United States of Queerty: California

We here at Queerty are big fans of the United States, the nation that bore us, Celebrity Jeopardy, the hamburger and that whole representative democracy thing. It’s a nation rich in natural resources, can-do attitude and homosexuals, and each week, we’re visiting a new state to find out just what makes it so uniquely fabulous.

California
Marriageville U.S.A.

californiaThe world’s 5th largest economy despite a crippling budget deficit and skyrocketing unemployment, the Golden State is also Ground Zero for gay and lesbian rights at the moment. You may have heard about a little proposition that went through last November, stripping gays and lesbians of their right to marry. Next month, the California Supreme Court will make a decision on whether Prop. 8 is valid or not, but there’s more than marching and pretty sunsets to the nation’s most diverse and populous state.

The Fight For Your Rights

  • 3007806476_07fb063285_bThe biggest and most prominent battle in California remains Prop. 8. On March 4th, the California Supreme Court will hear arguments that the ballot initiative is invalid, as it did not follow the proper procedure for a major revision of the Constitution. In the meantime, LGBT activists are trying to build support for their case. On Tuesday, a Sacramento legislative committee voted 7-2 that the Proposition extended its reach and should be considered invalid. Major civil rights and labor leaders, including the AFL-CIO have denounced the Proposition on grounds that it represents a dangerous concession to majority rule, something the California Constitution was crafted to prevent.
  • The 2010 California governor’s race also promises to be momentous for gays and lesbians. Homophobe and Prop. 8 supporter Meg Whitman plans to run as a Republican while gay-rights leader and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom plans to run on the Democratic ticket, as does Attorney General (and former Governor) Jerry Brown, who did a surprising about-face on the Prop. 8 hearing, telling the court that he believed it ought to be invalidated. A dark horse in the race is U.S. House Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a conservative Democrat who’s muddled enough in her political stances to win over California’s broad electorate.

Local Hotspot
toucansToucan’s Tiki Lounge
2100 N Palm Canyon Dr # A100
Palm Springs, CA 92262
760/ 416-7584

When winter rains and cold hit the coasts, Californians from both the north and south beat a path to the desert retreat of Palm Springs. A mecca of mid-century modernism and lost Hollywood glamour, Palm Springs is also a gay haven, with dozens of locally-owned gay resorts. The most popular and least stuffy gay watering hole in town is Toucan’s, located just outside of downtown. It’s probably the only gay bar in America whose website plays a jaunty calypso version of “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” on its website, and the festive and cheeky atmosphere extends to the weekly drink nights, which include bingo, drag revues and an 80s night.

Model Citizen

21You’ve seen 29-year-old J.B Ghuman Jr. in last year’s Prop 8: The Musical. Originally from Miami by way of New York City, he’s been a bartender/actor in L.A. for five years. He recently directed Perez Hilton‘s first music video, The Clap, and will be starting principal photography on his first feature, Spork, next month.

What’s the best part about living in California?
Growing up in Miami Beach and living in New York for a few years, living in L.A completes the Bermuda Triangle of American cities and to be honest, it was my least favorite and now it’s running in a close two. It’s just the kind of city you have to find your groove in. [The best part] is the geography and the weather. Not to be cliche, but there’s a reason it’s repeated over and over again. The weather and the landscape here is beautiful

What’s the biggest problem facing gays and lesbians in California?
Gosh, I’m going to go ahead and make a stab at the fact that we live in a kind of pseudo-bubble. I think its harder for gays and lesbians and transgenders [in L.A] to grasp the concept of just how tough it is to be any of the above mentioned in a small town, because here, it’s so accepted. So maybe here, we’re sort of living in bliss, because we’re unaware of the struggle maybe most gay and lesbians have to go through.

Describe your average California gay.
I don’t know if I should be nice or mean! Because like everything, there’s a duality. So “averagely speaking,” uh, well. I used to DJ and bartend in WeHo … and I just have to be brutally honest: If I had to just pull an average gay dude out here, I would say it’s somebody in a really, really tight t-shirt who takes really good care of their body and, uh, who is socially trying to find their place on a professional ladder. What am I saying? I dunno. The average fag in L.A. is worked out and has really bright, white teeth and good skin and most of them don’t have much going on upstairs. That doesn’t mean everyone is like that, it just means, in WeHo, those are pretty much your options.

Are people in your circle still talking about Prop. 8?
It does here and there, but obviously, the fire’s lost a lot of wind. It’s still an issue, but it’s a lot less talked about. There’s not many gatherings and groups going out and petitioning and protesting. I feel like the majority of gays have gone back to the bars to drink or not stand outside protesting. It’s still a topic, but it’s probably 80 percent under the carpet now.

If there’s one thing a gay visiting California should do, what is it?

Well, what’s the difference between a gay person and a normal person? What would I think they can do in a gay world?

Well, that’s a fair criticism, actually, but you know, if you had a friend whose a gay tourist visiting L.A., what would you recommend?

If you have the time, I’d say don’t focus on West Holywood and stay in the bubble of gay. There are a lot of cool things about L.A. and it’s really big and spread out and that’s why people love it or hate it. Most of the haters haven’t really experienced L.A. and it’s not just about perfect teeth, hard bodies and perfect skin in WeHo. If you’re looking at a gay mag in L.A., you’re going to wind up in WeHo, but there’s so many other places to visit. Silver Lake, Malibu, there’s all these beautiful places to hike and see. Just to kick it back to what I said about geography, because it’s so gay-friendly, you can take advantage of all the stuff here in L.A. and you can go and walk on the beach holding your hands and take advantage of everything in the city and not just the one gay street full of fags.

What’s one misconception about the state you’d like to clear up?

My answer is so hypocritical, because I just talked about how WeHo is full of airheads and now I’m going to be a complete hypocrite and say on the flip side that the one biggest misinterpretation about L.A. is that it’s just Hollywood. L.A. County is huge. It has so many different work forces and walks of life; people who don’t make it to the big screen. I would say the biggest misconception with this town is that everyone here is fake and plastic. You can’t just run into it, but once you find your groove here, L.A. can be really rad. It’s not like Melrose Place is happening all the time here.

Each week until we’re done, Queerty will be traveling to a new state; next up is Massachusetts, because we didn’t find someone from there last week. What’s with that Massachusetts? If you’re from the Bay State and would like to be a “Model Citizen,” shoot us an email at [email protected] We’d love to hear from you.