Los Angeles Blade, Volume 06, Issue 29, July 22, 2022

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MONKEYPOX ON THE RISE (Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Join us July 27 for a town hall event and get your questions answered, PAGE 10



Equipment for special needs kids stolen, police search for thieves A U-Haul rental truck that contained gymnastics equipment for special needs kids was broken into on June 30th and now Culver City Police Department detectives are searching for the preparators who were recorded committing the crime on a nearby surveillance video system. According to the co-owner of Everything Counts for Kids (EC Kids), a local fitness & nutrition company with a focused speciality on teaching kids good fitness and nutritional habits, the stolen equipment was going to be used at a summer camp for kids with special needs. “By taking those things, you’ve taken some of their best days away from them, because it hurts us in our hearts to watch the kids miss the stuff that they took,” Debbie Moye told KABC 7 Los Angeles reporter Leo Stallworth on Friday. Moye shared surveillance video of the theft with KABC 7 Eyewitness News, which clearly showed the suspects breaking in. There were three suspects in total. The third suspect is seen driving away in an SUV. In one

portion of the footage, one of the suspects looks directly at the surveillance camera. Moye told KABC 7 Eyewitness News a device installed in the U-Haul truck led to its recovery along with most of the stolen gear by police, however the thieves were able to get away with approximately $8,000 worth of gear, including a massive air bag used by movie stunt professionals. Her co-owner and husband JT Moye, who is an accomplished actor, dance instructor/performer and motion picture stunt coordinator told KABC 7 Eyewitness News, that in particular, the air bag was a special order from Amsterdam and can’t be easily replaced. “That thing is 13 feet long by 8 feet wide and 3 and a half feet high,” J.T. Moye said adding, “It’s gone.” JT noted that the stunt bag helps kids how to fall and jump from high places. “It teaches air space awareness and it also builds confidence that they can do anything,” he said. BRODY LEVESQUE

(Screenshot via YouTube)

Many areas dip below $6 a gallon with biggest price drop of 2022 Economic concerns are pushing down Southern California gas prices below $6 a gallon in many areas with the biggest one-week price drop of 2022, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch. The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.99, which is 20 cents lower than last week. The average national price is $4.61, which is 14 cents lower than a week ago. The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $6.06 per gallon, which

is 18 cents lower than last week, 40 cents lower than last month, and $1.72 higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $5.98, which is 17 cents lower than last week, 39 cents lower than last month, and $1.68 higher than last year. On the Central Coast, the average price is $5.99, which is 20 cents lower than last week, 36 cents lower than last month and is $1.70 higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $5.92, which is 20 cents lower than last week, 41 cents lower

than last month and $1.66 higher than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $6.14 average price is 15 cents lower than last Thursday, 22 cents lower than last month and $1.89 higher than a year ago today. “Both oil prices and Los Angeles wholesale gasoline prices have dropped significantly because of concerns about future demand,” said Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe. “If current trends continue, local gas prices are likely to drop even more significantly.” FROM STAFF REPORTS

L.A. County ready for launch of national 988 suicide lifeline Beginning Saturday, July 16, people nationwide who are experiencing a mental health crisis and in need of immediate help will be able to dial or text 988 and receive assistance through the new Suicide and Crisis Lifeline number. As the lead agency in developing a seamless roll out of 988, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) has been preparing for this launch for more than a year to ensure operational logistics and response teams are in place to enable Los Angeles County community members to call 988 and receive immediate help during a mental health crisis. “988 is a game changer,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who has championed the County’s preparation for the 988 hotline. “Starting this weekend, anyone experiencing a mental health crisis or who has loved one that is in trouble can dial this short, easy to remember number and get connected to help.” “We are excited for the nationwide roll out of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number, which will make it easier for people experiencing or affected by mental health crises to get immediate life-saving help to support their

safety and well-being. A key component of this new service is the availability of trained psychiatric mobile crisis response teams who can be connected to through the 988 line when necessary,” said Lisa Wong, Psy.D., Acting Director of Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. “LACDMH is also proud to continue our partnership with Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, which will serve as the 988 provider in L.A. County, to provide this crucial resource to our residents and communities, now accessible by simply calling or texting 988.” Starting this weekend, a new 988 Call Center operated by Didi Hirsch will be ready to take calls coming into the 988 hotline in Los Angeles County. Trained operators will triage callers to receive the appropriate services, including suicide crisis counseling over the phone and mental health de-escalation counseling over the phone. They will also triage callers to determine when dispatching a mobile crisis team is appropriate and, in rare cases, connection to law enforcement when safety is of concern. In preparation for the launch of 988, L.A. County has increased the number of teams of mental health professionals available to respond in-person to individuals ex-

periencing a mental health crisis. The L.A. County Department of Mental Health now operates Psychiatric Mobile Response Teams (PMRT) that consist of unarmed mental health workers who respond in person to people in crisis. These teams operate between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 a.m. In the coming weeks, L.A. County will be expanding the number of PMRTs available and launching new Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams (MCOTs) that will supplement them by providing crisis response outside of PMRT hours, making the services available 24/7. Both PMRTs and MCOTs will be connected to through the 988 Call Center. “In some cases, talking to a professional on the phone won’t be enough,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “That is why it is so important that we have teams of mental health professionals across the County who can drive out directly to a person in crisis, deescalate situations, and connect people with long-term help. We need to expand these teams so that we have enough to respond to every mental health crisis across the County where they could be helpful and get there quickly so that it is a viable alternative to 911.” FROM STAFF REPORTS



Newsom compares ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law to 1978 Briggs Initiative California’s chief executive during his official trip to D.C. this week was honored in a ceremony awarding him the Frank Newman Award for State Innovation from the Education Commission of the States Wednesday. In accepting the award Governor Gavin Newsom compared Florida’s recently enacted ‘Parental Rights in Education law,’ colloquially known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, to a failed 1978 California ballot proposition (Proposition 6) known as the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gay and lesbian people from working in California schools. In his remarks Newsom told the gathering of the nation’s top educators that “education is under assault in the United States of America.” “I do believe education is under assault in ways that I’ve never experienced in my lifetime,” Newsom said. “But what’s happening now – banning books, suppressing speech, the othering of our students, teachers, parents – it’s alarming. And so I came here not just to acknowledge and be recognized as a state that’s committed to righting wrongs and advancing the cause of reform and innovation but I’d be remiss

if I didn’t speak more deeply to the moment that I think we’re living in as it relates to the assault on our freedom.” Turning to critique the law in Florida championed by Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, Newsom noted “Teachers were under assault because God forbid, teachers were homosexual.” The California governor then took aim at the trend by the far-right and others to label the LGBTQ+ community and its allies ‘groomers,’ a homophobic smear that labels LGBTQ+ people as paedophiles. The trend is led by conservative talk radio and online show personalities going all in on the smear by Republicans and others in right-wing media that LGBTQ Americans and others who oppose Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” law are “grooming” children to be gay or trans, or promoting sexual activity. “Press secretary for the governor of one of our largest states said people like me that were opposed to — and I know a lot of people are offended by saying it’s not really a ‘don’t say gay’ bill — but referred to those that opposed it in Florida as ‘groomers,’” Newsom said. “I think she was

promoted, not fired. Certainly wasn’t fired.” Newsom was referring to DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw, who used “grooming” smears to justify Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law in a Twitter post on March 4. As he reflected on the Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM Briggs Initiative the governor accepting Frank Newman Award for State Innovation pointed out that one of his (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor) predecessors as governor opposed the theme of Prop 6 drawing a analogous comparison to the Florida law. “Ronald Reagan himself in 1978 wrote an op-ed saying something that needs to be said today,” Newsom said. “‘You can’t get gay,’ he said. He used the word homosexual. You can’t catch gay like you can the measles.’ [It] needs to be said today.” BRODY LEVESQUE

Community anger grows over arrest of street vendor in San Bernardino The arrest last Saturday evening of a popular street food vendor selling tacos alongside other street vendors by city police officers at Baseline Street and Del Rosa Avenue, captured on a video that has now gone viral, has outraged many in the community. The video shows Cesar Marroquin being handcuffed while his food and equipment was confiscated. The situation had escalated, and as Marroquin was detained he asked, “Why do you treat me like a criminal?” According to a spokesperson for the city of San Bernardino, Marroquin had been warned several times that he was not properly permitted. On Friday, an outraged crowd gathered on the steps of San Bernardino City Hall including Marroquin and family members to protest his treatment at the hands of police

and other officials. Christian Contreras, the family’s attorney, said vendors are being “taken advantage of.” “We’re here today to announce that we are filing a sweeping civil rights lawsuit against San Bernardino and their egregious civil rights violation based upon them targeting street vendors,” Contreras added. “This particular vendor is not a stranger to city code enforcement,” said city spokesperson Jeff Kraus. “They have been engaged with on numerous occasions … He had talked to code enforcement and had been told that it’s not very far from being a legal food truck.” KTLA reported the Marroquin family did not always work as street vendors; the pandemic shut down their catering business, forcing them to pivot.

“We used all our savings to survive and when almost that was gone my husband say, ‘You know what, we’re going to start street vending,” said Ivon Ceja, Marroquin’s wife. Marroquin also suffered a heart attack in May, and after Saturday’s incident, he started having chest pains, forcing him to be hospitalized again. “For us watching him go through this, we were really worried,” Ceja said. While the state passed Senate Bill 946 in 2018, which largely decriminalized street vendors, cities and counties are allowed to have their own codes. However, some told KTLA that the process is lengthy and expensive, making it difficult to comply while there are bills to pay. BRODY LEVESQUE

Safety, ‘incidents’ cited as reasons for closing 6 LA Starbucks In a letter written for its employees two senior vice presidents of U.S. operations for coffee-house retail giant Starbucks cited the reasons the company is closing six locations in Los Angeles by the end of the month. Safety concerns for employees and customers are behind the decision to shutter the locations Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson, senior vice presidents of U.S. operations wrote. One community adversely impacted by the company’s decision is West Hollywood, whose Starsbucks located on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Westmount Drive, at 8595 Santa Monica Boulevard in the Ramada Plaza, has been a gathering point for Wehoans since it opened 27 years ago in 1995. In the letter, Stroud and Nelson said the company was prioritizing “creating a safe, welcoming, and kind third place.” The company’s Third Place policy dictates stores should be a “safe and welcoming public space” and employees, such as baristas, are encouraged and expected to

address “disruptive behaviors.” While not specifically addressing the closures of any specific stores in the letter to employees, it is heavily implied that complaints and incident reports at some locations have caused employees to feel unsafe or dissatisfied with working conditions. Many of the locations have large homeless populations in the area nearby. “We read every incident report you file – it’s a lot,” the letter reads. There has been sporadic reports of disturbances caused by unruly patrons or others within affected stores but no incidents of significant criminal nature recorded by either the LAPD or the LA County Sheriff’s department. Starbucks has confirmed that the local stores that will have their doors shuttered are located at: 1st and Los Angeles (inside the Doubletree hotel) 2nd and San Pedro Hollywood and Vine


Hollywood and Western Ocean Front Walk (Santa Monica Pier) Santa Monica and Westmount The company also confirmed that employees in the closing stores will have the opportunity to transfer to other locations. The stores are expected to close by the end of the month. The closures come amid a groundswell of support for unionization efforts at Starbucks locations across the nation according to KTLA and the WeHo Times. However, none of the planned closures appear to be happening at stores with significant unionization efforts. A local retailer who operates a blogsite wrote in a blog post that the recent enactment of a minimum wage ordinance by the City of West Hollywood was a primary reason for the closure of its Ramada Plaza storefront, although a company spokesperson indicated to the Blade that wasn’t a possibility considered. BRODY LEVESQUE

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Jesse Lee Peterson: Why this conservative’s gay sex scandal is different It’s become a familiar story: An anti-LGBTQ+ politician or religious leader becomes embroiled in a gay sex scandal whose licentiousness is often correlated with the extent to which he harbors extreme, far-right wing views about queer people. Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig was caught soliciting an undercover officer in a men’s room in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley sexted with teenaged male congressional pages. Rightwing evangelical pastor Ted Haggard consorted a male prostitute in liaisons where the two allegedly used crystal meth. What’s different about this latest scandal, which concerns Los Angeles based minister Jesse Lee Peterson? He is not only an influential religious and conservative political figure but also a rising star in the “manosphere,” a growing online right-wing movement that prizes toxic masculinity and shuns, well, everything and everyone else (including – you guessed it – men who have sex with men). The Daily Beast was first to publish the allegations against Peterson, by two male associates who claimed in on the record interviews in June with Church Militant – a far-right Catholic website – that the minister engaged in sexual congress with them and propositioned others. Peterson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from this news service through his Instagram page. Nor did his group, the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND), when reached by phone this morning. Following initial reports about Craig, Foley, and Hag-

gard’s extra-curricular activities, the men were beleaguered by follow-on coverage of other corroborating accounts of their same-sex sexual activities. In Peterson’s case, those who have come forward noted the minister has been careful to ensure there are no emails, text mes-

(Screenshot/YouTube Jesse Lee Peterson Channel)

sages, recordings, or video footage documenting their trysts. Of the “manosphere,” the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, writes this corner of the internet is “peopled with hundreds of websites, blogs and forums dedicated to savaging feminists in particular and women, very typically American women, in general. Although some of the sites make an attempt at civility and try to back their arguments with facts, they are almost all

thick with misogynistic attacks that can be astounding for the guttural hatred they express.” Even by the standards of the far-right “manosphere,” Peterson’s statements about LGBTQ+ people have been extreme. Pride parade participants are the spawn of Satan. Radical homosexuals are evil. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg should be ashamed of his relationship with his husband. Peterson has distinguished himself not just for his anti-LGBTQ+ animus, nor just for his proximity to conservative Republican figures like Larry Elder and Dennis Prager, nor just for his public spats with the likes of Gloria Allred, Jesse Jackson, and the NAACP, but also for his extremist views on matters from racial justice (Peterson is Black) to sex and gender. Speaking about Black unemployment in 2012, Peterson said, “One of the things that I would do is take all Black people back to the South and put them on the plantation… They need a good hard education on what it is to work.” South Africa was better under apartheid, Peterson said. Nelson Mandela was “an evil man,” but Donald Trump? “The Great White Hope.” That same year, Peterson claimed, “one of the greatest mistakes America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote.” Women “can’t handle power in the right way,” they “have no patience” and “don’t have love,” he said. In other broadcasts, he has said women should not orgasm during sex because sexual climax is a masculine pursuit. CHRISTOPHER KANE

LA County: Limited monkeypox vaccine to certain residents

Although the supply of JYNNEOS vaccine from the federal government remains limited, gay and bisexual men and transgender persons with a recent diagnosis of rectal gonorrhea or early syphilis within the past 3 months are eligible to receive the monkeypox vaccine and should check to see if their health care provider is a monkeypox vaccine provider. Those who meet these eligibility criteria and are either without a provider or whose provider doesn’t provide the vaccine, can now make an appointment at a designated Public Health Clinic or walk up to one of three Public Health vaccination pods to receive the monkeypox vaccine. To get vaccinated, patients need to provide one of the following: Proof of an appropriate and verifiable test result in the last 3 months of presentation. Proof can be on paper or shown from the patient’s phone, including a screenshot of the result or a test result within a patient portal; OR A Medical Provider Attestation confirming that the patient has a history of rectal gonorrhea or early syphi-


lis treated presumptively in the past 3 months. Individuals will need to also bring ID in addition to the proof of test result or Medical Provider Attestation. Given the limited current national vaccine supply, as Public Health expands eligibility, the priority is to administer as many first doses of monkeypox vaccine as possible to all eligible persons at this time. As soon as federal vaccine supply expands, Public Health will make second doses available to those who received their initial dose. Public Health will also continue to expand eligibility to the vaccination as the federal government distributes additional doses. Persons with symptoms should speak with their regular provider or call 2-1-1 if they do not have a provider. In addition, people without a regular provider that have developed a rash in the genital or perianal area, can access services at Public Health’s Sexual Health Clinics. Monkeypox, an uncommon disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus, is rarely fatal. Monkeypox can spread when a person has close, physical contact with a person infected with monkeypox virus or when a person comes in contact with materials (e.g.,

bedding, towels) that are contaminated with the virus. The monkeypox virus can also spread from animals to people. The monkeypox virus can spread by: • Touching monkeypox lesions on a person’s skin • Touching contaminated objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, towels), and surfaces that have been in contact with someone with monkeypox • Coming into contact with respiratory droplets or secretions from the eyes, nose, and mouth from a person with monkeypox To prevent the spread of the monkeypox virus, persons should avoid: • Oral, anal, and vaginal sex, or touching the genitals or anus of someone with monkeypox • Hugging, massaging, kissing, or talking closely with someone with monkeypox • Touching shared fabrics, shared surfaces, and objects (e.g. sex toys) used by someone with monkeypox • Sexual or intimate contact with an individual that has lesions on their skin or in their mouth. FROM STAFF REPORTS


Anti-trans bills now backed by key number of congressional Republicans

Measures allow for denial of services to LGBTQ+ people

By CHRISTOPHER KANE A series of anti-trans bills introduced in the – not manufactured – crises like systemic racism, House and Senate earlier this year have now climate change, a crumbling democracy and adwon sufficient backing from Congressional Re- equate and equitable access to health care.” Criticism of the draft legislation by LGBTQ+ publicans to see them potentially succeed if the GOP secures majorities in both chambers after advocates and allies, including from groups like the SPLC, has focused on its potential to cause the midterm elections in November. Should they pass, the bills would likely face a further harm to transgender Americans and veto from President Joe Biden. However, accord- other members of the LGBTQ+ community ing to a Reuters report Wednesday, the support who are disproportionately represented among of these measures among federal GOP law- victims of discrimination and violence and face makers signals that many of the familiar battles higher rates of depression, self-harm behaviors, over LGBTQ+ rights, particularly for transgender and suicide. Critics further argue that measures Americans, have moved from statehouses to designed to restrict patients’ access to gender affirming healthcare (or those which are intended Congress. The bills introduced by House Republicans, to discourage providers from offering it) conflict which echo laws that have been enacted by with well-established guidance from mainconservative legislatures and governors across stream medical associations. A spokesperson for the Endocrine Society rethe country, are: (1) the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act,” which would prohibit ferred The Blade to statements the organization federal funding of universities whose athletics made in February and in April. These concerned, programs allow trans women to participate with respectively, a directive from Texas Governor their cisgender teammates; and (2) the “Protect Greg Abbott and a bulletin published by the FlorMinors from Medical Malpractice Act of 2022,” ida Department of Health, both of which were which creates a private right of action for law- intended to restrict access to gender affirming suits against medical practitioners who provide healthcare for trans and gender-diverse youth. The latter statement reads, in part: “The Florgender-affirming healthcare to transgender miida Department of Health’s policy reflects widenors. Per Reuters, the draft bill excluding trans spread misinformation about gender-affirming women from college athletics has been publicly care…Transgender and gender-diverse youth backed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCa- need access to evidence-based care that is suprthy (R-CA) and has earned the support of 127 ported by major international medical groups— of 211 House Republican Members. Meanwhile, including the Endocrine Society, American GOP Senators Tom Cotton (AR), Ted Cruz (TX), Medical Association, the American PsychologMarco Rubio (FL), Josh Hawley (MO), and Steve ical Association, and the American Academy of Daines (MT) have sponsored a version of the Pediatrics—and [the Endocrine Society’s] Clinical Practice Guidelines,” which contain “more than bill targeting healthcare providers. A spokesperson for Rep. McCarthy did not im- 260 scientific studies.” “Medical evidence, not politics, should inform mediately return a request for comment on the Leader’s position on the “Protect Minors from treatment decisions” and “Widespread misinformation about medical care recommended for Medical Malpractice Act of 2022.” Also introduced by House Republicans this transgender and gender-diverse adolescents is spring was the “No Obscene Teaching in Our fueling efforts to limit access to needed care,” inSchools Act of 2022” (alternatively titled the cluding, the statement notes, in 20 states where “NOT in Our Schools Act of 2022”), which blocks these efforts have culminated in proposed legisfunding to schools that violate their respective lation this year alone that would limit access to states’ laws governing materials deemed harm- care. Available on the ACLU’s website is a compreful to minors, which have often been written to include those which contain discussion of race hensive list of active statewide anti-LGBTQ+ bills. The most popular laws are those which target and LGBTQ+ subject matter. Beth Littrell, supervising attorney at the transgender Americans (healthcare restrictions Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), addressed for trans youth, “single-sex facilities restrictions,” the draft legislation in an exclusive emailed including what are colloquially termed “bathroom bills,” restrictions on trans people’s access statement to The Los Angeles Blade: “These federal anti-trans bills are shocking, to accurate government issued ID, the exclusion sweeping and dangerous in their cruelty, scope of trans youth from participation in sports, other and objectives. Instead of focusing on repressing school/curriculum restrictions, and other miscelpeople, stoking divisions, targeting the most vul- laneous restrictions.) nerable and attacking children and young people, legislators should be working to solve actual CONTINUED AT LOSANGELESBLADE.COM



Use cell phone camera to scan QR code above to access information about Caltrans upcoming opportunities Visit us at https://dot.ca.gov/ or email smallbusinessadvocate@dot.ca.gov for more information





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Newsom pardons Md. man for 1967 gay sex conviction

Says Pachnowski subjected to ‘stigma, bias, ignorance’

By LOU CHIBBARO JR. | lchibbaro@washblade.com California Gov. Gavin Newsom on July 1 granted a pardon for an 82-year-old gay Maryland man for his conviction in Orange County, Calif. in 1967 on a charge of lewd conduct after he was caught having sex with another man in a car parked in a secluded area in Long Beach. Newsom’s decision to approve a pardon for Henry Pachnowski, who currently lives in Silver Spring, Md., came after Pachnowski, with the help of his lawyer, submitted an applicaHENRY PACHNOWSKI was tion for the pardon last fall in which he explained the circumarrested in California in 1967. stances of his arrest more than 54 years ago. (Blade photo by Michael Key) “I engaged with consensual intimacy with a male partner in a deserted industrial area in his car and was caught by a security guard who said we had gone against ‘God and nature,’” Pachnowski stated in his pardon application form sent to the governor’s office. “He turned us into the police, and I pleaded guilty to a lewdness charge in exchange for the dropping of a ‘sex perversion’ charge,” Pachnowski states in the application. “A pardon would not only recognize and remedy the injustice that I suffered from being targeted and convicted because of my sexuality, it would also ensure that I do not face any future obstacles, such as employment and housing-related ones, stemming from this conviction.” The pardon granted by Newsom for Pachnowski was one of 17 gubernatorial executive pardons he issued on July 1, according to a statement released by his office. In his official declaration pardoning Pachnowski, Newsom explains the circumstances surrounding Pachnowski’s arrest and conviction and his reason for granting the pardon. “On August 24, 1967, the Superior Court of California, County of Orange, sentenced Mr. Pachnowski to three years of probation and 10 days in jail for misdemeanor solicit lewd act,” Newsom states. “Mr. Pachnowski was convicted and sentenced pursuant to a charge commonly used, and used in this case, to punish men for engaging in consensual adult sexual conduct with other men, criminalizing them based on stigma, bias, and ignorance,” he states in the pardon declaration. “With this act of executive clemency, I acknowledge the inherent injustice of the conviction,” Newsom states. “By the laws of this state it is proper that I, as Governor of the State of California, give testimony that Mr. Pachnowski merits this pardon,” Newsom wrote in his declaration, adding that under California’s constitution and statutes he grants to Henry Pachnowski “a full and unconditional pardon for the above case.” Pachnowski, who along with his parents, is a Nazi Holocaust survivor, said he applied for the pardon at the advice of his attorney, who had been helping him renew his permanent U.S. residence status after decades of uncertainty as a “stateless” person. He told the Blade in an interview on Wednesday that he was born in Germany in 1940 after his parents, who are from Poland, were taken against their will to Germany following the Nazi takeover of Poland, where they were placed in a forced labor camp. After surviving the dangers in Nazi Germany during World War II, Pachnowski said he and his family remained in Germany until 1951 when they immigrated to the U.S. But because he couldn’t claim citizenship legally from Poland or Germany, his decades of living in the U.S. have been marked with uncertainty, he said, from an immigration standpoint. Jayesh Rathod, a professor with the Immigrant Justice Clinic at American University’s Washington College of Law, has been serving as Pachnowski’s attorney. Rathod told the Blade that after several years of interactions with U.S. immigration officials, Pachnowski was in the final stages of having his permanent U.S. residence status renewed and should be receiving his long sought Green Card. Although a misdemeanor arrest like the one Pachnowski faced back in 1967 would not likely prompt immigration officials to deny his request for permanent residency, Rathod said he and others working on Pachnowski’s immigration case thought it would be best to seek a pardon for the conviction. “We just wanted to get it off the record, both because of the immigration reason but also because we felt morally and legally it was an improper and unjust prosecution,” Rathod said. “And I think it’s just great that the governor did this,” said Rathod. “It’s so important to kind of correct all these wrongs against the LGBTQ community,” he said. “Although it’s a relatively minor conviction, obviously it’s really significant for him and it’s important for the community.” LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JULY 22, 2022 • 09


Monkeypox debacle: ‘Failure to communicate and vaccinate’ ‘When will we learn that investment in prevention is worth a pound of cure?’

By BRODY LEVESQUE Directly linked as the epicenters for the outbreak of the current global Monkeypox virus, which occurred in the latter part of May this year, were a Gay Pride event in the Spanish Canary Islands, the Darklands fetish festival in Antwerp, Belgium, and raves in Berlin, Germany and Madrid, Spain. The common denominator for all of those persons affected by the viral outbreak was that they were gay or bisexual men. The number of the first recorded cases was fewer than 10 individuals infected per event, but since then the number has grown exponentially and spread rapidly. As of July 19, 2022 globally there are 14, 511 cases in over 70 countries according to the latest data from the World Health Organization, (WHO). In the United States on July 19, 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases the case count was 2,108. Leading the number of cases were New York with 581, California with 267, Illinois with 200, Florida with 180, Georgia with 132, and the District of Columbia with 126. CDC reported that the metropolitan areas of New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Atlanta plus Washington D.C. with their high concentrated populations of gay and bisexual men accounted for the majority of the case counts. While the primary transmission is intimate bodily or personal contact such as a kiss, WHO clinical researchers were able to determine that in numerous cases in Europe the viral DNA was detected in seminal analysis defining sexual transmission as another means of infection. The Blade communicated with Dr. David Heymann, an American infectious disease epidemiologist and public health expert, based in London, UK who was formerly Executive Director of WHO’s communicable diseases cluster. Heymann pointed out that “We know monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of someone who is infected, and it looks like sexual contact has now amplified that transmission.” Last week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters that the U.N. agency will reconvene a meeting of the committee that will advise on declaring the outbreak a global health emergency this week when it meets in Geneva, Switzerland on Thursday. Ghebreyesus also pointed out that a lack of testing meant that there were likely many more cases going unreported. “I continue to be concerned by the scale and spread of the virus across the world,” the Director-General said. In the U.S. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters late last week in a virtual press briefing that five commercial laboratory companies would soon begin offering monkeypox testing. “The ability of commercial laboratories to test for monkeypox is an important pillar in our comprehensive strategy to combat this disease,” said Walensky. “This will not only increase testing capacity but also make it more convenient for providers and patients to access tests by using existing provider-to-laboratory networks.” The CDC Director said that the Mayo Clinic Laboratories

has begun testing for monkeypox using CDC’s orthopoxvirus test, which detects most non-smallpox related orthopoxviruses, including monkeypox. On Monday of this week, the CDC announced that Sonic Healthcare USA (Sonic) will also begin testing for monkeypox using CDC’s orthopoxvirus test. As the outbreak rolled on in June and into early July criticism and questions begun to be raised over vaccines and testing. In New York City, an Out gay medical resident and PhD candidate Lala Tanmoy (Tom) Das noted in an op-ed written for CNN: “The demand outpacing supply is a problem we could have prevented; demand was and is largely predictable as cases in the US are still mostly limited to men who have sex with men (MSM) — many of whom self-identify as gay, bisexual or transgender. And studies consistently show that LGBTQ individuals are much more likely to get vaccinated than our heterosexual peers — including getting the Covid-19 vaccine.” The JYNNEOS Smallpox (Monkeypox) Vaccine is manufactured solely by the Danish Bavarian Nordic A/S company in Denmark. Since 2010, The company has manufactured its liquid-frozen MVA-BN smallpox vaccine and has supplied doses to the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) for emergency use. However there has been greater demand than supply. The United States has distributed about 156,000 monkeypox vaccine doses nationwide, including more than 100,000 doses in just the past week. The CDC Director noted “We are actively working to increase supply… update our strategy to make sure we are using our current supply strategically,” she said. Part of the problem was that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, (FDA) was slow in signing off on approval of a facility “We were beginning the process of pre-positioning those doses in the US, but they will be available pending the FDA clearance of the facility expected by the end of July,” Walensky said. Political leadership was quick to point out that the Federal response was anemic and lacking impetus. California State Senator Scott Wiener blasted federal agencies over the apparent lack of preparedness and the recent lessons gained from the coronavirus pandemic. “We need to be very clear where the responsibility lies for this completely avoidable situation: the federal government. As far back as 2010, public health experts were warning that it was inevitable that monkeypox would spread beyond West Africa. And in 2019, the FDA approved a safe and effective monkeypox vaccine. Yet, the United States government ordered a mere 56,000 vaccine doses (enough for 28,000 people) for the national vaccine stockpile and failed to order the millions of doses that should have been ordered in preparation for an inevitable outbreak. … We need an enormous amount of additional vaccine doses, and we need it immediately. The federal government’s failures are threatening to deeply harm our community. Once we move past this emergency, we need accountability for these failures — failures that put people’s lives and health in jeopardy.”


MONKEYPOX TOWN HALL Wednesday, July 27, 6-8 p.m. WeHo City Council Chambers 625 North San Vicente Blvd. losangelesblade.com/townhall

Los Angeles Blade graphic via Microsoft Bing of the global monkeypox outbreak as extrapolated from CDC data & WHO data.

In a letter sent to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Tuesday, U.S. Representative Adam B. Schiff (D-CA28), who represents portions of Los Angeles including the city’s traditionally LGBTQ+ neighborhoods, expressed serious concerns regarding the federal response. “The demand for monkeypox vaccinations across the country far outweighs supply, with members of at-risk communities reportedly being turned away at vaccination sites due to limited supply. Public health experts estimate that confirmed cases reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vastly underrepresents the true number of cases due to limited access to testing. I am deeply concerned that the approximately 7 million doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine acquired by the United States will not meet the sky-rocketing demand,” Schiff wrote. “The current supply of the two-dose vaccine regimen accounts for only 3.5 million residents in the United States. With some shipments of the vaccine not expected to arrive until well into 2023, the current federal vaccination strategy falls short in terms of supply and timeliness. I urge HHS, in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), to draw upon lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic and use the full power of the executive branch to increase manufacturing and distribution of the JYNNEOS vaccine across the country as quickly as possible.” The other considerations being overlooked say LGBTQ+ health care advocates and political leaders are the confusing and somewhat impossible labyrinthic requirements for getting a vaccine. There is also a lack of a unified approach to containment and prevention. Rep. Schiff warned that more needed to be done: “I strongly encourage HHS to develop and implement a comprehensive, long-term strategy to combat the spread of the monkeypox virus in the United States. Sky-rocketing cases and limited vaccination supply world-wide suggests that the monkeypox virus will continue to spread for years to come, if not indefinitely,” Schiff said.

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House passes bill to protect same-sex marriage Lawmakers advance measure in bipartisan vote

The U.S. House approved on Tuesday with significant bipartisan support the Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify marriage rights for same-sex couples amid fears those rights are at risk in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. Lawmakers approved the measure, introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), by a 267-157 vote, with 47 Republicans joining the unanimous Democratic caucus in supporting the legislation.

‘We must act now to defend same-sex and interracial marriage,’ said House Speaker NANCY PELOSI.

Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), a Black lawmaker who is one of nine openly gay or lesbian members of Congress, was among those who spoke on the House floor ahead of the vote and said the vote on the measure was “personal” for him. “I still remember where I was on June 24, 2011 — the day the New York State Legislature passed marriage equality,” Jones said. “I was living with friends in New York City, but I was still closeted, and I was so afraid still that someone might find out the truth about my being gay. So, instead,

By CHRIS JOHNSON | cjohnson@washblade.com I closed the door to my room and cried tears of joy by my lonesome. Finally, my home state of New York had recognized me as a full human being. Affirmed all of those scary, yet beautiful, feelings that I had bottled up inside for decades – wondering, hoping, one day the world would change.” A key motivation for advancing the Respect for Marriage Act was the concurring opinion to the Dobbs decision written by U.S. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. In it, he spelled out his inclination to revisit landmark decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court, including the Obergefell decision for same-sex marriage as well as the 2003 ruling striking down state sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas and the 1965 decision striking down state bans on contraception in Griswold v. Connecticut. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) drew on Thomas’s concurrence in her remarks on the House floor in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act, saying it was evidence of a greater plot from the Republican Party to undermine the right for same-sex couples to marry. “We must act now to defend same-sex and interracial marriage from the bigotry and extremism in the wake of the Dobbs decision,” Pelosi said. “With marriage rights now squarely in Republican crossfires, Democrats are ferociously fighting back. With a landmark Respect for Marriage Act, we ensure that marriage equality remains the law of the land now and for generations to come.” The Respect for Marriage Act wouldn’t keep same-sex marriage the law of the land if the Supreme Court were to strike down Obergefell per se, but rather repeal from the books the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Supreme Court struck down in 2013, and require states to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. There would be constitutional issues if Congress required states to accommodate same-sex couples in their marriage laws, which have been under the jurisdiction of the states. A number of Republicans broke ranks with their caucus to vote in favor of the legislation. Log Cabin Republicans,

which has taken a mixed approach to LGBTQ issues in recent years, was among the organizations encouraging lawmakers to vote in favor of the bill. Republican leadership in the U.S. House didn’t whip the vote — one way or the other — ahead of the floor vote for the Respect for Marriage Act, two Republican insiders told the Washington Blade. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-Calif.), one of the 47 Republicans who voted in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act, told top Republicans in their caucus meeting that morning they wouldn’t whip the vote on the bill. “I always have and always will support the right of any American to marry,” Mace said in a statement. “This vote is no different. I believe any two people, regardless of the color of their skin or gender or orientation or otherwise, should be free to enter into marriage together. If gay couples want to be as happily or miserably married as straight couples, more power to them.” But the majority held the vote with some declaring on the House floor the Respect for Marriage would impede on states’ rights. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) was among those on the House floor decrying the Democratic leadership for forcing a vote on the Respect for Marriage Act. “We’re going to make a decision here about the recognition of marriages across state lines, where there are differences of opinion, still to this day, about how one defines marriage,” Roy said. “In the name of full faith and credit…Republicans will be voting on this floor today on the question of whether the federal government should tell Texas what marriage is they have to recognize, irrespective of what the court has said. That is a vote. That is a choice.” The Respect for Marriage Act now heads to the U.S. Senate, where it will face an uphill battle in a chamber that requires 60 votes to end a filibuster and advance to a vote on legislation. The Blade has placed a request in with the office of Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) seeking comment on when he’d schedule a floor vote on the bill.

Jill Biden addresses LGBTQ donors at Equality PAC fundraiser First lady Jill Biden expressed solidarity with members of the LGBTQ community Monday at a D.C.-based fundraiser hosted by the Equality PAC, urging action amid fears same-sex marriage is under threat in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. “Right now we’re fighting the battles we thought we had already won,” Jill Biden said. “And we don’t need to guess where the extremists are going next because they’ve already told us in the Dobbs decision.” The Equality PAC is a congressional political action committee led by the openly gay and lesbian members of the U.S. House. Among the notables seen in attendance who spoke at the fundraiser were Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who co-chair the caucus. The event was held at the Long View Gallery. “Progress isn’t a line,” Jill Biden said. “It sometimes feels like an ocean, pushing forward and pulling back. But with time and persistence, the shore of injustice does wear away.”

First lady JILL BIDEN

Jill Biden touted President Biden’s actions on behalf of the LGBTQ community, pointing out he signed an executive or-


der against anti-LGBT discrimination, ended the transgender military ban, and appointed LGBTQ federal officials. She also mentioned an executive order President Biden signed in June, which included new prohibitions on widely discredited conversion therapy. The first lady closed the event urging action and expressing solidarity, although she momentarily tripped over the LGBTQ acronym. “I want you to know that I will be there beside you every step of the way. It won’t be easy,” she said. “The legacy of the LGD – the LGBTQI community is a hope that has never been crushed.” Takano also spoke at the event and said Equality PAC raised a total of $217,000 at the event and more than $10.8 million this cycle, envisioning wins for Democrats on Election Day despite expectations of Republican gains. “We are going to keep our majority and I dare say we’re going to expand it,” Takano said. CHRIS JOHNSON



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Exclusive: Fallon Fox responds to BBC attack on her

Trans former Mixed Martial Arts fighter Fallon Fox, who has not competed in the octagon since retiring in 2014 due to knee injuries, has some fighting words for the BBC and The Daily Mail after a June radio interview about transgender athletes. For weeks, British media outlets have been bashing Fox, the first out trans MMA fighter and a resident of Los Angeles, calling her a “biological male” who boasted “about the physical harm committed against their political opponents.” Fox tells the Los Angeles Blade she stands by her words and vows to never talk to the BBC again. The retired “Queen of Swords” also defended her decision to trash talk about trans exclusionary radical feminists, known as TERFs. “It’s part of MMA culture to talk smack about opponents. You see it all the time,” a fact borne out by the millions of views of YouTube videos featuring smack-talking MMA fighters. “Only when I do it people take issue with it.” On June 20, Fox was interviewed by telephone for a BBC radio show alongside former swimmer Karen Pickering of the U.K. The day before, Pickering was among those at a

FINA conference voting to ban trans women who had experienced male puberty from competing with cisgender athletes, as the Los Angeles Blade reported. But it’s what happened after the radio program ended that’s sparked controversy. The very next day, a British anti-trans athlete organization called Fair Play For Women shared a screengrab of a 2020 tweet by Fox, asking the BBC what it was thinking in booking her on its show. The BBC formally apologized to the trans inclusion opponents group last week in a letter reported by The Telegraph. According to the report by the British newspaper, a representative of the BBC Complaints Unit said it was “unaware of previous comments made by Fallon Fox” and if it was, “we would have conducted the interview differently.” The rep added, “We have discussed your concerns with the team responsible and we’d like to apologize for this oversight.” In response, Dr. Nicola Williams, director of Fair Play For Women, told The Telegraph: “If you knew that Fallon Fox

was a trans fighter, you’d also know what Fallon Fox had said. It’s either that the woke producers didn’t do the basics with research, or they didn’t care. This apology means nothing unless Former MMA fighter FALLON FOX they also issue (Photo courtesy Fox) an on-air clarification—they must do due diligence on this topic by bringing on true experts, not just trans people for the sake of it.” The BBC has not responded to our request for a response to the group’s demand as of press time. DAWN ENNIS

Biden bolsters efforts to win release of American detainees President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed an executive order that will bolster his administration’s efforts to secure the release of Americans who are detained or being held hostage abroad. The executive order, which is based on the 2020 Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act, a retired FBI agent who Iranian authorities arrested in 2007, reinforces what a press release describes as “the administration’s tool kit in key ways.” • Reinforces the U.S. government’s efforts to support families of Americans wrongfully detained or held hostage overseas; • Authorizes agencies to impose costs and consequences, including financial sanctions, on those who are involved, directly or indirectly, in hostage-taking or wrongful detentions to support expanded and ongoing interagency efforts; • Directs relevant parts of the U.S. government to bolster their engagement and sharing of relevant information, including intelligence information, consistent with the protection of sources and methods, with families regarding their loved ones’ status and U.S. Government efforts to secure their release or return, as appropriate; and • Charges experts across the interagency to develop options and strategies to deter future hostage-taking and wrongful detentions. “It reaffirms the fundamental commitment of the president of the administration to bring home those Americans held hostage (and) wrongfully detained abroad,” said senior administration on Monday during a conference call with reporters. Another senior administration official added the executive order “reinforces U.S. government efforts to support the families of Americans wrongfully detained or held hostage overseas by directing parts of the federal government to bolster their engagement with such families and their shar-

ing of relevant information, including intelligence information, with families regarding their loved one’s status, and the government’s efforts to secure their release or their return.”

President JOE BIDEN (Screenshot via C-SPAN)

“This EO (executive order) reflects the administration’s commitment not just to the issues generally, but to the families in particular and it has been informed by the government’s regular engagements with them and other stakeholders who have and continue to undertake important constructive advocacy efforts on behalf of their loved ones,” they said. “President Biden and those across the administration will now draw on this EO to advance our efforts and we hope to do so in an active conversation with family members and outside stakeholders.” The executive order also creates a “D” indicator in the State Department’s travel advisories that notes the countries in which American citizens are at risk for “wrongful detention.” Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Vene-


zuela are the first six countries named. “We’re committed to provide us citizens with comprehensive safety and security information about foreign countries so they can make informed travel decisions before they before they head overseas,” said another senior administration official during Monday’s conference call. “The United States opposes wrongful detention and the practice of using individuals as political bargaining chips everywhere. These practices we know represent a threat to the safety of all US citizens traveling and living abroad.” Biden signed the executive order against the backdrop of WNBA star Brittney Griner’s continued detention in Russia. Officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February detained Griner — a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife, Cherelle Griner, — after customs inspectors allegedly found hashish oil in her luggage. The State Department has determined that Russia “wrongfully detained” her. Griner’s trial, which began on July 1, continues, even though she has pleaded guilty to charges that she smuggled drugs into the country. The White House is under increased pressure from Griner’s wife and family, teammates and LGBTQ activists to secure her release. A senior administration official on Monday’s call did not directly respond to a question about how the executive order will help secure Griner’s release. “There are a number of ways in which it would affect cases like that case in the wrongful detainee category,” said the official. “The executive order directs those across the executive branch to share consistent accurate information with the families of those who are deemed wrongfully detained, to ensure that they receive support and assistance throughout the ordeal, and to work with parts of our government to try to impose costs on those responsible.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Gay-owned pharmacy survived pandemic by serving without judgment

(Editor’s note: This is the third in a multi-part summer series of stories taking a closer look at how a group of diverse LGBTQ entrepreneurs survived and thrived during the pandemic. The series is sponsored by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. All installments in the series are available at our website.)

‘To be competitive, you have to think out of the box’

By PHILIP VAN SLOOTEN LGBTQ seniors visiting a community pharmacy in Northern California and anxious about getting the “jab” are often soothed by Allie, a 15-year-old Australian Cattle Dog mix who works there alongside her dads. “We’re all like a big family,” said Dr. Clint Hopkins, a pharmacist and co-owner of Pucci’s Pharmacy in Sacramento with his husband, Joel Hockman. “We want to ensure that our staff and patients remain safe and healthy. Patients can feel that in our culture and that makes it a more welcoming place for them.” Though he admits some people stop by “just to pet the dog,” that’s fine by him, too. Hopkins and Hockman wear many hats besides CEO and COO of their independently owned pharmacy, and often it means working long hours to manage dozens of employees and hundreds of regular customers requiring expensive and specialized medications, such as HIV treatments and antipsychotic medications, but they said it’s worth it to keep from turning anyone away. “We’ve had people from everywhere that were denied medication from someone somewhere,” Hopkins explained. “We literally don’t judge them. And we ‘untrain’ any of those things in our staff that they may have learned – any societal construct or something their family may have taught them. It’s not our job in any way to pass any judgment on anyone.” Hockman agreed, adding: “Medication is a necessity and not an option for people to stay safe.” This founding belief in serving everyone without judgment is what helped their small business grow during the height of the pandemic, even as the economy was collapsing into a recession in 2020. Even as other businesses shuttered from the strain of lockdowns and lost business, Pucci’s Pharmacy expanded the delivery service it previously offered as well as its contactless and curbside services. They also worked with the Sacramento County Public Health vaccine distribution program. As a result they tripled their business, resulting in an expansion to a larger space in 2021. “In order to be competitive, you have to think out of the box,” Hockman explained. “What are the customers’ expectations? How are they expecting to receive your products or services during a pandemic? For our business, people were going to be more reluctant to come into the store. At the pandemic’s height, we were also limited by who could physically come into the store.” So, the pair adjusted their business during the crisis to meet the changing safety needs of their community. This was in part because they knew the important role the pharmacy played in their community, particularly for those who are more vulnerable. Pucci’s Pharmacy has been a Sacramento fixture for almost 90 years, since brothers Peter and Dino first set up shop in 1930. Their former employee, Tom Nelson, bought the pharmacy with his wife, Linda, in 1979. When the AIDS epidemic swept the region and eventually the world in the 1980s, Nelson provided critical medications and affirming care at a time when some pharmacies were still denying both to HIV patients.

Hopkins and Hockman bought Pucci’s in 2016 and continue its welcoming legacy. Today, research shows LGBTQ seniors are particularly medically and economically vulnerable due to a history of discrimination, and they, like seniors in general, increasingly rely on local pharmacies to meet their healthcare needs. These vulnerabilities were exacerbated by the pressures of the pandemic, and may have contributed to Pucci’s rapid expansion. The unemployment rate for those 65 and over more than quadrupled between March and April 2020, during the height of the lockdowns and the economic downturn, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Even before the pandemic, 94% of seniors were covered by Medicare, and SAGE, the LGBTQ seniors advocacy organization, states many LGBTQ Dr. CLINT HOPKINS, a pharmacist and co-owner of Pucci’s Pharmacy in older people in particular “struggled with poverty.” Sacramento with his husband, JOEL HOCKMAN. (Photo courtesy the couple) SAGE found LGBTQ seniors were twice as likely their 2016 study also found a legacy of barriers to housing, to be single and live alone, and were four times employment and social programs continue to put LGBTQ seless likely to have children. The Center for American Progress niors, particularly those who also identify as people of color, also reported LGBTQ seniors were more likely to rely on fedat greater risk. eral benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance “If businesses pay a little bit more attention to LGBTQ oldProgram (SNAP), Medicaid, subsidized housing assistance, er people,” Tax explained, “they can help LGBTQ older people and unemployment insurance. overcome the history of stigma and discrimination that they Aaron Tax, director of advocacy at SAGE, told the Blade have faced.” his organization witnessed many LGBTQ seniors relying The National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce points out this on groups serving aging populations “to deliver life-saving can be good for the economy as well. help” as “financial resources dried up and the safety net was The group’s 2017 economic report stated LGBTQ consumstretched thin.” ers spend $917 billion every year on goods and services, But at the height of the crisis, SAGE often delivered critiwhich is part of the $1.7 trillion LGBTQ-owned businesses like cal services unfunded and without reimbursement, such as Pucci’s Pharmacy contribute to the U.S. economy annually. SAGEConnect, which was launched to connect socially isolatHopkins and Hockman advised college-aged LGBTQ comed LGBTQ older people across the country. munity members who were considering starting their own “LGBT organizations cannot do this work alone,” Tax said. business to serve everyone, meet client expectations, and to A Canadian study found pharmacies, in particular, to be not be afraid to show their support for the LGBTQ community “perfectly positioned” to work with elderly patients, their docin their advertising. tors, and their caregivers to best manage their care. “I’ve had patients that aren’t LGBTQ but come to us because According to the report, pharmacists as “medication extheir family member is, and we support the community,” said perts” often monitor prescriptions from multiple doctors and Hopkins, who also served as the president of their local LGBTQ inform the patient about what each is supposed to do as well Chamber of Commerce during the pandemic shutdowns. “So, as what side effects and interactions to watch out for. They let people know you’re supportive and out there.” can also simplify a treatment plan for “maintaining a quality of Although the couple enjoys their down time cycling or life” for senior patients. relaxing over dinner and wine with family and friends, they “Lowering stress for anyone is critical,” Hockman said restressed they don’t have as much free time as they would like garding changes they instituted during the pandemic. to mentor students. “Stress increases the possibility for illness to set in,” he exBut they agreed they would make time for an enterprising plained. “Everything we deliver to the customer reduces that “go-getter” who offers to intern with them by saying, “Here stress level as much as possible. Like offering curb services are the things I have learned through my education or experiso people don’t have to go into the store if they aren’t comence, and here are some things I can do to help you.” fortable.” “We make local decisions and make a greater impact on our While Tax stated it was important for LGBTQ seniors to feel community,” Hopkins said. “We take a very strong interest in welcome in all businesses, it was important for those providthe lives of our team members. We look out for one another.” ing healthcare services. Otherwise, LGBTQ seniors might deThey both welcomed the chance to see their business famlay or even avoid seeking the critical care they need. ily continue to grow. According to the Williams Institute, LGBTQ older adults “And it does feel like a family environment,” Hopkins said. avoid or delay healthcare fearing discrimination. Data from


Black queer business owner shares joys, challenges, and the power of fragrance

(Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a multi-part summer series of stories taking a closer look at how a group of diverse LGBTQ entrepreneurs survived and thrived during the pandemic. The series is sponsored by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. All installments in the series are available at our website.)

Evolution Aura’s founder says ‘believe in yourself and make it happen’

By PHILIP VAN SLOOTEN “Have you tried Prestige yet?” asks the luxury candle retailer Evolution Aura on its Instagram page, which features a gently flickering candle beside its elegant gold and black box. Both items rest prominently in the window corner of an apartment that promises to be rustic, chic, and relaxing. The laid-back image with throw-back charm reveals much about this North Carolina company and its Black queer owner, Adrian Hill, the single father of a 12-year-old straight-A student and a self-described “fragrance connoisseur.” Before starting his company initially as an e-business in 2017, he was in the fragrance department of a Nordstrom’s in Charlotte, a frequent haunt, after friends hipped him to Diptyque. “The people there were good employees,” Hill said, adding they shared his passion for highend fragrances. “A woman there told me to give Diptyque a try and to give my own line a try as well.” Always one to “champion each moment,” Hill started Evolution Aura, which sells consciously sustainable products such as hand-crafted, soy-based candles while donating 20 percent of its annual profit to local charities. “Ultimately, the line was developed for the community,” Hill told the Blade. “We wanted to be a beacon of life in the luxury space for everyone to enjoy. A kid who doesn’t have a bed may see a bed as a luxury. It’s all relative to the person, and we want them to experience luxury in their own way and to the fullest.” But starting a Black-owned business comes with historic cHillenges, such as having limited access to capital. A 2018 Small Business Credit Survey found large banks approved about 60 percent of loans for white small business owners, but only 50 percent for Latinx owners and 29 percent for Black small business owners, meaning only a third to a half of Black and brown applicants were approved compared to two-thirds of white applicants. “I didn’t get any financing when I started the brand,” Hill said. “Financing is the number one obstacle we face as Black small business owners. But I had a slew of people around me who believed in me. I took my mission before people who said ‘I believe in it.’ Those people light a different flame in you, so failure is no longer an option.” The problem of unequal lending practices persisted during the pandemic, according to a 2020 report by the Brookings Institute, as the Paycheck Protection Program in particular relied on mainstream financial institutions to deliver loans to small businesses. Larger banks tended to favor existing customers, leaving Black-owned businesses like Evolution Aura to turn to what Hill called “alternative networks” to help them survive. “I’m very grateful for any help I received,” Hill said. “If it wasn’t for my community and investor support, we would not have survived the pandemic.” Being an e-business initially may have also helped Evolution Aura, as his luxury candles most likely helped many escape the pressures of unexpected lockdowns. Despite the odds, in 2021 Hill was able to open his first brick-and-mortar store in Charlotte’s upscale SouthPark Mall. Both the Washington Post and Cision PR Newswire reported earlier this year that the number of Black-owned businesses increased by almost 40 percent during the pandemic while there was a slight drop in the number of white and Asian-owned businesses. However, only 2.3 percent of businesses are Black owned even though 14 percent of the U.S. population identifies as Black. In addition, Hill experiences unique cHillenges as a Black business owner who also identifies as an openly gay man. “I wouldn’t necessarily say I had a coming out experience,” Hill said. “I was more of the effeminate one who helped change diapers and cooked and cleaned. Over time I just evolved into who I really am.” But this evolution often adds a layer of economic cHillenge for the Black queer community. According to Williams Institute data from 2021, Black LGBTQ adults experience greater economic insecurity than the larger Black population, with 56 percent of Black LGBTQ households qualifying as low income compared to 49 percent of Black non-LGBTQ households. The study also found Black LGBTQ adults were more likely to be unemployed and to have a household income of less than $24,000 than Black non-LGBTQ adults. Dr. Bianca Wilson, a senior scholar of public policy and one of the Williams Institute re-

searchers for the study, told the Blade Black LGBTQ people in general fared worse than their non-LGBTQ counterparts in terms of mental health, income, and food insecurity. “These differences are the largest among Black LGBT women,” she added. The Movement Advancement Project reported these cHillenges were partly due to a history of unsafe schools, hiring bias, and onthe-job barriers to presenting authentically in the workplace. As a result, “LGBT people of color are some of the most disadvantaged workers in the United States – and face extraordinarily high rates of unemployment and poverty.” However, despite the bleak data, Hill is amazingly upbeat and points to the successes of both him and his son despite their cHillenges. He considers community support as a blessing not only for his business, but for him as a survivor of sexual trauma and as a single parent. “Fortunately for me, I have always had a very strong village of family and friends,” Hill said. “From the time I adopted my son, everyone rallied around and championed his undertaking. Even without a partner, there hasn’t been a moment I haven’t felt supported.” Hill explained how it was important for him to express to his son and others that while things can start out rough, to keep focused on the “next chapters of your life” and maintain your journey. Hill’s advice to future LGBTQ business owners, especially those of color, is to do their research and find support, including from organizations like the National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce. “The NGLCC has been monumental to my growth,” Hill said. “I definitely would say the minority business chamber of commerce, the Carolina Chamber of Commerce and the NGLCC all rallied behind me during the pandemic crisis to support my brand.” This year, Evolution Aura celebrates its fifth anniversary, and Hill points out that small Evolution Aura sells sustainable products businesses like his are critical to the econolike hand-crafted, soy-based candles. my’s recovery. He stated they should be sup(Photo courtesy Evolution Aura) ported because they are best positioned to employ and support the local communities they are a part of. “We are the ones that take care of our community,” Hill said. “And we hire from within our communities. Dollars spent here will go further in that effort.” But most importantly, Hill points out that the sky’s the limit for LGBTQ youth, and they should let who they are shine as brightly as the candles he sells. “Being LGBTQ should be empowering,” he encouraged. “Who you are is going to shine – and for every person that won’t support you, 10 people will. It’s just about believing in yourself and jumping out there and making it happen.” LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JUNE 22, 2022 • 17

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PETER ROSENSTEIN is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

Democrats should stop attacking Biden and target GOP instead Republicans are to blame for lack of progress

Democrats need to stop attacking Biden and each other and only target Republicans — at least until after the mid-term elections. Unfortunately, Democrats tend to eat their own and we are seeing this over and over. Joe Biden is our president even if I don’t agree with everything he is doing. But Democrats attacking him over and over makes no sense at all. We need to stop answering pollsters’ questions with, “We don’t like the direction of the country.” Democrats must understand when they say that they are attacking themselves. Democrats control the White House and Congress so they are responsible for the direction of the country in voters’ eyes. It’s time to only attack Republicans and show how they are responsible for stopping any progress. Politics and government are complicated, I appreciate that. It seems we have stopped teaching young people how government works. I recently read a New York Times story on how young people are unhappy with the old people running the country. The way to change that is to vote and get involved from an early age to make a difference. I would love the chance to sit and chat with Denange Sanchez, a 20-year-old college student from Palm Bay, Fla., who is quoted in the column. I have tremendous respect for her having voted in the last election. I am curious what she will do now to make the change she wants. What are her thoughts about Val Demings who is running as a Democrat for the Senate in Florida against Marco Rubio? Demings is older but does she agree with her platform? If not, who would she rather support? Another source in the column I would enjoy talking with is Tate Sutter, 21. According to the column, “Sutter feels that disconnect. A native of Auburn, Calif., studying at Middlebury College in Vermont, Mr. Sutter recounted watching Fourth of July fireworks and cringing as another fire season begins and aggressive federal action to combat global warming is stalled in Congress. Sure enough, he said, he could see a brush fire kicking up in the hills to the south. Climate plays a big role for me in my politics, he said, expressing dismay that


Democrats don’t talk more about it. It’s very frustrating.” Sutter added, “he understood the limits of Mr. Biden’s powers with an evenly divided Senate. But he also said he understands the power of the presidency, and did not see Mr. Biden wielding it effectively.” While I understand his sentiment it would be interesting to ask Sutter what he will do in the mid-term elections. He sounds like a really sharp young man. I am older and set in my life, fortunately having all I need to live out my life comfortably. But I am aware I am one of the very lucky ones. I grew up in a generation where we could do better than our parents. Mine were refugees from Hitler. My father never made more than $15,000 a year and I made nearly as much in my first job as a teacher being a member of the union. I was a political junkie working in the local Democratic club feeling the same urgency to see younger people as leaders. Friends and I began what we called the Heights Young Democrats working to elect a younger congressman in our district. I grew up when JFK was elected president. We went from the oldest president — at the time Dwight Eisenhower — to the youngest, JFK. It was exciting. But we worked at it recognizing it wasn’t easy. There are many amazing young people out there today. It might be time for the early Baby Boomers to step aside. For the younger ones to work with Generation X, millennials and the earliest of Generation Z who are now of voting age. Maybe that could move us forward to new leaders and ideas. But none of that will happen if younger generations don’t get involved in community service and politics. They need to make their voices heard and, in a democracy, a way to do that is to vote. But it’s important to vote with an understanding of how our government works. Understanding the founding fathers, (yes there should have been mothers as well), set up a government requiring compromise to get things done. Often frustrating, but necessary. So again, it would be great to sit with Tate Sutter and Denange Sanchez, hear what they have to say, and then support them as they move forward to becoming our future leaders.


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

YouTube/Apple/Spotify selling song calling for death to LGBTQ people ‘Ah, man, y’all are pedophiles!’

Ah, man, y’all are pedophiles! For a little bit a money, you will sell a child! Ain’t the LGBTQ a bunch a pedophiles! You just see a dolla’ sign, ’cause y’all are pedophiles! Y’all are sick, aye! Y’all a bunch a pedophiles! For a little bit of money, you will sell a child! Ain’t the LGBTQ a bunch a pedophiles! (Excerpt from chorus to Tyson James’ latest song, ‘Pedofiles’) Yesterday, when a Twitter follower alerted me to a viral music video that calls all LGBTQ people pedophiles and urges death to LGBTQ people, I was skeptical. I told myself that sort of thing would never survive major-platform rules against hate speech and incitement of violence. The anti-LGBTQ backlish is severe right now, but I figured my Twitter follower had to be exaggerating, at least a little. My second thought was that even if his assessment was spot on, not enough people had seen the video for YouTube managers to notice. I told myself I can’t possibly live in a country where explicit incitement to violence against a marginalized minority is tolerated. I was dead wrong! No pun intended. I followed a link to YouTube and watched a wildly popular video of Tyson James’ Pedofiles — my sense of horror mounting with each line. As you can see from the chorus lyrics above, the rap song is certainly hate speech. Claiming LGBTQ people sexually abuse and traffic children is as hateful as you can get, besides being obviously false. But the video is much worse than dehumanizing. At several points during the song, James raps that LGBTQ people should be killed. His rap is an outright call to violence, and based on the stomach-churning comments section, that’s exactly how his listeners (a jaw-dropping 125,000 people on YouTube alone, so far) are taking it. Tyson James sighting a pistol in with a laser while rapping that LGBTQ people should be killed. If you’d rather not watch, and I don’t blame you, here’s one example of a call to gun violence: When groomin’ kids is something you embrace? I got a gun and it goes sum’n like the bass (Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!) It’s a crime now, and it’s time out for these men dressin’ in drag Pull a nine out, time to sign out, you goin’ bye, now with that flag. This bit suggests stoning as street justice: Y’all might be handed over, I ain’t wastin’ time in prayer You send your kids to hell, you sick, and you don’t even care Maybe we should stone you, get you in the city square Call it street justice In case anyone fails to get the message, James waves around a laser-sighted pistol throughout the video, alternating it with a military-style assault rifle and flame thrower, brandishing them for emphasis when rapping that all LGBTQ people are groomers or pedopholes who should be killed.

He reinforces the pedophile theme with these lines: Don’t let distractions stop you from seein’ what’s the biggest threat It’s a slippery slope, let them get married, then bake their cake Now it’s let them date little kids, if that’s who they wanna date The comments section is … words fail me. Judge for yourself: This has the Rittenhouse vibe but even better! I can see the passion in y’all with this one! I’m with you my brothers in Christ, Tyson and Bryson. Dead pedophiles never reoffend his video was so well done! Expressed the anger we feel towards this EVIL that preys on children. Vengeance is mine saith the Lord! Tyson, Bryson: y’all are astounding. Praise the Lord. You BROUGHT it. The “f word” part was HILARIOUSLY DOOOOOOOPE. Impressed, God Bless! [Commenter is referring to James using “fag” as a slur then claiming he meant British cigarettes. Funny? Maybe if you’re a 12-year-old boy who thinks playground slurs are edgy-cool.] Sad day in this country when you can’t even call out “pedofiles” without possibly getting banned! Freedom of speech has been treaded on. Visuals are fire literally! Giving the abominations a sneak preview of their afterlife I see! What I love about this song is that it shows just how FUCKING kind and conscientious everyone in America who is even bigoted against gays are being right now. It could be the Middle East and you could have gotten stoned to death. [Because anything short of stoning somebody to death is kind and conscientious?] Word!!!!bout time someone speaks up about this perversion for exactly what it is! The Army of the Lord is rising!!!! This song gave me chills especially with the sign flashing in the back HELL IS HOT!!!!! Who is Tyson James? According to the Washington Blade, this isn’t James’ first dance with extremist homophobia. He released a video in February celebrating being called a bigot while setting fire to LGBTQ Pride flags. In a different track from the same album, he raps “If you’re born a girl, you’re not a dude!” while spray-painting the word “ABOMINATION” onto a rainbow flag. The Blade reports that James rose to fame celebrating Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who fatally shot two men and wounded another in August of 2020 in Kenosha, Wis. Rittenhouse shot the three unarmed men during the civil unrest that followed the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer. James has become very popular across platforms. On Spotify, his Rittenhouse track has racked up 680,000 listens. Maga Boys has garnered 876,000. On YouTube, those tracks clock in at 2.2 million and 634,844, respectively. Pedofiles, dropped July 1, looks set to overtake both. Why are major platforms giving hate speech and violent threats a pass? I don’t know. I wish I had something profound and interesting to write about why YouTube, Apple, and Spotify allow this. Going by the plain text of YouTube’s terms of service, you’d think James’ video would have been snatched down moments after

it went up. This is YouTube’s publicly stated hate-speech policy: “Hate speech is not allowed on YouTube. We remove content promoting violence or hatred against individuals or groups based on any of the following attributes: Age, Caste, Disability, Ethnicity, Gender Identity and Expression, Nationality, Race, Immigration Status, Religion, Sex/Gender, Sexual Orientation, Victims of a major violent event and their kin, Veteran Status.” Spotify says the same thing: “We do not tolerate hate content on Spotify — content that expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics, including, race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability.” Apple? Ditto In fact, all three policies are remarkably similar. So why are all three media behemoths platforming a rap artist who says all LGBTQ people are pedophiles? Do their entertainment lawyers tell them calling LGBTQ people pedophiles isn’t hateful or won’t incite hatred? Does anyone believe that? What about the violent imagery of James appearing to shoot or try to shoot LGBTQ people? What about his specific suggestions of how LGBTQ people should be killed? Are platform lawyers claiming his calls to violence don’t actually violate terms of service that explicitly forbid inciting violence? Seriously? I’m at a loss. Hey Google, Apple, and Spotify! Wake up! How about you acknowledge what you see right in front of your noses? Tyson James’ video is hateful and violent. It’s going to get people hurt and even killed. You can’t watch the video and not understand that. I can’t imagine why that doesn’t matter to you. How about you take a lesson from Reddit? As transgender advocate Alejandra Caraballo reported just yesterday, Reddit will enforce their hate speech policy on all content that equates LGBTQ people to groomers and pedophiles. That seems like a no brainer, but good for Reddit for seeing the need and acting on it. What’s the delay on your part, Google, Apple, and Spotify? You’ve got the policies in place already. They look crystal clear. It’s time to act. LGBTQ people in the U.S. are in the crosshairs today. Calls for “death to the LGBTQ” by extremist preachers fill news and social media spaces this year. As I reported recently, a violent extremist with 13 assault rifles was arrested and jailed last month after making credible threats to shoot up a Pride parade. He sounds eerily like Tyson James, right down to some of the same words and phrases. James is helping feed the anger and hatred so many right-wing extremists are directing against LGBTQ people this summer. I watched that video yesterday and I had to ask myself what country I live in. I had to ask myself how this can be real. But it is. Anti-LGBTQ extremism is growing and getting more violent sounding day by day. The last thing we need are viral hate videos on major platforms inflaming extremists even further.


Daisy Edgar-Jones knows why ‘the Crawdads sing’ Actress on process, perfecting a southern accent, and her queer following

By GREGG SHAPIRO Daisy Edgar-Jones is an actor whose career is blossoming like her namesake. In recent years, she seems to be everywhere. LGBTQ viewers may recognize Edgar-Jones from her role as Delia Rawson in the recently canceled queer HBO series “Gentleman Jack.” She also played memorable parts in a pair of popular Hulu series, “Normal People” and “Under the Banner of Heaven.” Earlier this year, Edgar-Jones was seen as Noa in the black comedy/horror flick “Fresh” alongside Sebastian Stan. With her new movie, “Where the Crawdads Sing” (Sony/Columbia), she officially becomes a lead actress. Based on Delia Owens’ popular book club title of the same name, the movie spans a considerable period of time, part murder mystery, part courtroom drama. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for the Blade. BLADE: Daisy, had you read Delia Owens’s novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” before signing on to play Kya? DAISY EDGAR-JONES: I read it during my audition process, as I was auditioning for the part. So, the two went hand in hand. BLADE: What was it about the character of Kya that appealed to you as an actress? EDGAR-JONES: There was so much about her that appealed to me. I think the fact that she is a very complicated woman. She’s a mixture of things. She’s gentle and she’s curious. She’s strong and she’s resilient. She felt like a real person. I love real character studies and it felt like a character I haven’t had a chance to delve into. It felt different from anyone I’ve played before. Her resilience was one that I really admired. So, I really wanted to spend some time with her.

BLADE: While Kya is in jail, accused of killing the character Chase, she is visited by a cat in her cell. Are you a cat person or do you prefer dogs? EDGAR-JONES: I like both! I think I like the fact that dogs unconditionally love you. While a cat’s love can feel a bit conditional. I do think both are very cute. Probably, if I had to choose, it would be dogs. BLADE: I’m a dog person, so I’m glad you said that. EDGAR-JONES: [Laughs] BLADE: Kya lives on the marsh and spends a lot of time on and in the water. Are you a swimmer or do you prefer to be on dry land? EDGAR-JONES: I like swimming, I do. I grew up swimming a lot. If I’m ever on holidays, I like it to be by the sea or by a nice pool. BLADE: Kya is also a gifted artist, and it is the thing


that brings her great joy. Do you draw or paint? EDGAR-JONES: I always doodle. I’m an avid doodler. I do love to draw and paint. I loved it at school. I wouldn’t say I was anywhere near as skilled as Kya. But I do love drawing if I get the chance to do it. BLADE: Kya was born and raised in North Carolina. What can you tell me about your process when it comes to doing a southern accent or an American accent in general? EDGAR-JONES: It’s obviously quite different from mine. I’ve been lucky that I’ve spent a lot of time working on various accents for different parts for a few years now, so I feel like I’m developed an ear for, I guess, the difference in tone and vowel sounds [laughs]. When it came to this, it was really important to get it right, of course. Kya has a very lyrical, gentle voice, which I think that North Carolina kind of sound really helped me to access. I worked with a brilliant accent coach who helped me out and I just listened and listened. BLADE: While I was watching “Where the Crawdads Sing” I thought about how Kya could easily be a charac-


ter from the LGBTQ community because she is considered an outsider, is shunned and ridiculed, and experiences physical and emotional harm. Do you also see the parallels? EDGAR-JONES: I certainly do. I think that aspect of being an outsider is there, and this film does a really good job of showing how important it is to be kind to everyone. I think this film celebrates the goodness you can give to each other if you choose to be kind. Yes, I definitely see the parallels. BLADE: Do you have an awareness of an LGBTQ following for your acting career? EDGAR-JONES: I tend to stay off social media and am honestly not really aware of who follows me, but I do really hope the projects I’ve worked on resonate with everyone. BLADE: Are there any upcoming acting projects that you’d like to mention? EDGAR-JONES: None that I can talk of quite yet. But there are a few things that are coming up next year, so I’m really excited.


Porter makes directorial splash with ‘Anything’s Possible’

An exploration of two shy kids feeling their way through first love

By JOHN PAUL KING out, and the showmanship to keep us interested and entertained all the way. He embelHollywood has given us so many queer teen romances over the last few years that it’s lishes the film with his personal touch – even to the point of showcasing the Philadelphia easy to forget a not-so-distant past when LGBTQ people had to grow up watching movies locations with the obvious love of a hometown boy – and delivers a work that exhibits the that only showed the pangs of first love through a heteronormative filter, and relate to same loud, proud, and loving dedication to shared humanity so abundantly clear in his the experience as best they could via the pretty straight kids enacting it on the screen. It performances on the stage and in front of the camera. was a take-what-you-can-get situation that left a lot of people feeling left out, isolated, and It would be unfair not to also credit the film’s cast for making “Anything’s Possible” shine. unseen. Reign and Ali have a natural ease and chemistry together, and the intelligence and underThat, among other things, is what makes “Anything’s Possible,” premiering globally July standing they bring to their characters is the glue that holds the movie together. Courtnee 22 on Prime Video, a benchmark in the still-evolving queer teen romance genre – because Cox and Kelly Lamor Wilson give likeable, memorable turns as Kelsa’s two BFFs, and Renée while many members of the LGBTQ community may now feel represented by movies like Elise Goldberry brings Broadway star power to the role of her fiercely protective mother. “Love, Simon” or “Booksmart,” there’s still a large gap when it comes to love stories about Likewise, the efforts of Porter and Justin Tranter as music producers for the film should teens who are trans. Directed by Billy Porter, in his feature film debut behind the lens, not be discounted; the infectious, this buzzy new movie goes a long way lush, and dreamy pop music soundtoward filling that gap; and for good scape in which they bathe the film measure, it raises the bar for the goes a long way toward creating its genre itself. appeal – and “Anything’s Possible” The script, written by trans screenhas plenty of that, even for curmudwriter Ximena García Lecuona (anothgeonly adults. er feature film first-timer), is a Gen Z There are moments, admittedly, tale of first love between two teens when the movie’s insistence on aspientering their senior year at a Philarational self-determinism threatens delphia high school: Kelsa (Eva Reign), to overpower its delicate reverence a trans overachiever who plans to for the freeing power of love. After all, focus her confidence and determiKelsa and Khal are exceptional teens, nation on getting into a college as far attractive, smart, and more selfaway as possible, and Khal (Abubakr aware than most of their peers; their Ali), a sensitive “nice guy” with artisfamilies are supportive and emotiontic leanings who has different ideas ally available, and the school they for his future than the high-intensity attend would be a dream come true career track his Muslim parents have for most American students. In its planned for him. Partnered for an art efforts to uplift and inspire, the film’s class assignment, these two seeming idealized vision sometimes feels like it EVA REIGN and ABUKABR ALI star in ‘Anything’s Possible.’ opposites have an instant spark, and (Photo courtesy Orion Pictures) might be as inaccessible to many teen despite obstacles in their social circles viewers as those straight Hollywood (this is high school after all), they evenlove stories did to our queer elders. tually give in to their attraction. Almost immediately their newfound love is being put to the Still, even in this seemingly idyllic setting, the cruelty and ugliness of high school life test, as they are forced to navigate the pitfalls of staying together through all the drama intrudes, and transphobia is just one of many ugly human traits that lurks beneath the their “couplehood” has created in their lives – just like any other pair of teenagers in love. surface – reminding us that such things are always there to hold us back. If we can’t quite Lecuona’s script, inspired by a real-life Reddit thread involving a boy who asked advice believe in the movie’s too-good-to-be-true world, perhaps it’s because we recognize just on how to tell a trans girl that he liked her, is a cut above the usual amusing-but-forgettable how much we still must conquer to achieve it. In any case, this movie is far too wise to teen rom-com for a lot of reasons; while it embraces and reinvents the familiar tropes of merely promote an agenda, and it ultimately rises beyond its sociopolitical messaging with its genre, it doesn’t hesitate to go deeper. Like the ‘80s John Hughes films to which it has its recognition that our individual realities are governed by the personal, not the political. already been compared, the movie allows space for a little goofy teen comedy while taking The romance between Kelsa and Khal moves us not because one of them is trans, but seriously the more complex and adult problems in its characters’ lives, and its savvy teenbecause it exists beyond such restrictive constructs. In a world of labels, each of them age perspective allows it to both celebrate and lampoon the absurdities of modern culture longs to be seen as something more; they rankle at being defined by their surface traits with razor sharp accuracy. Most significantly, it highlights and transcends trans issues in a and long to be appreciated for the more nuanced qualities underneath. Their tentative story asserting that gender, biological or otherwise, has nothing to do with being in love. steps toward a relationship are the awkward explorations of two shy kids feeling their Kelsa’s trans identity may play a part in the blowback she and Khal experience from the way through first love, not savvy negotiations in a culture war, and it’s a testament to the crowd at school, but it’s irrelevant when they are alone together – except when it comes authenticity that comes from letting queer people tell their own stories that what we take to the delicately handled treatment of negotiating physical sexuality, a topic that few other away from this one has more to do with the happiness that comes from living beyond films have managed with as much sensitivity. boundaries than it does with the empowerment that comes from breaking them. All of this comes to life with pitch-perfect finesse under the guidance of Porter, whose It’s that state of mind that resonates throughout “Anything’s Possible,” because most of bold and stylish directorial style and determination to “lift up” queer experience within the the young people in the movie – and, perhaps, watching it – already live in a world where public imagination is evident in every choice he makes – from the unapologetic soapboxing many of the boundaries that limit our humanity have already become meaningless. he allows himself to the behavioral modeling he drives home without making it feel forced. If they can stay there, maybe their future is brighter than we think. He has the attitude and vision to mine the story’s most essential points and bring them



A Salute to



Special Guest Artist

John Holiday Featured last Summer in Dudamel Conducts Gershwin at The Hollywood Bowl with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. GMCLA Music Director & Conductor Ernest H. Harrison will conduct the Chorus in a spectacular concert of Stephen Sondheim’s masterworks, from Sweeney Todd, Company, A Little Night Music, West Side Story, Follies, Sunday in the Park with George and Gypsy. On the program is the Los Angeles premiere of Songs of the Phoenix, a major new work led by Grammy- and Tony-nominated composer Andrew Lippa (I Am Harvey Milk), with nine songs from 13 diverse, important artists, including Sondheim.


Calhoun and O’Hara give us hope that art will still be a life force New memoir ‘Also a Poet’ will inspire readers

By KATHI WOLFE Families. Especially if your parents are acclaimed writers and artists, they can get under your skin. They love you, but sometimes withhold praise and suck the air out of the room. You wonder if you’ll end up as a second-string imitation of your famous folks. That was what growing up was like for writer Ada Calhoun, author of the new memoir “Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father and Me.” “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Tolstoy wrote in “Anna Karenina.” If you’re queer, you know not only how right Tolstoy was, but that family tension makes for riveting reading. Calhoun, a lifelong New Yorker who grew up in the East Village, doesn’t disappoint. Her parents are creative and talented. Her mother Brooke Alderson started out performing stand-up comedy in lesbian bars. Later, she was an actress whose most well-known roles were in “Urban Cowboy” and “Family Ties.” Her father Peter Schjeldahl, born in 1942, is a poet and The New Yorker art critic. Schjeldahl is far from a pompous gasbag. As The New York Times book critic Molly Young said recently, in his book “Hot, Cold, Heavy, 100 Art Writings 1988-2018,” Schjeldahl received, perhaps, the most awesome blurb ever. “Bruce is no longer the Boss; Schjeldahl is!” Steve Martin said of the volume. Not surprisingly, Calhoun didn’t have a typical childhood. Gay writer Christopher Isherwood, author of “The Berlin Stories,” was among those who Calhoun’s parents hung out with. “One of the most agreeable children imaginable,” Isherwood said

of Calhoun when she was a child, “neither sulky nor sly nor pushy nor ugly, with a charming trustful smile for all of us.” Most of us as kids see “The Nutcracker” with an aunt or grandma. Calhoun saw the holiday classic with a “dreamboat” poet. An artist posing topless so other painters could paint her wasn’t shocking to the young Calhoun. While Calhoun’s Mom makes several memorable appearances, “Also a Poet” is focused on Calhoun’s relationship with her father. Relationships between daughters and fathers can be difficult. But they’re often more fraught when the dad is a renowned writer. Especially when Calhoun, born in 1976, was growing up. Then (thankfully, to a lesser extent, now) if you were a male writer, life in your household centered around you. You didn’t help with housework or pay much attention to your spouse and kids. Though Calhoun was raised in the sophisticated East Village, life with her father fit this pattern. One day, Schjeldahl let her go alone, with no directions, at age eight on a bus to a friend’s birthday party. When she was young, Calhoun wanted to escape the Village literary life. “My typical answer was farmer because that was the most tangible, least cosmopolitan option I could think of,” Calhoun writes, when as a kid, people asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. But Calhoun couldn’t evade the clutches of the writing bug. From early on, she wanted to get away from her father’s shadow. So her work could be judged on its own merit. She changed her last name from Schjeldahl to her middle name Calhoun.


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Despite their difficulties, one thing bonded Calhoun with her dad: their love of Frank O’Hara, the openly queer poet and Museum of Modern Art curator, who died at 40 in a Jeep accident on Fire Island in 1966. In the 1970s, Schjeldahl, who like so many poets, writers and artists then and now, idolized O’Hara, tried ‘Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My to write a biography of the beloved Father, and Me’ By Ada Calhoun poet. But O’Hara’s sister and execC.2022, GROVE PRESS | $27 | 259 PAGES utor Maureen Granville-Smith derailed his attempt to write the bio. But all wasn’t lost. Decades later, Calhoun discovered the tapes of the people (from Larry Rivers to Willem de Kooning) who Schjeldalhl had interviewed for the project in the basement of her parents’ building. In a magnificent Rubik’s Cube of literary history and memory, Calhoun weaves a tale of family and of making art. The memoir will inspire you to read O’Hara. O’Hara wrote funny and moving poems out of the pop culture and sadness of his time (from the “The Day Lady Died” on the death of Billie Holiday to the hilarious “Poem” – with the line “Lana Turner has collapsed!” to “Personal Poem” about Miles Davis being beaten by cops). “His life force was on the page,” Grace Cavalieri, Maryland’s poet laureate and the producer/host of the radio show “The Poet and the Poem, said of O’Hara in an email to the Blade. In this “Don’t Say Gay” era, Calhoun and O’Hara give us hope that art will still be a life force.

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