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City Council kicks off LGBT Heritage Month

LOS ANGELES — As part of its celebration of LGBT Heritage Month, the Los Angeles City Council May 31 paid homage to four honorees, including Alexandra Billings, a transgender actress on the Amazon show “Transparent,” and Sara Ramirez, who played a bisexual physician on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.”

The council also honored actor Michael Kearns and Alexei Romanoff, both longtime activists in the gay community, in a ceremony hosted by Councilman Mitch O’Farrell.

This is the seventh year the city has recognized LGBT Heritage Month.

“I stand here a trans person of color and I carry my history with me. I carry all of my brothers and sisters from the past with me, so I don’t stand alone,” Billings said.

Ramirez, who urged young people to accept and embrace their identities when she came out publicly as bisexual last year, said she was “eternally grateful to our LGBTQ-plus elders and activists here in the city who for decades disrupted, demonstrated, sacrificed and mobilized in the face of fear and violence.”

Romanoff, 80, was honored as one of the organizers of the 1967 Black Cat tavern protest in Los Angeles, which is recognized as the first gay rights demonstration in America.

“No one has given us anything we haven’t had to fight for,” Romanoff said.

Kearns is recognized as Hollywood’s first openly gay actor after he came out in the 1970s, and as the first openly HIV-positive actor when he announced his health status in the early 1990s.

Aside from a long career in the theater as an actor, playwright and director, he has amassed numerous television and film credits, including “Body Double,” “Cheers” and the HBO film “And the Band Played On.”

Kearns brought a little off-color humor to his remarks before the council.

“When I heard that I was being honored as a trailblazer, I thought, finally, after all those overheated afternoons in Griffith Park throughout the ’70s, traversing path upon path, slinking behind bushes, lurking under the trees, I am finally being recognized,” Kearns said.

“Do not forget that it was the sexual revolution that defined us,” he said. “From that kiss at the Black Cat to the outlaws of Stonewall, our heat was ignited through our sweaty bodies and libidos all aflame.”

LAPD Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala, who is the police department’s liaison with the LGBTQ community, spoke at the ceremony and announced the LAPD Safe Place pilot program.

The program is modeled after one in Seattle, where police work with business owners and encourage them to post “safe place” storefront window signs designating the location as a temporary safe-haven for anyone who might be seeking refuge from a hate crime.

Girmala also announced the creation of the department’s LGBTQ resource app, which is a guide to legal, health and housing resources in the city. The app is on Android and Google Play and should be on iTunes soon, she said.

 

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