Los Angeles Blade, Volume 07, Issue 38, September 22, 2023

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Undocumented LA artist uses his platform to destigmatize what many consider taboo, PAGE 02

(Photo courtesy of Julio Salgado)

Julio Salgado: Queer, Latino, & creating a powerful artistic narrative

LOS ANGELES - Julio Salgado is the co-creator of  The Disruptors Fellowship, a program at The Center for Cultural Power in Oakland, California, for emerging television writers of color who identify as trans/and or non-binary, disabled, undocumented/formerly undocumented immigrants.

His work has been displayed at the Oakland Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian, but for the 39-year-old artist, it’s using his art to destigmatize what many consider taboo that’s his passion.

The early years

Growing up in Mexico, Salgado felt pressure from his family and peers to take part in sports, primarily soccer. However, disinterested in the innate masculinity of Mexican sports culture, the young artist chose to spend hours drawing in his room instead.

“Plus, I’m not a competitive person,” Salgado humbly told The Blade.

Then, in 1995, when Salgado was twelve, a family trip to Los Angeles took a shocking turn when Salgado’s younger sister developed severe symptoms that landed her first in a general hospital and then later in a children’s hospital.

“It happened super fast,” said Salgado. “She was rushed to the ER, and her kidneys started failing.”

Salgado’s sister (then 7) was put on dialysis as doctors told the family that she would need a new kidney ASAP.

Both of Salgado’s parents were matches for his sister. Within a few weeks, Salgado’s mother had an operation to transfer her kidney to her ailing daughter.

“It’s your child,” said Salgado, reflecting on his mother’s sacrifice. “You will do anything for your child.”

While the surgery was a success, a new complication arose when doctors told the family that it would be dangerous for the sister to be under the care of new doctors in Mexico. Not willing to risk her daughter’s life, Salgado’s mother decided to stay in America indefinitely.

“My parents were so young,” said Salgado. “They were in their early thirties. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like for them.”

Not fully prepared to move to the U.S., Salgado’s father returned to his job in Mexico. He periodically sent money to his family in Los Angeles.

“It was the opposite of how it usually is,” said Salgado. “Usually, Mexicans come to work here and send money back home to Mexico. But we did it in reverse.”

For the first couple of months, the family of three couch-surfed their way through different family mem-

bers’ homes. Eventually, they moved into a small studio apartment with Salgado’s uncle, Chicho.

The family lived in the US for about a year before their passports expired.

In 1996, the family moved out of Chicho’s apartment toa home in Long Beach, this time with Salgado’s father, who had finally agreed to give up his life and job in Mexico.

In school, Salgado bonded with other undocumented kids in his ESL class. Sadly, many of these friends knew they could never attend university due to their lack of papers.

“That was my biggest fear,” said Salgado. “I knew a lot of my friends went into the kind of jobs no one really wants to do. I did a few of those jobs myself... I wanted more for my life, but I didn’t know what was going to happen to me after high school.”

Luckily, California Assembly Bill 540 (AB 540) passed as Salgado graduated high school, allowing undocumented immigrants to attend community college while paying in-state tuition.

“I still had to make money,” said Salgado, who independently funded his entire college career. “I got creative. I even took odd jobs caricatures for kids’ parties.”

Salgado recalled that despite building a life for himself in America, he was always hyper-aware of his illegal status.

“I only drove from work or to school and home,” said Salgado. “There was always this feeling of being a kid forever... My friends just knew that if I were going to come out with them, they would have to drive me.”

Salgado recalled a run-in with the police that left him shaking with fear.

It was 3:30 AM, and Salgado was driving his 1983 Plymouth for his early morning shift at a large chain store. A young police officer pulled Salgado over and asked for his license and registration. He lied, saying that he had forgotten it at home.

The officer asked him to pull into a nearby McDonald’s parking lot so that they could search his car. Feeling he had nothing to hide, Salgado complied.

“Before I knew it, two more police cars showed up,” said Salgado. “I was being told not to move. There was a gun to my head. I was going to cry. I had never seen a gun in my life.”

The police had found some t-pins, used to pin artwork on cork walls, in his trunk and mistaken them for drug paraphernalia. Once he cleared up the misunderstanding, the police made a tearful Salgado abandon his car and left him on the side of the road.

“I was so scared,” said Salgado, who felt the incident served as a reminder that he was constantly at risk of being deported.

While Salgado remains currently undocumented, he said that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has helped him settle more into American life. DACA is administrative relief from deportation that protects eligible immigrant youth from deportation originally established via executive action in June 2012 by the Obama Administration.

“Since 2012, I have been able to do more,” said Salgado. “Now I have a social security number and a real ID and driver’s license. I can now get permission to leave the country and come back.”

Salgado said he feels DACA benefits not only immigrants but also the spirit of America as a whole.

“You are creating citizens who can give back to America. Many who got DACA became doctors and lawyers. Isn’t that the American dream?”

Coming Out as Gay

Homosexuality had always been a sensitive subject in Salgado’s family. In addition to the stigma homosexuality carried in his religious Catholic household, the AIDS crisis also played a role in the taboo.

Salgado’s mother had a young brother who died from AIDS. His uncle, Chicho, who the family lived with when they first moved to Los Angeles, was openly gay and had developed HIV.

“There were always whispers about my uncle Chicho,” said Salgado.

“We were just learning about AIDS and seeing people die on the news... I knew if I followed this path, I would die.”

Salgado got his first inkling that he was gay when he was a young boy watching Disney’s Aladdin.

“I just really wanted to hug him,” said Salgado, laughing. “I knew I was attracted to other men, but growing up Catholic, I also knew that was wrong.”

When Salgado was in high school, he started to share suspicions about being gay with his female friends. A couple of those friends propositioned Salgado, saying they were willing to offer him their bodies so that he could discover whether or not he was gay.

“I do think sexuality is fluid,” said Salgado, reflecting on how the experience left him thinking that he was bisexual. “At that point, I had never been with a boy. I was glad we were exploring, but I felt guilty, like I was used to them. And I was ditching school. “

Salgado said that he believed his foreignness saved

Openly queer and openly undocumented, one Los Angeles artist uses his platform to destigmatize what many consider taboo

him from the typical bullying commonly accompanying a young queer person’s journey to self-discovery.

“I mostly got bullied for not speaking English,” said Salgado. “It was actually the other brown kids who would make fun of me and call me ‘wet back’ and make me feel bad because my parents bought me shoes from Payless. It was immigrant-on-immigrant bullying.”

Salgado did not come out to his family until he was an older teenager. He came out to his mother when he was eighteen after she read some experts about being gay in an old sketchbook/diary of his.

“At that moment, I felt I had two options. I could either say, how dare you go through my things, Mother,  or I could come clean. I told her that I was bisexual because that is what I thought at the time.”

Salgado did not come out to his father until he was about twenty-five and in college.

“I was in love with my first boyfriend,” said Salgado. “I thought this was really the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with...I came out to my dad because I wanted to introduce my boyfriend to my family.”

Salgado came out to his father in the car on the way home from work.

“I remember not being able to get the words out,” said Salgado. “I said, ‘I’m different,’ and he knew exactly what I was talking about.”

At first, his father said that while he respected “this decision,” he “did not want to see that.”

While Salgado was glad his father did not react with the physical or emotional violence that was especially prevalent when his father drank, he also realized his

hope of introducing his boyfriend to his father was impossible.

Salgado said his father has since come to terms with having a gay son. Their relationship is now better, and they even collaborated on an art piece about homophobia and machismo. Salgado said he realizes that his father’s past homophobia was a misguided way of trying to protect his son.

The Art

Salgado’s early art is often political, reflecting everything from the queer rights movement to the war in Iraq.

In college, Salgado stopped being an art major because he found it too restrictive. He then became a journalism major instead.

Salgado used political cartoons as a way to feel connected to the world at large. The artist said that is when he caught the bug for political art as a way to connect to others.

Salgado met more undocumented college students at Cal State Long Beach and started a support group for them.

Through the support group, Salgado met other creatives and started a magazine called “The Reflection,” which focused on the deep experiences of Latino/Latina students as first-generation students.

“All of a sudden, I had a community that was investing in work in our own community,” said Salgado. “I realized this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I wanted to make art that mattered to people.”

Salgado also used his Facebook and the school newspaper to publish political art about the movement. Wanting to represent his entire journey, he stopped separating his queerness from his ‘undocumentedness’ and started to combine the two aspects of his journey in his art.

Salgado would also draw cartoons to be submitted for petitions against the deportation of certain young individuals.

“I knew we needed to lend a face to those being deported,” said Salgado. “A lot was happening in the shadows.”

“I felt like I could add to the movement through my art...I also knew if my family ever fell into a deportation case, my community would stand behind me. I didn’t feel alone.... Just like we need to come out as LGBT, we need to come out as undocumented and say we are here. These are our faces.”

Now, Salgado has moved away from political art and chooses to focus on the more positive aspects of his life.

“I try to make art about the things that bring me joy. For many years. I made art about how fucked up it is to be an undocumented immigrant. Now my focus is on being a gay 40-year-old man who did not think as a teen that he would make it to his 30s. And now here I am.”

After his sister’s kidneys started failing again, Salgado moved in to a home with his sister and mother to help care for her. He drives her to her tri-weekly dialysis appointments while she awaits another kidney transplant. Salgado’s father and mother are now separated but maintain a “beautiful” relationship.

“I just finished working on a graphic memoir proposal that’s set in 2001. This meant looking at a lot of old photos of mine. This image was based on a photograph from my senior year in high school,” Julio Salgado (Photo courtesy Julio Salgado) “A commentary on the bullshit idea that the work that immigrants do in this country is considered low skilled,” Julio Salgado (Photo courtesy Julio Salgado)

ONE Archives Foundation changes name to One Institute

WEST HOLLYWOOD - ONE Archives Foundation, the oldest active LGBTQ+ organization in the United States, announced today that the nonprofit has rebranded itself and has changed its name to One Institute.

The rebrand coincides with the milestone 70th anniversary of the publication of the organization’s groundbreaking ONE Magazine, the first widely distributed LGBTQ+ magazine in the U.S. This launch precedes its inaugural Circa: Queer Histories Festival, scheduled throughout LGBTQ+ History Month in October 2023.

The rebrand includes a new logo, tagline, website URL, and social media handles, all reflecting One Institute’s ongoing commitment to envisioning a world motivated by social movements of the past to take action toward queer and trans liberation. The new design captures the essence of the organization’s rich heritage while fostering connections with younger generations.

The new logo honors the organization’s 70+ year roots by using the font of the original ONE Magazine logo, which symbolizes the boldness and advocacy of that design. This rebrand celebrates the organization’s historic past while also looking toward its exciting future.

Founded in 1952 as ONE, Inc., the LGBTQ+ organization originally established One Institute as its educational arm. Today, the organization is embracing “One Institute” as the nonprofit’s name, along with the tagline “Queer and Trans History in Action.”

“One Institute was originally established to educate and bring together queer and trans communities, and to fight against institutions attempting to control and police our identities,” said

Chiedu Egbuniwe, Board Chair, One Institute. “We’re thrilled to reclaim a name that reflects our history, and our mission of elevating queer and trans histories and embracing emerging stories through collaborative education, arts, and cultural programs.”

“All of us at the USC Libraries are excited about this new chapter for One Institute, which draws on the Institute’s storied history as a leader in LGBTQ+ educational initiatives and public programs,” said Dean of the USC Libraries, Marje Schuetze-Coburn. “We look forward to building on and strengthening our collaborations with One Institute through efforts like the ONE Magazine at Seventy exhibition that will launch Circa. The exhibition features a wealth of original and rarely seen materials from ONE Archives and underscores the tremendous possibilities for what our organizations will achieve in the coming years by working closely together.”

Explore the new look and logo of One Institute in their new website at  oneinstitute.org. Stay connected with them on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube at their new social media handle, @oneinstitutela.

About One Institute

One Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to elevating

queer and trans histories and embracing emerging stories through collaborative education, arts, and cultural programs. Founded in 1952, One Institute is the oldest active LGBTQ+ organization in the United States. One of the organization’s initial programs was the publication of ONE Magazine in 1953, the first widely read LGBTQ+ magazine in the country.

One Institute produces unique exhibitions and public programs that connect LGBTQ+ history with contemporary culture to effect social change

Additionally, the Institute assists in promoting the materials within ONE Archives at the USC Libraries, which houses the largest collection of LGBTQ+ materials in the world. Through distinctive K-12 teacher training, lesson plans, and youth mentorship programs, we empower the next generation of teachers and students to bring queer and trans history into classrooms and communities.

One Institute is among the select few California nonprofits that offer K-12 teacher training and lesson plans to implement the FAIR Act and integrate queer history into California public school classrooms.

Libs of TikTok attacks Burbank Mayor over drag show video

BURBANK, Calif. - A Drag Queen Bingo fundraiser event that was presented by the Santa Clarita Valley Democrats has turned into anti-LGBTQ+ campaign against Burbank Mayor Konstantine Anthony after a video surfaced of the mayor being spanked by the drag queen presenter.

The video was first posted to social media by the  Armenian-American podcast WiseNuts which disparaged the mayor and then once the video was cross posted to X(formerly Twitter) it was picked up by anti-LGBTQ+ hate account Libs of TikTok.

At issue was that posts advertising the event stated the Drag Queen Bingo fundraiser event was for “ages 15 and over. Event not suitable for children.” In a series of tweets, Chaya Raichik, the operator of Libs of TikTok went after the mayor. Anthony took to X to defend himself against her accusations that the slap happened in front of children. “Actually, there weren’t any children at this private 21+ event,” said Anthony.

The mayor also noted in his response to Raichik: “But of course lying is totally on brand for you.”

Although Raichik correctly pointed out that people 15 and older were allowed to attend, the organizer of the Drag Queen Bingo event and the Santa Clara Valley Democrats, released a statement explaining that no one under the age of 18 was


Libs of TikTok has been suspended several times on multiple platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Raichik had previously been  suspended from Twitter for accusing LGBTQ people of “grooming” children, which Twitter confirmed  violates its policies against hateful conduct after facing pressure from Media Matters and others. Her Twitter account was also suspended after she targeted  multiple hospitals for providing gender-affirming care, leading to  violent threats against  patients and providers and forcing at least one hospital to  request support from law enforcement. (On September 5, Raichik  baselesslyclaimed that a bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital “was probably a left-wing person trying to get me suspended.”)

According to the mayor at the City Council meeting Tuesday, the video’s spread has led to city officials receiving “some of the most vile hate speech that I have ever seen.”

The mayor then suggested those who take issue with is actions email him directly at kanthony@burbankca.gov.

“If you want to talk to me about what happened over the weekend, send me an email. Send me an email. I will talk to you about it,” he said. “There is no reason to involve all of the other people who were not at a public event, not at a government-sponsored event. It wasn’t even in the city of Burbank.”

The City also released a statement posting it on its website:

“The City of Burbank recognizes the diverse range of personal activities pursued by its residents and representatives. We understand that the recent incident involving our Mayor at a non-city event has drawn attention and elicited a variety of reactions from the community. We wish to emphasize that

the incident was done on the Mayor’s personal time, outside of Burbank.

We acknowledge the public’s concerns and ask for understanding of the personal choices of individuals, while also reaffirming our commitment to promoting an inclusive, respectful, and professional environment in all official city matters.”

KTLA reported that during Tuesday’s City Council session during the public comments Burbank resident Joel Schlossman criticized the mayor’s behavior.

“There are people in this city with morals who care,” he said. “You cannot be a piece of s— when you go home and then come here and put on a suit and think that you’re high and mighty … We have somebody sitting at the head of the dais that is the lowest of the low.”

As an example of Anthony’s alleged immoral behavior, Schlossman claimed that the mayor and his wife practice polyamory.

“There’s many people that disagree with it. It’s an insult to marriage, and he insults marriage,” said Schlossman, who added “kiss my ass” as he left the speaker’s podium.

The Santa Clara Valley Democrats in a statement released Tuesday said the group “vehemently condemn[ed] the sensationalized and inaccurate use of our event for political click bait in order to promote an agenda of fear, homophobia, transphobia, and bigotry.”

They added that “as an organization, we refuse to engage with this fake outrage.”

“We continue to stand in support of the LGBTQ+ community and Drag performers,” the statement said.

(Graphic by One Institute) Burbank Mayor KONSTANTINE ANTHONY (Photo Credit: Konstantine Anthony/Facebook)

Temecula school district bans all flags other than U.S. & state flags

TEMECULA, Calif. - The Temecula Valley Unified School District passed a controversial new policy that bans all flags except for the U.S. National Standard and the California State flags on any TVUSD properties including in classrooms.

While the policy passed last night in a 3-2 vote doesn’t specifically list unapproved flags, there has been tense discussions over display of the LGBTQ+ Pride Flag and the Black Lives Matters flag which drew the ire of conservative parents and three of the board members including board member Jennifer Wiersma, one of the three who is backed by the Inland Empire Family Pac, a far-right group that opposes LGBTQ+ rights, Board President Dr. Joseph Komrosky, who had publicly referred to LGBTQ+ civil rights advocate Harvey Milk as a pedophile, and Danny Gonzalez who is also opposed to LGBTQ+ equality rights.

The policy’s text says in part:

“No flag other than the United States of America and state of California may be displayed on school grounds, including classrooms, unless it is a country, state or United States military flag used solely for educational purposes within the adopted curriculum. Any other flag must be approved by the Superintendent or designee prior to displaying if, and only if, it is used for educational purposes and only during the related instructional period.”

Komrosky had placed the item dealing with flags and display on Tuesday’s agenda. There was a large crowd gathered for the board session and upon the final vote those in favour of the policy stood and applauded loudly.

Tensions flared at times in the large showing of parents, teachers, students and community members in the audience.

KTLA 5 who had a reporter present noted:

“This rainbow flag is infiltrating every corner of education and we need to talk about that,” a supporter of the policy said.

No text in the policy specifically mentions Pride flags on school campuses, however, members of the LGBTQ+ community believe the ban is being aimed at preventing Pride flags from being flown.

“Taking down a Pride flag is telling people they’re not want-

ed,” said a policy opposer.

Audience members who supported the policy told KTLA they believed Pride flags, or any other types of flags, should not be flown on school campuses.

“We’re seeing a lot of activism in the classrooms,” said Milana Cubana, a supporter of the flag policy. “We’re seeing BLM flags, Pride flags, trans flags and we’re not anti-LGBTQ, we’re not anti-anything but a classroom is not a place for your personal political beliefs.”

Opposers, however, are concerned over issues of censorship and lack of inclusivity in the classroom curriculum.

“When my children and I see LGBTQ flags and Pride flags, we all know that we’re going to be accepted there,” said, Ashley Williamson, who opposes the policy. “We know that we’re not going to be berated for what we believe in or how we look or how we act or the people who we are in relationships with.”

“It’s officially Transgender History Month in August,” said Love Bailey, a critic of the policy. “How will you teach that to the kids unless you display a trans flag? How, unless we embrace diversity, are we going to give our kids a good education moving forward?”

The Temecula Valley Unified School District has been at the center of the clash in Southern California between LGBTQ+ supporters in school districts and those opposed to LGBTQ+ rights.

In July the board voted to reject inclusion of a book and curriculum that included mention of slain former openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk and LGBTQ+ topics as required by state law. The board voted 3-2 to dismiss the state’s mandated textbooks and continue on with instructional materials that are nearly two decades old.

During discussions around the issue at the time Wiersma argued:

“I don’t want my 3rd grader studying an LGBTQ issue. I don’t want them going into gender ideology.” Wiersma, supported by the other two conservatives, Danny Gonzalez and Dr. Joseph Komrosky, signaled that they were also opposed to any curriculum that included lessons or information about former openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk.

School Board Dr. Joseph Komrosky referred to Milk as a pedophile, drawing the ire of California Gov. Gavin Newsom who tweeted: “An offensive statement from an ignorant person. This isn’t Texas or Florida. In the Golden State, our kids have the freedom to learn. Congrats Mr. Komrosky you have our attention. Stay tuned.”

After Newsom indicated the state would step in and also fine the district the board rescinded its earlier vote and moved forward to purchase the text books and accompanying instructional materials.

Then on August 22, 2023, the Board voted to implement a mandatory gender identity disclosure policy. The enacted policy requires schools to inform parents, with minimal exceptions, whenever a student requests to use a name or pronoun different from that on their birth certificate or official records, even without the student’s permission. The policy also requires notification if a student requests to use facilities or participates in programs that don’t align with their sex on official records.

A similar mandatory gender identity disclosure policy in neighboring Chino enacted by the Chino Valley Unified School District is now being challenged in San Bernadino Superior Court by California Attorney General Rob Bonta

Additional reporting from KTLA 5


PALMDALE, Calif. - A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed in Palmdale Saturday evening in what Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna described as an ambush.

In a press conference Saturday night Sheriff Luna said that the incident occurred at around around 6 p.m. near the intersection of Sierra Avenue and Avenue Q. The Sheriff said that the deputy killed was identified as Ryan Clinkunbroomer, 30.

According to the LASD, he was assigned to the department’s Palmdale station, starting in 2018 and served as a field training officer for nearly two years. Luna said that Clinkunbroomer was on duty and was found shot and unconscious inside his marked patrol vehicle by a passing good Samaritan who called it in. Responding deputies transported Clinkunbroomer to the Antelope Valley Medical Center.

According to the sheriff, medical personnel were unable to save the deputy and he died as a result of his wounds. Luna said that Clinkunbroomer had just gotten engaged four days prior to his death. He comes from a

family filled with generations of LASD deputies, including his father and grandfather, the sheriff added.

“He embodied the values of bravery, selflessness and an absolute commitment to justice,” Luna said. “Our deputy was a devoted family member A cherish member of our community who was cowardly shot while working tirelessly to serve our community. Our hearts absolutely go out to his family.”

“We need your help in finding whoever murdered our deputy,” Luna pleaded with the public. “Somebody knows something. Somebody saw something. We need to get them off the streets before they hurt anyone else in the community or another deputy, sheriff or police officer.”

The sheriff added there is no suspect information was available, but said investigators believe the shooting may have been a targeted act. Luna noted that detectives also believe the shooting may have been caught on surveillance video which they are investigating.

Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer leaves behind his fiancée, parents and grandparents.

No further details were released. Anyone with informa-

tion is asked to call the LASD at 323-890-5500. Anonymous tips can be submitted to L.A. Crime Stoppers at 1-800-2228477 or online at lacrimestoppers.org.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy shot & killed Palmdale (Screenshot/YouTube KCAL CBS Los Angeles) Los Angeles County Sheriff ROBERT LUNA briefs reporters on the shooting ambush in Palmdale that killed a sheriff’s deputy shot. (Screenshot/YouTube KABC 7)

Star Trek’s queer stars & fans joined forces on picket lines

Editor’s Note: Dawn Ennis is a member of the Writers Guild of America, East and a retired member of SAG/AFTRA.

NEW YORK — It’s been a full week since Paramount headquarters in Times Square and its studios in Los Angeles were targeted by hundreds of Trekkies, as well as the stars, producers and writers at the center of their Star Trek universe, all in support of striking actors and writers.

What most reports about that day failed to note was that the “United We Trek” demonstrations on both coasts were organized by LGBTQ+ union members.

Queer actors Wilson Cruz and Melissa Navia and out trans actor Jesse James Keitel joined actor Ethan Peck and showrunner Akiva Goldsman on the picket line in New York City.

Out gay actors George Takei and Jonathan Del Arco joined LeVar Burton, Robert Picardo and others in Los Angeles. They marched and chanted alongside fans, many wearing Star Trek costumes, who showed up in support of the strike.

What brought these fans, actors and writers together was that Sept. 8 was the day that Paramount celebrated the 57th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek on NBC in 1966.

And the man who brought them all together was Del Arco, who created the “United We Trek” demonstration in coordination with actors John Billingsley, SAG/AFTRA Vice President Michelle Hurd and Natalia Castellanos.

It was Del Arco’s idea to ask fans to join the picket line, and with help from queer members of the Writers Guild of America, East, fans showed up in droves in Manhattan as well, many of them LGBTQ+.

“The fans are amazing,” said Melissa Navia, who plays Lt.

Erica Ortegas on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it probably forever, but these fans are the best,” Navia told the Blade.

It has been close to a month since the Hollywood studios held negotiations with the Writers Guild of America, and according to Variety, both sides are scheduled to resume talks next week for the first time since Aug. 18.

Deadline reports SAG/AFTRA leaders, who haven’t met with studio heads since July, are accusing the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers of “behaving like petty tyrants,” “would-be feudal lords” and “land barons in feudal times.”

But the chants outside Paramount on Sept. 8 had a more sci-fi vibe: “Live Long and Prosper, We Want a Fair Offer,” and “Paramount, let’s engage! We demand a fair wage!”

“Being here with my fellow writers, my fellow actors and our fans who are reminding us why we do what we do and why the stories that we tell matter so much is everything,” said Navia.

The strike by the Writers Guild is now in its 136th day, and SAG/AFTRA members started walking picket lines 63 days ago. That has added up to almost five months without a paycheck for writers, and more than two months for actors.

“This strike has been hard for a lot of people and our spirits can get low,” actor Wilson Cruz told the Blade. “But I come here to the picket line as many times I can, because this is where you see why we’re fighting and who we’re fighting for. So, yes, this is incredible to be here with all of these Trek people, actors, writers and fans. This is what it’s all about.”

Actors Bob Odenkirk of Better Call Saul and Michael Emerson of Evil, Person of Interest and Lost also joined the “United We Trek” picket in New York, as did members of IATSE, a woman dressed as Princess Leia of Star Wars, and a trio of Star Trek novelists, Keith R.A. DeCandido, David Mack and Michael Jan Friedman.

Although it’s been a long strike, writer, director and TV producer Charles Randolph Wright told the Blade he hasn’t given up.

“We keep hoping, that’s all we can do,” he said. “What’s so great about this, this is all the unions helping each other. That’s the only way we will win.”

Utah’s Mitt Romney to retire from the U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) announced on Wednesday that he will not seek reelection next year, telling the Washington Post now is the time for a new generation to “step up” and “shape the world they’re going to live in.”

The announcement means Romney’s first term in the Senate will likely bookend his 20-year political career, which included a four-year term as governor of Massachusetts and two presidential campaigns, the latter as the Republican nominee.

During his time in Congress, the 76-year-old often clashed with members of his own party because he rarely shied away from publicly criticizing former President Donald Trump as other members of the GOP conference aired their grievances only privately.

Romney said he had decided a second term would be less productive and “less satisfying” — citing, according to the Post, “the disarray he sees among House Republicans” along with “his own lack of confidence in the leadership of President Biden and


The lower chamber is in turmoil now as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) seeks to unite his caucus while farright members demand that the party move forward with an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden and advance anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ amendments to appropriations spending bills that would almost certainly languish in the Senate.

Romney’s independent streak extended to LGBTQ rights

In 1994, Romney ran unsuccessfully for the Senate seat occupied by the late Democratic U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who was vying for a sixth term. At the time, the Boy Scouts of America was embroiled in controversy over its policy of excluding gay scouts from participating.

During a televised debate against Kennedy, Romney, who was serving on the organization’s National Executive Board, said, “I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.”

“His campaign distributed at the gay Pride parade pink flyers that asserted that he would be a better and a stronger advocate than Ted Kennedy,” lobbyist Arlene Isaacson told NPR in 2012.

A decade later, Romney reaffirmed his position on the Boy Scouts issue.

More ambiguous, however, were his positions on marriage equality.

Massachusetts recognized same-sex marriage pursuant to a decision by its Supreme Judicial Court in 2003. Though he had previously said he believes the issue should be left up to each state to decide and opposed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Romney would subsequently advocate for Congress to back an amendment defining marriage as unions between one man and one woman.

And then last year, Romney was one of only 12 Senate Republicans to vote for the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified protections for married same-sex couples into law.

During a confirmation hearing for Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Romney spoke out against allowing transgender woman and girls to compete on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

WILSON CRUZ, ETHAN PECK, MELISSA NAVIA and JESSE JAMES KEITEL in New York City. (Photo Credit: Dawn Ennis) U.S. Sen. MITT ROMNEY (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Olivia Hill is elected as first Out trans official in Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Voters in the City of Nashville and surrounding Davidson County made history Thursday as Olivia Hill won an at-large seat on the Metro Council, making her the first openly transgender official elected to public office in “the Volunteer State.”

The Tennessean  reported that Hill secured one of the Council’s five at-large seats in Thursday’s runoff election with 12.9% of the vote, as of 10 p.m. Thursday night. She joins a historic number of women elected to the Council. All five at-large members will be women, as well as 17 district councilmembers. That adds up to 22 women — a majority of the 40-member council.

“I want to say that I am elated,” Hill told The Tennessean after the historic win. A Nashville native, Hill graduated from Hillwood High School in 1983. She then served in the U.S. Navy from 1986-1995 and saw combat overseas

during Desert Storm.

Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, released the following statement after Hill was elected:

“Nashville voters clearly reject the hateful rhetoric that has grown louder in Tennessee politics lately. Olivia’s victory proves that transgender people belong everywhere decisions about them are being made, including local office. I know Olivia is well-prepared to take her seat on the Metro Council and work to make Nashville and Davidson County a more welcoming place for all.”

The Metropolitan Council (officially the Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County) is the legislative body of the consolidated city-county government of Nashville, Tennessee and Davidson County.

Sarah McBride polls far ahead in primary race for House seat

WILMINGTON, Del. - A new poll of likely Democratic voters shows Delaware State Sen. Sarah McBride (D) has earned nearly double the support of runner-up Eugene Young, with 44 percent support compared to his 23 percent.

Conducted from September 7 to 12, the poll was commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign Equality Votes PAC.

“As this new poll reveals, Delaware voters overwhelmingly back Sarah McBride in her historic bid for Congress,” said Geoff Wetrosky, Vice President of National Campaigns at the Human Rights Campaign.

“Her depth of understanding on the issues that matter most to the people of Delaware is built on a lifetime advocating for her neighbors and making real change,” he said.

McBride, who is America’s first openly transgender state senator and the country’s highest ranking trans elected official, would become the first trans member of the U.S. Congress if elected.

Last month, during an interview with the Washington Blade, she said, “Of course there’s going to be discussion about the potential of this campaign to break this barrier and to increase diversity in Congress and to ensure that a voice that has been totally absent from the halls of Congress is finally there in an elected capacity.”

At the same time, she said, her campaign is not focused on the potential for her to make history with this election. Nor, she said, are voters.

The poll underscores this point, finding that “health care and gun violence prevention rank as the top two policy priorities, with 42% and 40% of voters, respectively.”

In the Delaware State Senate, McBride has “worked to pass vital policies for her constituents, like paid medical and family leave, as well as laws making Delawareans safer by restricting the availability of assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” HRC wrote in a press release announcing findings from its poll.

DeSantis pushing House Republicans toward shutdown

WASHINGTON - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing House Republicans to not back down in negotiations with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) over spending bills they have held up by demanding spending cuts and advancing far-right amendments, including riders attacking the LGBTQ community.

Should the Republican conference fail to reach an agreement before the end of September, or unless McCarthy brokers a deal with his Democratic colleagues that would likely lead his GOP colleagues to file a motion to vacate the chair, a government shutdown will be triggered.

News of DeSantis’ involvement was first reported by Politico. The governor and candidate for the Republican nomination for president was a founding member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus when he served

in the chamber.

All 12 of the appropriations bills under consideration in the House contain anti-LGBTQ amendments, most targeting the transgender community. They would almost certainly not pass through the U.S. Senate or earn President Joe Biden’s signature.

“Ron DeSantis knows that both parties — including the current and previous administration — are to blame for Washington’s reckless spending spree,” DeSantis campaign spokesperson Andrew Romeo told Politico.

“He is urging congressional Republicans to hold the line in this current spending standoff and end days of rubber stamping multi-trillion dollar spending bills that harm the American people,” Romeo said.

Newly elected Metro Council member OLIVIA HILL. (Photo Credit: LGBTQ+ Victory Fund) Florida Republican Gov. RON DESANTIS speaking this past July at the national Moms For Liberty conference. (Photo Credit: DeSantis/Facebook) SARAH MCBRIDE (Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Canada’s conservatives take hard turn against trans people

Federal Conservatives adopt policies that would ban trans kids from medical treatment, block trans women from women’s spaces

QUEBEC CITY, Canada - Canada’s federal and provincial conservative parties are suddenly joining American-style culture wars centered on trans issues, announcing new policies to crack down on access to medical care and women-only spaces, and restricting trans children from using chosen names and pronouns in schools.

At the federal Conservative Party’s policy convention in Quebec City this weekend, 69 percent of delegates voted to bar trans children from receiving gender-affirming care, while 87 percent of delegates voted to define “woman” as a “female person” and to demand that transwomen be barred from women-only spaces.

Saskatchewan introduced a similar rule that has also been subject to a court challenge. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has announced he intends to bolster the regulation with a “parental rights” law this fall as it prepares for an election next year. An anti-LGBTQ Christian organization called Action4Canada has claimed credit for lobbying the government to introduce the school reforms.

That was followed by the Conservative government of Ontario led by Premier Doug Ford announcing that it was developing a similar policy. Ford’s government has been mired in a series of scandals recently, including most prominently a land reclassification that saw a handful of party donors receive billions of dollars in land value uplift while degrading environmentally sensitive land around Toronto.

Ford and his ministers have repeatedly described the new policy as protecting parents’ rights in speeches and campaign-style events, although a provincial election isn t scheduled for another two years.

“Parents rights. They need to be... informed when they [students] make a decision. It’s not up to teachers and school boards to indoctrinate our kids. I can’t even figure out what school boards do anymore,” Ford said at an event in Kitchener, Ontario last week.

Many activists have pointed out that Ford appears to be attempting to use the new policy to shift attention from the corruption scandal that has already led to the resignation of one cabinet minister.

nounced this year that she was leaving the party due its turn to anti-trans policies.

“To all the [Conservative Party of Canada] people who have told me they love me, support me, and would fight for me, and who are now telling me to calm down and just go along with this. Or worse, telling me to stay quiet. I see you and I will not forget,” Hodson wrote on X, formerly Twitter, in response to the convention vote on anti-trans policies.

While the federal government doesn’t generally control health services, Health Canada could regulate the use of medications and treatments for trans children. The federal government also doesn’t generally have the ability to regulate access to women s spaces in schools or businesses, but does control prisons, airports, and federal government offices.

Nevertheless, trans activists say that if the proposed policies are enacted by a future federal Conservative government, they would greatly harm trans people.

“I would like everyone to recall, quite simply, that trans people are generally poor, more likely to be homeless, and experience a whole lot of hate for being ourselves. This is the community that the Conservative Party of Canada is picking on. Because they can,” says Johnstone.

The new provincial policies around trans kids mirror legislation proposed or passed in several US states that requires schools to out students to their parents if they appear to be LGBT.

The policy vote – which was initiated by the party’s grassroots – will only become a part of the Conservative Party’s official platform if current leader Pierre Poilievre decides to include it. The party has been riding high in the polls for several months as Canadians deal with a growing cost-of-living crisis, but a federal election isn’t scheduled for two more years.

While the federal Conservatives had recently tried to focus on economic issues rather than culture-war issues, the convention vote is emblematic of how social conservatives have come to dominate the party’s agenda.

The vote also comes as a wave of anti-trans and anti-drag protests has appeared across Canada.

The latest salvo in the culture war battles against trans Canadians was ignited this spring, when the deeply unpopular Conservative premier of New Brunswick announced a new policy that would bar students from changing the name or pronoun they use at school without written consent from their parents. Two cabinet ministers resigned in protest over the new rule, which was immediately criticized by LGBT activists and teachers unions, who pointed out that it would be impractical to enforce and would violate trans students human rights. Nevertheless, the policy came into effect in September, although it has faced a court challenge by the Canadian Civil Liberties Union.

Shortly after, the conservative-affiliated government of

“Shame on Premier Ford. Schools are not indoctrinating students. This “parental rights” rhetoric is just a good slogan hiding an anti-trans and social conservative agenda. And - right now - it’s a desperate distraction from his scandal-plagued track record,” tweeted Fae Johnstone, a trans activist and President of the advocacy group Queer Momentum.

Five of Canada’s other seven provinces are currently governed by conservative-leaning parties, though none of the others have announced plans to copy the student name and pronoun policy yet.

Although Canada’s Conservative Party and its provincial cousins have a long history of pursuing policies that have harmed LGBT communities, the sudden wave of anti-trans policies has come of something of a surprise, after what appeared to be several years of détente on culture wars.

In 2021, the federal Conservative Party allowed Parliament to pass a bill banning conversion therapy by unanimous consent and in 2017, dozens of Conservative MPs joined the government in passing a bill that banned anti-trans discrimination and hate speech. Saskatchewan’s conservative government banned discrimination against trans people in 2014, and Conservative parties also gave unanimous consent to provincial conversion therapy bans in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Yukon in the last decade.

In the last federal election in 2021, the Conservative Party fielded its first ever openly trans candidate, Hannah Hodson, who ran in the district of Victoria, British Columbia, placing third with 13 percent of the vote. Though Hodson served for years as a staffer for conservative politicians, she an-

It’s somewhat whiplash-inducing to see Conservative legislators who just a few years ago supported banning conversion therapy now call for parental consent over gender identity. Under the federal and provincial laws that Conservatives previously supported, it would be illegal for parents to try to change their child’s gender identity or expression by forcing them to undergo conversion therapy. But under the education policies enacted by Conservative provincial governments, parents would essentially hold a veto over their children s gender expression.

Children and youth advocates, LGBTQ activists, as well as teachers unions have pointed out that the new rules violate the rights of trans students to a safe learning environment. The rules also put educators in an impossible position of policing the gender identities of their students.

“While we believe that the ideal situation would include parents and guardians in the conversations and decision making, we support current school board policy in Ontario that centers the students in the decision making and honours their right to self-identify, even when parental consent is not given, to support an equitable and inclusive learning environment,” wrote the Ontario Principals’ Council in a statement on the proposed rule

“Students who do not have parental, family and community support that respects and validates them face higher risks of self-harm, emotional distress, isolation, deteriorating mental health and increased bullying. Gender-affirming practices such as honouring preferred names and pronouns help to reduce those risks and contribute to greater inclusion, belonging and success at school,” the statement says.

Conservative Leader PIERRE POILIEVRE speaking to delegates to the federal Conservative Party’s policy convention in Quebec City September 8-10. (Photo Credit: Conservative Party of Canada * Parti conservateur du Canada)


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

Speaker Kevin McUseless calls for Biden impeachment inquiry

Stunt will backfire on Republicans in 2024

Congress has joined the world of the insane with Republicans calling to impeach any Democrat they disagree with. It is happening in Wisconsin to the new Supreme Court justice, and now lily-livered Kevin McUseless, facing threats from his MAGA members, announced an impeachment inquiry of President Biden.

He could name no reason, and in fact during the nine months of Republicans investigating Biden, they have found none. Two weeks ago, he said he wouldn’t do this without a vote of the House, but moderate Republicans rightly fi gure this will all backfi re on them, so wouldn’t agree to vote for it. Meanwhile the country is waiting for House Republicans to do their job and pass a budget, which they are unable to do. The result could close the government again. That will also backfi re on them, as it will hurt so many people.

So, what better time for Democrats, thinking independents, and any sane Republican left, those willing to put the country above their own party, and in the case of Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), even their own reelections, to just vote all these Republican clowns out of offi ce?

Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), who will lead the inquiry on Biden, has for the nine previous months come up with zilch — nothing meriting impeachment or even further investigation. The IRS whistleblowers’ testimony he touted was contradicted by the FBI in sworn testimony. But then it isn’t Comer asking for this impeachment inquiry, it is Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, and the MAGAs holding McUseless hostage. Those two should be arrested for criminal behavior, charged with being an embarrassment to the country. They are joined by the likes of Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), recently thrown out of a Denver theater for groping her boyfriend, vaping, taking pictures, and recording a show, Beetlejuice. This is today’s Republican Party.

Clearly, most elected Republicans are not willing to stand up to these jokers; all afraid of the Trump cult, aka the Republican Party. They are being threatened with a primary by Trump if they do. They would lose the primary, part of the reason Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) just announced he would not run again. The

Trump cult controls roughly 35% of the party and you can’t win without them. But Trump-supported primary winners have shown they lose general elections.

I am more confi dent than some in a Trump/Biden replay, Biden will win by 10 million votes this time, but not get one more electoral vote. It will again be about seven or eight states. If Republicans go ahead with this impeachment Democrats will win in 2024.

As to Hunter Biden, he should be punished for anything he did wrong, like any private citizen; whether it is not paying his taxes or lying on a gun permit application. President Biden should stop inviting Hunter to the White House, and curtail his public embrace of his son. It hasn’t helped his son, and is clearly not helping his own campaign, or for that matter any other Democrat. What he does in private is his business. The president has two homes, one in Wilmington, and one in Rehoboth Beach, where he can meet with, and entertain his son. I think the president owes that to the people he is asking to support him. He owes it to the party to not put himself in positions his opponents can take advantage of.

Joe Biden has been a public servant since he was 28 years old, starting on the New Castle County Council, in Delaware, in 1970. He ran and won his Senate seat in 1972. He has never been accused of any impropriety until the Republicans decided they could make unfounded accusations for political gain. He has shown himself a decent and honest man. A man with empathy for those less fortunate; and a president with one of the most successful administrations in modern times.

So McUseless, do your worst. Bend over for the MAGAs and get screwed. Hope it hurts. You have no balls as depicted in a recent funny meme where Barbie is shown on her knees in front of Ken, saying she fi nally understood; McUseless was the model for Ken.

The country will survive McUseless and the congressional Trump cult and be stronger for it. The decent people of the country will end up winning and McUseless, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and their cronies, will be relegated to the dustbin of history with nary an asterisk to their names. If there is an asterisk it will read that they were useless, venal, and screwed up.


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is a medical doctor from Ghana and public health specialist. He is the director for the UNAIDS multi-country office for the Caribbean. You can reach him on Twitter at @RichardAmenyah or @UNAIDSCaribbean.

Rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals agenda

A call for a fair global financing architecture

The Summit on Rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), simply called the SDG Summit, will take place this month as part of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) in New York to mark the 78th anniversary of the UNGA and the midpoint of the 2030 Global Agenda for sustainable development.

The world must do more to bolster efforts and accelerate progress to achieve the SDGs and leave no one behind.

The urgency of the matter is underscored by stark realities facing our world today. Currently, more than half the world is sadly being left behind because only 12 percent of the SDGs are on track, progress on 50 percent is weak and insufficient. Shockingly, 30 percent of these critical goals are either stalled or regressing. Further, the SDG summit is happening at a time when faith in multilateralism is dwindling. Now more than ever, leaders must commit to an empowered United Nations — equipped to support members states in this decade of action to achieve the 2030 agenda.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has asked all leaders to make concrete commitment on how to rescue the SDGs. His approach to the issues of the SDGs shows the seriousness with which he wants member states to review progress, invest catalytically, and prioritize evidence-centered, human-rights based approaches to accelerating SDG implementation.

crete commitment on how to rescue the tered, human-rights based approaches to acincrease since 2000. What’s more, nearly 30 this be attributed to the inequalities in

Financially, the world is in an existential debt conundrum. The global public debt has ballooned to a staggering $92 trillion, a fivefold increase since 2000. What’s more, nearly 30 percent of this crushing public debt is owed by developing countries. This pattern of debt can be attributed to the inequalities in the international financial architecture which exacerbates the negative impact of cascading crises on sustainable development. Developing countries have been undercut by such a flawed financial architecture such that for them to finance their development, they must access credit or borrow from more expensive sources such as private creditors, bondholders, banks and other lenders offer financing on commercial terms. This situation has exacerbated their vulnerabilities and made it even harder to resolve debt crises. Meanwhile, flows of official development assistance from

the Global North are far below the long-standing commitment of 0.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product.

pling with interest rates of 7.7 percent and 11.6 percent respectively, compared to Germany’s 1.5 percent and the

more (as the Caribbean pays over two times more) for borrowing than the

In the past 10 years, the portion of external public debt owed to private creditors has risen across all regions. This accounted for 62 percent of developing countries’ total external public debt in 2021. Access to credit is unfair, unjust and depends on where you live. Consequently, developing nations pay exorbitantly higher interest rates when compared to economic powerhouses like Germany and the United States. The Caribbean, Latin America and Africa are particularly hard-hit, grappling with interest rates of 7.7 percent and 11.6 percent respectively, compared to Germany’s 1.5 percent and the United States’ 3.1 percent This means that on average, African countries pay four times more (as the Caribbean pays over two times more) for borrowing than the United States — and eight times more (as the Caribbean pays five times more) than the wealthiest European countries. How can this be said to be a fair and democratic global financial governance system?

sustainably alone

ing general health programs without

ample. Furthermore, with limited health investments, these countries will continue to be fight

will have to continue to rely on the Global North.

Many of our countries are trapped in unsustainable debt. Currently, at least 19 developing countries are spending more on interest than on education and 45 are spending more on interest than on health. In total, 48 countries are home to 3.3 billion people, whose lives are directly affected by underinvestment in education or health due to large interest payment burdens. No doubt, many of these countries cannot sustainably finance their HIV programs, let alone adequately financing general health programs without support from The Global Fund, the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) or Global Vaccine Alliance for example. Furthermore, with limited health investments, these countries will continue to be ill-equipped to fight future global pandemics and will have to continue to rely on the Global North.

To course correct and enable financial justice, we must echo the secretary general’s call for a reengineering of the global financial architecture, to one which is fair and just, regardless of whether you live in the Global North or the Global South.

Continues at washingtonblade.com.


Bernal shines as real-life gay wrestler in ‘Cassandro’

A polished, engaging film about a real-life figure that carries message of hope

For most Americans, any knowledge of the Mexican wrestling style known as lucha libre is probably limited to what they gleaned from the 2006 Jack Black comedy “Nacho Libre,” which (it should go without saying) is not a movie that anyone should consider “factual.”

Now another movie about the subject has arrived, and this time it’s not an anything-for-a-laugh fantasy but a biopic about a real luchador who rose to international fame in the 1980s and remains one of the most celebrated and popular figures in Mexican professional wrestling to this day.

The luchador in question is Saúl Armendáriz – better known to his fans as “Cassandro” – and the eponymously titled movie about his ascendency begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video Sept. 22 after a limited theatrical release on Sept. 15.

Directed by Roger Ross Williams (who may not be a household name but has the distinction of being the first Black director to win an Oscar, thanks to the 2009 win of his “Music by Prudence” for Best Documentary Short), “Cassandro” stars Gael García Bernal – a longtime ally who became a queer fan-favorite thanks to his work in films like “Y tu mamá también” and “Bad Education” – as the openly gay Armendáriz and tells the story of his rise to fame in direct defiance of the culturally reinforced homophobia that permeated the professional environment of his field. Set in the 1980s, it follows the future superstar from the early days of his career, tracing his steps as he forges a path to success as an exótico – a wrestler who assumes a flamboyant persona based in queer (and largely homophobic) stereotypes – while simultaneously rising above the stigma of his sexuality and his impoverished upbringing to become a pioneering force in LGBTQ+ acceptance within the deeply traditional Latino culture to which he belonged.

Like most biopics, it also focuses on the personal: much of the film’s first half is dominated by the relationship between Armendáriz and his mother, Yocasta (Perla De La Rosa), a professional “good-time girl” whose acceptance of his queer identity is absolute yet tempered by her fear for his well-being. There is also a long-running thread about his desire for approval from his father – a married man with a “legitimate” family in which he is decidedly not included – and the pattern in his personal life of repeating that same dynamic in romantic relationships with lovers like closeted big-name luchador “El Comandante” (Raúl Castillo) and an apparently fluid but firmly “on the DL” associate named Felipe (Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, aka Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny for those unfamiliar with his “real” name) who clearly meets more than just his need for a reliable supplier of cocaine – it is the ‘80s, after all – while maintaining a strict-if-not-quite-convincing “no homo” stance.

Ultimately, though, as presented by first-time narrative feature director Williams (who cowrote the screenplay with David Teague after previously covering Armendáriz’ story in the 2016 documentary short “The Man Without a Mask”), “Cassandro” is driven by a narrative about overcoming and reclaiming the pejorative cultural tropes around queer sexuality and turning them on their ear as a means toward fully inhabiting queer identity. Blessed with a relatively supportive mother – a plainly-implied career sex worker who is depicted as much as a kindred spirit as she is a maternal figure – and comfortable enough in his own skin to flaunt his “deviance” in the public eye, the film’s version of Armendáriz moves through a clearly defined arc toward self-acceptance on his own terms.

Much of this is mirrored, of course, in the tale of his accelerated rise to stardom, in which he wins the hearts of lucha libre fans enough to subvert the accepted formula that the exótico is always the loser, and reinforced by the ways in which he responds to the various long-term relationships in his life – some nurturing, some toxic – as his career trajectory helps him to recognize his own worth. In this way, “Cassandro” becomes a true-life tale of queer affirmation, the saga of a person who overcomes hardline traditional expectations and deep-rooted social prejudice to use his own queer identity as an avenue to personal empowerment.

That, of course, is exactly what it sets out to be: it’s an unabashedly pro-queer narrative that brings the highest level of professional artistry into the mix, using it to convey that subtle blend of aloof observation and emotional engagement that can sometimes win viewers’ hearts and minds.

In recognition of that artistry, the foremost acknowledgement must go to Bernal, who turns in a career-highlight performance as both Armendáriz and his over-the-top titular alter-ego, which requires an impressive display of physicality in addition to keen emotional intelligence. The actor is more than capable on both fronts, and while it would frankly be nice to see one of our queer heroes portrayed in a mainstream film by an actual queer actor, it’s hard to complain when the actor is someone like Bernal, who finds within his own lived experience the authenticity to make it all ring true. Kudos are also deserved for both De La Rosa, who establishes an emotional core to the story that endures even after she leaves it, and openly-queer actor Roberta Colindrez as the trainer (and friend) that helps “Cassandro” conquer the world of professional lucha libre wrestling by literally flipping the script. Still, though there is clearly a heartfelt desire to inspire behind the movie’s portrayal of its hero’s unlikely rise to glory, “Cassandro” doesn’t quite deliver the kind of unequivocal “feel-good” validation for which it aims. There’s something rote about the story as it’s told to us; Armendáriz’ success seems a foregone conclusion, and his personal struggles – though impeccably acted and depicted with sincerity – feel somehow manufactured for the sake of a desired emotional response. There’s a sense of “Hollywood” about the film’s approach, a deliberate framing of the material which makes this real-life success story seem much too easy, its subject’s struggles too much like tropes to deliver the kind of authentic satisfaction the movie clearly aims for. Built on familiar formula, it all feels a little too predictable to ring true – especially for a saga centered in such a messy, wild-and-wooly environment as professional lucha libre. Yes, it inspires, but much of that is accomplished by playing to sentiment, by what seems a deliberate effort toward building and reaffirming a legend rather than revealing the real human experience behind it, and many details of Armendariz’ real story are left out – a suicide attempt, a struggle with substance abuse, even the origin of his iconic stage name as a tribute to a brothel-keeper of whom he was fond – that might have made for a less-sanitized and much more interesting story.

Such quibbles, however, are probably a moot point for most viewers; while “Cassandro” might feel a little too hollow to satisfy completely, it’s a polished, entertaining, and engaging film about a real-life figure that should – and does – carry a message of hope and transcendence for queer audiences.

Why would we ever complain about that?

GAEL GARCÍA BERNAL in ‘Cassandro.’

New book goes behind the scenes of ‘A League of Their Own’

‘No Crying in Baseball’ offers tears, laughs, and more

You don’t usually think of Madonna as complaining of being “dirty all day” from playing baseball. But that’s what the legendary diva did during the shooting of “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 movie, beloved by queers.

“No Crying in Baseball,” the fascinating story behind “A League of Their Own,” has arrived in time for the World Series. Nothing could be more welcome after Amazon has cancelled season 2 of its reboot (with the same name) of this classic film.

In this era, people don’t agree on much. Yet, “A League of Their Own” is loved by everyone from eight-year-old kids to 80-year-old grandparents.

The movie has strikes, home runs and outs for sports fans; period ambience for history buffs; and tears, laughs and a washed-up, drunk, but lovable coach for dramady fans.

The same is true for “No Crying in Baseball.” This “making of” story will appeal to history, sports and Hollywood aficionados. Like “All About Eve” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “A League of Their Own” is Holy queer Writ.

Carlson, a culture and entertainment journalist who lives in San Francisco, is skilled at distilling Hollywood history into an informative, compelling narrative. As with her previous books, “I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy” and “Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds, and Legendary Life of Meryl Streep,” “No Crying in Baseball,” isn’t too “educational.” It’s filled with gossip to enliven coffee dates and cocktail parties.

“A League of Their Own” is based on the true story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). From 1943 to 1954, more than 600 women played in the league in the Midwest. The league’s players were all white because the racism of the time prohibited Black women from playing. In the film, the characters are fictional. But the team the main characters play for – the Rockford Peaches – was real.

While many male Major and Minor League Baseball players were fighting in World War II, chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, who owned the Chicago Cubs, founded the league. He started the AAGPBL, “To keep spectators in the bleachers,” Carlson reports, “and a storied American sport–more important: his business afloat.”

In 1943, the Office of War Information warned that the baseball season could be “scrapped” “due to a lack of men,” Carlson adds.

“A League of Their Own” was an ensemble

of women’s performances (including Rosie O’Donnell as Doris, Megan Cavanagh as Marla, Madonna as Mae, Lori Petty as Kit and Geena Davis as Dottie) that would become legendary.

Girls and women still dress up as Rockford Peaches on Halloween.

Tom Hanks’s indelible portrayal of coach Jimmy Dugan, Gary Marshall’s depiction of (fictional) league owner Walter Harvey and Jon Lovitz’s portrayal of Ernie have also become part of film history.

Filming “A League of Their Own,” Carlson vividly makes clear, was a gargantuan effort. There were “actresses who can’t play baseball” and “baseball players who can’t act,” Penny Marshall said.

The stadium in Evansville, Ind., was rebuilt to look like it was in the 1940s “when the players and extras were in costume,” Carlson writes, “it was easy to lose track of what year it was.”

“No Crying in Baseball” isn’t written for a queer audience. But, Carlson doesn’t pull any punches.

Many of the real-life AAGPBL players who O’Donnell met had same-sex partners, O’Donnell told Carlson.



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Declared an Icon, John Waters gets Hollywood Walk of Fame Star


he ascended the podium for

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Today, the famed Hollywood Walk of Fame became a little more rainbow than it had been before. With gilded star etchings depicting icons on every corner, the powers that be dedicated September 18th to a man who arguably helped thrust LGBTQ visibility into a culture that was probably not ready at the time to receive it. The modern-day fascists amongst us might even call him a “groomer.”

We call him John Waters.

Waters first arrived in Hollywood in 1970. He parked at Hollywood & Vine and received his first bit of Los Angeles recognition.

He got a jaywalking ticket.

Outspoken and brash, Waters introduced outsider culture and heralded gay and transgender visibility into American cinema when the Stonewall uprising was still a very recent memory. His 1972 film Pink Flamingos was brazenly transgender affirming. It powerfully and glamorously flew in the faces of audiences while trans people only faced marginalization and were stigmatized in the Nixon Viet Nam and Watergate era.

His film Hairspray was first a cult favorite and in later iterations, a hit Broadway musical, and a second mainstream hit movie. It featured LGBTQ characters and a leading character in drag. Waters has also written several LGBTQ themed books including Shock Value and Role Models.

Part of the charm of John Waters is his knack for not taking himself, or any of us, too seriously. His first words as he ascended the podium for the Walk of Fame honor: “Here I am…closer to the gutter than ever!”

“I hope the most desperate showbiz rejects walk over me here and feel some sort of respect and strength,” he said later paying tribute to his greatest inspirations: the underdogs.

Waters dedicated his star to his parents. Pat and John Waters, who had been horrified by his earliest films, but encouraged him to pursue Hollywood none-the-less.  “What else could I do?” he mused.

All in all, Waters was “astonished” over the tribute.  He thanked Outfest for sponsoring the event and for thinking he was “gay enough to receive it.”

Ever the director, and thinking ahead, he took a moment

Queerceañera: Celebrating LAtinx Heritage Month

LOS ANGELES – Get Ready, LA! This September, the Center will host its inaugural Latinx Heritage Month commemoration with Queerceañera (queer-seh for short), an inclusive take on the coming-of-age quinceañera tradition throughout Latin America and the United States.

Hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15 alum, Salina EsTitties, our Queerce is a cultural summit and community cotillion rooted in accessibility and unbridled celebration; quinceañeras are often regarded as out-of-reach status symbols, and our event breaks the gender norms and structures of said celebrations. Both vibrant and bold, Queerce will spotlight LA’s richly diverse queer, Latinx diasporic experiences.

RuPaul’s Drag Race México host Valentina will be honored at the event, kicking off a year-long ambassadorship with the Center to uplift and support outreach within the Latinx community. She will sit down for a keynote conversation with Mexican-Native American entertainer, Miss Benny. The duo will be honored for their trailblazing work in entertainment as breakout, culture-shifting nonbinary and trans artists, respectively.


• 5:30PM – Doors + Bars Open

• 6:00—7:15PM – Quince-style cocktail reception and a mixer in our courtyard, and then guests will be escorted into our Renberg Theatre.

• 7:15—8:30PM – Emceed by celebrity host Salina EsTitties, the stage program will consist of show stopping performances, special honoree presentation and keynote conversations with influential figures from the LAtinx community.

• 8:30—10:30PM – Tiempo de Vals — the post-program offers more cocktails and surprise live performance elements in the courtyard for guests to enjoy before dancing into the evening.

ASL provided for the program. Event venue is wheelchair accessible.

Date and time

Friday, September 29 · 5:30 – 10:30pm PDT


The Village at Ed Gould Plaza1125 N McCadden Place Los Angeles, CA 90038

More event + special guest announcements coming soon!

to make a recommendation for whom he thinks should be Hollywood Boulevard’s next star recipient:  Divine.

Film critic and historian Leonard Maltin summed up John Waters this way: “John Waters is a national treasure, a unique and original voice in American cinema. His films are subversive, hilarious, and thought-provoking, and they have helped to change the way we think about outsider culture and LGBTQ+ representation.”

Now Waters has his day, and his star, immortalized forever on the famous Hollywood path. We can only hope his effect on American culture, where the “outsider” can stand tall, proves to be as solid.

first words as
the Walk of Fame honor: “Here I am…closer to the gutter than ever”
Queerceañera is an inclusive take on the coming-of-age quinceañera tradition throughout Latin America and the United States
JOHN WATERS receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Screenshot/YouTube Variety) Queerceañera hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15 alum, SALINA ESTITTIES. (Photo-Graphic Credit: Los Angeles LGBT Center)
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