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Best of Gay D.C. 2011: PEOPLE

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Best Straight Ally
Phil Hicks

“I am grateful to receive this honor again,” Phil Hicks says, noting that he happily won this award last year. Hicks, who lives in Northern Virginia, is a vice president of Metro D.C. Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

Phil Hicks (Blade photo by Michael Key)

“The things I’m most thankful for though are my two sons, who by chance, happen to be gay,” Hicks says. “My kids are the finest young men I know and I can’t imagine being anything but supportive of them or the LGBT community that has befriended us and given my wife Jo and I such joy.”

By day, Hicks works as a branch manager with SunTrust Bank and is active on its Diversity Council, working with an LGBT Team. This allows him to work with many other organizations, including the Northern Virginia Aids Ministry and Capital Pride.

“I will always be proud to be a PFLAG Dad and will remain an advocate for equal rights until my last breath,” Hicks says.

To learn more about PFLAG or Hicks, visit pflagdc.org. (DP)

Best Gay Politician
Marc Morgan

“I am honored to receive this award,” Marc Morgan says. “I especially want to thank the LBGT community and their support they have shown me over the years.”

Marc Morgan (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Morgan is gay Republican who lives in a predominately Democratic area. Morgan moved to the area in 2002 to help with the fundraising efforts of the Maryland Republican Party. After the election of former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, Morgan started working in state government with Maryland Environmental Services to help raise money to support Chesapeake Bay restoration.

Since working for Ehrlich, Morgan has remained active in politics. Last year he threw his hat into the political ring with an unsuccessful run for the District of Columbia Ward 1 Council seat.

Morgan is active in grassroots outreach, including lobbying and fundraising for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, Human Rights issues and environmental policies.

“I have been successful within the past few years and, again, I cannot thank the LBGT community enough for all their support by helping me along the way.” (DP)

Best Actor (tie)
Jeffrey Johnson and Neil Patrick Harris

Blade readers have singled out Jeffrey Johnson as best actor before, but what’s different this year is he’s sharing the honor with none other than Broadway and television star Neil Patrick Harris. While the gay actor who first found fame as “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” in the early ‘90s, isn’t a D.C. presence, Johnson’s not complaining. “After all,” he says, “it never hurts to be in good company.”

Jeffrey Johnson (Blade photo by Michael Key)

For Johnson, this year has been about change. And perhaps the most major was the shuttering of Ganymede Arts (originally A.T.W.), the LGBT-centric theater company that he shepherded as artistic director for nine years. Since its closing Johnson hasn’t staged or acted in any full-length plays or musicals, but he has performed twice as his pink-haired chanteuse persona Galactica, and most recently performed a cover song concert with fellow Blade reader favorite Tom Goss (Best Musician). In early December, Johnson will be slipping back into an outré red getup and reviving his production of “Edie Beale Live at Reno Sweeney” (a well-received cabaret-style piece in which he recreates an evening with Jackie Onasis’ fabulously eccentric cousin) at Black Fox Lounge in Dupont Circle.

About this most recent recognition, Johnson says, “I really appreciate that [Blade readers] are looking at what I’m currently putting out there and understanding that it is theater. It makes me very proud that the D.C. community can understand that a guy in a dress does not always equal drag show. Drag is great. It’s just not what I do.” (PF)
Jeffrey Johnson
PinkHairedOne.com

Best Realtor
Fernando Garcia

“Really? Are you kidding?” was the reaction of Fernando Garcia, when told he was the recipient of a Blade award. “It means a lot to be voted the Best Realtor. It means people are noticing my hard work.”

Fernando Garcia (Blade photo by Michael Key)

A resident of Washington since 1997, Fernando Garcia is this year’s Best Realtor winner and a newcomer to the Blade awards.

The New Mexico native was a financial adviser before he entered real estate. Having worked as a Senior Financial Specialist at First Union National Bank, Garcia left to pursue his career in real estate and his passion for people.

Garcia has now been happily married for 10 years. His success comes from the connection he has with his clients and their referrals. “You become friends, then they become a referral source,” Garcia says.
Garcia also manages metronando.com, a resource site. (JB)
Fernando Garcia
[email protected]
202-907-8907

Best Bartender
Liz Warner-Osborne of Cobalt

Originally from Montgomery County in Maryland, Liz Warner-Osborne studied theater and literature at George Washington University. Although she’s only been a bartender at Cobalt for a little over a year and a half, Osborne has already claimed the title “Best Bartender.” She also tied for a win in the trainer category.

Liz Warner-Osborne (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before starting at Cobalt in June 2010, Osborne was a frequent patron of the bar and volunteered her time at one of Cobalt’s events last year. “I’ve never worked in a gay bar, I’ve been going there for years. I worked the parties and became part of the family,” says Osborne.

Osborne’s energetic personality has been one of the many reasons customers return. “I think it’s so much about your personality and your approach with people. Being a part of someone’s day and getting to know someone you normally wouldn’t is amazing,” Osborne says.

Cobalt has not just become a part of her social life but her home. “It feels incredible. Being part of the Cobalt family, it makes me feel good that I’m making an impact.” (JB)

Best Rehoboth Bartender
Jamie Romano

This is a new category with lots of competition, but Jamie Romano is our inaugural winner for Best Rehoboth Bartender.

Maybe it’s his attentive, friendly style — always swooping in with a fresh drink just as you’re empty. Or maybe our voters were blinded by his abs. Either way, Jamie never disappoints. Whether he’s outside at the Parrot Biergarten in summer or inside behind the bar at the gay-owned Purple Parrot in winter, Jamie welcomes all with the same enthusiasm and boundless energy.

Jamie may be straight, but he’s known to hit the Biergarten dance floor and even commandeer the DJ booth for a song or two.

Just don’t order his beer-wine-shot combination.
Jamie Romano
Purple Parrot
134 Rehoboth Ave.
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
302-226-1139

Best LGBT Hill Staffer
Chris Crowe (posthumous)

Chris Crowe, a gay Hill staffer who died earlier this year at age 29, is still remembered by his friends for his dedication and energy.

The late Christopher Crowe (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Crowe, who most recently served as legislative assistant to Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), was president of the LGBT Congressional Staffers Association. He lived in Washington for nearly six years, and spent five year of those on Capitol Hill. The Kentucky native died in March from a staph infection that damaged his heart after he contracted meningitis last year.

Kyle Murphy, who was Crowe’s best friend, said the late Hill staffer had “a huge impact on everyone he met, and that carried over to his professional life.”

“He was proud of who he was and fought hard for LGBT inclusion and equality, but he was also extremely dedicated to the congresswoman, her constituents and the Hill community at large,” Murphy said. “He loved what he did and who he worked with and it’s wonderful to know the extent to which that love was reciprocated.” (CJ)

Best Television Personality
Karl Frisch

“Television is the defining medium for the way people consume their news and make decisions,” progressive strategist Karl Frisch says about being able to share his vision with millions through his television appearances. “[Television] gives me the opportunity to show what a serious gay man has to say about politics.”

Karl Frisch (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Frisch says since he left Media Matters last year to form Bullfight Strategies with former Media Matters president Eric Burns, he’s been tapped by shows like “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” “The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann” on RT America and several CNN and MSNBC shows to not only discuss LGBT issues, but all progressive values.

“People embrace the fact it’s important to have LGBT people appearing in news programs,” says Frisch, a Los Angeles native and now D.C.-based syndicated columnist and radio/TV guest. “I hope people see the need for having more LGBT voices in the news.” (PR)

Best Musician
Tom Goss

Tom Goss took the long route to becoming gay D.C.’s favorite local musician.

The Wisconsin native originally came to Washington eight years ago to study to become a Catholic priest, but fell in love with his now-husband, Michael, and decided to become a singer-songwriter in 2006. He now has three full albums, two EPs and DVDs, and his fifth music video was released last week.

Tom Goss (Blade photo by Michael Key)

“I feel honored,” says Goss, who cites his influences as acoustic pop stars like Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews and Ben Harper. “I don’t know how to be any other person than the person I am.”

Goss, who spends half his year on the road, says the most inspiring part of his life is meeting fans in Middle America.

“[Gay fans] tell me how much my songs mean to them because it gives them hope and a sense of normalcy,” Goss says. “I feel like I could be the voice for people who feel like they don’t have one.” (PR)
Tom Goss
tomgossmusic.com

Local Heroine
Jeanie Adkins

Jeanie Adkins is the development manager at Mautner Project and has been working there for three years after helping with various events, including the organization’s annual gala.

Adkins handles many of the organization’s fundraising events, including its gala, and she’s also responsible for newsletters and e-mail marketing.

Jeanie Adkins (Blade photo by Michael Key)

“I try to get out there and raise awareness about lesbian health and help … with community outreach events,” Adkins says. “That’s what I do in my full-time job.”

Adkins, who is also a classically trained singer, has worked as a volunteer with several other organizations, including SYMAL, HRC, Team D.C. and more. She’s currently on the committee for Capital Queer Prom and the diversity committee within the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

“I do all this volunteering because I’m passionate about it. I don’t expect any recognition for anything,” Adkins says. “I’m very surprised and honored and touched to get this.” (JE)

Best Personal Trainer (tie)
Ryan Stitt and Liz Warner-Osborne

Personal trainer Liz Warner-Osborne has always been active. She was a dancer for 11 years, doing ballet, ballroom and a little bit of modern dance.

Liz Warner-Osborne (Blade photo by Michael Key)

She found a love for weightlifting in high school, which only grew in college. She started teaching a weight training class with the help of some books, fitness magazines and “some very inspirational people.”

The class made her more dedicated and pushed her to pursue fitness as a career, teaching classes on and off for about six years and doing personal training for about two before joining the team at Vida Fitness on U Street.

“My philosophy is everyone can do more than they think they can. we all have so much in us, and sometimes need that extra push That’s where I come in,” Warner-Osborne says. “I’m very happy and proud to know I’m able to reach people in a personal way that can truly change their lives.”

Ryan Stitt also works at Vida’s U Street location. He gave up years of corporate drudgery to pursue a fitness career which is his first love. The 33-year-old gay trainer sees between 10-15 clients per week and says his win tells him “it’s a good test to what you can achieve when you follow what you really love.”

He guesses Vida’s clients are about 50-50 gay vs. straight. Sessions come in packets of 12, 24 or 50 and run anywhere from $65 to $85 per hour.

Hist best abs tip? “Concentrate on core exercises that work your lower back and other parts of your core, not just your six pack,” he says. (JE) (JD)

Best D.J.
DJ Staylo, Phase 1

DJ Staylo, Phase 1’s resident DJ for the past three years, has always played music. She was playing the drums by the time she was 8.

DJ Staylo (Blade photo by Michael Key)

She had been interested in getting into DJ work for a while when one night she says she hit on the DJ and talked to her about learning how to spin.

Staylo plays a little bit of everything when she’s spinning, saying it’s all about getting the crowd moving.
“I’m really surprised,” Staylo says of winning with there being so many great DJs in the area that she looks up to and that have created a community in the D.C. area. (JE)

Best Businessperson
Mark Rutstein

Mark Rutstein’s win in this category reflects his professional evolution. The Cobalt manager, who still dabbles in real estate, won the Best Realtor award last year. Now focusing his energies at Cobalt, readers have chosen to honor his work there.

Mark Rutstein (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Cobalt, celebrating its 10th anniversary, has increased its cachet the last couple years since Rutstein took the helm. Its success is obvious — in addition to Rustein’s win, the club also won in three other categories adding to its previous five “Best Of” awards. (JD)

Best Drag Show/Best Drag Queen
Ladies of Town and Ba’Naka

With Washington’s rich drag community, these are typically the Blade’s two most competitive Best Of categories. Ba’Naka won the individual prize last year but Ziegfeld’s got the show award. Ba’Naka (aka Dustin Michael Schaad) was a little bummed about that last year but has vindication now.

“It feels great,” she says. “I really love our drag show. I honestly think we have a little something for everyone. Old school drag, new young drag — it all contributes to us winning.”

Ba’Naka (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The cast includes hostess Lena Lett and performers Shi-Queeta-Lee (a former winner of this award), Jessica Spaulding and Tatiana, a season two vet of RuPaul’s Drag Race. They perform every Friday and Saturday night at Town Danceboutique.

Ba’Naka says the show has increased in popularity this year.

“We have everybody from wonderful bridal parties to our regulars to tourists,” she says. “I’m really blessed. I’ve worked a lot of shows in my years and you can really see all the energy coming from the crowd here. It’s wonderful.”

So what’s new with Ba’Naka and how did she manage another win here?

“Besides 15 pounds, some bigger hair and some new chest sizes, I guess I’ve been doing more stuff from the new Britney album and also the new Ke$ha,” she says.

So what sets her apart?

“I don’t just do a gig and go home. I stay and hang out with the audience, do a couple shots. I’m perhaps a bit more accessible than the other queens in the city and I think that’s the big difference. I like to entertain and I think of myself as more of a hostess than just a drag performer. From the time the doors open until they close, I like to make sure everyone’s having a good time.”

With its best club win in tow, these two awards give Town its 13th and 14th awards overall. (JD)
Town Danceboutique
2009 8th St., N.W.
202-234-TOWN
towndc.com

Best Party Promoter/Best Drag King
B.O.I. Marketing/E-Cleff

In a new category this year, Ebone Bell’s B.O.I. Marketing took Best Party Promoter. And her drag alter ego, E-Cleff, won the Drag King prize in a repeat win from last year (he also won in 2007).

A few years back, E-Cleff performed in clubs and bars three-to-four times per month. Now he only comes out for Pride events and benefits but boasts more elaborate production numbers.

E-Cleff (Blade photo by Michael Key)

“We did Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ at Capital Pride this year and that was really big,” E-Cleff says. “I also did the George Mason Pride show, which really has a huge stage and attracts tons of LGBT students and allies. … I really pride myself on taking a couple months to showcase something special, something that is really worth putting on stage.”

And B.O.I. continues to thrive and is Bell’s full-time work. Its sixth annual Capital Queer Prom is set for March 24 as a benefit for Transgender Health Empowerment. Another Gaylarious event is set for the Riot Act Comedy Club on Nov. 2 and a drag bingo at Nellie’s will help raise money to stage the Prom.

“Transgender Health Empowerment is our new beneficiary,” Bell says. “We’ve seen how much the trans community has been bullied and in some cases even had their lives taken. And there’s really not a lot of support for them in the area. We’re trying to bring awareness to the great work that Transgender Health Empowerment does.”

Visit capitalqueerprom.com for more information or search for the group on Facebook for other B.O.I. events. (JD)

Best Transgender Advocate
Dana Beyer

The Blade Best Of categories always morph and evolve a bit from year to year. This year we decided to bring back one that hasn’t been given since 2003, this trans-specific activist award.

Dana Beyer (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Readers voted the highly deserving Dana Beyer, a ubiquitous presence on the local LGBT social scene who volunteers her time as director of the new group Gender Rights Maryland, the winner.

“It’s always a pleasure to be recognized,” Beyer says. “As long as the quest for recognition is not allowed to drive the passion for advocacy. Being surprised is therefore ideal.”

She says Gender Rights Maryland is “moving forward.”

“We’re working to line up our sponsors for the coming session and get feedback from them on how they see us most easily getting to success.”

The group hopes to get a comprehensive gender identity anti-discrimination bill passed in the state by the end of the 2012 legislative session.

Visit genderrightsmaryland.org for more information. (JD)

Most Committed Activist
Martin Espinoza

Martin Espinoza was lucky to have strong gay mentors early in his career.

Upon moving to Phoenix from his native Yuma, Ariz., in 2001 at age 18, he met Neil Giuliano, the former Tempe, Ariz., mayor and GLAAD director who’s now with an AIDS group in San Francisco. And Steve May, a former member of the Arizona House for whom Espinoza worked for several years.

Martin Espinoza (Blade photo by Michael Key)

He also met Chuck Wolfe from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which led, eventually, to Espinoza moving to Washington in 2008 to join the Victory Fund staff where he works as director of events. Espinoza is also the co-founder of Stonewall Kickball, a non-profit gay kickball league of 12 teams that plays spring and fall seasons on Sunday afternoons behind JR.’s. The group’s 300 players are about 85 percent LGBT and everyone’s welcome (stonewallkickball.com).

Espinoza says he’s excited about the award and support.

“I feel so honored by this,” he says. “This just made my day. I’ve just been busy with Victory Fund events around the country and, of course, Stonewall Kickball.” (JD)

Hottest Stripper
3-way tie: Christian, Jesse Lee and Matthew King (Secrets)

Last year’s winner, Christian, retained his popularity in this category but was joined by two of his Secrets co-workers this year in a three-way tie and yes, they really all did get exactly the same number of votes.
Gaithersburg-based Jesse Lee, 27, has been at Secrets since November in his second stint with the company. He’s also danced at Omega. He uses a stage name and says he’s flattered by the votes he received.

Christian (Blade photo by Michael Key)

“It makes me feel good, you know, that, well, I’m glad people find me attractive and I also like the fact that I can help brighten up their day and make their nights for them,” Lee says.

Other than socks and shoes, the dancing is completely nude. Lee says it took a little getting used to.
“Once I’d done it once, I was like, ‘Well, I’ve done this before so I might as well enjoy it.’ It’s really more the attitude you bring to it whether you have fun or not.”

Mathew King, 26, won a Secrets amateur night contest 11 months ago and has been there ever since. He commuted from West Virginia since there are no dancing opportunities there but last week moved to Waldorf, Md., to be closer.

Jesse Lee (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Matthew King (Blade photo by Michael Key)

“It’s an honor,” he says. “Obviously my goal was just to make money but I’m fortunate enough to make a lot of really nice friends there and it’s because of them that I continue … but it’s nice that people think I’m one of the better dancers. I appreciate the ones who treat us respectfully.”

King says he’s 100 percent gay. Lee is “mostly gay” but occasionally finds himself attracted to women. Lee is single but King, his real name, has a boyfriend.

King says he was “extremely uncomfortable” being naked at first but after a few months the nervousness went away and now “it’s like second nature.” (JD)

Local Hero
Frank Kameny (posthumous)

Blade readers voted the late Frank Kameny “local hero” before he died Oct. 11 at age 86. Kameny also won this award in 2001 and 2003.

The late Frank Kameny (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The legendary gay activist, universally considered one of the pre-Stonewall gay rights pioneers, is famous for turning his 1957 firing from the Army Map Service into a lifetime of work on behalf of LGBT rights. Kameny coined the phrase “gay is good,” a summation of his conviction that gay life could be just as enriching as a straight existence. Kameny, a staple at local gay rights events and galas until the week before he died, was a lifelong activist and continued in local groups such as Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance, until a few weeks ago. (JD)

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Miscellaneous

LGBTQ people: Canaries in a violent coal mine

We continue to be targets We continue to be targets of politically inspired attacks

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Did you read about the group of staid U.S. historians who just met privately with President Biden to warn him that U.S. democracy is teetering? They told him we’re closer to civil war and authoritarian rule than at any point in history since the 1860s.

Guess who knew that already? Queer people. Black people. Immigrants. Women. Politicians on the right are using us as punching bags, and violence is breaking out everywhere.

It’s not in our imaginations, and I’ll show you the data in just a minute to back that up. Then I’ll explain what that has to do with the breakdown of democracy.

But first, let’s meet some canaries.

Chuck Johnson and J.P. Singh recently told the Washington Blade a group of young men spotted them holding hands steps away from their D.C. home. As the couple was returning from an evening out, the group shouted that they were “faggots” and punched them both. The couple ran, but the men chased them down. They knocked Chuck to the ground, punching and kicking him.

Responding to J.P.’s 911 call, EMS rushed Chuck to the hospital where he was treated for a broken thumb and underwent surgery for a jaw broken in two places.

According to the Blade, another gay couple was attacked in D.C. under similar unprovoked circumstances on Aug. 7, chased down by random strangers who objected to them holding hands, then called them “monkeypox faggots,” knocking them to the ground, brutally punching and kicking them.

Jacob and Christian are also canaries.

They’re a gay couple who were attacked while standing at the end of Christian’s driveway in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah in July. A group of young men in a car spotted them hugging. They jumped out, yelling, “We don’t like gay people in our street.”

Christian tried to defend Jacob from violence by stepping in front of him. He ended up on the ground, beaten so badly he landed in the hospital diagnosed with brain swelling.

I interviewed Christian and his family earlier this month and learned that he often puts up with anti-gay slurs shouted at him in the street by random strangers.

Over the past week, nurses and doctors in Boston have received a barrage of hateful phone calls and text messages, including at least one bomb threat, inspired by anti-LGBTQ extremist Chaya Raichik of Brooklyn who tweets as Libs of Tiktok. Raichik objects to parents choosing gender-affirming care for transgender teens, and she objects to medical providers delivering that care. She used Twitter to unleash an army of Proud Boys and other haters.

Slate reporter and Harvard Law instructor Alejandra Caraballo tweeted this: “In the last 5 days, Libs of Tiktok has tweeted and retweeted 14 posts about Boston Children’s Hospital. As a result, BCH providers are being inundated in death threats and harassing calls and emails. It’s now affecting their services. This is stochastic terrorism, full stop.”

When I saw the tweet, I called a friend of mine who practices internal medicine at a different Boston hospital. As I asked him for a comment, he reminded me that we watched the 2016 election returns together at a bar in Detroit.

“I won’t say I told you so,” he said. “But I told you so.”

I remembered how fearful he became the night Donald Trump was elected. “I’m from Lebanon,” he reminded me, “and my last name broadcasts ‘Arab’ loud and clear. Trump is going to make my life hell, and since you’re a gay man, you’d better be as worried as I am.”

Libs of Tiktok is the tip of the iceberg on Twitter, where attacks against LGBTQ people are constant background noise, and where community standards meant to prohibit slurs and attacks are rarely enforced. Caraballo asks in her tweet thread, “When will Twitter do something about [Libs of TikTok] and their ability to rile up massive harassment campaigns against their targets? Last time it was Nazis at pride and drag events. This time it’s threatening pediatricians.”

According to a new study released on Aug. 10 by the Human Rights Campaign and the Center for Countering Digital Hate, “discriminatory and inflammatory “grooming” content surge by over 400% across social media platforms” in response to Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law.

According to Christopher Kane writing in the Los Angeles Blade, major social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter are doing almost nothing to counter growing waves of anti-LGBTQ hate speech on their platforms. Both platforms claim their rules prohibit users from calling LGBTQ people pedophiles or groomers, but neither platform routinely removes such slurs, not even when users report the slurs.

According to Alexandra Martinez writing in Prism, anti-LGBTQ arson and frequent street attacks in New York City have left queer people this summer living with a gnawing feeling of unease.

It’s not just New York City. She notes that 2021 was the deadliest year on record for LGBTQ people in the U.S., and that violence rates are surging higher in 2022.

Remember Ricky Shiffer who was shot and killed after he tried to shoot up an Ohio FBI office? He was outraged that the FBI searched Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. He urged people to arm themselves and join him.

Did you know hatred of LGBTQ people is one of the reasons he supported Trump? Read this tweet, in an account deleted after his attack:

“We need to be ready for war against the communists who chemically nueter [sic] prebuscent [sic] children and call it gender transitioning, not bellyache about the arguments of 30 years ago. Save ammunition.”

Large majorities of Americans say they support LGBTQ equality. Large majorities of Americans say they believe our nation should stand for freedom and liberty for all, including for marginalized people. Large majorities of Americans support women’s reproductive freedom, support taking steps to lift up Black people, and support immigrant rights.

Large majorities of Americans want to live in a diverse, pluralistic society where everyone is free to pursue happiness and live in peace.

I wrote this column from the perspective of a queer person, but my Lebanese-American doctor friend could have written something similar from his immigrant perspective. My writer friend Allison Gaines could have written from the perspective of a Black woman.

We share a common fear: that politically and religiously conservative white men are working as hard as they can to sow fear of the Other for personal power and privilege. Men like Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and many more are plying the demagogue’s trade.

Leaders are spouting hate, seeking to establish or maintain minority rule, and historians are warning President Biden that they may very well succeed.

Chuck Johnson, J.P. Singh, Chad Sanford, Jacob Metcalf, Christian Peacock, and a score of nurses and doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital already know. They’ve been the targets of extreme violence in the past few weeks, directed by people using hatred of the Other to prop up their own privilege and power.

I opened this article by writing about the historians who told President Biden that we’re at a place we haven’t been since the 1860s. In the same meeting, they made a more frightening comparison.

They warned the president we’re at a very similar place to where Germany found itself in the 1930s when a demagogue took power by demonizing the Jews. They say a war like the one that destroyed Europe could repeat itself soon, only with the U.S. in the driver’s seat.

We worry the rest of you don’t see and hear the hatred directed against us. We worry that you’re too complacent. We don’t think you appreciate the gravity of the crisis facing our nation. We fear apathy will let the the Republican Party seize Congress and state governments this November, unleashing a process that could cement minority rule for generations.

Extremists in the Republican Party are already quietly taking over state election offices, something the Washington Post warned about last November.

Will Democratic voter turnout this November be overwhelming? Will it be enough to stop the assault on our teetering Democracy?

Only you can help make that happen. Will you?

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

James Finn is a columnist for the Los Angeles Blade, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, and alumnus of Queer Nation and ACT UP. Reach him at [email protected].

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Celebrity News

Anne Heche dies after removal from life support

Actress dated Ellen DeGeneres in late 1990s

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(Screenshot/YouTube Inside Edition)

Actress Anne Heche died after she was removed from life support on Sunday, nearly two weeks after her Mini-Cooper crashed through a two-story house in Los Angeles’ Mar Vista neighborhood. Investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department believe she was intoxicated at the time.

She sustained a severe anoxic brain injury along with severe burns and was being treated at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital, near Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley.

The 53-year-old actress who was a star of films like “Donnie Brasco,” the political satire “Wag the Dog” and the 1998 remake of “Psycho,” had been declared legally dead under California law on Friday, however, her family kept her alive long enough to be an organ donor.

In a statement Friday, the LAPD announced that: “As of today, there will be no further investigative efforts made in this case. Any information or records that have been requested prior to this turn of events will still be collected as they arrive as a matter of formalities and included in the overall case. When a person suspected of a crime expires, we do not present for filing consideration.” LAPD detectives had previously made public that investigators into the crash found narcotics in a blood sample taken from Heche.

The actress’s family released a statement on Friday:

“Today we lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend. Anne will be deeply missed but she lives on through her beautiful sons, her iconic body of work, and her passionate advocacy. Her bravery for always standing in her truth, spreading her message of love and acceptance, will continue to have a lasting impact,” the statement added.

Heche was married to camera operator Coleman Laffoon from 2001 to 2009. The two had a son, Homer, together. She had another son, named Atlas, during a relationship with actor James Tupper, her co-star on the TV series “Men In Trees.”

Laffoon left a moving tribute on an Instagram reel in which he also gave an update on how their 20-year-old son Homer Laffoon is coping with the loss of his mother.

“I loved her and I miss her, and I’m always going to,” he said adding: “Homer is okay. He’s grieving, of course, and it’s rough. It’s really rough, as probably anybody can imagine. But he’s surrounded by family and he’s strong, and he’s gonna be okay.”

“Rest In Peace, Mom, I love you, Homer,” the actor’s 20-year-old son, Homer, said in a statement after Heche was declared legally dead on Friday.“ My brother Atlas and I lost our Mom,” read the statement. “After six days of almost unbelievable emotional swings, I am left with a deep, wordless sadness. Hopefully, my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom. Over those six days, thousands of friends, family, and fans made their hearts known to me. I am grateful for their love, as I am for the support of my Dad, Coley, and my stepmom Alexi who continue to be my rock during this time. Rest In Peace Mom, I love you, Homer.”

Tupper, a Canadian actor who starred alongside Heche in “Men in Trees,” had a 13-year-old son, Atlas, with her. “Love you forever,” Tupper, 57, wrote on his Instagram post’s caption with a broken heart emoji, which shared an image of the actress from Men in Trees.

Between 1997 and 2000, Heche was also in a relationship with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

“This is a sad day,” DeGeneres posted on Twitter. “I’m sending Anne’s children, family and friends all of my love.” The year after her break-up with the comedian, in September 2001, Heche recounted in her memoir “Call Me Crazy,” about her lifelong struggles with mental health and a childhood of abuse.

KTLA’s entertainment reporter Sam Rubin noted that over the past two decades, Heche’s career pivoted several times. In 2017, she hosted a weekly radio show on SiriusXM with Jason Ellis called “Love and Heche.”

In 2020, Heche made her way into the podcast world. She launched “Better Together” which she cohosted alongside Heather Duffy Boylston. The show was described as a way to celebrate friendship. 

She also worked in smaller films, on Broadway, and on TV shows. She recently had recurring roles on the network series “Chicago P.D.,” and “All Rise” and was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”

People magazine reported that several of Heche’s acting projects are expected to be released posthumously.

These include “Girl in Room 13,” expected to be released on Lifetime in September, “What Remains,” scheduled to be released in 2023, and HBO Max TV series “The Idol,” created by Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd) and Euphoria creator Sam Levinson.

In her Instagram post from earlier this year Heche stands between her sons Atlas, 13 and Homer, 20.

From KTLA:

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‘Star Trek’ actress Nichelle Nichols dies at 89

George Takei tweets ‘we lived long and prospered together’

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(Screenshot/YouTube The Smithsonian Channel)

She was a groundbreaking cultural icon who broke barriers in a time of societal upheaval and battling for the civil rights of Black Americans. An actress, a mother and thoroughly devoted to the legions of fans of “Star Trek,” Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Nyota Uhura, has died at 89.

The announcement on her Facebook page by her son read:

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Friends, Fans, Colleagues, World

I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years.

Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.

Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.

I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further. Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected.

Live Long and Prosper,

Kyle Johnson

Nichols was born in Robbins, Ill., in 1932, according to her IMDb page. Legendary composer Duke Ellington “discovered” Nichols and helped her become a singer and dancer. She later turned to acting, and joined Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek,” where she played Uhura from 1966 to 1969.

Out actor George Takei who played ‘Sulu’ on Star Trek the original series with Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Nyota Uhura, at a Star Trek convention in this undated photo. (George Takei/Twitter)

It was in that role of Uhura that Nichols not only broke barriers between races, most famously her onscreen kiss, the first between a Black person and a white person, with castmate William Shatner, who played Capt. James T. Kirk, but she also became a role model for young Black women and men inspiring them to seek out their own places in science, technology, and other human endeavors.

In numerous interviews over the years Nichols often recalled how the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a fan of the show and praised her role and personally encouraged her to stay with the series.

When the first series ended Nichols went on to become a spokesperson for NASA, where she “helped recruit and inspire a new generation of fearless astronauts.” She later reprised her role in several successful “Star Trek” films and continued to advocate for the advancement of Black Americans especially in the areas of science and technology.

Formerly a NASA deputy administrator, Frederick Gregory, now 81, told the Associated Press he once saw an advertisement in which Nichols said “I want you to apply for the NASA program.”

“She was talking to me,” he recounted. The U.S. Air Force pilot would apply and later become the first African American shuttle pilot.

President Joe Biden weighed in Sunday afternoon on her passing in a statement issued by the White House:

In Nichelle Nichols, our nation has lost a trailblazer of stage and screen who redefined what is possible for Black Americans and women.
 
A daughter of a working-class family from Illinois, she first honed her craft as an actor and singer in Chicago before touring the country and the world performing with the likes of Duke Ellington and giving life to the words of James Baldwin.
 
During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, she shattered stereotypes to become the first Black woman to act in a major role on a primetime television show with her groundbreaking portrayal of Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek. With a defining dignity and authority, she helped tell a central story that reimagined scientific pursuits and discoveries. And she continued this legacy by going on to work with NASA to empower generations of Americans from every background to reach for the stars and beyond.
 
Our nation is forever indebted to inspiring artists like Nichelle Nichols, who show us a future where unity, dignity, and respect are cornerstones of every society.

Nichols son said that services will be private for family members and her closest friends.

In 2008 the actress at a news conference, coordinated by the filmmakers of the motion picture “TRU LOVED,” in honor of the more than 900 students at Los Angeles’ Miguel Contreras Learning Complex’s School of Social Justice who participated in the GLSEN Day of Silence.

Nichelle Nichols speaks on LGBTQ rights:

Her fellow castmate and life long friend, openly Out actor George Takei shared his sadness on hearing of Nichols’ passing on Twitter:

From the September 2016 edition of the Smithsonian Channel: “Star Trek’s decision to cast Nichelle Nichols, an African American woman, as major character on the show was an almost unheard-of move in 1966. But for black women all over the country, it redefined the notions of what was possible.”

Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols on Uhura’s Radical Impact:

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