Commentary – LGBT Weekly Mon, 08 Feb 2016 22:38:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Of legislation, death, justice and love Fri, 05 Feb 2016 00:37:12 +0000

This week an editorial from The Indianapolis Star found its way first into my email box, then my Facebook feed, entitled It’s not complicated — pass LGBT rights. Well, maybe if you live in California, but not in Indiana. One of the main problems the Hoosier state legislators are having with their civil rights bills is with transgender people. As Senate leader David Long (R-Fort Wayne) elsewhere stated, “The ‘T’ (in LGBT) is a stumbling block at the moment.” State Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle) “heard concerns” from peer lawmakers, as well as constituents, then took the position that transgender protections should be tabled, then studied at a summer committee. Which, of course, would mean there would be a lot of years between LGB civil rights and T civil rights in the state.

Not that any of the Indiana bills proposed weren’t flawed; the bills all had huge religious exemption carve-outs that make them all troublesome bills to begin with.

There’s a quote from suffragist Alice Paul that seems to apply: “I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.” That said, when it comes to legislation, there’s nothing ordinary about ordinary equality.

In a piece written for The Advocate by Alison Gill and Brynn Tannehill entitled A User’s Guide to This Year’s Transphobic Legislation, they began by mentioning there were 20 pieces of anti-transgender legislation in 2015, but this year there are 28 pieces – so far. I didn’t need to find that story in my Facebook feed on Groundhog Day. The sheer number of bills year to year in some way reflects the “history repeating itself” aspect of the 1993 Bill Murray comedy by that name, but this story comes with none of the laughter.

Yet another item that found its way into my Facebook feed was the first reported transgender homicide this year. Monica Loera was shot to death early the morning of Jan. 22 in Austin, Texas. The Austin Police Department did what police departments often do, and identified Monica by her birth name, not the name she used in her day-to-day life. The transgender community didn’t even know they lost one of their own until Monica had been dead for about a week.

The alleged killer has already been arrested for first degree murder.

Closer to home in Baldwin Park, Stephen Justin Gonzales was found guilty of first degree murder in the slaying of trans woman Melony Smith in 2013. When Gonzales is sentenced Feb. 11, he’ll be facing 25-to-life for her murder.

Some justice, anyway, to read about in my email inbox. It doesn’t bring Melony back though.

Another story I’m thinking about that flew into my email inbox and Facebook feed was a story about a transgender Girl Scout named Stormi. According to BuzzFeed, Stormi was selling Girl Scout cookies door-to-door in her neighborhood when she knocked on one door three blocks away from her home. A man opened the door, and after she made her pitch, he told her, “Nobody wants to buy cookies from a boy in a dress.”

Stormi didn’t react well to that. She cried to her foster mom Kim. Her foster mother and she moved her sales online to the Girls Scouts’ Digital Cookie, and Stormi wrote, “At my request my family will donate boxes to local foster kids like me!” And then Kim passed the story of Stormi’s experience to a trans family support site, and from there it went viral around social media. By Jan. 28, she’d sold more than 3,000 boxes of cookies; I know I bought a couple of boxes from her.

Stormi is going to remember the unkind thoughts of that man three blocks away from her home, but she’s also going to remember how the community rose up to send her love.

And that’s just what I want to think about at the end of this week: hope and love. I read so many articles on so many LGBT and trans-specific issues, that sometimes I forget that not all of them end badly. At the end of the day or week, there’s still room for love.

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The real winners and losers in Iowa Thu, 04 Feb 2016 23:11:21 +0000

Monday night, Iowans cast the first votes in the 2016 presidential election. Sen. Ted Cruz won a clear, if somewhat small, Republican victory. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton beat Sen. Bernie Sanders by a razor thin margin to take the Democratic win.

The vote tally, however, has only a small role in determining a candidate’s position in the primary pecking order post Iowa. More important are how the candidates performed against expectations and what it projects for the New Hampshire primary, Feb. 9 and beyond. By those measures, Sen. Marco Rubio won the Iowa caucuses by finishing third among Republicans.

Rubio clearly beat expectations. He was rising in the polls, but not to 23 percent and a near tie with Trump. Rubio didn’t just beat the other “establishment” candidates (Govs. John Kasich and Chris Christie and former Gov. Jeb Bush) – he tripled their combined total. New Hampshire polls have been split between Rubio and Kasich as the establishment choice, likely in third place behind Donald Trump and Cruz. Rubio repeating in third place in New Hampshire might get other establishment candidates to drop out; coming in first or second would make him the prohibitive favorite from that group. Either way, the endorsement of Sen. Tim Scott gives him a much needed boost in South Carolina Feb. 20.

Thanks to the media and Sanders, Clinton won the expectations game in her narrow Iowa victory and laid the groundwork for an irrelevant day in New Hampshire. Sanders’ late surge in Iowa, including polls showing him ahead, started a discussion of “What happens if Clinton loses in Iowa and New Hampshire?” Those talks had two conclusions: Sanders needed to win both states, and Clinton could probably survive losing both. Sanders has now lost Iowa, and is so far ahead in the New Hampshire polls that anything less than a 20 point victory will be underperforming. Clinton now has Iowa in her pocket, can’t really underperform expectations in New Hampshire, and has already risen from the dead there once (beating President Obama in 2008).

Cruz played Iowa to an expectations draw. His victory was good enough, but not the resounding win anticipated when he first rose to the top of the polls. He scored only one more convention delegate (8) than Trump or Rubio (7), and didn’t crack 30 percent. Sanders similarly finished about even. Twin wins in Iowa and New Hampshire wouldn’t have given Sanders much of a chance of overcoming Clinton’s establishment support. Now he has the same smaller opportunity he had months ago when he was a good bet to win New Hampshire and lose Iowa.

If there is a loser among the top candidates, it’s Trump. Not because second place is terrible, but because he’s thrown the “loser” label at so many people that his competition, and Fox News, will turn it on him mercilessly.

Conventional wisdom says that Trump needs a solid victory in New Hampshire to keep his campaign afloat, but conventional wisdom didn’t predict any of the Iowa results a few months ago.

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Mayor Filner book author has two faces Thu, 04 Feb 2016 22:31:33 +0000

It is well known in political circles that I was a longtime supporter and friend of Bob Filner – from School Board, to City Council, to Congress and to the Mayor’s Office. “Team First Lady” was indeed my idea and civic leader Nancy Chase was my co-chair.

In past columns of mine, I have stated that many of us – his friends, supporters, staff and Democratic leaders for decades accepted the fact that Bob could be crude, sexist and yes a complete asshole. But he was “our” Bob. Many looked the other way when it came to Bob because of his long record of fighting for the civil rights and equality of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, gays and working families. I have taken my responsibility in this column for not speaking out more and accepting things as they were. I’ve learned a lot about sexual harassment – more than I ever knew.

But shame on Lee Burdick who was on Bob’s mayoral staff from the first day to the end and now writes a book called Bob Filner’s Monster. Well Ms. Burdick, you, Vince Hall and others then were Frankenstein’s doctors as you also turned the other way and ignored his conduct. You, Ms. Burdick, give attorneys an even worse reputation with your two faces and “I found Jesus” like bull. This author, this empress has no clothes … period. Her book should be used for toilet paper.

Would you have a beer with Lori Saldaña?

Almost all of San Diego’s mayors have been nice individuals who were friendly, outgoing and had great people skills. Jerry Sanders stands out; Murphy was a gentleman; Hedgecock had a good sense of humor; Golding had a great smile and O’Connor opened up City Hall once a month to anyone who wanted to talk to their mayor. San Diegans love to like their mayors and when it comes to Kevin Faulconer you would not just like to have a beer with this guy but a whole damn keg!

Well, sad to say, most Republican and Democratic leaders I’ve talked to have told me that they definitely would not have a beer with mayoral candidate Lori Saldaña.

Mayor Parker to keynote Harvey Milk Breakfast

When Annise Parker was first elected mayor of the fourth largest city in America – Houston, Texas she made world headlines because she was a proud out lesbian. I first met her when she was the city controller of Houston. She is a dynamic civil servant and leader who cares about all people.

I am proud to say she will be the keynote speaker of the annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast Friday, May 20. As always, this event will be a sellout with over 1,000 people. Contact The Center for your table reservations today!

Who is a future Fourth District supervisor?

Ron Roberts will go down in history as one of our county’s most popular county supervisors. Respected and, yes, loved by many community leaders. He was just once again elected chairman of the board and is termed out. So of course there is already talk on who will follow him. Among Democrats being mentioned are Kevin Beiser and Susan Quinn and many party activists are hoping to encourage Nathan Fletcher to run who is busy with his Veterans Foundation and causes. Tony Young, who is now an Independent, is also mentioned. The only Republican who would actually have the best GOP chance is Lorie Zapf who is half Latina and interestingly would be the only person of color in this race.

Keep your eyes on them all. For right now it is early but then the early bird will get the worm.

And San Diego’s new labor boss is …

Lorena Gonzalez was one of the best labor leaders in San Diego history. She took names and kicked ass; a true “Iron Maiden” and a tough lady who ruled in a mostly man’s leadership world. Now some other San Diegan women are looking to follow in her high heels. Among them I hear, Carol Kim, Dale Kelly Bankhead and Laurie Coskey. Now to me the one that comes close to Lorena Gonzalez’ DNA … and that is …?

Police Officer Meyer did San Diego proud

Seems that radical demonstrations did not only shut down an LGBT Jewish reception at the annual Creating Change Conference in Chicago but also a workshop on improving police relations with speakers Latina activist Carolina Ramos and respected openly gay San Diego Police Officer Daniel Meyer. About 80 demonstrators forced Officer Meyer to leave the conference shouting him down and refusing to have dialogue about how to improve police and community relations; the workshop was shut down. Officer Meyer to his credit, in an ugly and threatening situation handled himself outstandingly. He did our city, the police department and his LGBT community proud.

As a past national board member of The LGBTQ Task Force I apologize to Officer Meyer as well as Police Chief Shelly Zimmerman for what he was subjected to which was totally unacceptable. I am glad to report that The LGBTQ Task Force leadership also reached out to this outstanding police officer to convey their regret and offer support of him.

LGBT San Diegans Fernando Lopez, Carolina Ramos, Ricky Cervantes and Connor Maddocks stood with Officer Meyer during this ugly ordeal and we should be proud of all of them, and I thank them for their solidarity.

Needless to say The Task Force is taking a serious look at both incidents and changes will be made so this never happens again.

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Every community should have a public accommodations bill Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:53:35 +0000

Jonathan Alexandre, the legal counsel to the Massachusetts Family Institute recently summed up the socially conservative Christian position on equal rights for transgender people in a single phrase. “It’s about bathrooms,” he wrote in an op-ed for the Boston Globe.

Massachusetts is a state that this year is considering a statewide bill that would extend public accommodation protections to transgender people. Equality legislation that affords public accommodations protections is about a person being able to go to a private business that serves the public, or a government-owned or operated facility that serves the public, and not be turned away.

Although this protection does include public bathrooms, the protection also includes being able to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee at a diner and not hear the words “we don’t serve your kind here” as a number of my transgender friends have actually heard.

In his June 3, 1964 speech at Arizona State University, Martin Luther King Jr. identified public accommodation protections as necessary, stating, “Every state and every community should have a public accommodations bill.”

In that same year, former President Franklin D. Roosevelt testified at the Senate Commerce Committee hearings for the federal Public Accommodations Bill, and in a back-and-forth with Sen. Strom Thurmond stated, “I believe that if a man goes into a business which holds itself out as rendering service to the general public, he has an obligation to serve the general public regardless of whether the individual be a Jew, a Catholic, a Puerto Rican, a Negro, a white, Protestant or anything else. I think that as long as he is a citizen and comes under the constitutional rights of our country, then in my opinion – this is obviously a difference between us – I believe property rights are secondary to human rights.”

In Massachusetts, the “bathroom bill” arguments are over a bill affording transgender people public accommodation protections. In seven other states, the “bathroom bill” arguments are for bills denying transgender people access to public bathrooms in publicly and privately owned places in alignment with their gender identities.

The tactic used in these seven states was the one used by the socially conservative Christian community in Houston in 2015 against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). In an ad to defeat the referendum on HERO, a television commercial falsely tied transgender people to bathroom predation by child rapists. The ad didn’t state that transgender women would be the rapists, but instead indicated that granting public accommodation protections to transgender women would legally sanction rapists entering women’s public bathrooms by men claiming to be transgender.

This is a lie. There’s a direct parallel: a similar ad was produced for a similar ordinance and (failed) referendum in Gainesville, Fla. in 2008, and per an email exchange with Media Matters, the Gainesville Police Department spokesman reported that in the seven-plus years since the Gainesville ordinance became law the department could not recall any incidents related to the city’s LGBT protections.

The kind of lying we see and hear is ungodly. A trans person isn’t an object: he, she, or they must be dealt with as a person sacred unto themselves, not as an animated tool to create a false narrative. To do otherwise is to depersonalize the person, and to desecrate who that person is as a fully human being. In a spiritual sense, as long as any transgender person is treated as a means to an end because they are a member of an oppressed group, the image of God within that transgender person is abused, and consequentially their humanity is lost to the sight of those who inflict that abuse.

“It’s about bathrooms” is what the inhumane oppressors of transgender people are saying to obscure transgender people’s humanity. This, at a time when we just know “every community should have a public accommodations bill.”

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Did San Diego Democrats just lose the City Council? Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:46:38 +0000
Joe LaCava

Joe LaCava

Earlier this month, Democrat Joe LaCava ended his City Council bid. It’s a bigger deal than you may think.

LaCava was running to replace Democrat Sherri Lightner, who is termed out in District 1. Before Lightner, the District was represented by former Councilmember and now U.S. Representative Scott Peters. If that makes District 1 sound a safely Democratic district, it is; but only in November.

Lightner won in November 2012 with 55 percent (31,585) of the vote to Ray Ellis’ 45 percent (25,881). In the June primary, however, Ellis (14,133, 46 percent) bested Lightner (12,889, 42 percent). Lightner’s November win was only possible because two other candidates, Bryan Pease and Dennis Ridz, split the vote just enough to keep Ellis under 50 percent. Had the 5 percent that voted for Ridz, a Republican, gone to Ellis, he would have won in June, giving Republicans a 5-4 majority on City Council.

With LaCava out, it appears Barbara Bry will face Ellis alone. One could argue that LaCava would only have drawn Democratic votes from Bry, but the math isn’t quite that simple. Only 30,987 people voted in the June 2012 primary, which means additional voters can significantly change the percentages. If Ellis gets 51 percent (15,803) of the same 30,987 voters, he beats Bry in June. If LaCava stays in the race, and is the choice of just 620 additional voters, Ellis drops under 50 percent and has to face Bry in the more Democratic friendly November electorate.

Bry could also win in June, but the fundamentals aren’t in her favor. Republican primary voters are among the most reliable, making it unlikely that Ellis will get fewer votes in 2016, particularly if the presidential primary is still undecided. Lightner was an incumbent in 2012, a powerful advantage in San Diego that Bry won’t have. She can only hope that primary voters are more excited about HIllary’s first term than Obama’s second. Or better yet that a second Republican joins the race.

Anthony Wagner, a Democratic fundraiser, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that “Heaven and Earth will be moved to secure a victory in Council District 1.” While that may be true, Democrats could also decide not to put all their eggs in one basket. They could also keep their majority by taking Council District 7, where incumbent Republican Scott Sherman is running for a second term.

Barring a surprise retirement, Democrats will hold Council Districts 4 and 8 through 2018 (and beyond). In 2016, they are defending fairly safe territory in Districts 3 and 9. LaCava’s exit from the District 1 Council race makes it a tougher hold, but Democrats may have an alternate route to keeping their Council majority through District 7. If either race makes it to November, the odds are in the Democrats’ favor.

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One of the American sailors seized by Iran was gay Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:17:11 +0000

Iran made international headlines when it seized two Navy boats and 10 American sailors after the ships supposedly drifted into Iranian waters. As you know, the ships and their crew were released days later. Well, the sailors were based in San Diego and during the ordeal I was contacted by one of the sailor’s partner and he was, needless to say, very upset and worried. He only calmed down when he saw his partner was alive on Iranian television. The problem was that his gay sailor was in the closet and had not put his partner on his emergency contact list or death notification, so while the sailor’s family was kept informed, the partner was not. Well, he finally got a call from his released partner and he wants this situation taken care of as the Navy boyfriend asked him to marry him!

Boycott the Chargers … Hello Raiders!

Chargers fans, can we talk? Remember that scene with Cher in the movie Moonstruck? Well “snap out of it!” Dean Spanos and the Chargers leadership don’t care about you. It’s all about the money. Forbes estimates the value of the Chargers at $1.5 billion, but if they move to Los Angeles that will likely increase to nearly $3 billion. What is unacceptable is their mind game playing and double talk. I say stop supporting the Chargers and boycott their games. Let’s welcome the Raiders to America’s Finest City. Star War’s Darth Vader has always been one of my personal heroes!

The National LGBTQ Task Force’s very big mistake

task forceAs a former National Board member of the National LGBTQ Task Force (America’s oldest gay civil rights organization), my phone started ringing off the hook when the Task Force announced they were canceling “A Wider Bridge Israel Reception” at the upcoming annual Creating Change Conference in Chicago. This is a respected LGBT organization and I met some of its leaders at the home of City Commissioner Bruce Abrams last year, and the International Court System even presented them with a $1,000 donation.

Needless to say, I spent a lot of time making calls to Washington, D.C. and the Task Force leaders. The good news is that many other activists and LGBT leaders also lobbied to undo this unacceptable decision and the Task Force listened and uncancelled the reception Tuesday morning.

Now let us all move on and continue to support the most progressive and diverse LGBT national organization in the U.S.A. And trust me, I am sure the Task Force leadership learned from this big mistake – the worst in its history!

About the Atkins/Block debate

Toni Atkins

Toni Atkins

About 150 people showed up on a freezing rainy night for the first debate between Marty Block and Toni Atkins. Our hosts were the La Mesa Foothill Democratic Club. Block seemed to think that he was definitely going to get their endorsement as he has lived in the neighborhood and has been a member of the club for decades. He even bragged that he knew the names of the founders, but at the end of the debate the club voted and it was a tie vote.

While Toni Atkins talked about her accomplishments as the first San Diegan to be elected as the Speaker of the State Assembly, Block tried to impress the crowd with a story about how Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon asked him to be his desk buddy and sit next to him during the Capitol Senate sessions. No, I’m not making this up; you can ask anyone who was at the debate.

The bottom line is that this race is about proven leadership and a nice guy with an average record who just keeps his senate seat warm. This is why a vast majority of Democratic leaders in San Diego have endorsed Toni Atkins for Senate.

Endorse the San Diego Citizens Police Review Board

I 100 percent support the efforts to empower the Citizens Police Review Board and feel that this is long overdue. While I have confidence in our Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and the department, things are not perfect and it has been proven that there are bad cops everywhere, including racist and homophobic ones. In my experience as the chair of the first Chief of Police’s Advisory Board and dealing with police officials since the 1970s, I firmly believe that the empowerment of a Citizen’s Police Review Board is a good thing for all communities and should include subpoena power.

Mayor Faulconer’s State of the City address

Kevin Faulconer

Kevin Faulconer

The Balboa Theatre was packed for the popular mayor’s annual speech which was well received. He focused on the improvements in our neighborhoods, the homeless and the education of our city’s youth. It was a strong speech which included perfect Spanish.

The mayor seemed relaxed and down to earth and these usually boring presentations included some good humor, thank goodness.

One suggestion I do have for Mayor Faulconer and his recent endorsement of Marco Rubio for president. You could most certainly teach Rubio how to take a drink from a water bottle in public, at a podium during a speech like a man and not like a clumsy kid as Rubio so famously did. Just saying.

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Commentary: Obama goes mad on guns Sun, 10 Jan 2016 20:30:00 +0000

On January 5th, President Obama announced that he was taking executive action to increase the safety of Americans by regulating guns.   His actions don’t reflect reality nor will they keep us any safer. All Americans should be very afraid of the implications of where the president and the Democrats will go to shred the 2nd Amendment and our right to medical privacy.

Americans are rightly grieved by the actions of madmen and terrorists who caused the slaughter of innocent children at the Sandy Hook School and the shootings at San Bernardino, California. If you watch 24 hour news channels all day you might think the dead were piling up in our streets. I would suggest that the president’s actions are designed to tap in to the emotional fear created by this environment and encroach on the rights of law abiding Americans to own and carry firearms and shred our medical privacy rights.

Statistics constantly suggest that violent crime is at a 36 year low (Time, 2014). Gun deaths have declined by 31% since 1993 (Pew Research, 2015). You are more likely to die from cancer, lung problems, heart attack, or car crash than a gun assault (National Safety Council, 2011).

While crime and violence are at historic lows (with the exception of some metropolitan areas) the 24 hour media circus would have you believe that people are being shot, hanged, knifed, assaulted, murdered, and raped on every street corner all the time. Statistics reveal that is a misperception not a reality.   It is this media led misperception that President Obama and those opposed to gun ownership are seeking to capitalize on.

The 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is clear that law abiding Americans by right are allowed to keep in bear arms:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 in District of Columbia et. al. v. Heller and later in McDonald v. Chicago (2010) that gun ownership is an individual right unconnected with a militia and that this individual right is applicable in all states and cities.

Despite violent crime at historic lows and the individual right to own guns well established, President Obama has announced dangerous executive actions which fly in the face of liberty, practicality, and reality.

His proposals include background checks on private sales of guns between individuals, expanding the list of persons prohibited from purchasing guns to include those on the Terrorist No Fly List, and hiring new government agents to investigate gun transactions.

The most dangerous proposal would include putting your medical and mental health records in a database from which information which then could be used to end your right to own a gun.

According to the New York Daily News (January 5, 2016) “Attorney General Loretta Lynch has also sent a letter to states highlighting the importance of receiving complete criminal history records and criminal dispositions of persons disqualified from buying firearms because of a mental illness.”

It would seem rational that we would want to prevent lunatics from owning guns. But how do we define mental illness? Anyone who takes Xanex? Anyone who has sought therapy in the last five years? Think of this: your therapist, doctor, or lawyer may one day be forced to “mandatory report” you to the government if you actually seek help for a mental health challenge.

According to Reason Magazine (January 5, 2016) the president’s plan would:

“Among other things, the gun-related “executive actions” that President Obama is announcing today aim to “increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system.” To put it another way, the president wants to encourage more people with mental problems to seek professional help while increasing the likelihood that doing so will result in the permanent loss of their Second Amendment rights. Those two goals may prove hard to reconcile.”

We all should be frightened of the ramifications of this quotation. Americans have long enjoyed the privacy of our medical records enshrined in the Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act (HIPAA).

Passed in 1996 HIPAA is this federal law that sets a national standard to protect medical records and other personal health information. The rule defines what is “protected health information” and how this information is shared with others such as doctors, insurers, caregivers and when and how your permission is required for such sharing of information.

The possible implications of President Obama’s executive gun play could lead to our protected health information being breached, in violation of HIPAA, to decide who should have guns, drive a car, be a teacher, or an airline pilot. Imagine that your visit to a drug rehab or trip to your counselor now being the basis upon which your rights, privileges, and future employment are denied.

The president wants those on the Terrorist No Fly List to also be barred from purchasing firearms. The problem is that this is the same Terrorist No Fly List that stopped then Senator Kennedy from flying (August 2004). According to CNN other dangerous terrorists flagged on the Terrorist No Fly List include singer Cat Stevens, U.S. Representative John Lewis, and an 18 month old toddler trying to fly on Jet Blue (CNN, December 7, 2015). No one really knows (except the CIA, maybe the FBI) who is on the Terrorist No Fly List or how you get off. It’s all part of our national security apparatus and you have little recourse as a citizen if you are on it.

President Obama wants to broaden background check requirements to include more private transactions. It’s impractical – some estimates hold that there are over 300 million guns in America. If I give a gun to my father for his birthday do I have to do a background check on him? Broward County (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) passed a universal background check requirement in 1998 and as of this date there have been zero – that’s right – zero prosecutions.

The president is dead wrong on this issue. His executive action may be unconstitutional and none of the actions can prevent bad people from doing bad things. Nothing in the president’s plan will stop another Sandy Hook or terrorist attack on our shores.

In each and every case where those who committed heinous acts of violence with guns did not commit suicide, it was good guys with guns who came to the rescue.   Good guys with guns are protecting President Obama and Mrs. Clinton (who don’t seem ready to give up their protection). Americans deserve the same protection as our officials who enjoy armed security at our expense. That protection is embodied in our right to keep and bear arms for protection. Remember those who would take your rights away from you when you vote in the upcoming November elections.


The Rev. Gus Kein is a retired MCC pastor and civil rights activist living in Fort Lauderdale. He is also a member of the Log Cabin Republicans of Miami-Dade County.

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The Amazon Trail: Aargh! Just aargh Sun, 10 Jan 2016 01:45:30 +0000
iStock_000016647461_The Amazon Trail


In our town we have a small, out of the way thrift store, dark and not heavily patronized except by people who are very down and out. The owner— and who knows her story—sells what she can, but is always willing to help out the homeless with clothing or outdoor equipment that they need to survive in this wet environment where there are beaches for sleeping and woods for encampments, soup kitchens for food, tourists for panhandling, the library for web access.

It’s not just the homeless. Garage sales and thrift stores that once were a lark for drag queens and bull dykes are such a way of life now. If the 1% or the 20% are able to buy everything they want, the rest of us, in the current economy, are grateful to be able to buy their cast offs. The underground economy—helping the destitute, bartering goods and services, garage sales, web lists—by necessity isn’t so underground any more.

Dollar stores are crazy busy since the so-called Great Recession, and not due to recreational shopping. Their food products are often good buys if you’re in the habit of reading labels carefully and their books can be great finds for $1.00, though the authors get nothing for their years of work. I find it bewildering that dollar store corporations are gobbling one another up and making someone, somewhere, obscenely rich.

Goodwill does great work, but they’re huge now and their prices are getting out of range. I, along with many of my neighbors, regularly buy from the local, less expensive Humane Society thrift shop. For household items, we matronize the ReStore, thank you Jimmy Carter. Our local cobbler can’t keep up with all the shoe repairs he gets. If we can’t fix something ourselves, we employ handymen or women, rather than licensed, bonded, insured workers, to repair our roofs, our driveways, our plumbing.

We’re all what used to be called middle class people. Just try being middle class when the Social Security checks start arriving. There was no 2016 cost of living (COLA) increase in these payments, earned through lifetimes of hard work. Something does not compute. The inflation rate didn’t trigger a COLA, but I’m paying $50.00, $70.00 or much more for generic prescription drugs that last year had no or minimal co-pays. To use a phrase from Dorothy Allison, I also call it criminal capitalism when older Americans can’t afford good health.

I count my lucky stars that my financial issues are at a level where I’m concerned about the cost of medications, not their total inaccessibility.

Of course the pharmaceutical companies are blaming the Affordable Care Act. Once again, a tool created for the people is being used to increase profits. Drugs are not manufactured to relieve pain or cure cancer or to prolong lives, they’re manufactured to make money. The balance has gone out of any equation that included keeping people alive and come down heavily on the side of making a financial killing. Aargh! Just aargh.

Online there’s Craigslist, the middleman of bartering. There’s Freecycle where people give away what they can’t sell or don’t need. I’m seeing a lot fewer listings on Freecycle than I did pre-recession. One of our friends, an underpaid care worker, shops garage sales as much as we do. For birthdays and winter holidays we exchange boxes of garage sale goodies, mailing our lightweight packages if we can’t meet. Has anyone else noticed how you can prepare a meal for a family of four on what it costs to mail a package now?

Even petsitting, a perennial cash service, is getting all big business on us. There are pet care companies with actual employees and franchises. What ever happened to the neighbors? Word of mouth? Signs on the vet’s bulletin board? We’re monetizing every little bit of America. And the world. Uber and Lyft were great ideas until they started raking in the bucks and grew and grew, taking jobs away from regulated cab drivers.

Politicians want to squeeze cash from our national monuments. Oil companies can’t wait to guzzle up natural resources from wildlife refuges. Prisons are privatized; hospitals connive to get more money from Medicare. All of this drives up costs and takes what was once affordable out of reach.

The bigger the corporations, the lower the wages, the fewer the jobs. And the corporations swell each time they subsume another business and dump another thousand employees. I am astounded by the monopolizing going on in the U.S. We have laws to prevent such boundless greed. Apparently we need more than brakes on businesses, we need an enormous emergency brake.

A phenomenon that seems to be more common is the return, after their divorces and downsized jobs, of very adult children in their fifties and sixties, moving in with aged mom or dad in senior housing communities and elsewhere. These sons and daughters have little or nothing left; the parent is beginning to need help around his small manufactured home. These now older workers don’t go out and find jobs, mom becomes the job. The kids inherit the property and have shelter as long as they can pay the taxes. The next step may be homelessness—and a visit to the kind thrift store owner.

Lee Lynch wrote the classic novels The Swashbuckler and Toothpick House. Her newest book is An American Queer: The Amazon Trail, which is a Lammy finalist. Most recently she was made namesake and first recipient of the Golden Crown Literary Society Lee Lynch Classic Award for her novel The Swashbuckler. She is also a recipient of the James Duggins Mid-Career Award in Writing, and many more honors.Books by Lee Lynch are available at women’s and gay bookstores and at

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Commentary: The LGBTQ community’s #Epicfail on Donald Trump’s Islamophobia Sat, 09 Jan 2016 20:30:24 +0000
Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Another day, another Trump-tacular distortion of the truth. What is it now you ask? Why it’s the Donald’s first TV spot that promises, among other fantastical ideas, to bar all Muslims from entering the country – with a simple are-you-or-are-you-not a Muslim – erecting a Chinese-like wall across the 1989 mile stretch of border we share with Mexico – Canada gets toll lanes – and a promise to make America great again by wearing hats (for a mere ‘patriotic’ $30 dollars) with that very slogan. I’m sure he’ll promise other things as the campaign progresses like, I don’t know, building a ladder to the moon or erecting a bust of the Donald so large it can be seen from space.

But at least one group of people he needn’t fear piling on is the LGBTQ community. Much to their shame, the people you’d think would be particularly attuned to cultural scapegoating have been noticeably and, from this gay man’s perspective, embarrassingly silent. But first, let’s take a trip back in time.

When Donald Trump first announced that he would bar all Muslims from entering the United States until some unspecified time when he could “figure out what’s going on,” the world dropped their collective jaws. In fact, the only people who seemed to think he was right were his loyal followers which essentially gave him the green light to continue espousing such views. It didn’t matter that 99% of Muslims come here for the freedoms this country has to offer. They are not terrorists secretly plotting the destruction of our people, our electrical grids or internet personality Ryan Higa. They are basically peace-loving, family-centered and devout human beings who want what we all want out of life. Are there some loons in the lot? Of course there are. But I don’t recall any Muslims sending envelopes of white powder to anyone, murdering innocent people in Oklahoma City or holing themselves up in Oregon.

Now, granted, we as gay folk have a certain aural sensitivity to anything that smacks of homophobia and Islamic teaching isn’t exactly charitable to our peeps. But that strikes me as wildly irrelevant. We know what it’s like to be scapegoated; we’ve been blamed for everything from natural disasters, to the fall of the Twin Towers to Honey Boo Boo. But to sit on our hands while innocent people are targeted by a demagogue? Well, as the saying goes, words do have meaning.

Let’s start with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a stalwart pillar of the LGBTQ community. They have, for the record, done an outstanding job providing resources for gay Muslims on their site. But after that December 7 speech? Not a single tweet or mention on their website. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)? Well, as Patrick Swayze memorably remarked in Ghost: Ditto. (Although, in all fairness, they did wish everyone a Happy Hanukah.)  The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)? Nope. (But you can get 25% off their hoodies with a special code.) Much to their credit, the National LGBTQ Task Force did tweet on December 10 that, “Call upon politicians & media 2 stop spread of racism, hate & division:  #WeAreBetterThanThis.” But given the size and scope of LGBTQ organizations that exist, one tweet is metaphorically but a grain of sand.

Now, I’m sure someone will (gladly) point out to me that the National Order of Bisexual Donut Lovers (NOBDL) marched on Trump Towers demanding a retraction. But the fact remains, our community as a whole needs to raise both awareness of and our voices against this particularly invidious strain of phobia. Remember: “First they came for the Socialists and I did nothing for I am not a Socialist.”

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Politically Aware Awards 2015 Thu, 07 Jan 2016 20:46:41 +0000

Kevin Faulconer

Local Politician of the Year: Mayor Kevin Faulconer. How does the mayor win with the Chargers likely leaving San Diego and no Comic-Con approved Convention Center expansion? Simple. Despite those issues, he is a Republican poised to skate to re-election unopposed in a city with a plurality of Democrats. Two Democratic powerhouses, Councilmember Todd Gloria and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, both passed on the race despite terming out of their current jobs. Faulconer owes some thanks to the City election laws that allow outright victory in the June primary, but part of politics is leveraging your advantages. Holding the mayor’s office could be just the first step, as it keeps Faulconer the most attractive Republican candidate for state-wide office in 2018.

Lorena Gonzalez

Honorable Mention: Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez. I listen to AM talk radio some days, and no local politician generates more ire with her agenda than Gonzalez. She also occasionally upsets some fellow Democrats. If they’re screaming at you from both sides, you must be doing something right. If she helps her current beau and former Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher into the mayor’s race, I may have to flip her and Faulconer.

Anthony Kennedy

National Politician of the Year: Justice Anthony Kennedy. “But Supreme Court justices aren’t politicians,” I hear you scream. Right. And Santa ate the cookies you put out Christmas Eve. On a divided Court, the Constitution increasingly says what Justice Kennedy says it does. Not only did he deliver on gay marriage and Obamacare, he was on the winning side of 5-4 decisions on equal housing, redistricting, lethal injection and pollution limits. If politics is about enacting your agenda, Kennedy did it better than anyone this year. In 2016, he is already poised to be the swing vote on abortion, affirmative action, voting rights and President Obama’s immigration orders. (Obammigration?) With Justices Kennedy, Scalia and Ginsburg all over 75, expect Supreme Court appointments to be a major issue in the 2016 general election.

Paul Ryan

Honorable Mention: House Speaker Paul Ryan. Former Speaker Boehner left behind a bitterly divided Republican caucus when he resigned. About all they could agree on was Ryan as the only leader all factions would tolerate. Genuine or not, Ryan played his reluctance perfectly, taking the Speaker’s gavel with enough good will to avoid a government shutdown despite growing the deficit. It will be interesting to see if the honeymoon lasts into 2016.

Best New Thing: Nationwide same-sex marriage. No contest.

Worst Thing: Chargers drama. It is absurd that this is still going on. The NFL wants a team in L.A., and Oakland doesn’t really have a stadium plan. Sounds like a match. Move the Raiders, let the Chargers and Rams stay where they are, and give Spanos and Kroenke an extra share of the L.A. revenue for a little while. Done. Roger Goodell, I’ll send you my bill.

Most important issue: Black Lives Matter/police conduct. Activists will tell you this isn’t a new issue, and they’re right. It gained a much needed spotlight this year, but sadly due to tragic events. Hopefully some answers can be found and implemented in 2016.

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This is your year Thu, 07 Jan 2016 20:38:57 +0000


Hello readers! Welcome to my monthly column addressing the negative impact of addiction and mental health issues on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning community. My goal is to give you information designed to educate and guide you to your full potential. My first article was published in May of 2015, and I am grateful to you and to LGBT Weekly for continuing to provide a venue for me to share inspiration so deeply needed by anyone challenged by addiction.

It’s a new year! The year 2016 has arrived in all its innocence, newness and our collective hope for a positive season as we move one day at a time into the future. A new year can be the very thing we need because it motivates us toward change. This is your year. It’s your year to make a life-changing decision and define yourself by a life of recovery. You may be the individual who decides that, this new year, you will engage in a significant process of change. You may be the self-directed individual who sets the clear intention of improving your health and wellness, working on discovering the life you’re meant to live. As you contemplate your own life and concerns for yourself and others, you have already begun the process of moving toward a lifestyle of recovery. If you are one of the LGBT community who has been exhausted by attempts to control your drinking and other drug use and have been left frustrated and isolated from your authentic self, then this article is for you. You deserve to reconnect and discover your own lost hopes and dreams.

Far too many of us have lost our friends and family members to addiction. I meet men and women each day who have entered our outpatient treatment program at Foundations San Diego in hopes of finding the way to sustaining a lifestyle without the damaging use of substances. Attempts at control and reducing harm have failed for them. Disruption in their health, employment, relationships and love of life has become an evident fact. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show approximately 88,000 deaths each year in the United States from excessive alcohol use. The American Society for Addiction Medicine’s latest fact sheet says that 46 Americans lose their lives each day from prescription opioid overdoses. These individuals who have lost their lives are the people we come into contact with every day. It hits close to home for all of us. The County of San Diego Methamphetamine Strike Force reports the number of meth-related deaths remains unacceptably high, with 2,933 reported deaths from 1995-2012. Our work at Foundations San Diego is with people, not numbers. We reach into our community here in Hillcrest and across the United States to provide a way for people to regain their footing after addiction has caused them to stumble. I deeply believe, as a person who is a professional in the field of treatment for addiction, that you or others you may know have more options than becoming a statistic of this ever growing epidemic.

Addiction can be characterized by the following: Using substances in larger amounts than you intended and for longer than you meant to; attempts to reduce or stop use of substances doesn’t work; preoccupation with getting, using or recovering from use; cravings to use; work/school/home disruption; ongoing use of substances despite the problems they have caused; increased tolerance, meaning using more to get the desired effect and the development of withdrawal symptoms.

If you are reading this article and the list mentioned here raises concerns for you or those you know, please understand that help is available. We have the compassion and knowledge to walk the recovery journey with you as you make the decision to live 2016 to your fullest!

Patricia Bathurst, LMFT, is the director of Foundations San Diego, an outpatient recovery facility located in Hillcrest at 3930 Fourth Ave., Suite 301, San Diego, CA 92103. Ms. Bathurst is a certified advanced addiction counselor as well as a licensed marriage and family therapist. Questions for Pat? Contact Foundations San Diego at 619-849-6010.

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About the San Diego gay parolee killed by police Thu, 07 Jan 2016 20:22:57 +0000

For the last year national media attention has focused on cities around the country and the shootings and killings of American citizens, mostly African Americans, by police. Some of these shootings have rightfully resulted in police officers being charged with murder, but most importantly it has shined a bright spotlight on many police departments’ racism and discrimination problems, especially in Chicago and some Southern cities where corruption and racism have been going on for decades, including homophobic and anti-LGBT incidents. I myself participated in an early Black Lives Matter demonstration because some of these murders of black men by police officers in other cities have indeed outraged me, including the bias and discrimination within our justice system when it comes to Americans of color and the poor.

The LGBT community should never forget that our very own civil rights movement began over police brutality and harassment at the Stonewall Inn in New York and that in the 1960s and ‘70s almost every LGBT community in any city was subjected to police harassment and brutality including San Diego. To this day, many LGBT murders/killings remain unsolved across the nation because they were always a very low priority. In the 1960s and ‘70s I helped organize anti-police demonstrations in both Hollywood and San Diego and along with other local LGBT activists have kept my eyes on and been interacting with police officials for decades.

So when last Friday on New Year’s night a 30-year-old gay man was shot and killed by a San Diego police officer, over a domestic violence call, my phone starting ringing all weekend by concerned LGBT leaders. But you see, San Diego is not like other major cities and our police department is one of the best in the nation, especially under our city’s first woman police chief.

I immediately called Police Chief Shelly Zimmerman and also Assistant Police Chief Terry McMans (homicide department) and talked to them about the shooting and they answered all of my questions. Because of the ongoing national media attention on police shootings many Americans immediately jump to conclusions before getting all the facts and it seems at times all police officers and departments are painted over as murderers and racists.

Joshua Adam Sisson

Let me tell you about this police shooting in Hillcrest last Friday night. 30-year-old Joshua Sisson was a felony prison parolee who had an arrest warrant out for him. He had a very violent record and was in prison for “attempted murder.” Last Friday night he choked his boyfriend and attacked him with a big kitchen knife. His boyfriend managed to call the police and he fled on foot. When a lone 13-year veteran police office tried to stop Mr. Sisson and told him to drop the knife, he refused and aggressively started going after the police officer and was shot. In time we will have a coroner’s report to inform us if he was likely on drugs or drunk. This man had a violent criminal past and was trying to kill his boyfriend.

San Diego’s police department is in my opinion one of the very best in the nation and has an outstanding record of community outreach including with the LGBT and people of color communities. It is one of the first to have an LGBT Advisory Board and to recruit and welcome LGBT police officers.

Our LGBT community has one of the best relationships with the San Diego police, and that is why their police contingent gets one of the highest cheers and applause at our annual Pride parade. I am very glad that Mayor Faulconer and our City Council are working on getting our police officers a long overdue pay raise as San Diego has one of the lowest salaries in the nation.

Yes, there are always some “rotten apples” in any police department, but I am proud of our police chief and officers and have full confidence in this department.

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Transgender people and the FDA’s new blood donation guidelines Thu, 24 Dec 2015 21:42:50 +0000


Dec. 21, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued final blood donation guidelines. The policy updated blood donor deferral recommendations, which they stated would reflect “the most current scientific evidence and to help ensure continued safety of the blood supply by reducing the risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission by blood and blood products.”

The Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality (GLMA) disagreed. “The FDA’s removal of the lifetime ban on blood donation for [men having sex with men (MSM)] is an important first step toward an optimal blood donation deferral policy addressing individual behaviors, including specific at-risk sexual behavior regardless of sexual orientation or gender, that would justify a deferral period based on the science,” President Henry Ng, MD, MPH, and Executive Director Hector Vargas, Esq., wrote in a joint statement. “GLMA supports nothing less than a paradigm shift away from any categorical restriction on MSM donating blood to a blood donation deferral policy based on individual behaviors. While the removal of the lifetime ban is a step in the right direction, GLMA remains concerned about the one-year deferral period for MSM being proposed by the FDA today because it continues to perpetuate stigma among gay and bisexual men.

“GLMA calls on the FDA to commit to a reasonable timeline to develop a blood donation policy that addresses individual behaviors, including specific at-risk sexual behavior regardless of sexual orientation or gender,” Ng and Vargas added.

The FDA’s blood donation guidelines impact transgender people. Under the previous policy, transgender people were considered the sex they were assigned at birth for their entire lives. So, for example, I transitioned to female over a dozen years ago, but for blood donation purposes the FDA recommended I always be considered a male, and guidance that applied to men should always be applied to me.

In a section entitled Nonbinding Recommendations, the new policy guidelines state “In the context of the donor history questionnaire, FDA recommends that male or female gender be taken to be self-identified and self-reported.” A trans man then would be able to go to a blood donation facility and give blood as a male, and a trans woman then would be able to go to a blood donation facility and give blood as a female. FDA policies would then apply based on gender identity, not gender assigned at birth.

But it’s not that clear since it’s listed in Nonbinding Recommendations.

Seeking clarification, I contacted Tara Goodin, the FDA’s media point of contact for the press release, and asked what should happen when a transgender person shows up for the first time to donate blood.

“Regarding your question about how the FDA’s final guidance is applicable to transgender individuals, the FDA’s recommendation to blood establishments is that the gender of a donor should be self-identified and self-reported in the context of the donor history questionnaire,” she replied. “Blood establishments typically revise their existing standard operating procedures regarding donor deferral following issuance of final FDA guidance on donor deferral.”

As a follow-up question I asked what would happen if you were someone like me who’s donated under the previous policy and are listed as male. Would, or should, the blood establishment change my gender marker in their database?

“To answer your question about how the new recommendations impact people who were previously deferred – Under these new recommendations, blood establishments will be able to requalify individuals deferred under old criteria provided that they meet current donor eligibility criteria,” Goodin replied. “Previously deferred donors will continue to be deferred if they meet any of the current criteria for donor deferral.”

I don’t read a direct yes or no in that answer.

When Goodin replied to me, she emphasized that “these are only recommendations by the FDA,” and “we recommend reaching out to your local blood donation center to determine how they will update their procedures based on the FDA’s new recommendations.” In other words, a direct yes or no in Goodin’s answer wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

As a transgender person looking at these fuzzy nonbinding recommendations, I can see a system structured to avoid taking a position on the gender of transgender people. That dodge of responsibility will subject transgender people to face-to-face harassment from blood collection agents who will transphobically misgender those transgender people who just want to give something back to their broader community. How awful.

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Football is business, not family Thu, 24 Dec 2015 21:37:07 +0000

The NFL has frequently demonstrated its ability to selectively black out a broadcast in San Diego, so I have a request: Could they please prevent their “Football is Family” commercials from being seen in our media market?

You’ve seen them – families receiving and wearing branded sweaters and baby clothes, typically from competing teams, usually near holiday decorations. In any circumstance, the campaign would be a little sappy for a league whose games feature nearly as many injuries as points. In cities that aren’t sure they will have a team in 2016, the ads are downright cruel.

It is increasingly clear that the NFL believes football is not for San Diego families. Not for the families who deck out multiple generations in Chargers jerseys every week. Not for the families that have formed at tailgates every home game. Not for the families of choice that root together in their neighborhood, or “family,” sports bar. Why not? Even if our families are willing to pay for a stadium, we can’t prove it until June, and that could delay revenue from an L.A. team.

When faced with the idea that it’s all about the money, the NFL typically trots out one of their ownership families with long term commitments to a city: the Rooneys in Pittsburgh or the Fords in Detroit. Let’s see how long that lasts. The Edward Jones Dome, where the St. Louis Rams play their home games, was built in 1995. Rams owner Stan Kroenke is threatening to move to L.A. unless, and possibly even if, the people of St. Louis (and fellow NFL owners) pony up cash for a new one. Why would things be different when Heinz Field in Pittsburgh (2001) or Ford Field in Detroit (2002) turn 20? Both cities are smaller than San Diego, and let us remember that Art Modell was a Cleveland institution until he saw more money for his family in Baltimore.

The only families that football really cares about are those of the 32 owners. Even the one(s) left seatless in this round of L.A. musical chairs will benefit from the additional revenue, just as they have all cashed in by delaying their decision until they got a full season of spending from families in the soon to be shafted cities.

Football is business, not family. If the NFL can get away with commercials suggesting otherwise, fine. Just black them out in San Diego, Oakland and Saint Louis, where it amounts to taunting, which is a penalty by NFL rules. As excessive celebration also draws a flag, please limit the inevitable ESPN “Los Angeles Decision Announcement Special” to cities that still have teams.

Assuming we lose the Chargers, my family would rather watch an old Padres game.

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Chargers should just leave … Now! Thu, 24 Dec 2015 21:18:29 +0000

Several years ago I wrote a column that predicted that the Chargers football team would end up in Los Angeles as that is really where their owner would like them to move. Well, many of you got very upset and emailed your criticisms. I have never understood why so many San Diegans would be so crazy over such a losing football team that has never ever won a Super Bowl.

The Chargers came to San Diego around the 1960s from Los Angeles and now who cares if they want to return to an area with more money, stars, businesses, etc. The owners of the Chargers have for the last few years lied and strung us along, making San Diego look like idiots. They never had any intentions of staying in San Diego and have never really cared about their loyal fans. Our mayor has done his very best to try to keep the Chargers in San Diego, but he and other public officials have been used and abused by this uncaring and mind-game playing team.

The Chargers have never earned San Diego’s loyalty as the owners are backstabbing, two-faced lying businessmen and they should just pack up already and move to the city of smog and crime where they came from.

As for me, I will stick to my two favorite sports: boxing and bullfights.

The Republican’s civil war

The Republican Party’s race for the presidency has become one big mess and probably the most negative campaign in the history of politics. Now it’s a civil war between the establishment and party leaders against the extreme right wing and I don’t think it’s going very well, but they control the Congress and most of the states governor’s offices.

None of the Republican presidential candidates support marriage equality and do not seem to really care about the votes of the people of color communities, nor a woman’s right to control her own body. But although the Republican Party is going through its own mini civil war, they could still win the election as a majority of Americans are very afraid of terrorists and attacks on our homeland and when people are scared anything can happen.

Merry Christmas!

When it comes to the holidays I have never been that excited or a big fan. To me Christmas is a religious day when Christ was born and now it has become too commercial and the real meaning of it is gone. Christmas time is also full of depression for many people so do watch out for each other.

Thank you for your support of our annual “Toys for Kids” toy drive.

Merry Christmas to all, and God bless.

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The Amazon Trail: Festive flamingos Mon, 14 Dec 2015 21:33:50 +0000

We always have something, perhaps just one thing, in common with others.

flamingoThat thought struck me as one of our neighbors invited us to stop by and see his Christmas flamingos. Who would have guessed that this perfectly straight guy, married to a woman, always puttering in his workroom, not only collected flamingo paraphernalia, but had a collection extensive enough to sort seasonally. He’d seen the neon flamingo in our window, though, and our three front yard flamingos (two pink, one brown), and maybe the flamingo crossing sign hanging in our garage. In any case, and unexpectedly, we have the amazing pink birds in common.

These commonalities usually come as a shock. If someone had told me, back in the radical, separatist, feminist, lesbian good old days, that I would be oohing and ahhing every December over a lighted holiday boat parade with a group of dykes that included highly-skilled professionals: wildlife biologist, teachers, lawyer, city planner, published writers, librarian, nurse, and banker – I would have rolled my eyes and said, “Oh, sure.” We had our affectional preference in common, but we weren’t there to hoist rainbow flags, we wanted to see the pretty boats go around in circles in the rain. Silly saps.

At no time has it been more clear to me than now, with my arm in a sling, how very much humans have in common with one another. I’m suddenly a magnet. Yesterday a neighbor repeatedly jabbed a finger toward my arm and sputtered until she could get the question out: “What happened?” People who have never before initiated conversations with me inevitably want to talk about their own rotator cuff surgery, or their cousin’s, or their childhood broken arm, or their fear of a long, difficult rehabilitation. Others boast that they prefer living with the pain. The sight of a sling must bring out the kinship of human frailty.

Now and then I have lunch with a group of women. Within that group is a smaller one: the rebels. Somehow we recognized in one another a tendency to stray from the norm. As we get acquainted we confirm this more and more, collectively renouncing organized religion, traditional women’s roles, retirement hobbies and catch as catch can work. We’re still revealing our herstories: the Utah gay activist, the vegan tai chi instructor, the oboe player, the animal activist. We love to misbehave, white hair or not, and, always the rule breakers, the progressives, we revel in our various othernesses.

Hands and puzzle isolated on white background


There’s a human need to find bonds no matter how tenuous. I first recognized it in my mother, a Boston expat in New York City. You would have thought she’d moved to Lapland or, at the least, Marfa, Texas. She watched for Massachusetts license plates, was thrilled to meet others with New England accents, and thought anyplace south of Rhode Island was Sin City. Never mind the evils of burlesque-mad Scolley Square in its heyday. Now I, too, am ebullient to find people from my home state who’ve settled out west.

Fox News may be Big Brother’s elevator music, but even the neighbor who sings the abysmal Fox lyrics likes to take his daily walk through the neighborhood during the sun’s brief late afternoon appearance, the same time I prefer to walk. After one of his scrofulous anti-Obama remarks I could only stare at him literally open-mouthed. Now this scruffy little dyke and the towering bigot exchange wary smiles and consistently joke about something we all share: the weather.

Holiday TreeThe woman who moved in down the way is a housewife and mother from Montana. She’s completely foreign to me in terms of geography, lifestyle, you name it. One day she stopped to see why I was staring at a tree. When I told her I was trying to identify a bird, she joined me and we took turns naming possible species, confirming markings, sharing what we could remember. Next time I see her I’ll let her know it was a Ruby-crowned kinglet. We may have nothing else to tie us together, but we can talk birds.

And lights. She thanked my sweetheart and me for decorating one of our small fir trees with fairy lights. As the holiday decorations spread from the boat parade across town to our hilltop, we residents admire them and reveal how disappointed we are each year when they come down. I was pleased to find I’m not the only one to find comfort in the lights. Apparently, so were the neighbors, because by golly, if this year it didn’t turn out that there are more lights up than ever.

No matter our sometimes wide differences, the bigots and birders, the flamingo and lighted fleet enthusiasts, the rebels and the relocated, we all enjoy connections. We have a need to touch what binds us through our layers of difference. And what binds us is always there.

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The Ward vs. Bernal debate Thu, 10 Dec 2015 21:36:22 +0000

Anthony Bernal

This past Monday night at the Globe Theatre there was a public debate between Third City Council District candidates Chris Ward and Anthony Bernal. The event was sponsored by the Police Officers Association, San Diego LGBT Weekly, Hillcrest Town Council, Gaslamp Association, North Park Business Association, San Diego Chamber of Commerce and other community groups.

It was very noticeable when you entered the Globe that there were two tables which displayed each candidate’s campaign material. The Chris Ward table had about five volunteers behind it handing out material, while the Bernal table did not have one single volunteer throughout the entire event.

The candidates were asked questions about the convention center, police department, the homeless problem, sidewalks, the parking problem etc., and it seemed that they actually agreed on all the issues. It was good to hear that both Ward and Bernal supported the expansion of the convention center, a minimum wage increase and support our police officers and their needs as many are leaving San Diego for more greener and welcoming pastures.

What really stood out in this debate was that Chris Ward was more knowledgeable about the issues by far and definitely had more government experience. One of the most telling moments of the debate was when Anthony Bernal stated that part of the reason homeless numbers are on the rise was due to state legislation AB109 and voter-approved Prop. 47. Ward immediately corrected Bernal that there was no evidence in criminal justice statistics that proved the Bernal statement. When the debate moderator gave Bernal a chance for rebuttal of Ward’s correction of the facts, he quietly declined.

Chris Ward

Chris Ward, who recently became a father to a beautiful little girl, is chief of staff to a state senator and oversees a staff of 12 people. He also serves on more community and non-profit boards than his opponent, and has received the endorsements of almost every major public official including former Third District Councilmembers Chris Kehoe and Toni Atkins. Ward has been the clear front runner since he announced his candidacy.

Anthony Bernal is a really nice guy who is on the staff of Councilman Todd Gloria, who has not endorsed him and, word is, wisely staying out of this race although 95 percent of the LGBT leadership has endorsed Ward, who is the only gay candidate. Anthony’s mother was a farm worker and his father worked in a grocery store, and he was the first in his family to proudly graduate from high school, but he is not ready to be the next Third District Councilmember following the last three who have been citywide leaders and two were voted “interim mayors.” Someday Anthony Bernal could be an effective and strong public official, but not now.

During the debate I sat with long-time civic leader Nancy Chase and City Commissioner Bruce Abrams. We all three agreed on the following grades for the debate: Chris Ward B+; Anthony Bernal C: and we also rated the moderator who was Thom Senzee: C-.

Support the “Toys for Kids” drive

In 1975 the LGBT community led by the Imperial Court came up with over 600 gifts for the Marine’s “Toys for Tots” drive. They refused to accept toys from “homosexuals” so we homos started the “Toys for Kids” drive, which has gone on to this day for over 40 years and donates toys for children living below the poverty line. So please donate toys; there are boxes all over the community. If you would like further information on the “Toys for Kids” drive please call 619-254-6372. Thank you.

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Ten suggestions for a safe and sober holiday Thu, 10 Dec 2015 21:36:12 +0000


The holidays should be a time that we spend with those who accept us unconditionally and support us with a safe and enriching environment. The holidays for many of us can bring on additional layers of stress in an already complex life! For LGBT individuals, this season can be a minefield when it comes to managing emotions and the expectations of others. Substance abuse may be the only avenue you know to calm your brain and relax. This time can also escalate existing addiction issues. Many of us may take the once per year obligatory trip home to visit with family members who often have little understanding of our sexual orientation and our lifestyles. Many of us are estranged from our families and the alternative social gatherings that beckon to us are often started early in the day with mimosas and bloody marys. Some are welcomed guests at open houses, office parties and holiday social events. This month’s article is for any of you reading who are in recovery from addictive substances. It’s also for all LGBT readers, especially those who are gaining increased insight into the excessive substance abuse that has been leading to disruption in their life balance.

The road sign of a problem with addiction is when joy becomes sadness and you find your compulsive and addictive behaviors are starting to spiral out of control. The holidays bring out every excuse in the book to eat, drink and be merry with friends and loved ones! As a society, we drink for various reasons. We drink to loosen ourselves up in social settings, to enhance our meals, to be part of a culture where alcohol is an integral part of celebrations. We drink to mourn our losses and to temporarily feel more confident in relationships. Making the adjustment to a sober holiday presents challenges, but adjustments can be made.

Holidays are never a time to stop an effective life of recovery or the treatment plan that has been working for you. If you are an alcoholic, you cannot drink safely. Gather your sober friends around you and avoid the raucous drinking events of your past. Know your environment and know what your plan is to escape the lure of partying to be part of the crowd. Our local San Diego recovery community knows how to have a great time! There are sober dances, marathon 12-Step meetings, sober parties and small gatherings that support sobriety.

Live that authentic sober life you deserve! Here are 10 suggestions for a safe sober holiday. If you are a football fan then own this as your playbook!

1. Have a plan.

2. Record your personal plan!

3. Write down your sober supports’ names and phone numbers.

We all need our go-to people – people we trust and those who know our wounds, hopes and dreams. We need the people who know and support our quest for authentic sober lifestyles.

4. Ask for help.

Your life matters. Period. You are worthy and deserve to reach out and ask for help and support.

5. Set your schedule and structure.

Avoid waiting for the invitation and put your own plans for sober fun into action early on. Early sobriety for many and ongoing sobriety require a schedule and structure to the day. Utilize a calendar of your choice and account for each hour of the day. Fill in the basics such as rest, meals and self-care. Fill in your sober support meeting times and your social plans.

6. Eat a full meal prior to going to a party!

Avoid relying on finger foods to fill you up. The days of filling up on alcohol and getting that buzz are over. It is now time for healthy balanced meals at regular times in the day.

7. Have your “mocktail” ready!

I always encourage my patients to buy themselves a really fancy special glass to take to their parties. Go into the party with the glass full of your favorite virgin drink! Party hosts are more concerned with the fact that you have a drink in your hand, not whether it has alcohol in it!

8. Give back!

Instead of thinking what others can do for you how about doing for others!

9. Take care of your own personal needs.

This is time for slowing down. It is time for you to increase your self-care and pamper yourself! Enjoy living and take the time for a long walk, a long hot bath, a day at the spa.

10. Accept yourself!

Easier said than done, you say. Well, pull out a journal and start writing positive affirmations about yourself. Do something different now. Instead of being your own worst enemy, move in the direction of being your own best friend. During our 2015 holiday season, be on your own team.

You may not have learned what you needed to know to prepare you for life as an LGBTQ person. Now is your time to learn, grow and avoid the trap of using substances to fit in or to feel good about yourself. Now is your time to slow down, take inventory of your strengths and surround yourself with safe, supportive friends. As we reflect back on the events of our lives in 2015, we may also take time to strengthen ourselves and each other with sincerity, truth and authentic living.

Patricia Bathurst, LMFT, is the director of Foundations San Diego, an outpatient recovery facility located in Hillcrest at 3930 Fourth Ave., Suite 301, San Diego, CA 92103. Ms. Bathurst is a certified advanced addiction counselor as well as a licensed marriage and family therapist. Questions for Pat? Contact Foundations San Diego at 619-849-6010.

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Establishment Republicans need to coalesce on a candidate, and fast Thu, 10 Dec 2015 21:36:06 +0000


The first votes in the 2016 presidential race will be cast at the Iowa caucuses Feb. 1. That leaves establishment Republicans just over 50 days to avoid nominating a candidate too conservative for the general election. They should start by getting some of the moderate candidates to drop out, and can use the 2012 San Diego mayoral election to make their case.

Filner’s entry into the race effectively cleared the Democratic field, much as Hillary Clinton appears to have done this year. (Sorry, Sanders fans, but I’m not feeling the Bern, at least in terms of winning. I’m also leaving the plummeting Ben Carson out of the discussion.) Republicans started with three candidates that year: Carl DeMaio, Bonnie Dumanis and Nathan Fletcher.

In this comparison, as he did in San Diego, DeMaio represents the hard line conservatives, e.g., Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. As we are seeing with Trump, that core of support tends to be loyal, creating a “high floor” of support that the candidate won’t drop below, but appealing to it requires statements and positions that create a “low ceiling” of potential voters that the candidate can sway. Such candidates thrive in split races where their base is enough to make it to the next level, as DeMaio showed by winning the primary with 31 percent of the vote.

Dumanis and Fletcher were the Bush/Rubio/Kasich/Christie/etc. of 2012: moderates who were believed to be the better general election candidates. Dumanis earned 13 percent of the primary vote while Fletcher won 24 percent. Had that 37 percent of the vote been consolidated behind one of them, he or she would have won the primary with 5 percent to spare. Given the highly negative perceptions of DeMaio and Filner, the Dumanis/Fletcher hybrid would likely have been the favorite against either. Instead, DeMaio’s ceiling proved to be under 50 percent (twice now) and Filner won the “hold your nose and pull a lever” election.

Moderate San Diego Republicans tried to avoid that outcome, but had little leverage. Outgoing Mayor Jerry Sanders endorsed Dumanis, which left no one with the clout to ask her to make way for Fletcher. Fletcher bolted the party after it endorsed DeMaio, eliminating any power they may have had over him.

National Republican leaders face a similar leverage problem this year. Marco Rubio appears to be the best general election candidate, but Jeb Bush has the money and Chris Christie can claim some momentum in New Hampshire. Kasich and others probably see the writing on the wall, but have little to lose.

Filner may have won the mayor’s office in November 2012, but Republicans arguably lost it the day they nominated Carl DeMaio. Similarly, any Republican convention that nominates Donald Trump or Ted Cruz also elects President Hillary Clinton. Establishment Republicans have the votes to nominate a candidate who can be competitive in the general, but they need to coalesce, and fast.

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Authenticity often comes with a cost Thu, 10 Dec 2015 21:36:01 +0000

I remember some aspects of when I first came out, back in early 2003, which have really stuck in my memory. Many of those experiences have contributed to how I approach my life as a trans woman now, almost 13-years later. It’s not lost on me how my transgender peers are treated when we stand out as trans, especially when we’re visibly trans at the intersection of another minority population.

In 1987 I had an experience that shaped how I approach being out. I took a Human Sexuality class at Long Beach City College, and for one of the classes we had three transgender people come in to talk about their trans experiences – two trans women and a trans man. One of the trans women and the trans man were in their 30s and passed in their transitioned genders, and the other trans woman was in her 50s and didn’t. The two younger ones were out to friends and family, and the younger woman to her employer. The other trans woman was retired and not out, and talked about her life in a way that didn’t strike a number of us in the class as authentic.

My take-away from that class was about authenticity. Two out of three of the trans people who presented to the class seemed authentic and one didn’t. The inauthentic one gave us a presentation and answers to our student questions that felt rote and “supposed to be” answers instead of sincere sounding ones. It’s not that they weren’t all trans, but they didn’t all come off as genuine to the seams.

And in early spring of 2003 when I began my transition, those three people shaped my approach. I knew I had to be whole, real and honest.

But what I shared with that retired trans woman I met in that 1987 Human Sexuality class is I didn’t begin by passing as female. My transition plan was to go on estrogen for about six months, have beard removal begin and then start presenting as Autumn. What actually happened was that the endocrinologist at the Veterans Health Administration in La Jolla acted as a gatekeeper, and told me that if I wanted estrogen tablets I’d need to prove to her that I was serious about transition. So, I began my transition within a week of that appointment, and had coworkers take daily photographs for 2½ months of female gender performance to document my transition for that endocrinologist.

I began my transition as someone who looked like “a man in a dress” – even when I was wearing pants. I remember specifically that when I wore my one pair of calf high boots, I was taken for a prostitute.

It took 2½ years of beard removal and estrogen pills for me to begin passing as female. I got the luck of the genetic draw on appearance, and the luck of financial security to pay for things such as a legal change of name and gender, as well as for hormones. And even though I’m at the intersection of the transgender and disability populations, both of those minority statuses are for the most part invisible.

In West Des Moines, Iowa a few months back, Meagan Taylor went to a Drury Inn on the way to a funeral. Meagan is black, and her ID card still shows her male name.

When Meagan checked in to the hotel, she was profiled by the manager of the motel as a “hooker” because, as the motel manager explained, the situation was “unusual” because, “They’re dressed as a woman, but it’s a man’s driver’s license” and “ I guess they’re dressed a little bit over the top too – I just want to make sure they’re not hookers either.” The manager also stated, “I took pictures with my camera.”

We know this because, according to staff attorney Chase Strangio of the ACLU, “… the ACLU of Iowa have obtained the audio recording of the 911 call placed by Drury Hotel staff after Meagan and her friend checked in.” The ACLU posted the 141 second call from the Drury Inn manager to the police.

I know what it’s like to be ridiculed and be denigrated with hate speech for being visibly transgender; I know what it’s like to be profiled for being visibly transgender. Authenticity often comes with a cost: transgender people are a long way from changing the hearts and minds of the prejudiced.

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Caitlyn Jenner plans to vote for oppression Wed, 25 Nov 2015 22:04:53 +0000

Caitlyn Jenner

In the past, a transgender voter interested in ordinary equality and civil rights for transgender people could have found reasons to vote against a Democrat and for a Republican.

Such as in 2002, when then Assemblymember Judy Chu introduced AB 2651, the Nondiscrimination in Foster Care bill, in the California State Assembly. AB 2651 would’ve provided explicit protections of the rights of youth in foster care, including LGBT youth. The religious right labeled the bill the “Transsexual Foster Care Bill,” and vigorously campaigned against it. When the bill got to his desk, Gov. Gray Davis (D-CA) vetoed it. Then California Assemblymember John Perez (D-Los Angeles) told Californians at the 2009 EQCA awards dinner that the reason the bill was vetoed was because now Rep. Chu wouldn’t remove transgender youth from that LGBT inclusive bill. Gov. Davis would have signed the bill if it had protected only lesbian, gay and bisexual youth.

On the other hand, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) signed the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act (AB 1160) in 2006. AB 1160 sought to curtail the use of panic strategies widely used in criminal cases involving bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

I voted against Gray Davis; I voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Caitlyn Jenner is arguably the most famous transgender woman in the U.S. and has identified herself as a Republican. She represents the transgender community to the general public whether the transgender community likes it or not, and I’m seeing in social media where a lot of the transgender community is falling into the “or not” side of the divide in significant part because of Jenner’s public politics.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Jenner asked for a ticket to the Nov. 14 Democratic primary debate. There were no tickets available, but she did report to the Times that she did watch the debate with students on the Drake University campus. Quoting the Times after viewing the Democratic debate, “[Jenner] said she still planned to vote Republican. ‘They didn’t convince me,’ she said.”

Frankly, I’m not sure what Democrats running for president are supposed to convince Jenner of, but I know how Republicans should have impressed her to vote against them. With regards to transgender Americans, the first and second tier Republican presidential candidates have spoken in terms of disrespect and/or of oppressing her and her transgender peers.

In the first tier, Jenner should be familiar with what Trump said about her personally: he referred to Jenner by her former first name after she announced her new name preference, and used the wrong pronouns to refer to her.

The other top tier candidate is far worse. Dr. Ben Carson has proposed separate-but-equal transgender bathroom use, saying “How about we have a transgender bathroom?” and “It is not fair for them to make everybody else uncomfortable.”

In the second tier, Sen. Marco Rubio in 2013 came out against the Employment Nondiscrimination Act as a “special rights” bill for LGBT Americans. That’s opposed to it being an equal rights bill.

And Sen. Ted Cruz, speaking in Iowa about transgender service members serving openly stated, “How about having the military focusing on hunting down and killing the bad guys … instead of treating it as this crucible for social justice innovations.” And, “We shouldn’t view the military as a cauldron for social experiments.”

Jenner isn’t convinced by Democrats to vote for them, but Jenner should be convinced by Republicans to vote against them.

In 2016 presidential politics, a vote for a Republican looks to be a vote for transgender community oppression. And as of this moment, Caitlyn Jenner is planning to vote for just that sort of oppression.

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The power of the LGBT dollar! Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:58:11 +0000

Every study has shown the major influence of LGBT spending power and the impact of LGBT Americans. A recent Nielson Study showed 10 percent more shopping trips are made by gay consumers than straight customers; 48 percent more money is spent by gay households on wine than straight households; 31 percent more money is spent on candles and incense by gays than straights; 43 percent more money is spent on computer and electronic products by gays than straight households; 27 percent more money is spent on fresheners and deodorizers by LGBT households than straights; 32 percent more money is spent on men’s toiletries by gay men than straight; 19 percent more money is spent on coffee by LGBT people than straights. $4,135 is the additional amount of money on average that LGBT households spend at retail stores over their straight peers in 2014. That is 7 percent more.

Alano Club vs. “Pot Store”

When I heard that a marijuana store had opened up right on top of The Alano Club (an LGBT alcohol and drug recovery organization) I thought that the person who told me this story had just smoked a joint himself, but sure enough when I drove by The Alano Club there now on the second floor was a newly minted marijuana store!

Sure enough, soon I got a call from some understandably upset club board members who asked for my help and of course I met with them one afternoon at the club. And yes, at times you could smell the scent of marijuana coming down from upstairs. There have also been reports of some unsavory people beginning to hang around.

First of all, what a jerk could the buildings landlord be to rent out the top floor to a weed business knowing that their long time tenants were The Alano Club. What a complete ***hole! Well, of course our hard working councilman Todd Gloria was on this case immediately as was our police chief, Shelly Zimmerman.

It took some months, but finally the pot shop was closed down because of some shady doings and very warranted police citations and yes some arrests.

Let me make it very clear, I support the legalization of marijuana (2016 State ballot) but now even more clearly I understand the concerns of some neighborhood leaders and schools, etc. This should have never happened. The Alano Club and pot shops should all be in a totally different business area. A big thank you to Todd Gloria and Chief Zimmerman and when it came down to The Alano Club vs. the Pot Store … Thank goodness the club one!

Mayor Kevin Faulconer presents 28 turkeys for the Scott Carlson Community Thanksgiving Dinner at The Center

Mayor Kevin Faulconer presents 28 turkeys for the Scott Carlson Community Thanksgiving Dinner at The Center

Boston strong

This year I have travelled to Houston, Denver, San Francisco (three times), New York, Phoenix, Corpus Christi, Surrey (Canada), Salt Lake City, New Mexico, Kentucky, Boise, Hamilton, Ontario (Canada), Indiana, Portland, Washington, D.C. (five times) and numerous cities in California. This past weekend I returned to the beautiful and historic city of Boston. The end of my travels and speech making for the year. I have always loved Boston, it’s the home of the Kennedy Presidential Library and such historic sites as The Boston Tea Party! And of course some of the best seafood in the country – Legal Seafood and B&G Oyster I highly recommend.

I had the honor of presenting awards to Councilwoman Michelle Wu, former Councilman Carl Sciortino, Jonathan Scott of Boston’s own Victory Programs and Scott Gortikov (Freedom to Marry). My host was local top fashion designer and businessman, Daniel Faucher.

I always love taking in Boston’s many grand historic buildings and churches, especially the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, home of Cardinal O’Malley.

The LGBT community of Boston is a very large one and well organized. I was truly humbled and surprised with two very special honors. The Town Council of Braintree, Mass. gave me a city proclamation making me an “Honorary Citizen” (thank you President Thomas Bowes) and The Imperial Court of Massachusetts named their LGBT Student Scholarship after me. For once, I was speechless!

Christmas Wreath Auction

The biggest fun and fabulous holiday charity event is coming up Monday, Dec. 7. Yes, the annual Christmas Wreath Auction at the award winning Martini’s on Fourth restaurant and nightclub.

It’s always a great event with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting the Eddie Conlon GLBT Youth Fund that makes such a difference in the lives of our young people in need. Thank you Martini’s on Fourth and see you all there Dec. 7!

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San Diego election 2016 preview: City Council Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:00:57 +0000

Anthony Bernal

In presidential election years, the five odd-numbered City Council districts are up for election. As with the California legislative elections, they can be dull because the incumbent wins easily or the general election features two candidates from the same party. 2016 looks to be a bit more interesting than most, with three open seats and an incumbent who could face a stiff challenge.

That leaves one safe seat: Mark Kersey, District 5. Kersey has the conservative bona fides to keep his district happy, but clearly wants to be a problem solver in City Council. He hasn’t drawn a significant Democratic challenger and probably won’t. The question isn’t whether he can keep his seat, but how far his star will rise.

District 1. In 2012, this was the swing City Council district, and showed the importance of Democrats making it to November. Ray Ellis beat incumbent Sherri Lightener in the June primary but failed to reach 50 percent, allowing Lightener to come back and beat him in November. Combined with Bob Filner’s victory, it was supposed to give Democrats four years of unfettered control of City Hall; now, it is all that keeps Democrats in charge of City Council.

Chris Ward

Council President Lightener is termed out, but Ellis is back. At this point, he is facing Barbara Bry and Joe LaCava. The former seems to be the favorite of big money Democrats, while the latter is trying to solidify the grass roots support. Expect Democrats to pull out all the stops to keep Ellis below 50 percent in June, and then unify to get the surviving Democrat across the finish line in November.

District 3. Through 2013 and 2014, it seemed like this race could be a progressive bloodbath, with a number of candidates rivaling the current Republican presidential field. Somehow, it narrowed to two candidates: Anthony Bernal and Chris Ward. Ward is drawing strong support from the LGBT community and establishment with both his boss, State Sen. Marty Block and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins supporting him despite running against each other. Bernal works for Councilmember Gloria and has some LGBT support, but may need a surge from downtown voters to replace LGBT voters who want to keep their seat at the table.

District 7. Councilmember Scott Sherman could have a much tougher road than fellow incumbent Kersey. District 7 isn’t as red as District 5, but Sherman managed to tie up the election in June 2012, coming in a hair over 50 percent. Two Democratic candidates are trying to ensure it doesn’t happen again: Jose Caballero and Justin DeCesare. If one of them can make it to November, Sherman could face a tough test. Democrats would love to keep this seat in play rather than letting District 1 decide the fate of the Council.

District 9. Incumbent Marti Emerald decided not to run for re-election, leaving the seat open. It will likely stay in Democratic hands, but it will be a battle between money, organizing and endorsements. The current slate includes Ricardo Flores, Georgette Gomez, Araceli Martinez and Sarah Saez, but this race feels the least developed, and more candidates could be coming.

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Filming history: Selma and Stonewall Sun, 22 Nov 2015 20:30:35 +0000

Selma StonewallOn the 50th anniversary of the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, the Academy and Golden Globe Award winning Eva DuVernay film “Selma” was not without its critics. Criticism ranged from historically inaccuracies to production issues.

The film began with scenes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. receiving his Nobel Peace Prize in Stockholm in 1962 to the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963 to Dr. King planning the 1965 march in Selma. It was a broad sweep of events that, while connected to the need for social change in Alabama, left some viewers startled.

My late father served in the Alabama National Guard in the 1960s and served the integration of the University of Alabama in 1963 and at the third Selma march in 1965. I have a non-speaking and hardly visible role as a reporter in the film.

Dr. King’s Selma campaign was months in the making. The first march is known as Bloody Sunday due to state sponsored violence to stop marchers. The second attempt is known as Turnaround Tuesday because Dr. King made the decision to turn marchers away from more violence. The third march was successful due to the military presence.

DuVernay compressed considerable history to make Selma and received criticism for doing so. A fuller account of Selma would have been a longer and likely less commercially successful film.

The other repeated criticism was the female treatment of the march and, to a degree, the treatment of Dr. King. I did not have that criticism and, frankly, it did not cross my mind as I filmed my scenes for DuVernay in Atlanta in June 2014. This was a cheap attack on the film and its director.

Still, “Selma” did not receive the attention, critical and commercial, producers expected. Why? One can go sleepless wondering why such things happen. Largely, the competition was great and “American Sniper” was unbeatable at the box office and at the Academy Awards.

2015 also brings moviegoers “Stonewall” forty-six years after that historical civil rights event in Greenwich Village. The actual Stonewall riot was an event that spread over several days. Producers faced the same problem as DuVernay in compressing historic events to fit a conventional film audience.

Further, mainstream media coverage of the Stonewall riots and their significance to our country’s civil rights history was significantly less than for Selma. Media coverage of gays in the 1960s was largely dismissive of gays and written by journalists who largely thought of gays as laughable queens and homosexuals rather than civil rights activists.

I saw a few minutes of “Stonewall” in Manhattan. After 30 minutes, I left for another movie, the superb German “Labyrinth of Lies,” a historical account of a courageous German solicitor who doggedly sought the arrest and conviction of former Nazis protected by the then West German government.

“Stonewall” lost my interest early and I could not see it recovering from such a dismal beginning. I felt I had seen this movie before as I left the theater. I simply did not want to waste my time. I do not know how the film “Stonewall” reaches its climax, but I am familiar with the actual events from documentaries, conversations with elders, LGBT and straight, who claim to have been present at the riots, and numerous books and past articles on the actual event. I do not need a Hollywood version to set me straight on Stonewall.

One gay critic told me the film was fictionalized beyond his belief. Another told me it was “filmed lies.” I also heard it was a straight version of Stonewall. This is a similar criticism leveled against DuVernay as a female director of Selma.

DuVernay consulted elders who attended the Selma march 50 years ago for the film. I hear the same was true of Stonewall producers. If so, the Stonewall elders may be responsible for the tired, clichéd production.

The New York Times said Stonewall choked on its good intentions. Since I also did not want to choke, I departed for the superb historical drama “Labyrinth of Lies.” Set in West Germany in the late 1950s, this film compresses time masterfully in telling its account of a tireless West German attorney who successfully brings Adolf Eichmann to trial for Nazi crimes. It is a brilliant, literate, and engrossing film. It is everything Stonewall should have been.

When it comes to Stonewall, see a documentary on the riots or read a book on the riots, preferably Martin Duberman’s 1994 “Stonewall” or David Carter’s 2010 “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution.”

In sum, “Stonewall” is not history; it is hodgepodge. The event deserved better film treatment. Perhaps it will get it on the 50th anniversary of the event.

Human Rights Advocate Jim Patterson is a writer, speaker, and lifelong diplomat for dignity for all people. In a remarkable life spanning the civil rights movement to today’s human rights struggles, he stands as a voice for the voiceless. A prolific writer, he documents history’s wrongs and the struggle for dignity to provide a roadmap to a more humane future. Learn more at

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Election 2016 preview: State Senate, Assembly and US Congress Thu, 19 Nov 2015 17:57:12 +0000

Toni Atkins and Marty Block

Local races for the California legislature are often a snooze fest. Incumbents rarely lose, and the districts have a sufficient partisan lean that successors are anointed by the party or chosen in the primary.

Those trends appear likely to hold for incumbent Assemblymembers Marie Waldron (R-75), Brian Maienschein (R-77), Shirley Weber (D-79) and Lorena Gonzalez (D- 80). Councilmember Todd Gloria is poised to claim Speaker Toni Atkins’ (D-78) seat by the anointment route, but is working hard and taking no chances.

Assemblymember Rocky Chavez (R-76) is running for U.S. Senate, leaving an open seat. The race currently features two Republicans, Oceanside Councilmember Jerry Kern and businessman Phil Graham, but the right Democrat could have a chance. Republicans have a registration advantage, but there are enough Democrats and Decline to State voters to make it a contest.

The truly unusual race is for the 39th Senate District, where termed-out Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins is challenging incumbent Marty Block, a fellow Democrat. Some believe Block promised not to run for a second term, and so should make way for Atkins. Some think Atkins should stand down for Block, because any promises made were the unenforceable political kind. Some wish Atkins would run for mayor instead. The only things everyone seems to agree on is that this race that shouldn’t have happened, is going to happen, and is going to be expensive financially and politically.

Expect the race to be covered ad nauseam, because it provides an embarrassment of plot lines: Democrat vs. Democrat, incumbent vs. challenger, man vs. woman, lesbian vs straight, Assembly vs. Senate. Assuming Block and Atkins are the top two candidates in June; their face-off will run through to November.

(Note: State Senator Joel Anderson (R-38) is running for County Supervisor, but is not up for election and can retain his Senate seat if he loses.)

U.S Congress

Representative Susan Davis (D-53), Juan Vargas (D-51) and Duncan D. Hunter (R- 50) should cruise to re-election. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-49) is also a favorite to retain his seat, but his challenger, retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate could make things interesting if the election turns on security issues or the Republican presidential candidate is a particularly poor fit for California.

As in 2012 and 2014, most of the action will be in the 52nd District, where Democratic Rep. Scott Peters is running for a third term. Republicans appeared united around Marine Veteran Jacquie Atkinson, but the recent entry of Denise Gitsham suggests some dissent in the GOP ranks. Progressive Democrats weren’t happy with Peters’ support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but it fits both his image as a business-minded Democrat and his swing district, which is split nearly evenly between Democrats, Republicans and Decline to State voters. Having beaten an incumbent in 2012 and a high profile challenger in the Republican wave of 2014, Peters’ toughest elections may be behind him. Unless Democrats implode nationally, Peters has a good chance to win with his largest margin yet and still be one of the closer races of the night.

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How churches view gays in 2015 Sun, 15 Nov 2015 20:30:12 +0000

“Although fundamentalists and many others equate homosexuality with sin, it’s generally agreed there has been a softening in the positions of some churches, and a re-examination of homosexuality in many others.”

That was the opinion expressed in an article from the San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle in 1977. Since then religious fundamentalism has grown into a major political force in Washington and in many states. Internal debate on inclusion of LGBT members led mainstream churches to greater acceptance and diversity among congregations.

This “diversity” led many churchgoers to abandon their church in favor of more fundamentalist churches. Freedom of religion, religious liberty laws, and variations, prevent state or federal interference in church polity. That is as it should be.

Mainstream churches “softened” their views on gays by internal debate. The same change can occur in fundamentalist churches. Which century remains the question.

As a youth in the Deep South, I saw mainstream resistance to inclusion of African Americans in white-only churches fade with passage and enforcement of state and federal civil rights legislation. Inclusion of the disabled, and church accessibility, arrived in the same manner. There were always some churches that voluntarily allowed inclusion of African Americans and the disabled, but they were in the minority of the faith movement in the Deep South.

Dixie churches became more tolerant because of laws, commitment to Christian faith, and a willingness to embrace diversity regarding African Americans, other people of color, and the disabled. Efforts by mainstream Dixie churches to act similarly for the LGBT community of faith caused an exodus of members to fundamentalist churches.

To an extent, LGBT people of faith, rejected by their own churches, opted for more accepting churches and voted with their feet by going to the predominantly LGBT Metropolitan Community Church, founded by Rev. Troy Perry in the late 1960s, and more liberal minded and accepting mainstream churches.

Despite religious progress toward LGBT inclusion by most American churches, significant work needs to occur to bring greater inclusion. Many LGBT organizations and individuals seemingly have written off religious institutions as an area for advocacy. It is always a bad idea to ignore any community in a broad struggle for greater social acceptance.

Fundamentalists may have written off the LGBT community, but it is poor strategy for the reverse to occur. Leadership is needed to work toward LGBT inclusion among religious faiths that have traditionally practiced exclusion Christianity. The reason should be obvious: If not challenged, exclusion, and the hateful stereotypes it fosters, grows. As religious exclusion grows, LGBT workplace discrimination grows. Similarly, political resistance to LGBT issues grows and social and economic progress is, as it has been for decades, stymied.

The LGBT movement cannot afford inertia on fundamental social and economic issues vital to its members and their families. Leadership in the LGBT community must mature and work cooperatively to find solutions to long lingering problems.

The history of the civil rights struggle for minorities in the United States is a series of compromises until just legislation provides, on paper anyway, relief from discrimination. Compromising justice is never easy for those hurt by discrimination.

As one who has tasted the bitterness of workplace discrimination and felt the economic consequences, compromise was never in my mind, vocabulary, bargaining positions, or demand letters.  Leadership and progress are dependent on creative thinking, logic and strategy to get to mutually acceptable and just resolutions of complex issues regarding sexuality.

The inner order of America intrigued De Tocqueville who, in the 1830s, famously observed, “Patriotism and religion are the only things which will make the whole body of citizens go persistently forward towards the same goal.” This observation is historically accurate nearly 200 years later.

One, however, cannot force progress for LGBT Americans as patriotism and religion circa 2015 have a far different meaning among Americans, such as those who compare anti-marriage Kentucky clerk Kim Davis to civil rights icon Rosa Parks, than De Tocqueville encountered when our nation was in its infancy.

Human Rights Advocate Jim Patterson is a writer, speaker, and lifelong diplomat for dignity for all people. In a remarkable life spanning the civil rights movement to today’s human rights struggles, he stands as a voice for the voiceless. A prolific writer, he documents history’s wrongs and the struggle for dignity to provide a roadmap to a more humane future. Learn more at

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Chief Kolender: A friend of our community Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:26:22 +0000

Bill Kolender

Bill Kolender followed a police chief who was known to be racist, sexist and homophobic. Bill changed the police force toward what it is today. Chief Kolender was the first to reach out to our community and appoint a “Gay Liaison.” I attended the first meeting of a police chief and gay and lesbian activists and soon we became friends. I asked him once why he seemed to understand discrimination and bias and he laughed and said, “You do know I’m Jewish.”

We established a good relationship from around 1976 to his retirement as sheriff, and a few years ago he was honored at the Nicky Awards.

I will never forget a crazy incident with the son of the then publisher of the Union Tribune … yes, David Copley, that I helped him with, but that’s for my book!

Chief Kolender made the first real police outreach to the Latino, gay and black communities. He was a good man and a true leader of people. Susan Jester and I attended his memorial.

LGBT veterans honored

Five years ago I went to The Center and Dr. Delores Jacobs and asked them to support my project for a wall honoring LGBT San Diego veterans, and the rest is history. The fifth annual presentation of the 2015 inductees on the Benjamin F. Dillingham III and Bridget Wilson LGBT Veterans Wall of Honor drew the biggest crowd ever. Congratulations to the co-chairs of the Veterans Advisory Council, Evelyn Thomas and Jacqueline Atkinson, who along with their hard-working council members did an outstanding job. Keynote Speaker Kathleen Hansen, USN (Ret.) really moved all of us in attendance and Sen. Chris Kehoe was also a special guest of honor.

Congratulations to the 2015 inductees: Mitchel Cantell, USA; Diane M. “Semo” Cimochowicz, USN; Alberto Cortez, USN; Phyllis A. Daugherty, USAF; Camille Emily Davidson, USAF; Jackie K. Jackson, USN; Lester Lefkowitz, USA; Trent Lozano-Osier, USN; Gordon K. Wahl, USAF; and Donna F. Walker, USN. They also gave some of the most moving remarks and shared their personal histories. It was one of the most prideful events I’ve ever attended.

Thank you to the staff of The Center, especially Benny, Amber, Carolina and Rebekah.

LGBT Democrats celebrate 40 years of activism

San Diego Democrats for Equality (formerly the San Diego Democratic Club) celebrated their 40th anniversary at the Prado Ballroom with a Saturday brunch. For over four decades this club has been greatly responsible for our LGBT community’s civil rights and equality advances in San Diego.

I may not always agree with this club’s political stands, but they very much have earned and deserve our respect and admiration for their leadership and activism. Long-time community activist Maureen Steiner was rightly honored. Special guests were three speakers of the California State Assembly (past and present) Antonio Villaraigosa, John A. Perez, and of course our current speaker and future state senator, Toni Atkins. Congratulations to all the members and President David Warmoth, Will Rodriguez Kennedy, Craig Roberts and all of the current officers.

Sitting at my table were long-time friends, past club Presidents Doug Case, Larry Baza and Stephen Whitburn. Laura Finks looked smashing by the way.

S.D.H.D.F. Awards Gala a five-star event!

The 2015 Aston-Brooks Awards Gala put on by the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation was most certainly the event of the year… fabulous and flawless! Outstanding live entertainment, great honorees: Wilson Cruz, Kurt Cunningham and Bishop Carol Bean. Cruz gave the best acceptance speech! (Well, he is one of my sons.) The food was absolutely the best I’ve had all year and let me tell you I’ve been to countless gala dinners.

Take a bow San Diego Hilton Resort and Spa. Bravo to James Vasquez, Jerry Strayve, Drew Liam Jack, John Brown and all of the S.D.H.D.F leadership board and wonderful volunteers.

27th annual Scott Carlson Thanksgiving Dinner

The Imperial Court de San Diego will once again host the 27th annual Scott Carlson Dinner at The LGBT Center. Everyone is welcomed, especially those living with HIV-AIDS, cancer, seniors, the homeless, families, youth and those finding themselves alone on this special day. A big thank you to Ben Dillingham, The Rob Benzon Foundation, Hillcrest Pharmacy, Sarah and the staff at the Redwing, Human Dignity Foundation, S.D.B.G.A., Mayor Faulconer, One San Diego, Robert Gleason, A.M.F, Nick Moede of Rich’s and Todd Gloria. Donations and volunteers are still needed. For more information, please call: 619-862-8654.

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A season of healthy change Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:26:09 +0000


It’s officially autumn! Our ongoing warm weather may attempt to trick us to believe in perpetual summer, yet we are all aware of the subtle differences of our shorter days and cooler evenings. Seasons change and so do we as individuals in our life journeys. Due to the nature of my work, I meet many people who have made powerful, courageous changes in their lives. They have decided to turn from lifestyles which pulled them way off course and brought harm to themselves and others, and they turned instead toward living healthy, balanced lives, putting addictive behaviors behind them once and for all! As our natural environment is driven forward through the seasons by the laws of nature, the individual who has chosen a life free of substances drives herself into a season of healthy change.

My role as the director of outpatient services at Foundations San Diego allows me to interact with many inspiring people who have chosen this new season of positive change. One particular story I would like to tell today belongs to Chris Thomas, one of our therapists on staff. Chris holds a master’s degree in counseling and a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He has extensive experience working in addiction treatment as a residential counselor, outreach coordinator and director of support services. He has been a health educator and has worked in the participant accrual and retention department at UCSD HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center.

I am fortunate to have a compassionate professional team of licensed clinicians with whom I work who labor daily to provide treatment services to individuals in early recovery. Many individuals who have dedicated their entire professional careers to helping others have themselves been on a journey of returning to their authentic self. Chris Thomas has graciously agreed to contribute his story to this month’s column. You may be struggling with your own secrets, and you may well know how those secrets are major roadblocks to living a balanced healthy life.

From the desk of Chris Thomas: As a gay man who has been sober since Sept. 13, 1994, I understand the unique challenges to recovery such as HIV, Hepatitis B and C and co-occurring mental health disorders. I understand the high addiction rates in the LGBT community. There is an increased amount of shame and guilt that stems from the coming out process. Many of our LGBT patients have experienced abandonment from their families, intolerance within their religion and a loss of identity. I believe that struggling with secrets, which becomes a way of life for many in an effort to stay safe in society, perpetuates shame and guilt. The shame and guilt an addict or alcoholic experiences is very similar. So in a way, many LGBT addicts and alcoholics are recreating the same pattern they lived while trying to hide their sexuality as they try to hide their addictions.

For many there is a sex-drug link. The Internet age has opened up immediate access to ways for individuals to connect quickly and often in unhealthy behaviors. Many in early recovery fall into Internet addictions and sexual compulsivity, which are cross-addictive. It can be very tough to stay sober while acting out sexually. There is a strong sex-drug link for many gay men. For example, recovering from methamphetamine addiction requires increased caution in the area of sexual compulsivity due to the sex-drug link. I guide all my patients around the ideas of establishing and setting realistic boundaries around sober sex. I encourage and teach about intimacy and courtship.

My work as a therapist at Foundations San Diego integrates its program with the best of the Hillcrest neighborhood. We are a resource for the LGBT community. If you or someone you know needs help and has a willingness to change, please reach out to us. We are dedicated to helping you from the moment you call, and we welcome you to join the recovery journey. Our staff is top notch. After my first week at our facility, I recall coming home, thinking, “Everyone is in the perfect position for his or her talents and abilities. They all work together so nicely, and I’m blessed to be part of this organization.” If you want to meet people you can trust – people who understand where you are and how to help you move forward in life – consider coming to see us at Foundations San Diego. You are safe with us.

Patricia Bathurst, LMFT, is the director of Foundations San Diego, an outpatient recovery facility located in Hillcrest at 3930 Fourth Ave., Suite 301, San Diego, CA 92103. Ms. Bathurst is a certified advanced addiction counselor as well as a licensed marriage and family therapist. Questions for Pat? Contact Foundations San Diego at 619-321-1575.

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San Diego election 2016 preview: mayor and city attorney Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:26:04 +0000

Gretchen Newsom

With Election Day 2016 now less than a year away, it is time to take a break from presidential debate analysis and focus the next few columns on San Diego contests. In the past few weeks, new candidates have emerged in races that had been static for months. There will no doubt be a few minor additions to the slates, and perhaps a bombshell or two, but there is enough information to discuss the basic dynamics of most races. As in the past, I will use party affiliations though the races are technically non-partisan.

Mayor of San Diego

For most of 2015, it appeared that Mayor Faulconer would coast to a second term without significant opposition. Then Ocean Beach Town Council President Gretchen Newsom announced her candidacy. Newsom will need to increase her name recognition, but was labelled a “formidable challenger” by County Democratic Party Chair Francine Busby.

As or more significant than Newsom’s own campaign is the possibility that it will open the door for others. One of the alleged rationales for Democrats staying out of the race was that it would take at least two candidates to keep Faulconer from winning outright in the June primary. With Newsom in, will others reconsider their decision to stay out? A slate of candidates designed to engage various Democratic constituencies may be the best way to get someone through to the more progressive November electorate — a similar strategy got Stephen Whitburn to the general against Supervisor Ron Roberts in 2010. (Bombshell watch: Councilmember David Alvarez? Former Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher? Almost-mayor Donna Frye?)

Another wild-card is the fate of the Chargers. Voters who don’t want the city to pay for a new stadium shouldn’t take it out on the mayor when their team bolts, but they probably will. Candidates who were against public financing plans shouldn’t run on a “bring back the NFL platform,” but they can. Should the Chargers stay, the mayor probably deserves credit, but won’t get much. It’s totally unfair, but this is politics.

San Diego city attorney

When Faulconer was unopposed, the race for city attorney was shaping up as the top local contest for 2016. By summer 2015, the four major candidates had already announced: former Ethics Commission Chair Gil Cabrera, Port Commissioner Rafael Castellanos, Chief Deputy City Attorney Mara Elliott and Deputy District Attorney Robert Hickey.

As the lone Republican, Hickey has solidified his party’s support with endorsements from Mayor Faulconer and Councilmembers Zapf, Cate, Kersey and Sherman. Democratic Councilmembers are more split with Todd Gloria endorsing Cabrera, David Alvarez backing Castellanos and Marti Emerald supporting Mara Elliott. The Democratic dance will be interesting to watch in spring 2016, with the party wanting to ensure that a Democrat makes it to November and each candidate wanting to ensure that it is he or she. If recent revelations are any indication, this may be a battle of leaked opposition research.

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Keeping the names of those killed due to anti-trans hate takes a toll Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:25:59 +0000

Gwen Smith

Every Nov. 20, here in San Diego we memorialize those people who’ve been killed due to anti-transgender hate. The day we do this is called the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, often referred to by the acronym TDOR.

Originally, the list of the dead was Americentric as Gwen Smith, who is credited with beginning that day of memorial and the starting of the list of the transgender dead, began by combing newspaper archives across the U.S. for murdered transgender people. Within a few years, people began finding murders of transgender people in other countries, as well as people who were killed for gender nonconformity – especially in English language news publications. The list began to be international.

Then, transgender people in other nations began holding TDORs, and began submitting names from their nations to the list Gwen started.

Maintaining the list takes an emotional toll; however, and after a few years of maintaining the original, official list Gwen passed the maintaining of the list to Ethan St. Pierre, who assisted Gwen with the list. Not only is Ethan a trans man, but he has a transgender aunt on the list. For him, maintaining the list had immense, personal importance.

Ethan too felt that emotional toll after a number of years maintaining the list, and four years ago he passed the maintenance of the list to Marti Abernathey, who was at that point assisting Ethan with the list. The official list is currently maintained on

“People would ask me ‘How do you decide what goes in and what doesn’t?’ Part of it definitely is, you know, because of the brutality,” Marti said in an LGBT Weekly interview with me. “Part of it is because the crimes are so horrific.”

“That’s just part of it, but it’s a component. It’s not something that’s easy to do,” she added referring to maintaining the list.

I asked Marti how she could maintain the list. “I’ve been conditioned to do this in a way. I’ve worked in healthcare for going on a quarter century, and there’s a similarity between the trauma and finding ways to cope with it that aren’t destructive.”

TDORs, as time went on, began being held in countries outside of the United States. And, with those names came stories that weren’t in English, and weren’t necessarily in keeping with the original framework of what names were to be recorded.

And as time has gone on, a number of trans people have wanted to expand the scope of the list.

“I kind of try to stick to the framework that Gwen and Ethan followed,” Marti said. “People who record names will include domestic violence and suicides, and generally we don’t include either. I feel, let me put it to you this way, I see both sides in inclusion and not inclusion, but when I think of why the list was started and why it’s needed today, it’s still to me … there’s a difference between someone who takes their own life because of discrimination and someone who was simply murdered because they were living their life and their lives were taken.

“I frequently get emails from people who say ‘This person should be on the list,’ and generally what I’ll say is ‘If that’s what you think, this is just a list. You can add to it or subtract to your event as you see fit.’ I’m just trying to get through [maintaining the list] in the framework of the original intent.

“When this started, you have to think about the people who were being murdered – Rita Hester and Channel Picket. These were people who were murdered and no one cared. I think you can go to the Web site, and I believe you can see Gwen saying she just wanted somebody to remember them.”

In other words, both kinds of deaths are significant. Which deaths of those killed by anti-transgender hate and violence we memorialize Nov. 20 each year locally is subject to local discussion.

Marti wants to pass the list to a group of people to maintain it. “People think it’s some organization maintaining the list, but right now it’s just me.

“This year has been really busy. Next year my hope is to get The TransAdvocate and TDOR incorporated. I have some ideas about TDOR – my goal for this is for this to be my last year of doing the name collection. That would be my hope and that we could find of a team of … well, a majority [of the names on the list] are people of color. And, everyone who’s maintained the list so far has been Caucasian. But that may be a hard dream to make happen.

“To be honest with you,” Marti added, “I’ll let you in on a secret. Nobody wants to do this. I’ve put out calls multiple times asking people for help, but … I don’t blame them.”

Keeping the names of those killed due to anti-transgender hate takes a toll.

Personally, I used to archive news for transgendernews, but I had to stop after being one who had to forward names of the dead to the TDOR list. I used to participate in organizing the TDOR memorial events in San Diego, but it eventually became too hard to do year after year. It takes a toll.

I can only hope Marti finds a group of people, incorporated under the TransAdvocate/ TDOR collaboration, to maintain the list. I hope too it will include people of color, and I hope the people will rotate through so that none will become too overwhelmed with the burdens of maintaining the list.

But the transgender community needs to know that the list of the dead we read each year isn’t maintained by robots, or even a group of trans people. The official list of the dead is maintained by just one woman. That’s an awful lot of burden for just one woman to carry for the entire trans community.

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Pope Francis’ blessing of Kim Davis was bad news for marriage equality Sun, 01 Nov 2015 19:30:32 +0000

Davis_PopeFear of “special rights” for LGBT Americans to sexualize workplaces, schools, and churches set back the cause of equal rights decades. Those who opposed “special rights” did so more effectively than those who supported equality.

Pope Francis, just before departing the U.S., bestowed special rites on Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, whom some liken to Montgomery bus boycotter Rosa Parks who stood up for civil rights by sitting down and refusing to relinquish her seat at the front of the bus to a white man. For this “crime,” Rosa Parks was arrested in Alabama and became internationally beloved.

Rosa Louise McCauley, born in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1913, was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 2008. She died in 2005.

The civil rights movement in Alabama, and in broader America, circa the 1950s was seen as a just religious cause. Faith leaders from most denominations marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to end segregation, which had poisoned too many minds for too many years.

The gay rights movement had little support from mainstream faith leaders until the late 1990s. President Clinton’s promotion of the gay agenda met with resistance due to fears of special rights for gays. “Special rights” was always a loaded term. Even the presence of an openly gay professional man in a professional office was indicative of “special rights” to disgruntled or publicity seeking co-workers.

Publicity seeking comes to mind in the matter of clerk Kim Davis declaring her religious faith would not allow her in her capacity as a clerk to sign marriage certificates for same-sex couples in Rowan County, population 23,500, Kentucky. Publicity is publicity. Publicity can elevate a lowly unknown county clerk, like Davis, to a fundamentalist evangelical superstar who was blessed by a papal superstar.

Alabama Governor George C. Wallace got publicity by shouting the N-word in the 1960s. He denied saying it. Film from the era tells a different story. Wallace was bad publicity for Alabama and his political legacy, unless you happen to be a racist.

In 2015, clerk Davis is enjoying a bit of publicity based on a misguided view of religion. It is a religious view that condemns same sex relationships and marriage. It is religion by bumper sticker: Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.

It is a misguided religious view held by others in Kentucky, others in America, and others around the world. LGBT advocacy groups have focused on New York, California, and, lastly, in Washington DC. Small-town America, like Rowan County, Kentucky, Laramie, Wyoming, and Walkerton, Indiana, are holdouts against gay rights where people have a strong sense of right and wrong based on news footage from New York, California and Washington DC. Sadly, to the minds of many lawlessness = homosexuality. Further, logic takes to same sex marriage = End of Times.

I am the product of small-town America and saw same sex relationships and LGBT people in small towns. I do not mean to say the small towns I saw were LGBT paradises, but people got by or moved to larger, more accepting, cities.

Davis, though, is a reminder of our ugly past treatment of LGBT people and an indication of what is to come. Social media and those resistant to marriage equality will stand up by speaking out on their misguided religious views. They will even speak such views to the Pope and receive blessings for denying LGBT Christians the fundamental right to marry each other and become one in love and faith.

Pope Francis’ blessing of Davis was bad news for marriage equality. State and federal lawmakers who oppose the issue will take note and a harder stand in their opposition. Perhaps Davis, a newly registered Republican, will keynote the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Why not? She has Pope Francis’ blessing.

Human Rights Advocate Jim Patterson is a writer, speaker, and lifelong diplomat for dignity for all people. In a remarkable life spanning the civil rights movement to today’s human rights struggles, he stands as a voice for the voiceless. A prolific writer, he documents history’s wrongs and the struggle for dignity to provide a roadmap to a more humane future. Learn more at

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31 San Diegans gathered in Portland for Imperial Court 50th Gala Thu, 29 Oct 2015 20:28:34 +0000

Last weekend LGBT Royalty and friends from all over the United States, Canada and Mexico gathered in Portland, Ore. for a historic event: the 50th Anniversary of the International Imperial Court System (ICS), which now has chapters in over 68 cities in these great nations.

The elegant Governor’s Ballroom of the Sentinel Hotel hosted the “Golden Jubilee State Dinner and Gala” which drew such VIPS as: the Reverend Troy Perry (founder of the Metropolitan Community Church); Dennis and Judy Shepard (founders of the Matthew Shepard Foundation): Cleve Jones (founder of the Names Project and the AIDS Quilt); the Honorable Toni Atkins (speaker, California State Assembly); the Honorable Michael Connolly (Legislative Assembly, Canada); Stuart Milk (founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation); and Dustin Lance Black (Academy Award winner for the movie Milk); and many other elected officials and LGBT leaders from throughout the U.S.A., Canada and Mexico.

The Imperial Court System (I like to call it the gay Shriners or Elks of the Americas) was founded in 1965 by World War II veteran Jose Julio Sarria, who in 1961 became the first openly gay candidate to run for public office. Jose died in 2013 at the age of 91, and had named me “heir and successor” as the “titular head of state” and next year will mark the 10th anniversary of my assuming the role and the “throne.” Soon after her death, I established the “International Jose Julio Sarria Scholarship” and announced a $90,000 endowment for this international LGBT student scholarship program at the gala.

I had the honor of presiding over this historic event, and I was equally honored that 31 San Diegans travelled to Portland for this “State Dinner.” Among them were: Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, Councilman Todd Gloria, City Commissioner Robert Gleason (chair, Regional Port Authority); City Commissioner Bruce Abrams (chair, International Foreign Affairs Commission); Benjamin F. Dillingham (County Veterans Board); Sherman Mendoza (owner, The Caliph) Big Mike Phillips (president, Board of Directors of the Imperial Court de San Diego); Tom Dickerson (Emperor XL and former Mr. San Diego Leather); Mikie Too and Toni Saunders (Emperor and Empress XLII of the Imperial Court de San Diego) Empress V Morgana; Empress VII Jimmy Mountain; Empress XXV Roxie Bleu; Empress XLI Pearl; Empress XXXIII Lala Too; Empress XXXVIII Regina Styles and many other LGBT San Diegans, including Russell Roybal, now the deputy director of the N.L.G.B.T.Q. Task Force in Washington, D.C.

Of the many official sponsors of the International Imperial Court’s 50th Anniversary Gala was the historic Stonewall Inn for New York City!

El Centro and Oceanside

LGBT Californians are indeed living all over the Golden State and recently I attended two events in the cities of El Centro, and Oceanside.

The new “Imperial County Valley LGBT Resource Center” opened its doors for LGBT citizens of Imperial County and I had the honor of being asked to be a part of the ribbon cutting ceremony, and emcee the official event. Imperial County is about 90 percent Latino and there are no gay bars there, but certainly a very large and united LGBT community as this event brought forth a large crowd, including local government officials.

San Diego Pride’s very own Fernando Lopez (an El Centro native) was a keynote speaker and gave a rousing speech. It was so great to see this community come together and open their own LGBT Center. Congratulations to Rose Diaz, Eve Murguia and the entire board of directors.

I have been coming to Oceanside since the 1970s and have seen the struggles to organize the LGBT community … not anymore! North County has become a very well-organized and visible LGBT community and this year I traveled up there to help celebrate their annual Pride Festival, which for the second year was held in downtown Oceanside and attracts thousands. I had the honor to introduce Speaker of the State Assembly Toni Atkins who gave the keynote address.

Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood is one of the best public servants in North County and he told me recently he suffered two strokes, but is doing better. You’re the best mayor and thank you for your support of the LGBT community.

Creating Change Conference in San Diego?

The National L.G.B.T.Q. Task Force’s annual Creating Change Conference for LGBT activists, leaders and organizers has been drawing over 4,000 attendees these past two years and it may return to San Diego. (We hosted its 10th anniversary.) A local committee has formed to lobby the Task Force to bring this national LGBT conference of thousands back to San Diego in 2018, 2019 or 2020. Next year’s 28th annual conference will be held in Chicago.

Kurt Cunningham Celebration of Life

The Kurt Cunningham Celebration of Life will be held at The Center Sunday, Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. All are welcome. For more information, visit

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Will ‘Speaker’ Ryan unite a divided GOP? Thu, 29 Oct 2015 20:28:18 +0000

Paul Ryan

In an attempt to “clean out the barn,” as he put it, outgoing House Speaker John Boehner negotiated a deal that will raise spending, lift the debt ceiling and prevent a government shut down until 2017. Rep. Paul Ryan, who is likely to succeed Boehner as speaker, has attacked the deal.

This does not bode well.

I would have given Ryan the same advice about the Speakership that Rep. Kevin McCarthy apparently took: don’t do it.

Still, I had hope that Ryan might break the hard right’s strangle hold on moderate legislation. With his name circulating as the only potential speaker who could unite Republicans, Ryan showed sensible disinterest. As momentum grew behind the “draft Ryan” movement, he demanded that all factions of the party support him. He appeared poised to extract concessions from the conservative Freedom Caucus that resisted Boehner and McCarthy, including rule changes that would make him harder to oust. I secretly hoped he had met with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, so he could tell the hardliners which Democrats would vote for him, and what it would cost legislatively, if the Republicans didn’t get in line.

Sadly, the prospects of a more functional House have been sliding ever since, and Ryan’s opposition to the budget agreement is just the latest sign. First, he agreed to run without the endorsement of the Freedom Caucus. With an announced “supermajority” of their members supporting him, Ryan will likely have the votes he needs to get the speaker’s gavel, but to run without their official endorsement was a capitulation. Then it became clear that the rule changes were far from settled, including an end to the “vacate the chair” motion that dogged Boehner.

To be fair, Ryan attacked the deal-making process more than the deal, but has now said he will support it. But he should have just thanked Boehner for providing a clean start to his leadership and promised a more inclusive process. To slap Boehner on his way out means Ryan still feels obligated to score points with the members who wanted Boehner gone, along with his commitment to actually governing.

As long as Democrats hold the White House or 41 Senate seats, Ryan will eventually have to negotiate with them. Instead of trying to convince his party to accept that, Ryan is pretending it isn’t true. Thanks to Boehner’s resignation and subsequent deal making, Ryan may not have to upset conservatives until 2017. When he does, however, he has ensured he will face the same choice as Boehner: shut down the government or give up the gavel.

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Unknowingly protesting with a lesbian transphobe! Thu, 29 Oct 2015 20:28:13 +0000

Germaine Greer

Nov. 15, 2010, is the anniversary of when I participated with GetEQUAL in handcuffing myself to the White House fence for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). I’m not sure I’d do it now because of something someone said on my Facebook timeline this week that says something about them that is anathema not only to me, but to a large portion of the trans community.

Way over across the pond in the United Kingdom, a second wave feminist named Germaine Greer was scheduled to speak at the University of Cardiff. Because she stated in her book The Whole Woman that trans women are men “who believe they are women” because they have been “castrated,” she’s been identified as transphobic and a number students at the school objected to having her as a speaker. These students were so upset by the idea of her being a speaker at the school that one of them started a petition to have her “no-platformed” — in other words, not given a platform to speak at the university (or anywhere else, for that matter) because of her views on trans women.

Greer then went on BBC’s Newsnight and reiterated her “opinion” on trans women, stating, “I’m not saying that people should not be allowed to go through that procedure, what I’m saying is it doesn’t make them a woman.”

Greer withdrew on her own from speaking at Cardiff. She used an anti-gay slur to make her point: “Bugger it. It’s not that interesting or rewarding.”

I posted about all of this on my Facebook feed. I’m no fan of these trans exclusionary radical feminists, which were dubbed by other non-transgender feminists by the abbreviation TERF. Many trans women have embraced the abbreviation, myself among them.

Not every woman or feminist who is trans exclusionary is self-identified as radical, and many self-identified trans exclusionary radical feminists consider the term TERF to be a slur. TERF however, isn’t the only way to identify as trans exclusionary.

There’s a dog-whistle term, and it’s woman-born-woman, sometimes spelled womon-born-womon. The abbreviation for it is WBW. It’s a way of stating trans women aren’t female.

Perhaps the most famous of spaces where trans women weren’t ever welcome was the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Lisa Vogel, a co-founder of the festival and person who, till the last festival this past summer, never welcomed trans women, calling the desire to exclude trans women in the end “the intention.” History will no doubt remember her as a transphobic bigot.

Unfortunately, I found out Oct. 25 that one of the women I handcuffed myself to the White House fence with didn’t believe trans women were fully women. Mariam Ben-Shalom, one of the women who I was protesting with, used the WBW dog whistle on one of my Facebook posts on Germaine Greer.

“This is just another attempt, IMHO, to negate WBW, I think,” Ben-Shalom wrote in response to an essay by Helen Boyd, where Boyd wrote a feminist take on why trans women wore both women and female.” I am no TERF, but I feel that WBW are under attack not only from Dominionist Christians, but from trans-folk and their allies as well.”

I’ve literally been sick to my stomach since I read that. I participated in LGBT activism with a lesbian I now consider a dog-whistling transphobe. She might as well of called me a man.

What a sad commentary: I went to support my lesbian, gay and bisexual community when trans people didn’t have a stake in repealing DADT. I’m left with the feeling now that I wouldn’t have participated with GetEQUAL in that November trip to the White House fence if I knew there was a lesbian transphobe in the group I went with.

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Commentary: Segregation past and present Sun, 25 Oct 2015 14:00:29 +0000

Reports from near the first capital of the Confederate States of America (CSA), Montgomery, Alabama, show that LGBT couples in the Heart of Dixie, the state’s nickname, are being denied marriage licenses based on clerks emboldened by the momentary misguided political support surrounding superstar anti-marriage clerk Kim Davis.

Davis, a lifelong Democrat, recently captured headlines by politically switching to the GOP. What is it, I wonder, about the party of Abraham Lincoln, or is it the former party of Lincoln Ms. Davis finds so attractive?

Davis declares the Democratic Party left her behind, philosophically speaking, some time ago. Republicans departing their party, like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said the same. Likewise, former Democratic US Senator Joe Lieberman, the losing Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2000. Bloomberg and Lieberman had greater philosophical disagreements with their respective political parties than Davis.

Davis is the latest voice of “reason” to disagree with the United State Supreme Court decision ruling same-sex marriage legal nationally. The Kentucky marriage bureau clerk cites a strong religious objection to putting her sterling signature on legal marriages for couples about whom she objects should be united in Holy Matrimony by the State of Kentucky.

Kentucky, the Bluegrass State, has a popular motto: United We Stand, Divided We Fall. It is ironic Davis, possible memoir title “I am Kim!” does not understand the concept of unity and instead preaches division in Rowan County, Kentucky.

It is division, though, heard round the Deep South. Alabama marriage clerks, emboldened by Davis, and perhaps desirous of her cable TV fame now are “standing up” for their deep religious faith by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. This harkens back to Alabama’s troubled, complicated, and longstanding enforcement of segregation, or separation of the races.

My public Alabama high school did not integrate until the early 1970s despite federal laws and US Supreme Court decisions that rendered the poison of segregation illegal. Once integration occurred, private segregation academies blossomed to prevent the wind of change from fully ending segregation.

My white classmates left the public school system because their parents felt such an education would be worthless once integration was implemented. Teachers, they feared, would have to dumb down public education to accommodate black students who they felt were biologically suited for the cotton field, not the classroom. My parents took the opposite view that education for all would improve and racist tendencies of teachers would pass away. It is my experience my late parents were right.

The civil rights movement of the 1960s was really about sex, racists in Alabama argued. If segregation fell, black men would “go after,” in a sexual way, the white women. Word that then U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, Republican South Carolina, had decades earlier “gone after” a young black girl in a sexual way was still largely a secret save for the Thurmond family, including his mixed race daughter.

Integration, racists argued, would destabilize society, especially white society in the Deep South. They used the dumb down argument against marriage. Interracial marriage was sinful, and it was “against the teachings of Jesus Christ” one elderly cotton mill worker told me.

“It’s in the Bible, son,” the old guy said.

“What page?” I asked.

“Never you mind what page,” the old guy, angered, said grumpily.

My late father told me the Klan would cite the Bible to justify lynching and bombing churches, like the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963, and crude structures that were called schools for black kids.

Interracial marriage, the racists and those sad people who believed them, would result in mongrelization of the white race. At times, I heard adults say human race implying blacks not human. Strange days indeed, to quote a John Lennon lyric from “Nobody Told Me.”

Marriage licenses are being denied to all couples in several Alabama counties, probably because Kim Davis’ religious faith has greater standing in Alabama than does a legal decision issued by the US Supreme Court.

Obviously, same-sex marriage won’t result in mongrels unless the couples are of different races or want a child from a straight interracial couple. This sort of thinking, though, is ridiculous and amounts to state planning or control of people’s lives.

Mongrels of 2015 are those who distort logic, law, and religion. Kim Davis is temporary spokesperson, or prophet, for the mongrels.

The English Standard version of Matthew 7:15 advises: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” This passage applies to those who work to divide our nation when unity is needed.

Human Rights Advocate Jim Patterson is a writer, speaker, and lifelong diplomat for dignity for all people. In a remarkable life spanning the civil rights movement to today’s human rights struggles, he stands as a voice for the voiceless. A prolific writer, he documents history’s wrongs and the struggle for dignity to provide a roadmap to a more humane future. Learn more at

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My son, Kurt Cunningham Thu, 15 Oct 2015 19:00:35 +0000

Kurt Cunningham | Photo: Big Mike

Many of us in the LGBT community are blessed to have “two” families, one we were born into, and the one we have chosen. For those of us who have been rejected by many in our blood family, our chosen LGBT family has taken a most important position and meaning in our lives. Like many of you, I have felt the rejection of parents, grandparents and almost my entire family, but God has blessed me so very deeply with an LGBT family and friends almost my entire life. They have sustained me in my darkest hours and brought me joy, laughter and comfort. Some have become my sisters, brothers, and yes, some have become my sons and daughters and grandchildren.

Let me tell you about one of my beloved sons, Kurt Cunningham. I met him in his twenties when one day he pulled up in his car while I was walking to the Hillcrest Post Office and made a big mistake of offering me a ride and telling me how much he liked my weekly column in The Update. Kurt told me that he wanted to get involved in our gay community and the rest is history.

He started getting involved in different causes and projects and especially loved the Imperial Court. He started his involvement with the Court as a “prince” and wore uniforms and tried to fight off the “queen” growing inside him, but she soon took over and he told me one day that that his new drag name was “Summer Meadows” and he wanted to run for Empress. Of course he was elected and I gave him the royal symbol of the “Peacock Empress” which was the symbol of Empress I Tawny Tan, who had died of AIDS. Kurt’s mother stood right beside her son during his crowning. She was his rock; she showed him unconditional love and was his best friend. I will never forget when Kurt told me one Mother’s Day that he had two mommies and a few years ago when his mother passed he told me that he now only had one mommy and from that day on I reached out to him even more.

Kurt was upfront about his depression, mental illness and thoughts, and yes, about his attempts at suicide. He was upfront about his drug addiction struggle. Because of my own battles with depression and drug addiction, he would many times reach out to me and open up.

For a very long time Kurt battled depression. I remember visiting him in a hospital’s mental ward and he was there giving comfort to another patient! You see, throughout his decades of depression and loneliness, he was always still helping other people with their problems, always extending his hand in friendship and support. Yes, Kurt knew he wasn’t perfect and would sometimes get angry and lash out, but the noble deeds and caring this Peacock Empress, friend, brother, son and community activist did were endless. He was open about living with HIV-AIDS and devoted a lot of his time and talent to HIV-AIDS causes. He started a scholarship fund for handicapped people and loved our LGBT Center, volunteering at the front desk.

And Kurt Cunningham truly loved his LGBT family and friends and you all know who you are. He would tell me about all of you and your adventures and social outings. You will never know how much joy, laughter and meaning you all brought to his struggle to live. If it weren’t for you, we would have lost him years ago. Yes, it is true that Kurt left a seven page letter after his suicide … he was tired and could not fight any longer and none of us could have stopped him once his mind was made up.

But Kurt doesn’t want us to give up on each other but to reach out more to each other. He challenges us all to make more of a focus and education in our community on mental illness, depression, alcohol/drug addiction and suicide. The recent suicides of five San Diego transgender teens really got to him and he felt we were all letting down our youth and not doing enough for them.

Although my son Kurt Cunningham could not continue the fight for himself anymore, he demanded that we continue the fight for those who are suffering depression, alcohol/drug addiction and mental illness.

Sunday, Nov. 1 at our LGBT Community Center let us come together to celebrate Kurt Cunningham’s life and try to grant him his wish of a more loving and caring community.

You will always have a place in mommy’s heart … rest in peace, my son.

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The masks we wear Thu, 15 Oct 2015 19:00:23 +0000


Halloween is approaching! Masks and costumes are for sale in every store throughout our community! This is the spooky, scary, delightful time of year where the creative, fun-loving kid inside all of us gets to plan, develop and create our costume. Our individual and collective imaginations come together to experience one of our favorite times of the year in Hillcrest. After our Pride celebration in the summer, we have Nightmare on Normal Street, bringing out the best of our community’s creativity to scare and wow you with entertainment.

As a marriage and family therapist and a licensed advanced alcohol and drug counselor, I have met many wonderful people seeking to make significant changes in their lives to regain their lost hopes and dreams. These are our partners, wives, husbands, parents, neighbors, co-workers and friends. They come into treatment with the awareness of their substance abuse and its impact on the quality of their mental health. They come into treatment with a willingness to change, learn about substance dependency and unravel a life deeply affected by the ongoing use of alcohol and other drugs. Many of them present to us as quite “normal” on the outside, yet they are tormented internally by the knowledge of their dependence on substances to manage daily living.

Individuals come to treatment and often will state, “I don’t want anyone to know I am here.” They are referring to their concerns that, should others find out they are in treatment, those people will pass judgment on them. The individuals entering treatment are keenly aware of the cultural stigma of being someone who struggles with addiction and mental health issues. The secret life of their substance abuse has kept them isolated from the caring support of those closest to them. Addicts are experts at masking their truths. When a new patient comes through our doors, treatment professionals are often asked, “What do I have to change?” The answer is everything. From the obvious start of abstaining from addictive substances to beginning the journey of exploring what lies beneath the surface of her life, the person seeking to make change begins to have the opportunity to take off the many masks covering her authentic self.

The masks we wear can be largely positive and serve as useful coping mechanisms to help us manage the complexity of social situations and the demands of our lives. The masks of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population may be the learned protection to keep themselves safe from homophobia and shaming approaches. The masks gathered during the escalating abuse of substances further deepen the secret life of our LGBT suffering addict. No longer are the secrets functional, and the addict has achieved greater distance between who he is and he was prior to the untreated mental health issues and the increased dependency on substances to fit in and feel normal.

Left to our own best intentions, it can be incredibly challenging to make changes to behaviors we know are unhealthy and keep us detached from our authentic selves. As treatment professionals, we are fully behind an individual’s choice to make change. We recognize the need for safety and trust before anyone will be comfortable with even slightly exposing their most vulnerable areas of self. There have been enormous changes in how our society views the life of a gay person. I vividly recall how when I was a young lesbian woman and the thought of coming out to my family and co-workers seemed an overwhelming and risky task. For many years, my friends and I hid behind a lifestyle that kept our true authentic selves safely tucked away behind the mask. Letting others know who we truly were carried risk of rejection and judgment. Treatment centers were unknown to us in my young adult years. How wonderful that now, 40 plus years later, there are a plethora of options for any in our LGBT family who are seeking help!

As a treatment professional, I can now reach out to serve people who have decided it’s time to make a change. As a proud member of the LGBT family, I can be an integral part of designing treatment programs by listening and understanding the people coming to us for help. Foundations San Diego brings to the Hillcrest community a compassionate team of professionals to slowly but surely peel back the onion and remove the maladaptive masks. We are here to listen and to provide you the opportunity to join others in their journey to seek a life free of substance abuse. Be proud and make the decision today to shed those masks of addiction and other lifestyle choices that have pulled you away from the life you hoped to live.

Patricia Bathurst, LMFT, is the director of Foundations San Diego, an outpatient recovery facility located in Hillcrest at 3930 Fourth Ave., Suite 301, San Diego, CA 92103. Ms. Bathurst is a certified advanced addiction counselor as well as a licensed marriage and family therapist. Questions for Pat? Contact Foundations San Diego at 619-321-1575.

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Grading the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate performances Thu, 15 Oct 2015 19:00:20 +0000

Hillary Clinton

Tuesday night, the Democratic presidential candidates gathered in Las Vegas for their first debate, hosted by CNN and Facebook. Not much time was spent on education beyond free college, but that won’t stop everyone, including Politically Aware, from grading the performances.

CNN – D. The intro sequence sounded more like the opening to The Jerry Springer Show than a debate, and the Vegas gambling reference was corny. Anderson Cooper started a few awkward feet from his podium, the first signal he was off his game. He seemed to favor Clinton, letting her speak at length over his “time’s up” entreaties, instead of reminding her that she had agreed to the rules as he did with Sen. Webb. Cooper also seemed to insert himself, and new questions, just when exchanges were getting good. Keeping Don Lemon off camera until it was time for a Black Lives Matter question was awful.

Facebook gets an “Incomplete.” Facebook was used for few questions overall, and CNN seemed to consider them a nearly invisible partner, as evidenced by the relative number of logos visible throughout.

Hillary Clinton – A++. Clinton’s campaign no doubt gave her a list of things to get done. It’s hard to imagine a box she didn’t check. Presidential? Can you say Situation Room? Judgement? Yes, I voted for the Iraq war, and President Obama still picked me for secretary of state. Funny? It takes me a little longer in the bathroom. General election strategy? I’m sick of Republicans saying government isn’t the answer for anything but attacking a woman’s reproductive rights. Bonus points for getting her opponent to take the email issue off the table.

Clinton’s low points were on questions about health care and college tuition for undocumented immigrants and recreational marijuana. Her dodgy answers were painfully reminiscent of the driver’s license debacle of 2008, but wrapping her view in a state’s rights argument offers some insulation from Republican attacks. Her constant nodding at opponents and C-shape hand gestures were optically odd, but she had every right to walk off the stage, strike a Pitch Perfect pose, and yell, “Crushed it!”

Bernie Sanders – C. Like Clinton, Sanders checked most of the boxes on his to-do list. He got his message of a rigged system and income inequality out there, and clearly added items he hoped would broaden his appeal to people of color. Opponents landed a few punches about his gun control record, but nothing too damaging. He sounded like the fake Steinbrenner on Seinfeld, but that’s not his fault.

What he didn’t do was hit, much less take out, Clinton. Instead, he helped her multiple times. Sanders says he won’t run a negative campaign, and that the “revolution” and voter turnout will elect him and a governing coalition. Howard Dean and Ron Paul waited for that revolution. Unless he changes strategy or Clinton implodes, Sanders will do just what they did – energize the base and gift wrap it for the eventual nominee.

Martin O’Malley – A for Effort, B overall. Unlike Sanders, O’Malley did everything he could to change the dynamic of the race. He sounded intelligent and looked like the only leader from the next generation while seeming sufficiently presidential. He frequently took on Clinton and Sanders, using the exchanges to accrue the third most speaking time. O’Malley won the discussion of rights and services for undocumented immigrants, and his closing statement was the most uplifting set piece delivered all night. There was a certain Jimmy Stewart-esque aspect to his presence that was mostly endearing but occasionally off-putting. His biggest gaffe, that Assad invaded Syria (he is Syria’s President), went largely unnoticed.

Unfortunately for O’Malley, Clinton was too good and Sanders wasn’t too bad. O’Malley’s poll numbers will go up and he will be included in the next debate, but he’s a long way from beating Clinton or becoming her main competition.

Jim Webb – D-. As a veteran with administrative experience under President Reagan and elected experience as a Democratic Senator, Webb brings a unique perspective. His views on many issues are outside the Democratic mainstream, so he could have forced interesting and important discussions. Instead, he spent too much of the time he did have whining about the time he didn’t have or the “10 minutes” he had been waiting to speak.

If Webb somehow makes another debate, he needs to be less stilted, more gracious, and use whatever time he has to pound on national security issues, where is clearly the most comfortable and passionate. It’s unlikely Webb will get the opportunity. It’s hard to imagine the electorate that sent Gov. Rick Perry packing for blanking on the third agency he wanted to eliminate doing less to a candidate who stumbled over his daughters’ names.

Lincoln Chafee –  F. Chafee started the debate as a non-presence and ended it that way or worse. His main talking point was that he wasn’t attached to any scandals, which was an obvious and ineffective shot at Clinton and an open invitation for journalists nationwide to find something. There are many reasonable ways to deal a votes you may regret, but “I was new to the Senate and didn’t know better” (paraphrase) isn’t one of them. Sadly, that wasn’t even Chafee’s low point, which came when Clinton was asked if she wanted to respond to one of his comments. Seeming to speak for the entire debate hall, Clinton simply said “No” to considerable applause. The sixteenth President deserves better in a namesake.

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Calling out GoFundMe for allowing hate group to raise anti-trans funds Thu, 15 Oct 2015 19:00:15 +0000

An active anti-LGBT hate group is part of a coalition that’s raising money on GoFundMe to limit transgender people’s public use of restrooms in California.

Privacy For All is the coalition behind the proposed Limits On Use Of Facilities In Government Buildings And Businesses Initiative Statute (which they’re referring to as the “Personal Privacy Protection Act”), and they are currently leading a signature drive to put the proposed initiative on California’s fall 2016 ballot. One of the coalition’s organizations is the Pacific Justice Institute: a group identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an active anti-LGBT hate group.

The Pacific Justice Institute is the organization in the coalition that has taken credit for writing the text of the proposed initiative which states “a person shall use facilities in accordance with their biological sex in all government buildings,” and sets a minimum civil penalty of $4,000 for violating the statute.

Other groups in the coalition include the California Resource Institute, Faith and Public Policy, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills and ActRight (a national clearing house for conservative activists headed by the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian S. Brown), and Advocates For Faith And Freedom.

On their terms and conditions webpage, GoFundMe lists “Content associated with hate groups or terrorist organizations” under the header “What’s Not Allowed.”

This was after a late April blog post on their Web site where GoFundMe stated they would no longer host “discriminatory” campaigns. The change was in response to Sweet Cakes bakery in Gresham, Ore. raising funds to pay off a court imposed fine for violating an Oregon antidiscrimination law. Specifically, the bakery did not wish to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, and this violated the antidiscrimination protections of the state’s public accommodation law.

“To report a campaign that you believe violates the guidelines below,” the Terms and Conditions webpage states regarding violations, “please contact us at:”. However, if a site user goes to that link to make a report on a campaign, the only selection available for reporting a campaign is for fraud. Other terms and conditions violations aren’t listed, and there’s no “other” available for selection.

GoFundMe didn’t to respond to multiple press inquiries regarding the Privacy For All fundraising campaign. The two questions I asked that GoFundMe chose not to answer were 1.) I note that the terms of service states that hate groups can’t raise funds on GoFundMe, but the reporting system only allows reporting for fraud. I can find no ready means for a site user who notes that a hate group is using your site to raise money to notify you of that. Is there a ready means to report terms of service violations such as this that I’m missing? Is that an oversight that GoFundMe is going to correct? And 2.) Does GoFundMe have a statement regarding the Privacy For All coalition raising money on your Web site, given that a member of the coalition is an identified anti-LGBT hate group?

If a hate group participates in limiting transgender people’s use of bathrooms in government buildings that would seem to be a clear violation of GoFundMe’s terms and conditions. That GoFundMe hasn’t answered the question whether they believe it is or isn’t appears to indicate they’re dodging the question.

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Think outside of the closet: A coming out story … of sorts Mon, 12 Oct 2015 16:06:48 +0000

In honor of National Coming Out Day and the fact that I feel like this conversation has come up a lot in my life lately, I’d like to share my story and thoughts on coming out.

There are people that would say that I’m still in the closet because I’ve never had a sit down conversation with people about my sexuality. When you think about it, you could really say the same about straight people. They’ve never sat down with their mom and dad and told them they were straight. They just are. For myself personally, I don’t imagine myself in/out/next to/on top of/to the left/right of a closet in any way. (If I did have one, it would totally be like Cher’s in Clueless and design my outfits for me digitally everyday.)

At almost 30 years old, I’ve had a lot of things happen to me in my life. I’ve moved a lot, lost touch with people, forced people out and said goodbyes that I wasn’t ready for. I have also learned that the people that matter will stick around and, if they don’t, they were never worth it in the first place. In experiencing these things, I’ve learned to be selective with whom I keep close to me.

All of my long-term relationships have been with men (for the sake of a general term). I’ve never had the talk with my family and friends that I am also attracted to women, but I’ve never felt the need to. It’s not because I’m ashamed or I’m trying to hide it. It’s the fact that I feel like they already know through my other actions. I’m always on the front line for gay rights, I fly a rainbow flag at my desk, and I’m generally immersed in LGBT culture anywhere I go. Over the past years, I’ve grown very close with my dad. Even though we’ve never outright discussed it, he’ll call and ask me “How’s the love life? Any boys? Any girls?”

That being said, if I were to date a woman, I honestly with all my heart believe that no one would be shocked. If they reacted poorly, I have no time for them anyway.

There was a nasty rumor at my high school when I was around 14 or 15 that I was a lesbian. I got teased A LOT for a few weeks. Particularly I remember some boys in the library shoving a magazine in my face with a half naked woman and asking me if I liked what I saw. Luckily, rumors have short life spans, but it gave me an understanding of what all LGBT kids go through at school. Now I support charities like the Trevor Project and It Gets Better. Because it does.

I attempted to label myself at 17 years old as bi. I remember sitting at the Mexican restaurant with my friends at the time (who may or may not be reading this) and telling them that I was bi. They all looked at me, called me a liar and continued their conversation. That was tough. Friends in high school are delicate enough of a situation, and, being from a small town, I decided to let it go.

Being an organizational freak, it is my nature to label and organize and put things into boxes, but as I’ve grown older, my sexuality has been a large exception to that rule. As a femme girl as one would say, it’s very easy for society to see me as the norm (straight). There are some girls that would think of this as offensive and close minded. Not that I’m trying to oppose them, but I prefer to think of it as my secret weapon. My friend and I were discussing this morning the phenomenon in our society that knowledge is power, and how, sometimes, knowing things that other people don’t can benefit you greatly. My looks allow me to be a chameleon of sorts and conform when necessary. Sometimes I like to think of it as if I’m infiltrating the enemy.

In any case, labeling myself as bi/pan/queer/lesbian won’t add any benefit to my life as I see it. And, lesbihonest, the only people that should be concerned with my sexuality are myself and the person I’m sleeping with.

To sum everything up, my life up until now has been great. I’m glad that I’ve never labeled myself. Love is love, and you shouldn’t have to define yourself by preconceived societal notions (if you’ve ever seen me at Home Depot, you would know I don’t do that). I wish this for everyone. I hope that in fifty years, kids won’t have to come out to their parents, and they can bring their boyfriend or girlfriend home without fear of retribution or shame. Let’s tear the closet down and let some light in.

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Ending the stigma of HIV starts with changing what we think about each other Sat, 10 Oct 2015 19:30:27 +0000

iStock_000014529587“The worst thing you can do to another person is to pretend they don’t exist.”   Oprah Winfrey

First, let me start off by saying that the AIDS Walk 2015 was a great experience. It was well managed and the weather was great. With an unofficial theme of “Ending the Stigma” it was a great success. I applaud the forward action put forth by Ian Johnson and staff at The Center San Diego. However, it brought up some thoughts for me based on my experience in the LGBT community this year.

I recall years ago at the beginning of the epidemic, in our society in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, gays and lesbians were gaining ground in terms of social acceptance. I remember the trend being you were no one unless at least one gay or lesbian person ran in your crowd. It was, as we called it, “chic”. We were very popular in the bigger cities as the disco era was developing and beginning to happen.

HIV/AIDS – the silent killer was just around the corner. In fact, in the Manhattan social scene, the party scene, it began to be known that there was a disease festering among us, and that to the privileged, the rich and the famous, it was a good time to get out. The party was over, or at least about to come to an end. And it did.

That brief advancement of our community was short lived. We would soon have a dark cloud over us, a stigma attached to gay men that we were clearly facing a long, hard battle of a modern day plague of AIDS. When it first came along, it affected mostly gays, back alley junkies, prostitutes and generally people considered to be on the fringes of society. That is where the negative stigma was born.

Yes, I was one of the cats playing in the sandbox on Fire Island when the New York Times reported that a rare cancer affecting gay men in New York and San Francisco had shown up in 41 homosexuals. That’s how we were referred to at the time.

Today, we have come extremely far both in societal acceptance as well as HIV treatments, prolonging the lives of persons with HIV to say the least. Yet it still runs rampant in our community and new infections are at an all- time high. We all know the numbers and they are nauseating.

Bravo to all the participants in the #bethegeneration program, a cause committed to ending new infections in San Diego County by the year 2020. Illicit drug use and HIV infections are linked together like never before. Needle exchange programs are still not easy to access and remain against the law. I hope you are wondering why, when all this has been said and done, that I think it is necessary to bring up. Aren’t we all tired of HIV/AIDS in the press after a battering 20-30 years of coverage?

First of all, if we, all of us, are to make even a dent in new HIV infections, we are going to have to go through a radical change in our thinking and understanding of “those people”, you know, the ones still on the fringes of society. The homeless, the drug addicts, the mentally ill, etc. etc. The ones who hang out in front of the Center and cause trouble for everyone, and some are afraid of.

People suffering from addiction hold a consistent commonality to each other. They, by in large are the abused, and suffer ongoing abuse from our own community. We are our worst enemies.

According to Gabor Maté a well- known expert in the field of addiction and author of In the realm of Hungry Ghosts, many, if not all of his patients suffering from addiction have been either sexually, mentally, or physically abused, neglected, emotionally and otherwise abandoned.

In the formative years of the brain of a child, it seeks safety and a connection to the mother, without which, the child underdevelops key brain chemicals responsible for the feelings of attachment, a sense of love and belonging, an overall sense of well- being. In essence, developmentally disabled in these key brain functions. Let’s talk about what we see everyday.

These people, who belong to us and our society, someone’s brother, uncle, sister daughter, son and cousin, belong to us. As the great Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz says, “Nothing records a sad life as graphically as the human body.” They lose everything. They lose their teeth, money, standing in society, jobs, careers, relationships, marriages, beauty and health.

Yet, nothing, absolutely nothing can shake the addiction from them. They often die early from HIV, Hep C, infections of the heart valve, infections of the brain, spine, kidney failure, blood infections, overdose, suicide, violence and accidental deaths.

So, the question is not what’s wrong with the addiction, but what’s right with it. That’s right, what does it provide in these people that is missing in their lives?

Drugs by themselves are not addictive. What is addictive is the effect it produces. If the brain chemicals are not there to begin with or underdeveloped, and the person uses a chemical ,when these chemicals hit the brain, they provide an endorphine rush to the brain. It produces dopamine, providing a sense of peace, control and the calmness of a warm hug, the very things lacking in the first place; the things that are naturally in place for most of us. Is the person going to continue using these chemicals which solves their problem, temporary or not? You betcha!

Yet our society looks down on these people having lost everything.

They see other people going about their lives with a sense of ease and comfort and can only dream of. They believe it’s their fault they cannot. Most of society believes it’s their fault, so we treat them as such. So what’s the link between this and HIV? If someone with HIV feels no one cares for them, they do not inherently posess the ability it takes to care for another. Sociopathic, if not psychopathic.

Furthermore, when a person is under the influence, they tend to make poor choices and bad decisions about everything. Remember that last time you were drunk?

The stigma attached to drug addicts, homeless and mentally ill and hence HIV are often times, if not all times, the same thing. It’s the condition. One usually does not exist without the other. By perpetuating the stigma attached to “those people”, we are in essence perpetuating new cases of infection. Think about it.

Why then, I ask, are we expecting to reduce or stop new infections when we are side-stepping the heart of the matter?

Our collective mistake is to band-aid the problem instead of getting down to it. Here’s the big question: Do we clean it up or green it up. In the book entitled Green, by Yehuda Berg it explains the necessity of treating our problem at its core.

Our physical garbage and our emotional garbage are one in the same.

If we bury our garbage, it must not be there. What we do is pass our garbage to each other, thinking we are making progress. “Those people” scare us because they remind us of ourselves.

How many of us are 2-3 paychecks away from beginning a domino effect which can, very easily, result in the inability to cope with the problems that pile up and become astonishingly difficult to solve.

It is a delusion that we are cleaning ourselves up when in reality we are just exchanging our garbage. You know as well as I do that it is smoldering and festering somewhere. The excess sewage then seeps into the media, entertainment, politics and religion and so on.

In order to reduce and stop new infections, we have to change what we think about each other. Thats right.

Our collective conscience and what transpires through us as a result, will save lives and completely begin to heal ourselves at the core, and in turn save the planet as well .

My point is that the very people we scoff at become our most effective leaders. Often times we come from the worst of circumstances, that’s why they are our leaders. How many times have we heard Nicole Murray Ramirez speak about how she ran through the park on drugs and in drag from former police chief and former Mayor Jerry Sanders, a very funny story. Even Ian Johnson talks about being homeless, living out of his car and on drugs.

With enough time, patience, kindness and understanding, “those people” are tomorrow’s leaders. Bank on it.


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Mental health, gun violence and blame Wed, 07 Oct 2015 18:03:40 +0000

GunAnother mass shooting perpetrated by a young white man. I use that description because if these shootings were being perpetrated by young Latino or black men, it would be the headline but I digress before I really get started.

Another mass shooting by a person who is mentally unstable. There is plenty of blame to go around. Since many think I have a liberal bent, let me start with my liberal friends at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU has been a tireless advocate for the rights of the mentally ill, so much so that it is extremely difficult to, as my grandmother used to say, “put someone away.” In fact, the ACLU has said the goal should be “nothing less than the abolition of involuntary hospitalization.”

Now families have limited ability to take action when their loved ones exhibit bizarre behavior. To get their loved ones help is almost virtually impossible due to the rights of the mentally disabled. While I am for personal rights, why should the rights of the mentally disabled trample someone else’s right to live? Are we willing to let innocent lives be lost to protect a mentally unstable individual’s rights? The ACLU believes the answer to that question is yes.

The pendulum needs to swing in the other direction; families need to be able to more easily commit their loved ones who they believe are a danger to themselves or others. The liberal ACLU needs to admit their responsibility in the increase of mentally unstable individuals roaming our streets, some who perpetrate mass murder.

Then there is the GOP. The Republican Messiah, Ronald Reagan, bears some responsibility for the mentally unstable and homeless on the streets of America, particularly in California. In 1967, then Gov. Reagan signed into law a bill that made it extremely difficult to commit a loved one involuntarily. The result, homeless, mentally unstable people on the streets because they were released from mental hospitals with episodes of violence like mass shootings. As California goes, so does the nation. Other states adopted the California plan, all in the pursuit of saving money and reducing the size of government.

Then there are the so-called Second Amendment advocates. You should be able to buy a gun, anytime, anywhere. No background checks, no mental health screenings, no mandated licensing. So the mentally ill can easily purchase a gun and inflict carnage at the local school, mall or workplace. The unfortunate perfect storm.

The ACLU protects the rights of the mentally ill making it harder to commit a loved one, Ronald Reagan and the right created the release of the mentally ill from state run hospitals to save money and the gun lobby allows the mentally ill easy access to guns. Is it any wonder that mass shootings have so dramatically increased? Unfortunately, all of the stands taken by each of these interest groups seems intractable. That means we will be talking about another mass shooting in about 150 days. Then the conversation about what needs to be done will begin again. And nothing will change.

This commentary was first published on The Huffington Post Politics Blog 10/6/15

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SeaWorld trainer responds to PETA commentary Sun, 04 Oct 2015 14:30:53 +0000
Jorge Villa caring for a ill sea lion pup that he rescued earlier this year from a local beach.

Jorge Villa caring for a ill sea lion pup that he rescued earlier this year from a local beach.

I read with dismay the Sept. 3 guest commentary (San Diego LGBT Weekly issue 181) by PETA’s Gray Caskey urging the LGBT community to unite against SeaWorld.  I am a proud member of San Diego’s LGBT community, and I completely disagree with the distorted portrait Ms. Caskey painted of our park.  There is no organization that is more dedicated to the physical, social and mental health and well-being of animals, including killer whales, than SeaWorld.  I’ve had the honor of spending the last 20 years of my life at SeaWorld caring for some of the most incredible animals in the world. I know firsthand SeaWorld’s commitment to animals, because I live this truth every day.

My parents couldn’t afford to take my family to the Pacific Northwest to observe killer whales in the Puget Sound.  Instead, it was my elementary school teacher who held my hand while I encountered my first marine mammals.  It was an educational field trip to SeaWorld where I met Shamu, dolphins and other animals at the park.  That experience, even at a very young age, changed my life forever.  I knew that when I grew up I wanted to work with these amazing animals.  It took years of hard work and determination to earn a degree in psychology, gain animal care experience and learn how to swim.  One of the happiest days of my life was when earned a position within the zoological department at SeaWorld and ever since I have been committed to giving these animals the best care possible and sharing them with millions of visitors every year from all over the world.

I don’t make these comments casually.  During my two decades at SeaWorld, I’ve not only devoted my life to killer whales, dolphins, pilot whales and sea lions, but, as part of our Rescue Team, I’ve come to the aid of hundreds of ill and injured marine mammals stranded on the beaches of San Diego County.  Rescuing an animal that is near death, giving it a second chance at life, and returning it to the ocean is something I cherish.  I don’t do this because of a pay check. I, like my fellow trainers, do this because we love these animals.  Regardless if it’s day or night, weekends or holidays, I am there for our animals. The relationship and bond I have with them is very special and something I wish everyone could experience. When I have a chance to talk with our guests after a show, especially young kids, and I can connect them to our animals, I know I’m making a difference in their lives and helping them gain a better understanding of and respect for all animals.

As part of our ongoing commitment to the health and welfare of our animals, we will be spending $100 million to expand our killer whale habitat.  This will be the fourth expansion of their habitat here at the park.  We are also contributing $10 million to killer whale research.

I was offended by Ms. Caskey trying to draw a connection between the LGBT community’s struggle for equality and how we care for our animals. Such a comparison is beyond obtuse.  And her condemnation of Nicole Murray Ramirez, a San Diego icon, was equally insulting.  I want to thank Nicole for supporting SeaWorld and speaking the truth about all the great work we do as the real advocates for animals.

After 20 years at SeaWorld, I am as passionate about animals as I was when I was a little kid. The trainers I work with at the park not only share my passion, they have become my life-long friends.  Together, we spend most of our waking lives with our animals and we know that they are healthy and thriving.

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Marty Block broke his word. Atkins for Senate Thu, 01 Oct 2015 18:01:18 +0000

Former Speaker of the Assembly Willie Brown with current Speaker Toni Atkins

If you look up the words “integrity” and “honesty” in the political dictionary, you would probably find a picture of Toni Atkins right next to these two words. Atkins has never forgotten where she came from – the Appalachian mountains of Virginia, a coal miner’s daughter. She grew up in a home with no running water and her mother cooked on a wood stove, which also attempted to heat Toni and her three siblings during the winter. She had an outhouse in the back.

Toni Atkins has always loved being a public servant and before people talked her into running for office she ran three women’s health clinics. That’s how I met her when she asked me and the Imperial Court to please help raise funds for women who could not afford even a $75 breast exam for cancer. Before that, in Virginia, she cleaned hotel rooms, worked at a dry cleaning store, frame factory and, yes, even pumped gas at a local gas station.

It’s no surprise that many in California (especially homeless advocates) call Toni Atkins “the people’s speaker.” What both Republicans and Democrats say about Toni Atkins in our state capitol is that this Assembly speaker is a woman of her word and is honest.

Marty Block is from Chicago … need I say more? It is well known in political circles that it was Marty Block who approached Toni Atkins and pleaded with her not to run for the vacant senate seat and he gave his word that he planned to retire in 2016 and would only serve one term and would then support Atkins for Senate in 2016.

Well, like I said, Marty Block is from Chicago and we all know how far honesty and integrity and “your word” holds up in their kind of politics.

Marty Block is a nice enough man. He’s never been a leader, more of a follower. The cold hard fact is that Marty Block lied to Toni Atkins and did not keep his word. So I join Chis Kehoe, Todd Gloria, David Alvarez, Shirley Weber and San Diegans from all walks of life to support: “Toni Atkins for Senate 2016!” Honesty and integrity always beats out lies and broken promises.

Stonewall movie: The worst acting ever

While in San Francisco this past weekend for a history panel at the San Francisco Community Center which included Cleve Jones, soon to be a Marine Judge Advocate, Joseph Rocha took me to see the movie Stonewall. It’s not that this movie has become controversial and not told this historic story well (at least the producer has stated that his movie is fictional), this movie is a hot mess with some of the worst acting I have ever seen on a movie screen.

An actor who has just gotten beat up by a “trick” is so over the top that instead of feeling sorry for him, you find yourself laughing at such poor acting skills. And guess what, according to this movie the person who threw the first brick at the Stonewall Riots in 1969, was an Abercrombie & Fitch perfect blond built model from Indiana. Oh please, when pigs fly did it happen that way.

The budget for this movie must have been “food stamps” and the entire cast’s acting was so horrible that I am nominating this movie for the annual Razzie Awards: (worst movie and acting Oscars-like event). Director Roland Emmerich and writer Jon Robin Baitz hijacked this historic event (the Stonewall riots) and worst of all they picked the least talented actors they could find and made a really bad “B” movie of it all.

A San Francisco weekend

Little did I know when I arrived in San Francisco for a speaking engagement and charity event that it was the same weekend of the very gay annual event Folsom Street Fair, which attracts over 200,000 people (71 percent non-San Franciscans), with a $180 million boost to the local economy. Although I didn’t go to the Fair, I did bump into a lot of San Diegans at my hotel and on the streets.

During my five-day visit of events, meetings, etc., I had the honor of presenting awards to The Bay Area Reporter, The San Francisco Bay Times, the Alexander Hamilton American Legion Post 448, San Francisco Night Ministry, 88-year-old gay veteran Robert Potter, historian photographer “Rink,” Bay Times publishers Dr. Betty L. Sullivan and Jennifer L. Viegas, Bay Area Reporter Assistant News Editor Mathew Bajko and the Founder of the Screen Actor’s Guild’s LGBT committee, Jason Stuart.

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Why McCarthy would be wise to keep his current job Thu, 01 Oct 2015 18:01:05 +0000

Kevin McCarthy

In the wake of House Speaker John Boehner’s announcement of his retirement at the end of the month, political insiders think that his second in command, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, has the inside track to take the gavel. That may be true, but McCarthy would be wiser to keep his current job and elect a speaker from the far right of the party.

Boehner made it clear that he is retiring, at least in part, because of conflicts with the conservative members of his caucus. In January, 25 of his Republican colleagues voted against his election as speaker. One member filed a motion that he “vacate the chair” earlier this year. Their reason? Boehner isn’t conservative enough.

Never mind that he blocked moderate legislation that passed the Senate, like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and Immigration Reform. Forget that he enacted the budget slashing “sequester” and preserved many of the Bush tax cuts. Leading the party to its largest House majority in decades? Doesn’t matter. Boehner didn’t repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood or refuse to raise the debt ceiling, so the most conservative members of his party wanted him out.

The problem is that no Republican could do those things, which is why Boehner called those conservatives “false prophets” who “whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things they know … are never going to happen.” As long as there remains a Senate filibuster for legislation, 41 united Democrats can block any such action. If they choose to let it pass, a Democratic president would still veto the measure.

Boehner has already admitted that he will likely need Democratic votes to fund the government this year. The only other option would be to shut down the government until the president gives in, which he won’t, because presidents tend to win shutdowns as Americans rally around their leader. The 2013 shutdown didn’t hurt Republicans at the ballot box in 2014, but things could be very different in a presidential election year.

Should he become speaker, Rep. McCarthy will face the same facts. He may have a more effective leadership style or better relationships, but he won’t be able to get conservatives what they want as long as there are 41 Democrats in the Senate or one in the White House. The moment McCarthy has to compromise to get something passed, Boehner’s enemies will start calling for his head.

Which is why McCarthy should keep his current job, play the good soldier, and offer to show a more conservative speaker the ropes. Eventually the hard right will be forced to face reality by one of their own or voted out after endless government shutdowns. Either way, McCarthy will then be well placed to start a more productive and less stressful term as speaker.

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Traveling by air while trans Thu, 01 Oct 2015 18:00:58 +0000


When Shadi Petosky entered into TSA screening to take to the air at Orlando International Airport Sept. 21, she did so with the presumption she had a terrorist body – whether she knew it or not.

She may have never been singled out in exactly that way before, or talked to in the way she had been talked to by a TSA agent in that way before, but that didn’t mean her body wasn’t a terrorist body.

“Male bombers may dress as females in order to discourage scrutiny,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a security advisory in 2003. In countries where women wear niqabs and burqas – such as in the Middle East – male suicide bombers have dressed in these and have hidden improvised explosive devises (IEDs). They have discouraged scrutiny in order to take lives and cause terror.

The DHS threat in that advisory was worded much more broadly so that trans women who live in America – the vast majority who don’t dress in niqabs and burqas – quietly had their bodies defined as terrorist bodies. And, when trans people fly, the DHS mindset changed from one of discouraged scrutiny to heightened scrutiny.

The DHS advisory has long since been identified as outdated and obsolete, but in the sense of the mindset that trans people are inherently threatening it hasn’t. Secure Flight added gender to the list of identifying characteristics air travelers need to provide to airlines when buying a ticket, ostensively to be used as a tool to help make sure that people who have similar names to those on the U.S. no fly list aren’t inadvertently denied the ability to fly. But, it also inadvertently reinforces western societal gender expression norms.

Transgender people’s gender markers on their state identification cards don’t always match their expressed gender. Without invasive genital surgeries that are often beyond many transgender people’s economic reach – and often unwanted because these are so invasive – many can’t change the gender markers on their IDs. Someone with an M on their presented identification card who presents as female, and vice versa, can raise a red flag.

Addressing the gender marker issue on official ID cards, the Department of State changed their passport issuance rules in 2009. Under the changed rules, a transgender person can obtain a passport and/or a passport card that matches their gender identities without invasive surgeries. This addresses the TSA secure gender matching issue regarding gender identity and expressed gender.

But gender markers don’t address bodies.

On Christmas Day, 2009, Umar Abdulmutallab, who’s better known now to most Americans as the Underwear Bomber, boarded a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, Mich. He turned what’s between the legs of all air travelers in the U.S. to a TSA concern.

Now one’s “junk” isn’t off limits.

And, that mattered when Shadi Petosky entered into TSA screening to take to the air at Orlando International Airport Sept 21.

Electronic scanners, while not seeing the full anatomy of people anymore as they did in 2010 when first introduced, are set to check stereotypical male and female bodies: the software literally has a pink button for females and a blue button for males on a touch screen. Since trans bodies don’t always align to the standard sex norms, a trans body’s groin area can read as an anomaly.

And that’s not even including prosthetics, such as binders, breast forms and hair pieces. These too can identify a trans body as a body that may be a terrorist body.

There are aggressive full body searches that can be opted for as either an alternative for the electronic body scan, or required if the electronic body scan shows up with an anomaly that indicates an air traveler should be treated with heightened scrutiny. But once this occurs, a trans traveler inevitably needs to out themself to the TSA agents. Often, the reaction of these agents isn’t culturally sensitive. That’s also what Shadi Petosky experienced.

Without a doubt, we want as safe an airline experience as possible; we don’t want another 9/11 or a bomb going off mid-flight.

But somehow, there must be a way to do this without the presumption that trans people are male bombers dressing as females in order to discourage scrutiny, or at least in a way that’s more culturally sensitive.

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My queer relationship with Jesse Helms Mon, 21 Sep 2015 01:45:33 +0000
Jesse Helms

Jesse Helms

I had many reasons to enjoy a successful and meaningful career as a gay diplomat with the United States government. I traveled widely and enjoyed the company of other diplomats, foreign professionals and international businesspeople.

I had intestinal parasites, robberies and anti-American types who pointed guns at me and threatened me with knives.   My worst and longest lasting fallout came from several Washington encounters with Jesse Helms, a member and later Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The joy of sexual relationships largely ended for me in July 1994 when GOP North Carolina senator took the Senate floor and CSPAN cameras to out me as “an activist in the homosexual movement” and for illegally, according to him, “promoting the gay agenda” in the federal workplace.

The senator prided himself on his bias against the “disgusting” LGBT community. He opposed gay and lesbian presidential nominees to federal posts requiring Senate approval. He expressed outrage that “militant” homosexuals, like me, be considered fit to work for the U.S. government. He also opposed straight political allies of the LGBT community.

Many high level federal members of the LGBT community in Washington feared Helms and refused to come out of the closet in the highly politicized government workplace. I was not one of them. My late father, a Korean veteran, served with the Alabama National Guard during the violent civil rights struggle in the state.

The courage of the Alabama Guard and my late father in backing down the Ku Klux Klan at the historic civil rights events , including the third Selma march in 1965, were strong examples to me where taking a stand against injustice was right for people and history.

Though I was out to my friends, coworkers and family, I was not out to the world until Jesse Helms did me the honor on CSPAN. This “honor” changed my working relationships with other diplomats and civil servants. They considered me a professional embarrassment and unfit to serve abroad. I was a mistake and, since senior diplomats dared not cross Clinton administration policies on gays and lesbians, they would not fire me. They would let Helms do the dirty work. Former trusted colleagues became just that “former trusted colleagues.”

Anonymous notes on my desk and telephone calls let me know management would find a way to support and satisfy Jesse Helms in getting rid of me. Supportive secretaries called me at home after work and told me of a management plan to accuse me of a violation of a federal workplace policy the next day. “Call in sick,” they advised, “until the plan falls through.”

A fax by a supportive coworker named another coworker with an intention of documenting a sex in the workplace case against me. “I strongly urge you to watch your back,” she wrote.

My long-term relationship with a Hong Kong medical doctor began to suffer in the bedroom and at social functions at Washington embassies and clubs. I sought medical help from a Nigerian psychiatrist and received a depression diagnosis.

Though I was superbly qualified for my diplomatic position, I could not understand why the government would support Helms and aggressively work to end my career. . That was the power of workplace bigotry in the 1990s. I became confused, angry and emotionally upset.

The depression affected my relationship with my partner. During a bitter fight initiated over Helms and the nightmares I began having about the bigot, I ended our relationship and moved from our suburban Maryland home to live with friends in Georgetown. I tried to ignore Helms, turn the page, and move on. If only events and depression would have let me.

When I went to my favorite DuPont Circle restaurants alone, I could not eat. The many happy gay and lesbian couples at nearby tables further depressed me. Though I could see the happiness, I could not enjoy friendships and relationships of my own due to the depression over Helms and my hostile workplace.

At the office, long and difficult work assignments disappeared from my desk and I was forced to stay late to recover my lost work. Leaving my office one evening, I found my car vandalized. In desperation, I screamed aloud for no one’s benefit but mine.

I felt isolated, alone and frightened by constantly having “to watch my back.” I could not focus on a movie in a theater or a play at the Kennedy Center. If I invited a gay friend to a concert, I found conversation, formerly enjoyable, impossible.

The situation at work was not just chilly but frozen in fear and bias due to the horror colleagues had that Helms might target them for helping me promote the gay agenda in the federal workplace. The silence was deafening.

I learned the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” he once said.

Helms-related nightmares and telephone death threats late at night disrupted my sleep and concentration at work. One strange man called late at night and claimed to have worked with me earlier in my career. He had a package he wanted to mail me. He said it contained important information on the LGBT movement for justice in the federal workplace.

I did not recall the man and his call came during the Unabomber mailings. I was suspicious of the call and any potential package that might arrive. I asked him not to mail any packages to me.

“Who should I mail it to?” he asked.

If it were truly important, as he stated, I suggested he send it to the White House. I figured if the package were dangerous, the Secret Service would intercept it and arrest the sender.

During free time and weekends I tried to make new friends and find romance, if only briefly. I sat on a bench at the famous DuPont Circle fountain and watched others without energy or interest to pursue or to be pursued. I feared a failed relationship and ruining another man’s life with my Helms problems. I felt no one would understand my complicated personal and mental situation. For the first time in my life, I was completely alone.

I had a few one-night stand sexual encounters that resulted in abuse, unsafe sex, and drugs. I eventually placed my sex life on hold until I recovered from depression. It took longer than I expected as I continued to work with my Nigerian psychiatrist.

Eventually my dreams turned to a sexual nature. They went like this. I would meet a nice looking international man in a restaurant or gay bar. We would strike up a conversation, determine sexual compatibility, and return to his apartment. In bed, as my lover and I became passionate, I looked into his face and it was the face of Helms. Jesse was violating me in my dream as he had violated my career from the senate, my psychiatrist offered in explanation.

The Helms dream would not stop and I dreaded sleep and the loss of consciousness that brought me into bed with the hideous and hateful Helms. I explained this to my psychiatrist and he offered stronger sleeping medicine. I took the medicine with little success in alleviating Helms from my mind.

In order to rid myself of Helms and the devastating depression resulting from his bigotry, I sought help from church groups, gay support groups, and physicians who suggested I travel and gain new experiences to displace the horrific Helms experience on my sex life and professional career. Thus, I became a workaholic to defeat the demon of Jesse Helms.

I tried to displace Helms but found more disappointment in abusive one-night stands. One such encounter in Ireland nearly resulted in my death by an Irishman who was in Dublin for his gay sex weekend. “I am not a queer like you,” he said as he beat me before leaving the hotel room.

My desire to have Helms out of my bed and my mind caused me to make desperately bad relationship choices. Drugs, unsafe sex, and verbal and physical abuse characterized these choices.

Though it is more than 20 years now, Helms is still in my bed and in my mind. Perhaps the bigot will reside in my mind forever. It is a scary thought that causes me, at times, to consider suicide. The empty space on the other side of my bed produces the same thought.

Considering the record slow pace Congress has taken in advancing laws to prevent workplace discrimination against LGBT workers, if possible, the pain, suffering, loneliness, and depression I experienced has no doubt been multiplied by hundreds if not thousands of other LGBT workers at all levels of employment. I am a suicide survivor but I have to survive it every day.

The lack of political leadership to prevent employment inequality is hurting innocent people economically, health wise, and relationship wise. The results of discrimination include suicide, mental illness, poverty, acts of gay-on-gay and gay-on-straight violence, unemployment, underemployment, addiction, and loss of happy and meaningful relationships and lives. This enormous cost to our economy and loss of contributions by talented and educated LGBT workers must end.

Jesse Helms is long dead. His legacy of employment discrimination must die also. I have tried to kill my career rapist Jesse Helms in my dreams. It must be done legally with laws to stop LGBT discrimination in the workplace and in the halls of Congress where the Helms legacy still haunts Capitol Hill and damages lives across the country.

Human Rights Advocate Jim Patterson is a writer, speaker, and lifelong diplomat for dignity for all people. In a remarkable life spanning the civil rights movement to today’s human rights struggles, he stands as a voice for the voiceless. A prolific writer, he documents history’s wrongs and the struggle for dignity to provide a roadmap to a more humane future. Learn more at


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Unhealthy Catholic policies in San Diego Sun, 20 Sep 2015 20:00:34 +0000

The Diocese of San Diego is putting the well being of many of their thousands of students at their schools in jeopardy every day. The Church’s teachings on gay and lesbian behavior that is intertwined in its schools’ curricula are harmful to students and are not recommended by many reputable national organizations such as the American Medical Association and the American School Counselor Association.

Several representatives from the Catholic Church recently told me their official position is that people are sinners when they are gay and engage in homosexual behavior. Students are informed about the consequences of this deviant behavior that accompany it. This is made clear in the church doctrine that is a vital part of what is taught in the diocesan Catholic schools and that students are expected to understand and comply with.

One of the options given by a diocesan priest I spoke with was that students could become celibate and not act upon their homosexual urges at any time. It is healthy and normal to want to have sex at some point in life so this seems quite an unlikely option for gay students. The only remaining option by default for these students if they want to avoid sinning in their lifetimes is that they must change their sexual orientation.

The American Psychological Association adopted a resolution which states that efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation using reparative therapy are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm.

It seems counterintuitive to me then that the schools in the Diocese of San Diego should put students in a position where a harmful process should be considered in order to be considered normal. With this official position, the diocesan schools are also teaching multitudes of children in its many schools that changing sexual orientation is a viable option.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said that reparative therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.

The Diocese of San Diego is essentially rejecting these students. The Merriam Webster dictionary definition of the verb reject is to refuse to accept. This is exactly what the Catholic schools and teachers are doing when they instruct their students with this Church policy as part of the curriculum. They are rejecting the normal and healthy actions that gay students will likely participate in during their lifetimes.

A study done at San Francisco State University showed that those gay and lesbian students that felt highly rejected by their teachers were eight times more likely to attempt suicide than those students that were only slightly rejected by their teachers. These same students feeling highly rejected were six times more likely to experience high levels of depression than their peers that felt only slightly rejected.

It seems ironic for example that some diocesan schools express in their mission that they will develop the potential of each child emotionally and physically among other things.

Students’ emotional potential can’t be developed if they are being rejected for the people they are. The emotional trauma they experience from this rejection also often leads to many physical problems from the extreme stress put upon them to change.

There are certainly options that can minimize or eliminate this harm that is prevalent in the schools within the Diocese of San Diego. These include having Gay Straight Alliances in the student body or having openly gay mentors or role models in the school that can speak freely about their experiences. It should also include a change in the curriculum that is currently predicated upon the official Church policy of rejecting the sexual orientation and actions of gay students.

I encourage Bishop McElroy and all Catholic leaders to make these changes as soon as possible. There are many students that are being harmed each school day with the current policies in the Diocese of San Diego schools and numerous other diocesan schools as well. It is appalling to think that in 2015 in our land of opportunity we are treating the future of our society in such a damaging and unhealthy manner.

This article of saintly suggestion is brought to you by that guy wandering in the desert for 40 days. That guy of fantastic faith is Ron Blake and you can send a Hail Mary his way at

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About Nathan Fletcher and Lorena Gonzalez Thu, 17 Sep 2015 20:16:44 +0000

Nathan Fletcher, Nicole Murray Ramirez and Lorena Gonzalez

This past Tuesday I joined my good friends, Nathan Fletcher and Lorena Gonzalez, for lunch for a pre-birthday celebration of this popular state assemblywoman’s birthday. And we all know that what we wish more than anything for our best friends is their happiness. I have long admired former Marine Nathan for his long history of being an advocate and champion for his fellow veterans. Currently he is the chairman of an organization that helps veterans and recently met with President Obama concerning veterans’ affairs. As for Lorena, her tireless advocacy for the poor, women’s rights, Latino causes and working families is well known. Yes, now these two friends of mine are dating and they are very happy. Even Nathan’s former wife, Mindy, is supportive and happy for them both. That’s all I am going to say about this as I will respect their privacy. If you’re a friend of Nathan or Lorena or both, just be happy for them and trust me they are very very happy! Happy Birthday Lorena!

Thank you Laurie Leonard for Mama’s Kitchen

It truly drives me crazy how many activists/leaders and organizations seemingly forget or ignore the history of our community and their organizations; the pioneers, founders, trailblazers and early community activists who built our community and organizations whose shoulders we stand on. This past Monday night at a community townhouse at our LGBT Center, an elderly gay man stood up and said there aren’t many of us left from the “Stonewall generation” of the 1960s and ‘70s – and sadly he is absolutely right. As I’ve said so many times before, God has blessed me to be able to witness the growth, visibility and empowerment of the two communities and people I love – the Latino and LGBT communities and civil rights movements.

The GSDBA was founded by Ron Umbaugh, Frank Stiriti and Phil Baldwin (two who have passed away). The Imperial Court’s first monarchs were Emperor I Omar and Empress I Tawny Tann (I was not an empress until IV and not a founder of the Court). The Democrats for Equality was founded by Attorney Bob Lynn; our first AIDS Walk by Susan Jester. The National Dignity Organization was founded in San Diego for LGBT Catholics – I could go on and on. I ask all of our LGBT organizations to please always remember your founders by maybe establishing an award in their honor and always include them in your printed programs and Web sites. Yes, many of them have passed (a lot because of AIDS) but let us never forget them and their contributions to our community. Thank you!

One of those heroes and founders was lesbian community activist Laurie Leonard who along with her wonderful mother founded Mama’s Kitchen which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary! Seems some in our community forget the most important role that lesbians/women played in those early dark days of AIDS (and still do) from the Blood Sisters of the Democratic Club to the founders and organizers of Mama’s Kitchen, AIDS Walk, Christie’s Place and Special Delivery all being women.

Laurie Leonard gave her love and years of hard work and dedication to Mama’s Kitchen. I remember when she got some of us together at the start (Frank Stiriti, Gene Burkard and Darl Edwards, among a few) to join a group called Mama’s Kitchen Cabinet at a $1,000 membership fee (smart woman). We of course all joined and I was representing the Imperial Court. So on the 25th anniversary of Mama’s Kitchen let us all say, thank you and God bless you to Laurie and her family. Love you girlfriend!

Dianne Jacob and Dave Roberts for supervisor

The re-election of Dianne Jacob and Dave Roberts, to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors is very important and should be a priority for all that don’t want them to be replaced by right wing ultra conservatives which could be possible. I urge your support and endorsements of these good public officials.

San Diego AIDS Walk: Sept 26

With ongoing government funding cuts our HIV-AIDS agencies more than ever need our help and support. The annual AIDS Walk is our city’s biggest HIV-AIDS fundraiser that benefits so many HIV-AIDS organizations in San Diego County and Baja California. AIDS Walk is set for next Saturday Sept. 26, though sadly once again I will be out of the state.

I will be thinking of and being grateful for all of you. A big thank you to our LGBT Center and staff for producing this annual event and their dedication, commitment and hard work when it comes to HIV-AIDS in general in San Diego.

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September is National Recovery Month Thu, 17 Sep 2015 20:16:40 +0000


For me, National Recovery Month is a reminder of how far we’ve come, both therapeutically and in society, regarding the treatment of addiction and mental health conditions. This month especially, we get to celebrate those who are in recovery and increase awareness for those who are still suffering. Even in the 26 years since the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) started sponsoring National Recovery Month in 1989, we’ve seen dramatic changes in the way that people are being treated – and are recovering – from conditions that have historically been misunderstood and addressed separately.

Early on in my career, I specifically recall the fragmented process of “helping” the addicted person who experienced mental health challenges. The chasm between treatment agencies was vast and deep. Self-help groups in the community held biases against recovery addicts on mood-stabilizing medications. Mental health agencies were only funded to treat mental health conditions, not addiction. Agencies that treated addiction were not staffed to manage the mental health issues that required professional care and treatment.

Many individuals were quick to lose hope due to being passed off from one system to the next. It was typical to send a person across town for addiction issues and then expect them to return the same day for mental health treatment. Needless to say, many were lost in a health care system that was not designed to meet the needs of the individuals with co-occurring disorders in one system of care.

Today, a person can receive comprehensive treatment along a continuum of care from the first days of detoxification and stabilization to residential treatment – and then they can return to the community while participating in outpatient services. The benefits of having this uninterrupted continuation of service are many.

We’ve gotten to a place where we can treat the whole person. You are not your diagnosis, and you don’t have to pinball between systems to get the care you need. At Foundations, preparing someone for a new life in recovery involves holistic activities that activate the mind and body, process groups that help patients connect and encourage others in treatment, family therapy that repairs relationships wherever possible, and an emphasis on restoring one’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. It’s so much greater than detox or therapy appointments. It’s preparation and equipping for sustainable life change.

Treatment has come a very long way since the early 1750s when Native American tribe members formed sobriety circles encouraging others to abstain and reject alcohol to return to the traditional ancestral ways. Their wisdom and courage recognized the devastating impact of alcohol on their society. National Recovery Month places that same focus and intention to raise awareness and guide individuals to a life of balance and authenticity. And these days, we continue to have more to celebrate about all the innovations in treatment. More and more treatment professionals are focusing on partnering with recovering persons to restore balance to the common life areas of health, home, purpose and community. As a society with epidemic proportions of addiction, we must turn our attention to the excellent systems of care that are now available to individuals seeking treatment.

So I hope you will appreciate National Recovery Month like I do. It’s another signpost on the road that shows us that we have learned more – and what we are doing is working. Prevention matters, and treatment is effective. People do recover from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. People do recover from mental health conditions and manage their symptoms well.

National Recovery Month spreads a very positive message promoting the benefits of balanced living and recovery. Are you a person who needs that message? If not, do you know someone who does? Help is here for you to live a full life in recovery, and you can start today.

Patricia Bathurst, MFT is the director of Foundations San Diego, an outpatient recovery facility located in Hillcrest at 3930 Fourth Ave., Suite 301, San Diego, CA 92103. Ms. Bathurst is a certified advanced addiction counselor, as well as a licensed marriage and family therapist. Questions for Pat? Contact Foundations San Diego at 619-321-1575.

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