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Why do we need LGBTQ media? (Photos)

Examining the role of our alternative press

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LAPD Chief Willie Williams at his first news conference (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

It was the last day of Passover, a calm and tranquil Sunday in West Hollywood. And then the news started bubbling up about an attack on the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in San Diego County by a 19-year-old with a semiautomatic weapon. One woman was dead and three others, including the rabbi, were wounded.

The shooting came one day after President Trump’s speech before the National Rifle Association and major news coverage of former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign announcement video using the Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville where white supremacists carrying tiki torches chanted “Jews will not replace us!” The teenager arrested for shooting up the Poway synagogue apparently left an anti-Semitic screed on the Internet. Authorities said they would investigate the attack as a hate crime.

I read these news reports through rainbow-colored glasses. White supremacy isn’t limited to anti-Semitism or racism. But hatred for LGBT people is such a given, we often don’t even get a mention in their screeds. That’s what I look for or extrapolate as an LGBT reporter.

LGBT people live intersectional lives and feel an empathetic gut-punch when any bias-based attack hits the news. But LGBT African Americans are not included or cross-indexed in an overview of racist hate crimes. And there is a whole separate category for the epidemic of murders of trans women of color. The Consumer Health Foundation, taking in access to healthcare, housing, jobs and violence, for instance, said in 2018 that the life expectancy for a trans woman of color is 31. Bamby Salcedo, founder and CEO of [email protected] Coalition, puts it closer to 22.

This horrifying statistic is ignored, as are other facts and assessments. The Williams Institute and the Center for American Progress have reported that those most at risk for poverty are African-American lesbian couples with children in the South. How can you put food on the table if you can’t get a job because of your real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity? But where is discussion of the Equality Act in the mainstream media?

Morris Kight and LAPD Chief Daryl Gates. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

LGBT people are officially second-class citizens, no matter how much money we do or don’t have; or how much we contribute to politicians or non-profits; no matter how many voters we turn out; no matter if the media is taken with one of us credibly running for president of the United States.

To be sure, the mainstream cares when there’s a big newsworthy event or a phenomenon like the epidemic of gay teen suicides that led to the It Gets Better movement. Remember that? Well, LGBT kids are still killing themselves.

But for the most part, we are ignored or erased from the narrative. For example: on Feb. 22, 2019, Thomas T. Cullen, US Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times entitled, “The Grave Threats of White Supremacy and Far-Right Extremism,” which is posted on the Justice Department’s website.

In it, Cullen writes: “In 2009, Congress took an important step in arming federal investigators to deal with hate crimes by passing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This law makes it possible to prosecute as hate crimes violent acts committed against victims because of their race, color, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity or disability. The law provides stringent maximum penalties, including life imprisonment, if someone is killed during a hate crime.”

Matthew Shepard was gay but Cullen curiously omits sexual orientation when talking about the hate crime bill.

The LGBT press offers an alternative to that void, to that willful and benign ignorance. And we have since at least 1947 when Lisa Ben typed Vice Versa onto several carbon copies to distribute the “magazine” to other lesbians she met covertly. Homosexuality was criminal in many states until 2003 when the Supreme Court overturned a Texas law criminalizing consenting adult gay sex in Lawrence v Texas.

But ironically, it was the Supreme Court that enabled gay people to find one another through the distribution of ONE Magazine. ONE Inc, which had broken off from the Silver Lake-based Mattachine Society, founded in 1950 by Harry Hay, started publishing ONE Magazine in 1952. But in 1954, the Los Angeles Postmaster Otto Olesen refused to mail the publication, describing the Oct. 1954 issue as “obscene, lewd, lascivious and filthy.” But ONE fought back and while it took until 1958, it prevailed in the landmark First Amendment case. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner credited the victory in One, Inc. v. Olesen with enabling him to distribute Playboy magazine through the mail, thus jump-starting the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

ONE reported in the next issue: “For the first time in American publishing history, a decision binding on every court now stands. … affirming in effect that it is in no way proper to describe a love affair between two homosexuals as constitut(ing) obscenity,” according to a report about the case in the LA Times.

Protest vs. LAPD. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

That perception, however, didn’t hold with the general public and the LGBT community is still fighting harmful beliefs that we need to change or die.

Nonetheless, LGBT people have persisted throughout our history: Jim Kepner, a writer for ONE Magazine, collected many of the publications aimed at informing and bolstering LGBT people, all of which he turned into an archive that now resides with ONE Institute at USC. That includes The Ladder, published by Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, co-founders of the Daughters of Bilitis, from 1956-1972 and The Lesbian Tide, published by Jeanne Cordova, who ensured that ONE had a lesbian section curated by Yolanda Retter. ONE also houses Alan Bell’s BLK Magazine and other publications such as The LA Advocate, first published before the Stonewall Riots to let gay people know about protests against LAPD bar raids.

Larry Kramer’s Frontiers cover.

Perhaps most importantly, the LGBT press recorded the devastation of the AIDS crisis—and not without financial risk and consternation. When Frontiers publisher Bob Craig reprinted Larry Kramer’s explosive essay, “AIDS 1,112 and counting…,”— first published in the New York Native, Issue 59, March 14-27,1983—bar owners threw the magazine out lest it scare off patrons who didn’t want to even think about the mysterious new disease killing gay men.

As the alternative to the mainstream media, it often falls to us to ask the questions other reporters may not even think about. That’s what happened in April 1992, after the LA Riots finally forced longtime anti-LGBT LAPD Chief Daryl Gates to resign. Mayor Tom Bradley and the LA Police Commission introduced new Chief Willie Williams at a news conference broadcast live to the city.

I sat up front. LGBT civilians had major problems with the LAPD—the Christopher Commission Report indicated that cops often dubbed gays “NHI” – meaning “No Human Involved.” But gay and lesbian officers also felt harassed on the job—as evidenced by Sgt. Mitch Grobeson’s lawsuit that included testimony that he did not receive backup in a dangerous situation.

When I asked Williams about how he would treat gay officers and how he would enforce non-discrimination policies, the whole room went silent. Officials blanched with consternation since they clearly had not prepared him for the question. Seconds later, the clicks from photographers’ cameras deafened the air as Williams answered that he had a track record in Philadelphia of working with the city’s gay community and would do so here. One of his first stops after being sworn in was at the LA Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center. It was all major news, but mostly to us.

Today, we have Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon as broadcast stars and the general public seems more inclined to like us. But on the ground, it’s still hard to come out, LGBT teen suicide is still prevalent, trans murders are still an epidemic and Trump and some states are still trying to roll back or stop LGBT rights.

And yet we continue to prevail— and the LGBT press continues, as well.

Luis Sandoval and his partner Renato Perez (Photo courtesy Sandoval)

Take Luis Sandoval, who recently came out on Univision. It’s had a big impact on him and his audience. “I finally was honest and transparent with the audience and by doing so, I was opening a little door to start the conversation about important issues that have been part of my own experience: such as bullying, suicidal thoughts, lack of rights, depression and many more issues that affect our LGBTQ community,” Sandoval told the Los Angeles Blade.

Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, most of the gay males I would see on TV were dying of AIDS. It was terrifying to think I was also gay,” he said. “There were no role models to look up to. Now that I am on the other side of the screen, I feel it is my responsibility to make a difference, even if it is only one person at a time. If I can save one life, or make someone’s life a little easier, it will be worth my while.”

And this is why reporting on LGBT people not as a “social issue” but as human beings fighting for civil rights is central to the mission of the LGBT press.

The Los Angeles LGBT Center and NLGJA are hosting a free Big Queer Convo with LGBT journalists Bettina Boxall, LZ Granderson, Luis Sandoval and me on Wednesday, May 8 at The Village. Visit lalgbtcenter.org/bqc for more info.

Lisa Ben (aka Edythe D. Eyde) published the first lesbian hand-typed magazine Vive Versa in 1947, with Rev. Flo Fleischman (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

San Francisco political activist Jose Sarria (aka the Widow Norton) with Hal Call, conservative Mattachine Society journalist and gay bookstore owner at Jim Kepner’s memorial in 1998. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, co-founders of the Daughters of Bilitis and publishers/editors of The Ladder (1956-1972) with Rikki Striecher, owner of Maud’s lesbian bar, and Karen Kiss and Paris Poirie, directors of “Last Call at Maud’s,” a favorite film at Outfest.

Barbara Gittings (left), editor of The Ladder (1963-66), and partner photographer Kay Lahusen at Stonewall 25 in NYC (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Jim Kepner, editor/contributor of ONE Magazine in the 1950s, and Jeanne Cordova, author, columnist, publisher of The Lesbian Tide, Community Yellow Pages, and Square Peg Magazine at a fundraiser for ONE Archives. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

John Burnside, Mattachine Society and Radical Faeries co-founder Harry Hay, ANGLE co-founder David Mixner, “In The Life” creator/producer John Scagliotti and unidentified man. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

LIFE Lobby Executive Director Laurie McBride and Frontiers News Magazine publisher Bob Craig (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

BLK Magazine publisher Alan Bell, Catch One’s Jewel Thais-Williams, Black AIDS Institute Founder Phill Wilson at ONE Institute April 13, 2019 (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

The Advocate’s Editor-in-chief Richard Rouilard, writer Jackie Collins, producer/manager Barry Krost at an NLGJA party in the early 1990s. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Sydney Brinkley, founder, editor and reporter for the San Francisco-based Blacklight, interviews Rev. Deborah Johnson, founder of the Inner Light Ministries, after a Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum in Los Angeles in the 1990s. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Michael Goff and Sarah Pettit, founders of OUT Magazine in the early 1990s, with newly elected California Assemblymember Sheila Kuehl. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Judy Wieder, who became the then-30-year old Advocate’s first woman editor in chief in 1996, with Roy Aaron, the longtime journalist who founded the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association in 1990. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

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California

California expands broadband infrastructure & internet access across state

The initial project locations based on unserved/underserved areas that don’t reliably have download speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second

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California Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of California)

SACRAMENTO – Advancing California’s commitment to bridge the digital divide, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state has identified 18 projects to begin work on an open-access middle-mile network that will provide missing infrastructure paths to bring broadband to all communities.

As part of the historic $6 billion broadband investment advanced in partnership with legislative leaders earlier this year, the initial project locations are based on known unserved and underserved areas across the state. The projects will connect to the core of the global internet and interconnect to last-mile infrastructure, which is the final leg that provides internet service to a customer.

“California is committed to taking on the challenges laid bare by the pandemic, including the digital divide holding back too many communities across the state,” said Newsom. “These projects are the first step to delivering on our historic investment that will ensure all Californians have access to high-quality broadband internet, while also creating new jobs to support our nation-leading economic recovery.”

The initial 18 projects represent a range of geographic locations and technical approaches. Projects are being initiated in the following tribal communities, counties and cities: Alpine County; Amador County; Calaveras County; Central Coast; Coachella Valley; Colusa Area; Inyo County; Kern County; Kern/San Luis Obispo Area; Lake County Area; Los Angeles and South Los Angeles; Oakland; Orange County; Plumas Area; Riverside/San Diego Area; San Bernardino County; Siskiyou Area; and West Fresno.

Evaluation of project areas included consideration of public comments, prioritization of unserved or underserved areas of the state, and inclusion of tribal communities, cities and counties. An unserved or underserved area has households that do not reliably have download speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) and upload of at least 3 Mbps.

“Core to our success will be the deep partnerships we’ve built with a diverse set of community organizations and last mile providers. Through many years of engagement with metropolitan planning organizations, CPUC-supported broadband consortia, Tribal organizations, community-based broadband advocacy groups, and organizations like the Rural County Representatives of California, the NAACP, and the California Emerging Technology Fund, we are now ready to take this historic step towards broadband equity for California,” said Louis Fox, Founder and Chair of GoldenStateNet, the state’s third-party administrator.

State partners implementing the middle-mile initiative include the California Department of Technology, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Caltrans. GoldenStateNet was selected as the Third-Party Administrator (TPA) to manage the development, acquisition, construction, maintenance and operation of the statewide open-access middle-mile broadband network. As the TPA, GoldenStateNet will partner with key stakeholder groups across the state to investigate the best technical, financial and operational models to meet the needs of the project sites.  

A map and additional information on the initial projects can be found here.

“A reliable broadband connection makes the difference between having access to full-service health care, education and employment or sometimes going without,” said State Chief Information Officer Amy Tong. “Through a historic partnership between our Governor, the Legislature, state agencies and a third-party administrator, we are taking immediate action to improve connectivity for Californians in the northern, central and southern parts of the state.”

“These initial routes have been identified to accelerate projects in areas of the state that are unserved because of the lack of open middle mile infrastructure to serve them. We are accelerating the selection of a diverse set of routes — those that are ready to build and those that are not ready to build.  This allows the state to partner with locals on these diverse projects and learn by doing, as we concurrently work to finalize all the needed routes in the State. There are many more communities like those in Phase I that will be included in the final map,” said Martha Guzman Aceves, Commissioner at the CPUC.

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Santa Monica

Sen. Alex Padilla & Santa Monica College- Thanksgiving grocery giveaway

“As we approach Thanksgiving, it is important to support each other and our communities, and give back when we can” 

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Santa Monica College volunteers & Senator Alex Padilla (Photo courtesy of Senator Alex Padilla)

SANTA MONICA — Ahead of Thanksgiving, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) on Tuesday volunteered with Santa Monica College (SMC) for their 2nd Annual GIVING THANKS(giving) Holiday Grocery Drive-Thru Giveaway.

Padilla joined dedicated SMC volunteers, along with state and local officials to provide fresh holiday groceries to 1,500 food insecure students.

“As we approach Thanksgiving, it is important to support each other and our communities, and give back when we can,” said Senator Padilla. “I was proud to join Santa Monica College and regional partners for their annual holiday food drive to make sure students have access to fresh food and groceries this holiday season. But this is also a stark reminder that there is more work to be done to address student food insecurity, an issue that existed since before the pandemic. I’ve introduced the BASIC Act to give students the resources they need to stay focused on their education. No student should have to worry about meeting their basic needs while pursuing their education.”

“Having Senator Padilla attend today’s event is so powerful because it raises the importance of giving back to our community,” said Lizzy Moore, president of the Santa Monica College Foundation and Santa Monica College’s dean of institutional advancement. “The Santa Monica College community is grateful for his leadership in the Senate to push for the BASIC Act and other legislative proposals to address the dramatic rates of food insecurity that exists on all college campuses including Santa Monica College.”

Even before the pandemic, 50 percent of California Community College students were food insecure.

Senator Padilla has been a strong advocate for addressing food insecurity and ensuring students can meet their basic needs while pursuing a higher education. This year, Padilla introduced the Basic Assistance for Students in College (BASIC) Act, bicameral legislation to ensure college students are able to meet their basic needs while pursuing their education. Specifically, the legislation provides $1 billion for grants to ensure institutions of higher learning have the resources they need to support their students’ most fundamental needs, and directs the federal government to streamline data sharing across agencies to help students qualify for aid – particularly Pell Grant recipients and attendees of community colleges and minority-serving institutions.

Senator Padilla also joined his colleagues in introducing the Student Food Security Act of 2021. This bicameral legislation helps address food insecurity on college campuses by enabling more low-income college students to access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), improve data collection and sharing, and create a new grant program to help colleges and universities support their students.

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Arts & Entertainment

2022 Best of LGBTQ LA Readers’ Choice Award Nominations

Nominate your favorites in our 2022 Best of LGBTQ LA categories through December 5th.

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It is Decision 2022! Nominate your favorites in our 2022 Best of LGBTQ LA categories through December 5th. The top 5 nominees from each category will become a finalist with voting starting December 15th. Our 2022 Best of LGBTQ LA will be announced at the Best of LGBTQ LA Awards Party and special issue on January 28th, 2022.

Nominate below or click HERE.

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