LGBTQ San Diego County News | June 2024 | Vol. 4, Issue 41

Page 1

Local softball league loses an icon

On Sunday, June 2, America’s Finest City Softball League (AFCSL) celebrated the end of its 43rd spring season. Missing from the party was Carlos Santiago, one of the league’s biggest and most beloved personalities for almost 30 years; the big lefty first baseman had passed away suddenly on May 10 from a suspected heart attack, just a day before his 56th birthday. Santiago first came to San Diego courtesy of the US. Navy. A proud veteran, he would spend most of his civilian career working for the Port and the County of San Diego. When he wasn’t working or playing softball, Santiago

In the last issue, we started a story about Barrell & Board & Bar and Gossip Grill, but we just ran out of time and space. The separate interviews conducted with owner Moe Girton and B&B Executive Chef Mina Rosete just didn’t get the space on the page that this writer had hoped. So here we are. To read part 1, visit bit. ly/4bQ95Ee.

The gist of our last feature explained a bit about how Barrel & Board came about, but there is so much more to tell.

Barrel & Board was purchased during COVID, and while there wasn’t a lot of money available, it was an offer too good to pass up. The original plan was to move Gossip Grill there, but then COVID ended and the opportunity to have a second space fell into place. There are 17 investors in

could often be found at Petco Park rooting for the Padres, while paying especially close attention to the out-of-town scoreboard to check up on his favorite team, the Chicago Cubs.

Santiago leaves behind his partner of four years, Brian Dinges, and Dinges’ two sons from a previous relationship, Parker and Grayson, who are both 11 years old.

“He was a wonderful man,” Dinges said. “Very loving and tender. He was a great role model for my boys and they loved him dearly.”

Santiago also leaves behind dozens of friends and teammates,

many of whom are still processing the sudden and untimely loss of such a giant presence in their lives.

Friends remembering and coping

“I’m still struggling with the fact that he’s gone,” said Kent Hammond, longtime friend, coach and teammate of Santiago’s. “Carlos was the ultimate team player.”

Hammond, who will be inducted into the AFCSL Hall of Fame in a few weeks, shared what many have said about his friend.

Barrel & Board, making it a 100% employee owned business. The top four investors, Moe Girton, Stefan Chilcoat, Joey Arruda, and Matt Ramon, are all familiar names within our community and our gay/queer bar and restaurant establishments.

It is important to note that while you may still associate them with “MO’s Universe,” that



On June 2, Hillcrest Preschool had a grand opening of its new state-of-the-art facility on Cleveland Avenue. An extension of the LGBTQ-affirming University Christian Church, the preschool has been in existence since 1970.

The new facility, which is on the same grounds, now offers eight classrooms and the increased square footage of the new space allows the preschool to increase its capacity for preschoolers (ages 18 months to 5 years) by 30% over the previous classroom spaces. This was the main goal of the church leadership.

“The reality is that there aren’t enough affordable preschools with spots available for working families,” Rev. Dr. Caleb J. Lines, Senior Minister of University Christian Church stated in a press release. “Waitlists are extensive, which puts families in a very difficult position when they can’t find childcare. In some small way, we hope to help close the gap of unmet childcare. For us, providing affordable childcare is a justice issue.”

According to their website, despite being an extension of the church, the preschool does not mix the two.

“In order to reach the whole community, our preschool does not teach religion but does incorporate basic humanistic values such as love, respect, acceptance, and inclusion,” the website states.

University Christian Church and Hillcrest Preschool are located at 3900 Cleveland Ave., in Hillcrest (across from the Post Office and DMV).

Those looking for a tour or more information about the preschool should visit bit. ly/3XdUkXo.


The San Diego Wave FC (Fútbol Club) will be hosting its third annual Pride Night on Friday, June 28, at 7 pm, when the Wave takes on the Chicago Red Stars at Snapdragon Stadium.

is no longer a thing. Each of the properties that at one time were connected by that marketing phrase are now all individually owned. It just so happens that there is a lot of familiarity, which makes the community we are all a part of even closer than most. Many of us “grew up” with these

The San Diego Wave FC is part of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), which is a 12-team Division-I women’s professional soccer league, featuring national team players from around the world. Wave FC entered the league as an expansion team in 2022.

Other clubs hail from Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, New York, Louisville, North Carolina, Orlando, Portland, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington D.C.

To help celebrate Pride Month and the local San Diego LGBTQ+

JUNE 2024 VOLUME 4 ISSUE 41 LGBTQSD.NEWS >>> PRIDE P5 > >>DINING PG 15 Changes to the neighborhood Stonewall Awards announced Millions of hard pours Ms. B’s Tony Award choices >>> NEWS P30 >>> THEATER P16
Fathers' Day Tribute P20 Happy Pride Month! See NEWS BRIEFS page 18 See QUEER WOMEN page 17 See CARLOS page 2 Creating queer women's spaces While meeting the challenges of change (Part II)
C O N TAC T US 619 - 4 32 - L G B T • •
Carlos Santiago, the high-spirited and much-beloved star first baseman for The Loft team in America’s Finest City Softball League (AFCSL), passed away suddenly last week. His jersey was featured prominently at the team’s final game of the season on June 2. (Photo by Roman Jimenez) A businesswoman and a tribal leader walk into a bar … Moe Girton, right, of Barrel & Board, with Mina Rosete, her executive chef. (Photo by Morgan M. Hurley)


“He always had a smile on his face. He was always incredibly encouraging and supportive. I don’t think I ever heard him say a negative thing about anyone.”

Santiago played almost his entire softball career on The Loft, a team sponsored by the Hillcrest bar of the same name, which quickly became Santiago’s favorite watering hole. You could often find him there, with friends like Hammond, David “Mona” Valenzuela, Steve Weathers, and AFCSL Hall of Famers Troy Camacho, Laura Szymanski and Jeff Praught.

Like so many, for Praught the loss hits especially hard.

“I can’t imagine living the rest of my life without my buddy,” he said. “We could talk about everything. It’s truly like losing a brother.”

Praught had coached Santiago for 15 years and was teammates with him for 18. Perhaps their biggest team success came in Santiago’s native Chicago, where in 2011, The Loft team placed third in the B Division at the Gay Softball World Series.

While Valenzuela was a part of that 2011 team, his and Santiago’s friendship transcended sports. Friends for 30 years on and off the softball field, Valenzuela said Santiago was like family.

“He was the best man at my wedding,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela said he and his husband Weathers will miss their friend and his endless positivity.

“He was one of those people who just wanted the best for everybody,” Valenzuela said.

“To be honest, I’m still in denial,” said Laura Szymanski, a longtime friend of Santiago’s. “It’s not real, but it is.”

Szymanski said Santiago was someone she could always talk to. “He would always listen to me. There was never any judgment.”

She said Santiago wasn’t always happy, but he didn’t dwell on the negative.

“He just wouldn’t focus on it,” she said. “He was like no other.”

Szymanski was not the only one in disbelief.

“My first thought was of course I didn’t believe it,” his friend Troy Camacho said. “Once I knew it was true, I knew I had to

tell Laura [Szymanski], so I called her, but I just couldn’t get it out of my mouth. I just couldn’t get it out.”

Camacho was friends with Santiago for about 24 years. While they were teammates for only a few years, Camacho said their friendship started initially in the core group of Hammond, Szymanski, Praught and Valenzuela. Eventually, Camacho was able to have a relationship with Santiago separate from that group.

“It was a special friendship,” Camacho said. “Luckily, we were able to build a strong relationship on our own over the years. We bonded over the loss of parents and different challenges that we each had.”

While he copes with the loss of his friend, Camacho will remember Santiago for who he was. “He was just such a good person, such a special guy.”

“You Got This, Kid!”

While many have spoken about Santiago’s positivity, one of the phrases he himself would often say was, “You got this, kid!”

Nobody seems to know where the phrase came from, not even longtime friend Valenzuela.

“He’d see you, shout out, ‘Hey, kid!’ and give you that big smile of his and a giant bear hug,” Valenzuela said.

“If you were coming up to the plate, or if he felt you needed a little encouragement, he’d shout out, ‘You got this, kid!’”

The phrase became Santiago’s trademark. Everyone was “kid,” regardless of their age or experience.

Moving Forward

With this latest AFCSL season wrapped up, Carlos left one more gift for his Loftball teammates and friends. He helped them earn yet another berth to the Gay Softball World Series, this one in Las Vegas in mid-October.

When the team goes, they will be missing their star first baseman, but his jersey will be there, either hanging up in the dugout or being worn by his friend Valenzuela.

The team will be honoring him in another way, too, one that will last for years. Santiago’s coach, Jeff Praught, explained.

“Because of the way he conducted himself on the field,

The Loft team will be giving an award every year to the player who best exemplified the spirit that Carlos showed — The Carlos Santiago Sportsmanship Award,” Praught said.

The team voted on this year’s winner and fittingly, the recipient’s first year honoree is also its namesake.

“He was one of those people who was always so positive,” Praught said. “He just didn’t see the value of being negative.”

On June 2, AFCSL’s spring season came to a close. The league honored Santiago with a moment of silence before the Open Section of games, just before his teammates took the field at Mt. San Miguel in Chula Vista; a game in which Santiago was expected to play.

The Carlos Santiago Sportsmanship award was announced later that same day at the AFCSL’s closing party at Rich’s Nightclub in Hillcrest. Receiving the Sportsmanship award on Santiago’s behalf was his best friend and surrogate brother David “Mona” Valenzuela.

[Note: The Sportsmanship award will stay with the player who wins it for that year. With Carlos winning it in its inaugural year, the award will live with Valenzuela until it is awarded again in 2025.]

Almost 500 players and fans were on hand to share a moment of In Memoriam, where Praught handed the award to Valenzuela. Valenzuela was wearing Santiago’s jersey that day, which bears the #40 on the front and back. It’s been Santiago’s number for as long as anyone can remember.

Upon receiving the award, the teary-eyed Valenzuela quietly said “Thank you” to the crowd, then with two fingers, he tapped the #40 on the front of his jersey and looked to the sky as if saying, “farewell.” He then quietly walked off stage as the crowd cheered the moment and the man who the league has lost.

–Roman Jimenez has been involved with the AFCSL and its national affiliate, North American Gay Amatuer Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA), for 29 years. He is also the former editor of Update!, a San Diego-based LGBT newspaper in the 1990s. ▼

(l to r) Sandi Diaz (an umpire with AFCSL), Santiago, and Jeffrey Lyman Santiago visiting the USS Midway Museum. He was a proud Navy veteran. (top row, l to r) Matt Dailey, Jeff Praught, Shawn LeClaire; (middle) Santiago, Patrick Walsh, Aaron Ochoco, Kevin Fielding; (bottom) Chris Charles, Laura Szymanski Santiago, bottom row, second from right, played for The Loft team for decades. (All photos provided by Santiago's friends)

Time for a Vibrant Hillcrest

A changing of the guard for Uptown’s community planning group

The neighborhoods that make up San Diego’s Uptown area will soon have a new community planning group to represent them on development and community planning manners. At the May 21 meeting of the San Diego City Council, councilmembers voted 8-1 to recognize the new Uptown Community Planning Group as the area’s planning body, effectively replacing the Uptown Planners, which has served that role for over two decades.

Councilmember Marni von Wilpert casted the lone “no” vote on the matter. She expressed concerns about replacing a sitting panel of volunteer board members – elected by their neighbors – with a new panel proposed by a group of community members who came together seeking a change in the group that currently advises the City of San Diego on such matters. If it sounds complicated, it is.

Uptown comprises six of San Diego’s older neighborhoods, including Hillcrest, Medical Complex (the area where Scripps Mercy Hospital and UC San Diego Health Hillcrest are situated), Mission Hills, Bankers Hill/Park West, Middletown, and the western half of University Heights. The Uptown area is

defined by the City of San Diego’s Uptown Community Plan, a document that is part of the City’s greater General Plan and guides development and infrastructure planning for the area. There are more than 40 planning areas in the City.

The latest edition of the Uptown Community Plan was adopted in 2016, updating the previous plan of 1988, after years of community input on what the future of the area should look like. Community planning groups (CPGs) assist the City in making recommendations on future development, using their community plan as framework.

“CPGs provide citizens with an opportunity for involvement in advising the City Council, the Planning Commission, and other decision-makers on development projects, general or community plan amendments, rezonings and public facilities,” according to a statement on the City of San Diego’s community planning website. “The recommendations of the planning groups are integral components of the planning process, and are highly regarded by the City Council and staff.”

In recent years, however, some city councilmembers, particularly Councilmember Joe LaCava, who currently represents Council District 1, have pushed for reforms to

CPGs, which have operated in the City since the 1960s and ’70s. LaCava, who served on the La Jolla Community Planning Association for a number of years before being elected to the San Diego City Council, was particularly interested in boosting the diversity of planning group members and ensuring they have more robust outreach, among a number of other items.

On Sept. 13, 2022, the City Council approved the proposed changes to the City’s CPG program, which triggered a process that required all existing planning groups to essentially re-apply for recognition as their area’s official group, and provided the opportunity for citizens to propose new organizations to replace existing CPGs.

Only two existing CPGs received a challenge by a new group hoping to replace them: The La Jolla Community Planning Association, and the Uptown Planners.

After over a year of preparing an application, meetings, community outreach and city council and committee hearings, the City Council ultimately voted to allow La Jolla’s existing community planning association to keep its recognition, but to essentially oust the Uptown Planners, in favor of the new Uptown Community Planning Group, designed by a group

of community members who organized under the name “Vibrant Uptown.”

The Uptown Planners will remain the area’s community planning group until the Uptown Community Planning Group elects its inaugural board – a process they were given 90 days to complete after the May 21 vote.

This changing of the guard has generated a variety of opinions and feelings from community members on both sides of the issue, and members of the current Uptown Planners have already filed complaints with the City of San Diego about the new planning group’s initial procedures.

In an opinion column on, Uptown Planners board member Mary McKenzie wrote, “San Diego’s City Council wrongly voted to recognize a new group to replace Uptown Planners, the Community Planning Group (CPG) that has served the Uptown community for over 20 years.”

McKenzie stated that her Uptown Planners worked very hard to comply with the application process the Planning Department required of them but was disappointed in the outcome of the city council vote.

“Our own City Councilmember, Stephen Whitburn, turned on Uptown without meeting with the group

once (but met with the other group a few times),” wrote McKenzie.

Vibrant Uptown, the group that applied for recognition as the new Uptown Community Planning Group, is considered to be a more “pro-density” group, with many on the current board of Uptown Planners characterized by some as attempting to thwart growth in Uptown’s urban core.

While it is not clear who will make up the elected board of the new Uptown Community Planning Group, the election process will be vastly different from procedures the current Uptown Planners have used for their elections in recent years.

Uptown Planners had open elections, where anyone who was a resident, property owner, or local business or nonprofit designee in the Uptown area could run for any of the open seats on the board at each election cycle. All Uptown residents, business owners, and property owners were then eligible to vote on all of the open seats. Uptown Planners also only allowed in-person voting.

The Uptown Community Planning Group has overhauled this election process for their elections, the first of which is in process now. Of note is that there


San Diego Pride’s 2024 Spirit of Stonewall Honorees

Every year, San Diego Pride accepts nominations from the community for the annual presentations of the Spirit of Stonewall Awards. The awards recognize individuals who contribute significantly to the LGBTQIA+ community through their leadership, activism, and fundraising efforts.

In 1978, after he had made history as California’s first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk gave a speech that still resonates for me as one of his most memorable, and one I reach back to when I need to remember my “why.” It was a long speech, and Milk talked about the challenges facing our people around the country – challenges that sound awfully similar to the ones we face now about teachers and youth being out in schools, about losing our jobs because of who we are. But he didn’t end on those challenges – he ended with a call to hope: “I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living … You have got to give them hope.”

[As we make these announcements] on Harvey Milk Day, we celebrate the people here in San Diego who help give us all hope for that better world, the people that are actively making history in the service of creating liberation and equality for LGBTQIA+ people locally, nationally, and globally.

We present to you San Diego Pride’s 2024 Spirit of Stonewall Awardees:

Our 2024 Champion of Pride, Paris Quion (she/her).

Paris is a bright light in the San Diego community, and is known as a drag entertainer, businesswoman, activist, and advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. She is tireless in her commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and unimpeachably principled in her advocacy. Paris is known best for being a career fundraiser, volunteer and for devoting her life, skills and resources to the betterment of the queer community with a focus on our youth and our most vulnerable community members. To learn more about Paris, visit

Our 2024 Community Grand Marshal is our region’s LGBTQIA+ & Allied Educators and Library Workers

They have faced challenges that are frighteningly similar to the fights that Harvey Milk fought back in the 1970s, and, like we did in the ’70s, they are winning, and standing strong for LGBTQIA+ youth and families to be able to be their whole selves in schools, staying vigilant against book bans and censorship of LGBTQIA+ materials in libraries, and creating safer spaces for all LGBTQIA+ people across our county. To learn more about our allied educators and library workers, visit bit. ly/4ebSwo0

Our Stonewall Service Award goes to the fairly new East County Queer & Trans Coalition

This organization is creating spaces for joy and celebration in East County while also fighting to make East County spaces – especially schools – safer for LGBTQIA+ folks. The EC QTs, as they’re known by many partners, have created social events, informational meetings, engaged in powerful and effective grassroots organizing, and are currently working to revive San Diego’s historic Dyke March. To learn more about ECQTCo, visit bit. ly/3yQw9UZ


is this year’s recipient of the Community Service Award

We are recognizing his support and service to the LGBTQIA+ community, which began when he first moved to the region in 2012. Jordan is a Queer Black and Jewish creative, and uses his talents and skills to tell stories and engage the community through Fat, Black, and Queer intersectional lenses. To learn more about Jordan, visit

Dr. Jill Blumenthal (she/her) is this year’s Friend of Pride

This movement cannot be won without our allies, whether they’re at our side, behind us, or in front as protection. Dr. Blumenthal’s selection is in recognition of her fearless and fierce advocacy and work at UCSD Health to make gender-affirming care more accessible and culturally responsive. To learn more about Dr. Blumenthal, visit

Making a comeback this year is our Inspirational Relationship Award, which goes to the iconic and powerful couple, Teresa Oyos (she/ella) and Rose Ruybal (she/ella).

Teresa and Rose’s relationship has been deeply embedded in and rooted in service to the LGBTQIA+ community, especially the LGBTQIA+ Latine community. To learn more about Teresa and Rose, visit bit. ly/4aSS0Z7.

Our Stonewall Philanthropy Award this year goes to Qualcomm Qualcomm is a San Diego-based corporation that has led the way in corporate philanthropy and stewardship. Qualcomm was one of the first large corporations marching in the San Diego Pride Parade, and has not only been a strong partner of ours for decades, but has also encouraged other corporations to invest in local LGBTQIA+ organizations. To learn more about Qualcomm, visit bit. ly/4e7z8sf

Patric Stillman (he/him) is the recipient of this year’s Larry T. Baza Arts & Culture Award

Patric has been a volunteer, activist, and artist for most of his life, and in 2014, he founded the Studio Door, a hub for local artists – particularly those from the LGBTQIA+ community – to showcase their work and forge meaningful connections. To learn more about Patric, visit bit. ly/459vc69.

The Light of Pride Award, given in conjunction with our partners at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral at our annual Light

Up The Cathedral event, goes to Dharma Bum Temple, a true spiritual home for the LGBTQIA+ community to study and practice Buddhism, which includes significant service by, for, and with the LGBTQIA+ community. To learn more about Dharma Bum Temple, visit bit. ly/45k1NWX

And lastly, our Hero of Pride Award goes to San Diego Pride’s Founding Leadership, which laid the foundation of our organization and movement in San Diego.

From the first march 50 years ago in 1974, to the first permitted march in 1975, to the tide-turning 15/20 committee in 1989 and the incorporation of the organization as a 501(c)(3) organization 30 years ago in 1994, these leaders have been integral in our ability to survive, thrive, and continue making history now. To learn more about San Diego Pride’s Founding Leadership, visit

Congratulations to these stellar awardees, and more importantly, a thank you to all the folks above for giving us hope, and for making history with us all.

These awards will be formally presented at the annual Spirit of Stonewall Rally, held on the Friday of San Diego Pride weekend. In addition, the above honorees will each be recognized again while riding in the San Diego Pride Parade on Saturday.

San Diego’s first rally was held in 1975. The Spirit of Stonewall Rally is a time to recognize and honor leaders who are working hard to preserve our gains and meet the many challenges still facing our community. It is a time for us to honor our origins, celebrate those who are leading the way, and call our community to action around some of our movement’s most pressing issues.

The entire community is encouraged to attend and participate in the Spirit of Stonewall Rally and access to the ceremony and its speakers is free. Limited seating will be available. For more info, visit

When: Friday, July 19, 6 pm Where: Hillcrest Pride Flag, 1500 University Ave. (at Normal Street), in Hillcrest. Admission: Free ▼

Jordan “Joho” (he/him)

Major gift campaign

Help North County LGBTQ Center buy a new building

It’s Pride Month across the country and on the heels of a very successful Pride at the Beach celebration for the North County LGBTQ Resource Center last weekend (June 1), the organization is now launching a “Major Gift Campaign” to raise funds with the hopes of purchasing a new space.

To date, the NC center has always been a tenant, but their growth in the last decade requires them to expand into new surroundings, and it's time they bought a place of their own. They already have their eye on just the right spot, and they hope supporters will help them see their dream become a reality.

According to founder and long-time Executive Director Max Disposti, the building they are keen on is located at 1919 Apple Street in Oceanside, the

former home of “Bread of Life Rescue Mission,” serving as its shelter. The cost of renting in the area has become prohibitive according to Disposti.

“Buying our own space is not only a testament to our growth and impact in the North San Diego County region, but an investment for our future generations where LGBTQI families and individuals will have a place where to safely gather, thrive and lead into the future,” stated Disposti in a press release. “A place for all our communities to also organize, advocate and experience the intersectionality of our work.”

Disposti acknowledges the challenges that lie ahead.

“Purchasing a space, while it is the right thing to do, is not easy, and it is something that we cannot do alone. This is why we are calling for all our community members, allies, elected officials, private foundations along with business owners and philanthropists to help us reach the goal.”

The first step in this journey will see NC LGBT Resource Center moving into 1919 Apple Street by September of this year, but as tenants. Their financial goal is to raise enough cash for the downpayment of the building – they are looking at $1.3 million by the end of 2024 – which will allow them to close Escrow, but they are also

already in need of funds to assist with moving expenses, a new roof and other tenant improvements.

Their hope is to not impact their ongoing operations

“The presence of the Center in the North San Diego County region is measured with the thousands of lives it has changed and impacted for its past 14 years of operations, but also through created leadership that has enhanced solidarity, community and civic work, partnerships and numerous anti-bias and anti-hate campaigns,” Disposti said in the press release.

To plan a monetary gift (big or small), a legacy donation, or to help the center in any way to achieve the goal of $1.3 million by the end of 2024, reach out to Disposti at and/or Carlos Tabora, their development director at

The current NC LGBTQ Resource Center is located at 3220 Mission Ave., Suite 2, in Oceanside. For more information about the history of the center and its impact in the Oceanside and North County communities through programming, advocacy and representation, visit the resource center website at or read their 2023 impact report.


Edit orial

Analysis: The shooting


By now, most in our region are aware of what took place in the early morning hours of Saturday, May 20. A dark sedan drove through Hillcrest and North Park and shot water pellets at four or five LGBTQ establishments. A number of people were hit, and one, Eddie Reynoso, the publisher of this newspaper, went to the ER because he was shot in the eye (Eddie is also the VIP Host Manager at Rich’s).

The videos that Rich’s released to our paper following the incident were difficult to watch. Regardless, once posted to our website, they reached thousands of viewers.

I am old enough to remember when all of our gay bars were basically locked down, occupants hidden behind big walls, with no outside windows or light getting in. It was rare to see outsiders there and we felt safe inside.

Then Obama happened. Marriage equality happened. The repeal of DADT happened. And things slowly eased up in our community. Straight people began flocking to our neighborhood. And now, just about every gay/queer bar has outside seating, huge windows, and many have garage-style roll-up doors that eagerly allow passersby (and drivers) to see inside. We are no longer hiding, and unfortunately, that has made us more vulnerable in this post-Trump era.

I’ve been trying not to call the incident a “shooting,” since that conjures up much worse scenarios happening in cities across our country and that we’ve become accustomed to. But it was, in fact, a shooting,

Originally, the number of bars thought to be involved in the incident was staggering; Rich’s PECS, Number One Fifth Avenue, The Loft, The Rail … people all over social media were chiming in, some saying they were at such-and-such bar and got hit or saw someone shooting at a bar they were working or patronizing.

When all was said and done, The Rail, Rich’s, PECS and Number One were all confirmed to have experienced an attack.

What we know from eyewitness accounts is that the “gun” used was shooting water pellets. These pellets are not life-threatening, but if someone, like Reynoso, got hit in the face, they could easily lose an eye, and they hurt wherever they hit the human body.

The deeper issues are what those who were attacked felt. What happened in Orlando is still lurking in our psyches and while that happened 8 years ago, it was June 12, so the anniversary is looming. Everything happened so fast the night of the incident, they had no idea what was being shot at them; what they just got hit with; what they just saw ricochet off of their co-worker’s head. Was it brain matter? Some even saw the gun in the split-seconds of time it took for the vehicle to roll by, and these water guns are fashioned – very unfortunately – to look just like a semi-automatic assault rifle.

Others saw a dark sedan slowing down in front of other LGBTQ businesses, appearing to “scope out” the areas. Still others watched the incidents unfold from afar.

So why didn’t other bars get attacked? Maybe they did and we haven’t heard about it. Hardly anyone filed a police report.

Calling 911 anonymously to report an incident is important, but it is not the same as filing out a police report.

We as a community need to get better at: 1) Paying close attention to our surroundings whenever we can; 2) Making mental notes of clothing, hair, vehicle types, license plates, etc.; 3) Calling the police when we experience an attack or harassment or see or experience attacks on our gay/queer establishments (even something suspicious); 2) Make a police report of whatever happened so the police have a written record, which can be added to future incidents.

Most police department websites offer a place where you can file a police report online. You can also do it in person.

Every Police Department in every city across our county has an LGGBTQ Liaison. They are there specifically for us, and we need to use them. I’m adding a list of the most updated list I have below (a couple just have the main line for now as I could not get a response by press time).

I also highly encourage you to attend the 2024 LGBT+ Law Enforcement Summit, taking place Wednesday, June 13, 6 pm, at Rich’s Nightclub, located at 1051 University Ave., in Hillcrest.

According to law enforcement organizers, “This year’s Summit will focus on getting to know the individual liaisons throughout the county along with the traditional Q&A with leadership and liaisons.

“We will also have a presentation on recent potential hate crime incidents that have occurred in Hillcrest and the recent alerts for extremist violence. It will be a great opportunity to meet new leadership and new liaisons and maybe bid farewell to the old, outgoing ones.”

In closing, remember the phrase, “If you see something, say something.”



Sergeant Natali Fant,, 760-473-8722


Agent Natalie Garnsey


TBD - main line 619-522-7350


Lt. Joseph Crawford,, 619-579-3319


Officer Tyler Hubka,, 760-839-4722


Special Agent Brett Kalina,, 858-583-3854


Lt. Katy Lynch,, 619-667-7566


Stephanie Mendiola,, 619-336-4515


SGT Anthony Flores,, 760-435-4881


Officer Lisa Hartman,, 619-288-1512


SGT Michael Gonzales,, 858-790-1367

LGBTQ San Diego County News P.O. Box 34664

San Diego, CA 92163 619-432-LGBT (5428)


Eddie Reynoso


Morgan M. Hurley


Chad Bevan





SENIOR COLUMNIST Nicole Murray Ramirez


Mike Phillips | Neal Putnam

Frank Sabatini Jr.

Veronica Zerrer | Chris Barone

Roman Jimenez

George Vernon


Terry Sidie

David Mannis



Charles Wellman 908-232-2021 EXT 225


Scott Wazlowski 415-829-8937


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The opinions written in this publication’s advertorial, editorial and opinion pages are the author’s own and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the staff and/or publisher of LGBTQ San Diego County News. The newspaper and its staff should be held harmless of liability or damages.


Le tters

Editor’s Note: We accept and encourage letters to the editor, and we curate our “letters” from emails, snail mail, Facebook, and comments on our website. However, we reserve the right to publish – or not to publish – any particular submission or comment, and if we do choose to publish, it does not mean that we align or agree with the writer’s intentions, assertions or allegations.

Hillcrest shooting feedback

[Ref: “San Diego Police investigating drive-by shooting in Hillcrest,” published online at]

I am so very sorry to hear of [Eddie Reynoso’s] attack this weekend. That is so awful! I’m sure it must have been scary and painful. Know that we are thinking about you and everyone else and are sending light and love.

–Ken Blochowski, Gear San Diego, via Facebook

This type of stuff makes me sick, all people deserve love and respect for being and expressing who they are. No one deserves to be harmed just for being themselves.

–Emiel Mulligan, via Facebook

This upsets me to no end! That’s my family they messing with! I used to work the door there for about 3 years! I’m just glad no one got terribly hurt. Stay safe and vigilant out there folks!

–Blake Elder, via Instagram

I was doing my food cart on the patio of a bar in North Park about a month ago and a car drove by and lit me up with an airsoft gun. Dark grey Honda civic.

–Teddy Fantastico, via Instagram

How horrible! I’m glad Eddie is okay but hope he keeps his great attitude.

–Sue Sneeringer, via Instagram

Successful Harvey Milk Breakfast

[Ref: “Harvey Milk Breakfast to honor civil rights icon Dolores Huerta,” Vol. 4, Issue 37, page 2, or online at bit. ly/3xT0zFv]

I first started attending the Harvey Milk Breakfast in 2010, and haven't missed one since. I can honestly say that today’s event was outstanding for a variety of reasons: The general demeanor of the event from start to finish just felt more comfortable and less staid. The honorees at every turn were simply remarkable, and simply being in the same room as Dolores Huerta was inspirational. It felt like the kind of event Harvey Milk himself would have supported and enjoyed. And don’t get me started on how much improved the meal itself was, compared to the artistic but unfulfilling yogurt parfaits of years bygone.

The committee should be pleased with how this year turned out, and what that surely means for the years and years to come. Moreover, seeing that our Hillcrest All-Inclusive Kiwanis Club was everywhere and serving in so many roles was absolutely a point of pride for the club – and gave me ammunition in my war of attrition against Rotary.

I’m proud to have been able to bring the San Diego College of Continuing Education Foundation on board as a table sponsor, too! I think we’ll be able to expand on that in the future, too.

–Neill Kovrig, via Facebook

Erica still in our hearts

[Ref: “Obituary: Erica Miranda Flores (1977-2024),” Vol. 4, Issue 37, page 19, or online at]

I am very taken back because Erica lived under my roof for a year and half and I became part of her family (secretly). We knew each other forever along with Raffie (Rafael) and we were together when Raffie passed away. The fact that she followed him made me go back to the time we were the three of us like the three amigos. I am hoping she is in heaven or at peace. RIP Erica.

–Jesus Gomez, via

Ode to the women

[Ref: “The Shoulders I Stand Upon: Humble thanks to the women who helped me become the man I am today,” Vol. 4, Issue 39, or online at]

Thanks Big Mike, hope you can come to San Antonio soon for a visit. Your long lasting friend Love Priscilla –Priscilla Williams, via

I loved listening for the first time ever, my column being read out loud to listen to … I love it. Great addition to the website and the paper, thank you Eddie.

–Big Mike Phillips, via

These were all amazing women in our community, many who I had the privilege of working with and learning from!

–Benny Cartwright, via Facebook

Awwwww ... Mandy! Gone too soon.

–Freddie Ball-Aldana, via Facebook

Remarkable San Diego women

–Charles Stanley Kaminski, via Facebook

Hit-and-run death

[Ref: “Murder two,” Vol. 4, Issue 37, or online at bit. ly/45e07Ox]

Super unfortunate situation made worse by a failure to come forward on his own if he is indeed the driver. May justice prevail for the family and community.

–“Balboa Pork,” via Instagram ▼


This month I am continuing my column by introducing you to God’s prized creation, the women who have been such a positive influence in life. Oh my God, there are so many I want to share with you. I will do my best to include as many of these incredible women that I can. They are all worth mentioning.

Shannon Wagner has been the executive director of Being Alive for over 25 years, she is one of the kindest and funniest people I have ever met. I’ve been living with HIV since 1984, and she has not only helped me with getting help but tens of thousands of others depend on the services Being Alive provides on an everyday basis. She is my sister, mentor and one of my dearest friends. Thank you, Shannon. Carolina Ramos, the Angel of Hillcrest, our very own Mother Teresa to so many people. We met over 30 years ago and became very fast friends. We developed into a family and she is the sister I never had. We have grown as we’ve worked together to support each other in our mission to be there for those who need our help most. Carolina advocates for Latino, women,

More amazing and loving ladies in my life

lesbian, LGBTQ and human rights and has since the day I met her, and she is loved by so many in San diego. Thank you, Carolina.

Julia Legaspi, “Jhigs,” as she is known to her friends, wow, what an amazing and loving transgender woman (who I had no idea was even Trans for the first several years I knew her). A leader in so many capacities here in San Diego and a positive voice that has made our community grow. She came from Cavite City, Philippines, to the United States with no money, to starting her own hair salon, where she just celebrated its 40th anniversary. A small businesswoman, advocate for human rights, especially Trans people of color. Jhigs has broken barriers in our city, county, state, and nation, by becoming the very first transgender to serve on many boards and commissions. Impressively her list is so long, but I will share that because of all her appointments, it has made her the third transgender person to be appointed to public office in the entire US. She has always been and still is at the table for equality for all human rights. Thank You, Jhigs.

Rita and Shawna

Aqueche-Moran. “My ladies,” is what I have called these two amazing women in my life. I met Rita with mutual friends while I was working at Jimmy Carter’s Mexican Café so many years ago. We became instant friends. We both have a love for photography and would go out together to capture and photograph places, things, and people.

I remember Rita coming into the restaurant one afternoon and said she had a blind date. It was the first time all of us at

Jimmy Carters would meet this incredible loving woman, her future partner, Shawna. They have been together ever since. I was so excited when Rita asked me if I would join their family and take photos of her proposing, which was a total surprise for Shawna and it was a very happy “yes” to Rita. I was then so honored to be Rita’s best man. I have never been a best man in anyone’s wedding before and to be included in such a loving way to help celebrate their commitment to each other, touched my heart. It is a day I will always remember. I love my two amazing women. They have retired to Menifee, California, so I do not see them often, but they are always there for me and have always supported my causes. I love you both, we are family. Thank You Rita and Shawna.

Courtney Ray, one of our community’s straight allies, from the first time I met her, with my then-roommate and dearest friend in my life Joey Arruda. They were opening Club Montage at the time around 1998, and she was the general manager. Courtney is a bold, beautiful, tell-it-like-it-is, no-nonsense woman, who has always stood up for all human rights and equality and still does to this very day. She became one of our community’s favorite and most beloved straight advocates and supporters. We became great friends and anytime I needed something for our charity events or organizations that needed help, Courtney would reach out and ask, “How can we help?” I love Courtney, she has so much positive and loving energy. You can find her at Harley Grey restaurant in Mission Hills. Drop

by and say hello and thank her for all her dedication toward our beloved LGBTQ community. We all love you Courtney, thank you.

One special lady I must mention is my dear friend Sally Hall. She always calls me “baby boy,” a sweet gesture of love. I met Sally at Lisa and Megan Sanders' wedding in Balboa Park in 2010. Lisa is former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders’ daughter, and you may remember when he spoke out on national TV in favor of gay marriage because of his daughter. He took a stand on behalf of equality and social justice when it wasn’t an everyday thing. I sat down next to Sally at the wedding, and we struck up a conversation, and that was all it took, we connected right away.

Sally is a very devoted Lesbian woman, who supports so many great causes and is a huge advocate for LGBTQ and women’s rights. In fact, Sally had started one of the very first streaming Gay News networks, called “That’s So Gay Live.” She invited me to help report the news and put out information on events that was going on with our community. She also allowed me to do a segment call “Human First.” Unfortunately, mainly because of the lack of money, we had to let it go. With this opportunity, Sally helped make me more aware of my surroundings and the things that make life safe and important. We remain wonderful friends, and I will always be grateful to have been included with her journey through “That’s So Gay Live.” Thank You, Sally.

Finally, my wonderful friend Morgan M. Hurley, who I met while she was editor of Gay San Diego newspaper. It was

during that time we got to know each other better. If I remember correctly, Morgan would come into Bourbon Street every now and then, as well. A proud and retired LGBTQ Navy veteran, she has served on the Benjamin F. Dillingham and Bridget Wilson LGBTQ Veteran Wall of Honor advisory council, which was founded by Nicole Murray Ramirez and is housed and supported by the San Diego LGBT Community Center.

Morgan has written so many powerful and inspiring articles over the years about different places, people, and events, that she has been able to share because of her gift as a writer. I have so much appreciation for Morgan as a great friend, but also for believing in me by offering me this opportunity to write my own column. Being able to tell my stories of my life here in San Diego as well as introducing so many other individuals that have help create an amazing place to live and grow with me. Thank you, Morgan.

There are still so many incredible women I would love to introduce you to. I am honored to have so many women in my life, they all inspire me to be a better person, I will write about many again in my future columns. A huge thank you to each of these extraordinary women who will always have a loving and special place in my heart.

These are the shoulders I stand upon.

–Big Mike Phillips is a local photographer, bartender, and longtime LGBT activist and fundraiser. You can reach him at ▼

(l to r) Big Mike with (then) San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Julia Legaspi Big Mike and Morgan M. Hurley Sally Hall and Big Mike Big Mike with Rita and Shawna Aqueche-Moran Big Mike with Shannon Wagner, executive director of Being Alive (All photos courtesy Big Mike Phillips)

Good morning, San Diego! Buenos días mi comadres y compadres!

First, I want to acknowledge the land we stand on, that of the First Nation; our American Indian Native brothers and sisters, who since the beginning of time have acknowledged our LGBTQ community as “two spirited.”

The month of May is a very special month. It is also “Military Appreciation Month” and we in San Diego have always been proud of our veterans and activeduty personnel. Would you please

Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast 2024

stand so we can acknowledge your service to our great nation.

May is also “Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month,” and as I always say, “Our Golden State is turning brown because of the growing population of our proud API and Latino communities.”

And yes, the month of May is also “Jewish American Heritage Month,” and as you know, this morning’s honoree Harvey Milk came from a proud Jewish family.

Having worked with Harvey Milk in the 1970s during the homophobic campaigns of Anita Bryant and John Briggs, so many times, people ask me “What do you think Harvey Milk would be like today?”

Well, you see, Harvey Milk and I came from the homophobic times of the Gene McCarthys of the 1950s. Yes, we came from the times of, not until 1976 in California, at just a stroke of a pen and the signatures of either your parents or a judge, homosexual Americans were committed to mental hospitals and subjected to electric shock treatment and lobotomies.

We come from a time when my friend the late Rev. George Walker Smith called San Diego the “Mississippi of the West.” Black and brown people were not allowed or welcomed in certain neighborhoods in San Diego

and also, Jews were not allowed nor welcomed.

Indeed, I know that Harvey Milk would want me to talk to you this morning about the growing hate, division, and yes, violence that is engulfing our nation.

The hate and antisemitic wave that is now engulfing our nation has been rising in historic numbers long before Oct. 7, including here in San Diego with even antisemitic flyers being plastered around neighborhoods.

Harvey Milk would say to you all today, stand up for the Jewish community, and people who stood up for the Black civil rights movement of the 1960s, who stood up for the Mexican and Filipino farm workers of the 1970s, and who have stood up and been a great part of the LGBTQ civil rights movement since the McCarthy and Anita Bryant eras.

I say to our American Jewish sisters and brothers, you are not alone. We stand with you!

And I thank the City and County Human Relations Commissions who supported my motion to finally establish a Holocaust museum in San Diego County. And thank you Supervisor Nora Vargas and Mayor Todd Gloria for your support of this long overdue campaign.

If Harvey Milk were alive today, he would stand up and speak out against those trying to take away the right of women to control their own bodies.

He would stand up for our undocumented, and for asylum seekers and dreamers.

And yes, he would stand up against the rising hate crimes against the Asian Pacific Islander community and the Muslim community.

You see, Harvey Milk was a bridge builder and always supported the causes of other communities.

And if Harvey Milk were alive today, he would weep for America, where our churches, temples, and mosques are no longer safe.

An America where parents no longer feel their children are safe in their schools. An America where Black mothers and fathers have to give that important reality talk to their sons.

An America where Homeland Security and the FBI issued a warning last week about possible violence with our country’s Pride events being targeted.

A San Diego where a few days ago, three gay bars were shot at in Hillcrest and gay employees were injured.

In closing, you might be asking, “What are the answers to all of these growing problems and hatred?”

I say to you all today, you are the answer.

Make a hate crime against any community a hate crime against all of us.

Make other communities and peoples’ problems and causes become your problems and causes.

For you see my Black and brown brothers and sisters, my Asian and Jewish communities; the ultra-extreme radical right, they are coming for all of us. And only by truly caring and being there for each other and building stronger bridges to each other can America become the nation it was destined to be.

In the words of the great philosopher Voltaire: “Everyone is guilty of all the good they did not do.”

So, let’s all leave here today and not only do some good for others, but make some good trouble.

Thank you and God bless.

–Nicole Murray Ramirez is a lifelong Latino and LGBT activist and advocate, a longtime city commissioner, and is the Queen Mother of the International Imperial Court of the Americas. He can be reached at ▼


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Editor’s note: The following are Nicole’s full remarks at the 16th annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast, which took place May 25. They are offered here in place of his normal column. Nicole giving remarks at the recent breakfast (Photo by Big Mike Phillips) Bust of Harvey Milk, on display courtesy Ron DeHart, coalition founder of Palm Springs Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast. (Photo by Bob Lehman)
I’m not sure how Pride Month makes me feel

Pride Month is always an interesting time for me. Seeing the proliferation of rainbow logos and displays across social media and in public places is certainly a sign of progress.

And even though very visible displays during Pride Month have been a thing for at least the last 5-10 years, I still get a little surprised every time I’m walking through the mall, or any number of other public places and see the signs or Pride flags in the window declaring support for the LGBTQ community. Many retailers have their own Pride merchandise, online streaming services have Pride collections, and even public libraries will put out displays of LGBTQ books and materials.

But I grew up in the community in the mid-1990s and early 2000s, a time when some progress had been made but there

was still so much more work to do, and I’ve recently started to reflect on what being a part of the community during that time did to me. It’s likely a form of trauma that I’m sure many older LGBTQ people carry whether they are aware of it or not.

In 1999, I got a job at the brand new Old Navy store that had opened in the Fashion Valley mall that year. At the time, Old Navy was just a five year old brand (it turns 30 this year!) and it was one of the hottest places to shop – remember polar fleece?

I thought it was so cool to work there, and thinking back I had a really good time (I’ll have to share stories another time about how all staff would dance a conga line around the store whenever Gloria Estefan’s Conga came on and how we were all supposed to meet at the front of the store and dance

The Hustle whenever it came on).

It was all pretty gay, and I had three “really gay” managers. I began to feel pretty comfortable at work and would often come in wearing glitter eyeshadow and platform shoes and I twirled around that store like a princess. Fashion Valley was sort of known as the “gayest place” in San Diego besides Hillcrest, because of the number of young gay men who worked in the various stores, and the many gay men who both patronized and hung out at the mall on a regular basis.

But at that time, something that would have never been seen in any store, except maybe MAC Cosmetics, would be any rainbow flags or open displays celebrating Pride. And one thing I would have never been comfortable doing would be holding my boyfriend’s

hand while walking around the mall. In fact, shortly after starting at Old Navy, a fellow twinky coworker and I gravitated toward each other and had a little 19-year old fling for a few months.

He had just moved to San Diego from New York City, where he grew up, to go to school. Whenever we took our lunch breaks together, he always wanted to hold my hand while we walked to the food court. I would usually let him grab my hand for a few seconds, then I’d pretend I needed to scratch an itch or find something in my bag (cell phones weren’t super common yet and I didn’t get my first one until I was 21, so I didn’t have the excuse that I needed to look at my phone instead of holding his hand).

I don’t know if it was the New Yorker in him or what, but he was much bolder than me. I couldn’t do it.

A couple years later, while still working at Old Navy, I saw two young guys walk into the store and while they browsed for quite awhile, they held hands the entire time. My heart started racing. It was something I had never seen before outside of Hillcrest, and I just couldn’t believe it. They were so brave, but I also feared for them. I noticed many customers giving them looks but they didn’t seem to mind, they just went about their business being open and proud. That’s a moment I’ll never forget.

I also remember when going to Hillcrest was considered “edgy” - in general most people who came to the neighborhood not too long ago were either a part of the LGBTQ community or were one of our few allies. I

sort of liked the feeling of driving into Hillcrest, knowing that I was breaking San Diego social norms and being “different.” I was going to a place where this group of people who were ostracized from society came together to live, hang out, celebrate their Pride, and fight for their rights.

The Brass Rail (now “The Rail”) was very well known throughout San Diego as “the” gay bar when I was growing up. Even kids in the San Diego suburbs knew about The Brass Rail and it was not uncommon to hear the insult on the playground: “You’re dad is so gay, I saw him going into The Brass Rail!” Or “Eew, I saw your mom in Hillcrest!” (Funny to think today, that a perfect clap back would have been “What were you doing in Hillcrest that you saw my mom or dad there?”)

Growing up hearing those insults, however, really put it into my mind that Hillcrest was a place to stay away from unless you wanted to be made fun of and branded as “gay.” So I felt like I was breaking through all of that when I got up the courage to come to the neighborhood.

And it really was a different period in our community history when being LGBTQ – even in California – meant we were not equal under the law. We couldn’t serve openly in the military. We couldn’t get married. And so many other protections that have been fought for over the last several years. San Diego even had a law against “cross dressing” on the books until 1998, although it was rarely enforced.

It was exciting and at the same time really scary to be a

part of that activism. Many of my friends, fellow activists and I never believed that we’d see things like marriage equality in our lifetimes. In fact, it’s still strange for me to think that I can actually get married now. I know that dozens of my gay and lesbian friends have been married over the last decade – and I’ve been to many of those wedding ceremonies – but to me, it still feels like something out of reach for me.

So when I see commercials on TV celebrating the LGBTQ community, or rainbow flags in the window of almost every store when I walk the halls of Fashion Valley, or just about every brand changing their logo to rainbow colors during Pride month, I still get a feeling of disbelief. It’s hard to believe we’re in this place where the LGBTQ community is celebrated pretty much everywhere, at least during the month of June, and that places like Hillcrest are “so cool” today that some of our bars have more non-LGBTQ patrons on some nights than not.

I am not naive to the fact that there is still so much work to be done – especially related to standing up for the trans and non-binary communities. Legislators around the country, including in California, continue to propose bills that would strip protections from or hurt members of our community. And we continue to fight.

But we are in a different place than we were 20 years ago, and it continues to feel strange to me.

11 JUNE 2024 VOLUME 4 ISSUE 41 LGBTQSD.NEWS COMMUNITY VOICES See BENNY page19 • EMCEES Alexander Rodriguez & Landa Plenty • KingQueen • Cheer SD Extreme • Matt Harkenrider • Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles • Storytime with Landa Plenty • The Glam Show with Keri Oki, Shania Satisfaction, Lotus Party and San Diego Kings Club • Musical Entertainment • Art Exhibits • LGBTQ+ Nonprofit Organizations A FULL DAY OF FAMILY-FRIENDLY ENTERTAINMENT

Editor’s Note: Connor Maddocks has taken a leave of absence for personal reasons, but in his stead will be local trans community leader, Veronica “Ronnie” Zerrer.

When asked by straight men and women what trans people want, I always answer with three things: to provide for ourselves and our families, to be valued co-workers, and to be respected members of our neighborhoods, communities, and country.

We, like the larger population, work for any number of reasons. Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that the reasons we work have to do with two fundamental human requirements: to live securely with food and shelter, and to satisfy our sense of worth to the world. As human beings, the work we do validates and recognizes our value to ourselves and our co-workers, and underscores our contributions to society. It endorses our autonomy.

The working people I a dmire

Writing in 2017, Kristen Lucas of the University of Louisville said that dignity could be “confirmed or denied” in the workplace. I recently read a Business Insider article about how many Gen Z interviewees listed “feeling undervalued” as reasons for quitting during the “quiet quitting” years when we started coming out of the pandemic.

We have all had that crusty, distant boss, manager, or leader, who gave no accolades at all. Or another who lavished us with praise to the point their atta-boys and atta-girls became valueless. It was a rare leader who expected your best efforts daily all the while saying nothing. Yet when you truly performed above and beyond, you felt you earned that enriching “Good Job,” and were proud that they recognized your effort.

Too often the LGBTQ community seems to favor with recognition the drum beaters, the protest marshals, and the trans people who have made a career of being trans. But that’s not who we should be recognizing. Those we should be paying attention to are the trans men and women who earn their co-workers respect through their hard efforts.

Women like Tracie Jada O’Brien, whose decades of work with Family Health Centers attests to her competency, leadership, and devotion. Connor Maddocks helped begin many of the trans programs The Center continues to this day. Jerry McCracken shimmied up telephone poles and communication towers

as a lineman for AT&T until a bad fall ended his career. A young trans man named Evan repairs cars in a local auto shop. Cassandra Scantlebury, a front office manager for a leading hotel company here in San Diego, earned promotions to management through her hard work and having pride in herself. And Andrea Cubit, a recognized leader in the Biotech field, and Vickie Estrada of Estrada Land Planning, whose designs fill the public spaces in San Diego, are just two of the business owners our community can boast of. My wife Michelle spent decades with the California Department of Transportation working

on projects like the Genesee Street intersection on Interstate 5. Who among these people have not made San Diego a better place to live?

Many years ago, I was sitting in a church pew listening to a Catholic priest sermonize about a person’s dignity. So much of it, Father Fideles claimed, stems from the labor we do. Many laborers can rightfully take pride in their jobs, seeing their product as an extension of themselves. But, he cautioned that work exists for people, not the other way around, as some bosses would have the worker believe.

I know that I have left out too many local trans men and women

so I ask you to send me a note with your name and what you do for a living. My email address is below.

A future column, to observe Labor Day, would be a great way to celebrate our trans siblings and the work they do that helps make our home a lovely place to live.

–Veronica Zerrer is the author of “Memoirs of a Cold Warrior, a Novel.” She is retired from the US Army and active in the local LGBTQ community. In 2023, she was appointed to the California Veterans Board by Gov. Newsom. She can be reached at ▼


Creep of the Week: Pride Protesters

It’s Pride Month! Cue the rainbow flags, the Pride parades, the guy in the neon green Speedo wearing a leather dog mask, the lesbians with the toddler wearing a “I <3 My Moms” t-shirt, the teens wearing trans Pride flags as capes, the drag queen looking fabulous despite the heat, the protesters …

Ugh. The protesters.

There’s no escaping the fact that Pride Month (or Pride at any time, really) makes right-wingers very aggressive. They begin to froth at the mouth, desperate to spread the disease living in their saliva by biting anyone and everyone.

Ah, wait, that’s rabies. Well, a valid comparison regardless.

But let's focus on a few positive things first.

President Joe Biden officially proclaimed June 2024 to be Pride Month, something that is not going to happen with a Republican in the White House. But what’s an official proclamation, anyway, besides a very public and worldwide display of support for LGBTQ+ people by the United States’ most powerful person?

Seriously, though. It’s a BFD. The President making LGBTQ+ people visible is very meaningful at a time when Republicans are feverishly trying to erase us. Living in the shadows is no life at all. I mean, there’s a reason people avoid walking down dark alleys at night. Bad things can happen there and no one would ever know.

“I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the achievements of the LGBTQI+ community,” Biden said in his proclamation speech, “to celebrate the great diversity of the American people, and to wave their flags of Pride high.”

You heard the man! Wave away!

Meanwhile, in Texas, a state that is known for its hostility toward LGBTQ+ people, a Democrat who voted with Republicans to ban genderaffirming care lost her reelection bid to a Black queer woman.

“Lauren Ashley Simmons beat Rep. Shawn Thierry in the Tuesday runoff by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent to win the Democratic nomination in Texas House District 146, located in Houston,” The Advocate reports. “The district is heavily Democratic, so Simmons is favored to win the general election in November over Republican Lance York.” 65 percent to 35 percent is no joke. Voters turned out hard to oust Thierry, who joined the

Republicans in a number of anti-LGBTQ+ votes

“Thierry also broke ranks from her party to support a GOP bill aimed at removing sexually explicit books from school libraries, a designation critics feared would be used to target LGBTQ+ literature,” The Texas Tribune reports. “She also voted for a bill requiring transgender college athletes to play on teams that align with their sex assigned at birth.”

Not a great look!

“Clearly voters are tired of the bigoted politics of Shawn Thierry, who has betrayed her constituents so she could carry water for the worst politicians in Austin,” said former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, in a statement. The LGBTQ+ Victory Fund backed Simmons. “I couldn’t be more proud of Lauren, the campaign she ran and the fierceness she’ll bring to the Texas House, where she’ll proudly fight to make Houston a more welcoming place for everyone,” Parker said.

And it will be quite a fight. Texas is a majority Republican state and Gov. Greg Abbott is happy to sign any and every bill intended to harm LGBTQ+ Texans and make them more invisible. That’s why Texas needs leaders like Simmons.

“I’m not a politician. It's not something I ever really envisioned myself doing,” Simmons told Houston Public Media. “But once I wrapped my head around what was at stake and what was really important, I decided to go for it. I'm glad that the results turned out the way they did, because they let me know that I wasn't alone in my thinking and I wasn't alone in my dissatisfaction, and we were ready for change.”

And we need more people to do exactly what Simmons did: Run for office. Especially for school board. Because school boards around the country can make the difference between whether LGBTQ+ students are loved and supported or whether LGBTQ+ students’ lives are living hells.

The saying “Be the change” has become kind of cliche, but it is still true. Things don’t get better when good people stand aside. Things only get better when good people stand up.

–D’Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski. ▼


Over three million sold!

What is generally ranked as the strongest mai tai in San Diego just hit a staggering milestone, so to speak.

On May 20, the iconic Bali Hai restaurant on Shelter Island served its three-millionth mai tai, which is made in a high-octane fashion that adheres to the original Trader Vic’s recipe born from the tiki fad of the early 1950s.

According to manager Hanna McClure, “a customer named Sean” was served the honors in the company of friends. He was awarded a $1,000 Bali Hai gift card and a keepsake tiki mug. McClure noted that the restaurant uses a tracker to count the number of mai tais sold. It’s perched above the bar. Last we checked in early 2013, the total had modestly exceeded two million.

Since its opening in 1954, Bali Hai’s version of the Polynesian-inspired cocktail omits the fruit juice that later came into play at establishments elsewhere. It is basically dark and light rum hiding modicums of orange liqueur and sweet and sour. A thicket of finely crushed ice on top tempers the flavor but doesn’t necessarily diminish the brain slam. 2230 Shelter Island Drive, 619-222-1181,

–Frank Sabatini Jr. has been writing about food in San Diego for over 35 years. He launched his own food blog during the pandemic, called, “The Hash Star,” which you can follow at He can be reached at ▼

Chasing Lety

We recently caught up with longtime LGBTQ ally and former Uptown Tavern chef Lety Gonzalez, who is currently bestowing her culinary skills on San Diego’s Barrio Logan and City Heights neighborhoods.

Like many in the food industry, Gonzalez faded into the background when the pandemic hit in 2020.

During restaurant lock downs she sold homemade tortillas and tamales out of her house under a pop-up business she created called Brujas Cocina

As of recently, she’s out on the field slinging such specialties as slow-cooked achiote pork, scrambled eggs with mole rojo, portobello asado tacos, and other “border town Mexican staples,” as she describes her food.

Look for her from 6 to 11 pm, every other Thursday, in front of Por Vida Cafe (2146 Logan Ave.) and from 9 am to 1 pm on Sundays, outside of Cafeina Cafe (4011 46th St.).

“Doing pop ups has allowed me the freedom to restart college [at City College] to pursue a degree in sustainability as it relates to culinary,” she said.

Gonzalez became involved in numerous LGBTQ events during her five-year stint at Uptown Tavern. She also worked previously at WestBrew Del Mar and the former Beerfish in Normal Heights. @brujadelacocinasd.

After a string of delays, the full-service Cellar Hand restaurant in the heart of Hillcrest has announced its June 6 opening to the tune of curated wines hailing from Santa Barbara County. Owned by the family that runs Pali Wine Co., the venture also features meals comprising farm-fresh produce and locally sourced seafood, pork and beef. The remodeled space previously housed Oscar Wilde’s Irish Pub. It is open from 4 to 10 pm, Wednesday through Sunday.

1440 University Ave.,

Vegan dining in the company of steak

It’s the last place you would expect to find a dedicated menu of vegan/ vegetarian cuisine; but much to our surprise, Greystone Prime Steakhouse & Seafood in the Gaslamp Quarter just rolled out its first-ever selection of nonmeat dishes that includes rigatoni with vegan meatballs, artichoke ravioli, and a medley of seasonal vegetables called “vegan goodness” tossed in a house-made sauce. Prior to the restaurant’s new menu category, vegans and vegetarians had negligible choices at Greystone other than a few salads and vegetable side dishes. 658 Fifth Ave., 619-232-0225,

Local spirits company using witty Pride l abels

Local spirits company using witty Pride labels

South Park-based Fierce & Kind has introduced clever wording on its Pride-themed vodka and bourbon bottles for a seasonal campaign that will benefit The San Diego LGBT Community Center

For the company’s 80 proof American Vodka made from sustainably-grown corn, the lettering is entirely in rainbow colors. Although for the two types of bourbon it produces, Fierce & Kind’s promotion of LGBTQ awareness goes further.

On the label for its “cask strength straight bourbon,” for example, the word “straight” is struck out with a black line, with “gay” sitting above it. The same word swapping is used for the company’s regular “straight bourbon whiskey,” which for a limited time becomes “gay bourbon whiskey” – at least through July or while supplies last.

“We certainly expect blow back, because we know there are elements out there who don’t have very broad minds. But we are here to support,” said Basem Harb, who launched the charitable, socially-conscious spirits company with his girlfriend, Cyndi Smith, more than a year ago.

The Pride bottles will soon land in a number of local liquor stores, such as Heights Market in Normal Heights, The Bottle House in South Park, and Ray’s Liquor in North Park. Harb is currently reaching out to various bars and restaurants as well. (The bottles are also available on the website below.)

The Center will receive 25 percent of proceeds from local sales of the Pride editions. A similar campaign will take place later this year for Palm Springs Pride, with a beneficiary yet to be named.

The Bali Hai’s famous mai tai (Courtesy photo) Chef Lety Gonzalez (Courtesy photo) “Vegan goodness” at a popular downtown steakhouse (Courtesy Greystone Prime Steakhouse & Seafood) Some gay ole spirits are popping up. (Courtesy Fierce & Kind)

As I have said before, The Tony Awards are my Super Bowl and Broadway is my playing field. I’m sure you’ve probably heard the Tonys called the “Gay Super Bowl,” lol.

Recently, I spent a whirlwind week in New York City during which I saw nine shows in seven days. Yes, it’s possible!

This past Broadway season – which ran from April 28, 2023 through April 25, 2024 – saw the opening nights (and closing, for some) of 37 musicals, plays and revivals. It’s no secret that NYC is my happy place and this past trip proved exactly why.

I was fortunate enough to see 12 of this past season’s shows: Merrily We Roll Along, Harmony, How to Dance in Ohio, Back to the Future, Lempicka, The Outsiders, The Notebook, Hell’s Kitchen, The Great Gatsby, Cabaret, The Who’s Tommy, and The Wiz.

Unfortunately, our tickets to Days of Wine and Roses and Here Lies Love, both bit the dust as early casualties of a very full season. Many of these shows are still playing and some have already closed, but one thing is certain; they all left a lasting impression on me. It was a record year on Broadway that saw brand new works, the return of old favorites, and loads of star-making performances.

I’ve already got the wheels in motion for a “research and development” trip at Christmastime to check out the upcoming Broadway season that just kicked off. At the top of my list are the Tammy Faye musical at the newly reopened Palace Theater, Sunset Boulevard with Nicole Scherzinger, the musical adaptation of Death Becomes Her, and the just announced Gypsy revival with Audra McDonald. It’s shaping up to be a season of divas and I’m all for it. One thing you can say is that I’m committed! Or need to be committed!? Take your pick. Both statements are pretty accurate.

On a side-note, it was great to see two productions that began right here in San Diego transition to NYC and evolve into two of this past season’s best works: the huge hit, The Outsiders, and Lempicka, which unfortunately, closed much too soon. Shout out to the La Jolla Playhouse for these two gems.

My Super Bowl is on a Sunday in June


I’ve made my Tony picks below in the categories of musical theatre based on what I’ve both seen and researched over the past Broadway season. I’m listing all the nominees for each category, with my picks in bold

Best Musical

• Hell’s Kitchen

• Illinoise

• The Outsiders

• Suffs

• Water for Elephants

I have loved the story of The Outsiders since I was a kid, from both reading the book and seeing the movie (Hello, Rob Lowe!). The story is rooted in family, both blood and chosen, and it is developed so well. Stay gold. I really enjoyed Hell’s Kitchen, as well, but seeing the inception of The Outsiders in La Jolla and then what it became once it hit the Broadway stage is the reason that my vote goes there. If you’ve seen The Outsiders, you’ll agree that the brilliantly choreographed fight scene alone is worth the price of admission.


• Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club

• Gutenberg! The Musical!

• Merrily We Roll Along

• The Who’s Tommy

Merrily has always been considered a black sheep among Stephen Sondheim’s works, but this acclaimed production has finally gotten it right. It is a production that would have made the late composer and lyricist proud. I would be remiss to not mention that this new immersive production of Cabaret was pretty memorable, too, in all of the good ways. While Tommy wasn’t one of my favorites, I need to acknowledge Ali Louis Bourzgui, who portrayed the title character. If there was another slot in the Leading Actor category, his name would have surely been on that list.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

• Brody Grant, The Outsiders

• Jonathan Groff, Merrily We Roll Along

• Dorian Harewood, The Notebook

• Brian d’Arcy James, Days of Wine and Roses

• Eddie Redmayne, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club

Eddie Redmayne was superb in Cabaret, Brody Grant was beautiful as Ponyboy in The Outsiders and Dorian Harewood broke my heart in The Notebook, but I think this year it is finally going to be Jonathan Groff’s turn. I’d like to add that while Chip

Zien as Rabbi in the short-lived Harmony wasn’t nominated, he deserved to be. I was shocked when his name wasn’t read on the announcement of the Tony nominations.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

• Eden Espinosa, Lempicka

• Maleah Joi Moon, Hell's Kitchen

• Kelli O'Hara, Days of Wine and Roses

• Maryann Plunkett, The Notebook

• Gayle Rankin, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club

This is a crazy one because Kelli O’Hara is the only performance that I didn’t see and she’s the one that gets my vote. She’s my favorite and in my heart, I know how spectacular she was. This was the hardest category because every one of the women nominated were beyond excellent.

Eden Espinosa was sublime as painter Tamara de Lempicka. Maleah Joi Moon was the perfect choice to play a character loosely based on the fabulous Alicia Keys. Maryann Plunkett shattered me in The Notebook (along with the rest of the audience bawling their eyes out). I’ve seen many characterizations of Sally Bowles over the years, but Gayle Rankin’s performance in this mounting of Cabaret ranks right up there. There truly isn’t a “non-winner” in this category.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

• Roger Bart, Back To The Future: The Musical

• Joshua Boone, The Outsiders

• Brandon Victor Dixon, Hell’s Kitchen

• Sky Lakota-Lynch, The Outsiders

• Daniel Radcliffe, Merrily We Roll Along

• Steven Skybell, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club

Daniel Radcliffe was so charming and believable as one third of the trio in Merrily We Roll Along. He got my vote on the day that I saw him, but this season was filled with both solid and entertaining performances from every other nominee in this category. Sky Lakota-Lynch’s Johnny in The Outsiders made you want to hug him while Joshua Boone’s Dallas was the hard-edged guy with a heart of gold. Both beautifully tragic performances. The always entertaining Roger Bart was a hoot as Doc Brown in Back to the Future. Brandon Victor Dixon in Hell’s Kitchen was great at making you not like him and Steve Skybell’s Herr Schultz in Cabaret gave me all of the feels.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

• Amber Iman, Lempicka

•Nikki M. James, Suffs

• Shoshana Bean, Hell’s Kitchen

• Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer, Monty Python's Spamalot

• Kecia Lewis, Hell’s Kitchen

• Lindsay Mendez, Merrily We Roll Along

• Bebe Neuwirth, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club

This is another tough category. As I watched Shoshana Bean in Hell’s Kitchen, I said to myself that I was watching a Tony-winning performance. She was electric. Amber Iman in Lempicka was breathtaking. Kecia Lewis was perfection and her performance is still with me. I can’t say anything about Lindsay Mendez (except that I love her), as we saw her understudy, Sherz Aletaha, who was spectacular. It wouldn’t surprise me at all, though, if Bebe Neuwirth swoops in and gets the Tony. Her Fräulein Schneider was heartbreaking.

The Super Bowl of Theatre airs on Sunday, June 16, on CBS and Paramount+. Time to figure out which pair of sweatpants I’m going to wear to the red carpet on the couch. I’m curious to see how my choices align with Tony wins.

Also, please be on the lookout for my next two reviews, which will be published online as the performances I see will be after we have already gone to press. Look for Mrs. Doubtfire, who will be coming to life at the Civic Theater, and the newest premiere from the La Jolla Playhouse, The Ballad of Johnny and June. Both will be out over the next few weeks.

Until next time, friends. Be happy. Be kind. Go to the theatre. It makes for a great recipe for life

–Originally from upstate New York, Chris Barone (aka “Miss B”) has been a part of the San Diego/Hillcrest community for 20 years. You probably know him mostly from Baja Betty’s, where he has worked since opening in 2004. Besides theater, his interests include cooking, traveling, New York Yankees baseball and anything involving Dolly Parton. You can reach him at

Chris spent a week on the Great White Way recently, and it armed him with his selections for the upcoming Tony Awards. (Courtesy Chris Barone)

people, or at least their names, as they moved up to their ownerships. The other 13 people are also familiar faces, and all work within the community.

That said, Girton calls the shots. She said it was important to her to be different from any other business and “uplift marginalized communities” by specializing in women-owned, queer-owned, and people-of-color (POC)-owned businesses.

“As best as I can, not bring on too much product from cis white men,” she said.

One of those is Uncle Nearest Whiskey, which is a black woman brand; the CEO is Fawn Weaver and the master blender, Victoria Butler, who is the great great granddaughter of Nearest Green, the black slave who taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey. Butler is also the first known black woman master whiskey blender in history.

That’s quite a story, and Girton not only has Uncle Nearest featured in five cocktails carried in house on draft, she’s had Weaver and Butler in the Boardroom.

Girton said those “tapped” cocktails are often complicated and time-consuming to make, so they make a huge amount in a punchbowl and “keg it.”

We touched a bit on the mocktails in the previous story but, not enough. This is a huge, growing trend, and Girton is here for it. She said their mocktails list is almost as big as their cocktail list, and they also have “alcoholremoved” sparkling pinot and prosecco.

“We’ve completely upped our mocktail game to craft,” Girton said. “We’re not just doing your basic soda water and blackberries and ginger beer. We have a women-owned Limoncello; we have the Ritual line, a Liar's Coffee liquor and some really cool spirits to make these with.”

Everything is elevated. Even Gossip Grill has some new mocktails.

“People used to judge you and make people feel bad for not having a real cocktail,” she said. “It needs to be normalized. Having alternatives for folks who don’t care to drink has become a huge priority in maintaining our safe space and community space.”

When it comes to those who do like to dabble, one of her new bartenders is from “world famous Denver Death & Co.” – the company that puts out a topselling cocktail book – and Girton said she was “crucial” in the establishment of the new cocktail men. Each of the new cocktails is named after a strong woman artist.

Their wine club – held last Saturday of the month from 2-4 pm – includes raffles, gag gifts, charcuterie boards, and five, 4 oz. pours. Miriam T hosts and the wines are always top notch, she said.

In addition to all the great wine, cocktails and mocktails inhouse, Gossip Grill has launched a new “mobile bar” on wheels.

The branding on the outside of the is hard to miss, but it’s

what you get when the trailer gets parked and all opened up that is the real treat.

The mobile bar is available for rent. As the trailer says on the back, “Call for a good time! 619260-8023 or”

A tribal leader

Something else we just scratched the surface of last month was the double-life of Mina Rosete, Barrel & Board’s executive chef. Girton calls her a bonafide “bad ass.” Rosete’s been with the restaurant since nearly the beginning and with a great team and a new menu out, she feels she’s at the top of her game.

“I really pride myself on us being a safe space for other queers,” she said. “Being in the community that I am in, in terms of the service industry, being a female chef has always been super challenging. It’s a boys club. And being queer and being brown – it’s been more of a challenge, especially when you get into positions of power and you’re in charge of other people and [especially] men.”

She’s certainly got this part of it figured out, but she’s also got another life she’s devoted to back in New Mexico – her indigenous tribe, where her father is the tribal leader and the last of his generation; meaning, once he is unable to fulfill his duties or he passes, the leadership may soon fall to her and her siblings, but they have other callings at the moment.

Things Are the Way They Are


1 Dog of Dennis the Menace

2 Ending with switch

3 Opera solos

4 Blowing hard, in and out

5 TV’s Queen of the Jungle 6 Poses for Mapplethorpe

7 What hangs from a Cuban 8 Tattooist’s tool 9 Nero’s land 10 Luggage for Spencer-Devlin 11 End note

“We have to be the holders of this knowledge and teach others, you can’t force it, you have to be called to it,” she said.

So for now, the self-taught chef is balancing her business and immersing herself into these traditional practices that may soon be her life.

“In the indigenous culture we call it ‘walking the red road’ which is tied to the spiritual path that is given to you,” Rosete explained. “I spent a lot of time running from my culture and running from my true self. I think a lot of it was being queer, and not being able to engage in the community I was brought up in. I got lost doing drugs and alcohol for a long time. When I moved out here, I got clean and sober and that has given me back my culture.”

She admits that she is far from a “hyper-spiritual” or “dogmatic” person, but reconnecting has given her a sense of purpose.

“It grounds me a lot and helps me to heal my wounds,” she said.

The story of these two women is inspiring in so many ways. Our community needs them and they need this space. For more information about Barrel & Board, its food, cocktail, wine, and mocktails menus, visit

–Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at editor@lgbtqsd. news ▼

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Gossip Grill has a new mobile bar trailer and it's open for business. (Photo by Moe Girton)
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23 One-million
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39 Frida’s day 40 Hamburger
42 Queen
43 Neighbor
44 Language
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47 “Wonder
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Girton demonstrates the mobile DJ booth attached to the mobile bar trailer while Jessica Davis looks on. (Photo by Brittany Leach)
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community, special “Pride Ticket Pack” event tickets are available for the June 28 game, and each ticket holder will receive a Wave FC branded “belt bag” (fanny pack) with a rainbow belt, tickets in sections 206–209, and a $5 donation will be made to the San Diego Pride organization. Note: Regular game tickets will not include the bag or the donation, only the special pride night tickets.

Snapdragon Stadium is located at 2101 Stadium Way (Qualcomm Way).

To purchase a Pride Ticket Pack for Pride Night at San Diego Wave FC, visit For questions call 844-739-3222.


A new chapter of Rotary International has formed in Hillcrest, and they are looking for members interested in giving back to the community through service. Similar to Kiwanis International – Hillcrest is home to the Kiwanis Club of Hillcrest All-Inclusive – Rotary’s mission is to “provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through [the] fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders.”

The new Hillcrest chapter recently held an informational mixer in May, and an initial business meeting on June 3, and are looking for others who may be interested in joining and helping build this club.

Leadership of the new club are excited to engage the community and develop regular opportunities to connect community members, along with creating a signature annual service/fundraising event.

Those looking to learn more about the Hillcrest Rotary Club are invited to a social mixer on Thursday, June 13, from 5:30 to 7 pm at Negociant Wine Bar, 1236 University Ave., or visit their next monthly planning meeting on Monday, July 1, from noon to 1 p.m., location to be announced soon.

For more information, visit their Facebook page at HillcrestRotary. Those with questions or would like more information can also send the club leadership a message through direct messaging on Facebook.


The Rail in Hillcrest recently launched a new recurring brunch event, cleverly titled, “Off The Rails Drag Brunch.” Presented by Andy Santiago and guest hosted by Jackie Beat, the ticketed event includes various seating options, between $15 and $25, which covers the show, and if you want an actual brunch, attendees can purchase an “all you can eat” buffet for an additional $22.

Doors open at 1o am and the first show starts at 11 am, with a

second show at 1:30 pm (doors at 1 pm).

Organizers are calling it “A star-studded brunch that will leave you wanting more!” While the cast is subject to change, here is a snapshot of the performers they are expecting: Willam Belli from Ru Paul’s Drag Race; Scarlet Envy from Ru Paul’s Drag Race & All Stars and Drag Race UK vs The World; Rock M Sakura from Ru Paul’s Drag Race; Honey Davenport from Ru Paul’s Drag Race; Becky Peach from HBO’s Legendary; and JLau Halston.

The next set of brunches are scheduled for Saturday, June 15.

The Rail is located at 3796 Fifth Ave., in Hillcrest. For tickets, visit


Lambda Archives of San Diego will host its second annual LGBTQ+ Student Showcase on Sunday, June 30, at the Clark Cabaret in University Heights. The event is designed to showcase the history projects that have been created by the Archives’ LGBTQ+ youth interns.

According to the Archives, this year the organization’s interns were paired with elders in the community to create a project which included a conversational style oral history interview, a historical bio, a newsletter article, and an exhibit display. All of these items featured their elder and related topics, and these will be on display at the showcase.

The event will include a formal reception and presentation from 11 am to noon in the Clark Cabaret, followed by exhibit tours and community time from noon to 2 pm in the Lambda Archives space located next door.

The event is free. RSVP at

The Clark Cabaret and Lambda Archives are located at 4545 Park Blvd.


The San Diego LGBT Community Center has two of its signature fundraising events scheduled for this month, including the inaugural LGBTQ+ Luminaries Lunch on Thursday, June 27, along with the annual Pachanga de Frida on Saturday, June 22. After production of the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast was turned over to a community committee, The Center has refreshed their own lineup by launching the LGBTQ+ Luminaries Lunch, which they say will bring attendees together to “celebrate our community and the amazing people who use their voices to light a path of safety, wellness, togetherness and joy.”

Last month, The Center announced the local “luminaries” who will be honored at the luncheon, including the Librarians of San Diego as “Allies in Advocacy,” Tracie

Jada O’Brien as “A Trailblazer in Community Empowerment,” and Chris Shaw as “An Architect of Community.” Evan Noorani of CBS8 will serve as emcee.

Tickets for the event, scheduled for Thursday, June 27, at 11:30 am, start at $200. The luncheon will be held at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. Visit for tickets and additional information.

Also in June is the annual Pachanga de Frida, benefiting Latin@x Services at The Center. The party is held every year to celebrate the birthday of LGBTQ Mexican icon Frida Kahlo and includes a night of food, tequila, dancing, entertainment, the popular Frida look-alike contest, and more.

Guests will gather in the auditorium of The Center on Saturday, June 22, from 5-9 pm for the event, which will be hosted by Gus Hernandez, The Center’s Senior Director of Marketing and Communications.

Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased online at Pachanga24.

More information about The Center’s Signature Fundraising Events can be found online at



Stepping Stone of San Diego, the region’s LGBT drug and alcohol treatment center, is planning a “Celebration of Recovery” event this month at the San Diego LGBT Community Center.

The event, which takes place Friday, June 28, from 5:30 - 7 pm, is open to former patients who have completed either the residential or outpatient program within the past year (April 2023 to June 2024) as well as their friends, loved ones and supporters.

Stepping Stone, which launched in 1974, is one of the few drug and alcohol programs in the nation that specializes in the LGBTQ community.

Light refreshments will be provided, and certificates of completion will be presented to those who went through the program in the past year.

The Center is located at 3909 Centre St., in Hillcrest. For more information, call 619763-1140 or email outpatient@



San Diego Black Pride, produced by the San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition, has announced their 2024 events, which take place Friday, July 5, through Sunday, July 7. Themed “Unity in Color,” the events will take place at Gossip Grill, Mission Bay, and Rich’s Nightclub throughout the weekend.

“This vibrant and inclusive celebration aims to bring together the community for a weekend full of pride, unity, and entertainment,” said organizers in a press release.

Friday night (July 5) the festivities begin at Gossip Grill, located at 1220 University Ave., with the Harmony Hour Kickoff Party. Hosted by Amber St. James from 6-10 pm, enjoy neon lights, black queer entertainers, food, drink, a Pride photo booth, and DJ MPC creating the mood for the evening.

At 11 pm, also at Gossip, will be the Express Your Essence Mini Ball, featuring DJ Kinny Banks and produced by Byron Keaton of House of Juicy Couture and Emani King Mack. This event will be hosted by Torie Balmain Bodega. Both events are 21+ and $15 each to attend.

Saturday (July 6) is a beach day at 1010 Santa Clara Place. This will be a free, familyoriented event with BBQ on the west side of Mission Bay from 11 am to 1 pm. Inflatables and circus games will be available and DJ AG will be spinning.

Later that day, the party gets started at the same location and for $75 you can dance the night away on Mission Bay with unlimited food and beverages. DJ Prodigee will spin from 5-11 pm. This is a 21+ event.

On Sunday (July 7) you’re back in Hillcrest for the Decadent Day Party at Rich’s, located at 1051 University Ave. DJ Nikki Giovanni and host Amber St. James will escort you through the day, which includes a drag queen competition. Cabanas and bottle service are available and this is also a 21+ event. $20.

Organizers say San Diego Black Pride is “dedicated to celebrating the diversity, culture, and history of the Black LGBTQ+ community and that their events aim to foster unity, empowerment, and pride among all attendees.” Follow them on social media and use the hashtags #UnityInColor and #SDBlackPride2024 to share your experiences.

For tickets to each event, and to learn more, visit Eventbrite at



The virtual ticket booths are now open for San Diego’s annual Pride festival, held this year on Saturday, July 20, from 11 am –10 pm, and Sunday, July 21, from 11 am – 9 pm.

Join the San Diego Pride organization and its thousands of volunteers in celebrating diversity and inclusion in Balboa Park at the Marston Point festival grounds, located at Sixth Avenue and Laurel Street. There will be plenty of community resources, festival vendor booths, food booths, and four stages to match every entertainment need.

Tickets are available for both days at one price – $38 (plus processing fees). VIP tickets are $219 (plus processing fees). No single day tickets are available. To learn more about the entertainment and to purchase tickets, visit


Every year during Pride Month, California’s legislative LGBTQ Caucus chooses individuals from throughout the state who have made “great contributions to the LGBTQ+ community and served as exemplary role models.”

They then hold a ceremony at the State Capitol to present the awards, which took place June 3. This years’ honorees from San Diego were Araceli “Cheli” Mohamed, Paris Antoinette San Agustin Quion, and Bruce M. Abrams, Esq.

Following is what Senate President pro Tempore Emeritus shared about the honorees.

Cheli Mohamed has a distinguished background in non-profit social services and local government. She formerly served as Director of Volunteer Services and Community Leadership Development at the San Diego LGBT Community Center, where she has inspired multitudes to engage in volunteer community service. Cheli was recently appointed as a Commissioner by Governor Gavin Newsom to California Volunteers, which helps shape the landscape of community engagement.

Paris Quion is a Southern California drag entertainer, businesswoman, activist and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. She focuses on fundraising, volunteering, serving on community-based boards, and training in LGBTQ+ rights and gender sensitivity in government, corporate, nonprofit and educational spaces. She shares her journey as a trans person to put a face to the possibilities when the community is given the opportunity to thrive. Her activism and leadership has led to her selection as the recipient San Diego Pride’s 2024 Champion of Pride Award.

Bruce Abrams is an activist, philanthropist and attorney who throughout his law career has worked with many underrepresented clients by providing pro bono legal services. He has fought against injustice and has served on numerous local, state and national boards including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the American Civil Liberties Union, Equality California, the National Conflict Resolution Center, the AntiDefamation League - San Diego, the City of San Diego Human Relations Commission, and the County of San Diego Social Services Advisory Board.

As Senator for District 39, Toni Atkins represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. The website of President pro Tempore Emeritus Toni G. Atkins is Atkins.

To submit a news brief or press release, contact editor@lgbtqsd. news. ▼

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Members of the San Diego City Council told the outgoing police chief on May 20 that they were troubled by the nearly 74% increase in hate crimes in 2023, which included a 32% increase of crimes involving sexual orientation.

“I am saddened to see the hate crimes are rising a bit, though overall crime is down,” said District 5 Councilmember Marni von Wilpert to Police Chief David Nisleit.

“Last week [this happened] to one of my dear friends in Hillcrest,” von Wilpert continued. “Folks came to his home and ripped a Pride flag off his fence and burned it in his driveway overnight.

“SDPD has taken this very seriously. I want to appreciate all you do for victims of hate crimes,” von Wilpert said to Nisleit.


I want to get excited for Pride Month, but in a way, and maybe it’s because of the trauma, I long for that time not so long ago when I could have only wished to see a company I work for acknowledge my existence as a gay person.

Of course, I’m going to celebrate Pride Month all month long (and into July since we’re special in San Diego!), but at the same time, it will always bring up those emotions that take me back to a different time when just seeing a gay couple holding hands at Fashion Valley was monumental.

I hope you celebrate Pride in whatever way feels right for you, and I can’t wait to see you at our own San Diego Pride celebrations next month!

–Benny Cartwright is a longtime activist and community leader. Reach him at community@ Follow him on Instagram @BennyC80. ▼

Nisleit, who is retiring after eight years as police chief, is being replaced by Assistant Chief Scott Wahl on June 7.

In response, Nisleit said one reason for the increase is “more education going out as to what is a hate crime” and increased awareness about reporting them. He said there are also different ways and agencies with whom people can make a report of the crimes.

“We have a very polarized, divided country right now,” Nisleit added. “There’s a lot of anger out there. I think that’s what’s festering, if you will.”

The police chief also said that some incidents involving religion refer to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel and the war between the two groups. There were 18 incidents involving religion in 2023 as compared to only four in 2022, resulting in a 27% increase.

District 3 Councilmember Stephen Whitburn thanked Nisleit for officers responding quickly to the pellet shootings of people outside LGBTQ establishments in Hillcrest on May 18 after midnight.


are seats set aside specifically for residential renters, owners, and businesses, and there are a designated number of seats for each of the six neighborhoods of Uptown. Elections will now be similar to the city council’s “district” elections, where those affiliated with each individual neighborhood of Uptown will only vote for the representatives of their particular neighborhood. This “district” style election system was proposed, according to its supporters, to prevent one particular neighborhood from dominating the planning board over another neighborhood and making decisions that may affect neighborhoods where they do not live.

Reports state that a passenger fired gel pellets from a black sedan at The Rail, Number One Fifth Avenue, Rich’s Nightclub, and Pecs.

San Diego Police said they are investigating the incidents as possible hate crimes. A press release said a man walking with his wife in Old Town was also struck with a gel pellet before the other incidents took place in Hillcrest.

“I am really impressed and appreciative of the response by SDPD,” Whitburn told Nisleit. “Hopefully we will bring someone to justice for what happened there.”

“It's very troubling to see the hate crimes increase by 73% in the city,” said District 2 Councilmember Jennifer Campbell, who is also a member of the LGBTQ community.

“San Diegans should not be intimidated or afraid to practice their religion or love whom they want,” she said. “We have also seen the rise of anti-Semitism and homophobia. Let’s hope we keep the numbers down.”

Finally, the Uptown Community Planning Group will offer a hybrid electronic voting model, giving community members the opportunity to vote online.

In their “Econometer” roundtable, the San Diego Union Tribune recently posed the question to its panel of economists: “Is a new San Diego neighborhood group positive for the Uptown area?”

Of the 10 respondents, eight of the experts answered “yes,” with two casting a “no” vote.

Gary London, of London Moeder Advisors, said that yes, he believes the new Uptown planning group is a positive for the area.

“The revitalization of planning groups is necessary given the changing demographics of the communities,” wrote London.

District 4 Councilmember Henry Foster III said he was puzzled about hate crimes against blacks, as there were only about 5% African Americans in the population of San Diego County.

“We also ask people to report on hate incidents because what we're trying to do is get in front of that crime before it actually occurs,” Nisleit said. Why does somebody think it’s okay to hate somebody, whether it is ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion?" asked the police chief. “We have a lot of work still to do.”

District 7 Councilmember Raul Campillo said the report shows “a lot of progress,” since almost all crime categories decreased. Campillo said the report disclosed that homicides were down from 52 in 2022 to 45 in 2023, with a clearance rate (arrests) of 84% in those 2023 homicides.

A public speaker, Joy Sunyata, told the Council the hate crime increases were “heartbreaking,” adding, “we all bleed red.”

“We have to address being kind to each other,” said Blair Beckman, who spoke via his computer to the Council.

“Most of this is about old vs. young, and their differing agendas and needs. Many community planning groups have been overpopulated by persons resistant to change. Yet, planning is all about confronting the future and maximizing opportunities for communities to revitalize and flex for change.”

Jamie Moraga, of Franklin Revere, saw it differently, suggesting that this change is not good for the community.

“This sets a dangerous precedent as the council shouldn’t interfere with elected neighborhood groups to push an agenda,” wrote Moraga. “Additionally, it appears the council is selectively meddling, keeping La Jolla’s planning group, but ousting the Uptown planning group. Individuals should be elected


A judge on May 9 ordered Avonte Ahikim Hartsfield to pay $344,321.65 in restitution to two insurance companies and two groups who donated funds to him after he falsely claimed his own vegan food truck was torched in a hate crime.

Hartsfield, 27, was sentenced to five years and four months in state prison for arson and insurance fraud on March 20, after a jury convicted him of those offenses. He had acted as his own attorney in San Diego Superior Court against the advice of the judge at the time.

Hartsfield, who is black and also gay, claimed he was the the victim of a hate crime in the 2021 torching, but in a tape-recorded statement, he said he saw a rice cooker spark and that the fire was accidental.

As part of his sentencing, Judge Kimberlee Lagotta ordered Hartsfield to pay $26,678 to GoFundMe – the amount of donations he received from his campaign on the website related to the fire, and $20,000 to the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, who had donated that amount to Hartsfield after the fire.

In addition, Hartsfield was ordered to pay State Farm Insurance $236,383.66, and Progressive Casualty Insurance $61,259.99.

–Neal Putnam is a local crime reporter. You can reach him at ▼

to their planning groups by their own neighborhoods. Sadly, ambitious development plans will significantly alter these neighborhoods and their community character unless these planning groups can find a way to legally fight back.”

The Uptown Community Planning Group has begun its election process and residents and business owners in the Uptown neighborhoods are encouraged to apply to be a candidate. More information about the new planning group and their election process can be found online at

–George Vernon is a local freelance writer who focuses on community issues. You can reach him at georgevernon76@gmail. com. ▼

C O N TAC T US 619 - 4 32 - L G B T • • CRIME

Pride in fatherhood

The “American Family” has greatly changed over the years and in honor of this month’s Father’s Day, the LGBTQ San Diego County News salutes some of the community's outstanding and loving fathers. May all the rest of the fathers in our local LGBTQ community have a wonderful day celebrating their fatherhood!

Tyler is the proud father of Theodore (4).

Being a parent is an incredible journey filled with love, challenges, and unforgettable moments. As a single gay dad with split custody, I’ve embraced every aspect of fatherhood with joy and dedication. Adopting my son was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and watching him grow and thrive fills my heart with pride and happiness. Each day brings new adventures and strengthens our bond, reminding me that family is defined by love, not just by who we are, but by how deeply we care for one another.

Romeo and David Precido-Camacho

Romeo Precido-Camacho adopted Elijah (now 20) when he was 2 years old. He adopted Jesus (now 22) when he was 14. They brought the young teens to many LGBTQ events, including Imperial Court festivities, and they were very involved. They remain close to the boys.

Allan and Christopher Pfeil

Allan and Christopher have been together 23 years and married 11. Their children are Jaxon (5) and Aria (3).

When Christopher and I first started dating, having kids just looked out of reach. As we did more research and educated ourselves on different possibilities, it slowly became a reality. After so many years in school, two marriages and coming from decades of involvement with the LGBTQ+ community, I had finally met someone with whom I was ready to build my family with. We were both more mature and had enjoyed exploring our sexuality and being single, so we felt ready to start our family.

Raising our kids has been the most rewarding and biggest accomplishment of our lives. They have developed so fast into kind and amazing human beings. It takes a village to raise a family. Our family and friends are very involved in our children’s lives. When possible, we still try to carve out time for date nights and some time for the two of us to connect and have fun without the kids. We also love to take trips and have fun adventures that include the kids. I cannot imagine our lives without them.

Robert Gleason and Marc Matys

Robert and Marc are well known and respected civic leaders in both San Diego and our LGBTQ community. They have been together 32 years and married 15 years. Their now handsome teenage sons are Max (18) and Chase (16). We always wanted to be parents and even talked about it on our first date in 1992. It wasn’t as common then, so it took us a few years to put things in motion. The days our kids were born were among the very best of our lives. We are so grateful for the opportunity to be dads and for the surrounding community that has helped raise them.

Kyle and Snapper Escobar-Humphries

Kyle and Snapper have been together for 22 years and married 10 years. They are the proud parents of two teenage children, Denmark (15) and Demirae (14).

Denmark and Demirae were both adopted as newborns and are biological siblings. They are currently finishing their sophomore and freshman years, respectively, in high school.

While Kyle’s family lives locally, we all travel yearly to North Carolina to visit Snapper’s side of the family. Our family really enjoys the different holidays together and have created many family traditions through the years. Many may say that Denmark and Demirae are lucky, but we say we are the lucky ones and have the honor of being called “Dad.”

Joseph Anthony Bustamante

Joseph Anthony adopted his now 8-year-old son, Daniel Orlando, who many of you have seen lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance at both the Bayard Rustin Honors and the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast this year. Being a father is the greatest joy of my life. 24 years ago when I decided to get clean and sober, I had a dream list; on that list was having a son. As circumstances would have it, one day I was faced with an opportunity and without hesitation or even thought, I knew it was my time to step up and let this beautiful baby boy in. My life has never been the same.

It is one of the hardest, most rewarding, gracious and proudest things I’ve ever done. It truly does take a village. I would not be able to do it without the help of my God Partner Russell King, my mom, and all of my friends who walk beside me. Lil Daniel is smart, funny, kind, loving, an old soul, full of life and most definitely keeps me on my toes. Being his father has given me the greatest opportunity to heal some of the deepest points of my life. We are both so fortunate. I am forever grateful

Johan Engman

Steadfast LGBTQ Ally and successful businessman Johan and his beautiful wife Yasmin (owners of 24 local restaurants, including the Breakfast Republics and Fig Tree Cafes) are proud parents of River (5) and Sienna (3).

My wife and I have been together for 8 years, married for 5-1/2 years. I definitely have a busy schedule, but making time for my family is always a priority. My wife is amazing, we are a great team. We travel quite a bit with our kids. Before having River and Sienna, we made the decision that we’d travel with them from the beginning and now they are very much used to it. I’m eternally grateful to have such an amazing wife and kids.

Ken has lived in San Diego for 20 years and Keith was raised in San Diego, graduating from La Jolla High School. Our girls are Adeline (6) and Everleigh (5).

Ken is the president and group publisher of Modern Luxury San Diego. Keith is the founder and creative director of “Rose & May, A Bespoke Content House,” named after our two daughters (Rose and May are the

girls’ middle names). Tyler Hodgson Ken St. Pierre and Keith Black (l to r) Everleigh, Ken, Keith, and Adeline (l to r) David, Jesus, Queen Mother Nicole, Elijah, and Romeo (l to r) Christopher, Aria, Jaxon, and Allan at Disneyland Tyler and Theodore Photo for Father’s Day (or Fathers’ Day as it's known in our house!) (top to bottom) Robert, Marc, Max, and Chase. (l to r) Kyle, Demirae, Snapper and Denmark, pictured together at their home on Christmas Eve, 2023. (l to r) River, Johan, Yasmin and Sienna at Disneyland
Joseph Anthony and Daniel

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