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By Mik Hyldebrandt

 

With the better part of the year in front of us and the traveling season fast approaching, it’s time to take a look at what is up and coming in traveling. We’ve uncovered some cool trends and paired them with some really great destinations that will surely challenge the way you think about traditional tourism.

 

The Eco-Conscious Traveler

Even though you know you are bound to leave a larger than usual carbon footprint behind when traveling (planes, trains, boats, etc.), you make more environmentally choices while traveling. You also want to experience destinations that could be affected by changing global conditions in the near future. You want to leave the place better than how you found it because no one else seems to do so.

 

Destination – An Alaska Cruise

The ice caps are melting, and glaciers are deteriorating, so you better experience them in their full splendor while there is time. A cruise along the Inside Passage which is the network of waterways along the southeastern ‘panhandle’ area of Alaska, will put magnificent glaciers, islands, fjords, and coastal settlement on display for your viewing pleasure. For more info go to alaskandreamcruises.com.

 

The Luxury Lounger

The all-inclusive travel sector has evolved greatly over the last few years. With busy schedules and stressful work environments, people simply want to allocate the responsibility of just about everything to someone else, so they can truly relax. One does deserve a little luxury, and if it means paying a little extra for being taking care of from start to finish, then all the power to it.

 

Destination – All-Inclusive Resort

A truly all-inclusive resort will have you debating if you should leave the premises at all! With delicious food and drink options readily available, luxury amenities, and fun activities there is plenty to do at the resort alone. There are many all-inclusive options spread around the globe, but choose a gay-friendly one just to be sure. Like the Live Aqua in Cancún – liveaqua.com.

 

The Culturally Insatiable

You want to delve into a country’s history, art scene, and cultural highlights, but you are having difficulty choosing the destination because there is so much to see and do! A good choice is to turn your sights on Europe with is its many different countries and ample options for a packed cultural itinerary.

 

Destination – A European Cruise

The most difficult part is to narrow down where you want to go. A Mediterranean cruise gives you Southern European destinations like Spain, France, Greece, and Italy, while a Baltic cruise lets you explore Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. A combination of larger cities and smaller coastal towns is ideal to satisfy your cultural hunger. Check out royalcaribbean.com for their European cruises.

 

Tap In Tap Out Party-Goer

Work hard, but no time to play hard? Your vacation time is perfect for remedying your lack of socialization among like-minded individuals. A party cruise is an obvious way to go, but even though you may want to party a lot, it may prove to be overload for most. A nicely curated destination for a party or festival is ideal because you get to dip in and out of all the festivities and you get to immerse yourself in local culture too.

 

Destination – Gay Spring Break

This year’s Gay Spring Break in Torremolinos, Spain, does not only feature a nice lineup of incredible parties and DJs but it takes place on one of the best gay beaches in Europe. You can choose the full board option at one of the host hotels, or buy passes for individual events. Either way, you will have the best time frolicking among some of the hottest men from around the world. Check out delicedream.com for more information.

Ricky Rebel Redefines Masculinity In His Third Full-Length Album, “The New Alpha”

By Larry Olsen

 

Photo: Susy Miller

 

Glam rocker Ricky Rebel redefines what it means to be a man while exploring the themes of Power, Sex, Vanity, and Love in The New Alpha, his third studio album. Self-produced, the album is a sharp departure from his last LP, The Blue Album, that he admits writing during a low period in his life. Where Blue was a dark moon, The New Alpha is a bright sun, with a more powerful tribalistic sound that is meant to reflect both Rebel’s optimistic state of mind as well as the emboldened state of the USA. “The era of Political correctness is over,” proclaims Ricky Rebel.  “Some people today need to toughen up and stop playing the victim.” He urges fans to balance their feminine and masculine sides and remain sensitive to the views of others while also remaining firm in their own.  Ricky Rebel’s The New Alpha is available on iTunes and all major online retailers.

 

“My views are not defined by party lines,” continues Rebel from his Los Angeles home.  “I am a centrist who goes left and right depending on the issues. I am in the middle. A difficult place to be. It’s the same with my identity.  I am proud to be a man who happens to love makeup and women’s clothing. What is women’s clothing anyway? What is gender? I am both masculine and feminine.”

 

Along with the album, Ricky Rebel has released the rock ballad, “Time,” and its music video.  In the song, he sings how time is a precious commodity that shouldn’t be wasted on arguing and fighting with each other.  “It was important for me to include ‘Time’ on the new album because being a true Alpha means having the strength to express feelings of fear, regret, and sadness,” he continues.

 

He also reveals the song was inspired by a horrific car accident he was in as a child.  “I nearly lost my mother in the accident. It’s my first memory. I learned the lesson early on that what you love can be taken away from you in an instant.”
Ricky Rebel burst on the music scene in 1997 as the lead vocalist of the boy-band No Authority. Signed by Michael Jackson to Michael’s MJJ Music label at Sony, he toured with 98 Degrees, Destiny’s Child, Aaron Carter, and Ashlee and Jessica Simpson.   In 2000, the band moved to Madonna’s Maverick label where they toured with Britney Spears and released their Billboard Top 40 chart hit, “Can I Get Your Number.”  Another No Authority song, “I’m Telling You This,” appears on the Rugrats in Paris soundtrack.

 

In 2004, No Authority broke up and Ricky became the lead vocalist of the band, Harlow. He also did voice-over work for films Apollo 13Anywhere But Here, and Anastasia, and appeared on television in episodes of American DreamsBoston Public, and Audrina.

 

He went solo as Ricky Rebel in 2012. Since then, he has released two albums, Manipulator, featuring the singles “Geisha Dance,” “Get It On” and “You Need a Woman” and The Blue Album, featuring “Star” and “Boys and Sometimes Girls,”  a song that climbed to #28 on the Billboard Club Chart.

 

This summer, Ricky Rebel released “If You Were My Baby,” the first track from The New Alpha.  Its message of self-assurance and self-love broke into the top ten on the Billboard Breakouts for Dance Club Songs.  Additional songs on the album include “Magic Carpet,” “Mean People” and the title track.

 

“The world needs Ricky Rebel,” reflects Rebel. “The world needs hundreds of us.”

 

“I want listeners to know that I am not a social justice warrior and yet I care tremendously for human rights. I am not a feminist. I care for men and women equally.  Skin color doesn’t matter to me.  I care about what’s in the heart.  I do not care about cultural appropriation.  I believe fear is poison. If you feel the same way, you might very well be one of The New Alphas.”

 

www.rickyrebelrocks.com.

 

 

By Mik Hyldebrandt

 

Photo: Tyler Ogden

 

It wasn’t just the stress of being deployed in Afghanistan and the constant threat of attack that threw Mark David Gibson into the throes of PTSD. The fact that he served under the military’s discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy forced him to remain a closeted, gay man unable to live his authentic life. His memoir, Served in Silence: The Struggle to Live Authentically, recounts his personal struggle and powerful journey to live a true life beyond discrimination and filled with authenticity and love.

 

It was during his second deployment to Afghanistan that the basis of Mark David Gibson’s memoir started. Mark found that writing his thoughts and his stories down gave him a much-needed release from the emotional trauma he was experiencing being in a high-risk war zone with a constant threat of being attacked. The act of writing struck a chord with the captain who worked as a communications officer for the U.S. Air Force and helped him deal with the challenging conditions of his deployment to a war zone.

 

But for Mark, there was an even more profound layer to his writing. A deeper struggle that equaled and even surpassed his most intense battles while being a service member abroad. His realization of being a gay man who served under the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was taking an emotional toll on him. The internal battle over the fact that he was willing to sacrifice his own life to ensure the liberty and freedoms of others, while he was far from enjoying those same personal freedoms were starting to fester in him and even question his identity. In fact, he called an emergency session with a senior officer to change his will, so that, given the possibility that he would get killed in service, he wouldn’t be buried in American soil, in a country that he felt didn’t accept him as an equal citizen.

 

His struggle and immense inner debate found at least partial release in writing, which started out as musings about his childhood, daydreaming, and reminiscing about his early years. Writing became a way for Mark to deal with the dehumanizing policy that effectively kept Mark in the closet for the entirety of his 20-year military career and beyond.

 

When he returned home, he was still profoundly marred by what he refers to as living in the shadows, and he struggled genuinely with the social structures that surrounded the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. His painful reality coupled with the onset of PTSD symptoms had Mark heavily medicated on prescription anti-depressants while his alcohol consumption started to reach dangerous levels despite seeming fully functional and capable to his surroundings.

 

So, when a doctor told him that he was rapidly killing himself with his alarming alcoholism, Mark realized that something drastic had to be done. And he also realized that writing was one of the vessels with which he could make profound changes in himself and the people around him.

 

 

Mark 2.0

After decades of shaming, hating, and loathing himself for what he was, Mark has learned to tell himself three words: I love you. The process of self-love was very much aided by his ability to write and express his feelings through words.

 

Upon returning from his second deployment as a highly decorated officer, Captain Gibson retired from active duty. Shortly after, Mark moved to Costa Rica where he underwent a dramatic transformation, which is unfolded with brutal honesty in his memoir.

 

First of all, Mark is five years sober, which has given him renewed focus and a resolve to make a positive difference every day. He has discovered the joy of life, love, and living which translates into him being an accomplished triathlete, working to help small LGBT businesses thrive, and giving motivational speeches across the country. And he has found meaningful love and partnership with his boyfriend, Aaron, whom he lovingly and often refers to as ‘Mr. Wonderful.’

 

Secondly, his writing has gone from reminiscing about his childhood to being a powerful narrative about his monumental struggle to live his life authentically. The book – Served in Silence: The Struggle to Live Authentically – recounts four phases of Mark David Gibson’s journey that starts in the early years, then moves onto the learning years and wonder years to end up in the living years finally.

 

And thirdly, as compelling a read this book is about pulling yourself out of the shadows, it brings the message of Served in Silence even further by donating portions of the proceeds to the Atlanta nonprofit Lost-n-Found Youth which is dedicated to ending homelessness for LGBTQ youth in Georgia.

 

Mark hopes that Served in Silence will not only enlighten and help others in their journey to live their own life more authentically by learning from his experiences, but also that it will help pull others out of the shadows in a much more literal way. Because his journey has shown him, that although there may be struggle, there is also an authentic life waiting for you, no matter who you are.

Learn more at markdavidgibson.com

 

Served in Silence: The Struggle to Live Authentically is available now on MarkonAmazon.com.

 

 

DEVEN GREEN is an award-winning comedic chanteuse. You know her from the “Welcome To My Home” and “Welcome To My White House” parodies, portraying the satirical Betty Bowers and enjoying a high ball.   DevenGreen.com

 

Dear Deven:

I am currently dating an older gentleman that talks Shakespearean when he is around his friends. How do I tell him that it’s mortifying to me?

“Old Fashioned”

Don’t worry! You won’t be dating him for long.  He is too good for you and your petty judgments.

 

Dear Deven:

I live with a “handyman” (my husband) who will watch a home repair program then think he can do it himself! It costs me more to fix it later. How do I get him to change the channel?

“Screwdriver”

I say, “put him to work!” Be a project manager and use his services for smaller more realistic jobs to do around the house/yard. Give him credit for trying.

 

Dear Deven:

I get a “free night” once a month outside the parameters of my relationship. Can you help me out?

“Hot Toddy”

1) I’m not a hook up site. 2) I’ll bet there is an online app for this type of activity. 3) Make sure your partner knows the nature of your relationship.

 

Dear Deven:

I had taken myself off the market last year for personal growth and found that it was more frustrating than anything else. Totally pointless.  What is the best way to make up for lost time?

“Absinthe”

I hope you learned that if something doesn’t feel right you need to change it pronto. Realistically you can never make up for lost time, you can only double up on your efforts moving forward.

 

Dear Deven:

I’ve recently moved from Atlanta to NY for work. I’m very enthusiastic about how much I love my home city but someone ends up taking offense.  How can I stop these “my city is better” comparison arguments?

“Manhattan”

You are homesick, honey. Atlanta is everything to you but there is something in your delivery that is making others defensive.  Find the beauty where you have to be until you can rest where you wish.

 

Dear Deven:

I’m in a long-distance love affair but I hate flying. Are we doomed?

“B-52

I’m sure you phone, text, and video chat, but the real test is the day-to-day experience.  It seems very fulfilling for what you need right now emotionally, but, if you want more you will ultimately end up drifting apart.

 

Dear Deven:

I’m a morning person. He is a night person. Will it ever work out?

“Tequila Sunrise”

Agree that you are both good for a nooner and everything will be just fine.

 

Dear Friends: I do not offer advice, only my excellent experience.  DevenGreen@gmail.com

Image: Reed Davis Photography

MUA: Joseph Adivari Hair: Miles Jeffries

Dress: Debakalis by John Sakalis / Eddie DeBarr

By Mikkel Hyldebrandt

 

Karamo Brown’s TV career launched suddenly and in full force in 2004 on The Real World as the first African-American out gay man on the show. Or on TV in general. Now, he is back on TV as the charismatic leader of a super-powered pack of gays on the reboot of Queer Eye which launched early February on Netflix. Goliath got a chance to talk to Karamo about his journey to become the man he is today – and how QE is shaping up to be a voice of reason in our time.

 

When Karamo Brown participated in The Real World in 2004, he didn’t expect the rollercoaster ride that was set off by him being the first out gay African-American on the show. Although he experienced immense support, he also let the sudden rise to celebrity get the best of him, so when the show stopped airing, he started partying like the best of them, and pretty soon his phone stopped ringing – because who would want to work with talent that had clearly lost his way? Now, Karamo is back on TV with the reboot of Queer Eye and is part of the new Fab Five; and after over a decade away from television, perspectives have indeed changed for Karamo. “This time, I have a clear purpose, and a vision of what I want to do,” he explains,”and I know that show business has two components – show and business. Last time, I forgot about the business and was all about the show. That’s certainly different now.”

 

After auditioning alongside more than 10,000 candidates across the world, and after making it to the final top 100, Karamo was locked down with the other candidates for the equivalent of speed dating, so producers could determine what cast would work best together off and on screen. Karamo instantly became friends with Tan (fashion) and Bobby (design), and later they were introduced to Jonathan (grooming) and Antoni (food), and the group instinctively stayed together until they were all finally cast as the new Fab Five.

 

The show, which aired on Netflix early February, has already made plenty of waves and has received acclaim for their new take on the original concept of making over clueless straight guys (and even a gay one) in their own environment. But although the QE reboot, which has let the ‘for the straight guy’ go to be even more inclusive, follows the original’s premise, it is also wildly different. While the first version would focus almost entirely on the makeover, the new QE introduces a surprising and very honest emotional depth, not only for the ‘victims’ but also for the hosts. “I have participated in reality TV before, so I really wanted to put that emotional depth forward in the show”, Karamo explains, “I had conversations with myself, with the guys, and with the producers to make sure that when we approach our heroes we not only fix the outside, but we also give them the tools to fix the inside. We all wanted it to be as authentic and emotional as possible, not only for the heroes but also for us. It was important to all of us to build that deeper connection.”

 

The result is a reality TV show that boldly and quite surprisingly takes on issues like homophobia, religion, politics, racial tensions, and even police brutality; and does so in an honest and deeply emotional way that not only displays the feelings of the makeover victims but also lays bare the experiences of the hosts whose personal stories of religious upbringing, rigid family structures, and racial disparities serve not only as moments of personal growth but as learning lessons of perspective to the people that receive the makeover – and to the world.

 

One episode particularly displays the innate strength and transformative power of the show: The fab five are pulled over by a police officer as a prank on their way to see their next makeover guy. For Karamo, the incident takes on a highly personal and intimidating aspect that happens to spark a much broader conversation about race and police brutality in today’s America. The outcome is an incredibly touching moment between the two where mutual understanding and respect is suddenly the standard and not the exception for their interaction, and it even seems to create a possible pathway to a common ground. Who would have thought that of a makeover reality TV show? “Every week, we receive a piece of paper with an overview of the person’s background, and that’s it,” Karamo tells us, “so, we have to figure it out organically, and luckily, we were able to connect with all of them, so it happened very organically, and we could get to what was really going on.”

 

That connection and the ability to get to the root cause of things is also what will undoubtedly determine the legacy of the new QE. Tan (fashion) mentions in the first episode that the first version was about tolerance, about getting gays on TV, and now it’s about acceptance and tolerance. Karamo hopes that the show’s legacy will be about respect: “At the end of the day, you must respect your fellow man and woman. I get messages from people that are very right-wing telling me how impressed they are, and how they feel that the show is helping them have a better conversation.”

 

Karamo is also hoping that the same respectful conversation can be transferred to the current debate on gun control measures. As a former student of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Karamo was devastated to see the school where he attended 10-12 grade and graduated from was the scene of another horrific mass shooting. “I had my high school reunion there, and to see the hallways and school grounds where I used to roam now being a place where kids were in harm’s way is heartbreaking,” Karamo says and continues, “As a father of two boys, I can’t accept a world where schools have become war zones and need metal detectors. But I also think the conversation starts somewhere else.” Much like his own experience of being able to bridge a seemingly abysmal gap between people, Karamo thinks the solution is starting a sensible conversation that focuses on understanding both sides instead of just yelling your standpoints. As he says: “We need to wake our asses up. This is the point where we ask to see the manager and bring them in the room to have a face-to-face, and we hear both sides of the table. We’re the adults here.”

 

There is no doubt, with the overwhelmingly positive reception of Queer Eye, that the show is well on its way to garnering the same lasting impact as the original. And it is also clear that the impact could have a far wider reach than the original. Karamo hopes that there are at least three to four more seasons of QE in the future – and then he has his eyes set on getting a daytime talk show! “I think there is a spot for a gay black man in daytime TV right now – and I’d like to be the one to fill that,” he muses – and we would definitely be here for Karamo putting his makeover superpowers to work on daytime television as well!

 

 

Karamo’s 6in10.org nonprofit organization

Karamo is the founder of 6in10.org, an HIV awareness organization with a dedicated mission to eradicate the 6 in 10 HIV statistic plaguing gay and bisexual black men; a statistic that has sadly only worsened over the past years which now means that 1 in 2 gay or bisexual black men will be affected by HIV before 40. The organization provides tailored mental health support through viral campaigns and community engagement. Learn more at 6in10.org.

By Gregg Shapiro

 

It’s no exaggeration to say that Fischerspooner’s time has come. In addition to the release of the new album Sir (Ultra), Fischerspooner has been the subject of a museum exhibition and a book, and recently appeared in the pages of VogueSir, Fischerspooner’s first studio album since 2009’s Entertainment, is its sexiest and most personal effort to date. On Sir, out vocalist Casey Spooner’s long history of creative collaboration with Warren Fischer, expands to include Michael Stipe and Andy LeMaster, as well as Caroline Polachek (of Chairlift), Holly Miranda and Boots. I had the pleasure of speaking with Casey shortly before the release of the Sir album.

 

Gregg Shapiro: Casey, if you don’t mind I’d like to begin by talking about collaboration. The name of the band, Fischerspooner, combines your name with longtime collaborator Warren Fischer. You’ve co-written Fischerspooner songs with others, most recently including Michael Stipe and Andy LeMaster. What is it about you that makes you so good at playing well with others?

Casey Spooner: I tried to be a painter and it was too solitary for me. And I was an only child. I don’t know if that’s related, but I just love going to work, going to the studio, going to a rehearsal space and I love working with other people. I also think it’s the way I learned. I’ve always been kind of a bad student. I’m not really good at homework and doing stuff by myself. But, if you put me in a room with someone, I love learning how someone else is going to approach something or how they are going to do something. Right out of college, I worked with an experimental theater company called Doorika which was very collaborative. I’ve been making collaborative work now for 20 years. It’s kind of the way I get things done.

 

GS: In the 15 years since the release of the first Fischerspooner album, as well as the nine years between Fischerspooner albums, electronic music has become an increasingly dominant force. As one of the forebears of the “post-electroclash pop revolution”, what do you think of the current scene and Fischerspooner’s place in it?

CS: It’s cool! I’ve always loved electronic music. To me it’s just another tool. We live in such a digital world now. The thing that was exciting for us is that all of a sudden, we had access to these tools and to a network of communication and sharing music that was so easy. That’s been an amazing historical thing, to be a part of this huge cultural shift that’s now become kind of the way we live. I’m flattered. It’s so crazy. I would never have imagined that I’d be in that place. I thought I was going to be this performance artist/painter/fine artist. I never imagined I would have an impact on pop entertainment so extensively. My idols were people such as Grace Jones and Laurie Anderson. It’s cool that I got to be one of those people.

 

GS: The songs on Sir, such as “Everything Is Just All Right” and “Togetherness”, are intensely and unapologetically erotic and sexual, but also feel extremely personal at the same time.

CS: In gay culture there’s a schism between sex and emotion. I think that’s tied to shame. One of the things I wanted to do on this record is create a world where you can be very sexual and very emotional and you can have anonymous sex and it can be valuable and important and respected and romantic. Or you can have a more complex, long-term relationship and it’s equally valuable and romantic and respected. I tried to give value and respect to all kinds of queer relationships, whether they are one-night stands or romances or long-term relationships. To represent and respectfully let all those beautiful and amazing queer connections exist in one place and not against a heteronormative fantasy.

 

GS: The music video for “TopBrazil” is a perfect example of the brazen sexuality of the album. What can you tell me about the influences for the video?

CS: I actually met Tom Brown, the director, on the dancefloor at Fire Island. We started our conversation there. There were different things that I wanted to do. There was this idea of lasers that I brought in. There was the idea of these different queer spaces. I love the light on Fire Island, underneath the decks, when it comes through it’s super graphic. There were these different architectural and light spaces in which I was interested. The sauna scene felt kind of like where Tom and I first met. It was about representing these queer spaces with beauty and glamour. We were also concerned about having a cool, dynamic New York cast. There was a lot of debate about how there were so many men! In the end, the thing I like about it is that it’s kind of a classic cliché of a pop video. You would see women in a video displayed with the same kind of eroticism, but you would never see men objectified in the same way. To me, the thing that’s interesting is to put men in a similar situation as women. To see the reactions and YouTube comments alone has been fascinating.

 

GS: Especially at this point in time with what’s happening with the #metoo movement.

CS: Yes, exactly. I think it’s an interesting document of the double standard applied to men versus women. Also, the innate homophobia that exists in the culture. When we turned the video in, people were like, “This is so pornographic!” I was like, “What are you talking about? Have you seen a Rihanna video? Have you seen a Nicki Minaj video? There’s nothing pornographic here! Just because you’re used to devouring women, it’s strange that you’re not able to look at a man in the same way!”

 

GS: I was especially struck by the song “Oh Rio,” which features a spoken word segment, as well as guest vocals by Holly Miranda.

CS: That song is a big thesis for the whole record. Actually, that’s the song that convinced Michael (Stipe) to produce the record. That kind of writing and performance is a little bit more of where I’m coming from traditionally as a performance artist. I didn’t come from music. I came from storytelling and performance and theater. That song is basically as it always was. Michael didn’t write on that one. It was one of the songs that stayed after he got involved. The title comes from a Bruce Weber book called O Rio de Janeiro. When I was growing up in the south in the eighties, there wasn’t a lot of access to anything homoerotic. There was a bookstore in the mall that had this Bruce Weber book. The first verse tells the story of me going to the mall and visiting this book. It was in the photography section. It never sold. I would pick it up, look at it and get turned on. I would get confused and freak out and put it back on the shelf. Because of the book, Rio became this erotic fantasy land in my mind. It was someplace I always wanted to go. I was never able to get to Rio until March of 2013. I was working on the record. I jumped through all kinds of travel and budgeting and scheduling hoops to get to Rio. When I finally got there, I got deathly ill. It was March and I was coming from a deep New York winter; fat, pale, sick. I finally got to my sexual dream come true, and it was not pretty. The second verse is about that moment on the beach where I’m sick and old and tired in a Speedo. It’s the end of summer there, and everyone in Rio is hot. They have amazing bodies. Athletes. What I had fantasized about. My dream came true, but it was a failure for me. There was this beautiful, amazing, sunga (swim trunks) salesman smoking weed on the beach who tried to pick me up, but it was the saddest moment, where I couldn’t even talk to or even pretend to be able to engage because my self-esteem was so crushed. I was just stuck on the beach, drinking cough syrup.

 

GS: “Hacking up a lung” as you say in the song.

CS: Yes, sick on the beach. I always visualized that scene a little bit like Dirk Bogarde at the end of in Death In Venice. The first half of the song to me is very Bruce Weber O Rio de Janeiro and the second verse is me as Dirk Bogarde in Death in Venice.

 

GS: I hope you get to go back again.

CS: I went back last month and I shot a video for the song. That beautiful video is going to come out soon.

 

GS: Finally, the cover art for Sir features you sticking out your tongue. A tongue was also featured prominently on the cover of 2002’s major-label reissue of Fischerspooner’s debut album #1.

CS: It’s funny; that (Sir) cover photo was taken in Madrid two summers ago by a fan named Vincent Claudio Urbani. I reluctantly went to shoot with him more as a personal favor than wanting to do a photo shoot. I just happened to be in Madrid. It was completely his idea. He was like, “I want you to do this, I want you to pose this way, I want you to stick your tongue out.” Vincent came up with that idea. I liked the idea that it connected to the continuity of the first record. There was a cool connection and it is kind of a great, classic, iconic image. I can’t take much credit for it. Vincent Claudio Urbani came up with that idea.

 

DEVEN GREEN is an award-winning comedic chanteuse. You know her from the “Welcome To My Home” and “Welcome To My White House” parodies, portraying the satirical Betty Bowers and as a nefarious

bon vivant.  DevenGreen.com

 

Dear Deven:

My nieces and nephew are monsters. Can’t I wait until they are in their 20s to spend time with them?

“Spoiled”

Dearest, all children are monsters, but they are not your monsters.  Be the fun uncle that always has to leave immediately.  Let them know they are loved in short, palatable intervals.

 

Dear Deven:

I just ate a whole sleeve of cookies. That is one serving right?

“Indulged”

Yes, of course!  But, sugar is not a reward and ultimately will not comfort you.

 

Dear Deven:

When I was younger I used to massage every whim and ego of my mentor. Now that I am older I find myself doing the same thing with my boss. 

Why am I like this?

“Pandered”

You were taught to be a sycophant from your mentor. When you raise your own personal standards of worthiness you will increase your confidence. You can admire someone without kissing their ass.

 

Dear Deven:

My parents are well-off so I have lived a pretty charmed life until I REALLY over- spent and they cut me off.  I can’t lead the lifestyle I am used to anymore. What do I tell people?

“Mollycoddled”

Boo. Hoo. Hoo. You were wasteful and self-indulgent when you could have created your own empire. Your parents have given you the gift of an amazing life lesson: To be able to tell people you are independently wealthy.

 

 

 

Dear Deven:

Is it weird that two grown men call each other baby names in public?

“Cosseted”

Oh sugar-muffin, poodle-head, peach bottom, of course it is! So what.

 

Dear Deven:

I think I am with a Momma’s boy.  We will be watching a TV show and he will ask me to get him something from the kitchen.  He’s not rude, it’s just that he EXPECTS me to just do it for him.  Should I?

“Catered”

Would it help if he called you sugar-muffin? If it’s bothering you that much then make a snack platter together before you both sit down.

 

Dear Deven:

I get my nails buffed and polished.  A “youth” questioned me on this practice.  How can they not get it?

“Pampered”

I know! “Youth” have so much to learn from you.  I’ll bet he was curious enough to try it himself.

 

Dear Deven:

I buy everything related to a certain musical.  I have to have it all. Stop me!

“Wicked”

You will never “have it all.” So just buy what you love. This applies to most areas of your life.

 

Dear Friends: I do not offer advice, only my experience.  DevenGreen@gmail.com

Image: Reed Davis Photography

MUA: Joseph Adivari Hair: Miles Jeffries

Dress: Debakalis by John Sakalis / Eddie DeBarr

By Tyler Scruggs

 

Are you as exhausted as me from constantly cruising Netflix’s and Hulu’s LGBT film and television section hoping to find something compelling, sexy, or just plain good? We’ve all done it. We scroll through their admirable but lackluster selection in hopes of seeing ourselves on screen. Not just people who look like us, but people who behave and engage in situations we can deeply relate to. Films depicting straight lust and romance and far more bountiful, and sure, we can identify with their struggles, but often it’s just not enough.

 

Luckily, Dekkoo is here to save the day by being the only streaming service that caters exclusively to LGBT content, and there’s a ton. Thankfully, there’s an app available for your Roku, Apple TV, and more. After browsing through for the past couple days, no, you won’t find many major studio queer films here like Brokeback Mountain or Call Me By Your Name, but you won’t really notice their absence. I’ve been impressed with the sheer amount of content they’re hosting, ranging from forgotten gay films from the 70s and 80s, and new releases from notable indie LGBT film distributors like Breaking Glass and Wolfe. Obviously, I haven’t been able to catch and consume everything Dekkoo has to offer, but I did manage to catch some of their offerings, and some of their exclusive Dekkoo original series. Though there are certainly some genres you won’t get to see from Netflix or Hulu, like ‘Affairs and Love Triangles’ and ‘Erotica’ Here’s what I’d recommend you check out:

 

The Gay And Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo / The World of Brian Jordan Alvarez

Perhaps my favorite Dekkoo offering is The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo, a short-form series from acclaimed writer Brian Jordan Alvarez. Previously released on YouTube, Caleb Gallo follows the gay and wondrous titular character as he navigates life in Los Angeles. Pretty basic, right? It would be if it weren’t so sharply written and funny. The show uses jump cuts and phone calls that would be otherwise mundane and transforms t into the laugh-per-minute craziness that borders on 30 Rock level hilarity. Watch it for Freckle alone. Trust me.

 

Dekkoo also hosts The World of Brian Jordan Alvarez, a series of short films by him that basically amount to memes manifested in short film. They’re short, usually clocking in at under two and a half minutes, but carry heavy punches and huge laughs.

 

It’s Fine: A Dekkoo Original Series

Similar to Caleb Callo, It’s Fine also chronicles the tales of the tragically-West-Hollywood problems of a diverse cast of characters. I managed to binge the first season in one sitting, and I’m sure you’ll be too. You may be turned off by the hindered, low budget sound quality, but you’ll be surprised at how crisp and finely tuned the scripts are, and they only get better as the show progresses. It’s Fine released its second season this year, and you best believe I’ll be binging that similarly in hopes the budget got beefed up.

 

Home From The Gym

I wanted to mention this short film because it was the first thing I watched in the ever-alluring Erotica section, and it made me take note of a slight criticism I have for Dekkoo. You see, as hot and bothered as Home From The Gym made me, it was surpassingly short, only five minutes long. It’s kinda exactly as it sounds: it’s a short, erotic film about a sweaty, muscular, well-endowed man coming home from the gym and stripping his tight under armor clothes piece by piece. It was hot! But very short. Which led me to the realization that Dekkoo doesn’t list its content’s runtimes like any other streaming service. It’s an odd UI decision, but it might have something to do with the large amount of short films on the site. I generally don’t mind that some of the content is shorter than feature-length, but it’s important to list runtimes in the title splash screen, so people know exactly what the time commitment is for a given title. Just a small criticism!

 

Love is Blind: A Dekkoo Original Series
My last recommendation is the corny, but sweet Dekkoo original reality series Love Is Blind. And much like Home From The Gym, this title is similarly on-the-nose. It’s a reality show where gay men are set up on blind dates and are forced to endure strange-but-intimate group activities like wrestling, or sharing a dessert. It’s awkward, forced, and features an annoying host that merely makes fun of the couple on the date from the comfort of his green screen studio, but it has its charm. I look forward to more, and I look forward to Dekkoo maturing and growing into a strong player in the streaming realm. Give them a try; they cost no per month more than two random rentals from iTunes — a risk you know we’ve both taken in the past. Consider me Pro-Dekkoo.

By Mikkel Hyldebrandt

 

The hues coral, peach, and pink are somewhat within the same color scheme and are all important for your spring and summer looks. For the upcoming season, they have been infused with grey tones to convey a softness and lightness to the color, which, in turn, looks great with any skin tone and in combination with brighter colors like yellow and blue tone as a balancing contrast.

 

Adidas Trefoil Washed Strapback Hat, $24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Primitive Thrashed Coral T-Shirt, $29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vineyard Vines Longsleeve Vintage Pocket T-Shirt, $48

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mack Weldon Airknitx Boxer Briefs, $28

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blade + Blue Pocket Square, $18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MarcoMarco Coral Burnout Brief, $26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vans Old Skool, $60

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

J.W. Anderson Phallic Keychain Bubblegum, $25

 

ON THE ATL AGENDA

 

More to Love

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, More to Love kicks off the day of hearts with their Dangerous Liaison event on February 9 at Amsterdam Atlanta. The event will celebrate love in all shapes and forms and while raising funds for Lost-n-Found Youth. With a Marie Antoinette theme, the night will bring you a riveting performance by Penni Posterior and beats by DJ Chris Gris.

 

Love on the Rocks

The Wimbish House on Peachtree will host the annual Love on the Rocks Valentine’s cocktail party on February 18 that raises funds for Joining Hearts. Your $45 admission gets you specialty Tito’s cocktails, delicious bites and dessert by Sun in My Belly, and a special performance by Atlanta’s own Peaches.

joininghearts.org

 

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Share the love and discover how dance reveals our deepest humanity and capacity to endure. The Ailey company returns to the Fox Theatre for one week only February 14-18 with a selection of their most inspiring pieces.

 

 

 

 

Diana Krall: Turn Up the Quiet

Multiple Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist and world-renowned singer, Diana Krall will return to Atlanta Symphony Hall on Friday, February 9 for her “Turn Up The Quiet World Tour.”

 

 

 

Deep South Presents Horse Meat Disco

For the first time in Atlanta Vicki Powell and Deep South present London-based Horse Meat Disco on February 17 at the Heretic. The popular disco party has revived the carefree music style and brought it back to the dancefloors all over the world.

 

 

 

Steamlounge Oysterfest

The corner of Peachtree and 12th Street is the new venue of this year’s Oysterfest on February 24-25 where you buy buckets of roasted or chargrilled oysters and eat away in a communal style social setting. Great fun and delicious but messy eating.

 

 

Joris Laarman’s Lab: Design In the Digital Age

On February 18 through May 13 the High Museum will feature the first museum survey for the Dutch designer, Joris Laarman, and his progressive design lab whose work redefines the boundaries between art, science, and technology. The exhibition will comprehensively explore Laarman’s creative prowess, and curiosity through a range of furniture designs applied projects and experiments that blend emerging technologies with skilled craftsmanship.

 

WELL HELLO.  IT’S DEVEN GREEN.

 

DEVEN GREEN is an award-winning comedic chanteuse. You know her from the “Welcome To My Home” and “Welcome To My White House” parodies, portraying the satirical Betty Bowers and playing her live music show across the Americas.  DevenGreen.com

 

Dear Deven:

I was at my Grandmother’s funeral and started laughing uncontrollably. I was embarrassed and obviously apologized.  Am I an awful person?

“Out Of Place”

Yes, you are awful…awfully human.  You experienced an anxiety break which is totally common and happens at the most inappropriate times. You can’t control it so excuse yourself until you settle down.  Sorry about your loss, honey.

 

Dear Deven:

I really like my brother’s new boyfriend but I keep calling him by the former boyfriend’s name! He was with his ex for so long I have it ingrained in my mind. How do I switch over to the new name?

“Foot In Mouth”

I see you have made your brother’s relationship all about you.  Maybe YOU are missing his ex!  Pull the new boyfriend aside and apologize then call him “buddy” from now on.

 

Dear Deven:

I was at a small dinner party and our friend, who is a vegan chef, brought out appetizers. They were awful! Everyone thought so. I spite mine out and the chef got upset.  What was I supposed to do?

“Tasteless”

Have some class in dealing with unpleasant things in your mouth.  No one else said anything because they were grateful for his efforts. Next time, take a smaller bite and chew with your mouth closed.

 

Dear Deven:

I have wanted to date this guy for years but he was always with other people.  I heard he broke up so I swooped in but he rejected me!  Why do I feel so mad?

“Ill Timed”

You should be mad at yourself for acting like a vulture. If you considered him a friend and not a “thing” to subjugate, you would have given him some breathing room and then connected.

 

Dear Deven:

I’m in a workplace soccer league. We eat and drink socially after our games.  One guy keeps trying to conduct business when we just want to unwind. How do I address his desperation?

“Left-field”

He’s offside so tell him your communal goal is fun. Defend your position by inviting him to a business meeting at the office. If you are uncomfortable doing it one-on-one, then make a group announcement at the start of your social time.

 

Dear Deven:

My close friend is now a fan of wearing caftans – those loose dresses.  He keeps asking me how it looks. How do I lie?

“Ill-Suited”

You give him a little truth syrup such as, “you are one-of-a-kind and look so very comfortable.” Either join him or let him have his fun and be free.

 

Dear Deven:

I was invited over for a first date and he didn’t even clean the sheets! I just COULDN’T so I didn’t but then HE got mad! What?

“Unbecoming”

You, being a man of cleanliness, should have moved your party to the shower.  Let him be mad because your record is still spotless.

 

Dear Friends: I do not offer advice, only my experience. DevenGreen@gmail.com

 

 

Image: Reed Davis Photography

MUA: Joseph Adivari

Hair: Miles Jeffries

Dress: Debakalis by John Sakalis / Eddie DeBarr

 

By Joshua Neal

A NEW YEAR, A NEW YOU.  This is the season where we begin to make new promises to ourselves and get serious about our lives.  At the top of that list is health and fitness. Whether it’s starting a new diet or workout regiment, many simply just want to make some type of change and renew themselves for a new year.

2018 – an all new year with new opportunities and changes that have the potential to make a difference in your life – especially if you choose to use them constructively. 2018 is full of positive power and gives you ample opportunity to convert your life happenings into immediate rewards. Here are some strategies that will help to build a new you in the new year.

Resolutions of Positivity

Be Visible
The most important thing the LGBT community can do is to be present and vocal. We must live without FEAR, and we must continue to speak up for our rights.  Harvey Milk said it best: “There is no downside to being visible.”

Build A Positive Cummunity
Support every part of the LGBTQ community whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Hate or segregation has no place in our community. Talk to one another and stick together. This makes us stronger together. The more we support each other, the more we can continue to demand our equal rights. Please remember no matter who you are, there is nothing wrong with you.

Send More Love Out Into The World
Respect all other communities that are not specifically LGBTQ – this is not about us only. Don’t just focus on the needs of the LGBT community.  We owe it to ourselves to look at all the inequalities around the world and do something about them. It’s easy to support the LGBT, but if we expect for others to care and support us, we must treat everyone with respect.

Resolutions of Health and Fitness

Improve your physical health with these simple but life-changing solutions.

  • Take the stairs and avoid elevators
  • Drink more waiter
  • Pick up a hobby (dance/sport)
  • Join a gym
  • Tell someone about our fitness goals so that they can hold you accountable

Improve your mental health with these 5 strategies

  • Meditate/ Take a yoga class
  • Eat a healthy meal without any distractions (no TV, phone, music, etc.)
  • Make less excuses/Stop complaining
  • Compliment yourself more
  • Get over at least one fear or get help to face it

Resolutions for a Focused 2018
With so many resolutions out there it’s important that we shift some of our focus and energy for 2018 on ourselves.  Here are a few key resolutions that can help transform mental health and fitness into a positive and powerful year.

  • Simply smile more
  • Walk with confidence
  • Make eye contact
  • Be kind for no reason
  • Change your environment
  • Leave the PAST in the PAST, and learn to let it go. Let go of the anger, the hate, past hurt and pain and begin to create that space for things that truly serve you. We can’t dwell on the past. 

à[Box or separate block (can be left out of editorial)] About Getting Help
Mental health is a subject that is often swept under the rug so it can be difficult to acknowledge your mental health and get the necessary help. I am completely guilty of suppressing a lot of issues until about five years ago when I decided to start getting the help I needed. I have suffered from almost all of it and still have to take every day of my life step by step and breath by breath. However, between my yoga practice, faith, going to church, and my counseling sessions, I can honestly said that I am at my highest level in my life. So, accept yourself for who you are and get the help you need. If you need more info, call 800-273-TALK or visit mentalhealth.gov.

Joshua Neal’s is writer, blogger and model whose career in fitness and health spans nearly 20 years. He’s a certified GF instructor and personal trainer, and he manages a Lifetime Fitness studio where he also instructs cycling, yoga, pilates and kickboxing. Find him on Facebok under Joshuah Neal and follow him on Instagram @joshuahdneal.

DEVEN GREEN is an award-winning musical comedy performer. You know her from the “Welcome To My Home” and “Welcome To My White House” parodies, as the satirical Betty Bowers and performing as a comedic chanteuse in lounges across America.  DevenGreen.com

 

Image: Reed Davis

Celebrity voice guest (online): NELSON ASPEN  

 

Dear Deven:

It has been a tough year dealing with the daily news. I need a reason to feel better.

“Here Comes The Sun”

It is all cyclical. Eventually storms pass and skies are blue again. Be happy when you have sunlight and find a way to have hope when it is dark.

 

Dear Deven:

I’m glad this year is over. I’ve never felt so angry and isolated. How do I not stay this way?

“I Want To Hold Your Hand”

Your nature is to be social and not alone. When you reach out to connect, someone will always reach back.

 

Dear Deven:

I tried living “out with the old and in with the new,” but had a tough time letting go of the old. How do I cut ties?

“Hello, Goodbye”

Try either a quick break or a slow dissolve to move forward. Some elements just naturally fade from your purview and others pivot abruptly. These are both growing pains.

 

Dear Deven:

I buy the least expensive item anywhere for everything.  My closest friends say I’m cheap. What am I?

“Penny Lane”

You are a handful! If you pay the lowest price now and the item doesn’t last long then you are essentially paying double. When you thoughtfully factor in your end-game you may work your way up to being frugal.

 

Dear Deven:

I can’t stop thinking about my last love.  I can’t really get over him.  I want everything to be the way it was. How do I do this?

“Yesterday”

You don’t. If you dwell in the past how can you be with anyone, including yourself, right now? Conversely, if you fret about the future you will miss all the opportunities of today.

 

Dear Deven:

I took your advice and talked to someone about “me” and not fixing “us.” I feel stable for the first time in a long time and our relationship is solid. Thank you.

“We Can Work It Out”

It looks great on you. I’m glad you are enjoying what you knew was inside of you the whole time.

 

Dear Deven:

I work so hard at love.  How will I know when it is authentic?

“Real Love”

When you freely give your time, heart and best efforts to another person perhaps that is the closest ideal to real love. Of course, it is also the person that annoys you the least.

 

Dear Deven:

I love you.

“All You Need Is Love”

I feel it. Please let others know how much you care by telling them. Happy holidays friends, I will meet you under the mistletoe. I love you.

 

Dear Friends: I do not offer advice, only my experience.  DevenGreen@gmail.com

Special celebrity audio version here: GoliathAtlanta.com

 

By Gregg Shapiro

 

Gay filmmaker Todd Haynes (Carol, Far from Heaven, and others) daringly and successfully enters new and exhilarating territory with his latest film Wonderstruck (Amazon Studios). Based on the book by gay young adult author and illustrator Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck tells two seemingly unrelated stories, fifty years apart. One, shot in black and white and set in 1927, is about Rose (Millicent Simmonds), a young, deaf girl obsessed with silent movies (and one actress in particular), whose world is about to change dramatically with the birth of the talkies. The other story, shot in color and set in 1977, deals with Ben. Following the sudden death of his single mom, Ben embarks on a journey to New York where he attempts to track down the father he never met. I spoke with Haynes in October of 2017.

 

Gregg Shapiro: Todd, if you don’t mind, I’d like to begin with the most obvious question. What was it about writer/illustrator Brian Selznick’s young adult novel Wonderstruck that made you want to adapt it as a movie?

Todd Haynes: I didn’t read the book first, I read the script. The script had already made a major move towards cinema. It demonstrated somebody bitten by the bug of how to really evoke, use and consider all the components of movies in the storytelling through cinematic language. Cinematic language without words that goes beyond words. It’s not a story that’s driven by dialogue. He already was considering sound and the edit and all the things at the sinew of cinema storytelling. That was infectious. Maybe other directors would be like, “That’s my job! Back off, dude!” I was thrilled by that.

 

GS: Do you think it was because it was his own book that he adapted that he could see it cinematically?

TH: John Logan, the screenwriter from Hugo (Martin Scorcese’s 2011 screen adaptation of Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret), had said to him to enter the process and not to show it to anyone until he felt like he’d gone deep into that process, of thinking about it as a film. He did that! It’s not just bringing his drawings to life. It’s something very much about cinema. Cinema is in the content; it’s not just in the form. The little girl is a lover of movies and a follower of this actress. We don’t know all the reasons why. Also, what the change from silent pictures to sound indicates for this deaf child is an observation of profound magnitude.

 

GS: That comes across in the powerful scene when Rose (Millicent Simmonds) is leaving the theater, and she sees the signs about the renovation and the arrival of talkies.

TH: And it’s really powerful for deaf audiences.

 

GS: W.C. Fields had a famous quote about never working with children or animals. What can you say about your experience of working with children?

TH: Everything that one says about children in this film has to be contextualized because the children are always changing as they grow up and different ages of childhood are so different. The age of 12, which all three kids are scripted to be around, is its own kind of child. A level of sophistication, wisdom, and knowledge about the world that has not yet been contaminated by the hormonal explosion. Right? That renders a kind of wisdom and depth and clarity, I think, that we may never match in life. I found this age to be an exception in almost every way, or at least in heightened moments. Almost parallel to how I felt about cinema in the moment before sound comes in. Reaching a level of sophistication and new ideas and innovations that was remarkable. It’s like what happens with kids right before puberty. It’s a unique moment. These two ideas join in this film. The actors that I cast demonstrated that to me in many ways.

 

GS: How much time would you say that you spent in museums as a child?

TH: I spent a lot of time in museums. I grew up in Los Angeles, so I spent more time in art museums than in museums of science. I didn’t have the Museum of Natural History as a location in my childhood the way these kids do in Wonderstruck and the way that many of the people with whom I worked on Wonderstruck did. Brian Selznick lived in New Jersey and would visit New York and go to the museum. Mark Friedman, my production designer, spent countless hours at that museum. In fact, both Oakes (Fegley, who plays Ben), who is from outside Philly, and Jaden (Michael, who plays Jamie), who is a New York City kid, spent a lot of time at the museum when they were kids.

 

GS: Wonderstruck is your first PG-rated movie, as well as being based on a novel with a young adult readership, which means that, as a filmmaker, you are going to be reaching a whole new generation of moviegoers. What does that mean to you?

TH: It means everything to me. That’s why I made the film. I wanted this to be a special gift to kids today, and be a film that embraced kids making things with their hands, building little buildings. Ideally, kids getting off their phones and doing things that we all did as kids, that I think kids still do. Having glue and tape, and marker stains on their fingers, and wanting to make things. In the stories of both kids, those creative practices and hobbies and interests are the very things that take them through life and let them figure out who they are and get to where they need to be. That’s absolutely true of the Rose story, where we see the before and after. One suspects that Ben is going to be just fine, given his curiosity and interest in doing things creatively.

 

GS: With the exception of Safe, your feature films have all been set in time periods of the past. Can you please say something about your interest in bringing the past to the screen?

TH: I think the past, at a really selfish level, demands of me to continue to be a student of history and cinema and to continue to learn. One could apply those same interests and drives to contemporary stories, but I think I feel like I get to time-travel myself in making these movies. To feel like I have touched something tactile about the eras in which I have made films. I also think it sets up a frame for the audience to think about their own lives and their present lives in relation to the past. All films have frames around them, but some of them are made explicit. I think a period film makes that explicit. A question that the film is asking you.

 

GS: You once again worked with Julianne Moore on Wonderstruck. What makes your working relationship special?

TH: Our working relationship is special not because she only does her best work with me. Speaking for myself, I appreciate her remarkable talents, from film to film to film, whether I’ve made them or not. I’m so continually bowled over by how well she knows the medium of film. How risky she remains as an actor. How unobsequious she is with the audience. She doesn’t need to be liked to feel induced to do a project. That’s not what motivates her; a kind of affection for the character or to make an audience melt by her charms. She’s interested in something else, and it’s riskier and continually intellectually challenging. She’s an insanely brilliant person. I think a lot of this happens at her core, in some weird chemistry that she has with the medium of film.

 

GS: Wonderstruck has already won one award – the ICS Cannes Award for best director. What would it mean to you if it won a Best Picture Oscar?

TH: It’s hard for me to think about things like that. It ultimately gets in the way of why I make movies and how the movies are valued over time. I’ve been very lucky to feel like my films retain interest for people well beyond the years of the awards season. We all talk about it; we’re all aware of it. We do campaigns for our movies with those goals in mind. But there’s a part of me that needs to try as much as possible not to think about it. I have too many other things to do to talk about the movie, so I don’t fixate on stuff like that.

 

The Wonder of it all: an interview with Todd Haynes

By Gregg Shapiro

 

Gay filmmaker Todd Haynes (Carol, Far from Heaven, and others) daringly and successfully enters new and exhilarating territory with his latest film Wonderstruck (Amazon Studios). Based on the book by gay young adult author and illustrator Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck tells two seemingly unrelated stories, fifty years apart. One, shot in black and white and set in 1927, is about Rose (Millicent Simmonds), a young, deaf girl obsessed with silent movies (and one actress in particular), whose world is about to change dramatically with the birth of the talkies. The other story, shot in color and set in 1977, deals with Ben. Following the sudden death of his single mom, Ben embarks on a journey to New York where he attempts to track down the father he never met. I spoke with Haynes in October of 2017.

 

Gregg Shapiro: Todd, if you don’t mind, I’d like to begin with the most obvious question. What was it about writer/illustrator Brian Selznick’s young adult novel Wonderstruck that made you want to adapt it as a movie?

Todd Haynes: I didn’t read the book first, I read the script. The script had already made a major move towards cinema. It demonstrated somebody bitten by the bug of how to really evoke, use and consider all the components of movies in the storytelling through cinematic language. Cinematic language without words that goes beyond words. It’s not a story that’s driven by dialogue. He already was considering sound and the edit and all the things at the sinew of cinema storytelling. That was infectious. Maybe other directors would be like, “That’s my job! Back off, dude!” I was thrilled by that.

 

GS: Do you think it was because it was his own book that he adapted that he could see it cinematically?

TH: John Logan, the screenwriter from Hugo (Martin Scorcese’s 2011 screen adaptation of Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret), had said to him to enter the process and not to show it to anyone until he felt like he’d gone deep into that process, of thinking about it as a film. He did that! It’s not just bringing his drawings to life. It’s something very much about cinema. Cinema is in the content; it’s not just in the form. The little girl is a lover of movies and a follower of this actress. We don’t know all the reasons why. Also, what the change from silent pictures to sound indicates for this deaf child is an observation of profound magnitude.

 

GS: That comes across in the powerful scene when Rose (Millicent Simmonds) is leaving the theater, and she sees the signs about the renovation and the arrival of talkies.

TH: And it’s really powerful for deaf audiences.

 

GS: W.C. Fields had a famous quote about never working with children or animals. What can you say about your experience of working with children?

TH: Everything that one says about children in this film has to be contextualized because the children are always changing as they grow up and different ages of childhood are so different. The age of 12, which all three kids are scripted to be around, is its own kind of child. A level of sophistication, wisdom, and knowledge about the world that has not yet been contaminated by the hormonal explosion. Right? That renders a kind of wisdom and depth and clarity, I think, that we may never match in life. I found this age to be an exception in almost every way, or at least in heightened moments. Almost parallel to how I felt about cinema in the moment before sound comes in. Reaching a level of sophistication and new ideas and innovations that was remarkable. It’s like what happens with kids right before puberty. It’s a unique moment. These two ideas join in this film. The actors that I cast demonstrated that to me in many ways.

 

GS: How much time would you say that you spent in museums as a child?

TH: I spent a lot of time in museums. I grew up in Los Angeles, so I spent more time in art museums than in museums of science. I didn’t have the Museum of Natural History as a location in my childhood the way these kids do in Wonderstruck and the way that many of the people with whom I worked on Wonderstruck did. Brian Selznick lived in New Jersey and would visit New York and go to the museum. Mark Friedman, my production designer, spent countless hours at that museum. In fact, both Oakes (Fegley, who plays Ben), who is from outside Philly, and Jaden (Michael, who plays Jamie), who is a New York City kid, spent a lot of time at the museum when they were kids.

 

GS: Wonderstruck is your first PG-rated movie, as well as being based on a novel with a young adult readership, which means that, as a filmmaker, you are going to be reaching a whole new generation of moviegoers. What does that mean to you?

TH: It means everything to me. That’s why I made the film. I wanted this to be a special gift to kids today, and be a film that embraced kids making things with their hands, building little buildings. Ideally, kids getting off their phones and doing things that we all did as kids, that I think kids still do. Having glue and tape, and marker stains on their fingers, and wanting to make things. In the stories of both kids, those creative practices and hobbies and interests are the very things that take them through life and let them figure out who they are and get to where they need to be. That’s absolutely true of the Rose story, where we see the before and after. One suspects that Ben is going to be just fine, given his curiosity and interest in doing things creatively.

 

GS: With the exception of Safe, your feature films have all been set in time periods of the past. Can you please say something about your interest in bringing the past to the screen?

TH: I think the past, at a really selfish level, demands of me to continue to be a student of history and cinema and to continue to learn. One could apply those same interests and drives to contemporary stories, but I think I feel like I get to time-travel myself in making these movies. To feel like I have touched something tactile about the eras in which I have made films. I also think it sets up a frame for the audience to think about their own lives and their present lives in relation to the past. All films have frames around them, but some of them are made explicit. I think a period film makes that explicit. A question that the film is asking you.

 

GS: You once again worked with Julianne Moore on Wonderstruck. What makes your working relationship special?

TH: Our working relationship is special not because she only does her best work with me. Speaking for myself, I appreciate her remarkable talents, from film to film to film, whether I’ve made them or not. I’m so continually bowled over by how well she knows the medium of film. How risky she remains as an actor. How unobsequious she is with the audience. She doesn’t need to be liked to feel induced to do a project. That’s not what motivates her; a kind of affection for the character or to make an audience melt by her charms. She’s interested in something else, and it’s riskier and continually intellectually challenging. She’s an insanely brilliant person. I think a lot of this happens at her core, in some weird chemistry that she has with the medium of film.

 

GS: Wonderstruck has already won one award – the ICS Cannes Award for best director. What would it mean to you if it won a Best Picture Oscar?

TH: It’s hard for me to think about things like that. It ultimately gets in the way of why I make movies and how the movies are valued over time. I’ve been very lucky to feel like my films retain interest for people well beyond the years of the awards season. We all talk about it; we’re all aware of it. We do campaigns for our movies with those goals in mind. But there’s a part of me that needs to try as much as possible not to think about it. I have too many other things to do to talk about the movie, so I don’t fixate on stuff like that.

 

The Wonder of it all: an interview with Todd Haynes

By Gregg Shapiro

 

Gay filmmaker Todd Haynes (Carol, Far from Heaven, and others) daringly and successfully enters new and exhilarating territory with his latest film Wonderstruck (Amazon Studios). Based on the book by gay young adult author and illustrator Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck tells two seemingly unrelated stories, fifty years apart. One, shot in black and white and set in 1927, is about Rose (Millicent Simmonds), a young, deaf girl obsessed with silent movies (and one actress in particular), whose world is about to change dramatically with the birth of the talkies. The other story, shot in color and set in 1977, deals with Ben. Following the sudden death of his single mom, Ben embarks on a journey to New York where he attempts to track down the father he never met. I spoke with Haynes in October of 2017.

 

Gregg Shapiro: Todd, if you don’t mind, I’d like to begin with the most obvious question. What was it about writer/illustrator Brian Selznick’s young adult novel Wonderstruck that made you want to adapt it as a movie?

Todd Haynes: I didn’t read the book first, I read the script. The script had already made a major move towards cinema. It demonstrated somebody bitten by the bug of how to really evoke, use and consider all the components of movies in the storytelling through cinematic language. Cinematic language without words that goes beyond words. It’s not a story that’s driven by dialogue. He already was considering sound and the edit and all the things at the sinew of cinema storytelling. That was infectious. Maybe other directors would be like, “That’s my job! Back off, dude!” I was thrilled by that.

 

GS: Do you think it was because it was his own book that he adapted that he could see it cinematically?

TH: John Logan, the screenwriter from Hugo (Martin Scorcese’s 2011 screen adaptation of Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret), had said to him to enter the process and not to show it to anyone until he felt like he’d gone deep into that process, of thinking about it as a film. He did that! It’s not just bringing his drawings to life. It’s something very much about cinema. Cinema is in the content; it’s not just in the form. The little girl is a lover of movies and a follower of this actress. We don’t know all the reasons why. Also, what the change from silent pictures to sound indicates for this deaf child is an observation of profound magnitude.

 

GS: That comes across in the powerful scene when Rose (Millicent Simmonds) is leaving the theater, and she sees the signs about the renovation and the arrival of talkies.

TH: And it’s really powerful for deaf audiences.

 

GS: W.C. Fields had a famous quote about never working with children or animals. What can you say about your experience of working with children?

TH: Everything that one says about children in this film has to be contextualized because the children are always changing as they grow up and different ages of childhood are so different. The age of 12, which all three kids are scripted to be around, is its own kind of child. A level of sophistication, wisdom, and knowledge about the world that has not yet been contaminated by the hormonal explosion. Right? That renders a kind of wisdom and depth and clarity, I think, that we may never match in life. I found this age to be an exception in almost every way, or at least in heightened moments. Almost parallel to how I felt about cinema in the moment before sound comes in. Reaching a level of sophistication and new ideas and innovations that was remarkable. It’s like what happens with kids right before puberty. It’s a unique moment. These two ideas join in this film. The actors that I cast demonstrated that to me in many ways.

 

GS: How much time would you say that you spent in museums as a child?

TH: I spent a lot of time in museums. I grew up in Los Angeles, so I spent more time in art museums than in museums of science. I didn’t have the Museum of Natural History as a location in my childhood the way these kids do in Wonderstruck and the way that many of the people with whom I worked on Wonderstruck did. Brian Selznick lived in New Jersey and would visit New York and go to the museum. Mark Friedman, my production designer, spent countless hours at that museum. In fact, both Oakes (Fegley, who plays Ben), who is from outside Philly, and Jaden (Michael, who plays Jamie), who is a New York City kid, spent a lot of time at the museum when they were kids.

 

GS: Wonderstruck is your first PG-rated movie, as well as being based on a novel with a young adult readership, which means that, as a filmmaker, you are going to be reaching a whole new generation of moviegoers. What does that mean to you?

TH: It means everything to me. That’s why I made the film. I wanted this to be a special gift to kids today, and be a film that embraced kids making things with their hands, building little buildings. Ideally, kids getting off their phones and doing things that we all did as kids, that I think kids still do. Having glue and tape, and marker stains on their fingers, and wanting to make things. In the stories of both kids, those creative practices and hobbies and interests are the very things that take them through life and let them figure out who they are and get to where they need to be. That’s absolutely true of the Rose story, where we see the before and after. One suspects that Ben is going to be just fine, given his curiosity and interest in doing things creatively.

 

GS: With the exception of Safe, your feature films have all been set in time periods of the past. Can you please say something about your interest in bringing the past to the screen?

TH: I think the past, at a really selfish level, demands of me to continue to be a student of history and cinema and to continue to learn. One could apply those same interests and drives to contemporary stories, but I think I feel like I get to time-travel myself in making these movies. To feel like I have touched something tactile about the eras in which I have made films. I also think it sets up a frame for the audience to think about their own lives and their present lives in relation to the past. All films have frames around them, but some of them are made explicit. I think a period film makes that explicit. A question that the film is asking you.

 

GS: You once again worked with Julianne Moore on Wonderstruck. What makes your working relationship special?

TH: Our working relationship is special not because she only does her best work with me. Speaking for myself, I appreciate her remarkable talents, from film to film to film, whether I’ve made them or not. I’m so continually bowled over by how well she knows the medium of film. How risky she remains as an actor. How unobsequious she is with the audience. She doesn’t need to be liked to feel induced to do a project. That’s not what motivates her; a kind of affection for the character or to make an audience melt by her charms. She’s interested in something else, and it’s riskier and continually intellectually challenging. She’s an insanely brilliant person. I think a lot of this happens at her core, in some weird chemistry that she has with the medium of film.

 

GS: Wonderstruck has already won one award – the ICS Cannes Award for best director. What would it mean to you if it won a Best Picture Oscar?

TH: It’s hard for me to think about things like that. It ultimately gets in the way of why I make movies and how the movies are valued over time. I’ve been very lucky to feel like my films retain interest for people well beyond the years of the awards season. We all talk about it; we’re all aware of it. We do campaigns for our movies with those goals in mind. But there’s a part of me that needs to try as much as possible not to think about it. I have too many other things to do to talk about the movie, so I don’t fixate on stuff like that.

 

 

By Gregg Shapiro

Don’t look now, but the winter holiday season is rapidly approaching. The following expanded reissues by George Michael, Pet Shop Boys, Jackie Shane and The Smiths are custom-made for the LGBTQ music lovers on your holiday gift list.

 

There’s no way that the late George Michael could have foreseen the Trumpworld of 2017 when he wrote “Praying For Time,” the opening track and first single from his underrated second solo album, 1990’s Listen Without Prejudice. However, with references to “wounded skies” and “days of the open hand,” as well as the “rich” declaring themselves “poor,” Michael was nothing short of prescient. Newly reissued, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1/MTV Unplugged (Sony Music/Legacy), features the remastered original album on the first disc, and Michael’s previously unavailable 1996 MTV Unplugged set, as well as a Nile Rodgers reworking of the track “Fantasy.”

 

The bonus material is lovely and all, but Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 (there is no Vol. 2, by the way) is the focus here, and rightfully so. Sure, the album lacked the irresistible appeal of Faith, Michael’s flawless solo debut, but that’s an unfair comparison. Taken on its own merits, LWP holds up as well as its predecessor, particularly on the aforementioned “Praying For Time,” the drama of “Mother’s Pride,” the light jazz of “Cowboys & Angels,” and the rebellious beat of “Freedom ‘90”. Michael even showed off his good taste as an interpreter via a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “They Won’t Go When I Go,” and the interpolation of the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” into his “Waiting.”

 

Would we have had Pet Shop Boys without George Michael’s previous band, Wham!? Like Wham!, Pet Shop Boys (Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe) are a British male duo. Also like Wham!, Pet Shop Boys traffic in dance-pop with an electronic influence. Unlike Wham!, Pet Shop Boys manages to remain in existence, still making wonderful music, more than 30 years after its groundbreaking debut album, Please, was released.

 

In 2001, the first six PSB albums were reissued in expanded editions, including a second “Further Listening” disc of bonus material. Sixteen years (!) and a few different stateside record labels later, a new reissue campaign began with Nightlife, Release, and Fundamental. The two latest installments are Yes and Elysium (both on Parlophone), from 2008 and 2012, respectively. By the time these two albums were released, PSB was no longer the chart-presence they were during the 1980s and into the early 1990s. Nevertheless, both of these albums have their allure, especially when it comes to the bonus material. Yes, for instance, includes PSB’s brilliant reading of Kate McGarrigle’s “I Cried For You” as well as a fabulous new version of “It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas.”

 

Trans soul singer Jackie Shane, who made a splash in the Toronto music scene of the 1960s, is the kind of semi-obscure performer that Queer Music Heritage’s JD Doyle, the man who wrote the liner notes for the late 2016 reissue of the subversively gay 1962 album Love Is a Drag, would usually get the credit for unearthing. In this instance, it was the good folks at the Chicago-based reissue/archive label The Numero Group who have shone a bright light on Ms. Shane. Any Other Way (Numero Group) is an attractively packaged double album set that includes a 12-track studio disc and a 13-track live disc. A dynamic interpreter of other people’s songs, Shane effortlessly makes the songs “In My Tenement,” “Sticks and Stones,” “Money (That’s What I Want”), “Walking the Dog,” and the title cut her own. The studio disc also includes a pair of Shane originals, “New Way of Lovin’” and “Cruel Cruel World.”

 

The Smiths’ former front-Morrissey has a habit of making headlines. Often, they are not for the most flattering of reasons. To begin with, his penchant for canceling concert tours has more than a few of his fans jumping ship. In October of 2017, his controversial political comments put him back in the spotlight (in the UK, at least). Also among his attention-grabbing antics, is his 2013 statement about his sexuality, in which he declared that he is not a homosexual, but rather a humasexual. As he put it, “I am attracted to humans. But, of course… not many.”

 

Nevertheless, humasexual sounds like a post-modern way of saying bisexual, and for that reason Morrissey and The Smiths, and the seriously expanded reissue of 1986’s ironically-titled The Queen is Dead (Warner Brothers), are included here. The Queen is Dead has long been considered the best album by The Smiths, who disbanded not long after its release in 1987. The box set includes a 2017 mix of the original album, featuring songs such as “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side,” Bigmouth Strikes Again” and “Vicar in a Tutu.” A second 13-track studio disc features B-sides, demos and more. The third “Live in Boston” disc was recorded in August 1986 at the Great Woods concert venue in Mansfield, Massachusetts. The fourth and final disc is a DVD containing the 2017 audio master 96khz/24 Bit PCM Stereo, in addition to The Queen is Dead film directed by the late, gay filmmaker Derek Jarman.

 

This might be stretching the definition a little, but here’s why the expanded 60th anniversary CD reissue of Funny Face: Original Soundtrack (Verve/UMe) is included here. The screenplay for the film, which starred Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, and Liza Minnelli’s godmother Kay Thompson, was written by gay writer Leonard Gershe. Gershe and his life partner Roger Edens (Judy Garland’s music supervisor and arranger), wrote additional songs for the movie, to augment the ones written by George and Ira Gershwin. Edens also produced the movie. Finally, Funny Face is set in the world of fashion. Gay enough for you yet? If not, definitely take a listen to the songs “Think Pink,” “Bonjour, Paris!” and “On How To Be Lovely.”

By Mik Hyldebrandt

Fall is here, so it’s time to break out the knitwear, long pants, and jackets. This season is all about breaking up the prep boy look and making it a little bit more edgy. Here are the key trends that will take you from uptight to unconstrained.

 

Bomber Jackets

A jacket in a classic bomber style is the perfect outer layer for your outfit. Get in in leather or in a quilted version as a cold-weather staple.
Eddie Bauer Quilted Jacket, $199

Diesel L-Rush Leather Jacket, $898

 

 

 

 

 

Knitwear with Graphic Prints
A sweater is unavoidable for fall and winter but it does make the edgiest guy look like a cozy granddad – unless you up your knitwear game with some cool graphics!

American Eagle Outfitters Sweater, $50

 

 

 

 

 

Statement T-shirts
So, technically a good statement t-shirt has never gone out of style, but if you want to present yourself with even more of a twist, you let your tee do the talking!

Zara Man Sequined T-shirt, $30

Vision Street Wear T-Shirt, $55

 

 

 

 

From Skinny to Oversize
This is another way of bulking up for the fall season – by donning oversized clothing! Wear your sweatshirts, sweaters or jacket in a size up for some added trend to your style.

Gap Canvas Fishtail Jacket, $120

 

 

 

 

 

90s Influences
If you have a vintage 90s Calvin Klein t-shirt in your closet, you’re in luck because they’re back in style. If not, they are readily available.

Calvin Kleib Jeans T-shirt, $44

Tommy Jeans Cap, $49

DEVEN GREEN is an award-winning musical comedy performer. You know her from the “Welcome To My Home” and “Welcome To My White House” parodies, portraying the satirical Betty Bowers and performing as a comedic chanteuse in lounges across America. Deven has chosen you – congratulations. DevenGreen.com

Image: Franz Szony / Mua: Joseph Adivari
Special celebrity audio version ONLINE VERSION ONLY: Jack Mackenroth

Dear Deven:
How do I know if the choices I am making are best for me or if I am inadvertently sabotaging myself?
“Choosing”
If you find yourself justifying your choice over and over again, then something isn’t quite right. You need to honestly feel at peace with your decisions.

Dear Deven:
I live a lot of life but most times I feel empty like I am just filling up the time with “stuff.” I need something extra. What’s wrong?
“Nourishing”
It is time to take personal inventory on what you have experienced and then metabolize those lessons. You are not filling yourself up with what you need, you are simply consuming whatever is there. This is akin to “empty calories.”

Dear Deven:
I always ask for advice from all my friends, but they never ask me for my advice. Don’t you think that is a bit rude?
“Picking”
Yes. YOU are rude by relying too heavily on their value system instead of having your own. You need to start making your own decisions, then you can ask them for their opinions, not their answers.

Dear Deven:
I’m an idiot. I made a horrible choice at a bar. How do I forgive myself?
“Regretting”
I forgive you if that helps but be good to you by not putting yourself in that position again.

Dear Deven:
We fight over the stupidest things. He constantly says things like, “MOVE OUT!” but I don’t think he really means them. I can’t let go of these arguments though. Should I stay or should I go?
“Deciding”
There are consequences to what we all say. Mature adults argue but come to a point of agreement without cutting the other person down. If he doesn’t mean what he says, then why are you still listening?

Dear Deven:
I am dating using online sites, but there are just so many choices I honestly can’t make up my mind. Any guidance?
“Optioning”
Try one of each.

Dear Deven:
I ended up getting pressured AGAIN into buying clothes I can’t afford by a sales associate. I feel guilty if I don’t buy them. Why can’t I walk away?
“Exiting”
They are emotionally blackmailing you and it is working. You need to ask yourself why you need the approval of a complete stranger. If you walk away empty handed I can guarantee that they will happily greet you the next time you return. Choose YOU not them.

Dear Friends: I do not offer advice, only my experience.
Send me your questions: DevenGreen@gmail.com
PS: Special celebrity audio version: GoliathAtlanta.com

HIV discrimination within our own community perpetuates a stigma against one of us that hurts all of us
By Mike Fleming

Ask any group of gay men a question, and you’re not likely to get the same answer twice. Make that question about HIV, and you have a diversity of opinion and stories worthy of a soap opera.

Despite advances in the prevention and treatment of HIV, the shadow of HIV stigma still looms large, affecting many of those of living with the disease. So profound is the fear of not just the disease but our fellow gay men who have it, some of the conventional presumptions and assumptions even fly directly in the face of public awareness.

To some guys, it is easier to avoid HIV testing, for example, than to risk exposing themselves to discrimination or disapproval. For others, the fear is so deep that they make not just the topic taboo, even with sex partners, but they also ostracize the HIV-positive men they meet the moment they find out.

And hello, those very behaviors are putting gay men more at risk of being exposed to the virus. Not talking about it is so dangerous that it feeds stats and reports that HIV rates coming down – unless you’re gay, or that HIV infections among gay men in the U.S. are highest in the South, or that Atlanta is a hub for new cases of gay and bisexual men being diagnosed with HIV.

Or that more than half of gay men who had sex last night did not use a condom or any other preventative measures widely available to them.

Ignoring the information is what’s really scary, deciding not to utilize our ability to stop its progression by ignoring our resources – all because HIV is a topic that’s too off limits.

Origins of Stigma

Of course, attempting to minimize the fears and stigmas, or even rationalize them, fails to take into account the complex dynamics that both trigger and perpetuate stigma against the disease, and discrimination against the gay men who already have it.

While the quality of life has improved enormously for people with HIV in the past 30 years, many of the same social and psychological barriers remain.

Ultimately, HIV is not like any other disease in the way that the public perceives it. What separates it from other illnesses is that, as a communicable disease, those infected are often seen as vectors for transmission. Blame is assigned, and not just to the infected individual but to an entire population, whether they be gay men, injecting drug users, or people of color.

That means that some gay men who are HIV-negative get a fight or flight response. In an effort to say “that’s not what all gay man are,” they try to separate themselves from their brethren. Rather than a united front, we splinter into “us and them.” It’s not helpful, not to mention that it doesn’t even work. We are all in this together whether we shun other guys or not.

Even before the AIDS epidemic began in the early 1980s, we were already stigmatized, and labeled by some as being either promiscuous or irresponsible. By the time the first wave of infections hit, the rapid spread of the disease through these communities only helped reinforce that negative stereotype.

As a result, the people most at risk of HIV were often sent into hiding, either for fear of abandonment, discrimination, or abuse. And the cycle was set for more abandonment, discrimination and abuse.

Discomfort with sexuality in general, especially in the puritan South, also plays a major role in the stigmatization of HIV. Even in otherwise progressive cultures, sexuality can often incite intense feelings of embarrassment or shame, particularly when related to sexually active gay men, or sex between youth under 18.

At the same time, so-called “secondary disclosures” (“How did you get it?”) further prevent many from stepping forward when faced with such fears as having to admit an affair, reveal a drug problem, or come out about one’s sexuality. HIV criminalization in states including Georgia only serve to reinforce these fears, casting guys with HIV as “blameworthy” while suggesting that those without it are “victims.”

All of these issues can’t help but contribute to feelings of stigmatization, both real and perceived, and may explain why 20% of the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV remain wholly untested.

So What Can You Do?

Learning to overcome HIV stigma is not easy. It requires a degree of self-reflection, as well as an honest assessment of your own personal biases and beliefs. One of the aims is to understand which of your fears are perceived and which are based on actual experience.

By separating the two, we’re better equipped to lay out a strategy to not only overcome our fears but to better protect ourselves against possible, real acts of discrimination or abuse.

In the end, overcoming stigma is not so much a decision as a process, one that takes time and patience.

More importantly, it’s about not being alone. Sharing your fears with others can often put things into better perspective, providing you a sounding board rather than isolating yourself in your deepest, darkest thoughts.

Where To Start

Here are a few tips on how to begin breaking HIV stigma, whether as an individual or in groups, whether you’re already HIV-positive and blame yourself, or are currently negative and are terrified of the disease and the people who have it.

Talk about HIV openly, especially with potential sex partners. Try to remove blame from any discussion. Remind yourself and others that HIV is a disease and not a moral consequence.

  • HIV-negative guys who are sexually active should realize they are very likely having sex with HIV-positive guys, and that is OK. You can have sex with HIV-positive guys and avoid HIV transmission.

    Educate yourself about HIV using quality reference materials. Atlanta is filled with great community-based organizations that offer brochures, pamphlets and reading lists that are not only accurate and plainly written, but culturally relevant to the experience of gay men. They also have access to support groups and counselors with whom you can speak freely and confidentially.

    If you find out someone is positive, think about how you would feel if you were in his shoes. How would you want someone to react? Thank him for being honest and having the courage to tell you. It is very difficult to tell someone you have HIV, especially in a sexual situation. Talk about the kind of sex you enjoy and want to have.

    Understand your rights under the law. Community-based organizations can often put you in touch with legal services to assist you when faced with discrimination at work, in housing, or with healthcare providers.

    Get an HIV test if you’re a sexually active gay man, and discuss any confidentiality concerns you may have with your provider. Leaving any concern unspoken will only add to your anxiety.

    Work with a professional if necessary to try and figure out in advance how you’d answer questions like, “How did you get it?” or “Did you use a condom?” If you’re one of the people who would ask such things, think about that being insensitive.

    Accept that you and others, who haven’t done their research or come to the realization that they need to, might ask stupid questions. Try not to be too defensive. Remind yourself that it’s more a reflection of their own fears and that they’re going through a process, too. If you can, use it as an opportunity to educate and enlighten. You may be surprised how little people know about the disease. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

    If you are experiencing prolonged depression or anxiety, or have a substance abuse problem that either stems from or is exacerbated by HIV in yourself or someone around you, seek professional help. Don’t go it alone if you don’t have to. There is help.

How gay men can help themselves, and lead others, to repair fences in a divided world
By Mike Fleming

According to your social feed, you are so right so often that you must have the world by the tail. But with all the dissent that you hear about later, there must be a kink in that system somewhere.

Amid the preaching to the choir and affirming feedback when we log onto our social networks, why are we as a society so sharply polarized? And more importantly, what can we do about it? How can we affect positive change if we are unwilling to even see opposing opinions, much less discuss them?

The most recent presidential election is a prime example. How can a good solid half of your fellow Americans get something so wrong when you are so, so right so, so often? Are they that different from you? Surely they aren’t stupid, are they? Brainwashed? Are they just plain evil?

Of course not. Maybe. Well, most of them. Probably.

Closer to home, look at the runoff for Atlanta’s 6th Congressional District between espoused gay ally and Democratic dream boy John Ossoff, and the mixed bag at best, fair-weather Republican that is Karen Handel. Campaigns get ugly, lies disguise as truth, conversations get heated, and battle lines get drawn. By the time one of them wins, neither looks like an appetizing option, and you can’t even look at the neighbor or family member who dared vote for the “other” candidate.

Now, choosing your friends and associates based on beliefs, values and opinions isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s good and natural to keep the support of like-minded people in your life. What may be new is how convenient it is to avoid dissenting opinions.

Hide someone’s profile from your newsfeed, and avoid conflict. Unfriend them, and forget them. Block them, and you can virtually steer clear of them forever. That kind of digital distance allows us to vilify any opponents as “other” and build nearly impenetrable emotional walls against them, and their uncomfortable, irritating and infuriating opinions.

One nagging issue, though: Avoiding a problem doesn’t solve it. It perpetuates it. Ask generations of gay men who were unable to live openly. We know as much or better than most about ignoring a problem and building psychological walls against the pain. Railing against the opposition without engaging meaningfully with your detractors in the conflict yields nothing but philosophical masturbation that’s more whining than resistance.

Our gay forbearers lived life that way, until one by one, group-by-group, organization-by-organization, idea by idea, they started standing up for themselves. In the tiniest ways at first, and then in growing number and frequency, we learned to work within and against the system to come at the problem from all angles.

Over time, confronting issues is what works to effect change.

Boys in the Bubble

Of course the polarity goes far beyond politics. For gay men, what’s political is certainly also societal, but it’s also quite personal. Discrimination based on outdated opinions affects our lives, and evading dealing with it is even more personal, because it’s actually bad for us to avoid conflict and live in a vacuum.

If you live in a bubble – and so many of us do on curated social media over the real world, in Midtown over living outside the I-285 Perimeter, on Atlanta’s blue island in the red sea of Georgia – it’s jarring to realize that you’re not in the majority. It hurts to realize that you don’t speak for everyone, or even for most people.

When you’re self- protected from the opinions of outsiders, seeing everyone’s views as equal and valid feels like oppression. Nobody wants that feeling. But psychiatrists say we just might need it.

Discourse with those who would oppose us, and engaging respectfully in dissent over issues that matter, is uncomfortable, but in our best interest. It’s ultimately how we change hearts and minds. That holds true, even if it takes time and patience – a lot of both.

Break the Cycle

Something wonderful happens when we try to see issues from someone else’s point of view. It irritates the senses, but it also allows us to figure out ways to communicate with those people. Even if it doesn’t work in the moment, even if we have to come at it from different angles over and over, maybe, just maybe, we can finally reach them with an opposing thought.

And – gasp – maybe they can gain access to our carefully constructed walls and change us too, for the better. Maybe there’s a grain of truth that we can rescue from the bottom of their pile of opinions.

You’ve heard absolute power corrupts absolutely. The same is true in a world where we get everything we want. Life is ultimately about getting some of what you want and a lot of what you need. That way, you find balance, and both you and the world around you benefit.

Yes, life is more cozy and less scary in our little bubbles, but consider this: Engaging in the discomfort a bit at a time may be more effective, and it beats the hell out of the full-tilt culture shock when the reality of a polarized society slaps you.

We can vow to think about that the next time a “surprise” verdict is read, or the outcome of an election night shatters our expectations. What could we have done to expose ourselves to parts of life that make us uncomfortable, expand our understanding, and ultimately move the conversation forward?

And this goes for conflicts within our own community. Whether you engage in societal discussions as an agitator or an assimilator, your engagement is valid. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s needed its peaceful MLKs and it’s resistant Malcolm X’s. The AIDS crisis needed the sad honors of The Names Project and the coffin-carrying rallies of Act Up. In the same way we engage with our biggest detractors, we can listen to each other better as well.

Bursting our bubbles may feel like a monumental task. That’s OK. Daunting is good, and due to our collective experience in the still-evolving LGBT rights struggle, our community may be uniquely suited to lead the way in reaching across the aisle to mend fences. 

Rules of Engagement

The unknown is scary, but it can also be just as exciting. Treat it like an opportunity. Once you steel yourself for the adventure, the next step is to remind yourself – early and often – that people are more alike than they are different, even if someone initially strikes you as your polar opposite.

Next remember that bursting your bubble is for your own good, and whatever resistance you overcome, both internal and external, will be worth it.

Here are a few tips, tenets and tricks to engage in productive conflict.

Perspectives Change Perceptions

Ask yourself: ‘If I thought about this from their point of view, would I still agree with myself?’

My Needs and Our Needs

Conflicts aren’t a competition. There are no winners and losers. There are two parties, and there is their relationship. Agree to argue from the “side” of the relationship. It takes practice and trust to allow other people to share their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and perspectives with passion – and for us to just let them be.  

Power and Control

Conflicts can sway to the person with the most authority. Instead, ask ‘Is one person giving in too much? Does holding your ground come at the cost of insensitivity? Are we discussing who has the most power, or what the conflict is truly about?’

Embrace ‘And’

So often we get caught in either-or thinking that diminishes credibility on both sides. It’s sophomoric and limiting by nature, and doesn’t allow us to see or hear anything other than what we already ‘know’ to be ‘true.’

Make Peace with Ambiguity

Based on our fears and a desire to stay in control, we naturally resist uncertainty. Become comfortable with it and allow yourself to hang out in ambiguity. It’ll give you a sense of openness, patience, and perspective that allows creative solutions to emerge.

Seek Higher Ground

In a desire to escape conflict as fast as possible, we sometimes rush to come up with “solutions” or “compromises.” It works on the surface, but it doesn’t address the deeper issues. Actively look for higher-level solutions by remaining open instead of simply trying to “win” or end the argument.

Discern Intent

With issues that cut the core of sacredly held beliefs, we often vilify those who don’t agree with us. Once they become “those people,” they’re nearly impossible to connect via meaningful dialogue. Look for the positive intention and real fears of the other person to find the core of what’s really true, not just what our ego wants to argue about.

Elevate Others

We can and do have impact on other people. Elevate the conversation by focusing on being real, vulnerable, and honest. Focus on appreciating and empowering the other person. Acknowledge them and practice being grateful for who they are, no matter how difficult it is. When you manage to lift them up despite obstacles, you lift up yourself in the accomplishment and create the higher-level solutions you truly want.

The Truth Triangle

Remember the three parts of truth: Your truth, their truth, and the real truth (solutions).

Sources: dukepsychology.edu, intentblog.com

 

Rainbros Co-founder adds to fabric of gay life in Atlanta
By Matthew Holley

Ever since its launch at the start of the New Year, Rainbros has redefined what it means to be a gay man in Atlanta through its unique take on peer mentorship and group activities. Rainbros envisions opportunities to discover commonalities and foster friendships above and beyond the typical gay hotspots and our own limited personal social circles.

Co-founder James Brian Yancey has worked tirelessly on the organization’s unique focus on common themes that most gay men struggle to navigate: fitness, finance, career building and health. We like what we see, so we named Yancey this month’s Man About Town and asked for more about his vision, his life in Atlanta, and his hopes for Rainbros future.

How did Rainbros come about?

I grew up in in Atlanta with organizations like Youth Pride and places like Outwrite bookstore, where I hung out with and made new friends when I was under 21. Those groups and places that support and foster relationship building outside of clubs and bars no longer exist, … so I always wanted to support people in our community to get on the right track.

More broadly, our community is hyper-sexualized… I’ve heard people say over and over that they are tired of apps and hookups and just want real connection in the real world. In seeing a lack of support for each other and hearing that people just want to connect a safe platonic way, the ideas for Rainbros were born. Mike Duffy, a Senior Producer for CNN at the time, and I shared parts of this vision and collaborated to co-found the organization.

So what exactly is Rainbros?

The core of Rainbros is peer coaching. We have 70 approved coaches that we’ve interviewed and who have gone through background checks to ensure safety. … We meet with people to hear the areas of their life that they want to grow in, and we connect them to a coach to establish goals and work toward them in life.

We also support and promote an ecosystem of events across theater, networking, health and fitness, personal finance, healthy relationships, networking and gay history to build community.

Where do you hope it goes in five years?

I hope Rainbros will have a method that consistently results in successful outcomes that can be packaged and replicated in other cities in the U.S. and countries around the globe. The world needs more peer coaching and supportive, platonic relationships.

Tell us about yourself outside of Rainbros.

I’m a rare Atlanta native. Even though I’ve lived in NYC for three years and London for six, Atlanta is home and I keep coming back. …

I had the chance to get involved very early with a digital marketing agency called 360i and ended up moving to NYC and London winning new biz, growing and managing teams and learning a lot from my lifelong mentor, the CEO there, Bryan Wiener. I got to launch and build the business in London from scratch, knowing no one there. …

We sold that company, and I used the proceeds to start my current company CloudTags, a venture-backed connected retail technology using ultrasonic waves to connect smartphones and staff tablets with no app needed. We are in Ponce City Market and have a team and offices in London as well.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love running and I love anything and everything in Piedmont Park – Green Market, concerts, Atlanta Botanical Gardens. I spend lots of time having adventures with my dog Winnie. I adore every aspect of the BeltLine and what it symbolizes and can be very happy anywhere on it seeing the diverse people of our city.

I’ve also been known to throw a few epic house parties for Joining Hearts and Halloween. I also spend a lot of time boating with friends on Lake Lanier at Gay Cove.

What are your favorite things about Atlanta?

The BeltLine is definitely number one, and the Lantern Festival is pretty great too. All of the hidden parks and places in Ansley Park are a close second. Tacqueria del Sol and Bacchanalia are two special food places. … I love so much about Atlanta it’s hard to list it all.

For more information, visit rainbros.us or write james.brian.yancey@rainbros.us.

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