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Pride march is needed more than ever

It’s supposed to be Pride season in Los Angeles, but you wouldn’t know it.

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(Blade file photo)

It’s supposed to be Pride season in Los Angeles, but you wouldn’t know it.

It’s supposed to be a time you’d normally expect a thousand and one events at dozens of locations celebrating every color of the rainbow, glittering events replete with deep-pocketed corporate sponsors and breathless expectations for the celebratory Pride Parade. 

It’s supposed to be time for a Proud people to honor an heroic generation who, exhausted by institutionalized oppression and violence, donned their best drag and Birkenstocks, stood up and fought back, saying ‘fuck you’ to the closet of invisibility and second-class subjugation.

Tragically, Pride events seem almost nonexistent this year, but Pride is bursting out all over.  

It has been hobbled by the unexpectedly erratic nature of public health restrictions during a pandemic that has killed more than 3 million people worldwide, 62,000 in California and 25,000 in Los Angeles County.

For more than a year, we have sacrificed much of our local economy to make sure the disease could be contained and that lives were spared. 

And now, things have changed.  

Thanks to science, miracles in medicine, measures taken by thousands of heroic workers and our difficult sacrifices, we stand before the dawn of a brighter day. COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are, to quote a New York Times headline, “Dropping Like a Rock.”

But Pride Month should be kicking into high gear by now, adjusting to and dealing with the ‘known unknowns’ that have made any kind of a traditional organized event impractical and nearly impossible.  

Unfortunately sponsors require liquidity and lead time to support organized events and many have been devastated financially by the COVID economy. Additionally, they have a heightened concern for liability in 2021 without an ‘all clear’ from the LA County Department of Health.

But we are supposed to be a community that knows how to navigate these dark choppy waters.

“Before Stonewall” (Image courtesy First Run Features)

The 1969 Stonewall rebellion in New York was a spontaneous event. It lasted for days and has resonated for more than 50 years. Our response to the AIDS crisis was a spontaneous coming together as a diverse community that humanized our plight and moved science, politics, the arts and pockets of society to take action. We fought ignorance and wave after wave of significant attacks and violence against our people by creating grassroots infrastructures to serve our needs. The LA LGBT Center, GLAAD, even more recently, the launching of the Los Angeles Blade were all responses to our need to take care of our own.

So, where are LA’s LGBT leaders now, when you need them? Are there any? 

Why isn’t anyone demanding a Pride celebration, even impromptu?

We don’t need permission. 

We don’t need a budget. 

We don’t need any City to say we can take the streets and march in peaceful assembly. 

It’s our first amendment right, afterall.

How is it possible that with less than a month to go, Christopher Street West — an organization that has hosted LA Pride in Los Angeles since 1970 — is silent on whether there will be any live events or even a march? 

After breaking up with the City of West Hollywood last year, the best CSW seems to be able to execute is a KABC broadcast.  While that was great during the worst of COVID and I loved last year’s show, a virtual-only approach to a life with Pride is not enough.

LGBTQ people are 12% of the population in Greater Los Angeles County – but are the haven cities of Los Angeles and West Hollywood even doing anything? They don’t seem to know much.

During a mid-April West Hollywood City Council meeting, the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce proposed some ideas that would have utilized the services of Jeff Consoletti’s JJLA to create a series of interactive events and highlight WeHo businesses. But there were too many perceived unknowns — the status of LA County’s COVID restrictions being the biggest hurdle — to fully embrace it.  

It was decided at that meeting that West Hollywood will host WeHo Pride during the weekend of June 25, 26 and 27. In addition to the City’s yearly One City One Pride programming (so far virtual), the Chamber of Commerce was tasked to work with businesses to have them develop Pride themes in their establishments and Out on Robertson will feature LGBTQ Non-profit booths. 

Councilmember Sepi Shyne, noted the lack of a march component, saying that a large gathering event should be expected. Councilmember John D’Amico agreed and called for funding of a trans-focused aspect of whatever event comes together. 

The LA City Council has yet to discuss Pride specifics.

Yet, there are models for how to do Pride in uncertain times.

Last year, a group of Black LGBT activists called for a solidarity march that replaced Pride. It was held in solidarity with Black Lives Matters, highlighting the murders of Black transgender people nationwide. It was called the ‘All Black Lives Matter March.’

That march was a nearly spontaneous event. It was an entirely trouble-free celebration march of inclusion and diversity — and it was among the most spectacular and most joyous Pride days of my nearly 40 years attending Pride marches and events around the world.

It was cathartic for the hundreds of thousands of COVID-masked people who gathered that day, a day that gave hundreds of thousands of Angelenos who had felt bereft of a way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of one of the world’s largest and most important parades.

The rage that built up after the May 25, 2020 police killing of George Floyd and the earlier fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor finally awoke a nation to the thousands of similar murders exposing the cancer of systemic racism institutionalized in our society and culture. 

Our LGBTQ+ community woke up, spoke up and acted up, too.

Throngs assembled at the end of 2017 LA Pride March and #ResistMarch. (Photo by #ResistMarch)

We’ve been on edge since the election of Donald Trump, which promised a near total erasure of all political and social progress we had made over decades of fighting. Trans people, in particular, were targeted by Trump.

LA responded with the Resist March with thousands of people taking over Hollywood Boulevard and marching to a rally in West Hollywood. We wanted to put the Trump Administration on notice that ‘we weren’t going to take it,’ we are not going back and we will not be erased!

Remember their names: Stanley Almodovar III, 23, Amanda L. Alvear, 25, Oscar A. Aracena Montero, 26, Rodolfo Ayala Ayala, 33, Antonio Davon Brown, 29, Darryl Roman Burt II, 29, Angel Candelario-Padro, 28, Juan Chavez Martinez, 25, Luis Daniel Conde, 39, Cory James Connell, 21, Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25, Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32, Simón Adrian Carrillo Fernández, 31, Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25, Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26, Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz, 22, Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, Paul Terrell Henry, 41, Frank Hernandez, 27, Miguel Angel Honorato, 30, Javier Jorge Reyes, 40, Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19, Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30, Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25, Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32, Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21, Brenda Marquez McCool, 49, Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25, Kimberly Jean Morris, 37, Akyra Monet Murray, 18, Luis Omar Ocasio Capo, 20, Geraldo A. Ortiz Jimenez, 25, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36, Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32, Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35, Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25, Jean Carlos Nieves Rodríguez, 27, Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-Rosado, 35, Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24, Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan, 24, Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34, Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33, Martin Benitez Torres, 33, Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24, Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez, 37, Luis Sergio Vielma, 22, Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velázquez, 50, Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37, Jerald Arthur Wright, 31.

And then there was that morning of LA Pride’s Parade in 2016 when we all woke up to the horrifying news that 49 members of our community had been murdered by a madman at the Pulse dance club in Orlando, Fla. We soon discovered that another lone-wolf anti-LGBTQ attack had been planned for the parade in WeHo. One man from Ohio was arrested with guns in his car; we feared others had escaped detection. But we resolved to courageously march anyway, turning the Pride celebration into a remembrance of the lives lost in Orlando.

ACT UP die in at LA Pride 1990. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

We were so resolved in large part to our many years of experience celebrating Pride during the darkest days of the AIDS crisis. Those were remarkable year when we fought for our lives against another pandemic. And we fought in impromptu ways with anger and pride and always with overflowing joy.

Now, after more than 14 months of COVID lockdown, we want to break free. 

Bouncing off the June 25, 26 and 27 WeHo Pride weekend announcement, I propose a covid-safe, socially distant and impromptu celebratory march from Fairfax to Robertson along Santa Monica Boulevard on the morning of Sunday June 27.

We have so much to celebrate. We have climbed out of a Covid-19 disaster. Our community has embraced vaccinations. We have a new President and there is renewed hope that many of us have never experience before. It’s a liberation.

(Photo by Austin Mendoza)

Pride is bigger than any one of us. We must refer to the past lessons of Pride and celebrate together in 2021.

But will we?

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OAN’s anti-LGBTQ hate supported by cable & streaming services

OAN reportedly relies on subscriber fees, also known as carriage fees, rather than advertising as a prime revenue source

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Graphic via Media Matters for America

By Beatrice Mount & Alex Paterson | WASHINGTON – The right wing conspiracy theory One America News channel regularly uses extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, combating what it has called “militant LGBTQ recruitment” strategies.

OAN’s baseless fearmongering about Drag Queen Story Hour, Demi Lovato’s gender identity, and transgender athletes, however, is being financially supported by cable companies and streaming services that claim to be celebrating LGBTQ people and Pride month.

Rather than relying on “advertising as a prime revenue source,” OAN reportedly relies on subscriber fees, also known as carriage fees, as its primary funding source. Verizon and DirecTV (and its parent company, AT&T) pay OAN subscriber fees in exchange for the network being available to their customers, whose subscription costs pay for OAN. While it’s difficult to quantify exactly how much revenue these cable contracts generate, Bloomberg previously reported that OAN “gets paid about 15 cents per subscriber by the companies.” 

OAN also generates revenue through subscriber fees via its streaming app, which charges its subscribers $4.99 per month and is available to download on RokuAmazon FireGoogle Play, and Apple TV. In exchange for hosting OAN in their channel libraries, these companies reportedly take a percentage of that subscription fee. For example, according to Yahoo Finance and The Motley Fool, Roku takes 20% of subscription fees, and Apple TV takes 30% during the first year and 15% in subsequent years. 

These companies have all celebrated Pride month through statements and social media support, including VerizonAmazonGoogleAppleRoku, and DirecTv and its parent company AT&T. However, these companies also enable OAN to maintain a steady income, even though the network is in direct opposition to their corporate commitments to the LGBTQ community.

What’s more, OAN’s hateful rhetoric adds fuel to the rising attacks on LGBTQ people, particularly trans people: Anti-trans violence in the U.S. has reached record high levelshate crimes targeting LGBTQ people are on the rise, and state legislatures have proposed over 100 bills to restrict trans rights so far in 2021 alone. 

OAN hosts and guests regularly spread anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and misinformation, particularly targeting trans people

In the days leading up and following the first day of Pride Month in June, some of OAN’s most prominent hosts — Kara McKinney, Stephanie Hamill, and Dan Ball — and their guests have regularly used the platform to fearmonger about LGBTQ people, including claiming that Pride “is a really sad indicator of just how far the cultural rot has gone.” Here are some of the worst examples:

Tipping Point with Kara McKinney

  • On May 20, McKinney suggested that “militant LGBTQ recruitment” has caused more young people to identify as LGBTQ. She also claimed PBS programming that featured Drag Queen Story Hour was “radical LGBTQ propaganda” and a ”mockery and caricature of true womanhood, basically the gender equivalent of blackface or cultural appropriation.”
  • Later in that same segment, McKinney was joined by RedState’s Brandon Morse, who claimed that PBS is “introducing what is actually a mental illness” to kids through covering Drag Queen Story Hour in order “to make good little soldiers for the hard-left, progressive agenda,” comparing it to “the sexual abuse of our children.” He also said that being trans is “a trend, and when this trend wears off the people who actually submitted these kids, pressured them — all the celebrities who signed up for it and pushed it on them, the corporations who signed on and pushed it on them — none of these people are going to look good in the long run, and I can’t wait for that day to come.”
  • On May 24, McKinney asserted that people who affirm trans youth are “leading young people, especially those suffering from mental illness and who are typically being raised in unstable households, into a life of gender confusion.” 
  • In that same edition of Tipping Point, Morse said that being trans is a “trend” and compared it to “the emo craze, the scene kids, you know, all these people dressing in weird ways to try to stand out.” He also claimed that as “abortions are becoming harder and harder to get for Planned Parenthood to perform, they’re moving toward … gender transition treatments” and pushing trans youth “into this weird LGBT-centric agenda that forces them to do something that they can’t take back years later.”
  • On June 1, McKinney commemorated Pride month by proclaiming, “We of course pray for those suffering with same-sex attraction,” and she equated being LGBTQ to a “sin” and a “vice.” She also lamented that “for being a country founded on Judeo-Christian principles, the fact that we dedicate an entire month to one of the seven deadly sins, which is pride, the cause in many ways of the fall itself, is a really sad indicator of just how far the cultural rot has gone.” 
  • Later in that same episode, far-right pastor Jesse Lee Peterson said people should celebrate “white history month” instead of “perverted” LGBTQ Pride. He also asserted that “Christians must stand up and fight against evil” and questioned, “What’s happy about being perverted?”

In Focus with Stephanie Hamill

  • On May 20, one day after singer Demi Lovato came out as nonbinary and announced they will now use gender-neutral “they/them” pronouns, Hamill suggested they were “desperately trying to stay relevant.” Turning Point USA’s Alex Clark claimed that “the ultimate magic eraser for bad PR is to change your sexual orientation or your gender identity” and accused Lovato of being “severely mentally ill.” (Hamill and her guest also repeatedly misgendered Lovato the following day.)
  • During a May 28 appearance on In Focus, Terry Schilling, the executive director of anti-LGBTQ group the American Principles Projectcalled for a “ban” on best practice health care for trans youth and claimed such care is “absolutely insane” and “all meant to destroy us as human beings.”
  • Later in that segment, during a rant about Kellogg’s Pride-themed cereal, Hamill said that “kids are getting bombarded with liberal propaganda,” and Schilling questioned if LGBTQ advocates “didn’t have the billions of dollars a year that they spend in this movement, what percentage of Americans would identify as LGBT or have some type of confusion about their gender? My guess is that it won’t be that many.”
  • In a June 1 segment with the right-wing Libertas Institute’s Emma Phillips, Hamill complained that Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues is “pushing the drag culture so hard on kids” and claimed that “we see this kind of indoctrination going on in schools, the anti-American agenda, too.” Phillips said that “parents have been posting on social media, ‘My child just learned that Jesus is nonbinary,’ and it’s like this laundry list of insane things that kids are being exposed to.”
  • On June 2, in an apparent violation of a court-issued gag order, Jeff Younger, a father in a high-profile Texas child custody dispute, joined Hamill to spread anti-trans rhetoric about his trans child’s “abnormal gender expression.”

Real America with Dan Ball

  • On June 8, while defending a Loudoun County, Virginia, public school teacher who refused to refer to trans students by their correct name and pronouns, Ball claimed that affirming trans youth is participating in “pronoun garbage.”
  • Ball has also repeatedly denigrated prominent trans people. He has misgendered and deadnamed U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. Ball also ridiculed Caitlyn Jenner, saying she was “dick-tator-less,” while his guests, far-right commentators the Hodgetwins, said being trans is “just a wardrobe” and a “bizarre lifestyle.”

Beatrice Mount is a media analyst and researcher for Media Matters for America. She’s a George Washington University Graduate with a degree in gender studies and political science.

Alex Paterson is a researcher for the LGBTQ program at Media Matters, where he has worked since 2019. Alex holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Montana State University and has a background in LGBTQ advocacy, including previous work at the National LGBTQ Task Force and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The preceding commentary and analysis was published by Media Matters and is republished by permission.

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Pride at Work, U.S. Dept. of Labor recommits to inclusive workplaces

Pride Month is for LGBTQ+ people to be proud & visible in a world that tells us not to be; recommitting to inclusive workplaces

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U.S. Department pf Labor, Frances Perkins Building, Washington D.C. (Photo Credit: GSA U.S. Government)

By B.A. Schaaff | WASHINGTON – Pride Month is a chance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people to be proud and visible in a world that tells us not to be. Pride Month is a chance to celebrate and honor the work of LGBTQ+ people as we fight every day for equity and inclusion in society, in the law and in our workplaces. 

Thanks to the tireless work of advocates, we’ve had many recent encouraging wins at the national level:

  • Last June, in Bostock vs. Clayton County,the Supreme Court affirmed that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • In January, President Biden issued an Executive Order 13988, Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation, and  another executive order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, which includes LGBTQ+ persons. He also rescinded a 2020 executive order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping that had a chilling effect on diversity and inclusion training programs among federal agencies and contractors.
  • The Biden-Harris administration has stated strong support for the Equality Act, which would amend existing federal civil rights laws to expressly include non-discrimination protection on the basis of sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), providing security and equality to LGBTQ+ people in accessing housing, employment, education, public accommodations, health care and other federally funded services, credit and more.
  • In March, President Biden became the first U.S. president to recognize Transgender Day of Visibility.

In the past year, anti-racism protests have sparked important conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion. The Department of Labor has recommitted to being an inclusive workplace, and continues to offer trainings related to sexual orientation and gender identity, including those related to the use of gender-inclusive language and pronouns. I’ve been proud to provide these trainings and support those efforts as a vice president of Pride at DOL, an affinity group for the department’s LGBTQ+ employees and contractors and our allies.

As part of the department’s efforts to implement the sexual orientation and gender identity executive order, our Civil Rights Center – a member of the Title VI/Title IX Interagency Working Group led by the Department of Justice – will serve on the Title IX and Executive Order 13988 Committee. This committee will serve to provide opportunities for interagency collaboration to advance EO 13988’s goal of protecting individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, ensuring the Bostock decision is applied to Title IX and other relevant statutes, and making federal agencies welcoming to LGBTQ+ people.

The department is also working to reverse the impact of the prior administration’s executive order on diversity training. Our Office of Federal Contract and Compliance Programs is examining promising practices for diversity training as one component of broader efforts to eliminate bias from employment practices. In addition, the department is conducting an equity review to better understand how well our policies and programs are reaching historically underserved populations, and launched a related data challenge.

But there is still more work to do, and our pride can come at a price. Being visible sometimes means being exposed to harassment, discrimination, and violence. This is especially true for transgender people, particularly those who are women and people of color. Equity and inclusion require creating an environment — through language, policies and practices — that not only tolerates but recognizes and affirms people’s identities and relationships. Only with this can employers create a sense of belonging and value in their organization.

So as we celebrate Pride Month this year and every year, let’s recognize all the work that has been done and that is necessary to keep pushing forward.

B.A. Schaaff (they/he) is an attorney in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor and is vice president of Pride at DOL.

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Pulse shows that out of tragedy, there can be triumph

On June 12th, 2016, Pulse became the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history- out of tragedy, there can be triumph.

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The Pulse nightclub ( Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

By Jason Lindsay | WASHINGTON – It’s been 5 years since 49 people were killed and 53 others were injured when a man armed with an assault rifle, large capacity magazines, and a heart full of hate attacked the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. On June 12th, 2016, Pulse became the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

It’s been 5 years since the families and friends of those taken that night have heard their laughs, seen their smiles, or held their hands. It’s been 5 years that the survivors have had to relive their trauma of that fateful night. Saturday marks 5 years since this deadly attack and it is a time we can reflect on the lives lost, those injured, the progress made since the attack, and what we all can do to fight for commonsense gun reform to make our country a safer place.

This tragedy struck at the heart of the LGBTQ community, both in Orlando and around our country, happening right in the middle of Pride month. While this is a somber anniversary that we must honor and remember the tragedy, it is also a time to reflect on what our community has accomplished as a result of this horrific event. While we grieve for those we lost, today there is hope. Out of the tragedy, a movement was born in the LGBTQ community to fight for gun reform, led by groups such as the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, which was established within days of the shooting. It includes Pulse survivors, family members of those killed in the attack, and key stakeholders. Working at the state and federal level, this new generation of activists are mobilizing and advocating for change to honor those lost with action. Through political action, advocacy, and recruiting new activists to the gun reform fight, the Pride Fund, other groups, and the LGBTQ community as a whole are honoring the legacy of the Pulse victims through meaningful action. The mission of Pride Fund is year round, working daily to enact gun reform, elect gun safety champions at the state and federal level, and advocating for change all over the country.

As we look back over the last five years there have been some significant accomplishments that reflect the hard work that has been done since the tragedy.

First, prior to Pulse, gun reform was not one of the top priorities among the LGBTQ community. Immediately following the shooting, our community began to have conversations about this critical topic and learn about the current efforts underway to change our gun laws. I created Pride Fund to End Gun Violence as an organization to spearhead our community’s efforts and harness the political power of the LGBTQ community to create change. Whereas gun reform was not a top priority before, public polling has shown in the years since that gun reform is now a top priority for LGBTQ voters. We are holding our political candidates to a certain standard and pushing them to make gun reform a priority. As a community, we are targeting some of the worst elected officials at the state and federal that are NRA backed cronies who stand in the way of legislative change. Pride Fund has been involved in over 125 political races around the country since our creation, and we have helped kick some of the worst Republicans out of office, replacing them with gun safety champions.

Second, we have witnessed many of those personally impacted by the tragedy, the survivors, the family members and friends of those killed, and key stakeholders like the owner of Pulse, become national activists in this cause. They have stepped beyond their own personal pain to take on leadership roles, speak about their experiences and the need for change in the media, in public forums, political rallies, and in meetings with elected officials. These individuals have refused to sit on the sidelines, they have wanted to honor those lost with action, and they have been doing a stellar job.

Third, Democrats have seized on the issue and made it one of their top priorities – in their campaigns and in elected office. The 2018 election was the first time gun reform was a key issue, not only on the campaign trail, but by voters. With Democrats winning the House of Representatives, bills started to finally pass to address gun reform, however the Senate stopped its movement. Now with Democrats controlling the House, Senate, and White House, we are in the greatest position to enact change. We just have to work hard in the Senate. For the first time in recent history, the CDC has received funding to study gun violence. A major win! With the election of President Biden, he is acting within his power to make our country safer. He has announced a series of initial actions and subsequent items have taken place. Most recently, the ATF has issued a proposed rule to stop the proliferation of “ghost guns,” and in his budget request for next year, he has included a $232 million dollar increase in funding for the DOJ and HHS to tackle gun violence.

Fourth, in a significant move by Congress in recent days, the House and Senate have voted to designate a Pulse National Memorial site.

Out of tragedy, there can be triumph, and the Pulse tragedy has certainly shown this to be true.

As we reflect on this 5th anniversary, take a moment to think about this loss of life, remember the victims, and think about all of the people around you that you want to protect from gun violence, then take action by getting involved with Pride Fund to End Gun Violence by visiting www.pridefund.org. 
To get involved, volunteer, or donate to help enact real gun reform, visit our website at PrideFund.org.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @Pride_Fund.

Jason Lindsay is founder and executive director of Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, a PAC that supports state and federal candidates who will act on sensible gun policy reforms and champion LGBTQ equality. Lindsay is a seasoned political operative with 16 years of experience working in politics, government, and campaigns. He also served for 14 years in the U.S. Army Reserve and was deployed to Iraq in 2003.

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