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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

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

The nation’s highest honor & rightly so to a ‘Mom,’ Judy Shepard

“I feel Matthew with me every day, or I would not be able to do this,” she says. “We just hope we’re doing what he would want us to do”

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Christopher Dyer a 20-year-old gay activist and Judy Shepard share a hug at the premiere of 'Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine' by award winning director Michele Josue at the Washington National Cathedral on October 6, 2013 in Washington D.C. (Photo by Brody Levesque)

WASHINGTON – In a ceremony Friday honoring a former U.S. Vice-President, a civil rights worker and martyr, two former cabinet secretaries- one a former U.S. Secretary of State, a speech writer for the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an Olympian and gold medalist, and one of the most powerful woman political leaders and the Speaker Emeritus of the U.S. House of Representatives, among others, was a quiet unassuming American mother who became a driving force in the fight for full equality for LGBTQ+ Americans and stem the flow of hatred.

Alongside her husband of over fifty years Dennis, Judy Shepard has fought hard to pass federal hate crimes legislation, educate Americans on the need to stem the unyielding flow of anti-LGBTQ+ animus, and remind Americans that hate can kill, as it did in October of 1988, nearly 26 years ago when the Shepard’s received a phone call in the middle of the night that no parent should ever have to receive.

Dennis Shepard was working for an oil company in Saudi Arabia, Judy was with him, their youngest Logan was in boarding school and their oldest, Matthew, was a freshman at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

On the night of October 6, 1998, two men lured Matthew from the Fireside bar in downtown Laramie. He was kidnapped and driven to a field where he was tortured and tethered to a fence and left to die.

Dennis and Judy were awakened and learned that Matthew had been sent to the UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital ICU facility in neighboring Fort Collins, Colorado and they were asked to get back to the States as soon as possible as their oldest son’s prognosis was extremely grave.

Never regaining consciousness, Matthew succumbed to the severe injuries from the horrific beating and died on October 12, 1998. At his funeral his grieving parents were confronted with the anti-gay hatred that Matthew and other LGBTQ+ people dealt with in their lives in the form of an ugly protest by Fred Phelps, the founder of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church and its members from Topeka, Kansas.

The ugliness of that protest, the avalanche of hate, and the national outcry over the death of Matthew propelled the Shepard’s into being unlikely LGBTQ+ activists, founding a non-profit foundation bearing their son’s name with a simple mission and message: “Erase Hate.”

The incident galvanized millions of Americans, and focused attention on the rising epidemic of hate crimes. Vigils were held across the nation as Dennis and Judy received tens of thousands of letters and e-mails of support.

This reporter has covered the incredible journey of the Shepard’s since the very beginning commencing with that dreary cold night outside of the hospital in Fort Collins when Matthew died then later the funeral at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Casper where I observed first hand the plain old just evil hatred on display from Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church clan.

Their “Fags plus AIDS equals Death” signs and garish, neon-colored posters of stick figures engaged in anal sex on display at the funeral of a kid so brutally murdered was a definite “Who the fuck are they” moment not only for this reporter but numerous others in the massive press contingent covering the funeral.

Many years later I asked Judy how she felt about Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church clan which had picketed the funeral of her son in what was to become the seminal event that put Westboro into the national spotlight.

Her answer surprised me. “Oh we love Freddy,” she replied. “If it wasn’t for him there would be no Matthew Shepard.” Which was a typical response from the quiet unassuming Judy I had come to know.

In fact when Fred Phelps died, I had a conversation with Jim Osborn, a friend who attended the University of Wyoming with Matthew. He participated in the Rainbow Resource Center meetings at UW with Matt, and was the co-creator of Angel Action — the counter-protest against the Phelps clan who picketed Matt’s funeral and the trial of the the two men responsible for his murder.

“Matt saw everyone as a human being — some with flaws, but none that needed to be condemned,” Jim told me. “The LGBTQ community needs to be better than that, we need to let him [Fred] go and quietly.”

Like Judy, Jim, and others at the end of the day, I am reminded that Fred illustrated the worst, not the best, of the very essence of what it truly means to be human.

For Judy and Dennis the Matthew Shepard Foundation became the vehicle for change and hope as they crisscrossed the country advocating, among other things, support of a Hate Crimes prevention law which ultimately became The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act which in October 2009, Judy and Dennis Shepard joined then President Barack Obama as he signed it into law.

For the first time, a federal hate crime statute expanded the protected classes to include a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Prior to 2009, federal hate crimes law only included a victim’s race, color, gender, religion, or national origin.

In her travels Judy speaks to audiences nationwide, stressing the importance what Americans can do to make their schools and communities safer for everyone, regardless of their race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation.

“I feel Matthew with me every day, or I would not be able to do this,” she says. “We just hope we’re doing what he would want us to do. We realize that we must use the voice his death has given us. I realize that what I can try and accomplish is to make people aware. We get so complacent in our lives that we forget not everyone is safe, and frequently, it is our children who aren’t safe.”

Our paths have crossed often over the years and I’ll admit that I have come to regard Judy as a second mom, right down to a couple of instances where I got “the look” for a trespass or two.

Yet, I always was treated like another of her seriously large extended family, in fact so much that in October of 2013 when Matthew’s dear friend from high school, an award winning filmmaker Michele Josue, premiered her intimate documentary that painted a picture of Matt as a person- not just the gay icon: ‘Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine,’ I had brought a young gay activist and another young Black lesbian friend to the premiere at Washington’s National Cathedral.

After I got my ‘mom hug’ I turned around to introduce Christopher and Niki only to see Chris already holding on to Judy in a hug, both smiling.

There are several generations of the LGBTQ+ community that have benefited from her and her husband’s tireless work and advocacy so today’s honor, the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors is richly deserved. 

Judy Shepard with President Biden Friday, May 3, 2024 at the White House.

Today in a simple ceremony in the East Room of the White House, President Joe Biden awarded Judy the Presidential Medal of Freedom on behalf of grateful nation for her tireless efforts to continue Matthew’s legacy of kindness, erase hate of LGBTQ+ people, and make America a better place for all of its citizens.

Thanks Mom.

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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

Remembering Columbine 25 years later, a reporter’s tale

“I wasn’t calling it the start of the mass-shooter era then, but we knew we were into something new and horrible”

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

LITTLETON, Colo. – Cell phones starting ringing, people were yelling “are you seeing this?” The television monitors that ran CNN’s Headline News 24/7 suddenly were showing scenes of children running out of a school building with their hands on their heads almost as if they were enemy combatant prisoners escorted by heavily armed police officers in riot gear.

Then my personal mobile attached to my belt started to vibrate- whatever had just happened was a major news event.

Answering I found myself speaking with one of my wire services’ senior editors ordering me to head to Washington’s Reagan National Airport to catch a flight to Denver, Colorado. Grabbing my reporter’s notebook out of my suit coat I jotted down notes cradling the phone with my head to my shoulder as I ran for the door.

Jumping from the taxi at the terminal I got to the United airlines counter grabbed up my ticket and boarding pass and sprinted to the concourse as the flight was scheduled to leave in an hour. By this time inside the gate area, nearly everyone was glued to a TV monitor and oddly for an incredibly busy airport the quiet conversations, actually nearly background murmuring was surreal as my fellow travelers watched the horror of what was happening unfold in real time live.

After the four hour flight and being picked up at Denver International headed to the scene of what was clearly now a mass-shooting, the driver grimly handed me a print out of wire copy he had brought from our Denver bureau:

LITTLETON, Colorado — At least two heavily armed young men opened fire and tossed explosives Tuesday at an affluent suburban Denver high school, killing students and possibly faculty members, authorities said. Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone said as many as 25 people were killed, including two suspects found dead in the library.

It was after nightfall that Tuesday and as we pulled up at Columbine high school in Littleton, it was surrounded by law enforcement and a massive media presence. The one memory that to this day stands out were the grim stonefaces of first responders, especially law enforcement, on scene coupled with a palpable feeling of abject misery from the bystanders all grappling to understand what had occurred hours earlier during the school’s lunch period.

Wandering through the crowd, being mindful of not violating the crime scene perimeter making sure that my press credentials were visible, I engaged several people in brief interviews and then ended up at the broadcast van from the local ABC affiliate KMGH-TV channel 7 Denver television station.

Inside the van an engineer/cameraman showed me the raw footage taken earlier in the day as the chaos enveloped the school and its surrounding neighborhoods. I remember vignettes of the footage even now as it was gripping yet sickening in its uncensored, unyielding documentation of the carnage.

Children covered in blood on ambulance gurneys or lying on the ground being triaged by medics or even just civilians. The boy being dragged out of a smashed out second story window by heavily armed police officers onto the roof of what appeared to be an ambulance commandeered for that extraction, the boy bleeding profusely as large red blood stains were clearly visible on his pants and shirt.

I was nauseous actually had to quit watching- thanked him for showing me and got out of the van. As I walked by the CNN crew the on-air reporter noted:

CNN has accounted for at least 20 students being treated at hospitals for gunshot and shrapnel wounds; at least seven were listed in critical condition.

He then grimly added: “A department spokesman said the number of fatalities is still unconfirmed.” Behind him in the school parking lot were multiple vehicles from the Jefferson County Coroner/Medical Examiner’s Office and based on the footage I just watched I had an awful feeling that there were a significant number of causalities.

President Clinton delivers remarks regarding the Columbine High School mass-shooting on April 20, 1999.
(Courtesy of the Clinton Presidential Library)

Later myself and a group of reporters clustered around a monitor to watch President Bill Clinton address the tragedy in a press conference from the press briefing room at the White House.

The President expressed that he and the first lady were profoundly saddened and shocked by the shooting.

Clinton noted that the tragedy could be a wake-up call for the nation.

“We do know that we must do more to reach out to our children and teach them to express their anger and to resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons,” the president said.

“You know there are a lot of kids out there who have access to weapons — and apparently more than guns, here — and who build up these grievances in their own mind and who are not being reached,” Clinton said.

Over the course of the next few days new terms entered into the lexicon of the American culture and nation: Trench coat mafia, mass-shooting, gun-show loopholes and then the single word that would forever be seared into the American conscious that defined that event, those horrible moments and the aftermath: Columbine.

The Columbine Memorial is located in Clement Park, which is behind Columbine High School, the site of the massacre and was dedicated on September 21, 2007.

“Columbine” has since become a euphemism for a school shooting and in the intervening 25 years there have been 404 school shootings. The Washington Post for years has tracked the number of students affected by school shootings. Since 1999, over 300,000 children have experienced gun violence in incidents like Columbine which has turned into common-knowledge collective single word references; Virginia Tech, Parkland, Uvalde, Sandy Hook and others.

A journalistic colleague Dave Cullen, who wrote “Columbine,” an authoritative book on the shooting reflected in a recent interview with the USA Today:

“It was seared into us,” said Cullen. “I wasn’t calling it the start of the mass-shooter era then, but we knew we were into something new and horrible.” He then added: “There’s no healing, it’s an open wound.”

I still grapple with the emotions of that day long ago and still cringe when I hear of another wanton act of gun violence- a mass shooting and I have covered all of them including on the ground in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016 when my own LGBTQ+ community suffered the horrific loss of 49 lives at the Pulse nightclub. This never, ever, leaves you- this feeling of utter despair over the destruction of innocence, life itself caused by a society that apparently values guns over the lives of its children.

Today though, I mourn and remember Cassie Bernall, 17; Steven Curnow, 14; Corey DePooter, 17; Kelly Fleming, 16; Matthew Kechter, 16; Daniel Mauser, 15; Daniel Rohrbough, 15; William “Dave” Sanders, 47; Rachel Scott, 17; Isaiah Shoels, 18; John Tomlin, 16; Lauren Townsend, 18, and Kyle Velasquez, 16.  

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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

Dear anti-LGBTQ+ haters & queer hating trolls, ENOUGH already!

The toxicity of this nation and its culture of hate was clearly defined in the reactions from the hate mongering trolls

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Longtime friends Justin Bieber and Jaden Smith backstage at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California this past weekend. (Photo Credit: @daydayred_/Instagram)

INDIO, Calif. – It was a perfectly innocent expression of love and friendship displayed by the two musical celebrity male performers who have been friends for over 14 years.

A dance, a hug, and a kiss shared in a moment backstage by Justin Bieber and Jaden Smith at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this past weekend went viral on social media as to be expected, however, the tsunami of hate that followed was disgusting yet seemingly all too familiar in the times we live in currently.

I’m not going to bother listing or reposting the hateful rubbish here. Suffice it to say that the overarching theme was: “men don’t hug men like that and kiss ’cause it’s gay” oh and please note that is the cleaned up version.

Honestly Justin and Jaden absolutely have no need, none, nada- zip to justify themselves or how they express their feeling towards each other. Yet, the toxicity of this nation and its culture of hate was clearly defined in the reactions from the hate mongering trolls as it seems the only time we feel men are ‘real men’ is when they’re shooting at each other and violent. Seriously.

This isn’t really about my running interference for Justin or Jaden, honestly I’m just so over the hatred, the stupidity, the blatant homophobic garbage and the attacks on the trans community especially aimed at the youth.

Folks? I am fatigued, exhausted and drained because so many Americans embrace hate in fact they sustain themselves it seems by constant consumption of hate fed by far right media, each other on social media and who knows where else- and the direct result are the deaths of LGBTQ+ youth and others murdered by this pathetic and peculiar American obsession.

These so-called Christians, these so called American patriots, these allegedly “good people” are anything but, rather no- they are sick, evil, despicable, and it is past time to have them shut the fuck up and go away.

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

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Editor's Letter

A father’s grief, a nation’s shame: February 14, 2018

Valentines Day for Parkland families & survivors will always represent a hole in their hearts & unassuaged grief over those lost

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Alex Schachter (Family photo)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The seventeen students and staff who were killed February 14, 2018 in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida are being remembered today, six years later. But for their families and survivors there will always be a hole in their hearts and unassuaged grief over those lost.

The photograph I featured above is a screenshot from a mobile phone video posted to X (formerly Twitter) of one of those 17 lives cut short in that act of pure evil, Alex Schachter, who as his father Max said, “My forever 14-year-old Alex was one of them.”

“Feb. 14, 2018, was the last day I saw my son Alex Schachter alive. “I love you, have a great day in school,” were the last words I said to him. It didn’t occur to me that he could be murdered in his English class,” Max said in an essay published by NBC News last July.

In the terrible aftermath of Parkland as it is colloquially referred to, joining a growing list of mass-shootings similarly referenced by the event’s locale, Alex’s bereaved papa Max founded Safe Schools for Alex, a non-profit whose stated mission is “to provide most current school safety best practices and resources to students, parents, school districts and law enforcement so that all children can learn in a safe environment.” 

On its website Max and the family write:

Alex & Max Schachter (Family photo)

“Alex Schachter was a special little boy. He was happy and always smiling. He loved sports. Whether it was playing basketball and football or watching his favorite teams the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics he was always ready to talk smack with his friends. His tenacious defense led to several championships on the basketball court.

He worshipped his big brother Ryan. He used to let his little sister Avery play with his hair and give him massages so she could hang out with him and his friends. He used to bond with his older sister Morgan over their love of Japanese TV shows.

Alex’s love of music was constant throughout middle and high school. He followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and played the trombone in middle and high school. His hard work and dedication paid off when his band, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Eagle Regiment Marching Band became state champions several months before his passing.

Alex is loved and missed every day.”

Before I continue, I will stress that there are 16 other victims, families, all impacted by this horrible event, In fact, according to the Associated Press, these families, their lives, their futures were impacted by the craven evil disregard of the shooter “who calmly told a psychologist why he picked Valentine’s Day: Because no one loved him, he wanted to ruin the holiday forever for anyone associated with the school.”

I’m a Dad, a Granddad, Uncle oh and a ‘Guncle’ to countless young people but not even with all my years as a working journalist having covered these nasty evil events going back to my first, Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado on April 20, 1999, can I truly comprehend the lasting sense of loss and heartache experienced by Alex’s papa and the other families. I just cannot.

The aftermath of Parkland, in addition to Max’s non-profit, birthed a powerful young people led effort- March for Our Lives, by Marjory Stoneman Douglas students; Alfonso Calderon; Sarah Chadwick; Jaclyn Corin; Matt Deitsch; Ryan Deitsch; Sam Deitsch; X González; David Hogg; Cameron Kasky and Alex Wind among others.

Ultimately these young people also sent one of their own, a Gen Zer, to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, Florida Democratic Congressman Maxwell Alejandro Frost.

The nation’s shame is the fact that every damn mass-shooting spawns efforts to eradicate this vile cancer on America, gun violence, and still these efforts are bull-dozed into oblivion by the powerful gun lobby, which funds the Republican Party and its ongoing campaign to “protect the Second Amendment rights of Americans” aka do absolutely nothing to curtail the violence with common sense laws to reform current gun control.

While I remember and honour the 17 lives lost, it is because I follow Max on social media and advocate for his non-profit that today’s X post from Max just caused me to pause. Folks? Consider Max’s reality sadly shared by all of the Parkland families:

A photo of the box that contains Alex Schachter's backpack and lunch box. It's a biohazard because it has his blood on it and possibly bullet holes.A photo of the box that contains Alex Schachter’s backpack and lunch box. It’s a biohazard because it has his blood on it and possibly bullet holes. (Courtesy Max Schachter)

Alex would be 20-years-old today and in college most likely and I for one believe he would be marching alongside his schoolmates advocating for real change- not just empty promises and the ever insulting “thoughts and prayers” that populates right wing spaces and the media when these senseless evil events take place.

I’ll close this with one final thought, actually share this image from Max’ Schachter’s essay:

A photo of the poem Alex Schachter was working on when he was shot and killed inside his classroom, ripped by a bullet.A photo of the poem Alex Schachter was working on when he was shot and killed inside his classroom, ripped by a bullet. (Courtesy Max Schachter)

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

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Editor's Letter

Congratulations WeHo Mayor Erickson & Vice-Mayor Byers

WeHo City Councilmembers serve for four years and are elected at large. The Council annually selects members to serve as Mayor & Vice-Mayor

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Mayor John M. Erickson signing his paperwork designating his office. (Photo courtesy of the City of West Hollywood)

LOS ANGELES – The publisher, editor, staff, and contributors of the Los Angeles Blade extend their congratulations and best wishes to the newly-sworn in Mayor John M. Erickson and Vice-Mayor Chelsea Lee Byers of the City of West Hollywood.

The pair was sworn in during the city council meeting on Tuesday, January 16, 2024.

Vice-Mayor Chelsea Lee Byers being sworn in on January 16, 2024.
Photo courtesy of the City of West Hollywood

Former City of West Hollywood Mayor and former City Council member, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Lindsey P. Horvath was also in attendance.

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Editor's Letter

Support next generation of LGBTQ+ journalists: #GivingTuesday

The support of a queer journalism fellow can bring LGBTQ journalism to underrepresented communities locally and globally

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

WASHINGTON – The Blade Foundation is excited to expand its fellowship program focused on educating and supporting the next generation of LGBTQ journalists. The Washington Blade and Los Angeles Blade are the leading LGBTQ publications in the country and can provide real life reporting experience to up-and-coming journalists.

The Blade Foundation has a vision to bring training and journalism to new cities around the world. The support of a fellow can bring LGBTQ journalism to underrepresented communities locally and globally. Currently, hundreds of articles are produced each year by the Blade Foundation and published in both English and Spanish.

Your tax-deductible donation supports the work of the Blade Foundation, a 501(c)3 dedicated to funding enterprise journalism projects on LGBTQ issues. Please click on the below link:

Support LGBTQ Journalism

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Editor's Letter

Should America’s favorite queer ‘aunty’ host The Daily Show?

Sign this petition for the very funny Julia Scotti. Please do this for me, so she will stop kvetching about it

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The Daily Show set in the studio at 733 11th Avenue, New York City. (Photo courtesy of Comedy Central)

NEW YORK – The Daily Show studio at 733 11th Avenue on the corner of 52nd Street and 11th Avenue is missing a key element these days- a permanent host. While Comedy Central has announced that the show will return to new episodes on Oct. 16 with a new lineup of guest hosts, with plans to install a permanent host in early 2024, the question is who? 

The Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning program that examines the day’s biggest news stories in politics, pop culture, entertainment, sports and more has always had a comedic flair albeit edgy and now folks in the Tri-State area have put together a Change.org petition to boost their selection.

Comedian Julia Scotti has been earning her dues as a hardworking performer for decades. In fact she entranced audiences in 2016 appearing on Season 11 of the American version of Simon Cowell’s ‘Got Talent’ franchise.

She also has a comedy special on SHOWTIME called “More Funny Women of a Certain Age” and a documentary film on her life, Julia Scotti: Funny That Way” was released in 2021.

New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy with Julia Scotti
(Photo Credit: Scotti)

But The Daily Show? Her work as public school teacher and her interactions with the public make her an ideal candidate with the added bonus of a uniquely trans viewpoint. That and some politico types seem to gravitate towards her such as New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy now serving in his second term.

Then there’s the Italian factor mixed with Jersey practicality which her fans love of course meshed with her trademark humour and quick wit.

Which brings us to the push now with a Change.org petition in a very grass-roots effort to get the “suits” at 733 11th Avenue to hire her to bring her unique signature style to brighten up the set.

Her legion of fans and friends have noted on social media posts:

  • Sign this petition for the very funny Julia Scotti. Please do this for me, so she will stop kvetching about it.
  • I do not have cable, therefore no opportunity to see the show…but I am voting my butt off anyway. for you .
  • In true Republican fashion, my deceased uncle just signed your petition. Even the departed deserve a good – if final – laugh.
  • My very good friend Julia Scotti is not only as funny as they come, but she has a love for politics, and that would make her perfect for a fill-in slot on The Daily Show. Sign the petiton and lets get Julia on the show. — Just so we are transparent here… I was bribed with homemade meatballs to write this post.

Then Julia added her voice to the chorus:

By now you’re probably getting tired of me annoying you to sign the petition asking #TheDailyshow to hire or at the very least audition me as their new host. But there’s a reason I’m asking. Actually a few. And I think they are valid.

1. There’s a feeling in America that older Americans have less value than their younger counterparts. I can assure #ComedyCentral that I would bring a perspective to the show that has long been overlooked.

2. Trans folks are sorely underrepresented in the media. Maybe it’s time to change a little.

3. I’m a successful comedian with a 40+ year track record.

I’m putting this all out there because I need the public to let #thedailyshow know. You all have been so supportive throughout my career, and now I’m asking you to ask anyone you know to sign the petition. If the numbers are big enough, they will listen. I may ultimately not get the job, but they’ll know who we are. Thanks again.

Of course Scotti also notes that “I’m only 9 years younger than Joe Biden. If he can be President, then I can host #thedailyshow.”

As a fan, a friend, and the editor of one of the largest LGBTQ+ newspapers in the nation I’ll also add my/our voice to this effort. (With hopes to get you, the readers, to sign the petition eh?)

Here’s where you go folks, just click on the pic!

Brody Levesque is a veteran journalist and Editor-In-Chief 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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