Connect with us

Local

LA Pride embraces call for protest march

Inspired by Women’s March, LA Pride organizers embrace protest movement

Published

on

Resist March, gay news, LA Blade

Rev. Troy Perry was one of the founders of Christopher Street West. (Photo by Jonathunder; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Resistance is the stuff LGBT Pride was once made of.

Los Angeles in the late 1960s, like much of America, was a hotbed of resistance of every kind: the women’s movement, the hippie movement, the antiwar movement and, yes, even a nascent movement for LGBT rights, all combined here to fuel the winds of change. The LGBT community in Los Angeles, as in New York and around the country, lived under constant threat of official violence and the oppression of pervasive hostility.

In 1966 Los Angeles, affection between men was officially condemned as a mental illness and viewed as a moral disorder. Sexual relations between people of the same sex — even hand holding — was a crime. Careers were destroyed by whisper or innuendo and extortion was rampant. There were precious few safe social spaces for LGBT people other than a dozen or so nightclubs in close proximity to one another near Silver Lake — Black Cat, Ram’s Head and Stage Door — and a couple, like The Patch near Long Beach.

And so when routine police raids on these establishments escalated and turned violent, the community was deeply traumatized. Finally, a breaking point came on New Year’s Eve 1967 when a celebration at Black Cat turned into a bloodbath; at five minutes past midnight, plainclothes police officers began tackling patrons, swinging billy clubs and pool sticks, dragging people into the streets, pulling bartenders facedown over broken glass across the bar, chasing patrons down the streets, breaking bones and doing severe bodily injury to some, arresting 16 people who were charged with lewd conduct for simply kissing, according to witnesses of the time and published accounts.

A community that had long hidden in the shadows suddenly found itself seeking intersectional allies. Police violence against civilians was attracting more attention than ever and activist groups, like Personal Rights in Defense and Education (PRIDE) distributed fliers that read, “PRIDE DEMONSTRATION: join Negroes, Mexicans, hippies” and demonstrate against “the Establishment war on minorities.” The Southern California Council on Religion and the Homophile urged action by activating a phone-tree with the message that “Homosexuals, who have always been dependably meek, are fighting back.”

An unprecedented number of people turned out — one of the first mass gatherings in the United States protesting police harassment of LGBT people — protesting at the corner of Sunset and Hyperion.

Until recently, the action, groundbreaking though it was, has rarely been hailed as such. It has been almost buried in LA’s psyche. Even Troy Perry, one of the founders of Christopher Street West, says he “never viewed the Black Cat as a demonstration for LGBTQ rights but as an action against police brutality at that time in LA.”

Two and a half years later, in June 1969, a police raid on New York’s Stonewall Inn captured the attention of the world, however.

Six powerful days of resistance in 1969 between young gay, lesbian, and transgender people and the New York Police Department continue to define who we are as a people, a movement and a community. After an intense escalation of brutal police raids on gay bars in New York City, patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a Christopher Street bar in Manhattan’s West Village, fought back and won.

Though police turned fire hoses on the crowd, it swelled to thousands; chorus lines of drag queens and lesbian and gay youth overtook barricades, taunting police with campy chants and performing a Rockette-like show for the jaw-dropped police. “Occupy — take over, take over” they shouted. “Fag power!” “Liberate the bar! We’re the pink panthers!” They pulled cobblestones from the streets, smashed windows, threw bottles, even uprooting parking meters and cornering terrified policemen while singing a campy version of “We Shall Overcome.”

While news of the riots spread quickly around the world, Angelenos Rev. Troy Perry, Rev. Bob Humphries and Morris Kight, formed Christopher Street West (CSW) to honor the uprising in New York and to tap into a burgeoning sense of “gay power” by launching the world’s first Gay Pride Parade.

On June 28, 1970, thousands of jubilant people celebrated and danced their way west along Hollywood Boulevard, some chanting “two, four, six, eight, gay is just as good as straight” and hoisting placards calling for equality and justice.

“At the time we had no idea what we were creating, we just wanted to acknowledge a courageous group that stood up to being bullied by police. It was a microcosm of what was taking place throughout the country and we thought, what better way to make noise, get attention and excite our community than by dressing up and putting on a parade,” said Perry.

Over the years the event evolved along with the community.

It moved to West Hollywood and became a fee-based, three-day festival to help pay the growing expense of the event. It was never without controversy, but fast-forward to 2016 and both the festival and the parade had nearly collapsed in the heat of withering criticism over the direction of the event and whether history or LGBT identity even matters.

From its founding in 1970 to 2016, the parade reflected the concerns of a community fighting for basic dignity, political rights, against violence and for government recognition of a health crisis that killed hundreds of thousands of gay men. In recent years, as the community enjoyed civil rights victories and gained social, cultural and political power, the Parade’s identity began to blur.

Last year, when CSW attempted to rebrand the three-day festival into a Music Festival, critics derided the group for attempting to turn LA Pride into “Gay Coachella.” CSW, they said, was hell-bent on ignoring the event’s legacy and on edging out more senior members of the community. CSW President Chris Classen, perhaps unintentionally, reinforced that notion while addressing the controversy to the West Hollywood City Council, saying that by “adding the word ‘music’ to the title of L.A. Pride is a subtle welcome to a younger generation who does not inherently understand the historical context of the event.”

Indeed, his plan, by rearranging or removing sacred elements of the festival, seemed to minimize the visibility of lesbians, transgender, Latino and leather community members and paid no homage to seniors or to history. Even country-western people felt they’d been given the boot in favor of a post-gay Music Festival.

Groups formed to protest CSW and critics blasted the organization at the group’s open board meetings and City Council meetings. Ivy Bottini, a 90-year-old lesbian resident of West Hollywood demanded change: “I consider the board a lame duck board…It doesn’t feel like CSW understands what Pride is.”

CSW corrected most of its mistakes and issued a mea culpa. Last May, CSW issued a statement saying it had “made a few missteps along the way that have left valued members of our community feeling left out or underappreciated. This was never our intention. We’ve heard your concerns and objections and we sincerely apologize.” It seemed to work.

But events conspired to remind everyone about the historical context of the event — a response to violent oppression — that gave rise to Christopher Street West’s existence.

Mourning for Orlando

Los Angeles, like everyone in America, was stunned to wake up on the morning of June 12, 2016, to the news that a madman had opened fire on the dance floor of a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and wounding dozens more. That morning, Santa Monica Police Department arrested 20-year-old James Wessley Howell, an Indiana man, who was found with an arsenal of assault rifles, ammunition and explosives in his car; he told police he ‘wanted to harm’ people at the Los Angeles Pride festival.

A pall was cast over the annual LA Pride Parade but in a defiant move, Christopher Street West chose to continue with the Parade and it quickly became a march honoring of the victims in Orlando.

But questions about CSW just wouldn’t go away.

In late 2016, it was revealed the organization had lost several hundred thousand dollars, renewing outrage and provoking allegations of mismanagement. West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister, concerned about city involvement with potentially troubled non-profit organizations, required financial disclosure from subsidized organizers. LA Pride has for years been partially subsidized by West Hollywood because it is estimated to generate more than $5,000,000 in tax revenues.

Complicating matters for CSW, in January 2017, several senior board members resigned and complained publicly that the top-down management style of the board resulted in making their service useless. Chief among their complaints was the requirement of non-disclosure agreements that prevented board members from discussing organizational matters outside the board. The board members who resigned were representative of the issues that sparked the most concern in 2016; a prominent transgender woman, a senior man, a documentarian of LGBT history, a legacy CSW president and a Latino man and chairman of LA Leather Pride Week.

The resignations resurrected community frustrations about CSW’s direction yet the organization appeared to be singularly focused on the impact the closure of West Hollywood Park had on its Music Festival plans. But the election of Donald Trump and his anti-LGBT vice president, along with the installation of an almost uniformly anti-LGBT cabinet was top of mind for the community at large.

#resistmarch

LA-based philanthropist, activist and entrepreneur Brian Pendleton called for a protest march.

Enter LA-based philanthropist, activist and entrepreneur Brian Pendleton, inspired by the women’s march (which attracted several hundred thousand people to downtown LA) seized on what he saw as pent-up demand for action that he, perhaps incidentally, felt could give LA Pride revitalized mission. He posted a frustrated comment on Facebook, “before my first cup of coffee,” declaring that the parade should be turned into a protest march.

A Facebook page and other social media using #resistmarch was created along with a website and the idea went viral. More than 33,000 people have joined.

Pendleton found himself on the board of CSW.

“There was a hesitation to have me join the board,” he said. “CSW has policies and procedures about how to add board members and in order for me to join, I understand, the board had to waive those procedures. But once the groundswell of grassroots support became so strong it was clear that it made the most sense for CSW to add me as an exception.”

He refused to sign the controversial non-disclosure agreement.

The idea has been adopted by Christopher Street West, sending the parade off into a whole new direction that more closely resembles the intentions of its founders.

The march will even begin at the 1970 founding location at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland to La Brea before continuing onto Santa Monica Boulevard and into West Hollywood.

Over the past 40 years, local merchants have grown to rely on the event’s ability to attract more than 100,000 people and generate millions of dollars in income, according to studies by the City of West Hollywood. Organizers are hoping to at least double the participation this year.

Significantly, the Resist March idea requires outreach to allied communities and that work is in full swing. Among the growing number of signees: Equality California, Los Angeles LGBT Center, APLA Health, Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project, Family Equality Council, Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team, City of West Hollywood, Women Against Gun Violence, IBEW Local 11, UNITE HERE! Local 11,  CA NOW, National Council of Jewish Women NARAL Pro-Choice California, Hollywood N.O.W., California Women’s Law Center, Victory Institute, The Next Family, LASC, Project Angel Food, Tegan and Sara Foundation, Trans Can Work, West Hollywood City Council members Heilman, Duran and Horvath, Christopher Street West, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles County Office of the Assessor, Los Angeles City Attorney, and Gina Belafonte.

Pendleton told City Watch, “This year, because of the political winds and forces, we’re sort of wrapping the iconic rainbow flag of LGBTQ around women fighting for reproductive rights, the dreamers who want to stay in this country and recent immigrants who want to come here, anyone who feels impacted by the forces against human rights.

“We’ve been fighting for our rights for decades now but the last eight years, we’ve had wind in our sails and seen tremendous progress. Not wanting to have any of our rights rolled back, we stand up with our trans brothers and sisters whose fates are being decided by state governments. In South Dakota, LGBTQ people can no longer adopt. We want our rights restored.”

The idea has spread around the country.

In New York City, Matt Foreman, the former executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, has also been advocating for a Resistance March there. On Facebook he wrote: “WTF Heritage of Pride?! Why do people have to plead with you for the Resistance to be front and center in this year’s pride march?! YOU should be taking the lead and embracing the legacy of Stonewall. Aren’t you humiliated that LA Pride is ahead of HOP on this? Why court controversy and retreat into the dank well of “process”? Come on folks, you’re better than this!”

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., a National March is taking shape, planned for Sunday, June 11, that was instigated by a New York activist who also took to social media to call for a march.

David Bruinooge, 42, a Brooklyn, N.Y., resident, said he was inspired to create a Facebook page announcing the march on Jan. 21 while he was watching the Women’s March on Washington at home on television.

“I was watching the events unfold on TV and I was very proud and inspired by all the women, the strong women in our country who were kind of taking this to the street and getting their voices heard,” he told the Blade. “And in the back of my mind as an openly gay man I thought the gay community should be doing something like this to follow up on the momentum,” he said.

He said he intentionally chose June 11 for the march because it’s the same day that D.C.’s Capital Pride Festival is scheduled to be held on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. near the U.S. Capitol. Bruinooge said his thought was the march would start in the morning and end at the site of the Pride festival.

Rev. Perry said in a statement to the Los Angeles Blade, “As the co-founder of Christopher Street West, I am thrilled to see them change the 2017 pride parade to a human rights march. For me it’s always been about humanizing our community, standing up for those who need us most, and giving a voice to those who are sometimes invisible.  Marching for human rights fits squarely within the principles of CSW’s founding. I’ll see you all on June 11th!”

Equality March, gay news, Washington Blade

The last LGBT march on Washington was the National Equality March on Oct. 11, 2009. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Lou Chibbaro Jr. contributed to this report.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

California

Calif. Insurance Commissioner urges FDA end gay/bi blood donation ban

“This outdated, discriminatory guidance based in prejudice not in public health & is contributing to the national blood donation crisis”

Published

on

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara (Photo via State of California)

SACRAMENTO – California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to overturn a discriminatory blood donation ban policy carried over from the Trump administration.

On Monday, Lara sent a letter urging an end to the FDA’s policy banning blood donations from gay and bisexual men. Currently the FDA requires that men who have sex with men must abstain from sex for three months before donating blood.

“This is outdated, discriminatory guidance based in prejudice – not in public health – and it is contributing to our current national blood donation crisis,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara in his letter to FDA’s Acting Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “I respectfully urge you to permanently lift the entire deferral period in order for a male donor who has had sex with another man from donating blood.”

Research by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law indicate that, if the outdated policy is lifted, up to 615,300 additional pints of blood per year—enough blood to help save the lives of more than one million people—can potentially be contributed by gay and bi men.

The FDA’s original lifetime ban against gay and bi men was enacted in 1983 when little was known about the mechanisms of HIV transmission and the AIDS epidemic was concentrated primarily in the gay male community.

In 2015 the lifetime ban was partially lifted after the FDA announced that men who have sex with men would be able to donate blood following a year of abstinence. In April 2020 the one-year deferral period was reduced to three months to diminish the nation’s urgent need for blood during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United Kingdom announced in May 2021 that donors will no longer be asked if they are a man who has had sex with another man. Potential blood donors—regardless of their gender—will be asked, instead, of their most recent sexual activities. This year France and Greece announced their plans to abolish their longtime restrictions on blood donations from gay and bi men.

Continue Reading

California

Calif. mother claims school manipulated child into changing gender identity

Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her

Published

on

Fox News host Laura Ingraham & Center for American Liberty CEO Harmeet Dhillon with client, Jessica Konen (Screenshot Fox News)

SPRECKELS, Ca. – A Northern California mother is claiming teachers in a small school district in the state manipulated her daughter into changing her gender identity and name in a legal claim. 

The claim, filed by the ultra-conservative Center for American Liberty on behalf of the mother, alleged “extreme and outrageous conduct” by the Spreckels Union School District, leading Jessica Konen’s 11-year-old daughter to change her gender identity and drive a wedge between them.

Specifically, the claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, names two teachers – Lori Caldera and Kelly Baraki – at Buena Vista Middle who, in addition to teaching, ran the school’s Equality Club, later known as UBU (You Be You). Buena Vista is a part of the district. 

It comes after Abigail Shrier, the author of a book widely criticized as anti-trans, quoted what the two educators said last year at the California Teachers Association’s annual LGBTQ+ Issues Conference in a piece headlined “How Activist Teachers Recruit Kids.” Caldera and Baraki spoke about the difficulty of running a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in a socially conservative community. 

After the article was published, the teachers were put on administrative leave, and the district hired a law firm to investigate, which is ongoing. The UBU club was suspended. 

Spreckels is a town of about 400 people in the agricultural Salinas Valley, approximately 90 miles south of San Francisco

According to the complaint, Konen’s daughter began attending Equality Club meetings after being invited by a friend when she started sixth grade at Buena Vista. After attending one session, she decided it wasn’t for her until Caldiera convinced her to come back. At the gatherings, Caldera and Baraki held LGBTQ-centered discussions and introduced students to different gender identities and sexualities. 

During her time in the club, Konen’s daughter began exploring her own gender identity and sexuality, choosing to wear more masuline clothes. At some point, she decided to change her name and pronouns, which she has since changed back to her original name and pronouns. 

Konen said she was aware her daughter was bisexual but did not know she began using a male name and gender pronouns until she was called into the school when her daughter was in seventh grade. The meeting caught both Konen and her daughter by surprise – Konen’s daughter had said she wanted to notify her mother, but she did not know the meeting was that day. 

Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her. 

However, when Shrier’s article was published and circulated around the small town, everything changed. At this time, Konen’s daughter was again using a female name and pronouns.

In the leaked recording from the LGBTQ conference, Caldera and Baraki were discussing how they kept meetings private, among other things. 

“When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work,” Baraki said. “One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”

However, Caldera told the San Francisco Chronicle that the quotes were either taken out of context or misrepresented. According to Caldera, the stalking comment was a joke. She also defended their work, saying students lead the conversation and they provide honest and fair answers to their questions.

In addition, a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association criticized the group bringing the lawsuit forward, according to the Associated Press: “We are concerned about a political climate right now in which outside political forces fuel chaos and misinformation and seek to divide parents, educators and school communities for their own political gain, which is evident in this complaint. The Center for American Liberty is concerned with pushing its own political agenda through litigation and has filed multiple lawsuits against various school districts and communities.”

Continue Reading

Los Angeles County

250,000 COVID cases over past 7 days, unvaccinated at extreme risk

“While the small decreases in daily cases numbers, hospitalizations and test positivity are hopeful signs- we will need to remain cautious”

Published

on

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released the latest data on COVID-19 Saturday that noted the County continues seeing high rates of transmission with more than 250,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past 7 days, down from the 291,000 cases reported for the previous 7 days.

“While the small decreases in our daily cases numbers, hospitalizations and test positivity are hopeful signs that the spread of Omicron is declining, we will need to remain cautious these next few weeks while transmission remains at the highest levels we have ever seen,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health. “With an average of 35,000 new cases identified each day, it is very easy for any one of us to encounter an infected person during the week. Avoiding crowds, keeping distance, wearing a high-quality mask, and washing our hands add layers of protection that can help each of us stay safe while also shielding essential workers during the surge.” 

The latest data on COVID-19:

  • 39,117 new COVID-19 cases (2,467,797 cases to date)
  • 72 new deaths due to COVID-19 (28,417 deaths to date)
  • 4,698 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19
  • More than 10,848,000 individuals tested; 21% of people tested positive to date

Faces of the COVID19 pandemic

UPDATED, Monday January 24. KTLA reported that 40-year-old Christian Cabrera died from complications due to COVID. (See below)

KTLA reported on a West Hollywood resident Friday, Christian Cabrera, a 40-year-old father who was rushed to the emergency room last week, when he began struggling to breathe. Cabrera, who is not vaccinated and his condition has only gotten worse with pneumonia in both lungs “He keeps saying, ‘please keep take care of my son,’” his brother, Jino Cabrera told KTLA. “He knows he might not make it. He might die in there.”

According to KTLA, Cabrera’s lungs are now weak, making it difficult for him to speak. But he was able to send his brother a text message from his hospital bed in Sherman Oaks late Thursday.

“I can’t breathe again,” the message read. “I really regret not getting my vaccine, if I can do it all over again I would do it in a heartbeat to save my life. I’m fighting for my life here and I wish I have gotten vaccinated.”

Angelenos who were both vaccinated and boosted are 25 times less likely to end up in the ICU than unvaccinated people, according to the county health department.

“If you are fighting an enemy that is relentless, I think it’s vitally important to give your body every chance possible to get better because that’s what getting yourself vaccinated and boosted will do,” Dr. Thomas Yadegar, medical director of the ICU at Providence Cedars Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, told KTLA.

On Thursday, the County Department of Public Health confirmed 102 new COVID-19 deaths — the highest number reported in a single day since March 2021.

About 90% of those deaths were among residents who became ill with COVID-19 after Dec. 24, officials said.

Countywide, COVID-19 patients account for about 30% of those in the county’s intensive care units.

“Let’s not fool ourselves by not recognizing the danger presented by the Omicron variant which is capable of spreading with lightning speed and causing serious illness among our most vulnerable residents,” L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Tuesday.

The family announced Christian Cabrera’s passing on an Instagram post on Saturday. 

“He touched so many people’s lives because was a very loving, kind, generous, caring person with a beautiful heart and soul,” the post read. “Christian was always the one to make people laugh and bring joy into a lot of peoples’ lives… He’s always there for his family and friends whenever they need him.” 

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular