In the land of minority stories being told by those who don’t know the struggle, “Pose” smashed the narrative. The show made history by not only creating storylines that truly expressed the lives of the LGBTQ community, but by creating a diverse cast, including the largest transgender cast to appear on television. As the series prepares for its third and final season, the creators, cast and crew, during a press conference, reflected on the filming of the final season and the overall experience of taking part in something that has changed so many lives. We had the opportunity to ask the cast if they were encouraged to offer input in development of their character or storyline.
DOMINIQUE JACKSON, “Elektra”
Immigrant, Black, woman, trans. Never been on set, right? Other sets, but not sets that celebrated me or validated me or acknowledged me. And to walk on to that set of "Pose" and to hear Mr. Murphy go -- say, "Is that how it's done?" that was -- it was validation in itself. When Steven says, "Listen, I've been a part of this" -- and it was so amazing to sit back, because as I am ballroom and as I get to sit back and watch as everything happens around me, I see the passion, the compassion, the care, the want to know that it's being done right. When you have directors like Steven and Janet, and even though Janet is one of us and is us, the beauty of her saying, the validation of her saying, "Listen, is this right?" when Steven says, “I don't know about this," the consultants that were brought in -- Twiggy, Leiomy, all of them -- this was not a place, for me personally, where I felt -- and being a part of ballroom, being ballroom, I didn't have to say anything. Only when we had that last scene with the -- going into the 42nd Street and Elektra coming back into show world, that was the only time I had to walk on set and really say, "No. We were not sleazy. We were not degenerate. We were not" -- "we were fetishes that were loved, and we brought the best even in the worst of times." So, all of it, it was amazing. So, to have all of that, yeah.
INDYA MOORE, “Angel”
Steven and Janet Mock particularly, as a Black trans woman in the writers' room, it was perfect. I think that there were so many different parts of this story we're all telling and using our own lives to make a reality, details from our own experiences and lives. And I think that Janet did that brilliantly and beautifully, and Steven did that brilliantly and beautifully. And we were all able to relate and see ourselves in the lives of these characters so respectfully because of the way that the writers' room was organized so intentionally and the people who sat in it and, you know, who had the focus and centering on our characters. Their lives and the parts of their experiences that they used came so closely and reflective to ours and is just a true reflection of what the experience is to be trans or queer, that I can't remember a time where I ever felt like I needed to say, "Hey, this doesn't feel right." And Janet and Steven frequently came to us and checked in with us about the content and made sure that things felt right and were congruent and felt natural for us. But I think that that dynamic of the writers' room and the producers checking in with the actors to make sure that the story is being told right, that wasn't even a thing that needed to happen on this set. I think that that is something that's really important. When you have trans and queer characters on a show and you want to tell the story truthfully and you don't have writers who are a reflection -- who aren’t reflections of those experiences can be really difficult to nail right. So I would hope that in those circumstances, in the case where we don't have people who reflect us in a writers' room and who are the creators of our show, that they would check in on us, check in with us to make sure that they're telling the stories right and that they don't believe they can get it all right in their own minds, because they don't have the experience to come up with the imagination to tell that story. So, I think that the way that Steven and Janet put the story together was brilliant. And I think that that is the mechanism of the writers checking in and asking the actors, that is something that feels so necessary for productions where the writers and the creators aren't trans or queer. Like, that level of cross-talk. But here we're all together. We're all reflections of each other, creating. So, we don't navigate -- we're not navigating those same challenges. We're not navigating those challenges in that kind of way on our set in getting our story told truthfully.
DYLLÓN BURNSIDE, “Ricky”
I distinctly remember on my first day of filming not having, like, an idea about who Ricky was, where he came from, and what was, sort of, the idea around who he would become on the show. And I asked Steven those questions. Like, who do you think he is? Is there any insight you can give me as to how to play him? And Steven looked at me point-blank and said, who do you think he is? Where do you think he comes from? Where do you think he should go? And that kind of collaboration and open line of communication was there from day one and has existed throughout filming all three seasons. And I think that -- that instance speaks directly to what Indya's talking about. It's like this -- this -- we were a reflection of each other, and we allowed each other to speak to each other in a way that breathed life into these characters authentically.
HAILIE SAHAR, “Lulu”
Steven and I first season had a conversation. I would meet him during lunch break and say, "Hey, Steven. Can I talk to you?" And I would say, “You know, Lulu has obtained all this information. She's second in command to Elektra, ambitious and intellectual. I don't think she would just want to be in this house forever.” And that's when that conversation happened. And I guess they went into the writers' room and something came out of that, because then Ferocity was also born. But I remember speaking to Steven and him allowing me to have that space to tell him how I felt about Lulu. And then, Janet, the brilliant, iconic Janet being of trans experience and a woman of color just effortlessly creating these characters and really, truly being authentic was just the icing on the cake. And that was my experience.
MJ RODRIGUEZ, “Blanca”
So, I had been a part of the industry at a very young age, and what came with that was me feeling like I had to be limited in what I had to say and how I had to speak or if I had even opportunity to speak up. So, I was always this closed-off person. But with being involved in the industry, there was, I guess, this grooming that came with me. And I was naturally just afraid to ask questions. I was just the person, the girl to show up and just do the job. And I guess that most actors and actresses -- I'm sure I can say for all of my friends here that we usually do that. But I never had an opportunity like this on a television and film -- a television show where I got to actually have the range that I never thought I could have in the other productions or the other things that I was involved in. I think that's what the best thing for me was, is that I was able to have the liberty to speak even when I was afraid to speak. I had the liberty to delve into the character like how I wanted to and not be questioned, but still have small notes here and there. "Well, how about you speak it here, MJ?" Or, "How about you do this?" Or, "No, this is how it needs to be done." And sometimes that's what you need in order for you to fulfill the journey of the character that you're creating or the process that you want to put into the character. And I never had the -- the outspokenness. I never was able to speak up like how I was able to speak up in this show. And it's taught me a lot from first season until third season. I feel like not only did Blanca have an evolution, but I, Michaela, Mj Rodriguez had as evolution too. She's learned a lot. I mean, she's always been able to learn, but with these two, and also with Ryan Murphy, there was a great space to just quickly learn and really appreciate it while being able to be free in what you do naturally, which is the craft. So, I thank them tremendously for opening that space for me. Because now, moving forward, I feel like I'll be able to do that in any other project I go into. So, I thank for them that, and I think that's -- for me specifically, that's what opened me up in feeling like this is the place I feel comfortable in. This is what I want more of and I hope to go into more.
This year, #Pride will be done from a distance - celebrated in individual homes. We were saddened to hear that Albuquerque Pride was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now we’re left with the question - when will we be made whole?
We here, at Pride & Equality Magazine, were affected by the decision. Some advertisers immediately pulled ads. They felt that without a parade or festival, the publication doesn’t work. With that, it was more important to move forward with publishing this year’s issue. We thank the businesses who stood by and helped get this magazine out, even if we had to push the date to make it happen. You will see articles from this year's issue posting on our social media. Take a moment to read and share.
This year’s issue rolls in another set of honorees of The Vincent R. Johnson Models of Hope Award. This year we are proud to celebrate the contributions of Ryan Perrigo, Nic Sedillo, and Terra Fox. Our cover story is a woman coming into her voice. Carmen Carrera, who made a name for herself as a contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race, has become an advocate for the #LBGTQ community. She is extremely vocal on issues that affect the community and will not put up with bullshit rhetoric. We had the opportunity to discuss her career and upcoming projects. We also had the opportunity to talk with actress Jasika Nicole of The Good Doctor. Nicole talks about her inspirations as a child, growing up biracial and queer, and her time on one of ABC’s hottest running shows. Actor Dan Amboyer chats about fatherhood, marriage, and projects.
The return of bathhouses in San Francisco piqued our interest. It led to our featured story of what this reoccurrence means for the community. Mauro Walden-Montoya talks about the effects of Pride events being canceled throughout the country, and Jason J. Carter brings us our Final Word for Pride 2020.
We are excited to bring another issue to the community, especially during this trying time. Happy Pride, everyone. Stay safe. We are all in this together.
PRIDE & Equality Magazine
While in Utah for the Sundance Film Festival two years ago, I bumped into Carmen Carrera coming out of the AT&T tent, after addressing her public, and looking fabulous while doing it. I haven’t seen her since she performed for Trés Chic back in 2013. Looking at her that night I had to ask, “How can this woman be any more gorgeous?” We took a photo, hugged each other, and promised to get together for an interview. Two years later, it came to fruition. Carrera had plenty to share.
Carrera captured America’s eyes when she first appeared on season 3 of Rupaul’s Drag Race in 2011. Carrera’s beauty shined on the reality competition. While many watching the show saw what they might have felt was just another drag show, Carrera knew deep down who she was, identifying as a transgender woman in 2012. Her time on the show is remembered with both highs and lows, but Carrera used this moment as a catapult for her career. She took every opportunity that came her way, including a feature in W and an appearance on What Would you Do? But it would be her community that would benefit as she became an activist for HIV/AIDS awareness.
Carrera always knew that she was unique, even if she didn’t know why. “I was so self-aware than most kids around me. I was so fascinated with learning about who I was and why I wasn’t just like everyone else,” shared Carrera. “I think that’s been a lot of my experience. But, once I graduated, that’s when things clicked. I got to experience the world and meet people like me. I didn’t know what I want to do, but I thought I would figure out when I get there. That’s been my story. I never knew exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to create this space.”
The goal of creating this safe space came from discovering self. For Carrera, the world of drag was a catalyst for realizing her authentic self, but she also knows that many factors lead to her development. “I discovered myself through drag," shared Carrera. "That freedom of expression is what I felt as a teenager. It’s been a journey, but I wouldn’t say it was like one revelation. It’s been a series of experiences. I would say after I got my modeling contract, I knew the real me.”
Carrera became a fresh face when she appeared as a contestant on the show “Rupaul’s Drag Race.” The exposure catapulted her to next-level status. But she didn’t want to rest her laurels on this one experience. She took what she learned from the show and moved forward in her career, achieving a lot of first. For Carrera, she shared what she felt were her greatest “firsts.” “I was the first trans model to ever be signed to Elite Model Management, a very prestigious modeling agency in New York,” shared Carrera. “My relationship with my husband on television was another big first. Looking back, I cringe because I was so transparent and so forthcoming. I felt like people needed to realize that our relationship is as complex as any other relationship. I know that influenced many people. That was important to me.” Carerra also talked about being the first trans model to walk in Miami Swim Week. The history of the organization was that only naturally-born women were allowed to participate during this event. If a trans female was exposed, it would lead to her expulsion from the model community. “I was one the first openly trans models they asked to walk and connect with the trans community,” expressed Carerra. “There was a big meeting with the production and my agency. I was so happy because that opened the door for so many trans models in Miami.”
One of the biggest decisions Carrera made in her career was sharing her transition on social media, knowing it might lead to ridicule. She knew youth in the community would view her struggles and realize they were not alone. “I was the first of my kind in the public eye. I was expressing myself and coming from a place where I thought there must be others like me. I was going to be completely open and not think twice about what other people felt," admitted Carerra. "I was labeled as a trailblazer and an inspiration, but, looking back, I wish I didn’t tell so much. I was still working things out in my life. You feel freer as an adult. I just wanted to "tell on the mountain." I felt there was no way I could have avoided that. I felt the world needed to learn about our community. So, if my drive was the kick-off to that, I was asking for it. I’m a little more reserved about some things that I share. People are so clouded by their judgment. I try to open up their eyes in specific ways. I don’t regret it though.” Success leads to misconceptions. When people see you in the limelight, they automatically feel that they know you. Carrera is not a stranger to this. “There are people that believe I’m jealous and upset and expect me to be a crappy person,” shared Carrera. “Then there are others that feel I’m a "look at me, look at me" type of person.”
One thing that is not a misconception is her need to call out behavior she knows is wrong for the community. Even if it means going up against someone who helped give you your start. Carerra is very vocal when it comes to statements made by the Queen Bee of Drag herself, RuPaul. She shared why Ru pushes her buttons. "RuPaul is older and has more wisdom. If you’re in a position of power, I feel it would be smarter to consider the community as a whole. I know personally, just working with RuPaul, she grew up in a different time, but in the same place as I did,” expressed Carerra. “She’s very aware of hate crimes. She’s very aware of what happens when you’re not yourself or deny who you are. She has seen the struggles. I feel like, when he was as a producer, trying to influence the fact that we deserve proper representation in the drag community. Knowing her influence on the hetero market, she continues to deny trans people their place. With her history in the drag shows, I feel it’s selfish. She continues this mindset that drag should only be one thing versus what it has become, which is entertainment. We have drag queens, drag kings, drag queens that are comedians. We have so many layers. So that’s the reason it pushes my buttons. I feel it’s unfair and selfish and a very misogynist way of thinking.”
Her thoughts for Rupaul didn’t stop there. I shared with her a quote that RuPaul shared a few years ago during an interview. When asked if drag will become mainstream, she replied, “It will never be mainstream. It’s the antithesis of mainstream. Listen, what you’re witnessing with drag is the most mainstream it will get. But, it will never be mainstream because it is completely opposed to fitting in.” Since this quote, Drag Race has gone on to win multiple Emmys, move to a more broad audience channel, VH1, and open the show to a new generation of not only LGBTQ youth, but straight as well. Carrera shared RuPaul’s statement makes her question what's the reason for doing it. “I feel you create your reality. If Ru thinks it will never be mainstream, it won’t. She’s almost getting in her way. People who have that mindset, I feel, are not expecting to be trailblazers. I’m into normalizing drag as a form of entertainment and showcasing LGBTQ artists that have amazing talent,” stated Carerra. “It is becoming mainstream. I thought she was fighting for it. People are stepping up to make a platform for change. If she can get past her mental blockages, she'd be more welcoming to people who've worked to be accepted and loved. If she was trying to use art to influence that, that’s amazing. But, if that’s not what she was doing, then what is her agenda? What's the goal? It’s not right when you’re trying to create change for a large group of people. You can’t be selfish. This is bigger than her. So that’s what my problem is. I don’t know if she’s ever going to see it or realize it. I’ll keep an eye on it, but I have to focus on my things.”
Those other things are coming down the pipeline. With the coronavirus putting quite a few performances and projects on the back burner, Carerra was excited to share what coming down the road once things settle down. “I want to be able to share my stories, so I’m focusing on my YouTube channel and just starting to build an empire. I’m also working on a cosmetic line. I don’t want to say too much, but we’ll see what happens.”
Carerra has gone from just another pretty face to a force in the LGBTQ community. Her voice has changed the lives of many trans youth. When it’s all said and done, Carrera would like the world to remember her as someone who made a difference. “I would like to be a trailblazer. I want to leave a legacy behind of inspiration - just being sure of who you are and being brave enough to make that change. Look back, even though I wasn’t quite sure of who I was, I felt encouraged to make a change and make people see the connection in differences. So, I really want to be known as someone who’s created that shift, not only in my community but within the culture.” Carrera is becoming a force in the community. We look forward to witnessing what else she does in the future.
The star of Younger and TV Lands is enjoying life as a new father and working on his new web series, Vicious Mannies. He shared with us his new projects, married life, and family life during quarantine.
Was acting always in your vision or something you fell into?
There was a time when I wanted to be a clown with Ringling Brothers. Seriously. I applied to their official Clown College and was rejected. Granted, I was 7, but it still was a bitter sting. No, but really, I always wanted to be an actor or veterinarian. I never set out seeking fame, or even to necessarily do TV or film. I think I could have been happy to scrape by working with a cool theatre company in the Midwest. I fell in love with the art first, and also the amazing community that comes along with working in it. I feel very lucky to get to act in great projects now with passionate collaborators and to travel the world. And I satisfy my animal-loving side by keeping a small menagerie at home of two cats and an adopted parrot!
Tell us about your new web series, “Vicious Mannies.”
“Vicious Mannies” comes from the witty gritty minds of Grant Sloss and Aaron Hartzler. Grant produced and wrote several of my “Younger” episodes, and he just constantly makes me laugh in real life. I also had already read a gay YA novel Aaron wrote, so I was chuffed to be invited into the “Mannies” sandbox with them both. The show is about 3 unlikely “Mannies” in Los Angeles that are a bit down on their luck - their adventures. It also stars Rex Lee from Entourage. It’s just a damn smart and funny nibble of a series. Each episode is under 10 minutes and on YouTube.
How are you finding the balance between fatherhood and your career?
Theodore was just born in December, and he came a few weeks early—actually on the day I was supposed to fly out of town to start work on a film! It was a crash course in fatherhood and choices. I boarded a different plane going in the opposite direction, had to pull out of the film. It was pretty rough. But I was at the hospital waiting for Teddy’s arrival within a few hours. I wouldn’t have given that up for anything. I intended to take a few months off to be with him. Now those few months have turned into another few months or so, given our health crisis. I’m thankful to have this time with him, without the constant pressure of running around New York or traveling to a set somewhere in who knows where. Happy to have this time to bond, to be present. But I also can’t wait to get back to work and have Teddy on set!
How are you handling being so close-knit during this time of the pandemic?
We are in week seven of isolation, sheltering in a little cabin we have up in the Catskill Mountains. We haven’t seen another human in over a month. My husband, Eric, is still working full time from home, so Teddy and I have commenced his music education with some old records. We do hikes and basically just live that homemaker fantasy life I didn’t know I needed. Teddy is pure love and joy and beauty. But I also crash hard at the end of every day. I used to be a night owl, but now I’m up with Teddy by 5:45 am each day!
What are some of your other upcoming projects?
During this pandemic, my friend, Jordan Dean, reached out to me and my friend, Kersti Bryan, with an idea for a project: to get loving and joyful messages of gratitude and song to front line medical workers in NYC, to add a little light to their very challenging days. Jordan nearly died last year, and the crew at Mount Sinai saved his life, so this was his idea to give back. Mount Sinai got on board with our project, which we named Songs for Mount Sinai, and we just launched. The videos are used widely in the hospital’s internal monitors and network of 42,000 employees, but anyone can also watch online. Messages of thanks, poems, songs, dances, etc. Broadway legends like Victor Garber and Audra McDonald to TV folk like Melissa Joan Hart, and some amazing performance artists mixed in too. 15 eclectic new videos every week, and you can find more out at @cleardayproject or our website www.cleardayproject.org. of, it will allow others to see and have a perspective of what is possible and what love is. I think sharing our stories, allows others to look at themselves and see what inspires them to take the plunge in creating a family or go on a date, and know that there are married couples out there. P&E - Teresa Robinson
Follow Dan on Instagram at @danamboyer.
PRIDE & Equality celebrates another year of Models of Hope. The Vincent R. Johnson Models of Hope Award honors individuals and organizations making a difference, being seen as role models in the community. This award has created a roster of quality honorees over the past 13 years and we are honored to have this year’s nominees join the lineup.
How did you become involved with the LGBTQ community?
I came out in El Paso, Texas. I started going to bars and forming a group of friends to hang out with. While I was attending NMSU, there was a small group of us, but we all connected through the University Student Group. I later moved here to Albuquerque with a group of queer people. There were five of us in the house and involved with New Mexico AIDS Services and a few other queer groups. I found my home in the clubs. I ended up working in a clothing store that participated in HIV fundraising, Creme De La Do. I also worked at Pulse Nightclub - first dancing in drag, then working as a door girl. I then involved myself in everything the owners had in the works. I was trained by Scott Gardner and Pat Armijo to help in the runnings of their restaurants. This pulled me closer to "their world." I suffered from addiction, as many of my sisters and brothers did in the community. I got sober and continued to work on myself and school. Scott pushed me to do well, along with my friend, Vince. I finished school and started a business while still working for Pulse. I saw lots of my friends going down the same path I had. So I've tried to always give back however I could. First, slowly through starting small fundraising, then working with The United Court of the Sandias, Bunnie Cruse, and others. I then worked with Adrian, Zane, and the board at TGRCNM. I am still on the board and continue my work with the Trans community because not only are these my sisters and brothers, but I was once on the verge of homelessness and addiction. I am also non-binary. I'll do anything for my community as it has supported me through these years.
What was life like when you were a youth?
Growing up in Las Cruces was not easy. In the third grade, my family and I moved to Colorado and lived in a one-bedroom inside my grandparent's house. I always knew I wasn't like other kids. I wasn't a boy. I wasn't a girl. As I got older, attending school was difficult. I got bullied a lot - physically from jocks and boys calling me horrible names, pushed into lockers. I even had kids throw rocks at me while trying to walk home. A group of kids chased me with a knife at a party chanting, Kill the Faggot. Counselors told me that since I dressed weird, this is why this keeps happening. I decided to leave New Mexico and move in with family and friends in Denver to finish school. There I realized I wasn't alone. My school had a GSA even in 1993!
What piece of advice would you give today LGBTQ youth?
I want all LGBTQ+ kids to know that even when life is hard, you can make it. Not only can you make it, but you are also worth it. Even if it feels like nobody loves you, remember, I love you!
How did you become involved with the LGBTQ community?
I think my first involvement was in 1996. I attended my first Albuquerque Pride Parade. I had been invited by some friends to help decorate the U21 float. I had no idea what we were doing, but I met some amazing people, some of them I still know. After that, I wanted to stay involved and became an officer with the LGBT Student group at UNM, a volunteer and board member with Albuquerque Pride, and TGRCNM, and continue to be involved in giving back to the LGBTQ+ community, whenever I can!
What was life like when you were a youth?
This is a challenging question. I am very fortunate to have had and continue to have a loving and supportive family. Although there were times I struggled to find myself, I had family and friends who have been consistent. I saw many friends struggle who had less support than I did, and I think that also pushed me to be involved and give back to others who could use the help.
What piece of advice would you give today LGBTQ youth?
I would say always be true to who you are, don’t let anyone try to change you. Seek supports when you need it, and when you can, be a support to other people!
How did you become involved with the LGBTQ community?
I first became involved with the LGBTQ community through music. Growing up in Chicago, I looked up to my friend, Marc, who played in several bands and ran his own record label. I found out he was gay and it changed everything for me. I never knew LGBTQ people could have their own homes, businesses, and large groups of friends. I started going to "Queercore" punk shows and playing in my own bands. I didn't really get to know the more mainstream LGBTQ community until moving to Albuquerque and getting involved with MPower and TGRCNM.
What was life like when you were a youth?
When I was a youth, I had a very difficult experience. I lacked role models, both in media and in my own life, to show me who I could be. I grew up in a family that did not accept me and the world seemed to agree with them. We didn't even really have the words to describe gender and sexuality that we do now, and there was no easy way to find them or others like myself. No internet meant each LGBTQ kid was almost totally by themselves, ate least that's how it felt. There was starting to be some positive representation for gays and lesbians in media like "will and grace" and Ellen Degeneres coming out, but trans people were still widely disrespected. The only way I got to see someone like me on TV was usually as a substance-abusing or murdered sex worker on a law and order type show or a villain that is dressing up as a woman to trick people in movies or trashy daytime talk shows. It made it very hard to believe I would ever be someone special or important to anybody.
What piece of advice would you give today LGBTQ youth?
My biggest piece of advice is to never give up. I know things can be hard, but there is always a chance that things will get better. People are looking out for you. I'm one of them! No matter how hard things get, or what mistakes you make along the way, remember that you have generations of LGBTQ people who have come before you who think you are just brilliant, wonderful, resilient, and brave. We are rooting for you! We know you are going to do incredible things. You already are! Just never give up.
Pride 2020 - Featured Stories: History Repeating Itself - Bathhouses look to resurface in San Francisco
Decades after San Francisco closed its gay bathhouses, a new law paves the way for their return. District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman introduced legislation Tuesday at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors requiring the San Francisco Department of Public Health to remove current regulations requiring the monitoring of patrons’ sexual activities and prohibiting private rooms in bathhouses and commercial adult sex venues.
“Our current regulations for adult sex venues were put in place as an emergency measure at the height of the AIDS crisis when San Francisco was desperate to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS,” said Mandelman. “Decades later, with the emergence of PrEP and in light of San Francisco’s reduction in HIV diagnoses to under 200 for the first time since the 1980s, these regulations – including a ban on private rooms and required monitoring of patrons’ sexual activities – have no public health rationale and need to be changed.”
In 1984, at the height of the AIDS crisis, the City and County of San Francisco filed a lawsuit against the operators of bathhouses, citing them as a public health nuisance. The court issued an order allowing the businesses to remain open on the condition that they employ monitors to prevent unsafe sex from occurring and remove most of the doors to individual video cubicles, booths, or rooms. Although the bathhouses technically could have remained open under the rules established by the court, all of them closed. In 1997, the Department of Public Health adopted minimum standards requiring that patrons’ sexual activities be monitored on a regular basis by staff, and prohibiting venues from having locking booths, cubicles, or rooms. The minimum standards that are in effect today include these same restrictions.
Recent advances in HIV prevention strategies have reduced HIV transmission and minimized the adverse community and individual health impacts of HIV. These include the broad availability of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent HIV infection, rapid access to antiretroviral therapy for people newly diagnosed with HIV, and increased viral suppression among people living with HIV in San Francisco through increased retention in care. According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, in 2018 the number of new HIV diagnoses in San Francisco dropped to 197, marking a 58% decrease as compared to the number of new HIV diagnoses in 2011.
“It’s time for regulations that were put in place at a time of fear and a lack of knowledge to catch up with the progress we’ve made in the fight to end AIDS,” said Joe Hollendoner, CEO of San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “With PrEP, U=U, and other advancements in sexual health, bathhouse restrictions are antiquated and stigmatizing. It’s time that these baseless regulations be struck from the code, and we are grateful to Supervisor Mandelman for leading this charge to decriminalize sexuality.”
LGBTQ advocates have long argued that the current regulations unfairly target gay men and maintain that without access to private rooms people are more likely to have unsafe sex in other venues without access to safer sex education and supplies. The news of Mandelman’s legislation was met with acclaim by these advocates.
"The queer community has been advocating for decades to have these regulations changed, and each time we've run into a dead-end," said Blade Bannon a San Francisco based erotic photographer and author who has spent the last several years working to enact changes to the regulations. "Cities around the country and world have successful adult sex venues operating without these restrictions and it's time that San Francisco join them. I'm glad that Supervisor Mandelman agrees that it's time to make a change."
Mandelman’s ordinance will amend the Health Code to require the Department of Public Health to adopt new minimum health and safety standards for commercial adult sex venues and will prohibit the department from adopting standards that require monitoring of patrons’ sexual activities, or ban booths, cubicles or private rooms with locking doors. It provides for these minimum standards to include requirements that venues make safer sex supplies and educational materials available to patrons. The ordinance requires that these new minimum standards be adopted by no later than July 1, 2020, and that there be a public notice and public comment process.
“When properly operated, by providing access to safer sex educational materials and supplies and HIV and STD testing, these venues assist rather than impede our efforts to control the transmission of HIV,” said Mandelman who is gay and represents the Castro District. “I hope that this ordinance will support our efforts to get to zero new HIV infections and will put a bookend on a painful chapter in the history of the queer community in San Francisco.”
Was a life of entertainment always in the cards for you?
Oh goodness! To be honest, I am not sure! My mom used to sing as a kid. She dreamed of having a career as a vocalist. But, she left home before she graduated and had me at 21. So, she never had the opportunity to work towards that goal. So, starting at a very young age, she would praise me and get so joyful when I goofed around with her, singing and dancing. She wasn’t a stage mom at all, but I knew that growing up to be a performer of some sort was her dream for me. Maybe it was her wanting to live vicariously through me. Or maybe she just thought I was special. But, either way, it made an impression on me. As I got older, it felt more like I was destined to be a performer. I just couldn’t visualize anything else.
Who were your inspirations as you were growing up in the business?
I honestly can’t say that I had any. I never followed celebrities or got hooked on certain public personalities or artists. I just never found anyone that I felt represented me. I think that is why I felt so compelled to be a performer. On some level, I wanted to be the person that I desperately needed to know existed out in the world.
As a biracial, queer child did you find struggles in your youth?
I did. I didn’t recognize my sexual identity until I was older, but as a mixed-race child growing up in the American south, I hated standing out, I just wanted to be like everyone else. But since I went to school and lived in a mostly white district, that was just impossible.
You have quite a few projects under your belt. Which one would you say was the most memorable?
My work on "Underground" is the most important production I have ever been a part of because the story was painful, true, and beautiful. It felt like we were taking history out of the hands of the straight white men, who have been telling it for so many centuries, and centering it in a place of compassion, where the oppressed got to be the narrators.
Your character on The Good Doctor was a wonderful addition and helps show "Shaun's" ability to grow and love. What has your time on the show been like?
It was a dream from the start! Carly first showed up in Season 1 as a recurring character. Most everyone in the production was super welcoming, warm, and kind! But, I have particularly enjoyed getting to spend an entire season with Freddie for a scene partner…he was a real dream, and they’re just aren’t a lot of leading actors in Hollywood quite like him.
What are some of your upcoming projects?
Making sure I and everyone I love survives the pandemic.
What was the inspiration behind Alice Isn't Dead?
It’s a podcast written by Joseph Fink that I narrated for three seasons. It was later turned into a novel, and I also narrated the audiobook. I think some of Joseph’s inspiration came from touring his Welcome To Night Vale live shows around the U.S. for a few years, but you would have to ask him.
You and your wife, Claire, are celebrating seven years of marriage this year. How's married life been for you?
Same as life before we were married. We have been together for almost 14 years, so the marriage was more of practicality for us because we own property together. We kept having to get civil unions and domestic partnerships wherever we moved because states didn’t recognize another state’s legal acknowledgments of partnerships. The week we were supposed to go to the courthouse and get it, marriage was legalized in California, so it just made more sense to get married instead of just another civil union.
Your celebrity has allowed you to use your platform for a greater good. Why is advocating for those who don't have a voice so important to you?
Because the only way to end oppression and fight for the rights of marginalized communities is to help lift them up. I don’t need to speak for anyone. I just have to amplify their voices. I am born in oppressed communities, but I also have many privileges. It’s important to help support ALL the marginalized people out in the world, not just the ones you relate to.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I just want to be remembered as the girl who was good at making things. P&E
- Teresa Robinson
For the first time in 46 years, Albuquerque Pride is canceled. Not because of protesters or a hostile government, but an invisible enemy in the air that can strike anyone, leaving devastating effects. If you lived through the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s, you might be having flashbacks to that horrible time. Everyone was afraid. There were calls for quarantine for gay men. Flash forward to 2020, and we’re ALL in quarantine. Albuquerque Pride wasn’t canceled during the AIDS epidemic, but as we learned more about HIV, we learned how it is - and is NOT - transmitted. COVID-19 is a new (to humans anyway) disease that is mostly airborne. And therein lies its danger. No one knows who has it and who doesn’t unless they become sick. They could be contagious long before they exhibit symptoms. And if you have underlying medical conditions, such as HIV or cancer, as well as being over 60, your chance of death is much higher. Even healthy people have died from this disease. It strikes everyone differently. And that’s part of the problem. So the leaders of ABQ Pride made a wise choice to cancel this year’s Pride events. Hopefully, thanks to actions by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and local officials, we have hit the peak and cases, and deaths, will start to taper off. But that is unknown at this point. Hence the cancellation.
The cancellation has caused great disappointment in the LGBTQ+ community, but most understand why. For those that are upset about the cancellation, and for those that are disappointed, but get the reasoning, let’s examine what we call “Gay Pride.” Pride events can be traced back to 1970, the year following the Stonewall Riots in New York City. Stonewall was the turning point for the homosexual community. We collectively said, “We won’t take second class status anymore!” The following year, celebrations were held in various cities to show our pride. We began using our language rather than the clinical word homosexual. We chose “gay” because we each believe our lives are something to be celebrated, not something shameful. Something happy and cheerful. But our lives before Stonewall were not that way, and remain that way, in many places. Yet, we still celebrate Pride every year. We won’t be marching down Central Avenue or having a festival at the Santa Fe Plaza, but we can continue to carry our PRIDE in ourselves, what our community has accomplished, and how much work we still have to do. We can get married in all 50 states. But in over half the States, you can still be fired for being LGBTQ or denied housing or employment. Our pride carries us through these difficult situations. We know when we work together, we can make things better. We’re working on getting a federal, non-discrimination law passed so States won’t deny protections, and LGBTQ citizens will be protected under federal law. We’re working on acceptance of gender identity for our transgender brothers and sisters. We work to protect our kids in schools from bullying. We should be proud of our victories. We should celebrate them while forging ahead to become full citizens in this country.
A big parade, festival, and related events aren’t all there is to Pride. Pride means being YOU every day. It means becoming who you are supposed to be. It’s about taking pride in the steps getting there, as well as having a newfound respect for yourself living your own life. Pride is being held virtually by many organizations worldwide. You can join in with friends and families. You can celebrate along with the community. Hopefully, by the end of June, we’ll be hosting parties, dinners, or other events to celebrate. You can be proud of yourself, your community, and the ability to live as you choose. Pride is about loving and respecting yourself and your community. It’s about helping others come out of the closet and getting legislation passed to protect our community. It’s about meeting with your elected officials and pushing them! There are so many ways to celebrate Pride outside of just a few days a year. Let’s make PRIDE every day of the year! P&E - Mauro Walden-Montoya
HIV/AIDS may not be in the news on a daily basis, which makes it seem like the epidemic that killed over an estimated 700,000 people of HIV-related illnesses in the United States since 1981 is no longer an issue. As new generations admere, the fight continues to educate and treat those who need it. The introduction of a new blue pill has changed the game for many who are at high risk of contracting HIV. Truvada has been approved by the FDA for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP. When taken daily, PrEP is 99% effective at preventing HIV infection. Organizations like MPower and HIV Testing Program Manager, Christopher Garcia are educating the community of the importance of the drug. “PrEP is important to our community because it prevents someone from getting HIV,” shared Garcia. “PrEP has been out since 2012 and there have only been 6 cases out of millions of people getting HIV. PrEP is another Barrier and prevention that a person can use along with any other prevention they currently are using.” PrEP contains two medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine) that are used in combination with other medicines to treat HIV. When someone is exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, these medicines can work to keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection. The development of this drug was a game changer for those at risk, but there are partnerships who are making PrEP more effective.
Companies like UrSure and Healthvana are working to assist with PrEP to create a streamlined system to make it easier for a patient to take part in the process. UrSure was founded in 2013 by doctors, Helen Koenig and Giffin Daughtridge, who started an HIV prevention clinic at Philadelphia FIGHT. They provided Truvada to young, gay men of color, who were at high risk of HIV infection. As shared on their website, the clinic grew to serve over 200 individuals, but within the first two years, several patients became HIV positive, despite picking up their PrEP routinely. Due to the drug’s effectiveness, Helen and Giffin knew that the issue must have been adherence, which was a widely reported problem with medications taken daily like PrEP. The duo identified two problems. First, as providers, they were unable to diagnose non-adherence. Self-reported adherence was very high, but actual adherence was much lower. Second, their patients were not motivated to take the drug. Many said they didn’t feel different when taking the drug. As a result, they questioned whether it was protecting them. Without that peace of mind, they would stop taking it over time.
To solve these two issues, Helen and Giffin developed a lab-based urine test that could measure levels of one of the drugs in Truvada in their patient’s urine. This test allowed them to measure adherence to PrEP, and they found that both providers and patients liked receiving the data. UrSure’s original mission endures as they focus on making noninvasive, rapid tests that measure and improve adherence to medications for patients and providers worldwide.
Healthvana’s goal is to make communication between the patient and the clinic smoother during treatment. Healthvana’s digital tools make it easier for clinics to identify, educate, and keep patients on PrEP. Healthvana has thousands of at-risk and HIV patients as subscribers already and clinics that are seeing positive results because of Healthvana’s work. CEO Ramin Bastani shared on the Healthvana website, “I care about empowering patients to make better decisions with timely and actionable information. I’m committed to amplifying the important work that healthcare professionals do.”
The ability to start on PrEP and utilize the services of Healthvana and UrSure is as easy as working with organizations like MPower or discussing it with your Primary Care Physician. P&E - Teresa Robinson
For those of us who are old enough and were somewhat “woke” back then, the COVID-19 pandemic invokes hidden emotions that remind one of the painful early years of the AIDS crisis. There are differences, certainly, because this pandemic is directly affecting a broader demographic, but the similarities in the feelings the COVID-19 pandemic revisits are striking and haunting.
In both, American presidents who couldn’t think beyond their own egos reacted with sociopathic indifference to the disease and deaths of real human beings. Ronald Reagan will always be remembered as the president who refused to speak about, much less act to solve, HIV. Today, Donald Trump seems willing to let the rest of us go if he can just keep his approval rating up among his base, his profits flowing in, and the stock market paying its richest investors windfalls.
In both, the leaders placed the blame on someone they wanted us to think of as a dangerous Other to deny the pandemic’s wider existence and, more importantly, their own personal responsibility for failing to act effectively and with a national sense of a community in crisis. Then it was put down as the “Gay Plague” and now it’s the “China Virus.”
In both, leaders who could have thought in terms of how we’re all in this together mouthed the otherwise instructive words: “personal responsibility.” But they were usurping those words as a cliché to provide an excuse for government failure, a reason to do nothing in the belief that the plague would only affect other people and families, to raise guilt and shame in any victims as if to punish them further by doing so, and to downplay the systematic homophobia, racism, sexism, classism, and able-bodiedism that are major factors affecting the most devastated.
Then as now, right-wing religious leaders spoke self-righteously of these pandemics as some Divine punishment upon all those that didn’t tow the sectarian line by which they made a name for themselves and money to live better than those who idolize them. Their hell-fire seemed to always have something to do with their fear of equality for LGBTQ people and their phony self-righteous claim of victimization in culture wars.
In both, the science was way behind, and that was often because other things were more important in the profits-over-people game played by conservative and libertarian-type politicians. They spoke of socialism threatening the nation while predatory capitalism was destroying needed safety nets.
It was Ronald Reagan who changed the rules so that hospitals could be for profit. Preparing for and treating pandemics were considered economic losers.
Then, as today, there was the fear. It was a nagging, aching, dread dwelling always in the back of the mind.
In most early cases, being diagnosed as HIV positive was a death sentence. Big pharma was concerned first about its bottom line and had to be forced to seek remedies - the earliest of which (such as AZT) were just as likely to kill the patients.
When I told a graduate student that I had just learned about the death of a young colleague at another university who’s books already challenged entrenched religious historian’s biases, that student unhesitatingly expressed the feeling of that day: “Will there be anyone left?”
Today, most who contract COVD-19, we’re told, will be fine in the long run. Yet there are few markers assuring us who won’t be okay, who’ll be left without the help they need because of short supplies, and who, as a result of maintaining a stiff upper lip should have been more cautious. We’re even watching its spread to our healthcare providers.
For quite a while no one was sure what to do to prevent the spread of the virus. Those who tried were still afraid that they hadn’t done enough.
Today that’s: Have I washed my hands enough or the right way? Did I touch my face too much even without being aware? Will the package from the grocery store, the clerk who rung it up, or the stocker who shelved it spread it to me? How certain can I be of the safety of packages delivered to our door? How long is the virus alive on what surfaces?
One result then, as now, was a widespread, lingering situational depression. Few pointed out then that that’s what it was, but it took an emotional toll.
Today, too, most of our nation is experiencing situational depression. As Yale psychology professor, Jutta Joorman put it: “It will take some time for us to see the long-term mental health effects of this situation, but it has a lot of the ingredients that can affect people’s mental health negatively in a significant way.”
And then, as now, social distancing was recommended. Back then, when no one first knew whether one’s touch, breath, saliva, sweat, sneeze, or other body fluids could transmit infection, people needed to separate, use all the latex between each other they could, and fear any bodily contact.
Today social distancing includes the end of all bodily contact, even a six-foot distance from others, and staying home for weeks except for running essential errands. When what we need is a connection, physical contact, being with others, and sharing face-to-face our fears and depression, this plague denies us all that.
No wonder there were people who opted for connection, intimacy and touch then and now by breaking the rules and defying the depression, the odds, and the criticism of those of us who obeyed. It wasn’t safe; it wasn’t helpful, but it was somewhere human.
As I remember those days, my mind returns to the couple dozen or so students who sought me out for some connection when being diagnosed as HIV positive was pretty much a death sentence. Our encounters went something like this as they appeared at my campus office.
“Professor Minor? May I talk with you for a minute?” the student at the open office door would ask, often with a light knock on the door or its frame.
I always kept my door open and my desk facing the door to welcome those who came.
“Yes, come and sit,” I responded as I pointed him to the chair at the side of my desk, not one on the other side where my desk provided some official demarcation. Erasing the barrier was important to me.
“I think it’s safe to talk to you,” was the first clue. “You’re the first person I’m telling about this.”
The student was always taking, at least, his second class from me. So, he felt he knew me. I got up myself to provide a bit of privacy by pulling the door open, but not closed.
“I just found out that I’m positive,” then revealed the purpose of this visit.
The words, too often familiar, hang even today in my memory.
They would talk about how unfair it seemed. They had thought they were taking enough precautions and had believed that their partner was.
I listened and agreed: “It’s not fair. There’s nothing ‘fair’ about it.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to tell my roommate (and/or my parents). I’m from a small town. I know this won’t go over well. And I’m scared.”
I listened to everything else they wanted to share while my eyes teared up. I’m surprised I could hold it together.
And then my student felt he needed to go. But before he left my office I said something I had never said to any students except these. I said: “Will you give me a hug?”
Some of those students were well-known student leaders who never shared their secret with others on campus. But many months later it was seldom an exception to learn that “they had quit school and gone home to ‘be with their family.’”
I knew that meant “in their last days.” So that office visit was also their last.
I still believe those hugs were important then just as hugs are now. They were intentional. I didn’t want anyone ever to think that the first person they confided in about their place in the AIDS pandemic felt in any way that they were now too unclean for human touch.
By making this connection to a professor they felt “was safe,” they had actually bestowed on me the honor of being the first person they told. So the very least I could give was the kind of hug, let’s admit, we all really need, but can’t have, today in these weeks and months of this new pandemic. P&E
Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction; Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human; and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org.
P&E - After Print
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