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Tripping the Burning Man desert fantastic

A transformative celebration of art, sex and equality at a price

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Glamcocks, a queer-centric themed group, has been a staple of Burning Man since 2010. Photo courtesy of Glamcocks’ Facebook.

To the uninitiated, the idea of attending Burning Man may well seem like pure insanity.

Taking place on a dry lake bed under the scorching summer sun of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, the festival is a week-long “happening” at which thousands of participants – or “Burners,” as they call themselves – gather to experience a counter-cultural explosion of ideas, art and camaraderie. 

Everything they need – food, water, shelter – they must bring for themselves.  There is no running water, and there is no air conditioning to provide relief from the heat; there aren’t even any trees to provide shade.  Hot winds frequently fan dust storms that cover everyone from head to toe.  Such an inhospitable environment hardly seems like the ideal setting for a party.

Yet for the approximately 70,000 people who gather every August at Black Rock City – the name given to the temporary settlement which rises, like a futuristic Brigadoon, to host Burning Man – there is nowhere else on earth that they would rather be.

Burners travel from all over the world, alone or in groups, carrying their supplies and their gear to set up camp – often these are elaborately themed and decorated.  They get around the festival site on foot, or on bicycles or even in “mutant vehicles” – specially built cars that reflect Burning Man’s creative atmosphere, and which must be approved by the festival authority in advance. 

They wear outlandish clothing, either cobbled together from eclectic thrift store finds or purchased from online merchants like Etsy who have learned to cater to the Burning Man aesthetic.  Sometimes these outfits – which usually fall into one of two categories, “Glam” or “Geek” – are specially and elaborately made, just for the occasion. 

And frequently, Burners spend a lot of time at the festival wearing nothing at all.

As for activities, there are plenty of things to see and do and experience.  Performances, DJs, celebrations, installations of mind-boggling art, engineering and architecture – all of these are core elements of the Burning Man experience.  So too, of course, is the climactic spectacle from which the festival takes its name, in which a giant wooden effigy is incinerated by flames that climb high into the desert sky.  In between the events, there’s a surprising amount of gourmet food to be had (courtesy of a “gift economy”), prepared and shared by over-achieving “foodie” Burners, and certainly no shortage of alcohol.  Drugs, of course, are illegal – but you’ll still find plenty of them there. 

There’s also sex. Lots and lots of sex.

Free-spirited hedonism aside, Burners are drawn to the festival for the experience of belonging to a radical social experiment; they become part of an ephemeral village that relies on that “gift economy” – that is to say, there is no commerce or advertising, no exchange of goods and services, and everyone is expected to give and share what they have according to their own abilities. 

This springs from Burning Man’s ten “principals,” as officially penned by co-founder Larry Harvey in 2004; these also include communal effort, civic responsibility, and participation, as well as “radical inclusion”— an exhortation which makes the festival a popular destination for many within the LGBTQ community.

Begun as a free event on San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986, Burning Man was founded by Harvey (who passed away at 70 earlier this year after suffering a massive stroke) and Jerry James.  It has continued annually ever since, from the last Sunday in August to the first Monday in September (Labor Day), and although it has grown from a small gathering into the massive production it is today, it’s managed to maintain its dedication to exploring “radical self-expression.”

One thing that has changed, though, is the price tag. 

Admission is no longer free; ticket packages for this year’s installment range from $425 – $1,200 – though there are “low-income” options available – and that doesn’t include various additional fees and charges, nor does it factor in the cost of travel or supplies.

The high price tag is one of the reasons Burning Man has generated controversy in recent years.  Despite being dedicated to inclusion and decommodification, it can’t be ignored that the festival’s attendees are overwhelmingly white, male and affluent. 

It has become a favorite gathering place for the Silicon Valley crowd, who use it as a networking opportunity (Tesla CEO Elon Musk, now exposed as a conservative SuperPAC donor, has said that the festival “IS Silicon Valley”), and every year sees a larger number of luxury camps set up by wealthy Burners as highly exclusive “gated communities” within Black Rock City. 

In 2014, a venture-capitalist billionaire threw an infamous party at one such camp – he even flew in models to provide company for his guests – and charged $16,500 for a wristband to get in.  Campers who take seriously the festival’s egalitarian ethos have, unsurprisingly, been disgruntled by such displays of capitalistic privilege, leading to an accusation that Burning Man has become “gentrified.”

Still, die-hard Burners are undeterred by such issues. 

Ask a Burner to define why they love the festival and you will get any number of answers.  For some, it’s a social experiment; for others, it’s a spiritual retreat; for many, it’s a marathon rave.  For all of them, it’s an escape from the everyday regimentation of their lives in what they call the “default” world – one which exerts such a powerful appeal that they are drawn to return, year after year, no matter what.

What is it, exactly, that makes Burning Man so essential to its acolytes?

The Los Angeles Blade reached out to the Glamcocks, a queer-centric theme camp at Burning Man since 2010, to get an answer.

One member said, “When you combine the vast amount of energy, the music, the art, and the amazing gifts and unique perspectives people from around the world are bringing to the event, the harshness of the desert environment fades away. What’s left is truly magic. It’s awe-inspiring.”

Another touched on the transformative nature of the experience, adding, “It really changes you. It’s made me more open, more willing to say yes to new things. I feel supported and encouraged to express myself in brave new ways and I bring that energy back to the ‘default’ world with me.”

A gay man who is in recovery underscored the inclusiveness of the festival. “I had an amazing experience,” he said. “I saw no barrier between gay and straight… and being sober I obviously had some hesitation, but they have 12-step meetings every day.  I love that.”

Still, the thing for which Burning Man is most known – by those who have been there and those who have only seen it in pictures  – is the art.

From the beginning, art has been a crucial part of the festival’s mission to promote self-expression, and as its profile – and pocketbook – has grown, so has the ambition of the artists who participate and the scale of the work they produce. 

Immense interactive sculptures, designed around annually-announced themes, have become the hallmark of Burning Man, and this year promises to offer an amazing crop.  Though it’s impossible to know what will appear on the “Playa” before it actually shows up, there are a number of planned “honoraria” contributions based on this year’s theme of “I, Robot.”  The festival website has the full list, but a few of them include:

BABA YAGA’S HOUSE, by Jessi Sprocket Janusee of Reno, Nev. – “The house of Baba Yaga will rise from the playa straddling it’s mechanical chicken legs.  Ascend her staircases to test the old witch if you dare.  If you are strong of will, feeling bold and willing to show vulnerability she may allow you to venture within her sanctum.”

BLOOM, by Peter Hazel of Reno, Nev. – “Peter and his team are bringing back the 40-foot-tall jellyfish from 2017. From a distance, this piece looks like a single large creature, but upon arriving one will realize it is comprised of thousands of smaller jellyfish, swimming in a sea of tentacles and lights. Visitors are able to climb up inside to the top of the jellyfish dome to have an incredible view of the playa.”

ETHEREAL FLEETING, by Lukas Truniger, Itamar Bergfreund & Bruce Yoder of Zurich, Switzerland – “A series of clouds is generated and gently held in place by a machine-like sculpture. From twilight to sunrise, the clouds are illuminated by an interactive network of LED lights, which reveal their inner geometries. The clouds appear, float over the playa, and then dissolve into thin air.”

THE GREAT TRAIN WRECK, by Debby Brower / Collaborative Artisans of Reno, Nev. & Sacramento, Calif. – “An artistic interpretation of railroad history when outdated locomotives were ceremoniously destroyed in head-on crashes for public entertainment.  Two full scale trains are constructed from wood that will ultimately simulate a crash-and-burn using pyrotechnics in the finale.”

IN CASE WE MISS EACH OTHER, by Ilya Barannikov / Soul Oceans of Pasadena, Calif. – “‘In Case We Miss Each Other’ is an interactive art installation reminiscent of a classic Roswell UFO gently floating above your head. Cutting edge lighting programming interacts with the messaging system, which will allow your voice to be transmitted through space, riding upon a powerful digitized UV laser with a 25 light year range.”

iSHEEP, by Bardia Saeedi / DC Regional Artists of Alexandria, Va. – “13 life-size sheep roam the playa–twelve white, one black, each with a unique voice and character. They bear gifts of bareback rides, lit in their latest Burner costume. Pet them or play gently–even play soft games of ‘bumper sheep.’ iSheep are trans-species: They were once humans acting like sheep, but now they’re iSheep, awake and wise.”

RADIALUMIA, by FoldHaus Collective from Oakland, Calif. – “A geodesic sphere, five-stories tall, and covered with a breathing skin of origami shells and radiant spikes. Its shape nods to radiolaria, a tiny protozoa with intricate mineral skeletons that covered the desert thousands of years ago, when it was once the sea floor. Inside the sphere, a platform offers a place for people to retreat and look out to the surrounding landscape.”

ROBOT RESURRECTION, by Shane Evans from Denver, Colo. – “A 30-foot-tall, human piloted, articulating sculpture made from reclaimed airplane parts and found objects. From the torso cockpit, the operator(s) manipulate the Robot’s motions and fire effects.”

No doubt images of these creations, and many more, will flood the internet in the weeks and months after Black Rock City disappears once more into the Nevada desert and all of its denizens go back to from whence they came – taking all of their “MOOP” (Matter Out Of Place, Burner-speak for “trash”) with them. 

These images will provide a social-media-enabled glimpse into the exotic world of the festival for non-Burners, and perhaps inspire newbies to consider attending next year.  For those who were there in person, however, those images will be much more than a momentary curiosity to be browsed over morning coffee in front of a computer screen. 

They will be visual reminders of an experience not to be found in the everyday world, in which – for a week, at least – they transcended their boundaries and lived their lives as who they truly wanted to be.

When you think of it that way, what’s a little dust being blown into your face?

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Michael Kearns, the Godfather of LGBTQ+ authenticity

Michael’s work has been described as “collisions of sex and death, of eroticism and grief,” but he has truly dug to an even deeper level

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Michael Kearns by Keida Mascaro

HOLLYWOOD – The arc of LGBTQ+ history over the past 50 years has been one of constant upheaval and evolvement. From a period when it was both illegal and insane to be gay, through the achievement of being able to serve openly in the military, to marriage equality and the ability to create families to today’s fight against the tyranny against Trans people, the movement has not stopped to take a breath.

Michael Kearns, the first recognized “out” actor on the Hollywood landscape, has been a visible presence through it all. More importantly, he has always” been visible on the gay scene. In the seventies he epitomized the free love and erotic freedom that many gay men lived. He was featured in classic gay porn movies and did a PR stint as the face of the “happy hustler.”  

“That was my introduction to a lot of people,” Michael told me when we sat down for a chat on Rated LGBT Radio. “I kind of captured the zeitgeist of the times, the freewheeling seventies. We forget that there was that period of time when sexuality was joyful and exciting and thrilling.”

In the eighties he was visible in mainstream media as a gay man playing gay men characters. In 1983, Michael was cast in a minor role on the Cheers Emmy winning episode “the Boys in the Bar.”  He was instantly recognized for his gay sexual iconic status by LGBTQ audiences, even though the population at large did not know who he was. The casting director who fought for his casting was Stephen Kolzak, who would himself become a prominent AIDS activist before he died at 37 in 1990. Stephen casted Michael to make a statement. He wanted to signal to the LGBTQ community that Cheers had our backs. “He was one of the only ones that had the guts,” Michael remembers.

“There were a lot of stereotypes in television regarding gay portrayals. I was pegged and cast in some of those roles. I did play the stereotype, but rather than a straight guy playing those roles, I brought authenticity. I was real. Straight guys playing gay would always spoof the role. They were always ‘winking’ and signaling to the camera ‘I am not really that way.’  So, the performances are by in large horrible, even with some academy award winners. The actors were constantly saying that it was not who they were—if they weren’t making that clear on the talk shows, they were doing it in the performance itself.’ Michael says.

Michael soon morphed into an HIV positive man playing HIV positive characters, while off camera becoming a visible and vocal AIDS activist. “It was a new kind of cliché. They had to always make me look horrible. The ghastlier the better. They could not have an HIV character who looked normal—as I did when I arrived at the set. Finally, I had enough and refused to do that anymore.” Michael then immersed himself in theater where he found greater character honesty and truth.

 As gay men captured their identities in the 90s as husbands and fathers, Michael was there too—becoming one of the first gay men to adopt a child.  It is that role, as a father, that Michael has said is his greatest.

Today, Michael has been a driving force behind QueerWise, a multigenerational writing collective and performance group. Through QueerWise, Michael gives poetic voice to talent that would otherwise be voiceless. Its members include published poets, writers of fiction and non-fiction, playwrights, singers, musicians, social activists, dancers, actors artists and teachers. 

This weekend, on Sunday October 17th, QueerWise launches its latest work, The Ache for Home. 

“The Ache for Home is a video presentation of heartfelt stories from formerly homeless/unhoused individuals in and around West Hollywood. It was developed through a mentorship program facilitated by QueerWise members. The production represents citizens-turned-writers who share their inspirational stories from those glamorous streets and sidewalks, ranging from soaring self-acceptance to narratives of truth-telling defeats,” states Michael. The production can be seen on QueerWise’s YouTube Channel starting 5pm October 17.

The Ache for Home features a young cis male with a passion for music and art, who finds joy “when I can put a smile on someone’s face and give back”, a retired mixed race bisexual government worker who is a voracious reader and literacy advocate, two trans males share their experiences of living on the street, and a former resident playwright who was homeless for 44 days and nights in the city. “I am thrilled at our inclusion of transmen in this work,” Michael says. “It is a poorly represented community within a poorly represented community.”

On current controversies with media and transgender targeting, particularly the Dave Chappelle issue, Michael remarks, “I am glad it is generating passion. It is bringing up conversation on the plights of black trans women who are victimized at an alarming rate, we should not say victimized… we should say murdered. I am glad we are shedding light on that.”

Michael’s work has been described as “collisions of sex and death, of eroticism and grief,” but he has truly dug to an even deeper level. The Ache for Home takes its inspiration from the Maya Angelou quote, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Michael Kearns work has always encouraged us to go, and live, “as we are.” He is the amalgamation of eroticism, grief, healing, and appreciating the richness of life itself.

He is the godfather of LGBT+ authenticity. In earlier days, he may have represented sex, he may have walked us through a period of darkness and death into the arms of the creation of the new family. He has now brought us home, and when we look at him, we see a new quality.

Wisdom.

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Rob Watson is the host of RATED LGBT RADIO, a national podcast and he’s one of the founders of the evolequals.com.

A gay dad, business man, community activist and a blogger/writer, Watson is a contributor to the Los Angeles Blade covering entertainment, film, television, and culture with occasional politics tossed in.

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

Listen to the show here:

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Schock treatment: an interview with Gina Schock of the Go-Go’s

Drummer on her new book and upcoming Hall of Fame induction

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Too much of the Go-Go’s is never enough. In the 40 years since the all-female punk band burst on the scene with its unforgettable debut album “Beauty and the Beat” to some of the band members’ solo careers that followed its break-up to its ongoing reunion and the eye-opening 2020 documentary about the band, we just can’t get our fill. 

But wait, there’s more! Gina Schock, the Go-Go’s legendary drummer (she’s got the beat!), has just published a sensational coffee-table book, “Made In Hollywood: All Access with the Go-Go’s” (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2021) that features photos from Schock’s own stock, as well as her own personal recollections of her life in music. She made time for an interview before the publication of the book as well as the Go-Go’s long-awaited induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this month.

GREGG SHAPIRO/WASHINGTON BLADE: I’d like to begin by congratulating you, as well as the rest of the Go-Go’s, on your upcoming induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How do you feel about it?

GINA SCHOCK: It took so long for this to happen, and at first we were sort of like, “Hell’s bells! We don’t even care anymore.” Every year, we’d think “Maybe it’s gonna happen next year,” and it just wasn’t happening. Then it happens! We were all dumbfounded. We couldn’t really believe that we were nominated and then we got inducted! Everybody was pleasantly surprised. This is kind of great, kind of neat. I’m really happy about this now [laugh].

BLADE: At the same time, your memoir “Made in Hollywood: All Access with the Go-Go’s,” is being released. What did the experience of writing such a book mean to you?

SCHOCK: Actually, Gregg, it’s not a memoir. Kathy (Valentine) wrote a memoir. Mine is actually a book of photography.

BLADE: Right, but you also tell your story in the book.

SCHOCK: There’s a lot of writing in it, too. But I basically put this together because I had tons and tons of photographs. I’ve been moving them all over. Putting them in the closet here, under the bed there. I was like, “I have to do something with this. All these years of taking photos of the band.” Of course, everybody in the band was like. “Gina, you really need to put a photo book together!” I finally found the right guy to do it with and he helped me get it together, organize it, and help me work on the book. I couldn’t believe that along with the list of my credits will be photographer and author. It’s kind of mind-blowing. Things that you don’t think you’re capable of, and then when you have an opportunity to do something and maybe make a difference…certainly for The Go-Go’s. This needed to be out there. This is way long overdue; a book of photos with all of us. Photos that I’ve had that people have never seen. Also, you’re getting these photos from a band member’s perspective. With writing from one of the band members about what was going on during that period of time.

BLADE: I’m sure that looking at the pictures brought back lots of memories, but were you also a journal or diary keeper?

SCHOCK: Check this out! I don’t have a journal, but since 1978, Gregg, I have been keeping daily planners every single year. I’ve written down things that were going on during that time period. Not big, long stories, but this happened today, that happened yesterday, next week we’re going to be doing this. I used that as my reference. It was invaluable in the process. I now need to make room for them in the closet. I’ve got them all in drawers in cabinets in my office. It’s like, “OK, there’s no more room here [laughs]!” They were invaluable, like I said, in putting this together. What exact date did this happen? What was going on in November of ’83? It was important to have.

BLADE: Do you see the book as an extension of Alison Ellwood’s 2020 Go-Go’s documentary?

SCHOCK: No, but I’ll tell you that 99% of the photos in Alison’s documentary are mine.

It’s not an extension of that. This book has been in the works for decades. I just needed to find the right person to help me get it together. But when Alison was interviewing, I’d show her a photo and she would say, “Gina, can we come back and get some of these photos for the documentary?” I was like, “Of course, you can!” The majority of what you saw are my photos.

BLADE: The book is full of marvelous personal history details, such as performing with the late Edith Massey, known to many from her performances in some of John Waters’ movies. What do you think Edie would think of the book?

SCHOCK: She would be, [imitating Massey] “Oh, Gina, I’m so happy about your book! Finally, it’s about time!” Bless her heart and soul. I was doing an interview yesterday and I said, “If it wasn’t for Edie, I don’t know if The Go-Go’s would exist. Certainly not in the way that they have for the last more than 40 years. Things happen in a magical way, how it all comes together. No one really knows why somebody meets someone on that particular day at that particular time, and then something comes out of that that you can’t believe. Edie gave me the opportunity to come out to LA and San Francisco and New York and actually play in clubs. We got to play at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s; what a thrill that was. Then to come to LA and do three nights of the Nuart Theater and then play The Warfield up in San Francisco. That was the first time I’d ever been on a plane! After doing that with Edie, the minute I got back to Baltimore I realized it was time to make a move. It gave me the courage to believe that I could go back to any one of these places and I’m going to do something! By the way, Edie was such a lovely person. A sweetheart.

BLADE: Another scoop for the readers that I loved was the part about the Go-Go’s performing with ska in the early 1980s, leading to the collaboration with Terry Hall on the song “Our Lips are Sealed,” which was a much bigger hit for the Go-Go’s than for Terry’s band Fun Boy Three. Do you know how he felt about that?

SCHOCK: I have no idea how he felt, but I’m sure he was happy because all Terry Hall  was hearing was “ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching [laughs].” I think Terry was quite happy about that. I would be. When Jane brought in the song, she was scared to death to play it for us because it was basically like a love letter that she readjusted a little bit lyrically and put some chords and a melody to. She played it for us, and we were like, “Jane, this song’s great!”

BLADE: We are all saddened by the recent passing of Charlie Watts, drummer for the Rolling Stones. In your book, you wrote about the Go-Go’s opening for The Rolling Stones. Can you please say a few words about what Charlie meant to you as a fellow drummer?

SCHOCK: There were two drummers that were my heroes growing up. That was Charlie Watts and John Bonham (of Led Zeppelin). Those two guys are part of the reason I started and kept playing drums. To think that many years later I actually got to meet my hero and talk to him. I got to sit on his drum kit! I talked to his drum tech!

That was one of the biggest thrills of my life. Then to be able to just open for the Stones, I mean, God! Wow, what a thrill! He was, of course, a gentleman. Very quiet kind of guy; soft-spoken. A lovely guy; very personable, very sweet. I didn’t have a lot of time to talk to him, but when I did my heart was pounding. I couldn’t believe it. Meeting David Bowie was the same sort of thing. You have such adoration for these people. The impact they have on your life in many ways, not just musically.

BLADE: You put some personal thoughts and experiences in the book, including your open-heart surgery to correct an atrial septal defect, yours and the band’s encounters with drugs and recovery, the break-up of the band and issues with songwriting revenue. Was it painful or freeing to revisit these subjects?

SCHOCK: It was a little bit of both. It brought up some really heavy things that went down. But all those things have been ironed out and taken care of. Everything is good now and it has been for many years. The songwriting splits were a big part of why the band broke up. It seemed very unfair to me. I have to tell the truth [laughs]. I have to be honest with the people that I’m working with. They are my family, and nobody can hurt you worse than somebody in your family. I think I explained it all in the book the best that I can.

BLADE: Following the original break-up of the Go-Go’s, you formed the band House of Schock with Vance DeGeneres, brother of Ellen DeGeneres. What are the chances that, aside from the Smothers Brothers, two funny people would come from the same womb?

SCHOCK: Yeah, right [laughs]? It’s crazy, right? Vance was fresh out of New Orleans and I don’t know how I met him; (through) a friend of a friend or something. We hit it off right away. I don’t like to do anything by myself, Gregg. I always want a partner in crime. I like a team! That’s why I always want to be in a band. I never want to be a solo anything. I like being in a band. I like having other people to bounce ideas off of. I’m not the greatest at anything, but I’m pretty good when you put me with somebody else who’s talented as well. Vance and I worked great together. Ellen had just come to town and she was just starting out in the comedy clubs. We’d meet and have dinner. She’d ask me lots of questions about who I thought was a good agent to see. It was very sweet to watch everything happen for her. One of the funniest things, I told this to somebody the other day, I’ll never forget this. Ellen said to me, “Gina, do you think if I make a lot of money one day, would you sell me your house [laughs]?” I don’t remember what I said, but I’ll never forget her asking me that. Because Ellen could buy a city block!

BLADE: In 2018, the Go-Go’s went to Broadway with the musical Head Over Heels, featuring the band’s music. What was that experience like for you?

SCHOCK: That was another unbelievable moment being in the Go-Go’s. To think that this punk band, so many years later, has a musical on Broadway is absurd. But it happened! It’s another crazy thing that just happened! There’s a lot of work involved, don’t get me wrong, and years and years of being in this band and working our butts off to achieve the status that we have in the industry. But it was still an incredible thrill. To meet all the Broadway actors and all, my God, those people can really sing and act! I was never a big fan of Broadway, but I am now. I was knocked out! They’re so fucking talented. It’s such a thrill to watch them interpreting our songs woven into this 17th-century short story.

BLADE: Recently, Belinda’s son (James) Duke (Mason), posted a happy birthday message to you on social media in which he referred to you as his “Auntie.”

SCHOCK: Yes! I love Dukie! I watched that little boy grow up. I just adore him. I will always be in his life. He’s very precious to me.

BLADE: When Duke came out, Belinda became a very outspoken advocate for the community. Would you mind saying a few words about your connection to the LGBTQ+ community?

SCHOCK: I don’t know what my relationship really is. All I know is that I’m who I am. I’m a musician and I will fight for anything or anybody that has had a difficult time in society. Just live your life. Society creates its own do’s and don’ts and rights and wrongs for people, which is just a load of crap to me. Everyone should be allowed to be who they are, and love who they want to love, and marry who they want to marry. Love is love; it has no gender. It’s the most important thing we can give to one another. It’s what this world needs now more than ever. Never think for a second you haven’t got the right to love whomever you fall for because love is always right. It is a human right! 

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Everything you need to know about WorldPride 2021

Party in Scandinavia with the happiest people on Earth

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Confetti rained down in New York’s Times Square at Stonewall 50 WorldPride New York’s closing ceremony two years ago. (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

By Mikey Rox| NEW YORK – It’s been two years since Stonewall 50 – WorldPride NYC 2019 became the largest international Pride celebration in history, but the “bye” year of 2020 wasn’t due to the pandemic. 

The global celebration has been held every odd-numbered year since 2017 given its massive logistical undertaking (with sporadic celebrations in 2006, 2012 and 2014 before then), and WorldPride Copenhagen – Malmö 2021 couldn’t have come at a better time. 

Hundreds of thousands of cooped-up queer revelers and allies will flock to the twin host cities in Denmark and Sweden, respectively, from Aug. 12-22, to party with the happiest people on the planet, a delightful distinction provided to the Scandinavian countries by the United Nations’ famous World Happiness Report. (The United States ranked No. 19 in the most recent report, FYI.) 

So what’s in store for this year’s all-out progressive-flag-flying festival? Read on for more.

Two LGBTQ anniversaries in Denmark

If you can believe it, it’s been 70 years since Danish doctors in 1951 performed the world’s first successful genital reconstruction surgery, a medical marvel that provided hope to transgender people the world over. This year is also the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Gay Liberation Front’s Danish chapter, which has been instrumental in blazing trails toward equality for the country. Look how far it’s come.

Opening ceremonies kick off in Copenhagen

In conjunction with Copenhagen Pride, WorldPride will officially start late afternoon on Aug. 13, but in adherence with COVID-19 protocols the opening ceremony won’t be held in WorldPride Square (at least not as of press time; things could – and probably will – change). That potential snafu notwithstanding, Denmark welcomes vaccinated U.S. travelers, and if any testing is needed, both PCR and antigen tests will be available free to everyone, including tourists, 24/7. Copenhagen is OPENhagen again.

WorldPride Square will be open for the rest of the fest

WorldPride Square, a makeshift village of sorts (similar to the Olympics) located within Copenhagen’s main square, will provide a gathering place for all attendees that have traveled far and wide. LGBTQ+ and non-governmental organizations spanning the globe will set up shop in the square to greet pedestrians, provide information, and invite folks to get involved. Art exhibits also will be a centerpiece of the village, alongside a street-food market and bars with plenty of space to relax. 

EuroGames will be held simultaneously

If you enjoy watching athletes compete in variety of sports that range from boxing and badminton to dancing and dodgeball, add the spectator-friendly EuroGames to your list of to-dos while you’re in Copenhagen. If you want to get hands-on, consider signing up to become a volunteer at the games, to be held Aug. 18-20; EuroGames’ website is currently accepting those applications. 

Spread out and explore other WorldPride villages

While WorldPride Square will serve as the jump-off for the 10 days of festivities, other available villages will allow crowds to spread out and explore their individual interests. In addition to Sports Village for EuroGames athletes and fans, other villages will focus on kids and families, youth, women, and the queer community, among others. Programs and content of these villages will be target-audience specific but open to everyone.

You might have a brush with royalty

Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, Countess of Monpezat, is patron of Copenhagen 2021, making her the first-ever royal to serve in the role for a major LGBTQ+ event. Say hi if you spot her; she knows a queen when she sees one.

Despite pandemic protocol, the show will go on

Organizers have said in an official statement that despite some COVID-19 restrictions, they’re “continuing to plan for full delivery of all Copenhagen 2021 events taking into account the guidance and recommendations” of government agencies. Doubling down, organizers have promised they will not cancel or postpone events. 

Now there’s only one thing left to do: Let’s go!

Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT 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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