August 29, 2014

‘Lady Valor’ Kristin Beck, a transgender retired Navy SEAL, is the anti-Barbie

BY STEVE ROTHAUS
srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Kristin Beck worries about the safety of other transgender women, not so much for herself.

“Once a week, one time per week a transgender woman is killed,” says Beck — formerly named Christopher — a tough, retired Navy SEAL who still battle trains former co-workers. “Between 50 and 60 women are killed per year for not being Barbie. Because we’re not Barbie, we’re allowed to be killed? And nobody really cares. And that’s something that needs to stop. They don’t kill Barbies. They kill girls like me.”

Beck, who for years risked her life fighting foes like the Taliban, is on a new mission: raising awareness for men and women whose birth bodies don’t match their gender identities.

“I just moved very recently to the Washington, D.C., area, so I could be closer to the Capitol, closer to Congress, to continue my advocacy work for equality, for transgender equality,” said Beck, who relocated from her home in Tampa. “Civil rights activist, that’s my new title.”

Beck, 48, has another new title: TV star. Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story about her former life, transition and new start airs 9 p.m. Thursday on CNN.

Even as a child, Beck knew something was different: Young Christopher secretly dressed as a girl when the rest of the family wasn’t home.

“I never had a label because I never saw it,” says Beck, who is divorced with two sons. “I thought I was the only person in the world who ever did this. I was alone. That’s common among transgender people. You just think you’re all by yourself, there’s nobody out there who would ever identify with me. Nobody would ever love me. I’m not worthy because I’m a frickin’ weirdo.”

Beck is perhaps the least politically correct LGBT politician in Washington. And she doesn’t care.

“I’m Kristin Beck every day. I’m not flamboyant. I try not to be too loud. I’m just a regular person,” she says, frustrated that the media fixates on beautiful transgender women like actress Laverne Cox, who in May appeared on the cover of Time.

“I’m proud, it’s awesome,” Beck says. “I love everything Laverne is doing. But it’s still not a regular person. It’s not the girl from West Virginia who dresses like she’s driving a bulldozer. A trans girl who’s driving a bulldozer is not being represented. What you’re representing is that Barbie mentality that we all need to fit a certain image, and everyone else doesn’t count.”

Beck says she’s anything but Barbie.

“Try to walk around the airport and not have everyone looking at you. Try to get punched in the back of the head when you’re walking down the street,” Beck says. “The Barbie models, they don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff. They’re Barbies. Everybody loves Barbie.”

Sandrine Orabona, co-director of Lady Valor, greatly admires Beck.

“She could have lived a private life. The fact that she’s choosing to be in the spotlight or out there, that’s her personal choice because she feels like she fought for the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Then she looks at what’s going on, and she feels she still has to do that,” says Orabona, who grew up in Coral Gables and graduated from University of Miami’s film school in 1997. “She operates with grace … and she’s made a career of diplomacy, not just in Washington but in the middle of a dusty desert in Afghanistan.”

Nominees to be announced at Pink Flamingo Awards kickoff 7 p.m. Friday at Palace South Beach

From Lori Lynch, executive director of the LGBT Visitor Center in South Beach:

Palace-kick-off-Final_Page_1Palace-kick-off-Final_Page_2

The Palace is proud to be hosting a fundraising TDance, this Friday August 29th, 7pm - 10pm for the LGBT Visitor Center's upcoming PINK FLAMINGO AWARDS! With music by DJ ZEHNO and Hosted by the incredible TP LORDS who will be announcing the finalists in each category!

The finalists voting polls will be open SO YOU CAN START VOTING LIVE AT THE PALACE! And... patrons can purchase  "PINK FLAMINGO COCKTAILS" with 100% of the proceeds from every PFC going to the LGBT Visitor Center. Please join us and raise a glass (and funds) for our community!

No charge.

Click here for details about the Pink Flamingo Awards, to be hosted by comedian ANT.

Award-winning poet L. Lamar Wilson headlines Saturday at Reading Queer festival in Miami Beach

BY STEVE ROTHAUS
srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

L. Lamar Wilson's headline performance Saturday at the Reading Queer festival in Miami Beach will tell his personal story through music and poetry.

"I have a book of poems called Sacrilegion," said Wilson, originally of Marianna in Florida's Panhandle. "It's a book about language of the Bible and the music of the church I grew up in, the Missionary Baptist Church."

Sacrilegion (Carolina Wren Press, 2013) is "a complex book because it's dealing with three things," said Wilson, a copy editor at the Charlotte Observer (a Miami Herald sister paper) and doctoral student at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

"It's about coming of age in the era of AIDS," said Wilson, who won the 2012 Carolina Wren Press Poetry Series.

"I say that with intention. When you are growing up with this thing that kills people, who are like what you are discovering you are … it impacts the way that you think about what it means to be a queer body. It’s not something to embrace, to be joyful about."

SacrilegionCVR_sml3-280x360The book's centerpiece poem is Legion: Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which Wilson will perform Saturday at Reading Queer.

Sacrilegion's second pillar is about race upheaval, Wilson said.

"The aftermath of Jim Crow violence in my hometown of Marianna, Florida," he said."With that kind of violence happening to young black bodies. My book is exploring the violence that is pervasive or institutional in these small towns."

Wilson will read his poem, Resurrection Sunday, about the real-life lynching in 1934 of Claude Neal.

Sacrilegion is also about body image, said Wilson, whose left arm and hand were damaged at birth.

"Growing up with this physical difference, Erb’s palsy, and coming into his own, realizing he is queer and finding the kind of acceptance in a culture that’s obsessed with the perfect chiseled body," Wilson says in the third person.

He later adds a fourth pillar: "What it means to embrace being decidedly rural & Southern in metro cities -- for me, Milwaukee, Chicago, D.C., Atlanta -- when that means you'll be mistaken as slothful and simple-minded. Sacrilegion complicates that narrative," he says in a text message. "It also blurs the lines between English, Spanish, & other Native languages that inform it. I am multiethnically black; my ancestors were master & slave, Mascogo & possibly Latino."

Reading Queer

L. Lamar Wilson performs with Carl DuPont (an assistant professor at University of North Carolina at Charlotte), bass-baritone Lloyd Reshard Jr. & tenor Kunya Rowley from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Miami Beach Botanical Garden. 2000 Convention Center Dr. Free (suggested donation of $20).

Click here for more information.

Colombia allows lesbian couple to adopt child

ASSOCIATED PRESS

colombiaBOGOTA, Colombia -- Colombia has taken a major step recognizing the rights of same-sex couples after the country's constitutional court allowed a lesbian couple to adopt a child born to one of its members.

Ana Leiderman gave birth to two children via artificial insemination. Her longtime partner Veronica Botero however doesn't have any custodial or legal rights over the children, now ages 4 and 6. The couple petitioned for full legal rights after the first child was born.

The decision comes on the heels of a number of favorable gay-friendly rulings in Colombia and other parts of Latin America.

While Thursday's ruling applies to couples where one member is a biological parent, legal experts say it could indicate a willingness by the high court to extend adoption rights to all same-sex couples.

Nathan Lane as 'The Nance' returns Saturday through Monday at Coral Gables Art Cinema

From Robert Rosenberg, director of Coral Gables Art Cinema:

NATHAN LANE RETURNS FOR ENCORES OF “THE NANCE” SAT 8/30 TO MON 9/1 AT THE GABLES CINEMA

the nance

The hit Broadway play starring two-time Tony Award-winner Nathan Lane, The Nance, returns to the Gables Cinema for encore presentations on Saturday, Sunday & Monday, August 30 to September 1 at 1:00 pm each day. In the 1930s, burlesque impresarios welcomed the hilarious comics and musical parodies of vaudeville to their decidedly lowbrow niche. Douglas Carter Beane's The Nance recreates the naughty, raucous world of burlesque's heyday and tells the backstage story of Chauncey Miles (a gay man in his personal life) playing a headliner called "the nance," a stereotypically camp gay man and master of comic double entendre - usually played by a straight man, and his fellow performers. At a time when it was easy to play gay and dangerous to be gay, Chauncey’s uproarious antics on the stage stand out in marked contrast to his offstage life. When the mayor of New York tries to end burlesque, Chauncey must fight in court for his freedom of expression. Performances are captured live and presented in high quality 2K Digital Cinema Projection that brings Broadway to the Gables. Tickets are $20 and under and are available in advance through the Cinema’s website www.gablescinema.com and in person at the box office during regular screening hours. The Cinema is located at 260 Aragon Avenue, directly across from Books & Books, in downtown Coral Gables.

August 28, 2014

Viral video | Parents disown, assault 19-year-old gay son when he comes out to them

Posted to YouTube on Wednesday. So far, it's had more than 1.3 million views in about 24 hours:

How not to react when your child tells you that he's gay

A lot of people have asked about donations. A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist with living expenses. http://www.gofundme.com/dnoqgg

A perfect example of how much hate and intolerance still exists today. This family gave a young man two options: attend a pray the gay away intervention, or face being disowned by the very people who are supposed to love him unconditionally.

Disclaimer: This is a 19 year old friend of mine who is currently staying with very supportive friends. He is safe and removed from the situation. I am posting this on his behalf per his request. I was not witness to the events that transpired, but was present immediately after to help him relocate.

Appeals court rejects Pam Bondi request to hold off deciding Florida gay marriage cases

BY STEVE ROTHAUS
SROTHAUS@MIAMIHERALD.COM

A state appeals court on Thursday rejected Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's request to hold off on deciding the constitutionality of Florida's gay-marriage ban until after the U.S. Supreme Court someday rules on the issue.

“Upon consideration, appellant’s motions to stay briefing are denied,” the Miami-based Third District Court of Appeal said in a terse ruling Thursday.

“That is the best news of the day. We would have been sitting in limbo for an undetermined amount of time,” said attorney Bernadette Restivo, who represents Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, two Key West bartenders who on July 17 won the right to marry in Monroe County Circuit Court. “Pam Bondi’s stay would have caused enormous irreparable harm to the plaintiffs and others similarly situated. Every day that we move forward in this case will hopefully mean we are moving closer to ending this oppressive discrimination.”

Said Bondi’s spokeswoman Jennifer Meale: “The Court has ruled that the case will move forward, and we will proceed accordingly.”

Monroe Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia declared Florida's 2008 gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, ruling against Bondi, whose office defended the ban. Despite that decision, Huntsman and Jones have not been allowed to marry because Florida law mandates an automatic stay pending appeal when a public official loses a court case.

On July 25, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel also ordered that six other same-sex couples be allowed to marry, but stayed her ruling pending appeal.

Bondi appealed both cases and on Aug. 7 asked the Third DCA, which has jurisdiction over Monroe and Miami-Dade counties, not to hear them until after the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue. “Neither this Court nor the Florida Supreme Court can decide this federal issue with finality,” Bondi wrote to the appeals court. “The United States Supreme Court, however, ‘has the final word on the United States Constitution.’”

The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet agreed to decide whether state marriage bans are unconstitutional. In June 2013, the court threw out a key portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and ordered the U.S. government to recognize the Canadian marriage of lesbian Edith Windsor, a New York widow. Since then, same-sex couples have won more than 30 times in federal, state and appellate courts, according to the group Freedom to Marry.

Also on Thursday, the appeals court agreed to consolidate the Monroe and Miami-Dade cases, so they can be heard together.

“For consistency sake, the cases are very similar,” Restivo said. “We have been working in conjunction with the attorneys in the [Miami-Dade] case. It’s important for us to work together to narrowly tailor the issues on appeal. We’re speaking out of one voice sending the exact issues up to the Florida Supreme Court.

The appeals court ruling came a day after a state appeals court in Central Florida asked the Florida Supreme Court to decide the issue once and for all. The Second DCA agreed 10-3 to “pass through” the case of Mariama Monique Changamire Shaw and Keiba Lynn Shaw, a lesbian couple married in Massachusetts in 2010, who are now seeking a divorce in Tampa. Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Laurel Lee refused to grant the couple a divorce because state law bans same-sex marriages. The state Supreme Court has not decided whether to hear the case or send it back to the appeals court.

To date, three other judges in Florida have also declared the state’s 2008 gay marriage ban unconstitutional.

• On Aug. 4, Broward Circuit Judge Dale Cohen agreed to dissolve the Vermont civil union of Lake Worth art dealer Heather Brassner, whose former partner cheated on her and then disappeared. Cohen stayed the ruling, but says he will formally divorce Brassner and Megan Lade on Sept. 10 unless Bondi appeals his order (which Bondi hasn’t done) according to Brassner’s attorney, Nancy Brodzki of Coral Springs.

• A day later, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Diana Lewis ruled in favor of W. Jason Simpson, who asked to be personal representative in the estate of his husband, Frank Bangor, who died March 14. The two men, together 37 years, were married Oct. 23, 2013, in Delaware.

In her ruling, Lewis noted that shortly after Bangor died, the state of Pennsylvania legalized gay marriage and that Florida’s anti-gay marriage laws “unnecessarily discriminate” against Simpson. The judge also wrote that her ruling only applies to the Simpson case. Lewis’ ruling becomes final no later than the second week of September if Bondi fails to appeal, said Simpson attorney Drew Fein of Boca Raton.

• On Aug. 21, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee ruled against Bondi, declaring the state’s gay-marriage ban discriminates against nine married couples and others who sued to have out-of-state marriages recognized by Florida. Hinkle stayed his ruling until after the appeals process is completed.

TMZ: Joan Rivers in critical condition after heart stops during throat surgery in New York

TMZ reports that Joan Rivers is in critical condition after she stopped breathing Thursday during throat surgery in New York.

From TMZ:

We're told ... at one point, Joan's heart stopped beating. 
It's unclear if doctors were able to restart the comic's heart.

Above is a 2009 video interview I did with Rivers just before she appeared at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.

Here’s the People page interview that accompanied it:

BY STEVE ROTHAUS
srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

riversHer face has, hmmm, changed over the years, but the way she talks is vintageJoan Rivers.

``Someone told me -- and I hate the term -- stars have very distinct voices. You know Cher, immediately. You knowLiza, immediately,'' says Rivers, who performs Wednesday night in Miami. ``When I was a little girl, I picked up the phone and someone said, `Little boy, put your mother on.' I almost died. Now,Chastity Bono would have loved that!''

Johnny Carson put Rivers on the map, booking her on The Tonight Showin 1965. Two decades later, she became his permanent guest host.

When Rivers learned she wouldn't succeed Carson at NBC, she signed in 1986 with the new Fox network, to become its first late-night talk host -- and directly compete with him.

Carson stopped speaking to her.

``He was not a nice man,'' Rivers says. ``I called him and he hung up on me. He kept a feud going for 16 years. You suddenly saw why Johnny got to be Johnny.''

Rivers' talk show lasted six months. And she's blunt about the man whodid replace Carson, Jay Leno, calling his comedy ``boring.''

``I like Leno because once I watch the show, I won't be able to handle heavy machinery for a couple of hours. I never watch it,'' Rivers says. ``A Leno punch line is like seeing Aretha Franklin coming at you on the beach. You can see it a long way off.''

Brooklyn-born Rivers, 76, still lives in New York, though she's on the road about two weeks a month. When in town, she performs Wednesdays in a 97-seat Hell's Kitchen nightclub.

Over the summer, Rivers taped two episodes in Miami Beach of her TV Land reality series, How'd You Get So Rich?, in which she visits the fancy homes of wealthy celebrities.

She says she'll go anywhere for the show. ``If there's a really rich Eskimo, I'm there. `Now that's what I call an igloo!' ''

Rivers says she's never jealous of the rich celebs.

``Everybody made it on their own. I love people like that,'' she says. ``I hate people that say, `I can't do it.' `I came from a broken home.' `My father was a drunk.'

``I love what I do, that's why I don't consider it work. Everybody says, `When are you going to retire?' I say to do what? Tell jokes to the mailman?''

Rivers says her New York penthouse on East 62nd Street off Fifth Avenue is still for sale. Asking price: $25 million.

``For $30 [million], you get the furniture. For $35 [million], I will work for you for a year. For $40 [million], you get me to perform once a week in your living room.''

Michael Sam gets last chance at Rams' preseason game Thursday against Miami Dolphins

BY TIM REYNOLDS
AP SPORTS WRITER

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Michael Sam is about to get one last chance to show the St. Louis Rams why he belongs on their 53-man roster.

For him — and everyone else on NFL roster bubbles — a preseason finale is anything but meaningless.

Sam and the Rams visit the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night, the last exhibition for both clubs and the last opportunity for players to state their cases before teams pare down their rosters to the NFL-mandated 53 by Saturday afternoon.

"I will be playing a lot more," Sam told the Rams' website in a videotaped interview.

The NFL's first openly gay player is battling for a spot on St. Louis' defensive line, which just happens to be a position where the Rams are extremely deep. Sam has shown some flashes of great potential — his sacks of Johnny Manziel against Cleveland last week maybe foremost among them — but knows those plays alone won't win him a job.

Click here to read more.

Chile sailor publicly discloses his homosexuality

ASSOCIATED PRESS

SANTIAGO, Chile -- A sailor with Chile's navy on Wednesday announced he is gay, an unprecedented public declaration in this socially conservative South American nation.

Chile has traditionally been a tough place for homosexuals, although the country decriminalized gay sex in 1999 and attitudes toward gays are evolving. The killing of a gay man in Chile 2012 set off a national debate that prompted Congress to pass a hate crimes law.

At a press conference Wednesday, 24-year-old sailor Mauricio Ruiz told reporters he hoped the public disclosure about his sexuality will help dispel myths that gays can't be effective members of Chile's armed forces.

Ruiz was accompanied by gay activists for his announcement, which he said was not an easy step to take but one he felt was necessary.

"Personally, I hope that this is a contribution to non-discrimination in my society," he said.

Click here to read more.