Opinion: Duran Has Unwittingly Validated Homophobes Who Have Attacked Our Community

Back in 1978 I was still new to the West Hollywood scene, but for anyone who was young and gay back in those days, West Hollywood was an exhilarating experience. All along Santa Monica gay men paraded proudly, indeed defiantly, the very act of openly proclaiming your sexuality being a liberating political statement. These were our street,s and we were creating a new world of our own. The very openness of West Hollywood put us in the vanguard of Gay Liberation; we were the shock troops of the sexual revolution ready to take on the world.

The world did not wait long before picking up the challenge and taking us on with a vengeance. In the summer of ’78 some friends dragged me to a political rally in West Hollywood Park. While this seemed like a tedious distraction from the bars, I was cognizant that our community was under attack. Inspired by Anita Bryant, who led the repeal of gay rights ordinances in Dade County, Fla., State Senator John Briggs had qualified an initiative, Prop. 6, that would have prohibited gay people and people who supported gay rights from being teachers in California schools.

west hollywood city council, ian owens, deputygate
John Duran being sworn in as mayor pro tem (Photo by Jon Viscott, courtesy of the City of West Hollywood)

The premise of the Briggs initiative was that gay men were simply unbridled sexual creatures, who had no self control. We were not like other adults. We could not be trusted to be around children as we are promiscuous and predatory. Gay culture was simply incompatible with the teaching profession or any profession where children needed role models.

A raucous crowd had gathered in West Hollywood Park, loudly applauding speakers who seemed more shrill then inspiring. But as the rally seemed to be winding down, the MC introduced a woman to wild acclamation. I was near the front but whoever this person was seemed obscured by the podium. Then Ivy Bottini stepped out to the edge of the stage and launched into a fierce tirade of defiance, inspiring and challenging the crowd like no prior speaker. Ivy was responsible for launching my activism.

Fast forward a couple of decades. West Hollywood is now a city and it has just paid half a million dollars to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit against City Councilmember John Duran, who was both unrepentant and unapologetic. Both in the press and before a jury in a related case, Duran rationalized his conduct; gay men are different he said, you can’t hold us to the same work place standards as heterosexuals. Sexually charged conduct that would be deemed inappropriate anywhere else was totally acceptable in West Hollywood as simply an expression, indeed celebration, of our gay sexual orientation. Gay men expect this sort of conduct from each other said Duran; we certainly should not be penalized for simply being who we are.

When I first heard Duran “mansplain” his conduct to the Los Angeles Times, I knew exactly where I had heard that rationalization before: John Briggs.

For a guy who loves to relate his version of LGBTQ history, (generally ensuring he has a leading role in the tale), Duran has demonstrated a remarkable ignorance regarding one of the most crucial battles of our community. In his narcissistic need to rationalize his childish conduct, he unwittingly validated every homophobe who has ever attacked our community. If Duran is right, then maybe Briggs was right. Duran in his need to validate his bad behavior has in fact betrayed our community by saying that we cannot be held to normal adult rules of professional conduct.

Whatever our varied personal lives, you can’t create whole separate standards of behavior for gay men in the work place. Although Duran has spent most of his life looking for validation that he is “special”, someone needs to tell John Duran that “Gay Rights” are not special rights. We can’t have special categories of behavior just of gay men; “Equal Rights” mean equal rights and equal responsibilities. That includes acting like an adult in the workplace.

This is not the only time Duran has betrayed the gay community.

Duran has run for the State legislature three times, once in Orange County, twice from West Hollywood. He also ran for the Board of Supervisors in 2014. Each time Duran has run for higher office his cry is that “we need a place at the table”.

Unfortunately history has shown us that what Duran means is that he needs a place at the table.

Twice John Duran has gone out of his way to derail qualified and viable lesbian candidates seeking higher office.

I have previously cited Duran’s behavior at the West Hollywood Democratic Club where he interrupted Assembly candidate Torie Osborn during her acceptance speech of the club’s endorsement. “This is bull shit” Duran ranted, behaving in a manner hardly reflective of a leader in the gay community. When a young woman questioned his behavior as possibly being misogynistic, Duran sneered “We are not all lesbians.” In any other gay community that would have ended his political career. He never apologized, rationalizing that his “passion” for politics excused his Trump-like rant.

In 2014 when Sheila Kuehl was preparing to run to succeed Zev Yaroslavsky on the Board of Supervisors in the Fifth District, which included West Hollywood, Duran decided to jump into the race. No one in the community believed he could win or deserved to. Kuehl was a pioneering member of the California Assembly and a leader in the State Senate. Kuehl was clearly the most qualified candidate, and Duran was clearly running as a spoiler to undermine her candidacy. While the gay press politely ignored this angle, it was what the community perceived. Duran lost the primary badly even in West Hollywood.

But rather than graciously endorsing Kuehl as the LGBTQ community candidate, Duran endorsed her rival. Not content with merely endorsing, Duran publicly attacked Kuehl in the Los Angeles Times, accusing her of being arrogantly dismissive of the part time City Council experience of her rival. So much for our community needing a “place at the table”.

Duran’s career on City Council has been one bad headline after another with very few tangible accomplishments. Had John Duran never been on City Council our city would probably not be any worse for it. Yet as the self proclaimed gay messiah, John has consistently disappointed and betrayed our community’s hopes and expectations. It is not just the half million dollar sexual harassment settlement, the District Attorney’s investigation into the abuse of his city-issued credit card, being glued to sex apps during Council meetings, the play to play politics or his casual misogyny. It is a culmination of immature and self serving conduct that renders John Duran as unacceptable as a potential Mayor for the City of West Hollywood.

We deserve better.


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J Simmons
Guest
J Simmons

#TimesUp It is The Country’s movement to address sexually inappropriate workplace activity by our elected leaders. It can’t & shouldn’t be ignored or have a separate standard for West Hollywood, nor for it being a gay incident. Mr. Duran’s personal tragedies are irrelevant to the only issue. Sexual misconduct by our elected leaders(s).

Randy
Guest
Randy

I agree with Woody and Josh. Chloe’s comment is deeply insulting. And this, “Larry – seriously. I had no clue Mr. Duran had a mother” – I’m not sure if that is an attempt at humor, but that is offensive as well. Chloe, you might not like, or even deeply despise Duran, but he is a human being, who recently lost his mother. Chloe, regarding your comment about “West Hollywood not being a progressive city,” I’m proud to live in this community that has been the forefront on so many issues (not necessarily the very first on everything below, but… Read more »

Steve
Guest
Steve

It’s time for West Hollywood to change the form of city government and go to a directly elected mayor. One person, to be held accountable for four years.

The current set-up helps facilitate the same council candidates running and winning without accountability.

Mike
Guest
Mike

For a city our small size and every aspect in constant flux, there should be NO change to the current annual-revolving Mayor. We need constant and different change leadership and policy positions to continue to be vibrant and progressive.

Steve
Guest
Steve

But with the current system, there is no change in leadership, just a rotating mayor that lacks reasonable authority.

Randy
Guest
Randy

I agree with Mike. It is a ceremonial position. And as much as people like to complain about the members on the City Council, they really aren’t paid that much (they do have outstanding health plan benefits). Since most of them have day jobs, I think they are happy to let go of this responsibility, after a year. I imagine it is very time-consuming, with all of the events they need to host, and attend. And they have to run the bi-weekly City Council meetings.

Josh
Guest
Josh

@Woody You read my mind. I also wonder why no one seems offended by such an awful insult. This woman owes gay men, the whole community an apology for her slur.

Woody McBreairty
Guest
Woody McBreairty

@Chloe Ross: So you believe that gay mens’ consensual sexual behavior is synonymous with the behavior of pedophiles & serial rapists? I find your analogy contemptuous & personally offensive. I think all decent gay men & others should find it so as well

James Rosen
Guest
James Rosen

Right on Steve!
Keep talking and writing
Gay rights has always been about human rights
Durans actions are not acceptable period.

Ty Geltmaker/James Rosen
Guest
Ty Geltmaker/James Rosen

By the way,

My guy James Rosen turned 60 on March 21, I having become 66 two weeks earlier on March 7, we having met I at age 27 and James at age 21 at gay bar Cahoots on Columbus Ave/Upper West Side, no dark corners, lots of light on a dark & stormy late 1980 October night.

The “Duran Syndrome” never crossed our minds, even when in Walt Whitman ethos we did have loves of other loving guys hugged into our realm.
Ty Geltmaker/James Rosen

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest
Eric Jon Schmidt

” We are sick of politicians who care more about headlines and power than they do about us. It can’t just be business as usual anymore.” Eric Jon Schmidt for Council 2019.

FB Eric Jon Schmidt for Weho

Ty Geltmaker
Guest
Ty Geltmaker

John Duran is a disgrace, beloved by a type of retrograde homo man of a certain age and behavior who did nothing to advance gay rights except (in their mind) to be “naughty” while the rest of us were feminist gays. This kind of gay man also wallows in hagiographic AIDS heroicization, claiming HIV-status as a kind of badge (whether + or -) when those of us who really did that fight now keep our mouths shut in silent observance of those lost. That his mother has now died (all of ours do if we don’t go first) is unfortunate,… Read more »

David Reid
Guest

Actually John could do a noble thing and step aside for a year. I’ve been here since Cityhood. I’ve watched the show. Duran is smarter and smarmier than the president. The pendulum in our society is still gaining momentum. #MeToo and #TimesUp are here and now and have a majority of support. Duran, citing personal issues, such as losing his Mother says he is stepping aside for the year. It’s been done before. Let one of the ladies repeat the seat. This well informed op/ed had new data and worthy of sharing. Many of us spend our social media capital… Read more »

Unacceptable
Guest
Unacceptable

Let’s try #INTEGRITY FIRST and see who and how many step up.

Lack of integrity has become pervasive.

All anyone really has of value is integrity.

Your actions speak louder than your words.

In the end your word is worth something or nothing.

Each day you are creating an indelible resume.

#INTEGRITY FIRST could also become pervasive.

chloe ross
Guest

Deep.

Unacceptable
Guest
Unacceptable

This afternoon, Rex Tillerson spoke these same sentiments in his farewell words to the State Department employees. Regardless of how one feels about Exxon, Tillerson appears to be a thoughtful person who respects the integrity of his opponent. We lost a good negotiator.

A Russian expert remarked for a recent New Yorker article that Tillerson has this Texas aw-shucks thing going on. “You think he’s mot the smartest guy in the room. He’s not the dominant male, but after a while he owns all your assets”.

Barry Weiss
Guest
Barry Weiss

I’m so tired of Duran being the face of WEHO govt, and the HIV/AIDS POSTER CHILD.

if anything, he’s the poster child for self promotion, and lousy government.

Sad that he’s put on a pedestal when he mixes feeding his sexual appetite with being a govt leader.

Alison
Guest
Alison

I agree with the other posters about overkill, but Mr. Duran’s loss of his mother has no bearing. We all lose our mothers at some point. John Duran is a disgrace to our City. I have said this time and time again. He has won re-election time and again only due to the party boys in Boystown and the Russians who only vote for incumbents. Mr. Martin, the City has a policy of rotating Mayors. There is nothing to prevent Mr. Duran from taking his turn. The only way we can get rid of him is through recall or voting… Read more »

chloe ross
Guest

Whoops. I happened to read some unrequested tweet from the hallowed aerie of Mr. Duran. Must be a little gay guy joke in his profile – did he actually invent homosexuality? I’ll be goddamned – back in the olden days – my grandmother’s lodge sister, Grace, had a brother, who “sat down to wash his face”. I don’t think the lodge sisters knew quite how to say “gay”. That was a loooooong time ago Mr. Duran. Guess what, this is not a progressive community. It’s a wannabe progressive community. It has PR to promote this and even crosswalks that signal… Read more »