The 12th annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference is scheduled for June 13-15, Baltimore Gay Life reported this week. The event has grown substantially over the years and last year welcomed about 3,000 attendees. It‚Äôs free.
The event, produced each year by the Mazzoni Center, a Philadelphia-based LGBT health care provider, will feature many topics for discussion over the three-day event including navigating equal access to health care and insurance, faith and gender identity, sexual identities, the gender spectrum, youth and gender, parenting for trans people and more. It will also offer workshops on working to obtain a masculine voice; demystifying therapy; femmes, femininity and presentation; and writing for healing and laughing.
The event will be held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (1200 Arch St.) in Philadelphia. Visit trans-health.org for more information.
Researchers are using Grindr to recruit gay and bi men for an HIV vaccine trial.
PHILADELPHIA ‚ÄĒ Researchers in Pennsylvania are using Grindr to recruit gay and bi men into a clinical trial for an HIV vaccine, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week.
Using a bounty of online techniques ‚ÄĒ Facebook, e-mail, Craiglist and more ‚ÄĒ researchers found Grindr to be the most effective, the article said. The project is HVTN 505 at the University of Pennsylvania‚Äôs HIV/AIDS Prevention Research Division
Recruiters for HVTN 505 cherry-picked times with peak traffic and for a total of 22 days since the fall, ads worth $9,400 were blasted to all users within 30 miles of the Penn clinic, the Inquirer reported.
Two types of ads appeared on Grindr: a pop-up ad that covered the entire screen when the app was first opened, and a banner ad at the bottom of the screen that rotated out after 30 seconds.
Grindr directed 18,000 visits to the trial’s website. More than 300 of those people who tapped the “See More” option registered online. After screening questions over the phone, 16 Grindr users ended up in Penn’s study of nearly 200 people ‚ÄĒ the highest enrollment rate of all social media used, the Inquirer article said.
In April, the National Institutes of Health discontinued HVTN 505 because preliminary data indicated the vaccine didn’t prevent HIV infection or reduce viral load. But that didn’t deter participants. Many who participated asked where they might sign up for another vaccine trial. Two trials at Penn are recruiting participants for other HIV vaccines; six more trials have completed enrollment. None has used Grindr, but the app is being employed in a trial testing the pill Truvada, which has shown promise in preventing HIV when taken daily, the Inquirer reported.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced she would not defend the state‚Äôs anti-gay marriage law. (Photo courtesy AG website)
A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday ordered a clerk in a suburban Philadelphia county to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, saying only the state legislature or a state or federal court had legal authority to overturn the state‚Äôs ban on gay marriage.
The ruling came two months after Montgomery County, Pa., Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes startled state officials by deciding on his own to begin granting marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
Hanes, who is in charge of the county‚Äôs marriage license office, said the U.S. Supreme Court‚Äôs decision in June overturning a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act on grounds that it was unconstitutional also invalidated the Pennsylvania law prohibiting same-sex marriage.
But Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini ruled on Thursday that¬†it was not up to Hanes to decide whether or not a state law is unconstitutional.
‚ÄúUnless and until either the General Assembly repeals or suspends the marriage law provisions or a court of competent jurisdiction orders that the law is not to be obeyed or enforced, the marriage law in its entirety is to be obeyed and enforced by all commonwealth public officials,‚ÄĚ Pellegrini said in his ruling.
The Associated Press reported that Hanes said he was disappointed by Pellegrini‚Äôs ruling but would abide by the judge‚Äôs order to stop issuing marriage licenses.
Earlier this year the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of same-sex couples challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania‚Äôs ban on same-sex marriage. To the delight of LGBT activists, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced she would not defend the law.
Hanes cited Kane‚Äôs position that the state law was unconstitutional based on the Supreme Court‚Äôs DOMA ruling as¬†justification for his decision to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples in Montgomery County, which touches on the northwest border of Philadelphia.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Hanes began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on July 24 with the full backing of the county‚Äôs Democratic commissioners. As of earlier this week, 174 same-sex marriage licenses had been issued and 118 of the couples that obtained their license had completed their weddings, the Inquirer reported.
Pelligrini issued his ruling ordering Hanes to stop issuing the licenses after the administration of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) filed suit against Hanes in Commonwealth Court on grounds that the state was obligated to enforces all of its laws.
It could not immediately be determined whether the marriages of the same-sex couples through licenses issued by Hanes would remain valid.
Vic Walczak, an attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania representing gay couples challenging the state‚Äôs gay marriage ban, told¬†AP Pellegrini‚Äôs decision would have no impact on the ACLU case.
‚ÄúIt is full speed ahead for the ACLU lawsuit,‚ÄĚ AP quoted him as saying.
Similar to the action by Hanes, several counties in New Mexico have begun issuing same-sex marriage licenses. New Mexico‚Äôs Supreme Court is deliberating over a challenge by state officials¬†to the issuance of the licenses¬†and a ruling on the issue was expected later this year.
The numbers are from the CDC‚Äôs HIV Surveillance Report, which comes out every three years, CBS said. The latest statistics are from 2011 and find Philadelphia ranked 24th among metro areas in terms of new diagnoses with about 12,000 people living with AIDS in the city. An ActionAIDS official told CBS about 75 percent of the new cases diagnosed were at ‚Äústage three‚ÄĚ for AIDS.
‚ÄúIt means they have full blown AIDS when they find out they‚Äôre sick, which is way too late in terms of the disease progression,‚ÄĚ Kevin Burns, executive director of ActionAIDS told CBS.
Early testing is the key to keeping patients healthy, Burns and other health experts said.
Statue of Sappho in the Main Building of Drexel University (Photo public domain)
PHILADELPHIA ‚ÄĒ The Drexel University School of Public Health has started what is believed to be only the second program in the country to offer a certificate in LGBT health, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week.
The University of Pittsburgh, in 2007, started the first, the report said. It‚Äôs the same program being taught at Drexel, a private research university in downtown Philadelphia. The certificate is available only to online students but should be expanded soon.
Faculty said medical schools typically teach very little on LGBT health issues, the article said.
The Equality Forum 2013 kicks off in Philadelphia Thursday at 7 p.m. with the National Religious Colloquy at the University of the Arts (211 South Broad St.).
The forum is part of the group‚Äôs goal to advance national and international LGBT civil rights through education. The weekend includes several panel discussions along with dinners and parties in the evening. The panels discuss several subjects including LGBT Youth Advocacy and surrogacy for prospective LGBT parents.
PHILADELPHIA ‚ÄĒ The Philadelphia City Council last week passed a bill offering tax incentives to businesses that expand health coverage for LGBT employees, a measure hailed as the first of its kind, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported last weekend.
The bill extends rights to ‚Äúlife partners‚ÄĚ throughout the city code in a wide range of matters such as medical decision-making, gender neutrality on certain city forms and more. It also requires health insurance offered to city employees to cover the needs of transgender workers including gender reassignment surgery, the article said.
“The spirit of the bill acknowledges people’s humanity, acknowledges their citizenship and their full rights to participate,” Council member James F. Kenney, the prime sponsor, was quoted as saying in the Inquirer. “It’s another step in the road of civil rights equality.”
The bill features two tax credits. One is for businesses that extend health benefits to employees’ life partners and their children, the same as they would to spouses and children. The second is for companies that make health coverage available for transgender care, the Inquirer said.
Pennsylvania state law does not include workplace protections for residents and there is no form of relationship recognition for same-sex couples in the state. The bill passed by a 14-3 vote, with Republican Council members David Oh and Brian J. O’Neill and Democrat Bill Green voting against, according to the Inquirer.
Betty Gloria Miller died Dec. 3 of sepsis, a toxic bacterial infection that led to kidney failure, according to her partner of 25 years, Nancy Creighton. She was 78. She had lived in Philadelphia for about eight years but spent most of her adult life in Washington.
Born in Chicago, she was the third child, and the only daughter of Ralph Reese Miller, Sr. and Gladys Hedrick Miller. Both parents were deaf and her two older brothers, Ben and Ralph, were hearing. Betty was hard of hearing much of her life; she lost her hearing completely in her 50s as a result of a high fever.
Betty was known as a pioneer in two fields. She was nicknamed the ‚ÄúMother of De‚ÄôVIA‚ÄĚ (Deaf View Image Art), a genre that intentionally expresses the deaf experience through art. She was also a pioneer in counseling deaf alcoholics and substance abusers, and author of¬†‚ÄúDeaf & Sober: Journeys through Recovery,‚ÄĚ published by the National Association of the Deaf.
She taught art at Gallaudet College (now University) in Washington for 17 years, and was the first deaf woman who graduated from Gallaudet (1957) to earn a doctoral degree (in Art Education, Pennsylvania State University, 1976). She co-founded Spectrum, Focus on Deaf Artists in Austin, Texas in the late 1970s.
Long active in civic endeavors, she worked for and supported Deafpride Inc. in Washington. She was a member of the first board of directors for Deaf Women United and designed its first logo. Later, she was president of D.C. Association of the Deaf.
She is survived by Creighton and many friends. She also leaves behind a large body of artwork ‚ÄĒ¬† paintings, drawings, mixed media artwork and neon sculptures ‚ÄĒ in private collections throughout the world.
An open Alcoholics Anonymous meeting will be held this month with a memorial service planned for later in the year.
A scene from David France‚Äôs harrowing documentary ‚ÄėHow to Survive a Plague.‚Äô The film has its Oscar rendezvous Sunday night at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood where its up for Best Documentary. (Photo courtesy Sundance Selects)
It sounds so straightforward ‚ÄĒ the New York Public Library had a collection of videotapes AIDS activists made decades ago with vintage camcorders back when they were heavy behemoths you had to rest on your shoulder with full-size VHS or Beta tapes inside. Filmmaker/journalist David France combed painstakingly through the clips to compose his powerful 2012 documentary ‚ÄúHow to Survive a Plague.‚ÄĚ
But how this was achieved ‚ÄĒ what format was the footage stored in? What condition was it in? Could anyone go in and check these out with a library card? How did France pull this off?
In some ways, it‚Äôs the least interesting part of the film‚Äôs story, which is told via a sobering chronology of video footage shot by angry protesters ‚ÄĒ the kind the Religious Right calls ‚Äúmilitant homosexual activists.‚ÄĚ
For ‚ÄúPlauge,‚ÄĚ France took footage ‚ÄĒ some of which was housed at the New York Public Library ‚ÄĒ shot by 31 videographers and paces it chronologically to the story of the formation of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), a group that formed in March 1987 in a spirit of extreme frustration during a speech activist (and ‚ÄúNormal Heart‚ÄĚ playwright) Larry Kramer gave at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York.
France, during a lengthy phone interview last weekend before he was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on Tuesday, gladly shares the logistics behind ‚ÄúPlague‚Äôs‚ÄĚ formation.
A veteran investigative journalist, author and GLAAD Media Award winner (for a GQ piece on gays in Iraq) who‚Äôs had his work published in everything from the New Yorker to Ladies‚Äô Home Journal, France says he was a graduate student during the time AIDS hit in the early 1980s and having written about it extensively over the years, he knew activists had brought cameras to their protests. And yes, the process of crafting ‚ÄúPlague‚ÄĚ was a lot more involved than simply checking tapes out of the library.
‚ÄúThe tapes from the library are actually just a small portion of the footage you see in the film,‚ÄĚ France, who‚Äôs gay, says. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs really the first door I went through, this archive of AIDS activism video that‚Äôs housed in the Manuscript Division of the New York Library, where you go if you want to read Lincoln‚Äôs letters. It‚Äôs an exclusive corner of the library that‚Äôs not accessible to the general public and everybody‚Äôs going around wearing white gloves and handling antiquities. In one corner, they have a television and a VCR and you watch the AIDS footage recorded in those early days. It‚Äôs just raw footage, not really ever intended for public view. Some of it you‚Äôll be watching and all of a sudden it will go to a gay porn video, which just happened to be on the same tape they recorded on.‚ÄĚ
France says the library kept all the tapes ‚ÄĒ recorded in every home video format on the market in those years as one might imagine ‚ÄĒ but had transferred them all to the Betacam SP format, a higher resolution tape on larger cassettes that for years was the broadcast standard and is still in use today. France convinced the library to let him take select footage to a nearby production lab and have it digitized. He ended up with about 100 hours and says the process became difficult as the project moved along.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre really not accustomed to working on a film production schedule, so trying to get them to hurry got more and more difficult as we went along,‚ÄĚ he says.
And that was just the starting point ‚ÄĒ in the library footage, France saw other people holding video cameras. He started tracking them down one by one and eventually found a group of people, many long-time AIDS survivors themselves, who had videotape footage they had never revisited. Again, formats remained a challenge.
‚ÄúWe had all this stuff in so many different formats from private collections,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúWe were constantly scouring Craigslist and eBay for decks that would play these old tapes. We ended up with about 800 hours and that really became the building blocks of the film.‚ÄĚ
And yes, France says it did take some persuasion to get these individuals to hand over their footage.
France says, ‚ÄúA lot of these people had moved on but I think now have started to see the real value in this footage. I think they gradually started to realize, that yes, enough time has passed and now is the time to really use it and this is the project.‚ÄĚ
France said his project is timely and important because many of the other landmark AIDS pieces, from Kramer‚Äôs play to Randy Shilts‚Äô ‚ÄúAnd the Band Played On‚ÄĚ were written before the era of anti-retroviral therapy when HIV morphed into a more manageable condition.
He says the film is important for anyone interested in the AIDS fight to see.
‚ÄúThere were even people in ACT UP who didn‚Äôt know the outcomes of many of these things,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúIf you think you know the story of AIDS, this film will surprise you and that goes for just about everybody.‚ÄĚ
WASHINGTON BLADE: Will this be your first time at the Academy Awards?
DAVID FRANCE: Yes. I‚Äôve never gotten any closer before than my television screen.
BLADE: Have you watched very often over the years?
FRANCE: Oh yeah. My boyfriend and I always have an Oscar party. With ballots and everything. I‚Äôve never won.
BLADE: What‚Äôs your favorite Oscar memory?
FRANCE: Tom Hanks‚Äô acceptance speech when he won for ‚ÄúPhiladelphia.‚ÄĚ That‚Äôs really seared in my memory.
BLADE: What did you think of Michael Moore‚Äôs controversial speech when he won the category you‚Äôre up for? Ballsy or inappropriate for the occasion?
FRANCE: I think if you‚Äôve got an audience of a billion people and you‚Äôve got something to say, you need to say it. That‚Äôs not to say I‚Äôm intending any surprises should I have that opportunity.
BLADE: Have you seen the competition?
FRANCE: Of course. They‚Äôre all brilliant films.
BLADE: If you win, where will you put Oscar?
FRANCE? I‚Äôm not sure. I keep the other awards we‚Äôve won in the production office so everyone on the crew can enjoy them and hopefully see their own contribution but if we get this little gold thing, I‚Äôm not sure. I have no idea.
BLADE: Do you feel AIDS, as horrible as it was and is, put gay issues on the national radar and that ended up being a silver lining to the cloud or is that an absurd oversimplification?
FRANCE? No, it‚Äôs absolutely true. Before that, gay people were entirely disenfranchised and we were not seen as being contributing members to the culture at all. We had no role whatsoever in civic life ‚Ä¶ From those ashes (of AIDS), now we have a president who acknowledges us as human beings and Stonewall is mentioned in the same breath as Seneca Falls.
BLADE: How did you feel when Dustin Lance Black won for ‚ÄúMilk‚ÄĚ?
FRANCE: I felt it was incredible. He gave a great speech and I thought it was a very, very good movie.
BLADE: Did you plan all along to submit it for a nomination? What‚Äôs the process like?
FRANCE: There are all kinds of rules about it playing in New York and L.A. and being reviewed by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times and that‚Äôs just the first threshold. I was lucky I had a distributor who saw the potential for the film early on and made sure we did everything we needed to do for both the Oscars and the Independent Spirit Awards. ‚Ä¶ Anytime you make a film, sure, you fantasize about getting an Oscar nomination and it‚Äôs really just because you want more people to see it. An Oscar bump is a tremendous thing.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
PHILADELPHIA ‚ÄĒ Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on Saturday reaffirmed his support of marriage rights for same-sex couples.
‚ÄúLove who you love, be with who you be with and generally it‚Äôs no one else‚Äôs business,‚ÄĚ he said during the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association and Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr., Foundation‚Äôs annual gathering of LGBT journalists and bloggers at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel. ‚ÄúPeople should be able to do whatever it is they want to do, be together.‚ÄĚ
Nutter described President Obama‚Äôs comments in support of same-sex marriage during his re-election campaign and in his second inaugural address as ‚Äúvery helpful.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúYou hear more and more electeds and others coming out for marriage equality or knocking down the discriminatory effects,‚ÄĚ he said in response to gay New York journalist Andy Humm‚Äôs question about Pennsylvania state lawmakers‚Äô reluctance to expand LGBT-specific protections in the commonwealth. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know what‚Äôs in the hearts and minds of all the legislators across Pennsylvania, but I‚Äôd like to think there‚Äôs a certain inevitability to all of this.‚ÄĚ
Nutter again highlighted his support of nuptials for gays and lesbians as he continued to answer Humm‚Äôs question.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not like the heterosexual community has demonstrated that we‚Äôve got it all together ourselves,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúIf folks want to be married, let people marry. What difference does it make?‚ÄĚ
Nutter, who served on the Philadelphia City Council for more than a decade until his 2007 election, further stressed his administration recognizes the ‚Äúeconomic vitality that the LGBT community brings‚ÄĚ to the city.
Transgender blogger Becky Juro asked the mayor about Nizah Morris, a trans woman who died in Dec. 2002.
A Philadelphia police officer offered Morris a ride to her apartment after she collapsed outside a Center City bar because she had become intoxicated. The officer said Morris left her cruiser a few blocks away ‚Äď a passing motorist later found her unconscious in the street
The city medical examiner determined Morris‚Äô death was a homicide, but the Philadelphia Police Department rejected its finding.
‚ÄúWe haven‚Äôt maybe had the greatest level of cooperation from a bunch of folks, but it is a case that we are certainly paying attention to,‚ÄĚ Nutter said. ‚ÄúWe want to bring whoever needs to be brought to justice to justice.‚ÄĚ
Nutter also described former Philadelphia City Councilman John C. Anderson, after whom a new Center City complex that will contain apartments for LGBT seniors is named, as a mentor. The mayor also responded to a question about the Boy Scouts of America‚Äôs Cradle of Liberty Council‚Äôs lawsuit against the city over its efforts to evict it from its city-owned building after it refused to change its policy to allow gay scouts and troop leaders.
A federal court jury in 2010 ruled against the city, but the case remains before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
‚ÄúI want to get a resolution that ultimately entails us not supporting any discrimination in a city-owned building or a building on land we own,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm hopeful that there will be a resolution that gets to that stage where we‚Äôre not subsidizing that kind of activity in the relatively near future.‚ÄĚ
Nutter also said he has no intentions of running for governor or Congress once his term expires in 2016.
‚ÄúI have approximately three years on my term here as mayor of my hometown,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm going to serve out my term. I have no idea what I‚Äôm going to do next. And I‚Äôm not thinking about it right now.‚ÄĚ