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Former LA Blade Editor Karen Ocamb, journalist of the year awardee

The AIDS crisis was her entry into the movement for LGBTQ equality. She had worked in LGBTQ and independent media for nearly 30 years



Karen Ocamb, journalist of the year awardee 2020 at the Los Angeles Press Club gala (Photo by Troy Masters)

LOS ANGELES – Former Los Angeles Blade editor Karen Ocamb was awarded Journalist of the Year for 2020 at the 63rd annual Los Angeles Press Club’s Southern California Journalism Awards gala, which was held Saturday evening at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Press Club was founded in 1913 and honors journalists through its annual National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and SoCal Journalism Awards.

The annual gala is held to celebrate the best of Southern California journalism and features and honors journalists working in all media platforms of print, radio, television or digital (online). Ocamb won in the category of ‘print’ with a circulation under 50,000. Her fellow nominees were Lina Lecaro, LA Weekly and Hayley Munguia, Long Beach Press-Telegram.

The LA Press Club judges noted in their decision bestowing the award, “Karen Ocamb’s passionate reporting of the struggles of the LGBTQ community and journalists covering LGBTQ issues during the pandemic earns her a Print Journalist of Year award.”

She was also a runner-up in two other categories securing second place in ‘Pandemic Reporting Digital’ (Online) with awardee Jon Regardie, Los Angeles Magazine, “A Month Inside the COVID-19 War Room with Mayor Eric Garcetti” securing first place. (Karen Ocamb, Los Angeles Blade, “Seeking Truth in the War on the Coronavirus”)

Ocamb also secured second place in the category of ‘Commentary: on political, social, cultural, investigative, judicial, economic or other serious subjects.’ The awardees were Ryan Lo and Chandra Bozelko, Reno Gazette Journal, “Klobuchar’s Own Central Park Five Situation” (Karen Ocamb, Los Angeles Blade, “Strong at the Broken Places”)

Ocamb, who now works in media relations for Public Justice, a national nonprofit progressive legal advocacy organization that has been fighting for civil rights, environmental protection and consumer and workers’ rights for more than 35 years, was the founding news editor of the Los Angeles Blade in 2017.

After spending the 1960s as a student against the war in Vietnam, fighting for civil rights and exploring the counter-cultural movement, Ocamb joined CBS News in New York and learned to be a journalist under the mentorship of such icons as Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Bob Schiefer. Her final job for the network was producing the 1984 Olympic coverage for CBS News affiliates at TV City in Los Angeles.

Free to pursue her social justice passions and discuss her opinions, Ocamb volunteered on the ballot campaign for West Hollywood cityhood. It was during this time that her friends started dying of AIDS. By the late 1980s, serving as a quasi-healthcare worker was not enough and Ocamb returned to journalism, this time freelancing for Frontiers News Magazine and other gay press publications.

The AIDS crisis was her entry into the movement for LGBTQ liberation and equality. She has worked in LGBTQ and independent media since then, culminating in her position as news editor and reporter for the Los Angeles Blade.

Los Angeles Blade publisher Troy Masters, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and former LA Blade News Editor Karen Ocamb at the 63rd annual Los Angeles Press Club awards gala.
(Photo courtesy of Troy Masters)

In 2019, Ocamb won a special recognition award from LGBTQ media watchdog group GLAAD.

“After initially starting her career at CBS News and producing the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Ocamb joined the LGBTQ press in the 1980s after more than 100 friends died from AIDS,” GLAAD said in a release at the time. “She has since become a leading force and champion for LGBTQ media. She is known for her smart, fair, and professional writing style as well as her staunch dedication to shining the spotlight on underreported LGBTQ people and issues.”

Troy Masters, publisher and founder of Los Angeles Blade, said of Ocamb’s award, “There is truly no one I have worked with over the past 35 years in LGBT journalism who has a greater integrity or devotion to the community than Karen.  Her work always explores the evolution of every subject she covers, giving it rich and lucid context that helps the stories jump off the page.  She always knows when more than a ‘just the facts’ story is needed and she steps it up in a way that bridges generations and ideas.  She’s the writer and editor I always dreamed of having and I can think of no one more deserving of this honor.”

The 63rd annual Los Angeles Press Club’s Southern California Journalism Awards gala held Saturday evening, October 16, 2021, at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.
(Photo By Troy Masters)

Editor’s note links to the stories submitted and judged are here, here, here, and here.

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Secretary Buttigieg’s son back home after spending Halloween in hospital

“After 3 weeks in and out of hospitals, 125 miles in an ambulance, and a terrifying week on a ventilator, Gus is home”



U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, husband Chasten and son Gus (Photo Credit: Chasten Buttigieg)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten Buttigieg, shared that their son Joseph Augustus, referred to as Gus, is home from the hospital after spending weeks in and out of the hospital. 

“After 3 weeks in and out of hospitals, 125 miles in an ambulance, and a terrifying week on a ventilator, Gus is home, smiling, and doing great!” Chasten Buttigieg tweeted. “We’re so relieved, thankful, and excited for him and Penelope to take DC by storm! Thank you so much for all of the love and prayers.”

He also thanked “the countless medical professionals who helped Gus (and his dads and sister) along the way. We are so grateful for your tenderness and care.”

The Buttigieg’s revealed last week that Gus had to spend Halloween in the hospital after falling ill. 

“As you can see, we’re spending this Halloween in the hospital,” Chasten wrote on Twitter at the time. “Gus has been having a rough go of it but we’re headed in the right direction. We’re so thankful for all of the love and support shown to our family these last few months.”

The couple has still not revealed why their son was hospitalized. 

In September, the couple revealed that they welcomed two babies, Joseph August and Penelope Rose, to their family.

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Secretary Buttigieg spends Halloween in hospital with ill son

The couple did not reveal why their son was hospitalized



Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg & husband Chasten via Twitter

WASHINGTON — U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten Buttigieg spent Halloween in the hospital after their son Joseph August, referred to as Gus, fell ill. 

“As you can see, we’re spending this Halloween in the hospital,” Chasten wrote on Twitter. “Gus has been having a rough go of it but we’re headed in the right direction. We’re so thankful for all of the love and support shown to our family these last few months.”

The couple did not reveal why their son was hospitalized.

The Buttigieg’s revealed in September that they welcomed two babies, Joseph August and Penelope Rose, to their family.

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I Am a Queer Filmmaker: Can I tell you my story?

I think the best way to eradicate the anti-LGBTQ hatred that persists around the world is to show the breadth of queer people’s humanity



James Patrick Nelson (Courtesy of the author)

By James Patrick Nelson | BROOKLYN – Our community has made enormous progress in recent years. We are living in a time of unprecedented queer visibility, which empowers us to keep moving forward, and to heal the scars that linger from our recent past.

“Be Will instead of Jack.”

Screenshot of Eric McCormack (Will) and Sean Hayes (Jack) in “Will and Grace”

When I was 14-years-old, “Will and Grace” was a cultural phenomenon — the first queer-led show to attract a world-wide audience. The night I came out to my father, he told me, “Be Will instead of Jack”. At the time, I dismissed this as a harmless laugh-line.

But looking back, it reveals how limited representation fuels internalized homophobia. Apart from being openly femme-shaming, the comment made it sound like there were only two “types” of gay people — flaming or passing.

High school photo of me, shortly after coming out.

And I knew I didn’t fit into either category. I knew my identity was more nuanced and complex than the archetypes on TV. But at that age, having never seen myself reflected on screen, I bought into the idea that there were only a handful of ways to be gay. And so, I spent a lot of my youth struggling to fit in, always feeling like I needed to change something about my body or my voice or my fashion, if I wanted to be part of the club.

But then 2020 offered me a lot of introspection, and I realized I don’t have to fit into a mold. All of the fabulous nuances of my identity are all part of my queerness. And I don’t have to change myself to be part of a community. When I make art and tell stories, I get to build communities, founded on love and authenticity.

Will and Jack are not the only options. There are countless ways to be gay!

Representation Matters

The question remains, how do queer people learn to cherish the remarkable nuances of our identities if we rarely see nuanced, authentic portraits of ourselves on screen?

Cover Image of the Advocate article linked below

Of course, there’s a big difference between nuance and authenticity. Scores of actors have been nominated for Oscars for giving nuanced performances of queer characters. In 2018, the majority of actors who won an Oscar were playing a queer character.

But in these widely distributed films… the actors have always been straight.

No one is saying that an actor has to be exactly like his character in every way, or that talent is a secondary concern. The debate is about access and equality! While queer characters appear with increasing frequency, queer actors are so rarely given the spotlight, despite the authenticity they would bring.

Wikipedia chart listing leading actresses who’ve been nominated for Oscars for queer roles.

When queer stories are populated with straight actors, and geared toward the perceived sensibilities of a straight audience, they often perpetuate unconscious stereotypes.

Queer characters in leading roles are usually in turmoil about their sexuality. And if they have a love interest, they’re always hetero-presenting and meet an unattainable standard of beauty.

Straight people get how painful it is to live in a culture that tells us we have to look a certain way to be loved. Imagine that compounded with the idea that you have to pass as straight to be worthy of love in the first place.

After all, “Be Will instead of Jack” could also be interpreted as “Be more like the one who’s played by a straight actor.”

This pervasive heterosexism means the rest of us never see a healthy or affirming reflection of ourselves. So what’s to be done?

We have to tell our own stories

In recent years, American television has generally done a better job than American cinema at showcasing LGBTQ+ people in leading roles.

For Years to Come” creative references.

Some of my favorites are “Work in Progress” on Showtime, “Please Like Me” on Hulu, and “Feel Good” on Netflix, all examples of LGBTQ+ artists creating and starring in semi-autobiographical stories — a huge inspiration.

I’ve been a working professional actor my entire life, I’ve been screenwriting for about six years, and I’ve recently started producing my own work. I spent 2020 writing and developing a number of film/TV projects, all focused on queer protagonists and majority-queer ensembles.

Recent queer-centric work for stage and film (Clockwise: Waking Up, Speak What We Feel, For Years to Come, Immortal Longings, and Without Touch).

I realized recently that both of the produced feature films I’ve written were sparked by perspectives rooted in my queer-identity. But in both cases, I let the queerness get buried, and the films suffered as a result. From now on, I’m determined to lean into my queerness as a catalyst for my work.

Queer filmmakers don’t have to wait to be picked. We don’t need anyone’s permission. We need to start telling our own stories — here’s one of mine.

When my mother was dying, I found out my father was a porn director.

For Years to Come” poster art. Photo by Evan Smith.

In 2010, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. She received in-home hospice care, and I went home to be with her. I knew it was the last time I’d ever see her, so we had a lot of candid conversations. I sat on the bed and asked her about her childhood, her dreams, her regrets, the men she dated before my father — everything!

She freely admitted she spent a lot of her life complaining about the small stuff, like she had all the time in the world. But as I sat with her on the bed, she was more peaceful than I’d ever seen her. She didn’t want to waste any more time. She was thankful for the sunshine and the breeze and the smiles on our faces.

So of course, I adopted this same spirit of frankness with my father. He and I were driving to Costco one day, and I was asking him questions — and he casually mentioned that back in the day, he was a highly paid writer-director of porn!

My head spun around. This was the last thing I expected from the humble man who I remembered painting the fence, watering the lawn, and driving me to school. I was flabbergasted by these two new realities — My mother is dying, and my father’s a porn director!

For Years to Come” visual references. See citations above.

When a parent dies, your narrative about them changes. If you idolized them, they become vulnerable. If you were angry at them, their faults become easy to forgive. Either way, they become a very different person. In this case, my narrative about both my parents got turned upside down at the same time!

After years of development — and a pandemic, which heightened my urgency to make art about grief and healing — I’m finally telling my story in an episodic dramedy called “For Years to Come,” the story of a young gay man who falls in love with his dead mother’s hospice nurse, while struggling to reconcile with his elderly father, who’s secretly a porn director.

Left: Director/Editor Micah Stuart; Center: Me with Co-Producer Jay DeYonker; Right: DP Dennis Zanatta

The Queerness is Not the Conflict

Now, you might be wondering, “What does any of that have to do with being gay?” And the answer is… nothing, really. And that’s exactly the point. What I want to see are stories in which queer people are central characters, but their queerness is not the central conflict.

For Years to Come” poster art. Original photo by Taylor Noel.

Cis-het audiences can relate to stories about losing a parent or finding love. If they can go beyond passive sympathy (watching queer people struggle with “queer problems”), and lean into active empathy (seeing themselves in a queer protagonist)… that feels like genuine progress toward equality.

Meanwhile, queer audiences are hungry for these kind of stories! We want to see ourselves reflected without a filter and without an apology. We’re tired of sitting on the margins. We are the stars of our own lives, and our lives are about more than just the struggles of coming out. We are richly complex, multi-faceted human beings, with endlessly diverse and distinct experiences, and we deserve to be seen, for all that we are.

I think the best way to eradicate the anti-LGBTQ hatred that persists around the world is to show the breadth of queer people’s humanity, in full-throated, heartfelt stories about all that makes us unique, and all we have in common.

For Years to Come” is a vibrant and irreverent story about people redefining themselves and opening their hearts to each other. My creative team and I go into production this winter, and we’re beyond excited to share our story with you! Visit this link to learn more.


James Patrick Nelson is a Queer writer-actor-poet-filmmaker loving life in NYC.


The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.

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