#GMCLA: Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles Celebrates #Halloweenie Holidays With Panache

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Gearing up to celebrate its 35th anniversary, the world famous Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles is heading up its many yearly holiday fundraisers and performances with the festive, saucy and sometimes spooky #Halloweenie event, October 25.

As it’s WeHo and Hollywood adjacent, many GMCLA events are packed with and attended by LGBT gliteratti and allies. Halloweenie, also known as the Party With A Purpose, is no exception. Halloweenie 2013′s proceeds help the GMCLA’s Alive Music Project, an LGBTQ youth performing arts outreach program. Read more

#Comedy Queens: It Gets Betterish For Queer As (Imperfectly Queer) Folk

 

Eliot Glazer: We’re not trying to help kids come out, per se, but we are trying to use comedy as a tool for looking at gay life more realistically — the good, the bad, and the weird.

Brent Sullivan: As we like to say, it’s about “two gay weirdos drowning in a sea of fierceness…. For example, not all gay dudes are “fierce.” I am anything but fierce. Case in point: I haven’t taken my shirt off in public since 1997. Eliot is not fierce. He shoplifts cookies because he convinces himself if they’re free, he isn’t imbibing the calories.

- Creators of “It Gets Betterish” to Huffington Post

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Because…Comedy.

Not to dim the shine of Dan Savage’s stellar “It Gets Better” support project for allies and queer youth, but, y’know…some days just feel like: “Welp. At least it gets better…ish.”

That’s where the web series of the same name (the “betterish” one) dovetails into this idea perfectly. You click, tune in, laugh your heiney off, and there you have it: oosah….”

Though it’s been a minute (well, going on a year now) since the absolutely fab comedy team co-created a new It Gets Betterish video, there are plenty of them online that’ll keep your eyes rolling and your pretty little face snickering.

Just because we make progress in advancement of LGBTQ rights, social situations can still be awkward. If you’re in the queer world, or in it but not of it, misunderstandings don’t just automatically, auto-magically disappear. With all its snark and sass, the dark comedy of It Gets Betterish reminds us that there’ll always be some tweaking to do, no matter how “gay friendly” the world gets.

 

Brent: With “It Gets Betterish,” we want to take attention away from grotesque minstrel shows like “The A-List” and basically every show on Bravo to exhibit that gay dudes can be train wrecks, too.

Eliot: Well, not necessarily “train wrecks,” but neurotic, self-effacing, and imperfect. Being fabulous doesn’t mean you come without flaws. You are allowed to be flawed! Brent and I are very, very flawed, and that’s the basis for our comedy.

                                                                                             – Source: More of their witty repartee with HuffPo

It’s Been A Long Lonely, Lonely Time

So why haven’t we seen new episodes in a year’s time? Well…since Brent Sullivan’s a standup comedian-slash-writer (Comedy Central “Live at Gotham,” Upright Citizens Brigade Theater featured performer), that’s one whole heapin’ pile of busy.

Then there’s Eliot Glazer…same badassery: he’s a standup comedian and writer (contributing editor at Vulture, New York Times contributor, Upright Citizens Brigade Theater featured performer).

Suffice it to say that these comedy bros are hella busy, plus doing the New York everything-thing.

It’s surprising that Lorne Michaels didn’t scoop both of these guys up for the new Saturday Night Live lineup, since all of the new SNL picks are YouTube “supastahs.” Oh ye of little faith, Lorne….

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Anyhow.

Back to adorbs, cray cray, a little disgusting at times (sorry bout it), and ultimately side-splittingly hilar webstuffs—discover the world of It Gets Betterish!

Observe.

It Gets Betterish Season 1

 

Lady Gagahttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otHGA8Ky1kc

So, supposedly the whole world doesn’t go ape-sh*t over Lady Gaga. Not even “Born this Way” era Gaga. Along these lines, the It Gets Betterish guys are cursed with free Gaga tickets, and hilarity ensues!

Fag Haghttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5b-ZmOSqGKg

“So, you are gay, right? How much would you charge to touch a vagina?” Um…yeah. Ick? If you’ve ever had drunken bachelorettes crash the club randomly, start random convos with you, and treat you like creatures from the wild animal park, then you’ve been in this episode. So laugh. Maybe.

Drag Queenhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5bzMRtiFMc

Ever order a faux drag queen over the Internet?

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There’s more, of course.

#Comedy Queens, Represent: Come Back to Us, It Gets Betterish…We Miss You

Stalk Eliot and Brent, folks—we’ll give you a head start:

http://itgetsbetterish.com

http://facebook.com/itgetsbetterish

http://twitter.com/itgetsbetterish

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You love it. You know it. Let ‘em know, maybe they’ll make more!

Randy, Oral Roberts’ Gay Grandson, Says: ‘#ItGetsBetter…and It’s Complicated.’

 

Close-Up – by A. R. Ammons

Are all these stones

yours

I said

and the mountain

pleased

 

but reluctant to

admit my praise could move it much

 

shook a little

and rained a windrow ring of stones

to show

that it was so

 

Stone felled I got

up addled with dust

 

and shook

myself

without much consequence

 

Obviously I said it doesn’t pay

to get too

close up to

greatness

 

and the mountain friendless wept

and said

it couldn’t help

itself

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Re-Imagining Religion: “Falling In Love Will Not Send You to Hell.”

                          – Randy Roberts Potts

“All students are required to sign a pledge stating they will live according to the university’s honor code. Prohibited activities include lying, cursing, smoking, drinking, and a range of sexual acts including homosexual behavior and sex outside marriage.”

                                                                   – Excerpt, ORU Student Codes , Oral Roberts University

Wouldn’t you know it: every time the “gay agenda” is reexamined, the “master plan” appears to become more and more normal on the face of it. Because it is.

“The gay agenda” is “the human agenda:” we all want love. Hope. Home. Family. We all desire the same things.

Back in 2010, Oral Roberts’ out, gay grandson Randy Roberts Potts read a letter to his closeted gay Uncle Ronnie (Oral Roberts’ eldest son) and recorded a viral video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYa0wi4XzeI) to honor Ronnie’s life, as unfortunately, his uncle had already passed away when Randy was just a kid (in June of 1982).

Randy’s irrepressible spirit remains to alchemize life’s tests and turn them into life’s testimonies.

In the video, after 2:38 minutes of silence (during which time we see the handwritten letter for his uncle), Potts reads a revelatory poem entitled “Close-Up” written by A. R. Ammons. Then, Randy moves into his own compelling testimony about the strange magic behind growing up with a gay uncle (around whom Randy’s mom was most captivated), and how it affected Potts himself.

We witness Potts as he entreats Ronnie’s spirit (for healing? For explanations?), “When my mother spoke of you, a look of awe lit up her face. You were the one voice in her life that could inhabit multiple worlds at once…. You stood for everything she was afraid I would become: gay, intellectual, and godless. And yet nothing caused my mother’s face to light up like your memory. I was jealous, and I always hoped to be you.”

Randy recounts following in his uncle’s footsteps simply by following his heart, and reminisces about the tragedy of losing a loved one who took his own life because he felt he had no options. No hope. Because he felt that life would not and could not get better.

“I’ve seen pain and loss and sorrow,” Potts continues. “I would have held you in my arms had I been a man at the time…. but there’s no one holding you, because you’re holding on to no one. And now I’m here sharing the same destiny…. your path and mine are crossed. They intersect…in some ridiculous dance.”

With a tonality not unlike Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight,” Potts brings us into present day. Yes, he is angry, but we can somehow see the light at the end of the tunnel, the burning hot flames of passion for living forever aglow in Randy’s heart. We somehow feel his uncle lives in some kind of virtual second life, through Randy.

Another “Gay Agenda,” Another Pleasant Valley Sunday.

Oral Roberts was the first and one of the biggest of the televangelists. He brought the Pentecostal faith to mainstream America, he started a self-named university, and of course lived a rich life through his relentless please for money from his followers. His grandson Randy Roberts Potts grew up with him…steeped in that really sheltered, Far Right Christian world. Now he’s following a calling like his grandfather, but with an unexpected message.”

- Reporter Page Hopkins for MSNBC

In sharing his story with MSNBC, Potts did indeed reveal he’d felt suicidal too—coming out was unthinkable to him. Having married a woman and raising three children with her, Potts’ coming out narrative is a common one that always feels mysterious and new during the discovery process. He told Hopkins, “Honestly, I thought I was just a really good christian that I just didn’t sexualize women.”

Though Potts’ closeted gay uncle passed away when Randy was just a boy, as he unfolded the discoveries about Ronnie’s life, they paralleled discoveries of his own.

It is now Randy’s life mission to reach back across the table and minister tolerance and inclusiveness to evangelicals themselves. Potts informed Page Hopkins that he’s doing so non-publicly, holding confidential meetings with religious leaders and consulting with them regarding family cohesion, suicide prevention and myriad other positive effects of practicing religious tolerance.

In one of the most romantic and courageous activism campaigns out there, Potts and his partner are now conducting what they call an ongoing “performance project designed for conservative towns with visuals of domestic gay life.” Potts is setting up storefronts from town to town , choosing to put his normal day-in day-out familial relationships on display, in a performance art piece called—what else…

“…The Gay Agenda.

Facebook.com/thegaygayagenda

Twitter.com/the_gay_agenda

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Reach out to Randy @randyrpotts and connect with ORU Out, ORU LGBTQ alumni and ombudsmen) at http://oru-out.tumblr.com.

To watch Potts’ It Gets Better video in its entirety, please click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYa0wi4XzeI

Have you got time to sit and pray a while? Check out Randy Roberts Potts – Re-Imagining Religion Series at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uYWf2WfPH8. During his ministerial speech in this video, Potts reveals that his brother is also gay and his family still ostracizes them both.

 

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And for more information about suicide prevention and LGBTQIA resources and support, please visit the It Gets Better Project at http://www.itgetsbetter.org.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Not Sure…Am I Gay? – Coming Out Q & A

Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight.

- Harvey Milk

“I’m not sure…am I gay?”

Young men and boys commonly ask this question during the coming out process. They might say it differently, and they may not have begun the process yet. If the question “Am I gay?” is pressing on someone’s heart, he’s probably going through the process.

Shorthand for “coming out of the closet,” coming out could mean, more accurately, coming out of confusion.” This connotation removes possible stigma or blame.

 “Be fearless / be honest / be generous / be brave /

be poetic / be open / be free / be yourself / be in love /

be happy / be inspiration.”  -

- Beyonce, writing words for Frank Ocean

“So am I gay, or what?” If this question remains or someone asks you to “evaluate them” with this question, there’s no definitive, easy answer. Just breathe, take a step back, and think about—or pass along—some of these ideas:

1) Empower Him to Find His Own Answers. – Possible feedback: “I can’t answer that for you. This is a question only you can answer. I can support you in your stages of learning, discovery, research, and even play (try to refrain from saying things like ‘experimentation.’ He is not a science project.). But this is your hero’s journey.”

2) You Don’t Have to Lose your Religion. You aren’t coming out to God or your Higher Power. Spirit already knows you. There are several gay-inclusive churches and organizations happy to support and encourage you.

3) Discourage Binary Thinking. Free him up from binary thought. Kids grow up in an overpoweringly heterosexual-defined world, yet heterosexuality is as much of a social construct as the next idea. The best kept open secret in the world is that heterosexual-identified people are also fluid, as sexuality Is fluid (see: Kinsey Reports). Make sure he knows that.

4) Respect Boundaries. Keep it real: if you find yourself attracted to someone who’s newly queer or questioning, first consider his age. If there’s a huge imbalance and/or he’s a minor, please do both of yourselves a favor: don’t take advantage of his twice-vulnerable state (one due to age/inexperience, two due to his sexual uncertainty). The mentor / mentee sex narrative is a common coming of age story—that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate. He needs friends and support, not just sex. If you find you have conflicted interests and he’s not of age, telling him you’re into him also further confuses matters. Even if the attraction is mutual, be smart and be fair.

5) “I’m A Trans Guy Who Likes Girls, Period.” Of especial note, questioning sexuality is often a second or third lap around questions that come up for transgender guys who may become fascinated by images of men as they’re creating the life they want to lead. They’re looking for affirming images, like-minded peers, role models and allies, and checking out pictures of men for medical [surgery, anatomy], social [presenting as “male”], empowering and of course arousal reasons [how to please self and others, for pleasure's sake, curiosity]).

If he says he’s attracted to women, he thinks he is, or he flip-flop, that’s his prerogative and right. Keep snarky “Yeah right whatever, you’re gay” comments and feelings to yourself. You might encourage him to talk to or discover more about other trans guys (depending, some guys might fixate on cis-gender guys only during this time).  If you’re really a true friend or ally, don’t get into the eye-rolling. That helps no one.

6) He May Realize He’s Straight. You may crack jokes about straight folks. Try to tone those down around him, especially if he’s just a kid. What if it turns out he’s “coming out straight,” or he’s just not ready? There are many people who’ve never been in doubt about their sexuality, or heterosexuality. If he’s not in that “majority,” or he’s a bit more passive with girls or women, that doesn’t make him automatically gay. This could take him a while to realize.

7) “Have You Ever Thought About Getting Help?” Even if you’re helping him, guys can be notorious for refusing help, asking for it in a roundabout ways, or not seeking out support or counseling. Share resources and if necessary, walk with him as he researches, explores, visits LGBT centers, picks up “coming out newbie” brochures, etc.

8) For Teenagers, For Young Boys Puberty can really suck. Boys are still figuring out how hormones make them feel, bodies change, crushes unfold. Peer “pressure” and bullying is a minefield that’s so difficult to get through. His anti-gay friends, family or elders might see you as trying to “recruit or convert him” rather than as a sounding board. This makes finding professional allies, especially if he’s underage, extra important. You might need some backup.

9) Keeping Secrets You can keep his journey between the two of you without making him think coming out is a dirty little secret. Help him understand the difference between confidentiality or privacy and shame-filled secrecy.

10) “Are You Using?” He might feel insulted: however, if in the context of “because I really care,” check in to see if he’s using/abusing drugs, if he’s having risky or unsafe sex (with men and/or women), or if he’s acting out in other erratic ways. Help him find support around balancing out all aspects of his life, including but not limited to sexual and other gratification.

11) Gender Expression: “Is There Something Wrong With Me?” He doesn’t have to present as butch, or he might feel so in his heart. He doesn’t have to present as fem, he might be genderqueer, and so on. If he’s trans, there’s nothing wrong with the desire to be stealth (presenting in a certain gender-centric way without immediately telling people he’s trans). Remind him he’s free to explore these ideas. Ask him about preferred terms (he may prefer to call himself “same gender loving” rather than “queer or gay,” etc.).

“Is There Something Wrong With Me?”

“We have to show ‘em there’s nothing to be afraid of. If we don’t get over our fears, they never will.”

- Lisi Harrison, from Monster High

12) Undeclared. This life can be like having an undeclared major in school: he never has to come to any conclusions about himself. Remove all expectations: love and accept him for the person he is. It will make such a positive difference in his life and in yours.

13) Re-frame “Normal.” Nature has always made room for gay and lesbian or variant gender expression in all species, of which we are but one.  We may not all understand why this way of being exists, but according to “Gaia,” nature considers a multiplicity of sexual and gender expressions to be normal.

To that end, watch out for so-called “normal” language like “That’s so gay, gaylord, butt-hurt, calling lesbians Klondikes, saying tranny or freak,” etc. Whatever side you’re on surrounding such humor, things are different when you’re learning how to walk before you run. This kind of language is common, but isn’t necessarily normal. He might not see reclaiming the word “fag” as empowering.

14) “How do I know for sure?” The answer “You just know” isn’t entirely correct. It would be more accurate to answer, “Whatever way of sexual expression and identity gives you the most pleasure (sexually and otherwise), whatever predominates,” these are good indicators. If comfortable enough, you can use your own experience as an example.

15) Pride In the Name of Love Share with him what “pride” means to you. Parades aren’t required for all gays to attend, or he may not be able to attend one for logistics reasons, but explain to him why we celebrate Pride, and how activism has influenced and affected gay culture over time.

16) Gay Role Models Help him learn about LGBTQIA role models—and gay role models in particular. If he’s also a person of color, help him to discover role models that mirror his nationality, ethnicity, background, etc. Share with him stories of people who’ve come out later in life (different age, same process!). Sexual orientation and gender haven’t stood in the way of well-known kings and queens, artists, designers, athletes, philosophers, scientists, writers entertainers and others throughout history. It shouldn’t stand in the way of his progress either. Coming out and thriving-as-out stories are important—and these shouldn’t all be rich and famous people’s narratives. That adds the extra pressure of having to be famous or wealthy in order to get “special treatment,” which is a myth.

 “‘Faggot, faggot…’ Do you hate him ’cause he’s pieces of you?”

                                    – Jewel

17) Outing, Safety Issues Outing is not the same as coming out. Being outed in inopportune ways can cause safety, social or financial challenges. Best and worst case scenarios are important to discuss. Don’t push him out, as the most important person he needs to come out to is himself. Depending on where he lives and his age, coming out might be physically unsafe for him at present, but you can help him to prepare. Unfortunately, there is also the possibility of someone outing him without permission, or falsely accusing him of something he hasn’t even stated or realized yet. Help him to have plans and solutions prepared as much as you can, realistically.

18) “I’m Not the Right Person to Ask.” Sharing these words honestly is also helpful. You can still direct him to many other people or resources who can support him with his questions and concerns. Let him know you respect him and it’s got nothing to do with him (sharing helpful resources reinforces this truth for you.)

19) “How Long Have You Been Gay?” And Other Leading Questions. In short, don’t ask things like that. Don’t try not to lead the conversation. This is his deal, not yours.

 “Being gay is not living any type of lifestyle (at least not for me).

It simply pertains to my sexual orientation.

I am sexually attracted to guys. That’s it. It’s life, not a lifestyle!”

- Scott Penziner

20) “Things Are So Much Easier These Days.” No, they’re not. Don’t belittle his experience by equating your pain with his. Everyone needs a support net, almost everyone has a rejection and/or bullying story, and this life is his to live. Be present with him rather than disowning him or silencing his voice.

21) Celebrate! Debutantes have coming out parties, why can’t we? Remember to praise him for his courage and self-love. He’s brave enough to ask these questions and cares enough to make this his quest. You don’t have to whip out the glow sticks or anything (unless you want to?), but remember, this is all about finding joy and holding onto it.

You can find some starter resources below.

Book Recommendations

Now That You Know by Betty Fairchild & Robert Leighton

Beyond Acceptance by Carolyn Welch Griffin, Marina J. Wirth & Arthur G. Wirth

Websites

LGBTQ Inclusive Religions http://gaylife.about.com/od/religion/a/gaychurch.htm

Coming Out As Intersex  http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2013/06/12/op-ed-intersex-final-coming-out-frontier

Family of Choice Holiday Support http://www.yourholidaymom.com

Coming Out Bi http://www.biresource.net/comingoutasbi.shtml

Coming Out As A Straight Supporter  http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/straight-guide-to-lgbt-americans

National Coming Out Day http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/national-coming-out-day

Safe Space Network List http://safespacenetwork.tumblr.com/post/23388828318/the-safe-space-network-tumblr-list

PFLAG Coming Out Help http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=539

Resources for LGBT People of Color http://guides.ucsf.edu/content.php?pid=211162&sid=2009927

HRC / Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Coming Out Resources – http://www.hrc.org/resources/category/coming-out

E. Lynn Harris wrote, “My heart knows who I am and who I’ll turn out to be!”  Isn’t following your heart rule number one in everything?

 

CDC Survey for Gay Men Available Online

The largest Center for Disease Control study “Sex is the Question” explores the sexual practices of gay and bisexual men, 18 and up. Confidential, it is designed to help the CDC establish new techniques to battle the increasing trend of new HIV infections in U.S. gay communities.

This survey will be used by the CDC, state and local health departments to better understand the behavior among gay and bisexual men in communities and make sure that HIV prevention resources have the greatest impact. Gay and bisexual men and are the only risk group in which new HIV infections have been steadily increasing since the early 1990’s. From 2006-9, GB men accounted for more than 50% of all new HIV infections annually in the U.S.

How This Survey Differs From Others

Other studies have looked at very specific subsections and issues of the community. However, this survey is designed to be inclusive as possible: it looks at a wide variety of men, including guys who spend time online looking for sexual partners, in monogamous relationships, or men who are politically active. It is co-sponsored with the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

Educational Tool As Well

This is the first study of its kind to provide immediate feedback to its participants by incorporating videos and other interactive tools. At the end of the survey, you will be presented , based on your answers, personalized insight and comparisons. You will receive feedback by video and other interactive media targeted at HIV prevention.

Why You Should Take It?

  • You will be one of 25,000 volunteers who take this survey and will play an important part in the national effort to combat new HIV infections.
  • You can invite your friends to participate.
  • It only takes a few minutes to complete.
  • It goes to a good cause: for every completed survey, It Gets Better Project receives a monetary donation.

Where Do I Sign Up?

https://sexisthequestion.org/track/262703 will take you directly to the survey.

 

 

I Am What I Am

Recently, Bitty and I saw the touring production of La Cage Aux Folles at the Pantages theatre in Hollywood. I had seen the original Broadway production in 1985 during my first trip to New York City.

Bitty and Aging Gal on our recent trip to San Francisco. And, yes, it does Get Better.

In the show, the first act closes with drag queen Zsa Zsa singing “I Am What I Am,” an anthem to acceptance. We were fortunate enough to see Christopher Sieber in the role, a Broadway veteran whose comic timing is spot-on and singing is powerful.

“Life’s not worth a damn,
‘Til you can say, ‘Hey world, I am what I am.’”

As Mr. Sieber continued singing, I viewed the song much differently than I had as a 23-year-old farm girl during her first trip to the Big Apple. Slowly, it dawned on me: I am now almost 50 years old and fortunate enough to be sitting beside my partner of 10 years.

“I don’t want praise, I don’t want pity.
I bang my own drum,
Some think it’s noise, I think it’s pretty.”

The last 27 years flashed through the synapses of my brain, my history replaying on an internal movie screen scored by Sieber’s moving rendition. It had been only a few years after that initial Broadway experience when I stared down my own demons. I don’t make light of this, my demons — sowed from the insecurities of others about that alien “other” — were embedded as deep as the roots of the cotton crops I had spent my young life working.

“And so what, if I love each feather and each spangle,
Why not try to see things from a diff’rent angle?”

I didn’t want to be an alien “other,” but I did want to be, well, me. I wanted the opportunity to love and be loved. So, ultimately, I came out, first to myself then, slowly, to others.

“Your life is a sham ’til you can shout out loud
I am what I am!”

I may have lost a few friends, and even a friendly alter ego, along the way. But I found a supportive ally — myself. I learned to love and be loved.

“And what I am needs no excuses.
I deal my own deck
Sometimes the ace, sometimes the deuces.”

Ups and downs? You bet. That’s life. But at least it’s my life and not the alter ego’s. I am what I am.

“There’s one life, and there’s no return and no deposit;
One life, so it’s time to open up your closet.
Life’s not worth a damn ’til you can say,
‘Hey world, I am what I am!’”

Video of Tony winner Douglas Hodge

Lyrics to “I Am What I Am” by Jerry Herman