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OWNing up to addictions

Former D.C. resident to launch show on Oprah’s new network

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Gay author Brad Lamm says getting to the reasons behind why we overeat is key to long-term weight loss success. (Photo courtesy of the Change Institute)

Brad Lamm’s life has changed dramatically since his D.C. days.

In an epic biography of near fairy tale proportions, Lamm, a 44-year-old gay Oregon native who used to manage Cobalt, now lives in New York, beat a drug problem, has three published books under his belt and his own show slated to debut on Oprah’s new OWN network March 29.

Lamm visited Washington two weeks ago on a book tour for his latest volume, “Just 10 Lbs: Easy Steps to Weighing What You Want (Finally!)” and talked about the book, his show and how he turned his life around.

“Most people who start a diet will end up gaining the weight back and more,” Lamm told the Blade. “So I found what was really needed was a behavioral change book, which I did. It’s really about the reasons why, the what the how. People will often say they’re an emotional eater or they eat because they’re bored. Sometimes it’s even indicative of feelings of loneliness and it’s those underlying feelings we have, that’s why we turn to food. … Even if it’s something they’ve struggled with for decades, it’s really about how did this happen. It’s not rocket science. It’s not about the food.”

With so many diet books on the market, what can Lamm hope to offer that’s different? He admits it’s a crowded market — he counted 82 new diet books on a recent Barnes & Noble visit.

His philosophies were born out of his own addiction struggles. Lamm came to Washington in 1999 working as a weatherman for Fox affiliate WTTG. He says he “almost immediately” started doing crystal meth and was “very addicted for many years.”

He helped local nightlife entrepreneur Eric Little open Cobalt and was its director of operations from 2000 until 2003. Lamm was also a two-pack-a-day smoker and alcoholic who regularly consumed 10 to 12 drinks per day.

In the summer of 2002, friends convinced him he needed help. A turning point came when a friend, who’d tried to reach him 12 times the night before, finally got him on the phone around noon one day. Lamm had missed a 10 a.m. meeting. He says two things changed: deep down he knew “the gig was up” and he’d soon lose his job, friends and relationships if he continued on the path he was on. He also says being accountable to the friends who initiated the conversation made all the difference.

“I’d tried to stop drinking and smoking hundreds of times,” he says. “But I believed they loved me and it got bigger than me. It wasn’t just me in my own private hell.”

For Lamm, one thing led to another. Quitting smoking led to a weight gain, which led to getting that under control. And getting clean and sober led him back to New York where he’d lived after college. He went back to school and dabbled in various fields before starting his own intervention practice in 2008 — the Change Institute — after training as an interventionist in 2004. He calls it “invitational intervention,” a less-confrontational approach. He credits Colorado-based psychiatrist Judith Landau with introducing him to the concepts he endorses.

“We think of it as being some kind of ambush or surprise,” he says. “This is a six month-minimum program and is as much about doing work with the family as working with the addict.”

Lamm says he started developing a following in New York. An article he’d written found its way to Oprah who asked him to go to California to help an 800-pound friend who needed his own intervention. Originally conceived as a segment of her talk show, the cameras were eventually pulled and the segment never aired. Lamm felt in that situation the cameras were hindering the man’s progress.

But the experience got Lamm on Winfrey’s radar, obviously a turning point many dream of. Winfrey hired him to do some “internal stuff” with her Harpo staff, which led to more invitations and a burgeoning cottage industry.

“The Oprah halo certainly helped,” Lamm says. “I think my message was just different enough that it was a natural for the platform she provides.”

Lamm’s first book “”How to Help Someone You Love: Four Steps to Help You Help Them” was published in 2009. “How to Help the One You Love: A New Way to Intervene and Stop Someone from Self Destructing” came out last year. “Just 10 Lbs.” was moved up to a January release to tie in with the new show, “Addicted to Food,” which debuts on OWN on March 29.

Lamm and his partner, Scott Sanders, a producer on the Broadway show “The Color Purple,” got married in California in 2008. “Purple” author Alice Walker officiated. Oprah and pal Gayle King were both there. Lamm is also friendly with fellow gay Oprah acolyte-turned-TV show host Nate Berkus, whom he calls “a sweet guy.”

“It’s sort of weird,” Lamm says of his experience doing his own show. “It’s a surreal experience. We’ve already shot it and I believe it will be a success but in real time it’s sort of like I have this little secret over here. It’s a delicious calm right now.”

Lamm says he didn’t see the Barbara Walters interview in which Oprah, once again, denied being gay. He says the subject bores him.

“I’m sort of offended when people say she’s not straight,” he says. “Have you ever had a friend where you’re just sure the person is straight but one of your friends is convinced otherwise and just goes on and on about it ad nauseum? When people bring it up, I just want to say, ‘Enough already. She’s straight and I know better than you do on this.’”

Visit changeinstitute.com for more information on Lamm.

More gay characters on tap

In other gay TV news, look for a continuation of the trend of more gay characters and storylines in both scripted and reality shows.

The big dog, of course, is “Glee,” which is forging full-steam ahead with favorite teen couple Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss). Their show-stopping rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was the most deliciously gay moment, perhaps, in network TV history. Season two may be extended to 25 episodes. A season finale date hasn’t been announced.

Other ongoing shows with gay characters include the CW’s “90210,” Showtime’s “Shameless,” MTV’s “Skins,” ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” and ABC’s “Modern Family,” which is in the middle of its second season. A third has been ordered.

On the reality front, season two of “The A-List” doesn’t debut until fall. Logo has ordered 11 episodes and the entire original cast will return. Same for “The Real L Word’s” second season, which hasn’t been shot yet. And no official word yet on a second season of “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys,” the Sundance guilty pleasure.

RuPaul’s Drag Race” isn’t even halfway through its third season. Look for its 16-episode season to climax around May 23.

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Commentary

Asian American and LGBTQ: A Heritage of Pride

May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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Glenn D. Magpantay (Photo courtesy of Glenn D. Magpantay)

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (APIs) are the nation’s fastest growing racial minority group by 2040, one in 10 Americans will be of Asian ancestry. And, while many Americans think that anti-Asian hate and racism towards Asian Americans has disappeared, the community disagrees.

The Asian American Foundation which found that Asian Americans are continually subjected to hate, violence, and discrimination, baldly reveals that disparity. 

  • 33 percent of Americans think hate towards Asian Americans has increased in the past year, compared to 61 percent of Asian Americans themselves.
  • In the past year, 32 percent of Asian Americans across the country reported being called a racial slur; 29 percent said they were verbally harassed or verbally abused.
  • Southeast Asian Americans report even higher incidences of being subject to racial slurs (40 percent), verbal harassment or abuse (38 percent), and threats of physical assault (22 percent).
  • Many Asian Americans live in a state of fear and anxiety with 41 percent of Asian American/ Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) believing they will likely be the victims of a physical attack due to their race, ethnicity, or religion. These numbers are disturbing.  

I serve as the only Asian American Pacific Islander member on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. And, I am the first and only queer AAPI on the U.S. commission. I am deeply honored to both serve my country and represent my Asian Americans and Pacific Islander community.    

Last year, the commission investigated the Federal Response to Anti-Asian Racism in the United States. With congressional authorization, the report documented the experiences of AANHPIs in the U.S. since the dubbing of COVID-19 as the “China Virus” infecting people with the “Kung Flu” by government leadership. Words matter, as this report shows.

This report has a deep personal connection for me. I am the survivor of a hate crime of 25 years ago for being gay, and the victim of a hate crime for being Asian 25 months ago 

The Stop AAPI Hate Coalition reported that bias incidents against individuals who are Asian and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) were most prominent between 2019 and 2022, highlighting the intersectional nature of these incidents. For example, two transgender Asian women stated: 

“I was with my new boyfriend at a restaurant. When we walked in the server started calling me names … a b—h, ch—k, tra—i.e. … He said I have a big fat p—s, and told me to go back to China. Then my boyfriend proceeded to walk in the restaurant and when I took a step forward, the server hit me, so I left.” 

“Left a restaurant with friends in the Asian district of town. A man began to follow me calling out ‘Hey you f—got c—k!’ and ‘Come here you virus!’ I began to walk fast towards a crowd until he stopped following me.”

To address these and other equally appalling experiences, I helped shepherd the bipartisan Commission on Civil Rights recommendations to the president, Congress, and the nation that: 

  • Prosecutors and law enforcement should vigorously investigate and prosecute hate crimes and harassment against Asian Americans, as well as Asian Americans who are LGBTQ.
  • First responders should be trained to understand what exactly constitutes a hate crime in their jurisdiction, including the protections of LGBTQ people.
  • Federal, state, and local law enforcement and victim services should identify deficiencies in their programs for individuals with limited English proficiency

Greater language access will make an enormous impact for the Asian American community as one in five Asian individuals speak a language other than English at home. A third (34 percent) is limited English proficient. The most frequently spoken languages are Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Thai, Khmer, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, and Punjabi.   

For me, this report comes full circle. Since 1988, I’ve lobbied for passage of LGBTQ-inclusive federal and state laws to prevent hate crimes. Since 2001, I’ve supported South Asian and Muslim victims of post 9/11 violence. In response to the shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla, in 2016; Atlanta Spa in Georgia in 2021; and Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2022, I‘ve trained over 3,000 lawyers, law students, and community leaders on hate crimes law.  

And yet, our work is not yet done. 

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. June is LGBTQ Pride Month. Despite these challenges, we are resilient. Let us join together in celebrating our Heritage of Pride 

Glenn D. Magpantay, Esq., is a long-time civil rights attorney, professor of law and Asian American Studies, and LGBTQ rights activist. Glenn is a founder and former Executive Director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA). He is principal at Magpantay & Associates: A nonprofit consulting and legal services firm. In 2023, the U.S. Senate (majority) appointed Glenn to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to advise Congress and the White House on the enforcement of civil rights laws and development of national civil rights policy. 

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Health

CDC issues warning on new ‘deadlier strain’ of mpox

WHO says epidemic is escalating in Congo

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JYNNEOS mpox vaccine (Photo courtesy of the CDC)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a health advisory regarding a deadlier strain of the Mpox virus outbreak which is currently impacting the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the CDC, since January 2023, DRC has reported more than 19,000 suspect mpox cases and more than 900 deaths. The CDC stated that the overall risk to the U.S. posed by the clade I mpox outbreak is low.

The risk to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men who have more than one sexual partner and people who have sex with men, regardless of gender, is assessed as low to moderate the agency stated.

While no cases of that subtype have been identified outside sub-Saharan Africa so far, the World Health Organization said earlier this week that the escalating epidemic in Congo nevertheless poses a global threat, just as infections in Nigeria set off the 2022 outbreak according to a WHO spokesperson.

The spokesperson also noted that as Pride Month and events happen globally, there is more need for greater caution and people to take steps at prevention including being vaccinated.

The CDC advises that while there are no changes to the overall risk assessment, people in the U.S. who have already had mpox or are fully vaccinated should be protected against the type of mpox spreading in DRC. Casual contact, such as might occur during travel, is not likely to cause the disease to spread. The best protection against mpox is two doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine.

The CDC also noted the risk might change as more information becomes available, or if cases appear outside DRC or other African countries where clade I exists naturally.

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Commentary

Journalists are not the enemy

Wednesday marks five years since Blade reporter detained in Cuba

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The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, Hungary, on April 4, 2024. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his government over the last decade has cracked down on the country's independent media. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Wednesday marked five years since the Cuban government detained me at Havana’s José Marti International Airport.

I had tried to enter the country in order to continue the Washington Blade’s coverage of LGBTQ and intersex Cubans. I found myself instead unable to leave the customs hall until an airport employee escorted me onto an American Airlines flight back to Miami.

This unfortunate encounter with the Cuban regime made national news. The State Department also noted it in its 2020 human rights report.

Press freedom and a journalist’s ability to do their job without persecution have always been important to me. They became even more personal to me on May 8, 2019, when the Cuban government for whatever reason decided not to allow me into the country.  

Washington Blade International News Editor Michael K. Lavers after the Cuban government detained him at Havana’s José Marti International Airport on May 8, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

‘A free press matters now more than ever’

Journalists in the U.S. and around the world on May 3 marked World Press Freedom Day.

Reporters without Borders in its 2024 World Press Freedom Index notes that in Cuba “arrests, arbitrary detentions, threats of imprisonment, persecution and harassment, illegal raids on homes, confiscation, and destruction of equipment — all this awaits journalists who do not toe the Cuban Communist Party line.” 

“The authorities also control foreign journalists’ coverage by granting accreditation selectively, and by expelling those considered ‘too negative’ about the government,” adds Reporters without Borders.

Cuba is certainly not the only country in which journalists face persecution or even death while doing their jobs.

• Reporters without Borders notes “more than 100 Palestinian reporters have been killed by the Israel Defense Forces, including at least 22 in the course of their work” in the Gaza Strip since Hamas launched its surprise attack against Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. Media groups have also criticized the Israeli government’s decision earlier this month to close Al Jazeera’s offices in the country.

• Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, Washington Post contributor and Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Alsu Kurmasheva remain in Russian custody. Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who contributes to the Post, was kidnapped in Syria in August 2012.

• Reporters without Borders indicates nearly 150 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000, and 28 others have disappeared.

The Nahal Oz border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Nov. 21, 2016. Reporters without Borders notes the Israel Defense Forces have killed more than 100 Palestinian reporters in the enclave since Hamas launched its surprise attack against Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his World Press Freedom Day notes more journalists were killed in 2023 “than in any year in recent memory.”

“Authoritarian governments and non-state actors continue to use disinformation and propaganda to undermine social discourse and impede journalists’ efforts to inform the public, hold governments accountable, and bring the truth to light,” he said. “Governments that fear truthful reporting have proved willing to target individual journalists, including through the misuse of commercial spyware and other surveillance technologies.”

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power, who is a former journalist, in her World Press Freedom Day statement noted journalists “are more essential than ever to safeguarding democratic values.” 

“From those employed by international media organizations to those working for local newspapers, courageous journalists all over the world help shine a light on corruption, encourage civic engagement, and hold governments accountable,” she said.

President Joe Biden echoed these points when he spoke at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner here in D.C. on April. 27.

“There are some who call you the ‘enemy of the people,'” he said. “That’s wrong, and it’s dangerous. You literally risk your lives doing your job.”

I wrote in last year’s World Press Freedom Day op-ed that the “rhetoric — ‘fake news’ and journalists are the ‘enemy of the people’ — that the previous president and his followers continue to use in order to advance an agenda based on transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, islamophobia, and white supremacy has placed American journalists at increased risk.” I also wrote the “current reality in which we media professionals are working should not be the case in a country that has enshrined a free press in its constitution.”

“A free press matters now more than ever,” I concluded.

That sentiment is even more important today.

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