Los Angeles Blade, Volume 08, Issue 14, June 14, 2024

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Blade fi le photo by Michael ey VP Kamala Harris: What’s at stake in November PAGE 02 JUNE 14, 2024 • VOLUME 08 • ISSUE 14 • AMERICA’S LGBTQ NEWS SOURCE • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

EXCLUSIVE: Vice President Harris details what’s at stake in November

‘When we fight for our rights, we see progress and we win’

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with the Washington Blade by phone on Monday for an exclusive interview in which she outlined the stakes of November’s election for LGBTQ communities and all Americans who are now facing “a profound, unapologetic, and intentional movement to restrict rights.”

The conversation comes at the outset of the Biden-Harris campaign’s roll-out of an aggressive organizing and paid media push for Pride month, which will feature appearances at more than 200 events in June as part of an effort to mobilize LGBTQ and “equality voters” in key battleground states.

Thirty-nine percent of survey respondents in a 2022 poll by the Human Rights Campaign said they consider LGBTQ equality a “make or break” issue, and queer Americans, who comprise a larger share of the electorate than ever before, are considered critical for the president and vice president’s reelection effort.

Harris stressed that these constituents are not monolithic. “What is important to me,” she said, “is that I am in the community where those voters may be, in addition to every other community where I’m listening to their priorities and needs and then being responsive to that.”

America’s first woman, first Black, and first South Asian vice president, Harris, 59, has broken barriers throughout her career in public service, beginning with her election as San Francisco district attorney in 2003, and then as California attorney general in 2010 and U.S. senator for California in 2016.

Harris has also been credited with playing a major role in the establishment and expansion of rights and protections for LGBTQ communities at the local, state, and federal levels over the past two decades.

Along with the election, she addressed subjects ranging from the need to protect queer spaces to her relationships with LGBTQ staff over the years and the tra ectory of the queer and civil rights movements in America.

Later this week, the Blade will publish interviews with two gay men who served as longtime advisers to Harris and shared re ections on their work with her on initiatives including climate policy and criminal justice reform.

Preventing hate violence

Last June, the Biden-Harris administration established an interagency LGBTQ+ Community Safety Partnership to confront the spike in hate crimes and bias-motivated violence against the community. The White House introduced new CSP resources on Friday.

Nearly a year later, the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a oint public service announcement about the risk of terrorism at Pride events and venues this month — and Harris told the Blade she is “very concerned” by the agencies’ warning.

This is familiar terrain for the vice president, who in

September was tapped to lead the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention and who noted that she was responsible for compiling and publishing hate crimes reports and for prosecuting “hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community” when running the country’s second largest department of justice and serving as district attorney.

Bias-motivated crime targeting queer people “is not a new phenomenon, sadly, but it is growing,” she said, “I think in large part because of the powerful voices that are fanning the ames of hate. It is outrageous.”

“What it does is it creates fear in the community, not to mention the possibility of real and serious harm, including crimes of violence,” she said.

Harris highlighted that issues of safety are among the ma or priorities for LGBTQ communities and equality voters, pointing to the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and the November 2022 Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs, crimes that she said the country must never forget.

“Gun violence,” when “being used because of hate” can “destroy the lives of so many innocent people,” she said, adding, “we know that for so many in the LGBTQ community, those clubs are the only place that a lot of people can go in certain communities to just have joy and [to] feel safe having joy, and now those places have been targeted.”

In 2004, when 61 percent of Americans opposed the legal recognition of same-se marriages per Gallup , then-district attorney Harris officiated some of the first weddings between gay and lesbian couples in defiance of state and federal regulations.

Later, as attorney general, she refused to defend Proposition 8 and petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to repeal the ballot measure, which had amended the state’s constitution to recognize only opposite-sex unions between one man and one woman.

Of the roughly two-dozen Democrats who led ma or presidential campaigns in 2020, Harris boasted the earliest e plicit on-record support for marriage equality by a long shot. However, even though virtually every elected Democrat and the ma ority of the American people have since come around on the issue, today the vice president is deeply troubled by the observation that “for the first time, we are seeing a profound, unapologetic, and intentional movement to restrict rights.”

At the nexus of these threats to the rights of LGBTQ Americans and other communities, Harris said, is Donald Trump and his right-wing extremist allies.

“Look at what he has done with the United States Supreme Court and the justices that he chose,” she said, “including the Trump-selected justices, who ruled last year that small businesses can discriminate against LGBTQ people” in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis.

“And listen, I do believe that if reelected, he would appoint more conservative judges — and you see where this is heading.”

Shortly after Trump sent three right-wing ustices to the U.S. Supreme Court, its conservative superma ority overturned Roe v. Wade 19 3 , revoking constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years.

With that decision, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization 2022 , “the highest court in our land took a fundamental freedom from the people of America, especially the women of America,” Harris stressed. “Understand what that means in terms of how that weakens our country for everyone. America has always prided itself on the fact that our strength and the growth of our strength is based on an expansion of rights.”

She noted Clarence Thomas’s issuance of a concurring opinion in Dobbs in which he e pressed interest in revisiting other precedent-setting cases like Obergefell v. Hodges 2015 , which established the right to marriage equality nationwide. (In response, President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats led passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified into federal law many of the legal rights held by married same-se and interracial couples.

Meanwhile, conservative jurists across the country, many appointed by Trump, have taken aim at other freedoms including access to contraception, medication abortion, and in-vitro fertilization, which has been met with pushback from the Biden-Harris administration via regulatory action and litigation.

Harris pointed out that “the hypocrisy abounds” provided that “on the one hand, you’re saying that we’re going to prevent you from ending an unwanted pregnancy” and “on the other hand, we’re going to prevent you from starting a family.”

“We know that for LGBTQ couples, IVF is one of the most critical and essential ways that they can start the family they dream to have,” the vice president said. “And the idea that access to IVF would be at stake, at risk, much

Vice President KAMALA HARRIS (Blade photo by Jono Madison)

less denied, means to deny loving couples,” same-sex and opposite-sex alike, “the ability to start a family.”

More broadly, she added, “let’s just think about the various civil rights movements that the community has been involved with, and where the rights of LGBTQ people have been at stake, including the successful movement that we had for the freedom of people to love who they love openly and with pride and to have that love recognized by law if they want to marry and choose to marry.”

“Freedom, the concept of freedom, has always been an undergird of the movement for LGBTQ equality and rights,” Harris said.

Staying vigilant and engaged

Across the board, Harris said, “the range of [issues] we’ve already discussed are priority, right? So everything from the fear of violence and hate, what we need to do to continue to be vigilant to protect the gains we’ve already made around equality, but also ensure that we also fight against those who are trying to erode the progress that we have achieved here, on LGBTQ rights, specifically.”

Harris noted that there are “a variety of other issues that include, for example, discrimination in housing. I’m doing a lot of work on that in affordable housing, but in speaking of discrimination in housing, we know that part of the history of the discrimination against members of LGBTQ community includes that issue.”

There is also a need to shore up protections for teachers and students, she said, “especially when we look at a state like Florida that has a ‘don’t say gay’ law, and what that means for LGBTQ teachers in one of the most populous states in the country.”

The past few years have seen a deluge of anti-LGBTQ laws proposed (and passed, in many cases) by conservative state legislatures across the country, Harris noted. The ACLU is tracking 515 so far in 2024. Disproportionately, these bills target the rights of trans and gender expansive Americans, especially youth.

The vice president pointed to Iowa’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in April. Opponents and LGBTQ advocates argue the law’s primary aim is to provide a pretext and legal cover for discrimination against queer Iowans.

Harris also noted the prevalence of book bans, a sub-

stantial percentage of which target titles with LGBTQ characters and themes. (Last June, the White House appointed a coordinator at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to provide training for schools on “how book bans that target specific communities and create a hostile school environment may violate federal civil rights laws.”)

The vice president emphasized, “You look at the election cycle, and yes, it’s about Trump,” but there are also “anti-LGBTQ extremists running in down-ballot [races] across the country,” including North Carolina gubernatorial candidate and current Lieutenant Gov. Mark Robinson R “who refers to LGBTQ people as filth.” The White House issued a statement calling his June 2021 remarks “repugnant and offensive.”

Emphasizing the contrast to win in November

“Joe Biden and I are very proud to be the most proLGBTQ administration in history,” Harris said, “and I think that on the other side of this equation in November, you’ve probably got one of the most anti-LGBTQ administrations in modern history.”

“I am an eternal optimist and I’m also a realist,” she said. “When we fight for our rights, we see progress and we win. We have to be vigilant, though. We have to see what’s possible and then fight to get there, like passing the Equality Act,” legislation championed by the Biden-Harris administration that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in areas from housing and employment to lending and education.

“We’ve got to participate to get the Equality Act and things like that passed,” Harris said, adding, “I’m also clear-eyed” about “what’s happening on the other side of the ledger” which means taking “seriously that these extremists are making their intentions clear, and we should take them at their word.”

cluding her first campaign manager, Jim Rivaldo, who had previously advised Harvey Milk in the history-making 19 election in which he became the first openly gay man to hold public office in California.

“I grew up in politics believing in the coalition,” Harris said, “that no one should be made to fight alone. We all stand together in the fight for freedom and equality and civil rights, and so let’s balance out how we think about all of this stuff. We know what we stand for, so we know what to fight for, and therefore we will win.”

Harris puts LGBTQ people in positions of power

The Biden-Harris administration has appointed LGBTQ leaders throughout the federal government in record-breaking numbers, with high-profile e amples including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, and Adm. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Likewise, many of the top deputies serving in the office of the vice president are LGBTQ as were a number of Harris’s closest and highest-ranking advisers from the time she was district attorney through her tenure as U.S. senator.

“Every elected position I have had involves making decisions that will impact, invariably, hundreds of thousands to over hundreds of millions of people,” she said, and “I feel very strongly that decision-making” should “re ect the communities we are serving.”

“I want to have input and perspective from a diverse group of people who will have a diverse set of life experiences and perspectives that will help inform a good decision on my part,” Harris said.

On May 22, the Blade was invited to attend a meeting in which the vice president addressed members of her staff in the Eisenhower E ecutive Office Building ahead of Pride month.

“Increasingly,” Harris said, “it takes on a different meaning depending on what’s happening in the world, and while we’ve seen so much progress, we’ve also seen a decline.”

“There are a lot of people who are in pain, or afraid, who are being attacked or fear being attacked in many ways that might be physical,” or otherwise by “forces that are trying to demean and trying to separate people and create divisions,” she said.

At the same time, Harris emphasized, “we have great power, those of us who work in this place, to remind people that we stand with them. You all heard me say many times, I strongly believe no one should remain silent.”

“We’re all in this together,” she said. “And there’s so much that’s been part of the movement for LGBTQ+ rights that has been about an acknowledgment of the strength of the coalition.”

Along with her experience growing up in the Bay Area, “which, proudly, was on the front lines of the gay liberation movement,” Harris said her perspective and approach have been in uenced to a significant e tent by LGBTQ leaders she has worked with over the years, in-

The vice president recalled how she had to fight to display the Pride ag outside her Senate office. “I had to fight, well, you know the story,” she said, gesturing to some members of her staff, “and I was ust like, ‘I’m doing it,’” adding, “I did it, of course.”

“I’m very proud of every one of you, OK?” Harris said. “Thank you for being a leader in so many ways.”

Vice President KAMALA HARRIS t ff (Photo courtesy White House) LGBTQ+ supporters wait to greet Vice President Kamala Harris at LAX on June 1, 2024. (Photographed for the Washington Blade by Jono Madison/Jono Photography)

Queer TikToker Nicky Champa: Social media and balancing life

Champa shared his thoughts on the profound impact of TikTok highlighting both the positive and negative aspects of the platform

LOS ANGELES – As I joined the line of customers snaking out the door of a popular Studio City café that resembles a small cottage, I spotted a young man with cheekbones so sharp they could chisel granite already waiting for me. He smiled warmly and waved. I left my place on the sidewalk to join him inside the cozy café. We hugged, and he told me, “Oh my God. You are stunning!” to which I replied, “Thank you. So are you!” I like to think we could tell we both meant it. After placing our orders at the counter, anked by a glass cases brimming with massive sweet treats, we navigated the deceptively deep and winding interior of the cottage. We eventually emerged onto the wraparound outdoor patio, investigating every free parcel of seating real estate until we decided on an indoor spot in a tucked-away corner. I placed my phone on the wooden table between us as we awaited our coffees and began recording, capturing the hum of rela ed conversations all around us as Nick Champa started sharing his story with me.

Nick “Nicky” Champa (28) is a household name in the digital world. With nearly 13 million followers on TikTok, he has captured the hearts of many through his videos, candidly sharing his every day life as a young gay man living in LA. A former NYU acting student, Champa is also known for his roles in “Deadlocked” (2020), “Charmers” (2021), and “Astrid Clover” (2014).

Early days

Champa, born in Dallas, Te as and raised in Syracuse, New York, said that his seemingly perfect family life was disrupted by his parents’ divorce when he was just 11 years old. “The divorce was messy. It was a 10-year court battle. Until that point, I thought it was just as perfect as it looked.”

Champa described his upbringing before the divorce as privileged, with a successful father and a stay-at-home mother. However, the separation shattered this idyllic life, forcing him to adopt a new and more sombre reality. “My mom had to work; it was a dramatic change in reality that really changed my whole childhood,” Champa said. “I had to do things that my dad used to do. I was in charge of the yard and all the chores, and I was an emotional support for my mom and brother. I had to grow up very, very fast.”

Champa e plained that e periencing his home breaking so suddenly had a traumatic effect on the young actor. “My dad very much neglected us and he made it a very torturous e perience for us. I had to testify in court a bunch of times. It was very traumatic.”

While Champa did not speak to his father for years after the divorce, they eventually rekindled their relationship after Champa graduated from high school, although, he e plained, the relationship is still strained by memories of past hurt.

On the other hand, Champa’s bond with his mother remains e ceptionally strong. “My mother and I are very, very close,” Champa said. “We became best friends. We have a great relationship; not everyone understands it. I tell her everything—literally everything. There is not one thing I wouldn’t be able to tell my mom, from boyfriends to se life. I tell her everything.”

Coming Out

“I’ve never really identified with being gay. I prefer to call myself queer,” Champa said.  Despite participating in sports and e hibiting traditionally “masculine” traits, “whatever that means,” Chapa added, he also enjoyed painting his nails and engaging in artistic pursuits. “I was confused growing up. My mom was not shocked when I came out, but it’s not like she necessarily knew I was gay.”

“The way I came out is actually really funny,” Champa said, laughing as he recounted a memorable coming-out e perience that occurred after a night partying in West Hollywood. While e ploring his newfound se ual identity, a one-night stand landed Champa in a precarious situation when, while doing the deed at this beau’s house, he accidentally crashed through the glass shower door, leaving shattered glass and blood all over the bathroom oor.

The incident left him needing over 100 stitches, and he had to call his mother from the hospital to get his insurance information. “I told her I had been having se with a girl, and she asked what girl was strong enough to push me through a glass door?” Realizing the need for honesty, he sent her a photo of the bathroom, inadvertently including the other man’s jock strap in the frame. “So I had to admit to her that I had been with a man.”

Luckily, Champa’s mother was unsurprised by the revelation, and was more concerned with her son’s wounds than this se ual orientation. Champa also shared that he felt grateful that his entire family, his father included, were accepting of his coming out. “I’m really lucky in that way,” he said.


After deciding to leave NYU in his sophomore year of college, Champa’s career took a significant turn when he was signed by Paradigm Talent Agency in Los Angeles. “Then I was auditioning for larger roles, so I didn’t feel the need to go back to school,” Champa e plained.

Champa, noticing the growing trend of social media, decided to try his hand at Instagram. His rise on the platform was rapid, which he largely attributes to his openly queer posts, detailing honest accounts of his real life, travels, and journey with love.

The transition to TikTok, where Champa is best known, came with support from the platform itself. “TikTok contacted me with support and got me on the platform,” Champa said.

“In a way, I felt like a gay mascot on TikTok,” said Champa.

“The person I spoke to there was gay, and many of my contacts at TikTok have been gay,” Champa noted, stating that, in spite of recent accusations, he did not believe the platform to be inherently homophobic. Despite this, he acknowledged that the algorithm could sometimes be perceived as leaning towards homophobic or racist tendencies, as it aims to avoid political content.

While Champa is grateful for his success on the platform, the constant demand of social media began to take its toll.

Champa shared his desire to shift focus back to acting, reducing his social media engagement. “I do find myself moving away from posting so much and moving slightly away from social media because I want to focus more on acting roles. It was an everyday thing that consumed me, and I don’t think I want to go back to that. I’m trying to find a way to navigate social media part of my life without making my bread and butter day to day part of my life.”

“For the longest time, my motivation on social media was just to grow, but I feel like I have plateaued now at 13 million followers. Now it’s time for me to figure out what to do and where to grow ne t.”

The TikTok Ban

On May , 2024, TikTok filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government. The Chinese-owned company argued that the Senate’s recent ultimatum, which demanded that TikTok’s parent company divest from the social media platform under the threat of a ban, was unconstitutional.

The law, known as the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, specifically names TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance Ltd. It also e tends to other apps and websites with over a million monthly users that have significant ownership from China, Russia, Iran, or North Korea. The president has the authority to determine if these applications pose a national security threat, in which case they must be sold or face a ban in the U.S. TikTok’s lawsuit claims that the law violates the First Amendment by not providing evidence of the national security threat it allegedly poses and for failing to seek a less restrictive remedy. Legal e perts argue that this law implicates First Amendment interests in significant ways beyond this specific case. Supporters of the law claim it is not a ban but a divestiture, describing it as a purely economic regulation. They argue that after the sale, users can continue using TikTok without concern for its ownership. However, critics view the law as an attempt to control speech by mandating a change in ownership, particularly to prevent potential Chinese Communist Party propaganda.

NICK “NICKY” CHAMPA is a household name in the digital world. With nearly 13 million followers on TikTok, he has captured the hearts of many through his videos, candidly sharing his every day life as a young gay man living in LA. (Photo: Simha Haddad/Los Angeles Blade)

The government has not disclosed the national security concerns cited in the TikTok law. While such concerns might justify intervention, public skepticism remains.

Unless the courts invalidate the law or Congress repeals it, TikTok may not be able to operate effectively in the U.S. by January 19, 2025. App stores might be unable to update the software, and Oracle Corp. might not continue hosting TikTok’s U.S. user data. This potential scenario underscores the profound implications of the ongoing legal battle between TikTok and the U.S. government.

Feelings on the TikTok Ban

Champa shared his thoughts on the profound impact of TikTok on modern society, highlighting both the positive and negative aspects of the platform that has propelled him to fame.

“TikTok democratized the world,” Champa said. “It gave power back to artists and creators. You don’t need to rely on people with more power anymore to have a voice and to build a brand and to have a career.” According to Champa, TikTok has leveled the playing field, offering opportunities to individuals who might otherwise never have had the chance to shine.

“I watch this one baker in Australia, who has built a huge empire just through TikTok, which I think is incredible,” Champa said, highlighting how the platform can connect individuals from all corners of the globe. “Now I know about her bakery in Australia, which I would have never known.”

Champa expressed concern over the potential banning of TikTok, stating that it “would make our world smaller,” by

stripping away a platform that fosters global connections and success stories across various industries.

“There is a real world out here. You don’t need to feel like you are missing out on anything if you don’t scroll all day. You really are not missing anything.”

However, Champa also acknowledged the downsides of such pervasive connectivity. “This is still a double-edged sword. I do think sometimes it’s too much information all at once.”

Champa described how the platform can inundate users with content, particularly when significant events occur, which he believes yields both positive and negative outcomes. “If something horrible or amazing happens in the world—anywhere from an eclipse to a war to tornadoes in the Midwest—I go to TikTok to get perspective and get multiple perspectives on a situation. That’s amazing, and that’s a privilege to be so connected in that way.” Yet, he warned of the dangers of information overload. “Sometimes too much information can be detrimental. For example, I watched one video on how Joe Biden is really an alien, TikTok immediately thinks all I want to see is how Joe Biden is an alien, and now I’m ooded with nothing but this information. That’s not healthy.”

Champa emphasized the need for the younger generation to balance their time on TikTok with real-world experiences. “There is a real world out here. You don’t need to feel like you are missing out on anything if you don’t scroll all day. You really are not missing anything.”

He also touched on the issue of free speech and expression. “Then there’s, of course, the issue of the First Amendment and freedom of speech because we all do have the right to e press our opinions,” Champa said. “It’s a difficult topic and I’m not sure what the solution is.”

Champa’s re ections underscore the comple relationship between social media and society. While platforms like TikTok offer unprecedented opportunities for connection and success, they also present challenges that users must navigate carefully. As Champa continues his journey, his insights offer a valuable perspective on the evolving digital landscape.


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‘There was a whole family, a brigade of queer people in this office’

The Washington Blade spoke last week with two gay men who have worked for vice president Kamala Harris and provided insight into her work advancing LGBTQ rights and her lifelong close ties to the queer community.

These conversations preceded the exclusive interview with Harris published by the Blade last Tuesday.

Tim Silard, president of the Rosenberg Foundation, which provides grants to promote racial and economic justice in California, worked for Harris when she served as the District Attorney of San Francisco.

Ike Irby, a scientist who now leads his eponymously named communications firm, served as special assistant to the president and deputy domestic policy advisor and chief climate advisor to the vice president until January 2024, having previously worked in Harris’s U.S. Senate office.

“She’s had close working relationships with and advisers from the [LGBTQ] community, and in particular, one of her main campaign people the first time she ran for district attorney] was Jim Rivaldo, who was a legend in San Francisco and part of Harvey Milk’s inner circle,” Silard said.

Irby, and Harris herself, also told the Blade about her work with Rivaldo, who through his role electing Milk, California’s first openly gay public servant, helped show the country it was possible for queer people to hold elected office.

“From the get go, she both hired — and, I think, maybe just as significantly, promoted into the top ranks of the office a number of LGBTQ people,” Silard said. Harris “was intentional about not only hiring more people of color into the office, but also women and LGBTQ people,” he noted.

When he oined her Senate office, Irby remembers, “it was actually such a shock to like, finally, be in a work environment where it’s not just like there was another queer person, it was like there was a whole family, a brigade of queer people in this office.”

“Law enforcement as an institution tends to be dominated by straight white men,” Silard said. So, “promoting LGBTQ people into [positions] as managers of units and into the top e ecutive staff, I think is a very important element to culture change within an office and to ensuring that the voices of the

community are heard within the office.”

“Kamala, just by the virtue of who she is and what she believes, and her deep relationships across many communities, brought a very different perspective,” he e plained. “And that was true across so many things, communities of color, women, LGBTQ folks — I think it was just natural for her, and, you know, she became a prosecutor to represent the underdog, right, to represent people who are victimized.”

In her personal life, too, Silard said, the vice president has “always had deep relationships and close friendships” with LGBTQ+ people who “were really part of her immediate, extended family, coming to Thanksgiving dinner and whatnot.”

“In the time period where the vice president was was growing up and learning the foundation of who she was going to be, both as a child in the Bay Area, but then also right after she graduated undergrad and moved to law school over there and then became a D.A., both those time periods were such a moment of the queer liberation movement,” Irby said.

This time was also a period in which LGBTQ rights intersected with “women’s rights and Black equality,” he noted, “all of these fights, together, and the way the vice president really addresses and thinks about these issues is that intersectionality.”

“Both because of her relationships, and going back to hiring and promoting a lot of LGBTQ people, all of the things that she did and that we did, that I mentioned, and there were others, all came from and were developed in direct conversation and coordination with leaders from our community,” Silard said.

In her first term as district attorney, which was also her first elected position, Harris was sure to appoint LGBTQ+ staff to the Victim Services Division, Silard said.

“Our office provided victim services whether there was an actual prosecution or not,” he said. “If there was a police report, then the victim advocates could do a lot of practical things, like accessing victim support funds and funds for therapy, changing your locks, other kinds of practical ways to keep you safe, as well as emotional support.”

Silard added, “That was the first in California I don’t know about, possibly, the nation — but where there was a whole team of victim advocates who were from our community.”

As a result, he said, more LGBTQ people came forward to report crimes. Having “vertical prosecution units” with “lawyers and paralegals and others who not only are from the community, but they are experts, they have lower caseloads, they pay more attention,” he said, tends to yield “more successful prosecutions, and you can define that in a whole number of different ways.”

Irby and Silard both highlighted Harris’s work combatting use of the “gay panic defense” and “trans panic defense,” arguments in the courtroom that endeavor to mitigate acts of violence against LGBTQ+ victims.

“She brought a focus to LGBTQ hate crimes, and in particular, transphobic crimes,” said Silard, who noted, “it hadn’t been that long since [the murder of] Matthew Shepard and then, I think, more recently for us in the Bay Area, Gwen Araujo’s murder.”

“We did a whole conference, for law enforcement, on the trans and gay panic defenses,” he said, recalling, “we had these sheriffs from Te as and Florida and people in cowboy hats; we had people from all over the country come from prosecutors’ offices and law enforcement,” many of whom had never met a trans person and now were listening to full panels of trans speakers.

“It really was impactful for those law enforcement people to be hearing directly from trans people about what their lives are like, the oppression and violence that they and people in their community were suffering all the time,” Silard said.

Irby pointed to the fact that Harris “gathered other district attorneys from around the country to do a training so that she could share that information, so that it wasn’t just her impacting [the issue] there in San Francisco.”

Silard said the notion that she “somehow she did these things because she thought it would get her more votes” is ridiculous, as if bringing in law enforcement officials from Florida to work on this issue could have carried some electoral advantage for her.

“It’s classic Kamala to say, ‘okay, what are we going to do about it?’” when confronted with a problem, he said. So, with respect to the gay and trans panic defenses, she set about figuring out ‘”how do we educate people in law enforcement to confront it?’ and ‘how can we craft a law and do it in such a way that still protects the rights of defendants?’”

Irby remembered how Harris, as a new senator, saw and took the chance to help broaden access to pre-exposure prophylaxis, a medication regimen that substantially lessens the chances of transmitting HIV through se .

“There’s a lot of people who have been senators for a very long time, and there are not a lot of open policy lanes for a new person to come in and try to make sure that they are making their mark on specific issues,” he said. “But on LGBTQ issues in particular, the Vice President found that opportunity by her bill to help people access PrEP.”

Harris, he recalled, said, “‘hey, this is important. We need to de-stigmatize this. This is about healthcare for LGBTQ people. This is about their ability to to be to be safe, to be healthy and live their fullest lives.’”

“As a former prosecutor, she understands the power of the courts, certainly,” Irby told the Blade. Going back to her time as a prosecutor and later as California’s Attorney General, he noted, Harris “refused to uphold Prop 8 in the courts and saw the power of that as making sure that she was fighting for that expansion and not the restriction” of rights through the judiciary, whose role she has always understood as a means of strengthening and broadening freedoms and protections.

“I am so proud of her, and I was so proud to be part of so many things that she did early on and proud of what she’s continuing to do,” Silard said.

“It’s one thing for a politician to talk about an issue, to orate about it very nicely,” Irby said. “It’s another thing to show up in those spaces; it’s another thing to surround yourself and demonstrate that you have credibility,” as she has done and continues to do.

re e t
hoto o rte y he h te o e L re e J o

HIV alone didn’t cause the clogged artery in my neck. Smoking with HIV did. HIV alone didn’t cause the clogged artery in my neck. Smoking with HIV did.

Brian, age 45, California

Brian, age 45, California

You can quit. Call 1-800 -QUIT-NOW.




is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at knaf@washblade.com

Be afraid: MAGA wants a Christian theocracy

Fight back and vote or Pride 2024 could be our last

Eight years ago on June 8, 2016, I wrote the Blade’s Pride op-ed warning about the candidacy of Donald Trump for president.

Specifically, I worried about the Supreme Court and about the damage Trump could do via executive order to LGBTQ rights. Unfortunately, I was right on both counts. Here’s what I wrote then: “With one Supreme Court seat vacant and three more justices aged 77 or older, it is imperative that Trump not be allowed to make selections to the high court. The names he’s floated so far for the high court are a who’s who of anti-LGBT bigotry.”

We all know what happened next. Trump got three picks to the high court. If he’s re-elected, you can bet that Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, who are already under fire, will retire, giving Trump two more picks and a majority five of nine MAGA justices.

The Blade cover that year warned that 2016 could be our last Pride celebration given Trump’s attacks on the LGBTQ community. Just four days later on June 12, our greatest fears were realized when a gunman opened fire in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 mostly LGBTQ patrons.

The more things change. Here we are eight long years later and Trump is back not only as a presidential candidate for the third time but as a newly minted felon following his conviction on 34 counts in the Stormy Daniels hush money case. After all the skilled politicians who’ve taken on Trump — everyone from Hillary Clinton to Jeb Bush — who could have predicted it would be a porn star who would take him down?

Of course, he’s down but not out. And now it’s the American electorate that is on trial instead of Trump. Will we really entertain a convicted felon as our president? Or will common sense prevail as it did in 2020 and will the voters of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania send Trump into political oblivion? Time will tell.

In the meantime, equality voters — that is, all LGBTQ Americans and their supporters, families, and friends — must unite and vote to re-elect Joe Biden, no matter what’s happening in Gaza, Ukraine, or anywhere else. The stakes are far more grave than in 2016, when a neophyte Trump threatened us with mere executive orders and hostile Supreme Court picks. Fast forward eight years, and Trump and his toadies are experienced in operating the government and will use it to our detriment in myriad ways, as outlined in the ominous “Project 2025.”

The 2025 project is an 800+ page governing agenda for the next Republican administration that was created by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Among other targets, the plan calls for the replacement of secular public education with teachings based on the Bible, outlawing all pornography, and eroding protections for LGBTQ Americans, as the Blade has reported.

Contrary to what many believe, Trump isn’t seeking an authoritarian state, he and his Republican supporters want a Christian theocracy that would criminalize all abortions, overturn marriage equality, and more. A Biden campaign memo obtained exclusively by the Blade earlier this year states that, “Trump’s Project 2025 will be even worse for LGBTQ+ Americans, going beyond the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. A second Trump presidency will make it a mission to erode LGBTQ+ Americans’ rights, and undermine their existence.” For instance, the document notes, Trump would:

• Remove nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Americans;

• Overturn same-sex marriage and protections against anti-sodomy laws;

• Reverse Title IX to remove protections for transgender students;

• Ban and expel transgender military members;

• Ban LGBTQ books;

• Restrict IVF and surrogacy;

• And appoint more extreme judges who will repeal LGBTQ+ rights.

A Biden campaign official warned that these laws go further than targeting the rights of LGBTQ Americans but in many cases seek “to really undermine their existence in public” — and do not constitute “one-off” issues in states like Florida, Alabama, or Tennessee, but rather a blueprint for national policy that “Trump and Project 2025 would bring to Americans.”

Make no mistake that if Trump wins back the White House, the LGBTQ community will take the brunt of his attacks, especially the trans community. This year’s Pride celebrations must serve as a stark reminder of what’s at stake in November. In 2016, my warnings about the end of Pride may have sounded like hyperbole, but in 2025, Trump’s political enemies will be in jail; his antagonists in the media will be tied up in lawsuits; and the United States as we know it will be gone. We will be a nation in steep decline headed for a Christian theocracy. Only we the voters can prevent that dark future.


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is the former news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. She is an award-winning journalist who, upon graduating from Skidmore College, started her professional career at CBS News in New York.

The What-ifs are setting in: Harris, Eastman and Trumpish retribution

WEST HOLLYWOOD – “Freedom, the concept of freedom, has always been an undergird of the movement for LGBTQ equality and rights,” Vice President amala Harris told Los Angeles Blade White House Correspondent Chris ane in an exclusive interview about the November election.

Some of us remember the Gay Liberation movement, the hard fights for our freedom and full equality and the heart-breaking losses to hate crimes, AIDS, overdoses and suicides. Now it’s rapist/convicted felon/wanna-be dictator Donald Trump’s MAGA cult salivating to erase  lgbtqia people as a line item on God and Trump’s retribution list for defiantly e isting in the first place.

LGBTQ ally amala Harris is surely high up on that retribution list, as well. As Chris ane points out, “America’s first woman, first Black, and first South Asian vice president, Harris, 59, has broken barriers throughout her career in public service, beginning with her election as San Francisco district attorney in 2003, and then as California attorney general in 2010 and U.S. senator for California in 201 . Harris has also been credited with playing a major role in the establishment and expansion of rights and protections for LGBTQ communities at the local, state, and federal levels over the past two decades.”

But Harris really hasn’t been given much credit for her courage. Over the decades, Harris — who was born in Oakland in 19 4 to immigrant parents has e hibited a smart, determined commitment to the civil rights struggle, even as she is constantly attacked by dangerous creeps like former law professor John Eastman. LGBTQ people know Eastman well as Chair of the National Organization for Marriage NOM , which passed California’s anti-gay marriage initiative  Prop8 in coalition with leaders of the crazed “spiritual warfare” movement. As Attorney General, Harris refused to defend Prop 8 in court.

After Biden picked Harris as his Vice- Presidential running mate, Eastman wrote a hostile op-ed in Newsweek that critics compared to “Birtherism,” the fake racist “natural born citizen” conspiracy theory Trump advanced against Barack


Trump defended Eastman. In an Aug. 18, 2020 story, The Intercept noted that “Trump called birthright citizenship ‘ridiculous’” in a 2018 interview with A ios. “ Trump also said that an executive order was in the process of being drafted” to strip citizenship “from people like Harris.”

The Intercept reported that Trump “called the question Eastman raised about Harris’s citizenship at birth ‘very serious’ and a potential ‘problem’ for her. He also praised the fringe legal theorist” as “a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer” and “a brilliant lawyer.”

Eastman provided the theory for overturning the Biden/ Harris 2020 election victory, reportedly trying to convince Vice President Mike Pence incorrectly that he had authority to not certify the Electoral College vote. After an impassioned introduction by Trump lawyer Rudi Guiliani on Jan. , Eastman spouted nonsense about decertification at the March to Save America rally “This is bigger than President Trump! It is the very essence of our republican form of gov-

ernment, and it has to be done!” After Trump spoke, the Stop the Steal protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol building.

Eastman has since been disbarred in California, criminally indicted in the now-delayed Georgia election racketeering case, and a co-conspirator in the (delayed) federal 2020 election interference case against Trump.

But Eastman’s already implanted seeds in MAGA minds about the fringe independent state legislature (ISL) theory whereby state legislatures determine laws regulating federal elections. Democracy Docket explained in a July 11, 2023 story that the Supreme Court re ected the ISL theory but that may not deter MAGAs who prefer electoral chaos. If Trump wins, Eastman may well seek retribution — perhaps even against amala Harris. In 2010, Eastman ran for California Attorney General but lost to LA District Attorney Steve Cooley in the Republican Primary. Three nail-biting weeks after Election Night, Cooley finally conceded to Democrat Harris.

Did Eastman and his campaign manager Jeff Flint – of Schubert and Flint Public Affairs/Prop 8 infamy – think they could have defeated their Prop 8 foe in 2010 Might Eastman want to “lock her up ”

There’s another pall being ignored: the fear that some progressives may decide that the Biden/Harris team is not progressive enough.

What if the campaign found unlikely surrogates to offer contrary evidence Longtime San Francisco deputy public defender Niki Solis, for instance, an LGBTQ mom of two, wrote a piece on Aug 10, 2010 for USA Today headlined “I worked with amala Harris. She was the most progressive DA in California.” The subhead was “I grappled with this idea of defending a former prosecutor for a long time, but I have to say what I feel is right to set the record straight on Harris.”

Two years later, I interviewed Attorney General amala Harris at LA Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa’s Pride Party with the Traipsing Thru Films lesbian crew, Renee Sotile and Mary jo Godges.

MAGA cult salivating
erase LGBTQIA people
Now it’s rapist/convicted felon/wanna-be
Donald Trump’s
Vice President KAMALA HARRIS greeting LGBTQ+ supporters at LAX on June 1, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Jono Madison/Jono Photography)

e er e re o t t


& Trisha’ o

Exploring what’s possible when you allow yourself to become who you truly are

Given the polarizing controversies surrounding the subject of gender in today’s world, it might feel as if challenges to the conventional “norms” around the way we understand it were a product of the modern age. They’re not, of course; artists have been exploring the boundaries of gender  – both its presentation and its perception – since long before the language we use to discuss the topic today was ever developed. After all, gender is a universal experience, and isn’t art, ultimately, meant to be about the sharing of universal experiences in a way that bypasses, or at least overcomes, the limitations of language?

We know, we know; debate about the “purpose” of art is almost as fraught with controversy as the one about gender identity, but it’s still undeniable that art has always been the place to find ideas that contradict or question conventional ways of viewing the world. Thanks to the heavy expectation of conformity to society’s comfortable “norms”  in our relationship with gender, it’s inevitable that artists might chafe at such restrictive assumptions enough to challenge them – and few have committed quite so completely to doing so as Paul Whitehead, the focus of “Paul Trisha The Art of Fluidity,” a new documentary from filmmaker Fia Perera now available via VOD on iTunes and Apple TV after a successful run on the festival circuit.

Whitehead, who first gained attention and found success in London’s fertile art-and-fashion scene of the mid 1960s, might not be a household name, but he has worked closely with many people who are. A job as an in-house illustrator at a record company led to his hiring as the first art director for the U Magazine Time Out, which opened the door for even more prominent commissions for album art – including a series of iconic covers for Genesis, Van der Graaf, Generator, and Peter Hammill, which helped to shape the visual aesthetic of the Progressive Rock movement with his bold, surrealistic pop aesthetic, and worked as an art director for John Lennon for a time. Moving to Los Angeles in 19 3, his continuing work in the music industry expanded to encompass a wide variety of commercial art and landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records as painter of the largest indoor mural in the world inside the now-demolished Vegas World Casino in Las Vegas. As a founder of the Eyes and Ears Foundation, he conceived and organized the “Artboard Festival”, which turned a stretch of L.A. roadway into a “drive-through art gallery” with donated billboards painted by participating artists.

dotes and observations that reveal a clear-headedness, along with a remarkable sense of self-knowledge and an inspiring freedom of thought, that makes his observations feel like deep wisdom. He’s a fascinating host, taking us on a tour of the life he has lived so far, and it’s like spending time with the most interesting guy at the party.

It’s when “Art of Fluidity” introduces its second subject, however, that things really begin to get interesting, because as Whitehead was pushing boundaries as an in-demand artist, he was also pushing boundaries in other parts of his life. Experimenting with his gender identity through cross-dressing since the 1960s, what began tentatively as an “in the bedroom” fetish became a long-term process of self-discovery that resulted in the emergence of “converged artist” Trisha Van Cleef, a feminine manifestation of Whitehead’s persona who has been creating art of her own since 2004. Neither dissociated “alter ego” nor performative character, Trisha might be a conceptual construct, in some ways, but she’s also a very authentic expression of personal gender perception who exists ust as definitively as Paul Whitehead. They are, like the seeming opposites of yin and yang, two sides of the same fundamental and united nature.

Naturally, the bold process of redefining one’s personal relationship with gender is not an easy one, and part of what makes Trisha so compelling is the challenge she represents to Paul – and, by e tension, the audience – by co-e isting with him in his own life. She pushes him to step beyond his fears - such as his concerns about the hostile attitude of the shopkeeper next door and the danger of bullying, brutality, and worse when Trisha goes out in public – and embrace both sides of his nature instead of trying to force himself to be one or the other alone. And while the film doesn’t shy away from addressing the brutal reality about the risk of violence against non-gender-conforming people in our culture, it also highlights what is possible when you choose to allow yourself to become who you truly are.

Perera’s film catches up with Whitehead in the relatively low-profile city of Ventura, Calif., where the globally renowned visual artist now operates from a combination studio and gallery in a strip mall storefront. Still prolific and producing striking artworks many of them in uenced and inspired by his self-described “closet Hinduism” , the film reveals a man who, far from coming off as elderly, seems ageless possessed of a rare mi of spiritual insight and worldly wisdom, he is left by the filmmaker to tell his own story by himself, and he embraces the task with the effortless verve of a seasoned raconteur. For roughly the first half of the film, we are treated to the chronicle of his early career provided straight from the source, without “talking head” commentaries or interview footage culled from entertainment news archives, and laced with anec-

As a sort of disclaimer, it must be acknowledged that some viewers may take issue with some of Whitehead’s personal beliefs about gender identity, which might not quite mesh with prevailing ideas and could be perceived as “problematic” within certain perspectives. Similarly, the depth of his engagement with Hindu cosmology might be off-putting to audiences geared toward skepticism around any spiritually inspired outlook on the world. However, it’s clear within the larger conte t of the documentary that both Paul and Trisha speak only for themselves, e pressing a personal truth that does not nullify or deny the personal truth of anyone else. Further, one of the facets that gives “Art of Fluidity” its mesmerizing, upbeat charm is the sense that we are watching an ongoing evolution, a work in progress in which an artist is still discovering the way forward. There’s no insinuation that any aspect of Paul or Trisha’s shared life is definitive, rather we come to see them as a united pair, in constant u , moving through the world together, as one, and becoming more like themselves every step of the way. That’s something toward which we all would be wise to aspire; the acceptance of all of our parts and the understanding that we are always in the process of becoming something else would certainly go a long way toward making a happier, friendlier world.


Film fans will love ‘Hollywood Pride’ A

celebration of queer representation in Hollywood

You plan to buy lots of Jujubes.

They’ll stick to your teeth, but whatever, you’ll be too busy watching to care. You like the director, you know most of the actors as first-rate, and word is that the newcomer couldn’t be more right for the role. Yep, you’ve done your homework. You read Rotten Tomatoes, you’ve looked up IMDB, and you bought your ticket online. Now all you need is “Hollywood Pride” by Alonso Duralde, and your movie night is complete.

William ennedy Laurie Dickson likely had no idea that what he’d done was monumental.

Sometime in the very late 1800s, he set up a film camera and a wa cylinder to record a short dance between two men, hands around one another’s waists, as Dickson played the violin. It “was one of the very first movies ever shot,” and probably the first film to record men dancing rather intimately alone together.

Back then, and until well into the 20th century, there were laws against most homoseual behavior and cross-dressing, and very rigid standards of activity between men and women. This led to many “intense relationships between people of the same gender.” Still, in World War I-era theaters and though LGBTQ representation “was somewhat slower to get rolling” then, audiences saw films that might include drag often for comedy’s sake , camp, covert affection, and “bad girls of the era.”

Thankfully, things changed because of people like Marlene Dietrich, Ramon Novarro, Claudette Colbert, George Cukor, Alfred Hitchcock, and others through the years, people who ignored social mores and the Hays Code to give audiences what they wanted. Moviegoers could find LGBTQ actors and themes in most genres by the 1940s despite politics and a “pink scare” in the 1950s, gay actors and drag still for comedy’s sake still appeared on-screen and by the 19 0s, the Hays Code had been dismantled. And the Me Decade of the 19 0s, says Duralde, “ended with the promise that something new and e citing was about to happen.”

So have you run out of movies on your TBW list? If so, get ready.

You never want to start a movie at the end, but it’s OK if you do that with “Hollywood Pride.” Flip to the end of the book, and look up your favorite stars or directors. Page to the end of each chapter, and you’ll find “artists of note.” Just before that “films of note.” Page anywhere, in fact, and you’ll like what you see.

In his introduction, author Alonso Duralde apologizes if he didn’t include your favorites but “Hollywood has been a magnet for LGBTQ+ people” for more than a century, making it hard to capture it completely. That said, movie-loving readers will still be content with what’s inside this well-illustrated, well-curated, highly readable historical overview of LGBTQ films and of the people who made them.

Come to this book with a movie-lover’s sensibility and stay for the wealth of photos and side-bars. If you’re up for binge-reading, binge-watching, or Date Night, dig into “Hollywood Pride.” Popcorn not necessary, but welcome.


Pride: A Celebration of LGBTQ+ Representation and Perseverance in Film’

c.2024, Running Press | $40 | 322 pages

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Madonna pays tribute to the queer community for Pride 2024

NEW YORK – Taking to her Instagram account on Thursday, June 6, Pop Diva and superstar musical artist Madonna expressed her gratitude to her legions of LGBTQ+ fans. The singer also urged her fans to embrace Pride and their queer identity.

“When Truth or Dare was released in 1991 I had no idea it was going to cause such a stir But that could be said of most of the things I do!! I simply wanted to capture the world. I was living in—and share it with the world. I am forever grateful to the gay community that has always supported me from day one!!!

When I arrived in New York for the first time in 1979 — They made an awkward girl from Michigan feel like she fit in, like she

wasn’t a freak and. That it was OK to be different. I am forever indebted.

In this increasingly chaotic world, we are living in. I will never stop fighting for diversity, inclusiveness and equal rights for all!!!


Let’s celebrate this month and every month ! .”

The American singer and actress has long been recognized as a LGBTQ+ icon.

According to her biographical entry in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Madonna was introduced to the gay community while still a teenager growing up in first Pontiac and then later Rochester Hills, north of Detroit, Michigan.

It was her ballet teacher, Christopher Flynn, a gay man, who first told her that she had something to offer the world. He also introduced her to the local gay community of Detroit, Michigan, often taking her to local gay bars and discotheques.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Madonna began as one of the first “notable” names in the entertainment industry to publicly advocate in response to the HIV/ AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

More recently the singer was honored at the annual GLAAD Media Awards in 1991 for ‘Raising Gay Awareness’ and again in 2019 as an ‘Advocate for Change’.

Oprah sends a message to the LGBTQ+ community for Pride

MONTECITO, Calif. – Entertainment mogul and longtime LGBTQ+ ally Oprah Winfrey posted an affirming Pride Month message Tuesday to her Instagram, honoring her brother Jeffrey Lee, who died 35 years ago from complications of AIDS.

The 2024 GLAAD Vanguard award winner noted:

“It was 35 years ago that my younger brother, Jeffrey Lee, died from AIDS,” she said in an Instagram video. “He was 29 years old. The year was 1989, and the world was an extremely cruel place, not just for people suffering from AIDS, but also for LGBTQ people in general.”

In her Instagram Pride


posted a Pride Month tribute to her gay brother, Jeffrey Lee who passed away in 1989 from AIDS. (Screenshot/Instagram)

“I often think if he’d lived, he’d be so

amazed at how much the world has changed, that there actually is gay marriage and a Pride Month,” she noted. “How different his life might have been had he lived in these times. In a world that saw and appreciated him for who he was rather than attempting to shame him for his sexuality.”

Winfrey additionally added that everyone should have the right to “love who they want to love and be the person they most want to be.”

“I wish for you the continued freedom to rise to the truest, highest expression of yourself as a human being,” she said.

MADONNA speaking at the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards 2019 in New York City. (Screenshot/YouTube GLAAD) post, WINFREY
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