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The color of new LGBTQ leadership 

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Photos: All Black Lives Matter march on Sunset Blvd (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

This is what the color of change looks like.

An estimated 25,000 protesters marched from Hollywood to West Hollywood railing against racism and police brutality, calling out the names of black victims of racist violence — Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks.

But what was different from the hundreds of other marches since George Floyd fell fatally silent under the knee of white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin last May 25 was that among the names called out in this march were Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the Stonewall-era trans activists.

Also called out was the name Tony McDade, 38, a Black trans man shot dead by Florida police on May 27.

“Tony was a queer Black American who was gunned down by law enforcement,” Gina Duncan, director of Transgender Equality for Equality Florida, told Mother Jones.

“What brings Tony McDade’s murder so close to home is that this is a national pandemic,” Duncan says. “We have not only COVID-19 impacting our nation, but also the virus of institutional racism. No matter what your gender, no matter how you identify, we still have this pervasive culture of Black Americans suffering under overt discrimination by law enforcement. And when you look at the big picture, Tony McDade’s shooting is a symptom of that national virus that we’re dealing with as a country.”

The Human Rights Campaign tracked 52 reported murders of transgender or gender non-conforming people in 2018 and 2019, the vast majority  of whom were trans women of color, which the American Medical Association called an “epidemic.”

And “the number of victims could be even higher due to underreporting and better data collection by law enforcement is needed to create strategies that will prevent anti-transgender violence,” says AMA Board Member S. Bobby Mukkamala, M.D.

HRC believes at least 15 transgender or gender non-conforming persons have violently died this year in America.

During the march, some shouted these names, too: Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, 27, a Black trans woman was found June 9 in Philadelphia, stabbed with trauma to her head and face; and Riah Milton, 25, a Black trans woman, fatally shot when three suspects robbed her on June 9 in Liberty Township, Ohio.

“All Black Lives Matter” shouted the protesters of all races, ages and backgrounds as they marched from the “All Black Lives Matter” art installation in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater between Highland Avenue and Orange Drive on Hollywood Boulevard, past the Laugh Factory on Sunset Blvd and Laurel Ave, to the newly painted Transgender Flag painted at the intersection of Santa Monica Blvd and San Vicente in West Hollywood.

A name on no one’s lips is Howard Efland, a white gay nurse murdered by police on March 9, 1969 at the downtown SRO, The Dover Hotel. His name, like so many LGBTQ people before and since, has been largely forgotten, though Back2Stonewall’s Will Kohler reported on the anniversary of Efland’s murder last year.

“LA vice officers Lemuel Chauncey and Richard Halligan claimed that Efland groped them,” Kohler wrote, “so they arrested him, dragged him naked, bleeding and screaming down a flight of stairs by his feet and into the street. In front of several witnesses, the two police officers, who were well over 6’2 inches, started beating the slightly built, unarmed and non-resisting gay man to death while he screamed ‘Help me! My God, someone help me!’

“The two police officers kicked him repeatedly, did knee-drops onto his stomach, and savagely beat him. While several witnesses claimed that Howard Efland died at the scene,” Kohler wrote, adding that the LAPD lied to Efland’s parents about cause of death, which the LA County coroner ruled an “excusable homicide.”

The LA Advocate found out, prompting activist Morris Kight and the Rev. Troy Perry to lead a march of 120 marchers to the hotel for a rally.

“We were horrified and we did the first real organized protest about that — in that we asked that a coroner’s jury of civilians was put together — and they had two days of testimony of police brutality (us mostly), with the police saying he was a dirty faggot and so on. The homicide was called justified. We didn’t think it was justifiable,” Kight told the team at Preserving LGBT Historic Sites in California.

“That radicalized me,” said The Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church and co-founder of Christopher Street West with Kight and The Rev. Bob Humphries. “That was my radicalization of never saying, ‘I’m not gonna stand up for people’s rights.’”

More names, witch hunts, lobotomies, brutal deaths, the AIDS epidemic — so many names lost in the fog of war for dignity and civil rights.

All LGBTQ Lives Matter.

Out LA City Council member Mitch O’Farrell, who helped then-Councilmember Eric Garcetti turn the Black Cat and the Mattachine Steps into historical sites, temporarily stopped the erasure of the temporarily permitted All Black Lives Matter art installation and on June 17 introduced a motion to memorialize the march.

“We had a once-in-a-generation moment this weekend in Hollywood as tens of thousands gathered for a peaceful demonstration on one of the most recognizable boulevards in America,” O’Farrell said. “We now have a chance to memorialize the movement in a meaningful way. I look forward to working with BLAC (Black LGBTQIA Action Committee) and other community members on this project.”

The motion directs city staff to work with BLAC on a permanent art installation around the Hollywood Blvd and Highland Ave area. That starts the discussion process with appropriate City Departments and the Black LGBTQ community on an appropriate tribute.

Photo of BLAC leaders Gerald Garth and Lucky Fuller (courtesy Cer Collins via Garth’s Facebook page)

“BLAC is centered on effective partnerships designed to bring visibility and action to the unique needs of Black LGBTQ+ communities. Efforts like this, designed by BLAC member, Luckie Alexander [a Black transman], and in collaboration with Councilmember O’Farrell’s office, Trailer Park Group, and all other partners and individuals that came together to make this happen is true proof of collaboration. And for a new installation of some kind to live permanently becomes a symbol not just to the city, but to the world,” said Gerald Garth and Brandon Anthony, co-founders of BLAC & lead organizers of the All Black Lives Matter march.

Photo: Screen grab of Trans Flag in West Hollywood

Things are more confusing in West Hollywood.

During the recent council meeting, Councilmember John Duran asked how the trans flag got there, since it did not go through the required government approval process.

The Los Angeles Blade was told by a reliable source that West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath, West Hollywood Planning Commissioner John Erickson, who is a candidate for city council, as well as several other city advisors were involved.

Mayor Horvath, in an email to Los Angeles Blade, said “If the organizers of this flag painting action had come to me in time, I would have proudly drafted an agenda item of support for the Council to consider, and I would like to think the Council would have passed it.”

“This action was clearly meant to lift up trans voices and visibility and stand as allies for the trans community, as trans people -especially Black trans women – continue to fall victim to violence and murder,” Erickson told the Los Angeles Blade. “I believe it’s important to center trans voices in the conversation and I hope West Hollywood will do more to include them in the conversation as we work to build a more just future.”

Erickson added: “While painting the flag was not my idea, I support the action.  While activists, advocates, and others are out fighting to keep our transgender community alive, some seem to be more concerned with washing away advocacy, rather than fighting for Black trans lives and supporting all members of our community.”

West Hollywood Sheriff’s Captain Ramirez said he doesn’t know who the female was who sought prior permission, nor does he know who came into the station.

“I received a call and someone asked a question but I was under the impression that it would take place during the march,” Ramirez told the Los Angeles Blade. “Their question was would they be arrested and charged if they painted it in the intersection? I told them there is a section for graffiti, but that their intention was peaceful and nonviolent so they would likely not be arrested. I didn’t want to be adversarial. But it was painted overnight. Members of the group came into the station overnight and requested permission, saying that ‘Ramirez was okay with it,’” so the late night officer responded like the Captain.

“That officer offered cars to observe, block the intersection. That was done for the personal safety of those painting the mural. We didn’t want anyone to get hit by a car or accosted by someone who doesn’t support trans people,” Ramirez said. “That was around 2 to 3:30 AM the morning of the march.

“I don’t think I was misled,” he said. “This was their way of memorializing all that has happened. We knew their actions would be peaceful and non-violent. These are tumultuous times and we need to work hand in hand with our community. We wanted to recognize the moment and have the trans community and black community celebrate it. The roar of the crowd showed their approval.”

As to whether the painting is illegal, Ramirez said: “There may be a Cal-Trans code. It could be considered vandalism like a street mural or side-walk painting. Sometimes they are left forever.”

Ramirez said the trans flag can stay, “as it maintains its luster. I don’t know why this wouldn’t stay unless it violates Cal-Trans code.”

“I am not aware of the Sheriff providing clearance to anyone. I do know our Sheriffs were there, protecting the peaceful protestors, and I truly appreciate them stepping up to protect our trans activists and their allies,” said Mayor Horvath.
She added “We need to direct our energy to support activists who are fighting to protect black trans lives. We should focus our anger on the recent brutal murders of two black trans women, or the Trump Administration’s erasure of healthcare protections for transgender people during Pride Month on the anniversary of the Pulse shooting. Better yet, maybe cisgender people can take a pause all together and listen to our transgender family, center their voices in this conversation, and empower their work.”
However, some question whether Ramirez has the authority to make such decisions about city public spaces. Duran, a criminal defense attorney who is also up for re-election, is troubled by city officials possibly committing a misdemeanor crime “under the color of authority.” 

Duran is also concerned about setting a precedent.

“There is a reason that law enforcement and government officials have to remain neutral on free speech,” Duran told the Los Angeles Blade. “For example, if this sets a precedent and a group wants to paint a confederate flag on Santa Monica Blvd, we can’t say ‘Oh, we agree with trans rights so that unauthorized mural can stay but your confederate flag has to go.’   Now we are regulating content. And the government cannot regulate free speech – whether its law enforcement or city government.”

Additional reporting by Troy Masters

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Pride Special

2021 Palm Springs Pride was much more than a Pride celebration

Everything Pride — literally everything — the pandemic had robbed from us was on full display-the first full-scale in person Pride since 2020

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Palm Springs Pride 2021 (Blade photo by Troy Masters)

PALM SPRINGS – Even the Palm Trees were sashaying this weekend as the 35th Greater Palm Springs Pride Festival freed the city from the doldrums of a pandemic that, while not exactly over, certainly felt that way, at least for a weekend.

Everything Pride and everything Palm Springs — literally everything — the pandemic had robbed from us was on full display, yet with an added zest: It was the first full-scale Pride celebration in California since January 2020 and people were ready to celebrate. Last year’s event was held virtually on Facebook.

Thousands upon thousands of mostly maskless people of every stripe swarmed the city over the three days from one end to the other, something that seemed unimaginable even just a few weeks ago.  

87 year old Dan Bertin wiped a tear from his eye when the Los Angeles Blade asked him why he had decided to attend Palm Springs Pride. “I got off the phone this morning with my son in London, he’s gay like me,” he laughed, “and he told me his husband and my newborn grandson will arrive on a flight from Paris on Friday next week. I am so happy, I just had to celebrate.”

Lydia, the mother of 9 year old Stanton says her son insisted they attend the Festival on Sunday. Mom told the Blade, “at this point he says he is gay so I thought he should see this.” Stanton, who was wearing a mask since he is not vaccinated, said he knew he wasn’t alone but he had no idea there were so many people like him. Pointing to other kid passersby he said, “Look, they are just like me.”  His mom corrected him. “Don’t make assumptions about people, Stanton.” He laughed and ran into the bounce house Festival organizers had set up for kids and his mom followed.  “I couldn’t sit this one out so we drove up from the border today. I’m so proud to be his mom.”  Stanton, she said, was born Stacy.

Tammy Green said the event was her first public event since Covid. “I am so damned tired of all this isolating I could scream.  I’m fully vaccinated and ready for some lovin’ so if you know any hot dykes you can hook me up with I also waxed just for Pride baby!”

Joel Stern and his husband Randall flew in from Seattle:  “We love Palm Springs and we love Pride so when we found cheap airfares on Alaska from Seattle to Palm Springs on Pride week, we jumped,” said Joel. “Yes, this bitch forget to book a hotel room,” snapped Randall. “So I made him splurge on $1200 a night AirBnB and we have a mansion with a pool and are headed back now!”

John W, a homeless and differently abled Transman who has one arm, said he lives in Palm Springs. He got misty-eyed petting Cody, the dog owned by Arturo Jimenez and his partner, LA Blade publisher Troy Masters, saying “I can’t have a dog but I love them.  I have too many PTSD’s and can barely take care of myself. But today, at Pride, surrounded by people willing to talk to me, I feel free and even the sudden loud noises aren’t triggering me.”

Scott E. from New York says met a “Daddy” on Grinder who invited him to Palm Spring Pride after a round of x-rated pics. “Honey, I booked that ticket and here I am, but he was a no show.  It’s fine,” he said as he grinned and gestured at a man of a certain age, “I’m sure I’m gonna be fine.”

Evan Caplan, who visited Palm Springs Pride from Washington, D.C., said “Palm Springs Pride was an opportunity to get away from everything in DC and enjoy the weather, the festivities, and the opportunity to meet all sorts of different people. It was a magical escape to party on the streets and feel welcome by everyone in the city. It was also a reaffirmation of the spirit of the gay community coming together after a challenging and difficult year,” he added. 

Tracy S. flew in from Nashville. The 32 year old Public Relations agent said he came out during the Pandemic and was too shy to attend Nashville’s Pride event, so he jumped on a Southwest flight “that cost nearly nothing” for his first trip to the desert or to SoCal.  “I’m not sure I’ll ever be the same,” he said.

Robin Tyler, the LA based 79 year old Lesbian activist and comedian, took to the mainstage of the event on Friday night and brought the house down. Her favorite joke of the evening: “I met a man in Palm Springs who said he was from Texas. Texas, where men ARE men, and women are nothing. There the right wing courts believe that life begins at conception, and ends at birth!”

Robin Tyler performing at PS Pride 2021 (Courtesy of Robin Tyler)

On Sunday, the parade kicked off at Palm Canyon Drive, slowly making its way to the entrance to the Pride Festival at Amado Road where thousands of smiling people, some still waving flags and their signage from the parade, drag queens decked out galore, young and old, Daddy’s and pups, lined the parade route. Dozens of floats, jumping to the blaring music with writhing go-go boys and some more sedate offerings passed by as merchants hawked their wares. 

Mary Rostow and her wife June watched the parade pass by waving at old friends.

“I am seeing people I haven’t seen in years and it makes my heart sing,” Mary said. “We haven’t got that many Prides left and it really means a lot to me that they pulled this together. June, who was wearing a mask that said “Vaxed” said “We really have a lot to celebrate”

Members of the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles (America’s first chorus consisting of Transgender, Non-Binary, Intersex, Gender-Non-Conforming and Gender-Fluid individuals) performed “More Friends Than You Know,” a stirring song about diversity and acceptance and empowerment after marching in the parade.

Alan Uphold, a former board member of the Chorus who recently relocated to Palm Springs from Los Angeles with his husband Jeff Olde, was moved to tears by their performance, saide the song “gets me every time.”

Many other local businesses and organizations also had a presence in the parade; a group with Planned Parenthood received loud cheers as they marched by, while Wang’s in the Desert, a popular Palm Springs Pan Asian Cuisine restaurant, mounted a red-and-yellow dragon’s head on the back of a truck. Men in leather hawked drink specials outside downtown bars, and hundreds watched the event while eating on restaurant patios. 

Milling about the nearly 200 booths, the glow on people’s faces told the real story.

“We have 4 bags of souvenirs, including the Los Angeles Blade,” said Drexel Simpson from Phoenix. “It’s our first trip since Covid and there’s simply no way to tell you how liberating it is to hang out with people, no masks on, hugging old friends, kissing them like old times and just getting back to normal. It’s like the Covid Liberation Pride. And I hope the world follows.”

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Pride Special

Monét X Change joins Kiva to Celebrate Pride

Kiva, the sought-after cannabis brand, is following through once again with their second annual partnership with world famous drag superstar Monét X Change.

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Monét X Change via KIVA

LOS ANGELES – ’Tis the season of rainbow sponsorships. Pride partnerships between companies of all sizes and queer celebrities of all caches abound. In the whirl of Pride collabs, it’s important to know which companies are for real.

Kiva, the sought-after cannabis brand, is following through once again with their second annual partnership with world famous drag superstar Monét X Change. Monét went Live on Kiva’s Instagram Thursday evening, hosting a candid conversation with viewers on Pride, cannabis and how the two are intertwined. 

On her Instagram Live, Monét started off the bat by calling out other companies who “slap on a rainbow” and call it a day. Kiva is not one of those companies. This Pride month, Kiva has made donations to GLAAD and has pledged to continue their involvement and support of the LGBT+ community year-round, something with Monét cited on Live as especially noteworthy.

GLAAD is an internationally recognized LGBT+ organization that works ubiquitously in the worlds of entertainment, news, and digital media to accelerate acceptance and celebrate LGBTQ+ stories.

Monét X Change gained fame on the 10th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, where she won Miss Congeniality. She went on to win (in a tie) the fourth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. Working her way to the top of the industry, she is now regarded as one of the most popular and successful queens to come out of the show, frequently partnering with her pal from New York, Season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen.

You can now find Monét everywhere in almost every facet of the entertainment world. Most recently, Monét released “Love Like This” – a beachy bop with a fresh queer Caribbean sound.

Joining Monét’s Kiva live stream was a colorful bunch of up and coming New York queens, including the in-demand Jacklynn Hyde, her leggy New York sister Tina Twirler and the crown-snatching Sabbyiana. 

Back by popular demand, Kiva is relaunching the much asked for Tropical Punch Camino Gummies. These fruity little edibles are a Pride spin-off of Kiva’s popular line of Camino gummies. A light, refreshing edible with 5mg THC per dose perfect for Pride month.

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Events

LA Pride breaks silence announces ‘Thrive with Pride’

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LOS ANGELES – After weeks of ‘stay tuned’ on its website and no real engagement with the media or the LGBTQ community, Christopher Street West Association Inc. the nonprofit organization that produces the annual LA Pride celebration announced its planned June programming for LA Pride 2021 on Thursday.

Pride 2021 activations are themed around the daily reminder to Thrive with Pride.

LA Pride weekend will kick-off on Thursday night, June 10th with a concert exclusively presented by and live streamed on TikTok featuring hyper-pop diva Charli XCX and a showcase of up and coming LGBTQ+ performers across genres. In-person concert opportunities are not available at this time. Fans and followers can follow @tiktokforgood and @lapride on TikTok for updates and advanced promotions. 

Further, a televised special titled “Thrive with Pride Celebration” is set for Saturday, June 12th airing 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT on ABC 7 Los Angeles, the most-watched station in Southern California, will feature special guests, performances and LA Pride honorees. 

“To thrive means to flourish and progress despite the circumstances. Pride this year is a moment for you to stop and breathe,” said Sharon-Franklin Brown, CSW board president. “It’s a moment to remember you’re not just surviving one of the hardest years in recent memory, but growing into your truth. This is why we were so intentional in our planning. We want to bring a moment of celebration, a moment to highlight the community, and an opportunity to give back. If we as a community can come together, even for a moment, to realize we’ve broken down some barriers put on us, it’ll strengthen our resolve to continue tearing more down for those to come after us.” 

“After an unprecedented year of challenge and struggle, I am so pleased that this year’s pride festivities embrace the spirit of the first pride parade and our activist roots,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell. “By bringing together LGBTQ+ communities from every corner of our City, we will uplift all voices and elevate the important work of the icons of the LGBTQ movement who sacrificed everything in their young lives at the time so we can all celebrate together in 2021. With a mix of virtual and potential in-person events, this year’s festivities will keep our community safe and connected while providing every Angeleno an opportunity to embrace giving and volunteerism.” 

In recognition of the incredibly difficult work Los Angeles social justice and non-profit organizations have put into achieving equity, actionable change and stability, LA Pride will launch a 30-day give back campaign to support these efforts. Pride Makes a Difference will highlight opportunities for Angelenos to sign up to either volunteer, or donate goods and/or money to local organizations in Los Angeles County. Pride Makes a Difference is a new program in conjunction with Big Sunday. As part of these new efforts, drop off locations will be set up all throughout Los Angeles. A list of selected local organizations and drop off sites will be available soon to choose from, as well as the sign-up details and commitment.

“Our utmost priority in whatever we’re doing to celebrate Pride this year ensures safety and follows CDC-approved pandemic guidelines,” continued Brown. “That’s why we’re announcing this programming first. Any potential in-person celebratory activations will be announced at a later date in the coming weeks. The more we put safety first, the more likely we’re able to plan big physical events in the future, including Pride 2022, where we can celebrate who we are, where we came from, and where we need to go.”

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