I’ve always loved February.
It’s the month my folks got married (February 29); the month Arizona, my home state, became the 48th state; and the birthday month of important civil rights leaders Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks. It’s also Black History Month. Plus, it’s when we celebrate Valentine’s Day!
Recently, I learned that February is also American Heart Month. Why should that make a difference to our community? Heart disease kills more LGBT people in the United States than anything else—more than AIDS and cancer. It’s the leading cause of death among men and women in the U.S. (although in the Asian & Pacific Islander community, it’s second to cancer). Every year about 600,000 people die of heart disease—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
Yet, heart disease is actually preventable and controllable. There are precious few studies on the health of lesbians and gay men—even fewer on the health of bisexual and transgender people—but what little information does exist indicates that we seek health care less than our straight counterparts. One of the reasons is that a very high percentage of us report having experienced problems with insensitive health care providers in relation to our sexual orientation or gender identity. Another is that LGBT people generally make less money than non-LGBT people and have been more likely to be uninsured.
Fortunately, the Center has a solution! Because we have been designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center—and thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which expands healthcare coverage—we now provide leading edge medical care to everyone in our community, regardless of their HIV status, by providers who specialize in caring for LGBT people. And, we’ve added some terrific new primary care physicians to our already stellar corps of providers. This includes Dr. Ward Carpenter who has an extensive background in LGBT medical care and—for the first time ever—a lesbian ob-gyn, Dr. Monica Stokes.
If you haven’t been getting regular medical care, I can’t think of a better time than American Heart Month to decide to protect and maintain your health.
When I first came out in 1979, the women and the men in our community didn’t have much to do with each other. Gay men were as sexist as straight men (if not more so), so gender divided us more than homosexuality united us. Women in “gay” organizations were few—and almost nonexistent in leadership.
It was different at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center. Many women played pivotal roles from the beginning. Like June Herrle, one of our founders. Or the pioneering Lillene Fifield, who is interviewed in this edition of Vanguard.
Still, the Center was not without gender-based controversy. Like the time in the 1970s when women involved with the Center marched out in protest over the way male leaders of the organization treated them and the way they planned to use money the women had raised.
As the women’s movement forced our society to evolve, it had the same impact upon the LGBT community. Relationships between women and men began to get better.
And then the advent of AIDS changed everything. Our brothers were dying, and they needed our help. So we put differences aside and stepped up.
The women and men in our community had to come together; it was a matter of life and death. From the midst of that horrific devastation, a new partnership was forged. I remember thinking at the time that this partnership was what it always should have been.
After all, sexism and misogyny are at the base of homophobia and transphobia. Those who have suffered most among us have usually been those who have conformed least to gender roles and expectations.
Of course, sexism hasn’t completely disappeared. And the transgender members of our community have yet to achieve the full acceptance that they deserve.
But today’s Center is an inspiring example of how much progress has happened in our movement, just as it is a reminder of the progress that remains to be made. While we strive to be better, in many ways we’re a microcosm of our larger movement and society. I’m grateful to all the women (and men) who’ve helped us become the organization we are today.
Challenges remain, but I’m confident that we can overcome them together.
By Lorri L. Jean
Working at the Center is filled with inspiring moments.
Like when a patient of our Goodman Clinic approached me to say how grateful he was for the staff’s compassion after he tested positive for HIV and how thankful he is for the high-quality medical care our doctors provide him. Or when a recovered crystal meth addict emailed me to say that our treatment programkept him from destroying his life.
Witnessing the changes our programs make in the lives of young people is especially inspiring to me. The impact we make by providing a safe and loving home for LGBT kids who have been suffering on the streets is life-changing and frequently life-saving.
The impact we make by providing mentoring and a whole host of other services for LGBT youth in our LifeWorks program is no less significant.
Most of these youth aren’t homeless, but they are still very much at-risk. For many, their participation in our LifeWorks program is the only time they feel safe and appreciated. And we all know how tough the world can feel for a teenager.
Much to my amazement, we have LifeWorks participants who identify as LGB or T as young as 11 years of age! I didn’t realize my sexual orientation until I was a senior in college, much later than most of the youth who come to the Center for help today.
What a difference having a lesbian mentor would have made to me! Having access to the kinds of programs LifeWorks offers would have made my journey so much easier. And now that LifeWorks serves parents of LGBT kids, it’s almost unfathomable to imagine how it would have impacted my own folks (and me!) on their path to accepting and supporting their lesbian daughter. Today the Center offers these kinds of programs and more to an ever-younger population of LGBT kids and their parents.
We’re literally providing them with opportunities and role models that change the trajectory of their lives. We’re strengthening the newest generation in our community. Little is more inspiring than that.
Yes, the election was in early November. But I’m still excited about it! And the more I talk to people about it, the more I realize that not everyone has focused on its truly extraordinary significance for LGBT people and those who love us.
First, it’s now clear that Obama has our community to thank for winning. We voted for Obama rather than Romney by a 3-to-1 margin. That edge in exit polls among the 5% of voters who identified themselves as lesbian, gay and bisexual was more than enough to give Obama the ultimate advantage.
Second, even if the only thing we had to celebrate was electing—for the first time in history—a president who vocally supported our full and complete equality (as well as repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”)—that would have been momentous. But there was so much more that went right for our community.
For Californians, the juxtaposition to four years ago is especially poignant. I know I’m not alone in feeling that November 2008 was the worst election day of my life because Prop 8 passed.
November 2012 was, without a doubt, the best. I had emotionally prepared myself to lose all four marriage-related ballot measures, just as the 32 previous measures around the country (both before and after Prop 8) had been lost. But in my wildest dreams I never anticipated that we could win ALL FOUR. And yet, we did. Plus, the first openly LGBT person was elected to the United States Senate—Tammy Baldwin, a proud lesbian and a progressive. California also elected its first openly LGBT person to Congress—Mark Takano, from Riverside of all places! Five other states also sent openly LGBT people to Congress.
More than 118 openly LGBT people were elected to office! As a result, 39 state legislatures now have openly LGBT elected leaders.
Ohio also boasts the only openly gay Republican in any state legislature. And legislators in Colorado and Oregon have already elected openly gay and lesbian speakers. Rhode Island is expected to do the same. Washington elected an openly gay man to lead its Senate, as is likely for Colorado, which will mean both chambers there will be led by openly gay men. And this is just some of the good news.
The election was not incremental change by any measure. It was a sea change. An equality landslide! It is likely to have ramifications that we cannot even begin to contemplate today. I sincerely believe that this election was the electoral tipping point in our favor. We may still have occasional setbacks, but the momentum is now so clearly on our side that in the long term, there will be no going back. This election, most of the American people said no to bigotry, no to discrimination, and no to anti-LGBT extremism. They said yes to freedom and fairness virtually every time they had a chance. Yes to equality.
Yes to their LGBT neighbors, friends and family.
We’ve never seen anything like it. I believe it’s a portent of things to come.
L.A. Times: L.A. attorney confirmed as state’s first openly gay federal judge
Rage: L.A. GAY & LESBIAN CENTER & OUTFEST Give LGBT Youth Starring Role Through ‘OUTSET’ Film Project
Advocate: Gay Soldier Goes From YouTube to Tire Tube
LA Stage Times: Imparato’s Decade at the Tomlin Wagner Center — the Opposite of a Deathtrap
Broadway World: New DEATHTRAP is a Must See at the Gay and Lesbian Center of LA
KTLA: Transgender Woman Takes on Trump in Pageant Battle
SheWired: Wanda Sykes, Courtney Love Lined Up for L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s ‘Evening with Women’
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!”
RIDING TO THE TOP
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!
LGBT COMMUNITY TAKES COVER
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.
WELL DONE AND WELL FED
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.
LGBT YOUTH GET ‘SIRIUS’
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.
By Lorri L. Jean
He was handsome, smart, dynamic and hugely successful in the entertainment industry. I got to know him when he began supporting the Center, and in time we became dear friends.
I didn’t know he was a recreational meth user. He didn’t know his partying was about to become an obsession—one that nearly destroyed his life.
He never looked like the tweakers we’ve all seen pictures of. But he was one all the same.
And he lost almost everything. His job, his home and his money. His long-time partner and most of his friends. His HIV-negative status. And it all started with meth use that he believed he was managing—until it was clear he wasn’t.
Just when we thought he had hit bottom, he fell even further. He struggled to get clean and failed, avoiding his friends and family. With no job or insurance, he became a Center client (though at the time, I didn’t know it), getting his medical care and drugs from us. He began attending recovery meetings at the Center.
As he wrote to me: “In the darkest hours of my addiction, the Center was somewhere I turned to for help.” He told me that he could never have believed that his financial support of the Center could one day help to save his own life.
When I asked him if I could tell his story here, he said yes and told me, “Even when I had given up hope on myself, you, my friends and the Center were there for me. And because of that, I am alive today.”
My friend is thriving again—clean for more than four years. “In the depths and despair of my addiction, I never believed I could feel and be who I am today. And though my life is not perfect, it is wonderful,” he says.
So, there is hope, even for those who feel totally hopeless. The Center has been a lifeline for countless people struggling with meth. But I have often wondered, if my friend had realized how suddenly recreational use of meth could turn into a chokehold he couldn’t escape, would he have stopped before he went over the cliff?
Sadly, our community is littered with the shattered lives of gay men who lulled themselves into a false sense of security that they were handling their meth use. That’s a dangerous place to be.
If you recognize yourself or someone you know in this story, there is an alternative. At the Center we offer nonjudgmental help that just may be the difference between losing everything and protecting yourself—taking control of your situation before it becomes uncontrollable.
I have my friend back, which makes me very happy. Nothing would make himhappier than to think his story could help someone else.
By Manny Sanchez
As the organizer of one of the nation’s largest PRIDE celebrations–and host of the world’s first PRIDE parade in 1970—Christopher Street West (CSW)has grown to be the model for PRIDE celebrations throughout the world. What you may not know is that the ties between the Center and CSW run deep.
“The Center and CSW have a rich and connected history that thrives to this day with a year-round spirit of partnership that benefits the greater community,” says Rodney Scott, President of the Board of Directors of CSW.
Indeed, the organizations both share a founder, Morris Kight, one of the leading pioneers of the LGBT rights movement. CSW and the Center have grown to be the largest LGBT organizations of their kind and have served the greater Los Angeles LGBT community for more than 40 years.
As partners, and in line with our commitment to full equality, the organizations work together year-round to raise awareness about issues affectingthe LGBT community and to mobilize steadfast volunteers for each organization’s key events.
Like the Center, CSW’s board is ethnically and culturally diverse, and CSW offers something for everyone— from the 15-year-old trans youth just coming to terms with identity to the 75-year-old lesbian who has been an activist for 50 years and everyone inbetween.
The Center and CSW are united by a commitment to the LGBT community, and the groups work closely together as partners in pride
By Darrel Cummings, Chief of Staff
I remember with vivid and tragic detail my experience during the first decade of the AIDS epidemic. Many others share similar memories. We were forced to battle on many fronts at the same time we were burying our young friends and trying not to be overwhelmed by grief.
As scientists and researchers have learned more about the virus, we’ve held out hope—for a cure and for a vaccine. After all, great advances in medical science and technology have been achieved and it seemed like there were vaccines for nearly everything and new ones being developed all the time. We thought that surely, in a few short years, a vaccine—if not a cure— would be available and this scourge of an epidemic would conclude.
But 32 years later, there is still no vaccine or cure.
Several valiant attempts have been made (and continue to be made), but success always seems to be just out of reach. Meanwhile, the epidemic rages on, disproportionately affecting the gay, bisexual male and transgender members of our community.
Perhaps we in the LGBT community have come to accept the status quo as our normal. Maybe we have given up thinking that a cure or vaccine for HIV will ever be found. And even more profoundly, we may have just let the fatigue, despair and years associated with this epidemic overtake our desire to even think about it.
This issue of Vanguard challenges all of us to think again and anew. It provides reasons to believe that the idea of an AIDS-free generation is possible and that there’s a roadmap (albeit a long and challenging one) that could help us realize this vision. This roadmap does not require a cure or a vaccine, but instead a strategy that combines what HIV/AIDS advocates have learned during the last two decades with the latest advances in biomedicine to make ending HIV, as an epidemic, an achievable objective.
But as has always been the case, this strategy cannot happen without the participation and commitment of our whole community and support from government leaders. We must all be involved and we must leave no one behind.
At the Center, we are committed to doing all we can towards this end because until there is a cure and a vaccine, we owe our community nothing less.
By Stevie St. John
Bravo star Rachel Zoe (The Rachel Zoe Project) was recently honored at a star-studded benefit that raised more than $250,000 for the Center’s homeless youth services.
Heather Graham, Emma Caulfield, Aaron Sorkin, and Daphne Zunigawere among the stars spotted on the red carpet at the Sunset Tower Hotel.
Anne Hathaway presented the award to Zoe, and Kelly Osbourne honored Ana C., a successful and inspiring graduate of the Center’s Transitional Living Program for homeless LGBT youth.
“Ana courageously represents so many kids who have been forgotten by society, forgotten by their own families and left on the streets of Los Angeles to fend for themselves,” says Kathy Kloves, who co-hosted the event with Patrick Herning.
“Because of the Center, these kids have been given a chance; they have been given love and shown the compassion and support that every human being deserves.”
Presenting sponsors were John Goldwyn and Estee Lauder. Platinum sponsors were Saks and Decades. Gold sponsors were WME and NBCUniversal (Bravo Media). Silver sponsors were Karen Kane Design Inc. and David Brian Sanders Interior
Design. Our in-kind sponsors were Virgin America and Audi.
To see more photos from the event,
check out the Facebook gallery.