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Queery: Wilson Cruz

The actor and Point Foundation honoree answers 20 gay questions

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Wilson Cruz, Point Foundation, Queery, Los Angeles

Wilson Cruz, pictured here at a recent gala for the LA LGBT Center, will be honored at Point Foundation’s Beverly Hills gala Oct. 7, 2017. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Wilson Cruz has had more than a just a so-called life.

He’s been a change maker, a survivor and a role model to a generation of gay men, particularly gay men of color, who needed empowerment and a strong voice. He also happens to be one of the busiest out gay actors in Hollywood.

He has starred in “My So Called Life,” (for which he was awarded a special GLAAD Media Award in 1995), is currently starring in the new“Star Trek: Discovery,” and this year has appeared in “Fridays,” “13 Reasons Why,” “Doubt,” “After Louie,” and “Shameless.

You may remember Wilson as Ricky Vasquez on “Noah’s Arc,” “ER,” “Party of Five,” and even “Ally McBeal.”

And who could forget how, in 1998, Los Angeles went wild for his Center Theatre Group /Ahmanson Theatre performance in “Rent,” for which he was awarded the Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Award for Featured Actor in a Musical.

Success has kept him busy.

Not to say that it’s always been easy, however.  After coming out to his family in 1993, his father kicked him out of the house and he was homeless and lived on the streets for a time.

“My Puerto Rican family had to overcome a lot of that machismo Latino men have. My dad had the hardest struggle with me being gay. But he had no choice. My brother is gay, too. Today my family is amazing.”

The Point Foundation, an agency that seeks to empower LGBTQ students in achieving their full academic and leadership potential, will honor Cruz with the Point Courage Award.

He’s quick to point out racism and how it affects not only LGBT reality but the world as a whole. Expect him to have a few things to say about the U.S. response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria when he accepts his latest accolade.

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out in 1993 and the hardest person to come out to was my father — most definitely. But he has two gay sons and now he’s amazing!

Who’s your LGBT hero?
James Baldwin. He used his art in his politics and vice versa. I loved “Giovanni’s Room” …so beautiful and succinct, the first gay love story that I read.

What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?
I’ve hung out in all of ‘em. I don’t know!

Describe your dream wedding.
A wedding that happens! I’m so very single; if one happened it would be a dream.  

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
White supremacy. That’s it.

What historical outcome would you change?
History is unfolding in Puerto Rico and I ache to fix it.  I would make sure Irma and Maria never existed.

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Me on “Star Trek,” of course. Who’d have thought?

On what do you insist?
I insist on not having to ask permission to be in any room. Walk in the room like you belong there because you do.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“Tonight on Star Trek Discovery, meet my boo, Lt. Stamets ( Anthony Rapp ) as Discovery’s epic journey continues!” I have to promote my new self!

If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“My Soul-called Life”

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Nothing. I wouldn’t change my sexual orientation.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe in the power of love and I believe we ARE all love and are all connected.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Don’t follow the money. Don’t pander to the biggest donor. Work for all of us. Let the money follow you.

What would you walk across hot coals for?
My mother.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That all gay men are white. That’s mostly all we see on TV, statistically speaking.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Weekend,” made by the same team as “Looking.” Even though it was two white guys. Or, “Paris is Burning.” Timeless. Can I do two?

What’s the most overrated social custom?
Waiting for everyone to be served at the table before we can eat. I wouldn’t make you wait!

What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Doesn’t every actor want an Oscar? I mean go for the big one!

What do you wish you’d known at 18?
I wish I had as much faith in the fact that there is something bigger than me guiding me at all times. I spent a lot of time worrying when I could have let go a little more.

Why Los Angeles?
I keep getting called back here. I’ve moved to New York a couple of times and it keeps calling me back. I’ve resisted but this is home. West Hollywood is home.

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‘Betty la Fea’ returns after 25 years and she’s a queer ally, mother and feminist boss

Telenovela returns with new series

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By GISSELLE PALOMERA | CALÓ News — The most successful telenovela in history is back on our TV screens through Prime Video in 240 countries and territories worldwide. After a more-than-historically successful run “Yo Soy Betty, La Fea,” returns as “Betty La Fea, The Story Continues” for a ten-episode series premiering July 19. 

The series starts off with la original, Beatriz Pérez Pinzón, better known as Betty o Betty La Fea (Ana María Orozco), narrating over the scene of a funeral where she says: “Finalmente me fuí de sus vidas.” 

It’s not actually her own funeral, but a dramatic segue into her return 25 years later. Since the show, Fernando Gaitan, Colombian screenwriter and producer of the original series, has passed away. His legacy outlives him through the revamp of this series, produced now by Mauricio Cruz Fortunato. 

Seconds into the eulogy, Betty knocks over the casket as it’s being lowered to the ground, to which queer presence, Hugo, or Huguito (Julian Arango), fulfilling the sassy gay man trope once again, responds with: “Con ustedes: Brutty La Fea,” introducing her as the same lovable bruta or Klutz we all grew to love over the first series.

Betty and Armando reunite after separating, while their daughter is off studying fashion in New York. The new sequel picks up where Ecomoda, a previous show spinoff, leaves off. In Ecomoda (2001-2002), Betty and Armando welcome daughter Camila into their lives and embark on the journey of balancing parenthood and success at their family’s company. 

Once the funeral is over, Betty’s father, abuelito Hermes Pinzon Galarza (Jorge Herrera), picks her up along with Betty’s longtime friend, Nicolás Mora Cifuentes (Mario Duarte), welcoming him back on screen with the same dorky, lovable and slightly annoying friendship with Betty. Hermes makes a one-line comment suggesting that Betty should hurry so they have enough time to leave flowers on her mother’s grave. This is a shocking departure after news outlets reported last summer that Dona Julia was set to return to the series. 

In this sequel, the underlying theme is that of a broken family in need of unity, after the loss of a family member, and Ecomoda, their family’s fashion corporation, going through a financial crisis. ‘Mila,’ or Camila, (Juanita Molina) comes in as one of five new characters as Armando and Betty’s daughter. Mila and Betty are somewhat estranged and the first episode shows a much closer relationship, with Mila referring to her dad as ‘Armandaddy.’ 

Following the family member’s death, a video is played regarding how assets will be divided in relation to Ecomoda. To everyone’s shock, Betty is appointed as the new president of Ecomoda, booting Armando out of the position after a short, two-year run as the fashion company president. 

Speaking of assets, without the presence of the OG “cartel de feas,” now only consisting of Bertha Muñoz (Luces Velásquez) and Sandra Patiño (Marcela Posada), the show would be a lot more drama and a lot less comedy. 

Sandra comes out as queer, adding more valid on-screen representation and stating that she finally felt safe to come out because of Betty’s allyship and encouragement to be true to herself. 

Main character and problematica, Patricia Fernandez (Lorna Cepeda), also returns to the sequel, bringing the same attitude to our screens, but with a big update– she’s married to a rich viejito. 

The first episode wraps up with a heartbroken Betty reading a letter her mamita wrote to her from her deathbed, giving her the courage to continue fighting the good fight she’s always fought to be independent and courageous. 

The series does not miss and in fact continues to do justice to feminism as its central theme and embracing oneself in the face of corporate greed and family troubles. 

The new series is faithful to the original series, using flashbacks to set the scene for many meaningful and painful memories between Betty and Armando. 

Among other characters that returned to the new series are: Marcela (Natalia Ramirez), Freddy (Julio Cesar Herrera), and Saul (Alberto Leon Jaramillo).  

The series is now available on Prime Video.

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Museum of Latin American Art hosts discussion of drag in BIPOC and AAPI spaces

Symposium dedicated toward building community

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Mahalia Nakita performed in this butterfly outfit to a medley of songs in the spirit of pride at MOLAA on June 30th. (Gisselle Palomera)

By GISSELLE PALOMERA | CALÓ News — Drag performers came together at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) to close out Pride month, hosting a discussion on drag and how to create safe and inclusive spaces for the BIPOC and AAPI communities. 

“I do what I do, so others can do it too,” said Foxie Adjuia, one of three panelists for the  Symposium on Empowerment in Pride Spaces. “I’m in transpersonal disciplines, and I’m going to be utilizing drag as a way to impact my community in a positive way,” added Adjuia, a drag performer on The Boulet Brothers’ TV series, “Dragula.”

The symposium was dedicated toward building community, resilience and acceptance through an interactive drag performance with AdjuiaRobbie Osa and Mahalia Nakita

Foxie Adjuia spoke on the intersection between the civil rights movement and the Stonewall Riots that ignited empowerment within Black and Queer communities. (Photo by Gisselle Palomera/CALÓ News) 

During the discussion, Adjuia, Osa and Nakita asked questions to respond themselves and ask input from the audience. On the question of how to utilize Pride as a form of liberation and keep it in alignment with the civil rights movement of the LGBTQ+ community, Adjuia said that Pride is about chosen family and about unchaining ourselves from the hegemony that a lot of queer and Black, Indigenous and People of Color get indoctrinated into. 

“[Pride] is an act of liberation in and of itself and it’s an act of self-actualization,” Adjuia said. 

Adjuia opened up about how it hasn’t always been easy to embrace Pride and overcome the adversity that comes with this identity. “What really got me through the darkness was my community and their act of Pride, connection with each other and uplifting energy.” 

They performed their speech about community connection and added that they believe that Pride is not just about partying, but about embracing the struggle that started with the 1969 Stonewall Riots. This was a pivotal point in LGBTQ+ history. 

Using the spirit of Pride to overcome adversity  

“LGBTQ+ awareness is a challenge for a lot of students, especially if they don’t understand how to judge certain situations because they are special ed,” said Yuri Jimenez, special education teacher. “So I have to create conversations and lessons to create that space where everyone feels accepted.” Attendees of the event responded to the questions, drawing from their own experiences.

Foxie Adjuia, Robbie Osa and Mahalia Nakita strike a pose for the camera following the MOLAA Symposium on Empowerment in Pride Spaces. (Gisselle Palomera)Foxie Adjuia, Robbie Osa and Mahalia Nakita strike a pose for the camera following the MOLAA Symposium on Empowerment in Pride Spaces. (Photo by Gisselle Palomera/CALÓ News)

“[BIPOC Drag Queens] get that double combo of being racially profiled as Latino and gay,” said Osa, a drag performer and behavior analyst. “I found that drag is a platform to dismantle those stereotypes.”

Osa is an alumni of California State University, Long Beach, who now dedicates her time toward building inclusive and accepting spaces in education. She uses drag as a form of art that relays political and meaningful messages. 

“Tolerance comes with strings attached, and acceptance means fully [embracing] who you are, your faults and loving you unconditionally,” said Osa. 

Promoting equality and inclusion

“We are all part of different groups within the [BIPOC] community and each community needs a little bit of representation [in Pride spaces],” said Nakita. 

“As a therapist, I’m always making sure that I am creating affirming spaces for whatever identities walk through my door, and making sure that I am educated and can provide them with resources and support,” said Jennifer Jiries, who is a queer therapist and social worker based in Long Beach. “We heal in community, so we need to have spaces that actually support healing and connection.”

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Coming-of-age story ‘El Paisa’ on PBS

Film continues successful run across L.A. film festivals

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By GISSELLE PALOMERA | CALÓ News — “El Paisa” will be featured nationally as part of the 2024 PBS Short Film Festival starting Monday, July 15, shortly after winning the award for Best LGBTQ+ Short at Cannes International Film Festival. In its 13th year, the PBS Short Film Festival features 15 independent films chosen for their impact and reflection of American life, culture, lived experiences and family dynamics. 

The film continues its successful run across Los Angeles film festivals, sweeping awards for Best Short Film, Best LGBTQ+ Short Film and several Jury Awards.

The film is a product of the Latino Public Broadcasting. The Digital Media Fund, designed to provide resources for independent Latin American filmmakers to create digital short form programs for online distribution in collaboration with an existing public television platform such as PBS. 

The Digital Media Fund prioritizes submissions in the genres of science, biography, history, health, personal storytelling, art, cultural documentary and narratives. The fund allocates between $10,000 and $30,000 dollars for the projects, depending on the proposal. Submissions are now closed and will reopen next year. 

“El Paisa,” is an East L.A.-set coming-of-age story featuring an unlikely duo that begins to deconstruct the traditional expectations and roles of gay men within Latin American culture. 

Film director Daniel Eduvijes Carrera says the film is reminiscent of his own story as a queer son of immigrants who struggled to embrace his own identities as he grows up on the unforgiving streets of L.A. riddled with barrio gang violence. 

Carrera says he felt completely isolated due to his queer identity growing up. In a director’s statement, he says there was some level of support from his Latin American identity within his own family of nine siblings, but when it came to embracing or even understanding his queer identity, he was completely at a loss. 

It wasn’t until Carrera walked into his first gay vaquero bar on his 21st birthday and witnessed the embodiment of masculinity entwined with queer culture he only dreamed of as a kid that it made sense to him that his queer identity could in fact co-exist with his Latin American identity. 

Carrera is now an accomplished voice in filmmaking, using his perspective and lived experiences to create stories that deconstruct the societal norms that marginalize queer people within Latin American cultures. He has gained notable fellowships, grants and prestigious recognition for his voice in the filmmaking and entertainment industry. 

The film will be available to watch across all PBS platforms that include the PBS App, YouTube and PBS.org.

This story was produced by CALÓ News, a news organization covering Latino/a/x communities.

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GMCLA’s ‘Solid Gold’ Gala: Honoring LGBTQ+ Champions with Iconic Diva Tributes

“Solid Gold” show will feature tribute to the music of Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, and Whitney Houston

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GMCLA's SOLID GOLD, one performance only. Sunday, June 30 at Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles is honoring champions of the LGBTQ+ community and celebrating the music of three iconic divas at its annual gala fundraiser Sunday, June 30 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

Celebrating our history through the music we love

GMCLA’s “Solid Gold” show will feature the music of superstars Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, and Whitney Houston, performed by the chorus’s 150 members in front of a live band with dancers. The show will include a special three-song medley joined by stars from the Drag Race universe Priyanka and Latrice Royale.

Immediately after the show, the party will move to GMCLA’s annual Gala Fundraiser, where they’ll honor Senator Alex Padilla and his wife Angela Padilla with their Civic Voice Award, and the HBO series We’re Here with their Artistic Voice Award.

GMCLA will honor Senator Padilla for his decades of work in politics as an advocate for immigrants, community building, the climate crisis, and voting rights. They will honor Angela Padilla for her work on mental health issues through her organization FundaMental Change. GMCLA will recognize We’re Here for shining a light on the impact of anti-LGBTQ legislation on the community in the South.

Alex Padilla, U.S. Senator, California.

“We deeply honor Senator and Mrs. Padilla for joining us at the Gala,” says GMCLA executive director Lou Spisto. “Each of them has dedicated many years of their life’s work to make our region a more vibrant and inclusive place, and to make the lives of all who live here healthier and safer.”

Spisto says the “Solid Gold” show also honors artists who have made an incredible contribution to the community:

“We can hardly imagine music that doesn’t play a significant part in our lives. These great artists span many decades, the 60s, 70s, 80s, into the 90s and of course, Dionne Warwick continues to inspire us today,” he says.

GMCLA performances at Disney Hall are a tradition in LA. (photo courtesy GMCLA)

Powerful choral tribute

For anyone who’s never seen the GMCLA perform, Spisto describes it as an overwhelmingly emotional experience.

“When 150 men sing together, they create a beautiful noise that’s really powerful, and it reaches across the footlights in a way that makes it hard not to feel a connection and an emotion,” he says. “When predominantly men sing love songs to and about men, simply singing those lyrics becomes very powerful, and you won’t experience that anywhere else.”

“We celebrate our community as much as we celebrate music,” he says.

The fundraising Gala supports all the work that the GMCLA does across the community. GMCLA works with the public school system to provide choral programs and empowerment programs in high schools through its Alive Music Program, which has reached more than 85,000 public school students over ten years. The Chorus also performs more than 30 free public shows across the community every year.

Spisto says these programs reflect the GMCLA’s commitment to building up the community.

“GMCLA has changed hearts and minds for 45 years now. GMCLA has participated in the movement to speak about who we are, sing about who we are, and fight for our rights,” he says.

“Things have become easier and we don’t live in the world of 1979, and it certainly differs from the world we faced when AIDS devastated our community. But we still face tough times, and we still need voices like this chorus to stand up for the Greater Community.”

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles: Solid Gold and Gala Fundraiser will take place at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and Ballroom, 300 E Green St, Pasadena, CA, Sun June 30, 3pm. You can purchase tickets at https://www.gmcla.org/

GMCLA’s Ongoing Mission

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles: Solid Gold and Gala Fundraiser take place at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and Ballroom, 300 E Green St, Pasadena, CA, Sun June 30, 3pm. Tickets at https://www.gmcla.org/

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‘Tiger’ burning bright: an interview with Mary Timony

Today’s female-driven music scene wouldn’t be the same without her

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Mary Timony is back with a new album. (Photo by Chris Grady)

It’s hard to imagine what the current female-driven music scene would be like without Mary Timony. From Sleater-Kinney to Haim, from Angel Olsen to Mitski, the influence of Mary Timony is in every note being played, every word being sung. On her new solo album, “Untame The Tiger” (Merge), with its sly nod to Joni Mitchell, Timony has brought her many years of musical experience to the fore, resulting in what is easily her most accessible release. Beginning with the incredible six-plus minute opener “No Thirds” and continuing through the first single, “Dominoes,” and gorgeous numbers including “The Guest,” “The Dream,” and “Not The Only One,” Timony is assured to keep listeners purring along. Timony made time for an interview shortly before the album was released.

BLADE: Mary, I’d like to begin by talking to you about your musical lives in D.C. and Boston. I went to college in Boston in the early 1980s and was constantly amazed by the bands of the era such as Mission of Burma, Human Sexual Response, and ‘Til Tuesday. I moved to D.C. in the mid-1980s to go to grad school, and at the time, the music scene there was dominated by go-go music, and a smaller indie music featuring BETTY and the late Tommy Keene, among others. What do you remember about the music in D.C. as someone who grew up there?

MARY TIMONY: That’s interesting. We kind of did a switcheroo. I’m from D.C. and I moved to Boston. (In D.C.) I learned, as a teenager, about rock shows and rock music from being involved in the punk scene, the post-hardcore scene of kids here. Those are the shows I went to in high school. Basically, the Dischord (Records) bands and stuff. I saw every single Fugazi show from when they started in ’87. Before that, whatever was happening in 1985, hardcore shows by Swiz and Soulside and Kingface and I loved Ignition. Other than that, I would go see bluegrass out in Virginia and I loved go-go. I would go to see (go-go bands) Rare Essence and Trouble Funk. I was very into that stuff; that was really exciting. I think I liked go-go the most out of all of it, actually [laughs]. I would go to DC Space and 9:30 (Club), mostly for local (acts). I don’t think I ever saw BETTY, but I was a teenager then.

BLADE: Was the active music scene in Boston in the early 1990s part of the appeal for you when it came to relocating to Boston to attend Boston University?

TIMONY: The reason why I went there was because I wanted to go to a music program that was in a big university, in case I didn’t wanna study music the whole time, which is exactly what happened. I studied classical guitar for a year and then I didn’t really like the program much, so I transferred to study English. I found out about the (Boston) music scene from friends. We went to The Middle East (nightclub) and TT’s (T.T. The Bear’s nightclub). Then after college, I ended up living right down the street from The Middle East and I was there constantly.

BLADE: Good old Central Square! As a performer playing in bands including Autoclave, Helium, and Ex Hex, and as a solo artist with her own band, it’s not unreasonable to say that Mary, you are someone who plays well with others. 

TIMONY: [Big laugh.]

BLADE: What makes you such a good team player?

TIMONY: I didn’t know I was [laughs]. I’ve gone back and forth between doing solo stuff and being in bands. Mostly, I’ve done projects where I’ve written a bunch of songs and I’m trying to…I haven’t done a ton of collaborative stuff really. Ex Hex was fun because it was more collaborative. Wild Flag, the same thing, totally 100% collaborative in every way. But Helium was really my thing, but I got some great people that totally influenced it. I’ve always been doing my own thing but tried to find really good people. Music really is about connection. It’s never as good if it’s only one person’s vision. Usually, if it’s good it’s good because of the connection between the musicians. Music is a social art form, I think.

BLADE: “Untame The Tiger” is the title of your new album. In 1999, Joni Mitchell titled her album “Taming The Tiger.” Are you, in any way, making a nod to Joni?

TIMONY: A little bit because I am a huge fan. I have been since I was 18. But, it sort of came to me because I have a song called that on the record and I’m sure that probably came from ripping off Joni Mitchell. Then I just thought that’s a cool name for a record. Then I thought, “Oh, shit!” [Laughs] It’s already been taken! Then I thought about it and then I forgot about it. Then I thought about it again and finally, I was like, “It’s OK. It’s a little bit different.” And I love her!

BLADE: I’m currently reading Ann Powers’ book “Traveling: On the Path of Joni Mitchell,” which comes out in June.

TIMONY: Oh, I’m definitely going to have to read.

BLADE: Yes, please add that to your reading list. “Untame The Tiger” is your first new solo studio album in 15 years. Are there things you write and sing about on your solo records that might be out of place on an album you would record with another one of your musical outfits?

TIMONY: Yes. That’s why this ended up being a solo record. I guess it was because of the tuning of my guitar. They were more or less finished songs. I wanted the songs to sound kind of acoustic. I also wanted to play with a bunch of musicians who I really love. All those things just made it seem like a solo record. If I’m writing for a band, like Ex Hex, which is basically the other band that I do right now, they’re not finished. I bring them in (to the band members) with that band in mind.

BLADE: I love the lush instrumental section on “Thirds” and the psychedelic sounds of “Looking For The Sun” and “The Guest.” Were there things you were listening to while writing the songs for “Untame The Tiger” that were inspiring to you?

TIMONY: I was listening to a lot of music, a ton of stuff. I don’t ever try to purposely emulate anything very often, but I can’t help it. I’d rather be influenced by stuff without really thinking about it too consciously. I always have loved listening to The Left Banke’s instrumentation and The Moody Blues’ string parts. Most of the string parts come from trying to emulate The Moody Blues [laughs] or The Left Banke. I’m obsessed with The Left Banke.

BLADE: “Walk Away Renée,” right?

TIMONY: Yes. This guy, Michael Brown, was such a genius. He wrote so much stuff as a teenager. His dad was a string arranger. Anyway, I love those string parts. I was listening to this prog-rock band The Strawbs and this early (Ronnie) Dio band Elf. (The Flying) Burrito Brothers and The Byrds, too. I love Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span. Richard Thompson and I was really obsessed with Gerry Rafferty’s early solo record called “Can I Have My Money Back?” I love that record. I was listening to it a ton when I was arranging the songs.

BLADE: Why was the song “Dominoes” selected as the first single from “Untame The Tiger?”

TIMONY: I don’t know. I let other people tell me [laughs]. I really hate sequencing records and I hate choosing singles. I’m just too close to it. I can’t tell what people are going to like or not. A lot of times, the ones that I like are not the ones that other people like. I asked (the people at) the label and they suggested that. I think it’s more poppy sounding. Dave Fridmann mixed that one and “Don’t Disappear” and he’s a genius mixer. and these mixers are always very pleasing and accessible sounding. I think that has something to do with it, too.

BLADE: Earlier, we talked about your long history of playing music with others, which reminded me of your guest spot singing “All Dressed Up In Dreams,” written by gay singer/songwriter Stephin Merritt for his band The 6ths’ “Wasps’ Nest” album. 

TIMONY: He’s such a genius!

BLADE: How did that come about?

TIMONY: When I moved to Boston, for a year I lived with Claudia (Gonson of Merritt’s band The Magnetic Fields), who is his drummer. I lived in a group house in Cambridge. I was friends with Claudia, and Stephin lived a few blocks away. She told me he was making this record with guest singers they wanted to go over and sing on it. I went over there one day and he taught me the song and I sang on it.  I think he’s one of the best songwriters of the last 50 years or whatever.

BLADE: I completely agree. As someone who has collaborated with Stephin, are you aware of an LGBTQ+ following for your own music?

TIMONY: I don’t know. I think maybe a little bit. I’d love that. I love everybody who can connect with it, because all I’m trying to do is connect with people.

Mary Timony (Photo by Chris Grady)
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We predict an #OscarsSoStraight evening at the Academy Awards

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Photo Credit: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

HOLLYWOOD – The 96th Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, will take place on Sunday, March 10 at new early time 7 p.m. EST at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood in Los Angeles. The ceremony will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and broadcast live on ABC.

Depending on whether you are an “Oppenheimer” lover or a hater, the Academy Awards this year will come off as either a blast, i.e. as in nuclear explosion, or a bomb, i.e. as in the atomic kind.

Spoiler alert: “Oppenheimer” is set up to create scorched earth against all its competitors. 

If you are attending an Oscar party and filling out your predictions list, you will do very well if you mark “Oppenheimer” down the line. (But uncheck it in the Best Supporting Actress category. Love you Emily Blunt, but, no.) 

Here is what an LGBTQ high visibility evening would look like: “Barbie” would win Best Picture because there was Kate McKinnon, and what self-respecting LGBTQ person does not appreciate pink? It would just edge out “Anatomy of a Fall” or “Maestro,” which feature bisexual main characters. “Anatomy of a Fall” would win Best Director for Justine Triet to make up for the Best Picture snub, however. 

Best Actor would go to Colman Domingo for his portrayal of gay civil rights icon Bayard Rustin, just edging out Bradley Cooper as the bisexual Leonard Bernstein. Two-spirit Lily Gladstone would edge out Annette Bening as the iconic Diana Nyad (Lily might actually win this, though Emma Stone is coming on strong). Sterling K. Brown would win for gay Clifford Ellison in “American Fiction” and we would ogle runner-up Ryan Gosling as Ken because even though Ken is presumably straight, we gay boys know the truth.

Lesbian icon Jodie Foster would win playing a lesbian character in “Nyad.” “Nimona” would win Best Animated Feature. “The ABCs of Book Banning” would win Best Documentary Short Film. “Barbie,” “Maestro,” and “May December” would duke it out as front runners in the screenplay categories.

None of those are likely to happen, however, with the exception of Lily Gladstone, as mentioned. Oh, and Billie Eilish may win for best song. That won’t be a particularly LGBTQ moment, however, as Eilish does not like her sexual orientation being talked about, so she won’t mention it, and we won’t either.

Because the Oscars are preceded by so many other award shows and programs, many populated with Academy voters, there usually are strong indications as to who really will get what. This year, that message has been a strong sweep and one name emerges above all others. Cue explosion: “Oppenheimer.”

It is the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant physicist who led the Manhattan Project during World War II. Oppenheimer’s complex personality is challenged as he is recruited to head the Manhattan Project, the top-secret effort to build the atomic bomb. With five Golden Globe Awards, seven BAFTAs, eight Critics Choice Awards, the Directors Guild Award, The Producers Guild Award, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards, its dominance coming into the Oscars is clear.

Out magazine observed, “It’s been a great year in cinema for LGBTQ+ actors, directors, writers, films, and characters.” It has been. Unless the Oscar awards show producers specifically call that fact out, it may go unnoticed, however, and LGBTQ representation may be minimal. The announced presenters so far do not scream queer, with the possible exception of our favorite mom-of-a-trans person, Jamie Lee Curtis.

This is the year when we enjoy the concept of “it was an honor just to be nominated” LGBTQ-wise. It may be the year that we just appreciate that we don’t win all horse races just because we are LGBTQ or the horses are queer.

The Academy loves to be unpredictable, however, so you never know. Rainbows and unicorns may emerge. I wouldn’t bet on it.

But, Academy, come on, surprise us.

My prediction is that in the morning after this year’s ceremony, we may be social media-ing #OscarsSoStraight, and Out magazine’s “hope that the 2024 Oscars could potentially be the most queer- and trans-inclusive ceremony ever” will have gone up in a cloud of atomic smoke.

Oh well. At least you should do well at your Oscar party.

*****************************************************************************************

Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] 

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‘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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LGBTQ+ Critics Announce nominations for 15th Dorian Film Awards

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to watch the Dorians – not even via streaming – because there isn’t an actual presentation

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Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott star in ALL OF US STRANGERS, nominated for 9 Dorian Awards by the Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics.

HOLLYWOOD – If you’re one of the many LGBTQ movie fans who were disappointed when your favorite queer film or performance or director didn’t get the nominations you KNOW they deserved, take heart. This year’s “awards season” just got a lot more rainbow-tinted, thanks to GALECA, the Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, which on Monday announced the nominations for its 15th annual Dorian Film Awards.

While they may not be as glamorous or prestigious – yet! – as the Oscars, the Dorians (named, of course, in homage to iconic queer writer Oscar Wilde and his quintessential novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”) are not to be taken lightly. GALECA is a well-established and respected organization consisting of over 500 entertainment critics, journalists and media icons, one of the largest entertainment journalists organizations in the world, with “an impressive roster of members who contribute to some of the most revered and distinct media outlets in the U.S. and beyond.” Each year, they turn a “queer eye” toward picking the best from the annual crop of entertainment, with separate awards presentations – spaced throughout the year – for film, television, Broadway and Off-Broadway, with categories focused on both mainstream and LGBTQ-themed work in these various media; and although their choices often mirror those of other awards bodies like the Academy, SAG, or the Golden Globes, they’re also known for asserting that “certain perspective” which has always helped the queer community to be at the forefront when it comes to being “tastemakers” in the wider culture.

Some of their film award categories are specifically designed for this – for instance, in addition to separate awards for mainstream and queer films, they present a “We’re ‘Wilde’ About You” award for rising stars, and include categories for “Most Visually Striking,” “Best Unsung” and “Campiest” movies of the year. Even within the general categories, however, they often elevate the kind of films that are typically passed over by more “traditional” awards – as is evidenced in their strong slate of contenders for 2024’s honors.

Most obviously, perhaps, this alternate perspective is reflected in the fact that “All of Us Strangers,” writer-director Andrew Haigh’s melancholy-yet-romantic gay ghost story that was completely left out of the Oscar nominations despite being widely touted as a favorite in several categories, received the most nods of any other film from the Dorians with 9 nominations. In second place is “Barbie,” with 7 nominations (including one for director Greta Gerwig, whose snub in the parallel Academy Awards category led to a flurry of vocal criticism on social media), queer cinema icon Todd Haynes’ “May December” (also snubbed by Oscar) is in third with 6, and Celine Song’s Korean-language “Past Lives” (5) and Greek absurdist auteur Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things” (4) rounding out the top five most-nominated titles.

It probably also goes without saying that the Dorian nominations tend to be much more inclusive of queer talent, even in mainstream categories. This year, Oscar nominees Colman Domingo and Jodie Foster are joined by fellow out LGBTQ+ actors Andrew Scott and Trace Lysette in the Best Performance and Supporting Performance categories – which, notably, are inclusive of all genders, with one individual winner in each.

This year, the Dorians also introduce three new awards: LGBTQ Screenplay, LGBTQ Non-English Language Film, and Genre Film. The latter is an especially  interesting move that seems reflective of the oft-ignored but widespread influence of “gay geek” culture as well as a response to calls for other awards bodies to make space for the fantasy, sci-fi, and horror films that are often disregarded when it comes to awards due to long standing bias within the industry establishment against the artistic merits of such content.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to watch the Dorians – not even via streaming – because there isn’t an actual presentation, though some have been held in past years. Maybe someday they’ll be the must-see TV event we all KNOW they deserve to be, but in the meantime, don’t worry: we’ll make sure and fill you in on all the winners after they’re announced on Monday, February 26.

The complete list of nominations is below.
____________________________________________________________________________.

Film of the Year

All of Us Strangers (Searchlight)

Barbie (Warner Bros.)

May December (Netflix) 

Past Lives (A24) 

Poor Things (Searchlight)

LGBTQ Film of the Year

All of Us Strangers (Searchlight) 

Bottoms (MGM)

Passages (MUBI, SBS)

Rustin (Netflix)

Saltburn (Amazon MGM) 

Director of the Year

Greta Gerwig, Barbie (Warner Bros.)

Andrew Haigh, All of Us Strangers (Searchlight)

Todd Haynes, May December (Netflix)

Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer (Universal)

Celine Song, Past Lives (A24)

Screenplay of the Year

Original or Adapted

Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, Barbie (Warner Bros.)

Samy Burch, May December (Netflix)

Andrew Haigh, All of Us Strangers (Searchlight)

Arthur Harari, Justine Triet, Anatomy of a Fall (NEON)

Celine Song, Past Lives (A24) 

LGBTQ Screenplay of the Year

Andrew Haigh, All of Us Strangers (Searchlight)

Arthur Harari, Justine Triet, Anatomy of a Fall (NEON)

Dustin Lance Black, Julian Breece, Rustin (Netflix)

Arlette Langmann, Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias, Passages (MUBI)

Emma Seligman, Rachel Sennott, Bottoms (MGM)

Non-English Language Film of the Year

Anatomy of a Fall (NEON) 

The Boy and the Heron (GKIDS, Toho)

Godzilla Minus One (Toho)

Past Lives (A24)

The Zone of Interest (A24)

LGBTQ Non-English Language Film of the Year

Afire (Janus Films, Sideshow)

Anatomy of a Fall (NEON)

Cassandro (Amazon MGM)

Monster (Well Go USA, Gaga, Toho)

Rotting in the Sun (MUBI)

Unsung Film of the Year

To an Exceptional Movie Worthy of Greater Attention

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret (Lionsgate)

Monica (IFC)

Origin (NEON)

Theater Camp (Searchlight)

A Thousand and One (Focus Features)

Film Performance of the Year

Colman Domingo, Rustin (Netflix)

Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers (Focus Features)

Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple, Paramount)

Sandra Hüller, Anatomy of a Fall (NEON)

Greta Lee, Past Lives (A24)

Trace Lysette, Monica (IFC)

Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer (Universal)

Natalie Portman, May December (Netflix)

Andrew Scott, All of Us Strangers (Searchlight)

Emma Stone, Poor Things (Searchlight)

Supporting Film Performance of the Year

Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple (Warner Bros.)

Robert Downey Jr., Oppenheimer (Universal)

Jodie Foster, NYAD (Netflix)

Claire Foy, All of Us Strangers (Searchlight)

Ryan Gosling, Barbie (Warner Bros.) 

Rachel McAdams, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret (Lionsgate)

Charles Melton, May December (Netflix)

Paul Mescal, All of Us Strangers (Searchlight)

Rosamund Pike, Saltburn (Amazon MGM)

Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers (Focus Features)

Documentary of the Year

American Symphony (Netflix)

Beyond Utopia (Roadside Attractions, Fathom Events)

Kokomo City (Magnolia)

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie

20 Days in Mariupol (PBS Distribution)

LGBTQ Documentary of the Year

Every Body (Focus Features) 

Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project (HBO, Confluential Films)

Kokomo City (Magnolia)

Little Richard: I Am Everything (Magnolia)

Orlando, My Political Biography (Janus Film, Sideshow)

Animated Film of the Year

The Boy and the Heron (GKIDS, Toho)

Elemental (Disney)

Nimona (Netflix, Annapurna)

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (SONY)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (Paramount)

Genre Film of the Year

For excellence in science fiction, fantasy and horror

All of Us Strangers (Searchlight)

Godzilla Minus One (Toho)

M3GAN (Universal)

Poor Things (Searchlight)

Talk To Me (A24)

Film Music of the Year

Barbie — Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt, et al. (Warner Bros.)

The Boy and the Heron — Joe Hisaishi (GKIDS, Toho)

The Color Purple — Stephen Bray, Allee Willis, Brenda Russell, Kris Bowers, et al. (Warner Bros.)

Oppenheimer — Ludwig Göransson (Universal) 

The Zone of Interest — Mica Levi (A24)

Visually Striking Film of the Year

Asteroid City (Focus Features)

Barbie (Warner Bros.)

Oppenheimer (Universal)

Poor Things (Searchlight)

Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (SONY)

Campiest Flick 

Barbie (Warner Bros.)

Bottoms (MGM)

Dicks: The Musical (A24)

M3GAN (Universal) 

Saltburn (Amazon MGM)

“We’re Wilde About You!” Rising Star Award

Ayo Edebiri

Lily Gladstone

Jacob Elordi

Charles Melton

Dominic Sessa

Wilde Artist Award

To a truly groundbreaking force in entertainment

Quinta Brunson

Ayo Edebiri

Greta Gerwig

Lily Gladstone

Todd Haynes

GALECA LGBTQIA+ Film Trailblazer Award 

For Creating Art That Inspires Empathy, Truth and Equity

Colman Domingo

Jodie Foster

Andrew Haigh

Todd Haynes

Andrew Scott

Timeless Star (Career Achievement Award)

Honoring an exemplary career marked by character, wisdom and wit, the winner of this award will be named along with the other final victors on Feb. 26. Past recipients include Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and John Waters.

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Subjects matter: an interview with author Martin Duberman

New book ‘The Line of Dissent’ debuts Jan. 8

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Gay writer and historian Martin Duberman is the very definition of a living legend. At the age of 93, with nearly 40 books to his credit, Duberman shows no signs of slowing down. His latest book, “The Line of Dissent: Gay Outsiders and the Shaping of History” (G&LR Books, 2023), out Jan. 8, compiles a dozen essays (many of which were previously published in “Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide”), along with a pair of codas. Some of the names, including W.H. Auden, Alfred Kinsey, and Sylvia Rivera, will be familiar to many readers, while others are sure to be revelations. Duberman was gracious enough to make time for an interview in advance of the book’s publication.

BLADE: In the introduction to “The Line of Dissent,” you write that the book is “opinionated” and “contains no demolition jobs,” and you note “appraisals are mostly appreciative.”  Is this in response to something you’d seen other historians doing?

MARTIN DUBERMAN: Historians, being human, have a wide range of responses to the individuals they choose to write about. In my earlier books (“Charles Francis Adams, 1807-1886” and “James Russell Lowell”), I felt personally more distant from the subjects. But my recent work follows the trajectory of my politics — that is, moving steadily leftward.

BLADE: Most of the essays in “The Line of Dissent” previously appeared in “Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide.” Was the idea to compile the essays into a book your idea or G&LR publisher Richard Schneider’s?

DUBERMAN: The idea for the book was mine though Richard was immediately enthusiastic.

BLADE: Were there any essays of yours from “Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide” that didn’t make the cut for the book?

DUBERMAN: There are 12 essays in the book, and I’ve probably written some 20 (my memory’s a little shaky here), which, if accurate, would mean some seven to eight didn’t make the cut. David McReynolds would be one example.

BLADE: In many ways, “Gay & Lesbian Review” fills a void left by the loss of “Christopher Street,” as well as the death of several regional LGBTQ newspapers. What does it mean to you that a publication such as “Gay & Lesbian Review” exists?

DUBERMAN: I think the role “Gay & Lesbian Review” plays in the community is significant. No other publication reaches an educated, but not academic, audience.

BLADE: 2023 turned out to be a year in which historically significant LGBTQ people — including Bayard Rustin, Diana Nyad, and Leonard Bernstein — are the subjects of high-profile biopics. Are there one or two people about whom you wrote in “The Line of Dissent” that you think would make a good subject for a movie?

DUBERMAN: Lord, yes! Offhand, I couldn’t name even one who wouldn’t qualify for a film, and who wouldn’t find an audience. Every one of their lives was dramatic and rich. As were dozens of other LGBTQ+ people not in the book. Check out the lists in “Outwords” (theoutwordsarchive.org) as one source for candidates. It’s an invaluable resource for candidates to write about and to honor.

BLADE: Essay subjects Essex Hemphill, Andrew Dworkin, and Lincoln Kirstein are people about whom you also wrote the full-length books “Hold Tight Gently,” “The Feminist as Revolutionary,” and “The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein,” respectively. What makes a person a fascinating subject worthy of a book-length project to you?

DUBERMAN: Using “drama” as a guideline, I’d say that Sylvia Rivera’s life was especially full of vivid and sometimes hair-raising episodes. Ditto Essex Hemphill and Andrea Dworkin. A film on Andrea was recently completed, but I haven’t seen any release date for it.

BLADE: When you write a revelatory essay such as “Edward Sagarin: ‘Father’ of the Homophile Movement,” are you as excited about sharing your knowledge and/or the results of your research as you hope the reader will be when they receive the information?

DUBERMAN: My level of excitement varies with the subject. The three you cite are among the most important. In a semi-conscious way, I tend to respond to “second rank” figures — that is, people who in their own day made a substantial political contribution but the general public has forgotten.

BLADE: “The Line of Dissent” opens with the dedication: “To the current generation of queer radicals. Please hurry!” I live in South Florida, which is suffering greatly under anti-LGBTQ Gov. DeSantis and his cronies. However, we are seeing young LGBTQ people in the state taking action and becoming activists in response. That’s not just happening in Florida, but in other places, as well. Does that give you a sense of hope for the future?

DUBERMAN: Yes! I see lots of evidence of activity emerging from the latest generation. Alas, I also see Young Republicans who are equally outspoken. It could come down to a dogfight, with damn near everything at stake. For now, I’m still sticking with my optimistic prediction.

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The ultimate guide to queer gift giving

Perfect presents for everyone from roommates to soulmates

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Searching for special deliveries for that special someone? Consider these elf-approved, consciously curated presents perfect for everyone from roommates to soulmates. 


Star Wars Home Collection

Movie nights in bed get a comfort upgrade from the Force – for those who uphold Jedi code in the streets but embrace the Dark Side in the sheets – with Sobel Westex’s Star Wars Home Collection, five- to seven-piece twin, queen and king sets suitable for either alliance. Cop a bootleg of the infamous “Star Wars Holiday Special” (legal copies don’t exist, nor has it been rebroadcast since its one-and-only airing in 1978) and settle in for a snacky screening with premade Johnson’s Popcorn (a Jersey Shore staple) or Pop ’N Dulge’s DIY gourmet kits. SobelAtHome.com, $350-$390; JohnsonsPopcorn.com, $27+; PopNDulge.com, $23


Bird Buddy Smart Feeder

Avian enthusiasts get up close and semi-personal with feathered friends thanks to the Bird Buddy smart feeder that allows safe viewing via a solar-powered, app-enabled camera, along with adorable add-ons like a suet ball holder and three-in-one nutrition set to keep the neighborhood’s population happy and healthy. MyBirdBuddy.com, $299-$415


Jewelry – but make it an experience. That’s the premise behind Link x Lou, a quick-fitting accessory service providing recipients with in-person appointments for custom-linked, clasp-less 14-karat white- and yellow-gold necklaces, bracelets, anklets, and rings that wear until they’re worn out. Money’s on ’em lasting longer than the situationship you’ve got goin’, but may the odds be ever in your favor. LinkxLou.com, $55-$500


Orttu Shelton Puffer

Guess who’s coming to dinner? It’s you as an alt-timeline Tom of Finland in Orttu’s fully quilted, oversized Shelton Puffer comprised of double-layered high-sheen fabric and press-stud fastening that results in a slick style statement vers-er than you are. Orttu.com, $203


Winter Discovery Mini Scented Candle Set

Apotheke takes the guesswork out of choosing just the right ambiance-inducing aroma with its Winter Discovery Mini Scented Candle Set, featuring six fragrant two-ounce tins in seasonal smells that include birchwood apple, black cypress, blackberry honey, cardamon chestnut, charred fig, and firewood (with a combined 90-hour burn time), and packaged in a nostalgically illustrated gift box accentuated by festive gold detailing. ApothekeCo.com, $64


Polaris General 1000 Sport

Resort communities across the country have adopted golf carts as a preferred mode of transportation, and you can establish yourself as a local baddie in Polaris’ General 1000 Sport – in ethereal colorways like ghost gray – equipped with a four-stroke DOHC twin-cylinder engine, 100 horsepower, 1,500-pound hitch-towing capacity, and enough street cred for Boomers to shake their fists at. Polaris.com, $17,500+


‘Arquivistas’ Crystal Book

Brazilian crystal devotee Tatiana Dorow has curated an impressive collection of more than 1,000 rare and exquisite minerals – ranging from one ounce to over 5,000 pounds – the comprehensive record of which is now compiled in the sizable coffee-table tome “Arquivistas” (Portuguese for archivist) that’s sure to satisfy, delight, and provide endless holiday-party talking points to the New Agers in your life. (You know they will.) ArtAndAnthropologyPress.com, $350


Bovem Globe Trimmer 2.0

There are plenty of manscaping tools on the market, but perhaps none are designed with your delicate bits in mind like the handsome second-gen Bovem Globe body and groin trimmer with its ergonomic textured grip, powerful 6500 RPM with low vibration, varying guards, and replaceable TrimSafe blades that tidy you up without cutting skin or pulling rough hair. Deck the halls! – no more bloody Christmas balls. Bovem.co, $60-$87


Lexington Glassworks Decanter Set

Pour one out from Lexington Glassworks’ hand-blown whiskey decanter, each one individually crafted in the company’s Asheville, N.C., studio and detailed with an elegant crackle finish that lends an air of sophistication to any home bar cart. Pair with a set of LG’s complementary rocks glasses, in the same distinguished style, for a cherished gift. LexingtonGlassworks.com, $280


Joule Turbo Sous Vide

Your fave chefs’ autopilot cooking technique hits home countertops in Breville’s sleek Joule Turbo Sous Vide stick, which cooks seasoned-and-bagged meats and veggies to a faster-than-ever optimal internal temperature (unattended, no less) before a lickety-split sear and serve results in restaurant-quality dishes deserving of at least a couple Michelin stars for your minimal-mess kitchen. Breville.com, $250


Outlines Shower Liner System

Holiday hosts can practice responsible replenishment amid our planetary plastic-waste crisis when you gift Outlines’ thoughtfully designed Shower Liner System that provides users with a machine-washable cotton top piece and fully recyclable bottom to replace when it’s time to ditch the grime. Set it and forget it with three-, six- or nine-month auto-deliveries. LivingOutlines.com, $50


Barbie Perfume

Fight the patriarchy doused in Barbie’s sweet-and-fresh fragrance that, from top to bottom, features notes of strawberry nectar and red cherry, peony and pink magnolia, and sandalwood and soft musk for an extraordinary scent that’s more than Kenough. DefineMeCreativeStudio.com, $65


AiRROBO Pet Grooming Vacuum

Posh pets enjoy salon-style luxury in the comfort of their homes when treated to a grooming session by the AiRROBO vacuum (think Flowbee for cats and dogs), a five-tool, one-stop solution for keeping furbabies’ hair, dander, allergens and mites to a minimum. The portable pamperer includes an electric clipper, crevice and de-shedding tools, and grooming and cleaning brushes housed in a space-saving, HEPA-filtered capsule. US.Air-Robo.com, $110


Aura Smart Sleep Mask

What does the future of total relaxation and deep sleep look like? Blackout darkness and complete serenity in a dream-state sanctuary when you spend your nights in the Aura Smart Sleep Mask with built-in speakers for guided meditation and snooze-inducing ASMR, zero-pressure eye cushioning, and light and sunrise therapy to help you wake rested and refreshed at home and (especially) away. Indiegogo.com, $190


Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBTQ lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels.

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