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Hunky queer historian quenches thirst for knowledge on Instagram

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Dr. Eric Cervini (image via YouTube)

A hunky historian whose popular video series brought him Instagram fame and his own YouTube Channel has now written a book about an important chapter in the story of LGBTQ rights.

Dr. Eric Cervini, an “award-winning historian of LGBTQ+ politics and culture,” first garnered attention when he started an account on Instagram to feature “Magic Closet,” a series of one-minute videos about queer-centric topics from history, including the sexuality of figures like Alexander Hamilton and Michelangelo, the intersex goddess Ishtar, and even the question, “Who Invented Homosexuality?”

The Harvard-and-Cambridge-educated PhD and Gates Scholar soon found himself with over 13,600 followers, and decided to take things further. He began producing longer videos and posting them on his YouTube channel, where they continue to gain him new followers and fans. He’s also expanded his audience with a podcast, “The Deviant’s World,” which has dropped two episodes to date.

As if he weren’t busy enough, he’s also written a book about Dr. Frank Kameny, the WWII veteran who was “radicalized” after being fired and blacklisted by the army for being gay and went on to become the co-founder of the Washington Mattachine Society. Titled “The Deviant’s War,” it’s set for release this summer.

One reason that Cervini draws a large audience of LGBTQ+ viewers – aside from his influencer good looks – is that he identifies as part of the community himself.

“I grew up in Central Texas, and was closeted until I was 18,” the historian told LGBTQ Nation.

He went on to explain, “I didn’t have any knowledge of gay history until my 20s. In retrospect, I wish I had had access to a fun, accessible, and easily digestible resource that gave me a sense of the LGBTQ+ community’s long and rich history.”

“[T]hat’s what I’m trying to create with my Instagram page,” he went on. “People can start at the beginning – Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt – and move forward through time with my short posts or 1-minute videos. I try to highlight individual stories that give a sense of their times: what does a Roman emperor’s love affair with another man tell us about sexuality in ancient times?”

As for his upcoming book, he said, “A lot of people think that the gay rights movement began with Stonewall. And while Stonewall was incredibly important, my book focuses on activism that began a generation before the riots: how a small group of activists — led by Frank Kameny — fought the federal government’s gay purges in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Cervini said that he regrets never having met Kameny, who died in 2011.

“I wish I could thank him for everything he sacrificed for our community,” he said. “He died in poverty, and now, we can only thank him by remembering his name and telling his story.”

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Movies

‘Maestro’ captures passionate essence of queer musical giant

Cooper’s titanic performance honors the legendary composer

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Carey Mulligan and Bradley Cooper in ‘Maestro. (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

It’s hard to think of a modern celebrity who holds an equivalent place in popular culture to the one held in his day by Leonard Bernstein – the subject of Bradley Cooper’s ambitious biopic “Maestro,” now in theaters ahead of a Dec. 20 drop on producing studio Netflix’s streaming platform. 

A “highbrow” musical prodigy who gained mainstream celebrity after a spectacular debut as a substitute conductor for the New York Philharmonic, he forged a path as an orchestral leader and composer of masterpieces across a range of genres, from symphonies to film scores to Broadway musicals. Youthful, erudite, passionate, and handsome, he brought classical musical education to the masses via popular television broadcasts, becoming identified with the sophisticated culture of intellectual humanism epitomized by the hopeful “Camelot” of the Kennedy era. 

Of course, the Bernstein known to the public in those heady days was not the real Bernstein – or not all of him, anyway – and the story behind the scenes is part of what Cooper, who not only directed and stars in “Maestro,” but co-wrote the screenplay with Oscar-winner Josh Singer (“Spotlight”), aims to illuminate. Picking up the narrative in the early days of its subject’s fame, it conveys the essence of his professional career in broad strokes, but concerns itself mostly with his private life. More specifically, it focuses on his marriage to actress Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan), whom we meet as she enters his life in the wake of his sudden success. There’s a definite chemistry – but there’s also Bernstein’s involvement with musician David Oppenheim (Matt Bomer), with whom he shares both an apartment and a bed. 

Nevertheless, and with full knowledge of what they’re getting into, the two eventually marry; through specific episodes in their life, it tracks the inevitable ups and downs – from the soul-mate joy of their special intimacy to the strain imposed on their bond by a parade of male companions brought into the household across the decades – to present a portrait of an unorthodox marriage between two unorthodox people whose bond ultimately transcends conventional notions of love, sexuality, and commitment.

That doesn’t mean things don’t get messy, however, and it must be admitted that the last third of the movie devolves a bit into domestic melodrama tinged with a touch of histrionics, and then threatens to go full tearjerker, to boot. But then, so does life, sometimes, and “Maestro” brings enough compassion, insight, and authenticity to the complex emotions at play that it is able to go deep, in the end, for the save.

Indeed, some of this melodramatic flair might be a function of Cooper’s stylistic approach, which blends fact, fantasy, and flights of fancy – such as a surrealistic “dream ballet” sequence inspired by “On the Town” (Bernstein’s first Broadway hit), as well as shifting from black-and-white to color and presenting much of the movie in an old-fashioned 1:33 aspect ratio – to form a sort of impressionistic view of Bernstein’s life. The elegant flamboyance of the film’s visual and narrative style flows naturally from the lavish mid-century aesthetic that informed the cinema that sprung from the cultural movement of which he was a part; and as for the man himself, his florid conducting style, to say nothing of the sweeping and dissonant passion of his compositions, were ample evidence that he would never be averse to tugging at a few heartstrings before building to a “wow” finale, so allowing a little indulgent sentimentality to assert itself along the way seems perfectly apropos.

At the same time, there is little about Cooper’s performance in the title role that could be called sentimental, or indulgent for that matter, despite the obvious license to “chew the scenery” when playing a flamboyantly bigger-than-life figure like Bernstein. Executed with a clear attention to detail and a fully invested personal connection to the character, Cooper’s portrayal expertly captures his intelligence and charm, as well as a remarkable level of chameleonic mimicry – enhanced by a dazzling physical transformation from makeup designer Kazu Hiro – that never once feels like “showboating,” and wins us completely with an unvarnished candor in depicting his less noble qualities. 

Perhaps most impressive (especially in a biopic), at neither end of the “moral” spectrum does it ever feel as the actor is bringing any judgment to the role, only observation. It’s a titanic performance, even without the reenactments of Bernstein’s conducting prowess, which honors the legendary composer simply by rendering him as a flawed, if exceptional, human being.

Yet as superb as his work might be, and despite “Maestro” being ostensibly about Bernstein himself, the movie’s star turn comes from Mulligan, whose top-billed performance as Montealegre is employed as the story’s emotional core. It’s her journey, from bold best friend to supportive muse to estranged “ex” and back again, that give the film its meat. She takes it from start to finish without a misstep, and in the process almost makes Cooper’s Bernstein a foil in his own movie. It’s a testament to his own artistic integrity that he allows, even amplifies, every opportunity for her to do it.

For queer audiences, of course, it might be a disappointment that the movie chooses to center itself on Bernstein’s heterosexual marriage instead of exploring any of his now-well-known same-sex affairs – little time or development is spent on any of those relationships, not even with Oppenheim. Still, it makes no effort to hide or downplay his sexual identity; indeed, it is at the center of the conflict which drives the entire film, and it reflects with compassionate honesty the reality of living as a queer person in a time and culture in which one’s queerness must be kept hidden as a matter of simple survival. What emerges instead of a cold dissection of a fraudulent “marriage of convenience is an idea of love that exists beyond the constraints of sexuality or gender – and that lifts “Maestro” above such moralistic notions, allowing it to celebrate the commitment between two people willing to live beyond them, even when things get tough.

The film is loaded with memorable performances from others, too; in particular, Bomer – especially powerful in the scene where he is introduced to the woman he already knows will take his lover away from him – reminds us how good he can be when afforded material that stretches him beyond his pretty-boy looks, and comedian Sarah Silverman has some rich moments as Bernstein’s sister, Shirley. So too, it is distinguished by a comprehensively detailed production design, which traces the evolving look and feel of the era it covers in succinctly evocative detail, delivered through outstanding cinematography by Matthew Libatique. In the end, however, it is Bernstein’s music itself that stands as the key element in capturing the irrepressible passion – the “singing of summer” inside him – that made him an incomparable artist and informed his life as a whole.

In the end, that’s what Cooper’s movie wants us to take away, more than any insights into its subject’s musical genius or the difficulties of navigating a divergent sex life among consenting adults in a time where such things were beyond taboo: the importance of embracing and expressing our lives to the fullest, whether by creating art or simply experiencing the raw truth of our existence in the moment, for better or for worse, in all its contradictory, beautiful glory. The Bernstein it shows us is, like all of us, impossible to define in a single quality; rather it strives to depict a life made whole and complete through the interplay of myriad conflicting passions.

“Maestro” might be a big, glossy biopic that – on the surface, at least – sometimes falls into familiar tropes, but it’s worldly and wise enough to get that right, which is enough to elevate it above at least 90 percent of other films in its genre.

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Books

More queer books we love

Bellies: A Novel, Time Out and more for your gift list

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(Book cover images courtesy of the publishers)

For the person on your gift list who’d love a boy-meets-boy story, wrap up “Bellies: A Novel” by Nicola Dinan (Hanover Square Press), the tale of a playwright and the man who loves him wholly, until a transition threatens to change everything.

If there’s a romantic on your list, then you’re in luck: finding a gift is easy when you wrap up “10 Things That never Happened” by Alexis Hall (Sourcebooks), the story of Sam, whose job is OK, and his boss, Jonathan, who should have never hired Sam. Too late now, except for the romance. Wrap it up with “Time Out” by Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner with Carlyn Greenwald (Simon & Schuster), the story of a basketball player who’s newly out of the closet, and a politically minded boy who could easily get his vote.

For the person on your list who likes to read quick, short articles, wrap up “Inverse Cowgirl: A Memoir” by Alicia Roth Weigel (HarperOne). It’s a collection of essays on life as an intersex person, and the necessity for advocating for others who are, too.

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Sports

Brittney Griner to tell all to ABC’s Robin Roberts & ESPN

“The last two years have been the most harrowing period of my life & I am grateful to be in a place now to share my story”

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WNBA star Brittney Griner photo via Instagram & news anchor Robin Roberts photo via ABC’s Good Morning America

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Pro basketball player Brittney Griner announced she’s cut a deal with Disney ABC, the owner of ESPN, to at long last tell her story. One year after her release from a Russian gulag, Griner says she’s decided to share her experiences with Robin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America, herself a former basketball player and, like Griner, an out married gay woman.

“The last two years have been the most harrowing, transformative and illuminating period of my life, and I am grateful to be in a place now to share my story with the world,” said Griner in a press release, announcing multiple projects. “I’m proud to partner with ESPN and Disney to share this very personal story because of its incredible potential to inspire hope around the world and their proven ability to do just that.”

Except for news conferences, this will be the first time the world will hear Griner speak at length about her arrest, trial and imprisonment in Russia, her release and return to the hardwood.

Griner and her wife Cherelle announced the projects just days after posting a holiday message on their Instagram to mark the first anniversary of the WNBA player’s release from that Russian penal colony, as the Los Angeles Blade reported.

“One year ago today, because of President Biden, his team and the support of many of you, our family was one of the 58 families made whole by this Administration,” the Griners wrote in the message, which was posted to Instagram.

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In addition to her first sit-down interview with Roberts, the Phoenix Mercury star will also appear in an ESPN documentary.

Griner’s wife will serve as an executive producer on the projects, Cherelle Griner said in a statement. 

“Throughout BG’s detainment and in the time since, ESPN, ABC and Disney were supportive and caring in regards to the human side of this saga,” she said. “Love and family were at the center of the fight to get BG home, and with that in mind, there is no better, more trusted partner to tell that story with us.”

According to the Griners, the documentary will feature exclusive footage and rare archival material that will shed new light on their story, including the circumstances that led to the Mercury center playing overseas in her off-season, what she experienced during her long detainment and her separation from her wife, as well as the fight to gain her freedom and her advocacy for the release of other wrongfully-held detainees.

Brittney Griner’s life story will also be developed for a limited series from ABC Signature, again with her wife at the helm.

No air date was given for these projects.

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Books

Our favorite books for holiday gifts

Hitchcock, Britney, Barbra, and more!

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(Book cover image courtesy of G.P. Putnam's Sons)

When it gets dark early, it’s cold outside and you want to spice up your life, what’s more intriguing than a book? Here are some holiday gift ideas for book lovers of all ages.

Who isn’t fascinated by the dark, twisty, sometimes, mordantly witty, movies of Alfred Hitchcock, or by Grace Kelly, Tippi Hedren, Ingrid Bergman and the other actresses in his films? Hitchcock’s Blondes: The Unforgettable Women Behind the Legendary Director’s Dark Obsession by Laurence Leamer, author of “Capote’s Women,” is an engrossing story not only of Hitchcock, but of the iconic “blondes” he cast in some of his most beloved movies from “39 Steps” to “Rear Window” to “Vertigo” to “Psycho.” $29. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Reading about Hitchcock, no matter how intriguing the book, is never as good as watching his films. Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection (Blu-ray $39.96. DVD: $32.40) features “Rear Window,” “North by Northwest,” “Psycho” and “The Birds.”

Corona/Crown,” by D.C.-based queer poet Kim Roberts in collaboration with photographer Robert Revere, is a fab present for lovers of photography, museums, and poetry. Revere and Roberts were deeply affected by the closure of museums during the COVID pandemic. In this lovely chapbook, they create a new “museum” of their own. “This is what I learned when the pandemic struck,” Roberts writes, “when I couldn’t stop thinking about the artwork in all the museums, bereft of human eyes.” $21.25 WordTech Editions

Few things are as scary and/or captivating as a good ghost story. The Night Side of the River,” by acclaimed lesbian writer Jeanette Winterson, author of “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” and “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit,” is a provocative and engrossing collection of ghost stories. These deliciously chilling stories feature spirits, avatars, a haunted estate, AI and, pun intended, lively meetings between the living and the dead. $27. Grove.

Blackouts,” a novel by queer writer Justin Torres that received this year’s National Book Award for fiction, is a breathtaking book about storytelling, queer history, love, art, and erasure. A perfect gift for aficionados of characters that become etched into your DNA. $30. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

The Woman in Me,” the memoir by Britney Spears will be devoured by queers of all ages – from tweens to elders. Much of Spears’s story is known – from her youth in Louisiana to her rapid rise to fame to her conservatorship (when her father controlled her life). Yet the devil, as the saying goes, is in the details. In this riveting memoir, Spears reveals the horrifying and exhilarating aspects of her life: from how her father controlled what she ate and when she took a bath to the restrictions put on her ability to see her sons to her love of singing, dancing, and creating music. Spears writes of the queer community’s “unconditional” love and support for her.  $32.99. Gallery.

Few memoirs have been more eagerly anticipated than Barbra Streisand’s My Name Is Barbra.” In its nearly 1,000 pages, EGOT-winning (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony), divine, queer icon Streisand, 81, tells seemingly everything about her life. She quarreled with Larry Kramer over filming “The Normal Heart.” It didn’t work out: Streisand thought mainstream audiences would be turned off by explicit sex scenes. Marlon Brando and Streisand were good friends, she loves Brazilian coffee ice cream and her mother was a horror show. Contrary to how some lesser mortals see her, she doesn’t see herself as a diva. The print version of “My Name is Barbra” is fab. The audio version, a 48-hour listen, which Streisand narrates, is even better. $47. Viking. $45 on Audible.

Chasing Rembrandt,” by Richard Stevenson is a terrific gift for mystery lovers. Richard Stevenson was the pseudonym for Richard Lipez, the out queer author, who wrote witty, engaging mysteries featuring the openly gay detective Donald Strachey. Sadly, Stevenson died in 2022. But, “Chasing Rembrandt,” a novel featuring Strachey and his romantic partner Timmy, was published this year. The idea for the story was sparked by a real-life incident when paintings were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. “Robbers wreak havoc, smashing the glass covers protecting masterpieces and slicing paintings out of their frames,” Stevenson writes at the beginning of this entertaining story, “They make off with thirteen works, including three Rembrandts and a Vermeer, worth more than half a billion dollars and beloved in the world of art. It is arguably the greatest property theft in human history.”

With the repartee of Nick and Nora and the grit of Philip Marlowe, Strachey works to solve this mystery. $16.95. ReQueered Tales.

Some books never get old. “The Wild Things,” the beloved children’s picture book written and illustrated by acclaimed gay writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak, was published in 1963. Sixty years later, the Caldecott Medal-winning classic is still loved by three to five-year-olds, their parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles. A new digital audio version of “Where the Wild Things Are,” narrated by Michelle Obama, was released this fall. Who can resist the Wild Things, when they plead: “Oh, please don’t go–we’ll eat you up–We love you so!”? Widely available in hard cover, paperback and e-book format. Audio: $5.50.

What’s more fun than playing a festive album while you’re reading during the holidays? Deck the halls! This year, queer icon Cher has released “Christmas,” her first holiday album. Highlights of the album include: Cher singing with Cyndi Lauper on “Put A Little Holiday In Your Heart,” Stevie Wonder on “What Christmas Means to Me” and Darlene Love on “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” and the rapper Tyga on “Drop Top Sleigh Ride.” The perfect gift for Cher aficionados.

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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Events

Jingle & Mingle holidays event in West Hollywood at Heart

The Los Angeles Blade & Latino Outreach Understanding Division announce a special holiday party at Heart WeHo on December 22, 2023

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Blade and Latino Outreach and Understanding Division are proud to announce a special holiday party at Heart WeHo on December 22, 2023 from 8PM.

We are celebrating the LGBTQ immigration community of Los Angeles: Asylum Seekers, DACA beneficiaries, Undocumented folks and their loved ones and supporters.

We’re hoping you’ll come and bring lots of cheer and a sense of family at this especially important time.

We are grateful for the support we have received from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Latino Outreach and Understanding Division, the office of LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis and Equality California for this special, first of its kind event.

And hope you will help us get the word out! Please share!

Everyone is welcome and we look forward to celebrating their stories and the holidays with you at Heart WeHo on Friday, December 22, 2023 from 8PM.

Celebración navideña para la comunidad LGBTQ de inmigrantes en Los Ángeles

¡Únase a nosotros para una celebración navideña festiva e inclusiva! Estamos emocionados de reunir a la comunidad de inmigrantes LGBTQ de Los Ángeles para un evento alegre en Heart Weho. Ubicado en Santa Monica Boulevard en West Hollywood, CA, EE. UU., este vibrante lugar crea el escenario perfecto para nuestra reunión.

Para muchos miembros de la comunidad LGBTQ que enfrentan problemas de inmigración, Diciembre y la temporada navideña pueden llegar a ser difíciles y solitarios.

Así que, si te encuentras en esa situación, queremos invitarte a ti y a tus seres queridos a unirse a nosotros para una velada especial en la que celebraremos tu valiente viaje a este país.

Esta es una oportunidad única para conocer a otras personas con historias similares a la tuya.

A veces, simplemente poder hablar con otros con situaciones similares sirve de estimulo. Aqui encontraras solicitantes de asilo, beneficiarios de DACA y personas indocumentadas, quienes compartiran sus experiencias y quienes podran brindarte esperanza, aliento y alegría.

Contaremos con una invitada sorpresa que estamos seguros nos llenara de alegria y esplendor.

Esperamos que te unas a nosotros para una noche divertida e informativa con comida, música, entretenimiento, un panel informativo y oportunidades de networking. ¡Nunca sabes a quién podras conocer!

Ofreceremos algo de comida ligera y bebidas, así que solo tienes que presentarte y disfrutar.

Esta es una oportunidad increíble para conectarte con personas como tú y celebrar las festividades con amor.

¡Tu perteneces aquí!

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Sports

The Griner’s holiday message: Remember Americans still detained

The Griners wished everyone “a joyous holiday” and urged Americans to “share a story, send a letter or call a representative

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President Joe Biden meets Cherelle Griner about the release from a Russian prison of her wife Brittney Griner, Thursday, December 8, 2022. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

PHOENIX, Ariz. Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner and her wife, Cherelle released a holiday message on their Instagram marking the first anniversary of the WNBA player’s release from a Russian penal colony.

“One year ago today, because of President Biden, his team and the support of many of you, our family was one of the 58 families made whole by this Administration,” the WNBA star and her wife wrote in the message, which was posted to Instagram.

“We must not forget that our work is not done,” they added. “There are Americans still wrongly detained in countries around the world, including Paul [Whelan] and Evan [Gershkovich] in Russia and several Americans in Venezuela.”

The couple were referencing former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned in Russia since 2018, and Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was detained in March of 2023.

Russian customs officials in February detained Griner at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after they found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage. A court later convicted her of importation of illegal drugs and sentenced her to a 9-year prison sentence in a penal colony.

President Joe Biden on Dec. 8 announced Russia had released Griner in exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S. Griner returned to the U.S. the following day.

Brittney Griner & her wife Cherelle, Vice-President Kamala Harris & Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, this past May before Griner’s first professional basketball game back since being released from a Russian penal camp. (Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The Griners wished everyone “a joyous holiday” and urged Americans to “share a story, send a letter or call a representative about one of the many Americans being held away from their families this holiday season.”

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Out & About

Will Alaska topple Mariah Carey’s “Christmas Queen” crown?

As she graces America’s stages with her newest contribution to Christmas culture, is Alaska threatening to topple Carey? Unlikely…

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With many million followers across various social media platforms, Alaska is one of the top tier of famous drag queens. (Screenshot/YouTube Producer Entertainment Group/PEG)

HOLLYWOOD – If RuPaul, giving out crowns the way he does across Drag Race franchises, ran Christmas — Mariah Carey would be demanding to be crowned its queen. Carey was rejected in 2022 trying to trademark the title, and other stars like Darlene Love, were all for the defeat.

One queen who did not enter the fray, but now could, is RuPaul’s own classic diva and All Star crown-holder, Alaska. 

Alaska launches her “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like ALASKA” Christmas show today. Opening at the Neptune in Seattle Washington, she hits San Francisco on December 10th at Bimbo’s 365. Other stops on the tour include New York (December 14th), Pittsburgh (December 17th), and delivers her to her family’s doorsteps just before Christmas in Erie, PA on December 23rd.

“My mom said, ‘It’s not going to just be Christmas music, is it??’, No. My best friend Jeremy plays the piano in the show and we have been doing Christmas cabarets for years. Our goal is to do as little Christmas music as possible in them. It’s a chance to sing songs that we love and songs we have always wanted to do. There is a drop of Christmas music, just enough to call it ‘a Christmas show’,” she tells me on a recent episode of Rated LGBT Radio.

With many million followers across various social media platforms, Alaska is one of the top tier of famous drag queens. With the RuPaul All Stars’ crown to her credit, her brand is loved and adored. The public first fell for her on the fifth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” where she finished in the final 3 before returning and taking the aforementioned crown as winner of season two of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.”

She has released four chart-topping studio albums, “Anus,” “Poundcake,” “Vagina” and “Red 4 Filth.” With several acting credits and awards, Alaska has also released a young adult novel titled “Alaska Thunderfun and the Inner Space Odyssey,” plus released her memoir “My Name’s Yours, What’s Alaska?: A Memoir” She has toured the globe spreading her otherworldly message of love, kindness and gender non-conformity. Alaska also co-hosts the wildly popular Race Chaser podcast with Willam and co-created the Drag Queen of the Year Pageant Competition Award Contest Competition. She debuted a new live stage show in the fall of 2022 called DRAG: The Musical. She is the face of one of six featured flavors with SERV Vodka. Her latest foray finds her in the world of smells with her “Red For Filth” fragrance. 

“When I started drag, it was not a viable career choice, like it is now, it was underground—this kind of strange thing that not many people knew existed, and if they did, they did not understand anything about it. There weren’t many eyes on it from the mainstream culture. Now that there is, I guess we get our turn to be a distraction so the government can not do anything about important issues,” she says.

When she first started dabbling in drag, her family was supportive, but not quite sure exactly they were supporting. Alaska describes her mother as being “protective”, and not wanting her to be subject to ridicule.  “It took my family a while to understand. That was pre-Drag Race. There was no information as to what being a drag queen even was. Now my family loves it and comes to every show.”

Alaska is famous for her laissez faire stage presence, but the cover hides some anxiety. “I always get nervous when I go on stage. I am not exuding confidence; I am just doing the thing,” she confesses.

Doing the thing, she is. As she graces America’s stages with her newest contribution to Christmas culture, is Alaska threatening to topple Carey as the top Christmas diva? Unlikely.

But it will be a damned hoot to watch her try.

Complete tour dates:

December:

8th: Portland, OR @ Aladdin Theater

10th: San Francisco, CA @ Bimbo’s 365

12th: Montreal, QC @ Le National

14th: New York, NY @ Town Hall

15th: Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Hall

16th: Boston, MA @ Big Night Live

17th: Pittsburgh, PA @ Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall

21st: Chicago, IL @ House of Blues

23rd: Erie, PA @ Erie Playhouse – 2 Shows

29th: Vancouver, BC @ The Vogue

30th: Seattle, WA @ Neptune

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

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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Celebrity News

Taylor Swift named TIME’s Person of the Year for 2023

In a tradition that dates back to 1927, TIME’s Person of the Year is the annual designation for the person that most shaped the headlines

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Taylor Swift (Screenshot/Era's Tour, film documentary release)

NEW YORK – In a tradition that dates back to 1927, TIME’s Person of the Year is the annual designation for the person, group or concept that most shaped the headlines, for good or bad, and this year mega-pop star musical artist Taylor Swift was the magazine’s choice for 2023. 

Swift was among a list of nine candidates which included Hollywood strikers, Chinese President Xi Jinping,  CEO of OpenAI Sam Altman, Trump Prosecutors, Barbie, Russian President Vladimir Putin, King Charles III and Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell. The magazine revealed its selection Wednesday morning.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was Time’s 2022 person of the year.

Photograph by Inez and Vinoodh for TIME

The 33-year-old native of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, has been dominating headlines between her record-breaking Era’s Tour, film documentary release and her relationship with Kansas City Chief’s tight end Travis Kelce — among other accomplishments. The Berks County, Pa. native also reached billionaire status this year, thanks to her Era’s tour.

As reported by the Blade, Swift effortlessly incorporates politically charged messages through her music.

Swift’s activism – and on-stage advocacy – includes her pro-LGBTQ+ messaging. In her song, ‘You Need to Calm Down’, Taylor tells homophobic individuals to “calm down” and that they are being “too loud.”

This especially rings true with a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being forwarded in the United States. In the same song, she brings awareness to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation by singing, “Why are you mad? When you could be GLAAD?” 

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Sports

Anti-Trans activists claim trans women have an advantage at darts

Victoria Monaghan became the first trans woman to ever compete in the WDF World Darts Championship in England

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On Sunday, December 3rd, New Zealand's Victoria Monaghan made history as the first transgender woman to compete in the World Darts Federation’s World Darts Championship. (Screenshot/YouTube)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – In recent years, those lobbying for restrictions on transgender individuals have focused heavily on sports. Some of the most influential anti-trans lobbyists in this arena, such as Terry Schilling of the American Principles Project, have stated that sports are an easy way to sell anti-trans policies to people who might otherwise reject discrimination.

Initially, the attacks on sports focused on contests of extreme endurance, such as elite swimming. Lately, however, these bans have entered new arenas. Now, there is a new sport where transgender participation is causing controversy: darts.

On Sunday, December 3rd, Victoria Monaghan made history as the first transgender woman to compete in the World Darts Federation’s World Darts Championship. Monaghan, who has played darts since she was 12, mentioned that the New Zealand Darts Council has been incredibly supportive of her participation.

However, recently, after qualifying for the international tournament, opponents of transgender rights attacked her participation. They argued that transgender women should be banned from women’s darts, claiming her participation was unfair due to supposed “biological advantages.”

Martina Navratilova, a famed retired tennis player known for making anti-trans comments, decried Monaghan’s participation, asking, “how the fuck is this acceptable?” The UK-based organization Fair Play For Women, which opposes transgender participation in sports, ridiculed Monaghan for participating, referring to her as a man.

One commentator claimed that trans women had physical advantages such as being able to throwing harder. One of the most outlandish claims, however, came from Dr. Linda Duffy, a sports psychology professor at Middlesex University. She stated that trans women have an advantage due to “cognition and brain structure.”

See Dr. Duffy’s comments here:

Quickly, however, people criticized the idea that trans women have an advantage in darts. Mark Grimshaw, a UK comedian, noted that the conversation swiftly shifted towards the notion that “women’s brains are biologically cognitively inferior to men,” ridiculing this idea as blatantly misogynistic.

TakedownMRAs, a Twitter account focused on opposing men’s rights activism, also ridiculed the notion that trans women have an advantage in darts. Even some who generally support bans on trans individuals expressed concerns, with one person stating, “okay, this is giving the trans movement ammo.”

There is no evidence supporting the idea that transgender women have a biological advantage in darts. Physical attributes such as strength or height are not significant in the game. For instance, one of the all-time best players, Phil Taylor, who is 5’8″, played in a World Darts Championship tournament at 59 years old. Similarly, there is no proof that transgender women possess a “cognitive advantage” over cisgender women in darts.

Recently, transgender participation in sports with no conceivable arguments for any “biological advantage” has come under fire. This is particularly evident in sports like pool. The same group that is attacking Monaghan’s participation in darts also targeted a transgender pool player for participating in a pool tournament.

Additionally, transgender participation in chess has recently faced scrutiny from FIDE, the leading international chess organization. FIDE stated that trans women “do not have any right” to compete in women’s chess categories.

As for Monaghan, she lost in the first round of the tournament. The woman she competed with, Suzanne Smith, gendered her correctly and stated that it was a hard won game that she was glad to get under her belt. Despite the hate that she is receiving from those who oppose her participation, Monaghan states that this is not the norm.

“Most of the women darts players have been really supportive,” she wrote in an article released the day of her match. “and the others are starting to come around.”

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Music & Concerts

Bold and beautiful, R&B’s Idman gives us a risk we want to take

Idman’s newest release, the EP Risk, and the extended Risk-Reloaded version, is about the complexities and codependence of relationships

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Photo courtesy of IDMAN/Arista Records

HOLLYWOOD – Idman, the gorgeous R&B toned singer/songwriter from Toronto, knows that the ability to be a safely out LGBTQ person is a privilege. 

In a recent Los Angeles Blade opinion piece, they cautioned those progressives who are cavalier about the outing process. They became a spokesperson for those who are susceptible to its dangers.  “I wish we told queer and trans youth more often that there is no standard within which to measure the authenticity of one’s identity, and that they’re valid whether they decide to come out or not. That the world’s reactions to their truths are not their fault, and that they are no less valid in their identities for deciding to withhold it from those they believe cannot honor them,” they write, fully conscious that teens coming out can spark abuse, depression and in some cases homelessness. They observe, “Statistics show that LGBTQ+ youth, especially those of color, are disproportionately affected by homelessness… It’s crucial to challenge the idea that queer and trans people owe intimate details of their lives to others.”

The risk of coming out is one that they, themselves, have been willing to take however, and they do so in a new EP aptly titled “Risk.”

“I know that I get to live in a world and have an experience where I have the privilege of figuring that out for myself… I have the opportunity to explore.  I think I have more of a sadness now in me for my parents and for my relatives in the fact that I know that there are parts of them that they might not ever get to explore in this lifetime, and I know that it’s not their fault.” Idman tells me on the Rated LGBT Radio podcast

Born in Toronto within a very close-knit Somali immigrant community, Idman seems an unlikely candidate to stand courageously as a non-binary sexually fluid musician. They were raised fluent in their parents’ mother tongue . “They really instilled a love for my culture. I was really prideful for my heritage… we come from a religious Muslim community, but my parents were super unorthodox and open minded.” Their mother was a wedding planner and part of that gig was to have the house constantly filled with musicians, leaving an aesthetic impact on the talented Idman.

Even though musically, Idman was initially exposed to the “love is forever” style wedding music, their relationship-oriented songs exhibit a deeper complexity. The songs do not depict a heroine and a villain, but rather two humans trying to figure things out. “When I was challenged to write about love, I was confronted with the fact that the R&B space was really in this energy of toxicity, that we are in an era of ‘ghosting’ and that you need to leave before you are left. I found this genre could only be done through honesty and I wanted my music to be the place where people can tap into the depth where it is not always black and white, and the other person isn’t always in the wrong.”

Idman leapt into the music scene in 2020 with their debut single Down for It. Right from the get, they seemed to signal that they were prepared for the challenges, confrontations and potential fight for individuality that lay ahead. “Feel like I was born for this (this), feel like it was calling me
Never been down for the comfortable, that’s just impossible Never walked the road that was paved for Me,” they sing. The song also projects Idman’s attitude towards those who are trans- and homo- phobic. “Have you ever met a hater, If you know (one) play this loud as hell, I can not hate you for not seeing for me what you can not see for yourself And I cannot hate me,
blessed highly favored while you sit o’ there by ya self.”  It is an attitude that they also reflect in their Blade article when they say, “It’s a shame, it’s a stain and it should be the regret of a lifetime for someone to deny themselves the love of a queer or trans person because they can’t see beyond their own projection. What a flop. It is always their loss. I promise.”

Idman’s newest release, the EP Risk, and the extended Risk-Reloaded version, is about the complexities and codependence of relationships. From the prominent track Hate, which is an ode to hating one’s own feeling of longing for the object of one’s desire, to In My Feels, which laments the inability to let go, Idman examines the layers that could bring emotions in any Romeo and Juliet style romance gone afoul. 

It is in the songs and videos for the tracks Beach and Still where Idman takes their own “risk” by truly revealing themselves. The object of affection in Beach is spelled out in the first line of the song. “I know you’re somebody’s girlfriend but I know you ain’t innocent, I can tell by how you lookin’ That you’re likin’ what you’re seein’ I can show you something better baby all you gotta do is say when.” Idman realized that when that song came out, they had essentially outed themselves as being LGBTQ. Their article that appears in the Blade was meant to be a letter to accompany that event, and to fully underscore what she was saying, and why.

The video for Still took things to a whole new level of representation. The video and song depict a fighting couple who are clearly not straight cisgender. It could be, in fact, a musical video first, showing a song featuring two trans people in a relationship, fighting emotions and attachment just as any other couple might.

I asked Idman if they felt brave in making the video. “I was scared. I tried to back out of it a couple times like the week before I called the director and was like actually can we switch? If you switch the lead out with my trainer, he’s 6’4…”  but they did not switch. “I wanted to use it as an opportunity to show some love on the screen in a different way. I think it is often depicted in a really hyper sexualized way, and I wanted to show the romantic nature of this love, that there are arguments and break ups hurt as much as anyone else’s…I have this opportunity to show that we are here. I’ll take this shot for all the younger kids who need to see themselves in that.”

In 2022, Idman released the single Look at What I’m Doing to You, an ode to the heartbroken who turn tables and choose happiness instead. In it, she coyly teases us, “Look at what I’m doing to you. Told you that I’m trouble times two. It is what it is. So influential. It’s my effect on you.”

It is perfect instruction for those who are listening and vibing on all music Idman.  From the self-talking “Down for It” through to the going for it “Risk”, Idman dares us to look at what they are doing to us.

They are pushing our consciousness on gender identity, and releasing our need to label and judge. They bathe this principle in rich rhythmic music and Somali poetic cadence, which speaks to our hearts and our souls.They are indeed “trouble times two”. 

The effect, if you listen and absorb, is that Idman is “so influential.” We can only hope that influence explodes, and inspires strength for the vulnerable who need its confidence. 

If that happens, the Risk will have been worth it, and that will be Idman’s legacy:

The ultimate effect on us.

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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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