CVIndependent

Wed11202019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

When residents of the Coachella Valley joined many, many thousands of visitors from around the globe last year to celebrate Greater Palm Springs Pride, the mood was decidedly mixed.

On one hand, the year 2015 had brought us arguably the greatest LGBT-rights legal victory ever: full marriage equality in all 50 states.

On the other hand, we were reeling from the news that just days before Pride—mere feet from the site of the Pride enclosure on Arenas Road—George Zander, a prominent LGBT-rights activist that so many of us knew and loved, had been gay-bashed along with his husband, Chris, after leaving Hunters Nightclub.

Fortunately, George’s prognosis was good, although he faced a lengthy and grueling rehabilitation process after injuries including a broken hip.

As 2016’s Greater Palm Springs Pride approaches, the mood of locals and visitors alike is decidedly less joyous than it was a year ago.

In the months since last year’s Pride, the LGBT community has found itself under attack. Horrifying new laws in some states are targeting the rights of transgender men and women to simply be able to go to the bathroom safely. The Republican presidential ticket has come out staunchly against the nationwide marriage equality we all celebrated so joyously when we gained the right a year and a half ago. And most horrifically of all, a shooter—perhaps conflicted by his own sexuality—killed 49 revelers, and injured dozens of more, late one June night at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

As for George Zander: Many of us gathered earlier this week in downtown Palm Springs for a candlelight vigil to mourn his passing last December. That good prognosis we all clung to with hope during last year’s Pride turned out to be woefully incorrect. 

As we get together for Greater Palm Springs Pride 2016, we’ll deal with all of the emotions of the last year—sadness, mourning, anger and, yes, joy, too—with the help of art, just as our fellow humans have done for millennia.

We’ll march. We’ll play and listen to music. We’ll dance. We’ll revel in art. We’ll act and become engrossed in story at the theater.

And we’ll hope that by the time Greater Palm Springs Pride 2017 rolls around, we’ll have a lot less to mourn—and a lot more to celebrate.

Published in Editor's Note

On this week's utterly baffled weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson shakes her head at all of the recent shootings; The K Chronicles looks at how the sausage is made in America; This Modern World bemoans the end of humanity; and Red Meat gets ready for Halloween eggings.

Published in Comics

I never thought I’d hear the leader of the free world extolling the virtues of the gay nightclub.

Yet there he was, President Barack Obama, doing just that, on Sunday, June 12, as we all reeled in shock at the news that an idiot had just killed 49 men and women at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

“The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live,” Obama said. “The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub—it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.

Wow,” I thought to myself when I heard the president’s remarks. “He really gets it.”

Visions nightclub in Reno, Nev., was my place of solidarity and empowerment at a time when I really needed it. It was in the late ’90s; I had just graduated from college and moved back to my hometown after breaking up with my fiancée. I was coming to terms with the fact that I was gay—a fact that would not sit well with many of my friends who, like me, were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormon).

I was not out to anyone but a handful of friends. Heck, I was barely out to myself. But every Saturday night, those friends and I could be found at Visions, chatting, flirting and accepting ourselves. Inside this gay nightclub, I was authentic—and I was safe.

I’ve come a long way in the two decades or so since then. So, too, has society. However, for me and many, many others—both gay and straight—bars and nightclubs are still places to come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.

The Independent and Brian Blueskye organized nine concerts last year to both promote local musicians and raise money for the LGBT Community Center of the Desert’s Food Bank. We also assembled a fundraising concert to help out Chris and George Zander after they were senselessly attacked. My softball team and I have hosted two “Thirst for Life” fundraisers on behalf of the Desert AIDS Project.

All of those took place at Chill Bar Palm Springs and the Scorpion Room nightclub. It is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.

As always, thanks for reading the Independent. Be sure to pick up the July 2016 print edition, hitting streets this week across the Coachella Valley.

Published in Editor's Note

Gun safety is, and has always been, an LGBT-rights issue.

Granted, some of the most prominent cases of anti-LGBT hate crimes have not involved guns; the deaths of Matthew Shepard and Sakia Gunn were not due to firearms. Even so, the LGBT community is plagued by gun violence.

On May 13, 1988, Rebecca Wight and Claudia Brenner were shot while hiking the Appalachian Trail, because their murderer was enraged by their lesbianism. Wight died from her wounds.

On Oct. 15, 1999, Sissy “Charles” Boden was shot dead in Savannah, Ga., for being gay.

On July 23, 2003, Nireah Johnson and Brandie Coleman were shot to death in Indianapolis after their assailant learned Nireah was transgender.

On Feb. 12, 2008, 15-year-old Lawrence “Larry” King was shot twice by a classmate in Oxnard because of his sexual orientation. He later died.

Gun safety has always been an issue with the LGBT community. According to FBI data, nearly 21 percent of all hate crimes reported in the U.S. have been due to the victims’ real or perceived sexual orientation. However, our major LGBT organizations historically have not taken a significant stand on the controversial issue of gun violence.

But on June 12, 2016, 49 individuals died because of their sexual orientation, or because of their support of the LGBT community, at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. This was a pivotal moment: A community has had enough—a community that is well-organized due to decades of fighting for civil and human rights. Our right to live without fear of dying at the hands of gun violence is now being fully embraced and is considered of paramount importance. Make no mistake: These are not special rights. These are not gay rights. These are human rights—and now this is our fight.

On Saturday, June 18, Equality California (EQCA) launched its new #SafeAndEqual campaign, not only to raise awareness that gun violence is an LGBT issue, but to declare that gun safety is an LGBT right and now a major policy priority. EQCA has signed on to numerous statewide bills and is proud to join other organizations, like the Human Rights Campaign, on federal efforts that will prohibit military-style assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines; close gun-show and Internet-sales loopholes on background checks; and strengthen background checks and waiting periods to keep guns out of dangerous hands. EQCA will bring the full force of our lobbying efforts to pass them.

This is deeply personal. Pulse nightclub could easily have been Hunters or Chill Bar on Arenas, or Micky’s in West Hollywood. Those 49 people are sons and daughters, siblings, parents and young people with what should have been very bright futures. Most of them were LGBT people. They could have been me and you and 47 people we know here in the Coachella Valley. It’s difficult to remember in such an affirming community as Palm Springs, but the more visible we are as an LGBT community, the more vulnerable to violence and hatred we become.

As EQCA’s executive director, Rick Zbur, said: “Ending gun violence is also an LGBT issue, because LGBT people are disproportionately impacted by gun violence. Transgender women face epidemic rates of murder and violent crime. Hate crimes are on the rise throughout the United States, and members of communities of color suffer the highest rates of gun violence. In the weeks and months ahead, Equality California will relentlessly work in Washington, D.C., and in Sacramento, and mobilize our 800,000 members and the LGBT community to support legislation to keep our community—and everyone—safe.”

We all cope with tragedies differently. After the Orlando shooting, some of us attended vigils that doubled as rallies. Many of us were angry or sad. Many of us cried … a lot. I am a person of faith, and I’ve prayed for those who have passed and hold them in my thoughts every day. However, my tears and prayers alone will not change the culture in which we live. They will not bring 49 dear souls back to us. They will not remove killing machines from the hands of dangerous people.

However, 800,000 Californians, organized in lockstep with millions of others across this country pushing for real reform, will make a difference. It will require all of us to do our part and work together, but we can and will become #SafeAndEqual. I encourage you to start by adding your name at eqca.org/safe.

Darrell L. Tucci is a Palm Springs resident and a board member of Equality California.

Published in Community Voices

On this week's mournful Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson watches as pundits spew; The K Chronicles ponders a proposed gun ban; This Modern World considers when America was great back in ... 2000?; and Red Meat celebrates Milkman Dan's new uniform.

Published in Comics

“It’s the best of times and the worst of times,” said Nadine Smith, the chief executive officer of Equality Florida, as she reflected on the recent gains for LGBT individuals, including marriage rights—and the horrific slaughter of those at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12.

Her words hit home for me. I’ve been struggling to reconcile spontaneously bursting into joyful tears in the voting booth, mere days before Orlando thrust me back into the violent reality of our times.

Any violence that indiscriminately targets a specific ethnicity, or religion, or race, or national origin, or gender is onerous. I see every person whose life was cut short or is still suffering grievous injuries as being just like my son, who is gay. My tears flow freely as the names and ages are called out on the news with small details of their ordinary and extraordinary lives as described by families and friends. My heart goes out to share their grief.

The worst of times.

It feels like a lifetime ago that I was shedding unexpected tears in that voting booth. I admit to feeling emotionally overwhelmed as I cast my vote for a woman to be the nominee of a major party for president of the United States.

The best of times.

I remember when there were jobs I couldn’t apply for because I was a woman. I remember when I couldn’t get a credit card without my husband’s signature. I remember having to sign an affidavit saying I would never get pregnant again in order to qualify for a VA loan to buy a house, since both our incomes were necessary to get the mortgage.

“Despite all the negativity, she kept reaching, exceeding her grasp … lesson learned.” —Helen, Palm Desert, on Hillary Clinton

After many years of involvement in the women’s rights movement, including service on state and national boards of major organizations, I have seen my share of challenges and triumphs. I remember when using “Ms.” to identify women as individuals—without regard to their marital status—was considered unthinkable. I remember when women were expected to train the young men who they knew would eventually be promoted over them. I remember when being crudely hit on by a client was considered a compliment.

“Going all the way back to the ’70s and ’80s and the ERA battles … this is not the end, but it sure as hell is closer than we have ever been. My granddaughter can shape her own future—be a combat troop commander AND Miss USA, or president of the United States” —Pat, Palm Springs

Many of my friends fell in love with Bernie Sanders’ agenda. They might never self-describe as Democratic Socialists, but they like his approach and willingness to challenge the status quo.

“Regardless of candidate preference, the idea of a female taking on such a role—the presidency of our country—proves to individuals everywhere, especially young girls, that they don’t have to settle for less.” —Alejandra, Thermal

“I like many of Bernie’s policies, but Hillary knows her way around Washington and the world. As the leader of the world for almost a century, the United States is way behind in electing a female president.” —Alice, Desert Hot Springs

I would never vote for a candidate merely based on a single arbitrary characteristic, like gender, color or religion. However, all things being equal, I would give the nod to a well-qualified woman over a well-qualified man, just because we need to catch up with the rest of the world. (It does look as if “all things being equal” won’t apply to this election, in any event.)

“In the voter’s booth, I’ll take ‘calm intelligence’ over ‘erratic instincts’ every time. My reaction is that I am standing proud with women everywhere.” —Janet, Palm Desert

“I cried when I saw Hillary walk onto the stage with arms open … I am so proud of her and proud to be me, a woman.” —Anita, Rancho Mirage

Women have led nations all over the world, in countries with varying predominant religions, and even in the face of security and military challenges far worse than those we face. Women have won presidential elections in South Korea, Malawi, Argentina, Kosovo, Iceland, Malta, Philippines, Nicaragua, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Guyana, Latvia, Panama, Finland, Indonesia, Liberia, Chile, India, Lithuania and many other places, to say nothing of nations where women have served as heads of government in the position of prime minister or other titles.

“The historical aspect of it didn’t hit me until election night.” —Pat, Indio

“When I was listening to Hillary’s acceptance speech … I was so emotional that all I kept thinking was how I wish my mother could’ve been there with me, celebrating this moment in history, something she always dreamed of.” —Claudia, La Quinta

There are many women, and men, who will not support Hillary BECAUSE she is a woman and who still believe a woman’s place is in the home—in the background, in the support role. There are women who are uncomfortable identifying with Hillary’s persona, because it often evokes misogynist reactions and they don’t want to suffer those same reactions. There are those who have a negative view of Hillary based on scandals and various “—gates.”

“It will make a difference to have a woman in the White House, and it’s long overdue. Compared to all the powerful men in history … whatever mistakes she may have made are, in my opinion, far less egregious. Thanks to all the heroic women who have come before me and who made this possible.” —Helen, Northern California

“Maybe I’d vote for her if she divorced Bill!” —Val, Indio

Going back to Nadine Smith’s comments in the wake of the Orlando killings, the Equality Florida CEO said: “I vacillate between sadness and anger, but mostly pride (at what we’ve accomplished).” I, too, am saddened and angered that anyone, for ANY reason, indiscriminately murders innocents. At the same time, I am full of pride and hopeful that we have a chance through a new approach, a woman’s approach, to model our values and our better angels to the world.

“I’m thrilled, like every other woman should be.” —Nancy, Palm Desert

“Our time has finally arrived.” —Kathy, Oceanside, formerly Palm Springs

I yearn for her candidacy to show my two granddaughters that they can achieve anything.” —Dori, Palm Desert

When Hamilton, a revolutionary approach to a Broadway musical, won the bulk of trophies at the Tony Awards, one of the producers, echoing a line from the script, said it all for me:

“Look around. How lucky we are to be alive right now. History is happening.”

It is the best of times.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Just after 2 a.m. on Sunday, June 12, Omar Mateen walked into Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and started firing at the 320 or so people who were still in the club after the bartenders announced last call. In the three terrible hours that followed, at least 50 people lost their lives.

The country woke up to this horrifying news on Sunday morning, and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert quickly assembled a vigil to be held at 6:30 p.m. on Arenas Road in downtown Palm Springs. 

Mike Thompson, the LGBT Center’s chief executive officer, explained how the vigil came together.

“It was really kind of a matter of minutes,” Thompson told the Independent. “A few people already coordinated some activities, so it was immediately getting together with them and organizing the community organizers. It was great to have something to rally around, and the support has been tremendous.”

Thompson said that he had not spoken with anyone at The Center, Orlando’s LGBT community center, but he said he was heartened to see how many similar vigils and events had been scheduled in solidarity with Orlando.

“I’m on a list with a bunch of other community centers, and it’s been phenomenal to see the kind of support that’s being shown. There are 152 events scheduled over the next couple of days in 32 states, including San Juan, Puerto Rico and in Mexico City. In a 12-hour period of time, what’s been able to come together when communities mobilize—it’s pretty fantastic.”

He said it was important for the vigil to be held on Arenas—the epicenter of gay nightlife in the Coachella Valley.

“Because this event in Orlando happened in a gay bar, and we had our own tragedy with George Zander on Arenas back in November, it was important for us as a community to gather on this street and show our solidarity in our community. This is significant on so many levels for this community.”

Richard Noble, who walked across America with the rainbow flag to promote LGBT civil rights, was present holding a sign that said “Enough Gun Violence.”

Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2016, Christopher Durbin, said he felt sadness, followed by anger, when he heard about what is now the deadliest mass shooting ever in the United States.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “We’ve had many incidents like these of gun violence in the past, and nothing is being done. Maybe with the largest and most severe one in American history, something will be done.”

Durbin said the vigil offered inspiration on what was otherwise a dark day.

“I am so filled with pride and joy right now. This incredible turnout happened in a matter of a few hours,” he said. “It is heartwarming to see, and it is incredible to see what can be done so quickly in our beautiful town of Palm Springs.”

Just before the vigil started, the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus gave a beautiful performance of “God Bless America,” which resulted in some people choking back tears during the moment of silence that Thompson led, shortly before Congressman Raul Ruiz started to speak.

Ruiz spoke at length about the need for better gun-control laws.

“This is a time where we reaffirm our commitment to defeat terrorism around the international community,” Ruiz told the audience to applause.

At that moment, a man screamed, “Raul! What are you going to tell the NRA when you get back to Washington?”

Ruiz’s response: “I’m going to tell them to stop their bullshit!” he said to thunderous applause.

Ruiz ended his speech on a high note.

“I want to say that I stand with you; I mourn with you; and I dream of an equal America that demonstrates its greatness through the equality of its values, and I will always march with you,” Ruiz said.

When Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon spoke, he emphasized that safety was a priority.

“I want to assure you as your mayor that the city of Palm Springs and your Palm Springs City Council recognizes public safety is the No. 1 responsibility of our city and our City Council,” Moon said.

Moon added a call for solidarity.

“We must put a stop to this violence and tragic loss of life,” he said. “We must continue to work together, to support one another, and not give up the fight for equality for every person in the United States—regardless of their gender, their gender identity, their age, their religion or their sexual orientation. Let’s keep fighting until we win this battle.”

The first of three religious leaders to speak was Rabbi David Lazar, of Temple Isaiah.

“Look where you are standing, because you’re standing on holy ground,” Lazar told the crowd. “We are sanctifying this ground, this street, this row of clubs by being here and saying and doing and just being here. We’re sanctifying this ground. A place where other people come to be together to hold hands and celebrate—that place was defiled. While we can’t go to Orlando right now to do what we’re doing, we symbolically do it here.”

Imam Reymundo Nour from the Islamic Society of Palm Springs spoke out in support of the LGBT community.

“The Islamic Society of Palm Springs wants you to know that we stand with other Islamic organizations, civic leaders, human rights organizations, the clergy and the LGBT community,” Nour said. “We stand together in condemning this senseless act of violence.” 

Imam Nour reminded attendees what happened to the Islamic Society of Palm Springs back in December—an attack which made national headlines.

“Recently, in December, our mosque was firebombed by an individual who had similar hate sentiments,” he said. “The LGBT community stood behind us, so we’re here to stand behind you today. We pray for the victims and their loved ones, and we urge the residents of our valley, we urge the citizens of our nation, to stand with them in their time of need as they stood with us in ours and consistently stand with us in our time of need against bigotry, hatred, and discrimination.”

Kevin Johnson, of Bloom in the Desert Ministries, referenced the jigsaw-puzzle pattern on the stole he was wearing.

“It is a time for drawing together, and we are doing that,” he said. “It is also a time when we are called to action. The ordination stole I am wearing right now is rainbow-colored puzzle pieces. I wear it because it represents the intersection of oppressions … in the LGBT community. Let’s eliminate the lines, but until that can happen, but like jigsaw puzzles, our communities are connected to one another, and we can live, support, and work for one another.”

Johnson said it was important to speak out against violence and included the old ACT UP slogan, “Silence = Death.”

“Thoughts and prayers are fine, but they are not enough,” Johnson said. “Ending this madness will take votes, and I encourage everyone of good faith to cast votes to elect leaders and pass laws to bring sensible gun laws into our communities.”

Lisa Middleton, a transgender woman who is a member of the Palm Springs Planning Commission and former board member at the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, choked up when she first started speaking.

“We remember Harvey Milk; we remember Matthew Shepard; and we remember Brandon Teena,” Middleton said. “We did not need another reminder, but now we have Orlando.

“I have news for the haters: You are going to lose! There are more of us than there are of them. We are stronger than they are; we are better organized; and we have a pulse. It is time that people like Omar Mateen cannot get an AR-15. It is past time for that to happen. We know the club he went to; we know why he went to that club; we know who he targeted; and we know who he was after. He’s not going to win. They have tried to stop us before, put us in jail for who we loved, fired us when we came out, tried to stop us from getting married—and it didn’t work out too well for them. We are stronger; we are together; and this is our town and our country. It is our time! We’re going to stand together. We will stand strong, and ladies and gentlemen, we shall overcome!”

Published in Local Issues