Once nearly eradicated in the United States, syphilis is back on the rise – mostly among gay and bisexual men. Rates reached an all-time low in 2000, and of the roughly 6,000 cases, only around 7% were among gay men; it was a concern almost exclusively for straight people. But better treatments for HIV lead to complacency about safe sex, perhaps especially among younger men who didn’t witness the AIDS crisis of the 1980s first-hand.
Now, men who have sex with men (known in medical research as MSMs) account for a full 91% of all national cases. And those nationwide numbers are reflected at home. In Louisville, rates jumped from 13.2 per 100,000 residents in 2009 to 27.7 in 100,000 – well above the national average of 18. Statewide, reported syphilis infections have almost doubled since 2009.
To help explain why this is happening, and what can help, we talk this week with Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, Deputy Director of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Dr. Humbaugh explains how exactly the disease is transmitted, and how you can protect yourself and your partners.
Syphilis is treated with penicillin, and responds well to treatment – but you have to know you have it. Check the end of this post for list of testing places is below (some are free or have sliding-scale fees).
Also this week, we talk to playwright and friend-to-the-show Basil Kreimendahl, whose absurdist play “Sidewinders” runs in Louisville through May 23rd, produced by Looking for Lilith Theatre Company. Kreimendahl says she set the play on a frontier in the American West to evoke a lawless place where people made their own rules – much like people are making their own rules today about gender identity.
“It’s just sort of about being a human being, and about naming things,” she says. “You know there’s a lot of power in naming things and having a name for who and what you are, and it sort of explores, what if there isn’t a word for what you are that fits perfectly? How does that affect you?”
“Sidewinders” runs through May 23rd at OPEN. The May 22nd performance will be followed by a talkback panel on gender identity, moderated by our own Jaison Gardner. (Full Disclosure: Our producer Laura Ellis is in the cast, and joins us in this segment to talk about her character and work on the play)
In our Juicy Fruit segment, we talk about First Lady Michelle Obama’s commencement speech at Tuskegee University in which she described how the public’s perception of her as First Lady was colored by race and racism. Remember the “terrorist fist jab?” The New Yorker cover showing her with an afro and machine gun? “Obama’s baby mama?” FLOTUS name-checked them all, and talked about the doubts they raised in her mind.
“I had a lot of sleepless nights,” she said, “worrying about what people thought of me, wondering if I might be hurting my husband’s chances of winning his election, fearing how my girls would feel if they found out what some people were saying about their mom.”
Obama also laid out the can’t-win situation black women face today, especially in the public eye. “Was I too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating? Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?” The whole speech is worth a read (transcript here).
And the LMPD is rolled out their plan to put body cameras on their officers this week. WFPL’s Jacob Ryan joins us with the details.
STD Testing Sites
Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (Specialty Clinic)
7201 Outer Loop Suite 232
Park DuValle Community Health Center
3015 Wilson Avenue
Family Health Centers (Portland)
2215 Portland Avenue, Louisville, KY 40212
Family Health Centers (East Broadway)
834 East Broadway, Louisville, KY 40204
Family Health Centers (Fairdale)
1000 Neighborhood Place, Louisville, KY 40118
Family Health Centers (Iroquois)
4100 Taylor Boulevard, Louisville, KY 40215
Family Health Centers (Southwest)
9702 Stonestreet Road, Building 1, Suite 220, Louisville, KY 40272
Strange Fruit: Funding Feminist Art in Kentucky; @HonestToddler’s Mom on the Messiness of Motherhood0
It’s Mother’s Day, and we’re celebrating by talking with Bunmi Laditan, mother of three, and creator of the @HonestToddler twitter account.
Laditan has a new book out called Toddlers are A-Holes (It’s Not Your Fault). “It’s for the parent of the toddler who, their kid is waking up at 3am and wandering the halls like Phantom of the Opera,” she says. “The parent who needs to laugh so they don’t cry.”
We also check in this week with Sharon LaRue, executive director of Kentucky Foundation for Women. They’re celebrating 30 years of promoting positive social change by supporting feminist art. Over the past three decades, they’ve awarded $9 million in 1,800 grants to women artists.
“Each of us can think about an art piece that has changed history,” Sharon says. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Picasso’s Guernica, Dorothea Lang’s photos… there’s something that stopped what we were doing, and we said we’re gonna do something differently. So I think that that’s the power of art, is that it gets us to think differently.”
In our Juicy Fruit segment this week, we talk about the media’s use of soft language, like “officer-involved shooting,” and how it affects public perception. We also briefly comment on the Bruce Jenner interview, and respond to the lawsuit that was filed against us (and all gay people), by one Sylvia Driskell of Nebraska.
On Friday, state’s attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn J. Mosby, announced that six officers would be charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Mosby made the announcement soon after the medical examiner’s report classified Gray’s death as a homicide.
This week, Baltimore hip hop artist Born Divine brings us a local perspective on this week’s protesting in the city, and a sense of how people are feeling in the middle of it. He says over-aggressive policing is a long-time issue there, and that only full-scale reform will solve it.
“We’re looking for justice from a system that was never created with us in mind to begin with,” he says. “When the foundation is cracked on a house, what happens to the house? It falls apart. And until you fix that crack in the foundation, it’s not going to get any better. It going to get worse.”
He says poverty and joblessness are to blame for some of the violence in Baltimore this week, and that despite some media reports, the vast majority of protesters have peaceful aims. “We’re just trying to get justice,” Divine says. “We don’t want to tear the city down. We don’t want a war with nobody. We don’t want to beef with the officers. We just want justice.”
This week, we also spoke with author Jim Grimsley about his memoir, “How I Shed My Skin: Unlearning the Lessons of a Racist Childhood.”
Grimsely grew up in a small town in North Carolina, and was in sixth grade in 1966, the year federally-mandated integration of the schools went into effect.
“I didn’t really understand anything about the prejudice built into me until in the sixth grade, when three black girls came to my all white classroom,” he says. He reacted by calling one of the girls a name, not expecting her to respond. She called him the same name back. “Then she looked at me and said you didn’t think I’d say that did you?”
His book recounts how those personal interactions challenged, and eventually overcame, the racist ideas he’d been raised with. “By encountering them, I came to understand that I had all kinds of racist programming in myself,” he says.
Many activists’ attention was divided this week between the Supreme Court hearing on gay marriage, in Washington, and the unrest in Baltimore. Grimsley, himself a gay man, helps us parse out how black people and gay people are sometimes pitted against each other in what he calls a divide and conquer strategy.
“You want to set them against each other and get them to quarrel against each other,” he says, “because that way they’re less effective at working to better themselves and to better their position, and to help one another out in their strategies to move toward equal rights with the white majority.”
We also shared with Grimsley some frustrations about this week’s events. “It breaks my heart to see people misreading what’s happening in Baltimore so deliberately,” he says. “We’ve gone through this set of steps so may times just in the last two years […] white people don’t chime in until they see the anger and the violence, and then they start talking about the issue.”
And here at home, it’s Derby Week! In our Juicy Fruit segment this week, we learn about the history of black jockeys in the Derby, and how their contributions to the sport are honored—or not—by racing fans today.
There’s a lot going on out there, Fruitcakes, so this week, we give you a whole episode of Juicy Fruit, with special guest co-host, actress, Alexandria Sweatt.
The death of Freddie Gray in police custody in Baltimore, and the shooting of Eric Harris by a volunteer Sheriff in Tulsa, are the latest in a string of black men killed by police. We look at the specifics of those cases, and how they’re being handled by investigators and city leaders.
We also take on lighter topics this week, like a new restaurant, Tallywackers, trying to bring the Hooters experience to a Dallas gayborhood. We couldn’t let the week go by without addressing Gwyneth Paltrow’s food stamp challenge, in which she purchased foods that would be neither accessible nor practical for actual people on government assistance.
And the so-called Kylie Jenner challenge, which had Instagram users artificially plumping their lips in pictures, leads to a discussion about how black fashions, when adopted by white celebrities, are treated as new and groundbreaking. Remember when Marie Claire magazine breathlessly praised Kylie’s “new epic” hairstyle… and it was cornrows?
Comedy writer Kirker Butler has written for Family Guy and the Cleveland Show, but his most recent work is a satirical novel called “Pretty Ugly,” about a Southern family whose child is involved in beauty pageants.
Butler grew up in Ohio County, Kentucky, where his mother was in charge of planning the annual pageant. And though the novel is set in Kentucky, and the family is dysfunctional, Butler says he isn’t worried about offending folks from his home state.
We talk to Butler about his TV work, and that always-elusive line between edgy and offensive. He said the Family Guy writers benefit from the show’s reputation for anything-goes humor. “We always kind of took the attitude that nothing is off-limits, and we would go after everyone equally.”
In this week’s Juicy Fruit, we talk about a recent police shooting in Louisville, and why Police Chief Steve Conrad was so quick to point out that both the officer and the man he shot were white.
We also cover Madonna kissing Drake at Coachella, and how it reminds us all of the importance of consent—even if you’re “Madonna, b****.”
Sabrina Butler Porter was 17 when she found her baby Walter unresponsive, not breathing. Her attempts at CPR to save his life resulted in bruising that lead police to accuse her of child abuse. She was wrongfully convicted of her baby’s murder and spent more than 6 years in prison – nearly three of those on death row.
“Being on death row, I wasn’t told that the state had to exhaust all remedies before they could actually carry out the death sentence,” she explained. “I paced the floor every day,” she remembers, “trying to figure out when they coming to kill me.”
Porter’s conviction was overturned when new lawyers took her case and it was discovered that Walter had died of kidney disease. She now works with Witness to Innocence, an organization that helps death row exonerees become advocates against the death penalty.
Between her speaking engagements in Kentucky last week, she stopped by our studios to tell her story and talk about how her experiences shaped her view of the criminal justice system.
“I didn’t have anybody in my corner,” she says. “They knew that I was a young black girl, really didn’t know nothing, so they took advantage of that.”
In our Juicy Fruit segment, we talk about whether Jamie Foxx crossed the line with his jokes about Bruce Jenner at the I Heart Radio Awards. Foxx’s remark that Jenner would be “doing a his-and-her duet, all by himself,” drew accusations of transphobia.
And these days, a week just doesn’t seem complete without another head-scratching gaffe from Raven-Symoné. This time, she claims her ancestry is from “every continent in Africa but one.” Jaison tries to break down why “new black”-touting personalities like Raven and Don Lemon are so captivating to the public imagination, while Dr. Story just wants Raven to “read a book or two … hundred.”
And we pause to acknowledge the murder of Walter Scott in South Carolina. Scott was pulled over for a broken tail light and ran away from Officer Michael Slager, who then shot him in the back, killing him.
The officer initially claimed Scott had taken his Taser and tried to use it against him. But a bystander video showed otherwise, with Slager appearing to drop the Taser next to Scott’s body after he’d been shot.
The officer has been fired, and charged with murder. Does this mean the tide is turning in favor of consequences for unnecessary use of force by police? We talk about it at the close of this week’s show.
David Sedaris never liked Chinese food. Then he went to China, and he really didn’t like Chinese food. His essay about it, Chicken Toenails, Anyone? was published in the Guardian and was criticized as disrespectful, xenophobic, and even racist.
This week we listen back to our chat with Sedaris, from when he’d just released his book, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. He said if he were worried about keeping his humor PC he couldn’t be an honest about his experiences, and wouldn’t get as many laughs. “I always figure that the thing you can admit that’s most embarrassing is the thing that most people can relate to,” he explained. “Because we’re not that different, really.”
We also asked whether he considers himself an LGBTQ activist. He told us, “the way I write about my relationship is just about trying to make a life with somebody, and anybody can relate to it. It’s not important that I’m trying to make that life with another man. It’s just important that I’m trying to make that life with another person.”
We also spoke more broadly about his life and work, LGBTQ visibility in pop culture, why speech therapy classes are full of gay children, and whether marriage equality will lead to an increase in annoying destination weddings. “I think gay people should get the right to marry,” he said. “And then I think none of us should act on it.”
And last week we told you that friend to the show Aisha Moodie-Mills was named Executive Director of the Victory Fund. This week we bring you an excerpt of our conversation with her, and her wife Danielle Moodie-Mills.
This week we introduce you to a new member of the WFPL newsroom, political reporter Ashley Lopez. Ashley joins us to talk about Indiana’s controversial “religious freedom” act, Louisville’s attempt to appeal to LGBT tourists, and a recent poll showing Kentucky’s opposition to marriage equality.
We also hear Ashley’s recent report on the Kentucky marriage equality case that will go before the Supreme Court late next month. She fills us in on where that case stands, who might make oral arguments, what experts think will be the outcome, and she introduces us to some of the Kentucky plaintiffs.
And a group of Louisvillians are bringing a Juneteenth Festival back to the Derby City for the first time in years. Juneteenth celebrates the freeing of enslaved Africans and African Americans in the United States in 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation became the law of the land.
Organizer Gary Brice takes a break from festival planning to stop by the Strange Fruit studios and let us know what’s in store for festival attendees, and how our listeners can get involved.
This week we also give a shout out to friend-to-the-show Aisha Moodie-Mills, who this week was named the new president and CEO of the Victory Fund, a national organization that supports LGBTQ political candidates. Moodie-Mills is the first woman, and the first African American, to hold the job.
And our colleague Devin Katayama, political reporter and midday host with WFPL, is heading to KQED in San Francisco, to cover poverty and other issues affecting Oakland, California.
Finally this week we say a sad goodbye to teen trans activist Blake Brockington, who ended his own life last week. Despite suffering rejection from family and friends upon coming out as trans, Brockington went on to become homecoming king at his North Carolina high school.
Brockington was a tireless fundraiser and activist for LGBTQ issues, and was also an outspoken participant in the #BlackLivesMatter movement against police brutality.
If you or someone you know is struggling or in a crisis, please reach out to The Trevor Project’s Lifeline at 866-488-7386, or visit thetrevorproject.org for more ways to contact their counselors, who are specially trained to help LGBTQ youth. Stay safe, Fruitcakes.
Food writer Ashlee Clark Thompson’s new book is all about Louisville Diners (the places, not the people). She joins us this week to dish about some of Louisville’s most iconic eateries – trendy brunch places, soul food spots, and a certain streetcar-shaped establishment in Old Louisville, whose quirkiness is part of its charm.
“It’s almost like Halley’s Comet to catch Ollie’s Trolley open,” she says (the walk-up-style lunch counter is open 11-5, only operates on weekdays, and only accepts cash). “It started out as a chain, and Ollie’s was supposed to be the next KFC.”
Thompson says diners started out as, essentially, food trucks, where hungry third-shift workers could stop by and pick up a bite on the way home. They were seen as men’s establishments, prone to trouble, either with no seating, or later, maybe a row of stools at a countertop.
Eventually, proprietors realized they were missing out on revenue by only catering to men. “They tried to attract women by adding flower boxes outside of windows, and adding tables and booths,” Thompson explains. “Because ladies did not like to sit on stools in the early 1900s.”
It would take much longer for diners’ race politics to catch up with their gender politics. “Diners in the 1900s weren’t the most inclusive places,” she says. “In fact, they were segregated.”
In researching the book, she found resources that focused on the diners of post-WWII, which were white, and suburban. “And so my question was, where did black people like me go to eat at this same time?” The answer, she found, was soul food. So the book includes the soul food restaurants that co-evolved with diners and catered to African Americans.
In our Juicy Fruit segment this week, Jaison joins us from the Big Apple, fresh from a taping of The View. And the timing is appropriate, given our lead story.
After Univision host Rodner Figueroa was fired for saying Michelle Obama “looks like she’s part of the cast of ‘Planet of the Apes,'” Raven-Symoné was guest-hosting The View earlier this week and defended Figueroa, saying, “Some people just look like animals.”
Doc wonders, “Are her and Don Lemon brother and sister maybe, and we didn’t know it?”
We talk about black and queer celebrities whose work or aesthetic suggest an edginess that is not reflected in their politics, and whether it stings more when racism, sexism or homophobia come from someone inside the affected group.
The Kentucky General Assembly just wrapped up its 2015 session, and some LGBTQ-related bills were under consideration. Chris Hartman from the Fairness Campaign joins us this week to talk about the proposed legislation—what passed, and what didn’t.
Hartman also fills us in on a Fairness vote in the Bardstown, KY city council. The city council opted not to add gender identity and sexual orientation protections to the city-county human rights ordinance.
And you may have seen a Buzzfeed article last week about Louisville murder victim Sherman Edwards, and whether the LMPD is trying to cover up Edwards’ identity as a trans woman. Chris Hartman has seen the court records and says, while police statements may have been insensitive to trans issues, the truth about Edwards’ identity and the motivation for the crime is not so clear cut.
And in our Juicy Fruit segment, we address the racist chant that got Sigma Alpha Epsilon ejected from the University of Oklahoma, and how a morning show panel blamed the incident on hip hop music. In a development that happened after we taped the show, the fraternity is now considering suing the university for its dismissal.