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Palm Springs elects trans Lisa Middleton to City Council

Middleton is top vote-getter in field of six

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New Palm Springs City Councilmembers Lisa Middleton and Christy Holstege (Photo courtesy Equality California)

Exactly one year after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, Democrats won big in a clear refutation of what Trump has wrought. And, as if to underscore the point, four transgender candidates were elected in races across the nation, including Lisa Middleton, the top-vote-getter elected to the Palm Springs City Council on Tuesday night. She was joined in victory by bisexual millennial Christy Holstege, who won the second most votes for the two open seats in a field of six candidates. Palm Springs is now America’s first LGB and T-majority run city government.

Middleton made history as the first out trans person elected to a non-judicial office in California. The first trans person elected to any public office in California was Victoria Kolakowski who became the nation’s first trans judge when she was elected in 2010 to the Superior Court in Alameda County.

Lisa Middleton talks to supporters (Photo courtesy Geoff Kors)

“It’s all because of all of you that we are here tonight, celebrating a victory, a historic victory for our city and for our state,” Middleton told supporters after her victory.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to represent all of the people of Palm Springs,” Middleton told the Los Angeles Blade in a phone interview Wednesday morning. “I truly appreciate the commitment to diversity and inclusion that Palm Springs exemplifies. The future belongs to those who embrace diversity and embrace people of all backgrounds.”

Lisa Middleton and supporters watch returns (Photo courtesy Geoff Kors)

Middleton believes the Nov. 7 elections might be a turning point. “Last November was a stunning disappointment for so many people in our country.  The forces of division won over the forces of inclusion,” Middleton tells the Los Angeles Blade. “What we are witnessing in the campaign in Palm Springs and across the nation in the results yesterday, is that our nation—and my community— want problem-solvers who bring people together, who get things done. And I believe we are going to see over the course of the next few years, a rejection of divisive politics in favor of common sense individuals committed to building a future based on broad strength and diversity of all of the American people.”

Middleton was on point during the campaign, as well. “We [trans people] have been the preferred target of conservative forces,” Middleton told the Mercury News. “If transgender people are being attacked, you need transgender voices to respond to those attacks.”

The paper also reported a moment that captures Middleton’s sense of responsibility to the larger trans community. “At a recent campaign event, she said, she met a shy 7-year-old girl with pigtails who shook her hand and told her, ‘I’m like you — I’m transgender,’” The News reported. “’To be an example for kids like her … that is absolutely a humbling opportunity,’ Middleton said.”

“Lisa was elected because she was the most qualified candidate,” says James Williamson, Middleton’s campaign manager and husband of City Council member Geoff Kors. “Her win, though, is significant as she becomes the first elected out Transgender member of a city council in California.  Shattering another glass ceiling moves us all forward but is especially inspiring for our youth as they see more possibilities for their future.”

Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur, Campaign Manager James Williamson, trans candidate Lisa Middleton, Palm Springs City Councilmember Geoff Kors (Photo courtesy Equality California)

“This election sent a powerful message with Palm Springs now having council members who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender,” Kors tells the Los Angeles Blade via email. “The candidates’ sexual orientation and gender identity were not issues in the election. Palm Springs residents simply voted for the two most qualified candidates.  This is the kind of world we as a community have worked so hard to create.”

Equality California endorsed both Middleton and Holstege.

“In light of the repeated attacks on transgender people from the federal government, tonight’s wins by Lisa Middleton in Palm Springs and other transgender candidates in Minneapolis and Virginia are a beacon of hope that voters have embraced values of equality and inclusion,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “By becoming the first out transgender person to be elected to a non-judicial office in California, Lisa is paving the way for others to follow in her footsteps in California and across the nation. Her first place finish out of a field of 6 candidates demonstrates that a glass ceiling for transgender people who want to serve in elected office was not only broken, but was shattered in Palm Springs.

“With the election of Lisa and Christy Holstege, the city of Palm Springs will now be represented by a city council that is 100% LGBTQ,” Zbur continues.  “At Equality California, we know that representation matters. That’s why we endorse and work to elect highly qualified LGBTQ candidates at the local level. One of our top organizational goals is to build the bench of LGBTQ elected officials to prepare them to run for higher office. To achieve that in Palm Springs, we spent thousands of dollars in direct contributions, independent expenditures and member-to-member communications in support of both candidates. In 2018, we hope to build on tonight’s success by electing more LGBTQ candidates and pro-equality allies up and down the ballot across California.”

Palm Springs

Longtime LGBTQ+ journalist & editor Thomas Senzee dies at 54

Thomas Senzee was a California native whose award winning career spanned nearly thirty years in media with focus on the LGBTQ+ community

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Thomas Senzee at San Diego Pride in 2012 (Thomas Senzee/Facebook)

PALM SPRINGS – The former Editor-In-Chief of the San Diego LGBT Weekly webzine and frequent contributor to The San Diego Reader, an alternative press newspaper, has died at age 54.

Thomas Senzee, a California native whose award winning career spanned nearly thirty years in media, writing for outlets including The Huffington Post, The Advocate/OUT, The Fight Magazine, The Washington Blade, The Los Angeles Business Journal and other publications, was found deceased on Thursday, March 24, 2022, in Palm Springs.

The Coroner’s Bureau of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has listed his death as undetermined pending further investigation by the Coroner’s office.

Senzee served on the board of directors of the San Diego Press Club, and was that organization’s Professional Development Committee chair. He was also a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Los Angeles Press Club and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, the chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party and a Civil Service Commissioner with the County of San Diego government paid tribute to Senzee;

“I am saddened to hear about the passing of Thom Senzee the former editor-in-chief of LGBT Weekly. I met Thom a little over a decade ago and worked as one of his reporters and social media director. I learned a lot from him as he took me under his wing and educated me. He was kind, thorough, dedicated to the truth, and he always challenged me to do my best on every story,” Rodriguez-Kennedy said adding;

“He was an award winning veteran journalist with over 30 years of experience writing and editing for a number of news organizations and served on the board of directors of the San Diego Press Club. He would check in with me from time to time as the years went on. Rest In Peace, my friend.”

Veteran LGBTQ+ correspondent and former editor of The Los Angeles Blade, Karen Ocamb, marked Senzee’s passage writing:

“Thom Senzee was indefatigable. He loved the news. He loved journalists reporting the news. And he especially loved LGBTQ reporters and media personalities putting their spin on news about LGBTQ people and the ongoing issue of AIDS. Several times he invited me to sit on panels he created in conjunction with the Los Angeles Press Club. As host, Thom would throw out a question like: ‘Have sexual orientation and gender identity become non-issues?’ and then let actors Jason Stuart and the late Alexis Arquette and me vie for ‘air time’ in response. It was a hoot – and informative. And family. We need more folks like Thom Senzee. He will be missed.” 

Senzee is survived by a brother and two sisters. The family has started a GoFundMe page to defray funeral expenses and would appreciate any donations to help with his funeral/memorial costs

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Trans Palm Springs Mayor responds to anti-LGBTQ+ Texas Governor

“I am in awe of the transgender children and their parents that I meet. Spend 10 minutes with them and you will be as well”

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Lisa Middleton and Christy Holstege (Courtesy of Lisa Middleton)

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Mayor Lisa Middleton of the City of Palm Springs delivered a powerful rebuke to Texas Governor Greg Abbott Thursday evening, just two days after the governor issued a dangerous directive to state agencies to begin investigating and prosecuting parents of transgender children for “child abuse.”

Middleton made history in 2017, when she became the first openly transgender person elected to political office in California, and again in December 2021, when she was sworn in as the Golden State’s first openly transgender mayor.

Mayor Middleton’s moving remarks, were delivered at the beginning of tonight’s Palm Springs City Council meeting, are available for download here, in addition to the following transcript:

I am very proud to be the Mayor of the City of Palm Springs. We are an imperfect, but unique city, and for generations we have been a place of refuge and renewal. It is in that spirit of our city and our history that I must say something this evening.

On Tuesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a directive to state agencies to investigate and prosecute the parents of transgender children and their healthcare givers. He has labeled the parents of transgender children — who support their children on their journey to be the best and whole person that they can be — to be child abusers.

Texas district attorneys are uncertain or of mixed opinions on what new directives mean. But there are reports of parents already, who are supportive of their transgender children, who are fearful that they could have their children removed from their homes and placed in foster care. The University Transgender Health Center in metropolitan Dallas has closed.

Please try to understand what it means to be the parent of a transgender child. Please imagine the tears throughout the family as your child told you their truth — their most difficult, essential and personal truth. A truth unlike anything you had ever known. You had a choice — can I and do I stand with my child? You made the choice to stand up for your child, to give your child the best opportunity to be the best person they could be.

And the governor of the State of Texas wants to prosecute you for standing up for your child. The governor of the State of Texas wants to turn your neighbors into his enforcement arm.

Please try to imagine what it is like for the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and grandparents of a transgender child tonight in the State of Texas. Can you imagine the heartache, the questions of what can we do, what should we do, what will the State of Texas do, and where do we go? Now, try to imagine the transgender child in that family and what their heart is telling them as they watch every person they love in agony and anger.

Family comes first. It is not an idle statement. It is what we all know — when no matter what else is before us, if we have to choose, we choose family. Well, if not in Texas, in Palm Springs, we stand with transgender children and their families.

I know all of the stories. I know all of the explanations. I have lived this life. We are who we are. You cannot change a child into someone they are not. But what you can do, and what this will do, is break their spirit.

I know. I am today a transgender woman. But while I have always been and will always be transgender, I have never had the opportunity to be a transgender child. Because I wasn’t brave enough to come out. I wasn’t brave like the transgender children in Texas, or Florida or South Dakota or Missouri — or like those here in California.

They and their parents have shown bravery and courage that is unimaginable to me when I was their age — and they’ve done so in the face of dangerous and discriminatory attacks.

I am in awe of the transgender children and their parents that I meet. Spend 10 minutes with them — any one of them — and you will be as well.

I have, from the City of Palm Springs, a message to transgender children and their families everywhere:

You are loved. You are supported. You are respected. And you will always have a home in the City of Palm Springs. You will always have a home in California. Thank you.

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Palm Springs

Historic swearing in of Lisa Middleton as Palm Springs Mayor

Middleton will become the first out transgender mayor in California and just the third out transgender mayor in U.S. history

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Palm Springs City Councilmembers Lisa Middleton and Christy Holstege (Photo courtesy Equality California)

PALM SPRINGS –  City Councilwoman Lisa Middleton will be sworn-in as Palm Springs mayor on Thursday. Middleton will become the first out transgender mayor in California and just the third out transgender mayor in U.S. history. The mayor’s office in Palm Springs rotates among councilmembers who serve one-year terms.

Middleton – who became the the first out transgender person elected to a non-judicial position in California in 2017 with the support of Equality California and Victory Fund – is also running for the state senate in 2022 and is endorsed by both organizations. She will be the first out transgender state legislator in California history if she wins.

LGBTQ Victory Fund and Equality California jointly praised the news Wednesday.

“Lisa’s elevation to mayor is a milestone moment for California, but also for trans people across the nation who want to make positive change through public service,” said Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund. “While hateful politicians attempt to vilify trans people for their own perceived political gain, Lisa is the model of a true public servant – one who lifts people up and focuses on issues that actually improve people’s lives. Lisa is a trailblazer who will be a fantastic mayor and we are excited for her to shatter another lavender ceiling with a state senate win in 2022.”

“Lisa Middleton has been a transformational trailblazer, and we’re proud to be by her side as she makes history again — this time as California’s first out transgender mayor,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. “Just as important as the powerful representation she’s provided, Lisa has been a champion for bold solutions to the big challenges Palm Springs faces — housing affordability, access to affordable healthcare, support for our elders, the climate crisis and more. We know that Lisa will continue to be champion for the Coachella Valley and all Californians when she is elected to the California Senate next year.”

Currently there are just 42 out trans people serving in the entire country and only six are in California. There are no currently serving out trans mayors, however Stu Rasmussen previously served as mayor of Silverton, Oregon, and Jess Herbst as mayor of New Hope, Texas. Only one out trans person has ever been elected to a state senate in the U.S. – Sarah McBride of Delaware.

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Everything you need to know about Palm Springs Pride this weekend

Be sure to stop by the Los Angeles Blade booth for a photo opportunity (Hint: We’re nearly under Marilyn’s skirt!)

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Palm Springs Pride 2021

PALM SPRINGS — Palm Springs Pride is finally here! While you enjoy festivities, be sure to stop by the Los Angeles Blade booth for a photo opportunity, ticket giveaways and a copy of our latest issue!

We will also be giving away prizes like tickets to Immersive Van Gogh and shows at Broadways on Hollywood, Pasadena Playhouse, Geffen Playhouse and more. We will be at booth #19 on Museum Way between Museum Drive and Palm Canyon on Sunday, November 7th, from 11–4:30 p.m.

As for the rest of the weekend, there will be something for everyone, including live entertainment, art, history and much more! 

Don’t forget to tune into KGAY 106.5 Palm Springs to hear Ross Mathews — as seen on RuPaul’s Drag Race and The Drew Barrymore Show — host a special Pride month morning show starting Saturday at 10:00 a.m. It will air every Saturday for the rest of November. 

Remember that though facial coverings are not required to be worn outdoors at Palm Springs Pride, the city still requires either proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test within the last 72 hours to dine in restaurants or bars. Face coverings will also be required within businesses. More information can be found here.

Here is a guide for the rest of the weekend: 

Friday 

Palm Springs Pride Coming Out Celebration

  • When? 5:00–10:00 p.m.
  • Where? Effen Vodka Main stage 
  • What? It will include performances from Jody Watley, Shannon, Jeanie Tracy, and more!
  • More information here.

Sharing Our Desert’s LGBTQ+ History: An Inaugural Exhibition  

  • When? 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m. 
  • Where? Welwood Murray Memorial Library
  • What? Learn about Palm Springs’ LGBTQ+ history.
  • Additional dates: Saturday 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Sunday 12:00–5:30 p.m.
  • More information here.

Interfaith Pride Kabbalat Shabbat

  • When? 6:30 p.m.
  • Where? United Methodist Church or Facebook Live
  • What? A pluralistic prayer service with a core of Jewish liturgy open to people of all faith communities and beliefs.
  • More information here.

Saturday 

FrontRunners Pride 5K Run & Walk

  • When? 8:00 a.m.
  • Where? Old Las Palmas 
  • What? Run or walk through amidst homes of celebrities like Liberace, Mary Martin, Alan Ladd, William Powell, George Randolph Hearst, Kirk Douglas, Lily Tomlin and more.
  • Registration? $40 with same-day registration will be available from 7:00 a.m. to 7:45 a.m.
  • More information here.

Palm Springs Pride Street Festival

  • When? 11:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
  • Where? Downtown Palm Springs 
  • What? Enjoy food, beverages and a diverse array of entertainers.
  • Saturday performers: Third Eye Blind, Jody Watley, A Flock of Seagulls, The Robyn Party and Shannon. Full line-up here
  • Additional dates: Sunday 11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
  • More information here.

Art of Pride Exhibition

  • When? 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Where? Belardo Road and Museum Way 
  • What? An exhibit showcasing works by local LGBTQ artists.
  • More information here.

Girlz Skate Jam

  • When? 5:00–7:00 p.m.
  • Where? Palm Springs Skate Park
  • What? Watch fabulous skaters including Brianna King, Brooklinn Khoury, Eunice Lee, Erin Wolfkiel, Juli Penelope and Allysha Bergado. 
  • Tickets: $15
  • More information here.

Drag-O-Rama at the Palm Springs Cultural Center

  • When? 5:00 p.m.
  • Where? Palm Springs Cultural Center 
  • What? Enjoy a drag extravaganza starring Rosemary Galore.
  • Tickets: $15 – $25
  • More information here.

Sunday

Palm Springs Pride Parade

  • When? 10:00 a.m.
  • Where? Uptown Design District at Tachevah and Palm Canyon Dr.
  • What? Cheer on local organizations, activists, marching groups, and themed floats.

More information here.

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Palm Springs

The LGBTQ Center of the Desert reopens in Palm Springs

The community came out with an overwhelming show of force Sunday to celebrate a moment 20 years in the making

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The newly remodeled McDonald/Wright building (Courtesy of The Center)

PALM SPRINGS – The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert, widely referred to as ‘The Center,’ has reopened after an extensive remodel and rehabilitation of the 10,000 square foot McDonald/Wright building along North Palm Canyon Drive.

After opening remarks and a ceremonial ribbon cutting by staff and leadership of The Center, who were joined by city officials, audience members were invited on tours of the newly remodeled facilities, which now consist of the entire building. Construction was started in April 2020. The first clients will be welcomed next month, the Palm Springs Post reported.

Graphic courtesy of The Center.

The Palm Springs Post has pictures of the event here.

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Palm Springs police release suspect’s photos in gay executive’s attack

At this time, there is no reported information or evidence to suggest a hate crime occurred Palm Springs Police said

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Palm Springs Police Department Patrol Unit (Photo Credit: City of Palm Springs, California)

PALM SPRINGS – Investigators have released photos of two suspects wanted for questioning in the altercation that left a Glendale marketing and advertising executive in critical condition at the Desert Regional Hospital Centre.

The Palm Springs Police Department also acknowledged that because the victim identified on social media as Justin Wicker is gay, this caused rumors to spread that this was a hate crime attack, however, PSPD detectives do not believe at this time that it is a hate crime.

“We have seen social media rumors indicating this incident was a targeted hate crime. At this time, there is no reported information or evidence to suggest a hate crime occurred,” PSPD officials said in a media statement.

Patrol units were dispatched to the 400 block of E. Arenas Rd. on Friday, July 9 at approximately 1:42 a.m regarding a victim of a battery. Officers learned that the victim and a friend were walking from a local bar on E. Arenas Rd. and engaged in conversation with another male.

The victim told the male, who was black, that he resembled the actor “Eddie Murphy.” It was reported that the male became angry at this comment and a physical confrontation occurred. The male began chasing the victim. While running away, the victim slipped and struck his head on the ground. The subject chasing the victim left the area with another man. The two suspects were seen fleeing the scene in a black convertible type vehicle.

Photo: Palm Springs Police Department

One of the suspects is described as a black male adult, approximately 5 feet, 8 inches tall. He was wearing a light blue button up shirt, and white shorts.

Photo: Palm Springs Police Department

Investigators are working to identify the two men involved in the attack.

Police are asking for anyone who may have more information, knows either of the two men involved, or may have taken pictures of the men as they fled the area to immediately call Detective Escallada at 760-323-8129 or report any information you have anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 760-341-7867.

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LA Gay Chorus member in hospital after altercation in Palm Springs

At this time, there is no reported information or evidence to suggest a hate crime occurred according to Palm Springs Police

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Graphic via Palm Springs Police Department

PALM SPRINGS – A Glendale marketing and advertising executive remains in critical condition Sunday at Desert Regional Hospital Centre, after suffering severe head and neck injuries as the result of an altercation in the early morning hours of July 9 according to the Palm Springs Police Department (PSPD).

The victim has been identified on social media accounts and a GoFundMe page as Justin Wicker, who is also a member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.

The PSPD released a statement detailing the incident saying that officers were dispatched to the 400 block of E. Arenas Rd. regarding a victim of a battery. Officers learned that the victim and a friend were walking from a local bar on E. Arenas Rd. and engaged in conversation with another male.

The victim told the male that he resembled the actor “Eddie Murphy.” It was reported that the male became angry at this comment and a physical confrontation occurred. The male began chasing the victim. While running away, the victim slipped and struck his head on the ground. The subject chasing the victim left the area.

The victim was transported to a local area hospital and is in critical condition. Because of the physical confrontation and fact that the male was chasing the victim when the victim fell and became injured, officers are investigating this incident as an assault and battery.

We have seen social media rumors indicating this incident was a targeted hate crime. At this time, there is no reported information or evidence to suggest a hate crime occurred. The investigation is still early and ongoing and investigators are looking for anyone who may have additional information about this incident to come forward and provide us with the additional details.

The suspect is described as a black male adult, approximately 5-08 wearing a light blue button up shirt, white shorts, and was last seen in a black convertible type vehicle. Investigators are looking through video evidence at this time to see if there are any images that can be released to assist identifying the suspect in this case.

If you do have information that would assist investigators, we ask that you call us at 760-327-1441. You can also report information anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 760-341-7867.

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White Party Palm Springs canceled, memorial for founder planned

White Party Palm Springs is scheduled to return in 2022. Anyone who’s purchased tickets for 2021 event will be carried over to the 2022 event.

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Photo via White Party Entertainment

PALM SPRINGS – The entertainment company founded by gay circuit party impresario Jeffrey Sanker announced that the Fall White Party Palm Springs event scheduled for Halloween weekend this year has been cancelled following the death of its founder.

Sanker, 65, had died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles on May 28 with family members in attendance after a long battle with liver cancer.

In an statement released on the company’s social media platforms, Chris Diamond, of Jeffrey Sanker Productions wrote: “It is with heavy hearts that we inform you of the passing of beloved White Party founder Jeffrey Sanker. For more than four decades, Jeffrey’s zest for life and love of celebration drove him to create a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community to come together and celebrate our unique individuality and collective magic.”

Diamond told KESQ-TV News Channel 3 that White Party Palm Springs event is scheduled to return in 2022, with proposed dates of April 28 to May 1. Anyone who has purchased tickets for the October event will be carried over to the 2022 event. Anyone with any questions about their tickets should email the company at [email protected]

Diamond added that there will be a small family funeral service for Sanker but the organization is planning a larger celebration of life for him. A date has not been established at this time.

In lieu of flowers, the organization is asking people to make a donation to:

LGBT Center of the Desert
1301 N Palm Canyon Dr. #301
Palm Springs CA 92262
Attention: Debra Pollock

You can also make a donation at: https://thecenterps.org/index.php/donate

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“You’re nothing more than a plague rat,” social media users take on gay NYE parties

COVID isn’t causing businesses to suffer, it’s the actions of people. We are tired of it.

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Gay circuit party impresario Jeffrey Sanker and an unidentified male friend earlier this year via Sanker’s Instagram

PUERTO VALLARTA – The disgust, anger, and recriminations over gay New Year’s Eve parties in this seaside resort area of the Mexican state of Jalisco and neighboring Riviera Nayarit, continues to spread in gay online social media- particularly in numerous Twitter threads and on Instagram. One Instagram account, @gaysovercovid has repeatedly called out party goers and party organizers.

Local media outlets in Jalisco and many Mexican social media users are also outraged.

The @gaysovercovid Instagram account has faced a wave after wave of backlash from gay influencers many of who are now embroiled in the controversy after having their Instagram posts publicly disclosed and then shamed by the anonymous account holder. There have been financial rewards offered to anyone who can unmask the account owner’s identity.

The account used the built-in abilities for tracking the influencers’ Facebook locations and Venmo transactions in an effort to uncover where they were attending parties. That brought about severe condemnation from those exposed while many other people celebrated that the account exposed the bad behavior of gay men.

In one example, in response to a social media post that depicted a West Hollywood area ICU registered nurse as a participant, social media users tracked the pictures to an Instagram account (@legstrong) listed for 25 year old Armstrong Nworka. The Blade determined from online searches Tuesday, including Facebook using the handle ‘@legstrong’ and his surname, Nworka had profiled himself as gay, an RN, and employed at Cedars-Sinai in Beverly Hills.

Instagram post showing (@legstrong) via @gaysovercoid Instagram

One of the comments [left on his page] read; “Disgusting, you give us gay people a bad name. You’re truly nothing more than a plague rat.” Nworka has since taken his Instagram account private. Nworka did not respond to a Blade request for comment.

The Blade also reached out to Cedars-Sinai and was told that there would be no comment on personnel matters.

The ‘plague rat’ comment was mild in comparison to the thousands of other vitriolic responses to other party attendees and especially organizers- labeled by critics as ‘super-spreaders,’ who openly defied both U.S. and Mexican Public Health authorities mandates and restrictions to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Palm Springs resident and gay circuit party impresario Jeffrey Sanker held the largest New Year’s Eve weekend bash, which included several events. Originally set to take place in Puerto Vallarta, apparently ignoring the pleas from local health authorities, elected officials as well as residents, Sanker’s White Parity Entertainment company was forced to move the event to neighboring Riviera Nayarit after the Jalisco state government banned mass gatherings and implemented more restrictive coronavirus measures.

In a text to ticket holders, Sanker’s company told attendees to not reveal the location of the party.  Nor could they take any photos or videos of the event.  The text said the steps were necessary because they “do not want this getting out and causing any issues with the public.”

That text was screenshot and then posted by @gaysovercovid as well as other accounts which prompted one local news outlet in Puerto Vallarta, the Puerto Vallarta News, to editorialize on its social media accounts prior to the events;

“If you are interested in still visiting the COVID Superspreader New Years Eve Celebration where foreigners come to our community and throw big parties and leave COVID while causing our businesses to close and people lose their jobs- […] COVID isn’t causing businesses to suffer, it’s the actions of people. We are tired of it. We have supported this event in past years and given it positive coverage, but this year it’s irresponsible and should be canceled.​”​

In a phone call with an editor at PVN on Tuesday, the Blade was told that the area’s main healthcare facility, Puerto Vallarta Hospital was at 100% occupancy with COVID-19 patients – and that the state of Jalisco had reached 65% positivity rate.

Officials in Jalisco uniformly condemned the fact that so many had traveled from the United States just to party without seeming to care about the consequences to the local residents, many of who are employed as staff in the restaurants, bars, hotels and transportation systems.

“They came to have sex- to dance it seems and to make party without regard to spread of COVID,” one government source told the Blade. “They have no sense of responsibility- don’t care about peoples here,” he added.

As part of the weekend long event​ the PV Delice, a catamaran boat that featured a live band and open bar, began taking on water and sank off the coast of Puerto Vallarta on December 31, 2020 around 5 p.m. while crew frantically called for help to rescue passengers.  Video posted on Instagram, Tik-Tok and Facebook documented at least 10 other boats rushing to aid the sinking vessel and plucking 60 victims out of the choppy water. 

Witnesses to the sinking told local news outlets that the boat was filled with White Party celebrants and was overcrowded. The boat sank to the bottom of the bay and there were no reports of injuries.

Screenshot from @gaysovercoid Instagram

One passenger, a gay man from Chicago, Illinois, Emilio Blanco told the local LGBTQ news outlet, Out and About PV, “It was like the Titanic, it went all down slowly. I think the crew just didn’t know how to maneuver the catamaran very well, the sea was not very rough nor was it too windy. We were about to sail back to Puerto Vallarta, but the catamaran barely moved. I saw at least 10 small boats coming to help, I jumped in a private boat whose owners were graceful enough to send their captain help out. It was quite a scary situation.”

A spokesperson for Adrián Bobadilla García, head of the municipal agency, of Puerto Vallarta told the Blade Tuesday that the municipal government had made numerous notifications to the public regarding mandatory use of masks and maintaining social distance in public. He said that the boardwalk during the holiday however, wasn’t closed nor were the beaches. He conceded that enforcement was not as stringent as it should have been.

A majority of gay parties attendees reportedly stayed in Puerto Vallarta.  As a result, beaches were jammed wall to wall mostly with maskless celebrants.  One local resident who provided pictures and video to NBC Palm Springs said it was a “superspreader nightmare.”

Beaches of of Puerto Vallarta Saturday. (Screenshot via NBC Palm Springs)

“It is with sadness and anger that we have Americans at the height of a pandemic surge travel to Mexico to participate in New Year’s Eve parties knowing that people of color are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19,” said City of Huntington Park, California Councilman Eddie Martinez who also heads the  Latino Equality Alliance.

“The action of these travelers has now put hotel workers, servers, janitors, and drivers at risk for the disease as well as to possibly put an additional strain on the hospital system in both Mexico and the United States. Party promoters and sponsors need to be held accountable if their actions result in more deaths for families, especially within the LGBTQ community,” Martinez added.

Washington D. C. based journalist Zack Ford documented a majority of Twitter responses to the controversy in a thread he published Sunday. (Link)

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Gay circuit party impresario hosts NYE super-spreader in Mexico

Jeffrey Sanker’s event has drawn massive mostly negative reaction and condemnation

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Jeffrey Sanker via Facebook

NUEVO VALLARTA – Ending one of the deadliest months in the nearly year long coronavirus pandemic, as well as the year 2020 itself, gay circuit party impresario Jeffrey Sanker’s Palm Springs based White Party Entertainment is throwing a New Years Eve weekend bash- in Mexico, despite recommended Mexican public health guidelines and COVID-19 mandates.

The event has drawn massive mostly negative reaction and condemnation in social media posts, and online as well prompting authorities in Puerto Vallarta in the Mexican state of Jalisco, where the White Party was originally advertised as being held, to strongly remind partygoers and organisers that the city and the surrounding region were observing COVID-19 restrictions that would prohibit any type of mass gathering.

“Per the current state government mandate related to COVID-19, all private and public events of more than 8 people are strictly forbidden. All public festivities in the state of Jalisco have been cancelled, including the previously promoted White Party Weekend at Mantamar Beach Club & Sushi,” an official wrote on behalf of the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board in an emailed statement to the Blade.

“Local authorities are aware of all previously planned events and are prepared to respond in a timely manner should any activity take place that is in opposition to local mandates.”

The Vallarta Daily News reported last week on Christmas Day that the Puerto Vallarta Regional Hospital had reached 100% total bed capacity, overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, as the state of Jalisco’s health officials reported a 65% positivity rate in coronavirus testing.

Mexico has experienced more than 126,000 deaths from COVID-19 and is also currently experiencing a new rapid surge.  Nearly 13,000 new cases were reported Wednesday with 990 deaths. The state of Jalisco which has a population of 8 million reported 456 new cases and 52 additional deaths.

Seemingly undeterred, Sanker’s company has shifted the event to the town of Nuevo Vallarta in the neighboring state of Nayarit after Jalisco authorities forbade the event.

As of Wednesday the state of Nayarit is under the orange status of Mexico’s “Traffic Light” monitoring system. All businesses, and organizations continue to operate at 50% capacity with social distancing, which includes the hotel industry, beaches and tours. The state of Nayarit which has a population of 1.8 million, on Wednesday reported 19 new cases and 7 new deaths.

The Blade spoke with authorities in Nayarit Wednesday evening who indicated that while technically not running afoul of the health orders, they were aware of the event and would be “closely monitoring” it.

The New Years Eve weekend long bash, which was originally advertised on Sanker’s company’s Eventbrite listing of events, as well as its Instagram, Facebook and Jefferysanker.com pages, asked that attendees not to share photos or video of the event on social media.

The Blade spoke with a staff member of Evento Palmerias in Nuevo Vallarta, which is located approximately 45 minutes from the original venue at the Mantamar Beach Club, Bar & Sushi. The source, who spoke on the condition of remaining anonymous, confirmed that the event will proceed in that location.

“The event is sold out and we will be reminding everyone that it’s polite to wear a mask and stay 6 feet away during the party.  If they have a temperature we intend to suggest they go home, but we can not force them to stay at home. Nayarit allows gatherings and there are no restrictions here,” the staffer told the Blade.

One reveler, also spoke to the Blade on the condition of anonymity claimed that the venue did not change and had always been privately advertised as Nuevo Vallarta, however there are numerous parties throughout the weekend and many others are planned. 

“The best party with the hottest sex will be held at an estate in Puerto Vallarta and I’m going.  I don’t have Covid. Like, I can’t infect someone with something I don’t have,” he said. “If I get it I’ll let you know, but who cares. I’m 23 years old and a girls gotta live,” he said.

Since many of those traveling to the event are from California, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health told the Blade that especially with the looming threat of a Christmas holiday-fueled surge, public health officials had amended health orders now requiring that travelers returning to the Southland must quarantine.

“Because of the likelihood of exposure to COVID-19 while traveling outside of L.A County, for everyone that traveled or are planning to travel back into L.A. County, you must quarantine for 10 days. If you start to experience any symptoms or have a positive test, isolate for 10 days and until you are fever-free for 24 hours.”

The Blade scanned the “Nearby Friends” app feature on Facebook and counted more than two dozen West Hollywood and Los Angeles area residents whose locations revealed they are currently in Puerto Vallarta.

In a Wednesday evening phone call, law enforcement officials in the state of Jalisco told the Blade that there will be random checkpoints set up targeting rideshare and private vehicles especially to ensure that COVID-19 restrictions are being kept for any vehicle returning from the state of Riviera Nayarit.

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