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Florida voters should reject ‘closeted’ 77-year-old Shalala

Embrace next generation and elect David Richardson to Congress

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Donna Shalala, gay news, Washington Blade

Donna Shalala denied being a lesbian in the ‘90s while serving as President Clinton’s HHS Secretary. (Photo by Bluerasberry; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Rep. David Richardson calls himself a progressive. I call him a courageous progressive with a record of bringing responsible, forward-thinking solutions to the problems Floridians face at the local and state level. He will do the same in Congress.

David made history in 2012, becoming the first elected openly gay person to win a seat in the Florida Legislature. He represents House District 113 including all of the City of North Bay Village, City of Miami Beach, downtown Miami and Little Havana. During his second term he was the House Minority Floor Leader, a remarkable accomplishment for a sophomore legislator, and he was part of the Caucus Leadership Team. He has earned the respect of his colleagues for his groundbreaking work on criminal justice and prison reform and for his advocacy for sensible gun control, quality public education and his unstinting commitment to civil liberties and equal rights for all.

He made reforming Florida’s corrupt, for-profit prison system a top priority. His work “revealed evidence of officer-on-inmate violence at youthful offender facilities, caught officers withholding food from inmates, and persuaded the Department of Corrections to close down Lancaster Correctional Institution, a prison incarcerating youth,” according to his campaign. David will continue fighting for solutions to issues impacting Floridians in Congress. He will stand up to the Trump administration and oppose rollbacks in the Affordable Care Act and support Medicare for All. He believes in a single-payer healthcare system and reinstating the Paris Climate Accords. He will fight any rollbacks of the rights of women, Hispanics, African Americans, the LGBT community and all minority groups, while fighting to expand those rights.

David was born in Houston and moved to Florida in 1968, a hometown boy growing up in Longwood where he attended Lyman High School. He earned his bachelor degrees in biology and accountancy from the University of Central Florida and his master’s of business administration from the University of Tampa. He began his career as an auditor at the U.S. Department of Defense, after which he joined Ernst and Young, an international accounting and consulting firm. In 1993, he started his own advisory services firm focused on forensic accounting of government contracts. He has been a licensed Certified Public Accountant in Florida for 33 years.

The Democratic primary is now a two-person race between David and Donna Shalala. I know and respect Shalala having first met her in the early 1970s after her appointment to the ‘Big Mac’ board, the corporation set up by New York Gov. Hugh Carey to keep New York City out of bankruptcy. We met at a friend’s Christmas tree trimming party, which she attended with City Council member Robert Wagner III. Bobby came from a political family. His dad had been mayor and his grandfather a U.S. senator. In the early ‘60s there was a campaign “to rid New York City of gay bars in full effect by order of Mayor Wagner, who was concerned about the image of the city in preparation for the 1964 World’s Fair. The city revoked the liquor licenses of the bars, and undercover police officers worked to entrap as many homosexual men as possible.” So not surprisingly Bobby brought a woman with him to the party as it was universally assumed he was as deep in the closet as I was at the time. I would meet Donna a number of times over the years even getting to dance a jitterbug with her at an event in D.C. when she was Secretary of HHS (she’s a great dancer). When being vetted for the position at HHS she denied being a lesbian and it was then considered irrelevant. However, in 2018, being honest and open with your constituents when running for elected office is relevant and I choose to believe mutual friends who have told me she remains closeted.

Donna is brilliant and accomplished. But I have to question why at nearly 80 years old she feels the people of Florida will be well served having her as a freshman member of Congress when she has never served in a legislative body. With all due respect to her and others of my generation it is time we use the wisdom and experience we have accumulated to support the next generation of leaders — especially in Florida’s 27th district where the people already have a great candidate ready to represent them.

David has outlined his priorities and they include the economy, education, healthcare, and immigration. He is committed to representing the people in his District including those of Cuban heritage and those who are there from Puerto Rico, many because of the blatant disregard the Trump administration has shown to our fellow citizens after Hurricane Maria. He is committed to repealing the GOP tax plan and raising corporate income taxes. He would increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2020. He will work to pass an infrastructure plan to rebuild Florida’s crumbling roads, bridges, railways, airports, public transit systems, ports, dams, wastewater plants and other infrastructure. He supports the Paycheck Fairness Act guaranteeing equal pay for women. He will fight to invest $5.5 billion in a youth jobs program for disadvantaged young Americans to ensure the next generations of Americans have the support they need to advance in the economy and find good paying jobs. He would lift the income level being taxed for social security to $250,000 to ensure every American can retire with dignity. He supports requiring employers to provide at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, two weeks of paid vacation, and seven days of paid sick leave. He will fight for a clear pathway to citizenship for immigrants and to protect Dreamers.

David has always supported common sense gun control. He has said he is in awe of the courageous young students of Parkland who stood up and spoke out after the tragedy in their school. He supports mandatory Universal Background Checks, a total ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and wants the minimum age to purchase a gun raised to 21. He will fight the NRA. David supports legalizing marijuana and changing the way we determine sentences for non-violent, low-impact crimes.

David understands in today’s world, especially with Trump in the White House, it’s important to have another ‘out and open’ member of the LGBTQ+ community at the table. He can speak effectively on issues such as ending LGBTQ youth homelessness, ensuring fair adoption laws, and fighting for the rights of transgender individuals.   

I urge the voters of Florida’s 27th congressional district to vote for the candidate who is true to and honest with himself and therefore will always be respectful and honest with them. The progressive candidate with legislative experience. That candidate is Rep. David Richardson.

 

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Opinions

The future of lesbian bars

Resolve to support our queer spaces in 2022

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lockdown zone, gay news, Washington Blade

This New Year, I hope you wish for more lesbian bars across the country. The story of lesbian bars in the U.S. has been slightly tragic of late: as of January 2021, there were only 15 clubs or bars dedicated to queer women across the country. 

That’s right—only 15. Across all 50 states. 

In Washington, D.C., my hometown, A League of Her Own stands out as the only lesbian bar in the city, dedicated to queer women. Located in Adams Morgan, A League of Her Own, also known as ALOHO, is a small mecca for queer ladies to pass through, socialize, and flirt. ALOHO is a chic gathering point for all queer folk, with posters of softball players dotting the walls and gender neutral signs lying about. 

Several years ago, another lesbian bar called Phase 1 existed in Southeast, where queer women could slam eight balls in pool games and engage in raunchy yet ever-so-hot jello wrestling competitions. 

Unfortunately, Phase 1 shut its doors in 2016. 

So what explains the closure of so many lesbian bars, while bars for gay men continue to flourish? Perhaps many queer women view gay bars as a space for their own as well, whereas gay men view lesbian bars as less of a place for them to socialize. 

Either way, we need to give support to lesbian bars now more than ever. Tokens of support can take many forms. 

For one, make sure to socialize in spaces dedicated to queer ladies. There are three lesbian bars in New York City: Cubbyhole (281 W. 12th St.), Gingers in Brooklyn (363 5th Ave.), and Henrietta Hudson (438 Hudson St.). Next time you visit the Big Apple, make sure to give these three spots some love. Maybe drag your experimenting bi friend to these locations. Or your pansexual roommate. 

Back in D.C., you can buy unisex shirts in A League of Her Own’s merchandise store, available online. 

Proceeds will go toward funding the bar, and making sure it stays afloat, especially during this COVID economy. 

Most of all, I hope you encourage your queer lady friends to keep on frequenting queer lady destinations. After all, there is only one thing that will keep lesbian bars afloat—and that is attendance. 

I, for one, will be frequenting many lesbian destinations this new year.  

Isaac Amend is a Yale graduate and participated in National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ documentary. He also is a member of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, and contributes regularly to the Blade. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @isaacamend.

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Opinions

Breaking barriers as an out trans ‘Jeopardy’ champion

Amy Schneider’s run inspires us all

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Amy Schneider (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Television)

“When was the last time anybody said ‘wow!’” a friend asked me.

I couldn’t remember the last time anyone I know (including me) had any “Wow!” moments. Until I heard about trans woman and software engineering manager Amy Schneider’s 29-game winning streak on “Jeopardy.”

You wouldn’t think anything could dispel our COVID exhaustion and political divisiveness. Yet, news about a champion on “Jeopardy,” a quiz show that has been on TV since 1964, has broken through our gloom.

In our culture, there are few things that everyone loves. But, “Jeopardy” is beloved by many, from theater geeks to 80-year-old sports nuts. A progressive friend was over the moon when his brother was a “Jeopardy” contestant. A buddy, a hetero (non-Trump) Republican, is a “Jeopardy” fanatic and a gay librarian pal is a “Jeopardy” freak.

Many of us daydream about being on “Jeopardy.” But we know that we wouldn’t have a chance on this legendary quiz show with its deceptively simple format: You give the answer to the (often incredibly hard) clues in the form of a question. You have to have a strategic military commander’s and a world-class athlete’s coordination: so you can press the buzzer to answer the clue.

The game’s categories run the gamut from opera to mountain ranges. Most of us, mere mortals, would be lucky to know even one category in the first round of the game. Let alone in the “Double Jeopardy” round or the “Final Jeopardy” clue. I might jump on clues about Katharine Hepburn movies or M&Ms. But that would be it for me.

It’s exciting to watch a “Jeopardy” contestant become a long-running champion. You marvel at the player’s intelligence, endurance, and nerve. It’s thrilling when the contestant on a winning-streak is part of your community.

Many of us LGBTQ “Jeopardy” fans are thrilled by Schneider’s record-setting winning streak. As I write this, Schneider has won more than $1 million in 29 games of “Jeopardy.” She is the fifth millionaire in “Jeopardy” history, and only the fourth player to reach this milestone in the regular season. She has won more than any other female “Jeopardy” contestant.

Schneider, like so many of us, doesn’t want to be defined by her gender identity or sexuality. Schneider’s life is multi-faceted; she has many interests. Schneider lives with her girlfriend Genevieve. They have a cat named Meep.

Yet, Schneider doesn’t want to hide that she’s trans. On “Jeopardy,” Schneider brilliantly dealt with this dilemma. She didn’t make a big deal about being out. She just wore the trans Pride flag pin.

“It was something that I wanted to get out there and to show my pride in while not making it the focus of what I was doing there,” Schneider told the New York Times. “Because I was just there to answer trivia questions and win money.”

As a cisgender lesbian, I can’t speak to how Schneider’s record-setting “Jeopardy” streak feels to transgender people.

But, as a trans ally, I’m cheering for Schneider. Kudos for her bravery! At a time when many states are passing anti-trans laws, it takes guts to be out on TV and the Internet.

Few things are as mainstream as “Jeopardy.” I bet that many “Jeopardy” viewers who are frightened at the idea of trans people, will become more comfortable with transgender people after watching Schneider on the popular quiz show. Because folks on TV come into our living and bedrooms and we feel as if we know them after watching them for a while.

“Amy looks like everybody else,” my neighbor said when I told her Schneider was trans. “She doesn’t act odd. She’s not strange.”

Transgender people encounter violence and discrimination in everything from housing to health care to employment.

I know Schneider’s “Jeopardy” triumph won’t end transphobia. But her winning streak will go a long way toward jumpstarting a change in hearts and minds.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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SCARY: Tucker Carlson now the conscience of GOP

Cruz bows down, kisses ring of Fox host

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Tucker Carlson (Screen capture via Fox on YouTube)

The Republican Party has sunk to a new low, hard to do, when a sleazebag like Tucker Carlson is now their conscience. Seeing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) groveling before him is laughable, disgusting, and frightening all at the same time. 

As reported in Rolling Stone, Cruz said, “We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week. It is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this Capitol.” Then “Cruz was lambasted by Tucker Carlson that night, prompting him to hop on Carlson’s show Thursday and beg for forgiveness. “The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and it was frankly dumb,” Cruz said before Carlson cut him off and said he didn’t believe him. Cruz took it up a notch, stammering through an absurd bit about how he wasn’t talking about the “patriots across the country supporting President Trump,” only those who assaulted police officers, and that he’s always described anyone who assaults a cop as a terrorist.

Carlson has made a career of being a pompous commentator. Interestingly he worked at CNN, PBS, and MSNBC, before finally landing at Fox in 2009. According to his Wikipedia page he went to Trinity College where he earned a bachelor’s degree and Carlson’s Trinity yearbook describes him as a member of the “Dan White Society,” an apparent reference to the American political assassin who murdered San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. After college, Carlson tried to join the CIA, but his application was denied, after which he decided to pursue a career in journalism with the encouragement of his father, who advised him that “they’ll take anybody.” Reading this clearly raised my opinion of the CIA and based on what we see in some media today I agree with Carlson’s father on his view of journalism. 

When you have a moment of silence in the House of Representatives to honor those who lost their lives on Jan. 6 and only two Republicans show up, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and her father Dick Cheney, the former vice president, one understands the influence Carlson has on the GOP. The rest were afraid of being criticized on-air by him or lambasted by Trump. 

Dick Cheney remarked on the GOP, “It’s not a leadership that resembles any of the folks I knew when I was here for 10 years.” He spoke to ABC News saying, “I’m deeply disappointed we don’t have better leadership in the Republican Party to restore the Constitution.” 

There is a leadership void in the Republican Party today. Their so-called leaders are afraid to say what they think if it differs in any way from Trumpism or Carlson’s view of the world, which requires total fealty to Trump. He found a home on Fox where he can lie with impunity and have millions believe his lies. 

President Biden said, in what many think was the best speech of his presidency so far, these people are “holding a dagger to the neck of democracy.” He went on to say, “For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.” 

Tucker Carlson and his ilk have never bothered to answer a question the president threw at them, which is how they can accept all their down ballot victories, governors, and members of Congress, which occurred on the same ballots, cast by the same people, on the same day, as those for president. Of course, Carlson has no need to make sense, tell the truth, or speak rationally because of his platform on Fox, which doesn’t require that.

My question is whether Carlson is as dumb as he makes himself sound or is he brilliant and this is all a big act? Either way the acolytes that follow Trump don’t seem to care and are bowing down to Carlson’s big audience. It’s as if he can tell any Republican senator or congressperson, or Republican candidate for those jobs, to just ‘bend over and take it’ and they do. All we can do is mourn for the GOP of Lincoln and Eisenhower. Non-Trumpers will have to work hard and speak out if they ever want to resurrect a GOP that can be respected.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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