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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Village Voice Pride Issue is Available Now

How Six NYC Activists Changed History With "Silence = Death"
In 1986 the art director of Vidal Sassoon and five creative friends came together to conceive the "Silence = Death" poster, with the goal of bringing awareness to the AIDS epidemic that was devastating their community. Shortly after, their emblem was adopted by ACT UP and became a national symbol for speaking out against the disease and anyone trying to stifle progress. Having just been commissioned by the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art to bring to life a new imagining of their original piece, the surviving members of this groundbreaking collective tell their story.

Masha Gessen On Trump, Russia, and 'How Pride Is Political'
For those who were utterly destroyed by the election of a potential tyrant to the White House, author, journalist and activist Masha Gessen offers a glimmer of hope. In her widespread essay "Autocracy: Rules for Survival," the Moscow-born Gessen detailed numerous populist/despotic things that have since come to pass, but reminds us that the difference between here and modern day Russia is that here sexual minorities are (for now, at least) afforded rights. After re-emigrating to Russia, Gessen was personally attacked by the LGBTQ-adverse Putin, and now travels the world spreading a cautionary message on the perils of the decline of democracy.
Queerer Than Folk
Finding an appropriate NYC venue for her freshly formed, queer country band Karen & the Sorrows seemed near impossible for Karen Pittelman, who took things into her own hands. In 2011 she developed the first ever Gay Ole Opry, which welcomed 'all cowpeople' with a penchant for broken-hearted crooning and whiskey swilling. The fest has since grown into the Queer Country Quarterly, and has moseyed all over the U.S of A. to key, country-adoring cities. Pittelman's newest endeavor, Another Country, an all-day festival, is not just a celebration of the form but also a place for an open discourse on what it means to be an LGBTQ member in this traditionally straight environment.      

Proudly Drawn
Sophie Labelle's webcomic Assigned Male provides a vivid picture of what it's like to be an adolescent trans girl growing up. Aside from the obvious challenges her protagonist Stephanie faces, there is an onslaught of daily micro-aggressions that come her way. These take shape in what could even be construed as 'innocent' questions from the cis-curious. While alt-right trolls have bombarded Labelle with not just virulent words but actual, tangible threats, she has not backed down, as her characters stand tall against any and all unmitigated hate.

A Families Affair
Performer, visual artist, photographer, dancer, voguer, drag ball luminary and all-around star of the LGBTQ world, Kia LaBeija has rocketed to the forefront of the NYC art scene. With her performance piece Earthwalk, LaBeija delves deep into her relationship with her mother, an AIDS activist and beacon of light in her daughter's life. Creating her own unique definition of what it means to be an HIV-positive queer woman of color, Kia draws heavily on her familial history, family-by-choice chronicles and a beautiful, ever-fluctuating identity.
Everybody Loves John Giorno
Octogenarian John Giorno was a prominent member of the Beat Generation of poets, deconstructing the written word with fellow dissidents Ginsberg and Kerouac. He was one of the pioneers of alternative storytelling (rivaling Warhol), an artist who used words and imagery and visuals in bold, unheard of new ways. He has been an outspoken activist since the days of Vietnam, and he has remained one of the most vital figures of the queer world. From the Bowery YMCA-turned-home/office/art studio/gallery space he calls his own, Giorno gives us a fleeting glimpse into his remarkable life.

'My Existence is Resistance'
Bianey GarcĂ­a-D la O has quite a tale to tell. Having fled her native country of Mexico fearing for her life as a transgender woman, she arrived in the U.S. ready for a new start. Still a teen, she was forced into sex work (with the threat of a deportation call looming), and unjustly sent to prison, where she encountered further abuse. Emerging from these grave tribulations, the indomitable Bianey went on to head TRIP, the Transgender Immigrant Project of the organization Make the Road. Crowned the grand marshal of the Queens Pride Parade (the first trans woman to hold this title), she proudly marches on, fighting for equality for the Latinx and trans communities. 

The Queer Havens of Jackson Heights
Jackson Heights' Latinx social scene is popping. There is a boisterous stretch of bars and clubs along Roosevelt Avenue that has catered to the Latin LGBTQ community for decades. Many queer newcomers to the city with Latin roots (often escaping discrimination in their countries of origin) are quickly able to call this vivacious area home. One spot of note, Club Evolution, has been the site of numerous demonstrations and vigils, acting as a meeting ground for activists and people seeking to be heard. 

Why Are All the Lesbian Bars Disappearing?
Senior Village Voice film critic Melissa Anderson joins a cadre of lesbian adventurers as they kick off the inaugural "Dyke Bar Walking Tour." As they hit up the final four remaining NYC watering holes that cater specifically to queer women year round, they also visited and mentally excavated the remains of former glorious establishments (one of which, Crazy Nanny's, is now a dog spa). Yet this begs the question: Why this paltry amount of female-friendly drink palaces, in a city that boasts so many queer women?  

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