December 28, 2018 at 10:53 pm PST | by Karen Ocamb
Top 10 local stories of 2018

NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell announced in 2018 plans to leave the National Center for Lesbian Rights.(courtesy NCLR)

No. 10: Departures

The year 2018 proved to be a turning point for a number of important leaders in the movement for full LGBT equality. Kate Kendell is leaving the National Center for Lesbian Rights; Jon Davidson left Lambda Legal and is now with Freedom for All Americans; founder Phill Wilson is leaving the Black AIDS Institute; and lesbian feminist icon Ivy Bottini is leaving her beloved West Hollywood to live with her daughter in Florida. On a sad note: Lesbian News founder Jinx Beers died, as did gay liberation chronicler Pat Rocco; Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who opposed repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” then supported open transgender service members; and the quintessential Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

No. 9: STDs and HIV

Rates of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia climbed for the 4th consecutive year, the CDC announced in August, with nearly 2.3 million U.S. cases diagnosed in 2017, the highest number ever. “It is time that President Trump and [Health and Human Services] Secretary [Alex] Azar declare STDs in America a public health crisis,” David Harvey, executive director of the  National Coalition of STD Directors, told CNN. Meanwhile, Mark S. King says AIDS activists are “divorcing” the International AIDS Conference over IAC’s pick of San Francisco for the 2020 conference as absurd in the Trump era. They suggest speakers and attendees would be harassed, noting that in December, California resident Marco Castro-Bojorquez was grilled by agents at SFO returning home from speaking at a UNAIDS Conference in Geneva. Activists plan a counter HIV2020 conference in Mexico City July 6-8. (HIV2020.org).

No. 8: Prop 10

The 2018 elections brought a tsunami of money into California, more than $1 billion per a California Target Book analysis. About $100 million of the $366 million to pass or defeat ballot initiatives went towards Prop. 10, endorsed by the cities of West Hollywood and Los Angeles. The measure would have repealed the controversial Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, “thus allowing counties and cities to adopt rent control ordinances that regulate how much landlords can charge tenants for any type of rental housing,” according to Ballotpedia. Prop 10 opponents out-raised supporters by about 3-to-1, led by 5 “predatory landlord” and Realtor/developer PACS that raised a combined $74.82 million and used repetitive and extensive deceptive advertising to defeat the initiative. Big Pharma also contributed $500,000—primarily to defeat Prop 10 sponsor, Michael Weinstein and AIDS Healthcare Foundation. AHF, which started as AIDS Hospice Foundation, believes healthcare and housing are intertwined social justice issues and has rehabbed several SROs to combat homelessness.

Roxsana Hernández, 33, an HIV-positive trans woman from Honduras, died in ICE custody after being taken into custody on May 9. (Photo by Michael K. Lavers)

No. 7: Asylum seekers

Lady Liberty is weeping. President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy includes plan-less child separation, extreme exemptions and inhumane neglect and treatment of those seeking asylum. A gay ICE official told the Washington Blade ICE follows Obama-era guidelines for transgender detainees. But Roxsana Hernández’s death suggests otherwise. Hernández, 33, an HIV-positive trans woman from Honduras, asked for asylum and was taken into custody on May 9 at the San Ysidro port of entry near San Diego. There, a congressional letter later said, she “endured freezing temperatures and was denied adequate food, water and medical care.” She was later transferred to the Cibola County Correctional Center and transferred again to a local hospital “with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV” on May 17. Hernández died on May 25. A second autopsy showed she had been beaten and apparently died from “severe complications of dehydration superimposed upon HIV infection.” ICE spokesperson Danielle Bennett said allegations Hernández was “abused in ICE custody” are “false.”

Emma González became a new face of gun reform after the shooting at her high school in Parkland, Fla. (Los Angeles Blade photo by Karen Ocamb)

No. 6: #MarchForOurLives

It was a tragic Valentine’s Day for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School  Parkland, Florida. A former student killed 17 students and staff members and injuring 17 others. Three days later, bisexual survivor Emma González, 18, called out those to blame: “Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA, telling us nothing could have ever been done to prevent this: We call BS!” She made the same point when the March For Our Lives Tour hit Los Angeles on July 17 and integrated voices of others impacted by gun violence including issues around domestic violence, suicide and police shootings. Ten months later, a Marine veteran with a .45-caliber Glock handgun shot up the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks killing 12 college students, a sheriff’s sergeant, and himself, drawing comparisons to the mass shooting at the gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. But most Democratic candidates swore off NRA contributions and the gun lobby started crying bankruptcy by August.

Assemblymember Evan Low pulled his bill outlawing ‘conversion therapy’ this year. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

No. 5: “Conversion therapy

” It’s baaack. Like the endless night of the living dead, the preposterous, unscientific anti-LGBT theory that everyone is born heterosexual and must be forced to conform to straight Christian conventional behavior to be happy and “normal” just keeps coming back and coming back, no matter how many times a legislative stake is driven through its cold dead heart. But this year, Assemblymember Evan Low pulled his bill outlawing “conversion therapy” advertising as consumer fraud because he found evangelicals who still think homosexuality is a sin but strongly disapprove of the psychological abuse inflicted by what Gov. Brown calls junk science that should be relegated to the dustbins of history. Helping the cause is the extraordinary film “Boy Erased” starring Lucas Hedges and Nicole Kidman based on the true story of Garrard Conley and his mother Martha. So in 2019, might evangelicals stop trying to “change” their LGBT kids and accept love as it is?

Patricio Manuel made history as the first U.S. professional transgender male boxer to win a match.  (Screenshot via Twitter)

No. 4: Transgender visibility

If 2018 wasn’t already the year of the Trump Titanic and the surging women’s movement, it could be the year of transgender visibility. President Trump’s tweet demanding a ban on transgender military service is widely seen as a political favor for his evangelical base and harmful to national security. Four strong lawsuits are challenging the Trump trans ban, including one from Equality California and the State of California. But the attitude change is bigger than the ban, bigger than the accepted emergence of trans celebrities or news about the epidemic of trans deaths. Biased hearts and minds of everyday people are changing seeing positive stories about trans people. Stories like Patricio Manuel’s six-year journey from Boyle Heights to the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California were on Dec. 8, he made history as the first U.S. professional transgender male boxer to win a match when he defeated Mexican super-featherweight Hugo Aguilar in a unanimous decision. People cared.

No. 3: Sexual harassment

While the proudly amoral Trump administration defies conventional norms, the #MeToo movement disrupted the tradition of toxic masculinity and turning a blind eye to claims of sexual harassment. Moguls such as top CBS executive Les Moonves, producer Harvey Weinstein, and once-beloved comedian Bill Cosby faced scrutiny and accountability. Allegations of misconduct also forced Eric Bauman, the out gay chair of the California Democratic Party, to resign as claims against him are being investigated. Bauman apologized for unintentionally harming anyone and excessive drinking, with some construing his inappropriate remarks as stemming from a bygone gay cultural era of sexually tinged flirtation. But others didn’t care: remarks construed by subordinate employees as sexually offensive constitute harassment, period. It remains to be seen if Bauman can make a comeback after almost a lifetime effectively working to advance the Democratic Party.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara became the first openly LGBT person elected to statewide office in California. (Photo courtesy Lara)

No. 2: Historic midterms/California

Ricardo Lara did it! On Nov. 6, 2018, State Sen. Ricardo Lara became the first openly LGBT person elected to statewide office in California, winning the race for Insurance Commissioner by 670,746 votes. At first he seemed like a shoe-in, a popular out Latino who represented the Los Angeles County area residents in the Assembly and the Senate for years. And no one wins anything in California without LA, which turned out 58% of its eligible voters. But he was outspent by Republican-turned-independent Steve Poizner, a former insurance commissioner whose TV ads were ubiquitous. Finally, Lara won 53% to 47%. He now oversees the department responsible for enforcing insurance laws, licenses and regulations. He also investigates fraud, such as that perpetrated by scam artists pitching so-called “conversion therapy.” Gavin Newsom—whose first campaign ad touted his historic backing of marriage equality—was also elected Governor so expect to see his administration flush with LGBT staffers.

Bisexual Katie Hill defeated Steve Knight in the midterm elections. (Photo EQCA)

No. 1: Historic midterms/House

What a rebuke! California turned out 64 percent of the state’s almost 19.7 million voters in a Big Blue Wave backlash to President Trump. Democrats won back the House with seven key flipped seats in California, making history by turning the once profoundly anti-LGBT Orange County into pro-equality voters. Bisexual Katie Hill defeated Steve Knight; Harley Rouda beat Dana Rorbacher; Katie Porter ousted Mimi Waters; Gil Cisneros defeated Young Kim for retiring Ed Royce’s seat; and David Levin bested Diane Harkey for retiring Darrell Issa’s seat. Ammar Campa-Najjar came closer than expected but indicted Duncan Hunter is going back to Congress. In farm country, Democrat Josh Harder defeated incumbent Jeff Denham and eventually, incumbent Republican David Valadao conceded to T.J. Cox in the Central Valley. Trump must now deal with new members, as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, and the multitude of investigations closing in. Buckle up — 2019 promises to be a wild and historic ride.

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