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In October each year, a trailer pulls up in front of a gallery at the north end of the design district in Palm Springs. It’s packed full of art.

Behind the wheel is gallery owner Woody Shimko (right). He’s just completed what he calls his 3,000-mile bridge between two of the most iconic gay destinations—Provincetown, Mass., and Palm Springs, Calif.

Shimko has galleries in both towns. During the fall and winter, the art is here in Palm Springs. In the spring, it will cross back over that figurative bridge and spend the summer in Provincetown. Having just endured another blistering desert summer, I thought this sounded like an ideal lifestyle. I asked Shimko how it all came about.

“Provincetown has been an art colony for over 100 years,” Shimko said. “Palm Springs has been a creative design location for decades. What I try to do is show work that will appeal to designers, other artists and anyone else interested in buying work for their homes.

“The biggest difference, really, is the time of year. That is really why I opened both spaces. Provincetown is so quiet in the winter, and Palm Springs certainly slows down in the heat of the summer.”

Shimko opened his first gallery in Provincetown in the 1990s.

“After opening it, I took a job in Tokyo. Having both the job and the gallery was a little … OK, way too much,” he said. “I bought a house in Palm Springs as a stop-over. After being in Japan for 15 years, I decided to open the gallery in Palm Springs. The following season, I opened the gallery in Provincetown, hence (the gallery’s slogan), ‘3,000 Miles of Art.’

“The gallery in Palm Springs is about the same as in Provincetown. I show local artists and also artists from the East Coast. In Provincetown, I show local artists and artists from the West Coast. I don’t really show ‘regional’ art—no palm trees in Palm Springs, and no fishing boats in Provincetown.”

The Woodman/Shimko Gallery here is not one of the spacious, spare, minimalist galleries for which Palm Springs is known. Instead, it is packed full of an astonishingly varied collection of paintings, sculpture, metal work, prints and ceramics. In the rear is a section of vintage glass and dinnerware, including pieces from Tiffany and Lalique. There are even some old Lionel trains and tongue-in-cheek Japanese souvenirs. My favorites are the artfully packaged “sushi sox,” a pair of socks folded and presented as sushi.

The gallery also displays some of Shimko’s own creations, accent tables constructed out of discarded tools.

“The way I choose the work is: If I want to hang it in my home, I’ll show it at the gallery,” he said. “And yes, I do have a few pieces that I have shown that are not entirely my style, but that’s where showing a range of work comes in.

“I am always open to seeing new work. If it jumps out at me, then I’ll likely show it for a time. Work that is in conflict with artists that I already represent is art that will not work for me.”

I’ve heard Woodman/Shimko Gallery referred to as a “gay” or “homoerotic” gallery before. Shimko had his own take on these labels.

“There are some people who come in and say they love the ‘gay’ gallery, but that is not a term I use to describe the spaces,” he said. “I do show a number of male images, but I don’t focus on them. My most popular artist, Cassandra Complex, paints only men. There is nothing erotic about the images, but when people see them, they assume it’s a gay man painting the images. That’s most likely why I am termed a gay gallery. But if that’s what people think of the space, cool—I’m happy with that. The only real homoerotic art I have shown—and have had to warn families about if they came in with their kids—was the Tom of Finland collections I have shown. There’s no fig leaf on the statue of David, so I’m OK with showing male and female nudes.”

Shimko said he will be focusing on Cassandra Complex’s art during this Pride season.

“Her work is truly an icon for gay men,” Shimko said. “The second-biggest buyer for her work is lesbians. Even our straight customers are drawn to her. The Kennedy family bought three of her pieces over the years. Cassandra lives outside of Boston. She is self-taught and paints men’s faces that she makes up in her head. None of the faces are real people. After her father died 10 years ago, she went through depression, and his was the first face she painted. He was a rugged man, so she keeps that look going through for her father.”

Complex has an unusual painting technique: She applies paint to the canvas with a deck of playing cards.

A couple of other artists stood out to me. Christopher Sousa’s portraits of young men evoke a surrealistic, dream-like character.

“Christopher Sousa is based in Provincetown and is one of the most sought-after artists,” Shimko said. “Before becoming a successful artist, he worked at a coffee shop in town and would draw images on coffee cups that he would give to his customers. He is represented by another gallery in Provincetown, so I can only show him in Palm Springs. Many of his models are friends of his or people he knows in town.”

Another artist, Robert Rainone, creates male nudes—not with paint, but by cutting through different colors of matte board.

“Robert Rainone is an architect in New Jersey,” Shimko said. “His precision in drawing has led him to create some truly amazing matte-board cutouts,” Shimko said. “Many of his pieces are between six to nine layers of matte board. You can see him do a number of his pieces on YouTube.”

I asked Shimko about his favorite elements of Palm Springs.

“The views and the design element,” he replied. “The architecture is amazing. There are many people that not only buy art, but live in art.”

Woodman/Shimko Gallery is located at 1105 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. It is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. For more information, call 760-322-1230, or visit www.woodmanshimkogallery.com.

Published in Visual Arts

I am a gay man in my late 50s and have never been in a relationship. I am so lonely, and the painful emptiness I feel is becoming absolutely unbearable.

In my early 20s, I hooked up off and on, but it never developed into anything. I have always told myself that’s OK; I’m not a people person or a relationship kind of guy. I have a few lesbian friends but no male friends. I have social anxiety and can’t go to bars or clubs.

When hookup apps were introduced, I used them infrequently. Now I go totally unnoticed or am quickly ghosted once I reveal my age. Most nonwork days, my only interactions are with people in the service industry.

I am well-groomed, employed, a homeowner and always nice to people. I go to a therapist and take antidepressants. However, this painful loneliness, depression, aging and feeling unnoticed seem to be getting the best of me. I cry often and would really like it all to end. Any advice?

Lonely Aging Gay

“In the very short term, LAG needs to tell his therapist about the suicidal ideation,” said Michael Hobbes. “In the longer term, well, that’s going to take a bit more to unpack.”

Hobbes is a reporter for HuffPost and recently wrote a mini-book-length piece titled “Together Alone: The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness.” During his research, Hobbes found that, despite growing legal and social acceptance, a worrying percentage of gay men still struggle with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

Loneliness, Hobbes explained to me, is an evolutionary adaptation, a mechanism that prompts us humans—members of a highly social species—to seek contact and connection with others: the kind of connections that improve our odds of survival.

“But there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely,” said Hobbes. “Being alone is an objective, measurable phenomenon: You don’t have very many social contacts. Being lonely, on the other hand, is subjective: You feel alone, even when you’re with other people. This is why advice like, ‘Join a club!’ or, ‘Chat with your waitress!’ doesn’t help lonely people.”

The most effective way to address loneliness, according to Hobbes’ research, is to confront it directly.

“LAG may just need to get more out of the relationships he already has,” said Hobbes. “He has a job, friends, a therapist, a life. This doesn’t mean that his perceptions are unfounded—our society is terrible to its elders in general and its LGBTQ elders in particular—but there may be opportunities in his life for intimacy that he’s not tapping into. Acquaintances LAG hasn’t checked in on for a while. Random cool cousins LAG never got to know. Volunteering gigs you fell out of. It’s easier to reanimate old friendships than to start from scratch.”

Another recommendation: Seek out other lonely guys—and there are lots of them out there.

“LAG isn’t the only gay guy who has aged out of the bar scene—so have I—and struggles to find sex and companionship away from alcohol and right swipes,” said Hobbes. “His therapist should know of some good support groups.”

And if your therapist doesn’t know of any good support groups—or if you don’t feel comfortable telling your therapist how miserable you are, or if you’ve told your therapist everything and they haven’t been able to help—find a new therapist.


I’m a 40-something gay male. I’m single and cannot get a date or even a hookup. I’m short, overweight, average-looking and bald. I see others, gay and straight, having long-term relationships, getting engaged, getting married, and it makes me sad and jealous. Some of them are jerks—and if them, why not me?

Here’s the part that’s hard to admit: I know something is wrong with me, but I don’t know what it is or how to fix it. I’m alone and I’m lonely. I know your advice can be brutal, Dan, but what do I have to lose?

Alone And Fading

“AAF said to be brutal, so I’m going to start there: You might not ever meet anyone,” said Hobbes. “At every age, in every study, gay men are less likely to be partnered, cohabiting or married than our straight and lesbian counterparts. Maybe we’re damaged; maybe we’re all saving ourselves for a Hemsworth, but spending our adult lives and twilight years without a romantic partner is a real possibility. It just is.”

And it’s not just gay men. In Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, sociologist Eric Klinenberg unpacked this remarkable statistic: More than 50 percent of adult Americans are single and live alone, up from 22 percent in 1950. Some are unhappy about living alone, but it seemed that most—at least according to Klinenberg’s research—are content.

“Maybe there is something wrong with AAF, but maybe he’s just on the unlucky side of the statistics,” said Hobbes. “Finding a soul mate is largely out of our control. Whether you allow your lack of a soul mate to make you bitter, desperate or contemptuous is not. So be happy for the young jerks coupling up and settling down. Learn to take rejection gracefully—the way you want it from the dudes you’re turning down—and when you go on a date, start with the specificity of the person sitting across from you, not what you need from him. He could be your Disney prince, sure. But he could also be your museum buddy or your podcast cohost or your afternoon 69er or something you haven’t even thought of yet.”


I am a 55-year-old gay male. I am hugely overweight and have not had much experience with men. I go on a variety of websites trying to make contact with people. However, if anyone says anything remotely complimentary about me, I panic and run. A compliment about my physical appearance? I shut down the profile.

I don’t like being like this. I just believe in being honest. And if I’m honest, I’m ugly. The face, even behind a big-ass beard, is just not acceptable. I have tried therapy, and it does nothing. How do I get past being ugly and go out and get laid?

Unappealing Giant Loser Yearns

You say you’re ugly, UGLY, but there are some people who disagree with you—the people who compliment you on your appearance, for instance.

“I’m not sure I even believe in the word ‘ugly’ anymore,” said Hobbes. “No matter what you look like, some percentage of the population will be attracted to you. Maybe it’s 95 percent, or maybe it’s 5 percent, but they are out there. When you find them, do two things: First, believe them. Second, shut up about it.”

In other words: Just because you wouldn’t want to sleep with you, UGLY, that doesn’t mean no one wants to sleep with you.

“I remember reading an interview with Stephen Fry, where he said that when he first started out as an actor, people would come up to him and say, ‘You were so great in that play!’ and his first response would be, ‘No, I was terrible,’” said Hobbes. “He thought he was being modest, but what he was really doing, he realized later, was being argumentative. Eventually, he started to just say, ‘Thank you.’”

Hobbes thinks you should try to be like Fry, a big dude with a cute husband: “The next time someone tells him they’re into big dudes with beards, don’t argue; don’t panic; and don’t hesitate. Just say, ‘Thank you,’ and let the conversation move on.”

Follow Michael Hobbes on Twitter @RottenInDenmark and listen to his podcast You’re Wrong About ... on iTunes.

On the Lovecast: Wait—why can’t gay men donate blood? savagelovecast.com.

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Published in Savage Love

Long before newsfeeds, Facebook, 24-hour news networks and even beepers, people got their information from things like news magazines. It may sound like crazy talk, but it’s true.

One of these news magazines—one which has played a vital role in the LGBT community—is The Advocate. It was started as a newsletter by an activist group following a police raid on a Los Angeles gay bar, the Black Cat Tavern, on Jan. 1, 1967—a couple of years before the Stonewall riots in New York City. The newsletter covered the demonstrations against police brutality; later that year, the newsletter was transformed into a newspaper.

The history of The Advocate since those first days is the subject of a new documentary—and it’s one of the highlights of Cinema Diverse, the local LGBT film festival, which will take place at the Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center Sept. 20-23, with a “bonus weekend” taking place at Mary Pickford Is D’Place in Cathedral City the following weekend.

“This year, Cinema Diverse is opening with A Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate Celebrates 50 Years,” said Michael Green, the Cinema Diverse festival director and the executive director of the Palm Springs Cultural Center. “This is going to be a really cool story to share with the audience on opening night. It is a retrospective of the 50 years from the start of the magazine up to the current day.

“It’s a huge historic piece and important. Laverne Cox is narrating it, and the music is provided by Melissa Etheridge. … It covers the pre-Stonewall era from the Los Angeles perspective, the AIDS crisis, marriage equality and up to present day. It’s even more powerful to those of us who have lived in the Palm Springs area during that time and have seen the changes that have occurred.”

A Long Road to Freedom is just one of the documentaries included in the Cinema Diverse schedule. “There’s a huge variety of documentaries this year. We have a film about gay comics and another about gay (erotic) comic-book illustrators and so many more,” Green said.

Cinema Diverse, of course, has offerings going beyond documentaries.

“We have several great musicals this year,” Green said. “They cover a variety of subjects, both as feature films and as shorts. Musicals are great. Even though the characters may have troubles throughout, the endings are usually very uplifting. We also have horror films this year; you could classify them as thriller-type films that are pretty good.”

Why is it important to include films like thrillers/horror movies in an LGBT film festival?

“Movies focused on LGBTQ characters … the audience can relate to,” Green said. “We are also screening Devil’s Path, a real psychological thriller by Matthew Montgomery, a popular LGBTQ actor. People who are familiar with him will be really excited to see it.

“As always, we have some really good foreign films, like A Moment in the Reeds, from Finland. It’s a fun and beautiful story.”

Movies by local filmmakers are a key part of Cinema Diverse.

“We have a local film (producer) named Marc Smolowitz. His most recent film is called 50 Years of Fabulous. It’s all about the Imperial Council from its inception and over the last 50 years,” Green said; the Imperial Court System is a series of organizations that raise money for charitable causes. “Again, it’s a historical film that touches Palm Springs and a story that’s close to home to anyone who is familiar with the Imperial Court System. … Since Marc is local, this makes the film even more special.”

One of the films Green is most excited about is 1985, based on a renowned short film with the same name.

“It’s about the very beginning of the AIDS crisis and a young, closeted guy who goes home to Texas,” Green said. “It’s a very poignant film. It’s filmed largely in black and white. It’s a very powerful.” Gotham’s Cory Michael Smith is the star.

“As in previous years, there will be a lot of filmmakers and actors here to represent their films. There are more films this year than previously, both features and shorts,” Green said.

Cinema Diverse takes place Thursday, Sept. 20, through Sunday, Sept. 23, and Friday and Saturday, Sept. 28 and 29. Individual screenings are $13.25, while an all-festival pass costs $159. For tickets and more information, including a festival schedule, visit the Cinema Diverse website.

Published in Previews and Features

David Rothmiller and LD Thompson have learned some unsettling lessons since founding the LGBT Sanctuary Palm Springs—a transitional housing facility for LGBT and allied youth—back in 2015.

They’ve also had to jump through a lot of hoops related to licensing and regulations before finally opening and taking in residents—but in March of this year, The LGBT Sanctuary finally moved into the building it now calls home.

That does not mean everything has been easy since then.

“We’ve had some (residents) come and some go, and we know with the population here that it’s common,” Rothmiller said. “Not every one of our applicants and residents is a match (for The Sanctuary). Some of our kids just weren’t ready; we’re not a treatment facility, so we are unable to help some of these kids. They sometimes have issues that are far beyond us, but we can refer them. The Desert AIDS Project is our partner in health, dental and mental health. … We cannot have violence. We tell the kids, ‘We are a non-violent home.’ Some haven’t worked out, and that’s the bottom line.”

The residents currently living in the home are doing well, Rothmiller said.

“The kids we have now are great; they understand the program,” he said. “We are called a ‘transitional housing program plus foster care.’ It’s a state license we have written the program for; we have to meet state guidelines, and we have to meet our own program guidelines. In those program guidelines, our residents have to be working 80 hours a month, or in school—completing their GED, completing high school or earning college credits.

“The nice thing about our (Coachella Valley) community is they are supportive, and business owners have come forward and have hired our residents. We have two who have graduated and aged out; we can only have them from 18 to 21. It’s part of the extended foster care that the state realized was a necessity for these kids. Some 62 percent, after five years of leaving foster care, are on the street, homeless, doing drugs, prostituting themselves, dead, in jail or in combination. The state of California realized we were failing kids in foster care who graduate out of it at 18. That’s why they have made money available to assist those who are 18 to 21.”

Rothmiller explained why there’s a need for this program specifically for LGBT youth.

“The kids who come to us are LGBT youth or LGBT allies. We are all-inclusive, but (residents) have to be allies to the LGBT experience,” he said. “(LGBT kids) have suffered more at the hands of foster care. LGBT kids are bounced (around) three times as much as their straight counterparts in foster care. They keep losing families.

“There are various reasons kids are in foster care. One of them is because they’ve come out as gay, so they’re afraid to come out to their foster family for that same reason. In fact, many foster families are religious-based, so the gay experience is something they don’t want in their homes. Our kids are bounced more often, and each time they are bounced, they lose six months of academic achievement. Our kids come to us neglected educationally and socially, and we have a lot of work to do. They may not be adopted at this point in their life. … That’s our whole push—get them included; get them connected through our mentoring programming; and get them working or volunteering in the community.”

Shockingly, The LGBT Sanctuary does not currently have a waiting list for youth seeking services—even though there is definitely a need.

“We’ve had to work hard within the social system with social workers, case managers and probation officers to let them know we are here, and we are here to serve this demographic,” Rothmiller said. “When we first opened, Riverside County wasn’t capable and missed a state deadline to be our licensing agent. So we had to go to San Bernardino (County) for our licensing. They said, ‘You will have such a waiting list; please make sure you have beds.’ Fast forward, and we have one empty bed right now. We expected a long waiting list.

“We have identified anti-gay bias in the system, and we identified some ignorance to the situation of LGBT youth in foster care. The Los Angeles LGBT Center did a study that showed close to 20 percent of kids in foster care identify as LGBT. A lot of them aren’t identifying (as such) in foster care, because they are afraid to, so we believe the number is much higher. Riverside County is the least up-to-date (jurisdiction in terms) of meeting the needs of LGBT kids in foster care. They aren’t even asking kids in foster care. … It’s a broken system. One of their social workers said, ‘I believe (the percentage of kids in foster care who are LGBT) is about 3 percent.’ There’s a huge mistake in ignoring the fact that these kids have special needs. They need to be welcomed and understood. We tell the residents, ‘Yep, you have issues, and we understand that, but being gay is not one of your issues. Let’s move forward.’”

While the community’s response to The LGBT Sanctuary has been largely positive, there are always critics, conspiracy theorists and bigots. Those involved with The LGBT Sanctuary have come up with a fascinating way to deal with the negative responses.

“What we are doing is gathering residents, supporters and board members in front of the camera, and we’re doing something similar to the ‘Mean Tweets’ that Jimmy Kimmel does,” Rothmiller said. “It’s to shine the light into the darkness to remind those of us in the community that we’re still hated. It’s a controversial thing to do, but I feel it’s important in this time to tell our truth, and to share comments that are so mean and ugly. Our intention is to remind people that we are here for our residents.”

For more information, visit www.sanctuarypalmsprings.org.

Published in Features

I’m a 20-year-old submissive woman. I’m currently in a confusing affair with a 50-year-old dominant married man. He lives in Europe and has two kids close to my age. We met online when I was 17 and starting to explore my BDSM desires—out of the reach of my overbearing, sex-shaming, disastrously religious parents—and we’ve been texting daily ever since. We’ve since met in different countries and spent a total of three weeks together. Those weeks were amazing, both sexually and emotionally, and he says he loves me. (Some will assume, because of the age difference, that he “groomed” me. He did not.) I date vanilla boys my age, with his full support, while we continue to text daily.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to blow up his family if (or when) our affair is discovered. But at the same time, our relationship has really helped me navigate my kinks and my sexuality. Expecting him to leave his wife for me is a highly unrealistic cliché, I am aware. Yet I fear I’ve become dependent on his conversation and advice. I’m graduating soon and have a big job lined up in a big city. I’ll finally be financially independent, and I’d like to start making the right choices.

Any perspective you have would be much appreciated.

Things Must Improve

He is not going to leave his wife for you, and you shouldn’t assume his wife is going to leave him if (or when) this affair is discovered (or exposed). Divorce may be the default setting in the United States in the wake of an affair, TMI, but Europeans take a much more … well, European attitude toward infidelity. Definitely not cricket, not necessarily fatal.

And you don’t need him to leave his wife for you, TMI. OK, OK—you’re in love, and the three weeks you’ve managed to spend together were amazing. But don’t fall into the trap of believing a romantic relationship requires a tidy ending; film, television and literature beat it into our heads that romantic relationships end either happily at the altar (à la Pride and Prejudice) or tragically at the morgue (à la Forensic Files). But romantic relationships take many forms, TMI, as does romantic success. And this relationship, such as it is, this relationship as-is, sounds like an ongoing success.

In other words, TMI, I think you’re confused about this relationship because there won’t be a resolution that fits into a familiar mold. But you don’t need a resolution: You can continue to text with him, and he can continue to provide you with his advice and support while you continue to date single, available and kinky men (no more vanilla boys!) closer to your own age and/or on your own continent. Eventually, you’ll meet a new guy you’re crazy about—someone you can see for more than one week a year—and you’ll feel less dependent on and connected to your old flame.


While on vacation, I went for a full body massage. The first half of the massage—me on my stomach—was great. When the masseuse asked me to flip on my back, things took a turn. She uncovered one of my legs and began massaging my thigh. As she worked on my inner thigh, her finger grazed my scrotum. Then it happened again. And again. She was working on my thigh, but it felt like I was getting my balls caressed. I began to worry I was getting a visible erection. Then I started to panic when I felt like I might actually come. (I have always had issues with premature ejaculation.) I tried hard to clamp down and think about baseball and senior citizens, but I wound up having an orgasm. She eventually moved to my arms, shoulders, etc., but meanwhile, I’m lying there with jizz cooling on myself.

Am I guilty of #metoo bad behavior? Should I have said something or asked her to stop? Is it possible she didn’t have any clue? (My penis was never uncovered, and I didn’t create an obvious wet spot on the sheet.) I tipped her extra, just in case she was mortified, though I didn’t get the sense she was, because nothing changed after I came in terms of her massaging me. (She didn’t hurry away from my legs or rush to finish my massage.) I still feel really weird about the whole thing. I get massages frequently; this has never happened before, and I certainly didn’t go into it looking for this result.

Lost Opportunity At De-escalation

If it all went down as you described, LOAD, you aren’t guilty of “#metoo bad behavior.” It’s not uncommon for people to become unintentionally aroused during a nonerotic massage; it’s more noticeable when it happens to men, of course, but it happens to women, too.

“Erections do happen,” a masseuse told me when I ran your letter past her. “So long as guys don’t suddenly ask for a ‘happy ending,’ expose themselves, or—God help me—attempt to take my hand and place it on their erection, they haven’t done anything wrong.”

Since this hasn’t happened to you before, LOAD, I don’t think you should waste too much time worrying about it happening again. But if you’re concerned this one massage created a powerful erotic association, and you’re likely to blow a load the next time a masseuse so much as looks at one of your thighs, go ahead and have a quick wank before your appointment.


Living my truth permits others in my fairly conservative circles—Christian family struggling to accept a gay son, colleagues in a traditionally masculine field—to accept gay/other/different folks. I identify as a bottom, and until recently, I thought I had erectile dysfunction, because I would literally go soft at the thought of topping another man. I should mention that I’m black in the Pacific Northwest, so there is this odd “BBC” fixation and an expectation from many guys that I will top. However, I am usually very submissive and drawn to hypermasculine, dominant guys.

But I recently noticed an attraction to married guys—specifically, submissive bottom masculine/muscular married guys who like to wear lingerie. I met a few and became this dominant guy who fit the stereotype most guys expect when they see me online or in person. Now I’m very confused. I tried topping recently, because a married guy begged me to. He said, “You’ll never know if you like it until you try it!” Which is the same thing my traditional uncles have said to me about women.

My life would be so much easier if I just married a woman! So this sudden turn from bottom to top is troubling me. I don’t think it is possible to turn straight, but I didn’t think I was a top until a few weeks ago. So am I capable of turning straight? That would validate everything my homophobic family members have said. I’m repulsed by vaginas but fascinated by boobs. Have you seen/heard of things like this?

Praying The Straight Away

If you’re a regular reader, PTSA, you’ve seen letters in this space from straight-identified guys into cock. Many of these guys have described themselves as being fascinated by cock but repulsed by men; some of these guys seek out sex with trans women who’ve kept their dicks. Your thing for hot guys in lingerie and your thing for boobs might be the gay flip of this erotic script—boobs fascinate you, but you’re not into the genitalia most women have. Muscular guys in lingerie turn you on—big pecs can fill out a lacy bra just as alluringly as big boobs—and it’s possible you might enjoy being with a trans woman who got boobs but kept her dick.

All that said, PTSA, discovering after years of bottoming that you enjoy topping certain types of men—masculine/muscular married guys who beg for your dick while wearing lingerie—doesn’t mean you’re “capable” of turning straight. Going from bottom to versatile isn’t the same thing as going from men to women. And being fascinated by a body part that typically comes attached to people, i.e., women, who fall outside your usual “erotic target interest,” as the sex researchers say, isn’t a sign that your uncles were right all along.

In short, PTSA, you aren’t potentially straight—you’re gay and a little more complicated, interesting and expansive than you realized at first.

By the way: On behalf of all the dudes who have objectified you with this “BBC” stuff and made you feel anything other than proud to be primarily a bottom, please accept my apology.

On the Lovecast, it’s hard to date when you’re a sexuality professor: savagelovecast.com.

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Published in Savage Love

Choking up as he began to speak to a panel of fellow lawmakers, Assemblyman Evan Low paused to collect himself. The room had just quieted after a conservative advocate who opposed his bill heckled the committee—and Low—for not hearing his side out, causing a brief shouting match in the otherwise-staid hearing room.

“It was very difficult to present this bill,” Low, a Democrat from Campbell who is gay, said once the ruckus died down. “Because when thinking about childhood and that it would not be OK to be yourself—you heard testimony about suicidal thoughts. I have also had that.”

This strikingly personal revelation reflects the emotional debate surrounding Low’s proposal to make California the first state in the country to outlaw the advertising and sale of sexual-orientation change services—better known as “conversion therapy.”

On one side sit scientists and LGBTQ advocacy groups who say California must protect its citizens from a harmful, prejudice-driven practice. On the other are First Amendment purists and a group of religious conservatives who argue that a ban curtails personal liberty. At stake are questions about free speech, freedom of religion and the state’s duty to protect consumers from fraud.

The practice of attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is opposed by leading medical groups such as the American Psychological Association and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which say it is ineffective and often harmful. It is embraced by some religious and conservative groups, such as the California Family Council and the Pacific Justice Institute, which say the therapy offers an option to people who believe homosexuality and being transgender are immoral.

Conversion therapies can include traditional talk-therapy as well as more extreme—and, medical groups say, damaging—methods. Some who have experienced them report being forced to ingest nausea-inducing drugs and being electroshocked while viewing homoerotic images, activities designed to condition a negative reaction to their homosexual feelings. Such reports led state Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat and a co-author of the bill, to describe the therapy as “torture.” Although current techniques tend to be less extreme than those of the past, LGBTQ advocates say that they still perpetuate a view of homosexuality and being transgender as undesirable.

This isn’t the first time the Legislature has attempted to limit the practice in California. In 2012, California became the first state in the nation to bar mental-health professionals from treating minors with conversion therapy when it passed a law that has since served as a model for similar laws in 12 other states. Low’s bill goes further by extending the law’s protections to include anyone engaged in a financial transaction, regardless of their age. The effect would be to make it harder for people to learn about or access conversion therapy.

The goal, he said, is “to ensure that we do not allow for Californians to be duped and to be harmed by spending money to try to get a service that has no end result.”

His Assembly Bill 2943 was approved by the Assembly and is now working its way through the Senate. Given the liberal makeup of the Legislature, the measure is likely to land on Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk by the end of summer.

Brown signed the earlier bill banning conversion therapy for children. It was promptly challenged as unconstitutional by conservative activists, but upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013.

Although different legal mechanisms are involved in that law and Low’s bill, they have triggered a similar debate in the state Capitol.

Opponents argue that by classifying conversion therapy as a fraudulent practice, Low’s bill infringes upon the rights to free speech and—since many people who pursue conversion therapy do so for religious reasons—the free exercise of religion.

“It’s one of the more blatantly unconstitutional laws that has come out of California in the last five to 10 years,” said Dean Broyles, the president of a conservative legal defense fund called the National Center for Law and Policy. He has called the debate surrounding Low’s bill a “Bonhoeffer moment” for religious conservatives, referring to the German pastor who stood up to the Nazis.

Low and his supporters, on the other hand, cite the prevailing scientific consensus discouraging the practice of conversion therapy and argue that potential First Amendment infringements are incidental compared to the state’s duty to protect its citizens. Anthony Samson, a Sacramento attorney and policy adviser on Low’s bill, argues that the proposal is neutral to religion, since it affects all consumer transactions. (Not all religious groups in California oppose the measure. California’s six Episcopal bishops, for instance, support the bill.)

Since the law affects only consumer transactions, religious groups—and any other organization—would still be able to offer conversion therapy services for free.

A key provision of Low’s proposal is that it applies only to commercial transactions involving services. After an early draft of the bill provoked backlash for language that critics said was overly ambiguous, Low amended it to clarify that it does not affect goods that contain messages about changing sexual orientation or gender identity—including some religious texts, such as the Bible.

That change has not quelled opponents, who are mounting a vigorous campaign condemning the bill. Hundreds of them—including more than 30 people who say they have successfully changed from gay to straight with conversion therapy—protested on the Capitol steps this month.

“I have a message to the California Assembly: My wife, my 4-year-old daughter, my 1-year-old son, and the baby in my wife’s womb are not fraud,” Jim Domen, founder and president of Church United in Newport Beach, told the protesters. “Assembly Bill 2943 removes my right to choose my sexuality.”

This kind of freedom-focused rhetoric is common in this debate—a frequently heard phrase is “the right to choose”—despite scientific consensus that homosexuality can’t be willfully changed.

“They don’t like the lifestyle. That’s what they’re attacking,” Low said, pointing to a promotional video in which Domen says that homosexuality is “destructive” and “harmful.”

Low sees the fight over this bill as one step in a larger battle for equality. He overcame his own adolescent thoughts of suicide and conversion after finding acceptance from his family and from other gay people.

“There is nothing wrong with me,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with members of the LGBT community.”

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Politics

Juan-Manuel Alonso is a familiar figure at Palm Springs art events. He is tall and handsome, usually with shoulder-length silver hair and a beard. He dresses colorfully and is quick with an interesting story or witty remark.

I spent some time with him recently observing his newest creation: a new outdoor mural at the LGBT Community Center of the Desert in Palm Springs.

Juan was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1952. Although his family moved to New York City in 1960 after the Cuban Revolution, he retains vivid memories of his childhood in Cuba: The colors, sounds and tastes of those early years are evident in his paintings today. (He pointed out that the memories may only be a personal mythology, but that doesn’t take away from their relevance and power to inspire him.) Alonso was particularly drawn to the Afro-Cuban music and religious ceremonies in his neighborhood. His mother said that whenever she wanted to find him, she would just listen for the drums and follow the sound: Juan would always be there, dancing.

Alonso talked about growing up in New York City. He loved going by himself to Radio City Music Hall, and designing dresses made out of Play-Doh for his toy soldiers. He attended Erasmus Hall High School and later the City College of New York. He decided he wanted to be a fashion designer.

“The arts have always been something I enjoy,” he said.

After studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology under Donald Claflin, designer for Tiffany and Co., Alonso worked for Nino Cerruti and Willi Smith, and had an exclusive contract to design his own label for Bergdorf Goodman. He also did freelance design work in San Francisco for several years while under contract to Bergdorf since he was not allowed to work anywhere else in New York.

Alonso started painting in 1995. Around that time, he moved to Miami to care for his parents. He opened his own showroom for art, upholstery and fashion in Bal Harbour—but after a couple of years, he was forced to give it up for health reasons. The workload and stress of designing six collections a year proved to be too much.

When his parents passed away, he decided to move to Palm Springs and concentrate on his painting. It's a decision he said he has never regretted.

“Art opened my eyes, to be aware of the incredible energy that flourishes here,” Alonso said. “It has improved my health, and I have become very creative and developed my own style.”

Alonso has had numerous shows and successes in the area, but is not currently associated with a local gallery. This past December, he broke into the red-hot Miami art market with an exhibition at Art Basel. He will be spending the summer in Santa Fe, N.M.

“My inspiration comes from the memories of where I was born,” Alonso said. “I’m also very inspired by the period of time from 1890 to 1930 when the world was revolutionized and brought into the modern era. I’m inspired by Josephine Baker”—the African-American dancer who became wildly famous after dancing in Paris in 1925. “She was so liberated and had a vision of the future that is still to be realized.

“In my own work, I want to have a subconscious message—something of freedom, a message of liberation. I paint lips as hearts, because finally, they are doing no evil to each other. It’s about love and openness. It’s a very strong message. I’m sending out positivity to counter all the negativity.”

Alonso recently dealt with another serious health crisis, and during his recovery, he was inspired to give something back to the community. He said he approached the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, at 1301 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, and asked if he could donate a mural in a restroom there to commemorate the upcoming 30th anniversary of Keith Haring's mural in the men’s restroom of the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York City. The Center responded that they wanted to commission an exterior mural on the staircase leading to the third-floor Center.

I’ve been watching the progress of this large-scale painting and am deeply touched by both the subject matter and Alonso’s message of positivity. For those of us who survived the AIDS crisis, it is especially poignant.

The mural covers the two curved walls of the staircases. Between the first and second floor is Alonso’s depiction of what Palm Springs means to him. There are mountains and a deep blue sky, as well as the bell tower of Desert Regional Medical Center rising above palm trees and buildings, complete with swimming pools. One can also spot the tram and multitudes of windows painted in the colors of the rainbow flag. Everything is rendered in a joyful and whimsical style.

As one ascends the stairs, the wall between the second and third floors reveals five life-size dancers floating in the same deep-blue sky, one for each of the letters L, B, G, T and Q.

“These dancers represent all of those who are only with us in spirit now,” Alonso said.

The wall rises up to an open ceiling where the blue of the paint exactly matches the sky above. The dancers are surrounded by doves of peace—and they look like they could float upward to dance across the real sky. It’s a reminder that although many loved ones might no longer be in our physical presence, our memories keep them alive, and they are still watching over us.

For more information, visit www.alonso-art.com.

Published in Visual Arts

The year was 2008. The economy was imploding; Coldplay’s Viva la Vida was the No. 1 album in the world; and United States voters elected a guy named Barack Obama as president.

Meanwhile, here in the Coachella Valley, the Palm Springs Cultural Center held the first Cinema Diverse, the valley’s LGBT film festival.

The 10th anniversary edition of the festival takes place Sept. 21-24.

Michael Green is the festival director and the executive director of the Cultural Center. He talked about the process he goes through to select films for the festival.

“I work with all the independent film distributors who specialize in LGBT films, as well as others,” he said. “I pretty much screen films year-around. Films also come in to us from directors, many we have worked with before. We don’t show anything that is out commercially.”

Palm Springs’ proximity to Hollywood is a boon to Cinema Diverse.

“It’s wonderful,” Green said. “The beauty of being so close is (many of) the filmmakers come out to the festival. We have been so fortunate the past few years, where we have up to 80 percent representation … by someone involved in the film itself.”

This is the 10th Cinema Diverse—and Green has made big plans to celebrate the milestone. The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin is going to be the opening-night movie on Thursday, Sept. 21, and Tales of the City scribe Armistead Maupin himself will be in attendance. Copies of his new memoir will also be available, before the official release date in October.

“Luckily, Armistead loves Palm Springs, and his schedule worked out so he can come here to be a part of the festival,” Green said. “We are working with (Palm Springs store) Just Fabulous to help out, where people can purchase his new book and have it signed.”

Beyond opening night, Cinema Diverse will have many highlights, Green said.

“We are going to have a couple of special 10th anniversary screenings from Here Media,” he said. “Sheltered is one of the first movies produced by Here Media 10 years ago. This is only available in this festival—no others. Here Media is one the festival’s sponsors, so we are hoping to have not just the director, but the cast, too, on Saturday (Sept. 23).

“We are also going to be having a documentary called Laughing Matters … The Men,” featuring various gay comedians—which was filmed at Palm Springs Pride. “Not only is this a 10th anniversary screening, but the director, Andrea Meyerson, has a new short named One Way Street, which will also be screening at the festival. We love to do a lot of shorts at Cinema Diverse.”

The festival is also expanding to a second weekend, sort of: While Cinema Diverse will take place at the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs, the Mary Pickford Theatre in Cathedral City will host the Best of Fest on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 29 and 30.

“Last year, we expanded what we were doing (by hosting films at the Desert Cinema, the former IMAX theater) in Cathedral City,” Green said. “This year, Cathedral City asked us to return. We asked the Mary Pickford, and they were very interested. We also decided this year to move this part of the festival to the week after, so it wouldn’t pull away from the festival consistency. The Best of Fest will show the best films and help accommodate film-goers who may have missed the first showings during the festival.”

Cinema Diverse includes every genre of LGBT-related films one can imagine. However, Green admitted a fondness for the festival’s slate of documentaries.

“This year, we have most of our documentaries focusing on the LGBTQ communities in various places around the world,” Green said. “Films from Iraq, Iran, Russia or South Africa work as a reminder that we are so fortunate to live in our bubble of Palm Springs. It’s a reminder how dangerous the rest of the world is, and how there is still so much work to be done to make the world a safe place.”

Cinema Diverse takes place Thursday, Sept. 21, through Sunday, Sept. 24, at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. The Best of Fest takes place Friday and Saturday, Sept. 29 and 30, at the Mary Pickford Theatre, 36850 Pickfair St., in Cathedral City. Pass prices vary; individual screenings are $13.25. For more information, visit cinemadiverse.org.

Published in Previews and Features

(Reuters)—A U.S. appeals court, for the first time ever, ruled earlier this week that federal civil rights law protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination in the workplace.

The ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago represents a major legal victory for the gay rights movement.

In its 8-3 decision, the court bucked decades of rulings that gay people are not protected by the milestone civil rights law, because they are not specifically mentioned in it.

“For many years, the courts of appeals of this country understood the prohibition against sex discrimination to exclude discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation,” Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote for the majority. “We conclude today that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.”

The ruling also allows a lawsuit to go forward in Indiana, where plaintiff Kimberly Hively said she lost her community college teaching job because she is lesbian.

“I have been saying all this time that what happened to me wasn’t right and was illegal,” Hively said in a statement released by the gay rights legal organization Lambda Legal, which represents her.

In its decision to reinstate Hively’s 2014 lawsuit, which was thrown out at the local level in Indiana, the Court of Appeals ruled that protections against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protect people from job discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

In so doing, the full appeals court overruled a decision by a smaller panel of its judges to uphold the district court’s decision in the college’s favor.

To reach its conclusion, the court examined 20 years of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court on issues related to gay rights, including the high court’s 2015 ruling that same-sex couples have a right to marry, Wood wrote.

The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the question of whether the Civil Rights Act protects gays and lesbians, she wrote.

The three dissenting judges said the majority had inappropriately used its own power to change the civil rights law, which does not explicitly protect people on the basis of sexual orientation, and which for decades has been interpreted as excluding that protection.

“Today the court jettisons the prevailing interpretation and installs the polar opposite,” Judge Diane Sykes wrote in dissent.

In her lawsuit, Hively said that Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend passed her over for a permanent position and refused to renew her contract as an adjunct professor after school administrators learned she is a lesbian.

On Tuesday, Ivy Tech spokesman Jeff Fanter said the college had not done that.

“Ivy Tech Community College rejects discrimination of all types,” Fanter said in a statement emailed to Reuters. “Sexual orientation discrimination is specifically barred by our policies.”

The college would not ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision, Fanter said, but instead would argue in District Court that it had not discriminated against Hively as the lawsuit goes forward.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; writing by Sharon Bernstein; editing by G Crosse and Leslie Adler)

Published in National/International

When children turn 18 and age out of the foster-care system, they face a difficult transition into adulthood: Not only do some of these young people lack a family; they also lack the skills to live on their own.

For LGBT youth in foster care, it’s even harder. That’s where Sanctuary Palm Springs comes in: Sanctuary is working toward providing a home with support services to LGBT youth between the ages of 18 and 21 who leave the foster-care system.

Sanctuary was founded by David Rothmiller and LD Thompson. Rothmiller explained how they started down the path of creating Sanctuary.

“Originally, it was the desire to be a parent,” Rothmiller said. “… My spouse, LD, and I had begun with the intentions of starting a family. We were licensed (for foster children) in Washington state, and that system made us wait for two years for a placement in our own home. People asked me why that was the case, and I have no answers. The system is so broken. While that happened, we looked where else we could participate. We were told by someone about group care.”

Rothmiller mentioned that many LGBT individuals lose their families when they come out.

“LD was kicked out of his home at 17 and found family again in the LGBT community,” Rothmiller said. “That’s our model: They might have lost their family, but there’s a family already there that waits for them.”

Rothmiller explained the challenges LGBT youth face in the foster-care system.

“Depending on how long they’ve been in foster care, there is enormous psychological damage that we have to sort out,” Rothmiller said. “The reason (many of them) are in foster care is because they were gay to begin with. … Some of these Christian families kick their kids out because they find out they’re gay. In foster care, kids are afraid to come out, because many of the foster families are well-meaning Christian families, and it doesn’t fit their culture. If the kids come out or are found out to be gay, the foster parent can make a seven-day call to get them out. We’ve seen that happen many times. There’s no legal protection for them, and the more often a kid is bounced, the harder their life becomes. With each bounce, they lose six months of educational placement. LGBT kids are bounced more often.”

Originally, Rothmiller and Thompson planned for Sanctuary to provide a home for LGBT foster kids in the system. However, Riverside County put numerous hurdles in front of them.

“Riverside County’s foster care is currently under investigation,” Rothmiller said. “They are so messed up and can’t even maintain the claims of abuse and investigate them properly.”

Eventually, they decided to open a home for LGBT foster kids who were entering adulthood—to help with a problem that’s recently received state and federal attention.

“Sixty percent of kids leaving foster care at 18 would fall into the category of incarcerated, homeless, on the street, doing drugs, doing prostitution or dead,” Rothmiller said. “The state realized they were failing these kids. That’s why they created the new program, and that’s how we’re funded. It’s through San Bernardino (County), because Riverside (missed) the calendar date to be able to license homes such as ours. San Bernardino licensed us to operate in Riverside County.”

As of this writing, Sanctuary is open, but there are no residents yet, as Rothmiller, Thompson and their staff jump through hoops with licensing and getting the Palm Springs home up to code.

“LB and I are the founders of the program, but we don’t have any letters after our names. We had to bring in skilled professionals to have on our team,” Rothmiller said. “Even with that power behind us, these bureaucrats are like, ‘You need to do this, that and the other thing.’ In each case, our program manager had to tell them how to license us.

“On the positive side, the community has been very supportive. Our fundraising has been impressive for a start-up … and our staff is all-volunteer. Everyone who has donated their time or money, or comes to work with us, feels emotionally connected. People are seeing this as something they can do locally to stop that negativity toward LGBT rights and equality.”

Sanctuary will help teach youth the skills they will need in adulthood, and hopefully even inspire careers.

“Our independent living program is designed to teach them cooking skills, car skills, job-interview skills and being part of a larger system,” Rothmiller said. “Most of these kids coming into the program probably won’t even have a driver’s license, because no one cared enough to get them through that process. All of these things you have to know as an adult have been withheld from them.

“If a kid wants to learn culinary skills, there are chefs from restaurants all over town who have offered to be mentors. Pick anything a kid wants to learn—there are people in this community who want to share that with them.”

Rothmiller said Sanctuary has already helped one particular young man who aged out of the system and contacted them for help.

“He said, ‘I really want to come live at Sanctuary. I’m in foster care. I turned 18; I was kicked out of Safehouse, and I’m living in a men’s shelter in Indio and getting up at 5 in the morning to take a bus from Indio to Palm Springs High School, where I’m a senior,’” Rothmiller recalled. “I said, ‘Are you gay?’ and he said he wasn’t. I told him we will not discriminate against anyone, but that we were designed for the LGBT community. We met; we had a fundraiser coming up. He’s a great kid, and we wanted to do something for him. He came and helped the staff from Lulu do the catering. He fit in perfectly, and when we got up to do the remarks, I told his story and why the program matters so much. It was very emotional, and we said, ‘We need to find a home for him.’

“Fast forward to today. He lives with this kind man, and he has become family. We graduated him; he works at a deli; he goes to College of the Desert. That’s the potential we have. So many in the gay population thought we missed the boat to be parents, but there is more that we have to offer, and we want people in the community to know that it isn’t too late to (be a) parent or grandparent. We see ourselves as having that ability to facilitate.”

For more information or to offer assistance, visit www.sanctuarypalmsprings.org.

Published in Local Issues

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