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Editor's Letter

For a Lost Soldier…

They’d grown up in Ohio & discovered after a few failed attempts at pursuing the fairer sex, their real romantic interests laid in each other

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Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, 2013 (Photo by Brody Levesque)

Editor’s note: A good portion of my career had been spent working in Washington D.C. On Monday, May 27, 2013 after returning from the annual Memorial Day ceremonies across the Potomac River in Arlington National Cemetery, I filed the following story based on notes I had jotted down in my reporter’s notebook after an emotional impromptu interview.

ARLINGTON, VA — Every year that I have lived and worked in this city I have always gone to Arlington National Cemetery to observe the Memorial Day ceremonies. Afterwards, I wander down through the grounds, just to watch, maybe to listen, but mostly to contemplate on the sacrifices made by those brave souls whose final resting place has become hallowed ground, a literal garden of stones.

Arlington’s rolling hills are a place of extraordinary beauty, a fitting repository for the memory of the living history of the United States. Names from the history books leap off the pages as one strolls through the grounds. ‘Byrd, Taft, Lincoln, Kennedy, Rickover, Marshall, Pershing,’ followed by the names of the thousands of soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and coast-guardsman who gave their lives to secure the freedoms promised by the American Constitution. 

Today, President Obama in his speech, reminded Americans that they must honor the sacrifices of their military servicemembers particularly as U.S. combat roles change and the nation’s involvement in Afghanistan is winding down. Adding that Arlington “has always been home to men and women who are willing to give their all … to preserve and protect the land that we love.” The president went on to praise the selflessness that “beats in the hearts” of America’s military personnel.

Mr. Obama’s words stuck with me as I walked along through the ocean of gravestones, pausing every now and then to read the names, the inscriptions, and wonder what that person or this person was like. Scattered throughout the graves proudly marked with miniature American flags fluttering in the bright noontime sunlight, I observed families, loved ones, and friends who had come to honour their fallen. Then I happened upon one grey haired older gentleman standing quietly in front of headstone obviously lost in his thoughts. As I tried to unobtrusively move around him he look up at me and smiled.

I greeted him and he greeted me back then he saw my press credentials hanging from my neck and asked whom I worked for.

I told him for a national LGBT publication, momentarily wondering what type of reception I’d receive as let’s face it, the LGBTQ community still has its detractors, and to my shock, he looked back at me, with tears forming in his eyes.

“You’re gay?” 

“I am,” I answered.

“Lot of changes since I was a, a kid,” he trailed off.  I pointed at headstone and quietly asked if the person was a friend or a family member.

“He’s my, well was my best bud, yeah, I dunno…” The poor gentleman looked stricken and it was certainly not my intention to interview him, impromptu or not. But yet I sensed that something was left hanging so I took the plunge and asked him for a few details if he didn’t mind sharing them. Turns out, that’s exactly what he wanted, to share, to have a conversation about the person whose grave we were standing over.

They had grown up in eastern Ohio, in a small rural farming community. Played football, went fishing, did farm work, and discovered that after a few failed attempts at pursuing the fairer sex, that their real romantic interests laid in each other. By the time they had graduated from high school, the Vietnam conflict had escalated and rather than wait to get drafted, they decided to join the U. S. Marines together. They went to boot camp and not long after graduation found themselves on troop planes headed for Vietnam.

“We were lucky,” he said, “We both got assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 26th regiment.” 

But good luck turned sour as their battalion found itself in the middle of one of the nastiest battles of the 1968 Tet Offensive in the battle for Khe Sanh. “I lost him that morning,” he told me pointing at the inscribed date of death on the simple white marker- February 7, 1968- “He was just 19.”

The tears came freely and I waited, then we talked some more. He told me that after he lost his love, “I went straight and got married,” going on to lose his wife to cancer a few years back. He has grand kids that he says will never know the truth, he just can’t be open with them, but at the same time, never does a day go by that he doesn’t think about and mourn the loss of his friend, his partner, and the promise of what might have been. 

“I was glad to see DADT end,” he told me referring to the policy of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t tell’ that barred military service by gay and lesbians. “At least some other couples won’t have to hide like we did.”

I thanked him for his service and his time talking with me and walked away reflecting on all of the unknown Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender military folk buried all around me who, like that lost soldier, suffered in silence and hid, yet still believed in a greater good that ultimately meant that they gave their lives for their country. 

As the American nation celebrates this solemn holiday, let us all not forget them.

A footnote:

In the Spring of 2020 I received an email from a grandson of the above gentleman to let me know that his grandfather had passed away. In the email he disclosed that his grandfather finally told his family about himself and that virtually the entire family had embraced their beloved patriarch. He then thanked me for telling his grandfather’s story.

I wrote back to thank him and asked that on the next Memorial Day, when they visited him, please tell his grandpa “Semper Fi” for me.

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Brody Levesque is a veteran career journalist and the editor of the Los Angeles Blade.

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Editor's Letter

22 years after that bright September morning, the impact lingers on

The religious zealotry that led to the acts of terrorism that day can be seen again manifesting in far right politics

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The Pentagon in Arlington just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. on the morning of September 11, 2001, approximately 10 minutes after terrorists flew American Airlines flight 77, which had taken off from Dulles International Airport, into the southwest side of the building killing 184 people. (Screenshot/YouTube Archival news footage)

LOS ANGELES – Tuesday, September 11, 2001, a point in time that forever altered the world in a series of events, terrorist attacks, that would linger on politically, spiritually, culturally, and leave an indelible mark on those alive at the time who experienced that day.

A human being born that day celebrates their twenty-second birthday today, having grown up in a world where security measures- some draconian dominate and where a certain sense of collective innocence has been lost.

Perhaps the ultimate irony is that lessons of peaceful diplomacy that could have possibly been gained from that day were instead lost to the sense of paranoia and nationalistic ideology and messaging as governments reacted, and in the case of the United States, commencement of a war that became the longest in American history.

The number of American servicemembers who died fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had passed 7,000 at the end of 2021. The ‘War on Terror’ as it was known spanned 20 years, saw the expenditure of $6 trillion dollars, 900,000 lives lost around the globe and at least 38 million people who have been displaced. 

The point of impact of American Airlines Flight 77 into the southwest side of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
(Photo Credit: Corporal Jason Ingersoll, USMC/U.S. Department of Defense

9:37:46 AM, The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C.: American Airlines Flight 77, which had taken off from Dulles International Airport, struck the southwest side of the building killing 184 people.

This reporter was in the Pentagon that fateful morning, having agreed to substitute for a sick colleague. I witnessed the utter disbelief on the faces of every one of my colleagues as we were clustered around a television set watching the events unfolding in New York City at the World Trade Center and then suddenly it was our turn as the entire building shook as Flight 77 crashed into the southwestern face of the Pentagon.

The next 16 hours are still a vignette of sounds, smells, and sights from that day that have never left me. The events of that day would later define my career and set me on a path of being far more cynical than I was previously as I viewed a changed world.

Here, two decades years later, I reflect still on what could have been and yet still remain optimistic even in the face of greater turmoil, wide-spread authoritarianism, a global climate crisis exacerbated by war, and then too of war itself as evidenced by the illegal incursion into the sovereignty of the Ukraine.

The rise of nationalism- especially of the white supremacist variety tied to religious fundamentalism is the primary danger and the direct linear descendent of the terrorism that was seen on that Tuesday morning twenty-two years ago. It is not just an American issue, it is a global issue, one that needs to be exposed and then dealt with.

The religious zealotry that fed the extremist ideology that led to the acts of terrorism that bright September morning can be seen again manifesting in the extremist actions of the far right beyond politics. Book bans, the war on trans and queer people, stifling of free speech and ideas, promotion of anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ+ and racist ideas all contribute to a society that is rapidly becoming very unsafe and a petri dish for the next 9-11.

This is the lingering impact of that long ago day and must be mitigated, before history repeats itself.

From the live stream of the services at the 9-11 memorial at Ground Zero in New York City, on September 11, 2022 (Screenshot/YouTube)

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Brody Levesque is a veteran journalist and the Editor-In-Chief of the Los Angeles Blade

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Editor's Letter

Does South Carolina have TWO gay U.S. senators?

If he’s gay, that’s great! A gay Republican credibly running for president is surely a sign of better times & a historic moment

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Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) during a campaign appearance in North Charleston, May 2023. (Photo Credit: Tim Scott/Facebook)

WASHINGTON – Are South Carolina voters among the most progressive in the country? Did they elect not one – but TWO – gay U.S. senators?

That’s a fair conclusion after reading today’s story from Axios, “GOP donors fret over Scott’s single status.”

Per the story, “Top GOP donors and their allies privately are pushing Sen. Tim Scott’s team for more detail about his bachelor status before deciding how much to support him in the presidential campaign, according to two people familiar with the conversations.”

It continues, “some donors have questions.”

Of course, Axios doesn’t dare go there and address what “questions” his single status might raise. So let me do it: Tim Scott is rumored to be gay, just like the senior senator from South Carolina, as the Blade has reported many times. Male escorts in D.C. have openly claimed that Sen. Lindsey Graham has been a client. (If you have an iron stomach, Google “Lindsey Graham ladybugs” for the details.)

Back to Scott. If he’s gay, that’s great! A gay Republican credibly running for president is surely a sign of better times and a historic moment for the country. If he’s not gay, then certain Scott GOP rivals are using homophobic tactics to undermine his candidacy by pushing narratives that Scott is gay in hopes it will turn off the bigoted GOP base.

The Axios story compares Scott’s situation to that of Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, who also ran for president as a bachelor. “When Booker ran for president, he was dating actress Rosario Dawson,” the story notes. Of course they later broke up and Dawson clumsily came out of the closet herself. The Axios story doesn’t mention this, because the mainstream media, for whatever reason, still can’t quite reckon with queer sexuality in 2023.

Perhaps Booker, Scott, and Graham are all gay. So what? Say it out loud and stop playing these 20th century coy games about the truth of our public officials’ lives.

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Kevin Naff is the Editor-In-Chief of The Washington Blade

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Editor's Letter

I’m a war correspondent, reporting on endless anti-LGBTQ violence

People must learn to hate, & if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart…

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Brody Levesque/Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES – My favorite quote is from former South African President Nelson Mandela’s 1994 autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” in which President Mandela wrote:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

These days more-so than ever before, that thought is so true and applicable to the great battles being waged by American conservatives against other Americans. It is an unceasing war where innocents, children mainly, lose their lives and in many cases their souls to the hatred espoused by the right.

I’ve gone from being a political journalist to being a war correspondent reporting on the casualties of this war as good people, decent people, are killed or die by suicide because they have lost all hope.

This past Friday night, a beloved member of a small tight-knit community in the San Bernardino Mountains adjacent to Lake Arrowhead lost her life to the hate that has consumed the cultural and political landscape of the United States.

Laura Ann Carleton was murdered by a 27-year-old man, who had been exposed to a steady diet of homophobic and transphobic hatred, lies, and propaganda that culminated in his anger taking the life of Carleton, a mother of nine children in a blended family, a loving wife of nearly three decades, and a beloved business owner who was an integral part of the community of Cedar Lake.

His hatred of the LGBTQ+ community was documented by Sheriff’s investigators and journalists reviewing his social media history and posts.

The reason Carleton was cut down you ask? Because she was an important and steadfast ally of the LGBTQ+ community who proudly displayed her commitment to this besieged minority community by flying the symbol of its spirit, a Pride flag, publicly, outside at her place of business.

She was murdered for flying a Pride Flag- let that sink in for a moment.

Canadian writer, journalist, novelist and anthologist Michael Rowe reflecting on this heinous crime wrote in a Facebook Post on August 21st:

Quick exercise: take the phrase, “these are good, decent people who simply take issue with the LGBTQIA lifestyle,” and substitute literally any other minority group for “LGBTQIA.” What happens then? When you do that, are they still “good decent people?” Maybe ask Ms. Carleton’s annihilated husband and her now-motherless children.

As for me, I’m tired of the “thoughts and prayers” sop, and I’m tired of bigoted straight people’s primitive religious superstitions—pardon me, “religious freedoms”—taking precedence over the safety and freedom of queer people and their allies. And I’m especially bone-tired of the people who hate us being accorded the “good, decent people” designation in “debates” about our humanity, just because, apparently, in the general consensus, “alphabet people” still don’t really rate.”

I’m in complete agreement with my journalist colleague and likely more so than bone-tired as I have literally like many in the LGBTQ+ movement and community been on the front lines waging this warfare against a segment of society who actually don’t possess a shred of humanity.

Recently, the war has been focused on “parental rights,” directed at the LGBTQ+ community, most especially transgender and queer youth, in a campaign of terrorism designed to erase trans youth from existence. The right wants to forcibly inflict pain and suffering all in the name of “their” rights as parents to raise their children but the consideration for other people’s children be damned.

These campaigns are at a local level, school boards, state legislative bodies, all in what arguably is clearly defined as stochastic terrorism. Let me quickly trot out the definition of that term for those unaware:

Stochastic terrorism is the public demonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted.”

Translation: Lone wolf attacks such as the murder of Laura Ann Carleton, fomented by the hate, lies, and propaganda from anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups.

To reiterate and add some terms: an entity (an individual or group or organization) acts as a stochastic terrorist by demonizing a target entity which motivates a third group, the terrorist entity, to carry out a terrorist act against the target. This terrorist scenario is stochastic because with the public demonization of a target, a terrorist act against the target is not certain but is made more likely. It is also stochastic because the identity of the terrorist and the timing and means of the attack cannot be predicted.

Let’s pin the tail on these jackasses. Less than fifty miles from Cedar Glen is Chino, California whose school board just passed a policy to require ‘Outing’ trans kids to parents or guardians under the guise of ‘parental rights.’ Never you mind that in most cases those children are not Out to their parents for a damn good reason. The term that best applies here is “non-affirming homes.”

And how did this school board arrive at its decision? A radical right president elected with an anti-LGBTQ+ agenda fed by the lies and propaganda of groups like Florida-based ‘Moms for Liberty.’

Plus, the Chino school board meetings were heavily attended by such “luminaries” as the Proud Boys, a nationalistic white supremacist group which also hates on the LGBTQ+ community. Terms like “groomer,” “paedophiles,” and other such rubbish tossed around during the meetings and in fact by a couple of the speakers- most hiding behind “family moral values” and ‘parent rights.’

Light a match and start a fire.

I am NOT claiming that the shooter in the murder of Ms. Carleton is directly related to the actions in Chino, and in fact currently three other Southern California school districts as well. But, what I am saying is that all of this hatred, amplified by far-right media, social media, and hate groups has caused stochastic terrorist acts against the LGBTQ+ community to become the norm versus the exception.

Which leaves me to ply my profession as a journalist these days as a combat correspondent, grieving at the losses. Laura Ann Carleton the most recent casualty along with LGBTQ+ kids who have lost hope and died by suicide as they cannot see any victory, normalcy, just being accepted as human beings.

“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite,” Mandela wrote.

These days, teaching people that Love is Love- will require greater effort and frankly stronger measures to protect the LGBTQ+ community, its allies, and its kids.

Elections matter folks and most assuredly so do words.

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Brody Levesque is a veteran journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of the Los Angeles Blade.

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Editor's Letter

I support the Trevor Project- But they can’t deflect or hide failures

The Trevor Project is doing harm to the community even beyond a failure to execute its mission by gaslighting those reporting on its problems

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The Trevor Project's West Hollywood staff and volunteers at LA Pride, June 2023. (Photo Credit: The Trevor Project/Facebook)

LOS ANGELES – In response to Los Angeles Blade’s reporting that Trevor Project had fallen down in adequately performing it’s mission – providing services to prevent suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning young people -.the organization is disputing that their primary mission has been compromised by staffing issues and ongoing conflicts within its staff. 

Responding in a tweet saying they saw the article as a mischaracterization of the issues it currently is facing, they claim our article attempts to undermine their work, saying there are “many inaccuracies and mischaracterizations about the state of The Trevor Project,” but without disputing any of the articles specific assertions.

Instead they claim it’s the size of their mission that is the cause of strife.  “An audacious mission: to end suicide among LGBT young people. In our decades of service, we’ve faced numerous challenges as we attempt to meet increasing demand” and state that they are making organizational improvements without offering any specifics.

(Screenshot of Trevor Project tweet, August 11, 2023 at 3:55PM)

Our article was quite specific about the organization’s failings and as a LGBTQ+ community journalistic enterprise, we will always be devoted to exploring deficiencies in any program, organization, agencies or service that claims to do work for the LGBTQ+ community. We do so without fear or favor, but we also remain balanced and fair. 

We realize not one single organization is perfect, but there are degrees of impropriety that warrant inspection; suicide hotlines where children or their loved ones can not get a response is one of them.

Trevor Project does not deny that. Trevor Project can not deny that it went on a growth spurt that resulted in a $44,000,000 increase in the organization’s budget. They increased their staff from a handful to over 700 people. 

Trevor says it attempts  to “handle an ever-increasing contact volume – without sacrificing our quality of care. It’s not a simple task. And we are doing all of this in the midst of a profound transformation of our workplace culture to adapt to The Trevor Project of today”

Well, that’s an admission without specificity and it is a poor rebuttal of our reporting, if that is what it is. Shame on the leadership of Trevor Project for calling our reporting shoddy without proving it.

We provided plenty of proof in our reporting and spent more than 4 months investigating the story. We stand behind every word and we are happy to be corrected if we are wrong.

We don’t doubt that the staff or the agency is invested in the mission or in supporting the lives of the many people impacted when any youth is in a suicidal spiral.

Trevor Project can not hide behind the gravity of its mission. That’s a tired old trope.

”The problems we are trying to solve are big,” they say, “and we continue to adapt our systems and processes as the world around us changes.”

The Trevor Project walked right up that gaslighting technique by claiming anyone who points out their internal troubles is “attempting to join in on online chatter; remember that there is always more to a story – and that the stakes here are just too high.”  

The Trevor Project is doing harm to the community even beyond a failure to execute its mission, but to disparage us without specificity is telling.

We offered them many opportunities to address numerous questions directly and there were few  responses.

This is not the first time as publisher I have witnessed agency hostility after pointing out failures of LGBTQ institutions that lost their way. With one or two exceptions along the way, the initial response to such reporting has always been defensive anytime important failings were exposed.

Funding issues have cropped up many times. Executive pay that far exceeds the financial bandwidth of non-profits have been reported on within the papers I have been a part of in the past and will do so again. Those papers have reported on staffing issues at many non-profit organizations and reported extensively on other matters that are considered by some as not for public airing.

None of it is to make points or to stir scandal. It is simply the role of a free press and the responsibility of every credible journalistic enterprise. We serve that function. We tell the truth and we even admit our own failings.

It’s time for Trevor to do the same and also offer a detailed explanation and accounting of how the organization got to this point without attempting to gaslight those telling the story without bias.

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Troy Masters is the publisher of the Los Angeles Blade.

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Editor's Letter

Do LGBTQ+ people REALLY need allies like the Dodgers?

You are displaying what can rightly be considered outright homophobia. You literally are allowing the LGBTQ+ community to be bullied

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Photo courtesy of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

LOS ANGELES – On Wednesday of this week I reported Florida Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio issued a statement on Monday that condemned the Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball franchise for a scheduled “Community Hero Award”  to be given to the LA Chapter of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence drag group during Pride month in June.

By Wednesday, the Dodgers caved in, folded, and walked away from a total commitment to the LGBTQ community by “uninviting” The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence ludicrously claiming that the team felt it would be better to hold Dodger Pride Night without the “controversial” elements that honoring the drag group raised.

Let’s consider this for a moment, just the optics for example, a senior vice-president of the team is openly gay AND married. In addition to that, one of the team’s minority owners is- wait for it, a LESBIAN! The team would rather cater to the manufactured butt-hurt rage of the conservatives, not wishing to offend the faithful of a religious group whose priests have been convicted of molesting thousands of children over multiple centuries, mostly male victims I’ll add, rather than honor a drag group with a long established record of charity and philanthropic efforts? (Oh and NO record of molesting kids either.)

I have published the understandable and justifiable anger and critique by community leaders here in Los Angeles and beyond. The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s CEO noted in his statement:

Buckling to pressure from out-of-state, right-wing fundamentalists, the Dodgers caved to a religious minority that is perpetuating a false narrative about LGBTQ+ people. They have been fed lies about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and have therefore contributed to the ongoing, anti-LGBTQ smear campaign happening in this country. In a year where over 400 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation are on the books—many of them targeting freedom of speech, expression, and the bodily autonomy of our community—the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is as critical as ever, and unfortunately the Dodgers chose to bow to the religious right rather than stand with our LGBTQ community.

As I write these words, Texas Lawmakers are considering yet another bill banning drag or severely limiting the ability of drag performers to practise their artform, that state joining the dozen plus other states who have banned or are considering bans on drag performances.

This year has seen attacks on drag, attacks on trans healthcare, attacks on LGBTQ+ kids, book bans, a plethora of hate yet here in California, in Los Angeles no less, even with the aforementioned senior staff and owners being LGBTQ+ themselves, the Dodgers are tossing the LGBTQ+ community, its people, and THEIR fans out on the rubbish heap because of butt hurt rage by people who don’t even live in LA. Seriously?

Today is Friday and there is silence from the Dodgers… crickets.

Why even bother holding a Pride night? You either back us entirely or you don’t. And if you don’t? Well then I recommend that LGBTQ+ baseball fans and our community allies consider cheering for and backing the Angels, the Padres, the Oakland Athletics, or the Giants.

My message to the Dodgers is simple, screw you if you cannot support people who are in a battle for their very existence every.single.day! You are displaying what can rightly be considered outright homophobia. You literally are allowing the LGBTQ+ community to be bullied. Really? Honestly? You all suck.

I’ll let the Sisters have the final word:

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Brody Levesque is a veteran journalist and the editor of the Los Angeles Blade.

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Editor's Letter

LGBTQ+ community rallies around NCLR’s Shannon Minter

Friends and colleagues of National Center for Lesbian Rights’ longtime legal director are rallying around him and his family after a tornado

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Courtesy of Shannon MInter

EAST TEXAS HILL COUNTRY – A powerful fast moving stormfront moved across Texas and other Southern states yesterday, Thursday, leaving behind in its wake a wide swath of destruction with lives lost and disrupted by tornado damage and high winds.

Sadly it also destroyed the home of Shannon and Robin Minter and the collective of their furry children they love and take care of. Fortunately says Minter, nobody was lost or hurt although the home is beyond repair, or in the parlance of insurance adjusters, it’s totaled.

In full disclosure this reporter has been friends with Minter for 15 years and I have to say, this was a serious gut blow. Shannon is one of the most decent human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure to know and he’s also one of the fiercest legal eagles/advocates for the LGBTQ+ community in his role as the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Beyond his legal expertise and dedicated work to preserving and fighting for equity and equal rights for LGBTQ+ humans, as chronicled on his hugely popular Twitter account, is his love and advocacy for all creatures great and small, but especially stray ‘doggos and kittys’ that find their way to the Minter home. Oh and trust me when I say- nay, place emphasis on ‘home.’

My colleague and fellow editor Cynthia Laird at the Bay Area Reporter in San Francisco where NCLR is home based wrote earlier:

“Within hours of the news, one of Minter’s friends started a GoFundMe campaign to help raise funds. Minter’s friend, known by the Twitter handle Cee Eyes (“Dr. Strange PhD Cat Lackey”), noted the campaign quickly surpassed its initial $10,000 goal. Cee Eyes wrote that the goal likely would be adjusted upward as the “situation evolves and needs are assessed.”

“Shannon Minter and his wife Robin have given a loving home to so many stray kitties and pups. Many of us know Shannon for his big heart, kind words, and boundless devotion,” Cee Eyes wrote for the fundraiser. “Sadly, a tornado ripped apart the Minter home on March 2, 2023. Shannon and Robin have done so much for others — bringing light and joy to those who follow their Twitter adventures. Now it’s time for us to do whatever we can as they begin to rebuild a safe home for the Minter Babies!

“When we first heard about the disaster, we posted the link to an ongoing, separate fundraiser before starting this one,” Cee Eyes, an ally, added. “Both fundraisers are for Shannon, and no matter which you donate to, all the money raised will go directly to Shannon and his family. Bless all of you for your loving, generous hearts!”

Last October, another friend, Laura McNamara, started a GoFundMe to raise money to help the Minters care for their many animals. It is also active and has raised over $21,000.”

This reporter saw the initial tweet and communicated with Shannon immediately to be assured that a beloved friend and his extended people/furry companions family were safe. I cannot express the relief when that text came that yep, we are.

Let me add a statement from Shannon’s NCLR family here. Christopher Vasquez, NCLR’s comms director wrote:

“Our hearts at NCLR go out to our legal director Shannon Minter, one of the most inspiring and passionate legal minds in the LGBTQ movement. Right now our thoughts are with him, his wife Robin, and their expansive family of beloved cats and dogs that have provided much-needed light and levity to Twitter through some particularly tough years.

We are heartened to see the vast and generous outpouring of support for the Minter family in the last 24 hours through a barrage of messages and two separate GoFundMe campaigns. Shannon is one of the bravest and most resilient individuals we know and we are positive he will come out of this temporary setback stronger than ever, ready to continue fighting for our community.” 

Courtesy Shannon Minter

A friend of Shannon’s has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help raise funds to assist him and Robin take care of their family of much-loved pets during this challenging time.

If EVER there were a pair of folks who could really use a helping hand from our community, it’s the Minters. So let me add my voice to request that even if its only the price of say a large pizza, one topping, and a coke? Yeah hit the link and drop them some love please.

Oh, one last thing. Shannon VERY much has a stake in every battle our collective of LGBTQ+ humanity is engaged in right now as the right attempts to erase our trans siblings, take away women’s reproductive and health rights, and stop our LGBTQ+ youth from being themselves or even learning our history. For you see, my dear friend is trans himself.

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Brody Levesque is the editor of the Los Angeles Blade

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Editor's Letter

Tennessee’s Taliban flips their wig over the gays

What makes these fundamentalist MAGA types so afraid of a man in a dress with make up on his face and a goddamn wig on his head?

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

My home state, Tennessee, has just lost its mind over gay folk.

It’s far right Republican majority legislature and Republican Governor have become nearly singly purposed in their goal of halting LGBTQ rights in the state, today declaring an all out war that is likely to spread to dozens of other states and ultimately — and perilously —  the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state’s governor is expected to sign into law Senate Bill 3 and its companion, House Bill 9 banning “adult cabaret performances,” including “male or female impersonators,” from taking place in public or in any location where the performance could be viewed by a minor. 

A first violation of the law would be a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to 11 months and 29 days in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Subsequent violations would be classified as a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $3000.

That’s right: actual Prison time for drag show performers, promoters and owners of venues is one odious aspect of this. 

But banning drag shows was not all they did. 

Transgender youth in Tennessee are now legally barred from receiving gender-affirming care after the Governor signed another bill that prohibits Doctors from providing gender-affirming care to anyone under the age of 18, including prescribing puberty blockers and hormones — and they could also be penalized.

Violations include $25,000 penalties for everyone involved. Parents could lose guardianship. And, borrowing a page from abortion restriction laws, crossing state lines for treatment has been introduced as an amendment to the bill.

Obviously a lengthy legal battle will be waged over the coming months but in the meantime the law is the law and it’s likely to be enforced.

“These children do not need these medical procedures to be able to flourish as adults,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth. “They need mental health treatment. They need love and support, and many of them need to be able to grow up to become the individuals that they were intended to be.”

Lamberth and his legislators studiously ignore the vast body of research and study that states those with ” gender dysphoria” have much better outcomes with puberty blockers and hormone therapy.

They are simply gaslighting the public and sacrificing the health and welfare of the few so they can excite the many misguided Christian conservative voters.

It’s also likely that other state’s will follow Tennessee’s lead in coupling anti-drag laws with banning gender affirming care for youth. As of today, 97 bills are pending in conservative state legislatures hoping to achieve the same thing.

The message is clear, at least to any LGBTQ person who is paying attention to the mushrooming round of grooming arguments.

The argument goes something like this: The existence of Drag queens does not, it is thought, represent innocuous or frivolous fun. They are sinister and their popularity and influence is a serious threat to the agency parents have over their kids and to culture at large; Drag is a force that is marketed to youth with the intention of grooming them into the so-called vice of homosexuality. Gender non-conforming ideas are a threat to society, they posit, and will lead young people to question their identities and seek gender reassignment. I guess they also think this means the world will end in a hail of fire and brimstone.

The bill associates any form of dressing outside one’s gender as “adult” entertainment, using the wording “male or female impersonators.” It makes it illegal to perform such entertainment in public or in places where it could potentially be seen by children.

The bill is so poorly written that it may now also be a crime in Tennessee to wear clothing in public that is not intended for one’s perceived gender.

It’s hard to combat that kind of ridiculousness with rational  thinking. 

But let’s digress! I want to get to what makes these fundamentalist MAGA types so afraid of a man in a dress with make up on his face and a goddamn wig on his head?

Maybe drag queens challenge the masculinity of the Republican legislators? Maybe it’s just the way of the bully: If you don’t pick on the fag then people will think your softness means you are one? Maybe they secretly blush with a beet-red raging hard on everytime they see a drag queen on TV? Maybe women Republicans just know they can’t compete with the beauty of the queens (they can’t of course) who are out to take their man. Ok!

It was Tammy Wynette who sang “you ain’t woman enough to take my man,” but I’m pretty sure she’d say these are not men she can stand by.

Sadly, it’s THEIR kids who need the most help, these people who are so easily threatened and so thin skinned. Liberal parents who truly want their kids to live their best lives know what’s best for their kids. They want parental choice, but not your brand of it. 

Conservative parents are determined to keep their children ( and everyone else’s) conservative even if miserable and think their need to shield them from unwanted culture means the rest of the world and all of science needs to be shut down.

Tennessee has always been a place of contrast and that, at least when I was a kid, used to be a strength. But now its contrast is also its breaking point. The governor and its legislature, for instance, are out of step with the needs and the culture of the core populations that drive its economy;  what works and the ideologies of places like McMinville, TN don’t work for Nashville or Memphis or Knoxville or Chattanooga or Murfreesboro or Franklin.

Right now Tennessee, particularly Nashville, is in the middle of one of the greatest economic booms in the nation’s history. 3,000 people move to the city every day. They don’t come with hate but they do come because the economy is booming and that boom is now most assuredly at risk. 

I’m not talking about the loss of revenues from the state 42 drag shows potentially being shut down because they are threatened by these laws. Or because doctors at Vanderbilt may have to cease offering transition care to youth and their supportive family.

Tennessee’s economy is at risk because these laws will bring a response from the world that Tennessee depends on. The LGBTQIA family will work to ensure Tennessee pays a steep price for its sad display of ignorance and evil.

There’s a roadmap for exacting that price.

Just ask Cracker Barrel what happened when it tried to ban LGBTQ people from employment. The City of New York sold its holdings in the Lebanon, TN headquartered company, a sizable investment held by the City’s Teacher’s Pension Fund. Other municipalities followed suit and Cracker Barrel was forced to change its policy, but only after a multi-million dollar loss that caused it to struggle for a time.

Some of us remember the power of that lesson.

I’m quite sure California and New York hold billions of dollars in investment into Tennessee. Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Tennessee include FedEx, HCA Healthcare,  International Paper Company, Dollar General Corporation, Community Health Systems, Inc., Unum Group, Eastman Chemical Company, AutoZone, Inc., Vanguard Health Systems, Inc., Tractor Supply Company. Tennessee’s cultural connection to the world through New York and California based companies is profound. The number one city from which people relocated to booming Nashville is Los Angeles. The distillery world and publishing world are massive beneficiaries of Tennessee’s cultural ties to the world and those too can be easily disrupted.

I am NOT calling for a boycott. 

I am calling for something far worse, much harsher and way easier to accomplish; divestment of Tennessee based assets by Comptrollers and Secretaries of State in pro-LGBTQ Cities and States around the country.

Tennessee’s slogan is “The Volunteer State” and that is intended to imply its a place that follows the golden rule and lends a helping hand and never oppresses.

Also true to Tennessee’s character, which always loves a good joke, a little schadenfreude when someone steps in it is always a lot of fun.

Reddit post

A photo of Governor Bill Lee’s 1977 High School drag performance has made the rounds with the caption “Hard Luck Woman.” 

“The bill specifically protects children from obscene, sexualized entertainment, and any attempt to conflate this serious issue with lighthearted school traditions is dishonest and disrespectful to Tennessee families,” a spokesperson rattled.

When asked during a press conference Monday if he “remembered dressing in drag in 1977,” Lee didn’t deny the photo was of him—but he said it doesn’t change anything.

“What a ridiculous, ridiculous question that is,” Lady Lee protested. “Conflating something like that to sexualized entertainment in front of children, which is a very serious subject.” 

Tennessee loves a good Jr. and High School cheerleading squad and anyway, I’m pretty sure there were children present for your performance, dear. 

And that’s for starters.

But if you would like to reprise your drag role and abolish this silliness, I know a bar or two in DT Nashville that would love to welcome you to stage for a starring role as Lady Miss Governor.

But by the time you unravel this treachery to your own drag community, the LGBTQIA community will have made sure you and your trans-kid hating cronies lose billions of dollars for Tennessee.

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Troy Masters is the publisher of the Los Angeles Blade

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Editor's Letter

Zapping hate-filled comments

Over the past several months there has been a marked increased frequency of unacceptable comments & hate on Facebook posts

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES – Over the past several months there has been a marked increased frequency of unacceptable comments and hate filled diatribes appearing on various Los Angeles Blade Facebook Page’s posts.

These have included transphobic bigotry, homophobic remarks, and ad hominem attacks on other commentators and the staff of this newspaper.

Bear in mind that this is an LGBTQ+ owned and staffed publication whose primary purpose is to serve the greater LGBTQ+ community with news reporting from highly qualified journalists and media partners along with human and community interest stories to enrich the lives of our readers.

The Blade’s commenting policy is simple: Keep it civil and focused with the understanding that attacking others WILL NOT be not tolerated, particularly with ANY form of hate-filled rhetoric or messaging.

The staff of the Los Angeles Blade has been deleting and WILL continue to delete comments that violate this policy. Abuse of the policy on a recurring basis will necessitate blocking and reporting a person making those type of comments.

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Editor's Letter

Supporting the community, Transgender Awareness Week 2022

This week, let us rededicate ourselves to committing to supporting our trans siblings making sure their voices are heard & shared

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Underlying images of Trans activists Landon Richie and Rosalynn Montoya courtesy of Richie/Montoya

LOS ANGELES – Transgender Awareness Week, observed November 13 to November 19, is a one-week celebration leading up to the annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), November 20, which memorializes victims of transphobic violence.

It must, however, represent more than just a journalistic or even an activist/advocacy organization’s effort to support and sustain the trans, queer, gender non-binary or gender non-conforming global community. This week needs to be so much more than perfunctory acknowledgement of this misaligned and persecuted segment of humanity.

This week, this publication and others in queer and mainstream media must tell the stories outlining the very humanity of trans people and urge others to celebrate the diversity and the impact of the significant contributions that trans people make for the betterment of all globally.

Trans people are human- period, or “full stop.” Look at the incredible contributions that trans people make to enhance the lives of humanity on this planet that we all share. Just a short list of a few examples:

Dr. Rachel Levine, Admiral, U.S. Public Health Service and the 17th Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Levin has spent her entire career as a physician focused on the opioid crisis, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBTQ medicine.

Laverne Cox, actress, model, and LGBTQ+ equality rights activist. One of the most well-known trans actors and Black transgender celebrities, Cox has ‘kept it real’ as demonstrated by her words and public advocacy serving as a role model for youth.

Patricio Manuel, boxer and champion athlete. Manuel long struggled with his gender identity, rejecting the many ways society and his family forced him to live as a girl and in the end he overcame his gender dysphoria.

Elle Hearns, a transgender rights activist and the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. Elle serves as a visible reminder of the power of advocacy at a grass-roots level.

Abel Liu, an accomplished student at the University of Virginia who is an Echols Scholar as well as a Truman Scholar. Abel is the first openly transgender and first Chinese-American student to be elected as Student Council president at a major institution of higher education.

Sarah McBride, Sarah was just reelected as Delaware’s Senator from the First State Senate District. She’s spent her life fighting for dignity, equality, and a level playing field for everyone as human beings.

These are just but a few limited choices of the literal tens of thousands of noteworthy Trans people whose lives and talents enrich this nation and globally making a difference every single day. Trans people are sheriffs, EMTs, firefighters, pilots, teachers, comedians; they are parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, sons and daughters. Every single one a vital part of the whole.

Here on the staff of the Los Angeles Blade, journalist Dawn Ennis and LA Blade columnist and political analyst Brynn Tannehill lend their voices reporting and commenting on issues that impact all of us.

The bottom line is that without the contributions of transgender people, there would be a gap, a virtual emptiness in the rich diversity of humanity if you will. This week we need to celebrate, uplift, and yes, also mourn the lives of trans people lost to murder or suicide because of the promise that might have been.

We must fight against those who work to strip trans people of their dignity and their very right to exist. These last few years has seen a litany, a plethora of legislative efforts to erase trans rights from healthcare, sports, and even banning books that dare to mention trans people.

This week, let us rededicate ourselves to committing to supporting our trans siblings, making sure their voices are heard and shared. Trans rights ARE human rights.

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Troy Masters is publisher and Brody Levesque is editor of the Los Angeles Blade

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Editor's Letter

The Los Angeles Blade welcomes diversity reporter Simha Haddad

Haddad joins the Blade as a Diversity Reporter under the State of California Ethnic Media Outreach Grant for queer AAPI writers

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Courtesy of Simha Haddad

LOS ANGELES – The publisher, editor and staff of the Los Angeles Blade welcomes author and journalist, Simha Haddad, to the Blade as its new Diversity Reporter.

Haddad, an Out pansexual writer of Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) heritage has deep roots in the LGBTQIA+ community. She currently writes for several blogs and publications and contributes to various podcasts, all centered around queer and feminist topics. She is also the author of a YA queer fiction novel called, Somewhere on This Rainbow.

Haddad joins the Blade staff as a Diversity Reporter under the State of California Ethnic Media Outreach Grant for queer AAPI writers. The grant supports public awareness of the efforts of the California state Stop the Hate Program administered by the Calif. Dept. of Social Services (CDSS), which provides support and services to victims and survivors of hate incidents and hate crimes and facilitates hate incidents or hate crime prevention measures.

Haddad’s reporting will include coverage of the following issues and areas:

  • LGBTQIA Arts and cultural work
  • LGBTQIA Youth development
  • LGBTQIA Senior safety programs,
  • Safety planning training; and cross-racial alliance work
  • Stories on outreach, activism, education and training
  • Coverage of restorative justice
  • Spotlights on local government and community non-profit Stop the Hate programming
  • History of the Asian community in Los Angeles and California
  • Politics
  • HIV/STD Prevention efforts, programs and activities

Haddad, under the guidance of the Blade’s editorial team, will research and write long-form articles on compelling stories centered around queer AAPI subjects. The goal of these articles is to culturally educate, increase exposure, and create empathy around queer AAPI struggles, including prejudice, disease, and hate crimes. 

Haddad will also be working closely with the Blade’s publisher to create diverse and inclusive events to continue to spread the message and accomplish the goal of the Stop the Hate Initiative. 

Once a week Haddad will be also produce a video roundup of each week’s top headlines to be shared on various social media pages and platforms. This roundup will include all news from the Blade and will help spread its outreach even further. 

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Author and journalist, Simha Haddad, links:

Website

Instagram

LinkedIn

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Troy Masters is the publisher of the Los Angeles Blade and Brody Levesque is editor.

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