CVIndependent

Sun03292020

Last updateMon, 23 Mar 2020 12pm

’Tis the season … when all sorts of great things are happening in the Coachella Valley.

First, looking backward: I want to thank all of the participants in and attendees of the various October events in which the Independent played a part. Our Three-Year Anniversary Event on Friday, Oct. 16, was well-attended and well-reviewed, and our second series of concerts at Chill Bar, benefiting the Community Food Bank at the Center, featured great music and happy attendees every Thursday.

The Independent is also proud to have been a sponsor of a number of fine October events that benefited great causes, including the Equality Awards (Oct. 10), the Desert AIDS Walk (Oct. 17), and the Casual Concours car show (Oct. 24). This weekend, we’re sponsors of the LGBT Center of the Desert’s Center Stage event (Oct. 30) and Palm Springs Leather Pride (Oct. 29-Nov. 1).

Whew. No wonder we’re tired!

Now, looking forward: Come by our booth and say hello at Greater Palm Springs Pride! We’ll be there from start to finish on Saturday, Nov. 7, and Sunday, Nov. 8. (More on Pride below.) We’re also elated to be a sponsor of the Desert AIDS Project’s Dancing With the Desert Stars show, happening on Friday, Nov. 13.

Now, looking forward even further: Depending on when you’re reading this, we are either about to wrap up final-round voting in our Best of Coachella Valley poll, or we just did wrap it up. (If it’s not yet 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 2, it’s the former … so get thee to here and vote, if you haven’t already!) We’ll be releasing the winners’ list at CVIndependent.com on Wednesday, Nov. 25, and in our December print edition. Also, keep an eye out for details on our second annual Best of Coachella Valley party and awards show!

If you’re bored in the valley this time of year … something’s wrong with you.


Pride and the Power of Place

Not too long ago, there were few places in this country that gays and lesbians could call their own.

In the first half of the last century, it was taboo to be out and proud. Men seeking other men had to hide—in plain sight—clues in their clothing to signal to other men in the know.

As gay men and lesbians slowly began to come out, make their presence known and fight for their rights, places such as gay bars and community centers began to pop up. In the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, these places were epicenters of the urban LGBT world—places where members of the LGBT community could come, meet each other and feel safe.

In the last 20 years, however, the rise of the Internet and the increasing acceptance of gay men and lesbians into mainstream society have meant these places are no longer as necessary as they once were. Men seeking other men today don’t need to go to a gay bar to meet a potential date. There’s no longer the need for an LGBT community center to promote meetings and gatherings when that can be done easily and efficiently with an online Meetup listing.

As a result, many of these once-vital places are blinking out of existence. Google “gay bars closing,” and you’ll find numerous stories about decreasing numbers of LGBT bars in cities across the country. In many communities, LGBT centers are struggling or closing their doors—for example, Wingspan, the LGBT community center in Tucson, Ariz., faded away last year.

While it’s hard to find LGBT-centered places in the central and eastern Coachella Valley (trust us; we tried … if you know about any such places, please let us know about them), such is not the case in Palm Springs. Thanks to a large population of gay men with time and money, gay bars are thriving. The LGBT Community Center of the Desert is growing.

As Greater Palm Springs Pride approaches—itself bucking the trend by growing larger than ever in its last two years—we’ve decided to pay tribute to the continuing importance of LGBT places in the western Coachella Valley, with two stories: a piece on the aforementioned LGBT Community Center of the Desert and its plans to expand into a new building; and a slice-of-life story on what you’ll find at Arenas Road’s Score Bar when it opens at 6 a.m.—the earliest opening time of any bar in downtown Palm Springs. (These stories serve as our cover package in our November issue, by the way.)

As always, feedback is welcome and appreciated; my email address is here.

Published in Editor's Note

In most ways, Aiden Stockman is a typical 18-year-old guy.

The Yucca Valley resident recently graduated from high school. He is just getting his driver’s license, and he’s debating what to do with his life.

However, attendees of Palm Springs Pride’s Harvey Milk Breakfast, held in downtown Palm Springs on May 22, know Aiden is far from typical: He and his mother, Kelli Drake, spoke at the event, and had many attendees in tears as they told Aiden’s story of struggle—and surprising acceptance—in Yucca Valley as a transgender youth.

Of course, transgender people are all over the news these days, thanks to the success of Orange Is the New Black actress Laverne Cox, the Golden Globe win for Jeffrey Tambor playing a transgender woman on the Amazon.com series Transparent, and, most notably, the journey of Caitlyn Jenner.

However, Aiden—who was born Victoria Stockman—was dealing with what’s called “gender dysphoria” well before anyone had heard of Laverne Cox, Transparent or Caitlyn Jenner. While his journey was far from easy—in fact, it almost cost Aiden his life—he said his Yucca Valley High School classmates were incredibly supportive when he finally told them he was transgender.

“Everybody at school was like, ‘OK, cool. That’s what you want to do?’ he said during a recent interview with his mother at the Starbucks in Desert Hot Springs. “I got Homecoming Prince during my senior year, and I was on the wrestling team, so people didn’t really care. Your classmates vote for Homecoming Prince.

“I dealt with some pricks here and there. I was sitting at a table one time with friends at lunch, and all of a sudden, these guys threw a bunch of food at me. They called me a faggot, and I was like, ‘All right, whatever.’ Obviously, it hurt my feelings, and I just started to walk away. My friend Jared and my friend Kevin asked me what was wrong, and I told them; they went up and got up in their faces and yelled at them. My whole family and my cousins messaged them and got in their faces, too. The next day, they came up to me and said they were sorry.”

While some may find the support that Aiden received from classmates to be a welcome surprise, nobody should be surprised by a recent graduation honor his classmates bestowed upon him.

Aiden was voted “Most Changed Since Freshman Year.”


As she looked over photos of Aiden as a child, Kelli Drake noted that Aiden always showed off a masculine side.

“I think when me and Aiden’s stepdad got married, it was a fight, because we wanted him to wear a dress, and he was like, ‘I’m not wearing that!’” she said. “So we had to settle on a pair of brown skorts. He was mad that we even made him wear that.”

While Kelli Drake can laugh at memories like this now, Aiden’s childhood at times was downright painful. She talked about how Aiden spent almost an entire school year in and out of the Loma Linda University Medical Center, dealing with depression and behavioral issues. It was during this time she learned Aiden was binding his chest with an Ace bandage.

“We didn’t know he was doing that until we took him to Loma Linda, and they were doing admitting,” she said. “They do searches and go through all their stuff. The lady brought it out, and I asked, ‘What the hell is this, and where did it come from?’ We had no idea. It wasn’t until after that we saw what was going on.”

Aiden said he can remember when he decided he wanted to transition.

“It was probably during seventh-grade when I started going through puberty. It was kind of a wakeup call, and I was like, ‘This sucks!’” he said. “During my freshman year, I went to the hospital in Loma Linda, and I was there for a couple of months back and forth. … They just loaded me up on medication and were like, ‘OK, there you go. You’re fine.’

“I remember I came out to my mom as transgender during my sophomore year, and that’s when I started going to a psychologist, and I got the paper from the psychologist saying it was necessary for me to start hormone therapy, because I had gender dysphoria.”

At one point, Aiden tried to kill himself. “I remember my mom and my stepdad went somewhere, and my brother was home with me. I just took all of the pills. I was having a dysphoria kind of day. When my mom came home, I told her I took them all, and I felt bad I did it in front of my brother. I went to the hospital, and my mom stayed with me all night.”

Aiden and his mother have learned the hard way that insurance companies often don’t deal well with the issues transgender individuals face.

“We would call up the insurance company and get a representative over the phone and say, ‘OK, this is the deal: My son is transgender. We need to find an endocrinologist and hormone-replacement therapy,’” Kelli Drake said. “They would put me on hold and wind up e-mailing me this letter with a thousand different doctors on it—and they’re all doctors that are trying to get him pregnant. It was very hard to find doctors that dealt with this, and even the doctor we see in Redlands now, Dr. (Victor) Perkel—Aiden is the first transgender person he’s ever treated. He usually treats people for diabetes and stuff like that, not for this.”

However, Kelli Drake said Dr. Perkel has been supportive of Aiden’s needs as he goes through the physical transition from female to male.

“We made a few phone calls at first and made sure he knew why we were going there,” she said. “When we went there, we already had the letter from a therapist saying he had been through therapy and basically had his brain picked, and this is what he wants. Surprisingly, Dr. Perkel was fine with it and said, ‘Wow, this is great; of course I’ll do it.’ The first couple of months, we had to go down there because of the shots, and now we’re to the point where he writes a prescription and calls it in, and Aiden injects himself once a week. It’s a relief. We also had to get a letter from him because we found a plastic surgeon who does this kind of top surgery, and he basically wanted a letter from Dr. Perkel saying that Aiden understands the surgery is irreversible, just to cover his butt. (The plastic surgeon) got a letter in the mail a week later recommending the surgery, saying that it was medically necessary.”

Later this year, Aiden will have that chest surgery, or “top surgery,” as it’s called.

“I’m not nervous about it at all, and I’m really excited,” he said. “My cousin wanted to go to the U.S. Open of Surfing tournament this summer. I told him I’m not going, and he asked me why, and I said it was seeing guys with their shirts off, and I couldn’t take mine off. He didn’t know it, but last year, it sucked for me.”


Earlier this year, Aiden had his name and gender legally changed.

“It went through on March 23,” Aiden said. “The judge was all like, ‘Good morning,’ and I said, ‘Hey!’ He asked if I wanted the name change and the gender change, and I said, ‘Yeah,’ and then he said, ‘Congratulations! You’re a young man now.’ And I yelled, ‘SWEET!’

“We walked out of the courtroom, and my mom said, ‘You’re supposed to be polite and say, <em>Yes, your honor</em>.’ It was my moment for a second, and he got me happy.”

Despite some great moments, Aiden is still struggling with a lot of issues related to his transition.

“I want to join the Army or the Marines, but they said I couldn’t until I’ve fully transitioned,” he said. “They would call my phone, asking for Victoria Stockman, and I would answer like, ‘Yeah, this is her.’ I was thinking about going to college and getting my prerequisites done, but I don’t really know, honestly. I’ve just been hanging out.”

It’s all too common for transgender individuals to face challenges regarding unemployment. A 2013 report issued by the Human Rights Campaign showed transgender people are twice as likely to be unemployed, and that four out of 10 transgender people who do have jobs are underemployed.

“I would try to get a job, but I would go into places, and my stuff wasn’t changed yet, and it says ‘Victoria Stockman’ on it,” Aiden said. “People would give me an application; I would fill it out, go back in, and they’d look at it and be like, ‘Yeah, OK, we’ll call you.’ … It’s a cold shoulder. It sucks.”

However, Aiden has found comfort in sharing his story.

“Through the (Yucca Valley High) Gay Straight Alliance, Palm Springs Pride, and the Harvey Milk Breakfast, I’ve talked to a bunch of kids, and I’ve shared my doctor’s information,” he said. “If someone older than me could have explained it to me, I wouldn’t have had to go through all this myself.

“If they want information, I’m really open about it. I talk about everything, and if someone wants to know something, I tell them.”

Below: Aiden Stockman today, and pictures from his childhood. Aiden’s mother, Kelli Drake, said Aiden—formerly known as Victoria—showed a masculine side even as a toddler and a young child.

Published in Features

Tens of thousands of people showed up for a revamped and relocated Greater Palm Springs Pride Festival on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 8 and 9.

After years at Palm Springs Stadium at Sunrise Park, the two-day festival was moved to downtown Palm Springs—specifically Palm Canyon Drive between Baristo and Amado roads, and Arenas Road between Palm Canyon and Calle Encilia. The better location, expanded festival hours and free admission meant a markedly larger crowd than in recent years.

The Independent was at the festival from start to finish (literally; we gave out some 1,900 papers at our booth during the festival's two days). Scroll down to see our photo gallery of snapshots from the 2014 Palm Springs Pride Festival.

Published in Snapshot

The calendar says it’s November, so that means our second annual Pride Issue is hitting the streets.

In terms of circulation, revenue and quality, November is shaping up to be the best month the Independent has ever had, both online and in print. However, we still have work to do in our effort to give the Coachella Valley the best alternative publication/news organization it’s ever had—and we’re asking for your help.

The Independent has launched a crowd-funding effort to help us reach the next level. The funds we hope to raise via the campaign will help us expand our coverage and strengthen our distribution.

As for distribution, we’re currently in 365 or so locations across the region, from Desert Hot Springs, through Palm Springs, and all the way down to the Salton Sea; we’re even at Chiriaco Summit and in select locations in the Yucca Valley area. That’s pretty darned good, I’d say—but we can do better. We want to boost that number of locations to around 400, and we want to do better at our existing locations. Our crowd-funding effort, if successful, will help us purchase new wire indoor racks, and will allow us to refurbish, repair and perhaps replace some of our outdoor distribution boxes.

The vast majority of the funds we hope to raise will help us improve what we do best—journalism. We want to increase our arts and events coverage, for example. Right now, we’re doing a fine job of covering band/club/popular music and reviewing multi-week theatrical performances; our visual arts coverage is also among the valley’s best. However, many events outside of these categories have tended to fall through the cracks, so we want to hire more writers on a freelance basis to patch these figurative cracks.

On the food and drink side: Have you noticed that no publication in the valley does full, honest restaurant reviews—the kind in which restaurants are visited more than once by an unannounced reviewer who pays his or her own way? Next year, we hope to start doing at least two reviews per month.

Finally—and most importantly—we want to boost our news coverage. We are constantly getting great story tips and ideas here at the Independent, yet we often don’t have the writers and other resources to pursue them. We want to—no, we need to change that, especially since The Desert Sun and other traditional news sources are continuing to get hammered by layoffs and cutbacks.

The Indiegogo page can be found here. We sincerely appreciate your help.

Published in Editor's Note

Season is here! Let’s celebrate with some great events.

Greater Palm Springs Pride takes place Friday, Nov. 7, through Sunday, Nov. 9. There are a ton of related musical performances—many of those taking place at the new festival location in downtown Palm Springs. Get all the details at www.pspride.org.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club will be celebrating Greater Palm Springs Pride with special events on Friday, Nov. 7, and Saturday, Nov. 8. Offerings include performances and sets by JD Samson, W. Jeremy, Sparber, Amber Valentine, Nark, Chelsea Starr and Victor Rodriguez; Murray Hill is the host. There will also be pop-ups from Wacky Wacko and Peggy Noland. Admission is free. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club will be having Pride pool parties Friday, Nov. 7, through Sunday, Nov 9. DJs scheduled to perform include Aaron C, All Night Shoes, COLOUR VISION and others. Admission is free. Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-778-8954; www.haciendacantina.com.

The McCallum Theatre is back in full swing for the season. At 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2, a group of all-star high school musicians throughout the Coachella Valley will join up for the All Coachella Valley High School Honor Band. Tickets are $10. Patti Austin will be coming through at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 22. The jazz vocalist has had an extensive career and was even a guest artist on Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall. Tickets are $35 to $75. If you want to enjoy some laughs, the Last Comic Standing Live Tour will be at the McCallum at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 23. Tickets are $25 to $65. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has several excellent events taking place. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1, Def Leppard will be performing. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past four decades, or you’re just too young to know, Def Leppard is one of the big names of the British wave of heavy metal. The group’s drummer, Rick Allen, only has one arm, which makes Def Leppard the best nine-armed band ever. Tickets are $95 to $185. The reunited Culture Club (bottom) will be opening its reunion tour at Agua Caliente at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15. The group, fronted by the infamous Boy George, was a big hit in the ’80s, and the reunion includes all original members. Tickets are $90 to $160. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a great November schedule. Country-music sensation Reba will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1. Reba has been in the business for almost 40 years and is a powerhouse in country music. She’s also an actress who is probably best known for her television sitcom on the WB Network. Tickets are $59 to $149. Howie Mandel will be bringing the funny at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8. While Mandel is a hugely successful comedian and actor, he’s almost as famous for being a germophobe. Tickets are $29 to $59. Finally, the great Sheryl Crow will be returning to Fantasy Springs at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15. Tickets are $49 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has a couple of events worth noting. LeAnn Rimes will be appearing at 8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2.Her record-breaking single 1997 “How Do I Live” was recently the answer to a trivia question at Bella da Ball’s Ace Hotel trivia night. Tickets are $29 and are only available at the Morongo Casino Box Office. Los Lobos (above right) will be stopping by with Los Lonely Boys at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7. I had the opportunity to see Los Lobos perform in Riverside back in July, and band put on an amazing show. The members joked with fans who were cheering for them to play “La Bamba”; they said the song was actually performed by Los Lonely Boys. Tickets are $39 to $49. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has great things going on in November—as always. At 9 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2, J.D. McPherson will be performing. McPherson performed locally at Stagecoach back in the spring. Tickets are $15. If you’re a fan of both lucha libre (Mexican professional wrestling) and rock ’n’ roll, stop by for Los Straitjackets at 9 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 13. I’ve seen the band twice before—and the shows are crazy fun. Tickets are $15. Now here’s something rather… odd: Macaulay Culkin and his band The Pizza Underground will be performing with Lizzo and Har Mar Superstar at 9 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 18. The Independent tried to interview someone from The Pizza Underground, but it didn’t work out, in part because the band only wanted to talk about pizza. So it’s a little odd that the band is performing in a barbecue restaurant that doesn’t serve pizza. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Speaking of pizza, The Hood Bar and Pizza has a fine November schedule. At 10 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8, Independent resident DJ All Night Shoes will be hosting his next installment of FRESH Sessions Live. His guests will be Aimlo and COLOUR VISION. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15, the Hellions will be throwing a Turbojugend party that will include Monolith and Whiskey and Knives. Turbojugend, the legendary fan club of the Norwegian band Turbonegro, has a chapter in Palm Desert—made up of the Hellions. The Hellions will most likely be bringing in their brothers in denim jackets from Los Angeles, so you don’t want to miss this one. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 26, Machin’ will offer a special free Thanksgiving Eve performance. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

The Date Shed continues to make a comeback after a dormant period. Fortunate Youth will be performing at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1. The Los Angeles reggae group has received accolades for a brilliant stage show. Tickets are $15 to $20. If that’s not enough reggae for you, San Diego reggae group Tribal Seeds is coming back for another show at The Date Shed at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 22. The crowd at the last show was packed, so get there early. Tickets are $17 to $20. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe Street, Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews

Film

Family Movie Night: Free Birds

Families and friends of all ages can enjoy a free screening of Free Birds. No tickets needed; just come for a fun-filled flick. 6:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 21. Free. Indio Community Park, 45871 Clinton St., Indio. Myrecreationdistrict.com.

Special Events

27th Annual Hoedown at Sundown

The evening commences with an open bar, appetizers and a silent auction, and is followed with Western barbeque fare at 7 p.m. At 8:30 p.m., guests can kick up their heels to music and instructional line-dancing, as well as a live auction. Patrick Evans is the emcee, and all the fun benefits the 44 locations of the YMCA in our desert cities. 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1. $135. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage. 760-341-9622; www.ymcaofthedesert.org.

AMFM Fest

Art. Music. Film. More. A creative feast in the Cali desert for progressive artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, curators, creators and culture-makers. All movies will be shown at the Mary Pickford Theatre. Venues vary for art, music, panels, parties and special events. Thursday, Nov. 13, through Sunday, Nov. 16. Prices and venues vary. Amfmfest.com.

Fourth Annual Italian Festival

This community event to celebrate the Italian heritage and culture features vendors, performers and a family fun zone. Taste the Italian flavor of fine restaurants, create your own Venetian mask, ride the Buckets o’ Fun and enjoy a special Italian-themed puppet show. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1, and Sunday, Nov. 2. $10 one day pass; $15 two-day pass, with discounts. La Quinta Civic Center Campus, 78495 Calle Tampico, La Quinta. Desertarc.org/italian-festival.shtml.

Eighth Annual Fall Family Festival

This festive occasion brings together fun games, arts and crafts and community resources for Coachella Valley families in one joyous celebration. Main Street in Old Town La Quinta will be closed off and lined with more than 50 exhibitors and vendors, all with a family focus and activities for children. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8. Free. Old Town La Quinta, Main Street, La Quinta. 760-342-7400; www.aboutfamiliesinc.com.

Gourmet Food Truck Event

Try food trucks for lunch featuring burgers, barbecue, tacos, California cuisine, sushi and dessert. Outdoor seating is available, or bring a blanket. Dabble in the local farmers’ market; listen to music provided by The Coachella Valley Art Scene; enjoy a beer garden with some of the best craft beers from La Quinta Brewing Company and Coachella Valley Brewing Company. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the first Sunday of the month. Free. Cathedral City Civic Center Plaza, 68700 Avenue Lalo Guerrero, Cathedral City. Thecoachellavalleyartscene.com.

Hike 4 Education

Three-, five- and 10-mile hikes for all ages benefit technology in Desert Sands Unified School District classrooms. 8 a.m., Sunday, Nov. 2. $15 to $30. Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area, 58075 Jefferson St., La Quinta. 760-609-4622; desertsandseducationalfoundation.org/hike.html.

Hollywood Dine and Dish II: A Star-Studded Dining Event to Support AIDS Assistance Program

Join comedienne extraordinaire and “Love Goddess” Judy Tenuta, the effervescent Ruta Lee, award-winning photographer of the stars Michael Childers, and Emmy Award-winning comedy writer Bruce Vilanch for a one-of-a-kind evening. One hundred percent of each ticket will feed five AAP clients for one month. 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1. $500; $750 couple; 100 percent tax-deductible. At a private residence; info given following ticket purchase. 760-325-8481; aidsassistance.org.

Indio Powwow

Hosted by the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, the powwow features Native American drums, dancing and singing, plus arts and crafts, and traditional Native American foods. Various times Friday through Sunday, Nov. 28-30. Free. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio. 760-238-5770; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Palm Springs Leather Pride

Celebrate the anniversary of the Palm Springs Leather Order of the Desert with a weekend-long event that has become a centerpiece of the West Coast leather scene, featuring parties, leather-formal events and the Mr. Palm Springs Leather Contest and Silent Auction. Thursday, Oct. 30, through Sunday, Nov. 2. Prices and locations vary. Desertleatherpride.com.

Playa De Los Muertos: A Dia De Los Muertos Celebration

The event features a sangria bar, tray passed (appetizers) inspired by the traditional Mexican holiday, and lots of entertainment from DJs Von Kiss, plus COLOUR VISION and DJ Aaron C. Proceeds from the event will benefit Meals on Wheels, whose volunteers deliver more than 170,000 meals to homebound individuals from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea each year. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1. $45. Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-778-8954; playadelosmuertos.bpt.me.

Raices Cultura Annual Dia de los Muertos

The Ninth Annual Dia de los Muertos event, hosted by Raices Cultura, closes Coachella’s Sixth Street for experience-art displays, large-scale installations, performances, and arts and crafts activities. 6 to 11 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1. Free. Sixth Street in Coachella. 760-428-8763; www.raicesdelvalle.org/muertos.

Stroke Recovery Center’s 35th Annual Winter Wonderland Ball: A Night at the Copa

Stroke Recovery Center’s annual black-tie gala features cocktails, a delicious dinner and dancing with music by Wayne Foster Entertainment. Proceeds go directly to caring for survivors of stroke and traumatic brain injury who, along with their families, receive free year-round, long-term rehabilitation, counseling and education at the center. 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 22. $350. Riviera Palm Springs, 1600 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-7676; galasrc.org.

The USO Variety Show

The USO has been entertaining troops worldwide in times of peace and times of war for more 70 years. Now, the Bob Hope USO needs you to laugh, enjoy and have some fun remembering the good ol’ times. Join us for live nostalgic tributes to Bob Hope and his band of Hollywood celebs; enjoy free tours of the museum pre- or post-showtime. 2 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 13. $55 to $75. Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs. 760-778-6262; palmspringsvacationtravel.com.

Wild Pride Party

In association with Greater Palm Springs Pride, this fun event will benefit the Living Desert and Palm Springs Pride. Ticket includes food and one signature drink, with a cash bar all evening, plus music by master DJ Luc Benech; Bella da Ball makes a special appearance. 5:30 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 5. $30. The Living Desert, 47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert. 760-346-5694; www.livingdesert.org/event/wild-pride-party.

Visual Arts

Art Under the Umbrellas

The event presents a diverse collection of 80 talented artists exhibiting their original creations along Old Town La Quinta’s picturesque Main Street. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15 and 29. Free. Old Town La Quinta, Main Street, La Quinta. 760-564-1244; lqaf.com.

Desert Art Festival

A three day art event featuring numerous artists presenting their original work in all mediums of two-- and three-dimensional fine art, including paintings in acrylic, oils and watercolors, photography, etchings, sculpture in clay, glass, metal, stone and wood. Each artist will be present to meet with the public and discuss their work. All work is available for purchase. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday through Sunday, Nov. 28-30. Free. Frances Stevens Park, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 818-813-4478; westcoastartists.com/shows/ps5.html.

A Grand Adventure: American Art in the West

The epic 19th-century landscape paintings of Yosemite and Yellowstone by Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran introduced the American public to the grandeur of the West. By the turn of the century, a new genre of Western art had developed. A Grand Adventurebrings together 40 significant classic and traditional artworks from private collections. The artworks span nearly 100 years, dating from the latter half of the 19th century through the early decades of the 20th century. The exhibit is on display through Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015. Included with regular admission prices. Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert, 72567 Highway 111, Palm Desert. 760-346-5600; www.psmuseum.org/palm-desert.

Twentynine Palms Weed Show

The Weed Show is one of Twentynine Palms’ oldest and most unique artistic traditions. This annual display, now in its seventh decade, features artistic arrangements of indigenous desert vegetation as well as found objects both natural and manmade. Awards are granted in nine categories, with a “People’s Choice” award to be decided by visitors to the exhibition. Noon to 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 9. Free. Old Schoolhouse Museum, 6760 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms. 29palmshistorical.com.

Submit your free arts listings at calendar.artsoasis.org. The listings presented above were all posted on the ArtsOasis calendar, and formatted/edited by Coachella Valley Independent staff. The Independent recommends calling to confirm all events information presented here.

Published in Local Fun

The 2013 Palm Springs Pride Festival, held at Sunrise Park on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 2 and 3, drew tens of thousands of people over two days.

Temps in the low '80s greeted attendees, who perused booths offering everything from underwear to animal adoptions to newspapers (including more than 1,600 copies of the Coachella Valley Independent), and enjoyed performers ranging from Richard Simmons to Berlin.

When we had more than one person manning our booth, Independent editor Jimmy Boegle wandered through the festival to take some pictures of the goings-on. Check out the photo gallery below.

Published in Snapshot
Published in Snapshot

In late 2002, I was talking to the publisher of the Tucson Weekly about the editor’s job. I was working for what was then a corporate sister paper, Las Vegas CityLife.. The Tucson publisher, Tom, had apparently heard from my Las Vegas publisher that I was seeing someone—but Tom didn’t know the details.

“So, I understand you have a girlfriend in Las Vegas,” Tom said.

I suddenly faced a split-second decision—the kind of awkward and potentially damaging decision that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face from time to time.

“Actually, I have a boyfriend in Vegas,” I replied.

Thankfully, everything worked out: I got the job (and would happily keep it for nearly a decade), and the boyfriend and I recently celebrated 11 years together. But far too often, things don’t work out when LGBT folks have to make the split-second decision whether to come out—even today, in 2013.

This brings us to this month’s fantastic cover story, which we posted online last Friday (Oct. 25).

Over the last few months, Brian Blueskye and I have been looking for older LGBT locals to profile for this Pride-themed story package. We wanted to honor generations of LGBT folks who—simply by living their lives—fought for equality and fairness, therefore paving the way for legal marriage, for federal benefits, and for people like me to feel comfortable telling the truth during a job interview.

Although we quite didn’t achieve the ethnic diversity for which we were hoping, I think you’ll agree that Brian did an amazing job of telling the stories of these normal, yet somehow also extraordinary, men and women.

• On another note: I want to personally thank everyone who played a part in the li’l party we threw on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

OK, so the party wasn’t so little. In fact, hundreds of Independent readers, contributors, advertisers and (what I hope will be) future advertisers came out to celebrate both our one-year anniversary online, and our move to a monthly print schedule.

Thanks to Brook and the folks at Clinic Bar and Lounge (where you can find me nursing a Maker’s and Coke several days a week), who made everyone who showed up comfortable and happy; Alex Harrington, aka All Night Shoes, who turned in an amazing DJ set (including a by-request Patsy Cline remix that blew my mind); The Vibe, whose appearance was something of a surprise, albeit a most welcome one; and Ryan “Motel” Campbell (with support from as Debra Ann Mumm and the rest of the Venus Studios folks), who created a stunning mural before our very eyes.

Most of all, I want to thank you, our readers—whether you were able to attend the party or not. Without you, the Independent is just a bunch of pixels or ink on newsprint. You’re what gives our new and growing publication life. Thanks for picking us up each month, and for pointing your browser to CVIndependent.com. Thanks for following us on Facebook, Twitter and even Google Plus. Thanks for frequenting our advertisers—and thanks for telling your friends about us.

Enjoy our special 2013 Pride Issue, hitting streets this week, and already posted online here at CVIndependent.com. And if you’re at Palm Springs Pride this weekend, please stop by our booth and say hello!

Published in Editor's Note

The LGBT community celebrated on June 26 when the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on United States v. Windsor struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act—and Hollingsworth v. Perry overturned California’s Proposition 8 and therefore allowed LGBT couples here to get married.

These were historic decisions for LGBT Californians—but they’ve been a long time coming, and the fight for marriage equality continues in the majority of the United States.

On June 28, 1969, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City, the fight for gay rights began in earnest when the Stonewall Inn was raided by police. As officers loaded some of the patrons into the patrol wagon, the crowd began to sing “We Shall Overcome.” When a scuffle between a woman in handcuffs and four police officers broke out, the crowd began to fight back. What’s believed to be the first gay pride march took place in New York City one year to the day later in 1970.

While LGBT activists took up a public fight, a lot of ordinary people who weren’t out of the closet were facing their own personal battles. A handful of these people in our LGBT community recently spoke to the Coachella Valley Independent about some of the hardships they faced, as well as some of the sacrifices they have made—and continue to make.

Ron Wallen

Ron Wallen, of Palm Springs, celebrated his 80th birthday in September. His husband and partner of 58 years, Tom Carrollo, passed away in 2011 after a battle with leukemia.

They met in New York City at a time when same-sex relationships were rare and not discussed openly.

“We were ‘properly introduced,’ which even then seemed quaint,” Wallen said. “My best friend had a boyfriend who was in charge of my coming out. I was not allowed to go with anybody he didn’t approve of. He introduced me to Tom. (Tom) was one of his previous one-nighters, and Tom was very curious of what being gay was, because it was bothering him at the time.”

Ron Wallen with a portrait of his late husband, Tom Carrollo.“We were introduced, and we ‘courted’ for 3 weeks. I thought he was a slouch, and he thought I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. At the end of the three weeks, we decided: Screw all those things—and that was it. We met every night in a park until 2 or 3 in the morning, and then I had to get up and go to work, and then go to school at night. I didn’t get much sleep.”

Wallen said there were places for the LGBT community to go back then—but there were potential consequences.

“There were bars that you could to go to,” Wallen said. “There were dance places where it was nothing more than the police coming to get their ‘stipend’ to keep the bar going. There would be cute little things like the lights would flicker, and then you had to run around and find the first girl you could find instead of dancing with a boy, or vice versa for the girls, or sit down very quickly at a table and stare. Even though they were coming in for their bribes, they still didn’t want to see things.”

During the early years of his relationship with Carrollo, Wallen was drafted into military service.

“They got me kicking and screaming, two years—and they got me for an extra week somehow,” he said. “They were backed up on paperwork.

“I was drafted in December 1956, and by that time, we had been together about three years. I had to write to him through friends. I was stationed in Germany and had to write him all kinds of coded things. I couldn’t pour out my love and all those things. I hated military service. Lots of people said, ‘Well, why in the hell are you going?’ My point was that if Joe Jones, who just married Marge Jones, has to go, then why in the hell shouldn’t I? Just because I got together with a boy instead of a girl, I just felt that it wouldn’t have been right to bug out on (the basis) of being gay—which, of course, was quite easily done back then.”

While Wallen was in the military, Carrollo was settling in California; that’s where they both wanted to be, Wallen explained. When Wallen was discharged, he also moved to the Los Angeles area, where they both eventually worked in a document-reproduction facility—where Wallen was required to have a security clearance.

“Obviously, when you produce things that are secret, and because of my job where I had to go anywhere in the plant, I had to have a security clearance as the assistant controller,” he said. “I used to help the sales manager with his budget every three months because he was so fucking stupid. I also paid the commissions and got sick and tired of paying unearned advances every single month, but these people knew what they were doing. I knew that Tom knew how to sell, so I blackmailed the sales manager into hiring him.

“You weren’t supposed to be gay and have a security clearance. Anybody knew you were gay … bye-bye security clearance and bye-bye job. Tom would have to sit and listen to all the fag jokes with all the other 25 people in the sales department and go, ‘Ha, ha, ha,’ even though he wanted to punch them out.”

Wallen said co-workers eventually figured out that they were together, and there was a level of acceptance.

“We were their fags. How we got away with it? I’ll never know, but we did,” he said. “I suppose the people who were monitoring the clearance knew we were sharing a home and must have known, or the company should have told them.”

The year 1978 was a particularly ugly time in California, as Anita Bryant and others promoted the Briggs Initiative, which would have had any LGBT citizen, and even some supporters of the LGBT community, fired from positions in public schools. Both Wallen and Carrollo were politically active and fought against it.

Wallen said the movement went well beyond teachers.

“We were the nucleus for an organization called the Whitman-Radcliffe Foundation,” he said. “… One of the things that floored me was at one point, they said they were going to defrock anybody who required a state license, period. A hairdresser they were going to defrock, because (hairdressers) had to have a state license. It never got to that; everyone remembered the teacher thing, but it really was a state-licensure thing.”

Trying to get people involved in the fight presented a challenge.

“We asked our friends in San Diego to give us money, and they said no and were afraid,” Wallen said. “We would tell people, ‘It’s your license were trying to preserve,’ and they were that afraid. The climate was such that smart people, if they really thought about it, were so paranoid that they wouldn’t even give us cash.”

In the 1980s, Carrollo suffered a severe heart attack and was no longer able to work, so the couple decided to relocate to Mexico. In the 1990s, they moved to Florida, and eventually settled in Indio. They bought a home together, and were living on investments and their Social Security income.

When California allowed gay marriage in the state for the first time in 2008, they were one of the first couples to be legally married. But until June of this year, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government did not recognize these marriages.

After Tom’s death in 2011, Wallen found himself in a stressful situation, because he was unable to get Tom’s Social Security survivor benefits. He was forced to do a short sale of the home they once shared together.

Wallen found himself testifying before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on the impact of DOMA on American families, at the request of Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“It was a very bad time in my life,” Wallen said. “Because it was a very bad time in my life, it was great, because it got me out of myself. Dianne Feinstein asked (pro-gay-marriage group) Freedom to Marry to send me to Washington for the hearing. Tom had died a month prior to that. I was like, ‘It couldn’t have happened at a worse time.’ Now I think it couldn’t have happened at a better time.”

On the day that Wallen spoke to the Independent, he found out he would finally be getting the survivor benefits going back to when Tom died in 2011.

“When I first applied back then, I was doing it because I was being a bitch. I was doing it to make a point. Sometimes, when you do a thing for a good reason—then some good reason comes back.”

Jim McDivitt

Jim McDivitt,Jim McDivitt, of Palm Springs, is usually the life of the party. The 73-year-old has an outgoing personality and a fantastic sense of humor. When I approached him about being interviewed, his response was: “Oh, do I have some stories to tell you!”

While growing up in Deport, Texas, McDivitt realized his attraction to men at an early age.

“During my childhood, sexual orientation was never an issue. I never tried to hide anything—but I just didn’t do anything about it,” he remembered. “Once I got into adolescence, I was scared to do anything, because I was supposed to be interested in girls, and I wasn’t. I used to get Playboy magazine, and I’d flip through it and look at the jokes, but I’d never look at the naked women. I was more interested in getting a copy of National Geographic.”

During his college years at the University of North Texas, he saw firsthand what the social implications were for being openly gay.

“I had to go back home during spring break, and this kid came through on his Vespa scooter from Mississippi. He had been kicked out his house for being gay by his father,” McDivitt said. “He was basically on the road and living off the kindness of strangers. I asked him, ‘Would you like to come home with me?’ So we went. My mother didn’t quite know what was going on. We stayed in the guest room on twin beds—nothing out of the ordinary.”

McDivitt’s father eventually discovered some materials in the traveler’s suitcase and confronted Jim. The traveler was sent on his way that evening by Jim’s parents. Jim later returned to the University of North Texas, and his mother came to visit him.

“She says, ‘I have a surprise for you,’ and it was my aunt, who had flown in from Florida. She said, ‘Get your things. You’re moving away from these people. It’s all these people’s fault; you’re in the wrong crowd!’” he said. “It was like an intervention; you couldn’t be gay. My father told me, ‘You’ll never amount to anything but a shoe salesman.’ My mother had already called an old friend of the family, a doctor, who she felt she could confide in, and my parents actually thought I was mentally ill. I think my mother would have had them do a frontal lobotomy on me if that would have made me straight, because it was like I brought shame to the family.”

McDivitt faced the military draft after his family found out about his sexual orientation, and he decided to voluntarily enlist in the U.S. Air Force. He lied during the recruitment process when asked about being a homosexual.

“It was good and it was bad in a way,” he said about his military service.

“No, I could not be myself. But I was a very unmotivated, undisciplined, lazy person. Being in the military? You get in there and clean the urinals or do 25 pushups. I started doing what I was told to do. It was good, and it even got my family to think I was doing the right thing, turning my back on that evil lifestyle and serving my country.”

He was stationed in Scotland during his military service.

“I had a top-secret clearance, because my job was copying Soviet chats through Morse code,” he said. “They read a letter that I wrote to my ex-roommate who was also in the Air Force; the only thing I said was, ‘There’s the cutest guy in the barracks. He’s half-Italian and half-Irish.’ Well, that was all that it took. They read that and questioned me: ‘Did you write this? Are you homosexual? Have you had sex with anybody?’ So as luck would have it, I got an honorable discharge (due to an) inability to adjust to military life.”

He returned to the University of North Texas, and eventually moved to San Francisco, where he found a job at a bank. He also took part in the first gay parade in San Francisco.

“That parade was the first time I didn’t mind people seeing me on the street celebrating who I was,” he said. “It was just a little parade, and we didn’t have the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence marching with us back then or anything like that. Back to Monday morning at work, I’m pink and sunburned. People said, ‘Oh, you got some sun this weekend. Where’d you go?’ I said, ‘Oh, some friends and I went to the beach.’ I couldn’t say I went to the gay parade; I just couldn’t.”

He later became a victim of workplace discrimination.

“There was a bank robbery, an inside job,” he said. “I would let people into the safe-deposit boxes and inside the vault. There was another door inside the vault that went into another room, and that’s where all the money for the bank was; I didn’t have a key to that. What happened was at about 4:30 in the afternoon on a Friday—the bank closed at 5—this woman comes in and wants to withdraw about $5,000 in cash. In those days, on Friday afternoon, you counted all your money at about 2, and from about 3 on, business was (delayed until) Monday. She wanted that money; she (says she’s) going to Reno to gamble—she wanted her money, and she wanted it now. They opened the safe to get her the money, and there was no money in there.

“This kid who’s a bank teller and a co-worker, who worked in the mailroom, had gotten together and devised this plan. The teller didn’t twirl the dial on the safe. He goes in, takes a black garbage bag, dumps all the money in the safe, puts it in the trash can, and puts trash papers on the top. He said he was going to take it down to the basement, where the guy from the mailroom put it in a canvas bag and put it next to the mailbox, where a third person would come and grab it.”

When McDivitt discovered the bag and brought it to the attention of the bank manager and the authorities, the culprits confessed. However, McDivitt’s military discharge became a subject of interest to the investigators.

“They asked me why I got out before four years of service. I told them, ‘Well, they found out I was gay.’ They didn’t question me any further,” he said. “The two guys confessed, and neither of them got jail time. A week later, the bank called me up and said, ‘We really appreciate your help in recovering the money.’ They gave me a $100 bonus for finding the money—and then a two-week notice. They said, ‘We’ll let you write a letter of resignation so it looks better.’

“They did that so I couldn’t file for unemployment.”

Dorian and Kim Kieler

Kim and Dorian Kieler.Dorian and Kim Kieler reside in a small apartment in Palm Springs. They have been together for about seven years and were married in Canada.

Like many retirees, they are part-time residents in the valley; they return to British Columbia for part of the year, by necessity. Due to Dorian’s health and problems with arthritis, she’s not able to tolerate the cold and wet weather in British Columbia during the fall and winter months. Kim is a Canadian citizen, and Dorian is an American citizen.

Dorian grew up in Indiana. When her mother found out Dorian was attracted to women, her mother was not accepting—and went to extremes to free Dorian of her same-sex attraction.

“My earliest memory of hearing about being gay or lesbian was through the church,” she said. They said you were going to hell; you were probably not better than some sort of criminal. When I was growing up, it was still a mental illness to be gay.

“When my parents found out I had leanings that way, they admitted me to a psychiatric hospital, where they told me I could have shock treatments to cure me of my gayness. In the hospital, I distinctly remember becoming straight, and then about a day after I got out of the hospital, I got real gay again.”

Dorian’s understanding of her sexuality came with the women’s liberation movement during the 1960s and 1970s.

“The bar scene and all—I missed all of that,” she said. “For me, coming out was like (being) in women’s studies in college, the NOW Movement, and the Women Take Back the Night movement. (Accepting) myself as a gay and coming to love myself made me naturally interested in women’s issues back then … but I didn’t live ‘out.’”

Dorian said that she lost a job as a psychiatric nurse for being a lesbian in the 1990s—and she pointed out that some Americans still face similar discrimination today.

“They didn’t want me working with adolescents,” she explained. “In many states, that’s still the same thing. I could walk into any state outside of California—for instance, a hospital in St. Louis. I might not be so OK if I’m out. I might not get raises; I might not get promoted. It’s still there, and it’s a really big deal still. In 2013, it’s still happening. I wouldn’t want to know what it would be like to be gay in this day and age and go to Tupelo, Miss., to try to find myself a nursing job.”

Meanwhile, Kim grew up in Northern British Columbia in a small town where being gay wasn’t really talked about—although it didn’t seem like a huge issue.

“It’s interesting: I can’t remember anybody in high school being openly gay,” she said. “It was a redneck little town; no one would come out or acknowledge it. Then in university, I started to run into a few gay people, and I think it was then I started to figure out I might be gay, too. (Canada) is more progressive. Legally, our prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, in 1968, before it was even a social issue, took homosexuality off the criminal books. People weren’t even talking about gay issues then.”

While Canada as a whole has been quicker to accept gay marriage and LGBT people in general, Kim knows firsthand that Canada is not free of discrimination.

“For most of my working life, people didn’t come out,” Kim said. “Part of it was just the social stigma. There was always that sense of shame or something. You never came out to the straight folks, and I never really came out to my family until after quite a while. I came out in the ‘90s at work, and at that time, I was a manager. I was the first gay manager to come out where I worked. That was pretty much it for my career at that time. My first boss was great and had no problem with it. When he left, the next guy who came in had a problem with women—and he really had a problem with gay women. He was out to have my position eliminated, and he was going to go after me. He did it by reorganizing. They restructured my job and got rid of all the female staff under me.”

Kim said that her family still doesn’t acknowledge the fact that she’s a lesbian.

“I have 300 Baptist relatives back in Alberta. They’re in a really small town,” she said. “My one cousin will leave the room if I’m in there. She has a really hard time trying to talk to me, and I always talk to her about what Dorian and I are doing just to make her uncomfortable. In some ways, I’m denied my whole family, who are all supportive of each other; if you’re gay, you’re not welcome in that support system.”

On a happier note, Dorian’s family has been quite supportive of the couple. In fact, Dorian joked that the biggest picture in a relative’s house is of Kim.

Even today, Dorian and Kim face difficulties whenever they cross the U.S.-Canada border.

“We got married in Canada, and because it’s not legally recognized down here, we’ve had to maintain two homes,” Kim said. “We’ve had to cross the border separately. If we say we’re married at the border, they assume I’m coming down here to live, and they’ll ban me for five years. The same with Dorian; they’ll ban her for five years. We have to take two separate vehicles to cross the border,” Kim said.

Dorian added: “What happens is I drive the RV, and we have the Smart car on the back of it. About three miles from the border … we unhook the car, and Kim drives it. The car is registered in Canada, and the RV is registered in America. We cross the border separately, and then three miles down the road, we hook up again and go on our way,” Dorian said.

They said the fact Kim can only stay in the U.S. for a limited time causes problems for them both.

“There was a point once where it was getting time for me to have to leave, and Dorian was running into medical problems,” Kim said. “She might have needed surgery, and I couldn’t be here with her, because I had to get out of the States. So the fact that DOMA has been repealed is an enormous difference for us both.

“I just turned in my papers for permanent-resident status. Imagine what would happen if Dorian were to get sick and I would have to leave—it’s barbaric!”

Allison Annalora

Allison Annalora with Bill Brockman (top) and Ron Campbell (left).Allison Annalora shares a Palm Springs apartment with her boyfriend, Ron Campbell. She’s a fairly well-known figure within the LGBT community, because she’s been very open about the fact that she’s transgendered. In fact, on the day of her chat with the Independent, she had just gotten home after being interviewed for a local radio show.

Her ex-boyfriend from her previous life as a gay man, Bill Brockman, was also present.

Annalora, formerly known as Larry Miller, recently completed her three-year transition from man to woman. Her life as Larry Miller was 55 years of torture, she said. She tried to make the transition in the 1970s and stopped. In January 2008, she attempted suicide by sitting in her car in the garage of the home she was sharing with Brockman.

She said she eventually turned off the ignition and decided to stop living a life that wasn’t hers.

“My life has pretty much settled into a mainstream lifestyle,” she said. “I met Ron on a straight dating site and portrayed myself as a woman, because I am. One of the things I made very clear to myself when I transitioned in 2009 was I was going to be really upfront about my being transsexual, which is the reason why I didn’t transition back in 1974 when I started the first time. Back in 1974, you had to go ‘stealth,’ as we called it. You had to just move away, forget all the people you knew before you transitioned, and then forget the past—and hope that no one ever figures it out. That was one of the reasons why I backed out of it, because I wasn’t sure I could do that. I also knew back in 1974 that being open about it wasn’t an option.”

Annalora said it was not easy at first when she started seeing Campbell.

“We contacted each other, and he lived in Huntington Beach at the time, born and raised there. When we were talking, he said, ‘Well, we really hit it off; I really like who you are. We really have a lot in common, and I think we should get together.’ I said, ‘I have something to tell you,’ and when I told him, he said, ‘Whoa! I didn’t see that coming,’ because he had seen my pictures, Facebook, and all that other stuff.

“He said, ‘You know what? I like you; I appreciate your honesty, and why don’t we just hang out and see what happens?’ So we dated long-distance for two years. The first year, he didn’t introduce me to any of his friends or any of his family, because he wanted to make sure this was what we both wanted before we took it to the next level.”

After that year, Annalora made it clear to Ron that their relationship needed to be taken to that next level. Ron therefore told his friends and family, and she has since gotten close to Ron’s sister, his married daughter, his son, and other members of his family.

For Annalora, the three-year transition wasn’t easy. It was full of procedures to remove facial hair, a trachea shave to reduce the size of her Adam’s apple, breast-augmentation surgery, and gender-reassignment surgery. She also faced legal hurdles to change her name and gender.

“The most difficult thing for me really was the psychologist, the weekly appointments, and all that other stuff,” Annalora said. “… It took me four years to clear my beard (using electrolysis), and I just recently had laser resurfacing to get rid of the scarring. It’s a very long, very expensive process. It can be very frustrating.

“The other part of the transition that I didn’t enjoy was the one year you have to live as your true gender without reassignment surgery,” she said. “It made it difficult to start a relationship, because you’re in this gray area. I was very nervous when I had to use the public restroom. I have never once had anybody react to me negatively in the women’s restroom, but there is that fear that someone is going to figure it out and make a scene.”

She also stated that the cost of gender-reassignment surgery is out of reach for a lot of people. Annalora’s surgery was paid for by Brockman, who had received an inheritance.

“What’s aggravating to me is that the medical community has now made this a medical condition, yet medical insurance won’t cover it,” Annalora said. “We found out the IRS will let me write off my gender-reassignment surgery, but not my trachea shave or my breast-augmentation surgery. Who would want to have gender-reassignment surgery and not do the other?”

Brockman said he was upset that many of his and Annalora’s friends within the gay community were not accepting of Annalora’s change.

“Some of our gay friends will say to me in private every once in a while, ‘Gosh! I really miss Larry.’ I’m going, ‘You what? This is the same person—the same soul, the same brain, the same heart, and that comment really makes no sense to me.’ She was no different before than she is now,” Bill said.

“Except that I’m blonde, wear makeup, and I have breasts,” Annalora added with a laugh.

Annalora said she’s come to accept that many people in the LGBT community have problems with the ‘T’ part.

“How could they possibly understand it if it’s not something they’re experiencing?” she said. “I can’t know what it’s like to be African American; I will never know, because I’m not.

“But I learned a long time ago that what’s really missing here is the compassion. We don’t need to understand; what we need to be is compassionate and support people. I find it very fascinating in the gay community that they want compassion, understanding, acceptance and all the same rights as the heterosexual community, yet they’re prejudiced against (transgendered people) and say, ‘I don’t understand why they have to do that. Why don’t they just dress up and get it out of their system?’ I say to them, ‘You’re expecting heterosexuals who don’t understand what it’s like to be gay to understand you, yet you’re not willing to give acceptance to another group?'

“We need to start practicing what we preach.”

Moving Forward

While June’s U.S. Supreme Court decisions show how far gay rights have come since Stonewall, the struggles that these five area residents continue to have illustrate that there’s still a long way to go.

Wallen said the difficulties he and others faced should not be forgotten—and that young people need to stay engaged.

“In 10 years, maybe 15, they’re not going to understand what in the hell this was all about,” he said. “It’s very easy to say you can’t legislate how people feel, and I agree. If you reinforce the way people feel with unjust laws that make those people right … the bigots will just keep going on convincing other people. As soon as the government says it’s not right or legal to have inequality, that’s a very important step toward people’s thought processes. … It’s up to the younger people now, if only they’ll get off their asses and vote.”

McDivitt said times have definitely changed for the better.

“The young people today are very lucky, and they don’t have any idea,” he said. “When President Obama said something in his inaugural address about equality including the LGBT community, I almost cried, considering (President Ronald) Reagan wouldn’t even mention AIDS. It’s been a struggle, but looking back, I’ve had it pretty good. I’d like to see more education about homosexuality. Parents who are accepting of their gay children are now more common because of that. If many of the older people like me wouldn’t have educated the straight population, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Kim and Dorian Kieler feel similarly.

“I feel that the thoughtful young ones among us know about history, and know there have been some big dues paid,” Dorian said. “Those drag queens at Stonewall? I owe them all the gratitude in the world, and many others such as Billie Jean King. … I love this freedom that young people have to explore, and that it’s OK without carrying shame in a relationship, because that can destroy a relationship from the start,” Dorian said.

Kim added: “Some of the young kids won’t understand what they’ve been given; we’re probably the generation who’s going to be most grateful, because we went from one end of it to the other.”

Annalora said the day may never come when everyone is accepting of LGBT people.

“There are some people out there who are never going to accept anything and are prejudiced against people because of the color of their skin, their ethnic background, their country of origin—and you can’t change those people,” she said. “But there are so many more people in the world who just don’t know any better. People don’t like change. … I never really believed we would have gotten as far as we have today.”

Published in Features

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