Tremont resident is first gay man to run for Cleveland council
by Eric Resnick
Cleveland--An openly gay man has made history by declaring his candidacy for Cleveland city council.
Joe Santiago, 34, became the first openly gay Clevelander to run for city office. He began circulating petitions on January 10.
Santiago, a lifelong resident of the diverse Tremont neighborhood and former enlisted aide to three Navy admirals, is anchoring his campaign in his dedicated service to the neighborhood and surrounding area.
Santiago is the first to challenge incumbent Nelson Cintron for the Ward 14 seat in the Democratic primary in May. He points out that there were seven candidates in the last race and expects five more to join the field soon. There are few Republicans in Ward 14, so the real contest is the Democratic primary, with the winner certain to win the general election.
Cintron has the distinction of being the first Latino to win a seat on the council.
Ward 14 includes Ohio City, Tremont and the cityís near west side. Known for its ethnic, racial, and economic diversity, it is also home to many lesbians and gays.
"This neighborhood is the melting pot of the city," said Santiago, noting that some community leaders that approached him about running know he is gay.
When Santiago left the Navy after ten years in 1997, he returned to his familyís Victorian home on the edge of the Tremont neighborhood and began to restore it. This led him to join the Tremont West Development Corporation and become active in politics. Santiago has chaired the Holmden-Buhrer-Rowley Aves. Democratic block club since 1998.
Santiago takes credit for lobbying efforts that brought about improved traffic conditions in the neighborhood and persuaded the Ohio Department of Transportation to study and revise the I-90, I-71 Innerbelt freeway that cuts through the ward.
The highway, as well as education and crime and public safety will be the issues Santiago will use to sell himself to voters. He has already begun knocking on the doors of the wardís 28,000 residents introducing himself.
Santiago is a member of the Second District Police Community Relations Committee and served as chair of Bobcat Patrol, which is an organization of citizens that patrol the area and serving as additional eyes and ears for the police.
Santiago, who is a certified dietary manager, is currently a supervisor at Normandy Manor nursing home in Rocky River.
Santiago believes that his community résumé and traditional approach to the campaign will be discussed more than his sexual orientation, but also knows that being the first openly gay person to run for council breaks some new ground and could become an issue to some.
Santiago is aware that this campaign puts him in a high-visibility position where he may be perceived as a leader of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. "I need to be the best representative I can be," he said.
"I need to run an effective, hard campaign, so I can have the opportunity to bring about a united ward," said Santiago.
Santiago is also visible in the GLBT community. He is a dancer with the Rainbow Wranglers group, bowls in the gay league at Westgate, and is a former bartender at Club Atlantis.
In the Navy, Santiago was active in the buddy program that provided companionship for people with HIV and AIDS. Santiago hopes the Cleveland GLBT community will support his campaign and has begun to discuss city issues with GLBT leaders.
Santiago is considering seeking endorsement of the Lesbian and Gay Victory Fund, a Washington political action committee that organizes a national base of contributors to broaden candidatesí GLBT financial support.
Santiago has the support of the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, who are helping to organize his campaign kickoff event February 5.
by Lauren Carey
CincinnatióWCPO Channel 9 has moved Laura Schlessingerís TV show from morning to midnight, but a pro-gay spot made to counter her views has been taken off the air.
The Dr. Laura show, featuring the outspokenly anti-gay Schlessinger, has done poorly in ratings nationwide since it began airing in September. On January 23, WCPO moved it from a 10 am time slot to 12:30 am on weekdays. Other stations in Ohio and elsewhere have made similar moves.
Five days earlier, WCPO told Stonewall Cincinnati that the groupís recently produced public service announcement is being put "on hiatus."
Stonewall executive director Doreen Cudnik said that WCPO general manager Bill Fee came to the Stonewall office on January 18 and told her that the spot had been shelved after airing for just over three weeks. Fee told Cudnik that response from those opposed to the spot was very vocal.
"Naturally, we are disappointed, because we all worked so hard to make that PSA happen," Cudnik said. "Iím also very troubled by Mr. Feeís apparent change of heart, since he had indicated from the beginning of this project that he fully expected negative feedback, but believed the PSA was the right thing to do."
"It seems that whether or not he personally believes in the PSAís message, the concerns of WCPOís conservative viewers are apparently more important to Mr. Fee than the concerns of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and our allies," she said.
Cudnik did add that Fee said the station was "not killing" the PSA, but "cooling it down." In the meantime, Cudnik said Stonewall is working to make the spot available to other local television stations. The public service announcement, while paid for by WCPO, belongs to Stonewall Cincinnati.
Cudnik said the group had an encouraging meeting with WSTR on January 23, and additional meetings scheduled with other local stations and cable outlets.
"WCPOís decision to shelve the PSA is a setback, since the whole purpose of the project was to bring a message of inclusion and diversity to a large mainstream audience," Cudnik said. "However, we have a great product, and I am confident that the spot will begin to air on other stations in the very near future."
"As disappointing as this setback is," Cudnik added, "we still must thank WCPO for their part in making the PSA possible in the first place. Given the stationís commitment to the project, I hope Mr. Fee will re-think this decision, and continue to air this inclusive and affirming spot on WCPO."
The PSA can also be viewed at the Stonewall web site at www.stonewallcincinnati.org and at Rainbow News on the gaycincinnati.com site.
by Eric Resnick
Bridgeport, Conn--A federal court in Connecticut has ruled that police may not interfere with any public health initiative that effectively combats disease through education and prevention, giving the first sign that laws against needle exchange programs around the country could be voided.
The January 19 decision resulted from litigation filed on behalf of the Connecticut Harm Reduction Coalition and two anonymous clients of the Bridgeport Needle Exchange by the Connecticut ACLU and the national ACLU.
In the suit, the state claimed that since used syringes contain trace amounts of the injected drug. Program clients caught carrying the used syringes were criminally liable for possession of the drug.
Connecticut decriminalized possession of injection equipment and established syringe exchange programs in 1990 to help slow the transmission of HIV and AIDS among injection drug users.
But needle exchange proponents claim harassment from law enforcement, even though they operated within the law.
According to papers filed with the court, Bridgeport police regularly destroyed clean syringes found on known drug users and tore up identification cards issued by the health department allowing them to have the needles.
The ACLU argued that such illegal intimidation not only discourages drug users from participating in legal programs, but also sabotages the counseling and public education components of programs that encourage drug users to enter treatment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, three out of four AIDS cases among women are due to injection drug use (IDU) or heterosexual contact with someone infected through IDU, and three of four cases of AIDS in children results from parentsí IDU.
The court found the stateís claim "absurd and unworkable," saying that such arrests "thwart the intended purpose" of the state law legalizing needle exchange.
The court also found that such arrests of drug users violated their Fourth Amendment rights, because the equipment was used prior to the arrest and may not have anything to do with any illegal activity.
Ohio has two needle exchange programs in operation, both in Cleveland. One is run through the Free Clinic; the other program, founded earlier, is called Xchange Point.
Xchange Point founder Kenneth Vail, who experienced many of the same difficulties with authorities as his Bridgeport counterparts during the early days of his program, lauded the Connecticut decision.
"Itís an amazing thing for a judge to make a ruling like that," said Vail, "and itís about time."
In Cleveland, needle exchange programs operate within an emergency order of the cityís Director of Public Health, which makes the possession of ten syringes a low law enforcement priority.
Yet Vail says he also knew of incidents where clientsí identification cards were torn up by police and told they didnít count.
"Some cops were supportive, some harassed us," said Vail. "But most of the hassles came from undercover and narcotics unit cops" attempting to enforce the stateís paraphernalia laws making it legal to purchase syringes, but illegal to possess them.
Vail was arrested in April 1998 for exchanging syringes on a street corner near his East 105th Street office, which was less than 1,000 feet from a day care center, thus violating a city ordinance.
Authorities temporarily shut down Xchange Point in 1997, also because of its proximity to the day care center.
Charges against Vail were dropped and a compromise was reached which included moving Xchange Point to a new midtown location.
Xchange Point is currently located on West 29th Street in Ohio City, in the former location of the Living Room AIDS service agency.
According to Vail, Connecticutís laws are similar to those in Ohio.
"Needle exchange is such a straightforward public health issue," said Vail, "But it is so political that the public health piece is lost. What the Connecticut court did was recognize the public health piece and lose the politics."
by Kaizaad Kotwal
Columbus--Ohio State University concluded its annual Awareness Week program on January 27. Formally titled "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Ally Awareness Weeks," the event began on January 15.
OSUís GLBT Student Services acting coordinator Chad McCoury explained that the goal of the event was "to provide awareness through outreach and education, as well as to provide direct programming and services to our community."
The theme of Awareness Week was "Transforming Lives," focusing on transgender and transsexual issues.
One of this yearís main events was a presentation and book signing by nationally known photographer and author, Loren Cameron on Friday, January 19. Cameron is the author of Body Alchemy: Transsexual Portraits.
Well-known Columbus group H.I.S. Kings hosted "Dragdom," an evening of gender "turnabout," featuring a combination of drag, karaoke, and lip-syncing.
The event also included a clothing drive to benefit a variety of neighborhood services. Drop-off boxes were available in each of the dorms making the presence of this yearís Awareness Week very widespread.
A variety of educational presentations and workshops delved into issues of GLBT parenting, healthy relationships, spirituality, and safety and self defense, along with a panel discussion on lesbian health.
Other events focused on racial and ethnic issues, giving this yearís celebration a diverse perspective far beyond that of past celebrations, including Jewish LGBT coffee breaks, anti-oppression training, and workshops entitled "Queer People of Color" and "Breaking Down the Walls: GLBT Issues in the Hispanic Community." Asian American Student Services also presented a lunch discussion on working within and against the politics of identity,
The two grand finale events of the week included a "Throw Down," featuring local entertainment and comedians, along with the annual drag basketball tournament.
by Anthony Glassman
Cleveland-Asians and Friends-Cleveland celebrated the beginning of the Year of the Snake on Saturday, January 27, with a large Chinese New Year celebration drawing 140 people from across the Midwest.
The event, held at the Sin Mun Bay restaurant on St. Clair Ave., was sold out and exceeded the turnout of last yearís event. Present at the event were representatives from Asians and Friends chapters in Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Chicago, as well as from the AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland and Insight, a Cleveland-area LGBT business networking group.
The event began with a dinner, followed by a welcoming speech delivered by group president Dr. Rolando Santos, along with the presentation of a donation to the AIDS Taskforce. Board president David Feldt was on hand to accept the donation.
The climax of the evening was the talent show, with such diverse acts as an a cappella rendition of a traditional provincial song by Loh Ching Yuan, a ballad by Pittsburghís Greg Wong, and a number of magnificent drag performances by Chi Chi Delefuentes and Siu Hon, among others.
The Chinese calendar is a lunar calendar; thus the New Year festivities start on the new moon, which is January 24 this year. The celebrations last for 15 days, until the first full moon of the new year on February 7. This day is called the Lantern Festival, which is usually celebrated with a parade and children carrying lanterns.
by Anthony Glassman
Cleveland-The Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center announced on January 30 the release of a report on the health needs of Clevelandís LGBT community.
The report is the result of a year-long study of gay and lesbian Clevelanders and the local health care system. The study was funded by the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation, and is the first comprehensive study done on the overall health care needs of the cityís LGBT community.
"There are health care providers in Greater Cleveland that provide great health care to LGBT people," said center executive director Linda Malicki. "Unfortunately, this is probably a minority of providers."
"LGBT people, particularly those who have no insurance or who are dependent upon public health care, face a lot of barriers to receiving quality health care services," she continued. "Even those with health insurance are often restricted as to which doctors they can go to--itís no longer good enough to have a handful of health care providers to serve us."
The study examined a variety of health issues with unique impact on the LGBT community, including domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse, and mental and sexual health. These issues can affect gay men and lesbians in different ways than their heterosexual counterparts, a fact of which many health care providers are not fully apprised.
The study also examined the relationship between LGBT people and their health care providers. Local surveys indicate that a large number of gays in the Cleveland area are not open about their sexual orientation with their doctors.
"There is a general suspicion that many LGBT people bring to health care," said center health outreach coordinator Bob Bucklew. "Itís an area where people feel vulnerable to being judged, and in some cases, for very good reason."
"Many of the people who we talked to had experiences in which health care providers were at best ignorant of LGBT people and their health issues, and at worst openly hostile," Bucklew added.
The report provides recommendations for health care providers to improve their services to the gay community. It can be obtained at the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center, at 216-651-5428.
Boy Scouts expel 7 troops for challenging gay ban
Oak Park, Ill-The Boy Scouts of America rejected the charters of seven Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops because their sponsors challenged the groupís policy of excluding gay members and leaders.
The groups were believed to be among the first to lose their charters because of the policy.
The sponsors of the Oak Park packs and troops said they couldnít abide by the no-gays rule because of village ordinances and school policies that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Ross Brinkman, committee chairman of a Cub Scout pack, said he plans to pull his two sons out of scouting.
"Many people move to Oak Park because of its diversity, because they want to raise their kids in a diverse place," Brinkman said. "We want them to understand this is how we live. We canít change our lives for Boy Scouts."
In 1968, Oak Park was the first municipality in the nation to pass an open-housing ordinance, barring racial discrimination in the buying and selling of homes, and in 1997, was the first Illinois city to approve a domestic partnership registration.
Dates, places set for J.R. Warren trials
Fairmont, W. Va.-Trial periods have been set for two Marion County teen-agers accused of beating a mentally impaired gay black man and then running over him in an attempt to disguise the injuries as a hit-and-run.
David Allen Parker, 18, of Grant Town will stand trial the first week of April in Ohio County (Wheeling). The trial of Jared Matthew Wilson, 18, of Fairview is set to begin in Raleigh County (Beckley) the last week of May. A specific day will be set later, Marion County Circuit Judge David Janes said January 29.
Both teens are charged with first degree murder and face the possibility of life in prison if convicted.
Janes, who was elected in November, will hear both cases.
Arthur "J.R." Warren, Jr., 26, of Grant Town, died on July 4. His body was found along state Route 17 near the Grant Town power plant.
Janes agreed to Parker's attorney's request that he be moved from a juvenile detention facility to the Marion County Jail. Janes also granted a similar request to move Wilson to a regional jail.
The trials have been relocated because of heavy media coverage.
Unsafe sex high among lesbians
New York CityóA study conducted by researchers at Brown University School of Medicine have found an alarming level of unsafe sex among lesbians and bisexual women, although the majority of the women felt they were at little risk for STDs and HIV.
The study was conducted using an anonymous questionnaire targeting a sample of women identified at womenís events, HIV and sexual health service organizations and womenís collectives.
Of the over 500 respondents, 87% identified themselves as lesbians, 13% as bisexual.
Eighty-eight percent had at least one female partner in the last twelve months, and 27% of those had more than one. Of the 17% who reported having had a male sexual partner in the past year, 32% said they had more than one male partner during that time frame.
Over one-quarter of the women responded that they had previously had a sexually transmitted disease, double the number from earlier studies.
Nineteen percent of those responding reported engaging in oral-anal contact, and one-fifth reported possible exposure to blood.
Eighty-four percent of the women, however, believed they had no risk of contracting HIV or STDs over the past year; 21% reported that they had suggested using safer sex to their partners.
The study was published in the December issue of the Journal of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.
Pride flag burned during Gay Ski Week
Aspen, Colo-A gesture of good will toward the gay community was transformed into what police are calling a hate crime.
A rainbow flag, a symbol of gay pride recognized worldwide, was flown from the gazebo in Paepcke Park for the 24th annual Gay Ski Week. Police believe someone burned the flag less than 24 hours later. Pieces and black soot were all that was left of the flag.
"It will be classified as a hate crime," said police Sgt. Sandy Brownlee.
Hate crimes are rare in Aspen, Brownlee said, saying that this is the first one she has investigated in the eight years she has been a police officer.
More than 4,000 people attended the annual event that ran through January 27 and raised money for charity.
LGBT films clean up at Sundance
Park City, Utah-Three queer films won high honors at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27.
Southern Comfort, a documentary about rural Georgian Robert Eads, a female-to-male transsexual suffering from ovarian cancer, won the award for best documentary.
Eads succumbed to the ovarian cancer after two dozen doctors refused to treat the disease.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a rock opera chronicling the journeys of a rock-star victim of a botched gender reassignment surgery, also took high honors at the festival. Hedwig picked up the Audience Award-Drama and the Directing Award-Drama. The film, written and directed by and starring John Cameron, will be in theaters later this year.
Scoutís Honor, a documentary by Tom Shepard about protests over the Boy Scoutsí anti-gay policy, tied for the Audience Award-Documentary and won the Playboy Foundationís Freedom of Expression Award, given to a film that educates the audience on a social issue.
The movie includes Steven Cozza and Dave Rice, heterosexual men who are fighting against the Scout policies in the group Scouting For All.
Montana bill would end sodomy law
Helena, Mont.-A Bozeman man says a state law banning gay sex has hurt his children and his relationship with them, and asked a Montana House committee to change the law January 29.
Jeremy Stockstad told lawmakers his ex-wife tried to use the state law to limit his visitation with their two children after the couple divorced and he began living openly gay.
Stockstad encouraged lawmakers to approve House Bill 323, which would change a state law that includes gay sex as "deviate sexual conduct."
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Tom Facey, D-Missoula, who drafted it to comply with a 1997 Montana Supreme Court ruling that the law banning gay sex is unconstitutional.
Bills seek civil unions, housing rights
Honolulu, Hawaii-A bill introduced in the state House would grant gay and lesbian couples all the legal rights of married couples.
House Judiciary Chairman Eric Hamakawa and Rep. Ed Case introduced the "civil unions" bill.
Case believes the legislature in 1997 committed itself to provide same-sex couples with some of the benefits that married couples enjoy. Although legislators passed a reciprocal beneficiaries law that extended dozens of legal benefits to registered same-sex couples, Case said lawmakers should do more.
The bill introduced by Case and Hamakawa would repeal and replace the 1997 reciprocal beneficiaries law with a new legal relationship, "civil unions."
A bill to bar discrimination in housing and access to public accommodations based on sexual orientation has also been introduced. A similar bill passed the stateís Senate last year, but died in the House.
Hawaii already has protections for sexual orientation in employment.
Bills stall, court hears sodomycase
Little Rock, Ark.-A House committee narrowly defeated a ban on gay adoption January 26, the Senate Judiciary Committee deferred action on a new hate crime law January 24, and Judge David Bogard heard arguments for and against the stateís sodomy law January 29.
The Arkansas House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth defeated HB 1026 in a 10-9 vote. The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Randy Minton, would have prohibited gay men and lesbians from adopting or fostering children.
The American Civil Liberties Union is already challenging an Arkansas Child Welfare Agency Review Board edict prohibiting gay men and lesbians from serving as foster parents. The ACLU expressed doubts that HB 1026 would have passed the full House but said that it would be ready to challenge it in court if it became law.
Minton cited a 1989 study by anti-gay speaker Paul Cameron, who committee chair Jo Carson recognized as having been discredited by the American Psychological Association.
In the Senate, Sen. Bill Walker and Attorney General Mark Pryor are reviewing Walkerís bill to provide harsher sentences for hate crimes, including those against gay men and lesbians.
In other Arkansas gay news, Pulaski County Circuit Judge David Bogard heard arguments by Susan Sommer with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and Assistant Attorney General Timothy Gauger over the legality of the stateís sodomy law, enacted in 1977.
Sommer argued that the state has no real reason to dictate peopleís behavior in their own bedrooms, making the law unconstitutional.
Compiled from wire reports by Anthony Glassman, Patti Harris and Brian DeWitt.
by Anthony Glassman
The generation gap has always been there. In the Middle Ages, men would complain to their wives, "I donít understand that boy, always running off and jousting." Itís a not-so-simple fact of life.
It gets more complex, however, in the Jewish community. Our grandparents and, to some extent, our parents grew up speaking Yiddish, the mix of Hebrew, Russian and German that Jews have spoken for centuries. Our ancestors were from places with strange names, like Pinsk and Kishinev. Things were hard, so they made sure they gave their children an easier life. And their children gave the next generation an even easier life. Unless, of course, one of those children married a goy, or was a faygele.
Okay, youíre looking confused.
A goy is what a Jewish person calls a non-Jewish person. Itís not necessarily an insult; calling someone a goyishe kopf (non-Jewish head) is, but goy by itself is simply descriptive.
A faygele (FAY-gull-uh) is what the grandparents called the interior decorator behind his back. Still, it wasnít necessarily an insult; it was just the word to describe a gay man.
In a roundabout sort of way, this has been an introduction to Visiting Mr. Green by Jeff Baron, being produced at the Halle Theatre at the Jewish Community Center of Cleveland.
The play centers around a third-generation American Jewish man, Ross Gardiner, who works for American Express. That doesnít actually have much to do with the narrative of the play, but letís give you all the information.
He had almost hit Mr. Green, an elderly Jewish man who used to own a dry cleaning shop. He didnít hit him, but Mr. Green fell down and hurt himself. A judge has ordered Ross to visit Mr. Green weekly and help him, shop for him, whatever needs to be done.
There are two problems: Mr. Green is a complete curmudgeon, and Ross is gay.
This is where the generation gap comes into play. Belonging to the generation he is, Ross doesnít understand the views and experiences of Mr. Green and, belonging to his bygone generation, Mr. Green doesnít really understand the concept of "gay is good." To him, the purpose of children is to give you Jewish grandchildren, and anything that stands in the way of that is a bad thing.
The role of Mr. Green was originated by Eli Wallach, who must have been magnificent in the role. Heís so cantankerous to begin with that it is hardly a stretch to imagine him playing the set-in-his-ways Mr. Green.
Reuben Silver steps boldly into Wallachís shoes, deftly playing the subtly nuanced character.
Green could be a stereotype; heís old, heís Jewish, he grew up speaking Yiddish and keeping kosher and railing against the goyim who hated his people and didnít want them around.
However, between Baronís writing and Silverís acting, he becomes something more: a terribly sad man who has lost his wife and turned his back on his daughter, the only two people in his solitary life. There are moments where the loss of Yetta, his wife, are as heartbreaking as if they occurred onstage, instead of months before the play started.
Filling the role of Ross, the young gay Jewish man who knows so little of his heritage and the generations that came before him, is the almost ubiquitous Scott Plate.
Plate most recently held the title role in Cleveland Public Theaterís production of Gross Indecency: the Three Trials of Oscar Wilde. Plate, who seems to be one of the hardest-working men in the Cleveland theater community, is an excellent, skillful actor. When a talented actor is given a good script, magic happens.
This is magic, my friends.
Itís funny, itís heartwarming, and itís never schmaltzy. It could easily devolve into cheap sentimentality, but it doesnít, which is a testament to both the writer and the actors.
But, you say, you want proof that itís funny. Okay, read on:
Mr. Green: Are you sure youíre Jewish?
Ross: Well, Mr. Green, I donít remember my bris [the ritual circumcision of male babies], but apparently I had one. My fatherís an expensive lawyer . . . what else . . . I had a very nice bar mitzvah . . . five or ten thousand people. Maybe you were there.
Mr. Green: So you are Jewish.
Ross: Yes. Itís New York. The chances of two people who bump into each other both being Jewish is pretty good.
Itís a warm, witty play. The two men donít understand each other; heck, at the beginning, they donít even like each other. But time brings understanding, and understanding brings a friendship that bridges the chasm of years and culture between them. They donít miraculously accept everything about each other, but that isnít really necessary for friendship, is it?
In addition to the play, which is part of "Lifeís Greatest Lessons: a Symposium on Aging" presented by the JCC, the playwright will be present at 2 pm on February 18 to discuss his work and life in a discussion with Professor Jerrold Scott of Case Western Reserve University.
Visiting Mr. Green will be playing from February 3 to 18 at the Halle Theatre, 3505 Mayfield Rd, Cleveland Heights. Tickets are $14 to $18, and can be purchased through the box office, 216-382-4000.
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