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There’s a very crowded field of Democrats vying for the presidential nomination next year, each hoping to be the Trump-slayer that will align the White House with Congress and restore civility to the government. Among them are the familiar (Joe Biden), the novel (Pete Buttigieg, the first serious, openly gay man to run in either party), the unconventional (Cory Booker) and the unexpected. In this latter category is a thoughtful, artistic woman who seeks to shake up the race with a philosophical approach, as befits her history. Her name is Marianne Williamson, a New York Times bestselling author and philanthropist, and she’s looking to bring “moral healing” to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. As a self-help guru, Williamson knows that to capture the nomination, she needs more than platitudes or a showy presentation. Williamson understands substance, and believes her constituency wants that, after three years of fluff and drama from the Trump Administration.
Here we are in 2019, the momentous 50th anniversary of the iconic Stonewall Rebellion that began the modern LGBTQ rights movement. The pitched battles between LGBTQ people and the NYPD that set things in motion on that humid, long-ago summer night led us inexorably to where we are as a community today. Among the resisters present at the Stonewall Inn when agents of the State Liquor Authority (SLA) and the city’s Vice Squad burst through the doors, were Black drag queen Marsha P. Johnson, Black lesbian Storme DeLarverie, and trans Latina Sylvia Rivera, whose exploits have largely been whitewashed out of the Rebellion’s history. These pioneers and their contemporaries changed the way the world saw the LGBT community, and, reciprocally, how the LGBTQ community looked at itself. It is apropos, therefore, to once again take stock of the state of our beloved rainbow, half a century on, and perhaps glean for ourselves how we’ve fared on our journey, and whether we are still moving forward today.
Anyone who has flown across the United States on a clear day, has soared over the Continental Divide, which cleaves North America in two. Its significance is politically relevant in today’s world; east of this geological formation, all the rivers in the US flow towards the Atlantic, and likewise, west of the Divide, all rivers lead to the Pacific Ocean. Our national discourse is similarly divergent. We as a people are flowing inexorably away from each other, in an ideological Continental Divide as intractable, and seemingly insurmountable, as those towering mountain peaks that slit our country. With the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the white House, all pretensions of harmony and post-racial ethos that peeked over the horizon during the Obama years, were over, replaced by this deep chasm of thought and belief that now assails our national discourse.
What happens when a bold, brash, funny gay Black man sallies forth into the world of home-shopping television? Why, you get a story like no other, of course! Meet Dale Guy Madison, an accomplished actor, writer, advocate and educator from Los Angeles, who is about to stir things up with his brand-new “docucomedy” Life after QVC, which showcases his experiences on the well-known retail network. Dale has penned several volumes about his life and times in and out of the entertainment industry, is also an outspoken LGBTQ advocate, working to raise AIDS awareness, address substance abuse, and combat homophobia, which is once again on the rise in the age of Trump. “I have always been passionate about our community,” Dale says, “and my art is an extension of my advocacy”. His storied career began with a bit part in the campy classic To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, which set him on a coast-to-coast journey to New York City, where he emerged as FREEda Slave, a sassy and popular drag performer.
From such far-flung locales as Chechnya and Syria, places which barely register on our collective consciousnesses, come horrifying stories about what is happening to their LGBT communities. In the former Soviet republic, gay men are being systematically purged from society through torture and murder. In the deserts of Biblical Syria, the sinister ISIS terror organization is rounding up gay men and putting them to death in ways so hideous, they defy description in civilized terms. As the march of hatred continues, seemingly unabated, here at home and around the world, there is curiously little outcry from the American LGBT community on these atrocities. Yes, to be sure, we face our own perils, as recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, make manifestly clear. The deadly expressions of bigotry and homophobia on small-town America’s streets, awful as they really are, are made terrifyingly larger in countries where the doctrine of eradication is Holy Writ.
“The remedy for hate speech,” said Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito, writing in a landmark decision in June, “is more speech”. Adding “more speech” to the expression of white supremacist bigotry and homophobia, is exactly what hundreds of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia were doing on a bright, sunny summer Saturday afternoon. Exercising the First Amendment rights the judge wrote about so earnestly, they assembled peaceably, to voice their opposition to the blazing displays of hatred that had run rampant through the streets of this Blue Ridge city for two days. When torch-bearing neo-Nazis, “alt-right” racists, and Trump supporters—many of whom wore his trademark, red “Make America Great Again” hats—descended upon the University of Virginia’s campus on Friday night, it was but the opening salvo in a series of broadsides that would end in horrifying bloodshed, captured on video, in living color, for all the world to see.
As the sun rises on another dreary weekday morning, the explosive events that marked the end of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez' life has dominated the water-cooler conversations of many a sports fan across America. Hernandez, 27, hanged himself in a Massachusetts jail cell, shortly after winning acquittal in a closely-watched double-murder trial. Still serving a life term for the murder of his friend Odin Lloyd (a case which was on appeal), the despondent young man took extraordinary steps to ensure his suicide would be successful. Before looping the prison-issue bedsheets around his neck and closing his eyes forever, the young athlete posted several suicide letters to significant people in his orbit. One such letter was addressed to a fellow inmate, Kyle Kennedy, said to be Hernandez' gay lover.
In February, Kathryn Shattuck penned a listing of 14 TV shows that broke ground with gay and transgender characters in The New York Times, intending to depict the progress the LGBTQ community has made in becoming more visible in popular culture. The article, admittedly limited in scope, cites such programs as Ellen, Queer As Folk, and Orange Is The New Black, all true milestones in the inclusion of gays, lesbians, and transgender people on the small screen. Each entry on Ms. Shattuck’s list is, as she points out, a defining moment in “a turbulent 45-year trajectory from television movies to single episodes involving secondary players to fully fleshed-out characters central to a show’s story line.” However, even among these important developments in our community’s long march towards equality, Ms. Shattuck has rendered one nearly iconic LGBT TV series conspicuous, by its absence from the story. That would be Noah's Arc, which was a great gathering of “firsts” in its casting, theme, and delivery. Conceived and developed by Patrik-Ian Polk, an accomplished screenwriter, producer and director whose career has been defined by his devotion to the stories of Black gay characters, Noah’s Arc made an immediate and lasting impact upon all who were fortunate enough to watch it on LOGO.
As the historic Democratic National Committee Convention (DNCC) ended in Philadelphia, with the delegates, celebrities, elected officials, and the candidates returning to their daily lives, as the campaign rhetoric of four days died down and began to fade from memory, and as the LGBT community at large reflects on its unprecedented level of visibility during the proceedings, it’s a propitious moment to look beyond the flowery platitudes and high-flown pronouncements of equality and diversity, to examine the real issues facing LGBT people and the Democrats, as they seek to retain the White House. Each session of the DNCC was marked by acknowledgments of the LGBT community and our ongoing struggles to be free of fear, free of injury, and free to be true, equal participants in American life. Political figures from all levels of the party celebrated the accomplishments of the LGBT rights movement, and the dangers we still face, invoking Stonewall and Orlando, polemically decrying the massacre, even as they promised a brighter future ahead. As Hillary Clinton enters the fight of her public life against Republican nominee Donald Trump, how does she, and her party, take us over the figurative rainbow once the election has been won?
Among the massive tide of refugees desperately trying to escape the sinister depredations of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria(ISIS) terrorist organization, as it continues to occupy large areas of Iraq and Syria, despite the loss of nearly a quarter of the land it previously captured, are many members of those countries’ LGBT communities. As they evacuate their former homelands, where ISIS has executed gay men in utterly horrifying ways, these uprooted individuals are discovering there may be no real sanctuary for them, as they seemingly face violence at every turn. In countries like Turkey, young gay men are arriving daily, often without documentation, frightened, uncertain of their futures. Believing they’ve left the worst of the horror behind them, the nightmare often catches up, with sometimes fatal outcomes. One such young man was Mohammed Wisam Sankari, who arrived in Istanbul last year, just ahead of ISIS forces. Understanding the danger he faced, Sankari left his native Syria, looking for a sustainable place to call home, where he could live as his authentic self without fear. It was not to be.
National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
WHAT I'VE COME TO KNOW
tHE LOUD 100 CELEBRATION 2018 @ CARNEGIE HALL
REMEMBERING OUR LGBT BROTHERS & SISTERS OF PULSE ORLANDO MASSACRE