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City of West Hollywood’s 2021 Rainbow Key Award honorees

The City presented more than 155 awards since 1993 to people & organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the LGBTQ community.

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WEST HOLLYWOOD – This year’s Rainbow Key Award Nominees represent a broad spectrum of backgrounds from filmmaking to journalism and music. Since 1993, the City of West Hollywood has presented more than 155 awards to people and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the LGBTQ community. Previous honorees have included activists, artists, civic leaders, educators, community organizations, and many others.

Dante Alencastre, local documentary filmmaker and LGBT community activist

Dante Alencastre is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and LGBTQ community activist, based in Los Angeles, California. An advocate for equal rights globally and for creating social change through media awareness of Latino and Trans People around the world, he is known for over a decade of work supporting and documenting the Transgender community in Los Angeles and Lima, Peru.

He has made several films spotlighting Trans experience and activism around the world, starting with”En El Fuego” (2007), a short exploring transphobia in Lima, and a follow-up, “El Fuego Dentro” (2011). In 2014, he released “Transvisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story,” a documentary about the Trans Latina Los Angeles woman who founded the [email protected] Coalition, and who is now a renowned international leader and Trans community advocate. In 2016, he was a producer on “Nelly Queen: The Life and Times of Jose Sarria”, a feature documentary examining the social, cultural and political legacy of Jose Sarria, the world’s first openly gay man to run for public office and the founder of the Imperial Court System. He next directed “Raising Zoey,” documenting a California teen’s battle against school officials for the freedom to be her authentic self at school.

Dante’s latest documentary, “AIDS Diva: The Legend of Connie Norman,” about the influential ACT UP leader who self described as an “ex-drag queen, ex-hooker, ex-IV drug user, ex-high risk youth and current post-operative transsexual woman who is HIV positive” and simply “a human being seeking my humanity,” premiering in August at LA’s iconic Outfest LGBTQ film festival. It is his second film to be screened at Outfest.
In addition to his film work, Dante has worked on the boards of Los Angeles Arts organizations, as well as political and community groups, which are focused on the overlapping Transgender, Latino/a, and gender-non-conforming tribes within the community. In 2018, he was appointed Executive Director of the California LGBT Arts Alliance.

Grace Baldridge, local musician and composer

Grace Baldridge identifies as genderqueer and non-binary using their middle name of Semler for music writing and performing, chosen both because of the name’s links to their maternal family history and because they prefer their music to be experienced from a gender-neutral viewpoint.

In February 2021 Semler released an EP, Preacher’s Kid, about being a queer Christian, which they recorded at home and promoted themselves.

Baldridge has been a regular guest host of The Young Turks, and co-hosted the former TYT Network show Pop Trigger. They created the TYT-associated YouTube series Murder with Friends, which was nominated for Best Non-Fiction Series in the 7th Streamy Awards in 2017.

In 2020, Baldridge hosted a documentary series entitled ‘State of Grace’ on being LGBTQ and Christian, produced by Refinery29. The first episode, “The Life Threatening Dangers Of Gay Conversion Therapy”, was nominated at the 31st GLAAD Media Awards for the Outstanding Digital Journalism – Multimedia award.

Jeff Consoletti, principal of JJLA and producer LA Pride

As a creative director and executive producer, Jeff Consoletti’s career has spanned nearly two decades leading trend-setting special events, brand activations, concerts and festivals. Jeff is the Founder and CEO of JJLA. Headquartered in Los Angeles, JJLA is a full-service live and digital event production, management, experiential and entertainment firm creating ground up special events that grow audiences, elevate experiences, energize fans and connect communities. 

For over ten years, he was widely recognized as the executive producer of the LA PRIDE Festival, transforming the event into the largest LGBT ticketed festival in the nation. In 2019, he produced Pride Island at NYC’s WorldPride, headlined by Madonna. During the pandemic, he launched his award-winning digital series, OUTLOUD: Raising Voices, profiling queer artists, for Facebook, and in the summer of 2021 delivered OUTLOUD as a the first post-pandemic live-concert at the iconic Coliseum to over 1500 fans per day and over 5M viewers on Twitch.

He is listed among Billboard’s PRIDE List, BizBash’s Most Influential Producers, Business Equality Magazine’s 40 Under 40, Special Event’s Top 50, and an INC5000 Fastest Growing Company. 
Originally from Boston, he graduated with honors from The George Washington University before relocating to Los Angeles where he resides with his husband, Rob.

Sophie B. Hawkins, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, writer, actor, and painter

Sophie B. Hawkins is an acclaimed music artist who burst onto the international scene with her 1992 platinum-selling debut album, “Tongues and Tails,” which included the Top Five hit single “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” and earned her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist – the first of multiple honors that have come her way in the three decades since.  

Sophie is not just a singer: she writes her own songs, is a multi-instrumentalist, and has been fully involved in every aspect of the production of her records herself – as an accomplished visual artist, she has even produced artwork and photography for each of her own albums.  Born and raised in New York City, she attended Manhattan School of Music before leaving to pursue a career as a percussionist. She cut her musical teeth singing from her drum set in various bands.

Throughout her rich musical career, Sophie has not only proven herself an enduring artist with a fierce commitment to artistic integrity, she has also committed herself to being an advocate and philanthropist. She performed a benefit concert for the Waterkeeper Alliance, an organization of on-the-water advocates who patrol and protect rivers, streams and coastlines around the world. In addition to her work with Waterkeeper, she has supported GLAAD, The Ms. Foundation for Women, The Trevor Project, and Raise a Child Foundation.

Even with all these achievements under her belt, Sophie says the crowning achievement of her life, and the accomplishment of which she is most proud, is being the mother of her two children.

NiK Kacy, a gender-non-binary trans-masculine fashion designer

NiK Kacy is the Creator and Executive Producer of Equality Fashion Week, the 1st LGBTQ+focused Fashion Week in LA, as well as the Founder and President of NiK Kacy Footwear, a LGBT-certified business, and the first gender-equal /
gender-free footwear and accessories for genders and identities in all spectrums.

As a gender nonconforming, transmasculine individual who identifies as nonbinary, Kacy’s designs are inspired by both their personal identity, style, cultural background, fashion, and activism. Their mission is to utilize fashion as activism in a way that inspires change so that gender is no longer a force that limits or restricts, and EQUALITY becomes the vernacular that ALL individuals speak.

Kacy’s journey began shortly after traveling throughout Europe in search of masculine-styled shoes made to fit smaller, petite feet. For most of their life, Kacy was unable to find a proper pair of shoes that were both comfortable and fitting of their identity. Tired of being under-represented, Kacy set out to discuss with manufacturers why shoes have traditionally been divided between men and women only. After being told repeatedly by the footwear industry that the market for this niche was too small and therefore non-lucrative, Kacy decided to design their own collection of gender-free shoes in a range of gender-equal sizes.

Since their successful Kickstarter campaign in March 2015, NiK Kacy has been featured in numerous publications.

In their spare time, NiK Kacy is dedicated to the local and global LGBTQ+ community in raising awareness, visibility, education and supporting the community at large. Kacy is part of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s Trans-Inclusion Task Force, is on the Board of Directors at TransCanWork and The Queer 26, and is also on the Advisory Board of GendrFwd, a new non-profit focused on increasing the visibility of non-binary and gender non-conforming community.

One of Kacy’s many passions include supporting local LGBTQ+ focused nonprofit organizations like the LA LGBT Center, the TransLatina Coalition, and Trans Chorus of LA.

Currently, NiK Kacy is committed to raising funds and increasing visibility for the Equality Fashion Week brand and hopes to bring EFW across the nation to cities where representation for LGBTQ+ communities are most needed.

Troy Masters, publisher, the Los Angeles Blade,

In 1988, at the height of the AIDS crisis Troy Masters was working in New York City, selling ads and managing accounts for what was then the world’s largest circulation magazine, PC Magazine. Masters was tracking in the right place for corporate success but for an openly gay man it was not the right time and, as it turns out, not the right place.

Masters, like many other gay men at the time, ditched his high-paying job to use his talents for his community and took a job selling ads for a new gay and lesbian magazine called OutWeek. In his words; “[…]it was a life-changing move because it put me at the center of a vast network of like-minded people who were deeply involved in every aspect of the AIDS crisis and a rapidly escalating fight for LGBTQ+ civil rights.” From that beginning he went on to be the founder of not just one, but ultimately five LGBTQ+ publications on the East and West Coast. Among them was a magazine, QW, which he co-founded with current Los Angeles Magazine Editor-In-Chief Maer Roshan. The glossy magazine paused publication after the AIDS death of Masters’ then partner, William Chafin. One year later, Masters founded LGNY, a lesbian and gay newspaper that, in 1994, also launched arguably the first LGBTQ+ newspaper website, even before nytimes.com was launched. That newspaper changed its name to Gay City News in 2002 and is now NYCs only LGBTQ newspaper.

In late 2015, Masters relocated to Los Angeles with the goal of establishing a strong LGBTQ newspaper for the Los Angeles region (none existed), ultimately resulting in the founding of the Los Angeles Blade where he is Publisher. Partnering with the venerable Washington Blade, one of the nation’s pioneering LGBTQ newspapers. Los Angeles Blade quickly built a powerful network of allies in the LA area and nationally that includes LGBTQIA community notables, activists, non-profit, political and business leaders, and philanthropists like Ariadne Getty and her philanthropic foundation, AGF. Masters continues to ensure that the LGBTQ+ community has its own news source and voice in Southern California. 

Masters, who was recently honored by the City of West Hollywood for hosting Pride Walk in WeHo, lives in LA’s Beverly Grove neighborhood with his partner of 20 years Arturo Jimenez and their beloved Schnauzer Cody.

Paulo Murillo, editor in chief and publisher of WeHo Times

Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES, an award-winning online news publication covering the City of West Hollywood. Murillo began his professional writing career in 1998 as the author of “Love Ya, Mean It,” an irreverent and sometimes controversial West Hollywood lifestyle column for FAB! Newspaper. He has been documenting LGBTQ history and current events as a columnist, reporter, and photojournalist for more than 20 years. 

From writing about his personal life as a gay man in Los Angeles, to covering LGBT news and advocating for recovery from drugs and alcohol in the LGBT community, Murillo has been featured in numerous LGBTQ+ print and online publications, including The Los Angeles Blade, The Fight Magazine, Bay Area Reporter, Frontiers Magazine, IN Los Angeles Magazine, and LA Health News, among others. 

In addition to his position at WEHO TIMES, Murillo continues to pen “The Share” column for The Fight Magazine where he interviews LGBTQ members of the sober community and shares their journey in recovery. The Fight Magazine celebrated their 10th Anniversary this year.

“I’m deeply touched and honored to be a co-recipient of this year’s Rainbow Key Award,” Murillo tells The Los Angeles Blade. “I hope it sends a message about the importance of documenting our LGBT history as we continue to lose our community spaces. I also accept this award on behalf of my extended LGBTQ family members who are working to recover from drugs and alcohol addiction. May this recognition inspire you to stay the course. There is always hope.”

Dr. Adrian Ravarour, founder of San Francisco-based Vanguard, who is also a priest and spiritual artist.

Adrian Ravarour, Ph.D., is a recipient of the 2021 Rainbow Key Award because he founded and organized Vanguard in 1965, the first gay rights liberation youth organization in the country to demonstrate for equal treatment, acceptance and to end discrimination; and, he has continued to make contributions to the LGBTQ+ communities throughout his life.

Adrian Ravarour is a priest, spiritual artist, and social activist who started Vanguard in San Francisco with Joel T Williams in the summer of 1965. Ravarour was the adult founder of Vanguard and civil rights teacher to the Vanguard members who were mainly Gay young male adults, teenage runaways and Tenderloin street youth. Ravarour felt obligated to enliven their hearts, souls, minds in his personal belief that being gay was a natural human emotion and that discrimination against the youth for being gay was unjustified. Vanguard was a gay rights youth organization active from 1965 to 1967 and a forerunner of the first Gay and Lesbian Center in San Francisco in 1967. Ravarour and other Vanguard leaders were participants in several protests related to discrimination against Vanguard members, including those that led to what has become known as the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot.  

Adrian is also a prolific artist and writer. His work currently centers around photography and his photography books are in numerous collections. 

Adrian has also been active in preserving historical records, artifacts and memorabilia that support gay artists. He was the president of the Ruth St.Denis Foundation for 20 years. A professional videographer, Adrian was the Executive Director of the Dance Video Center of Los Angeles recording local and major dance companies in Los Angeles and New York, and at the famous Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts. He also recorded oral histories of LGBT dancers and choreographers.   

Adrian Ravarour is a gay elder, spiritual leader, activist and prolific artist, who has and continues to make lifelong contributions.

This year’s Etheridge Award will be conferred to legendary LGBTQ+ rights activist and outgoing CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the former CEO of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Lorri L. Jean, for her relentless advocacy and tireless efforts on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Lorri L. Jean

Speaking to the Los Angeles Blade, LA LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean marveled at the journey for the center she has headed on for so long and is now preparing to hand off its primary leadership role of- but also at her personal journey.

Twenty-nine years ago the Los Angeles LGBT Center moved from a rather dilapidated old motel and into a newly renovated 44,000 square foot building in Hollywood. Along with that newly operational space came a new Executive Director and the promise of a new future and direction for the Center which since 1969 had cared for, championed, and celebrated LGBTQ individuals and families in the Southland.

Along the way the Center has grown- expanding to a nearly 2 block campus along with an additional 9 sites around the Los Angeles metroplex. [10 sites includes the campus] Jean initially served as the Center’s executive director from 1993 to 1999. She returned as CEO in 2003. She announced last September that she would be stepping down in July 2022.

In addition to her role at the LA Center, Jean played a critical role as a co-founder in 1994 of CenterLink a member-based coalition to support the development of strong, sustainable, LGBTQ community centers across the United States; A role Jean is proud of she told the Blade.

Reflecting on the role CenterLink has played, Jean noted that what was once around 65 LGBTQ Community Centers has grown into 270 centers. “If you look at legislative efforts or LGBTQ rights that have been expanded, there is usually a strong and stable LGBTQ Center. They are the engines of the LGBTQ movement,” she said. “They assist fostering change.”

West Hollywood

West Hollywood’s new mayor & mayor pro tempore take office

In their speeches after they took their oaths, both women laid out their visions looking towards the future of the City

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City of West Hollywood, California (Blade file photo)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – In a ceremony conducted virtually due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the greater Southland, just prior to the nitty gritty of the city’s business being conducted, the city council installed its new mayor and mayor pro tempore this past Monday.

Swearing in WeHo’s new Mayor Lauren Meister, was former West Hollywood City Councilmember John Heilman, and administering the oath of office to newly designated Mayor pro tempore Sepi Shyne, was Melahat Rafiei the principal and founder of Progressive Solutions Consulting, a premier political consulting and fundraising firm based in Long Beach, California and also the Secretary of the California Democratic Party.

Meister, was first elected to the City Council on March 3, 2015 and re-elected for her second term on March 5, 2019.

Shyne, elected to her first term on the City Council November 2020, also managed to set a mark in history as the first openly lesbian Iranian woman to serve and with her election giving the city Council a female-led majority.

In their speeches after they took their oaths, both women laid out their visions looking towards the future of the City.

Mayor Meister in her remarks noted;

Lauren Meister at a regular city council meeting in 2019. (Blade file photo)

Today is kind of bittersweet. It is the second anniversary of Spike’s passing but it is also the beginning of the Jewish holiday, Sukkot, the season of rejoicing. According to Chabad, “it’s a festival — laden with unique mitzvahs, quality time with our community and family, all with an extra-large serving of joy.” I’m hopeful that my swearing in on this festive day is a good omen!

I want to thank everyone for their well wishes and support.  I want to thank my family for their love, encouragement, and unlimited patience. Thank you to my colleagues for your vote of confidence as I take on the role of Mayor for the second time. 

I also want to thank my former Council colleague, John Heilman, for swearing me in as your mayor tonight. It means a lot to me.

When I was installed as Mayor back in April 2016, I spoke about renewing the community spirit that helped form this great city nearly 37 years ago, which John and others were a big part of. 

As a community, we gathered as one after 9/11, we mourned the tragedy of the Pulse Nightclub mass murder, we celebrated marriage equality, and we marched, stood up to, and survived a challenging national political climate. 

I have lived in this city over 30 years, and over the years, I have witnessed many stages in our city’s maturity – I have seen issues divide our city. I have seen the east side pitted against the west side, businesses pitted against residents, tenants pitted against landlords. 

But I have to say, that after being elected to Council, the drama that seemed to plague every Council meeting with a controversial topic… the theatre – and a lot of it was theatre – seemed to dissipate.  

Now, however, we’re seeing a divisiveness that I haven’t seen in a while, and it’s disturbing.  It’s disturbing because we are still one small city and one community – a community comprised of people from all walks of life, a community with young people and older people; a community with businesses and workers.  All must be valued; none should be discounted. A rainbow flag is not just six colors or 10 colors – if it truly represents our community, then it is an infinite number of colors. Putting people into categories, labeling them, disparaging them, does not serve this community. 

I’d like to say, today, that my goal as Mayor is to solve our three biggest issues: homelessness, housing affordability, and making our city safer. 

As Mayor, I’d like to strengthen our neighborhoods, encourage economic diversity, and further initiatives to protect our renters and our small businesses. I’d like to make West Hollywood a premier green city by increasing our urban forest and embracing biodiversity. I’d like to find a companion care center close to home for our lost, found, and abandoned animals. 

And, importantly, I’d like for West Hollywood to be the most prepared and resilient city in the country – for whatever emergency or disaster strikes – whether it be earthquake, drought, pandemic, or recession. 

But none of this can happen if we don’t work together and focus on the city’s recovery from this pandemic. None of this can happen, if we don’t focus on keeping people healthy and getting people vaccinated.  And none of this can happen if we, as a council, don’t make recovery our number one priority. 

So, in the coming weeks, I will be bringing forward a proposal requesting that the city manager arrange several team-building workshops for council, designed to help foster communications among council members, to clarify council’s role, and to identify priorities and common goals. The objective of the workshops will be to transform our new council and our new city manager into an effective, problem-solving team.

Now, I come full circle to why I asked my former colleague, John Heilman, to swear me in today as Mayor.  As many of you know, John and I did not agree on every issue, and in fact, before I was on Council, I was probably one of Council’s most vocal critics. But, once we were colleagues, we learned to work together, respect each other, and most importantly, acknowledge that we both cared about the best interests of the city, even when we didn’t agree. 

So, I appreciate that John was a part of my swearing in today because, to me, it symbolizes hope… that there’s hope that people with different perspectives can work together effectively for the city they love. And, as your mayor, I’m confident this is something that we – Council, residents, businesses, and other community members – can achieve in the months to come

Then mayor pro tempore Shyne spoke;

Sepi, her wife Ashlei-Shyne and also Chloe ‘the Queen of Weho’ (Photo Credit: courtesy of Sepy Shyne0

Thank you to my colleagues for electing me to serve as Mayor Pro Tem. Thank you to all of our residents, community members, colleagues and staff and my wife, family and friends who have been so supportive over the past 9 months that I have served in office. Thank you to my dear friend Melahat Rafiei for swearing me in and for your support. Thank you to outgoing Mayor Horvath for your leadership and taking up the reigns when we asked you to serve a much longer term during the pandemic as Mayor and thank you to our new Mayor Meister for your leadership. I am honored to serve in this new leadership position with you.

Serving on this Council these past 9 months has been the honor of my life and serving as your Mayor Pro Tem is a responsibility I take very seriously. West Hollywood has always been on the forefront of making history and we did it once again this evening. 

When my parents and I fled Iran when I was 5 to escape the oppressive Islamic regime and the war between Iran and Iraq, I never imagined that one day I would be sworn in as the first Iranian, first woman of color and first Lesbian to serve as Mayor Pro Tem of West Hollywood. 

When kids in kindergarten bullied me throwing things and using anti-middle eastern slurs, I never ever imagined that one day, I would be sworn in as Mayor Pro tem of West Hollywood.

When fellow high school students verbally gay bashed and stalked me for being a lesbian, I never imagined that one day, I would be sworn in as Mayor Pro Tem of West Hollywood. 

In college, when my girlfriend and I were thrown out of a coffee shop by a police officer and the coffee shop manager for holding hands, I made up my mind to go to law school, learn the law and stop that from ever happening to others and that is what I did. But, even then, I never imagined that one day, I would be sworn in as Mayor Pro Tem of West Hollywood. 

The reason I never imagined serving in elected office is because growing up, I truly did not see anyone that looked like me, grew up like me and loved like me in elected office. But since November 2020 and especially now, I know that another little Middle Eastern, Brown, immigrant girl who may be queer can now imagine herself in elected office because now she does see herself. And that is one of the most powerful reasons why representation truly matters. 

I wanted to serve on the City Council to represent the people of our amazing city and to bring your voices and more equity to City Hall. The people wanted progressive change. 

In the past 9 months, I have delivered on that mandate. I have had countless conversations and virtual and in person meetings with residents, workers and stakeholders to discuss how we can make West Hollywood better. I have had the honor to serve on our Laurel House, Homelessness, Event and Pride Subcommittees with my colleagues as well as now representing West Hollywood as the Chair on the Westside Cities Council of Governments. 

I have initiated, co-sponsored and passed 34 council items which I am so proud to say have nearly all had unanimous council support. Some of the ones I want to highlight tonight are: 

  1. The creation of the Social Justice Task Force that is now successfully appointed and working on policy recommendation for us to help address systemic racism; 
  2. The creation of business roundtables, grants for the most vulnerable small businesses, and the creation of the Business Recovery Task Force; 
  3. Incentives for LGBTQ people, BIPOC, women and local residents to start small businesses in our city; 
  4. An ordinance strengthening our Tenant Harassment Ordinance and providing further protections for our renters;
  5. The Multi Stall Gender Neutral Bathroom Ordinance which will ensure our Transgender and Non-Binary family, same sex parents of opposite sex children and people with disabilities that have an opposite sex caretaker have equal and safe access to bathrooms;
  6. The development of a Citywide Behavioral Health Crisis Response Unit that will reduce law enforcement response to homelessness and in other areas the unit serves in order to provide solutions from experts that work;
  7. Several items that direct staff to study or update our zoning code related to affordable housing and capacity, bring our codes up to date with newer type housing developments being proposed so there are standards in place rather than loopholes; 
  8. An Initiative to highlight Pet-Friendly businesses and develop “Pet Week” in West Hollywood, which includes a special day dedicated to our beloved Felines; and
  9. Making sure that Recovery includes Everyone by expanding Protections and Wage Equity for Hotel Workers, including panic buttons, the Right of Recall and Retention, overtime consent, Public Housekeeping training and excessive workload compensation. 

For the next year and four months, I look forward to working with Mayor Meister to ensure efficiency and continued good leadership. I look forward to continue being accessible to constituents. I am excited about the Business Recovery Task Force, which will soon be formed to ensure we have a 5 year blueprint for business success, recovery and diversification. I look forward to continuing to pass items that help our residents, small businesses and workers. Items that create more affordable housing, bring more equity to all, bring more transparency and ethics to our government, create a more healthy environment to combat our climate crisis, have more community-based solutions to strengthen our community safety, help get our unhoused neighbors the housing and services they need as well as focusing on our City’s recovery. 

West Hollywood is truly one of the best cities to live, work and play in and I am so grateful to be your new Mayor Pro Tem.

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West Hollywood

Connie Norman Transgender Empowerment Center for Los Angeles opens

First facility of its kind nationwide serving Trans and Non-Binary individuals and communities of, by and for Trans and nonbinary individuals

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Connie Norman Trans Center Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Friday Sept 10, 2021 (Photo Credit: Ged Kenslea)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – In a location that once housed the Aids Healthcare Foundation’s Linn House, a hospice for people dying from AIDS, the first facility of its kind nationwide serving Trans and Non-Binary individuals and communities of, by and for Trans and nonbinary individuals opened Friday, September 10.

Named for and dedicated in honor of Connie Norman, known as the ‘AIDS Diva,’ a fearless Transgender and AIDS activist who died of the disease in 1996.

The Connie Norman Transgender Empowerment Center, will serve as a home for several Trans-led organizations including FLUX, a national division of the Aids Healthcare Foundation and the Unique Woman’s Coalition (UWC). The center will focus on building capacity, advocacy and overall health and wellness of the Transgender and Non-Binary communities.

The 20,000 square-foot building has been repurposed to function as a sort of ‘WeWork’ space for Trans-led organizations to have a place to do their work, grow and be affirmed.

Named after a Diva like Connie Norman, supported by an institution like AHF and led by two respected Trans orgs like the UWC and FLUX—this is historic!  An entire building where trans people are at the helm, making decisions and innovating,” said Queen Victoria Ortega, Founder and International President of FLUX. “We are committed to making sure our community has a voice. Now, we have this incredible building as a home for those voices. I believe that great things are going to happen here, really great things!

The Connie Norman Transgender Empowerment Center, 1001 N. Martel Street (Photo credit: John Johnston)

Norman was a force to be reckoned with according to Los Angeles based filmmaker Dante Alencastre’s 2020 documentary film AIDS Diva: The Legend Of Connie Norman, which was released 25 years after Norman’s death.

In a short bio published by FLUX the group noted, “Connie Norman (1949 – July 15, 1996) was an AIDS and gay and transgender rights activist with ACT UP/LA. Beginning in 1991, she was the host of the first daily commercial talk radio show about gay issues in Los Angeles, and also co-hosted a television show. After her death from AIDS, ACT UP scattered her ashes on the White House lawn.’

Veteran LGBTQ journalist and the former Editor of the Los Angeles Blade, Karen Ocamb membered the formidable Norman in a March 31, 2021 commentary piece published to mark Trans Visibility Day.

“It was the late ‘80s and I was still new to “gay” journalism so I followed standard reporter practice of mingling with the crowd, getting a sense of what was going on, then asking to speak with the organization’s spokesperson. […]

For a bit I was stuck in my transition from old mainstream to LGBTQ/AIDS thinking. Luckily, Connie decided to educate me anyway. She invited me to her home — which she shared with her gay husband (who I recognized from 12 Step rooms) and LOTS of cats – and sat me in front of a video of her teaching a class of students about what it meant to be transsexual or transgender. […]

Connie and Rob Roberts during his hunger strike to draw attention to AB 101, the California gay civil rights bill, (Photograph from the collection of Karen Ocamb)

Connie was so generous with so many people- she made so many of us feel warm and loved and supported.

Curiously, after the video ended, Connie’s friend Harry Hay and his partner John Burnside (who turned out to be relative neighbors in WeHo) showed up and educated me about gays being Nature’s third sex. It was an amazing night. Connie was so generous with so many people. Most importantly for me – aside from being a reliable source of information so I could do my job properly — she smiled when she saw me. She made so many of us feel warm and loved and supported.”

When Connie Norman was living her final days at AHF’s Chris Brownlie Hospice, she bequeathed her childhood teddy bear to me, asking that I please help look after her Trans sisters and brothers she was leaving behind. I can think of no better way to honor that request than with this Connie Norman Transgender Empowerment Center that we dedicate today,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF and a good friend of Norman’s. 

Norman’s teddy bear will also now take up residence at the new facility in a commemorative plexiglass display case. In addition, September 10th 2021 will also be known as Connie Norman Transgender Empowerment Day via proclamation by the City of West Hollywood.

The facility will also be home to a food bank opening onsite Monday, September 13th (12 noon- 2:00 pm). A ‘Clothing Closet’ to assist Trans and other individuals will also open onsite in the future and an AHF Healthcare Center serving the needs of Trans and nonbinary patients is set to open in 2022.

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West Hollywood

West Hollywood’s 2021 Rainbow Key & Etheridge Awards ceremony

The City of West Hollywood held a joint ceremony of the annual Rainbow Key Awards and Etheridge Award on Thursday, August 19, 202

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Rainbow Key Awards (Blade file photo)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood held a joint ceremony of the annual Rainbow Key Awards and Etheridge Award on Thursday, August 19, 2021, and recognized people and groups who have made outstanding contributions to the gay and lesbian community.

Masters of Ceremony Billy Francesca and Jackie Steele emceed the evening commencing with the 2021 Etheridge Award presented to legendary LGBTQ+ rights activist and outgoing CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the former CEO of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Lorri L. Jean, for her relentless advocacy and tireless efforts on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community.

This year’s Rainbow Key Awards were conferred to Dante Alencastre, local documentary filmmaker and LGBT community activist; Grace Baldridge, local musician and composer; Jeff Consoletti, principal of JJLA and producer of LA Pride; Sophie B. Hawkins, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, writer, actor, and painter; NiK Kacy, a gender-non-binary trans-masculine fashion designer and host of the annual Equality Fashion Week; Troy Masters, publisher, Los Angeles Blade, Los Angeles’ LGBTQ+ newspaper; Paulo Murillo, editor in chief and publisher of WeHo Times; and Dr. Adrian Ravarour, founder of San Francisco-based Vanguard, who is also a priest and spiritual artist.

Rainbow Key Awards and Etheridge Award:

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