Gay Pride Month: A Sad Closing to Pride Month, the Passing of Chuck Renslow

I opened this month’s blogs with an article on Chuck Renslow (Gay Pride Month:  Chuck Renslow) and little did I know that it would be one of the last tributes to this great man.  News came to me last night from my partner that Chuck passed away at the age of 87, succumbing to the ailments that come with such a long and loved life.  I have no details come through from Chicago yet to my little corner of the universe but I don’t doubt that he had loved ones with him.

I recall the last time that I saw him, at IML 2015, when I went up to his table and thanked him for everything he’s done, not only for myself but for the whole community worldwide.  The man was a pioneer and pillar of all which he involved himself with.  He is someone that I’m proud to have known, someone who changed my life for the better.  As he was a focus during IML, I only took a few minutes of his time, but I told my partner when I went back to my seat that I thought it was the last time I’d see Chuck.

This week, the past few days actually, he’s been in my mind.  I knew it was coming but didn’t know when.  It didn’t come as a shock last night, but I did feel the pull of my heartstrings.  I can’t be sad for his passing, but I can be sad that one more light has gone out of my life. It’s selfish but it’s grieving.

I would like for anyone who reads my article to take a moment and reflect on those pioneers who went before us, who blazed the trail for our rights, legal and personal, and gave us the strength to hold our heads up and be who we truly are.  Every time you slap on some makeup, every time you put on your chaps;  when you quaff your quiff and deck yourself out in the body glitter, shaking your groove thing down the street, remember these magnificent people who raised the flag for the very first time.  Perhaps you’ll grab that banner and carry it forward, leaving behind a glowing rainbow of pride.

Chuck, my old mentor and protector, my life will always be filled with your strength and your honor.  Your words will resonate through my mind to keep me on the right path.  Your smile will always shine in the darkest hour.  That old cigar smoke will remind me to look up and forward, and the young man who couldn’t take his dark glasses off will always dance in your clubs, visit your bars, and prowl your bathhouse.  He’ll read your words, he’ll listen at your feet.  It may all be the past, good Sir, but it’s for always.

Wave that flag proudly, Chuck, and keep watching over us.

More information:

Legendary Chicago businessman, activist Chuck Renslow dies

Chicago gay pioneer and legend Chuck Renslow dies – Chicago Pride

Gay Pioneer Chuck Renslow Dies At 87 – Friends of Ours – Typepad

Gay Pride Month: Why The Fight Goes On

Ah, the year 2017.  It’s a far cry from 1969, but in some ways, not so much.  Given that society is generally more accepting of different lifestyles today, you’ll still find the old hold outs who view anything other than white Anglo-Saxon Protestant as an abomination in the eyes of whatever god they worship.  While we don’t live in closets anymore, for the most part, there are still sub-sections of the general population who create an atmosphere so uncomfortable that some choose to hide their sexuality to this day.  The level of violence against LGBT has risen in the past few years as well.  Governmental restrictions around the world are growing with the advent of religious zealots.

Throughout the 70’s, the gay community fought very hard to be seen and heard.  The Equal Rights Movement was the agenda, as you could be denied housing, fired from a job, and generally shunned by the community for being gay.  Homosexuality didn’t come off the psychology journals as a mental illness until 1974 / 1975, and even was considered a mental disorder by the World Health Organization up until 1990!  The organizations in the beginning had an uphill battle, but they didn’t allow themselves to become discouraged by the slow pace of progress.  Little by little, they chipped away at the stony faces of politicians and in some cases, the money helped.  Eventually protections were put into place, protecting the rights of gay men and women.

Into the 80’s we marched, with our pride and banners, to be hit smack in the face by the AIDS epidemic.  Hundreds of people had been dying from this disease over the years.  No-one knew why, and no one seemed to care because it was primarily gay men.  Then Rock Hudson brought it all to the forefront and suddenly there was shame upon the face of Hollywood.  Now, gay men were rife in the Hollywood scene.  But even then, no one talked about it.  No one disclosed their sexuality.  It wasn’t a topic of discussion, ever.  Politicians denied there was an epidemic happening in the gay community.  Research was done by a handful of clinicians with the meager money they could eke out of the government.  The organizations themselves were partially in denial, causing splinter groups to form who were more outspoken.  Thankfully these loud-mouths were the ones, just like at Stonewall, who made something happen. And all the while people died by the dozens.  Their names emblazoned on a quilt did nothing to stem the horrors which this insidious disease inflicted upon its victims, their families, their lovers.  The fight for gay rights also continued on through the 1980’s but we still had a long way to go.

Limping along but proud, learning from the mistakes of the past and girded by safe sex and condoms, we continued onward, to tackle the rights for trans-gender people in the 90’s and into the new millennium.  While the movement for trans-gender people had been moving forward all through these decades, not even the gay community embraced this culture.  As we moved through the 90’s, more and more issues arose that had to be dealt with.  In some cases, they were handled indelicately, or inappropriately.  So the politicians were sent back to their desks to rethink their offerings.  Once again, they showed that they wouldn’t be hidden or shamed.  Research of the HIV virus progressed and the medications were more effective with less side effects.  Gay youth organizations became more prevalent as well as college organizations who lent a hand to pushing the causes forward.

The new millennium arose, and with it, another piece of the puzzle:  gay marriage.  This battle would rage for at least a decade before any laws would start to be enacted, legally providing gay and lesbian couples with the joy of legal marriage.  2003 was the end of sodomy laws in the US.  2010 would see the end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which allowed people in the military to serve without repercussions for their sexuality.  The year 2010 would also see the first gay marriage laws in Iceland.  More and more professional sports players, public personalities, actors / actresses, musicians and politicains came out of the closet and into the forefront.

People in the LGBT communities have been fighting for rights for decades, never wavering and never giving up.  We’ve come far but we have a long way to go.  Still in many countries, LGBT people are suppressed, harassed, illegally detained, and killed.  Places like Chechnya, Philippines, Indonesia, Russia or the Middle East, gays are outright killed.  The Rainbow Railroad is working hard to relocated people from these countries but can only handle so many at a time.  There’s been more and more conservative views growing in places like the US and UK which threatens to reverse the strides of those who went before us.  Many of us enjoy the liberty of being who we are, going about our daily lives without discrimination or discord.  Many won’t see these abuses with our own eyes in our own environments.  But there are those who are affected and those who know someone affected in dangerous times.  There’s those who suffer in silence at being bullied or harassed, eventually ending on a tragic note.  Suicide is on the rise in our community, mostly in our gay youth.  With all of the support groups out there, it’s hard to fathom but it’s a reality, a very sad reality.

If any of this touches a person and they take to their heart the long struggle which has been fought, and the strides still needed for our communities, then it’s my hope that they take some action and get involved.  We need to be aware, protect ourselves and our loved ones, and do all we can to show the world that we’re a strong contributor to society in general.  We have a long history, filled with so many strong characters.  To know where we’re headed, we should take a moment to see where we’ve been.  To lessen the suffering of our brothers and sisters in these oppressed envrionments, we can make donations to causes, petition our governments to take action, or join an organization to help further our empowerment.  Together, all inclusive, we stand strong and march on to the next day.  The next time you take a vow to your partner, or walk down the street without being called a queer, remember the people who gave their time and effort, their sweat and blood, so that you can have this wonderful life.  Never take for granted all the work that’s been done to further the LGBT movements.  They’re fragile and with one swift swing of the conservative, narrow minded hammer, can be laid waste at our feet.

Gay Pride Month: Violence against the LGBT community, a History

Yesterday, June 12, marked the one year anniversary of the Orlando Pulse Club shooting where 49 people lost their lives to a zealot.  Today and probably all week will be the usual remembrances marked by vigils, holding hands, a lot of tears, gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair, tearing of clothes and general carrying on.  While this is fine and dandy for those who wish to partake in these events, it’s my belief that it won’t make much of a difference due to passivity.

Gays, lesbians, transgender, cross dressers, and all that partake of the alternative lifestyles, as they put it, have had to put up with a lot of violence over the years.  Certain elements of society have spent their time trying so hard to put us down and yet, we remain, and we’re strong.

Saying this, we’re no stranger to violence as it’s been ongoing for decades.  Let’s begin at the beginning:

June 28, 1969 – The Stonewall Riots where the LGBT community rose up against raids on their bars.  While the raid was legitimate, Stonewall not having a liquor license and all, the raids were too often, and people had enough of being non-class citizens and pariahs of society.

June 24, 1973 – The Upstairs Lounge inferno where 32 people lost their lives to arson.

July 5, 1978 – A gang of youths randomly assault gay men in Central Park, NYC, one of which assaulted was a former figure skater, Dick Button.

November 27, 1978 – Harvey Milk assassinated along with the Mayor of San Francisco by a political rival.  This gave rise to the White Nights riots.

January, 1979 – renowned author and playwriter Tennessee Willams was beaten severely by five teenage boys.  Reputedly this was inspired by an anti-gay newspaper ad run by a local Baptist minister.  Ah, those naughty Baptists were now in the fold.

March, 1979 – Several women were assaulted in a San Francisco lesbian bar by off-duty police officers.

October 7, 1979 – One Steven Charles of Newark was beaten to death by 4 men who also beat Charles’ friend, Thomas Moore.  Moore managed to get to help although critically injured.

November 18, 1980 – a former Transit Authority policeman, Ronald Crumpley, opens fire on the patrons of two gay bars in Greenwich Village, Ramrod and Sneakers.  4 people are killed and 6 others are wounded, and his alibi – paranoid delusions.

1984 – Charles Howard is drowned in Bangor, ME, having been thrown into the stream by three teenage boys.  This incident inspired a particular scene in Stephen King’s It.

May 13, 1988 – Rebecca Wight and her partner, Claudia Brenner, are shot to death by Stephen Roy Carr while camping in good ole Appalachia.

May 15, 1988 – Tommy Trimble and John Griffin were harassed and later shot by Richard Bednarksi in Dallas, TX

1990 – James Zappalorti, Vietnam veteran, was stabbed to death on Staten Island.

July 2, 1990 – Paul Broussard, a Houston banker, was murdered and two others assaulted by 10 men outside of a Houston club.

October 27, 1992 – Allen Schindler, US Naval Petty Officer, was murdered by a shipmate, Terry Helvey, with accomplice, Charles Vins, in a public toilet where they were stationed in Japan.  He was literally stomped to death.  Schindler had repeatedly reported anti-gay harassment to his superiors in the Navy.

December, 1993 – Brandon Teena, born Teena Brandon, a transman, was murdered in Falls City, NE after his birth gender is discovered by his friends.

March 9, 1995 – Scott Amedure was murdered by Jonathan Schmitz after revealing his attraction on The Jenny Jones Show about secret crushes.

December 4, 1995 – Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill were murdered in Medford, OR by Robert Acremant.

February 21, 1997 – A lesbian nightclub in Atlanta, GA, the Otherside Lounge, was bombed by Eric Robert Rudolph.  Five of the patrons were injured.

October 7, 1998 – Matthew Shepard was fatally attacked, tortured, beaten, tied to a fence and left for dead in Laramie, WY.  He died of his injuries on October 12, 1998.

July 1, 1999 – Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder are murdered by brothers Matthew and Tyler Williams in Redding, CA

July 6, 1999 – Barry Winchell, US Army PFC, is murdered by fellow soldier, Calvin Glover.

September 9, 1999 – Steen Fenrich is murdered and dismembered by his stepfather, John D. Fenrich in Queens, NYC.

July 3, 2000 – Arthur Warren is punched and kicked to death by two teenage boys in Grant Town, VA.

September 22, 2000 – Backstreet Cafe, Roanoke, VA, Ronald Gay enters the bar and opens fire on the patrons, killing one and severely injuring six others.

December 24, 2002 – Nizah Morris, a trans woman, was the victim of a possible homicide in Philadelphia, PA.

October 4, 2002 – Gwen Araujo, a trans woman, was murdered by at least three men who were charged with committing a hate crime.

May 11, 2003 – Sakia Gunn, a 15-year-old lesbian, was murdered on May 11, 2003, in Newark, NJ after rebuffing the advances of two men.

June 17, 2003 – Richie Phillips was killed in Elizabethtown, TN, by Joseph Cottrell. His body was later found in a suitcase in Rough River Lake.

July 23, 2003 – Nireah Johnson and Brandie Coleman were shot to death by Paul Moore in Indianapolis, IN, when Moore learned after a sexual encounter that Johnson was transgender.

July 31, 2003 – Glenn Kopitske, 37, was shot and stabbed in the back by 17-year-old Gary Hirte, a straight-A student, star athlete and Eagle Scout, in Winnebago County, WI.

July 22, 2004 – Scotty Joe Weaver was murdered then burned in Bay Minette, AL, by Christopher Gaines, Nichole Kelsay and Robert Porter.

January 28, 2005 – Ronnie Antonio Paris, a three-year-old boy living in Tampa, FL, died on January 28, 2005, due to brain injuries inflicted by his father, Ronnie Paris, Jr. According to his mother and other relatives, Ronnie Paris, Jr., repeatedly slammed his son into walls, slapped the child’s head, and “boxed” him because he was concerned the child was gay and would grow up a sissy. Paris was sentenced to thirty years in prison.

March 11, 2005 – Jason Gage, an openly gay man, was murdered in his Waterloo, IA apartment by an assailant, Joseph Lawrence, who claimed Gage had made sexual advance to him.

February 2, 2006 – 18-year-old Jacob D. Robida entered a bar in New Bedford, MA, confirmed that it was a gay bar, and then attacked patrons with a hatchet and a handgun, wounding three.  He fatally shot himself three days later.

June 10, 2006 – Kevin Aviance, a female impressionist, musician, and fashion designer, was robbed and beaten in Manhattan, NYC by a group of men who yelled anti-gay slurs at him. Four assailants pleaded guilty and received prison sentences.

July 30, 2006 – Six men were attacked with baseball bats and knives after leaving the San Diego, CA Gay Pride festival. One victim was injured so severely that he had to undergo extensive facial reconstructive surgery.

August 18, 2006 – An altercation occurred in Manhattan, NYC between a man and seven black lesbians from Newark, NJ. During the altercation, the man was stabbed. The women claim that they acted in self-defense after he screamed homophobic epithets, spit on them, and pulled one of their weaves off, while he has described the attack as “a hate crime against a straight man.”

October 8, 2006 – Michael Sandy was attacked by four young heterosexual men who lured him into meeting after chatting online, while they were looking for gay men to rob. He was struck by a car while trying to escape his attackers, and died five days later without regaining consciousness.

February 27, 2007 – Andrew Anthos, a 72-year-old disabled gay man, was beaten with a lead pipe by a man who was shouting anti-gay names at him in Detroit, MI. Anthos died 10 days later in the hospital.

May 16, 2007 – Sean William Kennedy, 20, was walking to his car from Brew’s Bar in Greenville, SC when Stephen Andrew Moller, 18, got out of another car and approached Kennedy. Investigators said that Moller made a comment about Kennedy’s sexual orientation, and threw a fatal punch because he did not like the other man’s sexual preference.

February, 2008 – Duanna Johnson, a transsexual woman, was beaten by a police officer while she was held in the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center in Memphis, TN.  Johnson said the officers reportedly called her a “faggot” and “he-she,” before and during the incident.  In November 9, 2008, she was found dead in the street, reportedly gunned down by three unknown individuals; no arrests, no convictions, no motive.  NO justice.

February 12, 2008 – Lawrence “Larry” King, a 15-year-old junior highschool student was shot twice by a classmate at E.O. Green School in Oxnard, CA.  He was taken off life support after doctors declared him brain-dead on February 15.

July 17, 2008 – Angie Zapata, an 18-year-old trans woman, was beaten to death in CO, two days after meeting Allen Ray Andrade.

September 13, 2008 – Nima Daivari, 26, was attacked by a man who called him “faggot” while passing him on the street on September 13, 2008, in Denver, CO. The police that arrived on the scene refused to make a report of the attack or document it in any way.  The assailant got away, the police officer got a day off in the sun, and the victim got nothing.

September 15, 2008 – A Bourbonnais, IL elementary school bus driver, Russell A. Schmalz,  was charged with leading a homophobic attack on a 10-year-old student passenger. The boy was taunted by the driver who then encouraged other students to chase and beat the child.

November 14, 2008 – Lateisha Green, a 22-year-old transgender woman, was shot and killed by Dwight DeLee in Syracuse, NY because he thought she was gay.

April 6, 2009 – Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old child in Springfield, MA, hanged himself with an extension cord after being bullied all school year by peers who said “he acted feminine” and was gay.

April 10, 2009 – Justin Goodwin, 36, of Salem, MA was attacked and beaten by four men (although they were convicted, it was never called a hate crime) outside a bar in Gloucester, MA. Goodwin suffered a shattered jaw, broken eye socket, broken nose and broken cheekbone. As a result, he was blind in one eye, deaf in one ear and had to have his jaw wired shut for months.  Goodwin committed suicide in March, 2010.

June 30, 2009 – Seaman August Provost was found shot to death and his body burned at his guard post on Camp Pendleton, CA.  Provost had been harassed previously because of his sexual orientation.  His superiors did nothing, blaming it on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy; the killer committed suicide a week later after admitting the murder, the Navy have not concluded if this was a hate crime.[180]

June 5, 2011 – CeCe McDonald, a young African-American trans woman, was attacked outside the Schooner Tavern shortly after midnight in Minneapolis, MI.  CeCe fatally stabbed her attacker with a pair of scissors.  She was subsequently convicted of manslaughter and jailed for 19 months in a men’s prison.

May, 2013 – Mark Carson, a 32-year-old gay man, was shot to death by a man who taunted him and a friend as they walked down the street in Greenwich Village, NYC, hurling anti-gay slurs and asking one of them, “You want to die tonight?” The perpetrator Elliot Morales was arrested briefly after the shooting and charged with murder and weapons charges.

June 12, 2016 – 49 people were killed, and 53 injured, in a terrorist shooting at Pulse, an Orlando, FL gay nightclub.

And that’s just the USA!

Although we’re still facing the violence of people completely off their rockers, there’s a vast majority of people in society who either don’t care about your sexuality or are completely accepting.  The perpetrators above are a small sub-section and frequently have a common theme to their brand of justice for all.  But the thing I do have to question, with an ever-growing list of past infractions to our community….

Where are the vigils to all of them as well?

More Information:

Gay Pride Month: The Stonewall Riots and what came after

It was the era of post war, World War II having been said and done and they return to normality in the States.  It was also the era of witch hunts and McCarthy, making the lives of gay men and women a living hell:  denying them jobs, keeping them on lists, hunting down their watering holes.  It was a time of humiliation.  It was decades of social abuse.  And it was the beginning of a firestorm which no one saw coming.

It was the time for birth, for people to come together clandestinely.  In response to the restrictions placed on gay men, the Mattachine Society was created; a place where gay men could get together and be themselves.  The society’s agenda was to integrate, to show the general public that gay men were no different than anyone else.  At the same time came the Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian organization which initially was formed for the ladies to get together and dance but grew to include the same agenda as the Mattachine Society:  integration into society.  Neither of these groups were violent or outspoken.  Neither of them were fervently pushing for legal rights.  Mattachine developed additional chapters, the one in Washington D.C. being more active and trying to change the view of psychologists, as during this time homosexuality was viewed as a mental illness.

It was 1966, in a small cafe in San Francisco.  As the fringes of gay society gathered and milled about, the police raied the cafe to arrest the transvestites, which was actually outlawed.  The drag queens, hustlers and transvestites rose up, and a riot ensued, not just on that day but days later when the glass was replaced in the cafe.  The fire had started in San Francisco.

It was 1969 in Greenwich Village, and a night unlike any other at the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street.  The Stonewall Inn, a Mafia owned gay bar without a liquor license and operating under the protection of the mob, was frequently raided, although they were also frequently tipped off beforehand.  This night, June 28, they were not.  The New York police raided the bar and made their arrests but in an unusual event, the wagons didn’t show up on time.  As a result, the discarded patrons and passers-by congregated outside, milling about with curiosity.  As several patrons who were arrested were brought out, the crowd started to agitate.  According to reports, a woman started enciting the crowd, saying “why don’t you do something?”, imploring the crowd to take action against this raid.  Then it started.  What was considered the rejects of the gay community – the hustlers, the drag queens, the transvestites, lesbians – rose up and started throwing whatever was at hand at the p0lice, at the building, shouting out that they weren’t going to take it anymore.  The police would lock themselves in the Stonewall until backup came and the riot would continue, spilling onto adjacent streets.  Once the smoke cleared, the police getting some control over the situation and the fire put out on the Stonewall, the riots would continue for several days to come.  A fully fledged conflagration burned out of control in the hearts of the gay community.

This was the beginning of the Gay Rights movement.  Out of these riots were born the organizations that would push for gay equality rights.  From these transvestites and hustlers, drag queens and lesbians was brought forth a light in the darkness of our lives and a cry that we won’t go quietly, nor go away.  The mainstream gay community, the Mattachine Society, were appalled.  There wen’t the plan to just blend in.  Now the issue of gay rights would need to be addressed as the community took a stand against decades of repression.

From the ashes of these fires were born the first gay activist organizations.  These people would lay the groundwork for the future and fight tooth and nail for equality for every part of the GLBT communities.  Some went about it in an organized fashion, quietly manipulating the gears of the machine to get the Mafia out of the gay businesses, or get laws passed.  Others that formed would do it more loudly, shouting to any who would listen that the treatment was unfair.

While many of the original organizations have changed hands and altered their names, their message still rings true in this day.  We deserve better.

And they never thought that this could happen here.

More Information:

Gay Pride Month: Chuck Renslow

As a young gay man growing up in Chicago in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and being involved in the gay community, wandering aimlessly through Boys Town, it was hard not to know an iconic man in the neighborhood:  Chuck Renslow.

I was never deeply involved with him, just meeting him at events that I attended, and yet he is one of the most captivating people that I’ve ever had the pleasure to have in my life.  I ran into him a few years ago when I attended International Mr Leather in Chicago and went up to his table when the sychophants of the event had left.  I introduced myself, telling him that he probably didn’t remember me from so long ago, and yet he did remember me as a youth.  I didn’t want to take up much of his time but did thank him for everything he’s done for the community and for people in general.

I wouldn’t remind him that I had been in his bars as an underage lost boy.  I wouldn’t let him remember that it was his lifestyle that took me in when no others would.  I didn’t dare reflect upon the challenges of getting equality for minority groups in Chicago and working so hard to get the Human Rights Ordinance passed.  Nor would I bring up the pain of living through the AIDS epidemic, challenging the government to come clean and fund research, nor the lost people in our lives.  It was a simple meet and greet and the adoration of a young man who looked up to this older man.  I’m sure that he’ll pass through history never knowing the impact he had on some starry eyed idiot child dressed like a rag doll, hair spiked and dark glasses on, who went about the streets of Boys Town with wonder, or stood in the leather bars too terrified to approach a Master, yet fascinated by the interactions.

I don’t need to list the volumous organizations which Chuck Renslow has been involved in, you can read that for yourself in the articles below.  Nor the list of establishments to his credit which include bars, bath houses, photography studios, magazines and charities.  He’s been a pillar of the gay community for decades and been awarded almost every possible honor that the community has to give, not just in Chicago but internationally.

He’s also one of the pioneers of the leather community.  His first bar, the Gold Coast (and yes I remember it), was the oldest leather bar in the world.  It was the beginning of an established leather community in a time when gay men hardly had the freedom to be who they wanted to be.  The International Mr. Leather competition not only is a huge tourism boon for Chicago but brings together people of all walks under the great black and blue flag of brotherhood / sisterhood.

The reason why he’s my hero, not just for taking a young gay man under his wing years ago, is because he is a perfect mixture of quiet support and vocal champion.  He’s donated his time, money and guidance to many efforts for the establishment of equality, not just for gay men but for everyone.  He’s been there with a guiding hand at times or a gentle slap when you screw up.  When you’re in his presence, you just feel safe.

As gay men go, he’s the top of the list and someone to strive to be like.  As a boy looking up to someone, I couldn’t have done better to know someone like him.

Growing up, I don’t think I had a single traditional hero.  Not Superman.  Not G I Joe.

But even as an older man, I still consider Chuck Renslow to be my hero.

More information:

Michael Ehrhardt

Permanenter Ausstellungsraum

As Told by Sid

This is my safe place.


The incessant buzzing inside your head

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Aamir Aqeil Azfer

Writer with endless thoughts and emotions.


The incessant buzzing inside your head

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