In a major setback to India’s gay community the High Court there has once again ruled that homosexual sex is illegal.
The ruling, which was delivered today, overturns a lower court ruling from four years ago which decriminalized gay sex. Section 377 is the law, from India’s Colonial-era days, that bans people from engaging in "carnal acts against the order of nature."
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that the penal code was constitutionally valid.
It was up to parliament, the court said, to decide whether or not to keep the law in the statute books.
International reaction has been swift with Amnesty International India calling Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling "a black day of freedom in India. It is hard not to feel let down by this judgment, which has taken India back several years in its commitment to protect basic rights," the group said.
The New York-based group Human Rights Watch called on the Indian government to take steps to scrap Section 377. "The Supreme Court's ruling is a disappointing setback to human dignity, and the basic rights to privacy and non-discrimination," the group said in a statement. "But now the government should do what it should have done in the first place and seek to repeal section 377."
For all of today's top stories from the LGBT world check out Boston Spirit magazine's Fab 5
Club Café New Year's Eve celebration 2000 (photo: courtesy Club Café)
This weekend, Club Café celebrates its 30th birthday, when co-founder and owner Frank Ribaudo marries his longtime partner; big party!
The following story was originally published in the September/October 2013 issue of Boston Spirit magazine.
The Beat Goes On
Club Café celebrates 30 years as the heart of Boston’s LGBT scene
by Scott Kearnan
Club Café founder Frank Ribaudo will never forget his anniversary. Either of them.
On October 13, Ribaudo will marry his longtime partner Joe Posa. They’ll celebrate their reception, which after certain hours will be open to the whole community, at Club Café. That’s because their wedding coincides with a second reason to celebrate. October marks the 30th anniversary of Club Café, which has become iconic in New England’s gay scene. For one generation, it has been a community center: a comfortable second home filled with old friends. For another, it’s a party palace: where stepping inside, grabbing your first drink, and scoring your first date has become a veritable rite of passage. And Club Café shows no sign of slowing down.
“2013 has been a banner year for us,” says Ribaudo joyfully. In a more accepting world, where it’s harder and harder to keep gay establishments afloat, Club Café is enjoying some of its best business.
But that success wasn’t always a sure thing, and Ribaudo admits that early on he never would have believed that Club Café could wind up a decades-spanning landmark in New England’s LGBT culture. “To be honest, for the first five years all I thought about was how to keep from going bankrupt,” says Ribaudo. “I don’t think we made a dime.”
That’s because 30 years ago, everything about Club Café was a calculated risk: from its willingness to challenge a bullying nearby business to its wide wall of windows that, in a brazen move at the time, planted a highly visible gay establishment right on the Boston streetscape.
Here’s the story of how it stayed there.
John Mitzel in his Calamus bookshop, 2012 (photo: Emil Cohen)
John Mitzel (1948-2013), long-time owner of the storied Boston gay bookstore Calamus, died in his sleep in the early morning of October 4 due to complications from throat cancer.
A memorial is planned this Friday evening at 7 p.m. at Calamus, 92 South Street by South Station in Boston.
The following is a profile of John Mitzel that ran in the September/October 2012 issue of Boston Spirit magazine.
John Mitzel Ain’t Going Anywhere
The Boston gay bookstore owner takes his place with some of the legendary personalities of our time
By Mark Krone
For gay bookstores, these are the last days of disco. Legendary outlets such as Lambda Rising in Washington DC, A Different Light in San Francisco, and the Oscar Wilde Bookshop in New York have all closed. But in downtown Boston, on South Street, Calamus Book Store stubbornly remains open. “As long as I am here, this will be here,” says owner John Mitzel.
When it comes to post-Stonewall gay activism in Boston, John Mitzel was there. He was there at the first organizing meeting of Gay Pride in 1971. He was there at the beginning of gay publications such as Fag Rag and Gay Community News. And there, too, when gay people turned to the courts in 1978, establishing the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD). He was also an early author of books primarily for the gay market. His new collection of short stories, Last Gleamings, on friends he lost to AIDS, will come out this fall. Considering his impact on gay Boston, Mitzel should be better known.
Same-sex ballroom dancing champions Kalin Mitov and Michael Winward (photo: courtesy Kalin Mitov)
Note: This article is adapted from the May/June 2013 issue of Boston Spirit magazine.
Massachusetts is home to one of ballroom dancing’s most lauded same-sex partner dance couples. Yet the Bay State has yet to host a competition.
That changes later this month.
You may have seen them last summer, gliding, turning, stepping, snapping around the streets of Provincetown.
Kalin Mitov and Michael Winward are North American Same-sex Partner Dance Association champions.
They have danced to critical acclaim in competitions across the country and all over the world. And now Mitov thinks it is time to bring a sanctioned competition to the dance partners’ home state of Massachusetts.
On Saturday, September 21, at the Hynes Convention Center, New Englanders will be able to witness some of the most beautiful ballroom dancing on the planet.
Acrobat, Author ... Addict
Joe Putignano kicked heroin, launched a career as a Cirque du Soleil star and wrote about it all in a new memoir, Acrobaddict, released this week. He will have a book signing on October 16 at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Note: This story originally ran in the May/June 2013 issue of Boston Spirit magazine.
By Tony Giampetruzzi
“I was training to become a contortionist and detoxing from heroin at the same time — I don’t recommend that to anyone. Ever. At all.”
That pretty much sums the dogged, no-nonsense and humorous spirit of 36-year old gymnast/performer/model and now author, Joe Putignano.
Heroin? Contortionist? Model? It’s a dichotomy that’s only likely to play itself out in the most outrageous Lifetime movie specials. So, to hear Putignano’s story — a promising pre-teen gymnast from Raynham, Massachusetts, who went on to endure nearly 15 years of extreme drug use and endless bouts of rehab, only to finally take the stage for a late-career comeback in his 30s as a Cirque du Soleil performer — is quite inspiring if not fantastical.
Putignano recently took a hiatus from the stage and, although six years clean, was forced to face his demons again: in March, he was in Atlanta recuperating from surgery to correct a superior labral tear in his shoulder which, among various other localized injuries, was caused by more than five years and nearly 1,000 performances in Cirque’s Totem. The surgery was successful, but, for someone with Putignano’s relapse rap sheet, rehab would need to be narc-free, a must for someone who has used as much as him.FULL ENTRY
Who in the ‘H*ck’ is Prescott Townsend?
Note: This story first ran in the September/October 2013 issue of Boston Spirit magazine.
by Mark Krone
Prescott Townsend may be the most influential Boston gay rights pioneer you have never heard of. If so, hang on; before we’re through, Townsend will cross paths with Andre Gide, 1960s hippies, John Waters and his star, Mink Stole. And that’s not counting the army of young men who lived with him on Beacon Hill and in Provincetown, as long as their waist sizes hovered very close to 30-inches.
Born in 1894, Townsend was Brahmin from head to toe. He claimed relation to no fewer than 23 Mayflower passengers and bragged that his third great-great grandfather signed the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. Author Douglass Shand-Tucci quotes a sardonic Townsend who referred to this relative as “the only man to be so inconsistent.”
Townsend’s early life followed a prescribed Brahmin path of prep school, Harvard, and military service. That path soon veered sensationally.
At Harvard, he had his first homosexual encounter “with a polo player.” Restless after graduation, Townsend decided to travel in search of a more vital world. He worked at a logging camp out west where he lived among men who seemed not to miss the company of women. That some of them were members of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies), which opposed capitalism must have influenced Townsend, though he was never particularly sympathetic to organized labor and was a lifelong Republican.
Returning to Boston, Townsend moved to Beacon Hill where he met Elliot Paul, an experimental theater producer. Writer, Lucius Beebe, a contemporary of Townsend’s, described Paul as the quintessential 1920s Bohemian who wore a Van Dyke beard and favored broad-brimmed hats. He and Townsend quickly became inseparable. Together, they created The Barn Experimental Theatre in 1922. Townsend’s steady if modest trust income came in handy. Beacon Hill during the Roaring Twenties bristled with Bohemian culture.
The Provincetown II docking during Boston Tall Ships (photo: Courtesy Bay State Cruises)
40 years ago, new boat service initiated a freedom ride to sexual and personal liberation during a time less welcoming to LGBTs
By Mark Krone
Note: the following article is adapted from the July/August 2013 issue of Boston Spirit magazine.
It’s been one of those weeks. Your boss revealed yet another irrational side; you can’t seem to please your partner; and you had so little time to pack for this trip to Provincetown, you must have forgotten something. When you arrive on the dock, you decide the perfectly coiffed men in front of you are a little too self-consciously handsome and the high-spirited young women in front of them are too happy for this time of the morning.
Looks like you need a little Provincetown.
With the engines grumbling, the boat slowly makes a 180 degree turn and heads away from the city. When it passes Nick’s Mate into the Outer Harbor, the seas swell, the breeze cools, and your body slackens. You lean on the railing facing seaward for the rush of salt air. Suddenly, you know why the women were laughing and the men-boys were smiling. The truth is, you’re all lucky to be alive, on this boat, and heading to the unique seaside town you’ve come to love. Transformations like this do not happen in traffic on Route 6, but are a regular event on the historic Boston-Provincetown ferry route.
If you’re a veteran P’town ferry rider, memories of prior trips dip and dart in the boat’s wake like seagulls chasing tossed pretzels. For LGBT passengers who came of age in less welcoming times, the boat was a freedom ride to sexual and personal liberation where they could escape land-side’s harsh stares. Though only 55 nautical miles, it seemed like a trip over the rainbow.FULL ENTRY
Boston Pride Week launches with a Rainbow Flag-raising ceremony at City Hall at noon on Friday, May 31 (photo: James Lopata)
It's Pride Week again in Boston!
The 2013 festivities commence this coming Friday at noon with the raising of the Rainbow Flag over City Hall.
This year, Thomas Menino hosts the flag raising for the last time as mayor of Boston. Menino is also being honored as a Marshall for the Pride parade on Saturday, June 8.
Below is a rundown of some of the key events happening in conjunction with Boston Pride Week.
For more information on all the events, be sure to check out Boston Pride’s web site at www.bostonpride.org.
Rainbow Flag Raising Ceremony
Friday, May 31 — Boston City Hall
With host Mayor Thomas Menino.
Pride Day at Faneuil Hall
Saturday, June 1 — Boston’s Faneuil Hall
Live music and performances from The Urban Ballet, South End Show Stopperz Dance Team, Crystal Foxx, Rolla and more. Hosted by Raquel Blake. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Monday June 3 — Machine Nightclub
Lake Mondale and Raquel Blake crown the king and queen of Boston Pride at 7 p.m.
Boston Pride Festival
Saturday June 8 — City Hall Plaza
From noon to 6 p.m. with vendors and live entertainment — including Boston-based headliner Karmin.
Boston Pride Parade
Saturday June 8 — The streets of Boston
Parade starts at 12 p.m., with celebrity marshal Denise Crosby (Star Trek).
ESME Women's Block Party
Saturday, June 8 — 1 Boylston Place
DJ Linda Lowell spins the annual women's favorite. 2 p.m. in the alley at 1 Boylston Place.
Pride Block Party: Back Bay Edition
Sunday, June 9 — St. James Avenue in the Back Bay
Dancing in the streets from noon to 8 p.m.
Pride Block Party: JP Edition
Sunday, June 9 — Perkins Street, Jamaica Plain
Dancing in the streets of JP from noon to 7 p.m.
Just in time for the 9th anniversary of legal marriage for same-sex couples in Massachusetts, three new books inspire and guide
By John O'Connell
Congratulations! You’ve met the person of your dreams and have chosen to spend the rest of your lives together! Only problem is that you want a small, formal, traditional ceremony and you fiancé wants — She or he doesn’t even know yet. But not that.
Many same-sex couples have never day-dreamed about what they want from a wedding or they fall immediately into the patterns that heterosexual marriages have instilled in our culture. The Essential Guide to Gay and Lesbian Weddings, now in its third edition, The Gay Couple’s Guide to Wedding Planning, and Capturing Love, a visual guide to photographing same-sex weddings, are now available to spark your imagination and make sure you don’t overlook a single detail in planning what is perhaps the biggest event of your life.FULL ENTRY
G.B.F. (Gay Best Friend) (photo: courtesy Boston LGBT Film Festival)
NOTE: STORY UPDATED TO INCLUDE THE LATEST SCHEDULING AND IS ADAPTED FROM THE MARCH/APRIL 2013 ISSUE OF BOSTON SPIRIT MAGAZINE.
The 29th Annual Boston LGBT Film Festival holds its annual launch party this coming Sunday, April 28, at Post 360 (406 Stuart Street, Boston). The event is free and open to the public. Those interested can RSVP through the festival web site at www.bostonlgbtfilmfest.net.
By Loren King
That Boston marches to its own drummer is hardly news in the political or LGBT arenas. That this is also true in rarified atmosphere of film festivals, particularly in the niche world of LGBT film festivals, is one more reason to wear the badge of Bostonian with pride.
The Boston LGBT Film Festival, which runs May 2 through 12, has, at 29 years, earned the distinction as one of the oldest LGBT film fests in the nation. Through many changes in both the film and the LGBT scene, Boston has managed to annually deliver a celebration of international queer cinema that’s as diverse as the city itself.
“We’ve learned what works here. Our audience doesn’t mind subtitles; one of the biggest hits of recent years was the Tom Twyker film 3. Gay Hollywood movies don’t work for us. We program rom-coms for a date night film, but what sells out in Phoenix doesn’t do well in Boston. Women’s films do well here, sometimes better than men’s,” says James Nadeau, the festival’s executive director.
Among the more than 100 fiction features, documentaries and shorts that will screen at six local venues — the Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Brattle Theatre, the Coolidge Corner Theatre, Theater 1 at the Revere Hotel and the Paramount Center — are several films that deal with LGBT history and others that offer transgender characters. Notable among these is Laurence Anyways (5/5, 7 p.m., MFA), from Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan who directed Heartbeats (2010) and I Killed My Mother (2009).FULL ENTRY
Stefanie Powers as Tallulah Bankhead in Looped (photo: courtesy Looped)
Boston’s Cutler Majestic Theater hosts 'Looped' through May 5.
NOTE: The following story is adapted from an article in the May/June 2013 issue of Boston Spirit magazine.
By Loren King
When the curtain went up on the current tour of Looped, Matthew Lombardo’s comedy about Tallulah Bankhead, it was a bittersweet moment for all.
Valerie Harper, who earned a Tony nomination when she starred in Looped on Broadway in 2010, was in the middle of a rehearsal for the current tour when Lombardo and the play’s director, Rob Ruggiero, who had also directed Harper in the Broadway production, realized something was wrong.
“She just wasn’t herself. She was forgetting lines, and this was a role she’d played hundreds of times,” recalls Lombardo. “She went to the hospital the following day and three days later we all found out it was brain cancer. It’s always difficult to see someone you love go through this, but Val is handling it with grace and courage.”
Tickets had been sold and theaters booked — Boston’s Cutler Majestic Theater hosts Looped April 30 to May 5 — so, with Harper’s unequivocal blessing, the show went on. Stefanie Powers, who had co-starred with Bankhead in the movie at the center of the play — 1965 camp classic Die! Die! My Darling! — stepped in to play Bankhead.FULL ENTRY
Out Magazine has released its annual Power List of the Top 50 most powerful “gay men and women whose power and prestige is instrumental in influencing the way Americans think about, and engage with, the world.”
The list is cross-section of personalities from the worlds of business (Megan Smith from Google, Robert Hanson from American Eagle Outfitters, Tom Cook from Apple), politics (Congressman David Cicilline, Senator Tammy Baldwin, New York City Councilor Christine Quinn) and entertainment (Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew Cohen, Jane Lynch).
New comers to the top 10 include the darling on the 2012 presidential election “statistics guru” Nate Silver and musician Frank Ocean who came out last summer. You can see the entire list HERE. The Top 10 are below.
10 Frank Ocean
9. Tammy Baldwin
8. Shepard Smith
7. Peter Thiel
6. Nate Silver
5. Anderson Cooper
4. Rachel Maddow
3. Ryan Murphy
2. Ellen DeGeneres
1. Tim Cook
"Prestigious? What exactly is that supposed to mean?" Landry replied in response to a question about his new play 'M' being produced by the "prestigious" Huntington Theatre. "In my humble opinion, the word 'prestigious' should go the way of 'upscale' and 'High End.' All should be wiped away, flushed and left for the sanitation department to handle."
Ryan Landry tackles Fritz Lang’s masterwork M for the Huntington Theatre. He shares more of his vibrant mind in this exclusive interview with Boston Spirit magazine.
By Loren King
[Note: the following story first appeared in the March/April 2013 issue of Boston Spirit magazine. Ryan Landry's 'M' opens plays at the Huntington Theatre in Boston through April 27. For tickets and more information, visit The Huntington Theatre's website.]
Ryan Landry refuses to be compartmentalized as an artist.
Landry is the master of gay camp with his original, theatrical riffs on classic movies that have entertained audiences for years in both Boston and Provincetown.
His last show, Mildred Fierce, a lavish musical about the mother of all pie-baking mothers, starred Varla Jean Merman and played this Winter at the nightclub Machine, the Boston home of Landry’s longtime troupe, The Gold Dust Orphans.
Now, the hard-working, prolific Landry is debuting a bold new work, his adaptation of M, German director Fritz Lang’s 1931 film noir classic starring Peter Lorre about a child killer hunted down by the criminal underworld.
Ryan Landry's M is being staged from now through April 27 at the Huntington Theater Company where Landry has been a Playwriting Fellow since 2008. The Huntington’s Artistic Director Peter DuBois calls the production an “amazing collaboration between two Boston theatre legends.”
Boston Spirit recently had the following e-mail interview with Landry whose responses are characteristically opinionated, thoughtful and very funny as he prepares for his most challenging work to date.
[Boston Spirit] A German film from 1931 about a child killer ... what made you want to turn this into a play?
[Ryan Landry] Because it is a beautiful masterwork. A goal to which other artists should aspire.
I chose this film because I wanted to write a play based on the most unfunny thing in the world and still make it [the play] funny.
It is a sad play too. It is a human play.
People often say that I am a funny person but I also think of myself as somewhat sad at times. This is not because I am a depressed individual. It is because I am a human being.
I like to be sad, for brief periods anyway. Because I am human, I possess all the colors in the spectrum within my soul, as anyone who has the courage to let those colors in must have in order to live out a full existence.
I am not made up of just “happy” colors. By these I mean the obscenely bright Barbie pinks and putrid Easter Day purples so often used in today’s most offensive toys. These colors are also used (in the most violent manner imaginable) to decorate the bedrooms of innocent teenaged girls. Poor things. Their msothers should be arrested.
To me, these are simply put: ungodly colors.
They are the colors I see on my television. The colors I see within the eyes of our current “celebrity” zombies.
People like Justin Bieber, Beyonce and Kim Kardashian appear freakishly inhuman to me. Like cheap marshmallow chicks gone past their expiration date, I want them out of sight as soon as possible. They are plastic, they are phony and worse of all, they rot your teeth.
[Boston Spirit] Were you a fan of Fritz Lang or the film before taking this on?FULL ENTRY
What is it with all the red equal symbols flooding Facebook and other social media?
The Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) popular logo, which features a yellow equals sign in a blue box, was redesigned in red. HRC Director of Marketing Anastasia Khoo explained the significance of the color choice in a press release. “By harnessing the passion that equality supporters feel for the freedom of loving and committed couples to marry, the internet is awash in a sea of red – the color of love,” said Khoo.
The symbol caught on quickly and has been spottedon many notables' Facebook pages. According to HRC, "U.S. Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont., announced his support of marriage equality for the first time by changing his Facebook profile image to HRC’s red equal sign and many other public officials have followed suit."
Others featuring the symbol in their social media communications include U.S. Senators Chris Coons, Al Franken, Mazie Hirono, Frank Lautenberg, Bob Menendez, Chris Murphy, Patty Murray, Bernie Sanders, Brian Schatz, Jean Shaheen, Jon Tester, Mark Warner and Elizabeth Warren, as well as celebrities like Sophia Bush, George Takei, Tegan & Sara and Lance Bass, according to HRC.
HRC released a statement about the symbol that included information about its provenance and its rapid distribution:
As part of HRC’s robust social media efforts around the two cases before the Supreme Court, the red logo launched on the HRC Facebook page at 1:00pm ET Monday and the original image has been shared more than 100,000 times and created upwards of 10 million impressions in all 50 states – not including countless user-created versions. ...
Many variants have popped up as a meme all over the web, such as images of the symbol with the Statue of Liberty kissing Justice, Lantern, Ernie and Bert, the first landing on the moon, Mark Rothko, Fenway Health, Yoda, Peanuts, Les Miserables, and a thank you.
Below are a few.FULL ENTRY
The British Film Institute (BFI) announced the discovery of a 1959 made-for-television gay drama, called South, which it says may be the first of its kind.
According to The Guardian:
South, adapted by Gerald Savory from an original play by Julien Green and screened on 24 November 1959, "is a milestone" in gay cultural history, said the BFI curator Simon McCallum.
The Guardian's arts correspondent Mark Brown describes the drama as follows:
It involves a dashing Polish army lieutenant exiled in the US deep south as civil war approaches and the question of who he really loves: the plantation owner's angry niece, Miss Regina, or the tall, blond, rugged officer who arrives suddenly – a handsome man called Eric MacClure.
The television play is heady, emotional stuff tackling issues of race as well as sexuality and that it was broadcast by ITV on a winter's night 54 years ago is nothing short of remarkable.
South, will be screened on March 23 and 24 as part of the BFI London Lesbian and Gay FIlm Festival this year.
Are you worried about that gay marriage may destroy straight marriage?
In a YouTube video, comic Brandon Muller imaginations what scary conversations may be occurring in the homes of straight couples everywhere.
Check out his video, The Ultimate Anti-gay Marriage Ad, which says it is "Paid for by the coalition of people whose lives are ruined whenever other people are treated equally."FULL ENTRY
One of the most popular international gay travel publications, Spartacus, ranks the United States of America at 38 when it comes to best gay tourist destinations.
Sweden takes first place in the publication's Gay Travel Index.
The USA racks up points for anti-discrimination, marriage/partnership, and equal age of consent, but loses points for religious influence and hostility from locals.
The USA shares 38th place with eight other countries, including Aruba, Cambodia, and Italy.
The full report can be accessed in PDF form at www.spartacusworld.com/gaytravelindex.pd.FULL ENTRY
President Obama Speaks on Strengthening the Economy for the Middle Class in Chicago, including a mention about the importance of having “loving ... gay or straight parents” in society. (Video: The White House)
Has any president uttered the word ‘gay’ as much as President Barack Obama? It’s doubtful.
Much was made of his soaring rhetoric in his second inaugural speech, with words that have already attained legendary status in the LGBT community:
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; ...
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. ... Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law –- (applause) -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. (Applause.)
But just in the past week, beginning with his State of the Union (SOTU) address last Tuesday, Obama has included ‘gay’ in his public remarks on three separate occasions, in three different ways.FULL ENTRY
Fowl play in the Galapagos (photo: James Lopata)
A British academic is accusing BBC nature host David Attenborough of ignoring homosexual animal behavior in his documentaries.
The UK news organization The Sun reports that University of East Anglia Professor Brett Mills:
claims Sir David’s BBC documentaries focus on family values in animals and shun “alternative interpretations”.
Sir David, 86, described male chimps hugging as “friendly affection”, while male sandpiper birds filmed circling each other were being “aggressive”.
"The central role in documentary stories of pairing, mating and raising offspring commonly rests on assumptions of heterosexuality within the animal kingdom.
"This is despite a wealth of scientific evidence which demonstrates that many non-human species have complex and changeable forms of sexual activity, with heterosexuality only one of many possible options.”
Both news outlets said that the BBC declined to comment.
"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, ..." love only existed between one man and one woman. Until now.
But don't expect any hanky panky between Luke Skywalker and Hans Solo — not just yet anyway — Star Wars: The Old Republic is set 3,500 years before the start of the storyline made popular in the Star Wars films. Furthermore, same-sex relationships are currently limited to the planet Makeb.
The Standard Spa Miami
As the cold weather is expected to hit the Hub again, Boston style maven Ricardo Rodriguez shares the secrets of warm Miami, as divulged by his friend, Southern Florida insider and style maven Louis Aguirre
Note: Fabulous videos that accompany this story can be accessed here.
By Ricardo Rodriguez
Forget what you think you know, these days Miami is much more than just a beachside resort town. The party still rages, but it’s the art and design scene that rage stronger and have transformed Miami into one of the most exciting and cosmopolitan cities in the world. Once known as the gateway to Latin America, now Miami is the gateway to the world, as people from all over the globe have rediscovered this tropical slice of paradise.
So I recruited the help of my dear friend Louis Aguirre to help us build the chicest, most amazing insider guide to this exciting new Miami. And he definitively knows best. Louis is the host of the popular South Florida entertainment TV show Deco Drive and an actor appearing on hit shows like Sex and the City, JAG, and Burn Notice. His newest project LouisList.com is a perfectly curated video insider guide to the city.
So now that the winter is in full force you might want to plan a little escape. Go ahead. This is his Miami.
As France debates whether to legalize marriage for same-sex couples, China is trying to figure out what to do with marriages between a man and a woman where one of the partners turns out to be gay.
A new study from First Intermediate People's Court of Beijing recently revealed the misery that frequently accompanies such unions, which, in at least one documented case, led to suicide.FULL ENTRY
Nationally renowned, Boston-based, stand-up comic Jim Lauletta leads the second annual Live Laugh Love benefit for the Boston Living Center
By Erik Borg
When standup comedian Jim Lauletta needed support, he turned to the Boston Living Center to get it. Now that he’s back on his feet, he’s organized a night of comedy to return the favor.
On January 27, the second-annual Live Laugh Love show will bring a handful of regional and national standup acts back to the Machine Nightclub in support of the Boston Living Center, an organization that provides education and support services for the HIV-positive community.
For Lauletta, a fixture of the Boston comedy scene and a regular guest in standup comedy specials and on stages in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, a night of comedy is the perfect pairing to benefit the organization with deeply personal ties.
History will be made this weekend when Kylan Arianna Wenzel, 26, competes in the Miss California USA pageant. Wenzel, 26, will be the first ever transgender women to compete in a Miss Universe Organization Pageant.
The rules for the pageant, until a recent change, had stated that all contestants had to be “naturally born women.” This rule was changed by pageant organizer Donald Trump after an earlier pageant had disqualified Jenna Talackova of Canada upon learning that Talackova is a transgender woman.
“The first time I watched a beauty pageant was when I was 11, in 1997, when Miss USA won Miss Universe. And ever since then, it’s kind of been implanted in my brain,” Wenzel told Frontiers during a Jan. 3 phone interview. “I wasn’t sure how it would happen for me, but it was something I put out there. You have to put it out to the universe—what you want to do—and you have to follow up on it,” Wenzel continued. “So, let’s say for transgender individuals, even if you haven’t had your sex change and you’re not sure, you have to act like you are Miss Universe or you are the woman you see yourself being. And you do that in everyday life. So I just worked really hard. I saved for surgery. I started getting procedures early like laser hair removal—things like that. It really is about believing in yourself. But you also need people to believe in you, because you can’t really get that far, sometimes, when you don’t have that kind of support.”
“I always knew I was female, but it was really hard to register those feelings because of my development growing up,” Wenzel said. “And I also come from a very abusive background. But no matter how much I got beaten or what I was going through, there was kind of a fire in me that just said, I will! and I can, no matter what they say!”
On her beauty, Wenzel says, “We all know that beauty is just skin deep. Beauty is not something that is earned—it’s something you’re born with or the doctor helps you with, whatever. Beauty is what you do with it. [The judges of Miss Universe or Miss USA] always pick someone who embodies a certain kind of role model. It’s the girl that understands that the platform represents something bigger than themselves—that when they win this, it’s not about them but what they can do for others. If you want to be successful in life, it’s not about what you can win or how much money you make. It really, really starts by serving others. When you can develop a connection and you can serve other people, people will follow you, because, first, you’re inspirational, and two, you become influential. What the pageant does—it motivates every individual girl to really become the best of themselves. They’re trying to find the highest expression of themselves.”
Pageant producer Keith Lewis finds Wenzel inspiring. “I so admire what Kylan’s doing, because she’s fought so hard to be here,” Lewis told Frontiers. “I think she will be successful in whatever she decides to do in her life. When we talked about her participating, she said, I really just want the other girls to accept me. And I think they not only accept her but will celebrate her because she’s loving and she’s open and courageous and she’s trying to do the best she can, like pretty much all of the rest of us.”
In its fourth annual ranking of LGBT municipalities, Advocate, a national LGBT news magazine, ranked two New England cities in its top 15. Providence, Rhode Island came in 12th, and Springfield, Massachusetts — yes Springfield! — holds the number 2 position.
The survey employs unorthodox criteria, such as how many roller derby leagues a city has.
With places like New York City and Provincetown not even cracking the top 25, the list defies expectations.
Here's how the Advocate explained its Springfield ranking:FULL ENTRY
In Rush Limbaugh's radio show yesterday, he compared an effort to "normalize pedophilia" with the battle for civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Here's some of what he said:
There is an effort underway to normalize pedophilia. Yep. And it has two aspects to it. One is that sex with children doesn't hurt them. Kids like it, and so do adults, and there's nothing wrong with it. It is something... I want to take you back. I want you to remember the first time, wherever you were, that you heard about gay marriage, and I want you to try to recall your reaction -- your first gut reaction -- when you heard that some activists or somebody was trying to promote the notion of gay marriage. What was your initial reaction?
"Aw, come on. It'll never happen. That's silly. What are you talking about?"
There is a movement on to normalize pedophilia, and I guarantee you your reaction to that is probably much the same as your reaction when you first heard about gay marriage. What has happened to gay marriage? It's become normal -- and in fact, with certain people in certain demographics it's the most important issue in terms of who they vote for. So don't pooh-pooh. There's a movement to normalize pedophilia. Don't pooh-pooh it. The people behind it are serious, and you know the left as well as I do. They glom onto something and they don't let go.
Matt Damon recently finished shooting for the upcoming movie Behind the Candelabra. In the movie Damon plays Scott Thorson, the long time partner of Liberace (Michael Douglas has been cast in the role of Liberace). Recently Damon sat down with Playboy Magazine for an interview on a variety of topics, including the relationship between Thorson and Liberace, having to kiss another man, gay rumors that have dogged Damon and Benn Affleck, and more.
On the relationship between Thorson and Liberace:
These two men were deeply in love and in a real relationship-a marriage-long before there was gay marriage. That’s not an insignificant thing. The script is beautiful and relatable. Their conversations when they’re dressing or undressing or having a spat or getting ready for bed? That’s every marriage. It feels like you’re witnessing something really intimate you would normally see with a man and a woman, but instead it’s two men, which was thrilling. There’s stuff I think will make people uncomfortable. Great. It’s HBO—they can change the channel.
On preparing for the role with Douglas:
We both have a lot of gay friends, and we were not going to screw this up or bulls**t it. It wasn’t the most natural thing in the world to do, though. Like, for one scene, I had to come out of a pool, go over to Michael, straddle him on a chaise lounge and start kissing him. And throughout the script, it’s not like I kiss him just once. We drew it up like a football plan. I remember asking Heath Ledger after Brokeback Mountain, "How’d you do that scene with Jake"-meaning the scene where they start ferociously kissing. He said, "Well, mate, I drank a half case of beer in my trailer." I started laughing, and he goes, "No, I’m serious. I needed to just go for it. If you can’t do that, you’re not making the movie."
On Douglas as a kisser:
Michael was a wonderful kisser. My concerns ended up mattering a lot less once we were filming. The dynamic between the men was complex and interesting. Liberace was very powerful and adored, a great showman making $50,000 a week doing his act in Vegas. Scott was much younger and grew up in foster homes, so there was a lot to play.
On the rumors of Damon and Affleck being gay:
I never denied those rumors because I was offended and didn’t want to offend my friends who were gay—as if being gay were some kind of (curse deleted) disease. It put me in a weird position in that sense. The whole thing was just gross. But look, there have been great signs of progress—the fact that Anderson Cooper and Ellen DeGeneres can come out so beautifully and powerfully, and it’s a big (curse deleted) deal that it turns out nobody gives a (curse deleted). If Liberace were alive today, everybody would love his music and nobody would care what he did in his private life. Like with Elton John.
Medicine Wheel vigil from World AIDS Day a few years ago. (photo: Medicine Wheel Productions)
This Saturday, December 1, is the 25th World AIDS Day.
Over 30 million people have died of HIV/AIDS-related causes since the disease was first documented in 1981, and over 34 million people are currently infected with the virus, according to UNAIDS.
In Massachusetts, over 12,000 have died, and more than 18,000 are living with HIV, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Office of HIV/AIDS.
Several events are planned to observe World AIDS Day 2012. Here are a few:
December 1: 24-hour Vigil
Boston Center for the Arts, South End, Boston
This year marks the 20th anniversary of this incredibly powerful, experientially immersive installation commemorating those affected by HIV/AIDS. Medicine Wheel creator Michael Dowling invites people to “bring a stone and a story” to place in the ongoing memorial this year.
More information: www.mwponline.org.
On November 28, 1998, two men followed transgender woman Rita Hester to her apartment in Boston and fatally stabbed her inside.
One year later, transgender activists in San Francisco remembered the event with a candlelight vigil, which has become an annual, globally commemorated observance known as the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Recently, organizations like the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) inaugurated Transgender Awareness Week.
This year, MTPC is working with Fenway Health to provide an array of events, including launching of a new video. Other organizations, including local colleges and towns, have also scheduled activities.
Here’s some of what is being offered:FULL ENTRY
Today, October 11, marks the 24th anniversary of the first National Coming Out Day (NCOD). NCOD was launched after a march on Washington by more than half a million people in support of lesbian and gay rights on October 11, 1987. The purpose of National Coming Out Day is to promote government and public awareness of gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender rights and to celebrate homosexuality.
Back in 1987, after recognizing that the LGBT community often reacted defensively to anti-gay actions, Rob Eichberg (who ran a personal growth workshop called, The Experience) and Jean O’Leary (who was the head of National Gay Rights Advocates) came up with the idea of a national day to celebrate coming out and chose the anniversary of the march on Washington as the day.
While only18 states supported the very first NCOD, today the day is recognized by all 50 states as well as many countries around the world including Australia, Canada, Croatia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In the US National Coming Out Day is currently organized by the Human Rights Campaign.
In association with the day the Human Rights Campaign has published a series of guides designed to help people interested in “coming out”, as well as A Straight Guide to LGBT Americans for heterosexuals who identify (or would like to identify) as an ally to the lgbt community.
Some highlights of National Coming Out Day over the years include:
* Rob Eichberg and Jean O'Leary were the originators of the idea of NCOD in 1987
* In 1990, Lynn Shepodd, who later became a member of HRC’s Board of Governors, was hired as executive director and obtained tax-exempt status for the organization
* In 1991, Geraldo Rivera hosted a coming out day TV program that featured Dick Sargent, a gay actor famous for playing Darren on Bewitched, openly gay California Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl and Eichberg.
* Candace Gingrich, half-sister of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, became a National Coming Out Project spokesperson and full-time activist in 1995
* Dan Butler, who played the character Bulldog on NBC-TV's Frasier, was NCOD spokeperson in 1995
* Rock musician Melissa Etheridge did a radio public service announcement, reminding people that "Labels belong on records, not on people."
* Fashion photographer Don Flood in 1996 shot past spokespeople Bearse, Butler and Gingrich, along with Olympic diver Greg Louganis, actor Mitchell Anderson, newly minted gay activist Chastity Bono and Sean Sasser, who had appeared in MTV's The Real World.
* In 1996, actress Judith Light, pro golfer Muffin Spencer-Devlin and, in her first appearance at a gay rights event, Cher spoke at a Come Out Voting rally in Washington, DC
* In September 1997 the project brought in its first straight spokesperson, Betty DeGeneres, mother of actress/comedian Ellen DeGeneres.
* Patrick Bristow (formerly of the Ellen TV show), Dan Butler, San Francisco Supervisor Mark Leno, longtime activist Donna Red Wing, Betty DeGeneres, Gingrich and SF Mayor Willie Brown were featured in a 1998 NCOD event in San Francisco’s Delores Park
* Chicago-native and founding member of the rock group Styx Chuck Panozzo celebrated a special homecoming in 2001 when he came out at the Human Rights Campaign annual Chicago dinner.
* On National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11, 2002, a benefit CD featuring the songs of openly LGBT musicians and straight allies was released. Cyndi Lauper, Queen, k.d. lang, Jade Esteban Estrada and Sarah McLachlan are among the artists who donated songs to the album.
* Etheridge's name appears on a poster celebrating the 2002 theme along with 18 other openly LGBT artists, including Ani DiFranco, Michael Stipe, the Indigo Girls, RuPaul, Rufus Wainwright and The Butchies
"I think I could be elected by a dinner party; not the Democratic Party," says Fran Lebowitz in a new interview ahead of her appearance with Frank Rich in 'A State of the Union Conversation' at Sanders Theater, Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 10 at 8 p.m.
Note: the following interview with Fran Lebowitz first appeared in the September/October issue of Boston Spirit magazine.
By Loren King
At a time when anyone with a Twitter account has an opinion and can’t wait to share it, Fran Lebowitz is among the few who’ve mastered the lost art of conversation. Even Martin Scorsese knew enough to simply turn a camera on the writer and let her hold forth (mostly from her regular table at the Waverly Inn in Greenwich Village) for his 2011 HBO documentary about her, Public Speaking.
Area audiences will get the opportunity to hear Lebowitz, author of the seminal essay collections Metropolitan Life and Social Studies, in a conversation with Frank Rich, writer-at-large for New York Magazine, on October 10 at 8 p.m. at Sanders Theater, Harvard Square, Cambridge. Part of the Celebrity Series of Boston, “Frank Rich & Fran Lebowitz - A State of the Union Conversation” will be a lively exchange between these two erudite cultural commentators about the 2012 presidential election.
But, as she did in her last Boston appearance at the Coolidge Corner Theater when Public Speaking premiered, Lebowitz will take audience questions, which will allow her to riff on a variety of topics.
Boston Spirit arts writer Loren King spoke with Lebowitz, 61, over the phone from her apartment in New York City. Her rapid fire, off the cuff responses, marked by deadpan humor and punctuated by the sound of her lighting cigarettes (with what sounds like a heavy old Zippo) are reproduced nearly verbatim here. When Fran Lebowitz talks, you let her talk.
Boston Spirit: You moved recently to the Village. Do you live alone?
Fran Lebowitz: I moved to this apartment a little over two years ago. I have lived by myself since I was 18. And as you well know, that, for a lesbian, is an accomplishment. I loathe domestic life. I don’t want to hear footsteps unless I open the door. Every cent I’ve ever made I spent to have space because in my apartment I have about 9,500 books in alphabetical order. When I was looking for apartments, realtors would say, ‘Why do you need so much space? You live alone. Do you entertain a lot?’ No, I do not. I have all these books and they are coming with me. Friends will say, ‘Get rid of them, put them in storage’ and I say, ‘You have three children. Why don’t you put them in storage and then you could have a smaller apartment.’ I suppose to most people I live by myself. To me, I live with my books.
BS: They are your friends.
FL: Oh, they’re much better than friends. Far superior to friends, to lovers, to relatives. There’s no companion like a book, which you are completely in charge of. It doesn’t talk to you until you open it up. They’re also very neat.FULL ENTRY
A new website called 'The Four 2012' has launched in an effort to keep people informed on upcoming votes in 4 states for marriage equality for gays and lesbians. The 4 states in question are Maine, Minnesota, Washington and Maryland. Among the celebrities highlighted on the site as supporters of marriage equality is Bruce Springsteen, long an ally to the lgbt community.
Other celebrities on the site include Lady Gaga, Josh Charles (who spoke at the HRC dinner in Boston recently) and Pink.
According to the website, polling in all 4 states is showing that a majority of voters are in favor of allowing same-sex marriage with Maine showing the largest lead.
From the site:
Marriage equality is about to take a huge step forward. Momentum is on our side and - if we can create a massive groundswell - we can create a massive victory for marriage equality in the United States. In FOUR states there are marriage ballot initiatives - FOUR states we have to win.
With enough of us talking about marriage, sharing, tweeting and donating - we can drive people out to vote on November 6 and deliver marriage equality in 3 states while fighting off a total ban in another.
We can make history by winning marriage equality ballot initiatives in Maine, Maryland and Washington State. In Minnesota the fight is a different one - we’ll be stopping a total ban on same-sex marriage.
Every day, The FOUR will be putting out a new piece of interesting content from a celebrity or artist - if you like it, all you need to do is share it.
Anti-gay and anti-human rights organizations in our country are mobilizing - putting vast sums of money and resources into all four states to defeat us. In the past, despite great polls - we have lost ballot initiatives. Our opposition is organized and well-funded. But we have what they don’t - we’re fighting for love, not against it.
Gay dads and surrogate mothers subjected to ‘Paternity Test’ in new novel by out Boston author Michael Lowenthal
Michael Lowenthal will read from and sign copies of The Paternity Test at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline on September 24 at 7 p.m. and at Porter Square Books in Cambridge on October 16 at 7 p.m. He will also appear at the Boston Book Festival on October 27.
Note: The following is adapted from a story that ran in the September/October 2012 issue of Boston Spirit magazine.
By Loren King
For Michael Lowenthal, whose latest novel The Paternity Test (Terrace Books/University of Wisconsin Press) came out this September, gay parenthood is a jumping off point into a rich and complex story that explores what creating a family means for one gay couple.
Same-sex marriage and the “gayby boom” has penetrated the culture — gays pushing strollers are ubiquitous in certain Boston neighborhoods and TV shows like Modern Family and The New Normal have brought gay parents into living rooms across America. But Lowenthal, whose other books include Charity Girl (2007), Avoidance (2002) and The Same Embrace (1998), is too good a writer to simply tell a conventional unconventional story. Lowenthal weaves what he calls a “completely imagined plot” about boyfriends Pat and Stu who hire a surrogate to bear their child with a Cape Cod setting and secondary characters far more familiar to him.FULL ENTRY
The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA), Illinois’ largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights advocacy organization, has released a statement confirming that Chick-Fil-A will no longer give money to anti-gay organizations.
From the statement:
In a letter addressed to Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno and signed by Chick-fil-A’s Senior Director of Real Estate, it states, “The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.” In meetings the company executives clarified that they will no longer give to anti-gay organizations, such as Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage.
Also, according to TCRA, senior management has sent an internal memo to franchisees and stakeholders that stated that, as a company, they will “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender,” and that their “intent is not to engage in political or social debates.” This statement was placed into an official company document called “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are.”
“We are very pleased with this outcome and thank Alderman Moreno for his work on this issue,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda. “I think the most important part of this outcome is that Chick-fil-A has ceased their donations to anti-gay groups in 2011 and going forward. With some of the groups that they were donating to being classified as hate groups, and others actively trying to halt the movement toward full civil rights for LGBT people, Chick-fil-A has taken a big step forward. We are encouraged by their willingness to serve all people and ensure their profits are not used to fight against a minority community that is still trying to gain full and equal civil rights.”
“Although we are encouraged by their internal statement, we still would like for the company to adopt an anti-discrimination policy at the corporate level,” said Rick Garcia, policy advisor for The Civil Rights Agenda. “It is one thing for a company to say they respect everyone they serve and employ, it is quite another for them to put that into their policies and demand that all employees adhere to that behavior. As we have heard from gay employees that work for Chick-fil-A, there is a culture of discrimination within the company and we would like to ensure that employees can speak out and call attention to those practices without fear of reprisal. It takes time to change the culture of any institution and steps like a corporate policy ensure that progress is made.”
‘Ghosts of Boston: Haunts of the Hub’: spirited launch party set for new book by local out author Sam Baltrusis
Adam Berry, of Syfy's 'Ghost Hunters,' will be on hand for the launch party of 'Ghosts of Boston: Haunts of the Hub'
It promises to be a spirited evening at Old South Meeting House tomorrow night when Sam Baltrusis’ new book Ghosts of Boston: Haunts of the Hub gets its big coming out party.
Baltrusis is a regular contributor to Boston Spirit, and he just happens to be an expert on otherworldly spirits as well!
Ghosts of Boston made its appearance this month, and the big release event gets underway Tuesday, September 18, at 7 p.m. in downtown Boston.FULL ENTRY
By Alan Tran
The last of this year’s New England LGBT Pride festivities are in Worcester on Saturday, September 15, in Vermont on September 22, and for the New England Latina and Latino community from September 21 through 29.
It’s been a year of record-breaking Pride participation across the country, but the season is finally winding down. The last of this year’s New England LGBT Pride parades and festivals is Pride Vermont — which is the creative name Vermonters don for their gay Pride festivities — which will be held on Saturday, September 22, at Battery Park in Burlington.
The annual Vermont Pride cruise on Lake Champlain will be held Friday the 21st. During the festival there will be a NOH8 Campaign photoshoot, turning everyday citizens and celebrities alike into icons of equality, and the Northern Decadance Food & Travel Expo, showcasing LGBT-friendly businesses that encourage Vermonters to have their equal rights cake and eat it too, among other culinary delights.FULL ENTRY
Rapper Jay Z supports same-sex marriage, says to those who don’t 'It’s discrimination, plain and simple'
Rapper and media mogul Jay-Z spoke recently about the topic of same-sex marriage and whether or not he thought that President Obama’s support of same-sex marriage will cost him votes in the upcoming election. The rapper was very clear that he is a supporter of same sex marriage as well as the President.
On the topic of same-sex marriage:
I’ve always thought of it as something that is still holding the country back. What people do in their own homes is their business, they can choose to love whoever they love. That’s their business. It’s no different then discriminating against blacks. It’s discrimination, plain and simple.
Regarding whether or not the President’s views will cost him votes in the upcoming election:
I think it’s the right thing to do, so whether or not it costs him votes … it’s really not about votes, it’s about people. So whether or not it costs him votes, it’s the right thing to do as a human being.
Any chance we can get Jay Z on the phone with Stevie Wonder????
In a wide ranging interview with The Guardian (UK edition) music legend Stevie Wonder was asked, among other things, what he thought of rapper Frank Ocean’s announcement this past summer that Ocean is gay. Wonder replied that;
I think honestly, some people who think they're gay, they're confused. People can misconstrue closeness for love. People can feel connected, they bond. I'm not saying all [gay people are confused]. Some people have a desire to be with the same sex. But that's them.
Ocean’s announcement, back in early July of this year, came courtesy of a public letter on his tumblr page. In the letter Ocean explained
4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence…until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love, it changed my life.
Does that sound like someone who is confused? I don’t think so either.
by Loren King
“Summer’s beginning to give up her fight,” say the lyrics of a song by the lesbian folk duo Indigo Girls.
It’s getting darker earlier, but there’s still a few good beach days ahead.
Here’s a handful of new, gay-authored or queer-themed books to settle down with in the sun and sand before autumn gets the upper hand.
Are You My Mother?
[Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]
by Alison Bechdel
For those who think the memoir reached its tipping point long ago, Are You My Mother? Alison Bechdel’s follow up to her 2006 bestselling memoir Fun Home, is so lively, brilliant and incisive that it breathes unimagined life into the genre. The author of the wildly popular Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip has illustrated and written this dense, ultimately generous account of her prickly but close relationship with her complicated mother, the former actress who was a memorable character in Fun Home. Bechdel covers some of the same autobiographical details in her “Mom book” that she did in her “Dad book,” particularly her gay, closeted father’s suicide and her own coming out. But Bechdel this time delves even deeper into her own psyche. Are You My Mother? takes the reader into Bechdel’s universe. She writes honestly but with keen wit about therapy, the publication of Fun Home and her mother’s cool response to it, her lovers, her ambivalence and ambition, and all while shifting effortlessly from past to present and back again. The writing is funny, heartfelt and smart—Bechdel references everything from Virginia Woolf and Adrienne Rich to psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, with a little Sondheim thrown in for good measure- and the artwork is beautifully detailed. This is a first-rate book that you won’t be able to put down.FULL ENTRY
The Center For American Progress recently released the results of a wide range of polls surrounding the topic of marriage equality. The results, for those who support marriage equality, are very positive.
Among the many findings are that the majority of voters polled back the freedom to marry. The range of results is as follows:
*A Gallup poll found that 50 percent of respondents supported marriage equality
*An ABC News/Washington Post poll reported support for marriage equality at 53 percent
*An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll as well as a June CNN/Opinion Research poll found support one point higher, with 54 percent
All of these polls took place in May/June 2012
Other highlights of the report that the ‘enthusiasm gap’ (defined as those who feel ‘strongly’ one way or another, has also shifted:
The ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 39 percent of voters strongly support marriage equality, while only 32 percent strongly oppose. This stands in contrast to polling from just last summer, where the same poll found that 32 percent strongly supported equality and 36 percent stood strongly opposed.
As for results by age group:
A June 2012 CNN poll found that a whopping 73 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds support allowing same-sex couples to wed, far above the average of 54 percent for all respondents. In 2009 support among young people was just 58 percent, marking a substantial shift in favor of marriage equality.
Earlier today Change.org made an announcement that Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T and an executive board member of the Boy Scouts of America would be joining fellow Board member James Turley, CEO of Ernst & Young to help change the current Boy Scouts of America policy that bans gay scouts and leaders.
According to reporter David Taffet of the Dallas Voice, “Stephenson’s spokesman, Marty Richter told Dallas Voice he’s committed to changing the policy... Richter said he believes Turley will lead the effort to make the Boy Scouts inclusive with Stephenson’s full support.”
Stephenson’s spokesperson went on record with this commitment after Jennifer Tyrrell, a gay mom from Bridgeport, Ohio who was ousted as her son’s den leader in April of this year, started a petition on Change.org calling for an end to the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay troops and leaders, which has attracted more than 300,000 signatures. In June 2012, Tyrrell began a second petition on Change.org calling on Stephenson to work to end it. More than 75,000 people have signed it to date.
According to Tyrrell, “All I’m asking for is the opportunity to meet with a Boy Scouts official and resume my post as den leader of my son’s Cub Scout Pack -- a post that was taken from me as a result of a discriminatory policy that’s unpopular with Boy Scouts and leaders across the country,” said Tyrrell. “I hope they’ll listen to my story and the stories of hundreds of thousands who have signed my Change.org petitions.”
Now it looks as though that meeting will not take place and that Stephenson and Turley will have their work cut out for them. The Boy Scouts of America has released a statement today affirming their policy on banning gay scouts and leaders.
Said Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, “This is a missed opportunity of colossal proportions. With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued. These adults could have taught the next generation of leaders the value of respect, yet they’ve chosen to teach division and intolerance.”
Stay tuned, it seems like this story is not going to go away.
The Crane Estate in Ipswich, Massachusetts
A Handful of Under-Rated LGBT New England Destinations
Including Bette Davis’ birthplace, Emily Dickinson’s home, Walden Pond, and a Cher filming location
Editor’s Note: The following is adapted from a feature that ran in Boston Spirit magazine, March/April 2010.
By Sam Baltrusis
Provincetown? Ogunquit? Been there, done that.
Why not head out to a handful of hidden gay-fave gems scattered throughout New England, like Emily Dickinson’s home, Bette Davis’ childhood home in Lowell, or Walden Pond?
What’s so gay about them? Fasten your seat belts ...
BETTE DAVIS HOUSE
22 Chester Street, Lowell, Massachusetts.
If the vibrant pink color of this old-school Victorian isn’t enough to tip off tourists, the historical plaque displayed on the front of this Lowell home dating back to the 1890s should set the record straight. The birthplace of movie legend icon Bette Davis is still standing amid a row of triple-deckers in the heart of the Highlands neighborhood near the UMass Lowell campus. In fact, most of the home’s original woodwork dating back to when Ruth Elizabeth was born in 1908 is still in tact. While the LGBT landmark is currently occupied by tenants and is off limits to Davis fans, locals seem to embrace out-of-towners wanting to sneak a peek of where the saucy Jezebel icon was reared.
Gay Factor: Birthplace of the woman who uttered some of the cattiest lines in film, like “But you are Blanche, you are in that chair!” from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? If these walls could talk.FULL ENTRY
The Boston Pride parade and festival might be over but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other Pride festivals taking place in the area. In fact, there are several coming up in the next few weeks. From Southern Maine down to Providence (with a couple in the middle) there are some great options coming up that Boston Spirit recommends.
Saturday, June 16th – Rhode Island Pride
THIS SATURDAY get your Rhody Pride On for one of the most unique pride parades in the country....at Night!
12:00 - 8:00 pm. South Water Street , Providence along Providence River
Pride's Illuminated Night-Time Pride Parade begins at 8:30 pm
Saturday, June 16th – Southern Maine Pride
This is one of Boston Spirit’s favorite Pride festivals as it takes place in a beautiful park in Portland, Maine (which means that after the festival you can head off to one of the great bars and/or restaurants in downtown Portland!)
The Parade begins at Monument Square in Portland at 12:30pm
The Parade route ends at Deering Oaks Park
The Festival in the park is from 1pm-5pm
Saturday, June 16th – Sinful BBQ brings the 1st Annual Pride Event to LynnJune 16th 12-4PM
@Lynn Museum, 590 Washington Street
Presented by Arts after Hours join Sinful BBQ, DJ Brian Halligan, for an afternoon of amazing food, music, raffles and fun.
Wednesday, June 20th – Boston Spirit Magazine’s Annual Summer Sunset Cruise Join Boston Spirit and 700 of our closest friends as we take a 2 hour sunset cruise around Boston Harbor. Enjoy amazing food from Jasper White’s Summer Shack, great music from DJ Mocha, and beautiful sunsets courtesy of the Boston skyline. Tickets are only $35 (including food) and every dollar goes to benefit Fenway Health.
Saturday, June 30th – North of Boston Pride Be a part of the first ever North of Boston Pride Parade and Festival!! The festival will take place in Salem and feature Grand Marshall Randy Price. The parade will kick off at noon on Margin St., turning right on Norman St. and heading down New Derby. It will continue to Derby St. and onto Hawthorne Boulevard where it will end up on Salem Common, where the Pride festival will take place from 1-5pm. Then join in for the official NS Pride afterparty at the Hawthorne Hotel.
According to Change.org Boy Scouts of America officials have proposed a new policy -- which could be voted on as early as 2013 -- that would allow local chartering organizations to decide whether or not to accept gay youth and leaders.
The proposal comes as a result of a petition, launched by Zach Wahls, collected more than 275,000 signatures. The petition, delivered by Wahls to the National Annual Meeting of the Boy Scouts of America, calls on the Boy Scouts to reinstate a lesbian den leader in Ohio, Jennifer Tyrrell, who was removed from her position because of her sexual orientation, and to end the Boy Scouts’ long-held policy barring openly gay scouts and scout leaders.
“Last Wednesday I delivered 275,000 petition signatures -- including the signatures of thousands of scouts and scout leaders -- to the Boy Scouts of America because I love the organization and I refuse to stand by idly as it forfeits its cultural relevancy at the very moment this country needs it most,” said Wahls. “In proposing to allow local charter organizations to decide whether or not they’ll include gay youth and leaders within their ranks, the Boy Scouts of America has taken an historic step forward, and I applaud their bravery in doing so.” He continued, “As both an Eagle Scout with a personal investment in the success of the Boy Scouts of America and as the son of a lesbian couple, it means a lot to see this change finally set in motion,” added Wahls.
Wahls delivered the signatures on behalf of Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian mom who was removed as den leader of her seven-year-old son’s Cub Scout troop in Ohio last month. After being removed from her position, Tyrrell started a petition on Change.org asking to be reinstated, and urging the Boy Scouts to stop dividing families and communities with a policy that excludes gay familes, scouts and leaders.
Included in the signatures were those of many Hollywood celebrities including GLEE’s Dianna Agron, Josh Hutcherson, Julianne Moore, Ricky Martin, Fran Drescher, Kelly Osbourne, Benicio Del Toro, and more.
"Robin MacCormack had a gift for blending in. With a neat dark haircut, a winning smile, and the cachet of his Irish-Catholic surname, City Hall’s first liaison to the gay community was an ally to politicians, a buddy to police officers, and a trusted resource to the city’s gays and lesbians. His appointment was lauded in newspapers at the time as the first liaison on gay issues in any major American city - represented a dramatic shift in relations between the government and the city’s gay and lesbian population.
But just a few years after he was appointed by Mayor Kevin H. White in 1979, MacCormack melted out of public view. And on April 6, 2012, after years without contact with family or friends, he was discovered dead by police in his Dorchester apartment, he was 63." (Taken from a May 6, 2012 article in The Boston Globe)
When this article appeared, Mr. MacCormack was still in the Boston City Morgue, his remains unclaimed by his family. It would be several weeks of legal work, by Attorney Joe Donnellan and Retired Boston Police Sergeant Herb White, longtime friends of Mr. MacCormack, before his remains would be released to them and with dignity and loving care Cremated.
Since the cremation, Mr. Donnellan and Sgt. White have worked with a number of community supporters, and the Trinity Church pastoral staff together they have arranged a fitting and dignified Memorial Service for Mr. MacCormack. The memorial will be on Thursday, June 7th, at 6:00PM in the Trinity Church located in Copley Square. It is no coincidence that this service of honoring Robin takes place during the Annual Boston GLBT Pride week events.
The public and the community at large is graciously invited to attend, and we encourage all to attend, and acknowledge the contributions that Robin made in the very early days of the “Gay Liberation movement” as it was called in the 70’s. Among those attending will be several of the individuals who would later carry the banner of being “The GLBT Liaison to the City of Boston and the Community”.
In an interview with the Boston Globe in 1980, Robin is quoted as saying, “ …that his goal was to change assumptions about what it means to be a gay person. “I’m often asked how the gay community is going to react to something,’’ MacCormack said. “And I have to ask, how is the straight community going to react? And they say, you can’t say that; there are so many different people in the straight community. Well, there are, too, in the gay community.’’ But MacCormack was also a guarded person, a trait that became increasingly prominent as he grew older. “For all of his public role, Robin was extremely private,’’
What: Memorial Service in Memory of Robin MacCormick
Where: Trinity Church, Copley Square
When: Thursday, June 7th 6:00 p.m.
What a week so far. Typically most of the blog posts do their ‘week in review’ posts on a Friday but we just couldn’t wait. Here’s a little rundown of some highlights from this week so far:
Former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell supports marriage equality. Powell made the remarks in an interview taped for CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. In talking with Blitzer, Powell cited his LGBT friends and their committed relationships as a driving force in his support.
Colin Powell is the latest in a string of leaders within the African-American community to support marriage equality – joining Russell Simmons, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and Jay-Z. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll shows African-American support for marriage equality at 59 percent – an all-time high. The poll also found support for marriage equality nationwide at 53 percent – the latest in a series of national polls to show a majority of Americans supporting the right of loving and committed same-sex couples to marry.
Powell’s support also is indicative of increasing support for marriage equality among fair-minded Republicans. An NBC News/WSJ poll released yesterday showed support for marriage equality at nearly 50 percent among Republicans under the age of 35.
For all of you international sports fans, England cricket player Steven Davies became the first professional cricketer to come out. Davis, 24, said in a recent interview "I'm comfortable with who I am - and happy to say who I am in public." He went on to say “This is the right time for me…I feel it is right to be out in the open about my sexuality. If more people do it, the more acceptable it will become. That must be a good thing. To speak out is a massive relief for me, but if I can just help one person to deal with their sexuality then that's all I care about."
In keeping with the sports theme, Outsports.com recently attended a series of National Football League rookie events and found that a great many ‘soon to be’, current, and former NFL players would have no problem with a gay teammate. And one former professional player, Ahman Green, went so far as to open up about his gay brother and lesbian sister. It’s a very interesting article in which the common theme seemed to be ‘as long as a person can play and help the team win, that’s all that matters’
Oh, and finally, Target (yes, THAT Target, the recipient of an lgbt boycott for some questionable campaign donations) has launched an lgbt T-Shirt line, several of which were designed by rockstar Gwen Stefani.
So, what have we learned?
1. Colin Powell is in favor of marriage equality
2. England has its first publicly out professional cricket player
3. Many of the NFL’s incoming rookies would have no problem with a gay teammate, and
4. Target has launched an lgbt T-Shirt line
All in all, not a bad week
The Human Rights Campaign released the results of a new poll conducted by CBS News and the New York Times. The results of the poll are encouraging for supporters of same sex marriage...the trend continues to shift:
From the HRC:
A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows that 62 percent of Americans support recognizing same-sex relationships via either full marriage equality or civil unions. That number jumped to 70 percent when asked of those aged 18-44 across parties. Independent voters back marriage equality and civil unions by a robust 62 percent. A Gallup poll released late last week also showed that a considerable majority of independents strongly backed President Obama’s support for marriage equality.
The LGBTQ Equality Trail. For a full, interactive map, click here.
With the country's first civil marriages for same-sex couples, the first openly gay elected state official in the U.S., the first gay newspaper to go national, the first gay youth prom, and the place where the transgender day of remembrance traces its roots, Greater Boston is the cradle of equality for American LGBTQ citizens.
And with the warm spring weather upon us, it's an ideal time to get out and explore where the history happened.
A couple of years ago, Boston Spirit magazine consulted The History Project, Boston's LGBT archive, and others in order to map out a historical trail encompassing the incredible array of LGBTQ achievements of the area.
This Equality Trail commences at the Boston Common, where some of the city's first gay rights rallies were held. The path winds through much of Beacon Hill and the South End, where so many gay people gathered, lived and rallied in the 20th century. Then the trail ventures out to places like Cambridge, site of the nation's first civil marriages for same-sex couples, and on to Allston, where the Rita Hester was murdered, an event that has been called a Transgender Stonewall because it led to the international Transgender Day of Remembrance. It's all here in the Greater Boston Area.
The full list of places with commentary is below. An interactive Google map can be accessed here.
Hike as much or as little as you like. And while you enjoy the fresh spring air, enjoy your equality too!
1. Boston Common: Begin at America’s oldest public park, which has been home to countless public rallies reaching back to pre-American Revolution times. Here in 1970, gay-identified groups such as the Homophile Union of Boston (HUB), Boston Daughter of Bilitis (DOB), Student Homophile League, and the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) congregated to commemorate the Stonewall riots of New York City one year earlier—Boston’s first Pride.FULL ENTRY
Boston Pride has announced the Grand Marshals of the 2012 Pride Parade. The Committee has revealed that Fast Freddy (of Mix 104.1 FM) and The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition will serve as Grand Marshals. In addition,the late Brendan Burke has been named an Honorary Marshal.
The Committee's statement is below:
Boston Pride is pleased to announce that Mix 104.1’s Fast Freddy and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition have been named Grand Marshals of the 2012 Boston Pride Parade. Additionally, the late Brendan Burke has been chosen as an Honorary Marshal.
The Boston Pride Parade is a march to celebrate and promote equal rights for the region’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities and is the staple event of Pride Week. As one of the most popular and scenic gay pride marches in the country, organizations and individuals from around New England will walk together to advocate for inclusivity, equality and respect. The theme of the Boston Pride Parade this year is “Celebrating 30 Years of Worldwide Pride Movement” in honor of the annual InterPride conference, which will be held this year in Boston in October.
Fast Freddy was selected through an online vote by supporters of Boston Pride and members of the community. Fast Freddy is a weekday afternoon on-air personality, with Gregg Daniels and Sue Brady, at Mix 104.1, one of the most popular radio stations in the region. He began his career in radio as an intern for local legend, Sunny Jo White and has worked for Mix since 2005.
The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) was chosen by the Boston Pride Board of Directors in recognition of their work supporting the Transgender Equal Rights Bill, which was signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick in January. The law made Massachusetts the 16th state to add non-discrimination laws for gender identity in employment, housing, K-12 public education, and credit. Additionally, Massachusetts hate crimes laws were also updated to include gender identity.
The community also voted to name Brendan Burke as an Honorary Marshal, which is given posthumously. Burke, who was an athlete and student manager of the RedHawks ice hockey team at Miami University (Ohio), made international headlines in 2009 for coming out as a sophomore in college and for advocating tolerance in professional sports. Burke, whose hometown is Canton, Massachusetts and who graduated from Xaverian High School in Westwood, Massachusetts, was killed in a car crash in 2010. Burke’s father, Brian, is general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and of the US Olympic Hockey Team and USA Hockey established the “Brendan Burke Scholarship” in his honor. His brother Patrick Burke has established the nonprofit You Can Play, to ensure equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.
“We are excited that Fast Freddy and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition will be the Grand Marshals of the 2012 Boston Pride Parade,” said Linda DeMarco, president of Boston Pride. “Fast Freddy, a strong voice for our community on the radio airwaves and a volunteer supporter of many nonprofits in our community, is a great choice by our supporters and he’ll bring a lot of energy to the parade. As a committee, we wanted to honor the work of MTPC, who worked tirelessly and patiently to pass the Transgender Equal Rights Bill, which is an important milestone for the community. We are also pleased to be honoring the legacy of Brendan Burke, whose courageous decision to come out has set an example for young athletes around the country.”
Recently I had the chance to sit down with ‘America’s Mom’ Betty DeGeneres, mother of Ellen DeGeneres, for an interview with Boston Spirit magazine. Betty was in Boston to speak at the 10th annual Pride and Passion fundraiser benefiting Greater Boston PFLAG.
Upon arriving at Betty’s hotel room I found myself sitting next to her on a couch watching the Ellen show in what can only be described as a ‘surreal moment.’ When I asked if the day’s episode was “a good one?” she replied—as only a mother can—“aren’t they all?”
Boston Spirit: Tell us a little bit about your upbringing and life prior to being “Ellen’s Mom” to the entire world.
Betty DeGeneres: Well, I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, as was my mother. My father moved there when he was three, so we are all New Orleanians. I am the youngest of three daughters. I went to LSU [Louisiana State University], and finally finished and got my masters after I turned 50.
BS: Before Ellen’s coming out, and all of your subsequent fame, what was your experience, or interaction, with the LGBT community?
BD: Zero. Before Ellen came out to me, which happened when she was 20 years old—and now she is 54—nobody talked about it back then. So, as far as I knew I had no interaction with anyone who was gay or lesbian.
BS: When Ellen did come out to you—now more than 30 years ago—what was that conversation like? What was your reaction?
BD: She cried when she told me, because she didn’t know what I would do. And I hugged her, and I thought she’ll suddenly be an object of discrimination and bigotry and that was not okay. But we had a very, very good relationship, a very close relationship, and that helps tremendously. I think if people come out to their parents and they don’t have a close relationship to begin with, that can make it very hard.
BS: What about the rest of the family and friends?
BD: They were fine. At first we didn’t tell anybody else. But then we told my sisters and my mother and everybody in the family, and everybody was just fine. My mother was in the Catholic Church, as was one of my sisters. My other sister was Episcopalian and very active. But everyone just loved Ellen.
BS: I assume you knew before the rest of us that Ellen was going to make her ‘coming out’ announcement on her old show. Were you worried about what might happen?
BD: You know, she had so many professional people around her at that time, so she didn’t say ‘mother what do you think?’ She said, ‘mother this is what we’re doing.’ She just had to do it. She was tired of dancing around the subject, and it just wasn’t a healthy way to live. Nobody should have to do that.
BS: Were you worried?
BD: No. I was too dumb to be worried. I figured, if she does it, it’s all right. It’s what she felt she had to do. And, of course, she lost the show. She lost her career for a while. But, as she says, she doesn’t regret it for a minute because she felt so free. So you can’t be sorry about that. And it worked out rather well.
BS: How has all of this changed you? These days you speak at PFLAG events and attend GLAAD and HRC events. These are organizations you had probably never heard of before, and now you are immersed in all of them.
BD: You’re right. I had never even heard of the Human Rights Campaign and they were the first ones to contact me. They asked me to be their first non-gay spokesperson for their national coming out project. That’s what launched me on this late blooming career, speaking at their dinners all over the country. Then universities started asking me to speak, then corporations. So it’s been 15 years of a lot of speaking, and traveling, and educating, and it’s been great.
BS: How does it feel being up there with Cher and Lady Gaga as a straight icon in the gay community?
BD: I am not. I’m just Ellen’s mother!
BS: You’re America’s mother!
BD: Yes, people always call me ‘mama.’ The woman in the airport yesterday called out ‘Hey mama’.
BS: What is like to go from a ‘normal, regular everyday person, kind of life’ to the life of celebrity and fame?
BD: It happened gradually, thank goodness. When Ellen came out on her show, I had just retired from Cedar Sinai Medical Center in L.A., and I was looking forward to a lazy life. And, like I said, it grew rather gradually and it’s been wonderful.
BS: Do you ever get used to it?
BD: I guess I’m used to it now. Although last month I spoke at Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Maryland, for goodness sakes. It was huge! So sometimes I’m a little stunned by the places where I speak. But it’s wonderful to bring this message.
BS: We just sat here together and watched your daughter on TV. She is one of the most famous people in the world. I have a seven-year-old daughter and cannot imagine what that must be like.
BD: Well, if I had known she was going to grow up to be Ellen Degeneres, I would have taken more pictures (laughing), so take a lot of pictures! Ellen’s brother is three years older and, oh, do we have pictures of him! Ellen gives me a hard time all the time because we don’t have that many pictures of her.
BS: Do you ever have moments when you are watching Ellen on TV, or sitting in the studio audience, when you think to yourself, ‘I still can’t believe I’m watching my daughter on television?’
BD: The thing is, when I sit in the studio, the audience just goes crazy. And it’s such a cross section of America in the audience. You have older couples, every ethnicity, race, and it’s really wonderful and they love her message of happiness and joy and positive energy.
BS: What was the house like when your kids were growing up?
BD: Well, their dad is very funny, so Ellen and Vance [Ellen’s older brother] grew up hearing funny remarks about everything, so it was natural to them. Vance is very funny. He used to be on the Daily Show, and he and his roommate created Mr. Bill for Saturday Night Live. When Ellen and Vance are together it is very funny because they are zinging each other back and forth, and it all goes right over your head if you’re not paying attention.
BS: Did you have any inkling when Ellen was in high school and growing up that she would be a world famous comedian?
BD: No. She was very funny, but it was a quiet funny not a class clown. And she didn’t know it either. She had so many jobs after high school, and she tried college for a couple of months but that didn’t work and she just kind of fell into this. She performed at a high school fundraiser and someone was there and told her, ‘you should get an act and perform at the coffee house at the University of New Orleans.’ And she did and then little by little …
BS: Last question, if you had the opportunity to speak to any parents whose kids have come out or are coming out, what advice would you give them?
BD: If they need a pep talk, I would tell them to make sure they are thinking for themselves, because I think a lot of people are just brainwashed about this subject. And the only unconditional love there is, is the love that a parent has for a child. No matter what, we love our children. So don’t forget that.
Chaz Bono is slotted to be the keynote speaker at Boston Spirit’s LGBT Executive Network Night on Wednesday, March 28 from 6-9 p.m. at the Boston Marriott Copley Place (for more information, visit www.bostonspiritmagazine.com. The following is an excerpt from a longer story in the March/April issue of Boston Spirit magazine.
All That Chaz
By Sam Baltrusis
In anticipation of his visit to Boston, Bono weighs in on his six-week run on Dancing With the Stars, his activism, the tabloids and, of course, his iconic mother
When Chaz Bono cha-cha’d his way back into the public eye last year during his stint on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, he courageously waltzed into a hornet’s nest of controversy by sparking a national debate on gender identity and transphobia. While Bono admits that he expected to raise a few eyebrows when he signed on to compete in the 13th season of the celebrity ballroom TV show, he had no idea it would generate so much initial buzz. Bono just wanted to dance.
“I was a little surprised by the magnitude of the controversy,” the 43-year-old recalls, chatting with Boston Spirit from his home in West Hollywood. “But, I was also equally more surprised by the amount of people who were supporting me. It started to feel bigger than it actually was.”
For those out of the pop culture loop, Bono became a target of online hate messages from right-wing watchdog groups like the Culture and Media Institute after joining the cast last September. Dan Gainor, who unsuccessfully lobbied fans to boycott the show, said Bono’s participation on Dancing With The Stars was a “ridiculous, agenda-driven move” by the producers and was “the latest example of the networks trying to push a sexual agenda on American families.”
Bono’s iconic mother, Cher, blasted the so-called haters via Twitter calling them “angry bigots” and urged fans to rally for her son. “I support him no matter what he chooses to do. It took courage to do DWTS! Thank God Chaz has an unlimited supply,” she tweeted. Apparently, Cher’s legions of fans listened. Bono and his partner, Lacey Schwimmer, had a six-week run lasting until October 25, 2011.
“Obviously, I expected some backlash,” Bono remarks. “There was the initial controversy and it was bigger than I expected. Equally, I was more blown away by the backlash going the other way. The support that I was getting from people was tremendous and spurred me on through the experience.”
Bono says the barrage of support he received while competing on Dancing With The Stars reflects a cultural shift in public perception. “Things have changed a lot over the years,” he says. “Even with all of the initial heat I got from doing Dancing With The Stars, the progress I saw was that Carson Kressley, an openly gay and somewhat flamboyant man, got so little heat. No one really cared. I thought that was great. This is progress. Because, 20 years ago if he was on the show, people would be pulling their hair out. And a guy like me would never have been on it.”
As the celebrity offspring of Cher and Sonny Bono and a camera-shy regular on the’70s variety show Sonny & Cher, Bono was thrust into the media spotlight at an early age. When it comes to living a public life, he says it’s been an ongoing exercise in acceptance. “It’s the reality of my life,” he adds. “To fight against it would be an exercise in futility.”
In April 1995, Bono came out as a lesbian in an interview with The Advocate and published a book in 1998 called Public Outing, chronicling his coming-out story which began at 18. In 2008, Bono started the female-to-male transition process and came out as transgender publicly in May 2010, when a California court granted his request for a gender and name change.
“The difficult time for me was before I transitioned,” Bono says, adding that his documentary Becoming Chaz, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011, helped him through the transition process. “I knew it was something I needed to do but I was afraid to do it. It was difficult and painful. Once I finally got past all of my fears, it’s been amazing.”
Bono continues, “It’s not the decision I probably would have made if I had a choice about things. If I was an average person, I would have done this a long time ago. Knowing that I would have to do it publicly really made it a lot harder for me to come to the decision to transition. Once I got there, I knew I wanted to tell my story myself and try to help people in the process. So far, I achieved that.”
In addition to his television, film and print work, Bono has been a die-hard activist for the LGBT community, dating back to his coming-out days in the mid-’90s. “It’s interesting because there’s a new generation of people in our community who think I just started doing this when I came out as trans, but I’ve been an activist for a very long time. It really hasn’t changed that much, just the focus has changed a bit.”
As far as his famous mother, Bono says he’s carving his own niche in the pop culture landscape “We’re such different people and our popularity within the LGBT community is very different,” he says about Cher. “Although there may be some crossover, we kind of appeal to totally different people for different reasons.”
In 2008, E. Denise Simmons became the first black, out lesbian mayor in the country. Today she sits on Cambridge City Council.
To commemorate February as Black History month, we asked three locals—Cambridge City Council’s E. Denise Simmons, Multicultural AIDS Coalition’s Gary Daffin, and Hispanic Black Gay Coalition’s Corey Yarborough—to share what it means to straddle two minority communities
By Sam Baltrusis
When E. Denise Simmons became the first gay, African-American female mayor in the country in 2008, she not only opened the door for an entire generation of young, LGBT politicos … she bulldozed it down with a quiet intensity.
“Not only was I the mayor of the city of Cambridge, but I sort of became the mayor of the citizens across the country who were openly gay and realized that they too could rise to the highest of highest because someone like them has done it before,” she says, recently re-elected for her sixth term on the Cambridge City Council and chatting from her daytime gig as owner of the Cambridgeport Insurance Agency. “I’m proud to be in an elected office. I’m proud to be able serve. But, I’m also proud in that capacity because I’m not just a role model, I’m a real model.”
The 60-year-old politician continues, “Recently, a young lady [who was coming out] came up to me and told me she was proud of me for being out. It was important to her that there was someone that she could reach out to, touch and identify with that was openly gay. I’m proud to be that representative.”
E. Denise Simmons
Cambridge City Council
During her mayoral stint in 2009, Simmons became a national public figure of sorts and was catapulted into the media spotlight due to the arrest of Harvard University Professor Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. As the race-and-class debate hit the mainstream, she was the voice of Cambridge appearing on a bevy of news outlets ranging from ABC’s Good Morning America to CNN. Meanwhile, Simmons spearheaded a slew of projects to assist Cambridge’s thriving gay community, including the implementation of the Cambridge Public School system’s first LGBT family liaison, someone who works in the school district to help gay-and-lesbian families find schools that will support them as well as their children.
However, when she was first elected to the City Council in 2001, Simmons says she was navigating through uncharted territory. “Before I came into elected office and during my tenure, there weren’t many role models,” she recalls. “At the time, there was no place to go, particularly for women, to see how to negotiate about being openly gay. It was on-the-job training.”