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YouTuber NikkieTutorials reveals she is trans

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Nikkie de Jager, known to her YouTube subscribers as NikkieTutorials, has come out as transgender (Image via YouTube)

A popular YouTuber who has been sharing beauty tutorials for the last 11 years has come out as transgender.

Nikkie de Jager, known as NikkieTutorials to her over 25 million combined followers on YouTube and Instagram, posted a video on Monday revealing that she began her transition with hormones at 14 – around the same time as she began filming makeup tutorials in her bedroom and posting them online. She had been identifying as a girl as early as age 6.

“When I was younger, I was born in the wrong body,” de Jager says in the video, “which means that I am transgender,” later adding, “I transitioned while on YouTube. I have literally grown up and transformed into me in front of all of you.”

The YouTube star goes on to explain that her beauty channel had been an outlet for her as she went through the process of transitioning as a young person. “I’ve always wanted to live in a world where I saw myself as me, as Nikkie, as a woman, as a girl, as a boss lady,” she says. “I started my channel back in the days where I still got really, really bullied for all of this, and this was my way out. This was my free world where I could truly be me, and you guys didn’t judge me for anything.”

Now 25, the Netherlands native first received international notice with a video called “The Power of Makeup,” which aggregated 40 million views in 2015, according to Yahoo! Lifestyle. The attention has given her the opportunity to show off her transformative beauty skills on the faces of such famous figures as Kim Kardashian, Drew Barrymore, and Lady Gaga.

De Jager also revealed that her decision to come out was partly due to blackmail attempts from individuals who threatened to out her in the press.

She concludes the video, titled “I Am Coming Out,” by saying “Today’s the day. I am free, and I get to be me, finally.”

Subscribers to her YouTube channel were quick to comment with their support, such as one who said, “I can’t imagine how scary this must have been and I’m sorry that circumstances forced this upon you, but your community has your back.” She also received positive messages from followers and fellow influencers on Instagram, such as @davidlopezzz, who wrote, “As if I didn’t already love you enough. Unbelievably happy and proud of you. Forever my makeup queen!”

You can watch the video below.

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Books

R.K. Russell’s life, sport & bisexual awakening 

This Black queer former NFL player says he’s fighting “for us all to be seen, whether it be in the pages or on the screen”

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Courtesy R. K. Russell

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – He’s tackled opponents on the gridiron, paved a path for out LGBTQ+ athletes and shared his unique voice in words and prose. Now R.K. Russell is celebrating the release of his long-awaited memoir, The Yards Between Us, as well as a Hollywood deal to bring his story to television viewers. 

It’s something Russell told the Los Angeles Blade he never dreamed would be possible, even as a child. 

“Grown me could barely imagine the book, let alone, little me,” Russell said. “It is something I have not seen before, and something that doesn’t really exist. Something that is so shocking even to me, this being my life. I think the reason that I continue to take these opportunities that come to use my platform and my voice and my talents, my gift, to not just tell these stories, but to hopefully champion other people in their story. To just fight for us all to be seen, whether it be in the pages or on the screen, everywhere people exist. We exist.”

As the Blade reported in August 2019, Russell came out as bisexual in a feature for ESPN. The NFL defensive end was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2015 and played a few seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills. After coming out as a free agent, Russell wasn’t able to fulfill one of his dreams — to play professional football as an out and proud bisexual man. But at that time, he said all he was focused on was living his truth. 

“It was a powerful time in my life,” Russell told the Blade. “It was the first time I really felt that I was taking all this control and I wasn’t just at the mercy of the NFL or waiting for that phone call, or at the mercy of friends, family, lovers. It was my decision and my moment and my truth. And I got to express it in a form that felt very genuine to me.” 

The Buffalo native called the experience “freeing.”  

“I didn’t think I’d realize how much I had been proverbially holding my breath until that moment. And then it just felt like such an exhale. It’s such a freeing thing, and the weight of the burden of that secret, of that shroud, or that shame,” he said. “I just realized how heavy what I had been carrying for so long. So, definitely a powerful and freeing moment.” 

Having already told part of his story to ESPN, The New York Times and other news outlets over the years, there was a reason Russell felt it was important to write the rest of his story. 

“That was just a very specific part of my life, and it showed me that maybe by sharing my whole story, my life and my journey and my truth and other parts could be just as impactful, if not more impactful,” he said. As he set out to write the memoir, he said he first experienced imposter syndrome, until he came to a realization. 

“The point that got me through was, ‘What would little R.K. read that would have helped him? What was a book that didn’t exist when he was young, and that he could have picked up and seen himself, or that people like him can pick up and see themselves? Or even people unlike him, to get a human connection to someone that does not look like them or doesn’t play sports?’ So, I think the huge, final push was, ‘What would I have liked to have read as a child?’ And hopefully that will help other people.”

The Yards Between Us traces not only Russell’s football career and his love for the game, for both men and for women, but also what it was like for him to keep his bisexuality secret and the tension between his private and public lives. As his weighs upon him, he’s dealt a devastating loss, an event that leads to an all-enveloping darkness, until finally he recognizes, it’s time to make a change. 

Since coming out, he’s found love with his boyfriend, Corey, grown closer to his mother and this September he’ll mark four years sober. 

Russell’s memoir has won him accolades from LGBTQ+ readers, but not just them. 

“I’ve also gotten a lot of support from people who aren’t LGBTQ+ who see the value in the story, but also see the value in the intersections of it all. Because I don’t just talk about being a bisexual, I talk about being a Black man. I talk about being a football player, defining masculinity and redefining masculinity. There’s a lot of intersections that my story crosses. And I think for people to see all of these layers also coexisting in one person, that’s important to see the bridges between these communities that at times can be put against each other, or it can be divided, to see them all exist within one person.”

While all that sounds very serious, Sony Pictures Television sees comedy gold in exploring Russell’s intersectionality of sports, race, sexuality and masculinity. His memoir is being adapted into a half-hour comedy series, as Deadline reported. Russell is co-writing and executive producing a half hour comedy series with Saeed Crumpler of “Flatbush Misdemeanors,” alongside Gabrielle Union, who is a producer in her own right as well as wife to Dwyane Wade and stepmother to their 15-year-old trans daughter, Zaya Wade. As the Blade reported last month, the Wades left Florida because of its anti-trans policies and laws. 

“She’s fantastic. Amazing,” said Russell. “If anyone wants to know what allyship looks like, Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade and their whole family, they’re so amazing. “ 

Union, he said, recognizes the importance of representation. “It’s important to have genuine representation, whether it be during Pride Month with companies and campaigns or in shows and books that our stories are coming from, that there are Black queer writers writing Black queer stories hopefully also in part started or acted by Black queer artists.” 

Long before he wrote a word of his memoir, Russell has been publishing his own poems, which he told the Blade was his “way to express life with words.” He said he started writing poetry following the death of his stepfather. 

“It was a way for me to kind of name grief, without naming it. I didn’t have that vocabulary, that word at that time, but I was feeling it so intensely,” he said.

One of Russell’s poems, Tributes, was an effort at explaining bisexuality and his experiences. “’Bisexuality,’ the word, means something slightly different to you, to me, or to someone else. I can talk about the experience in a way that is so varied and so broad and to me, so true and genuine.” Below, an excerpt from that poem: 

Love is freedom 

and the freedom to love is a birthright, 

or at least it should be. 

These years fill my canvas 

and I know too much of life to expect 

only one color to leave its strokes across my heart. 

Paint is intended to mix no matter the artist. Tributes, by R.K. Russell

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Music & Concerts

It is Grace Jones v. Carly Rae Jepson in the clash of musical titans

This year’s OUTLOUD WeHo Pride festival features a free concert on Friday with paid-ticket events on Saturday and Sunday

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West Hollywood Brings You the Ying and Yang of Divas (Original artwork concept executed by Max Huskins)

HOLLYWOOD – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”  So begins the classic A Tale of Two Cities. The line seems to accurately describe our current times of queer triumphs and tragedies. It characterizes both the progress and the pain being experienced by the LGBTQ community as Pride Season opens.

This, however, is not the tale of two cities. It is the tale of one city, and two divas. Specifically, two divas who are putting their talent and their voices out to inspire our personal age of wisdom and drown out all the foolishness.

That city is West Hollywood and its Outloud music festival in conjunction with Pride. Launched in 2020 as a ten-episode series on Facebook, Outloud then created a weekend-long event in 2021 celebrating LGBTQ+ artistry and music. This year’s festival features a free concert on Friday with paid-ticket events on Saturday and Sunday.

Before the weekend of contrasting LGBTQ+ significances, Broadway and Disney Queen Idina Menzel headlines the roster on Friday Night.  With an LGBTQ fan favorite pedigree with hits from the show Rent, to defying gravity as the marginalized Elphiba of Wicked to the Ice Queen who “Lets it go”, Idina has been showstopping with LGBTQ themes that have spoken to a wide range of generations.

On stage at the Saturday and Sunday concerts will be the fascinating juxtaposition of two divas, each carrying her own LGBTQ significance, but who could not be more different from the other if they tried. It is Jones, as in Grace, versus Jepson as in Carly Rae.

They are the Ying meets Yang of divas.

Grace Jones on the one hand, is legend, she is our origin. She rode an arc from Jamaica, to America, to Paris and beyond. Her voice reverberated from gay discos crying that she “wanted a man” in the first days when gay discos spun their mirrored balls. She, in many ways, defined us. She exuded non-binary before there was such a term and people just called her androgynous. She has stated, “Some people are both genders. I think you just come out the way you come out, and you have to embrace it honestly.” She is the diva quite at home in form fitting black leather with whips and fire. “I go feminine, I go masculine. I am both, actually. I think the male side is a bit stronger in me, and I have to tone it down sometimes. I’m not like a normal woman, that’s for sure.”

Carly Rae Jepson is our sweet, affection seeking, secret diva. To much of the popular world she is a “one-hit” wonder, but to many LGBTQ folks her ongoing catalogue speaks to, and of, our hearts and the ongoing search for love. In terms of black leather, she has been heard to say, “I’ve never been an all-black girl. I like pinks and blues and greens, If you come over to my closet, you’ll be able to find a rainbow of things to wear.”

This diversity can be heard in the music each makes as well.  Grace Jones owns the edge, and has remarked, “Music has its own depths, and I let it take me where it takes me, even if it means stripping all my clothes off.” Grace’s music is known for its unique style and sound, influenced by reggae, funk, post-punk, pop and New Wave. It has traditionally resonated with the LGBTQ+ community as anthems for self-expression, liberation, and nonconformity.

Carly Rae Jepson, on the other hand, has described her music as “Bejeweled. It’s colorful. It’s romantic. It shines.”

While Grace is global and created a worldwide fabric in fashion and music, Carly Rae is decidedly Canadian with a hometown girl kind of flair. “Canada was my whole world and my whole reality, and now I meet people who’ve never been there, and it’s like, ‘You’ve never been to my whole world?” she says.

Entertainment Tonight Canada called Carly Rae “the queen of the Gay Community.” She has been active in the music industry since 2007. She has released six studio albums, two remix albums, four EPs, 28 singles, 10 promotional singles, and 24 music videos. Her song “Call Me Maybe” became the biggest-selling song in the world in 2012 and the best-selling domestic Canadian single in history. She is known for her support of the LGBTQ community and her music has been embraced by the LGBTQ community for its inclusive messages of acceptance and self-love. She has said, ““I have so many gay friends that I love. It is a regular thing. And if my video is encouraging that mind frame with other people—well it is about time…”

“I WOULD much rather have a small and mighty group of people who are getting what I love about music and connecting than a ‘Call me Maybe’ ever again.”

Grace has said about herself, “I like conflicts. I love competition. I like discovering things for myself. It’s a childlike characteristic, actually. But that gives you a certain amount of power, and people are intimidated by that.” So if there were to be a Jones versus Jepson competition, who would win? Grace has sold more records than Carly Rae. Grace Jones has sold over 738,614 albums and had four songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Carly Rae Jepsen has sold over 521,000 albums and had six songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. However, Carly Rae Jepsen has also sold over 25 million records worldwide, which includes singles and streams. Grace Jones’ total record sales are not clear, but she has been active since the 1970s, and relatively few streams. It cannot be ignored however, that she is the one who has  a significant influence on pop culture and music.

Calling her out as a culture creator himself, Andy Warhol said, “Grace Jones is one of the most creative and brilliant people I have ever met. She is always pushing the boundaries of art and expression. She is a true original.”

While lack of acknowledgement has been a bone of contention from Grace for divas that followed and copied her (Hello, Madonna, she is speaking to you…), several have paid their homage. “Grace Jones is a force of nature, a wild spirit, a rebel. She inspires me to be more fearless and outspoken. She is a role model for women and men alike, “ stated Lady Gaga. Rihanna has similarly paid tribute, “Grace Jones is a trailblazer, a pioneer, a visionary. She has influenced generations of artists with her music, fashion, film and performance. She is a living legend.”

Carly Rae has been treated more like a kid sister diva, on the other hand.  When she broke Gaga’s record for longest duration at #1, Gaga teased that she would be “coming for her.”

Neither is a stranger to Pride stages. In 2019, they each owned rainbow tinted spotlights. Carly Rae served as Grand Marshal of Toronto Pride. Grace headlined at New York City Pride.

Now their talents combine on a stage in West Hollywood for Outloud. “Outloud is a show created for queer people in queer communities. It was born out of a need to support a struggling community of queer artists. While the top of our bill celebrates industry titans who each champion or represent LGBTQ causes, our drive comes from the diverse, eclectic assortment of established and emerging talent who represent the very best of queer music today,” Outloud founder and CEO Jeff Consoletti told Rolling Stone. To that point, the full roster of the three nights is choc full of incredible talent. 

Friday Night @ OUTLOUD Presented by WeHo Pride will kick-off WeHo Pride Weekend with a free-ticketed experience on Friday, June 2 with a lineup that includes headliners Idina Menzel, Jessie Ware, Shangela, and Tinashe, as well as additional performances by JORDY, Tolliver, and DJ Venessa Michaels. RSVP is required for Friday night free-ticketed entry. Saturday Night @OUTLOUD on June 3 features Grace Jones, and Sunday, June 4 features Carly Rae Jepson. Both require paid-ticket purchases.

The full weekend lineup also includes performances by Passion Pit, Orville Peck, Santigold, Princess Nokia, Yung Bae, DRAMA, Meet Me @ The Altar, Kat Cunning, Rubio, Cub Sport, and Black Belt Eagle Scout. Register or get tickets at www.weareoutloud.com.

Which diva should the community support? The legend or the lover? Our legacy, or validation of our emotions? The ying or the yang of queer musical culture? 

Looking to the deeper meaning of Ying/Yang holds the answer. 

It is the Chinese cultural principle that the universe is governed by a cosmic duality, sets of two opposing and complementing principles and cosmic energies. 

We need them both.

Therefore, get multiple sets of tickets. Both your soul, and your heart, need the nourishment and will thank you. And you will have a damned good time.

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

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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Movies

Summer brings major dose of new queer film, TV content

New book awash in crazy action, humor, and superheroes

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Taylor Zakhar Pérez and Nicholas Galitzine star in ‘Red, White & Royal Blue.’ (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)

There’s no season quite like the summer when it comes to having fun outdoors, for obvious reasons – but unless you want a nasty sunburn, you need to spend time indoors, too. Luckily, the Blade is here for our readers with our picks for the most promising new movies and shows coming to our various screens over the coming season, so you’ll have something good to watch while you’re recovering from all that shiny Vitamin D.

JUNE

THE NEIGHBOR (Limited theaters 6/2, Digital & DVD 6/6) – From Italian director Pasquale Marrazzo comes this fresh-from-the-festivals LGBTQ drama about two young men who begin an intense romance after having a terrifying experience together, and the parental hate and homophobia that comes to light in the face of their newfound love. It sounds grim, but it comes with a string of strong reviews to recommend it and acclaimed performances from Michelle Costabile and Jacopo Costantini, plus a score by prizewinning composer Teho Teardo (“House of Gucci,” “Il Divo”). 

HORSEPLAY (Limited theaters 6/2, Digital & DVD 6/13) – Another queer LGBTQ film fest darling, this one a thriller from Argentina, about a group of friends at a summer get together; their hard-partying fun leads to horseplay (naturally), which (also naturally) stirs up other issues – and submerged secrets, feelings, and jealousies begin to push tensions toward a violent breaking point. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Marco Berger and described as “a boundary-pushing look at masculinity, homophobia and sexuality,” it stars Bruno Giganti, Agustín Machta, Franco De La Puente, and Ivan Masliah Taekwondo. It also looks very sexy, which makes us look forward to it that much more.

THE IDOL (HBO, 6/4) – “Euphoria” creator Dan Levinson is also behind this much-anticipated new series, which stars Lily-Rose Depp as a rising pop star who falls under the spell a Svengali-like self-help guru played by none other than The Weeknd (aka Abel Tesfaye). It also stars queer fan favorite and “Schitt’s Creek” co-creator Dan Levy, along with Jane Adams, Hari Nef, and Troye Sivan, among others. Already controversial thanks to a behind-the-scenes whistleblower who told Rolling Stone that it “borders on sexual torture porn,” you can bet there will be a lot of eyes – queer and otherwise – streaming this one.

ALL MAN: THE INTERNATIONAL MALE STORY (Digital, 6/6) – For a certain generation of gay men, the words “International Male” evoke memories of rushing home from high school to grab that precious sexy catalogue out of the mailbox before their parents got home. Now, this long-awaited documentary – which was an Official Selection at both the Tribeca and Outfest Film Festivals – finally arrives to bring the story of this iconic touchstone of queer history to light, by charting “the journey of an unlikely band of outsiders” who “designed one of the most sought-after mail-order catalogues of the ‘70s and ‘80s, forever changing the way men look at themselves, at each other, and how the world would look at them.” Matt Bomer, Simon Doonan, and Carson Kressley are among the participating talking heads, but the real attraction is the wealth of archival imagery showing some of the most outrageously gay (and irresistible) fashion ever created.

BLUE JEAN (In Theaters, 9/9) – UK filmmaker Georgia Oakley won high praise for this 2022 slice-of-history drama, now making its official U.S. debut. Set in 1988 England as the conservative Thatcher government is poised to pass stigmatizing legislation against gays and lesbians, it features a powerhouse performance from Rosy McEwen as a gym teacher whose closeted double life is threatened by the arrival of a new student. BAFTA-nominated, this one won the Venice Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award and four British Independent Film Awards, making it both a heavy-hitter and a must-see.

WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (FX, 6/13) – The popular vampire mockumentary – along with its breakout star, queer fan favorite Harvey Guillén – returns for a fifth season.

JAGGED MIND (Hulu, 6/15) – Directed by Kelley Kali and inspired by her own short film “First Date”, this feature-length queer thriller follows a woman (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) who, plagued by blackouts and strange visions, finds herself stuck in a series of time loops that may or may not be connected to her mysterious new girlfriend (Shannon Woodward). This one will have its world premiere at the American Black Film Festival in Miami Beach the day ahead of its streaming drop.

AND JUST LIKE THAT… (Max, 6/22) – The Samantha-less reboot of “Sex and the City” brings back the rest of the scandalous cadre for a second season.

EVERY BODY (In theaters, 6/30) – Julie Cohen directed this revelatory doc, which investigates the lives of intersex people, telling the stories of three individuals who have risen above childhood shame, secrecy, and non-consensual surgeries to thrive as adults after coming out as their authentic selves; it also weaves in a “stranger-than-fiction” tale of medical abuse, told in exclusive footage from the NBC News archives, which helps shed some light on the modern-day treatment of intersex people. We are definitely on board for anything that brings visibility to one of the most invisible sectors of our community – especially when it also aims to reduce stigma.

JULY

THEATER CAMP (In theaters, 7/14) – Sure to be a big draw for film fans who also love musical theater, this new movie from co-directors Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman is an original comedy starring Tony-winner Ben Platt (“Dear Evan Hansen”) opposite Gordon as a BFF pair of instructors at the rundown titular institution, who join forces with their loyal production manager (Noah Galvin, Platt’s real-life boyfriend) to rescue it from the clueless tech-bro (Jimmy Tatro) that has been brought in to run it. How? Why, with a musical, of course! Written by Platt, Gordon, Galvin, and Leiberman, it also stars Patti Harrison, Nathan Lee Graham, Ayo Edebiri, Owen Thiele, Alan Kim, Alexander Bello, Bailee Bonick, Kyndra Sanchez, Donovan Colan, Vivienne Sachs, Quinn Titcomb, Caroline Aaron, and the always hilarious Amy Sedaris. Sign us up.

BARBIE (In theaters, 7/21) – Let’s face it, this wickedly campy-looking, over-the-top comedy from the brilliant Greta Gerwig is probably going to be the film of the year – at least for a solid percentage of the queer audience, who are certain to be passing the popcorn on opening weekend as they watch Margot Robbie’s Barbie and Ryan Gosling’s Ken visit the real world together. And since collections have always been part of the “Barbie” game, Gerwig’s satirical joyride offers an assortment of other Kens and Barbies, including Kingsley Ben-Adir, Simu Liu, Ncuti Gatwa, and Scott Evans as Ken, Hari Nef, Issa Rae, Kate McKinnon, Dua Lipa, Emma Mackey, Ana Cruz Kayne, Sharon Rooney, Alexandra Shipp, and Nicola Coughlan. Truthfully, if they throw in a Barbie camper set, we will be in heaven.

KOKOMO CITY (In theaters, 7/28) – Lena Waithe executive produced this “wildly entertaining and refreshingly unfiltered” documentary that follows the lives of four Black transgender sex workers in Atlanta and New York City. Winner of Sundance’s NEXT Innovator Award and NEXT Audience Awards, it gives its quartet of subjects ample opportunity to spill the tea on their profession, and they do not hold back. As a bonus, it’s the directorial debut of producer/singer/songwriter D. Smith, who made history as the first trans woman cast on a primetime unscripted TV show.

AUGUST

HEARTSTOPPER (Netflix, 8/3) – The eagerly awaited return of Nick and Charlie (Kit Connor and Joe Locke), the most irresistibly adorable pair of young teen boyfriends ever, for a second season of this beloved UK series that will likely have everyone immediately clamoring for a third.

ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING (Hulu, 8/8) – Another returning favorite, the third season of this deliciously charming confectionary blend of characters, comedy and crime podcasts comes with the addition of a new premium ingredient – Meryl Streep (real, not imitation) – for extra delectability. Who could resist?

RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE (Prime, 8/11) – “Heartstopper” fans who have binged through the new season in one sitting and are hungry for more might find a suitable fix when this Greg Berlanti-produced, Matthew Lopez-directed film adaptation of nonbinary author Casey McQuiston’s YA bestseller drops a week later. It’s an implausible but infectiously sweet rom-com that imagines a same-sex romance between America’s First Son and the heir to the British throne, with young newcomers Taylor Zakhar Pérez and Nicholas Galitzine taking on the leading roles; also starring are Clifton Collins Jr., Stephen Fry, Sarah Shahi, Rachel Hilson, Ellie Bamber, Aneesh Sheth, and Polo Morín, but we are frankly most excited to see Uma Thurman playing America’s first female president. Let’s hope that plot detail isn’t such an implausible premise.

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Books

‘Harley Quinn: Ravenous’ a dark Gotham novel with a feminist warrior

New book awash in crazy action, humor, and superheroes

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(Book cover image courtesy Random House)

‘Harley Quinn: Ravenous’ 
By Rachael Allen
c.2023, Random House 
$19.99/349 pages

Forget about it.

Put it out of your mind; don’t worry about it. It’s likely nothing, so let it rest. Let it go and don’t be afraid because, as in the new book “Harley Quinn: Ravenous” by Rachael Allen, fear is how they make you scream.

Being a first-year intern at Gotham University was going to be the best.

Having completed the university’s gap-year program last year, Harleen Quinzel was practically bouncing. She’d decided on research, possibly psychology, as a career and first year program included mentorship and a chance to study some of Gotham’s worst, most notorious criminal minds. The Joker, Two-Face, King Shark, Mr. Freeze, she could be assigned to any one of them at Arkham Asylum.

First year was also going to be a bit of a relief.

Sure, she’d still have to put up with classmates like the jerk who kept asking if she was “straight now” (nope, still bi, today, tomorrow, last week) and she’d have to try to fit in, which was hard to do after what happened at the end of last year. Then, some of Harleen’s friends were attacked with a fear spray that made them scream and scream, and her best friend died from it. There was gossip but Harleen had her research to enjoy, she loved her mentor, and she was fascinated by Talia al Ghul, who’d tried to assassinate Gotham’s mayor. Talia was a great study-subject – even though Harleen wasn’t technically supposed to ever speak to her.

Until Talia said that she knew who made the fear spray. She needed information for information, tit for tat, and she hinted that she knew the truth about Straw Man, who was rumored to haunt Arkham and who had a hand in the fear spray, so…

So then Harleen woke up in the hospital, the victim of a bad accident and amnesia. But was it an accident? Were this guy, Win, and the adorable Ivy trustworthy? And the escape of Gotham City’s worst, most violent criminals — was Harleen at fault?

Let’s say a movie theater mushed its film to a pulp and made a novel from the leftover cells. Or they used the mush to paint a Ben-Dot artwork panel, but in words. That’s kinda how you could think of this book. As a part of the “DC Icons” franchise, “Harley Quinn: Ravenous” almost screams graphic novel or comic book.

So what’s the problem?

Nothing, as long as you know that before you pick it up because that’s the sort of feel you’ll get in what only looks like a regular novel. Nothing, if you relish a story that starts with action and peppers it with chaos before dropping readers into a land of dark monsters and crime. Nothing at all, if you’ve read author Rachael Allen’s novel-before-this-one – otherwise, you’ll be awash in humor, feminism, superheroes, and scrambling to find your footing. Be warned.

Overall, if you love a funny, crazy-paced dark-Gotham novel with a feminist warrior, you’ll devour “Harley Quinn: Ravenous.” As for a bookmark…? Nah, forget about it.

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Books

Zachary Zane is on a mission to destroy sexual shame

The bisexual influencer, sex columnist, & author of the memoir Boyslut opens up about his career, his anxiety, and his upcoming vasectomy

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Zachary Zane’s Boyslut: A Memoir and Manifesto calls for embracing sex without judgment or shame, but with responsibility. (Photo Credit: Rob Salerno)

By Rob Salerno | WEST HOLLYWOOD – Zachary Zane isn’t having fun this weekend in Los Angeles. 

While normally the Brooklyn-based sex columnist and bisexual influencer would have a string of sex parties lined up for a trip to his hometown, Zane says he’s had to restrain himself because he’s freezing his sperm in advance of an upcoming vasectomy. 

“This weekend is particularly boring,” he says with a broad laugh over coffees in Studio City. “There are a lot of fun sex clubs and parties here. It’s a lot of house parties that turn into orgies. That’s one of my favorite things.”

It’s the sort of frank, guileless admission that’s become the 33-year-old’s trademark through his “Sexplain It” column at Men’s Health and substack newsletter, which has made him an icon of the bisexual community and led to his book Boyslut: A Memoir and Manifesto.

Zane says he was motivated to get the snip after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling last year gutted abortion rights in the United States. 

“After Roe v. Wade got overturned, I kind of wanted to take control, and no longer have it be that the impetus has to be on the woman,” he says. “I do not want to have kids. I like having unprotected raw sex. I like being able to cum in my partners. Over the years, you have close calls, and the science is here, you don’t have to worry about it.”

And this too is surprising, given that Zane’s online presence seems to embody the “chaotic bisexual” character type. 

“My editors say I’m cautious and take calculated risks. I’ve never turned in a story late. In many ways I’m a sexually chaotic bisexual, but I’m also very on top of everything,” Zane says.

Reading Boyslut, Zane’s tendency for over-preparing, cautious planning, and protecting the feelings of others is evident and oddly refreshing, whether he’s writing about his struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxieties about his remaining sexual hangups, juggling polyamorous relationships, or broaching a truly shocking fetish with his partners (I’ll leave that for you to read about in the book).

If you were picking up Boyslut expecting it to be a polemic about sexual libertinism, you might walk come out surprised by the degree to which the book advocates for caution, comfort, and compassion as much as it’s an endorsement of reckless, uninhibited sexual pleasure.

Indeed, Zane says an early title for the book was “Cautious Slut.” And, lest you think the actual title is exclusionary, Zane defines a “boyslut” as “a person of any gender or sexual orientation who approaches sex without a lick of judgement or shame.”

“I’m trying to help people live unabashedly in whatever their relationship is with sex. It’s not just about being slutty and having sex with as many people as possible. If you are asexual I want you to own that,” Zane says.

Zane also makes a compelling argument for the importance of having a community of people you trust to overcome sexual shame. 

“Of course, I experience shame. I’m not superhuman. I live in society,” he says. “When I do experience shame, I try to differentiate between feeling shame or feeling guilt. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by it, I think a lot of the answer is having this community and friend group that I can call instead of going home and crying alone.”

It’s hard to imagine that the guy who regularly writes about his prodigious sexual escapades could suffer from shame, but Zane insists there’s plenty he still holds back. 

“I’m vaccilating between the things that cause me shame and things I don’t need to share with everyone,” he says.  “I feel very comfortable writing about very raunchy sexual experiences – me getting DP’d and my hairy asshole. But I don’t talk about my breakups online, my relationship with my family. Even when I talk about my OCD and anxiety, it’s usually from a humorous place and not like, ‘oh, this was crippling.’”

Though he insists that he’s very sexually open, it was in fact his anxiety over sexual shame that led him to his current career. 

“I chose a career where, if my nudes leaked, that would be the best thing that happened to me. I wouldn’t get fired – I would get great articles from it,” he says. “I did that purposely because I didn’t want to have that fear and anxiety.”

So is that the answer? Share everything that causes you anxiety? 

“I think all of us have different levels of risk tolerance,” he says. “Engage with the amount of sharing you want to do. I’m talking about cultivating a friend group or community where you feel loved and embraced by people who really cherish you and know you. I’m not encouraging people to just overshare online and seek validation from headless torsos and strangers. It’s about having these more meaningful connections that matter more.”

Of course, not everyone has the luxury of a column in a national magazine to exorcise their anxieties into. 

But over the three years that Zane has written Sexplain It for Men’s Health, he believes he’s contributed to a culture shift both at the magazine and in the broader culture.

“Men’s Health has always been slightly gay, just by being a men’s fitness magazine with half-naked men on the cover,” he says. “A lot of closeted bi guys who’ve been married for twenty years, they don’t feel comfortable to read Out or Pride.com, but they do feel comfortable to go to Men’s Health and if they’re on the site and they see something, they’re going to click. So I’m reaching an audience who arguably needs it the most.”

“I was really part of this new generation at Men’s Health. They have a lot of queer men on staff, a lot of women on staff, and they’re making it more feminist and queer and intersectional.”

And what even qualifies Zane to be a sex advice columnist anyway? 

“First and foremost, I was a journalist. In the first Sexplain Its, I always reached out to an expert in the field.” Zane begins to explain how he reads every relationship book out there and sifts his reader submissions to only answer the questions he feels comfortable with. 

Then he gets wistful as he begins to tell a story that led him to believe he could write authoritatively on sex.

“It’s a weird thing about being a sex expert. I had a date with this woman when I was 22. She was like 50 and a sex expert/therapist. A funny thing was I was the same age as her kids. So, I was at the beginning of my career, trying to break into this, and I asked, ‘What constitutes a sex expert?’ And she goes, ‘For anything, being an expert is when you say you’re an expert and people believe you.’”

Boyslut: A Memoir and Manifesto is available in stores now.

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

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

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Celebrity News

We don’t need another hero, there will only ever be one Tina Turner

Her voice was not one of sweetness and ice cream sodas. She was the real deal. Right from the start, she sang from the edge

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Tina Turner (Screenshot/YouTube Tina Turner)

HOLLYWOOD – Legendary singer Tina Turner, dubbed the ‘Queen of Rock’ n Roll,’ has died at the age of 83 at her home in Switzerland after a long illness, her publicist Bernard Doherty told the PA news agency. A statement read: “With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model.”

Today, upon her passing, everyone around the world is declaring Tina Turner “an icon.” 

It doesn’t fit. There are icons, an atmospheric leap, all of Heaven, and then, and only then, sitting above it all… is Tina Turner.

Simply, The Best.

For the non-conforming male personas amongst us, and for the female personas among us, she was our phoenix rising from the ashes of toxic masculinity, over coming it, and becoming the epitome of the queen, the warrior, the triumphant. She was the diva of rock, not just as in “Rock and Roll”, which was true, but as in “rocking your world”. When she borrowed Sir Elton’s “I’m Still Standing”, we knew she meant it.

In case you missed her story told many times, written about and immortalized on film, she was born Anna Mae Bullock. An up-and-coming musician named Ike Turner domineered her into his act and gave her the name “Tina Turner.” In classic “star is born” form, Tina Turner overcame her mentor in talent and popularity, and he married her.

Her voice was not one of sweetness and ice cream sodas. She was the real deal. Right from the start, she sang from the edge. She was not likely to be mistaken for Doris Day or Petula Clark, no, Tina Turner had grit, strength and even a tone of rage.

While other “iconic” singers debuted in film as sweet innocents, Tina’s launch was as the Acid Queen in Tommy. She played an erratic prostitute who advocated prophetic LSD in an effort to cure the title character.

With her humanness, her fight, and her willingness to be authentic, she spoke to, and for, many in the LGBTQ+ spectrum. 

As we enter an era where identities are valued and under siege, Tina Turner was a pioneer. While she was a cisgender woman of color, and none of those descriptions were ever challenged, she famously stood to fight for something that was… her name.  When, during their contentious divorce, and Ike sought to deprive her of the identity she had built for herself, she fought back and she fought back hard.

She gave up everything to keep what she treasured. She famously said, “Except my name. I’ll give up all that other stuff, but only if I get to keep my name. I’ve worked too hard for it, your Honor.”

For our transgender and drag brothers and sisters, hear her. She blazed a trail for the chosen identity, and who could deny that “Tina Turner” was not the real her?

The outpouring of love and respect from the world’s LGBTQ+ population is deserved. She has been a longtime supporter and adored queen diva of the gay and LGBTQ community forever. She pioneered when others wouldn’t, by performing at the opening ceremonies of the first ever Gay Games in San Francisco in 1982. It was a watershed moment in sports for LGBTQ athletes and allies.  She has been imitated by drag queens for decades on platforms all across the world in the best “imitation is the highest form of flattery” way, beyond the point of homage and in some cases, to the point of worship. 

She loved us back. Tina frequently expressed her gratitude and love for her gay fans in interviews and concerts. She did not capitalize on her own sexuality but acknowledged her bisexuality and her relationships with women. While being open about her sexuality, she did not consider it a defining factor of her identity or her music. 

Only Tina Turner defined Tina Turner.

She meant something to all of us. Grief and wonder is pouring out from everyone from Diana Ross to NASA.

NASA, not an organization to normally recognize celebrities, but an absolute authority on things Heavenly, tweeted, “Simply the best. Music legend Tina Turner sparkled across the stage and into millions of hearts as the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Her legacy will forever live among the stars.” 

Mick Jagger said, “She was inspiring, warm, funny and generous. She helped me so much when I was young and I will never forget her.” 

“Rest in peace to one of my favorite artists of all time, the legendary queen of rock n’ roll Tina Turner,” stated Magic Johnson.

Speaking for many under and over the rainbow, George Takei stated, “She was our River Deep and our Mountain High, the Private Dancer in our hearts. She showed us that love really does has everything to do with it, and that we really did need another hero. And she was it.” 

It was not just that Tina Turner was a hero. It was that she was a survivor, trailblazer and hero to so many. From women of color who needed to see their strength demonstrated, to people in abusive relationships who needed to see their possibilities illuminated, to beaten gay boys who needed to see the power in standing and fighting, she gave hope to them all.

She showed us all how to embody our authentic selves and capture our creativity, our innovation and our truth. She said, “Sometimes you have to let everything go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything – whatever is bringing you down – get rid of it. Because you will find that when you are free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.”

There is a line from We Don’t Need Another Hero: “So what do we do with our lives? We leave only a mark. Will our story shine like a light? Or end in the dark? Give it all or nothing.”

She gave us her all, and the mark she left?

Her story does not just shine like a light, it seared every person, every walk of life, she touched. She lived as any true hero would and has gone out in a fierce blaze of glory.

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

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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MEDIA

Star Trek stars back striking WGA writers, queer actors picket

The writers & actors walking the picket lines represented the entire franchise from the original series of Star Trek to Star Trek Picard

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Star Trek actors and writers posed for a group photo on the picket line Friday, May 19, 2023. (Photo by JW Hendricks/Twitter)

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Members of the Writers Guild of America are getting some bicoastal star support in their strike, now three weeks old, from actors, producers, writers and fans of Star Trek

LeVar Burton, Jeri Ryan, Scott Bakula, Denise Crosby, Todd Stashwick, Ethan Peck, Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Robert Picardo, Tawny Newsome, Celia Rose Gooding, Santiago Cabrera, Chase Masterson, Jess Bush, Cirroc Lofton, Armin Shimerman, Anthony Montgomery and Star Trek Prodigy voice actor Jason Mantzoukas were among the stars who joined out LGBTQ+ actors Anthony Rapp, Blu del Barrio, Stephanie Czajkowski, Jonathan Del Arco and Mary Chieffo on the picket lines outside Paramount studios in Hollywood and New York City. 

Carrying signs and chanting “No wages, no pages, no contract, no scripts,” a large contingent of Star Trek actors marched outside Paramount offices on both coasts Friday, calling for public support of the unionized writers. 

As Trek Movie reported, the writers and actors walking the picket lines represented the entire science fiction franchise, from the original series of Star Trek to The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, Discovery as well as Strange New Worlds, Lower Decks, Prodigy and Paramount’s most recent streaming hit series, Star Trek Picard. 

The writers on hand ranged from the famous, such as out gay writer David Gerrold, who wrote the famous “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode broadcast in 1967, to the still struggling, like out transgender writer and author Tilly Bridges, who also marched in the “Trans Takeover” protest outside Netflix on Thursday. 

WGA captain Carlos Cisco, one of the organizers of Friday’s gathering, revealed in a tweet how it all came together.  

Other creative types who toiled behind the scenes of Star Trek came out to show support, including legendary art supervisor, graphic designer and Picard consultant Michael Okuda, writers Mark Altman, Mike Sussman, Deep Space Nine showrunner Ira Steven Behr, showrunner of Voyager and Enterprise, Brannon Braga, Prodigy showrunners Kevin and Dan Hageman as well as Picard showrunner Terry Matalas. 

Friday’s turnout was so large for this “Star Trek Day” protest that picketers lined the entire block of Melrose Avenue outside Paramount. 


On Monday, more stars came out to walk the picket line, specifically in support of the writers of Picard. That show’s writing room included queer writers and assistants.

Walking the picket lines outside the studios alongside the writers and the actors — who are voting in their own union’s strike authorization ballot – are members of the Producers Guild of America, animators, IATSE teamsters and politicians, from the mayor of Burbank to Congressman Adam Schiff. Trans WNBA star Layshia Clarendon of the Los Angeles Sparks has also joined the picket line. 


Out trans journalist Melody Maia Monet of Orlando, Fla.  joined this reporter, a 36-year member of the Writers Guild, on the picket line Monday. We were thrilled at the opportunity to show support for the union as well as to meet Matalas and several Star Trek writers and actors.

Terry Matalas/Instagram 
Jeri Ryan, left with Dawn Ennis
Photo by Melody Maia Monet
Jonathan Del Arco, Jeri Ryan, Kyle Fritz and Todd Stashwick
Photo by Dawn Ennis
Jeri Ryan, left, with Melody Maia Monet
Photo by Melody Maia Monet
Dawn Ennis, left, with LeVar Burton
Photo by Dawn Ennis
Writer Matt Okumura
Photo by Dawn Ennis
Melody Maia Monet, left, with Todd Stashwick
Photo by Melody Maia Monet
Dawn Ennis, left, with Stephanie Czajkowski
Photo by Melody Maia Monet
From L to R: Melody Maia Monet, Stephanie Czajkowski and Dawn Ennis
Photo by Dawn Ennis
Melody Maia Monet, left, with Dawn Ennis / WGA Photo

For more pictures, check out the photo galleries assembled by Brittany Woodside and JW Hendricks

If you’d like to know who else was in that “Star Trek family photo” Hendricks snapped on Friday, watch this video by Larry “Dr. Trek” Nemecek:

Find out how you can show support for the striking writers by visiting the Strike Hub website or their Amazon Wish List. They are marching on the picket lines on weekdays. The schedule of picketing can be found here. 

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Sports

LA Dodgers apologize, reverse decision on disinviting drag group

“I was honestly moved and grateful by the commitment in the room by all the parties, especially Dodgers President Stan Kasten”

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Los Angeles Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence/Facebook

LOS ANGELES – In a tweet Monday afternoon, the Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball franchise reversed last Wednesday’s decision to disinvite the LA Chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence from a scheduled “Community Hero Award” presentation for the team’s annual Pride Night on June 16.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath announced on Twitter Monday afternoon after the Dodgers apology, and its accompanying public acceptance by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, that she had been pleased to have assisted in facilitating a meeting between the team, the Sisters, and stakeholders in the LGBTQ+ community’s leadership both non-profit and political to come to an understanding.

In a Monday afternoon phone call with the Blade, Supervisor Horvath explained that important dialogue between the Dodgers and other parties had commenced. She said that earlier on Monday, in a meeting at Dodger Stadium, the stakeholders met to work out a solution. “I was honestly moved and grateful by the commitment in the room by all the parties, especially Dodgers President and part-owner Stan Kasten,” Horvath said.

In addition to the representatives from the Sisters drag group, the meeting was also attended by Los Angeles LGBT Center Chief Executive Officer Joe Hollendoner, LA Pride President Gerald GarthBoard, the City of West Hollywood’s Mayor Sepi Shyne, Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur, and California State Senator Caroline Menjivar. Zbur and Menjivar attending on behalf of the California Legislative LGBTQ caucus.

Horvath indicated that she felt it was a critically important meeting with all stakeholders as they worked through the anger, sense of betrayal, and misgivings over the Dodgers actions. She pointed out that she was convinced that the Dodgers president was genuinely remorseful and apologetic.

In an email Monday night, Assemblymember Zbur told the Blade: “It was clear that today’s meeting followed meaningful internal dialogue among Dodgers management, with whom I had numerous frank conversations during the week and weekend. I’m pleased that the Dodgers came to understand the genuine hurt and injury caused by the decision to exclude the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – one that did not reflect our Los Angeles or California values.

As the only LGBTQ members of the Legislature representing Los Angeles, Senator Menjivar and I participated in the meeting at the request of the California LGBTQ Legislative Caucus to express the serious and uniform concern of Democratic members of the California Legislature.

After hearing the perspectives of the Sisters, L.A. Pride and the LGBTQ+ leaders in the room, the Dodger management apologized unequivocally for their mistake, re-invited the Sisters to participate in the event, and engaged in a discussion about the steps that they could take to reconcile with LGBTQ+ community.

I was proud of the Sisters, who demonstrated  resilience, strength and a commitment to the LGBTQ+ community during the discussion, and I was impressed with the sincerity of the apology by the Dodger management.”

The Los Angeles LGBT Center had called on the team to cancel Pride Night altogether. After the Dodgers had made their public apology, LGBT Center’s CEO Joe Hollendoner issued the following statement:

“Today’s decision by the Dodgers to publicly apologize to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and roll back their exclusion from next month’s Pride Night is a step in the right direction, and we support the Sisters’ vote to accept their much-deserved Community Hero Award.

Last week’s debacle underscores the dangerous impact of political tactics by those who seek to stoke the flames of anti-LGBTQ bias at a time when our rights are under attack. We must continue to stand together as a community in defense of the rights and recognition of LGBTQ+ people in Los Angeles and beyond.

The Center is filled with gratitude to our Los Angeles community, who mobilized to support the Sisters, all of which compelled the Dodgers to ultimately do right by LGBTQ+ people everywhere. We are proud to stand with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and will join them at Pride Night to honor their many important contributions to our movement.

The Dodgers’ course correction and the conversations we have had with the organization’s leadership since last week demonstrates the version of allyship we have come to expect from the team over the years. The Center will always strive to hold our corporate partners accountable—which means so much more than waving a rainbow flag.” 

The team announced last week it would drop the drag group from its celebration of LGBTQ+
fans, the day after a letter-writing campaign was launched by the anti-LGBTQ Catholic League. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, accused the team of “rewarding anti-Catholicism” by honoring the group.

“The Catholic League has been the leading critic of this bigoted organization for many decades,” Donohue wrote on the organization’s website. “… These homosexual bigots are known for simulating sodomy while dressed as nuns.”

He added, “Just last month, they held an event mocking our Blessed Mother and Jesus on Easter Sunday.”

One of those writing, was U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) who also sent a letter to Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Rob Manfred, stating that he was questioning whether the League is “inclusive and welcoming” to Christians. 

At the time, the Dodgers said they removed the group from their Pride Night celebration “given the strong feelings of people who have been offended by the Sisters’ inclusion in our evening, and in an effort not to distract from the great benefits … of Pride Night.”

On Saturday, the mayor of Anaheim Ashleigh Aitken invited the drag group to Angels Pride Night in a tweet, as reported by the Blade: “I’m inviting the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to join me for @Angels Pride Night at Anaheim Stadium on June 7. Pride should be inclusive and like many, I was disappointed in the Dodgers’ decision,” tweeted the Mayor .

Neither the Angels nor the mayor’s office confirmed that invitation as of press time, and also did not comment on the Dodgers’ reversal.

However, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange took aim at Mayor Aitken for extending the invitation to the drag group:

“The decision to openly embrace a group whose demeaning behavior is anti-Catholic and anti-Christian is misguided and disrespectful to the sisters of the Catholic Church who minister in Orange County and selflessly dedicate their lives to God’s underserved people,” said Jarryd Gonzales, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange on Monday.

“We cannot condone any actions that have historically shown such high levels of disregard for the sincerely held beliefs of the faithful,” he added.

“Our June 7th Pride Night is part of Major League Baseball’s league-wide effort to raise awareness and promote acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. As in the past, OC Pride has assisted our Organization in the planning of this event as well as outreach to all fans throughout Southern California,” an Angels spokesperson said on the mayor’s invitation.

The Sisters have not indicated publicly if they plan to attend the Angels Pride Night as of yet.

Sources tell the Blade out gay Dodgers VP Erik Braverman was being advised on this crisis by Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler. When contacted by the Blade, Zeigler declined to comment

A spokesperson for the Dodgers did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

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MEDIA

Google ‘Doodle’ honors Native American lesbian activist

A Google ‘Doodle’ is a temporary alteration of the company’s logo to commemorate holidays, events, achievements, & notable historical figures

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Screenshot, Google dot com, May 22, 2023.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – The Google ‘Doodle’ for Monday May 22, honors Barbara May Cameron on what would have been her 69th birthday. Cameron, who died on February 12, 2002 at age 48 was a well known lesbian Native American photographer, poet, writer, and human rights activist in the fields of lesbian/gay rights, women’s rights, and Native American rights.

A Google ‘Doodle’ is a temporary alteration of the company’s logo on its homepages intended to commemorate holidays, events, achievements, and notable historical figures.

In a Jan 28, 2021 article, San Francisco’s NPR public radio and PBS television KQED wrote in a profile of Cameron, a Hunkpapa Lakota born on Standing Rock Indian Reservation, in North Dakota:

“In 1963, when Barbara May Cameron was just 9 years old, she read an article about San Francisco. At the time, Cameron, a Hunkpapa Lakota, lived on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota with her grandparents. As soon as she read about the far-away California city, she confidently informed her grandmother that, one day, she would live there. “And save the world too,” she added.”

Just over a decade later, Cameron made it to San Francisco and got to work. First, she co-founded Gay American Indians (GAI) alongside her friend Randy Burns. Cameron viewed GAI as both a support group for Native lesbians and gay men, and a means to carve out space for them within the wider (and whiter) LGBTQ+ community.” 

KQED also noted:

“Cameron’s passion, resilience and dedication allowed her not only to become a beacon and a voice for marginalized groups in the Bay Area, but also to act as a bridge between them. Chrystos, a Native American poet and activist, once said that Cameron had given her, “a sense of dignity about my place in the world, and my right to be in that place.” Cameron did that for countless Indigenous and LGBTQ+ people like her. Inspired by that, last year, (2020) the Pride is a Protest project honored her life with artwork displayed just across from the Ferry Building in San Francisco.”

Screenshot, Google dot com.

https://www.kqed.org/arts/13889944/the-indigenous-activist-who-demanded-inclusion-for-all-lgbtq-people

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Movies

Out director brings queer perspective to mainstream with help from DeNiro

‘About My Father’ feels like a screwball comedy from the Golden Age

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Sebastian Maniscalco and screen icon Robert DeNiro star in ‘About My Father.’ (Photo by Dan Anderson; courtesy Lionsgate)

In all the discussion about the need for more and better queer inclusion in mainstream Hollywood movies, we sometimes overlook the trailblazers who are already working in the system, bringing their queerness – and the perspective that comes with it – into the mix even when the story isn’t queer at all.

Take, for example, Laura Terruso, a queer director who, only eight years out from film school, already has three feature-length releases under her belt, and whose fourth – “About My Father,” starring popular comedian Sebastian Maniscalco and screen icon Robert DeNiro – opens on May 26. In it, Maniscalco plays the son of a Sicilian immigrant hairdresser (DeNiro, of course) who reluctantly agrees when his fiancée (Leslie Bibb) convinces him to bring his very working-class father to a weekend getaway with her very wealthy eccentric family at their lavish summer estate. Needless to say, it’s a culture clash waiting to happen; but when it does, the complications that ensue are mostly comedic. You can’t get much more mainstream than that.

That’s not a bad thing. “About My Father” is a refreshing, feel-good comedy with a uniformly excellent ensemble cast that seems to be having the time of their lives. And while it gets a lot of mileage out of the contrast between his obstinately independent working class dad and the amusingly tone deaf attitudes of his goofily eccentric in-laws-to-be, it remains good-natured enough to show us the flawed, funny, perfectly relatable human beings behind the stereotypes on both sides of the equation (even Kim Cattrall’s staunchly conservative matriarch) even as we laugh at them.

Indeed, it feels more than a little nostalgic, and — as the Blade found out when we sat down to talk to Terruso about being a queer female director at the helm of a mainstream Hollywood feature — that’s not an accident.

Our conversation is below.

BLADE: Your movie feels like a screwball comedy from the Golden Age. Was that deliberate?

LAURA TERRUSO: I’m so glad you picked up on that. That was a huge part of my vision for the film. The work of Frank Capra, Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder — those are some of my favorite movies, and I really tried to incorporate the themes, even some of the visuals. I particularly love Depression-era comedies, and I really look to them a lot for inspiration, because I feel like the time we live in right now is not dissimilar from that time, in terms of what’s going on.

BLADE: Part of the similarity also has to do with the way you poke fun at the characters – especially the one-percenters – without being mean-spirited or angry.

TERRUSO: That’s something that’s very important to me. I want to make kind comedies. I feel like nothing dates a comedy more than unkindness. The humor should come from the characters, and the situations, not from insults or ridicule – that stuff is just so tired, you know? – and I wanted this to be a film that everyone could love, that everyone could see themselves in and enjoy. 

BLADE: Do you think that’s because you’re coming at it from a queer perspective? Even though the movie isn’t a “queer” movie, it’s certainly relatable for queer audiences with its story about trying to fit in a world where you don’t belong. And there are a few nods to the queer audience, too, like a certain celebrity cameo we won’t give away, and that flash-mob wedding proposal near the top of the film.

TERRUSO: Yes! And it was important to me to find real queer actors and dancers for that scene – which we did. [Laughing] In Mobile, Alabama, of all places. But definitely, as a queer filmmaker, I feel like I’m bringing my perspective to the work. Even if it’s not themed in that way, I approach everything I do with that worldview in mind.

BLADE: That begs the question: as someone who is on the “inside” of the system, how do you think mainstream Hollywood is doing when it comes to queer inclusion?

TERRUSO: There’s a lot of work to be done, but I think it all presents opportunity for us to tell our stories – because they haven’t been told yet.

For instance, for my last film, a big studio movie called “Work It,” there was a little bit of a battle with the original studio attached to the project, because they didn’t want Keiynan Lonsdale to play an antagonist – they were like, ‘Oh, he should be the best friend!’ Fortunately, Netflix came in and took over that production, and let us cast Keiynan the way we wanted. It worked beautifully, and people loved it – and, of course Keiynan l both loved it.

BLADE: It’s ironic that there’s an over-cautiousness now after all those years of villainizing us on the screen.

TERRUSO: There’s this beautiful book called “In the Dream House” by Carmen Maria Machado, a queer author, and there’s a section where she talks about the trope of “queer villainy,” and how incredibly important it is because it’s a part of our humanity – if we’re only ever playing ‘the best friend’ or one of those other “safe” tropes, it’s not really a full portrait of who we are. 

That’s why I think it’s important for queer people to work in the mainstream, because those kinds of conversations, left in the hands of people not in the community, would always be going the way of the “best friend”. We want more nuance in our movies, and we can only do it by infiltrating the system in this way.

BLADE: What do you think is the most important thing that Hollywood needs to work on when it comes to telling our stories on the screen?

TERRUSO: I think the question that studio heads need to ask themselves when making a decision like that is, “Who’s telling the story?” If you have a queer director and a queer actor and they are saying “this is what we want,” trust them. If not, then maybe you can question it, but looking at who is telling the story and the point of view of the artists is so important to the nuance of this conversation.

BLADE: One last question: Was it great working with DeNiro?

TERRUSO: He’s an absolute legend for a reason, incredible to work with. And he saw that I had a real personal relationship to the material – which Sebastian co-wrote with his writing partner, Austin Earle – because my mother and Sebastian’s father are both Sicilian immigrants, who came to this country around the same time. When I read the script, I was like, “I have to direct this film!”

I find that sometimes the beauty of comedy is that you can heal wounds – you can make right things that maybe in life were left unresolved. My mom and I have had our challenges – when I came out, it was tough, I mean, she’s a Sicilian mom – but she’s so supportive now, and I feel so fortunate I was able to write a love letter to her with this film.

Besides, now I’ve introduced her to Robert DeNiro, which is basically like introducing a gay person to Beyonce, so I win. I’m a Black Sheep no more!

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