Los Angeles Blade, Volume 08, Issue 11, May 03, 2024

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Chronicling the diversity of the LGBTQ+ experience, PAGE 02 MAY 03, 2024 • VOLUME 08 • ISSUE 11 • AMERICA’S LGBTQ NEWS SOURCE • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

“Our Queer Life” chronicles the diversity of the LGBTQ+ experience

The series is quickly reaching people across the globe and fostering understanding and empathy among its viewers

WEST HOLLYWOOD – In the bustling lanes of digital storytelling, where narratives burst and fade with rapid clicks, Matt Cullen’s documentary series “Our Queer Life” emerges as a poignant chronicle of the LGBTQ+ community’s diverse experiences.

With over 200,000 subscribers on YouTube, Cullen’s series stands out not just for its breadth of voices—from celebrities to street hustlers—but for the depth with which it explores the moving lived realities of queer individuals.

Cullen took time out of his busy schedule to give The Blade an exclusive interview about his fledgling hit series.

A Passionate Beginning

Born and raised in Northern California, Cullen’s early life in a supportive, albeit traditional, family environment shaped his sensitive approach towards storytelling. A curious and open child who loved musical theatre, Cullen always had a passion for interesting stories and how they are told.

Cullen worried about coming out to his family, but said that he is eternally grateful that the nerve-wracking experience involving a letter left on the kitchen table for his parents to find, fortunately ended in acceptance and love, with his parents ultimately embracing his truth warmly.

“It was a scary big step,” Cullen reflected. “Coming out to my family or my really close friends was scary because I was worried if they didn’t accept me, I would not know how to handle that… It was more about accepting myself and embracing who I was and saying, this is my life now. “

Cullen said that he knows that the  familial support he received as a newly out high school senior contrasted sharply with the narratives of many he would later spotlight in his series, providing him with a profound appreciation for his own comparatively smoother journey.

“The stories that I tell are very heavy,” Cullen said. “But I still feel so inspired and motivated by the determination of these people to keep living and to keep going in spite of everything. Their drive and their willingness to live for themselves and nobody else leaves me invigorated and inspired.”

The Birth of “Our Queer Life”

Cullen, who initially pursued acting after college in New York, found himself dissatisfied with the roles and scripts that came his way. “I felt like I was just regurgitating somebody else’s words,” he shared, highlighting his discomfort with being constantly typecast as over-the-top gay characters.

The turning point for Cullen came during the COVID-19 pandemic.. Trapped in his apartment, feeling isolated and longing for interaction, he envisioned a new creative outlet. “I felt like I needed to talk to new people,” Cullen said. “I was craving a deep connection with strangers, and I wanted to hear new stories. That deep desire was what the impetus for the series.”

The combination of Cullen’s artistic empathy mixed with his own feelings of entrapment led him to think about how difficult life must be for other queer individuals stuck in societal ecosystems that inherently reject their queerness.

“I thought about a lot of fundamentalist religious groups and how difficult it is for people to be gay there,” Cullen remarked, pinpointing the acute need for representation from these underrepresented groups.

Cullen’s first interview was with Rob, a man Cullen had found through a Facebook group and who had left the Jehovah’s Witness community to live authentically.

“I am still so grateful that Rob felt comfortable to be the first to share his story with me,” Cullen said.

Rob’s story provided a raw, unfiltered look at the challenges of adapting to the outside world after leaving a controlled religious environment. He discussed not only the doctrinal and social shackles he escaped but also the practical challenges of integrating into society, like finding employment without real-world skills.

This encounter didn’t just enrich Cullen’s series; it set a precedent for the type of stories he wanted to feature—stories of struggle, resilience, and the search for identity. Each episode aims to foster understanding and empathy among viewers, broadening their perspectives on the complexities of queer life in various contexts.

Empathy Through Intimacy

“Our Queer Life” thrives on its intimate portrayal of its subjects. Each episode delves into the hurdles and triumphs of individuals within the LGBTQ+ community, aiming to destigmatize topics like sex work and address the misrepresentation of trans people. Through his conversations, Cullen not only exposes the challenges faced by his subjects but also celebrates their resilience and humanity.

Mousie, who had lived through unimaginable challenges, from serving multiple prison terms to surviving on the streets of North Hollywood, became one of the earliest and most influential subjects of Cullen’s series. Her willingness to open up about her life provided “Our Queer Life” with a narrative that encapsulated the struggles and resilience of a marginalized individual fighting for survival and dignity.

During their first meeting, Mousie shared her journey with Cullen, detailing her life in a $67/month apartment and her experiences as an intravenous drug user and sex worker. This episode alone drew over 300,000 viewers, resonating deeply with audiences and humanizing a community often relegated to the shadows of society. Cullen revisited Mousie a year later, further exploring her day-to-day experiences and struggles, adding layers to her story that emphasized her humanity over her hardships.

Mousie’s influence extended beyond the screen; her relationship with Cullen grew into a deep, familial bond. In her final days, confined to a hospital bed, she expressed her

heartfelt connection to Cullen, telling him, “I was her brother and that we had great things to do together.” Her passing was a profound loss for Cullen, who felt her spirit continued to guide his work, inspiring him to pursue stories with even greater dedication.

Reflecting on Mousie’s role in shaping “Our Queer Life,” Cullen credits her with helping him gain the credibility and trust necessary to navigate the complex landscapes of street life and sex work. “Mousie was the one who broke this for me,” Cullen remarked, acknowledging how a TikTok video of her story garnered 30,000 views and messages from viewers expressing how deeply they related to her experiences. This response marked a turning point for the series, illustrating the power of storytelling in building connections and fostering understanding.

“I feel like she is still with me in everything that I do,” Cullen said. “She told me before she died that I was her brother…I can literally feel her.”

Looking Forward

As “Our Queer Life” continues to grow, so does its creator. Cullen remains hands-on, involved in every aspect of production from filming to editing, driven by a personal touch that resonates deeply with his audience. While he contemplates the future of the series, possibly on larger platforms like Max, his priority remains the authentic representation of his subjects’ lives.

“I will always refuse to do anything exploitative where we don’t ask about (the subject’s) lives and their desires,” Cullen said, underscoring his commitment to creating real and nonexploitative narratives. “I want every person who clicks on a video to leave that episode feeling a connection and relating to them.”

The series is quickly becoming a vital part of the cultural conversation, reaching people across the globe and fostering understanding and empathy among its viewers. For many, it provides the first intimate look at lives they might otherwise never encounter, bridging gaps and building connections.

In a world where divisions run deep, Matt Cullen’s “Our Queer Life” offers a beacon of unity, celebrating the shared human experiences of love, struggle, and resilience. Through his lens, viewers are reminded that despite our vast differences, the desires for acceptance, health, and happiness are universal.

MATT CULLEN (Photo courtesy of Matt Cullen)

Bonta files for permanent ban of Chino school’s forced outing policy

Bonta noted that the policy was detrimental to the physical, emotional safety, well-being, and privacy of trans students

OAKLAND, Calif. — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today filed a motion for final judgment in Bonta v. Chino Valley Unified School District seeking injunctive and declaratory relief to ensure that the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education (Board) does not reenact or implement their recently-rescinded forced outing policy.

In a press release, the Attorney General noted that the policy – Policy 5020.1 – was detrimental to the physical and emotional safety, well-being, and privacy of transgender and gender-nonconforming students.

In August 2023, Attorney General Bonta sued to challenge the policy on the basis that it violated students’ civil and constitutional rights under California law, and in October 2023, obtained a preliminary injunction enjoining the facially discriminatory provisions of the forced outing policy. While the District voted to rescind the forced outing policy on March 7, 2024, in response to the San Bernardino County Superior Court’s preliminary injunction order, the District’s Board continues to stand “proudly” by Policy 5020.1, the District’s counsel continues to maintain that it was “common sense and constitutional,” and the District continues to make comments echoing the anti-trans comments they made publicly before enacting the policy.

As a result, Attorney General Bonta is seeking a permanent injunction and declaratory relief to protect students’ civil rights and ensure that the Board does not reenact or implement its original, discriminatory policy.

“Chino Valley Unified has an obligation to protect the safety and well-being of the students it is charged to serve, especially our most vulnerable student communities who are susceptible to violence and harassment,” said Attorney General Bonta. “It took a lawsuit and court order to get Chino Valley to rescind their discriminatory forced outing policy, but even now, the Board has continued to assert that it was lawful, and board members continue to echo the anti-trans rhetoric they relied upon when passing it. Today’s motion seeks to ensure no child becomes a target again by blocking Chino Valley Unified from ever adopting another forced outing policy. As we continue to defend the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students, I urge all school districts to take note and ensure every student can enjoy their right to learn and thrive in a school environment that promotes safety, privacy, and inclusivity.”

Even though Attorney General Bonta issued a letter to the Board on July 20, 2023 stressing the potential harms and infringements on students’ civil rights from the adoption of Board Policy 5020.1, the Board enacted the policy nonetheless. The forced outing policy required schools to inform parents, with minimal exceptions, whenever a student requested to use a name or pronoun different from that on their

birth certificate or official records, even without the student’s permission and even when disclosure would cause physical or mental harm to the student.

The policy also required notification if a student requested to use facilities or participate in programs that did not align with their sex on official records. In August 2023, Attorney General Bonta announced a lawsuit challenging the enforcement of Policy 5020.1, asserting it violated several state protections safeguarding students’ civil and constitutional rights.

Shortly after securing a temporary restraining order, the San Bernardino Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction against the Board’s forced outing policy in October 2023. The Court held that several provisions violated California’s equal protection clause and discriminated against transgender and gender-nonconforming students, causing them irreparable harm.

In today’s motion seeking a permanent injunction and declaratory relief against the forced outing policy, Attorney General Bonta underscores the importance of the Court’s issuance of final adjudication to guarantee the safety and well-being of transgender and gender-nonconforming students from future identical or similar forced outing policies, and declare that the forced outing policy violates students’ constitutional and statutory rights to be free from unequal and discriminatory treatment on the basis of sex, gender, and gender identity.

As part of today’s motion, Attorney General Bonta urges the Court to issue a final judgment because a live controversy exists, as the District’s conduct signals that it could readopt the discriminatory policy absent a final ruling by the Court, the discriminatory message communicated by the enactment of a discriminatory policy must still be redressed, and the case presents clear issues of public interest broadly affecting students, parents, school officials, and teachers that are likely to recur.

The Attorney General underscores the importance of securing final injunctive and declaratory relief against Policy 5020.1 to:

• Prevent the Board from re-enacting the discriminato-

ry forced outing policy in the absence of a final injunction.

• Provide relief against the stigmatic harms inflicted by the Board’s adoption of the forced outing policy.

• Declare that the Board’s forced outing policy violates California’s equal protection and antidiscrimination laws.

Today’s motion also asserts the Board’s plain motivations in adopting Policy 5020.1 were to create and harbor animosity, discrimination, and prejudice towards transgender and gender-nonconforming students, without any compelling reason to do so, as evidenced by statements made during the Board’s hearing.

In discussing the policy before its passage, board members made a number of statements describing students who are transgender or gender-nonconforming as suffering from a “mental illness” or “perversion”, or as being a threat to the integrity of the nation and the family. The Board President went so far as to state that transgender and gender nonconforming individuals needed “non-affirming” parental actions so that they could “get better.”

The Attorney General has a substantial interest in protecting the legal rights, physical safety, and mental health of children in California schools, and in protecting them from trauma, harassment, bullying, and exposure to violence and threats of violence. Research shows that protecting a transgender student’s ability to make choices about how and when to inform others is critical to their well-being, as transgender students are exposed to high levels of harassment and mistreatment at school and in their communities when those environments are not supportive of their gender identity.

• One-in-10 respondents in a 2015 national survey said that an immediate family member had been violent toward them because they were transgender, and 15% ran away from home or were kicked out of their home because they were transgender. Fewer than one-in-three transgender and gender nonbinary youth found their home to be gender-affirming.

• Nearly 46% of transgender students reported missing at least one day of school in the preceding month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable there and 17% of transgender students reported that they left a K-12 school due to the severity of the harassment they experienced at school.

• Seventy-seven percent of students known or perceived as transgender reported negative experiences such as harassment and assault, and over half of transgender and nonbinary youth reported seriously considering suicide in the past year.

California Attorney General ROB BONTA along with California’s Secretary of State SHIRLEY N. WEBER at a April, 2024 Sacramento press conference. (Photo Credit: Office of the Attorney General/Facebook)

St. John’s Community Health awarded $10

mil for



St. John’s Community Health is a network of 24 community health centers and 4 mobile clinics providing free and low-cost health care

LOS ANGELES – Today, St. John’s Community Health – a network of community health centers serving South, Central, and East Los Angeles; the Inland Empire; and the Coachella Valley – announced they have been awarded $10 million by the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) to help build a community resilience center in South Los Angeles.

“To protect communities made most vulnerable to climate change by racist policies and practices, we must be proactive in treating environmental disparities and implementing climate preparedness plans,” said Jim Mangia, president and CEO of St. John’s Community Health.  “We will build the Avalon Health Access and Resilience Center alongside the community it is meant to serve, offering a diversity of programs and services to treat both the symptoms and the root causes of the climate crisis.”

The abundance of concrete, heavy traffic corridors, and lack of green space in South Los Angeles causes more extreme heat than in other areas of Los Angeles. Further, rapid gentrification has caused spikes in homelessness, leaving many people forced to live on the street and face dangerously hot weather with no respite. Increasing risk of wildfires

also put people experiencing homelessness and low-income children at greater risk for respiratory illnesses.

St. John’s Community Health is one of nine applicants being awarded a community resilience center implementation grant.

Through this grant, St. John’s Community Health plans to build the Avalon Health Access and Resilience Center near their existing community health center and drop-in clinic serving unhoused people. The center will be a community-driven safe haven in South Los Angeles with the infrastructural capacity to prepare for, respond to, and recover from climate, public health, and other emergencies.

The climate and community resilience center will incorporate wide-ranging disaster relief and environmentally sustaining campus amenities and services, including: accessible and adaptable indoor and outdoor spaces for cooling, emergency shelter, climate and community resilience classes and events, and a community garden.

Physical infrastructure elements will be integrated with year-round medical, dental, and behavioral health services, case management, educational programming, peer support,

workforce training, basic-needs services, and other programs to address lack of access to resources for low-income people of color from a diverse group of priority populations living and working in South Los Angeles.

This first-of-its-kind center represents a significant step in expediting recovery efforts and building resilience among communities in South Los Angeles.

Moreover, the center will serve as a catalyst for community cohesion, bringing residents together to collaborate, share resources, and support one another. St. John’s anticipates serving at least 15,000 members from the priority populations at the Avalon Health Access and Resilience Center annually.

JIM MANGIA, president and CEO of St. John’s Community Health at a speaking engagement. (Photo Credit: St. John’s Community Health)
PrEP + DoxyPEP

Colorado’s high court okays anti-trans ballot initiative effort

Colorado Supreme Court greenlights signature collection for ballot initiative opponents believe would target LGBTQ+ students

DENVER, Colo. – A conservative group that bills itself as defending parental rights has received approval to collect signatures for a ballot initiative that would forcibly out transgender students in the state’s schools.

“We believe this measure is so supportive of our kiddos that do identify as LGBT,” Lori Gimelshteyn, executive director of the Colorado Parent Advocacy Network, told Denver’s NBC News affiliate KUSA 9 news. Gimelshteyn helped write the ballot initiative.

“We very strongly believe that parents are the ones that know best and help them,” she said.

According to KUSA, the measure was approved by the Colorado Title Board, but opponents including LGBTQ advocacy group One Colorado and Out Boulder County, challenged the decision with the Colorado Supreme Court. Late last week, the court affirmed the initiative, giving it the go-ahead to begin collecting signatures.

The exact text of the ballot measure states, “Any public school representative who obtains information that a child enrolled in their public school is experiencing gender incongruence shall notify the child’s parents within 48 hours of receiving such information.”

In a statement to the Blade Thursday, the executive director of Out Boulder County, Mardi Moore reacted noting that the Colorado Supreme Court decision “to allow the collection of signatures to place a measure on our November 2024 ballots that is an attack on our teachers, students, and families.”

“Today is a sad day in Colorado. Despite our state’s long history of honoring individual rights and freedoms, the Supreme Court has ruled that a vocal minority can begin collecting signatures from Coloradans to codify government overreach in our schools, communities, and lives. If successful, their efforts will place an additional administrative burden on our already-overworked teachers and school administrators and expose them to frivolous and costly lawsuits.

“The proponents of this measure do not understand Colorado’s values. And they do not care about the other consequences this ballot measure will have on teachers, kids, and families. You will hear several things about the measure they are gathering signatures for to put on our election ballot – that they want to protect kids, that it will only affect one part of the LGBTQ+ community – but they are lying to you.

“Out Boulder County will do everything in our power to ensure our teachers, kids, and families can be who they are and feel safe in schools.”

KUSA 9 News also reported that the Colorado Parent Advocacy Network has until August to collect about 125,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

“You can be ensured that our volunteers, our staff and our large community will do everything possible to ensure this is not passed in the state of Colorado,” Out Boulder County‘s Moore told KUSA. “We’ve had big wins. I don’t think Colorado will be any different.”

Colorado Parent Advocacy Network’s Gimelshteyn hopes to start collecting signatures on this measure by the end of this week. She told KUSA every local school district will have the ability to write a policy around how this measure will be implemented, if it does get on the ballot and pass.

Other Anti-LGBTQ measures

The Colorado Parent Advocacy Network effort is only one of several ballot initiatives targeting Colorado’s LGBTQ+ community. The Colorado Newsline reported two measures sponsored by Erin Lee, a Fort Collins anti-LGBTQ activist who since 2022 has made a string of appearances in conservative media crusading against what she calls the “indoctrination” of children by “predators” at public schools, have been approved by the Title Board.

One would require Colorado public schools to notify parents when their child shows signs of “experiencing gender incongruence” at school, and another would codify a parent’s “legal right to review their child’s school records.”

Lee, her husband and two other parents sued the Poudre School District in federal court last year, alleging that her daughter’s experience with an after-school Genders and Sexualities Alliance club, which “introduced concepts of gender fluidity and various types of sexual attraction,” violated their constitutional rights as parents. Their characterization of some of the club’s discussions and materials has been disputed, and their lawsuit was dismissed.

Another set of ballot measures targeting transgender Coloradans has attracted high-profile support from prominent Republican politicians. One would prohibit transgender athletes from competing in “a sport or athletic event designated as being for females, women or girls.” The other proposes a sweeping ban on medical procedures and hormone treatments for transgender people under the age of 18.

The Title Board, however, ruled that both measures violate the single-subject rule, and upheld their decisions again last week, prompting criticism from Greg Lopez, the GOP’s nominee for a 4th Congressional District special election in June, and former state Sen. Kevin Lundberg.

“I believe it is doing a great disservice to we the people in Colorado, who reserve the right to make law independent of the General Assembly,” Lundberg said. “I’m saying this to you very directly, because I guarantee I’m going to say this publicly — you need to know that if … you’re going to say this is not a single subject, that’s a violation of our Constitution.”

Hearings on the anti-transgender initiatives have been marked by unusually tense scenes at the normally tranquil Title Board, including a session last month during which supporters of the initiatives shouted at board members while filming the hearing with their phones. Conley, the board chair, told Lundberg that his comments about speaking “publicly” were part of a pattern she found “unnerving.”

“We have put in a tremendous amount of effort, we are doing our best, we are seeking to be consistent. I am constantly concerned about being doxxed online,” Conley said. “People can always comment on public processes. It is in the news all the time. But to be reminded and directed at it, I can’t help but think that there’s a little bit of a hidden message there that is not appreciated and won’t be tolerated.”

Additional reporting by Chase Woodruff, the Colorado Newsline.

Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center home to the state’s highest court is located at 2 E 14th Ave, in Denver. (Photo Credit: State of Colorado)

Homeless trans woman in Miami beaten to death in her sleep

“Whenever a trans person is murdered with such brutality, the question should be asked about whether or not this was a hate-motivated crime”

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Gregory Fitzgerald Gibert, 53, who was out on probation, is charged with the second-degree murder of 37-year-old Andrea Doria Dos Passos, a Latina trans woman who was found deceased in front of the Miami Ballet company facility by a security guard this past week.

According to a Miami Beach Police spokesperson the security guard thought Dos Passos was sleeping in the entranceway around 6:45 a.m. Tuesday and when he went to wake her he discovered the blood and her injuries and alerted 911. She was deceased from massive trauma to her face and head. According to Miami Beach police when video surveillance footage was reviewed, it showed Dos Passos lying down in the entranceway apparently asleep. WFOR 4 – CBS News Miami reported: In the early morning hours, a man arrived, looked around, and spotted her. Police said the man was dressed in a black shirt, red shorts, and red shoes.

At one point, he walked away, picked up a metal pipe from the ground, and then returned. After looking around, he sat on a bench near Dos Passos. After a while, he got up and repeatedly hit her in the head and face while she was sleeping, according to police.

“The male is then seen standing over her, striking her, and then manipulating her body. The male then walks away and places the pipe inside a nearby trashcan (the pipe was found and recovered in the same trashcan),” according to the arrest report.

Police noted that in addition to trauma on her face and head, two wooden sticks were lodged in her nostrils and there was a puncture wound in her chest.

Victor Van Gilst, Dos Passos’s stepfather confirmed she was trans and experiencing homelessness.

“She had no chance to defend herself whatsoever. I don’t know if this was a hate crime since she was transgender or if she had some sort of interaction with this person because he might have been homeless as well. The detective could not say if she was attacked because she was transgender,” said Van Gilst.

“She has been struggling with mental health issues for a long time, going back to when she was in her early 20s. We

did everything we could to help her. My wife is devasted. For her, this is like a nightmare that turned into reality. Andrea moved around a lot and even lived in California for a while. She was sadly homeless. I feel the system let her down. She was a good person,” he added.

City of Miami Police arrested Gibert, collected his clothing, noting the red shorts were the same type in the video and had blood on them. Blood was also found on his shoes, according to police. He was taken into custody and charged.

“The suspect has an extensive criminal record and reportedly was recently released from custody on probation for prior criminal charges. Police apprehended the suspect in the City of Miami and the investigation is currently ongoing. This case is further evidence that individuals need to be held accountable for prior violent crimes for the protection of the public. We offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the victim,” Miami Beach Mayor Steve Meiner said in a statement.

Joe Saunders, senior political director with LGBTQ rights group Equality Florida, told the Miami Herald that “whenever a transgender person is murdered, especially when it is with such brutality, the question should be asked about whether or not this was a hate-motivated crime.”

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ANDREA DOS PASSOS (Photo via Equality Florida)

Out in the World: LGBTQ+ news from Europe & Asia


BAGHDAD, Iraq – A law passed by the Iraqi parliament Saturday criminalizes same-sex relationships with a maximum 15-year prison sentence and also penalizes transgender Iraqis who face potential prison sentences ranging between one and three years under the new law.

Member of Parliament Nouri al-Maliki told the AFP news agency that passage of the measure was delayed until after Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani’s visit to Washington earlier this month. A second MP, Amir al-Maamouri told Shafaq News that the new law was “a significant step in combating sexual deviancy given the infiltration of unique cases contradicting Islamic and societal values.”

In a statement released by Matthew Miller, the Spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, Miller noted:

The United States is deeply concerned by the Iraqi Council of Representatives’ passage of an amendment to existing legislation, officially called the Anti-Prostitution and Homosexuality Law, which threatens constitutionally protected human rights and fundamental freedoms. The law bans same-sex relations with steep fines and imprisonment and punishes those who “promote homosexuality.” Limiting the rights of certain individuals in a society undermines the rights of all.

This amendment threatens those most at risk in Iraqi society. It can be used to hamper free-speech and expression and inhibit the operations of NGOs across Iraq. The legislation also weakens Iraq’s ability to diversify its economy and attract foreign investment. International business coalitions have already indicated that such discrimination in Iraq will harm business and economic growth in the country.

Respect for human rights and political and economic inclusion is essential for Iraq’s security, stability, and prosperity. This legislation is inconsistent with these values and undermines the government’s political and economic reform efforts.

UK Secretary of State Lord David Cameron in a statement posted to X (formerly Twitter) called the law “dangerous and worrying.” He added “No one should be targeted

for who they are. We encourage the Government of Iraq to uphold human rights and freedoms of all people without distinction.”


FRANKFURT AM MAIN, Germany – According to German media outlet Preussische Allgemeine Zeitung, a group of professional footballers from the Deutsche Fußball Liga [German Football League] will be announcing that they are gay on the International Day Against Homophobia, May 17. PinkNewsUK reported the German outlet has quoted Marcus Urban as a source. Urban is a former footballer in Germany who came out after retiring. He was the second player worldwide to come out, only after British player Justin Fashanu in 1990. Fashanu was the only prominent player in pro English football to come out, until Jake Daniels in 2022.

Urban told Redaktions Netzwerk Deutschland [Editorial Network Germany]  the move is part of an initiative in Germany in an attempt to encourage closet LGBTQ+ players and others working in football to come out. All clubs involved are said to have been made aware of the imminent announcement.

Urban is a co-founder of Diversero, a global community who celebrate and live diversity that he said contact with the players. Speaking about the closeted players he noted: “There is controversy there. Do I still want to wait until the world of football becomes the way I want it to be?”


STRASBOURG, France – The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has issued a set of standards and recommendations to European prisons aimed at ensuring that transgender prisoners, a highly vulnerable segment of the prison population, are treated with respect and protected from the risks of ill-treatment. In its annual report for 2023, the CPT notes that it is increasingly meeting transgender persons held in prisons during its visits to states to monitor the conditions of detention of persons deprived of liberty. The CPT aims to provide guidance to governments and prison administra-

tions, considering that European countries are currently implementing divergent policies and that there is a current debate as to how to treat transgender persons in prison.

CPT President Dr Alan Mitchell said: “Prisons are a microcosm of society, often with amplified issues given the smaller confined settings. Transgender persons held in detention can be in a situation of vulnerability and a heightened risk of intimidation and abuse. It is concerning that a few states still deny the existence of transgender persons and make no specific provision for their treatment in prison, which may expose them to ill-treatment. Governments should put in place safeguards to protect transgender persons in detention and ensure that they are treated with dignity and care”.

The report identifies as a challenge the widely divergent criteria of placement of transgender persons throughout Europe depending on individual states’ policies. Some are based on self-identification and declaration, others on legal recognition, and a few on gender-affirming surgery. Few states have specific policies and legislation to guide prison authorities on placement of transgender persons, often done on a case-by-case basis subject to an individual risk assessment.

In line with the European Court of Human Right’s case law, the CPT highlights that national legislation should provide for the recognition of persons of a gender other than that assigned by birth and not establish any pre-condition to legal gender recognition such as gender-affirming surgery. Consequently, when a person self-identifies as transgender in the prison admission procedure, this should be sufficient for the prison administration to treat the person as such.

The CPT considers that transgender persons should be accommodated in the prison section corresponding to the gender with which they identify. Although there have been a few unfortunate cases of the placement in women’s prison sections of transgender persons accused or convicted of sexual offences against women, the committee highlights that, as for any other prisoners, they should only be placed elsewhere for exceptional security or other reasons

Iraqi protesters set fire to a rainbow-colored flag representing the LGBTQ+ community in Baghdad in front of the Swedish Embassy after a Qur’an was burned outside a mosque in Stockholm, June 29, 2023. (Photo Credit: Screenshot/Al Jazeera) Plenary chamber of the Council of Europe’s Palace of Europe in Strasbourg, France. (Photo Credit: Adrian Grycuk) Germany vs Italy 5-2 from the Nations League championship 2023. (Screenshot/YouTube)

after an individual risk assessment. In addition, transgender prisoners should be consulted about their placement preference during the entry procedure and be given the option to keep their gender identity confidential.

During its visits to several states, the CPT met transgender women prisoners held in male sections who stated they did not feel safe, and some alleged having been sexually abused and assaulted by other prisoners or verbally abused by staff. In some countries, the CPT also met transgender women who reported that they were often not allowed to shower at different times as male prisoners, were humiliated by being referred to by their male names or prohibited from wearing women´s clothes.

In the CPT’s view, transgender prisoners should be allowed to dress in the clothes associated with their self-identified gender and be addressed by their chosen names by prison staff. Prison administrations should also address them by their preferred names, titles and pronouns in verbal and written communication, irrespective of official documents. Further, national and prison authorities should ensure that all prison staff is trained to understand and address the specific needs of transgender persons and the risks they are exposed to in the prison environment.

The committee urges national authorities to address the risks of discrimination of transgender persons in prison and implement policies to prevent and combat ill-treatment by prison staff and inter-prison violence and intimidation targeting them. It also provides guidance to ensure that body searches of transgender persons are not perceived as degrading by the persons concerned.


LONDON, UK – The Austen Hays Limited law firm this week launched a class action lawsuit in The High Court of Justice in London against West Hollywood, California- based Grindr, alleging that the world’s largest LGBTQ+ casual encounters app had violated British data protection laws.

Reuters reported that the suit claims British users’ highly sensitive information, including HIV status and the date of their latest HIV test, were provided to third parties for commercial purposes.

In a statement released to the media a spokesperson for Grindr said: “We are committed to protecting our users data and complying with all applicable data privacy regulations, including in the UK. We are proud of our global privacy programme and take privacy extremely seriously. We intend to respond vigorously to this claim, which appears to be based on a mischaracterisation of practices from more than four years ago, prior to early 2020.”

The Austen Hays Limited law firm s managing director Chaya Hanoomanjee responded saying:

“Our clients have experienced significant distress over their highly sensitive and private information being shared without their consent. Many have suffered feelings of fear, embarrassment, and anxiety as a result,” Hanoomanjee said.

“Grindr owes it to the LGBTQ+ community it serves to compensate those whose data has been compromised and have suffered distress as a result, and to ensure all its users are safe while using the app, wherever they are, without fear that their data might be shared with third parties,” she added.

So far 670 people have signed up to the claim, and the firm said “thousands” more people had expressed interest in joining.

The Irish Examiner reported on Monday, April 22 that the claim against Grindr will be focused on the periods before April 3, 2018, and between May 25, 2018, and April 7, 2020, meaning newer users are unlikely to be able to join. Grindr changed its consent mechanisms in April 2020.

Grindr, based in Los Angeles, announced it would stop sharing users HIV status with third-party companies in April 2018 after a report by Norwegian researchers revealed data sharing with two companies.


HONG KONG, China –  A 33-year-old trans man who has been battling authorities to change his gender from female to male on his Hong Kong ID card since he first launched legal action in 2017, and winning a verdict from the Court

of Final Appeal in February 2023, has finally been able to get his new ID card this week.

In an interview with Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post journalist Lo Hoi-ying, Tse told her: “I thought to myself, I have won the lawsuit over a year ago, why do I still have to go through all of this?”

Tse, the chairman of the NGO Transgender Equality Hong Kong, also filed a separate lawsuit against the government in March for what he said was a discriminatory delay in issuing him his new ID card.

He said he would seek monetary compensation for the distress caused by the delay, which could not be forgotten even after changing his card. “Potentially in the future, if there are similar cases for the LGBTQ community, the government should not delay policy updates like this,” he said.

While Tse said that his new ID could make life easier for him and solve some surface issues, he conceded it was only a small step in the fight for transgender rights, the South China Morning Post reported.

“The updated policy is not fully trans-inclusive, as measures such as submitting blood test reports for randomized checks still violate our privacy,” he said.

“There are still many hurdles for us, such as marriage. These are all issues we have to confront, which cannot be solved merely by an ID change.”

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Shafaq News, Redaktions Netzwerk Deutschland, Office of Public Affairs for the Council of Europe, BBC News, PinkNewsUK, Irish Examiner, & the South China Morning Post.

The Royal Courts of Justice, London. (Photo Credit: UK Government/Courts) HENRY EDWARD TSE after his landmark win at the Court of Final Appeal. (Photo Credit: Henry Edward Tse/Edmond So)

Unique financial planning challenges for trans community

Overcoming roadblocks in journey to living an authentic life

Approximately 2.6 million Americans identify as transgender, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey in 2023. This community faces many financial, legal, and estate planning challenges, resulting in higher rates of financial instability compared to the general population. However, these challenges are not generally understood or even discussed.

At JPMorgan Chase, we’re dedicated to providing awareness and education to help all communities — including members of the LGBTQ+ community — reach their financial goals. Our team at J.P. Morgan Wealth Management recently published a new white paper to offer actionable tips for transgender adults to help them overcome some of the specific obstacles they face with planning. Here are some key takeaways:

Inaccurate identity documents create a foundational problem

Hundreds of thousands of transgender people in the U.S. do not have a single piece of identification that correctly identifies their gender or chosen name. Many people, including those in the broader LGBTQ+ population, have never thought about what their lives would be like if they lacked accurate identity documents.

Having accurate identity documents is essential for so many aspects of everyday life – applying for school or a job, finding a place to live, exercising the right to vote and boarding a plane. Presenting inaccurate identification in these situations can subject transgender individuals to unfair discrimination and harassment. But correcting name and gender markers on identity documents can be complicated, expensive, time-consuming, and in some cases, impossible.

The U.S. State Department has adopted one of the most simple and progressive policies for correcting gender markers in the world. Since June 2021, medical certification is not required to change the gender marker in one’s passport. Transgender people should consider updating their U.S. Passport book or card immediately and use that document as primary identification. Passport books and cards are valid for 10 years, even if policies change during that time.

Credit issues are common for trans community

Transgender individuals who are able to successfully obtain new identity documents still frequently face credit issues. Unlike changes to one’s last name after a marriage or divorce, informing banks or other creditors of a change to one’s first name on accounts does not automatically cause credit reporting agencies to update that person’s credit file. The credit reporting system can often be problematic for transgender people after a name change, with many reporting that credit files are never updated or that their credit scores decline.

This can create a cascading effect in numerous areas of one’s financial life, and it goes beyond borrowing. Credit files are frequently checked in employment decisions, pricing insurance, establishing utility and phone service and applying to rent a home. Until policies change, transgender individuals should directly contact each creditor and credit reporting agency and follow each organization’s specific procedures and documentation requests.

And they should carefully monitor that the changes are actually made and do not result in a credit score change.

Emergency and end-of-life documents should be carefully reviewed

Transgender people often have special health care needs and face unique forms of disparate treatment in accessing care, and cannot speak for themselves in these circumstances. End-of-life planning is often difficult to think about, but it’s especially critical that this community works with their attorneys and trusted advisors to create customized emergency and end-of-life legal documents.

The people named in these documents who could become decision-makers – typically trusted friends or supportive family members – should be empowered to direct health care providers to meet the patient’s wishes and preserve their chosen name and gender identity, as well as service providers, such as funeral home employees, to honor the deceased’s wishes about their appearance during memorial services.

The laws for these documents are complicated, and they vary depending on the state or territory. If possible, these documents should be prepared by experienced attorneys who routinely work with members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The bottom line

Transgender individuals in the United States face unique financial, legal and estate planning challenges that create roadblocks in their journey to living an authentic life. Careful planning can help mitigate some, but not all, of these obstacles.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., its affiliates, and employees do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any financial transaction. J.P. Morgan Wealth Management is a business of JPMorgan Chase & Co., which offers investment products and services through J.P. Morgan Securities LLC (JPMS), a registered broker-dealer and investment adviser, member FINRA and SIPC.

Joseph Hahn is executive director of Wealth Planning & Advice at J.P. Morgan Wealth Management.


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University students have a right to protest



I support the right of students at Columbia University, and other colleges, to protest. They must understand they are protesting on private space. What I also find interesting is how many of them see their right to protest, and right to free speech.

The First Amendment gives us a right to free speech, but it doesn’t specify what exactly is meant by freedom of speech. Defining what types of speech should and shouldn’t be protected by law, has been left to the courts. Clearly free speech has its limits. Obscene material such as child pornography, plagiarism of copyrighted material, defamation, or threats, aren’t allowed. Also not protected under the First Amendment is speech inciting illegal actions, or soliciting others to commit crimes. Private employers, and universities, are allowed to set their own guidelines as to what speech is allowed for their employees, and on their campuses.

The debate over student protests at Columbia University is not a new one. I remember when the Student Afro Society (SAS) and the basically all-white Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), demonstrated and took over buildings at Columbia in 1968. Some were protesting the Vietnam War, others what they deemed would be a segregated gym in Morningside Heights, and Columbia’s infringement

must not threaten Jewish students on campus

on a minority community. Both legitimate causes. Those demonstrations took a nasty turn when students took over buildings and cut off water and electricity to them. They held a sit-in, in the president’s office, and took a dean hostage. Police were called and in some cases it got violent. We are not at the 1968 stage yet in the current demonstrations, and if outside agitators don’t get involved, it may not get to that.

I agree with some of what the demonstrators are calling for, including having Israel rethink how it is conducting this war, protection for the Palestinian people, and immediately providing them with food and medicine. I don’t agree with their call to support BDS, which is the disinvestment in Israel. BDS is a Palestinian non-violent movement begun in 2005. I also see hypocrisy in what some of the protesters are saying. While they claim Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, which many disagree with, the same people are calling for genocide against Israel by supporting Hamas. It is Hamas’s stated goal to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, “from the river to the sea.”

Calling out Israel for its tactics, is not anti-Semitic. But attacking, and calling out Jewish students on campus, telling them to go back to Poland, which we have seen on video, and making them feel unsafe, is. Then there is the total-

ly outrageous statement, “Zionists don’t deserve to live.” made by Khymani James, one of the student leaders of the Columbia, pro-Palestinian student protest encampment. He made the  comments during and after a disciplinary hearing with Columbia administrators that he recorded and then posted on Instagram. I hope the president of Columbia University will be able to negotiate an agreement with the peaceful student demonstrators, including amnesty for some of those students who were arrested, if the students agree to certain parameters for continuing demonstrations. One being they cannot make other students feel unsafe on campus.

I find it abhorrent that House Speaker Mike Johnson has inserted himself at Columbia University, calling for President Shafik to quit. It is a totally inappropriate political stunt. The same goes for Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) who called for the Biden administration to revoke the student visas of all foreign students who are demonstrating. Those students came to the United States for an education, because we are a free country. If they agree to the guidelines of the university, and what is recognized as acceptable free speech, we should continue to welcome them, and allow them to voice their feelings. Again, as long as they don’t threaten others while they do so.

I am Jewish, and a strong supporter of the State of Israel. That support has not stopped me from calling on the Israeli people to rid themselves of Netanyahu, and his rightwing government. I oppose the settlements, and support a real two-state solution. But for that to happen not only will the Netanyahu government have to go, but the Palestinian people will have to reject Hamas. I have not heard the call for Hamas to release the hostages they took, whether those hostages are alive or dead at this time.

I strongly believe in the right to protest, and for Americans, and those here legally, to speak out. In 1969, I came to D.C. to protest the Vietnam War in front of the Justice Department and was tear-gassed. I had a right to protest in a public space. Since that time, I have participated in many demonstrations. Some around the White House supporting rights for the disabled community, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and in the ‘80s, demanding the government recognize, and do something about HIV/AIDS. The difference was in these demonstrations, those who disagreed were not threatened. The demonstrations I participated in, took place in public space, not the quad at Columbia University, or other university campuses, which is private space. Students who protest there must understand that.

My hope is none of the peaceful student demonstrators at Columbia, and other institutions, those who do not threaten fellow students, are thrown out, losing the chance to earn a degree. Those students chose to go to their schools because they thought they would get a good education, and believed graduating from those schools would be good for their futures.

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


It’s game, set, and mismatch in unfulfilling ‘Challengers’

Not quite a bisexual love story for the ages

For months now, most of the buzz around Luca Guadagnino’s newest film – “Challengers,” starring Zendaya as a professional tennis coach caught in an ongoing romantic triangle with a pair of male rival players – has been about how “bisexual” it would be.

After all, this was the man that brought us “Call Me By Your Name,” and even if the Italian filmmaker’s work has not always been that queer in focus, this premise was begging for it; and when the trailers started to drop, heavily laden with imagery that made the bisexual subtext blatantly obvious, the speculation – and the anticipation – only grew.

As it turns out, “Challengers” wasn’t teasing us in vain – but it may not even matter, because after spending two hours and 10 minutes with these characters, it’s hard to imagine any viewer, whether straight, bi, or a total “Kinsey 6,” wanting to feel represented by them.

Told in a non-linear patchwork format, Guadagnino’s movie – penned by Justin Kuritzkes – chronicles the complicated relationship that develops when two high school tennis champs, boyhood friends Patrick and Art (O’Connor and Faist, respectively), encounter high-profile pro prospect Tashi (Zendaya) at the US Open juniors. Infatuated at first sight as much by her prowess at the game as by her looks or personality, they woo her together, resulting in a steamy but thwarted three-way experience that ends with her promising her phone number to the one who wins the next day’s match.

More than a decade later, Tashi and Art are a married, wealthy power couple with a child; they’ve risen to fame after Tashi, sidelined by injury into a career as a world-class coach, has helped Art rise to international prowess, while Patrick, who originally won the challenge to become Tashi’s lover, has sunken to the level of low-ranked has-been after brief professional success. Art has hit a slump in his upward trajectory, so to freshen up his game, Tashi enters him into a small-time “challenger” tournament where Patrick, now scraping by on his meager winnings from lower circuit events such as this one, is a “wild card” entry. The rekindling of old rivalries and complex feelings between this intertwined trio of “players” results in a final competition in which the outcome has more to do with unrequited personal passions than it does with tennis.

Ostensibly both a sports movie and a romantic drama, it’s a film that wastes no time in tying its two themes together for an exploration of how the competitive instinct that might be essential to one can be a major obstacle when it comes to the other. Thanks to

its back-and-forth time structure, we are rushed through all the necessary twists and turns of a 13-year romantic triad quickly enough to recognize immediately that the need to “win” supersedes every other desired outcome for these three people; more than that, in the broad strokes that emphasize the quick deterioration of their affections in the pursuit of the “game” (a word we use here both literally and figuratively), it becomes obvious that none of them are capable of recognizing how much influence their desire to “win” has over the choices they make in their relationships with each other. To put it bluntly, in an era when polyamorous relationships have gained traction as a legitimate variation on the spectrum of human commitment, “Challengers” reads a little bit like a primer on how NOT to do it right.

That might, of course, be a big part of the point. In a story about professional athletes driven by the urge for victory trying to negotiate the delicate balance of self-respect and selflessness required to maintain a successful partnership in love – no matter how many partners may be involved – it’s probably an inescapable element of the plot that there would be a struggle to reconcile those two conflicting impulses. The trouble is that, here, the three characters involved are so far removed from typical human experience that it becomes difficult to relate to any of them. They operate within a privileged world that is out of reach for most of us, and the conflicts that arise in their triad dynamic mostly arise from pure ego. It’s hard to feel empathy for such individuals, frankly, especially when it’s clear that their own mindset is the greatest obstacle to fulfillment in their lives, both professionally and romantically. They’re all spoiled brats, and unrepentantly so.

It’s because of this that “Challengers” comes off as the kind of glossy, old-Hollywood fantasy that is more about wish fulfillment than anything else. Each of its protagonists is impossibly attractive; fit, sexy, and living an enviable life even when they’re struggling just to get by. They are the kind of people many of us wish we could be – and that, ironically, perhaps, makes us dislike them all the more.

None of this is the fault of the players, who uniformly give the kind of fully invested performance that illuminates the humanity of their characters beyond negative cliches. Zendaya, never shying from her role as master manipulator in the film’s twisted “long con” romance, makes us feel the visceral need for victory that eclipses her less imperative impulses toward personal connection. O’Connor (“God’s Own Country,” “The Crown”) and Faist (Broadway’s “Dear Evan Hansen,” Spielberg’s “West Side Story”) are not only eminently likable, but present an unvarnished and completely believable chemistry as would-belovers who can’t quite get past their self-judgment to embrace the obvious feelings they have for each other. The fact that we believe equally in their impulse toward the dazzlingly self-actualized Zendaya makes their performances all the more stellar. Unfortunately, within the larger context of the film, their appeal is tarnished by our ambivalence toward the dynamic the characters perpetuate between themselves.

And what of their sexuality? Is “Challengers” that rare mainstream movie that vaults over the film industry’s long-lamented “bi erasure” to present a bisexual love story for the ages? Not quite. Even if its ending (spoiler alert!) suggests that the entire movie has been about two men getting over their toxic masculinity to embrace their true feelings for each other, the fact that it never defines that relationship as a queer one and chooses instead to leave it up to our individual interpretation feels like something of a cop out. In the long run, perhaps, it’s a better tactic to avoid labeling its relationships in terms of sexuality, since the cultural “endgame” at stake has more to do with normalizing diversity than amplifying an individual sense of identity - but even so, it can’t be denied that, when “Challengers” reaches its final moment, we’re left with a sense of ambiguity that feels far too “safe,” too much a capitulation to the fragile mainstream sensibility, to advance a sense of acceptance for the “B” in “LGBTQ.” In the end, it’s a movie that stops short of the mark for the sake of comfortable ambiguity,

Which is why, sadly, we have to set “Challengers” aside as a failed - if well-meaningattempt at amplifying the most traditionally invisible faction of the queer community, instead of the unequivocal validation of bisexual attraction we’re still waiting to see.


David Archuleta Mom’s unconditional love is a raging inferno

“Nothing more beautiful than be yourself and to be accepted as you are— do not put your religion first, put your family first. Love each other”

MURRAY, Utah – Studies suggest that around 90% of LGBTQ youth rejection by family is due to religious beliefs. The result of that rejection ranges from individual mental health issues to a disproportionate number of homeless teens.

David Archuleta, American Idol and Masked Singer first runner-up, shows that it does not have to be that way. Last year, David came out as LGBTQ, clearly an issue with the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormon), in which he had grown up. A few months later, he announced that he would be leaving the Church altogether.

How would this play with his devout Mormon mom, Lupe Bartholomew?

When David joined me on my Rated LGBT Radio podcast, he told me her reaction amazed him. “I was pretty surprised. My mom was very devout just as I was. I did not hear from her for a few days after it had been announced that I stepped away from the Mormon Church, I thought I had pissed her off. When I did hear from her, the first thing she told me was ‘I decided to step away from the Mormon Church’. Like WHOA- that was not the response I was expecting to hear,” he said. “I thought she was going to say ‘hey, I wish you the best’ or whatever. But to say … well, I had so many questions myself. She finally said, ‘I have no desire to be somewhere where my children do not feel welcomed and loved’ and she said ‘If you are going to Hell, well. We are all going to Hell with you.”

Her response, inspired his recent top 10 hit single Hell Together.

If I have to live without you I don’t wanna live forever In someone else’s heaven

So let ’em close the gates

Oh, if they don’t like the way you’re made Then they’re not any better

If paradise is pressure

Oh, we’ll go to Hell together   … from the song Hell Together

Lupe, who was born in Honduras, is a beautiful dynamic Latin woman with a killer smile and an infectious laugh. She and her family were brought food by Mormon missionaries and became dutiful faithful when she was very young before the family immigrated to the U.S.

The heart of David’s family’s Mormonism was in the joy and innocence of the spirituality they experienced, particularly around Christmas. (David’s music catalog contains an array of Christmas music which reflects how much it informed the fabric of his religious commit-

ment.) Lupe’s fondest memories are around putting cute Santa hats on her kids, teaching them music, and seeing the joy they gave others as they performed for them.

Now, David still is reveling in the joy and spirit his music brings, but in a whole new context. “Transitions is my new brand. Many people knew me as a kid and knew me as a devout Mormon. I am not a kid anymore; I am not a Mormon anymore. I’m not even religious anymore. But that doesn’t change the core of what makes me… Me. I guess I am trying to figure out who I am. A lot of us are trying to figure out who we are. We don’t expect life to happen the way it does. Your perspective changes,” he tells me as we talk. “You have to find a new reason, and purpose and meaning behind what you once celebrated as a kid, innocently with big eyes.  That’s how life feels for me, and I am trying to make sense of it. It’s exciting, and sometimes there is heartbreak in the realizations and there is loss, at the same time, it does not mean you can’t start over again and make something new and beautiful and even greater than what you thought the world was before.”

Lupe’s initial reaction to David being gay was at best, sympathetic. She recalls as she was interviewed on the Mormon Stories podcast, “I was totally against it, because of what I was taught and I was obedient. He was so dedicated, so into the gospel. I think he was trying to ‘pray the gay away’. I saw him trying to pray the gay away. And he couldn’t.”

At that time, she “just knew he was going to get married to a girl in the temple.” She states, “I was raised by my parents to love unconditionally, and that is how I was with him.  He was so patient with me.  It was new to me that you could be LGBT and love God and love the Commandments. David was so patient in explaining that to me. It was hard for me to accept it, but I told him ‘I love you, no matter what’ –I was still planning to stay in the church. I thought ‘he’ll figure it out’ and come back and marry a woman. But he educated me, that LGBTQ people have a heart—they are just like us.”

David tried to go to church with her until he finally said, “Mom, I can’t go to church anymore, it hurts.” She cries over the sincere effort David made, and the guilt she feels she put him through of wanting him to continue to go with her. “I feel so bad I put him through that.”

She took the issue to her Bishop and begged him for help with the pain her son was in.  He told her to “stay faithful.” She looked around

and realized she had never seen an LGBTQ person sitting in church—ever. “If they were sitting there, they were probably hiding,” she says. “God loves his children. God is not here. Because God is Love. There is no way He is saying ‘yes you belong here’, and you, ‘no, you don’t belong here’. I was seeing a little bit of light. I was starting to understand the LGBTQ community.”

“I was feeling like I was hypnotized. I was hoping the leaders would suddenly say ‘we now accept LGBTQ people. People are dying over not getting accepted. How can they ignore that?”

“I cannot imagine the pain of all the LGBTQ children and people sitting in church hearing, ‘I love you’ but this gospel does not pertain to you unless you change. I can’t.”

Lupe’s decision was neither rash nor immediate. It grew over time and soul searching. She found she could no longer answer the questions of faith that the church was asking of her. “I just couldn’t. I just don’t support the beliefs anymore. The beliefs are a fantasy. They do not work for me, they do not work for my family—so I resigned my membership. They lied. I felt angry and disappointed.”

David is writing a book, and his struggle with the Church itself will be a major narrative. “They are trying to re-brand the Mormons… I try to still try to respect them, especially as they have been supportive of me on my journey. I try to respect their journey, their sense of community and what allows them to feel perfect and the reason to keep going in their lives. Of all the groups of people who have supported me, the Latter Day Saints have been the most supportive of me on my journey. And of course a lot of the members of the church have opposed what I do, and how I’ve gone about it,” he says.

He feels the majority of Latter Day Saints do and would support the LGBTQ community, but don’t speak out in contradiction to their church leaders. “They don’t do what their hearts tell them.”  He and other prominent musicians have addressed the anti-queer leaders in a plea for understanding. The silence and the resistance he got back is why he decided to personally leave. “It was not healthy for me. This was not the place I needed to be. I needed to go somewhere healthier.”  He seeks to have those within the Latter Day Saints community understand how much they misunderstand the LGBTQ experience.

Some of the responses show that many are not listening:

“Repent and return to Christ”

“All our religion asks is for dudes to stay out of other dudes butts”

“The LGBTQ virus is real”

That does not matter much to David. “People don’t realize what they are saying to queer people, forcing them to leave. They think we are going to Hell anyway.”

I asked him what had happened for him since our last conversation a year earlier. “A lot has changed, transitioning out of faith mindset, and you are programmed to see the world a certain way, and you are checking yourself to see if you are falling in line. It was scary at first, but very exciting, every day is exciting.  I am hey, I’m ok, I have not been struck by lightning, I am still here, alive and happy,” he answers. Mom Lupe is in a similar headspace. “I just wanted to be honest. I like honesty. I just want to live an honest life. My fear was that I would not have the Spirit, but I am 10 times happier than I ever was. The faith transition is what is painful. I was mad, I was sad—because I was in pain over all the lies I believed. You have to go through those emotions before you see the light again. Until you find—Ahh Here I am. I get to think on my own, make decisions, and give to whom I want. I could not be happier. I have to reconstruct who God is now, I have to figure that out. I have to start all over again. I feel full and complete—love who I am. No regrets.”

Regarding her outlook on David—gone are the hopes he will bring home a girl one day. There is nothing but pure acceptance. Lupe says, “It is beautiful. Nothing more beautiful than to be yourself and to be accepted as you are. To families of any religion—do not put your religion first, put your family first. Love each other.”

So, will David and his mom actually end up in Hell together, as his song says? If they do, they are likely to, ironically, do so in a manner that the Mormon Profit, Joseph Smith foresaw.  Smith said, “If we go to hell, we will turn the devils out of doors and make a heaven of it.”

That, I think, is a Latter Day Saints idea that David, Lupe and all his fans can live with.

DAVID ARCHULETA performs his latest hit single onstage at American Idol Monday, April 22, 2024. (Screenshot/YouTube American Idol/ABC)

Pride journey: Las Vegas

Start planning now for the October celebrations

Las Vegas, known for its vibrant and inclusive atmosphere, embraces LGBTQ culture with open arms, making it a thriving hub for the community. Iconic events like the annual Las Vegas Pride Parade and Festival bring together people from all walks of life to celebrate diversity and unity. The 2024 Las Vegas Pride festival is scheduled for Oct. 12, so start planning now.

The city’s commitment to inclusivity is reflected in the diverse range of LGBTQ-friendly accommodations, ensuring that visitors feel welcome and respected. Beyond the nightlife, Las Vegas hosts a variety of LGBTQ-focused community organizations, support groups, and cultural events that contribute to the rich tapestry of the city’s inclusive ethos. Whether exploring the famous entertainment offerings or participating in community-driven initiatives, LGBTQ individuals and allies alike find a warm and accepting home in the vibrant tapestry of LGBTQ culture in Las Vegas.

Ever since I was young, I have always wanted to stay at Bellagio. Its iconic foundations have fascinated me for decades. The hotel stands as an epitome of luxury and sophistication, offering an unparalleled experience that seamlessly blends opulence, entertainment, and fine dining. From the moment you step into the grand lobby, it’s evident that Bellagio is committed to providing a world-class stay, especially when you glance at the ceiling adorned with Chihuly glass sculptures.

I stayed in a recently renovated room in the Spa Tower with an unobstructed view of the Vegas Strip and the fountains. The attention to detail is evident in the tasteful decor, plush furnishings, and modern amenities. Beginning at 3 p.m. on weekdays and noon on weekends, the choreographed water show set against the backdrop of the Las Vegas Strip is a mesmerizing display of artistry, combining music, light, and water in perfect harmony. It sets the tone for the exquisite experiences that await within Bellagio.

Bellagio is also home to the famous Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, a lush oasis that undergoes seasonal transformations, displaying stunning floral displays and thematic installations. This botanical escape provides a serene contrast to the lively atmosphere of the casino and the bustling Strip. During our stay, the staff were completing the new springtime exhibition, which gave us Alice in Wonderland vibes.

For those seeking entertainment, Bellagio offers the spectacular “O” by Cirque du Soleil, a water-themed extravaganza that complements the hotel’s overall theme. Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art is another cultural gem within the hotel, featuring rotating exhibitions that display masterpieces from around the world.

Although it is possible to never leave the hotel, we wanted to experience other MGM Resorts properties, so we headed to LPM at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for dinner.

LPM offers an exquisite dining experience that effortlessly marries Mediterranean charm with the vibrant energy of the Strip. From the moment you step through the entrance, you are greeted by an ambiance that strikes a perfect balance between sophistication and conviviality.

LPM’s interior is a visual feast, adorned with chic decor, warm lighting, and an intimate atmosphere. The combination of contemporary design elements and classic French accents creates a welcoming space that feels both elegant and comfortable. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or seeking a romantic dinner, LPM’s ambiance sets the stage for an unforgettable dining experience.

LPM’s menu is a culinary triumph, highlighting the rich and diverse flavors of the French Riviera. The emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients is evident in every dish. We began our meal with a variety of appetizers, including the Yellowtail Carpaccio, Escargots, and their signature Burrata prepared with heritage tomatoes and basil and topped with white truffles. For our main courses, we decided to focus on seafood entrees, so we tried the Lobster Risotto and grilled Chilean Bass. Both were prepared to perfection and paired very well together if you are looking to share entrees.



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