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‘Anything’ clip gives first look of Matt Bomer as trans sex worker

the movie premieres on June 17 in Los Angeles

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Matt Bomer, gay news, Washington Blade

(Screenshot via YouTube.)

Indie flick “Anything” has released its first clip which features Matt Bomer portraying transgender sex worker, Freda.

The film stars John Carroll Lynch as a suicidal man who loses his wife and moves to Los Angeles to be taken care of by his sister (Maura Tierney). He strikes up a friendship with his neighbor, Freda (Bomer), and the pair begin a relationship.

“Anything,” executive produced by Mark Ruffalo, is based on the play of the same name by Timothy McNeil, who will make his directorial debut on the film.

Bomer’s casting led to an upset on social media that the film cast a cis-gender actor in a transgender role.

The film premieres June 17 in Los Angeles.

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Colton Underwood opens up about fertility struggles

On a new podcast Daddyhood the former Bachelor star says learning he had a low sperm count was “not a great feeling”

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Reality star Colton Underwood joins Hoda & Jenna to reveal his latest project, a new series called “Daddyhood” and — spoiler alert — Underwood says he and his husband, Jordan C. Brown, are on a “path to parenthood.” He also opens up about their difficult journey, saying, “I’ve had, already, some fertility struggles and it’s time we talk about this.” (Screenshot/YouTube NBC Today)

By Rob Salerno | LOS ANGELES – Former Bachelor star Colton Underwood wants to end the stigma around fertility treatments by letting the world follow his and his husband’s journey to create a child together on their new podcast Daddyhood, available now on Apple, Spotify, and YouTube.

In an interview with People Magazine, Underwood opens up about he and husband Jordan C. Brown began the process of creating a child shortly after they got married last year. Underwood says they’ve created embryos and are in the process of implanting them in a surrogate.

But before they could do that, both men were tested to ensure their sperm were viable. While Brown’s sperm count was normal, Underwood says his sperm count was too low. The couple both wanted to contribute sperm so that they wouldn’t know who was the genetic parent of their offspring, and could treat the child as equally there.

“I mean right away, my husband gets his results back for his sperm count and he had incredible, great numbers, and I got mine back and all my sperm was dead. And I think immediately I was just like, ‘Oh, what does this mean? It means I’m sterile and can’t have kids now.’ And it was not a great feeling,” he told People.

Underwood says he hopes that talking about it can help reduce the shame around fertility difficulties.

“I think one of the reasons why men don’t talk about it is it’s sort of a blow to the ego. They’re just like, ‘Why me, I’m an alpha man? How can I not do the most simple task a man can do?’” he said.

His doctor helped Underwood realize that parts of his lifestyle were causing his low sperm count, and put him on a plan to get his numbers up. 

“My doctor did list the most common reasons why sperm count could be low and I was doing literally everything you could possibly do to kill your sperm, which was hot tub and sauna, baths. Exercising more than four or five times a week actually has an adverse effect on sperm. Pelotoning, riding a cycle or a bike,” he said. “And then I was taking synthetic testosterone. I was prescribed testosterone after my days in football and what my body went through. So I was quite literally doing everything you possibly could do to hurt your sperm count.”

And Underwood is no stranger to putting his life on public display. After briefly playing in the NFL off season in 2014 and 2015, he competed on the reality show The Bachelorette before taking on the star role in the 2018 season of The Bachelor. He publicly dated Bachelor season winner Cassie Randolph for a year, ending amid allegations that he stalked her, leading to a restraining order. 

In 2021, Underwood publicly came out after saying he was blackmailed by someone who had spotted him at a bathhouse. He later starred in the Netflix reality series Coming Out Colton, which followed his journey learning about his sexuality and the gay community.

In a promo for Daddyhood, a supercut of interviews Underwood has done over the years highlights how often he’s spoken of how much he wants to have kids. 

Underwood says that Daddyhood will examine the issues that male couples face when seeking to have children, including medical procedures, legal issues, and the emotional toll that the journey can take. 

“I’m ready for this. I’m really excited to take this on,” he says of the podcast. “I cannot wait to share this dream with you.”

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Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Sports

New LGBTQ+ & ally wrestlers promotion to debut in L.A.

“There will be amazing wrestlers that have been in the area before, facing new and fresh faces with pink and glitter everywhere”

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CHATSWORTH — In 10 days, out gay pro wrestler Barbie Boi will bring 30 West Coast-based independent wrestling talent to this San Fernando Valley suburb. The event, organized by Alliance For All Wrestling, will be their first time together in the squared circle.

“There will be amazing wrestlers that have been in the area before, facing new and fresh faces with pink and glitter everywhere,” said Boi in a statement. “Not only does this show represent the LGBTQI+ community, but also brings together the straight allies that have supported and treated us equally, as one.”

Among the featured talent are Che Cabrera, Delilah Doom, Diego Valens, Dustin Daniels, Everly Rivera, G Sharpe, Maximilien Monclair, Mylo, Ray Rosas, Sandra Moon and Tyler Bateman. 

The Thursday, Feb. 29th event will be hosted by drag queen, performer and wrestling personality, Pollo Del Mar of San Francisco. 

“The last few years has seen an explosion in popularity for pro-wrestling produced and headlined by LGBTQI+ talents,” Del Mar said in the statement. “It’s bringing this new form of entertainment by and for our community to an area which hasn’t had access to it as consistently as it should. I’m anxious for everyone who attends to see the spectrum of characters and incredible wrestlers we have as queer people.”

Bell time is 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 and will be sold at the door at the venue at 19801 Northoff Place in Chatsworth, Suite 110, which is also home to Millennium Pro Wrestling and the Millennium Wrestling Academy. 

AFA graphic

“The excitement is bringing something a little newer to the area. Seeing all different talent from all over coming to the L.A. area is very exciting and meaningful — especially the representation of the LGBTQI+ community, women and people of color,” said Boi.

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Movies

Oscar-nominated ‘Nimona’ an essential gem for queer fans

Rescued from oblivion of studio politics, film rings palpably authentic

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The two queer protagonists of ‘Nimona.’ (Image courtesy of Netflix)

If you weren’t already a fan of ND Stevenson’s webcomic-turned-graphic-novel, last summer’s release of Netflix’s screen adaptation of “Nimona” likely escaped your notice. But with its emergence on multiple critics’ choice lists and awards show ballots for 2023, it’s time for you to pay attention.

Created while Stevenson — who has since come out as a trans man — was a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art and initially distributed on Tumblr, the comic was published in print in 2015 to become an award-winning bestseller. It’s an adventuresome sci-fi/fantasy blend set in a futuristic world where the fairy tale knights of medieval tradition have been given a high-tech makeover; but what captured its audience even more than its high-spirited, whimsical creativity was its unsubtle exploration of LGBTQ identity, underscored by a same-sex love interest for its hero but resonating most deeply through its shape-shifting title character and a plot that revolves around the systematic suppression of “otherness” by society. Yet, “controversial” elements notwithstanding, it’s fully and unapologetically targeted toward YA readers – the very audience, of course, that is most in need of its messaging in a time when the discourse around queer identities has become an omnipresent source of existential anxiety for young people attempting to come to terms with any non-hetero-normative leanings that might be bubbling to the surface of their developing psyches.

When Stevenson – who went on from the success of “Nimona” in print to become the creative force behind numerous queer-friendly projects in various media, including a stint writing for Marvel (the comics “Thor” and “Runaways”), Disney’s animated “Wander Over Yonder” series, and the acclaimed Netflix reboot “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” – came out as trans in 2020, the themes of queer acceptance in his seminal work were illuminated beyond a shadow of a doubt. In the meantime, “Nimona” had already been optioned to 20th Century Fox Animation as the basis for a film adaptation, produced by their subsidiary Blue Sky Studios; when Disney acquired the rights to Fox and its properties, the movie fell under its control. According to staffers, commenting in the wake of Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek’s clumsy response to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” political campaign, the film had already experienced pushback from studio executives over its LGBTQ themes, and especially its inclusion of a same-sex kiss – and when COVID-related financial pressures led to budget cuts, Blue Sky, was officially shut down, along with “Nimona” and all the rest of its projects.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the end of the story. “Nimona” was picked up by indie production company Annapurna in 2022, with Nick Bruno and Troy Quane stepping in as directors, and Netflix granted distribution rights. The completed film, with all of its intended queer elements firmly intact, was given a limited theatrical release in June of 2023, debuting as a streamer on the Netflix platform a week later – to the delight of fans who had believed the long-awaited project to be a lost cause barely a year before.

It took another six months or so for the rest of the world to take notice, but thanks to its inclusion on critics’ choice lists and awards-season buzz in the wake of multiple nominations, “Nimona” has become one of last year’s “hidden gems.” and now stands within plausible reach of achieving the highest possible honor from the Hollywood movie industry: the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

Of course, whether or not it wins that (or any other) accolade has little objective bearing on its quality as a film; while positive steps toward inclusion and acceptance of LGBTQ characters and stories may be a laudable accomplishment in today’s tenuous social environment, they don’t necessarily equate to cinematic excellence from the wider perspective of aesthetic analysis. Fortunately, in this case, the two viewpoints merge perfectly to provide a movie that is at once keenly relevant to queer life in the modern age and defined by an artistic vision that transcends any political agenda or clumsy social engineering in which it might otherwise have allowed itself to become mired. While it may place its queer or queer-suggestive characters front-and-center in the spotlight, its message is unmistakably aimed toward anyone who feels (or has ever felt) like an outsider in a world that rewards conformity over individual truth – and let’s face it, that means everybody.

In Bruno and Quane’s finished film, there is no effort to obscure or downplay the story’s queer underpinnings: the hero, a newly minted knight named Ballister Boldheart (voiced by Riz Ahmed) is unequivocally gay, deeply in a fully requited love affair with fellow knight Ambrosius Goldenloin (YouTube star Eugene Lee Yang), and his shapeshifting sidekick, the titular Nimona (Chloë Grace Moritz), is so obvious an allegorical avatar for trans-hood that only the most oblivious of viewers could miss it. That’s fortunate: deprived of its deeper purpose of accessibility for those “outside the norm,” there would be nothing all that special about “Nimona” beyond its admittedly stunning visual design, which evokes connections to thematically related movies from “Sleeping Beauty” to “Star Wars” and everything in between. But though it makes painstaking effort to honor those and other influences within the scope of its pointedly progressive narrative, it establishes and inhabits its own distinctive milieu, carving a space for itself in which it feels neither derivative nor mired in gimmicky conceit – and it achieves this mostly through its loyalty toward (and empathy with) the characters whose status as outsiders to the mandated cultural standard makes them even more relatable.

Admittedly, it’s hard to miss the allegorical broad strokes in the plot, in which Boldheart, the first knight without a direct link to the ancient bloodline of the ruling class, is framed as a political criminal and targeted for elimination by a governing system steeped in long-standing traditions and prejudices, or to its seemingly juvenile title character, a girl with the ability to transform her physical being at will who is branded and persecuted as a “monster” because of it. As the story progresses, revealing even more hidden-in-plain-sight correlations to the “real” world, it’s difficult to imagine even the most obtusely straightforward viewer being blind to the story’s clear message about the corrupting influence of ancient and unquestioned preconceptions on the systems that govern our world.

Its aggressively deployed messaging, however, is not a detriment; “Nimona,” rescued beyond probability from the oblivion of studio politics and economic setbacks, rings all the more palpably authentic for wearing its agenda on its sleeve. In its unequivocal and undiluted embrace of the queer experience of “otherness” which lies (barely) beneath its every nuance, it becomes the inclusive, gay-and-trans-affirming parable it was always intended to be, emerging as a front-runner in the yearly race for accolades from a cautiously mainstream industry establishment in spite of its unapologetic queerness.

If that doesn’t make it essential viewing for queer movie fans, we don’t know what would.

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Television

Watch ‘Feud,’ if you like glam and wit doused with betrayal and regret

New series focuses on Truman Capote and NYC socialites

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‘Feud’ features NYC socialites known as the ‘swans’ and airs on F/X and Hulu through March 13. (Photo courtesy of FX)

Nothing is more of a pick-me-up in the doldrums of winter than a fabulously acted, incredibly stylish feud. Complete with Champagne flutes and a splendiferous mid-century ball at New York City’s Plaza Hotel. Especially, when it’s part of the ouevre of queer TV producer and creator Ryan Murphy, whose beloved shows include  “American Horror Story,” “Glee” and the anthology series “Feud.”

Season 2 of Feud, “Feud: Capote vs. The Swans,” which premiered on Jan. 31, will air weekly on FX through March 13. Episodes stream the next day on Hulu.

“Feud’s” powerhouse cast, which delivers stellar performances, includes: Tom Hollander as Truman Capote along with Naomi Watts, Diane Lane, Chloe Sevigny and Calista Flockhart as Capote’s swans.

Demi Moore plays Ann Woodward, a socialite who Capote falsely said intended to murder her husband. Molly Ringwald portrays Joanne Carson who befriended Capote when nearly no one  would take him in. The role of CBS chairman Bill Paley fits the late Treat Williams like a glove.

Hollander makes Capote seem like a brilliant, flawed, cruel, sometimes kind, human being, rather than a “fairy” caricature. 

Jessica Lang does a star turn as the ghost of Capote’s mother. Gus Van Sant directs most of the episodes of “Feud.”

“Feud” is based on Laurence Leamer’s book  “Capote’s Women.” Playwright and screenwriter Jon Robin Baitz adapted Leamer’s book into the miniseries “Feud.”

“Feud” is the story of how acclaimed queer author Capote, after becoming their best friend betrayed his “swans.”

“The swans,” were the rich, beautiful, New York society women who confided their secrets (from their insecurities about their looks to their husbands’ infidelities) to Capote. 

These “swans,” who took Capote into their inner circle, were: Babe Paley (wife of CBS chairman Bill Paley), Lee Radziwill (Jackie Kennedy’s sister), socialite Slim Keith (ex-wife of Howard Hawks and Leland Hayward) and socialite C.Z. Guest.

“You can’t blame a writer for what the characters say,” Capote, once said.

His swans didn’t agree with Capote’s dictum.

Capote’s betrayal of the swans occurred in 1975. That year, “Esquire” published “La Cote Basque, 1965,” a chapter from Capote’s much anticipated novel “Answered Prayers.”

(Capote never completed the novel. An unfinished version was published after his death.)

The “Esquire” story, set in the restaurant where Capote often lunched with his “swans,” hurt and infuriated “the ladies who lunched.” The details revealed in the “Esquire” story were so personal and thinly veiled that the “swans” felt readers would easily identify them.

“Feud” depicts the bonds of friendship that frequently exist between hetero women and queer men. Capote gave his “swans” the love and attention their spouses failed to provide. Babe Paley called Capote her “second husband.”

For Capote, an outsider because he was gay, “the swans” provided acceptance, association with high society (which he both loved and despised) and material for his writing.

Capote became estranged from the “swans” right after the “Esquire” story was published.

“Feud” goes back and forth in time. At first, this is a bit disconcerting. But, soon, it keeps things moving, and provides fascinating glimpses into Capote and the “swans.”

Bill and Babe Paley think Capote is the “other Truman” (Harry Truman) when they meet him in the 1950s.

In the 1970s, after the “swans” have shunned him, Capote is a washed-up, alcoholic, drug-addicted has-been. (Capote died in 1984 at age 59 of liver disease.)

The third episode is the stand-out of “Feud.” In 1966, Capote was at the height of his power after “In Cold Blood, his “non-fiction” novel, had been published to much acclaim and commercial success. To celebrate, Capote threw a Black and White masquerade ball. The ball, to which Capote invited 540 guests, was the most famous party of the 20th century. Katherine Graham of The Washington Post was the guest of honor.

The episode is shot as a (fictional) documentary of the ball. Shot in black and white, it’s visually stunning. We see interviews with some of the “swans,” who are ticked off, but trying not to show it, because Capote had led them to believe they would be the guest of honor.

Watch “Feud,” if you like glam, hats, white gloves, cocktails and wit doused with betrayal and regret.

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a&e features

‘Blindspot’ reveals stories of NYC AIDS patients that haven’t been told

Former Blade reporter’s podcast focuses on POC, women, trans people

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Kai Wright, a former Blade reporter, hosts the podcast ‘Blindspot.’ (Photo by Amy Pearl)

“We said that people had The Monster, because they had that look,” activist Valerie Reyes-Jimenez, said, remembering how people in her New York neighborhood reacted when people first got AIDS.

They didn’t know what to call it.

“They had the sucked in checks,” Reyes-Jimenez, added, “They were really thin…a lot of folks were saying, oh, you know, they had…cancer.”

“We actually had set up a bereavement clinic where the kids would tell us what they wanted to have when they die,” Maxine Frere, a retired nurse who worked at Harlem Hospital for 40 years and was the head nurse of its pediatric AIDS unit said, “How did they wanna die?”

“Nobody wanted to come on,” said former New York Gov. David Paterson, who in 1987 was Harlem’s state senator.

At that time, Manhattan Cable Television gave legislators the chance to do one show a year. “So I decided to do my show on the AIDS crisis and how there didn’t seem to be any response from the leadership in the Black community,” Paterson added.

These unforgettable voices with their searing recollections are among the many provocative, transformative stories told on Season 3 of “Blindspot,” the critically acclaimed podcast. 

“Blindspot: The Plague in the Shadows” is co-produced by the History Channel and WNYC Studios. The six-episode podcast series, which launched on Jan. 18 and airs weekly through Feb. 22, is hosted by WNYC’s Kai Wright with lead reporting by The Nation Magazine’s Lizzy Ratner.

The show is accompanied by a photography exhibit by Kia LaBeija. LaBeija is a New York City-based artist who was born HIV positive and lost her mother to the disease at 14. The exhibit, which features portraits of people whose stories are heard on “Blindspot,” runs at the Greene Space at WNYC through March 11.

If you think of AIDS, you’re likely to think of white cisgender gay men. (That’s been true for me, a cisgender lesbian, who lost loved ones to AIDS.)

From the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, most media and cultural attention has been focused on white gay men – from playwright and activist Larry Kramer to the movie “Philadelphia.”   

“Blindspot” revisits New York City, an epicenter of the early years of the HIV epidemic.

The podcast reveals stories of vulnerable people that haven’t been told. Of people of color, women, transgender people, children, drug-users, women in prison and the doctors, nurses and others who cared and advocated with and on their behalf.

“Blindspot,” through extensive reporting and immersive storytelling, makes people visible who were invisible during the AIDS epidemic. It makes us see people who have, largely, been left out of the history of AIDS.

Wright, 50, who is Black and gay, cares deeply about history. He is host and managing editor of “Notes from America with Kai Wright,” a show about the unfinished business of our history and its grip on our future.

Recently, Wright, who worked as a reporter at the Washington Blade from 1996 to 2001, talked with me in a Zoom interview. The conversation ranged over a number of topics from why Wright got into journalism, to how stigma and health care disparities still exist today for people of color, transgender people and poor people with AIDS to the impact he hopes “Blindspot” will have.

“I came to work at the Blade in 1996,” Wright said, “the year after I got out of college.”

He’d done two six-month stints at PBS and “Foreign Policy.” But Wright thinks of the Blade as his first proper journalism job.

From his youth, Wright has been committed to social justice and to understanding his community. Reporting, from early on, has been his connection with social justice. “I often say, journalism has been my contribution to social justice movements,” Wright said.

His first journalistic connection to the Black community came when he was 15. Then, Wright became an intern with the Black newspaper, the Indianapolis Recorder.

“That’s how I got the [journalism] bug,” Wright said.

Since then, Wright said, he’s worked almost exclusively with media that have a connection with the community.

Wright grew up in Indianapolis and went to college at Emory University in Atlanta. He didn’t intend to be a journalist, he wrote in an email to the Blade. At Emory, he studied international politics.

Wright’s life and work changed direction when he began working at the Blade. “I was a kid,” Wright said, “I’d just come out. I used journalism to find out what it meant to come out.”

Wright, when he came to Washington, D.C., was, as he recalled, just a kid. He didn’t know anyone in D.C. and there was a Black, queer community. This helped Wright to come out. “I couldn’t have told you that at the time,” he said, “but in retrospect I can see that I moved to  D.C. to come out.”

Journalism was Wright’s way of finding his way through coming out.

“I didn’t know if the Blade was hiring,” Wright said, “I just walked in.”

He didn’t have a deep resume but he had a lot to say. The Blade hired him and immediately put him to work reporting on AIDS.

“It was a pivotal cultural and political moment – a pivotal moment for the community,” Wright said.

That year, when Wright began working with the Blade, life-saving treatments (early drug cocktails) were emerging for AIDS.

“There was no way that HIV and AIDS wouldn’t become a central part of my journalism,” Wright said, “I really wanted to report on it.”

With the emergence of treatments, white gay men with health insurance began to feel that they were turning the page and that AIDS was no longer a death sentence.

“But, as a reporter, I was meeting Black gay men who were going into emergency mode about the AIDS epidemic,” Wright said.

Black people, poor people, drug users and others without health insurance and access to treatment were still dying and transmitting AIDS. “‘This is getting more and more dire,’ the activists said,” Wright recalls.

They told Wright, “The rest of the community is starting to turn the page. We can’t turn the page.”

In D.C., Wright could see, through his reporting, the racial discrimination in the community at large in the AIDS epidemic, and in the queer community.

Two things are true simultaneously, Wright said, when asked if there is still stigma and discrimination around HIV and AIDS today.

“Science has made so much progress,” Wright said, “It’s no longer necessary for any of us to die from HIV.”

“I take a pill once a day to prevent me from catching HIV,” he added, “I can do that. I am a person with insurance…with a great deal of social and economic privilege.”

But many people in the United States don’t have health insurance, and exist outside of the health care system. The divergence in treatment and stigma that he saw as a young reporter in 1996 are still there today, Wright said.

“The divergence in class and race has grown even more profound,” he said, “among people of color, young people – transgender people.”

Wright hopes  “Blindspot” will make people who lived through the epidemic and whose stories weren’t told, feel seen. And that “they will hear themselves and be reminded of the contributions they have made,” Wright said.

The queer press plays an important role in the LGBTQ community, Wright said. “We need a place to hash out our differences, share stories and ask questions that put our experience at the center of the conversation,” he emailed the Blade.

“There’s more space for us in media than when I started my career at the Blade,” Wright said, “but none of it is a replacement for journalism done by and for ourselves.”

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Notables

Cecilia Gentili’s funeral service held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Gentili was a legendary organizer, author, advocate, performer, and community icon. Her legacy endures on both systemic and personal levels

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Actor, singer, & playwright Billy Porter spoke & performed at the memorial services for Cecilia Gentili, a history-making trans activist, held at New York City’s historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral. (Screenshot/YouTube Trans Equity NY)

NEW YORK – The funeral services both somber and celebratory for Cecilia Gentili, a history-making trans activist, were held at New York City’s historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral Thursday. It is believed that Gentili is the first out transgender person and outspoken sex worker to have their funeral services at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Patrick’s, which has historically not been a friendly institution to the LGBTQ+ community.

Over 1400 mourners came to memorialize and honor Gentili at St. Patrick’s in the Midtown Manhattan neighborhood of New York City. It is the seat of the Archbishop of New York as well as a parish church.

Gentili tragically died on February 6th, just a week after her 52nd birthday. Her funeral service was both somber and celebratory of Gentili’s lasting impact on the community in New York City and across the country, with mourners chanting “Cecilia” in her honor.

Gentili was a legendary organizer, author, advocate, performer, and community icon. As the founder of Transgender Equity consulting and a beloved mother to countless queer, trans, and immigrant individuals in New York City, her legacy endures on both systemic and personal levels.

The vibrant ceremony included a performance from actor Billy Porter and speeches from chosen family, including trans activists Ceyenne Doroshow, Liaam Winslet, and Gentili’s partner, Peter Scotto. Notably, celebrities in attendance included, Sara Ramirez, Indya Moore, Peppermint, Raquel Willis, Ryan McGinley, and more.

“She was an angel,” said her partner, Peter Scotto. “Seeing all the people at the funeral services, and all the love I’ve received from people in her community all over the world, is a testament of how awesome Cecilia was. I’m so grateful for them all. She was an angel, an icon, a mother, an educator, a leader, and so much to so many people. Her children from AIPACHA, I’d hear all the stories of trans kids getting hormones for the first time. Our phone would ring all the time in the middle of the night and she’d jump into action to help people in crisis. She’d always be there and answer that call. But to me, she was my partner. We woke every day next to each other with so much laughter and love. I’m going to take that with me forever.” 

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Gentili came to New York as an undocumented immigrant from Argentina in 2004 and received citizenship via asylum in 2012. Her social justice efforts, which included advocacy for immigrant, HIV/AIDs, trans, and sex worker rights. Gentili changed the landscape in New York City and State and had ramifications across the country, including as the main plaintiff on a lawsuit against the Trump Adminstration’s attempt to eliminate healthcare protections for trans people. She had the ears of politicians at every level of government, as shown by the numerous elected officials’ public statements, including Governor Kathy Hochul, and a speech from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez on the house floor, in the aftermath of her death. 

“Cecilia Gentili leaves a blazing legacy of love, kinship, and an infinite fire to uplift the liberation of trans people, sex workers, immigrants, and those pushed to the margins,” read a statement from Trans Equity Consulting, the organization founded by Cecilia Gentili. “Her mission to fully decriminalize and honor sex work continues through her namesake program Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network (C.O.I.N.) Clinic, which provides free healthcare to sex workers in NYC, and the Stop Violence in The Sex Trades Act (SVSTA) in NY State –– a crucial piece of legislation that Governor Hochul could herald to truly honor Cecilia’s legacy. Cecilia, a fervent believer in action and impact over thoughts and prayers, prompts us all to carry her life’s work forward in providing material support to marginalized communities and fighting for a more just world.”

Despite recent statements of trans inclusion from Pope Francis, the Catholic Church has not historically been affirming of the LGBTQ+ Community. On December 10, 1988, ACT UP NY members alongside members of Women’s Health Action and Mobilization (WHAM!) disrupted a mass by Cardinal John O’Connor at St. Patricks Cathedral resulting in 111 arrests, 53 of whom were arrested inside the church, known as “Stop the Church”. This historic demonstration met two movements—one of which was protesting the O’Connor’s opposition of teaching safe sex practices in public schools and the general distribution of condoms, and the other being the Catholic church’s position on abortion rights. 

“Cecilia’s immaculate work and the way she touched so many hearts and lives made her worthy of sainthood. Cecilia deserved this historic honor of the monumental funeral service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and to be cemented in history as a mother of multiple movements––of sex worker, immmigration, trans, and affirming healthcare movements,” said Oscar Diaz, Director of Communications at Trans Equity Consulting, and Gentili’s daughter. “Her wit, creativity, humor, and grace will be missed by the generations she mothered.”

During a time of increased anti-trans legislation and rhetoric across the country, Gentili receiving this outpouring of grief and celebration of her life signals her impact and the diginity of trans, immigrant, and sex worker lives writ-large. Her legacy of radical inclusion and revolutionary politics live on through her organization Trans Equity Consulting, as well as her namesake program C.O.I.N. at Callen-Lorde, which provides free healthcare for sex workers, and through the sustainable funding she secured for trans and sex worker communities in New York and beyond. 

Gentili leaves behind immediate and chosen family, her partner Peter Scotto, her sister Ceyenne Doroshow, LaLa Zanell, Victoria Von Blaque, Cristina Herrera, and Tabytha Gonzalez, and her children, Rio Sofia, Cyd Nova, Maya Margarita, Katia Perea, Oscar Diaz, Qween Jean, Gia Love, Liaam Winslet, Chiquitita, Joshua Allen, Bianca Cerna, Gogo Graham, Amarilla Diosa, Mateo Belen, Krzysztof Pastuszka, and more. In remembrance of Cecilia’s work and legacy, the family has established a fund to support with funeral costs and to establish a donor advisory fund to continue her fight for trans liberation. 

Gentili changed the material realities of countless queer and trans people, sex workers, and immigrants across the world. Access to hormones, bail money, immigration lawyers, surgeons, HIV meds, HASA vouchers, gender-affirming identification, and healthcare have been tenants of Cecilia’s organizing since she started in New York City.

Gentili’s impact:

  • Gentili was instrumental in the development of two statewide bills to provide survivors of trafficking with record relief, and to end the criminalization of ‘loitering’ for the purpose of prostitution — the “Walking While Trans” Ban — a charge overwhelmingly leveled against transgender women, regardless of their involvement in the sex trade.
  • She has a healthcare clinic at Callen Lorde named after her ongoing legacy of advocating for sex workers (COIN Clinic: Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network)
  • She’s raised over $15 million in city/state funding for the trans community and defended trans healthcare in the US. Supreme Court against Trump’s administration
  • Her memoir, FALTAS, won the Stonewall Book Award and is set to be translated and published in Spanish by Editorial Caja Negra this year
  • Her one-woman show RED INK had its off-Broadway debut last year to sold-out crowds and was picked up by Killer Films (May-December, Boy’s Don’t Cry) to be produced this year
  • She spearheaded TRANSMISSION, NYC’s first trans music festival at Marsha P. Johnson State Park, and was a board member for Queer Art, Stonewall Foundation, and Alianza Trans Latinx

 

 

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Theater

Gay playwright- “Marilyn, Mom, & Me” is his most personal play yet

Marilyn, Mom, and Me, a buzzy new show written & directed by Luke Yankee, playing Feb 16 to Mar 3 at the International City Theatre

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Marilyn, Mom, and Me at the International City Theatre in Long Beach stars Laura Gardner stars Brian Rohan, Alisha Soper & Laura Gardner. (Photo by Paul Kennedy)

By Rob Salerno | LONG BEACH, Calif. – The year is 1956. The biggest star in the world has defied the Hollywood studios and critics who dismissed her as a dumb blonde to spend a year studying acting with the greatest teachers of the era and has returned to launch her own production company with a film adaptation of a kooky Broadway play.

Along the way to making a classic film, Bus Stop, Marilyn Monroe begins a fraught and intense relationship with costar Eileen Heckart, one of the era’s most celebrated actresses. 

That rocky friendship forms the basis for Marilyn, Mom, and Me, a buzzy new show written and directed by Heckart’s son Luke Yankee, playing Feb 16 to Mar 3 at the International City Theatre in Long Beach, CA.

Yankee says the play stems from his attempts to come to terms with his own rocky relationship with his mother by understanding the deep connection she had with Marilyn Monroe.

“To the day my mother died, she could never talk about Marilyn without bursting into tears,” Yankee says. “I knew there was something very personal there and something very deep and that Marilyn had touched her in a way that no one else ever had.”

Marilyn, Mom, and Me stars Laura Gardner stars as Heckart, alongside Alisha Soper as Marilyn. Soper has previously played Marilyn on three different TV shows, including Ryan Murphy’s Feud: Bette and Joan and American Horror Story.

I’m not just saying this, but many people feel [Sopel] is the best Maryland they have ever seen. I mean, she captures the voice, the walk, the intent,” Yankee says. “[Gardner] has probably seen everything my mother has done at this point and she so captures my mother. I mean, it’s uncanny.”

The fact that Soper has played Marilyn in so many different projects points to the incredible staying power Monroe has had in the public imagination. But despite decades worth of books, movies, plays, televisions shows, television shows about plays, and even an upcoming play based on a television show about a play based on Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn, Mom, and Me still finds a relatively unexplored are of the icon’s life to bring to the stage.

“People have said to me, ‘what could you possibly tell us about Marilyn Monroe that we don’t already know?’ But almost everything is about her relationships with men – JFK and Arthur Miller and all of that,” Yankee says. “I don’t know that there’s really anything else about another woman who was a contemporary of hers and who was really on equal footing.” 

“One of the ironic things is that this was at the time that Marilyn was the biggest star in the world and she wanted what my mother had. She wanted to be taken seriously as a legitimate actress.”

At the time, Marilyn had just spent a year studying with Lee Strasberg, and she had become the poster child for his “method” style of acting, which required actors to feel authentic emotions in their performances. As Marilyn and Heckart were playing best friends in Bus Stop, Marilyn was determined to become close friends with her in real life to enhance her performance. 

“At first my mother was like, ‘okay, who’s this starlet who’s glomming on to me and making me feel very uncomfortable?’ But the two of them really bonded through their wounds. For as much as they both achieved, because they were both adopted, neither of them ever truly felt that they deserved a place at the table,” Yankee says.

But the heart of the show is in Yankee’s difficult relationship with his demanding mother. Heckart, an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony-winning actress, prepared Yankee for a life in the theatre from a young age by being highly critical and expecting excellence in everything he did. 

“From the time I was eleven years old doing children’s theater in the basement of the YMCA, she would critique my performances like I was Laurence Olivier at the Old Vic. She’d sort of take a drag on her cigarette and say, ‘What the fuck were you doing on that stage?’” Yankee says. “Over time I realized that the good intention behind that was to make me a better actor and to toughen me up for the business but at age 11, I just wanted to supportive mom to tell me good job kid.” 

Their relationship grew strained when Yankee came out to his mother. Even though Heckart knew many gay men from her work on stage and screen, she found it difficult to accept her own son being gay at first.

“For a woman of that era there were no positive role models. I mean gay people were all either alcoholic or suicidal or promiscuous or all three,” Yankee says.

But despite the hard times, Marilyn, Mom, and Me is a tribute to Yankee’s mother. While the play reveals heretofore unseen sides of Marilyn Monroe, the stories it tells also help contextualize the difficulties in Heckart’s own life, and how they shaped both her incredible career and her relationship with her son.

Marilyn, Mom, and Me plays Feb 16 to Mar 3 at the International City Theatre in Long Beach, CA.

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Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Sports

Super Bowl LVIII: Queers 14, MAGA haters two

Out gay cheerleader Jonathan Romero cheered with the 49ers Gold Rush team in his first Super Bowl. Romero joined the squad in 2022

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NFL/LA Blade graphic

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Even if you didn’t watch a second of the Super Bowl Sunday night, you probably already heard through friends or social media that the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in overtime, 25-22. 

And you undoubtedly learned it was a repeat performance by quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his team, winning the Lombardi trophy two years in a row. And how could you have missed all the coverage of Taylor Swift and her tight end, er, her boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce? 

But we kept our own LGBTQ centered scoreboard of the Big Game, awarding points for queer representation and allyship to Team Rainbow, while also making note of points scored by the haters and mad MAGA hatters whom we’ve dubbed Team Troglodyte. To us, that’s the score that really matters, and we are proud to report: WE WON!

Gay man on the field: One point for Team Rainbow

Jonathan Romero cheered with the 49ers Gold Rush team in his first Super Bowl. Romero joined the squad in 2022 and has been welcomed by his cheermates and fans. 

Despite the disappointing loss, Romero went partying after the big game with his squad at Caesars Palace. As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies of the Los Angeles Rams paved the way in 2019 as the first male cheerleaders in Super Bowl history. 

LGBTQ ally Taylor Swift makes out and dances with Travis Kelce after win: Two points for Team Rainbow

Even if you’re turned-off by straight PDA, the MAGA crowd is even more disgusted by this pop star and her hunk, floating crazy conspiracy theories that their relationship is a plot to re-elect President Joe Biden. Progressives just aren’t that clever enough to engineer that level of musical and political machination. Swift and Kelce danced to her hits at the after-party, songs that have helped closeted fans come out. The Time Person of the Year has embraced LGBTQ rights, has been honored by GLAAD and appeared with drag performers. Maybe she can help the Chiefs acknowledge there are LGBTQ football fans?

Trump takes credit for Taylor Swift’s success because of course he did: One point for Team Troglodyte

Sigh. The truly sad part is how many people will believe this to be true. 

Anti-LGBTQ group funds billion dollar ‘He Gets Us’ Super Bowl ad campaign: One point for Team Troglodyte

A non-profit behind two commercials during the Super Bowl that rebrand Jesus for Gen Z is the main funder of a designated hate group opposing abortion and LGBTQ rights, Open Democracy reports. The report cites Christianity Today as first revealing that David Green, the billionaire co-founder of Hobby Lobby, was among the funders of the ads. They are reportedly produced by a group called The Signatry, a front for the Kansas-based Servant Foundation, which Open Democracy revealed is the main identifiable source of funding for the Alliance Defending Freedom, labeled an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. And who else is in Kansas? Oh, right, the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. 

The SNL alumna takes a backseat to a talking cat in this hilarious commercial for Hellman’s Mayonnaise:

“RuPaul Drag Race” star Heidi N Closet joins Judge Judy, comedian Benito Skinner, Jury Duty’s Ronald Gladden, Grammy-winning singer Meghan Trainor and bestselling author and former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho in an ad for e.l.f., reported People.

And there were, reports the Advocate: Mountain Dew, NYX, Paramount+, Starry, Homes.com — featuring “Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy across three ads, for three points  — and this year, Volkswagen portrayed a lesbian wedding! 

Gay flag football in Super Bowl spotlightOne point for Team Rainbow

The NFL hosted a group of LGBTQ youth from Las Vegas at a flag football clinic during Super Bowl week at the NFL Experience. A variety of NFL front-office executives, board members of the National Gay Flag Football League, the 49ers cheerleaders and former NFL stars Tony Richardson and Kenny Stills, according to Outsports.

Final score: Team Rainbow 14, Team Troglodyte 2! 

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Movies

French ‘Lie With Me’ believes in love after love

A compelling story about the capacity of human beings to heal

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Victor Belmondo and Guillaume de Tonquédec in 'Lie With Me.' (Photo by Michael Crotto; courtesy Cinephobia Releasing)

Sometimes, a love story is about what happens after it’s over as much as how it starts.

Take, for example, the French import “Lie With Me,” which makes its U.S. debut via DVD and VOD on Feb. 15. Based on Philippe Bresson’s 2017 novel “Arrête avec tes mensonges” (“Stop With Your Lies”), it was filmed in 2021, hit the European festival circuit in 2022, and received a general release in its homeland in early 2023, and is making its first appearance on American screens at a time when most film buffs are already looking toward whatever 2024 movies might be coming our way after the hoopla of awards season fades into the background for another year.

Don’t let its status as a “late-bloomer” put you off, however. As any true film buff knows, such circumstantial factors have nothing to do with a movie’s inherent worth or quality. Indeed, it’s often the most overlooked films that ultimately prove also to be the most satisfying, and even if it doesn’t come with the kind of industry buzz that often holds a perhaps unwarranted sway over the tastes of the moviegoing public, this one strikes enough of an emotional chord for queer viewers (especially those who came of age in an earlier generation) to make it worth going out of one’s way.

Directed by Olivier Peyon from a screenplay he wrote with Vincent Poymiro, Arthur Cahn and Cécilia Rouaud, “Lie With Me” is a slice-of-life character study, set in the mid-1980s, in which a celebrated-but-controversial gay author – Stéphane Belcourt (Guillaume de Tonquédec), now in advancing middle age – returns to his hometown of Cognac as the “guest of honor” for the anniversary celebration of a company that produces the city’s namesake liqueur. It’s a bittersweet trip for him, conjuring painful teenage memories of a first love who disappeared from his life without explanation and has left him yearning for closure ever since; but his melancholy is displaced by unexpected intrigue when he discovers that Lucas (Victor Belmondo), the young man responsible for his invitation to the festivities, is the now-adult son of his long-lost paramour, opening up the possibility of finding answers he never thought he’d have – but only if he can let his defenses down enough to ask the necessary questions of Lucas, who seems to be seeking some answers of his own.

Tinged with wistful nostalgia and built around an eminently relatable coming-of-age narrative that invites comparison with movies like “Call Me By Your Name” or any of the countless similar tales of painful first love that have been a staple of queer cinematic romance since such things were “permissible” on the screen, “Lie With Me” fully assumes the wistful tenderness of its genre by interweaving his main story with the one which happened all those years ago – the unexpected and clandestine affair between younger Stéphane (Jérémy Gillet) and his sullen, secretive, and deeply-closeted classmate Thomas (Julien de Saint Jean), rendered with the kind of fragile sweetness that gives such tales of youthful awakening their irresistible appeal, largely thanks to the authenticity and chemistry of the two young actors who play it out for us. Even so, it takes a more brooding and palpably melancholy tone than most of us might be used to in a love story, partly due to the fact that the romance at its center has been over for decades, yet still casts a long shadow over its haunted protagonist, who seems never to have been able to fully give his heart (or, more to the point, his trust) to anyone since. It’s a romantic movie, to be sure, but one in which the romance is viewed through the bitter hindsight of a man who was left burned by it, and becomes even more un-requitable with the revelation of tragic developments that came in the years between.

As a consequence, it can sometimes feel like a depressing slog; Stéphane’s jaded, defensively deployed misanthropy occasionally becomes as much an obstacle to our empathy for him as it does to his making real connections with the people around him on the screen, and there are times when our patience with his self-imposed emotional isolationism wears thin. Yet that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Peyon’s film is not exactly a “love story” in the usual sense, but an exploration of what happens to someone in the aftermath of a loss – and the emotional devastation it has wrought on their life –  that has been kept, undiscussed and unprocessed, as a kind of lifelong “sacred wound.”

Yet it’s also an exploration of how such trauma can finally begin to be healed through connecting with others who share a common sorrow. As a balance to Stéphane’s guarded, occasionally abrasive persona comes the younger Lucas’ outgoing, approachable enthusiasm for connection, which comes in even greater contrast to his older counterpart’s attitude as we gradually discover his own hidden sense of loss; it’s this quality that serves as catalyst in bringing the two men together, despite reticence in both of their corners, and ultimately brings the story to a denouement that, while far from the kind of happy-ever-after ending so many queer viewers usually long to see, might just allow them both to achieve something like closure.

The result is a film that overcomes its own gloom to offer hope without resorting to wish-fulfillment fantasy – something it owes to its insightful and autobiographical source novel, a critically-acclaimed bestseller (transcribed for English-language publication, surprisingly enough, by actress Molly Ringwald, who enjoys a lesser-known career as a writer and translator) in its native France, and to the savvy adaptation from Peyon and his fellow screenwriters. The humanity essential for making it work, however, is delivered through the work of its two leads, with the César Award-winning de Tonquédec’s unvarnished star turn as Stéphane finding a natural symbiosis with the affable Lucas brought to life by rising talent Belmondo – and yes, if you’re wondering, he is the grandson of Jean-Paul Belmondo, the late French New Wave screen legend whose iconic looks and charisma he has certainly inherited. Alongside Gillet and de Saint-Jean, veteran French actress Guilaine Londez rounds out the main cast with a memorable performance as a provincial event coordinator with more observational savvy than she lets on.

None of that is likely to be enough to give “Lie With Me” the kind of feel-good appeal so many modern queer audiences hunger for; though drawn with enough depth and complexity to elevate it above the familiar-yet-still-relevant tropes of its narrative – doomed same-sex love, tragic queer victimhood, the self-sabotaging power of internalized homophobia – it still tells a story that feels frustratingly repetitive to the generations that didn’t live in the era it takes place, and perhaps even for many of those from the generations that did. We can’t argue with preference, so if its subject matter and thematic palette seem to you like something you would rather skip, then you’re probably right. For anyone else, though, it’s a thoughtful and ultimately compelling – if not quite uplifting – story about the capacity of human beings to heal.

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Sports

Your gay guide to enjoying Super Bowl LVIII

SF 49ers are playing the Kansas City Chiefs in Vegas. Even if you’re not a “sportsball” fan, there’s a lot LGBTQ+ folks can be excited about

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Los Angeles Blade’s intrepid Sports Editor Dawn Ennis lays out the excitement for LGBTQ+ fans waiting to watch Super Bowl LVIII

LAS VEGAS, Nev.  — The countdown to the big day is down to just hours. And no, we’re not talking about Episode 7 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, that’s not until next Friday! No, the straights are super-hyped about the biggest game in 2024 sports, and believe it or not, there are many sports fans who also just happen to be LGBTQ+ who are excited to watch Super Bowl LVIII. 

That’s 58 to those of you who didn’t pay attention to Roman Numerals in grade school.

And yes, besides the commercials, the halftime show, the nachos and the adult beverages, there’s plenty of queer content to enjoy. So, whether you’re just watching for the tight pants, wondering which of the cheerleaders is secretly Sapphic, or perhaps unaware that the NFL actually does support the LGBTQ+ community and has had players come out, grab a beer and read on. 

Who’s Playing and When? 

The San Francisco 49ers are playing the Kansas City Chiefs in Las Vegas on CBS and Paramount+ with the pre-game coverage starting at 6 p.m. EST and kickoff at 6:30 p.m. Reba McEntire (No, not Taylor Swift) is singing the National Anthem.

What About the Halftime Show?

The Apple Music Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show begins at approximately 8 p.m. EST and Usher (No, not Taylor Swift) is performing. 

Meet the 49ers’ Out Gay Male Cheerleader

Jonathan Romero will be cheering with the 49ers Gold Rush team in his first Super Bowl. As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies of the LA Rams paved the way in 2019 as the first male cheerleaders in Super Bowl history, and Peron has reportedly been by Romero’s side all this week leading up to his debut. Romero joined the squad in 2022.

So Does the NFL Really Welcome Us? 

The answer is a resounding yes, as evidenced this past week at “A Night With Pride.” For the third year in a row, GLAAD teamed up with the league and big-name sponsors for a glittery gala, this time at Caesars Palace, headlined by out singer Lance Bass and performer VINCINT. Special guests included both Romero and Peron, out gay defensive lineman Carl Nassib who retired recently, former NFL player RK Russell, Jacksonville Jaguars strength coach Kevin Maxen, sportswriter LZ Granderson, actor Angelica Ross, pro wrestler Anthony Bowens, pro snowboarder Brittany Gilman as well as GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis and many more stars.

So how inclusive is the NFL? I mean, really?

The LGBTQ+ sports site Outsports recently chronicled 62 current or recent NFL players, 13 owners and nine head coaches who support gay and bi athletes and the LGBTQ community, and 101 efforts at inclusion by the NFL, its teams and its players. It was ten years ago this week that Michael Sam came out as gay. Fast-forward to 2021 when Nassib came out as the first out gay active football player in NFL history. Times have changed.

Has anyone gay ever played in a Super Bowl?

The answer is yes, but none came out until after they retired. The most recent was Ryan O’Callaghan, an offensive lineman with the New England Patriots in the 2007 season. O’Callaghan also played with the Kansas City Chiefs and in 2022 predicted more players will come out. As Outsports has reported, two gay men played for the 49ers, although neither played in a Super Bowl. Running back Dave Kopay was a 49er from 1964-67 and offensive tackle Kwame Harris from 2003-2007. Those who preceded O’Callaghan were Jerry Smith (1972), Roy Simmons (1983) and Esera Tuaolo (1998).

Has anyone LGBTQ+ ever coached in a Super Bowl?

Yes again! Katie Sowers was the first out LGBTQ+ coach in Super Bowl history. She was with the 49ers back then. 

Do either the Chiefs or the 49ers support LGBTQ+ fans? 

Check out 49ers Pride! As the Blade has reported, they have led the league in representation and the team has supported them with gender-neutral fan gear. As for the Chiefs, well, we couldn’t find anything on their website that relates to LGBTQ+. 

Whomever you root for, have fun, and celebrate safely!

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