New 'Yass' Community Center Linked to Peter Thiel Money

A new LGBT community workspace called Yass debuts next year in San Francisco — if it can survive the backlash of having Peter Thiel as a backer.

Thiel is Silicon Valley’s best known Donald Trump supporter, and Yass would become a members-only community gathering place that costs up to $300 per month in dues. Its website calls it “A headquarters & hangout for today’s generation of queer people to bring out the best in each other.” How much you pay to join (what seems a lot like an LGBT center, which are usually free) depends on your industry.

The Guardian reported Thursday that Thiel’s venture capital firm is its only backer. There’s no word on how much Thiel’s firm has put behind the center; he reportedly gave $1.25 million to the Trump campaign. 

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Thiel’s association isn’t clear cut: “The investment in Yass, though it came from a Thiel-backed firm, was actually made by Cyan Banister, a venture capitalist and entrepreneur who told Wired in 2016 that she identifies as both a man and a woman and calls herself genderqueer. Banister is a partner at Founders Fund, the Presidio-based venture capital firm Peter Thiel co-founded in 2005.”

Still, even that much of a link comes with consequences. The Huffington Post reports that some on Twitter are pledging never to join. 

Thiel’s connection to the LGBT community is tentative. He famously sued Gawker into oblivion in retribution for outing him. He did it by secretly backing a number of unrelated lawsuits, with the Hulk Hogan case breaking the company.

After historian Jim Downs wrote a guest op-ed for The Advocate calling out Thiel for backing Trump, Thiel lashed out at all LGBT people, saying their “intolerance has taken on some bizarre forms. The Advocate, a magazine which once praised me as a ‘gay innovator,’ even published an article saying that as of now I am, and I quote, ‘not a gay man,’ because I don’t agree with their politics. The lie behind the buzzword of ‘diversity’ could not be made more clear: If you don’t conform, then you don’t count as ‘diverse,’ no matter what your personal background.”

Downs had written that, “By the logic of gay liberation, Thiel is an example of a man who has sex with other men, but not a gay man. Because he does not embrace the struggle of people to embrace their distinctive identity.”

Thiel spoke at the Republican National Convention and proudly declared he’s gay, helping to drive home the notion that Trump would be a good choice for LGBT people. Trump went on as president to try banning transgender people from the military while rolling back inclusive guidelines for trans students. His Justice Department, led by Jeff Sessions, issued a “religious freedom” order that lets federal agencies and contractors turn away LGBT people without repercussions. Activists call it a “license to discriminate.” Most recently, Trump’s spokesperson said he believes religious freedom means businesses can post “No Gays Allowed” signs.

Having Thiel’s support these days isn’t what it once was. In November, Silicon Valley learned that famed incubator Y Combinator was no longer affiliated with Thiel. That’s according to a news release from 2015 when the company had announced it was welcoming Thiel. It’s now been revised.

Whether Yass can recover from the Thiel affiliation, it will still have to contend with criticism that its name further appropriates ball culture, and that its location is another example of the worst kinds of gentrification. Read more at about those issue from

Aisha C. Moodie-Mills Leaves Victory Fund, Succeeded by Annise Parker

Victory Fund is getting a change in leadership.

Aisha C. Moodie-Mills announced today that she’s resigning as president and CEO of Victory Fund and its sister organization, Victory Institute, and former Houston Mayor Annise Parker will take over the post Monday. The groups train and support openly LGBT candidates and elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels.

Moodie-Mills, who has been in the position for two and a half years, made her announcement at the International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. “Politics are so personal for me, for all of us,” she said, according to the Washington Blade. “Our lives are on the chopping block. And so, it is with a heavy heart but clear purpose that is time for me to leave Victory. This past election has upended the normalcy [of] our politics and our discourse, and I see it as my redefined mission to help progressives set a new course.”

Moodie-Mills did not specify what her next move will be. Victory Fund director of communications Elliot Imse, speaking to The Advocate afterward, did not offer specifics either, but said Moodie-Mills wants to work in the broader progressive movement, incorporating LGBT issues and more. She plans to move from Washington to join her wife in New York City. “With the 2018 election cycle heating up, the timing worked out for everyone,” he said.

Parker said that’s certainly the case for her. Since leaving office as mayor two years ago, she’s been working for nonprofit organizations in Houston, including BakerRipley, which aids immigrants, refugees, and other marginalized communities. She resigned from BakerRipley at the beginning of November, and she soon got the call from Victory Fund. “The stars aligned, and the timing was perfect,” she told The Advocate. “The right call came in on the right day, and I said yes.”

“I am really, really passionate about LGBT issues and bringing more people into the political process,” she added, further noting, “I’m a lesbian activist at heart.”

Parker wants to build on Victory Fund’s successes, she said. “We’re going to do more of the same,” she said. Moodie-Mills helped inspire more LGBT people of color to run for office, for instance, and Parker wants to continue increasing those numbers.

It’s also important to continue increasing the number of transgender candidates, she said, after a year that saw some major victories for trans candidates endorsed by Victory Fund, with Danica Roem defeating anti-LGBT incumbent Bob Marshall for the Virginia House of Delegates, and Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham elected to the Minneapolis City Council.

“One of the reasons it’s really important to support transgender candidates is that there’s been a ramp-up in attacks on the transgender community,” she said. While many straight and cisgender people know someone who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual, far fewer know someone who is transgender, and that makes it easy for anti-trans forces to create an image of trans people as a “feared other,” she said.

She saw that happen up close during the effort to repeal the trans-inclusive Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which voters did in 2015. Opponents of the ordinance, which the City Council passed in 2014, ran a fearmongering campaign alleging that it would allow predatory men disguised as women to terrorize women and girls in public restrooms.

“The fight over HERO was the start of a wave of very focused attacks on the transgender community,” she said. It was also a learning experience for Parker and others who support equal rights for trans people. “It was a great reminder that we have to get out early and we have to own the narrative in these political campaigns,” she said. That’s a lesson she plans to bring to her work with Victory Fund, she said, adding that greater acceptance of trans people will be transformative for the whole LGBT community.

Parker served three terms as mayor of the nation’s fourth-largest city, the largest ever to have a mayor drawn from the LGBT population, and left office due to term limits. Before that, she spent three terms as city controller and three on the City Council. She received Victory Fund support at each level.

Previously, she worked for 20 years in the oil and gas industry, a major part of Houston’s economy. She had a conservative Republican boss – Robert Mosbacher, who was also a member of President George H.W. Bush’s Cabinet and has a lesbian daughter, Dee. Parker was “oil company employee by day, activist by night” in those years, she said. “I was about the most visible lesbian activist in Houston in the 1980s,” she said. Her activism actually goes back even farther; she attended her first LGBT political event in 1975, which was before Moodie-Mills was born.

Now, she said, she sees a great increase in young people interested in politics, and the size of Victory Institute’s candidate training classes has grown enormously. “They’re young, they’re driven, and they’re really passionate,” she said of these aspiring pols. “The trick will be translating that into the nuts and bolts of campaigning.”

She doesn’t plan to relocate to Washington, although she will be at Victory Fund’s headquarters frequently. The group is involved in campaigns nationwide, and it’s often easier to travel from Houston. Parker shares her home there with wife Kathy Hubbard; they’ve been together for 27 years and married for four. They have four children, the youngest of whom is 22, and one grandchild.

Victory Fund/Victory Institute leaders expressed faith in Parker and were proud of Moodie-Mills’s record. “As the first openly LGBTQ mayor of Houston, Annise understands the challenges inherent in running and winning elected office, and she’s ideally positioned to help us fulfill our mission now and in the future,” One Victory board chair Kim Hoover said in a press release. “During Aisha’s tenure we grew the organization’s leadership initiatives to ensure LGBTQ people from across the country were prepared to run for office and be a voice for our community. We invested in game-changing campaigns and took on anti-equality incumbents with historic LGBTQ candidates, and won. And we strengthened and grew our network of LGBTQ elected officials, who work tirelessly to be the change we want to see in the world. We are grateful for her leadership, and now we are excited to build on her great work and use Annise’s experience and expertise to ensure Victory Fund and Victory Institute have an even greater impact moving forward. And she is eager to get started.”

“Over the last two years I’ve been fortunate to lead an incredible team at Victory, and together we have achieved great progress in in our efforts to elect LGBTQ candidates across the country,” Moodie-Mill, said in the same release. “We witnessed a surge in the number of LGBTQ people from across the country who want to run for office and be our voice in the halls of power – and it has been so personally rewarding for me to have helped historic candidates win elections thought impossible just a few years ago. Most importantly, I am proud that we’ve positioned the organizations for growth at a critically important time – a turning point in our movement to build LGBTQ political power and wield it on behalf of equality. I am so happy that such a capable leader like Annise will be continuing the vital work of Victory Fund and Victory Institute, and look forward to supporting the organizations as they continue to secure representation for our community.”

Gay Man Denied Marriage License by Kim Davis Wants Her Job

David Ermold and Kim Davis

David Ermold and Kim Davis

December 06 2017 7:24 PM EST

A gay man who was denied a marriage license by Kim Davis in Rowan County, Ky., is seeking to challenge her for the county clerk position.

David Ermold, who with his partner, David Moore, was denied a licnese in 2015, announced today that he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for county clerk in next year’s election, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. Three other Democrats are seeking the nomination, while Davis, a former Democrat, is running for reelection as a Republican.

“I am running to restore the confidence of the people in our clerk’s office and because I believe that the leaders of our community should act with integrity and fairness, and they should put the needs of their constituents first,” said Ermold, 43, according to the paper. “My commitment to Rowan County is to restore professional leadership, fairness, and responsibility to the clerk’s office. I will build upon the successes of the past, and I will seek solutions for the challenges we may still face.” Ermold, 43, is an English professor at the University of Pikeville and director of Morehead Pride.

He and Moore were among the four couples, both gay and straight, who sued Davis in 2015 after she shut down all marriage license operations in the clerk’s office rather than serve same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, as she said same-sex marriage violated her Christian beliefs. A federal judge ordered her to resume issuing licenses, and still she refused.

Ermold and Moore tried to get a license both before and after the court order and were refused a license, although Davis herself was not present the first two times, and they filmed the encounters, They tried a third time and confronted the clerk.

Davis ended up going to jail for five days for contempt of court, and one of her deputies began issuing licenses to same-sex couples. The judge said that met the conditions of his order, and Davis was released. Eventually the state changed its marriage license forms so they did not bear the county clerk’s name. Ermold and Moore finally obtained a license and were married in November 2015.

Davis processed Ermold’s paperwork for his candidacy at the clerk’s office today, the Herald-Leader reports. They shook hands and she told him, “May the best candidate win.”

Davis has been Rowan County clerk since 2014 and worked for her mother, the previous clerk, before that. Her son works in the clerk’s office as well.

“The county clerk’s office has been in the hands of the same family for almost 35 years,” Ermold told the Herald-Leader. “I think there’s the potential they want to keep it in the family. But everyone should have a fair shot. It should not be something that’s handed down from mother to daughter and from daughter to son.”

LGBT Fans Warned to Use Caution at World Cup in Russia

With next year’s FIFA World Cup set to take place in Russia, fans are being advised that displays of same-sex affection may not be welcome in the nation.

Fare, a group that fights racial, anti-LGBT, and other forms of discrimination in the sport of soccer (usually known as “football” outside the U.S.), is preparing a guide on the threats fans may face in Russia, especially in light of the “gay propaganda law” adopted in 2013, essentially banning any positive characterization of LGBT identity in venues accessible to minors.

“The guide will advise gay people to be cautious in any place which is not seen to be welcoming to the LGBT community,” Fare executive director Piara Powar told the Associated Press. “If you have gay fans walking down the street holding hands, will they face danger in doing so? That depends on which city they are in and the time of day.

“The guide will also include some detailed explanations of for example the actual situation of the LGBT community in Russia. It is not a crime to be gay, but there is a law against the promotion of homosexuality to minors. Issues relating to the LGBT community are not part of the public discourse. Gay people have a place in Russia which is quite hidden and underground.”

Some fans have asked if it will be OK to display rainbow flags at games, but FIFA, the international soccer organization, hasn’t responded, Powar added.

Racial and ethnic discrimination is also a concern, Power said. There are extremist groups in Russia that have shown hostility to people of color or have embraced “far-right nationalism,” he said.

“Do go to the World Cup, but be cautious,” he advised.

The World Cup will be held June 14 through July 15, with games taking place in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, and other Russian cities. 

Hate Crimes Rose About 5 Percent In 2016, FBI Report Says

Hate crimes across the U.S. rose nearly 5 percent in 2016, according to the FBI’s annual tally, marking the first time in over 10 years that the country has experienced consecutive annual increases in crimes motivated by bias against race, religion, sexuality, national origin or disability. 

The FBI’s annual hate crimes report, published Monday, counted 6,121 hate crime incidents in America last year, up from 5,850 such incidents in 2015, a rise of 4.6 percent. 

About 58 percent of the hate crimes in 2016 were motivated by racial bias, with more than half of the race-based incidents targeting black Americans, the report said. Hate crimes targeting Latinos rose 15 percent, and hate crimes targeting Arabs and whites rose 38 percent and 17 percent respectively. 

Twenty-one percent of the hate crimes the FBI counted last year were motivated by religious bias. Of those religious-based incidents, 54 percent were anti-Jewish and 25 percent were anti-Muslim. 

There was a 3 percent increase in anti-Jewish incidents, and a nearly 20 percent increase in anti-Muslim incidents. (Last year, the number of anti-Muslim incidents rose 67 percent, increasing to levels not seen since the period directly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.)  

Nearly 18 percent of the hate crimes last year were motivated by sexual-orientation bias, 62 percent of those targeting gay men. The FBI also counted 105 anti-transgender incidents last year, a rise of 44 percent. 

The much-anticipated FBI report is the most comprehensive hate crime data available for the divisive 2016 election year, and backs up earlier evidence of rising hate in America. The Southern Poverty Law Center documented a wave of hate incidents in the months following the November 2016 election. 

“We now have an unbroken streak of presidential election year increases [in hate crimes] going back to 1992, around the time national data collection commenced,” said Brian Levin, a professor at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. 

But what makes 2016 stand out, Levin previously told HuffPost, is the steep rise in hate crimes around Election Day itself. Los Angeles, for example, saw a 29 percent increase in hate crimes in the last quarter of 2016, and New York City saw a five-fold increase in hate crimes over a two-week period around the election. 

Corey Saylor, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told HuffPost that “we cannot see such data and forget the humans whose lives were changed by an act of hate.” 

“Americans have to act to ensure that these hate crimes numbers go down by standing up to fear mongers,” he said.  

“It’s deeply disturbing to see hate crimes increase for the second year in a row,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement. “Hate crimes demand priority attention because of their special impact. They not only hurt one victim, but they also intimidate and isolate a victim’s whole community and weaken the bonds of our society.”

About 29 percent of hate crimes last year, according to the FBI, were acts of intimidation; 26 percent were acts of destruction, property damage or vandalism; 23 percent were simple assaults; and 12 percent were aggravated assaults. The FBI counted 4 murders in 2016 that it considered to be hate crimes. 

The FBI’s annual hate crime statistics, while the best measurement of hate in America, are deeply flawed. That’s because the FBI relies on local and state police departments to voluntarily report their hate crime numbers to the FBI, which over 3,000 law enforcement agencies don’t bother to do on a yearly basis. 

In 2015, of the agencies that did report hate crimes to the FBI, 88 percent reported zero. Moreover, federal law enforcement agencies like Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration often fail to send their own hate crime statistics to the FBI, even though they are required to do so by law. 

A national survey by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics found that over half of hate crime victims don’t report incidents to authorities at all. There were a staggering 250,000 hate crimes each year in the U.S. between 2003 and 2015, according to the survey. 

“FBI data showing 6,121 total hate crime incidents and 7 anti-Sikh hate crime incidents in 2016 represents the tip of the iceberg,” said Sim Singh, the Sikh Coalition’s national advocacy manager. “The only way to bridge the data gap is for law enforcement agencies to adopt mandatory hate crime reporting.”

“If law enforcement agencies fail to document the true extent of hate crimes against our communities, our nation will have a hard time mobilizing the political will and resources necessary to prevent and combat the problem,” Singh said. 

In a statement Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that “no person should have to fear being violently attacked because of who they are, what they believe, of how they worship.” 

He stated that the Justice Department’s Hate Crimes Subcommittee will continue to “explore ways to expand and improve training for federal, state, and local prosecutors and investigators; improve data collection of hate crimes; and to create even better partnerships with local law enforcement and affected communities.” 

Meanwhile, the hate crime numbers for 2017 aren’t looking great. Levin, the UC San Bernardino professor, conducted an analysis in September that found that 827 hate crimes had occurred so far this year in 13 large cities, a rise of nearly 20 percent compared to the same period in 2016 for those locations.

Of those crimes, 526 happened in America’s six largest cities, amounting to a 22 percent rise, Levin said.

7 Gays Against Guns Members Arrested After Die-In

Capitol Police arrested seven members of Gays Against Guns after the group staged an ACT UP-style die-in at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. on Monday. The protests occurred the day after yet another mass shooting, this time leaving 26 dead at a Texas church.

Members of the group today brought their disruption to the offices of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who each have lost constituents in mass shootings but maintain ‘A’ ratings with the National Rifle Association.

“We knew we were risking arrest,” said Tim Murphy, a member of GAG NYC. “But we are holding them accountable as puppets of the NRA.”

Those arrested include Murphy, Mari Gustafson, John Grauwiler, Natalie James, Lewis Bossing, Michael Adolph, and John Becker.

Murphy tells The Advocate that protesters conducted a die-in at the atrium for the Hart building, and video shows the individuals writhing around like wounded gunshot victims, chanting “how many more have to die.” The disruption, which included protesters loudly shouting, “You’re killing us with money from the NRA,” went on for about 10 minutes before police asked protesters to leave. When the protestors refused to do so, arrests began. Murphy says GAG members did not resist arrest. Each one was detained for a matter of hours by police and charged a $50 fine before being released.

The group in advance had already made the decision to target Cruz for his extreme position on gun rights, but the failed presidential candidate became a priority focus after the nation’s most recent deadly shooting took place in Texas.

Rubio also drew the ire of GAG, with members noting the Republican represented constituents killed at Pulse last year in what remains the second deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history and the deadliest targeting LGBT Americans. The Pulse shooting inspired the creation of Gays Against Guns, Murphy says.

“We really felt as though we need to raise the volume and raise the stakes in the drum beat and demand for gun control legislation,” he says. “We are just so angry we have these mass shootings, always involving semiautomatic or automatic weapons.”

That’s why the group spoke out in favor of an expansion in background checks being sponsored by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and an assault weapons ban by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). While hand-delivering these demands to Cruz’s and Rubio’s offices, GAG members chanted “Background Checks Work.”

“I hope today’s action inspires the 94 percent of Americans who support background checks to hold their elected officials accountable in more demonstrative ways,” Grauwiler said.

This is the second time a protest calling for gun control measures resulted in arrests at a Rubio office. After the Pulse shooting, activists participated in a “Sit-In for the 49” honoring the 49 victims of the attack, and 10 individuals were arrested there. Some of that group would later found the Orlando chapter of GAG.

Calls to Rubio and Cruz from The Advocate have not been returned. Cruz has been visiting with families in Texas since the shooting, but put out a statement praising a gun owner who went after the shooter.

“Every law enforcement agent I talked to said the death toll could have been much, much higher,” Cruz said in the statement. “The reason this depraved gunman finally gave up, got in the car and fled and didn’t murder more is precisely because one individual demonstrated bravery and courage. We need to be celebrating that bravery and courage. We need to be celebrating that compassion, love, and unity. Evil, tragically, will always be with us, but so will good.”

Rubio tweeted prayers: “We pray for the Sutherland Springs community in this difficult time. So incredibly thankful to first responders.” 

Watch video of the die-in below.

Gays Against Guns, Others Demand #GunControlNow After Texas Shooting

In the aftermath of a deadly shooting at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday that left 25 people dead (a number Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas confirmed with The New York Times) and about 20 more people injured, the hashtags #ThoughtsAndPrayers and #GunControlNow have begun trending while the group Gays Against Guns has condemned the tragedy, referring to the issue of mass shootings as a “public health crisis” on its Twitter account. 

People in the small town of Sutherland Springs, outside of San Antonio, were attending services at the First Baptist Church when a gunman walked in and murdered 25 parishioners and injured several more in the span of what witnesses said was about 15 seconds, according to the New York Times.

The gunman fled the scene and police chased him into the next county where he was shot and killed, although it’s not certain if police shot him or if he turned a gun on himself, Wilson County Commissioner Albert Gamez Jr., told CNN.

“My heart is broken,” Gamez said. “We never think where it can happen, and it does happen. It doesn’t matter where you’re at. In a small community, real quiet and everything, and look at this, what can happen.”

Meanwhile, Donald Trump and Paul Ryan sent prayers out to the victims and their families via Twitter while others on the social media site sent their “thoughts and prayers” before demanding better gun control. 

The group Gays Against Guns NYC posted on Facebook saying, “Our nation’s gun violence epidemic grows more and more virulent by the day,” before reminding readers that the country’s largest mass shooting in Las Vegas, which Trump said should not be politicized, occurred just over a month ago.  Gays Against Guns wrote on Facebook that the issue of gun control could no longer be dismissed: 

“If we stop to consider that recent studies predict the annual gun toll death will exceed 33,000 to 38,000 this year and that there is a mass shooting -where four or more die or are injured – once a day in this country and that our Republican-led Congress refuses to adequately address this health crisis but instead capitulate to the gun lobby and Second Amendments rhetoric, then our only question is not who will the next victims of gun violence be—as the intersectionality of gun violence is quite expansive—but when.”

There is currently no information available about the shooter. 

Why Did The Advocate Redact Kevin Spacey’s Name in 2001?

It began as a conversation between two out musicians.

In 2001, Rent actor Anthony Rapp and Dennis Hensley — a former freelance writer for The Advocate — were both promoting CD releases at the time. Hensley believed he asked the LGBT magazine’s then-editor in chief, Bruce C. Steele, for “a little online space” to help promote these projects.

In that era, an online article was not a medium for breaking important news, as it is today. There were no social media outlets like Twitter or Facebook. Print was still king, and online was seen as “the little stepsister,” Hensley recalled.

Nonetheless, Hensley was grateful for the opportunity. So, “over coffee at the Virgin Megastore in New York’s Union Square,” the two artists had a talk — not a formal interview, Hensley stressed. Topics included, as the description of the published article notes, “their full-on dedication to their music, being out, and whether Flashdance is better than Manilow.”

But at one point during the brief back-and-forth, Rapp broached the topic of closeted actors. And a bombshell dropped. “That makes me think of [a certain leading man] in [a certain award-winning film],” said Hensley at the time — the name and film were redacted in the final published article.

“It’s hard for me to evaluate his acting because I’m so angry at him,” Rapp responded. “I met him when I was 14 because we were both in plays and he invited me to a party at his house. I was bored, so I was in his bedroom watching TV and didn’t know everybody had left, and he came to the bedroom and he picked me up and lay down on top of me.”

“Oh, my God! What did you do?” Hensley replied.

“I squirmed away and went into the bathroom,” Rapp replied. “I came out and I excused myself, and he’s like ‘You sure you want to go?’ I always wonder if he remembers it, because he was pretty drunk. And he’s had so many.”

Then the conversation turned back to CDs.

Sixteen years later, Rapp retold the story of this encounter to BuzzFeed News, which published the name of Kevin Spacey, who was 26 at the time of the alleged 1986 encounter. In response, Spacey stated on Twitter that he was “horrified to hear his story. I honestly do not remember the encounter.” He also came out as gay in response to the news — a move that outraged prominent members of the LGBT community. George Takei accused him of using his coming-out as a “distraction.”

A lingering question, however, is why Spacey’s name was redacted from The Advocate’s 2001 online piece. For answers and context, The Advocate reached out to Steele and Hensley, who no longer work for the publication.

Hensley’s memory is fuzzy about the conversation with Steele, regarding how Spacey’s name was redacted. He said he may have been “seasoned enough” at the time to not even type Spacey’s name in his first draft, because he knew “it would never run” if he did.

“It just felt like a lot more of a legal mess than we’d want to get into. We weren’t doing a big exposé. We were just having a conversation about music and stuff. It didn’t seem like the time or the place to try to break that big nugget,” he said. Afterward, Hensley had forgotten that Rapp had told him Spacey’s name on the record — the pair knew each other casually, so he filed it away as a private conversation — until it was noted in the BuzzFeed article 16 years later.

“I cannot tell you for sure. I don’t really remember the conversation in any detail,” echoed Steele, regarding the editorial decision to scrub Spacey but keep the conversation about the encounter. “I think Dennis and I talked about whether we should include it at all, but there was never any question that we would name the actor. The question was whether we would go with a blind item, which is a thing that we didn’t really do then. But I think Dennis and I decided that it was in character of the piece to leave that story in there.”

Why was there “never any question” about naming Spacey? Steele pointed to The Advocate’s “no outing” policy — a long-standing rule that the publication would not reveal the LGBT identity of those in the closet. The policy is common in mainstream media as well. Today’s policy at The Advocate allows for outing whenever it’s relevant to stopping harm to others or when a person is hypocritcally acting against LGBT people, and The Advocate wouldn’t keep a celebrity closeted in media when they are otherwise out in public life.

Spacey’s homosexuality has been long described as an open secret in Hollywood. But because the House of Cards actor had never discussed his identity with the media, the media deemed the topic off-limits. This had led to the Hollywood phenomenon of the glass closet, in which high-profile actors may be out privately to friends and family but will only receive coverage of this part of their lives through tabloid innuendo and speculation.

“We cajoled, befriended, and pressured, but we did not report on anyone’s sexuality without their cooperation,” Steele wrote in a Monday op-ed in the Asheville Citizen-Times, where he is now planning editor. “Just as each of us had reached the decision to come out in our own time, celebrities needed the same opportunity, even if it took them years and years.”

“Of course, many close friends knew of Rapp’s encounter with the actor in the 1980s, including some of us in the media. But what could be done with that story? There were only two people in the room, they had never met again and no parade of additional accusers was forthcoming — so, right or wrong, we told ourselves we could not report it,” Steele said.

“Rapp understood the decision, and he didn’t share the story again via the news media until now,” he added.

To The Advocate, Steele clarified that he may have known of Rapp’s encounter with Spacey “years before we put it in the magazine,” as early as 1994. Many others did as well, he said. BuzzFeed confirmed that Rapp had told friends and partners as early as 1990.

Critics today may note that such a rule may be used to shield predators. For Steele, The Advocate‘s “no outing” policy had exceptions — but at the time, he did not consider Rapp’s case among them at the time.

“If the situation crossed the line from private sexuality to a hard news or criminal case, then yes, we would have reported on someone’s sexuality, the same way any other news outlet would have reported on someone’s sexuality,” Steele said.

Rapp’s case, he said, “did not” cross that line, he said, because “it was not treated at that time as a criminal case.” (The BuzzFeed article noted that although Rapp met with a lawyer, he was told the case was not worth pursuing.) Steele also said the publication “didn’t have any resources” to pursue a more thorough investigation into Spacey’s alleged misconduct against Rapp or others. 

Hensley also pointed to the media landscape as a factor — the 2001 article, even with the redacted name, would have reached far more eyes at a greater pace today. Another is the change in culture, which has seen accelerated LGBT visibility, acceptance, and rights in recent years. The #MeToo campaign, following myriad accusations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein, opened a door to reporting alleged misconduct that would not be possible without social media.

“It didn’t feel like a bombshell in the way it would now,” Hensley said. “It really was a different time. I mean, it was upsetting and provocative, but it wasn’t something you felt like you needed to do something about, you know? Which is one good thing about the way the culture’s changed.”

Both said they would have handled the situation differently today.

“If I had to advise Anthony over again, yes, I would have advised him to go public sooner. But at the time, that didn’t seem to be an option,” Steele said.

“Absolutely,” said Hensley. “I would feel differently today … I think we weren’t as cognizant then as we need to be now.”

Shortly after The Advocate’s interview, Hensley overheard two people sitting in a café discussing Kevin Spacey and questioning Rapp’s account. Then he reached out again to add one more comment.

“I felt awful after I spoke to you,” Hensley said. “And if I feel awful about talking about a conversation from 16 years ago, what must the person that it happens to carry with them?”

“Did I say the wrong thing? Did I do the wrong thing?” he wondered, regarding his 2001 piece. He heard from a mutual friend that his article may have helped Rapp document the timeline of his ordeal — he hoped that’s the case. And he hoped all survivors of sexual assault will find the justice they deserve.

Rapp has not yet responded to requests for comment.

5,000 Artists Sign Letter Condemning Artforum Publisher for Sexual Harassment

Hollywood, Silicon Valley, politics, and television journalism are just a few of the industries that have recently been upended by allegations of rampant sexual harassment and abuse. Now it’s time to add the art world to the list of industries rocked by survivors of sexual harassment and assault coming forward to name their abusers. More than 5,000 artists, writers, curators, art historians, and more signed an open letter condemning former Artforum publisher Knight Landesman, who resigned last Wednesday after a lawsuit was filed in which nine women alleged he’d sexually harassed them, according to The New York Times

The letter, begun by 10 members of a WhatsApp group that grew to 125 people within 24 hours, has been signed by luminaries including Cindy Sherman, Laurie Anderson, Lynn Nottage, Phyllida Barlow, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Tania Bruguera, and Jenny Holzer, whose work Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise is on the landing page for the letter, which reads:

We are not surprised.

We are artists, arts administrators, assistants, curators, directors, editors, educators, gallerists, interns, scholars, students, writers, and more — workers of the art world — and we have been groped, undermined, harassed, infantilized, scorned, threatened, and intimidated by those in positions of power who control access to resources and opportunities. We have held our tongues, threatened by power wielded over us and promises of institutional access and career advancement.

We are not surprised when curators offer exhibitions or support in exchange for sexual favors. We are not surprised when gallerists romanticize, minimize, and hide sexually abusive behavior by artists they represent. We are not surprised when a meeting with a collector or a potential patron becomes a sexual proposition. We are not surprised when we are retaliated against for not complying. We are not surprised when Knight Landesman gropes us in the art fair booth while promising he’ll help us with our career. Abuse of power comes as no surprise.

Since the lawsuit was filed last week and Landesman subsequently resigned, Artforum’s editor in chief Michelle Kuo has also resigned and the magazine staff wrote and signed their names to a note condemning his behavior. 

“We are committed to gender justice and to the eradication of sexual harassment in the art community and beyond. We are now gravely aware of the work that needs to be done at our own publication, and call on the publishers to work with us to create radical and lasting change,” the note from the Artforum staff read. “There is much more to be said, and in the future, we will be addressing these events in greater depth. Our intent right now is to state our position unequivocally.”

The lawsuit, filed in State Superior Court in Manhattan, “included accusations that he had harassed nine women, groping them, attempting to kiss them, sending them vulgar messages and, on occasion, retaliating against them when they spurned his advances,” the Times reporrs. The women who accused Landesman of harassing them ranged from employees of the magazine and women he met at art events, but all of them contended that he took advantage of them at “the start of their careers” when they were “economically and professionally vulnerable.”

Landesman, 67, who was not only the publisher of Artforum but a powerful player in the international art scene going back decades, according to the Times

At HRC Gala, Hillary Clinton Excoriates Trump's Abysmal LGBT Rights Record

Following impassioned speeches from people like Sen. Kamala Harris and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rallied the troops at the Human Rights Campaign’s D.C. gala on Saturday night.

Introduced by Billie Jean King, Clinton covered a lot of ground in her 23-minute long speech. The Democratic nominee for president in 2016 expressed gratitude to the LGBT community for supporting her.

“You’ve made me a better First Lady, a better senator, a better secretary of State, a better presidential nominee, a better person,” Clinton said.

Clinton quickly segued to the dispiriting actions of the Trump administration, which has systematically rolled back rights for LGBT people. The long-time advocate for health care blasted Trump’s attacks on Medicare and Medicaid, saying the administration threatened to reignite the HIV crisis. 

“Don’t boo, call the Congress and say you will not stand for that,” Clinton said, taking a cue from President Obama.

Clinton blasted Trump’s rolling back of protections for trans students, and his sudden ban on transgender people serving in the military, calling it “insulting and wrong.”

Unlike Trump, Clinton directly address international attacks on LGBT people, including the kidnapping, torturing, and killing of gay men in Chechnya. She pivoted to the arrest of people for waving a Pride flag in Cairo, and criticized the State department for refusing to condemn the executions of LGBT people. She then reiterated a line she said as secretary of State: “Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”

Clinton said she can’t understand what it’s like to be an LGBT person today, but knows what it’s like to be “torn down and attacked.” She vowed that, “I’m with you… I won’t be silenced and I hope you won’t be either.”

She spoke of the evils of “conversion therapy” and “license to discriminate” bills authored in places like North Carolina and Mississippi, saying “we have to be agitating to pass the Equality Act” to ban workplace and housing discrimination. 

Senate candidate Roy Moore was also addressed, with Clinton saying the Alabama bigot — who believes homosexuality should be criminalized — needs to be condemned by Republican leaders. 

After name-checking LGBT rights leaders like Edie Windsor, Jim Obergefell, Laverne Cox, and Chad Griffin, Clinton said, “we have to keep going.”

Finally, Clinton acknowledged the right-wing media’s fixation on her; saying they act as if she was elected and are actively trying to impeach her. “Look, if they want to make a trade, I’d be more than willing. But until then, remember, let’s keep going. Keep fighting. Never give up. Thank you, HRC.”

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