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Out Magazine editor quits

Turmoil escalates another editor departs Out

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Nico Lang. (Photo by Alex Schmider courtesy Lang)

Personnel issues continue to plague Pride Media’s flagship publications as OUT Magazine’s Deputy Editor (Digital) Nico Lang announced that he was resigning effective close of business Tuesday, December 31.

Lang’s departure comes less than a month after the top management team at Pride Media resigned or was forced out. Out Magazine’s Editor-In-Chief Phillip Picardi left on December 11 which was followed simultaneously with the departures of The Advocate’s Editor-In-Chief Zack Stafford and the CEO of Pride Media, Orlando Reece.

The move results in Out Magazine being without a dedicated editor.

In his resignation letter provided to the Los Angeles Blade Tuesday, Lang noted that he was grateful for the opportunity to have made a difference at OUT during his 5 month tenure. He thanked Pride Media colleagues but then went on to note; “I would have liked to continue that work at Out, but I feel I cannot give my community the coverage it needs unless I know I have the resources to produce it. I wanted basic transparency, accountability, and respect from our owners as the publication weathers a uniquely difficult time in its history, and that was not offered. Thus, I resigned from my position.”

Pride Media, which was created after the purchase of both The Advocate and OUT publications from HERE Media by Santa Monica businessman Adam Levin, CEO of the High Times Holdings company which publishes High Times Magazine less than two years ago, has been plagued with controversies ranging from debts acquired during the purchase to thousands of dollars in freelancer fees not paid by OUT.

Rumors quickly spread about Levin’s plans for Pride Media, his re-branding of the two magazines and other Here Publishing properties he bought reported LA Blade News Editor Karen Ocamb last November. Ocamb also wrote in the lengthy profile piece that Levin has tried to be transparent by responding to media inquiries, including several long interviews with the Los Angeles Blade.

An Oct. 18 Women’s Wear Daily story suggested the new straight owner of The Advocate and OUT magazines was “a documented supporter of conservative Republican politicians during a time when the culture wars have never been more fierce,” he was startled. And he certainly didn’t expect the backlash that followed.

The article painted Levin as “opportunistic,” as one gay observer put it to the Los Angeles Blade on background. He believes Levin is intent on building up, then selling the brands as “assets” to pay down debt on High Times Holding, which Levin runs. “He’s probably bought into the narrative that LGBT people have millions of dollars in disposable income and he wants to monetize the brands. But he doesn’t understand where The Advocate came from or how important the legacy and reputation are for its existence.”

The tensions and problems at Pride were also further exacerbated last summer as well with the abrupt resignation and departure of then Pride Media CEO Nathan Coyle.

In his resignation letter Tuesday, Lang made reference to the company’s problems noting; “I realized that queer media will not have a future if we continue to perpetuate the narrative it cannot survive by remaining silent as those in power starve us. The problem has never been LGBTQ+ journalists and content creators; the problem has always been cisgender, straight men who do not have our best interests at heart, who profit off us until they can no longer exploit us to their satisfaction. It does not escape notice that this is the second time in less than a year that I’ve been part of a team which raised the bar for queer excellence in media just to end up unemployed.”

Lang had previously worked alongside former Advocate Editor-In-Chief Zack Stafford at INTO, the online LGBTQ magazine owned and operated by gay dating app Grindr, which terminated its editorial staff last January, effectively ending the digital LGBTQI media outlet’s 17-month run. NBC News had reported that came barely six weeks after INTO published a story about Grindr President Scott Chen’s controversial comments on gay marriage. Chen identifies as a straight man.

Lang also expressed in his letter that traditional models of reporting LGBTQ stories needed to be augmented. “I believe that LGBTQ+ people need new platforms and new ways to tell our stories. Over the next few months, I’m going to be having conversations about what that looks like with others who believe our stories matter, that they are important, and that the world is better when they are told. I do not know what that looks like yet,” he wrote and added, “When I took the job at Out, I promised to fight for beauty, for truth, and visibility for all those who feel erased and forgotten. I’m going to keep fighting, and I hope all of you will join me in that fight.”

— Additional reporting by Los Angeles Blade news editor Karen Ocamb.

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Kentucky

Another Trans person confirmed murdered this year- USAF vet & Mother

Her friends will always remember her infectious personality & her unmistakable laugh. She loved others passionately and fiercely

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Cris Blehar, (Family Photo)

MEADE COUNTY, Ky. – Another Trans person has been confirmed murdered this year bringing the deadly total to 49 deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people in 2021 according to a tally kept by the Human Rights Campaign.

Cris Blehar, a 65-year-old white transgender woman, mother, and U.S. Air Force veteran, was discovered stabbed and shot to death by Meade County sheriff’s deputies who had responded to her rural home on Woodland Road in the Flaherty area. Deputies had been dispatched to perform a welfare check from an unidentified person concerned about Blehar.

The Elizabethtown, Kentucky, News-Enterprise newspaper reported that the Kentucky State Police had made an arrest in the case only a few hours after Blehar’s body was found of Vine Grove resident Tyler J. Petty, 18.

Tyler J. Petty, 18
(Mugshot: Meade County Sheriff’s Department)

“There was no relationship between the victim and the suspect. We believe he worked for her,” said Kentucky State Police Trooper Nicholas Hale in an email to the News-Enterprise. Petty was arrested and brought to KSP Post 4 and was interviewed about the case. Police say he admitted to killing Blehar. A trial date has been set for June 2022.

The murder in this rural area about an hour Southwest of Louisville on May 19, 2021, was brought to the attention of the Human Rights Campaign this week when Blehar’s cousin Mark Stephens contacted HRC to ensure that she was “remembered, honored, and counted” as a member of the transgender community. 

In a statement to HRC, Mark Stephens said;

“If there is one thing to know about Cris, it was that she fought fiercely to define her life as SHE wanted. Whether it was her military service, her 20+ year career in the airline industry, or her post retirement decision to buy a farm & start a family of her own. She lived life to the fullest and wanted everyone around her to live their best life as well. Growing up ‘different’ in Kentucky is certainly no easy task, something we shared in addition to being cousins, and she tackled it with the passion and zeal that only she could have. Her friends will always remember her infectious personality & her unmistakable laugh. She loved others passionately and fiercely, none more than her own son, Maverick.”

Blehar’s son Maverick Thompson paid tribute to her, writing:

“Cris was an amazing mother and a wonderful person. She had so much love and brought a smile to many. She had a hilarious sense of humor that will live on through those that knew her. She will be sorely missed!”

According to her obituary, Blehar was a former law enforcement officer in the U.S. Air Force and retired from United/Continental Airlines. She also worked as an Uber driver and loved animals and bowling.

HRC has officially recorded 49 deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people in 2021, more than in any year since we began tracking this violence in 2013.

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Maine

Victory Fund honors Maine House speaker in D.C.

Ryan Fecteau is gay Catholic University alum

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Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau accepts the Tammy Baldwin Breakthrough Award at the Victory Fund International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in D.C. on Dec. 4, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — The Victory Fund on Saturday honored Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau on the last day of its International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in D.C.

Fecteau — an openly gay Catholic University of America alum — won a seat in the Maine House of Representatives in 2014. He became the chamber’s speaker in 2018.

“Hate and intolerance will not derail us,” said Fecteau after Florida state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith presented him with the Tammy Baldwin Breakthrough Award, which is named after U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). “Our community will not be intimidated.”

The Victory Fund on Friday honored Guatemalan Congressman Aldo Dávila, a gay man who is living with HIV.

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Georgia

Georgia Tech settles lawsuit in case of LGBTQ+ student killed by its cops

William and Lynne Schultz alleged that one of the responding campus police officers was inadequately and improperly trained

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Georgia Tech Pride Alliance Memorial to Scout Schultz after the shooting via GTPA Facebook

ATLANTA – The family of a non-binary LGBTQ+ student leader shot to death in 2017 by university police officers during a call over a mental health breakdown crisis situation, has agreed to a settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit that the family had filed against Georgia Tech.

The family of 21-year-old Scout Schultz, who was intersex, non-binary and bisexual, a fourth-year student and head of Georgia Tech’s LGBTQ+ Pride Alliance, settled this week after the university agreed to pay the family a $1 million settlement in their case.

The lawsuit, filed in September of 2019 by the parents of the slain student, William and Lynne Schultz in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, alleged that one of the responding campus police officers was inadequately and improperly trained.

In the suit, the Schultze’s alleged that Tech campus police officer Tyler Beck, 23, “had received no training in crisis intervention.” The suit goes on to say that the other responding officers “remained calm and followed standard de-escalation techniques without initiating physical force directed” at Schultz, but Beck “did not de-escalate and instead used deadly physical force.”

Schultz called 911 on Sept. 16, 2017. Campus police responded and found Schultz in a residential area of campus holding what appeared to be a knife. Schultz approached the officers in what later characterized in the official report of the incident as a ‘menacing manner.’ One officer told Schultz that “nobody wants to hurt you” and another told the distraught student to “relax.”

But as Schultz continued to advance, one of the officers, Beck, shot Schultz once in the heart and they died about 30 minutes later at Grady Memorial Hospital.

During a subsequent investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found three suicide notes and Schultz’s parents confirmed he suffered from depression and tried to kill himself two years earlier the Associated Press reported.

The Schultz’s claimed that the university, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the City of Atlanta and Fulton County prosecutors had kept details of the case from the family, Attorney Chris Stewart, who represents Schultz’s parents said in a press conference when the lawsuit was first announced.

“Schultz’s death was the result of Georgia Tech’s and the state of Georgia’s failure over time to properly train their personnel to act in such a way as to prevent the exclusion of persons such as Schultz from the safety to which all students were entitled on the campus of Georgia Tech,” the lawsuit stated.   The Schultze’s filed the lawsuit against the school, Beck and the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution later reported that now former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said Beck won’t face criminal charges in Schultz’s death. Howard said two use-of-force experts concluded the shooting was justified.

According to Project Q Atlanta, the university has assigned $1 million to mental health and wellness initiatives for LGBTQ+ students, has awarded Schultz’s degree posthumously to their family, and now requires all Georgia Tech campus police officers to carry tasers as well as guns and complete 40 hours of crisis intervention training.

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