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Meet Trans lesbian Lisa Middleton, newly elected to all-LGBT Palm Springs City Council

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Lisa Middleton (Photo courtesy Lisa Middleton)

Three weeks before the Nov. 7 elections, former Republican President George W. Bush delivered a speech lamenting the “casual cruelty” that has degraded discourse since Donald Trump became president. “Bigotry seems emboldened,” Bush said. “There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned.”

Anti-LGBT hate crime statistics back him up, with data collected by law enforcement show underscoring the epidemic of anti-transgender violence. On Nov. 13, the FBI released their hate crime statistics for 2016 showing a five percent increase from 2015, including a nine percent increase of hate crime incidents based on gender identity. On Nov. 16, Los Angeles County released their hate crime report showing 31 reported anti-trans hate crimes— a 72% increase from the previous year. “We reviewed the number of anti-transgender hate crimes reported for the past ten years and this was by far the largest number,” out LA County Human Relations Commissioner Marshall Wong told the Los Angeles Blade.

And yet, staring down the ugly face of hate, eight trans candidates were elected across the country on Nov. 7, a vote for civility.

Lisa Middleton’s election to the Palm Springs City Council makes her the first out trans person elected to a non-judicial office in California— Victoria Kolakowski was elected the nation’s first trans judge in 2010. But it also marks a major shift in political attitudes. Once the bastion of conservative country club Republicans such as Ronald Reagan, Gerald and Betty Ford, Sonny and Mary Bono—Palm Springs is now America’s first LGBT-run city government.

Middleton came out publicly as transgender in 1995. She met Cheryl O’Callaghan in 2000 and 17 years later, they are a married lesbian couple, “with a little bit of a twist in one of our histories.” They have two adult children.

Middleton also identifies as a career professional and community activist. For 36 years, she worked with the State Compensation Insurance Fund of California and was Senior Vice President of Internal Affairs when she retired.

Middleton comes from a family of sharecroppers who left Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. She attended East Los Angles College, graduated from UCLA and received a Masters in Public Administration from USC. In addition to government service, she worked with the Organized Neighborhoods of Palm Springs, serving as chair from 2015-2017, and served on city planning commission and task forces concerned with homelessness and government transparency.

“I have been very proud to be out as a transgender individual but I had a career,” Middleton tells the LA Blade. “I was in an executive position within the State of California. So at the time I came out, I had responsibility and involvement that went beyond the fact that I was transgender.”

But she also helped advance the trans movement in California. In the mid-1990s, out San Francisco Supervisor Mark Leno proposed a trans-inclusive healthcare policy for employees of the City and County of San Francisco. At the time, insurance policies nationwide had standard exclusions barring transgender healthcare. Because of her knowledge of insurance systems, she helped the person struggling most with the proposed change—the city’s actuary.

“I was able to sit down with him and talk him through transgender 101,” Middleton recalls. “And then, in terms an actuary could understand, I talked about how to make projections as to what the actual costs would be. I was convinced he overestimated the projected costs—but it wasn’t an unreasonable estimate and it wasn’t an estimate that would cause people to say we can’t afford it.”

So, she continues, “a lot of the work I’ve been able to do as someone who is transgender hasn’t been the person knocking down the barricades as an activist leading the charge. But as someone who proudly is transgender and is able to communicate across the spectrum in all kinds of environments and situations from neighborhood meetings to planning meetings to sitting down with an actuary trying to figure out a financial cost estimate.”

Middleton is very cognizant of the issues around trans employment. “Until individuals have economic security, they’re not in a position to fully exercise their other legal rights,” she says, adding she will do “everything I can” to help.

“One of the things that our community faces in employment is lot of appearance discrimination,” Middleton says. “Women have been judged for years based on appearances before they are judged based on their intelligence and their capacity to do work. And some of that discrimination falls more heavily on a transgender population. Transgender women tend to be taller, heavier than those that are not. Transgender men tend to be slighter.”

What can be done about that? “One of the things I have done is be very good at what I do,” Middleton says, emphasizing “very good” over the phone. “You can break down barriers. Attitudes make a big difference. So I feel very proud that as a transgender woman I have had the opportunity to succeed in government service and then to succeed in community and neighborhood relationships and programs and that’s now afforded me the opportunity to serve on city council.”

Middleton says her job will be tending to the city’s needs. “And none of those issues are defined by gender or by sexuality. They’re defined by your capacity to reach out, form consensus, and develop public policy programs that will succeed.”

But to the LGBT community, her very presence combats hate.

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Palm Springs

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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Palm Springs

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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Palm Springs

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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