tv Beyond the Headlines ABC June 25, 2017 4:30pm-5:01pm PDT
this minute.com or join us for the next brand-new episode of rtm. >> now, from abc7, "beyond the headlines" with cheryl jennings. >> thanks so much for joining us. today we're taking time to celebrate the bay area's diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender or lgbt communities. the city of san francisco was named as the gay capital of the u.s. by life magazine back in 1964. and statistically, that statement still holds true today. a recent gallup poll confirms that the san francisco bay area is home to the largest percentage of lgbt people in the country, at 6.2% of our local population. and that number is 2.6% higher than the national average. every year in june, san francisco welcomes more than a million people to celebrate the pride parade festivities in an effort to commemorate lgbt
heritage, culture, and the fight for equality. visible lgbt role models are critical to the growing understanding of the gay community in the bay area and across the globe. we recently talked with assembly member evan low of campbell about his perspectives on being out in politics. >> i feel like we've come a long way. i would say that when i first ran for office, i felt a deep pain in my heart when asked if i was lgbt. i personally felt shameful and like i needed to hide, and it's because of the experience of other people i stand on issues and the foundation that they have built and the struggles that they have been through to create an environment where i can proudly stand before you and speak as an elected official and proudly as chair of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender legislative caucus. we want to make it very clear that here in california, we do not stand for discrimination. we stand for acceptance and
love. i think people need to not only be out but to also speak out. it's imperative that we continue to tell the stories and share our experiences with other people so the individuals that might be hiding can feel free to come out. we need to create a safe space for people to live their own lives. >> joining me in the studio right now is an incredibly talented panel of guests today. each of them is a role model in their own right. sister roma is an activist, international icon, and a member of the sisters of perpetual indulgence. jeff cotter is the founder of the rainbow world fund, the world's first lgbt-based humanitarian organization. and my dear colleagues, abc7 news anchor reggie aqui and abc7 meteorologist drew tuma. so, thank you, all, for being here today. >> thanks for having us. >> really appreciate it. i have to tell you, for me, this is a first. i've been at this station since 1979. that's a long time. >> [ laughs ] >> ancient. but i have never had the honor and privilege of talking to
colleagues who are out and proud on the air about anything, and so, for me, this is personally very thrilling, so thank you, guys, for doing that. >> yeah, we got two right here. >> that's right. >> it's an honor to be out. >> yeah. so, i want to start with your personal journeys because everybody has a journey to telling people who they are, who they really are, and, sister roma, i want to start with you. a little bit about your organization and your journey. >> okay, well, the sisters of perpetual indulgence are a nonprofit, fundraising, human rights organization founded here in san francisco 38 years ago. i am in my 30th year with the sisters. i just joined shortly after moving to san francisco. i graduated from st. thomas aquinas college in grand rapids, michigan, and met the sisters, and it was like a light exploded in my head, and i realized that the sisters were so passionate about being leaders in the fight against h.i.v. and aids and human rights, and it sort of -- it just registered with me, and i realized i cared about my community and i cared about people, and i wanted to make a difference in the world, so i joined the sisters.
and personally i've done things like created the sisters stop the violence campaign and took on facebook about their real-names issue regarding our community. >> and i know that that's a hot topic. but i want to get back to where you came from. >> well, i was born in grand rapids, michigan, and ironically, i was adopted from a catholic adoption agency, which means that i was actually cared for in my infancy by nuns. >> appropriate. >> i know, right? >> full circle. >> full circle, right? i know. so, my mother and i, she was a single mother, and she raised me with great love, unconditional love and gave me a certain amount of confidence where i always just felt like whoever i was was okay. she just told me to go out and be yourself and smile, and i've sort of lived my life that way, and it's worked pretty well so far. >> it surely has. and, jeff, your journey is a little bit different, so take me back. >> i'm from the united kingdom originally, and i, too, was adopted. my brother and i were adopted
through a catholic agency. and we came to the united states when we were young. and i was raised in maryland. a little bit about my coming out -- i was raised roman catholic, and then when i was 13 years old, my mother became a fundamentalist christian, so that ended up being a big part of my journey. >> double guilt. >> yeah, kind of the double whammy of guilt and shame. >> i'm sorry. >> so it was kind of a lot to work through, and i was living in the south, then, when i ended up coming out at age 22. >> wow. and, reggie, when you -- was it hard for you as -- we have a little bit different generational stories here. so how about yourself? >> well, i'm originally from hawaii. i grew up on oahu, and then we also moved to maryland when i was at the end of elementary school. so that was probably actually the most traumatic part of my life, was moving clear across the country and also growing up on an island, and i'm hawaiian, filipino, caucasian, so that's a mix that you don't usually see
on the streets of baltimore. >> true. >> there's a lot going on. however, i would say that my parents have always been -- and my whole family. we have a really loving family, and they've always been very supportive of me. and i came out when i was in my early 20s, so after college, to my parents, and i was really lucky because my parents reacted in the way that i always dreamed that they would react in that they gave me a kiss and a hug and said they fully supported me, and they've been so ever since and were before that, too. i just didn't know that i should have told them earlier. >> in your career, has it been an issue for me? >> the career is interesting because i think that drew and i probably are far enough apart in age that there has been a major change in the time that we have been around. i started in journalism in 1999 at my first station, in green bay, wisconsin, and ever since then, i've been all around the country, and i have seen an enormous change in a very short
period of time. it was only a few years ago i was working at cnn, and no one was out on the air at any station i had ever been to, including cnn. and my friend don lemon came out, and he wrote a book about it, and that was the first person i knew in my life who had come out and been open and honest on the air. and so that was a huge change, and because of key people like don, it made it a whole lot easier for the rest of us. >> and i've got to say that has to be the same case for you, drew. your story is much different. >> oh, yeah. i mean, it's very similar in the fact that i had a really loving family, but i think one of the building blocks for me is that, as a kid, we moved around a lot. many states before the age of like 8, so getting to know people rather quickly was always something that's really easy for me, so i feel like having a really stable friendship and family base helped me come out in college, and like reggie said, it wasn't like a big issue, and i wish i would've done it sooner. i wish i would've known that my family's like, "we love you.
it doesn't cnge the way we think abouyou." lit you just feel a whole weight ed off of you. >> what did your mother say when you told her? >> [ laughs ] it's a funny but really light-hearted story. i came out to her. i was just like, i just said, "mom, i'm gay." she's like, "yeah, but do you want meat loaf or eggs for dinner?" >> that's the best answer. >> i was like, "no, but i'm gay." she's like, "yeah, we know." she's like, "do you want meat loaf or eggs?" i chose eggs. >> all right, we're gonna put everything on pause for just a moment because we have to take a break. we will be right back, but before we go right now, i want to share with you a brief clip from an interview we've done with one of my dear colleagues, out and proud colleagues, here at abc7. she is an executive producer of today's show, laura kutch, and others from lgbt abc7 employees are available to see for you online on our website, abc7news.com. here's laura. >> i've had the privilege of being the point of contact for organizing the disney company's
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documentary featuring one of our guests, sister roma, as she traveled to shanghai, china, for their pride celebrations. let's take a sneak peek at "stilettos for shanghai." >> we are really honored to have them here. >> here, you didn't know what to expect from us or what we were, but i think the way we dress brings down walls, and you feel comfortable coming up to us, asking for a picture or talking to us, and that's part of the phase, too, is people are comfortable asking us any question. >> it is great because everybody wants to take pictures with them, and every organizer, everybody who's coming for next event is asking about them. this is truly, truly amazing. >> wow, that's a nice reception, huh? well, sister roma, how was that movie received there? i mean, we saw a few examples of people so grateful. >> well, it was an amazing trip. to be honest, i never thought that in my lifetime i would visit china. i had no idea that i would end
up being there for their sixth annual pride. and it's tricky because it is a communist country, and you're not allowed to have a march or a parade or a gathering of any kind, so they have a lot of private events. but the sisters were invited to talk about lgbt history and h.i.v. and aids, and we had so many different -- we were there for 10 days, and there wasn't a day where we weren't out on the bund or in a conference or hosting. i even hosted a trivia night in shanghai pride. it was incredible. and people were very shocked to see us. i mean, they don't see a lot of this in shanghai, but everybody has a lot of phones and cameras, so as soon as we were out, and we stopped, we would have about 10, 15 people would stop to take photos. before you knew it, we had close to 100, and then it would multiply, and that's when the police would come along and instruct us that we had to keep moving. >> okay, all right. >> so, monet was just there for pride this year and she took the film, and the reaction has been amazing. >> i love it. that's great. congratulations. >> thank you. >> and, jeff, you had an equally successful trip. you've been to cuba six times
with the rainbow world fund. tell us about that. you've brought some video back for us, too. >> i did. we just got back from cuba. and we go there every year, and we invite people to join us, and we design the trip as sort of a crash course on the history and the politics and the spirituality of the country, and we end up spending time with the lgbt community to learn about their lives and how we can support them. we also march with them in the conga, which is their version of our gay pride march. we also distribute humanitarian aid, medical supplies, while we're there and financial grants for some programs that we support, like an h.i.v. children's summer camp and a camp for children who have cancer. >> oh, that's wonderful. >> yeah. >> now, years ago, when fidel castro was in power, he would toss gay men into concentration camps or beat them, and then i guess later apologized at the end of his life. >> yeah. i think around 2010, in his autobiography, he did turn around and talked about how
deplorable and wrong what the regime has done, and his niece, the president's daughter, mariela, is a huge advocate for lgbt rights. >> she was even in the parade and on the stage, and i saw that in some of your video. there she is right now. she was blessing some of the same-sex couples. >> she was. she participated in a church service at the gay pride and was blessing people, so a lot of changes in cuba. >> boy, i'll say. all right. and, reggie, i know that you, because you're a news guy, you know about this. we've seen some positive changes here, but there are other parts of the world where things aren't as positive. we heard about -- well, just here in our country in orlando with the pulse shooting. in chechnya, where there's so much deadly discrimination there. >> right. and the chechnya issue is so hard to get to the heart of because we don't have a lot of access to it. so, very few journalists have been able to report truthfully about what is going on there. and when you have the leader of
chechnya saying that it's impossible that gay men have been either put away in these camps, hurt, or killed because there are no gay people in chechnya, then there is absolutely no believability there. the credibility has been extinguished from the officials. so, all of the reporting has to be very underground. the reporters themselves have been threatened. so what we know about what's going on there is about this compared to what is actually happening. we know something's happening. how many people are involved? we don't know. people are disappearing. families of gay men are not hearing from their loved ones for a long time. >> that's horrifying. >> so this is something that we need to definitely keep our eyes on. as journalists, we can't be activists in our role, but we can report what is happening, and we can look for the story and be an advocate for the story. >> absolutely. and, so, all of you travel, and i know that you have traveled extensively. drew, do you find that you change your behavior or your conduct in some way when you travel? are you on alert? >> yeah, i mean, especially with freedom, some countries are more
free than others, so when you're traveling abroad, i think that you kind of make yourself aware of your surroundings. and especially here, living in the bay area, even america as a whole, you're kind of in a bubble 'cause we are so free as a people. when you travel abroad, it's not always like that, so you kind of want to just take, you know, note of your surroundings and act accordingly. you're in someone else's country. they have different rules than we have, so there's been times where i've been abroad and you just want to maybe act a little bit differently than you would in america just to keep yourself safe and just to give respect to the country that you're in. >> i can see that, but i can also -- i understand that the need for people to be who they are, but i think your safety is first, right? >> yeah. i just don't think you would want to put yourself in a position that you would get yourself in trouble or endanger yourself, yeah. >> members of the lgbt community, from the time we were very little, take the temperature of the room immediately. >> exactly. >> right?
>> absolutely. >> yes. >> so you learn this implicitly. >> comfort levels, read people very quickly. >> no one teaches you it. no one gives you guidelines. >> survival. >> you just know it. >> it's survival. you go into a room, and you decide, "where can i be in this room? what is the level of comfort here that i have, and what am i reading from the people around me?" >> "where's my allies? who's on? who gets me?" >> and who doesn't? >> right. >> yeah. "how am i gonna react to that?" >> you have to be hyper-vigilant, which oh, my goodness. i'm so sorry. we need to take another break, but first, let me share a brief clip from another interview with one of my out and proud colleagues here at abc7. rick reuben is a talented graphic artist here and reflects on the historic moment that the anti-same-sex marriage bill, known as proposition 8, was overturned. his interview and more from our lgbt abc7 employees and allies are available to watch on our website, abc7news.com. >> when we covered the prop 8 story, you're right there on the front line. it was right in the center of
the community. it was a national focus. and to feel the process of the court overturning a very difficult decision that you had your heart into was really fun watching it in a professional way and in a personal way. you're very connected that way. have to travel from its source to the bottle? a hundred miles? a thousand miles? how about less than a mile and a half? crystal geyser always bottled at the mountain source.
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at the mountain source. >> welcome back to "beyond the headlines." we're wrapping up our discussion on issues facing lgbt communities across the bay area. and, reggie, i want to start with you because you recently did a story about a pill, a drug that can help prevent people from getting h.i.v. >> yeah, i'm not sure that a lot of people outside of the lgbt community knows about prep. and prep is really important. it's been a game changer in the gay community. and it's pre-exposure prophylaxis. so, this is the first time that someone can take a pill every day, and it's designed to prevent h.i.v. it's been shown to be very reliable. there are ranges of percentages, but it's at least 90% effective in preventing h.i.v. some studies have shown that it's actually closer to 99%.
>> that's fantastic. >> but in any case, we don't have a cure, but it's the closest we have ever been to effectively prevent h.i.v. the message has been condoms for a lot of years. condoms have not been an effective way to prevent h.i.v. generally. >> now, there is a downside, though, because if you're not using any kind of protection, there's a rise in another problem. >> that's right. so, what we've seen in san francisco is a really major decrease in the number of new h.i.v. infections. so, we have seen a 60% drop in the past 13 years, which is outstanding. at the same time, the health department shows that we have seen a pretty sharp increase in the number of other stis. we're talking about chlamydia and syphilis. and they are looking at that closely. prep is only good to prevent h.i.v. it doesn't prevent any other sexually transmitted infections. >> okay, so, that's positive, but i know that, sister roma and jeff, we are of -- well, i'm certainly of the generation. you're maybe not.
but i remember when the h.i.v./aids crisis started back in the '80s, and there was nothing. it was horrifying. we don't want to go back to that. >> well, the epidemic was literally destroying our community. people who were our friends and family were dying right before our very eyes, and the sisters of perpetual indulgence were actually the first group ever to produce a safer-sex pamphlet called "play fair," the first group ever to hold a fundraiser for people who needed money, financial assistance, and always approached the disease very pragmatically and with compassion. so i was very proud of the work of the early sisters, and we continued it today, where we, as you said, reggie, condoms were sort of our savior because they were all we had. >> right. >> and, today, this new drug, it's sort of like -- it's a groundbreaking -- it's like a hallelujah moment for our community. but it's always important to also remember that that does not keep you from contracting other stis, so you should always get tested. be very open with your partners. have a dialogue. be honest.
and when you're in doubt, wear a condom. >> and, jeff, in your international work, what are you encountering overseas in cuba and other places, for example, with h.i.v. and aids? >> well, in cuba, they have a pretty low prevalence rate of h.i.v. unfortunately, a part of that was when they quarantined gay people at the beginning of the epidemic. >> wow. >> which is an awful thing to do, but it also helped contain the spread of h.i.v. and h.i.v. treatment is available as well as safe sex. and mariela castro, who i mentioned earlier, she's the head of cenesex, which is the national center for sex education. so, there's a lot of great work in h.i.v. prevention and dealing with the social stigma, educating people around that. >> drew, as a young man -- i know, reggie, you're married -- but as a young man for you, drew, perhaps in the dating world, this has got to be -- you just don't know, right, who's safe and who's not safe?
>> you never know, but i think sister roma hit it right on the head. if you ever feel nervous, use a condom. i don't think anyone's ever regretted using a condom. >> i think one of the things that i keep hearing over and over again is make sure you get tested, right? >> yes. >> that's important for everybody. >> and often. >> and often. >> yeah. >> i think san francisco has been a leader in this area. >> yeah. >> and actually the prevalence of prep, right now, according to the health department, about a quarter of gay men in the city now has a prescription for prep. of course, you have to adhere to it, and you have to get tested. >> every day. >> and prep requires that you go in every three months to be tested, and that has been a huge part of being able to reduce h.i.v. infections in the city because people know. you have to know what you have before you can go one step farther for you to protect the rest of the community. so that's been a big change. >> but one of the great things now is that there used to be such fear around testing because if you were positive, at one
point, when we were young, it was a death sentence. >> yes. >> that is not the case today. but it's still not the kind...anyone needs to live with or wants to live with, so it's just important -- really, what it boils down to is your own personal care for yourself. it's your healthcare. it's managing your behavior and being smart, and then in turn caring for each other. >> and i think people need to get over being ashamed to do it. just do it. >> right. >> it's another medical thing to deal with, right? >> you should be proud to do it, actually. >> and it's important for people to communicate with their partner what they're comfortable with. >> mm-hmm. >> great advice. all right. unfortunately, we are out of time. we're gonna this discussion online for our viewers. we want to let you know it's not over. we will let you know that that's gonna be on abc7news.com. just go to our website. also we are on facebook at abc7 community affairs, as well as cheryl jennings abc7, and you can follow me on twitter @cherylabc7. thanks so much for joining us. have a great day. we'll see you next time.
>> announcer: live where you live, this is abc7 news. >> taking to the street in a sell bri celebration of progress while marking a continuing struggle for quality. hi, i'm kate larson in for eric thomas this evening. this city beamed with pride during san francisco's 47th lgbtq celebration. the colorful parade made its way down market street. this year's e