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LA queer synagogue brings 1920s Berlin cabaret to life

Jeremy Lawrence performs ‘Lavender Songs – A Queer Cabaret in Weimar Berlin’ at Beth Chayim Chadashim

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Actor and writer Jeremy Lawrence brought a sense of 1920s Berlin to life at Beth Chayim Chadashim. (Photo by Jan Wilkens)

Berlin in the 1920s — between the two World Wars — was a hedonistic metropolis enjoying an era of creativity and sexual freedom that was unprecedented in modern world history. Theaters, bars and nightclubs attracted thousands of visitors every night, enjoying songs, dance and glamorous cabarets.

Boundaries of reality and illusion, social and political differences and the sexes — even gender — blurred. The “Golden Twenties” was a period of cultural enrichment, shortly before the Nazis came to power and destroyed the diversity of Berlin’s nightlife, indeed Germany itself.

Jeremy Lawrence, a New York artist, brought that era to life in a performance of “Lavender Songs – A Queer Cabaret in Weimar Berlin,” held Oct. 13 at Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC), the world’s first queer synagogue founded in 1972. For more than 20 years, Lawrence has worked to translate the songs of Weimar Berlin into English, performing them in New York. His BCC performance was an exclusive preview of the East Coast premiere of his new show, calling the synagogue his “spiritual home.”

Lawrence, who transformed himself into Tante (aunt) Fritzy, took the audience on a stroll through some of Berlin’s hot spots of queer life: Tiergarten, the legendary city park where anonymous sexual encounters were commonplace; gay bars where Tante Fritzy met all kind of men – from communists to national-socialists; and a ménage à trois in the bedroom of a married couple.

Tante Fritzy, a “sucker for happy endings,” sang about her quest for the enjoyment of desires and the sadness of unrequited love. Berlin was a fast-moving city, where lusty encounters were quick and easy and Tante Fritzy lived it.

She delighted the audience with her salacious humor, her charm and her lust for life. Her songs, characterized by distinctive simplicity, were deeply moving and soulful. One audience member said Tante Fritzy’s journey made vivid how vibrant and open Berlin was 90 years ago, something that seems almost unimaginable considering what happened when Hitler rose to power.

The parallels to today’s America are obvious.

For Jeremy Lawrence, the 1920s are a reminder for a democracy’s fragility, yet as much as it is a political system that fosters cultural freedom it can change quickly.

“In the face of the Trump ascendency,” he says, “it couldn’t be more important to show today’s audiences how the cabaret artists of the Weimar Era responded fearlessly to the rise of Hitler with subversive satire and ebullient sexual naughtiness.”

In a Q&A that followed the performance, Lawrence emphasized the role of satire in resistance.“Resist!” he proclaimed. Queers and Jews, after all, shared the same plight during the Nazi era and were also the writers and performers of German political cabaret. At the end of the performance, Tante Fritzy went back to her Berlin apartment and transformed back into a regular, working-class man.

Wistfully moved by current political events, he concludes with a sentence with a double meaning — relevant in the 1920s and again today.

“Be careful out there, he is not going away.”

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Sports

Zambia soccer captain Barbra Banda fails ‘gender verification’ test

Despite being barred from competing in this tournament, Banda was cleared to play in last year’s Olympic Games

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Barbra Banda of Zambia (Screenshot/YouTube Our African Football)

RABAT, Morocco – International soccer star Barbra Banda of Zambia sat out Wednesday’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations contest against Tunisia and has been ruled out of competing for the rest of the tournament, because of a test to prove she’s a woman. 

Banda’s testosterone levels were found to exceed those allowed by the Confederation of African Football, according to the BBC. Those rules are established by the global governing body, FIFA, and match those of World Athletics, which required South African Olympian Caster Semenya to medically lower her naturally high testosterone levels in order to compete against other female athletes. 

The 22-year-old striker and team captain traveled with her teammates to the tournament in Morocco, and is training alongside them, despite not being able to play. Banda also plays for Chinese club Shanghai and is reported to be contemplating an offer to join Spain’s team.

ESPN reports the head of the Zambian Football Association is pressing the CAF for a review. 

“Our FA President is in Morocco and has been pursuing this matter with his colleagues in CAF,” FAZ communications director Sydney Mungala told ESPN about the efforts by ZFA president Andrew Kamanga. “The Barbra case is just one example, but the broader picture is to strive to see how these regulations can be more responsible for the general situation — not just Zambia. Many players can be affected by these regulations, and football is their livelihood. I think the CAF regulations are a lot more stringent [than Olympic regulations], and they put too much stress on testosterone levels.”

Barbra Banda of Zambia (Screenshot/YouTube Our African Football)

Despite being barred from competing in this tournament, Banda was cleared to play in last year’s Olympic Games. Banda scored back-to-back hat-tricks in Zambia’s debut in the Tokyo Summer Games last year, the first woman to have done so, and to net six goals across two matches in the history of the women’s competition.

But because of her T-levels, Banda was not permitted to play in Sunday’s match with Cameroon, which ended in a 0-0 draw, nor Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Tunisia. Striker Siomala Mapepa wore her number 11 uniform for the Copper Queens. 

At a news conference Sunday, the BBC asked CAF’s communications director Lux September how it was possible for Banda to have played in the Olympics but not in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. September denied his organization barred Banda, claiming “There is no such decision from the CAF medical committee.” 

Kamanga responded with irritation, according to the BBC, saying “whatever happened was purely a CAF requirement.” The team president called it “unfair” to pin the decision to bench Banda on his team, and labeled the gender verification regulation “discriminatory.”

Barbra Banda of Zambia (Screenshot/YouTube Our African Football)

“If you take it to the next level in the FIFA competitions,” said Kamanga, “you now start questioning why it should only be enforced in this competition, when it should really cut across all competitions.”

FIFA’s regulations, which date back to 2011, say “Androgenic hormones have performance-enhancing effects which may provide an advantage in football.”

What’s unclear is what Banda did or didn’t do in order to comply with the rules. The BBC reported she took “medication to help reduce her levels of testosterone” but the team spokesperson, Mungala, told ESPN that Banda and other players declined a course of hormone suppression treatment. 

“I think there are possible side effects,” he said. 

Semenya knows all about those. The two-time 800-meter Olympic gold medalist is currently awaiting a verdict in her case from the European Court of Human Rights after previously losing appeals at the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court. 

“It made me sick, made me gain weight, panic attacks, I don’t know if I was ever going to have a heart attack,” Semenya recently told HBO Real Sports about trying hormone suppressant medication earlier in her career. “It’s like stabbing yourself with a knife every day. But I had no choice. I’m 18, I want to run, I want to make it to Olympics, that’s the only option for me.” 

Semenya has since decided to not take testosterone suppressing drugs and attempt to compete in other track and field events that don’t require she take medication. When World Athletics officials questioned her sex, she was blunt: 

“They thought I had a dick, probably,” she said on the HBO program. “I told them: ‘It’s fine. I’m a female, I don’t care. If you want to see I’m a woman, I will show you my vagina. All right?’”

From ‘African Football league channel:

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Celebrity News

Bette Midler’s July 4 tweet on women’s rights interpreted as ‘transphobic’

The immediate response chided the Grammy winner for her use of language that is the consistent transphobic message by right-wing groups

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Bette Midler at the HRC National Dinner in Washington D.C., October 2010. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LOS ANGELES – A July 4 tweet by gay icon Bette Midler to her 2.1 million followers has LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and activists labeling the language transphobic. The 76-year-old award-winning actress and singer was responding to the ongoing aftershocks of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Midler has been a consistent supporter of LGBTQ+ people including presenting awards at both GLAAD and Human Rights Campaign events. Because of this stance previously, many in the LGBTQ+ community are dismayed at the language chosen in her tweet.

Midler wrote: “WOMEN OF THE WORLD! We are being stripped of our rights over our bodies, our lives and even of our name!

“They don’t call us ‘women’ anymore; they call us ‘birthing people’ or ‘menstruators’, and even ‘people with vaginas’! Don’t let them erase you! Every human on earth owes you!”

The immediate response chided the Grammy winner for her use of language that has been part of the consistent transphobic messaging by right-wing conservative groups and other celebrities such ‘Harry Potter’ author JK Rowling who has gained a reputation for being a TERF (The acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminist), also referred to as ‘Gender Critical.’

Evan Urquhart, a senior community manager for Slate magazine expressed his disappointment in Midler, as a fan, and as a trans male.

Freelance MSNBC contributor, journalist and columnist Katelyn Burns was blunt in her response to Midler’s statement:

Increasingly anti-transgender activists, particularly anti-trans extremists in both the United States and the UK have slammed healthcare officials for encouraging staff to use phrases such as “birthing people” alongside women or co-parent when treating LGBTQ+ patients, among other inclusive terms. Often claiming that using gender-neutral terms all but “erases” women when it isn’t actually the case PinkNewsUK noted.

Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President & CEO reacted on Twitter writing:

“From Pamela Paul in the opinion pages of The New York Times to right-wing activists including Jordan Peterson to notables like Bette Midler and Macy Gray, the recent anti-transgender rhetoric in the media and online is contributing to the dangerous and completely inaccurate narrative that trans people are somehow threatening the overall rights of cisgender women. Women and trans people are in a common fight for bodily autonomy and the right to privacy. Cisgender women, trans people, and nonbinary people must stand together against those who seek to divide us. As a feminist and a cisgender woman, I will never stop fighting for my trans and nonbinary friends, family, and colleagues.”

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Outfest

Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival celebrates its 40th birthday

Outfest celebrates with a huge lineup of more than 200 LGBTQ+ films & will run from July 14 to 24 at venues across Los Angeles

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES – As it celebrates four full decades of bringing the best in global queer cinema to Los Angeles, Outfest’s 2022 edition will present a huge and wildly diverse lineup of more than 200 queer films from 29 countries, including an impressive 42 world premieres, all spread over an exciting 11 days this month.

Anything’s Possible (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

Kicking things off on July 14 will be the Opening Night Gala and Billy Porter’s directorial debut Anything’s Possible, the sweet coming-of-age romance between trans girl Kelsa and her handsome classmate Khal during their senior year of high school. The world premiere screening will mark Outfest’s return to its longtime Opening Night venue, the Orpheum Theatre in DTLA, after a three-year hiatus wrought by the pandemic. 

Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

More world premieres at this year’s Outfest will include the documentary Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story, which follows competitive skateboarder Leo Baker as he balances the gendered world of sports, transition, society and skate culture in the leadup to the 2020 Olympics; the UK feature Phea, a modern and politically resonant lesbian spin on the Orpheus myth, starring singer/songwriter Sherika Sherard; Art and Pep, which follows the true story of life and business partners Art Johnston and Pepe Peña, creators of the iconic Chicago gay club Sidetrack (which is also celebrating its 40th birthday this year); and comedian/musician Scout Durwood’s feature directorial debut Youtopia, in which Durwood accidentally becomes the leader of a hipster millennial cult after a bad breakup.

God Save the Queens (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

Outfest 2022 also returns to Hollywood’s Ford Theater for one of the festival’s most popular components, Outfest Under the Stars, this year combining screenings with live performances over three nights. First up on July 21 will be a sneak peek work-in-progress showing of Unconventional, the latest series from Emmy-winner and Outfest favorite Kit Williamson (EastSiders), about eccentric, queer Palm Springs siblings who attempt to create a new kind of family, with cameos from the likes of Kathy Griffin, Willam Belli, Laith Ashley and Beau Bridges. Next at the Ford on July 22 comes the dragstravaganza God Save the Queens, a feature comedy starring RuPaul’s Drag Race superstars Alaska Thunderfuck, Laganja Estranja and Kelly Mantle (who’ll also perform live before the screening) as struggling Los Angeles queens in crisis who find themselves together at a group therapy retreat. The film boasts appearances by a cavalcade of queer faves like Drew Droege, Honey Davenport, Michelle Visage, and Manila Luzon. Capping things off at the Ford on July 23 will be I Have to Laugh: Comedy Night at the Ford, a live stand-up showcase featuring the cast of Outfest 2022 selection Queer Riot, including Margaret Cho, River Butcher, Brad Loekle, Akeem Woods, and Daniel Webb, all followed by an assortment of gut-busting short films.

Framing Agnes (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

As usual, Outfest’s hallmark will be its presentation of some of the most award-winning and well-received LGBTQ+ selections from the world’s top film festivals this year, many in their first public screenings in Los Angeles. From Sundance will come the Finnish female coming-of-age story (and Sundance Audience Award winner) Girl Picture; the Lebanese female thrash metal band documentary Sirens; the Brazilian family drama and female love story Mars One (Marte Um); and the innovative Chase Joynt doc Framing Agnes, which tells the true story of a Los Angeles trans woman who in 1958 boldly took part in a UCLA sexuality study. From the Berlin International Film Festival will come the Teddy Award-winning Brazilian film Three Tidy Tigers Tied a Tie Tighter, about a trio of young queer friends in the working-class suburbs of São Paulo; gay film fest favorite François Ozon’s latest, Peter von Kant, a remaking of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1972 classic The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, featuring cinema icons Isabelle Adjani and Hanna Schygulla; and the stylized gender-norm-busting 1950s fantasy Please Baby Please, featuring cameos by Demi Moore and Mary Lynn Rajskub.

And from Tribeca will come the much-anticipated documentary All Man: The International Male Story, which tells the story of the revolutionary gay menswear mail-order catalog International Male; the Danish thriller Attachment, in which Maja and Leah’s love story takes a dark turn rooted in Jewish folklore; and the Austrian sports drama Breaking the Ice, in which ice hockey team captain Mira’s uptight life gets shaken up by freewheeling new team member Theresa.

A League of Their Own (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

Among the many other Outfest 2022 highlights will be its Legacy Centerpiece, a 20th anniversary screening of Todd Haynes’ Far from Heaven with live appearances by Haynes, star Julianne Moore, and producer Christine Vachon. Outfest’s Episodics section will include an advanced look at Shudder’s forthcoming queer horror history docuseries Queer for Fear; a free sneak peak of the upcoming Prime Video series A League of Their Own; and the first episode of writer/producer Des Moran’s new series halfsies, about six Black half-siblings who re-enter each other’s lives after a death in the family. Outfest’s always intrepid Platinum section will this year include award presentations to Clive Barker and Big Freedia, as well as a host of cutting-edge screenings and the Platinum Alchemy Party at Catch One. The ever-popular roster of Outfest shorts programs will this year include a whopping 15 different categories, including the perennial festival favorite Boys Shorts. And the Trans, Nonbinary & Intersex Summit on July 23 will feature three back-to-back programs and a keynote by writer and activist Raquel Willis.

They/Them (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

Capping off this year’s Outfest will be the Closing Night Gala at The Theatre at Ace Hotel, showcasing the world premiere of the queer and trans teen horror film , in which a masked intruder lurks in the shadows of an already scary conversion therapy camp. The film features Academy Award-nominated writer John Logan in his directorial debut.

Outfest 2022 will run from July 14 to 24 at venues across Los Angeles including the DGA Theater Complex, Harmony Gold and REDCAT. For the full lineup and tickets, visit outfestla.org.

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