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Lack of access & accountability; WeHo City Hall is in dire straits

In addition to the lack of access and accountability at City Hall, the city’s finances are in a critically perilous situation

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WeHo City Hall goes 'Green' in support of climate action, June 2017 (Photo credit: Jon Viscott/City of West Hollywood)

Editor's note: The following commentary does not reflect the views of the staff and publisher of the Los Angeles Blade and is independently submitted for publication. All 'Letters to the Editor' or op-eds will be considered. Please feel free to submit requests to [email protected]

By James Duke Mason | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The last time I spoke out publicly about West Hollywood politics was in the lead up to the 2020 elections.

It’s been more than a year since I left my position on the West Hollywood Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board, and almost three years since my last City Council campaign. I’ve spent my time focusing on my writing and activism, and also pursuing some professional opportunities. But the state of the city is so dire at the moment that I feel now is an important time to speak out and be part of the conversation.

We’ve now been living with COVID since March 2020; you’d think by now that the city would have figured out a way to manage the pandemic and move forward with city business, yet City Hall has been closed to the public and Council meetings are being held virtually. It was hard enough before for the public to get face time with their Councilmembers or city staff, but now it’s literally impossible. City Hall is supposed to be closed till the end of this month but perhaps beyond; who knows when Council meetings will be held in person again? At this point it’s absurd when we could easily resume business with masks, vaccine requirements etc. 

“The state of the city is so dire at the moment that I feel now is an important time to speak out and be part of the conversation.”

In addition to the lack of access and accountability at City Hall, the city’s finances are in a critically perilous situation. Some accused me of being hypocritical when I, as someone who once ran as a fresh face, endorsed John Heilman and John Duran in the last election.

What those people failed to understand is that I wasn’t for change for the sake of change; at a time of great challenges I believed it was necessary to have experienced, steady leadership for our city, and sure enough Sepi Shyne and John Erickson have failed to live up to their responsibilities.

The city is digging into it’s reserves to stay afloat, which is a massive difference from where we were just a few years ago when we were considered one of the best run cities in America.

The biggest crisis we face is the surge in crime that West Hollywood has seen as of late which has received nothing more than a weak, ineffective response from the City Council.

The other night two British tourists were robbed at gun point on Santa Monica and La Cienega Boulevard, just the latest in a long series of violent crime in or near our city. So far I haven’t heard any of the Councilmembers propose any concrete solutions; instead their time is spent on fake, performative progressive virtue signaling which actually are nothing more than self aggrandizing moves to further their political careers.

If they were actually concerned about advancing the progressive agenda then they would be taking on issues that actually really make a difference in people’s lives; homelessness for instance which is at an all time high.

Where is the tangible action on that front, and how can these Councilmembers call themselves progressives when they haven’t done anything to help these innocent people? Homelessness is a disaster, and Sepi Shyne and John Erickson have been asleep at the wheel.

There’s been no action at a moment when we desperately need it. Unfortunately the two of them aren’t up for re-election until 2024, but we do have several of the other seats up in November, and I will be sharing news about who I support later this year. It’s time for us to take our city back and put it on the right track.

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James Duke Mason is a writer, activist and former city official. From 2015 to 2020 he served on the West Hollywood Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board, including a year as Co-Chair. 

Photo courtesy of James Duke Mason

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Jeffrey Dahmer was white & gay — Deal with it

The Black LGBTQ community deserves to have the truth told about Jeffrey Dahmer & Ed Buck -they’re both white gay men who killed Black gay men

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Los Angeles Blade collage ("Jeffrey Dahmer" screenshot via Netflix/ Ed Buck by Karen Ocamb)

By Jasmyne Cannick | LOS ANGELES – I’ve been watching a scary phenomenon sweep across America where if enough of us don’t like something from our past and take to social media to bitch and complain about it, we can simply erase and revise it under the guise of anti-racism and reconciliation.

The latest victim of whitewashed revisionist history is serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

After social media backlash, Netflix has removed the LGBTQ tag from its Ryan Murphy-created Jeffrey Dahmer limited series, “Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.” Apparently, the LGBTQ community doesn’t want to be associated with a serial killer.

This is a complete about-face considering Netflix didn’t flinch in the face of its controversy over its relationship with comedian Dave Chappelle over his comments made about trans people. They seemed to double down it.

Now I don’t claim to know everything, but I know that Jeffrey Dahmer was three things — a serial killer, white and gay. No amount of whining and wishing it wasn’t so will change that or that most of his victims were Black gay men.

There are a lot of things that, as a Black woman, I don’t want to be associated with. I can’t tell you how many times I joined the collective groan of Black people everywhere when some atrocious crime is on the evening news, and a Black face appears on the screen as the alleged suspect. Do we get to call up the news, ask them not to show that the perpetrator is Black — to just gloss over that part — and they actually do it? No, we don’t.

Both Samuel Little and Lonnie Franklin, Jr. were Black male serial killers who spent decades murdering Black women before being caught. As Black people, we don’t get to change the fact that they were a Black men because we’re embarrassed.

Jeffrey Dahmer was a white gay man who murdered lots of Black men. Deal with it. Deal with it in the same way that the families of his victims had to. Be mad, be offended but don’t you dare say that “This is not the representation we’re looking for.”

The white LGBTQ community doesn’t get to disassociate itself from one of its own just because they’re worried about the impact on its image, and the fact that Netflix acquiesced is a slap in the face to the Black community — specifically the Black LGBTQ community. So what? Our truth and history doesn’t matter because white gay men are offended?

As a Black lesbian, I’ve spent my entire adult life trying my best to offend the white LGBTQ community with the truth about their racism.

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Well, 23 years later, we had a repeat with the murder of 27-year-old Gemmel Moore at the hands of another white gay man — Democratic major donor Ed Buck. Yes — Democratic donor, because similar to Dahmer and the white LGBTQ community, the Democrats never want to admit that Buck was one of them — one of us.

Also, like with Dahmer, no one wanted to believe that this white gay man in West Hollywood was targeting Black gay men and shooting them up with meth. Law enforcement, the district attorney, and for a long while, even the news media gave Ed Buck the benefit of the doubt over his Black victims, even after there were two dead bodies.

Five years later, Buck is finally in prison with a 30-year-sentence.

Watching “Dahmer,” I felt for Glenda Cleveland because I know exactly what it feels like to know what’s going on and scream it as loud as you can, and still no one listens. To be gaslit and told it isn’t what you know it is and then have those same people turn around and pat themselves on the back for stopping a killer two deaths, one near death, and countless other victims later.

Rest assured that when I do the Ed Buck story, it will be tagged LGBTQ, true crime, geriatric, horror, and whatever other genre it falls under.

The Black LGBTQ community deserves to have the truth told about both Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Buck, and that starts with the fact that they are both white gay men who killed Black gay men. White gays shouldn’t get to absolve themselves from that.

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Photo courtesy of Jasmyne Cannick

Jasmyne Cannick is an award-winning journalist based in Los Angeles. Cannick is an on-air contributor who writes and speaks about collisions at the intersection of politics, race, and society. 

She spent five years working to bring a serial killer, Ed Buck to justice.

Her Ring the Alarm podcast is available on Apple, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

For more information on the podcast visit iamjasmyne.com/ringthealarm. Follow her travels on Instagram @hellojasmyne and Twitter @jasmyne.

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Thank you, Your Majesty

British expat in D.C. mourns late monarch

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Maximilian Sycamore pays his respects to Queen Elizabeth II at the British Embassy in D.C. on Sept. 11, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Maximilian Sycamore)

It was early on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, when the first rumbles came across the pond about Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s health. “Keep calm and carry on” kicked in until her children arrived in Scotland. Nothing screams imminent death in Britain more than the arrival of close family.

When the news finally broke, I went into autopilot. Saving my yearly tear for the funeral, I put the kettle on to make a cup of tea. Strangely, the kettle had started leaking that week like a very British prophecy. Later I would meet fellow expats in a bar, giving brief hugs of condolence before resuming the national pastime of moaning (the Pimm’s Cup was not to our standards, even with clear instruction.)

We joined the British public in the impossible task of mourning the loss of such an important woman while maintaining our dignity in the process. Tradition dictates televisions play BBC news non-stop before mourners rest flowers outside the palaces, taking a moment of quiet reflection in the silent embrace of the crowds.

For those of us not home we have to find other ways to feel included. A small collection of Brits gathered on our D.C. roof-deck for a Paddington Bear double bill; enjoying sausage rolls, curry and Pimm’s before the ironically British weather chased us inside.

Keeping up with the proceedings is easy, though with the time difference a lot occurs before I’ve opened my eyes. The hardest day will be the funeral, taking place on a Monday, a bank (public) holiday for the locals but a little more tricky for those of us peppered across the globe.

D.C. isn’t the worst place to be during this time, it’s globally aware and moderately respectful (the large gay community doesn’t hurt.) But Her Majesty was not without detractors, her last few decades tarnished as Meghan-shaped nails were hammered into a Diana-sized coffin, buried underneath the ghosts of a legacy that comes with a monarchy that was once an empire.

When outside the protection of national grief you feel oddly exposed to critical opinion and cruel jokes and begin to second guess your own choice to mourn.

Her death had been long dreaded. Would the nation be able to survive without her? When His Majesty King Charles III made his first address; we braced ourselves for a fraud, an imitation monarch. So, when we were instead met with a son battling to stay strong as he grieved his mother, our defenses dropped and we were united, rallying behind him.

For those living in Britain the other changes will be gradual. The National Anthem will sound strange, and our money will look foreign. For the rest of us the changes will be a bit more jarring, but we’ll have a cup of tea to steady our nerves and persevere.

To write a piece like this is not easy, it seems almost naive to form opinions based on a public persona. Luckily for me I was able to meet Her Majesty and speak with her for a brief couple of minutes when she visited my university. As I explained to her in moderate detail my task, I was met with a look of interest that was equal parts understanding and fascination. I couldn’t help but think that she wanted to be there, to learn more about her subjects so she could perform her duties just that little bit better. 

And it’s the level of respect she showed us that I will never forget.

Madam, Your Majesty, thank you.

Maximilian Sycamore meets Queen Elizabeth II at his university in the U.K. (Photo courtesy of Maximilian Sycamore)

Maximilian Sycamore is a D.C.-based media producer who is originally from London. The opinions expressed in this op-ed are entirely his own.

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End anti-Trans discrimination in credit reporting practices

H.R. 8478 would change all of that, prohibiting “deadnaming” in consumer reports and improving accuracy in credit reporting

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Graphic Credit: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau/USA.gov

By Bodhi Calagna and Steve Ralls | DENVER – There is an ancient Confucian saying: “If names are not correct, language will not be in accordance with the truth of things.”

Names have power. In many spiritual traditions, names are akin to incantations, carrying their meaning and their weight out into the world when spoken. When tragedy strikes – whether the attacks of September 11th or the mass murder at Pulse Nightclub – one of our first human responses is the need and instinct to say the names of those we have lost. We speak them aloud, and the memory and meaning of who they were is given back to the world.

For transgender and nonbinary people, names are an especially important part of claiming, owning and honoring identity. When names are correct, they become affirmations, confirmations and powerful reminders – to ourselves and to the world around us – of who we are. 

That is why we are so grateful to Representatives Katie Porter (D-CA) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) for introducing new legislation, The Credit Reporting Accuracy After a Legal Name Change Act (H.R. 8478), which would ensure that credit bureaus and credit reporting agencies must honor requests from trans and nonbinary people to update credit reports and records in real, meaningful ways that would end discrimination and help fight homelessness, unemployment and economic disparity within the community. It is a critical piece of legislation that deserves every lawmaker’s support.

We have experienced, and seen, firsthand how meaningful this kind of change can be. One of us (Bodhi) recently began transitioning and, as part of that process, updated important identity documents, like their passport, to reflect their true selves. Seeing the institutions that document and identify our lives for so many critical purposes affirm a correct name was unexpectedly powerful and moving, and the impact of the moment the judge declared, “Congratulations, your name has been officially changed,” cannot be underestimated. The gravity and meaningfulness of the change was reiterated months later when presenting a passport with correct identifying information while traveling to Mexico. 

One of us (Steve) also spent many years working with LGBTQ service members as part of the campaign to end the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on troops. Time and time again, courageous, decorated and patriotic service members were misidentified on their commendations, military paperwork, medals and other honors. In one case, a highly decorated Navy veteran’s plaques honoring their service with an incorrect name was scratched out, and a correct one handwritten in its place. Such brave service members never deserved such inhumane treatment and, fortunately, the armed forces now have a process for correcting records for transgender veterans.

Such intensely affirming moments send a message that, yes, we have the power to ensure language will “be in accordance with the truth of things.”

Indeed, most institutions now have policies in place to honor and work with transgender and nonbinary people who have a legal name change. But no such process or requirement exists in the world of credit bureaus, whose reports have an extraordinary impact on people’s lives. Buying a house, applying for a job, securing loans – none of these life-changing events is possible without an accurate credit report. And reports that “out” transgender people can add insult to injury, making navigating systems rife with transphobia and discrimination even more impossible. 

H.R. 8478 would change all of that, prohibiting “deadnaming” in consumer reports and improving accuracy in credit reporting so that trans and nonbinary people can have their credit history follow them after their name change. It would create clear, federally mandated procedures for updating a consumer’s name and ensure a person’s credit history is correctly matched to their credit file after a name change. It would also prohibit credit bureaus, and other consumer reporting agencies, from disclosing a person’s deadname in a credit report after being notified about a name change. 

We know that credit agencies can do this already: They routinely update the files of heterosexual consumers who marry and change their name. It would be no more difficult, and no more burdensome, for them to do the same for the trans and nonbinary community. But it could make all the difference in the world for a community already severely impacted by unemployment, housing discrimination and a lack of access to credit and financial opportunities. 

Our own life experiences tell us that this is a profoundly meaningful action that will go a long way in ensuring trans and nonbinary people feel seen, affirmed, respected and protected. The power – and empowerment – of being able to show a document that simply confirms your own identity and self is both unmistakable and unforgettable. And while those who have never navigated a name change may not understand, that moment when you first get carded and hand over an ID that truly shows you as you is a moment that stays with you forever. 

We are immensely grateful to Congresswoman Porter and Congresswoman Pressley for their leadership on this simple but profound and life-changing issue. Every Member of Congress should support their bill, and President Biden should sign it into law. 

To add your name to those calling on Congress to stand with trans and nonbinary consumers, and pass H.R. 8478, visit www.lgbtq-economics.org.

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Bodhi Calagna (they, them, theirs) is the world renowned DJ, Producer and artist known as CALAGNA and the founder of Remix Your World, a program to heal trauma and create from a place of inspiration and service in order to truly live a purposeful life.

Photo by Sway Photography

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Steve Ralls (he, him, his) is VP of External Affairs for Public Justice, a non-profit legal advocacy organization that tackles abusive corporate power and predatory practices, the assault on civil rights and liberties and the destruction of the earth’s sustainability. He is the former Director of Communications for both Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Immigration Equality.


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