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What Is Gay L.A.? Local Insiders Share Their Thoughts

In a city that means different things to different people, we ask local insiders to share their thoughts—is there a Gay L.A. state of mind?

A community as immense as the Los Angeles LGBT society is as diverse as one would imagine. Sexuality is but one spoke on the wheel. Gay life today assumes many guises. As a stab at clarity, here’s an informal court of citizenry to stop and share the view from where they stand. With some pride and prejudice as well, here’s a look at Gay L.A. 2014.

John D’Amico
Mayor, West Hollywood

“Yes, I do think there is a Gay L.A. sensibility, and it’s my sense that it’s centered around invention and optimism. I find that so many LGBT people I meet have moved here to Southern California from other places in the country or around the globe. They chose L.A., and they’re committed to the idea that this is the best place for them to invent their lives. It’s the Wild West, and it’s full of opportunity.“

Andrew Christian
Designer

“I think L.A. is defined by a healthy lifestyle. People eat healthy, workout and generally take good care of themselves. Gay Pride is a special time of year, and every year I release a pride-themed video because it’s important that we keep our visibility out there as members of the LGBT community. It’s really inspiring for me to be a positive influence on people’s lives though these videos, especially for LGBT youth living in small towns who may not have a gay community or support within reach. If I can just help one person, then I think the effort is well worth it.”

Jewel Thais-Williams
Owner, Catch One Disco

“The gay culture in L.A. is multi-faceted with a bunch of sub-cultures. There’s a race divide, sexism, classism. The “House” and “Ball” community has a big presence in the black community and absolutely none—that I know of—in the white community. There are three or four main houses that still exist here in L.A. since before [the 1990 documentary] Paris is Burning. The whole nine yards. They are a sub-subculture of drag and transgender culture. Since I’m older—75—I’ve seen the changes from the very beginning, and there’s more openness and a broader acceptance of more people. I think L.A. is probably one of the gayest cities in the world.”

Malcolm Boyd
Civil Rights Activist

“As a gay elder of 91, I have seen many faces of the big question: Is there a distinctly Gay L. A. sensibility? Yes, of course. It is a combination of climate, the archives at USC, the genius of Harry Hay, role models like Jim Kepner and so many other gay and lesbian pioneers, the annual Pride Parade, the integrity and leadership of Sheila Kuehl, the benign presence of the ubiquitous movie world and the sheer volume of gay people seeking freedom. And no, because L.A.’s distinct gay community is already a reflection of the global! L.A.’s gay images instantly flash around the world. West Hollywood and Silver Lake bump into the universal LGBTQ scene with alacrity, glamour, political significance and deep spiritual meanings.”

 

 

Casey Bloys
Executive Vice-President, HBO Programming

“I don’t know if there is a specific Gay L.A. sensibility, but as for change in the gay community, I am proud of how we have accepted the option of marriage and kids. When my kids were little and we took them to the Pride Parade, it was always such a welcoming experience. Everyone from drag queens to twinks to dykes to your garden-variety WeHo guys seemed genuinely happy to see two dads with kids, and they would smile and give us a thumbs-up. That’s a long way from the parades of 18 years ago when I moved to L.A. and kids and marriage did not seem like an option.”

Ramiro Gomez
Artist

‚Äč“My artwork is indirectly about homosexuality, but it came about because of my job as a babysitter. I would take the kids to West Hollywood Park. It was weird—I would go there at night after drinks and be myself, but during the day, I was another person. L.A. started to look different. At the park, other nannies would assume I was the kids’ father, and because of that, they wouldn’t talk to me. When they found out who I really was, and that I was gay, because of religious reasons, some of them still wouldn’t talk to me. Naturally, our kids would play together at the park. Some nannies with reservations would be forced to talk to me, and we would connect on a personal level. That really captured a different side of L.A. for me. There’s a big Hispanic workforce in West Hollywood that comes and goes from the East Side. Being gay and from San Bernardino, I would see West Hollywood at night as a place where I could be free. But there are gardeners that come here during the day—and they’re gay themselves—but they can’t be open about it because they’re working. My community of nannies is part of my L.A. I painted a mural at the park that depicts this whole idea.”

Don Zuidema
Partner, Los Angeles Sporting Club

“We as a community have become much more aware of our strengths and our values, and we have much more of a voice than we ever have—evidenced by our tremendous strides in our fight for equality. We are more secure, more attuned to the world around us and more committed to being involved. One of the great things about West Hollywood is the inclusion and sense of community that is so alive here.”

Stone Fleshman
IMPULSE Group Member

“What are you going to do now that you’ve just won ‘Best Looking’ and ‘Most Likely to be a Movie Star’? You, of course, move to L.A. to pursue your wildest dreams! Every single person who moved to our colorful city did so with a dream. This includes our LGBT community, many of whom moved here to be accepted and be allowed to be his or her true self. Los Angeles is where all the shame and persecution from your past is simply that—your past. Our L.A. gay sensibility has made it to the covers of mainstream magazines and is a staple in television. America is finally catching on and giving credit to our community, long-deserved since before Dorothy clicked her heels. Amongst all the glamour, glitter, fashion and fame, our gay brothers and sisters are living the dreams of every winner of their Senior Superlatives. So cheers to all of you who have found your way over the rainbow. You’ve just won ‘Most Likely to Live a Truly Happy and Free Life!’”

 

 

 

 

David Cooley
President and Founder of the Abbey Food & Bar

“One of the great things about living in a city like Los Angeles is there is no one sensibility for anything. You can be and think anything you want, and there is something here for everybody. For overall trends, I’ve noticed a few things over the years. The LGBT community in Los Angeles values individuality, diversity and community all at the same time. Most people in Los Angeles are generally interested in active and healthy lifestyles. Whether you work in entertainment or not, that industry is part of our daily life. We love sunny and 72. We all hate traffic and have our own ways to deal with it. In Los Angeles, our individual neighborhoods are a strong part of our identity. Living in West Hollywood, Silver Lake, Echo Park or Venice all appeal to different aspects and lifestyles, but everybody is represented.”

Linda Perry
Songwriter and Star of VHI’s Upcoming Make Or Break: The Linda Perry Project 

“When I hear the question, it sounds like something you’d ask a 20-year-old. I’m 49 years old, and I don’t know any other way. It seems like everybody’s gay now. Every girl I talk to is having the experience, or a guy is coming out after leaving his third marriage. I think everybody is generally more in touch with themselves. We’re at a time in the universe where there’s a kind of energy that people can focus on who they are across the board. I am more in touch with my spirituality, my heart, my body, my career, my life.”

Jacob Rostovsky
Founder, Trans United with Family and Friends

“As a gay transgender male, I never thought I would be able to live somewhere without fear for my life, but I found safety, love and acceptance in Los Angeles. I never have to hide who I am, and at times I even feel celebrated for having the courage to be me. I can be out and proud to walk down the street with my boyfriend, holding his hand and wearing my “nobody knows I’m transgender” T-shirt and only be met by smiles. Where else could that happen? I’m proud to consider myself part of L.A.”

Cliff Fong
Fashion Consultant; Partner, Galerie Half; Interior Designer for Ellen DeGeneres, among others

“The wonderful thing about L.A. is that there are many different kinds of pockets, and you can associate with all kinds of groups of gays and lesbians. Los Angeles is full of pockets and the experience of life, and gay life, is much more diverse than in a lot of other places. New York is diverse, but in a much more proscribed way and in Paris and London, gay culture seems to be a single destination and then gays function in the mix. And in L.A. we have the entertainment industry and a lot of artists, writers, actors and directors who are gay and because they have careers in entertainment, you have a gay culture with a unique access to certain privileges. Where the whole community is concerned, you have a different kind of freedom than anywhere else. And there is a far more visible and prominent lesbian culture than in any other city I have experienced. Lesbians wear it well here.”

 

 

David Reid
Founder AIDSWatch

“We are blessed and blinded by gay sensibility in Los Angeles, in particular West Hollywood. We have much to appreciate. Thirty years ago when by a narrow margin WeHo was legally born, the dynamics of our politics changed. The momentum of the struggle for equality took a giant leap forward on a national scale. But we have a drug crisis that is rampant. Brilliant lives wasted, literally. Meth addiction isn’t cured by billboards. We turn a blind eye. We are fortunate to have this base of community where we can move forward and continue to change minds and attitudes toward who we are. The self-acceptance we enjoy in L.A. needs to become contagious. Oh, right, that’s called love.”

Tim Miller
Author and Solo Performance Artist

“To me, Gay L.A. isn’t theoretical. As someone who grew up here, it’s my life story. I like living in the city I grew up in. I was a quiet queer boy who came into town to go on my first date with a boy to see Romeo and Juliet. I remember driving around with my father on his sales calls and seeing my first gay people out in Downtown and on Hollywood Boulevard. I like the light, the space, the incredible landscape. And now I live two blocks from the beach in Venice with my husband Alistair, and I’m in the water every day.”

Tim Choy
Event Publicist and Partner, Davidson & Choy

“The world I live in includes Gay L.A. and a lot of other kinds of L.A., and I would not think to categorize it anymore. I went to Hugo’s last night, and 10 years ago I would see mostly gay men, but that’s not all of who was in the restaurant last night. I guess I’ve stopped noticing. A lot of things I would have thought of as gay don’t feel that way anymore. Whether it’s Hugo’s or West Hollywood, ‘gay’ doesn’t seem to be much about geography like it used to. I expect to find gay people in all kinds of neighborhoods, just like I expect to find Asian, latino, black and Jewish people. I like that about Los Angeles. I always thought we were farther ahead than anywhere else. It doesn’t matter in this town if you’re straight or gay, unless you want to assign a meaning to it.”

Tom Whitman
Marketing Executive and Founding Board Member of The Global Forum on MSM

“Sometimes I forget to appreciate the wonderfully schizophrenic quality of Gay L.A. No other city’s personality changes so quickly, from day to day, neighborhood to neighborhood. I can paint my face blue for LGBT Night OUT at Dodger Stadium, then black tie it at the Center Gala. On a single Sunday, I can walk with 30,000 people at the 30th annual AIDS Walk, play volleyball at Ginger Rogers, bare my tattoos at a Silver Lake beer bust or have a Sunday funday in West Hollywood. For every facet of my LGBT persona, there is a way to express it in L.A. That allows me to be as inventive as I want to be with my life. Gay L.A. isn’t the easiest city to navigate (literally and figuratively), but when you put the effort in, no other city compares.”

Jefferson Hendrick
West Hollywood Realtor

“Even as I approach 20 years of living in and around West Hollywood, I’ve always contended that the general sensibility of this spectacular city was one of overwhelming joie de vivre and a simple celebration of being. It’s that feeling that no matter where you came from, or how you got here, your life is just beginning, and now is the time to become who you are, whether that simply means leaving behind the baggage of a past life or stepping off the bus and immediately adopting your drag persona. It’s a city of limitless opportunity. West Hollywood has always had a strong sense of ‘here and now’—of the latest, the greatest. People want to look good, feel good and have a good time. Fashions change, hot spots come and go, but those things will always hold true. Of that, I am certain.” 

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