Page 1

Protesting Indonesian, Chechen Crackdowns 04, 24

Pride Season Opens in Queens, Asbury Park 10-11




COVER STORY A better politics on screen at HRW Film Fest 35

MORSELS Brooklyn's garden of delights now has seating 09

Michael Urie’s dazzling

“Inspector� 40

CRIME Hate crime law loophole fix 05

FILM Fast hands win the day 34

CIVIL RIGHTS Second Circuit revisits Title VII 14

Lypsinka's drag film deep dive 36

Seventh Circuit win for trans students 19

OPERA “Angels in America� at Lincoln Center 46

I SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT to be who I am, without being worried for my own safety.

YOU DO HAVE THE RIGHT.                 




Carmelyn P. Malalis, Chair/Commissioner




June 08 - June 21, 2017 | | June 08 - June 21, 2017



Activists Rally Against Indonesian Gay Crackdown Consulates in New York, San Francisco targeted over past week BY ANDY HUMM


tepped up official government attacks on gay men in Indonesia — including the arrest and public humiliation of 141 men at a gay spa in Jakarta on May 22 — were met by pickets at that country’s consulates in New York and San Francisco in the past week. More than a dozen protesters, mostly from Rise and Resist, demonstrated outside the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia at 5 East 68th Street in Manhattan on the morning of June 5, timed to make the staff there aware of their concerns during business hours. Luthfi Madjid of the New Yorkbased Satu Pelangi (“One Rainbow”) organization for LGBTQ Indonesians, hand-delivered a group letter to President Joko Widodo calling on him to “disband the West Java anti-LGBT unit and devote police resources to protecting minorities from vigilante groups,” including in the Aceh province. There, Sharia law is being imposed on gay people and two gay men were caned brutally in public this past month. The activists also drew attention to the recent forced HIV testing of 14 gay men arrested in Surabaya. The fact that antiLGBTQ persecution has spread from the fundamentalist Aceh to the rest of the world’s largest Muslim nation has caused international alarm. “You must end this unconstitutional, illegal, and immoral persecution by the Indonesian government and renew its stated commitment to human rights,” veteran gay activist Brendan Fay


Activists from Satu Pelangi and Rise and Resist gathered outside Indonesia’s Consulate General in Manhattan on June 5.

read from the letter, which was signed by Rise & Resist, GAYa NUSANTARA (the Indonesian group to “encourage people to be proud of their sexuality”) in Surabaya, Suara Kita, an LGBTQ news site in Jakarta, and the nation’s nonprofit Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICGR). A consular official invited Madjid alone into the lobby and promised to deliver the letter to the president, but would not answer press questions. In San Francisco’s North Beach district, Gays Without Borders, led by veteran activist Michael Petrelis, held a press conference outside the Indonesian Consulate at 1111 Columbus Avenue at noon on May 31 to “to deplore the many human rights violations in recent weeks.” Petrelis posted on Facebook, “Four hostile and rude federal


Luthfi Madjid (at right) after being admitted by a Consulate staff member (center), delivering a group letter to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, as Brendan Fay (back turned at left) looks in from outside.

OFM [US Office of Foreign Missions] testosterone-driven agents in street clothes were present at the consulate entrance the entire time we engaged with Bernard Loesi, the diplomat for public affairs, and his security guard and

assistant. SFPD officers remained across the street… Loesi promised on-camera to relay our concerns back to Jakarta, in writing, and we requested a copy of his

INDONESIA, continued on p.51


MARCH FOR CHECHNYA ON JUNE 1 IN WEST VILLAGE Branden Hayward of Rise and Resist is organizing a Solidarity March for Chechnya, a Muslim majority part of Russia, where 4

gay men are being rounded up by government forces and killed. The march on Sunday, June 11 starts at noon on the Christopher

Street pier and ends in Union Square. Hayward said the group aims to draw attention to the persecution there and help the

Rainbow Railroad that is aiding Chechen gays. “I have a deeprooted passion for people who don’t have a voice,” he said. June 08 - June 21, 2017 |


Push to Close Hate Crime Law Loophole “Michael Sandy Act” would bar defendants from arguing they too are in targeted class BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


member of the State Assembly has introduced legislation that would allow judges to bar criminal defendants from claiming they belong to one of the protected classes in New York’s hate crime law when they are being prosecuted for a crime against a member of that protected class. The legislation is named for Michael Sandy, an African-American gay man who was killed in 2006 when a group of four white Brooklyn men hatched a plan to lure him to a supposed sexual encounter and rob him. During the robbery, two of the men pursued the 29-year-old Sandy onto the Belt Parkway, where he was struck and killed by a car. “It’s to protect people who are being targeted,” said Francisco Moya, the Democrat who spon-

One of the defendants in the 2006 killing of Michael Sandy (above), a gay man, argued that his status as a gay or bisexual man meant he should not be charged with a hate crime.

sored the legislation and represents part of Queens, including Jackson Heights, in the Assembly. “These individuals decided to say

that they were gay as well in order to not be charged with a hate crime.” At trial, John Fox, now 30, and Anthony Fortunato, now 31, faced murder, manslaughter, attempted robbery, and assault counts with some charged as hate crimes. Fortunato was the mastermind behind the robbery plan. Ilya Shurov, now 31, faced the same charges, but was supposed to have a separate trial. He pleaded guilty after Fox and Fortunato, who were tried together, but with separate juries, were convicted. The fourth man, Gary Timmins, now 26, cooperated with the prosecution. Defense attorneys for Fortunato, Fox, and Shurov battled to have the hate crime tags dismissed, saying the Brooklyn district attorney’s office was misusing the state hate crime law. Defense attorneys see the hate crime tag as prejudicial and tending to inflame jurors’

sentiments. They were unsuccessful in getting the hate crime elements dismissed. Fortunato’s attorney subpoenaed three men who testified that they had had sex with him. Two of the three said Fortunato showed up wearing women’s underwear. Fortunato testified and told jurors that he “could be homosexual or bisexual right now.” While Fortunato, who was released from prison in 2015, was convicted on manslaughter as a hate crime, he avoided a conviction for attempted robbery or assault, testifying that when Shurov and Fox pursued Sandy onto the Belt Parkway, he left the scene. Unlike attempted robbery, manslaughter is not a violent crime under New York law and Fortunato benefited from that. He was sentenced to seven-to-21 years. The absence of

HATE CRIMES, continued on p.21


That is what AARP’s volunteers do every day in New York City. Improving lives and helping your community. Be part of the journey. Become an AARP Volunteer. Learn more at | June 08 - June 21, 2017



Luscious Sights, Smells Now Joined By Tastes Brooklyn Botanic Garden has its first sit-down restaurant, perfect for beloveds’ getaway BY DONNA MINKOWITZ


here is nothing like rifling someone’s hair under white cherry blossoms. Or gazing at tall blackpurple tulips while someone puts their arm around you and pulls you close enough to smell their spicy traditional cologne. That is why there is no single better spot for a date in all of New York City than the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. In almost every season, the garden is the place to take someone you love. Many years ago, the BBG folks opened the garden at night during the winter, hanging almost all the trees with fairy lights. I would have gone there every evening if I could: it looked like a queer and trans version of the Fellowship of the Ring was about to ride up on horseback from the northernmost lane of trees. The yellow fall after 9/11, the BBG folks made admission free every day as an act of solace. I walked under the dull green oaks and harvest-gold ginkgos, and it was a good place to fully feel my sadness as I looked across at the cloud of dust that had been 2,753 people. I’ve been coming here since I was four, when my yeshiva nursery school brought us. My yeshiva took wrong positions on almost every single issue, but it cultivated in all of us kids an enjoyment of the senses and a taste for beauty, things that are probably goods in themselves as we keep fighting against everemboldened white nationalism and for the world not to burn. On every Jewish holiday, my teachers gave each child a little bag of the most delicious and sensual dried fruits I have ever encountered. They were all exotic to me, in 1968 Brooklyn: long black carob pods, figs from Smyrna, intense dates, and flaming dried peaches. We never ate them at home. What extravagant pleasures had the world prepared for us? On my tongue, fruits whose names I didn’t know made voluptuous shapes, extending this way and that, making me learn with my mouth how thrilling textures could be. It’s a Jewish tradition to make learning “sweet” to children by | June 08 - June 21, 2017


The interior of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Yellow Magnolia Café.


A biscuit box served with a strawberry ricotta crostini at Yellow Magnolia Café.

pouring honey on letters of the alphabet and having children lick them off; this was my school’s version of that. For an education in textures, smells, and sights, the most important variants of oral pleasure, come to the garden and walk in the bluebell path, the garden of red, fuchsia, pink, purple, magenta, and white peonies, and the lilacs that hang luxuriantly on the path to the rose garden. Last year, some of the roses kept blooming through November. If you think they’re done, they’re not. There are tens of thousands of them, some of the sexiest flowers under the sun, so go with your beloved and stick your nose in them. There are 1,000 varieties in all colors and shapes, but for my money the pink, spreadopen Tiki roses with yellow centers are the best, male and female at once and smelling like honey. Of the blossoms that fade quickly, the ones you really shouldn’t miss are the fragrant magnolia that

bloom in March, April, and (for one late variety, the creamy magnolia virginiana) in June. If you stand under them, they look like breasts; go put your head under them while they’re there. The cherry blossoms, when they’re here, look like birthday cake that you want to bury your face in. The black-purple tulips I mentioned are profoundly masculine, tall, deep, and angular, and of a color so dark and intense they could be the official flower of the Folsom Street East Fair. They are always present in the yearly display of tulips at the southwestern end of the garden near the greenhouses, right in front of the new restaurant that opened in April, the first sit-down restaurant in the garden’s 106-year history. Oh yes, the restaurant. The Yellow Magnolia Café, with an expensive but mostly delicious, vegetablefocused menu from sustainable sources, makes a date in the garden far easier. When you and your boy or girl get hungry from all that

bending together over the peonies, you now don’t have to eat at the garden’s crowded, miserable outdoor snack canteen, forced to sit at unshaded tables under the broiling sun. (The only places you’re allowed to eat in the garden are the café and the canteen area.) Savvy members of the 99 percent already know to go to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden all day Tuesdays or on Saturday mornings, when admission (normally $15) is free. But the weekends are so crowded from April through September that you should call in sick and go on Tuesday if you can. However, Tuesdays can be crowded, too, making even the most enthusiastic daters irritable and too touchy to accept their sweetheart’s offer to read the poetry excerpts laden around the plants in the Shakespeare Garden. So if you can afford it, spring for the $15 and go on a different weekday, when there is enough room that you can touch an iris’ long, labial petals and then your beloved’s inner arm without accidentally hitting people taking photographs. Then go to the café — reservations have become increasingly necessary, and vital on weekends and Tuesdays — and order the best thing on the menu, biscuits for two with salted molasses butter and, both the times I ordered it, bloodorange jam ($6). Get them with coffee, tea, or prosecco. The biscuits (vegetarian), dark -colored and unusually deep in flavor, are probably the best biscuits in New York City. Dip a piece in the salted molasses butter, dip another piece in the astounding blood-orange jam. Smile at your beloved. Ask to sit so that you can both get to look across at the tulips and the flowering trees as you eat. If you’re feeling flush, order other foods on the partly-Southern, partly-Jewish, very herbal menu — the chicken with delicate ramp dumplings, fiddlehead firms, and royal trumpet mushrooms ($16) was my favorite. But if you don’t want to spend your hard-earned bucks, the biscuits will sustain you ‘til you

YELLOW MAGNOLIA, continued on p.20



Pride Month Kicks Off in Jackson Heights LGBTQ community marks 25 years of celebrations in Queens BY MARK HALLUM


s is its tradition, Queens Pride kicked off the city’s month-long celebration of the LGBTQ community in Jackson Heights on June 4 with a turnout far exceeding last year’s and a special focus on those who lost their lives to hate crimes over the decades. Leaders in the fight for equal rights walked the parade route on the event’s 25th anniversary along with many elected officials and community organizations. Onlookers were treated to the unexpected sight of an elderly man in a World War II veteran’s hat dancing while waving an American flag as he unofficially led the procession that started at 37th Avenue and 89th Street. The man, who did not give his name, said he is from a nearby liberal church. “This is my first [Pride Parade], and probably my last,” he said. “I may not live that long.” City Councilmembers Daniel Dromm of Jackson Heights and Jimmy Van Bramer of Sunnyside, both out gay Democrats, were at the forefront of the procession as grand marshals. With them were State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, also a grand marshal, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilmemembers Carlos Menchaca, a gay Democrat from Brooklyn, and Eric Ulrich, an Ozone Park Republican, and former State Senator Tom Duane, one of the first out gay elected officials in the state. The officials and others all took a pause from the march to pay tribute to Julio Rivera, a gay man who was murdered in 1990 by two assailants whom Dromm described as “white supremacist skinheads.” Rivera’s family was there, cradling the cremated remains of their loved one in their arms. “I miss my brother,” said Rivera’s brother, Ted, his voice trembling with emotion. “It’s hard even now to speak of my brother over 25 years from when he was killed. But I’m happy so much good came out of it.



Among those leading off the parade were former State Senator Tom Duane (left), City Councilmember Daniel Dromm (center), and longtime activist Brendan Fay (to Dromm’s right).

Julio Rivera, a gay man murdered in Jackson Heights in 1990, was remembered on the 25th anniversary of the Queens Pride events.


State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli with City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca.


Queens Pride comes in the brightest colors.


Drumming up Pride on the streets of Jackson Heights.

We’re very grateful to [Dromm] and the gay community.” DiNapoli took the microphone to urge attendees not to be discouraged with the current political climate, but to keep fighting for LGBTQ rights through legislation such as GENDA, a bill that would add gender identity as a protected class under the state’s human rights law — barring discrimination in employment, housing, and


Youth from FIERCE! turned out in Queens.

other areas — as well as in the state’s hate crimes law. “This parade and the activity that Queens Pride does throughout the year has really been transformative,” DiNapoli said. “We are a better community because of your efforts and we know we’re living in a very strange time with a lot of challenges out there. It means we need to keep the work going.” James encouraged people to use

all the resources at their disposal to keep fighting for the values of the LGBTQ movement. “At a time when our democracy is under attack and our values are under attack, Julio’s death must not be in vain,” James said. “All of us must rise up and use our voice to stand up for freedom for who we love. This is really all about love.”

QUEENS, continued on p.23

June 08 - June 21, 2017 |


Gay Greetings from Asbury Park Springsteen’s stomping ground, a longtime LGBTQ beacon, celebrates its 26th Jersey Pride BY MICHAEL LUONGO


he sky looked menacing, but there was no rain on this parade. The New Jersey LGBT Pride Celebration was held June 4 for the 26th time in Asbury Park on the fabled Jersey Shore. According to Laura Pople, president of Jersey Pride, “this was by far our biggest event, in every way. The parade was so big that it literally bisected the town. We were still in the formation area on Main Street while the lead marchers reached the festival grounds at the ocean. And thousands lined the parade route to watch it go by. More vendors, more politicians, tens of thousands in attendance, and more of a sense of community and mission among attendees.” The parade route begins on Asbury Park’s Main Street at its Municipal Complex, heading along



Asbury Park’s Convention Hall welcomes New Jersey Pride’s 26th annual celebration in the city.

Festival headliner Ultra Naté.

Cookman Avenue before winding its way to Bradley Park in front of the 1920s Convention Hall, a symbol of the city, sporting a rainbow flag for the occasion. The area is now overlooked by the new Asbury Hotel, fashioned out of a former Salvation Army building and opened during the 2016 Pride season. In its early years, the parade

had passed along the Asbury Park Boardwalk, but has grown too large. Today, the faces and the buildings along the parade route reflect a changing Asbury Park. The city still remains ethnically and economically diverse but is increasingly gentrified, with many restored Victorians and new construction on the blocks closest to


Jersey Pride president Laura Pople with Asbury Park Police Lieutenant John Crescio.

the ocean, where many LGBTQ folks and others are purchasing homes. Pople said the parade has always had a strong political component and was a major reason New Jersey advanced ahead of many other states in LGBTQ protections in the

ASBURY PARK, continued on p.32

Smell gas? Leave the area immediately and call 911 or 1-800-75-CONED (26633). Don’t expect someone else to make the call.

Live in a world where everyone acts fast when they smell gas. | June 08 - June 21, 2017


I was only 16 years old when I discovered that I was born with HIV. My mother passed away from the disease, but until getting tested at a community health fair, I had no idea, that I too, was living with HIV. Within a few months of my diagnosis, I got on treatment to control my viral load. Since then, I’ve stayed on treatment and in good health. Getting tested saved my life and I’ve used my experience to help youth learn about HIV prevention, testing and           


June 08 - June 21, 2017 |

“HIV, life’s a game, and with treatment, I’m winning it day by day.” Christopher - Washington, DC Living with HIV since 1987.




Get in care. Stay in care. Live well. | June 08 - June 21, 2017



Sexual Orientation Bias Revisited by Second Circuit Title VII at issue in all-hands review, while NYC district judge declines to apply precedent BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


s the Second Circuit Court of Appeals was pondering three petitions asking for en banc consideration of whether Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act can be interpreted to ban sexual orientation discrimination as a form of sex discrimination — one petition of which has since been accepted — a federal trial judge in Manhattan ruled that “in light of the evolving state of the law,” it would be “imprudent” for the court to grant a motion to dismiss a gay plaintiff’s sexual orientation discrimination claim. Senior District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, appointed by Bill Clinton in 1998, issued his ruling in Philpott v. State University of New York on May 3, the day after the third en banc petition was filed. An en banc hearing in the Second Circuit involves participation by all of its 11 active judges, plus any senior judges who participated in a three-judge panel decision being reheard. Appeals are normally heard by three-judge panels, which are bound by existing circuit precedents. Only an en banc panel — or the Supreme Court — can reconsider and reverse such precedents. In Simonton v. Runyon in 2000, the Second Circuit ruled that Title VII could not be interpreted to forbid sexual orientation discrimination. This holding was reiterated by a second panel in 2005, in Dawson v. Bumble & Bumble, and yet again this year on March 27 in Christiansen v. Omnicom Group. However, the circuit’s chief judge, Robert Katzmann, who sat on the Christiansen panel, wrote a concurring opinion there, joined by one of the other judges, arguing the issue should be considered en banc in “an appropriate case.” The circuit has now found that case — Zarda v. Altitude Express, in which New York skydiving instructor Donald Zarda, in a suit brought in 2010, alleged he was fired from his job because he was gay. Zarda’s claim, now litigated by



The late Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor whose estate will now have a chance to go before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ full bench with a sexual orientation discrimination suit brought after he was fired by Altitude Express.

his estate in the wake of his 2014 death, was rejected by a threejudge panel on April 18 and the estate filed for en banc review on May 2. The case will be heard by the full circuit on September 26. Katzmann’s discussion in his Christiansen concurrence basically embraced arguments articulated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in its 2015 decision holding that David Baldwin, a gay air traffic controller, could bring a sexual orientation discrimination claim under Title VII against the US Department of Transportation. The first of the en banc petitions was filed on April 19 in Cargian v. Breitling USA, Inc., in which another Manhattan trial judge, George B. Daniels, dismissed a gay watch salesman’s Title VII sexual orientation discrimination claim based on the circuit precedents. Daniels ruled last September, and Frederick Cargian filed an appeal to the Second Circuit. When the Christiansen decision was issued on March 27, it became clear his appeal to a three-judge panel would be a waste of time and judi-

cial resources, and the American Civil Liberties Union, representing Cargian in cooperation with attorney Janice Goodman and the New York Civil Liberties Union, decided to petition the circuit to take the case up directly en banc. The second petition was filed on April 28 by Matthew Christiansen’s attorney, Susan Chana Lask. The three-judge panel in Christiansen’s case had refused to allow his suit to continue on a sexual orientation discrimination theory, but concluded it was possible he would be able to proceed under a gender stereotype theory, based on a 1989 Supreme Court ruling holding that discriminating against an employee because they fail to conform to gender stereotypes is evidence of discrimination because of sex. The Christiansen trial judge had concluded that if the factual allegations suggest sexual orientation played a role in the discrimination suffered by the plaintiff, he would be not be allowed to proceed under Title VII, but that finding, the appeals panel noted, overlooked an important element of Title VII

— an amendment adopted in 1991 providing that a plaintiff is entitled to judgment if sex is a “motivating factor” in his or her case, even if other factors contributed to the employer’s discriminatory conduct. Christiansen could prevail, the panel suggested, as long as he could show that gender stereotyping was a motivating factor in his mistreatment. At first it appeared that Christiansen would not seek en banc review, despite Judge Katzmann’s concurring opinion, as the panel unanimously voted to send the case back to the district court for consideration as a gender stereotyping case. Lask was quoted in newspaper reports as preparing to proceed to trial on the stereotyping theory. The ACLU’s en banc petition changed the game plan, evidently, and was filed on April 28. After a different Second Circuit panel rejected the sexual orientation discrimination claim by Donald Zarda’s estate, Gregory Antollino, an attorney for the estate’s executor filed the May 2 en banc petition, with Stephen Bergstein of Bergstein & Ullrich as co-counsel representing a co-executor. The very next day, Hellerstein issued his ruling, allowing Jeffrey Philpott, the gay former vice president of student affairs at the State University of New York’s College of Optometry, to pursue his Title VII sexual orientation discrimination, hostile environment, and retaliation claims. Hellerstein rejected the defendant’s alternative argument that even if sexual orientation discrimination were covered by Title VII, Philpott’s factual allegations were insufficient to support his claims. After briefly reviewing the relevant Second Circuit precedents, Hellerstein noted the defendant’s argument that the court must dismiss the sexual orientation claims, and also Philpott’s request to file an amended complaint focused on gender stereotyping. “Neither relief is appropriate,”

TITLE VII, continued on p.31

June 08 - June 21, 2017 |


The Fight for Marriage in Broad, Informed Context Nathaniel Frank brings critical balance, insight to chronicling long road to equality


Columbia University scholar Nathaniel Frank. BELKNAP PRESS OF THE HARVARD UNIVERSIT Y PRESS



n 2009, attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies vowed to take a legal challenge to Proposition 8, a 2008 California ballot initiative that barred same-sex marriage in that state, to the US Supreme Court and win marriage for gay and lesbian couples in all 50 states. What they won there in 2013 was marriage in California. Chad Griffin, a PR expert who now heads the Human Rights Campaign, founded the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which funded the Prop 8 case and gave extraordinary access to New York Times reporter Jo Becker and documentary filmmakers Ben Cotner and Ryan White to follow the case. In 2014, despite falling well short of the stated goal of the Prop 8 lawsuit, Becker released her controversial book, “Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight For Marriage Equality,” Cotner and White launched “The Case Against 8,” a nearly two-hour long documentary, and Olson and Boies published their truly awful book, “Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality.” The two books and the documentary were a media onslaught that was all the more offensive | June 08 - June 21, 2017

AWAKENING: HOW GAYS AND LESBIANS BROUGHT MARRIAGE EQUALITY TO AMERICA By Nathaniel Frank Belknap Press/ Harvard University Press $35; 441 pages

cause they represented the organizations that had been battling for marriage for years as obstacles to winning the goal of marriage in all 50 states. Now comes Nathaniel Frank’s “Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America,” an exhaustively researched book that correctly attributes the basis for the ultimate marriage win to the case that the US Supreme Court heard at the same time as the Prop 8 case — Edie Windsor’s successful challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 federal statute that barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and allowed states to do the same. With notes that run to 50 pag-

MARRIAGE, continued on p.20



Seventh Circuit Finds Trans Student Protections In Ash Whitaker’s suit, Chicago-based appeals court upholds principle Gavin Grimm fought for in Virginia BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


unanimous three-judge federal appeals panel has upheld a trial court’s preliminary injunction requiring a Wisconsin high school to allow a transgender boy to use the boys’ bathroom facilities during his senior year there. The landmark May 30 ruling from the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals represents the fi rst time a federal appeals court has ruled that Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 — which bans sex discrimination by educational institutions receiving federal money — prohibits discrimination against transgender students. The court also ruled that the plaintiff, Ashton Whitaker, and other transgender students subjected to discriminatory treatment by a public school could sue under the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote the court’s opinion, joined by Chief Judge Diane Pamela Wood and Judge Ilana Rovner. Williams and Wood were appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton, with Rovner named by President George H. W. Bush. In a prior ruling involving Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy about to graduate from a Virginia high school, the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal courts should defer to the Obama administration’s “reasonable” interpretation of Title IX providing protection to transgender students. That ruling, however, was recently vacated by the US Supreme Court after the Trump administration withdrew the Obama determination after the high court had already agreed to review the Fourth Circuit decision. Grimm’s appeal of a district court’s denial of his underlying Title IX claim is still pending before the Fourth Circuit, which has scheduled a September hearing in the case. | June 08 - June 21, 2017


Ash Whitaker (right), with his mother, Melissa.

Williams succinctly summarized what the Wisconsin case was about in her matter-of-fact opening sentence: “Ashton (‘Ash’) Whitaker is a 17-year-old high school senior boy who has what would seem like a simple request: to use the boys’ restroom while at school.” The request did not seem simple to Kenosha school authorities, however, because Whitaker is transgender and, as far as the school district is concerned, should be treated as a girl unless Ash presents a new birth certificate designating him as male, which, under Wisconsin law, he can only obtain with proof of surgical gender reassignment. Whether or not Whitaker desires such surgery, he could not undergo it until his 18th birthday under the recognized standard of care for gender dysphoria. According to the court’s opinion, Ash told his parents about his gender identity when he was in eighth grade and entered Tremper High School as a freshman in the fall of 2013 presenting as a boy, with a short hair style and wearing masculine clothing.

A therapist subsequently diagnosed him with gender dysphoria, and in his junior year Whitaker began hormone replacement therapy under an endocrinologist’s care and petitioned a court to legally change his name to Ashton, by which he had been known since beginning high school. In his sophomore year, Whitaker and his mother, Melissa, began meeting with school authorities to discuss his using the boys’ bathroom, but they were resistant. Acknowledging the lack of any written policy on the question, officials said they’d be willing to bend the rules to the extent of letting Ash use a single-user bathroom in the school’s main office — though that was “quite a distance from his classrooms” and would likely often make him late. And since no other student had access to that facility, “he feared that using it would draw further attention to his transition and status as a transgender student,” Williams wrote. The alternative was unacceptable, the judge added, because since “Ash had publicly transitioned, he believed that using the

girls’ restrooms would undermine his transition.” A medical complication compounded the bathroom issue for Whitaker. Ash contends with vasovagal syncope, a condition that makes him susceptible to fainting or seizures if he becomes dehydrated, so he has to drink water frequently. As a result, speedy bathroom breaks between classes are important. Since the school was making his bathroom use cumbersome, he instead tried restricting his water intake, with predictable results: fainting and dizziness. The constraints the school insisted on imposing on Whitaker led him to suffer stressrelated migraines, depression, and anxiety, as well. “He even began to contemplate suicide,” wrote Williams. When he began his junior year in the fall of 2015, Whitaker decided to risk using the boys’ bathrooms, and, wrote Williams, “For six months, he exclusively used the boys’ restrooms at school without incident, but, in February 2016, a teacher saw him washing his hands at a sink in the boys’ restroom and reported it to the school’s administration.” He and his mother were warned again and school officials were lobbied once more, but the policy remained unchanged. Despite that, Ash continued to use the boys’ bathrooms while school security guards were “instructed to monitor Ash’s restroom use.” Caught a few more times, he was dressed down by administrators but was also offered access to a second singleuser bathroom, that one also far away from his classes. In time, wrote Williams, “Ash began to fear for his safety as more attention was drawn to his restroom use and transgender status.” Finally, Whitaker and his family contacted a lawyer, who sent a demand letter to the school district, which declined to change its position. Ash next fi led a com-

ASH WHITAKER, continued on p.31




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MARRIAGE, from p.15

es in this 441-page book, interviews with â&#x20AC;&#x153;over 50â&#x20AC;? participants in the marriage movement, and published and unpublished documents and records, Frank provides the kind of account that makes for fascinating reading. He correctly places the beginning of the marriage movement in the LGBTQ communityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s grassroots and notes that the desire to wed among gay and lesbian couples began decades before any of the communityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s advocacy groups conceived of suing for marriage or lobbying any state legislature to enact it. Frank explores the careful strategy that legal groups, such as Lambda Legal, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) in Boston, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) in San Francisco, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), employed and debated. He places Evan Wolfson, the founder of Freedom to Marry and probably the most influential proponent of marriage, at the center of the action â&#x20AC;&#x201D; where he belongs. Frank also discusses the de-

Flatbush Avenue. Closed on Mondays (but open every July 4 and on Columbus Day). Summer hours are Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m.â&#x20AC;&#x201C;6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.6 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $8 for seniors, children under 12 get in free. Fridays are free for seniors, and Tuesdays are free for everyone, while Saturday has free admission from 10 a.m. until noon, except on festival days. Yellow Magnolia CafĂŠ, at 990 Washington Avenue in the garden (718-307-7136, or reserve online at is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.5 p.m. Dining in the cafĂŠ requires admission to the garden. Both the garden and cafĂŠ are wheelchair accessible. The cafĂŠâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s one restroom is wheelchair-accessible, but it is also a heavily used public restroom in the garden, so on several occasions it stunk of urine. Kimchi Grill, 766 Washington Avenue, between Sterling and Park Places, is wheelchair-accessible. The hours are Monday through Thursday, noon-10 p.m.; Friday, noon-10:30 p.m.; Saturday, 11:30 a.m-10:30 p.m.; and Sunday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

bates that occurred among the attorneys who brought marriage lawsuits about where to sue, when to sue, and what arguments to make. They were thoughtful and often discouraged individuals and private attorneys from suing. But they also faced pressure from the communityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s grassroots to move faster as the successes mounted. To an extent, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Awakeningâ&#x20AC;? vindicates the strategy of first changing hearts and minds of Americans, a strategy that Wolfson often advocated, before suing in the federal courts. After decades of losing LGBTQ-related ballot initiatives, the marriage movement won four statewide ballot initiatives in the 2012 presidential election. The community had lost more than 30 marriage ballot initiatives prior to that. But â&#x20AC;&#x153;Awakeningâ&#x20AC;? also shows how the attorneys who battled to win marriage for years did not fully appreciate how much the hearts and minds of a few dozen federal judges and ultimately five justices on the US Supreme Court


MARRIAGE, continued on p.21

June 08 - June 21, 2017 |

HATE CRIMES, from p.5

a violent felony conviction likely made his parole easier and his first parole hearing came earlier. One Fortunato juror said his jury was moved by his testimony. “By the letter of the law, Fortunato was guilty, but no one felt he had any hatred or animosity towards homosexuals,” the juror told Gay City News following the trial. “It was incredibly hard, and I know that other jurors felt a lot of sympathy for Anthony Fortunato. Nobody thought he was a bad kid.” New York’s hate crime law says that a defendant commits such a crime when he or she intentionally selects a victim based on a belief or perception about their membership in several protected classes, including sexual orientation. The law does not require that prosecutors prove that a defendant acted on prejudice or hatred. “These were heterosexual men who targeted a gay man because he was gay,” Moya said. “They went out with the intent to hurt or harm him, and he ended up getting killed.” Fox was convicted on two counts of attempted robbery, both as hate crimes, and one count of manslaughter as a hate crime. He was sentenced to 7-to-21 years in prison, but with an 11-year minimum. He could be released as early as this coming November. Shurov pleaded guilty to manslaughter and attempted robbery, both as hate crimes. He was sen-

MARRIAGE, from p.20

had been changed. If those 30plus ballot initiative losses formed a bulwark against same-sex marriage, the Windsor decision blasted a very large hole in that bulwark. As Frank notes, some of the damage was caused by Justice Antonin Scalia, now deceased, who wrote a dissent that some marriage proponents and some federal judges would later use in courts to knock down those bans. After Windsor, marriage bans began to fall at an accelerating rate often in states, such as Utah or in the South, where marriage advocates would never have considered bringing a lawsuit and, in fact, tried to convince attorneys to not bring cases. Marriage was won in | June 08 - June 21, 2017

tenced to up to 17 years in prison with a 14-year minimum. He could be released in 2021. Timmins pleaded guilty to attempted robbery as a hate crime and attempted assault. He served four years. His parole ended in 2015. Judges can already bar a defense if there is no support for it in the evidence, but criminal court judges generally have a bias toward allowing defendants to mount their defense. “You can’t argue from evidence that’s not in the case,” Daniel C. Richman, a professor who teaches criminal procedure at Columbia Law School, told Gay City News in 2015. “There’s a thumb on the scale, a constitutional thumb on the scale, that argues in favor of the defendant getting to put on a defense… If you’re asking is this an area where judges should be very careful, the answer is yes.” Moya’s legislation has a companion bill in the State Senate that is sponsored by Brad Hoylman, who is gay and represents part of Lower Manhattan. Moya, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2010, is running for a City Council seat this year, but said he hopes to get the legislation passed in the current session. It has eight co-sponsors. “I’m pushing real hard to get it done before this session is over,” he said. “It’s one of my priority bills… This happens everywhere it happens to a lot immigrants, as well. We have to go out there and protect our communities.”

2015 at the US Supreme Court. Frank, now the director of the online research portal What We Know at Columbia University Law School, has certainly undertaken an ambitious task in writing the recent history of the marriage fight. Any one of the lawsuits or individual state battles would be worth its own book, and there are moments in “Awakening” when I wanted greater detail or hoped to learn more. To cover this history, Frank had to report broadly. While it would be fair to say that Frank is a cheerleader for the marriage movement — he dedicated the book to his husband — “Awakening” remains an excellent read and an important book on the marriage movement. I hope it will be only the first history of this movement.

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SAGE Launches Self-Care App â&#x20AC;&#x153;Health Storylinesâ&#x20AC;? allows digital management of key personal data by LGBTQ seniors BY PAUL SCHINDLER


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ervices and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, or SAGE, has partnered with Self Care Catalysts, a cloudbased provider of solution analytics for health care patients, in launching a Health Storylines digital app that allows individuals to create and maintain an accurate record â&#x20AC;&#x201D; or â&#x20AC;&#x153;storyâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; of their health for their own use, as well as that of their health care team and of researchers. The SAGE Health Storylines app was designed with the specific needs of LGBTQ seniors in mind and was launched on June 5, HIV Long-Term Survivors Day, a day that acknowledges the success but also the challenges of people living full lives while also living with the HIV virus. It was on June 5, 1981 that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fi rst publically disclosed its fi ndings about a mysterious new illness that was killing gay men. Today, 59 percent of all Americans living with HIV are 50 and older, and by 2020 that number is expected to climb to 70 percent. To date, more than 360,000 people in the US have died of AIDS â&#x20AC;&#x201D; with a staggering 6.4 million deaths worldwide â&#x20AC;&#x201D; but in 2017, â&#x20AC;&#x153;aging is the new face of HIV,â&#x20AC;? as Long-Term Survivors Day organizers have said. The new app that Self Care Catalysts created for SAGE is intended to encourage LGBTQ seniors to get into the habit of staying on top of their health. The app allows for medication reminders, the monitoring of daily symptoms, and the tracking of both vital signs and moods. The technology allows users to share that information and their story with health care professionals as well as loved ones they designate as part of their Circle of Support network. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We are very excited to launch a new app called SAGE Health Storylines, focusing on the needs


The new SAGE Health Storylines app, developed by Self Care Catalysts, is available free at the Apple and Google app stores or at

of our community by helping HIV older adults to engage in their self-care and make better daily health decisions,â&#x20AC;? said Diosdado Gica, SAGEâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s chief program officer. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s incredibly user-friendly and can enhance conversations between app users, their health care providers, and care managers.â&#x20AC;? Gica added that the digital tool dovetails well with the groupâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s strategic plan to scale up its impact by sharing its expertise and services with affi liates outside the New York area. Grace Castillo-Soyao, Self Care Catalystsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; CEO, said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;We are proud to partner with SAGE to support resources for older adults within the LGBT community. Our belief is that when patients are informed, respected, and engaged, they make better choices, resulting in better health outcomes.â&#x20AC;? The free SAGE Health Storylines app is available for download at the Apple and Google Play app stores or for desktop usage at app/#/login. June 08 - June 21, 2017 |


City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer.


Tym Moss belts out â&#x20AC;&#x153;New York, New Yorkâ&#x20AC;? at the street festival.


City Comptroller Scott Stringer.


One marcher reminded the crowd that Brooklyn Pride is just around the corner â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Saturday, June 10 in Park Slope.

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New York Cheer was part of the fun.


QUEENS, from p.10

The importance of Queens Pride is more than just LGBTQ legal advances, however, according to Van Bramer. There are men and women from Queens communities who would not be alive without support from such events as Queens Pride to make them feel safe to be themselves, he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;All of us who remember those dark times remember Julio Rivera every time we march,â&#x20AC;? Van Bramer said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We would have none of what we have if it werenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t for the pioneers. | June 08 - June 21, 2017

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For so many LGBTQ folks who dared to be who they are and live their full truths, and Julio Rivera was one of those gay men. So everything we have, everything we celebrate today, we owe to Julio Rivera and to all of those who came before us.â&#x20AC;? Dromm, a founder of the parade, then led the crowd in a moment of silence for members of the LGBTQ community who have died. The parade was followed by a street fair with food, many Latin American vendors from the surrounding neighborhoods, community organizations, and entertainers.

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On Chechnya: Why England (and America) Sleeps





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ou may be wondering what the problem is with assisting Chechen gay men at risk of being killed. It seems as though saving the lives of people who are in imminent danger of being murdered would be a universal obligation of every civilized country. But no. As Amy Mackinnon writes on, “If one of these men were to knock on the door of the US Embassy in Moscow and ask for asylum, he would likely be turned away... While the United States — and the 148 other countries that have signed international refugee conventions — is bound to assist those facing persecution, these conventions only apply to asylum seekers who have already reached American soil. There is no obligation to assist those who are trapped in their country of origin by the red tape of visa applications. It is a problem that is by no means unique to the United States or the experience of LGBT Russians. It is why thousands of refugees have risked their lives to cross the Med-

iterranean in the hopes of making it to the shores of Europe, where they can claim asylum. Without a European visa, fl ying is simply not an option.” Oh, that makes sense. One hundred forty-nine countries (including ours) sign a document obliging them to assist refugees, but this obligation doesn’t extend to the vast majority of refugees, even those who are facing violent oppression, torture, and death at home. That’s why they’ve got to cross the Mediterranean in ragtag rafts; that’s why they’ve got to make their way out of Chechnya to that beacon of hope for Chechen gay men — Putin’s rotten, anti-gay Russia proper — and hope to God they can sneak around avoiding straight Chechens who might rat them out at the ver y least or perform that noble public ser vice called “honor killing” in which family members or friends do the men’s insanely humiliated family a big favor by gunning them down in the street or, in the case of one 17-year-old boy, throwing him off a 12th stor y roof to his death. Kudos to for publish-

ing Mackinnon’s story, but exactly why did CNN’s editors see the need to include this preposterous preamble?: “The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone.” What? This is not controversial material, fellas. Emma Lazarus didn’t amend “The New Colossus” to read: “Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free — except the gay ones.” Mackinnon continues: “It is a plight that I have seen fi rsthand. Between 2015 and 2016, I spent six months reporting on LGBT rights in Russia, and much of that time was spent following the story of Vika, a transsexual woman from Siberia. Ostracized by her family and discriminated against by potential employers, Vika lives an isolated life in total poverty. ‘I am an alien here. To everyone and to the government as well,’ she once told me. Vika is desperate to leave Russia and claim asylum in Canada. If she was wealthy or had a job that enabled her to travel, getting a visa would be straightforward. But as a truck driver from Siberia, Vika is stranded.” Wait — there’s more. “There is also precedent for the United States to run in-country asylum processing programs, but their implementation is often dic-

CHECHNYA, continued on p.25


In Defense of Lesbians, i.e., Those Fucking Dykes BY KELLY COGSWELL


n Saturday, May 20, two lesbians got attacked on the Q train. The news reports say it was an altercation over seats. Apparently two lezzies had them, and, according to police, when Antoine Thomas got on the train he demanded theirs, bumping against them and screaming “Faggot,” and “Dyke.” When they asked him to calm down, he beat them, smashing one woman’s face until she was unconscious. At the hospital, they treated her for a concussion, a broken eye

socket, and a nice array of cuts. Thomas was arrested by a transit cop, then charged with assault, menacing, and harassment, but the next day, the judge in Brooklyn Criminal Court let him go without bail. Why not? It’s just some man beating on women. And not just any women, but dykes. It’s tempting to blame the attack on Trump and the ascendance of white, aggressively hetero, male nationalists. After all, violence always follows hate speech, and there has been a surge in it against women and queers, people of color and immigrants since he took to the campaign trail.

The problem is, during the US election in 2016 — or 2008 — it wasn’t just the extreme right sneering at Hillary Clinton’s voice, her hair, her thighs. The left was just as thrilled to embrace every fake news story about her and glory in attacking aspects of her career that they minimized — or ignored altogether — in her male counterparts. The truth is, the vast majority of Americans despise women. And long before Trump, lesbians already experienced this hate exponentially, because we are by defi nition women who primarily make our lives with other women — however you defi ne that elusive creature. Nevertheless, the women’s movement is still not a particularly welcoming space for us. Straight women often don’t see the woman in the

DEFENSE OF LESBIANS, continued on p.51

June 08 - June 21, 2017 |

CHECHNYA, from p.24

tated by political and diplomatic considerations.” And what is the precedent, you may be asking? According to a report written by the Congressional Research Service for use by members of Congress, “Typically, a refugee being considered for resettlement in the United States is outside his or her country of origin (in a host country). The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), however, also authorizes the president, after appropriate consultation with Congress, to specify groups for in-country refugee processing. Since the late 1980s, presidents typically have specified three or four groups as being eligible for in-country processing in a fi scal year.” In short, it’s hopeless. President Chump doesn’t give a rat’s ass about human rights, or immigrants, or gay men facing torture or even death. Back to Mackinnon: “‘It’s not like we couldn’t do it, it’s that simply we have chosen not to,’ | June 08 - June 21, 2017

says Aaron Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, a US advocacy group which works with LGBT asylum seekers. Russians are their second largest client group. When Russia began to clamp down on LGBT rights with the passage of the ‘gay propaganda’ law, which makes it illegal to discuss LGBT issues around minors, Immigration Equality lobbied to have asylum applications of LGBT Russians processed in-countr y, but their appeals were denied. Even for those who make it out of Russia, their problems are far from over. In big American cities they may have to wait years for an asylum interview, while in the United Kingdom they can be subjected to humiliating and invasive questioning to ‘prove’ their sexuality.” And what are these “humiliating and invasive” questions? We turn to Asylum Aid’s Debora Singer writing for the Guardian for the answer: “It used to be the case that claims for asylum from gay men and lesbians were

refused as the Home Office reasoned claimants could return to their home countries and just be discreet: refrain from samesex relationships and hide their sexuality. It took a case at the Supreme Court to overturn this. In the same way as you cannot be expected to hide your religion, the court said you couldn’t be expected to hide your sexuality. Since then, the Home Office has changed tack in the way it refuses these asylum claims. Instead of telling applicants to be discreet, it just doesn’t believe them when they say they are gay.” Brilliant! Singer continues: “So how do you prove you are gay? No one arrives in the UK with a certificate stating their sexuality, just as no one in the UK has such a certificate. Instead applicants have to rely on the believability of their oral testimony at their Home Office interview. At which stage your own feelings about your sexuality, your reluctance for it to be known publicly, your lack of words related to sexual

issues (in English or your own language) all come into play. Plus having to relive the trauma of how you were persecuted.” Note that this policy transcends whoever occupies 10 Downing Street. Lovely. The headline: “Navy SEAL busted for second job as porn star.” I’d planned to cover this urgent story this week. The SEAL’s porn name is Jay Voom; he’s married to the porn actress Jewels Jade. They’ve appeared together in such classic cinema as “Apple Smashing Lap Dance” and “Strippers Come Home Horny from the Club.” The piece would have written itself. But after reading the most recent news from Chechnya — and the world’s mostly torpid response — I just wasn’t in the mood for cheap laughs. Rest assured, though: cheap laughs will return to Media Circus very soon. I consider them to be the backbone of the column. Follow @edsikov on Twitter and Facebook.


ASH WHITAKER, from p.19

plaint with the US Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, alleging a violation of Title IX. When it became clear the administrative process would take too much time to provide relief before his senior year began last fall, he instead fi led his lawsuit, seeking a preliminary injunction that would get him bathroom access for his fi nal year at Tremper. The school district fi led a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that neither Title IX nor the Constitution provided Whitaker a legal cause of action. District Judge Pamela Pepper denied that motion to dismiss and granted Whitaker’s motion for a preliminary injunction while the case was pending. To do so, Pepper had to reach the conclusion that Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause both gave Ash legal claims on which he had a “better than negligible” chance of succeeding and that he would suffer irreparable injury — greater than any suffered by the school district — if he were denied relief. The school district sought to appeal both Pepper’s denial of its motion to dismiss and her preliminary injunction. The Seventh Circuit refused to consider the fi rst, and this week upheld Pepper on her preliminary injunction on Whitaker’s behalf. The court easily rejected the school district’s argument that Ash would not suffer irreparable harm. First, the district itself had already offered him access to gender-neutral, single-use bathrooms. Judge Williams also

TITLE VII, from p.14

wrote the judge. “The law with respect to this legal question is clearly in a state of flux, and the Second Circuit, or perhaps the Supreme Court, may return to this question soon. In light of the evolving state of the law, dismissal of plaintiff’s Title VII claim is improper.” Hellerstein then provided a summary of Judge Katzmann’s Christiansen concurrence, which he referred to more than once as a “majority concurrence” as it was signed by two of the three panel members. | June 08 - June 21, 2017

quoted the testimony of a psychologist, Dr. Stephanie Budge, that the district’s treatment of Ash “significantly and negatively impacted his mental health and overall well-being” and “place[s] him at risk for experiencing lifelong diminished well-being and life-functioning,” something that could not be compensated for later with a monetary award. On the question of the school district suffering serious injury if Whitaker used the boys’ bathroom, the court pointed out that he did so for six months without incident or complaints from others. Regarding Ash’s likelihood of success on the merits at trial, the court also didn’t need to strain to reach its conclusion. Williams noted that the Seventh Circuit, like other courts of appeals, often looks to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to determine the scope of the ban on sexual discrimination and that the circuit, in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, a recent employment discrimination case, found that a lesbian who was denied a faculty position because of her sexual orientation could bring a Title VII sex discrimination claim. That decision, Williams found, clearly overruled a 1984 Seventh Circuit decision that denied a Title VII claim by a transgender airline pilot. “By defi nition, a transgender individual does not conform to the sex-based stereotypes of the sex that he or she was assigned at birth,” wrote Williams, who cited a long list of federal court rulings applying Title VII to cases of gender identity discrimination. “Ash can demonstrate a likeli-

hood of success on the merits of his claim because he has alleged that the School District has denied him access to the boys’ restroom because he is transgender,” the judge found. The panel also embraced Whitaker’s alternative constitutional equal protection claim, rejecting the school district’s argument that because it has a “rational basis” for adopting its bathroom access rule — protecting the privacy of male students who did not want to use a bathroom with a girl — it could prevail over Ash on the constitutional claim. Since the court concluded that a gender identity discrimination claim is — in actuality — a sex discrimination claim, the appropriate the level of judicial review would be the same that courts use for sex discrimination claims: heightened scrutiny. Under that stringent standard, the discriminatory policy is presumed to be unconstitutional and the school district has the burden to show that it has an “exceedingly persuasive” justification — not merely a “rational basis” (if, in fact, its argument is rational) — for adopting the policy. Williams observed that the administration never received a single complaint from other students about Whitaker using the boys’ bathrooms. “This policy does nothing to protect the privacy rights of each individual student vis-à-vis students who share similar anatomy and it ignores the practical reality of how Ash, as a transgender boy, uses the restroom: by entering a stall and closing the door,” Williams wrote. “A transgender stu-

dent’s presence in the restroom provides no more of a risk to other students’ privacy rights than the presence of an overly curious student of the same biological sex who decides to sneak glances at his or her classmates performing their bodily functions… Common sense tells us that the communal restroom is a place where individuals act in a discreet manner to protect their privacy and those who have true privacy concerns are able to utilize a stall.” Having found that Ash’s allegations fulfi lled all the tests required for obtaining a preliminary injunction, the court denied the school district’s appeal and affi rmed Judge Pepper’s temporary injunction. There were no immediate indications that the school district would seek en banc review or petition the Supreme Court for a stay — and the impending end of Whitaker’s high school career might lead Kenosha officials to let the matter rest. Whitaker is represented by Robert Theine Pledl of Pledl & Cohn in Milwaukee, Joseph John Wardenski and Sasha M. Samberg-Champion of Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC, Washington, DC, and Shawn Thomas Meerkamper, Alison Pennington, and Ilona M. Turner with the Transgender Law Center of Oakland, California. Among those fi ling amicus briefs in his support were Lambda Legal, PFLAG, gay-straight alliances, and women’s rights groups. The only amicus support for the school district came from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the anti-LGBTQ religious litigation group.

Hellerstein also pointed to the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals en banc decision in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, issued on April 4, in which “the Seventh Circuit became the first Court of Appeals to unequivocally hold that ‘discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination’ and therefore cognizable under Title VII.” “Among other reasons,” wrote Hellerstein, “the Seventh Circuit made this ruling ‘to bring our law into conformity with the Supreme Court’s teachings.’ The Seventh Circuit was also compelled by ‘the

common-sense reality that it is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without also discriminating on the basis of sex.’” Hellerstein asserted that because Philpott “has stated a claim for sexual orientation discrimination, ‘common sense’ dictates that he has also stated a claim for gender stereotyping discrimination, which is cognizable under Title VII. The fact that plaintiff has framed his complaint in terms of sexual orientation discrimination and not gender stereotyping discrimination is immaterial. I de-

cline to embrace an ‘illogical’ and artificial distinction between gender stereotyping discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination, and in so doing, I join several other courts throughout the country.” The en banc panel hearing Zarda will include two senior judges — Robert Sack and Gerard Lynch — who sat on the three-judge panel in the case, in addition to the circuit’s 11 active judges. Of the 13 judges in total, nine were appointed by Democratic presidents — four by Bill Clinton and five by Barack Obama.




This marcher covered himself in the flag.


West Point graduate Sue Fulton, a leader in the fight to end Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Ask, Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t tell.


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This reveler spared no shade in showing her pride.

ASBURY PARK, from p.11

1990s. She added, however, that the recent political climate has reenergized the movement. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Our community is prepared to fight to retain our rights,â&#x20AC;? Pople said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We are united, resolved, and a force to be reckoned with. We wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t go back in the closet, or live our lives in fear. Time and again you heard that sentiment from our Pride attendees.â&#x20AC;? Asbury Park Mayor John Moor said that hosting the annual parade is â&#x20AC;&#x153;a tremendous thrill every year,â&#x20AC;? adding, â&#x20AC;&#x153;The way it has gotten so large over the years is just unbelievable. The way it does so much for the city, the county, the state, it brings everybody together, and weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re so happy to host it.â&#x20AC;? The city is the home of the famous rock venue the Stone Pony, closely associated with Bruce Springsteen who was launched to fame with his fi rst album, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Greetings from Asbury Park.â&#x20AC;? Springsteen would go on to win an Oscar for â&#x20AC;&#x153;Streets of Philadelphia,â&#x20AC;? the theme song for the groundbreaking movie AIDS movie â&#x20AC;&#x153;Philadelphia,â&#x20AC;? marking his open support of queer issues. While to many outsiders, Asbury Parkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s much touted embrace of the LGBTQ community is thought to be of recent vintage, the city has


A dancer at the Empress Hotel.

long been known as a gay-friendly destination, including as a favored retreat of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Hollywood Squaresâ&#x20AC;? icon and Samanthaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Uncle Arthur on â&#x20AC;&#x153;Betwitchedâ&#x20AC;? Paul Lynde in the mid-20th century. Moor, a Jersey Shore native and longtime Asbury Park resident, said the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s LGBTQ community â&#x20AC;&#x153;goes back many years, and again that was before people actually came out. But I think it was always friendly to the gays going back to the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;40s, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;50s, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;60s, and there were always gay contingents and gay bars, so we have a real history with the gay community.â&#x20AC;? The festival was a mix of music and politics, with community leaders and politicians taking the stage, including Sue Fulton, a major force behind the repeal of Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Ask Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Tell, and US Congressmember Frank Pallone, Jr. Singer Ultra NatĂŠ was the stageâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s headliner, ending her appearance with her signature song, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Free,â&#x20AC;? a club anthem that debuted, she recalled, 20 years ago during Pride season. As the crowd repeated lines from the song and danced in Bradley Park, the singer remarked on how the song has more meaning than ever as civil rights for LGBTQ Americans and many others in the US and throughout the world are under increasing attack. June 08 - June 21, 2017 |


Public Advocate Letitia James with “Hamilton” star Javier Muñoz at the March for Truth.

New York Congressmember Nydia Velázquez was among the elected officials on hand for the Moms Demand Action March.



aturday, June 3 saw two gatherings of protesters in the immediate vicinity of the Brooklyn Bridge — one a grassroots coalition of groups demanding an independent investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and ties to Donald Trump and his campaign. That group gathered in Foley Square on

Saturday morning. Later, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America held its fifth annual Brooklyn Bridge March, from the Korean War Memorial in Cadman Plaza to Lower Manhattan. Just hours after that gathering, President Trump, responding to the terror attack in London, tweeted, “Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That’s because they used knives and a truck!”

Some signs at the March for Truth pointed to President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.

Attention also focused on new questions surrounding the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Gays Against Guns joined the Moms Demand Action march over the Brooklyn Bridge. | June 08 - June 21, 2017



Fast Hands Win the Day Seth Greenleaf examines the passions, grit, camaraderie of gay flag football BY GARY M. KRAMER he athletes of the New York Warriors, the city’s gay flag football team — a three-time championship winning squad (2006-2008) — are hungry. They lost the National Gay Flag Football League (NGFFL) title in 2009 and are determined to regain their title. Coached by former NFL player Wade Davis, the Warriors’ journey, from practice to competition, is featured in the brisk, entertaining documentary, “F(l)ag Football.” The film, made in 2015, but just getting a theatrical release now, chronicles the Warriors, along with two other NGFFL teams — the LA Motion and the Phoenix Hellraisers — as they prepare for and play in the 2010 Gay Bowl. Director Seth Greenleaf introduces several players who talk about breaking stereotypes as gay athletes. Football, for some of the NGFFL players, is a release for the pent-up emotions they have had about their sexual identity. These athletes discuss the macho image that football propagates and how gays playing the sport prompt straight guys to question their masculinity. Still, “F(l)ag Football” makes clear that for NGFFL players it is very much football first and sexuality second. The out athletes, the film insists, are LGBTQ activists simply by playing a game. That’s a sound message to impart, and the film does so well. Phoenix Hellraiser Jared Garduno, who was then the league’s commissioner, emphasizes that the NGFFL was established for queer football players to make friends and be social. The camaraderie on display in the film suggests that strategy is working. As viewers watch the Warriors on the field, the teammates’ affection for one other is infectious. Bonding over sports is what drives Cyd Zeigler, founder of Outsports and a player and mentor for the NGFFL’s LA Motion. A former Warrior, Zeigler moved out to LA and joined the Motion. He talks about how sports proved the




Directed by Seth Greenleaf Abramorama Opens Jun. 16 Cinepolis Chelsea 260 W. 23rd St.


The Phoenix Hellraisers in a huddle during the Gay Bowl tournament.


Wade Davis (his back facing), a former NFL player and a player-coach with the New York Warriors, hugs Cyd Zeigler, an LA Motion player, prior to a game.

avenue for him and his family to connect. Zeigler draws on the emotions he gains from sports to motivate his teammates. The drama for his team revolves not just around the Motion defending their 2009 title, but also about making a decision about who to use as a lead quarterback in the Gay Bowl. On the topic of quarterbacks, Joey Jacinto, the Hellraisers’ QB, is arguably the best in the league. He goes all out for his team on and off the field, playing hard and partying harder. The Hellraisers are shown to be a fun squad, and watching Jacinto and Garduno dress up and perform in drag to raise money for the NGFFL is amusing but also inspiring. “F(l)ag Football” showcases these players amidst their teammates well, but it also provides some personal details. A revealing segment of the documentary has the athletes talking about their experiences coming out. While

Wade Davis got a difficult response from his mother, LA captain Brenton Metzler describes how he was outed by his sister. In contrast, the Warriors’ “Tall Paul” (as he is known) discloses that he has not yet told his father he is gay. Happily, Greenleaf gives screen time to some of the league’s most dynamic personalities. The Motion’s Jeremiah Phipps is a mouthy player, very engaging in his interviews and even more out there during the Gay Bowl. Molly Lenore, a trans woman on the Warriors, is perhaps the game’s most physical player. She loves to hit, and her teammates proudly display the bruises she caused during practice. There is genuine warmth in the way the film shows these players proving themselves on and off the gridiron. The NGFFL, the film reveals, is also open to straight players, but rules dictate that only 20 percent of

a team can be non-LGBTQ. When the Motion petitions to increase that to 25 percent, it prompts a debate about the purpose of a gay sports league and the meaning of inclusivity. The topic is important, but the Motion’s effort is aimed at garnering an advantage, which comes off as disingenuous. When one of the straight players is cut, he complains. One of the film’s best sequences has the Warriors playing a practice game against a straight Long Island flag football team without disclosing the sexuality of their players. (Molly Lenore doesn’t play that night). When one of the Long Island players discovers Wade was in the NFL, he is surprised — and after learning the team is comprised mostly of gay members, he is respectful. With the first hour of the film introducing the players and some of the issues the league contends with, its final third focuses on the Gay Bowl. There is plenty of action on the field, and in at least two nail-biting endings we feel the palpable heartbreak on teams that suffer the agony of defeat. Greenleaf builds real tension during these games, and there are some terrific scenes shot from inside each team’s huddle. “F(l)ag Football” doesn’t contain any locker room scenes (or banter), though there is some on-the-field butt slapping, which is in keeping with the film’s message about sportsmanship, not sexuality. The documentary may be preaching to the choir, but non-football loving queer folks as well as straight football fans can enjoy the film because of its resonant messages about pride, acceptance, support, and community. June 08 - June 21, 2017 |


A Better Politics on the Screen Gay marriage, ISIS terror, Europeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s response to refugees at Human Rights Watch festival BY STEVE ERICKSON he name of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival is a little deceptive. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not exactly a festival of films about human rights, although it comes close. Instead, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sponsored by the NGO Human Rights Watch, which is akin to Amnesty International though with a broader mission, and it would be more accurately described as a political film festival. This yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s installment â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the 28th annual here in New York, along with series other times of the year in a dozen other cities worldwide â&#x20AC;&#x201D; takes a trilogy of films about indigenous Guatemalan people by Pamela Yates as its centerpiece, but it presents 21 documentaries, almost all with Q&A sessions with filmmakers, subjects, or activists. While Human Rights Watch has been criticized as an organization for going easy on governments asso-



Jun. 9-18 Film Society of Lincoln Center 144-165 W. 65th St. IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St. Information, tickets at


Victor and Fernando in Cristina Herrera Borquezâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;No Dress Code Required.â&#x20AC;?

ciated with the US, the same canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be said of its programming this year on American subjects like racist policing and the death penalty. Some of the more intriguing-sounding films expand the concept of human rights beyond overt politics: Maite Alberdiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Grown-Upsâ&#x20AC;? focuses on a group of aging Spaniards with Down syndrome. Still, leftism is implicit in the festivalâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s choices; for

example, you wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t find any films here arguing that the right to bear arms is a fundamental one. Mexican director Cristina Herrera Borquezâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;No Dress Code Requiredâ&#x20AC;? (Jun. 13, 6:45 p.m., IFC Center; Jun. 16, 9 p.m., Lincoln Center) chronicles the efforts of two gay men, Victor and Fernando, to get married in Mexicali, a city that permits samesex marriage only under complex le-

gal circumstances. Her film is likely to remind North American spectators of the hoops US gays and lesbians had to jump through in some states to get their rights recognized before marriage became recognized at the federal level here. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s more drama in â&#x20AC;&#x153;No Dress Code Requiredâ&#x20AC;? than in most narrative films, as the government keeps finding new ways to keep Victor and Fernando from earning their


HRW FILM FESTIVAL, continued on p.37



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Another Anthology Drag Deep Dive John Epperson, beloved as Lypsinka, curates a second Film Archives series BY GARY M. KRAMER he second of three anticipated programs at the Anthology Film Archives about cross-dressing and drag on screen features a number of films — Ernst Lubitsch’s “I Don’t Want to Be a Man” (Jun. 11, 5 p.m.; Jun. 17, 9 p.m.) and Barbara Streisand’s “Yentl” (Jun. 12, 8:45 p.m.; Jun. 16, 6:30 p.m.; Jun. 18, 8 p.m.) among them — where the characters dress in drag because it is part of the plot. In the 1918 Lubitsch comedy, Ossi (Ossi Oswalda) is a young tomboy who smokes and drinks because she doesn’t want to be a proper young lady. But when her guardian, Dr. Kersten (Curt Goetz), tries to bring her into line, she defies him and dresses in a male garb to enjoy masculine privilege. But the advantages aren’t what she expects, and on her night out as a man she and Dr. Kersten have a drunken, romantic encounter that provides the film’s sexual comedy. In contrast, several films, including “Die, Mommie, Die!” (Jun. 10, 8:30 p.m.; Jun. 18, 5:45 p.m.), “A Man Like Eva” (Jun. 9, 9:15 p.m.; Jun. 11, 6:30 p.m.; Jun. 17, 5 p.m.), and “Witch Hunt” (Jun. 13, 8:15 p.m.), feature actors playing opposite sex characters. John Epperson, aka Lypsinka, appears in “Witch Hunt” and helped curate the Anthology Film Archive series. In a recent phone interview, Epperson explained that the Museum of Modern Art had originally contacted him about a crossdressing film series, but it never came to fruition. Instead, MoMA is planning a major exhibition in October about Club 57, the St. Mark’s Place nightclub from the late 1970s and early ‘80s — where he had his first ever lip-synching job — and Epperson is curating films for that exhibit. Meanwhile, he became involved with Anthology Film Archives on the cross-dressing and drag film series following a screening of the late Tom Rubnitz’s 1980s films. “When Jed [Rapfogel, a programmer at Anthology Film Ar-




Curt Goetz and Ossi Oswalda in Ernst Lubitsch’s 1918 “I Don’t Want to Be a Man.”

CROSS-DRESSING AND DRAG ON SCREEN Anthology Film Archives 32 Second Ave. at Second. St. Jun. 9-18


Eva Mattes in Radu Gabrea’s 1984 “A Man Like Eva.”

chives] started thinking about all the different films there are, he realized there were docs that need to be shown, and feature films, but some of them are about crossdressing, someone pretending to be the opposite sex, while others have the actor playing the opposite sex,” Epperson explained. For examples of the latter type, Epperson contacted Charles Busch, his friend and fellow drag performer, and asked him what film he would want to be included in the series. Busch selected “Die, Mommie, Die!,” which has the ac-

tor/ writer playing the matriarch of a dysfunctional family involved in a murder-revenge plot. “Die, Mommie, Die!” asks viewers to take Busch seriously as a female character and laugh with him, not at him. While it has long been the case that men in drag are seen as comical, and women in drag are seen as alluring, films like “Die, Mommie, Die!,” “A Man Like Eva,” and “Witch Hunt” dispel that myth. Epperson observed, “It’s this ridiculous, old, tired patriarchy that we are still fucking stuck with that says a man in a dress is funny and a woman in men’s clothes is sexy. It’s a little bit of misogyny.” “A Man Like Eva,” is Radu Gabrea’s remarkable 1984 film starring Eva Mattes as EVA, a fictional version of bisexual film-

maker Rainer Werner Fassbinder. On the set of a film, EVA controls and seduces the actors Gudrun (Lisa Kreuzer) and Walter (Werner Stocker), without much consideration for anyone’s feelings — including EVA’s ex-lover Ali (Charles M. Huber). Mattes gives a dynamic performance, and is entirely credible and convincing as EVA. The actress worked with Fassbinder on several films, but plays her late mentor credibly; it is not stunt casting. Neither is Epperson’s canny performance in “Witch Hunt,” a fantastic mystery that was ahead of its time when director Paul Schrader made it for HBO in 1994. In the film, set in the 1950s, Detective H. Phillip Lovecraft (Dennis Hopper) is investigating the death of a Hollywood executive that was caused by magic. His trail leads him to Vivian Dart (Epperson), who operates a brothel out of the famous Ennis House in Los Feliz. Epperson gets to lip-synch “I Put a Spell On You,” and the performer recalls Schrader saying that the scene “wasn’t about gender or cross-dressing. What [Schrader] liked about this scene is that the voice of the blackest woman who ever lived [Nina Simone] is coming out of the mouth of the whitest woman who ever lived. He never said anything to me about what he was trying to do or say about gender by having a man play Vivian. Maybe it didn’t matter to him? He wanted this unusual person to play a witch who was also the madam of a whorehouse. Maybe he had no intention at all?” At Anthology’s June 13 screening of “Witch Hunt” in 35MM, Epperson will be on hand to recount stories about the production. He thinks the film is “more timely than ever now that our president is the protégé of Roy Cohn.” He continued, “A lot of people don’t know the film, but if the term cult film still exists, ‘Witch Hunt’ would be in that. At the time it didn’t get good reviews, but I thought there are people who are going to rediscover this film and think it was amazing.” June 08 - June 21, 2017 |



A father cries as he sits among body bags in Zaradasht Ahmed’s “Nowhere to Hide.”

Ivan the postman in Tonislav Hristov’s “The Good Postman.”

relationship to his subject — he’s a Kurd apparently based in Scandinavia now — and his larger political perspective, but the footage shot by Nori and the downward spiral of his fortunes pack such a punch that these qualms ultimately don’t matter much.


civil rights, from finding faults with their birth certificates to declaring that they must be suffering from dementia. Depressingly, local politicians are shown reeling off a string of anti-gay statements, and while the civil servants don’t engage in overt comments like “being gay is unnatural,” such attitudes are obviously at the core of their hostility to Victor and Fernando. A love story at heart, “No Dress Code Required” shows the power of persistence and activism as well as having a famous friend who can appear in a video on behalf of your protest. Short on political analysis but long on immersion in an ISISravaged Iraq, Zaradasht Ahmed’s “Nowhere to Hide” (Jun. 9, 6:30 p.m., Lincoln Center) has a simple concept. Ahmed gave a small video camera to Nori Sharif, a medic working in a hospital in Diyala province. At first, Nori began documenting people damaged by the war when the Americans officially pulled out of Iraq in 2011, as well as the daily bombings in his neighborhood and their aftermath. Compared to most of his neighbors, his job and ownership of the camera give him a relatively privileged position, but that could change at any minute. Many of the disabled and paralyzed people whom he films used to lead middle-class lives, too. The sense of Iraq as one big rubble heap may be familiar from the American media; Nori’s ability to depict it from the inside is something new. Then ISIS approaches, as do various militias fighting them, and his privileged status quickly becomes imperiled. The Sharif family is forced to become internally displaced refugees. I would’ve liked to learn more about Ahmed’s | June 08 - June 21, 2017

Bulgarian director Tonislav Hristov’s “The Good Postman” (Jun. 11, 8:45 p.m.; IFC Center; Jun. 14, 6:30 p.m., Lincoln Center) finds a microcosm of European debates over refugees and immigration in an unlikely place. It’s set in Great Dervent, a village where no resident appears to be under 50. (The youngest person in the film is a mayoral candidate who is nostalgic for communism and looks like a middle-aged heavy metal rocker.) Another of the candidates for mayor is Ivan, the town’s beloved postman, who suddenly gets the idea to embrace the Syrian refugees who pass through Great Dervent, which rests on the Turkish border, and invite them to live there rather than chasing them away. The town’s population, he points out, isn’t expanding on its own. While some of his neighbors agree with him, his mayoral opponents trot out the usual arguments against letting refugees stay (this being Europe, they add an extra touch of contempt for Roma, the people better known by the pejorative “gypsies”). In the end, apathy wins the day and Ivan himself may give up his idealism in favor of exploiting the refugees. Of the films I was able to preview, this was the most formally impressive, framing the village in long shots containing both natural beauty and decrepit buildings. Both “Nowhere to Hide” and “No Dress Code Required” will be returning for theatrical runs in New York; “The Good Postman” deserves one as well.

BRINGING MANHATTAN to BROOKLYN 943 Coney Island Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11230 646.494.7227 | 37


Magical Thinking A cynical musical romanticizes child abuse; an evening of illusion; and a tuner that almost makes it BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE itualized pederasty, sex slavery, and ongoing abuse are difficult topics for a musical. Yet they are the ingredients in the toxic stew of a show with the shockingly romantic name “The Boy Who Danced on Air.” The subject matter is drawn from a 2010 documentary that chronicles an Afghani tradition of bacha bazi (coyly translated as “boy play”) in which wealthy men purchase unwanted, underage boys to use for sex. Oh, and the boys are also forced to dance for the entertainment of their owners and other men, and they are often shared. The great, religious hypocrisy underlying all of this is that these good men of faith are not allowed to touch any woman other than their wives. But, as one of the characters explains, “men have needs.” Easy answer. Buy a poor boy who can’t object and must submit to any demand. You get your rocks off, and you’re still honoring your faith. It’s all cool. After all, this loophole is traditional. And, yes, it’s still going on in 2017. This particular grisly story concerns Paiman, who, at age 10, is bought from his parents and told he’s not wanted and now belongs to 40-year-old Jahandar. Paiman is such a talented dancer that Jahandar won’t beat him so much, though he’s plenty violent. Because of his great affection, Jahandar doesn’t loan Paiman out to his horny friends and is even going to marry him off so he won’t starve in the street. How considerate. Over time, Paiman falls in love with Feda, another sex slave, and they plan to run away. They better hurry because once they get too old, about 16, Feda will be discarded and thrown away to fend for himself, and so will Paiman if he doesn’t accept the forced marriage. There’s also an irrelevant subplot that has Jahandar trying to resist changes brought on by the recent American intervention in Afghanistan. From a narrative point, this




June Havoc Theatre 312 W. 36th St. Through Jun. 11 Tue.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m. Sat at 2:30 p.m.; Sun. at 2 p.m. $65; Or 212-352-3101 Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission


Nikhil Saboo and Troy Iwata in “The Boy Who Danced on Air.”

detracts from the “love story” between the two young men. The clunking book and lyrics by Charlie Sohne are obvious and amateurish. The derivative music by Tim Rosser has a lot of pop infused swoops and overwrought bellows but no sophistication. The cast is actually quite good with strong voices that are superior to the material, notably Jonathan Raviv as Jahandar, though he plays a completely irredeemable character. Paiman and Feda are played by men at least in their late 20s, Troy Iwata and Nikhil Saboo, respectively, presumably because the image of a man beating and raping a real teenager might be too much to watch, even performed in shadow behind a scrim as it is here. Iwata and Saboo are strong singers and very good in the erotic dances they perform dressed as women, presumably to arouse the older men who ogle them. Were this show performed in a larger theater, I would expect protests. The romanticizing of such egregious abuse and deeply offensive way in which this “tradition” is celebrated are as surprising as the ignorant cynicism of the creators, which should enrage anyone who values human rights. Moreover,


Corey Cott in Rob Taylor and Richard Oberacker’s “Bandstand,” directed by Andy Blankenbuehler.

Atlantic Theater Company 336 W. 20th St. Through Jun. 25 Tue. at 7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $65; Or 866.811.4111 Two hrs., 40 mins., with intermission



Derren Brown in the solo show he wrote with Andrew O’Connor and Andy Nyman.

this has been promoted to the LGBTQ audience as an uplifting gay love story, which is as insulting as it is misguided and assumes that horrors can be excused when cute boys kiss. Make no mistake: for all its pretensions, this is a musical about child abuse, sex trafficking, and unspeakable torment rationalized in the name of religion. It is nothing to sing about. Derren Brown is an amiable mentalist whose show at the Atlantic, “Secret,” is an engaging evening of dazzling, well-performed tricks and a bit of confessional theater. For

Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre 245 W. 45th St. Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $59-$159; Or 212-239-6200 Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission

instance, Brown seems eager to let us know early on that he came out at age 31, though that has little to do with anything else in the show. Thanks for sharing, though. The show gets its tension from the understanding that everyone in the audience has a secret and Brown, in his gruffly charming way, may get it out of you. Indeed, he manages to do just that with several of the people chosen. Brown, however, insists he’s not a psychic and readily admits that

DERREN BROWN, continued on p.40

June 08 - June 21, 2017 |


How Trump Drove Priscilla to Park Slope Australian drag cult flick gets Brooklyn musical theater treatment this July PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT Old Stone House 336 Third St. Btwn. Fourth & Fifth Aves. Park Slope Jul. 6-22 Thu.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Free


A musical theater adaptation of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Priscilla Queen of the Desertâ&#x20AC;? is coming to Park Slope on July 6, and from Brooklyn the cast will travel through middle America to Arizona, making friends and fighting homophobic locals along the way.

BY JULIANNE CUBA ll aboard the Priscilla! The famed 1994 Australian film about drag queens trekking across the Outback is getting a Brooklynstyle makeover this summer. The musical â&#x20AC;&#x153;Priscilla Queen of the Desert,â&#x20AC;? opening at the Old Stone House in Park Slope on July 6, changes the setting from â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;90s Australia to America today, but the difficult journey the characters take â&#x20AC;&#x201D; confronting homophobic locals in small desert towns â&#x20AC;&#x201D; remains the same as the queens traverse the bleeding-red Southwest, said the showâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s director. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We are going to take it from Brooklyn across the country all the way to Arizona, and then we are going to have our Brooklyn drag queens have to face Trump voters in middle America and find acceptance and win people over,â&#x20AC;? said Park Sloper John McEneny, who is also a co-founder of Piper Theatre Productions, which is staging the show. McEneny and his fellow company members got the idea for the show late on Election Night 2016, when it became clear that Trump would become president. In the midst of considerable gloom, they

A | June 08 - June 21, 2017

couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think of anything better than â&#x20AC;&#x153;Priscilla Queen of the Desert,â&#x20AC;? with its boundary-pushing, positive portrayal of gay and transgender people, to give people something to smile about, he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We decided to do this play after the election,â&#x20AC;? McEneny explained. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I think people need to have something really fun and exciting and positive, for people really being themselves and true to themselves facing opposition. I feel like people need something fun, I think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s really important right now that people are coming together and going to theater and laughing.â&#x20AC;? The outdoor show, which will feature a live six-person band, will be a little grittier than the original, the showâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s director said. The costumes will look like they were made by the drag queens themselves, out of random materials like plastic lobsters, and the beautiful bus named Priscilla, which gets the queens to their destination, will reflect its scrappy Midwestern origins. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Our whole set is an actual bus purchased from a religious commune in Ohio,â&#x20AC;? McEneny said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s quite the bus â&#x20AC;&#x201D; all the seats have been gutted, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a little worse for wear, but I think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s going to look like three drag queens have driven this across country. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re painting it a billion beautiful colors, and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s going to be parked in residence. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s going to be absolutely beautiful.â&#x20AC;?




THE LOFT at the DAVENPORT THEATRE 354 W 45th St (btw 8th & 9th Ave) ­ 39


The Giddy Side of Greed Michael Urie dazzles as a feckless scoundrel in a timely comedy of errors

is simply being friendly). He fails to catch on even when the town officials start slipping him wads of ruble notes. But how long can this silly charade continue before the real inspector appears? The exceptional McGrath lends an oily brashness to the Mayor role, channeling the best of Nathan Lane, while Testa shines as the Mayor’s deviously coquettish, lessthan-fetching wife, Anna, who must compete with her morose daughter, Marya (a deliciously deadpan Talene Monahon), for the affections of the government inspector. Perhaps the actor with the biggest challenge is Burton, who

plays two very different key roles. His Paul Lynde-esque take on the swishy Postmaster, who reads everyone’s letters and talks longingly of being “invaded by Frenchmen,” might be seen as offensive in its hackneyed portrait of a gay man if it weren’t so funny. Burton also portrays Hlestakov’s seedy, wisecracking valet. Like any good farce, the piece is overstuffed with mistaken identities, revealing asides, chase scenes with multiple slamming doors, outrageous period costumes (by Tilly Grimes), and crackling dialogue spiked with off-color jokes that land almost every time. To wit: “Men don’t like a woman with a tongue like yours,” Anna says, admonishing Marya, who has just verbally lashed out at her. Marya replies with contempt, “Oh really? Ask around.” Not that “The Government Inspector” has only hijinks on its mind. The savvy satire raises pointed questions about the moral bankruptcy and corruption of power-hungry government officials, the idiocy of bureaucracy, the oppression of less fortunate folks, and the dangers of self-delusion. Timeless issues that still resonate with a sting today.

and, no surprise, fall in love. The book by Rob Taylor and Richard Oberacker has a hard time finding its footing, muddled between the story of a musical group’s rise and a serious look at the personal costs of war. While these two tales aren’t wholly incongruous, the show doesn’t really jell until the second act, when it becomes more direct and leads us to the happy ending. With Andy Blankenbuehler’s direction and choreography, however, the show is lively and largely appealing throughout. You will leave on a high thanks to the strong performances by the extraordinary company and Oberacker’s proficient music that marries pastiche and tuneful originality. Corey Cott as Donny is excellent. He’s got a great voice and a range that wasn’t used sufficiently in

the unfortunate “Gigi” a couple of years ago. He’s really in his element here, however. Laura Osnes as Julia continues to astonish with her voice that has an uncanny power and versatility. She’s become one of Broadway’s most appealing leading ladies. Beth Leavel as Julia’s mother is terrific, carrying the comedy and touching hearts with her exceptional timing and assured voice. The rest of the company is every bit as good, and they play as the band of veterans assembled by Donny. You can’t deny the emotional impact of the show’s ending nor the serious intents of the creators, but it too often relies on our collective memory of other war-time musicals and obvious tugs at heart strings. One can’t help wishing “Bandstand” had earned a little more of its impact on its own merits.

BY DAVID KENNERLEY ith a massive ensemble bursting with Br oad w ay- c a l ib er comedic talent, it’s hard to imagine how they got any work done during rehearsals of the latest revival of “The Government Inspector,” Nikolai Gogol’s goofy farce about greed run amok. Lead by the irrepressible Michael Urie (the former “Ugly Betty” star who’s been on a roll with critical hits like “Buyer & Cellar,” “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “Homos, or Everyone in America”), the cast also boasts the incomparable Mary Testa (“Chicago”), Michael McGrath (“The Front Page”), Arnie Burton (“The 39 Steps”), Stephen DeRosa (“Hairspray”), and many others. The depth of expertise is abundantly clear onstage. In the hands of the bold, crafty Red Bull Theater, this 1836 gem feels as vital as ever, in no small part due to Jeffrey Hatcher’s modern adaptation. Although the script has not been updated to the present-day or set in another locale — say, Washington — it has been goosed-up with clever contemporary touches. The language is fresher, the jokes are crisp-



DERREN BROWN, from p.38

what he’s doing is playing tricks. He even gives some indications early on of how he does it. That’s a smart, theatrical move because it keeps us thinking we might be able to figure out how he does the astonishing things he does. He is also a hypnotist and seems to pull that off in two cases. The show written by Brown with Andrew O’Connor and Andy Nyman is nicely crafted with some fascinating sidebars on how our stories shape our perceptions and us. It does become a bit draggy at its two-and-a-half-hour running time, and many of the tricks are versions of the same thing, engaging though they are. The ending is quite remarkable and ties all the piece together neatly.


Red Bull Theater The Duke on 42nd Street 229 W. 42nd St. Through Jun. 24 Tue.-Wed. at 7:30 p.m. Thu.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $60; Or 646-223-3010 Two hrs., with intermission


Michael Urie and Arnie Burton in Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 Russian farce “The Government Inspector,” adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher and directed by Jesse Berger, at the Duke on 42nd Street through June 24.

er, and under the assured guidance of Jesse Berger, the well-timed delivery feels like a top-notch sitcom (that’s meant as a compliment). Urie is superb as the self-deluded, lowly civil servant named Hlestakov, clueless to the fact that he’s being mistaken for a high-ranking government inspector traveling incognito and tasked with rooting out corruption in a small provincial Russian town (he thinks everybody

The audience is sworn to secrecy, so I’ll respect that. Suffice it to say that if you like to have your mind played with, it’s hard to imagine a more congenial fellow to do just that while putting on a mesmerizingly memorable show. “Bandstand” is a well-meaning musical that has moments of pure brilliance, bogged down by a story that doesn’t know where it wants to go. Set in 1945, the show tells the tale of war-damaged Donny Novitski trying to get his life together as a musician in Cleveland. He meets the widow of his best friend, Julia Trojan, when he goes to call on her as the one who lived. It doesn’t go well, but, this being a fairly conventional musical, eventually the two team up to sing and, through fits and starts, become successful

June 08 - June 21, 2017 | | June 08 - June 21, 2017


A Trove of Lubitsch Hollywood’s greatest comedy director gets his due at Film Forum BY DAVID NOH o single filmmaker has provided me with more sheer delight than Ernst Lubitsch, currently enjoying a comprehensive retrospective marking his 125th birthday at Film Forum. An always-surprising effervescent wit, uncanny sophistication, and radiating charm were the hallmarks of his work and, in his day, he was the highest-rated director in Hollywood, recognized as such by the industry and public alike. Although his most famous films — “Ninotchka” (Jun. 13, 2:30 p.m.; Jun. 15, 2:30 & 8:30 p.m.); “The Shop Around the Corner” (Jun. 13 & 15, 12:30 & 4:40 p.m.), “To Be or Not To Be” (Jun. 10, 2:30 & 6:45 p.m.; Jun. 11, 4:50 & 9 p.m.) and his lustrous masterpiece “Trouble in Paradise” (Jun. 9, 12:30, 2:15, 4 & 8:20 p.m.) — are all recognized as indelible classics and frequently revived, Lubitsch’s name seems to be largely forgotten today. Among the great studio era comic directors, Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges — who paid special homage to Lubitsch in his most personal film, “Sullivan’s Travels” — are far more likely to be remembered than he. There could be any number of reasons for this. Lubitsch has been dead for 70 years, and, unlike those aforementioned talents, he took no writing credit, although he worked in close tandem with his laudable screenwriters (Wilder, who idolized him, was one of them), guiding and sometimes adding jokes and lines. So he seemingly lacked that certain “complete” creative control that marks the socalled true auteur. And —perhaps most saliently — when Lubitsch’s work is really examined, the sad conclusion is that he is hopelessly out of date. That is not his fault. It’s ours. What place does his sublime brand of humor have in a modern age where commercial films are aimed at the taste of 12-year-old boys, subtlety has evaporated, and laughs come from bodily functions




Film Forum 209 W. Houston St. Through Jul. 2


Kay Francis, Herbert Marshall, and Miriam Hopkins in Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 “Trouble in Paradise,” screening on June 9.

— a hopeful bride having diarrhea in her wedding gown — graphic violence, and beyond-lewd dialogue? The hushed erotic suggestiveness that fueled films like “Trouble in Paradise” and “Design for Living” (Jun. 8, 12:30, 4:10 & 7:50 p.m.; Jun. 14, 12:30 & 4:10 p.m.) might merely bore 2017 audiences, more used to the in-your-face approach of an Amy Schumer or Judd Apatow. Besides comedy, Lubitsch was adept at musicals; his “The Love Parade” helped to raise the infant talkie genre to another level. But the Continental elegance illuminating that film, “Monte Carlo,” “The Smiling Lieutenant,” and his version of “The Merry Widow” (Jun. 12, 12:30, 4:10 & 7:50 p.m.) — the best ever — is a world apart from the hapless, trendy revisionism of “La La Land.” The most honest explanation for his relative obscurity today, then, may be the simple fact that he was simply too good for the average modern moviegoer, who despite — or perhaps because of — the ceaseless advances in technology, has regressed, culturally speaking. The true “gets” of the Film Forum series are the ultra-rare silent films Lubitsch made in his native Germany, which include

his smashingly successful forays into historical biography, “Madame DuBarry” and “Anna Boleyn” (Jun. 25, 1:20 p.m.). These will have the benefit of live piano accompaniment by the wonderful Steve Sterner. Culminating with “The Patriot,” made in Hollywood with Emil Jannings, who won the first Best Actor Oscar for it, and which sadly seems to be a lost film, Lubitsch took the mute medium as far as it go in terms of storytelling. Sound, of course, added immeasurable dimension to his work: the best known Lubitsch films are really unthinkable without the dialogue that was inevitably described as “sparkling,” not to mention his canny, never overdone use of piquant music, as well as contrasting complete silence, which could so effectively underline a fraught situation. The “Lubitsch touch” became common coin to describe his soufflé-light comic technique, and nowhere was it more in evidence than in “Trouble in Paradise.” I call this his chef-d’oeuvre for the way he makes everything — the performances, Samson Raphaelson’s gossamer yet biting script, Victor Milner’s shimmering cinematography, Hans Dreier’s beyond-Deco sets,

and Travis Banton’s sensually bias-cut gowns — coalesce into pure, uproarious, and excruciatingly sexy perfection. Cello-voiced Herbert Marshall, as an international jewel thief, shows that Hollywood possessed a seductive, gentlemanly master of high comedy well before Cary Grant, while Miriam Hopkins and Kay Francis, the first hilariously staccato in her schemingly avaricious ways, the second more luxuriously languid and legato, are a breathtaking study in contrasts. The feline, febrile Hopkins, the finest American movie actress of the 1930s, emerges as Lubitsch’s chief muse for this and two other films. In the delicious operetta “The Smiling Lieutenant,” she is a dowdy Ruritanian princess who is taught how to entice her new commoner husband, Maurice Chevalier, by his abandoned lover, Claudette Colbert (first displaying the lithe charm and grace that would make her the screen’s leading comedienne of the period). At Hopkins and Colbert’s first uneasy meeting, following a slap or two, they fall into friendship and the most enchanting duet, “Jazz Up Your Lingerie.” “Design for Living” is Hopkins at her quicksilver best, in this insanely extravagant adaptation of Noël Coward’s infamous ménage-a-trois. “Extravagant” because Paramount paid big bucks for the play’s rights, only to have Lubitsch and scenarist Ben Hecht trash the entire script and come up with their own, superior adaptation. A self-proclaimed “Mother of the Arts,” Hopkins both inspires and sleeps with Fredric

LUBITSCH, continued on p.49

June 08 - June 21, 2017 |



Patti LaBelle Deborah Cox DJ Lina SATURDAY, JUNE 24

Tegan and Sara Years & Years · Róisín Murphy · Gallant Dimitri From Paris · Occupy The Disco SUNDAY, JUNE 25

Nelly Furtado Chus & Ceballos Cindel · Scott Martin




The Bloom is Back on “Roses” Restored Japanese ‘Parade’ reclaims rightful place in queer cinema pantheon BY SCOTT STIFFLER rom protester/ police clashes on Tokyo’s streets to hipster-packed groping sessions in darkened apartments to bitter rivalries that topple the power structure of a “gay boys bar,” simmering unrest is the spark that ignites explosive acts of lust and violence in writer and director Toshio Matsumoto’s gorgeous, gripping, sexually assertive feature film debut. Subtitled in the original 1969 English language version press kit as “Aesthetics of cruelty and perversion” — a description that’s both accurate and understated — “Funeral Parade of Roses” is set in and around the off-grid pleasure dome Genet, where intoxicating hostesses (womanly ways, male plumbing) mix and mingle with Tokyo businessmen and American soldiers just coming out of Vietnam. “Mamma” Leda presides, but rising star Eddie is a threat to her professional and romantic relationship with bar manager Gonda. Up to his neck in intrigue from the accounting burdens of narcotics brokering and secret, limb-twisting liaisons with Eddie, Gonda’s discovery of a telling photo from the forbidden couple’s dark past sets in motion a final reel whose blood, betrayal, death, and destruction do graphic justice to the Greek tragedy upon which the plot is not-so-loosely based. Rarely seen on North American screens since its brief and limited initial release — and, as result, largely absent from the roll call of watershed LGBTQ cinema — “Funeral Parade of Roses” is given richly deserved new life in the form of a 4K digital restoration that will screen locally at, appropriately, the Quad Cinema. Aspiring to a state of cosmetic perfection befitting its alluringly feminine gay boy protagonist, Hollywood-based distribution company Cinelicious Pics embarked on the restoration of “Parade” by sending its director of acquisitions, Ei Toshinari, overseas to consult with Hirofumi Sakamoto, of the Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA). Sakamoto acted as an intermediary




Prototype for the “Clockwork” droogs?: an artfully framed “gay boy” gang zips down and charges up for confrontation.

for director Matsumoto — who, despite declining health, gave extensive notes throughout the process, and passed away just a few weeks ago. PJMIA authorized the release of the film’s original 35mm camera negative and sound elements (stored at Tokyo’s National Film Center, within the National Museum of Modern Art) for scanning by Japanese postproduction facility IMAGICA, which then sent the files to Cinelicious’ team for digital restoration. Stripped of dirt, debris, scratches, and splices while leaving the natural grain untouched “as much as possible,” the restored film’s crisp palette justifies a boast in the press material that puts Tatsuo Suzuki’s “breathtaking” black and white cinematography in league with the erotic messaging and artful framing of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The visual aesthetic of “Parade” certainly captivates — but so too will its emotional impact, sure to stun those unprepared for the nonlinear narrative’s flurry of intense sexual encounters, traumatic memories, art gallery visitations, “gay boy” lifestyle contemplations, gang violence, flashes of potent imagery, and popping word balloons. All of these elements build upon 1932-born Matsumoto’s previous work as a post-war essayist and the-

oretician seeking to absorb journalistic and experimental techniques into his own work. “Parade” not only achieves this, but also breaks new ground for the filmmaker, in a manner both mischievously self-aware and culturally candid (such as a recurring glimpse of the titular floral element clenched between a standing male’s exquisite ass — a cheeky reference to, among other things, “rosebud,” although not the kind you know from “Citizen Kane”). David Marriott, a co-supervisor of the restoration project and VP of acquisitions and distribution at Cinelicious, noted in a recent interview with this publication that Matsumoto’s interest in “exploring the tension between documentary and avant-garde” were “dual concerns evidenced in early shorts,” including 1961’s “Nishijin.” Elements of reality-based investigation are seen throughout “Parade,” Marriott said, particularly in “Suzuki’s cinematography and, for example, during the interview segments, many of which were real documentary interviews with people in and around the Tokyo underground scene, and during the exterior city scenes, most of which were were shot on location in heavily trafficked areas.” A pair of Matsumoto’s avant-garde short films are even given screen time in “Pa-

FUNERAL PARADE OF ROSES Directed by Toshio Matsumoto Cinelicious Pics Opens Jun. 9 Quad Cinema 34 W. 13th St.

rade” — 1969’s “Ecstasis” unspools during a party scene, and shots from 1968’s “For My Crushed Right Eye” are, Marriott noted, “recycled into the narrative. The drug-fueled apartment dance scenes also echo similar sequences in ‘Crushed Right Eye,’ both in framing and lighting.” Marriott hailed the film’s melting pot of influences as “everything but the kitchen sink filmmaking in the best way possible,” noting that alongside the director’s evolved use of documentary and avant-garde is an exploration of “new stylistic techniques which seem to have grown organically from his earlier work, including the film’s construction/ deconstruction of linear time and the varied film-within-a-film meta dimensions.”

ROSES, continued on p.51

June 08 - June 21, 2017 |


TOP DRIVER DISTRACTIONS Using mobile phones Leading the list of the top distractions behind the wheel are mobile phones. Phones now do more than just place calls, and drivers often cannot pull away from their phones, even when driving. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers who are heavily engaged in cell

phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle crashes and nearcrashes attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.

Daydreaming Many people will admit to daydreaming behind the wheel or looking at a person or object outside of the car for too long. Per- | June 08 - June 21, 2017

haps they’re checking out a house in a new neighborhood or thought they saw someone they knew on the street corner. It can be easy to veer into the direction your eyes are focused, causing an accident. In addition to trying to stay focused on the road, some drivers prefer the help of lane departure warning systems.

Eating Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and

chewing gum at the same time may want to avoid eating while driving. The majority of foods require a person’s hands to be taken off of the wheel and their eyes to be diverted from the road. Reaching in the back seat to share some French fries with the kids is also distracting. Try to eat meals before getting in the car. For those who must snack while en route, take a moment to pull over at

a rest area and spend 10 minutes snacking there before resuming the trip.

Reading Glancing at an advertisement, updating a Facebook status or reading a book are all activities that should be avoided when driving. Even pouring over a traffic map or consulting the digital display of a GPS system can be distracting.



Still Searching for the “Angels” NYCO brings Péter Eötvös, Mari Mezei adaptation of Tony Kushner’s cri de coeur to Lincoln Center opera — continue to attract audiences, which means the play provokes thought and inspires selfreflection about all of these other aspects of human experience. It was probably true at the beginning, but maybe it was too difficult in 1992 or so to experience the play in any other way than as a reflection on the AIDS crisis, and now the world has changed, so that’s not true anymore.

BY ELI JACOBSON ony Kushner completed his two part opus “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes” in the early 1990s as a visceral response to critical issues that dominated the previous decade — the rise of Ronald Reagan, the emergence of AIDS, New Yorkers’ response to the crisis, and the culture wars that created a critical fault line in our society. With the LGBTQ community at risk and a new millennium in the offing, Kushner was thinking and writing big, tackling powerful subjects such as life, death, religion, love, diversity, politics, spirituality, and embracing the “other.” “Angels in America” has long incantatory monologues that are almost spoken arias — with larger-than-life emotions, heightened dramatic conflicts, and powerful spiritual and political themes that made Kushner’s piece a natural for operatic adaptation. On November 23, 2004, Hungarian composer Péter Eötvös premiered his operatic adaptation “Angels in America: the Opera” at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. The English-language libretto by Eötvös’ wife Mari Mezei condenses more than six hours of theater into a two and a half hour opera, distilling the characters and their complicated intersecting lives into representative scenes. In this country, Eötvös’ opera has been performed previously in Los Angeles, Fort Worth, and Boston. The New York City Opera is producing “Angels in America” for four performances from June 10 to June 16 at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater — the launch of what it intends as an annual LGBTQ Pride Initiative. (Next June, NYCO will produce Charles Wuorinen’s “Brokeback Mountain.”) This production will bring the “Angels in America” opera home to the city where Kushner’s play was conceived and where most of its far-




Composer Péter Eötvös, who adapted Tony Kushner’s “Angels In America” for opera.


Conductor Pacien Mazzagatti.

ANGELS IN AMERICA New York City Opera Rose Theater Jazz at Lincoln Center 10 Columbus Circle Broadway at 60th St. Jun. 10 at 8 p.m. Jun. 12, 14 & 16 at 7:30 p.m. $20-$160.50;


Sam Helfrich directs the NYCO production.

flung action is set. The NYCO production will be directed by Sam Helfrich and conducted by Pacien Mazzagatti. Both men talked to Gay City News about this opera and how it speaks to 21st century America: ELI JACOBSON: The introduction of antiretroviral drugs in the mid ‘90s changed the face of the AIDS epidemic from a death sentence into (for most) a manageable disease. Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” was conceived and written circa 1990 when the epidemic was still raging and taking young lives. Twenty-seven years later,

is this story still pertinent or is it an historical piece? How have the changes in our culture over time affected the director’s and performers’ approach to this opera? Also, have recent events in American politics made “Angels in America” more pertinent and timely? SAM HELFRICH: “Angels in America” has been with us for over a quarter of a century, and in that time, the nature of the AIDS epidemic has changed radically, as you point out. However, I believe the great revelation of this play is that it is not a play about disease, but rather a play about so many other things, like abandonment, loneliness, fear of death, skepticism of God and religion. A contemporary audience can’t possibly feel the immediacy of the AIDS epidemic the way audiences, especially in New York, must have felt it in the early ‘90s, and yet the play — and the

EJ: What are the big differences between the play and the operatic adaptation by Peter Eötvös and librettist Mari Mezei? Mezei has taken both plays, condensing it all into a two and a half hour evening of opera. What is lost and what is gained in the adaptation into musical theater? What do you miss from the play and what has been improved by being set to music and sung? Kushner writes scenes where the metaphysical and the real intersect. Does music get in the way here or bring these scenes to truer, greater life? SH: “It is really for the audience to decide for themselves whether music brings the play — or specific scenes — to truer or greater life, but I personally believe that we are better off if we try to experience the opera as just that, and not as a version of or reduction of the play. Opera as an art form is uniquely suited to challenging notions of time and states of being, as music on its own can create moods and atmospheres and require active listening. I have not spoken with the composer or librettist, but clearly something about the play inspired the team to want to rethink it as an opera, the process of which naturally requires condensation. There are several subplots and sub-themes in the play that have not found their way into the opera, to be sure, but at the same time the music is extraordinary in its ability to illuminate the states of uncertainty and confusion in

ANGELS IN AMERICA, continued on p.47

June 08 - June 21, 2017 |



which the characters exist simply through its expansiveness and the unsettling phenomenon of naturalistic dialog sung, and sometimes spoken, at jarringly surreal tempi. It is simply a different experience. Textually, the real and the metaphysical intersect more often in the play, but here in the opera the real is automatically relocated in the realm of the metaphysical because of how music shifts perception to begin with. EJ: How will the NYCO production be distinct from earlier mountings? What approach is the artistic team striving for? SH: Visually, our production intentionally translates the idea of a â&#x20AC;&#x153;fantasiaâ&#x20AC;? (as Kushner calls it) into a space which can contain the logistics of the opera â&#x20AC;&#x201D; scene changes, costume changes, singers cast in multiple roles, in ways that present perhaps more challenges than the play does â&#x20AC;&#x201D; while evoking the era (the late â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;80s), its architecture, and some of its iconic design elements. Having not seen all of those other productions, I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t speak to how distinct our production will be, but our approach from the outset has been to investigate the piece in terms of what it means now, to figure out why it endures, and to present it to a New York audience which has firsthand memory and experience of the AIDS crisis and, at the same time, has long since moved on to other preoccupations. Only by acknowledging and embracing that can we possibly present this piece with any kind of conviction about its larger and deeper meanings. In 1998, composer EĂśtvĂśs adapted another classic play â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Anton Chekhovâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Three Sistersâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; into a chilly, emotionally remote opera in a spare modernistic style with three countertenors portraying Olga, Masha, and Irina. EĂśtvĂśsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x153;Angels in Americaâ&#x20AC;? shocked listeners with a major departure in style and content â&#x20AC;&#x201D; his eclectic score is emotionally raw, full of percussion, and jazz inflected. Conductor Pacien Mazzagatti discusses the bold musical language of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Angelsâ&#x20AC;?: PACIEN MAZZAGATTI: In this opera, EĂśtvĂśs employs an | June 08 - June 21, 2017

ibly broad musical palette, both in the pit and on the stage. The vocal ranges are often incredibly wide â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the 30-piece orchestra includes an electric guitar, a Hammond organ, and an impressive list of percussion instruments â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and digital sound effects are employed throughout the opera. At first, the sheer sonic variety can be overwhelming, but the two hours of music are beautifully and meticulously organized. Motifs related to specific characters and situations appear and re-appear as dictated by the action, and the atmospheric portions of the score manage to create the ambiance of familiar New York locations without resorting to clichĂŠs.â&#x20AC;? EĂśtvĂśs often weaves spoken lines from Kushnerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s text between the sung phrases, in effect allowing Kushnerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s words to be unadorned in those moments where it heightens their dramatic effect. He also employs a broad range of vocal styles, borrowing freely from Ashkenazic cantillation, Mormon hymnody, pop crooning, and closeharmony jazz singing to highlight the diverse backgrounds of the inhabitants of Kushnerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s drama and illuminate their characters. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Angels in Americaâ&#x20AC;? moves rapidly through many diverse locations â&#x20AC;&#x201D; from Roy Cohnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s law office to the imagination of a Valium addict, to Central Park at 4 a.m., and even to Heaven itself. Through his masterful orchestration, EĂśtvĂśs creates a distinct and unique musical atmosphere for each of the operaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 17 scenes. A unique feature of this opera is a vocal trio that sits in the pit with the orchestra. They sing throughout the opera, repeating and emphasizing words and phrases from the libretto. The effect is startling, surreal, and sometimes even comic, yet in the context of this pieceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s internal logic it brings an added dimension and greater depth to the drama. I asked Helfrich what he wanted audiences to take away from â&#x20AC;&#x153;Angels in Americaâ&#x20AC;? in 2017: SH: â&#x20AC;&#x153;I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know that the piece is meant to change perceptions as much as it is to inspire self-reflection and simply ask the audience to think about things that may or may not be part of its daily expe-


ANGELS IN AMERICA, continued on p.48


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A Mystery Appears, Then Vanishes Kôji Fukada draws on influences Japanese and otherwise with “Harmonium” BY STEVE ERICKSON he best films in the exciting wave of Japanese horror cinema that began about 20 years ago pointed to the fraying of the family as one of their main sources of tension and anxiety. Takashi Miike’s “Audition” turned into a feminist revenge fantasy attacking the stereotypical assumptions of its male protagonist in his search for a demure, submissive woman. More subtly, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Cure” depicted a Mansonoid hypnotist-serial killer who knew how to manipulate marital tension. Twenty years later, a new Japanese film, “Harmonium,” has emerged from a relatively young director, Kôji Fukada, who has learned a lot from K. Kurosawa. It’s not a horror film. Were it a novel, it would probably be called a “literary thriller.” But Fukada has been inspired by Kurosawa’s skill at creating elliptical scenarios that only explain as much as they need to. One key piece of information is hinted at in the first half of “Harmonium” and frankly revealed in its second half. Beyond that, a great deal remains unexplained. Parts of the final third feel both dreamlike and not entirely unrealistic. Just when it seems like “Harmonium” has shown too much, it throws the audience another curveball. Toshio (Kanji Furistachi) owns a factory that includes a large mechanized carpentry workshop. He lives with his Christian wife Akie (Mariko




rience. It’s also meant to be entertaining. New Yorkers have come a long way since the ‘80s in how we think about sexuality, homosexuality, and the “other.” Politically, we’ve shifted from living in the AIDS era to living in the 9/11 era, which no one feels more acutely than people in this city. But questions about death, life, spirituality, the range of human experience are enduring ones, questions we will never stop asking. I believe “Angels


Directed by Kôji Fukada Film Movement In Japanese with English subtitles Opens Jun. 16 Film Society of Lincoln Center 144-165 W. 65th St.

Tsutsui) and their young daughter Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa). A music student, Hotaru practices day and night on the instrument mentioned in the title: a pump organ used frequently in India but rarely heard in the West outside the solo albums of former Warhol Superstar Nico. One day, Toshio sees a mysterious old acquaintance, Mr. Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano), and immediately offers him a job. He seems to owe Mr. Yasaka some sort of debt, but the man looks more sinister the more we get to know about him (as does Toshio himself, for that matter). Then something awful happens, and Mr. Yasaka vanishes. Eight years pass, and the family is still searching for him. “Harmonium” mixes up a cocktail of influences that includes Michael Haneke along with Kurosawa. Like the Austrian director, Fukada has a moralistic streak that extends to his characters (at one point, Toshio says that he feels like he’s being

punished). Haneke goes further and sticks it to his audience for taking pleasure in watching violence or simply letting a narrative play out; fortunately, Fukada does not go that far. But both directors evidence a similar attraction/ repulsion regarding genre tropes, which benefits “Harmonium” to a large extent — it feels like distant kin to a mystery much of the time — but becomes trite when Mr. Yasaka and Akie have an affair, as if Fukada pulled his plot twists out of a potboiler. Haneke and Kurosawa are both obvious stylists, while Fukada is a far more meat-and-potatoes director. Still, he knows how to use costume to create telling details about his characters: in a white dress shirt and black slacks, Mr. Yasaka looks like an avenging angel, not a guy looking for work or heading to it. At the same time, his “uniform” is so common that he can easily vanish into Japan, where many other people look and dress exactly like him.

(Asano, who appeared in “Thor,” might be one of the most recognizable Japanese actors in the West, but you’d never know that from the way Fukada uses him.) The differences in the way “Harmonium” frames and lights the family home in the two halves of the film are equally expressive. In the first half, it’s a lived-in space; in the second half, a shadowy film noir set. “Harmonium” never literally feels like a Kurosawa film, even if it seems to allude to an image in his 2001 “Pulse.” But it does a better job with the kind of spare storytelling at which the older director used to excel than his past few films have. It’s exciting to see a film that opens itself up to mystery and imagination without ever feeling superior to the audience. Along the way, “Harmonium” does land in a few pitfalls, such as presenting Hotaru as an object of pity. But in the end, it offers up an image of a man trying to find solace when everything he knows has been methodically stripped away from him. Never mind that his mistakes are many; compassion lingers here among the enigmas.

in America” will continue to teach us about what it means to be human, including all of the uncertainty, hypocrisy, suffering, and pain that go along with it. And in the end, I think this is a town that loves a good show.

“Angels in America” presents among its wide cast of characters a real historical person — Roy Cohn, the red-baiting former aide to Senator Joe McCarthy and a fearsome conservative lawyer. Cohn was also a closeted homosexual who died of AIDS. In the play, the fictional Cohn is the mentor to sexually conflicted Mormon lawyer Joe Pitt. In the 1980s, the nonfictional Cohn was mentor to Donald Trump. The divisive politics of fear, demonization of the “other,” and innuendo parading as

fact exploited by Trump and the alt-right follows very closely the McCarthy playbook Cohn scripted. Trump is very much a product of the 1980s and the current Republican Party reveres Reagan as a presidential ideal. The LGBTQ community is facing a new round of repressive and discriminatory laws in this country promoted by the religious right and Republican politicians. Sometimes we need to listen to the message revealed by “Angels” — and that time is now.


Mariko Tsutsui, Momone Shinokawa, Kanji Furistachi, and Tadanobu Asano in Kôji Fukada’s “Harmonium,” which opens at the Film Society of Lincoln Center on June 16.

In London, the National Theater is presenting Tony Kushner’s original two-evening play in a starstudded revival starring Nathan Lane and Andrew Garfield. This production will travel to Broadway next season.

June 08 - June 21, 2017 |


Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, and Gary Cooper in Ernst Lubitsch’s 1933 “Design for Living,” screening on June 8 and 14.

LUBITSCH, from p.42

March and Gary Cooper, as playwright and painter, respectively. At one point, her libertine character deliciously describes the devastating appeal of both men, comparing them to contrasting hats, and, lest you think that Hollywood stinted on Coward’s homosexual innuendos, in an impassioned moment, Cooper boldly confesses his love for both of them. “Cluny Brown” (Jun. 10, 12:30 & 8:45 p.m.) with an impeccable ensemble cast headed by the brilliant Charles Boyer and a breathtakingly sexy and funny Jennifer Jones, is my personal favorite Lubitsch, but I want to also make a case for the little-known “One Hour with You” (Jun. 12, 2:30, 6:10 & 9:50 p.m.). If you’ve ever wondered why Chevalier was such a big star (and Lubitsch’s favored leading man), this is the one to see. He is irresistible as a man torn between devotion to his gorgeous wife, Jeanette MacDonald, and to her old schoolmate who has returned on the scene, played by the completely forgotten, utterly delectable Genevieve Tobin. Possessing something of the exquisite looks and glancing comic technique of Vivien Leigh, the luxuriously Banton-garbed Tobin delivers the slyest, most tantalizingly teasing portrait of a femme fatale imaginable. | June 08 - June 21, 2017

Whither the snows of yesteryear? In the 1980s, I learned that Tobin was alive and living in Manhattan under the name of Mrs. William Keighley, having married the late Warner Brothers director and retired after appearing in his “No Time for Comedy” (1940). I cold-called her, and she invited me to her upper Fifth Avenue apartment. It was a sobering experience for young me: although beautifully preserved and chicly dressed in black with demure white gloves, Tobin was clearly showing signs of dementia, fluttering all over the place and wanting to only speak French. I could not get her to stay on any one subject, apart from her long-lasting acrimony with her sister Vivian (who was in DeMille’s “The Sign of the Cross”), to which she kept returning. I couldn’t help but notice that the vast apartment seemed to have been stripped of all paintings and much of the furniture, while Tobin’s nursecompanion watched a soap opera in the same room. When Tobin mentioned something about having somehow lost all of her jewelry, I felt uneasy, indeed. That sad meeting has always haunted me, but I am so glad that on June 12, you can go to the Forum and see her, as she is preserved forever, creamyyoung and glittering with glamour and élan.



June 08 - June 21, 2017 |

ROSES, from p.44

Matsumoto’s use of sped-up motion has been cited as the source of that technique in 1971’s “A Clockwork Orange” (in particular, the scene where Eddie’s trio boasts of their appeal to men as a prelude to battling it out with a biological girl gang). One might also be tempted to trace Malcolm McDowell’s droog drag to Eddie’s pronounced eyelashes and effective use of black mascara. Such linkage long ago embedded itself in cinematic lore — but Marriott recalled the effort to verify “is something we spent many months try-

INDONESIA, from p.4

report to the home office, which was denied.” In 2016, President Widodo told the BBC in response to the crackdown on gay people, “Police must act, there should be no discrimination against anyone.” He added, however, “Indonesians have culture, have norms, and in Indonesia, the general belief does not allow it, Islam does not allow it.” Madjid said the current wave of persecution of gay people is something “that everybody is aware of” in Indonesia and is being fueled by local governments opposed to the president’s rule. He said that for Widodo, the issue is a “very


dyke and pack us off to the LGBTQ community the fi rst chance they get as if we were extraterrestrials. Even among queers, we’re screwed. An acquaintance did the breakdown of a European LGBTQ fund, and discovered that only a tiny, tiny fraction went to projects that prioritized lesbians. Here in New York, I was at a performance and reading Friday night by two dyke artists as part of a celebration of the Lesbian Avengers 25th anniversary. A prominent gay man invited to attend more or less said he’d rather die than spend an evening with lesssss...bians. When my friend, a straight man, told me about it, I think I was supposed to laugh, make fun of the guy. But I felt like somebody punched me in the face. I’d | June 08 - June 21, 2017

ing to track down,” and concluded that although still “anecdotal at this point, it’s become de facto authoritative. The way the droogs in ‘Clockwork Orange’ are framed and move, you can see a clear influence.” No matter. Whether or not others have been inspired to admirable imitation or outright thievery takes nothing away from the experience of virgin eyes watching this “Parade” pass by for the first time. Its black and white film stock and distinct 1960s fashion statements notwithstanding, the defiant confidence and erotic potency of its lead character make the film seem utterly contem-

porary, even progressive. Plucked from Tokyo’s nightlife scene — where the androgynous pixie’s Peter Pan-like dance moves and manner of dress earned him the fluid monikers “Peter” and “Pîtâ” — 1952-born Shinnosuke Ikehata’s Eddie shares memorably smoldering love scenes with 1927-born Yoshio Tsuchiya’s Gonda. Already an established actor who appeared in Akira Kurosawa’s seminal 1954 film “Seven Samurai” (talk about flicks people pilfered from!), Tsuchiya was notably paired with another formidable screen presence one year before “Parade,” in the 1968 Godzilla

flick “Destroy All Monsters.” Ikehata, who, Marriott said, has long been “a huge celebrity in Japan” and enjoys contemporary notoriety as “a talking head on a lot of TV programs,” also claims a place in the Kurosawa canon, having played the jester Kyoami in 1985’s “Ran.” As for “Parade,” Marriott predicted its “incredibly subversive and transgressive” core will play “almost as well, if not better, today than I imagine it did at the time.” No matter which way you swing or how hard you land, “Roses" is a safe bet for those seeking reasonably priced, mind-expanding thrills that are anything but cheap.

sensitive” one in view of elections coming up in 2019. The persecution of LGBTQ people is “not new, it is getting worse,” Madjid explained, with the rise of fundamentalist groups. Rise and Resist’s Ben Verschoor, who has an Indonesian grandmother, said that while Indonesia had a reputation as “relatively tolerant” among Muslim nations, homosexuality is increasingly being attacked as a product of “Western infi ltration that’s trying to destroy traditional Indonesian culture.” Jay W. Walker, also of Rise and Resist, said, “Many countries feel they are going to have a free pass with an administration that has

abrogated the role that the US played on global rights.” Indeed, both President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have publicly signaled they will not insist on respect for human rights from allies such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Philippines — though Trump did cite Cuba’s lack of respect for civil liberties in his efforts to undo President Barack Obama’s lifting of US sanctions on the island nation. Elsewhere in the region, the Malaysian health ministry is offering a $1,000 cash prize for the best short video on “prevention, control and how to get help” for homosexuality. Sodomy there is

a criminal offense punishable by prison, beatings, and fi nes. In Singapore, the government this year cracked down on the Pink Dot LGBTQ gatherings — where “participants gather to form a giant pink dot to show support for the LGBT community” — held since 2009 by forbidding foreign sources of support. Participation in the gatherings by non-Singaporeans or those who are not permanent residents could lead to “a fi ne not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.” In response to the effort to diminish this year’s event, scheduled for July 1, 100 local companies contributed fi nancially to support it.

ten for a moment just how much people hate us, how ridiculous and disgusting they think we are. How acceptable it still is for absolutely everybody to express these views, though not necessarily to our faces. Every day I rediscover that the funny, chic, thin lesbians we think are giving us visibility are in fact perceived as the exception. The rest of us dykes are absolutely monstrous, if we exist at all. This is why the Lesbian Avengers was created in the fi rst place, to bring us real visibility, call attention to our issues, reshape the stereotypes. It is a measure of how powerful lesbophobia is that this lesbian visibility group has been largely erased from women’s and queer history. No matter that the New York Lesbian Avengers spawned 60 chap-

ters worldwide, drew tens of thousands of dykes to enormous Dyke Marches which have persisted lo these 25 years. What a delightful cocktail — the misogyny and homophobia of lesbophobia. Lately, it is playing itself out in questions of language. I’d be rich if I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told in the last few years that nobody uses the word “lesbian” anymore. It’s passé. It doesn’t speak to the young’uns who prefer queer or fluid, anything but that word abandoned by everyone but our graying institutions and a very small minority of trans-denying bigots. Nobody wonders why most replacements for “lesbian” conceal gender, obscure orientation, refuse to slam the door on the heterosexual privilege that women get when there’s at least some

possibility they’ll sleep with a man. Nobody asks if our hatred of that word, “lesbian,” reflects in part our hatred of the women it represents because they are all... what? Boring? Dour? Humorless? Ugly? Angry? Trans-hating? And frigid, of course. Except when we are oversexed nymphomaniacs. Add your stereotype here: _________. Above all, nobody seems to care that we can’t organize politically without a word that captures both the misogyny and homophobia that govern our experience no matter what we call ourselves. And if we don’t organize, what will change? Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.



June 08 - June 21, 2017 |

Jun 8, 2017 c  

Gay City News, Jun. 8, 2017

Jun 8, 2017 c  

Gay City News, Jun. 8, 2017