Last month, Ray Fetcho, who many of us know as ‘Tiny Tina,’ was fired from his job as a licensed practical nurse, because a routine screening in 2010 revealed a ludicrous lewd act conviction from 1976. He had been a nurse for 40 years, since turning 21 in May of 1969.
As Ray himself notes in SFGN’s front page story, he always kept his ‘real’ world of nursing and ‘show business’ world of fantasy separate and apart from each other. He humorously stated he was not just ‘a queen.’ He billed himself as ‘the queen.’
As a young man coming out in the late 1970’s, I remember those ‘wet jockey nights’ at the Copa. I remember the night my roommate strutted his stuff on stage. Ripped and cut, he nearly won.
On that night, however, in a moment of spectacular irony, some obese 300 pound guy showed up and wiggled his butt, shook his gargantuan beer belly, and blew the crowd away with laughter. It was hilarious. The overweight contestant won, leaving the roster of buff-boy challengers frustrated and broke. Everything was in fun. We all laughed, went home and charted the episode into our memory banks.
Law enforcement does not have our sense of humor. Did not back then and does not still today. One night, decades ago, they arrested Tiny Tina for promoting a lewd act by splashing water on young men in jockey shorts. The arrest was asinine then and is ridiculous today. But because Ray Fetcho has just lost a nursing license he has held for 40 years and a job he has had for 16, this is no laughing matter. Instead, it is something to litigate. Thus, in 2010, we are again reminded about the kind of invidious discrimination which haunts homosexual conduct even today.
When Ray called me a few weeks ago, it was not here at the newspaper. It was at my law office. He had no clue what his legal rights were. He just knew he did not have a job anymore. My partner and I knew that he was wronged. We undertook his cause as a case, and we will petition to secure for Ray the lawful exemption he is entitled to receive. Based on Ray’s impeccable employment record over the past four decades, I can assure you this injustice will not stand.
I am a bit conflicted and it is a little embarrassing to have someone who becomes my client wind up as the front page story.
However, as your publisher, I knew and understood that I had more than a case to handle with Ray Fetcho. I had a story to tell in this newspaper. I am sure you are as outraged at the injustice being visited upon Ray Fetcho, aka, Tiny Tina, as I am.
As John Castelli, his former employer at the Copa said, “What century am I living in?”
In our very first issue, we told the story of Mikey Verdugo, a decorated Hollywood cop fired for doing a gay porno video five years before he ever applied for the police department.
Last week, we ran a piece about a 50 year old conviction a British man, John Crawford, had for ‘buggery’ which affects his life today. Each time he applies for a job he must list to prospective employers his prior conviction for the crime of ‘homosexuality’, even though that ‘crime’ no longer exists in England.
Though Ray Fetcho and Mikey Verdugo and John Crawford do not know each other, they are now all inextricably linked as partners in our mutual and international revolution for LGBT civil rights.
Ray Fetcho’s appeals will eventually lead to a ruling by some unknown operative in Tallahassee, hopefully not one appointed by the Church of Jeb Bush. During that time, he will be denied the opportunity to perform his life’s work of 40 years, serving the elderly with compassion and care. That is unfair.
Separately, Mikey Verdugo is not being allowed to serve as a cop. With the help of the law firm of George Castrataro, he is going to undertake a difficult legal challenge to an arbitrator’s ruling stating his firing was lawful. It is yet another gay rights battle that has to be fought in the courts.
Make no mistake about it. There is still a war on for our civil rights. Suddenly and unexpectedly, some of us are called into battle to right unjust wrongs. I am proud that this newspaper can be a partner in the process and shine light on injustice, whether it is visited upon a patron in a nightclub on Wilton Drive or a gay citizen of Uganda. Ours is a shared battle without borders.
Of course, what Ray Fetcho did as ‘Tiny Tina’ at the Copa 34 years ago never should have been illegal. It was a playful and funny show then, but it has taken his rights and job away today. Do not think for a minute that his cause is any less than your own, one that you may yourself one day face. In a world of uncertainty, one thing is certain- that even in the year 2010, gay men and women still have to fight for their civil rights.
Support a just cause today, and make yourself a partner, not just a passenger, in our ongoing struggle.