His Calling

Why a Pastor is hitting the road for AIDS/LifeCycle

by Gil Diaz

Before signing up for his first AIDS/LifeCycle Ride, Pastor Andy James had his doubts about completing the 545-mile journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

“Day Two is 109 miles!” he pointed out to his wife Christy, who had completed the Ride three times herself.

“Yeah, but it’s all flat!” she retorted.

The clergyman’s trepidation was soon overshadowed by the very reason he wanted to do the Ride in the first place: He was going to ride in memory of Jeff—a high school classmate with whom he performed in the school band more than 30 years ago.

Should you be vaccinated for meningitis?


Not quite a year ago there was a meningitis scare among gay and bisexual men in Los Angeles and now we’re faced with a similar situation.  I want to share with you the facts, as we know them, so you and/or your loved ones can make an informed decision about what to do.

Contact: Gil Diaz

Nation’s First Developer of Affordable Housing for LGBT Seniors to Merge with L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center

LOS ANGELES, April 3, 2014—Today leaders of Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing (GLEH) and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center announced that the two organizations would merge operations to more effectively and efficiently meet the growing demand for affordable housing and social services from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) seniors.

GLEH is a pioneer in the development of affordable housing for low-income LGBT seniors and operates the 104-unit Triangle Square in Hollywood, the nation’s first affordable housing development of private, individual apartments for LGBT elders. The organization is also collaborating with AMCAL Multi-Housing, Inc., on its newest affordable housing development in Hollywood, The Argyle. A portion of The Argyle’s 39-units, which will open this spring, will be occupied by LGBT seniors.

The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, the world’s largest provider of programs and services for LGBT people, operates a renowned Senior Services program led by gerontologist Kathleen Sullivan, Ph.D., and supported by a team of nine people who serve more than 1,400 seniors each month. This is the Center’s fastest growing program with services that include bilingual (English and Spanish) case management, health and wellness activities, benefits counseling, special events, support groups, enrichment classes, and much more.

“We founded GLEH to address the tremendous, unmet demand for affordable housing for low-income LGBT seniors,” said GLEH Board of Directors President Ara Babaian, “and we’re proud that our example has been followed in Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and soon Chicago. Developing more affordable housing units while continuing to provide high-quality services for our residents has always been our top priority, and we can do that even better, faster and more efficiently by partnering with the Center and its fantastic Senior Services program.”

The merger of GLEH as a program of the Center will enable the provision of a much broader range of integrated services for residents and will direct a substantially greater investment to the development of affordable housing for LGBT seniors. It also will result in significant administrative efficiencies and financial savings by eliminating infrastructure redundancies. GLEH staff will join the Center’s Senior Services team (the organization’s executive director position is vacant), and several members of GLEH’s board will join the Center’s board.

“We have long admired the pioneering work of GLEH and are very excited to partner with the organization to better achieve our common goal of caring for the growing number of LGBT seniors,” said L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center Board of Directors Co-Chairs Dr. Marki Knox and David Bailey. “Together we’ll be so much stronger.”

An estimated two million Americans 50 or older identify as LGBT and that number is expected to double by 2030, according to the Institute for Multigenerational Health at the University of Washington. An estimated 65,000 LGBT seniors (65 and older) live in Los Angeles and 68 percent of them live alone. One of the factors contributing to the demand for affordable housing is that LGBT seniors are four times less likely to have children and grandchildren to support them and twice as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to live alone, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute.

More than 70 percent of GLEH’s residents are living at or near poverty level and struggle to cover expenses for housing, food and medication. Many clients of the Center’s Senior Services program—who include GLEH residents—also are struggling to meet basic needs. Nineteen percent of those clients live on less than $1,000 each month and 34 percent live on between $1,000-1,999 each month.  Forty percent report being uncertain as to whether they will have enough money for food from month to month.

“The need for affordable housing and services for LGBT seniors has never been greater,” said L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center CEO Lorri L. Jean, “and by joining forces with GLEH, we’ll help even more seniors live healthy, happy and fulfilled lives. All of us at the Center are excited to build on GLEH’s legacy of groundbreaking achievements.”


About the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
Since 1969 the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center has cared for, championed and celebrated LGBT individuals and families in Los Angeles and beyond. Today our health center, shelters, performance stages and classrooms serve more LGBT people than any other organization in the world. We are an unstoppable force in our community’s fight against bigotry and the struggle to build a better world—a world in which LGBT people can be healthy, equal and complete members of society. Learn more at lagaycenter.org.



Gil Diaz

L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center Urges Gay & Bisexual Men
to Get Vaccinated for Meningitis

LOS ANGELES, April 2, 2014—Today the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Medical Director, Dr. Robert Bolan, urged gay and bisexual men in the Los Angeles area to get vaccinated for meningococcal disease. His recommendation echoes the recommendation of the L.A. County Department of Public Health (DPH) which today reported eight cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) this year, four of which were among gay/bisexual men (three of whom are HIV-positive). Health investigators have found commonalities among some of the four men, three of whom have died.

Prior to the beginning of this year, and since October 1, 2012, DPH reports 7 cases of IMD among gay/bisexual men out of 24 reported cases during that time period. To date, no linkages have been found among those cases.

Beginning Thursday, April 3, the county is offering the vaccine for free to L.A. County residents without health insurance. Visit http://publichealth.lacounty.gov or call 211 for a list of clinics offering the vaccine. The Center will also offer the vaccine to clients of its health center and the Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic available at its McDonald/Wright building in Hollywood and at The Spot in West Hollywood. Free vaccinations will be offered by the Center for those who are uninsured. People should call 323-993-7500 for an appointment.

“Invasive meningococcal disease is very serious and potentially deadly,” says Center Medical Director Dr. Robert Bolan. “We’re concerned there have been four reported cases among gay and bisexual men in just the first three months of this year and that the county is reporting commonalities among some of the cases. Though it’s important to note that IMD is not spread by casual contact, such as being in the same room with someone who may be infected, I encourage gay and bisexual men—regardless of their HIV status, but especially those who are HIV-positive—to get vaccinated. It’s possible that people who are HIV-positive, and gay men in general, may be at greater risk of infection.”

Three of the four cases are among men who reported either living in, or socializing around the West Hollywood and North Hollywood areas. Three of the men are between 27-28 years of age; the fourth man is 50.

DPH reports that IMD is a sporadic and uncommon bacterial infection of the blood or the lining of the brain and spinal cord that can affect the entire body. The infection can cause brain damage, hearing loss, and even death. The bacteria can be spread by very close exposure to sneezing and coughing or direct contact with saliva or nose mucus.

Disease symptoms may include: high fever, stiff neck, altered mental status, skin rash, severe headache, low blood pressure, aversion to bright lights, and generalized muscle pains. Symptoms usually occur within 5 days of the exposure, but may occur up to 10 days after exposure. IMD progresses rapidly, so immediate diagnosis and treatment is imperative. If you are symptomatic, you should see your healthcare provider or go to the emergency room immediately.

High-risk activities include:

  • Smoking (marijuana, cigarettes and hookah)
  • Close contact with an infected person (sharing beverages or cigarettes, kissing, coughing)
  • Staying in group settings (such as dorms, jails or shelters) for a prolonged period of time

For more information regarding invasive meningococcal disease and vaccination, please visit www.cdc.gov/meningicoccal.


About the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
Since 1969 the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center has cared for, championed and celebrated LGBT individuals and families in Los Angeles and beyond. Today our health center, shelters, performance stages and classrooms serve more LGBT people than any other organization in the world. We are an unstoppable force in our community’s fight against bigotry and the struggle to build a better world—a world in which LGBT people can be healthy, equal and complete members of society. Learn more at lagaycenter.org.

Life After Death


Why same-sex couples need to know about Social Security benefits
by Gil Diaz

Ron Wallen is barely living the comfortable lifestyle that his late husband had envisioned. 

“Right now, I’m living month to month. The money goes in the right hand and goes out the left,” says Wallen, 80. “It’s getting rougher and rougher.”

Wallen met the man who would be his husband, Tom Carrollo, in 1953. Fifty-five years later, in 2008, they were married. Carrollo’s biggest worry was that after he died, his husband wouldn’t have enough money to live on without him. 

Every year we hear from respondents to our annual survey of Vanguard readers who tell us they would prefer to just receive a digital version of our award-winning newsletter. So early last year we created a tablet-friendly version ofVanguard that is steadily increasing in popularity. At lagaycenter.tumblr.comyou can do more than read Vanguard on your computer or tablet, you can share stories with friends and post comments about our articles.

And of course, those who don’t like print can also read VanguardNOW, which is an email digest of articles in the current month’s Vanguard with breaking news that didn’t make it into the print edition.

But we also hear from readers who tell us how much they like circling courses and activities listed in our Learning Curve pages and hanging them on their refrigerator. And we hear from readers who don’t like email and appreciate being able to read our stories—and learn about our events and activities—the old-fashioned way.

Gil Diaz

L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center Responds to Failed Attempt to Repeal “School Success and Opportunity Act” (AB 1266) By Referendum 

LOS ANGELES, February 24, 2014—Today California’s Secretary of State reported that her office has finalized an exhaustive validation of signatures that were submitted to qualify a referendum to repeal AB 1266. She reports that proponents of the attempt to roll-back protections for transgender students have failed because they did not have the 504,760 valid signatures that were needed.

“I’m certain this won’t be the last attempt by anti-LGBT extremists to roll back advances in equality for LGBT people, but I’m relieved this attempt has clearly failed,” said L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center CEO Lorri L. Jean. “All kids deserve the opportunity to do well in school, including transgender kids, and we know this law works because the L.A. Unified School District reports that for eight years it has offered transgender students the same protections guaranteed by AB 1266 and there have been no registered complaints by students or adults.” 


 About the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center

Since 1969 the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center has cared for, championed and celebrated LGBT individuals and families in Los Angeles and beyond. Today our health center, shelters, performance stages and classrooms serve more LGBT people than any other organization in the world. We are an unstoppable force in our community’s fight against bigotry and the struggle to build a better world—a world in which LGBT people can be healthy, equal and complete members of society. Learn more at lagaycenter.org.



Center Briefs - March Vanguard


The one and only Liza Minnelli will be the special guest for the eighth installment of the Center’s “Conversations with Coco,” hosted by drag diva Miss Coco Peru on March 20. Minnelli’s highly anticipated appearance at the Center precedes her debut performance at Walt Disney Hall on March 25. 

Blending fascinating discussion and revealing stories, “Conversations with Coco” has proven to be among the most popular events offered by the Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center.

 As of press time, VIP and Preferred Seating tickets for this fabulous event are still available online at lizacoco.eventbrite.com.


The Great Escape


How a transgender woman escaped from the Middle East to work at the Center

by Gil Diaz

The life of Amanda Frontino, a young transgender woman living in the Middle East, changed completely in a matter of minutes. 

She was lost in paradise as she sat in front of her computer mesmerized by a video she’d found on YouTube entitled “A Day in the Life of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.” 

She vividly recalls what Center CEO Lorri L. Jean was saying in the video: “We’re like a one-stop center for people in our community who need… a place to celebrate… and to be free and open in Los Angeles.” 

Frontino felt an instant kinship with the people who were shown in the video: LGBT people who were clearly happy and living their lives openly and honestly in a way she had never even considered.

Living in Kuwait, she was thousands of miles away from the nirvana that she imagined Los Angeles to be, with little hope she’d ever get to L.A. or the Center in person. 

That’s What Friends Are For

Riding to end AIDS for a friend who no longer can
by Gil Diaz

At 52 years old, Barbara Schwerdt will never forget the phone conversation she had with her best friend Chris in November 1997. He called from Washington, D.C. to wish her a happy birthday. 

“We talked for awhile, and I noticed his voice was hoarse,” she recalls. “I asked him if he had a cold, and he jokingly said it was a little more serious than that.” 

The duo had known each other since their college days at Gallaudet University, where they were studying to be sign language interpreters.

They were inseparable. When Chris was accepted into a Ph.D. program at California State University, Northridge, Barbara jumped at the chance to move with him to Los Angeles. 

The Positive Side of MASCULINE(ity)


How the Center is helping to protect L.A.’s young gay men of color 

Beginning in April, hundreds of young HIV-positive Latino and African-American men will make a difference in their communities by participating in an ambitious and groundbreaking $7 million study supported by the Center. It’s led by the University of California, Los Angeles and known as Project MASCULINE, which stands for “MSM and Substances Cohort at UCLA Linking Infections Noting Effects.”



Stoli Group (USA) to invest $300,000 to support Center’s leadership development program

 NEW YORK, January 24, 2014—Stoli Group USA and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center today announced a three-year partnership to fight inequality by investing in the development of LGBT leaders domestically and around the globe.

Under the partnership, Stoli will donate $300,000 to support the Center’s Leadership LAB (Learn, Act, Build): a program that helps current and future LGBT leaders and allies throughout the country and around the world to develop critical leadership skills. The aim of Leadership LAB is to prepare the next generation of LGBT leaders to effectively advocate for equal rights, build strong organizations, and fight anti-LGBT ballot measures.

“Over the last few years we’ve experienced tremendous gains in freedom and equality for LGBT Americans, but there is still much work to be done, especially in states where organizing for LGBT equality remains very challenging,” said Lorri L. Jean, Chief Executive Officer of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.  “And while we’re also making gains internationally, there have been big and significant setbacks. Extremists, acknowledging they’re losing the battle here, are expanding their influence in other countries by demonizing LGBT people and attacking our freedoms. Their influence must be countered. This extraordinary commitment by Stoli Group USA sets a terrific example for all corporations.”

“Our position at Stoli is clear. We stand with the LGBT community in the fight for equality, and are proud to be working with the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center to make our joint vision possible,” said John Esposito, President, Stoli Group USA. “Through our strategic partnership we hope to harness the power of our global community, cultivating leaders on a local level in the U.S to create meaningful change throughout the world.”

The Center’s Leadership LAB initiatives strengthen LGBT leadership capacity in the U.S. and abroad, providing mentoring, internships, training, and on-the-ground staff support in select communities that are strategic in advancing LGBT equality.


Center briefs


Center Briefs


Charity Navigator, the nation’s premier charity evaluator, awarded the Center its highest rating of four stars—for the fourth consecutive year—for sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency. Only 7 percent of the charities they rank have received four consecutive 4-star evaluations. 

“We’re grateful Charity Navigator reminds people of the importance of donating to organizations known for fiscal responsibility,” says Center CEO Lorri L Jean, “and we’re very proud to be one of the few charities to receive their highest ranking for four years in a row!”


The final numbers from AIDS/LifeCycle 2013 are in and we now know that participants raised a record-breaking $14.5 million—a slight increase from the original $14.2 estimate!

There’s still time to register for the seven-day ride from San Francisco to L.A., June 1-7. Register now at aidslifecycle.org!


The Center partnered with Covered California when it hosted a press conference on December 3 to kick off a marketing campaign aimed at getting the LGBT community to sign up for affordable health care. 

Covered California is the state’s marketplace for affordable health insurance, under the federally mandated Affordable Care Act. Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee urged people to sign up for health insurance by December 23 in order for their coverage to begin January 1. As of the beginning of the year, more than 400,000 Californians have enrolled for health insurance. Consumers must enroll in Covered California by March 31 in order to avoid a penalty. For more information visit coveredca.com.


Whole Foods Market’s Feed Four More campaign in West Hollywood raised more than $16,000 worth of pre-packaged, non-perishable food products for the low-income LGBT seniors served by the Center. 

The campaign, which ran from Thanksgiving through the end of 2013, also raised nearly $14,000 in cash donations from generous Whole Foods shoppers. The donations were greatly needed: more than half of the seniors the Center serves live on $2,000 per month or less and 18 percent live on less than $1,000 per month.


The holidays became brighter for many homeless LGBT youth, thanks to SiriusXM radio hosts Derek and Romaine. The award-winning gay/lesbian duo, whose national talk show hit the airwaves in 2003, chose the Center as a beneficiary for their Season of Giving holiday donation drive. They encouraged listeners to donate items for the thousands of homeless LGBT youth the Center serves.

Days before Christmas, the Youth Center on Highland received more than 10 boxes of gently used casual clothing, winter coats, new underwear and socks … just to name a few.


The Dream Team


The Dream Team

The Center’s vision to provide medical services to all members of the LGBT community comes to life

by Gil Diaz

Dr. Monica Stokes is a fearless warrior. 

In her 30 years of practicing medicine, she has served in the Navy, completed her medical residency at the U.S. Naval Hospital in San Diego, and interned at Oakland’s U.S. Naval Hospital.  She also co-led the primary care services at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Though she’s not in combat now, she is facing a new battle: helping lesbians and bisexual women take better care of their health.  As the Center’s new Director of Women’s Care, Stokes is leading the Center’s medical services for women.

“As lesbians and bisexual women, we face unique risks to our health, so we’ve got to protect ourselves,” she says. “When the Center offered me this job, I said I needed 100 percent of the organization’s support to get this program off the ground.  And I got it.”

Meet the newest members of the Center’s medical team.

Meet the newest members of the Center’s medical team.