catch.one
LGBTQ+ PRIDE NIGHT Dodger Stadium The Los Angeles Dodgers are teaming up with L.A. Pride for “Pride Night at the Stadium” as they square oﬀ against the New York Mets. A special pre-game ceremony will recognize frontline workers and feature surprise guests. A postgame celebration will include ﬁreworks and music from DJ Bowie J. Mlb.com/dodgers. OUTLOUD RAISING VOICES MUSIC FESTIVAL West Hollywood Park WeHo’s 2022 Pride weekend kicks oﬀ with a rollicking three-day concert series at the newly refurbished West Hollywood Park featuring a lineup of musical acts like Lil’ Kim, Marina, and Years & Years who’ll perform anthemic hits. June 3-5. Weareoutloud.com.
VENICE PRIDE TEA DANCE AT THE JAMES James’ Beach The famous monthly dance party presented by Venice Pride and Roosterﬁsh is hosting a special Pride Month party at James’ Beach, the longest operating gay-owned bar in Venice. DJ Spencer H will be spinning. Jamesbeach.com.
OUTFEST: SUMMER FILM FESTIVAL Various Locations SoCals’s premiere showcase of queer ﬁlms and ﬁlmmakers, will launch its annual 11-day summer ﬁlm festival on July 14. The festival, which began in 1982, will oﬀer premiere screenings and schmoozy parties at movie theaters all around Los Angeles. Outfest.org.
UNITED IN PRIDE Various locations Masterbeat’s four-day Pride fest will begin with a lively Saturday afternoon pool party on the rooftop of the Andaz Hotel. Among the other highlights are a Saturday night dance party with tunes from DJs Deanne and Tom Stephan at the Avalon nightclub and a Sunday evening Pride tea dance at Academy L.A. June 11-14, Masterbeat.com.
22 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MAY 20, 2022
DTLA PROUD ’22 Pershing Square Founded by a group of local residents, business owners, and community leaders, the annual Pride event at the main stage of Pershing Square will oﬀer an exclusive screening of the fascinating documentary “Proud in a Pandemic,” as well as two days of stage performances, DJs, art, food trucks, and a dance party at the waterpark. Dtlaproud.org.
S ! GIN EK BE WE XT NE
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?
THE WALLIS PRODUCTION OF
JOE MORTON AS
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE DIRECTED BY
JOHN GOULD RUBIN
MAY 10–JUNE 5
TheWallis.org/Lear This production was made possible by generous support from Michael and Meeghan Nemeroff / Vedder Price.
5/2/22 11:32 AM
Join Joel Kim Booster on ‘Fire Island’ this summer Gay rom com features queer Asian cast
By JOHN PAUL KING It would be an understandable mistake to see Joel like I say in the movie, “fill in the gaps.” Kim Booster on one of the two “Out Traveler” magazine covers he’s gracing this month and assume he was just BLADE: How did you hit on using Jane Austen as a another sexy fashion model, but the 34-year-old Koresource? an-American comedian is not having a moment in the BOOSTER: It was really a lucky accident. I brought blazing sun of queer pop culture just because of his un“Pride and Prejudice” with me on the first trip Bowen deniable talent for rocking a Speedo. and I ever took to Fire Island. I would be lying there on He is actually in the middle of the publicity push for the beach reading it and thinking, “It’s amazing how the the upcoming film “Fire Island,” which he wrote and things she was writing about are so relevant to what in which he co-stars with (among others) close friend we’re experiencing on this island right now.” It was kinBowen Yang and comedy legend Margaret Cho, and da wild, and it started out as threat, a joke – I would which begins screening exclusively on the Hulu streamkeep saying, ‘I can’t wait to write an all-gay adaptation ing service just in time for Pride month. of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ set on Fire Island,’ and peoDirected by Andrew Ahn (“Spa Night”), it’s a movie ple would boo and throw things at me. But after that that’s generating a lot of buzz, partly because it’s the I would always bring an Austen book with me to read first predominantly queer film to be backed by a major on the island, because it felt like there was something movie studio (Disney, through its Searchlight Pictures so prescient about what she wrote, and about her obdivision). We’ve been burned too many times not to servations on class, especially reading it in this place be skeptical about such a project, but anyone already where we had sort of created our own class system, as familiar with Booster’s work will undoubtedly tell you gay men. it’s not likely to be another watered-down, safe-forthe-mainstream offering designed to check off boxes BLADE: When did it stop being a joke? on the diversity agenda. Since he first made a splash BOOSTER: Actually, my agent suggested that I should with an appearance on “Conan” in 2016, he has gained write it, because I was in between projects. I just had a a following among queer and straight audiences alike pilot that was passed on by Comedy Central, I was dewith his unapologetically gay, unabashedly sex-positive pressed, I had nothing to do – so I ended up writing it as comedy, leading to what some might call a meteoric half-hour pilot script. But nobody wanted it until Quibi rise to the brink of superstardom through an acclaimed [the short-form entertainment platform that launched stand-up career, his roles on TV in shows like the shortand folded in 2020 after failing to meet projected sublived sitcom “Sunnyside” (on which he was a regular), scription levels]. Say what you will about them, but they “Shrill,” and “The Week Of, and his popular podcasts really invested a lot of money and time into new and (“Urgent Care with Joel Kim Booster + Mitra Jouhari” and young voices, and they took a lot of chances. They took “The Joy Fuck Club”). a chance on me, and when they folded I had this script Now he’s poised to become a movie star with “Fire that I could point to which I had written and developed Island,” a gay romantic comedy set in the titular vacawith them. This movie was a tough pitch to sell on just tion retreat that dares not only to feature a cast made a log line, but I had this finished project, this complicatup entirely of queer characters, but doubles down by ed piece of work to show people, that was much more putting the focus on queer characters who also happen intricate than I think “Gay ‘Pride and Prejudice’” would to be Asian. To top it all off, it gives Booster a chance to maybe lead people to believe. show off his literate side with a story – that concerns a group of gay best friends out for sexual adventure, BLADE: Your movie is just one of several big queer tiand possibly even romance, on what might be their last tles on deck for 2022, including Billy Eichner’s rom com, JOEL KIM BOOSTER stars in ‘Fire Island.’ trip to the iconic gay getaway – adapted from no less “Bros.” How do you feel about that? esteemed a literary source than Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” BOOSTER: Honestly, it really takes some of the pressure off. When we get, like, one gay The Blade was fortunate enough to chat with Booster in the middle of this very high-presmovie a year, a lot of attention and scrutiny gets put on that movie and it’s expected to be sure month before his feature film debut, and our conversation was informed by the kind of everything to everyone in our community. And our community is huge, and it’s diverse, and erudite and compassionate intelligence that has marked the young comedian’s career from there are so many stories that aren’t being told. I’m so glad Billy’s movie is coming out as well, the start. he was my first comedy boss, and I’m really happy that people in our community are going to have two big gay rom coms to choose from. BLADE: In your comedy, you’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from being raised as a Korean adoptee by white American parents in a deeply Christian midwestern community. Does that BLADE: We haven’t seen “Bros” yet, but we’ve seen “Fire Island.” There’s a review embargo experience figure into the movie, too? [until May 23], but I think it’s safe to say nobody is going to boo or throw things at you. Do you BOOSTER: Of course! As a transnational adoptee, my entire life I’ve been fighting against this feel any sense of competition about it? nagging feeling of not quite fitting in – and that’s whether I’m around white people, or Asian BOOSTER: My hope is that people love both, but it’s nice that if somebody goes to see my people, or even some gay people. It’s tough, and it’s been such a paramount part of my life to movie and says, ‘That’s not for me, I don’t see myself there,’ then a couple months later they’ll find people who make me feel seen and accepted and to keep them close, so it felt really imsee Billy’s and they’ll have another shot at it. And I hope both of our movies are successful portant for the theme of chosen family to stay in the forefront when I was making this movie. enough that they create a million clones. I hope it’s just the beginning. As much as it’s a “rom com,” it’s also about friendship – about relationships with people who, “Fire Island,” which also stars Conrad Ricamora, premieres on Hulu on June 3. 24 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MAY 20, 2022
TV A scene from ‘Elite’ in 2018. (Image courtesy Netﬂix)
Omar, Netﬂix’s ‘Elite,’ and queer Palestinian representation Valid critiques aside, show provides a step forward in combating racism, homophobia By SA’ED ATSHAN
Elite, the Spanish Netﬂix original series released in 2018, has now become a worldwide sensation. Created by Carlos Montero and Dario Madrona, Elite follows the lives of teenagers and classmates at Las Encinas, a ﬁctional private school for wealthy children from Spain and other countries. There are several students from lower socio-economic backgrounds on full scholarships, and the series explores their intersecting experiences in the community. Over the course of the ﬁve existing seasons, taboos are boldly displayed on screen: from racy sexuality, to rape, abortion, drugs, alcohol, crime, murder, and corruption. While this may be too much for many viewers, the provocative themes, attractive actors, love triangles, extensive scenes of partying, compelling cinematography, and the psychological thriller aspects of the series have galvanized fans in Europe and beyond. Merely a month after its release, Netﬂix revealed that Elite was streamed by over 20 million accounts. It has since secured a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has become one of the most successful shows globally. Alongside the superﬁcial elements of this show lies a thoughtful and nuanced exploration of the central characters’ inner worlds and the profound issues with which they grapple. This includes the salience of class and inequality in society, the power of education for social mobility, immigration, racism, and xenopohobia, the role of law in attaining or evading justice, feminism and the struggle for women’s rights, the prevalence of internalized and external homophobia, the command of technology, social media, and surveillance on our lives, and the eﬀects on young people of having to grow up and mature too quickly. I was particularly captivated by the character of Omar, played by a Spanish actor with the same ﬁrst name: Omar Ayuso. While many of the characters who appear in the earlier seasons do not return, Omar is present for all ﬁve seasons thus far, becoming central to the overarching narrative. His Palestinian background is emphasized in the script and on screen and this is huge for the mainstreaming of Palestinians in Western popular media. Omar’s gayness is also clearly highlighted, bringing queer Palestinian lives to the screen in a formidable manner. While Omar Ayuso was not one of the most experienced actors and is not the most talented of the actors in this series, his character undergoes a transformation that is powerful and compels audiences. His dark features are handsome, with a signature unibrow, and his attire becomes more and more colorful and expressive, and his bodily comportment more comfortable, as he grows more secure in his own skin. We learn that Omar comes from the Shanaa family and is the son of Palestinian Muslim im-
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migrants to Spain who own a small grocery store outside of Madrid. One of his sisters ran away from home to escape their conservative parents and his other sister, Nadia, is also a central character in Elite. Omar and Nadia’s father is overbearing. Like their mother, Nadia wears the hijab. The mother is soft-spoken and unassuming in many ways, yet Nadia is a force to be reckoned with who aspires to balance pleasing her family with being true to herself. Nadia is brilliant and academically-driven, earning a scholarship to Las Encinas, even as Omar is distracted initially with drug-dealing and working for his family’s business. After coming out as gay to himself, his family, and the broader community, he movies out and severs ties with his parents, secures work as a bartender, and receives a scholarship to attend Las Encinas. Omar embraces his sexuality and ﬁnds a way to lead a life that feels authentic. Elite challenges the Islamophobia of Spanish and Western societies, representing both the homophobia that Omar must endure alongside the racism that he experiences as an Arab in Europe. Spain’s long history with the Moors, the Inquisition, and modern migration from North Africa has made its relationship to the Middle East and Islam quite fraught. The show does not romanticize Omar’s Palestinian immigrant family and it captures the even more dramatic delinquencies of many Spanish and European families. The audience cannot help but juxtapose how Omar’s parents desperately try to preserve notions of tradition, ethics, and honor from their homeland of Palestine amidst a broader landscape of decadence and moral decay in Western contexts. Omar disavows elements of both the former and latter, while embracing elements of each, and he emerges as a moral compass in the show. His integrity and compassion are palpable and at one point he articulates an aspiration to become a social worker in the future. The love that Omar shares with his serious boyfriend, Ander, is beautifully portrayed as well. Though they certainly grapple with their own set of challenges, the chemistry and soulfuness between them is one of the highlights of the show. After Netﬂix posted a romantic photo of Omar and Ander on their Instagram page, it was met with homophobic comments, and Netﬂix laudably responded simply with a chain of rainbow emojis. With valid critiques of Elite aside, the show provides a monumental step forward in combating both racism and homophobia. Netﬂix has done the global queer Palestinian community right by developing the character of Omar in this manner. Whether or not he appears in season six is yet to be announced, but even if not, he will have already captured countless hearts and minds.
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