Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New Film Tells L.A.’s LGBT History Like Never Before

The LGBT movement’s tremendous legal advances in the last few years have many actively working to ensure that this progress continues. “What’s left after marriage?” is certainly not the right question when too many in our community -- particularly trans people -- still face high levels of discrimination, violence, and economic barriers.  As LGBTQ people, we’re in a critical time of reflection on where we’ve been, how we got to where we are, and decide where we want to go.

Enter “LA: A Queer History” -- a new documentary focusing on pivotal moments and trailblazers in Los Angeles LGBT history from the 20th century to the present: the gay and lesbian pioneers who made Hollywood; the Los Angeles Police Department’s persecution of LGBT people in the mid-century; the organizations and leaders credited with launching the modern LGBT movement; the AIDS epidemic; and Prop 8 (the California amendment passed in 2008 that banned marriage for gay couples until it was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2013).

To weave this history together, director Gregorio Davila and producer Mario Novoa (disclosure: both friends of mine) interviewed several important gay and lesbian figures who are now in their 70s to late 80s.

However, “L.A.: A Queer History” is not yet complete.  The filmmakers are now raising funds on Indiegogo to complete a final round of interviews as well as post-production for the film, which has received a certificate of recognition from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.  Davila and Novoa used their own funds to get the ball rolling and document the stories from these trailblazers while they’re still with us. Now they need to raise $10,000 by December 16 to make the film a reality.
I spoke with Gregorio about the film, with a particular interest in seeing how his film would include LGBT people of color and trans folks as a whole, given how these communities are too often excluded and marginalized.

(For interested folks in L.A., don’t miss upcoming fundraising events on November 21 and 25)

BP: Why this film now? What’s it’s significance for L.A.’s LGBTQ community and the LGBT community nationally?

Jeanne Cordova, founder of The Lesbian Tide 
Most consider New York City’s Stonewall Riots of 1969 to be the birth of the Gay civil rights movement. But there have been activists, artists and innovators in L.A. since the turn of the 20th century. These pioneers paved the way for the Stonewall Riots and for us all. There would be no Hollywood if it wasn't for the Gays and Lesbians who helped create it. L.A. sprouted the first long standing Gay rights organization: The Mattachine Society, the first openly Gay positive magazine: ONE Magazine, the first Gay school: the ONE Institute of Homophile studies, the first Gay church: The Metropolitan Community Church, the first ever organized protest against police injustice towards Homosexuals at the Black Cat Tavern in 1967 (two years prior to Stonewall), and the first ever Gay pride parade, just to name a few.

Los Angeles has always been at the forefront of LGBTQ liberation, preservation and culture. It's time these people were recognized for their contribution to not only our community, and our city but to the world as a whole.

BP: LGBT people of color, as I know you’re aware, don’t only face discrimination and prejudice because of our sexual orientation or gender identity, but also because of our race and ethnicity. Experiencing racism within the LGBT community is far from being an unfamiliar experience--and our role in LGBT history is too often whitewashed. How do you address this in your film?

GD:Before West Hollywood became a city in 1984, it was even then notorious for being racist. The most popular bar was Studio One, whose owner’s policy was to require three pieces of ID for any person of color who tried to get in. When they started to bring those pieces they would then find another reason to discriminate against them, and so on. This is how the Queer Latino Pride Movement in L.A. was born, resulting in not only Latino bars and organizations  but also the first African American Gay bar, Catch One. As Latinos ourselves, it was very important to Mario and I to include this piece of history.

L.A. A Queer History, fundraising promo from L.A. A Queer History on Vimeo.

BP: You’ve mentioned your focus is on gay and lesbian history. Does your film also include trans people (who, of course, can also identify as gay, bisexual, lesbian and queer)?  

GD: We plan on showing clips from the second piece of media on "transexuals," which was shot in L.A. in the late 60's by filmmaker and activist Pat Rocco. The piece is called Changes and features a transgender woman talking about her transition. We are in the process of trying to locate her and fleshing out this segment in general.

BP: Who have you interviewed so far?

GD: Prof. Chris Freeman, Nancy Valverde, William Mann (author), Dennis Bell (Bob Mizer Foundation), Don Kilhenfer, Troy Perry, Jeanne Cordova, Joey Terrill, Tom Jacobson (playwright), Ivy Bottini, John D'Amico, Pat Rocco, Alexei Romanoff, Roland Palencia, Mark Thompson. And more still in the works…

BP: I’m very confident you’ll get the funds necessary to complete the film, so I won’t say “if”: WHEN and where will audiences be able to see “LA: A Queer History”?

GD:We're hoping to have it completed by March 2015 in time for film festival season. After a festival run we hope for a theatrical release and eventually online streaming by the end of next year. To keep up to date on screenings you can follow us on our social media:

Twitter: @QueerLa

Monday, March 10, 2014

Getting to Know Me, Getting to Live Passionately

A few months ago, I left a scene showcase that I thoroughly enjoyed feeling...depressed? This may seem counterintuitive, but as it turns out, for me feeling down after watching a dance performance or a play was actually a very familiar experience--although one I hadn't felt in years.

But this was the first time in my life that I was aware that I was leaving with a heavy feeling in my heart, triggering a flood of memories of previous instances. 

I suddenly remembered the many times in my life -- from elementary school to college -- where  I experienced the mixed emotions of admiration, envy, self-pity, ambition, self-doubt as a spectator watching a play, or a band rocking out , or a hip-hop troupe wowing the crowd. What I realized at that point was how much I wanted to be on stage and to perform. Specifically, to act and to dance hip-hop.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Not Just an 'Issue' -- Invisibility in the Immigration Debate Hurts Real People

On May 1, I participated in a huge LGBTQ contingent in a march for immigration reform and workers' rights in honor of International Workers' Day, more commonly known as May Day. People around the world marched for workers to be treated with respect and dignity, and in many cities throughout the U.S. people also marched for a fair and humane immigration reform.
I'm a very introspective person, so naturally the march got me thinking about a lot of things. But above all, it made me think about the world I want to live in, and how much change is needed to make that a reality.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Interview with a Salvadoran Newspaper

Last month, I was in El Salvador to participate in the country's first-ever LGBTI conference ((at least in recent memory, and at least the most public), hosted by ALDES ( Anti-Homophobia Legal Clinic of. El Salvador).

I was interviewed by Salvadoran digital newspaper Diario La Página on my life, my Salvadoran and LGBT identities, my work at GLAAD. Check it out.

Brian Pacheco es un salvadoreño que trabaja en la Alianza Gay y Lésbica contra la Difamación (GLAAD) siendo el principal enlace entre la ONG y los medios de comunicación en español de EE.UU. Pacheco visitó recientemente el país y conversó con Diario LA PÁGINA sobre sus raíces salvadoreñas y su importante trabajo por los derechos de la comunidad LGBT.
Brian Pacheco Corletto es un joven salvadoreño de 25 años quien, a su corta edad, posee un importante trabajo dentro de GLAAD, la organización que fue fundada como la Alianza Gay y Lésbica contra la Difamación en Estados Unidos.
Pacheco es el estratega de medios en español para GLAAD y está a cargo de monitorear, dar críticas y colaborar con los medios latinos en EE.UU. para que den una representación justa y no discriminatoria de las personas enmarcadas dentro del movimiento LGTB (lesbianas, gays, transexuales y bisexuales).
Pacheco visitó nuestro país hace unos días para participar en una conferencia sobre diversidad sexual que se ofreció en la Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) y, durante su estadía, conversó con Diario LA PÁGINA sobre sus orígenes, lo que él llama “orgullo de ser salvadoreño y abiertamente gay”, su importante trabajo dentro de GLAAD, y cómo se aborda la diversidad sexual y los derechos de personas LGBT tanto en la sociedad como en los medios de comunicación de nuestro país.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Don’t Accuse Anyone of Racism, Homophobia, Etc. Unless Ready to be Accused of the Same

cross-posted from my Tumblr
Inspired by this post on Feministing critiquing Gene Lyon's very problematic (and racially-tinged) piece on Salon that lambasts Professor Melissa Harris-Perry's article in The Nation lambasts Professor Melissa Harris-Perry [i.e. attacking the person and not the idea]. In the article she argues that white liberals hold Black politicians to a higher standard than white politicians.

We all have internalized racism (among other -isms, and -phobias). Lets not expect thateven the most socially conscious will readily understand or recognize every single way in which this will manifest for them. Lets not also expect that others who aren't as socially conscious [checking my own elitist framing] will be readily able to. do the same. But we all have the potential to eventually understand. We're all human, we understand compassion and we can empathize with what it is to hurt, feel inferior or experience humiliation. Lets all try to respect each other, and not accuse each other of being racist, homophobic or misogynistic unless you're ready to be accused of the same. This is counter-productive.
Realize that we don't live in a vacuum, but rather, we live and breathe in a multidimensional oppressive power structure. Patience and communicating in simple ways that anyone can understand to see our point, that's an effort worth making. At the same time it's worth remembering that because of the same oppressive power structure, many will very justifiably feel anger and feel themselves incapable or unwilling to do this. But remember: progress won't be made until we have mutual comprehension and acceptance as a starting point. Think of it in terms of backwards planning: envision what you want the world to be, and make small steps towards it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Sunset Junction Native’s Rebuttal to Criticism of Community Members

This past weekend, my friend from NYC and I (both of us L.A. natives) had a long conversation about the differences between New York City and Los Angeles. Ultimately we both agreed that both cities are amazing and we mostly agreed with one another in terms of what was missing in Los Angeles (although I really emphasized the fact that this is due largely to the fact L.A. is still in the midst of urban maturation). My point in the whole conversation was, though I love and appreciate New York’s cohesion, that it is precisely what Los Angeles lacks that I love; no, not because it lacks an efficient, multimodal public transit system or a city government that heavily invests in community cultural and arts events (like it could do with the Sunset Junction street fair).

No. What I love about this city is the serious DIY culture that has been spurred by the infrastructural gaps we've historically had. I love that the city's amazingness and shortcomings together form a source of inspiration for the imagination. But more than anything, it leaves room to grow and to create sustainable urban development models, learning from the mistakes of cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

What does this have to with the Sunset Junction Street Fair? The whole situation is valuable to explore as a case study because it can illuminate larger structural problems in the city of Los Angeles. How? In terms of the relationships between private and public institutions and their constituents. Who are the players involved? They include entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations, city government, neighborhood councils, and civically-engaged and not-civically engaged community members.

The Sunset Junction Street Fair: A Case Study Worth Exploring

Some of the criticism of community members and even the dismissal of our concerns is predicated on the intent behind some of the measures that that Michael McKinley implemented. I certainly understand the realities that organizers have to deal with. But it's just like when someone inadvertently offends you: you aren't excused just because your intentions weren't to offend. You take responsibility for it and you work to resolve it via mutual communication and effort.

Lets look at two different examples of actions, their intents, their impacts and the mechanisms (or lack thereof) implemented to mitigate negative impact.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Sunset Junction Native's Thoughts on L.A.'s Decision to Deny Permit to Sunset Junction Street Fair

In my mind, the Sunset Junction fair was cancelled when it started exploiting our community in its marketing to attract more outsiders, in the process excluding much of the community because of high prices and its almost exclusive catering to bourgeois tastes without regard to the diversity of interests in the neighborhood.

I've been a lifelong resident of the Sunset Junction (minus the years I lived in the San Gabriel Valley; and my permanent address was still here even when I was away at Berkeley). My family has a strong emotional connection to this neighborhood, as it’s where most on my mom’s side of the family settled when they fled from El Salvador in the 70s and 80s. And though true, that most have left, some (like my grandma, mom and I) are still here, and so the family connection to the neighborhood is as strong as ever.