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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Cinema Diverse, Palm Springs’ LGBTQ film festival, is celebrating its 12th anniversary this year as it returns over two September weekends, featuring dramas, documentaries, themed sets of sorts and even web series.

The festival, a production of the Palm Springs Cultural Center, is being presented a little differently this year, according to Cultural Center spokesman Tim Rains.

“(In the past), we had a second weekend for the Best of Fest, where we’d show some of the films again at the Mary Pickford Theatre, but this year, we did all original content,” he said. “It allows us to show a lot more films.”

During the first, extended weekend—Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 19-22—screenings will take place at the Cultural Center. During the second weekend—Friday and Saturday, Sept. 27 and 28—the festival will move to the Mary Pickford Is D’Place in Cathedral City.

This year’s festival features a number of trans stories and filmmakers, Rains said, as well as a particularly strong slate of films by and about women. Other films touch on hot-button topics such as immigration and gender non-conformity, through humor and drama alike.

Opening the festival on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 7:30 p.m. is For They Know Not What They Do, an unflinching examination of the impact that some religion can have on the lives of LGBTQ people. From Daniel Karslake, the director/producer of renowned 2007 documentary For the Bible Tells Me So, the new documentary shows how conservatives are using religion to fight LGBTQ rights.

“It reminds a lot of us that we’re in a bubble here in Palm Springs, and there are a lot of issues going on out there,” Rains said of the film.

Two of the four stories told in the documentary center on trans individuals. “It speaks directly to how the trans community has become the new target,” Rains said.

Another central topic of the film is reparative or conversion therapy—and the immense damage it causes.

“The film has hope in it, but it is also a hard film,” Rains said. “We wanted to put it at the forefront of the conscience of the community here.”

Other highlights of the 2019 festival lineup (with the synopses as provided on the festival website):

Last Ferry (3:15 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21): “When a young gay lawyer arrives on Fire Island to explore his sexuality, he becomes witness to a murder after being mugged, and then drugged. A stranger helps him to safety, but he soon discovers his savior may be friends with the killer.”

Spider Mites of Jesus: The Dirtwoman Documentary (5:45 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21): “When he was an infant, he suffered from the ‘Spider Mites of Jesus’ (his mother couldn’t pronounce spinal meningitis). This caused mental challenges that resulted in his lifelong illiteracy. At 13, he began selling his body on the streets as a drag prostitute. When he was arrested, he took a dump in the back of the police car, leading the cops to give him the moniker: Dirtwoman.”

Del Shores’ Six Characters in Search of a Play (7:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 22): “Shores is inspired by Pirandello’s classic play to bring you six characters inspired by his real-life encounters that haven’t quite made it into one of Shores’ plays, films or TV shows. In 90 minutes, the audience will hear the truth behind how he collected these eccentrics, then he will portray them in classic Shores’ monologue style.”

The Ground Beneath My Feet (7:45 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 22): In this drama, “Lola controls her personal life with the same ruthless efficiency she uses to optimize profits in her job as a business consultant. But when a tragic event forces the past back into her life, Lola’s grip on reality seems to slip away.”

Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street (7 p.m., Friday Sept. 27): “Campy and homoerotic, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 has often been called the gayest horror film that Hollywood's ever made. For Mark Patton, a young actor, it was a true nightmare, as the homophobic backlash effectively ended his film career—and banished him into Garbo-like exile. This defiant documentary tells the triumphant tale of the ‘revenge of first male scream queen,’ while also cautioning today’s LGBTQ community that the nightmare isn’t over.”

Cinema Diverse takes place Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 19-22, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road; and Friday and Saturday, Sept. 27 and 28, at Mary Pickford Is D’Place, 36850 Pickfair St., in Cathedral City. Tickets for individual films are $13.50; a “six-pack,” allowing admission to six films, is $75; all-access passes are $179. For tickets or more information, including the complete schedule, visit psculturalcenter.org/filmfest.

Published in Previews and Features

“Nature doesn’t care if you’re gay,” I’ll often hear in reaction to articles by myself or my outdoorsy LGBTQ peers. And it’s true: Nature doesn’t care if I’m gay.

But people do.

A few ago, I finished a world-record journey to all 419 National Park Service sites. For three years nonstop, I lived in a van, hiked trails everywhere from American Samoa to the Arctic Circle, and accomplished an outdoors journey no human had ever done before. But comments about the trip have included things like, “Well now I need to be careful in the bathroom at national parks,” and, “Why do you have to shove your lifestyle down our throats!” A sponsor terminated our partnership halfway through the project, saying over the phone and in writing that I was doing too much LGBTQ outreach.

A camping website called The Dyrt posted an interview with me on Facebook featuring a thumbnail photo in which I’m holding a rainbow flag in front of Yosemite’s Tunnel View. The comments were so inflammatory that the publishers decided just hours later it was inappropriate to leave it up. They later denounced the hateful comments and reposted the story with a call for civility—which was unheeded. A rainbow flag incited such anger from a community of nature-lovers that they ignored what so many outdoor enthusiasts have told me is their “dream trip.”

This happened in June, of all months, the one month when my social media feels like an explosion of rainbows due to worldwide Pride festivals. When historic anniversaries like the Stonewall uprising and marriage-equality decisions are remembered. And when seemingly every corporation, from Listerine to Disney, is releasing products that celebrate these culture-changing moments.

Yet, as the rest of America chases this “Pink Dollar,” the outdoor recreation industry seems less interested in the near $1 trillion in purchasing power of the U.S. LGBTQ community. Or the shift in culture evidenced by the fact that the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2019 “Pride Night” was the team’s highest attended game in seven years. Or—as I can attest after seeing Tinder photos from every corner of the United States during my parks journey—the vast market of gay men hoping to look cute in athletic clothes on top of a mountain.

Some in the LGBTQ community argue that corporate Pride promotions are simply “rainbow washing” to increase profits. But as someone who didn’t meet an openly gay adult until I left my home state of Nebraska at age 19, while 14 years later can get married in any state across the U.S., I’ve seen the progress our culture has made. And I believe companies had a large part in it.

In an age when corporations are afforded some of the same rights as individuals, financial power plays a significant role in our society, from politics to cultural acceptance. When Marriott, a company started and owned by Mormons, is willing to sponsor Pride festivals and has an entire annual #LoveTravels campaign aimed at making LGBTQ travelers feel welcome, even people in so-called “flyover states” are influenced by ideas more progressive than they might see at home.

In the same way, the outdoor recreation industry has the power to help build a future where LGBTQ outdoors fans are seen the same as everyone else. In that world, other nature enthusiasts’ reactions to a photo of a flag-bearing hiker would be the same whether it was an American flag or a rainbow one. If outdoor companies follow the example of the rest of corporate America, they could use their influence in a way that both helps their bottom line and improves the lives of outdoor lovers.

As civil rights leader Marian Wright Edelman said, “It’s hard to be what you can’t see.” The backing of inclusive values by outdoor brands will help nature enthusiasts like the Eagle Scout who wrote me via Instagram to share that he’d never had an outdoorsy gay role model until learning about my national parks record. Better representation will invite more people to experience our great outdoors. While LGBTQ discrimination still causes vastly higher rates of suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth than their straight peers, this moment in time gives me hope.

When I started my national parks journey in 2016, the outdoor recreation industry had never had a Pride Month ad. Now, several companies and nonprofits sponsor an annual LGBTQ Outdoor Summit; an outdoors-themed drag queen is commanding attention from brands, and REI (which I work with to help promote LGBTQ inclusion in the outdoors) received the Kenji Award at 2019’s Outdoor Retailer tradeshow in part for their “Outside With Pride” apparel.

This promotions and inclusion work of the past three years has expanded the tent of who sees themselves in outdoors culture, meaning we’ve come one step closer to a goal: A hope that one day, the readers of an article about a gay man visiting all of America’s national parks won’t care about the sexual orientation of the adventurer. After all, if nature doesn’t care that I’m gay, why do people?

Adventurer Mikah Meyer was recently named one of NBC’s “Pride 50” for groundbreaking work with LGBTQ communities. He is a regular speaker on topics ranging from epic outdoors experiences to the benefits of inclusion for businesses and individuals. He is based in Minneapolis. This piece originally appeared in High Country News.

Published in Community Voices

In the past decade, California has adopted more than a half-dozen laws intended to prevent bullying, strengthen suicide prevention and cultivate inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ students in the state’s public schools.

But the state’ school districts are implementing these new laws inconsistently, according to a sweeping report-card-style analysis from the Equality California Institute.

As an emotional, hours-long hearing last week on statewide sex-education guidance underscored last week at the state Board of Education, California has been slow in general to fully embrace new laws aimed at deterring discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, along with those questioning their sexual identities.

Public middle and high schools were required to follow the sex-ed laws in the California Healthy Youth Act beginning in 2016, but the state Board of Education just last week approved a new framework for teaching sex education. The state board came up with the framework—teaching recommendations educators are not required to follow—after two years of public deliberation.

Equality California’s analysis, published earlier this week, used a 90-question survey covering school climate, curriculum, teacher training, suicide prevention and transgender students to rate school districts’ LGBTQ policies on a three-tier, color-coded scale.

Of the 130 K-12 school districts that participated in the years-long survey effort, 22 school districts were given “top tier” ratings; 80 were considered “middle tier”; and 28 districts were labeled “priority districts,” the lowest rating.

The two valley school districts that participated—Palm Springs Unified and Desert Sands Unified—were given middle-tier ratings. The Coachella Valley Unified School District is not listed as participating.

Advocates and legislators have heightened their focus on policies that are more inclusive of LGBTQ students, as research generally shows that these students are more likely to drop out. They also experience bullying and attempted suicides at rates higher than the rest of their peers.

“We have worked tirelessly over the last two decades to enact laws and policies that create safer, more supportive learning environments for our LGBTQ students,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, a nonprofit LGBTQ advocacy group. “But our work cannot—and does not—stop in the Capitol. For these laws to be effective, they must be implemented.”

Among the survey’s other highlights:

• All of the 130 school districts that responded to Equality California’s survey said they had anti-bullying policies in place, and most explicitly prohibit bullying based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

• 118 school districts said they require students to take sexual health and HIV prevention classes, and three-fourths of those districts said their curriculum “incorporates discussions of relationships other than cisgender heterosexual relationships.”

• 113 school districts said all of their schools allow kids to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

• The report identified 45 school districts that don’t give employees training “that even generally covers diversity, anti-bias, cultural competency and/or equity and inclusion.”

• A majority of school districts in the survey do not appear to be including LGBTQ-inclusive textbooks in their social studies curriculum, which goes against a 2011 law mandating that schools include “the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans” in their history teachings.

Notably, many of the local school systems identified as “priority” districts are located in rural or conservative-leaning areas that have pushed back against the new requirements, specifically the California Healthy Youth Act, which requires middle and high schools to teach “medically accurate” comprehensive sexual health education.

“We recognize that even the most well-intentioned school districts may feel impeded by a lack of resources, limited staff capacity, difficult local social climates and other barriers, all of which can slow the journey toward a safe and supportive school climate,” Zbur said.

There were 213 K-12 school districts that didn’t respond to the survey, a participation rate that Zbur called “deeply disappointing.”

The Independent’s Jimmy Boegle contributed to this story. CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Local Issues

In October each year, a trailer pulls up in front of a gallery at the north end of the design district in Palm Springs. It’s packed full of art.

Behind the wheel is gallery owner Woody Shimko (right). He’s just completed what he calls his 3,000-mile bridge between two of the most iconic gay destinations—Provincetown, Mass., and Palm Springs, Calif.

Shimko has galleries in both towns. During the fall and winter, the art is here in Palm Springs. In the spring, it will cross back over that figurative bridge and spend the summer in Provincetown. Having just endured another blistering desert summer, I thought this sounded like an ideal lifestyle. I asked Shimko how it all came about.

“Provincetown has been an art colony for over 100 years,” Shimko said. “Palm Springs has been a creative design location for decades. What I try to do is show work that will appeal to designers, other artists and anyone else interested in buying work for their homes.

“The biggest difference, really, is the time of year. That is really why I opened both spaces. Provincetown is so quiet in the winter, and Palm Springs certainly slows down in the heat of the summer.”

Shimko opened his first gallery in Provincetown in the 1990s.

“After opening it, I took a job in Tokyo. Having both the job and the gallery was a little … OK, way too much,” he said. “I bought a house in Palm Springs as a stop-over. After being in Japan for 15 years, I decided to open the gallery in Palm Springs. The following season, I opened the gallery in Provincetown, hence (the gallery’s slogan), ‘3,000 Miles of Art.’

“The gallery in Palm Springs is about the same as in Provincetown. I show local artists and also artists from the East Coast. In Provincetown, I show local artists and artists from the West Coast. I don’t really show ‘regional’ art—no palm trees in Palm Springs, and no fishing boats in Provincetown.”

The Woodman/Shimko Gallery here is not one of the spacious, spare, minimalist galleries for which Palm Springs is known. Instead, it is packed full of an astonishingly varied collection of paintings, sculpture, metal work, prints and ceramics. In the rear is a section of vintage glass and dinnerware, including pieces from Tiffany and Lalique. There are even some old Lionel trains and tongue-in-cheek Japanese souvenirs. My favorites are the artfully packaged “sushi sox,” a pair of socks folded and presented as sushi.

The gallery also displays some of Shimko’s own creations, accent tables constructed out of discarded tools.

“The way I choose the work is: If I want to hang it in my home, I’ll show it at the gallery,” he said. “And yes, I do have a few pieces that I have shown that are not entirely my style, but that’s where showing a range of work comes in.

“I am always open to seeing new work. If it jumps out at me, then I’ll likely show it for a time. Work that is in conflict with artists that I already represent is art that will not work for me.”

I’ve heard Woodman/Shimko Gallery referred to as a “gay” or “homoerotic” gallery before. Shimko had his own take on these labels.

“There are some people who come in and say they love the ‘gay’ gallery, but that is not a term I use to describe the spaces,” he said. “I do show a number of male images, but I don’t focus on them. My most popular artist, Cassandra Complex, paints only men. There is nothing erotic about the images, but when people see them, they assume it’s a gay man painting the images. That’s most likely why I am termed a gay gallery. But if that’s what people think of the space, cool—I’m happy with that. The only real homoerotic art I have shown—and have had to warn families about if they came in with their kids—was the Tom of Finland collections I have shown. There’s no fig leaf on the statue of David, so I’m OK with showing male and female nudes.”

Shimko said he will be focusing on Cassandra Complex’s art during this Pride season.

“Her work is truly an icon for gay men,” Shimko said. “The second-biggest buyer for her work is lesbians. Even our straight customers are drawn to her. The Kennedy family bought three of her pieces over the years. Cassandra lives outside of Boston. She is self-taught and paints men’s faces that she makes up in her head. None of the faces are real people. After her father died 10 years ago, she went through depression, and his was the first face she painted. He was a rugged man, so she keeps that look going through for her father.”

Complex has an unusual painting technique: She applies paint to the canvas with a deck of playing cards.

A couple of other artists stood out to me. Christopher Sousa’s portraits of young men evoke a surrealistic, dream-like character.

“Christopher Sousa is based in Provincetown and is one of the most sought-after artists,” Shimko said. “Before becoming a successful artist, he worked at a coffee shop in town and would draw images on coffee cups that he would give to his customers. He is represented by another gallery in Provincetown, so I can only show him in Palm Springs. Many of his models are friends of his or people he knows in town.”

Another artist, Robert Rainone, creates male nudes—not with paint, but by cutting through different colors of matte board.

“Robert Rainone is an architect in New Jersey,” Shimko said. “His precision in drawing has led him to create some truly amazing matte-board cutouts,” Shimko said. “Many of his pieces are between six to nine layers of matte board. You can see him do a number of his pieces on YouTube.”

I asked Shimko about his favorite elements of Palm Springs.

“The views and the design element,” he replied. “The architecture is amazing. There are many people that not only buy art, but live in art.”

Woodman/Shimko Gallery is located at 1105 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. It is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. For more information, call 760-322-1230, or visit www.woodmanshimkogallery.com.

Published in Visual Arts

I am a gay man in my late 50s and have never been in a relationship. I am so lonely, and the painful emptiness I feel is becoming absolutely unbearable.

In my early 20s, I hooked up off and on, but it never developed into anything. I have always told myself that’s OK; I’m not a people person or a relationship kind of guy. I have a few lesbian friends but no male friends. I have social anxiety and can’t go to bars or clubs.

When hookup apps were introduced, I used them infrequently. Now I go totally unnoticed or am quickly ghosted once I reveal my age. Most nonwork days, my only interactions are with people in the service industry.

I am well-groomed, employed, a homeowner and always nice to people. I go to a therapist and take antidepressants. However, this painful loneliness, depression, aging and feeling unnoticed seem to be getting the best of me. I cry often and would really like it all to end. Any advice?

Lonely Aging Gay

“In the very short term, LAG needs to tell his therapist about the suicidal ideation,” said Michael Hobbes. “In the longer term, well, that’s going to take a bit more to unpack.”

Hobbes is a reporter for HuffPost and recently wrote a mini-book-length piece titled “Together Alone: The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness.” During his research, Hobbes found that, despite growing legal and social acceptance, a worrying percentage of gay men still struggle with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

Loneliness, Hobbes explained to me, is an evolutionary adaptation, a mechanism that prompts us humans—members of a highly social species—to seek contact and connection with others: the kind of connections that improve our odds of survival.

“But there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely,” said Hobbes. “Being alone is an objective, measurable phenomenon: You don’t have very many social contacts. Being lonely, on the other hand, is subjective: You feel alone, even when you’re with other people. This is why advice like, ‘Join a club!’ or, ‘Chat with your waitress!’ doesn’t help lonely people.”

The most effective way to address loneliness, according to Hobbes’ research, is to confront it directly.

“LAG may just need to get more out of the relationships he already has,” said Hobbes. “He has a job, friends, a therapist, a life. This doesn’t mean that his perceptions are unfounded—our society is terrible to its elders in general and its LGBTQ elders in particular—but there may be opportunities in his life for intimacy that he’s not tapping into. Acquaintances LAG hasn’t checked in on for a while. Random cool cousins LAG never got to know. Volunteering gigs you fell out of. It’s easier to reanimate old friendships than to start from scratch.”

Another recommendation: Seek out other lonely guys—and there are lots of them out there.

“LAG isn’t the only gay guy who has aged out of the bar scene—so have I—and struggles to find sex and companionship away from alcohol and right swipes,” said Hobbes. “His therapist should know of some good support groups.”

And if your therapist doesn’t know of any good support groups—or if you don’t feel comfortable telling your therapist how miserable you are, or if you’ve told your therapist everything and they haven’t been able to help—find a new therapist.


I’m a 40-something gay male. I’m single and cannot get a date or even a hookup. I’m short, overweight, average-looking and bald. I see others, gay and straight, having long-term relationships, getting engaged, getting married, and it makes me sad and jealous. Some of them are jerks—and if them, why not me?

Here’s the part that’s hard to admit: I know something is wrong with me, but I don’t know what it is or how to fix it. I’m alone and I’m lonely. I know your advice can be brutal, Dan, but what do I have to lose?

Alone And Fading

“AAF said to be brutal, so I’m going to start there: You might not ever meet anyone,” said Hobbes. “At every age, in every study, gay men are less likely to be partnered, cohabiting or married than our straight and lesbian counterparts. Maybe we’re damaged; maybe we’re all saving ourselves for a Hemsworth, but spending our adult lives and twilight years without a romantic partner is a real possibility. It just is.”

And it’s not just gay men. In Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, sociologist Eric Klinenberg unpacked this remarkable statistic: More than 50 percent of adult Americans are single and live alone, up from 22 percent in 1950. Some are unhappy about living alone, but it seemed that most—at least according to Klinenberg’s research—are content.

“Maybe there is something wrong with AAF, but maybe he’s just on the unlucky side of the statistics,” said Hobbes. “Finding a soul mate is largely out of our control. Whether you allow your lack of a soul mate to make you bitter, desperate or contemptuous is not. So be happy for the young jerks coupling up and settling down. Learn to take rejection gracefully—the way you want it from the dudes you’re turning down—and when you go on a date, start with the specificity of the person sitting across from you, not what you need from him. He could be your Disney prince, sure. But he could also be your museum buddy or your podcast cohost or your afternoon 69er or something you haven’t even thought of yet.”


I am a 55-year-old gay male. I am hugely overweight and have not had much experience with men. I go on a variety of websites trying to make contact with people. However, if anyone says anything remotely complimentary about me, I panic and run. A compliment about my physical appearance? I shut down the profile.

I don’t like being like this. I just believe in being honest. And if I’m honest, I’m ugly. The face, even behind a big-ass beard, is just not acceptable. I have tried therapy, and it does nothing. How do I get past being ugly and go out and get laid?

Unappealing Giant Loser Yearns

You say you’re ugly, UGLY, but there are some people who disagree with you—the people who compliment you on your appearance, for instance.

“I’m not sure I even believe in the word ‘ugly’ anymore,” said Hobbes. “No matter what you look like, some percentage of the population will be attracted to you. Maybe it’s 95 percent, or maybe it’s 5 percent, but they are out there. When you find them, do two things: First, believe them. Second, shut up about it.”

In other words: Just because you wouldn’t want to sleep with you, UGLY, that doesn’t mean no one wants to sleep with you.

“I remember reading an interview with Stephen Fry, where he said that when he first started out as an actor, people would come up to him and say, ‘You were so great in that play!’ and his first response would be, ‘No, I was terrible,’” said Hobbes. “He thought he was being modest, but what he was really doing, he realized later, was being argumentative. Eventually, he started to just say, ‘Thank you.’”

Hobbes thinks you should try to be like Fry, a big dude with a cute husband: “The next time someone tells him they’re into big dudes with beards, don’t argue; don’t panic; and don’t hesitate. Just say, ‘Thank you,’ and let the conversation move on.”

Follow Michael Hobbes on Twitter @RottenInDenmark and listen to his podcast You’re Wrong About ... on iTunes.

On the Lovecast: Wait—why can’t gay men donate blood? savagelovecast.com.

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Published in Savage Love

Long before newsfeeds, Facebook, 24-hour news networks and even beepers, people got their information from things like news magazines. It may sound like crazy talk, but it’s true.

One of these news magazines—one which has played a vital role in the LGBT community—is The Advocate. It was started as a newsletter by an activist group following a police raid on a Los Angeles gay bar, the Black Cat Tavern, on Jan. 1, 1967—a couple of years before the Stonewall riots in New York City. The newsletter covered the demonstrations against police brutality; later that year, the newsletter was transformed into a newspaper.

The history of The Advocate since those first days is the subject of a new documentary—and it’s one of the highlights of Cinema Diverse, the local LGBT film festival, which will take place at the Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center Sept. 20-23, with a “bonus weekend” taking place at Mary Pickford Is D’Place in Cathedral City the following weekend.

“This year, Cinema Diverse is opening with A Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate Celebrates 50 Years,” said Michael Green, the Cinema Diverse festival director and the executive director of the Palm Springs Cultural Center. “This is going to be a really cool story to share with the audience on opening night. It is a retrospective of the 50 years from the start of the magazine up to the current day.

“It’s a huge historic piece and important. Laverne Cox is narrating it, and the music is provided by Melissa Etheridge. … It covers the pre-Stonewall era from the Los Angeles perspective, the AIDS crisis, marriage equality and up to present day. It’s even more powerful to those of us who have lived in the Palm Springs area during that time and have seen the changes that have occurred.”

A Long Road to Freedom is just one of the documentaries included in the Cinema Diverse schedule. “There’s a huge variety of documentaries this year. We have a film about gay comics and another about gay (erotic) comic-book illustrators and so many more,” Green said.

Cinema Diverse, of course, has offerings going beyond documentaries.

“We have several great musicals this year,” Green said. “They cover a variety of subjects, both as feature films and as shorts. Musicals are great. Even though the characters may have troubles throughout, the endings are usually very uplifting. We also have horror films this year; you could classify them as thriller-type films that are pretty good.”

Why is it important to include films like thrillers/horror movies in an LGBT film festival?

“Movies focused on LGBTQ characters … the audience can relate to,” Green said. “We are also screening Devil’s Path, a real psychological thriller by Matthew Montgomery, a popular LGBTQ actor. People who are familiar with him will be really excited to see it.

“As always, we have some really good foreign films, like A Moment in the Reeds, from Finland. It’s a fun and beautiful story.”

Movies by local filmmakers are a key part of Cinema Diverse.

“We have a local film (producer) named Marc Smolowitz. His most recent film is called 50 Years of Fabulous. It’s all about the Imperial Council from its inception and over the last 50 years,” Green said; the Imperial Court System is a series of organizations that raise money for charitable causes. “Again, it’s a historical film that touches Palm Springs and a story that’s close to home to anyone who is familiar with the Imperial Court System. … Since Marc is local, this makes the film even more special.”

One of the films Green is most excited about is 1985, based on a renowned short film with the same name.

“It’s about the very beginning of the AIDS crisis and a young, closeted guy who goes home to Texas,” Green said. “It’s a very poignant film. It’s filmed largely in black and white. It’s a very powerful.” Gotham’s Cory Michael Smith is the star.

“As in previous years, there will be a lot of filmmakers and actors here to represent their films. There are more films this year than previously, both features and shorts,” Green said.

Cinema Diverse takes place Thursday, Sept. 20, through Sunday, Sept. 23, and Friday and Saturday, Sept. 28 and 29. Individual screenings are $13.25, while an all-festival pass costs $159. For tickets and more information, including a festival schedule, visit the Cinema Diverse website.

Published in Previews and Features

David Rothmiller and LD Thompson have learned some unsettling lessons since founding the LGBT Sanctuary Palm Springs—a transitional housing facility for LGBT and allied youth—back in 2015.

They’ve also had to jump through a lot of hoops related to licensing and regulations before finally opening and taking in residents—but in March of this year, The LGBT Sanctuary finally moved into the building it now calls home.

That does not mean everything has been easy since then.

“We’ve had some (residents) come and some go, and we know with the population here that it’s common,” Rothmiller said. “Not every one of our applicants and residents is a match (for The Sanctuary). Some of our kids just weren’t ready; we’re not a treatment facility, so we are unable to help some of these kids. They sometimes have issues that are far beyond us, but we can refer them. The Desert AIDS Project is our partner in health, dental and mental health. … We cannot have violence. We tell the kids, ‘We are a non-violent home.’ Some haven’t worked out, and that’s the bottom line.”

The residents currently living in the home are doing well, Rothmiller said.

“The kids we have now are great; they understand the program,” he said. “We are called a ‘transitional housing program plus foster care.’ It’s a state license we have written the program for; we have to meet state guidelines, and we have to meet our own program guidelines. In those program guidelines, our residents have to be working 80 hours a month, or in school—completing their GED, completing high school or earning college credits.

“The nice thing about our (Coachella Valley) community is they are supportive, and business owners have come forward and have hired our residents. We have two who have graduated and aged out; we can only have them from 18 to 21. It’s part of the extended foster care that the state realized was a necessity for these kids. Some 62 percent, after five years of leaving foster care, are on the street, homeless, doing drugs, prostituting themselves, dead, in jail or in combination. The state of California realized we were failing kids in foster care who graduate out of it at 18. That’s why they have made money available to assist those who are 18 to 21.”

Rothmiller explained why there’s a need for this program specifically for LGBT youth.

“The kids who come to us are LGBT youth or LGBT allies. We are all-inclusive, but (residents) have to be allies to the LGBT experience,” he said. “(LGBT kids) have suffered more at the hands of foster care. LGBT kids are bounced (around) three times as much as their straight counterparts in foster care. They keep losing families.

“There are various reasons kids are in foster care. One of them is because they’ve come out as gay, so they’re afraid to come out to their foster family for that same reason. In fact, many foster families are religious-based, so the gay experience is something they don’t want in their homes. Our kids are bounced more often, and each time they are bounced, they lose six months of academic achievement. Our kids come to us neglected educationally and socially, and we have a lot of work to do. They may not be adopted at this point in their life. … That’s our whole push—get them included; get them connected through our mentoring programming; and get them working or volunteering in the community.”

Shockingly, The LGBT Sanctuary does not currently have a waiting list for youth seeking services—even though there is definitely a need.

“We’ve had to work hard within the social system with social workers, case managers and probation officers to let them know we are here, and we are here to serve this demographic,” Rothmiller said. “When we first opened, Riverside County wasn’t capable and missed a state deadline to be our licensing agent. So we had to go to San Bernardino (County) for our licensing. They said, ‘You will have such a waiting list; please make sure you have beds.’ Fast forward, and we have one empty bed right now. We expected a long waiting list.

“We have identified anti-gay bias in the system, and we identified some ignorance to the situation of LGBT youth in foster care. The Los Angeles LGBT Center did a study that showed close to 20 percent of kids in foster care identify as LGBT. A lot of them aren’t identifying (as such) in foster care, because they are afraid to, so we believe the number is much higher. Riverside County is the least up-to-date (jurisdiction in terms) of meeting the needs of LGBT kids in foster care. They aren’t even asking kids in foster care. … It’s a broken system. One of their social workers said, ‘I believe (the percentage of kids in foster care who are LGBT) is about 3 percent.’ There’s a huge mistake in ignoring the fact that these kids have special needs. They need to be welcomed and understood. We tell the residents, ‘Yep, you have issues, and we understand that, but being gay is not one of your issues. Let’s move forward.’”

While the community’s response to The LGBT Sanctuary has been largely positive, there are always critics, conspiracy theorists and bigots. Those involved with The LGBT Sanctuary have come up with a fascinating way to deal with the negative responses.

“What we are doing is gathering residents, supporters and board members in front of the camera, and we’re doing something similar to the ‘Mean Tweets’ that Jimmy Kimmel does,” Rothmiller said. “It’s to shine the light into the darkness to remind those of us in the community that we’re still hated. It’s a controversial thing to do, but I feel it’s important in this time to tell our truth, and to share comments that are so mean and ugly. Our intention is to remind people that we are here for our residents.”

For more information, visit www.sanctuarypalmsprings.org.

Published in Features

I’m a 20-year-old submissive woman. I’m currently in a confusing affair with a 50-year-old dominant married man. He lives in Europe and has two kids close to my age. We met online when I was 17 and starting to explore my BDSM desires—out of the reach of my overbearing, sex-shaming, disastrously religious parents—and we’ve been texting daily ever since. We’ve since met in different countries and spent a total of three weeks together. Those weeks were amazing, both sexually and emotionally, and he says he loves me. (Some will assume, because of the age difference, that he “groomed” me. He did not.) I date vanilla boys my age, with his full support, while we continue to text daily.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to blow up his family if (or when) our affair is discovered. But at the same time, our relationship has really helped me navigate my kinks and my sexuality. Expecting him to leave his wife for me is a highly unrealistic cliché, I am aware. Yet I fear I’ve become dependent on his conversation and advice. I’m graduating soon and have a big job lined up in a big city. I’ll finally be financially independent, and I’d like to start making the right choices.

Any perspective you have would be much appreciated.

Things Must Improve

He is not going to leave his wife for you, and you shouldn’t assume his wife is going to leave him if (or when) this affair is discovered (or exposed). Divorce may be the default setting in the United States in the wake of an affair, TMI, but Europeans take a much more … well, European attitude toward infidelity. Definitely not cricket, not necessarily fatal.

And you don’t need him to leave his wife for you, TMI. OK, OK—you’re in love, and the three weeks you’ve managed to spend together were amazing. But don’t fall into the trap of believing a romantic relationship requires a tidy ending; film, television and literature beat it into our heads that romantic relationships end either happily at the altar (à la Pride and Prejudice) or tragically at the morgue (à la Forensic Files). But romantic relationships take many forms, TMI, as does romantic success. And this relationship, such as it is, this relationship as-is, sounds like an ongoing success.

In other words, TMI, I think you’re confused about this relationship because there won’t be a resolution that fits into a familiar mold. But you don’t need a resolution: You can continue to text with him, and he can continue to provide you with his advice and support while you continue to date single, available and kinky men (no more vanilla boys!) closer to your own age and/or on your own continent. Eventually, you’ll meet a new guy you’re crazy about—someone you can see for more than one week a year—and you’ll feel less dependent on and connected to your old flame.


While on vacation, I went for a full body massage. The first half of the massage—me on my stomach—was great. When the masseuse asked me to flip on my back, things took a turn. She uncovered one of my legs and began massaging my thigh. As she worked on my inner thigh, her finger grazed my scrotum. Then it happened again. And again. She was working on my thigh, but it felt like I was getting my balls caressed. I began to worry I was getting a visible erection. Then I started to panic when I felt like I might actually come. (I have always had issues with premature ejaculation.) I tried hard to clamp down and think about baseball and senior citizens, but I wound up having an orgasm. She eventually moved to my arms, shoulders, etc., but meanwhile, I’m lying there with jizz cooling on myself.

Am I guilty of #metoo bad behavior? Should I have said something or asked her to stop? Is it possible she didn’t have any clue? (My penis was never uncovered, and I didn’t create an obvious wet spot on the sheet.) I tipped her extra, just in case she was mortified, though I didn’t get the sense she was, because nothing changed after I came in terms of her massaging me. (She didn’t hurry away from my legs or rush to finish my massage.) I still feel really weird about the whole thing. I get massages frequently; this has never happened before, and I certainly didn’t go into it looking for this result.

Lost Opportunity At De-escalation

If it all went down as you described, LOAD, you aren’t guilty of “#metoo bad behavior.” It’s not uncommon for people to become unintentionally aroused during a nonerotic massage; it’s more noticeable when it happens to men, of course, but it happens to women, too.

“Erections do happen,” a masseuse told me when I ran your letter past her. “So long as guys don’t suddenly ask for a ‘happy ending,’ expose themselves, or—God help me—attempt to take my hand and place it on their erection, they haven’t done anything wrong.”

Since this hasn’t happened to you before, LOAD, I don’t think you should waste too much time worrying about it happening again. But if you’re concerned this one massage created a powerful erotic association, and you’re likely to blow a load the next time a masseuse so much as looks at one of your thighs, go ahead and have a quick wank before your appointment.


Living my truth permits others in my fairly conservative circles—Christian family struggling to accept a gay son, colleagues in a traditionally masculine field—to accept gay/other/different folks. I identify as a bottom, and until recently, I thought I had erectile dysfunction, because I would literally go soft at the thought of topping another man. I should mention that I’m black in the Pacific Northwest, so there is this odd “BBC” fixation and an expectation from many guys that I will top. However, I am usually very submissive and drawn to hypermasculine, dominant guys.

But I recently noticed an attraction to married guys—specifically, submissive bottom masculine/muscular married guys who like to wear lingerie. I met a few and became this dominant guy who fit the stereotype most guys expect when they see me online or in person. Now I’m very confused. I tried topping recently, because a married guy begged me to. He said, “You’ll never know if you like it until you try it!” Which is the same thing my traditional uncles have said to me about women.

My life would be so much easier if I just married a woman! So this sudden turn from bottom to top is troubling me. I don’t think it is possible to turn straight, but I didn’t think I was a top until a few weeks ago. So am I capable of turning straight? That would validate everything my homophobic family members have said. I’m repulsed by vaginas but fascinated by boobs. Have you seen/heard of things like this?

Praying The Straight Away

If you’re a regular reader, PTSA, you’ve seen letters in this space from straight-identified guys into cock. Many of these guys have described themselves as being fascinated by cock but repulsed by men; some of these guys seek out sex with trans women who’ve kept their dicks. Your thing for hot guys in lingerie and your thing for boobs might be the gay flip of this erotic script—boobs fascinate you, but you’re not into the genitalia most women have. Muscular guys in lingerie turn you on—big pecs can fill out a lacy bra just as alluringly as big boobs—and it’s possible you might enjoy being with a trans woman who got boobs but kept her dick.

All that said, PTSA, discovering after years of bottoming that you enjoy topping certain types of men—masculine/muscular married guys who beg for your dick while wearing lingerie—doesn’t mean you’re “capable” of turning straight. Going from bottom to versatile isn’t the same thing as going from men to women. And being fascinated by a body part that typically comes attached to people, i.e., women, who fall outside your usual “erotic target interest,” as the sex researchers say, isn’t a sign that your uncles were right all along.

In short, PTSA, you aren’t potentially straight—you’re gay and a little more complicated, interesting and expansive than you realized at first.

By the way: On behalf of all the dudes who have objectified you with this “BBC” stuff and made you feel anything other than proud to be primarily a bottom, please accept my apology.

On the Lovecast, it’s hard to date when you’re a sexuality professor: savagelovecast.com.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; @fakedansavage on Twitter; ITMFA.org.

Published in Savage Love

Choking up as he began to speak to a panel of fellow lawmakers, Assemblyman Evan Low paused to collect himself. The room had just quieted after a conservative advocate who opposed his bill heckled the committee—and Low—for not hearing his side out, causing a brief shouting match in the otherwise-staid hearing room.

“It was very difficult to present this bill,” Low, a Democrat from Campbell who is gay, said once the ruckus died down. “Because when thinking about childhood and that it would not be OK to be yourself—you heard testimony about suicidal thoughts. I have also had that.”

This strikingly personal revelation reflects the emotional debate surrounding Low’s proposal to make California the first state in the country to outlaw the advertising and sale of sexual-orientation change services—better known as “conversion therapy.”

On one side sit scientists and LGBTQ advocacy groups who say California must protect its citizens from a harmful, prejudice-driven practice. On the other are First Amendment purists and a group of religious conservatives who argue that a ban curtails personal liberty. At stake are questions about free speech, freedom of religion and the state’s duty to protect consumers from fraud.

The practice of attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is opposed by leading medical groups such as the American Psychological Association and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which say it is ineffective and often harmful. It is embraced by some religious and conservative groups, such as the California Family Council and the Pacific Justice Institute, which say the therapy offers an option to people who believe homosexuality and being transgender are immoral.

Conversion therapies can include traditional talk-therapy as well as more extreme—and, medical groups say, damaging—methods. Some who have experienced them report being forced to ingest nausea-inducing drugs and being electroshocked while viewing homoerotic images, activities designed to condition a negative reaction to their homosexual feelings. Such reports led state Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat and a co-author of the bill, to describe the therapy as “torture.” Although current techniques tend to be less extreme than those of the past, LGBTQ advocates say that they still perpetuate a view of homosexuality and being transgender as undesirable.

This isn’t the first time the Legislature has attempted to limit the practice in California. In 2012, California became the first state in the nation to bar mental-health professionals from treating minors with conversion therapy when it passed a law that has since served as a model for similar laws in 12 other states. Low’s bill goes further by extending the law’s protections to include anyone engaged in a financial transaction, regardless of their age. The effect would be to make it harder for people to learn about or access conversion therapy.

The goal, he said, is “to ensure that we do not allow for Californians to be duped and to be harmed by spending money to try to get a service that has no end result.”

His Assembly Bill 2943 was approved by the Assembly and is now working its way through the Senate. Given the liberal makeup of the Legislature, the measure is likely to land on Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk by the end of summer.

Brown signed the earlier bill banning conversion therapy for children. It was promptly challenged as unconstitutional by conservative activists, but upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013.

Although different legal mechanisms are involved in that law and Low’s bill, they have triggered a similar debate in the state Capitol.

Opponents argue that by classifying conversion therapy as a fraudulent practice, Low’s bill infringes upon the rights to free speech and—since many people who pursue conversion therapy do so for religious reasons—the free exercise of religion.

“It’s one of the more blatantly unconstitutional laws that has come out of California in the last five to 10 years,” said Dean Broyles, the president of a conservative legal defense fund called the National Center for Law and Policy. He has called the debate surrounding Low’s bill a “Bonhoeffer moment” for religious conservatives, referring to the German pastor who stood up to the Nazis.

Low and his supporters, on the other hand, cite the prevailing scientific consensus discouraging the practice of conversion therapy and argue that potential First Amendment infringements are incidental compared to the state’s duty to protect its citizens. Anthony Samson, a Sacramento attorney and policy adviser on Low’s bill, argues that the proposal is neutral to religion, since it affects all consumer transactions. (Not all religious groups in California oppose the measure. California’s six Episcopal bishops, for instance, support the bill.)

Since the law affects only consumer transactions, religious groups—and any other organization—would still be able to offer conversion therapy services for free.

A key provision of Low’s proposal is that it applies only to commercial transactions involving services. After an early draft of the bill provoked backlash for language that critics said was overly ambiguous, Low amended it to clarify that it does not affect goods that contain messages about changing sexual orientation or gender identity—including some religious texts, such as the Bible.

That change has not quelled opponents, who are mounting a vigorous campaign condemning the bill. Hundreds of them—including more than 30 people who say they have successfully changed from gay to straight with conversion therapy—protested on the Capitol steps this month.

“I have a message to the California Assembly: My wife, my 4-year-old daughter, my 1-year-old son, and the baby in my wife’s womb are not fraud,” Jim Domen, founder and president of Church United in Newport Beach, told the protesters. “Assembly Bill 2943 removes my right to choose my sexuality.”

This kind of freedom-focused rhetoric is common in this debate—a frequently heard phrase is “the right to choose”—despite scientific consensus that homosexuality can’t be willfully changed.

“They don’t like the lifestyle. That’s what they’re attacking,” Low said, pointing to a promotional video in which Domen says that homosexuality is “destructive” and “harmful.”

Low sees the fight over this bill as one step in a larger battle for equality. He overcame his own adolescent thoughts of suicide and conversion after finding acceptance from his family and from other gay people.

“There is nothing wrong with me,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with members of the LGBT community.”

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Politics

Juan-Manuel Alonso is a familiar figure at Palm Springs art events. He is tall and handsome, usually with shoulder-length silver hair and a beard. He dresses colorfully and is quick with an interesting story or witty remark.

I spent some time with him recently observing his newest creation: a new outdoor mural at the LGBT Community Center of the Desert in Palm Springs.

Juan was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1952. Although his family moved to New York City in 1960 after the Cuban Revolution, he retains vivid memories of his childhood in Cuba: The colors, sounds and tastes of those early years are evident in his paintings today. (He pointed out that the memories may only be a personal mythology, but that doesn’t take away from their relevance and power to inspire him.) Alonso was particularly drawn to the Afro-Cuban music and religious ceremonies in his neighborhood. His mother said that whenever she wanted to find him, she would just listen for the drums and follow the sound: Juan would always be there, dancing.

Alonso talked about growing up in New York City. He loved going by himself to Radio City Music Hall, and designing dresses made out of Play-Doh for his toy soldiers. He attended Erasmus Hall High School and later the City College of New York. He decided he wanted to be a fashion designer.

“The arts have always been something I enjoy,” he said.

After studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology under Donald Claflin, designer for Tiffany and Co., Alonso worked for Nino Cerruti and Willi Smith, and had an exclusive contract to design his own label for Bergdorf Goodman. He also did freelance design work in San Francisco for several years while under contract to Bergdorf since he was not allowed to work anywhere else in New York.

Alonso started painting in 1995. Around that time, he moved to Miami to care for his parents. He opened his own showroom for art, upholstery and fashion in Bal Harbour—but after a couple of years, he was forced to give it up for health reasons. The workload and stress of designing six collections a year proved to be too much.

When his parents passed away, he decided to move to Palm Springs and concentrate on his painting. It's a decision he said he has never regretted.

“Art opened my eyes, to be aware of the incredible energy that flourishes here,” Alonso said. “It has improved my health, and I have become very creative and developed my own style.”

Alonso has had numerous shows and successes in the area, but is not currently associated with a local gallery. This past December, he broke into the red-hot Miami art market with an exhibition at Art Basel. He will be spending the summer in Santa Fe, N.M.

“My inspiration comes from the memories of where I was born,” Alonso said. “I’m also very inspired by the period of time from 1890 to 1930 when the world was revolutionized and brought into the modern era. I’m inspired by Josephine Baker”—the African-American dancer who became wildly famous after dancing in Paris in 1925. “She was so liberated and had a vision of the future that is still to be realized.

“In my own work, I want to have a subconscious message—something of freedom, a message of liberation. I paint lips as hearts, because finally, they are doing no evil to each other. It’s about love and openness. It’s a very strong message. I’m sending out positivity to counter all the negativity.”

Alonso recently dealt with another serious health crisis, and during his recovery, he was inspired to give something back to the community. He said he approached the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, at 1301 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, and asked if he could donate a mural in a restroom there to commemorate the upcoming 30th anniversary of Keith Haring's mural in the men’s restroom of the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York City. The Center responded that they wanted to commission an exterior mural on the staircase leading to the third-floor Center.

I’ve been watching the progress of this large-scale painting and am deeply touched by both the subject matter and Alonso’s message of positivity. For those of us who survived the AIDS crisis, it is especially poignant.

The mural covers the two curved walls of the staircases. Between the first and second floor is Alonso’s depiction of what Palm Springs means to him. There are mountains and a deep blue sky, as well as the bell tower of Desert Regional Medical Center rising above palm trees and buildings, complete with swimming pools. One can also spot the tram and multitudes of windows painted in the colors of the rainbow flag. Everything is rendered in a joyful and whimsical style.

As one ascends the stairs, the wall between the second and third floors reveals five life-size dancers floating in the same deep-blue sky, one for each of the letters L, B, G, T and Q.

“These dancers represent all of those who are only with us in spirit now,” Alonso said.

The wall rises up to an open ceiling where the blue of the paint exactly matches the sky above. The dancers are surrounded by doves of peace—and they look like they could float upward to dance across the real sky. It’s a reminder that although many loved ones might no longer be in our physical presence, our memories keep them alive, and they are still watching over us.

For more information, visit www.alonso-art.com.

Published in Visual Arts

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