Billy Porter On Equinox Controversy: “Leave – That’s What Activism Is”

POSE star Billy Porter told Variety his solution to the controversy over Equinox/SoulCycle owner Stephen Ross hosting a campaign fundraising event for Donald Trump is simple: “Leave.”
Billy Porter on FX’s acclaimed series POSE

POSE star Billy Porter told Variety his solution to the controversy over Equinox/SoulCycle owner Stephen Ross hosting a campaign fundraising event for Donald Trump is simple: “Leave.”

“That’s what activism is. It doesn’t work unless you hit these people where their bank accounts are.

“You don’t get to have these views and rape and pillage from us. That whole business is built on queer people, people of color, the whole business is built on that. So we need to go. It is an us and a they. That’s what it is. I didn’t do that part.

“That’s where we are and so therefore, my Equinox membership is canceled.”

The Shoulders On Which We Stand: LGBT Activist Dick Leitsch Passes Away At 83

The now-famous 'Sip-In' where gay men were refused service
The now-famous ‘Sip-In’ where gay men were refused service 

In a world where we, thankfully, have high school gay/straight alliances and Pride parades galore, it’s important to remember a time when being gay didn’t come with so many allies.

As we know, there was a time when it was outright dangerous to walk down the street being openly gay.

It’s with that in mind that we take a moment to acknowledge the passing of Dick Leitsch, an important, early leader in the gay rights movement.

Dick Leitsch died June 22 at a hospice center in Manhattan due to liver cancer. He was 83.

From The Washington Post:

A bartender, freelance journalist and onetime Tiffany sales representative, Mr. Leitsch was a self-described “hick from Kentucky who didn’t known anything about gay rights” when he followed a boyfriend to New York in 1959. He soon became a member and young leader of the Mattachine Society, an early gay advocacy group named after a group of medieval jesters who, disguised by masks, protested the oppression of peasants.

Mr. Leitsch rarely donned a mask himself. After being named president of the organization’s New York chapter in 1965, he took the group in a more aggressive direction, taking on the city’s police chief and newly elected liberal mayor, John V. Lindsay, in campaigns that drew on the tactics of the African American civil rights movement and became a model for other gay rights groups across the country.

In that pre-Stonewall era, a few years before an uprising at a Greenwich Village gay bar galvanized a broader protest movement for equality and acceptance, few gays used their name or showed their face on television. Mr. Leitsch was a notable exception, appearing on “The David Susskind Show,” in local news and radio broadcasts and at town-hall-style meetings.

In 1960s New York Leitsch actively opposed anti-gay entrapment by police and organized the very first major act of civil disobedience by a gay rights group — a ‘sit-in’ that came to be known as the Sip-In.

Here’s the history on that now-famous ‘Sip-In’ which occurred on April 21, 1966, at a Greenwich Village bar named ‘Julius:’

Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, the society’s president and vice president respectively, and another society activist, John Timmons, planned to draw attention to the practice by identifying themselves as homosexuals before ordering a drink in order to bring court scrutiny to the regulation [against serving gays]. The three were going to read from Mattachine stationary “We are homosexuals. We are orderly, we intend to remain orderly, and we are asking for service.”

The three first targeted the Ukrainian-American Village Restaurant at St. Mark’s Place and Third Avenue in the East Village, Manhattan which had a sign, “If you are gay, please go away.” The three showed up after a New York Times reporter had asked a manager about the protest and the manager had closed the restaurant for the day. They then targeted a Howard Johnson’s and a bar called Waikiki where they were served in spite of the note with a bartender saying later, “How do I know they’re homosexual? They ain’t doing nothing homosexual.”

Frustrated, they then went to Julius, where a clergyman had been arrested a few days earlier for soliciting sex. A sign in the window read, “This is a raided premises.” The bartender initially started preparing them a drink but then put his hand over the glass which was photographed. The New York Times ran a headline the next day “3 Deviates Invite Exclusion by Bars.”

The Mattachines took their case to court and the courts agreed with them saying that gays had a right to peacefully assemble.

Thanks to that ruling, the practice of licensed, legally operating gay bars began.

Trans Pioneer & Stonewall Activist Marsha P. Johnson Finally Gets NYTimes Obituary

Marsha P. Johnson

Twenty-six years after her death, Marsha P. Johnson, transgender pioneer & Stonewall activist is finally being recognized by The New York Times.

Noting that obituaries in the Times have long been dominated by white men, the new series Overlooked includes a lengthy paean to Johnson honoring her groundbreaking activism on behalf of the LGBT community.

Marsha P. Johnson was an activist, a prostitute, a drag performer and, for nearly three decades, a fixture of street life in Greenwich Village. She was a central figure in a gay liberation movement energized by the 1969 police raid on the Stonewall Inn. She was a model for Andy Warhol. She battled severe mental illness. She was usually destitute and, for much of her life, effectively homeless.

When she died at 46, under murky circumstances, in summer 1992, Johnson was mourned by her many friends, but her death did not attract much notice in the mainstream press.

In the years since, however, interest in her legacy has soared. She has been praised for her insistent calls for social and economic justice; for working on behalf of homeless street youth ostracized by their families for being gay or otherwise not conforming to traditional ideas about gender; and, later, for her advocacy on behalf of AIDS patients. Some have called her a saint.

Although the term transgender wasn’t in wide use during her lifetime, Johnson identified by a rotating list of labels from gay, transvestite or simply “queen.”

In a 1992 interview, Johnson declared, “I was no one, nobody, from Nowheresville, until I became a drag queen.”

In a life long riddled with strife and conflict, Johnson was known to live her joyful exuberance even as she worked for LGBT acceptance.

“As long as gay people don’t have their rights all across America,” she once said, “there’s no reason for celebration.”

Read the full, well-deserved profile at The New York Times.

(h/t The OUTfront)

News Round-Up: June 18, 2017

Some news items you may have missed:

• Tell me you follow Wayne Skivington of Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity on Instagram (above). Not only is he way hot, but his videos training with his adorable young son are great fun. #hotdaddy #HappyFathersDay

• Germany’s Green Party says they are open to working with coalition government on the condition that same-sex marriage and climate protection legislation is passed.

• Please watch this exchange between Fox News’ Chris Wallace and Donald Trump’s lawyer who states twice in the first 30 seconds that Trump “is being investigated,” and then denies he said those words.

• Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed into law HB 3859 — a discriminatory bill which allows child welfare organizations, including adoption and foster care agencies, to turn away qualified LGBTQ couples seeking to care for a child in need.

• Tweet of the day – Happy Father’s Day

• I like these guys so much, I’m sharing my latest podcast interview again – Check out Canadian country artists Patrick Masse & Drake Jensen talk on their new Top 10 upbeat anthem for young LGBTs, “Go Your Own Way:”

The Bilerico Project Shares It’s Last Post

Pioneering LGBT blogger Bil Browning at The Bilerico Project has shared his last post on the group blog:

Projects are meant to be temporary and so was Bilerico Project. After more than a decade, it’s time to wrap up our experiment. The media landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade and so have our lives and the LGBT movement itself. It’s time to turn the page and start something fresh in this new environment.

My first post in 2004 was a quote from Margaret Meade. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I think we’ve done our part to make the world a better place.

This will be my last post on Bilerico Project. The site will be archived at so that all 31,000+ posts will still be available for readers. It’s been a long strange journey and I’ve loved every single moment of it, but the time has come to end the project and call it a success.

Bil and other LGBT leading voices inspired me to begin The Randy Report.

A heartfelt thanks to The Bilerico Project for the insight, leadership and passion all these ll years.

Ireland: Panti Bliss Is Drunk On Yes

Irish drag celeb and LGBT activist “Panti Bliss” (aka Rory O’Neill) writes for the Independent:

“Yes. It’s such a little word but today it feels so big. YES. Has one simple syllable ever meant so much before? Not to me anyway. I’ve never asked anyone to marry me, but today it feels like I asked a whole country to marry me and they said Yes. And I’m delighted. Ecstatic.

“I’m over the gay moon and drunk on Yes, and like any happy groom on his wedding morning, I’m truly, deeply, madly in love. I am in love with the whole country.

“On Friday, Ireland agreed with that simple proposition. Forty years after those first brave men and women stood up and said, “no more”, the people of Ireland said Yes, and what must have seemed impossible all those years ago has been achieved: Ireland’s LGBTI citizens are full and equal citizens under the law.”

(h/t JMG)