Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Sunday, January 15, 2017

My 10 Favorite Gay Couples from TV and Film



LGBT visibility has come a very long way since I was a young movie buff.  Our journey has taken us from small parts (usually the but of a joke) to horrible stereotypes.  But soon we would evolve to be the featured characters in TV shows and on the big screen.  As the journey continued, it was nice to see gay couples make their way front and center.  Now that gay marriage is the law of the land, I thought it may be a good time to highlite some couples that have made me smile as I watched them.


1. IAN AND MICKEY (aka GALLOVICH)
My current guilty addiction is the brilliant series Shameless, and I'm honest enough to admit that Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan) and Mickey Malkovich (Noel Fisher) are the inspiration for this list.  They are the most creative thing I've seen as far as same gender loving relationships in quite some time. Two poor white masculine young men growing up in the rough hoods of Chicago, they were a very wonderful trip away from the usual narrative we see for young white gay men in love.   I was totally thrilled with the evolution of these guys both as individuals and as a couple.  "Not your typical gay couple" is an understatement when it comes to these two.  We get to see these young men in such roles as pimp, drug dealer and thug; and tackling such interesting issues as bi-polor disorder, pregnancy, being on the run from the military, and being on the run from the law.   

2.  ALEX AND TREY

The show may have been called Noah's Arc but all the drama wrapped around Noah and his on again and off again boyfriend Wade was a bit too much for me.  It was Alex (Rodney Chesster) and Trey (Gregory Keith) that were the stand out couple on this show in my opinion.  Noah's Arc had me hooked the moment the show aired. Groundbreaking was the word frequently tied to the show and it was indeed that.  It was the first television show centered around African-American same-gender loving men.  Gay black men around the country quickly tuned it every week to find out what was happening with these four best friends in L.A. Though the show focused on Noah naivety and his quest for love, it was actually Alex's quick wit and funny one-liners that kept me interested in the show. And Trey was the perfect balance for Alex's over the top personality. And let's be real, Trey was very easy on the eyes.


3.  ARMAND AND ALBERT
The Birdcage still holds firm as one of the funniest movies I have ever seen.  Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane) are hilarious and will keep you in stitches the duration of the film.  The two are approached by their son in the beginning of the film with the announcement that while away at college he has met the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with.  The interesting part, the fiance is the daughter of a very conservative Senator. Proud parents Armand and Albert want to embrace the soon to be daughter in law and invite her parents to their home.  The twist, they must pretend to be a heterosexual couple and Albert must dress in drag as they entertain their potential in-laws.  An interesting great re-interpretation of La Cage au Falles (also funny as hell by the way), The Birdcage still holds up as one the best gay films ever and this couple holds up as one of the best couples ever.


4. LAFAYETTE AND JESUS
True Blood was one of the greatest things on television in recent years.  Lafayette was one the main reasons I tuned into the show week after week.  Played by Nelson Ellis, Lafayette was the epitome of a hustler.  He cooked at the restaurant, sold “v” on the side, uploaded videos to the internet for pay.  The man did what he had to do to make that dollar.  He went several seasons just hooking up with random men throughout the series, but the show eventually gave him a boyfriend.  I was pleased to see him meet and initiate a relationship with the very hot male nurse Jesus (Kevin Alejandro).  Lafayette finally found someone that made him think about settling down.  The shrew was being tamed.  The two just looked good together on screen.

5. MITCHELL AND CAMERON
Who does not love Modern Family?  The writing is brilliant.  The acting is spectacular.  And the chemistry of the cast shines through with every performance.  Mitchell (Jessie Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) are fantastic.  Since the success of the show, Mitchell, who is actually gay in real life, has become a role model for countless LGBT youth.  It’s always a great thing when celebrities come out of the closet, because they show our young people that you can be out and proud and still be successful in whatever career you decide to pursue.  And I still watch the show in awe of Eric Stonestreet who plays the over the top flamboyant Cameron.  Knowing that he is actually straight makes his character a bit more interesting.  The two together are a terrific example of how couples should respect and treat each other.


6. SOL AND ROBERT
The stars of Grace and Frankie are Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.  In episode one of the show we meet them and their husbands as they all get together for dinner.  The husbands announce to them that they want as divorce.  The reason – the boys have been in love with each other for years and they would like to end their marriages so they can spend their remaining years as an out gay couple.  I'll be the first to say, it’s not right that they spent years lying to and deceiving their wives.  But after decades of lies they finally spoke their truth.  Although they come out late in their lives, it is the fact that they are now out that gives them permission to treat their passion like it’s fresh and new.  It is refreshing to see these mature gay men on the screen.

7. TOM COLLINS AND ANGEL DUMONT
(Spoiler alert).  Rent came out a long time ago.  But if you still have not seen it, and you’re planning to, please stop reading now.  Tom Collins and Angel Dumont love each other.  Tom does not care that Angel is transgender.  Tom is in love with her for the person she is.  And Angel loves Tom, flaws and all.  But sadly, we lose Angel in the middle of the movie.  When she dies, Tom is devastated.  I’m gonna tell you, I mourn with him as he goes through this loss.  You can tell as he grieves that this was the person he wanted to spend the rest of his years with.  The two made a beautiful couple.

8. GABRIEL AND MARK
Someone described Trick to me before I saw it.  Basically, it’s a movie about two men that spend the entire night looking for a place to hook up.  Based on this description it was not a movie I was in a big rush to see.  One day on a whim I decided to check it out.  Not only do I love this couple, I must say, this is now one of my all time favorite LGBT films.  Gabriel (Christian Campbell) plays a full time call center customer support tech/ part time musical theater writer.  Mark (John Paul Pitoc) plays go-go boy that picks up Gabriel on the subway.  Unfortunately, Gabriel’s room mate has the room for the night and going to his place is not an option.  Mark’s living situation is “complicated.”  As the two spend the evening looking for a place for sex, it is obvious that something is developing between the two of them.

9. ANDREW AND MIGUEL
I still very distinctly remember watching Philadelphia in the theater.  This film came out in 1993.  Back then playing gay for a big named actor like Tom Hanks was still something very taboo to do.  It was a very bold mold for him.  At this point, Antonio Banderas was not a house hold name but he had several successful films under his belt already, so this was also a bold move for him as well.  But not only was Hank’s character gay, he was also HIV positive.  Hanks actually lost a lot of weight for this role because in the film he develops full blown AIDS and fights for his life while simultaneously fighting this lawsuit within the courts.  With a stellar performance by Denzel Washington as well, Hanks would go on to win an Oscar for this role.  While Andrew and Miguel don’t spend a great deal of time together on film, their few shared on-screen moments showed intimacy and passion the likes unseen between gay men before this film (at least for me).

10. BRAD AND CARTER
If you have not yet viewed the little gem Leave It on the Floor, do yourself a favor and go check it out on Netflix.   Brad (Ephraim Sykes) is kicked out his home by his mother after she learns that he is gay.  But I must add, if I had spoken to my mom the way he spoke to his mom, gay or not, I would have been kicked out of my house as well. After ending up homeless, he happens to meet Carter (Andre Myers) in a store and as a result stumbles into the L.A. ballroom scene.  The film is a musical.  So if you are not a fan of this genre you may not like this movie.  But if you are okay with a group of men that spontaneously break into song, you may get to love this as much as I do.

So there it is.  My list of favorite gay couples.  My list of favorite lesbian couples will come later.  But in the meantime, let me hear back from you.  How do you feel about the couples on this list?  And who are your favorite gay couples?



Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Farewell Bruce Williams (aka Jalissa Andrea Michaels)


2016 was a HORRIBLE year.  Not only did we lose some incredible national celebrities, we lost a big local one here in the Phoenix area.  I was visiting my partner Chris in New Hampshire when I got the news.  Bruce Williams (a.k.a. Jalissa Andrea Michaels) had passed away.  I've known Bruce since my first year in Arizona, and I must say, the news left me feeling some kinda way.

What can one say about Bruce?  Let's just say this, if you've met Jalissa Andrea Michaels, she left an impression - good or bad because with her there was no indifferent.  Jalissa could be abrassive, annoying,  overbearing and too much.  Lord knows she could.  But those things aside, you can not deny the impression she made on the Phoenix drag community.  The founder of National Capital Cities pageantry system and the promoter for Arizona's Entertainer of the Year pageant, she has probably crowned more local drag queens that several other systems combined.

I met Bruce back in 1999, not long after I arrived in Phoenix.  Chris was working for the downtown YMCA.  One day he came home telling me about this new character that had joined the YMCA team. He described him as "over the top,"  Then, one day at the Y, the day came came that Bruce would be having a show and it was time for his transition into Jalissa.  We lived close to the Y and Bruce wanted to stop by and change at our place.  He didn't show up alone.  That was the night that I met Jalissa Andrea Michaels and her friends Tiffany Saigon and Locious Loreal.  All three of them were alot of fun.

Some time later, when Jalissa held her Mr. Southern Regions pageant, she asked me if I would compete.  Let's just say she could be persuasive.  Next thing you know she's got me on stage rocking a speedo in the swimsuit competition, doing my Stevie Wonder impression for talent, and pulling out my wedding tuxedo for formal wear.  It was at this pageant that I was introduced to Byron Lord and Sean Boone, two individuals that would go on to become really good friends.  That night I was crowned Mr. Souther Regions and during my reign I met some of the greatest gay male performers and most amazing female illusionist the city ever knew.  And it was all because of Jalissa.

Jalissa liked to be called "Mama."  She loved performing but more than that she loved promoting her pageants.  She could be demanding but that was because she had a vision for herself and her system and she never wavered from achieving that vision.  Love her or hate her, she has left her mark in Phoenix. I seriously don't know a single drag queen I can think of that has not been a part of one of her pageants.   She will truly be missed.

I really want to give a shout out to Tim Gram (aka Shakra Devine) for documenting the Phoenix Drag community.  At every performance she attends she has her camcorder in hand and has done a remarkable job capturing so many performances of so many entertainers for us to relive over and over again for years to come.  Please check out some of her videos of Jalissa below . . . 






Monday, January 2, 2017

The Sexuality Double Standard


So I have spent a big part of my New Year's Day binge watching TV (don't hate me - I know you did it too).  I kept hearing about Insecure and I finally got a chance to see it.  I must say, I am kinda digging it.  But I just watched something that made me take a pause.  It's an episode where one girl and the guy she's dating start to talk about their scrupulous sexual history.  She mentions how while in college she actually hooked up with another girl.  He too shares that when he was younger he once had sex with a guy. After the hook-up, he then realized it was not something he was into and it has never happened again.

Following his confession the girlfriend freaks out.  Suddenly she thinks he must be gay.  She talks this over with all of her girlfriends and they all come to the conclusion that if he did it once he will probably do it again.  She ends up dumping him because she is convinced that he is on the downlow (or that he has the potential to be on the downlow).

So what I want to know if this?  Why was it okay for her to hook up with a girl when she was young, but it is not okay for him to have experimented with same-gender sex.  There seems to be this perception that girls can have sex with other girls and it's no big deal.  But if this ever happens with a guy - he is labeled for the rest of his life as gay.  Adolescent toying around is not an option. Youthful experimentation is not permitted.  If a guy had sex with another guy once, he must wear the gay label from that moment on. Why is this double standard allowed?  And will men ever be able to share this truth (if it is their truth) and not be vilified for it?



Sunday, January 1, 2017

Let's Get It Started


So today is New Year's Day.  This is going to be a BIG year for me.  It will be a year of exceptional change.  Moving to New Hampshire has me both excited and a bit fearful.  New city!  New career!   After almost 20 years living in the desert of Phoenix, AZ, I will now be in the New England area.  It's an area rich in history so I'm excited about delving into the culture..  It's also an area that has a more liberal and progressive population than Arizona so I am looking forward to being around more like minded people.  But I am hesitant about the cold and snow.

Leaving Xerox after nearly 20 years also has me nervous, but it is something that really needed to happen.  I have not been happy for a few years now.  It is company that did many good things for me, but the joy ended some time ago.  It is not the same company I started with.  I hated the direction I saw the company going. But I was comfortable.  Very comfortable.  Not wanting to step outside of comfort zone is what allowed me to stay in a job that I was unhappy with for so long. 

So 2017 is going to be a year of tremendous transition.  However,  I am up to the challenge.  I will walk into this new chapter with enthusiasm knowing that I can conquer any obstacles that come my way.  I have a very support husband.  He will help me get through this.  "I am smart.  I am kind.  And I am impotent." I have been equipped with every tool needed to be successful.  So I welcome this new year, my new city, and I look forward to beginning a new career.  Bring it on 2017 cause I'm ready for you!

Romans 8:31 - "What shall we then say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?" 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

10 Most Interesting People of 2016

10.  AMANDLA STENBERG.  I'll be the first to admit that Amandla Stenberg never crossed my radar until she came out.  She starred in Colombiana and if I'm being honest I don't recall anyone but Zoe Saldano and her exceptional performance in this. Also she starred in The Hunger, which I have never seen and actually have no desire to see.  She has been getting quite a bit of notice since she came out.  Initially she came out as bisexual. Then later she would later self identity as "non-binary" and as an "intersectional feminist."    A winner of the Ms. Foundation "Woman of the Year" award, Stenberg stated "Bisexual is a word I am not attached to, it implies a dichotomy that doesn't take into account trans people.  So maybe pansexual is more accurate for me."  

I am noticing more and more millennials and younger individuals rejecting labels and embracing a more fluid sexuality and I am loving it.  Amandla's position on sexuality is not unique, it is shared by other peers of hers, but it is still not commonplace.  And being in the public eye and boldy professing this earns her a spot on interesting people for this year.

9.  TITUS BURGESS.  Is effimiphobia still a thing or have we finally moved beyond that? Burgess' phenomenal break out role as Titus Andromedon on Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt has been just beautiful to behold.  If you're a fan of the show, can you see his face and not want to scream "PINOT NOIR?" And if you're not a fan of the show just look it up on YouTube.  His song Pinot Noir is an ode to black penis. 

Since his success on the show he has gone on to actually launch his own real line of Pinot Noir wine and he was wrapped shooting of Season 3 of Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt.  In season 2, Titus went off and found himself a boyfriend.  I  am looking forward to seeing how this relationship will unfold in the upcoming season.  Also, Titus has an amazing voice (but you won't know it by listening to Pinot Noir - that one is just for fun, it is not a showcase of talent).  So I am also looking forward to hearing him exercise his vocal chops as well.

8.  THE TRANSGENDER MODELS of STRUT

Produced by Whoopi Goldburg and Whoop/ Ho Productions, this show embraced a beautiful all trans cast and made an effort to help all of them break into the modelling world.  There were several familiar faces on the show.  Isis King was a contestant on Tyra Bank's America's Next Top Model. She came out as trans on that show.  Female to male model Laith Ashley almost broke the internet when his shirtless pic went viral and the entire world refused to believe a man this beautiful could have been born female.  And Tyra Allure Ross had gained a tiny bit of notoriety when she began modeling in the 90s in New York, but her career was short lived when tea about her trans identity started to spill around the community.  I must admit, I would probably love anything that addresses issues of transphobia and tackles the many issues these individuals encounter on a daily basis.

7.  LEE DANIELS.  Season 3 of Empire continues to keep its audience on the edge of its seats.  Jamal Lyons (Jussie Smollet) is one of the few black gay characters we see on TV nowadays.  And Cookie (Taraji P Henson) still steals the show every single time she comes on screen.  But just when we were wondering if Daniel's TV success would be limited to just Empire, we got a glimpse of his next project, Star.  Although the series won't officially launch until 2017, the pilot of the show aired already and I'll be the first to say, I'm already hooked.  With established star power like Queen Latifah, Benjamim Bratt, and  Lenny Kravitz on the roster; and the three young triple threats that are  leading the series, this looks to be another Lee Daniels project that is going to having the kids gagging for more.  I still love Empire.  I'm already in love with Star and I've only seen one episode.  Now, let's wait and see what Mr. Daniels has next in store for us.

6. KEHINDE WILEY.  Never before have I seen an artist I have been this excited about.  Perhaps it's because his work depicts black folks in noble and extraordinary poses.  Perhaps it's because he is openly gay and and successful so I see him as a role model for myself and many other young LGBT people of color.  Primarily, I'm excited about him because his work is just spectacular.  It is just a privilege to see his art up close.  And fortunately for me, Phoenix Art Museum decided to exhibit his work as a part of their artist series this year.  The exhibit is currently still in the city and I'll be the first to admit I have made several trips to see it.  The exhibit is beyond exceptional. It contains small, gold stained pieces inspired by his studies in Russia, massive paintings that can encompass an entire wall, breath taking stained glass works, and some simply beautiful sculptured pieces.  Wiley visited Phoenix for the kick-off of the exhibit and to deliver a lecture at Phoenix College where he discussed his college studies, his post collegiate art studies abroad, and the inspiration for his various projects.  I will remember both the lecture and the exhibit for years to come.

5.  RUPAUL

I keep thinking one day this girl is going to slow down, but OH NO!  I swear every year she just does more and more.  I have been a fan of RuPaul's Drag Race since it started.  Every season she gives me more and more drag queens that I become fans of.  But the things she has done with Drag Race go beyond just the show and they are amazing.  Drag Race has parlayed into music videos from Ru, more music CDs from Ru, successful music careers and drag careers from many of the contestants and two seasons of Drag Race All-Stars. Also, she would go on to create RuPaul's Gay For Pay Game Show, and become a judge on Skin Wars.  And she still manages to find time to make cameos in shows like The Real O'Neals, Happy Endings, and The Muppets.  Let's face it, Ru is the hardest working man in Hollywood, and she ain't slowing down no time soon.

4. OUT ATHLETES of the 2016 OLYMPICS

Phoenix Mercury star Britney Griner was one member of the U.S. Olympic Women's basketball team. They would defeat Spain's women's team for the gold. Caster Semenya is a South African Middle Distance Runner.  She is the 2016 Gold Medalist in the 800 meters event.  Nicola Adams is a British boxer.  She is the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title.  She is the 2012 and 2016 Gold Medal recipient in the Women's flyweight division.  These were just some of the examples of the brilliant women and men from across the world that stood out and proud as they waved their rainbow flags simultaneously as they waved the flags from their respective countries while participating in this years Olympics.  For all of these out athletes (and those closeted athletes who still fear disclosure) I salute you.

3.  TODRICK HALL

I can't say this repeatedly enough or loudly enough, I love Todrick Hall!  I may be twenty years his senior but I'm impressed by drive, I admire his courage and I am simply in awe of his creativity.  For a kid who was eliminated pretty early on when he attempted American Idol, I have to say, I think it was in his best interest not to move any further on that show.  His popularity took off several years ago thanks to his YouTube videos.  In 2015 we saw him with his own show on MTV.  But 2016 he has shined more than ever before.  His video Straight Outta Oz was released to YouTube and I swear I watched about twenty times.  So many parts just felt autobiographical for me.  And then I learned he would replace Tony Award winning Billy Porter (another fave of mine) as Lola in Broadway's Kinky Boots. This kid is just fierceless.

2.  TARRELL ALVIN MCCRANEY.  Moonlight was hands down the best thing in cinema this year and probably the best thing we've seen since Y2K [I may exaggerating a bit based on personal bias].   This film is based on a play written by McArthur Genius Grant award winner, Tarrell Alvin McCraney.  His play was entitled In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.

The big screen adaptation was written and directed by Barry Jenkins.  This epic movie tells the story of a young black gay man.  His childhood, adolescent years and young adulthood all unfold before us in the movie.  But here is where the appeal of this movie gets a bit odd.  I wanted to see the film because I too identify as a black gay man.  But the audience lining up to see this in the theater goes far beyond just black gay men.  It reaches further than just members of the LGBT community.  There is an energy about this project that is attracting white, black, straight and gay.  For some reason, all races, genders and sexual orientation have been drawn to it like a moth to a flame.  It has been nominated for countless awards but I can't wait to see how it does at the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.

1. THE VICTIMS & SURVIVORS OF CLUB PULSE (ORLANDO)

June 12 of this year we witnessed the worst homeland massacre and terrorist attack since 9/11.  A single gunman went in Club Pulse and murdered 49 people and injured an additional 53. In a club that had one way in and one way out, the men and women that died that night had no options for safety when the bullets began to spray around the club.  So many frightful and sad stories emerged. Like the story of the one guy that called his mom and told her "I'm going to die tonight."  And the story of the one girl that said she only survived because she laid in the middle of a bunch of other bodies and played dead herself.

It was amazing the way the entire country rallied together following this tragedy.  Candlelight vigils were held in virtually every major city.  The push to make this an all inclusive healing was obvious. There was a definite effort to make sure that all Orlando related events included all faiths so as to minimize any national divide that could result.  The nation was already suffering from a  major case of Islamophobia.  Many wanted to make sure this tragedy did not drive us to the brinks of a religious civil war.

I must say, it was great to see the country suddenly concerned about the welfare and safety of the LGBT community.  The reality is, this was not the first time a massacre like this happened in a gay club.  In 1973 the Upstairs Lounge (a gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans) fell prey to an arson attack leaving 32 gay men dead.  Folks celebrated the killing of gay folks then.  And some folks said, following Orlando, that not enough people died at Club Pulse.  But there are way more allies on our side now than there were in '73.  And I would argue that our journey as a community (same gender loving folks and our allies) are headed in the right direction.  We organized quickly following Orlando showing the power in numbers and the strength of community.

Club Pulse dealt us a huge blow.  But we're still here at the end of 2016.  Still standing.  Still organizing. Still marching. Still dancing. Still helping.  Still serving.  And we will not be stopped. 

Kim Burrell and the "Homosexual Spirit!"

WOW!!! Gospel artist, pastor, and anointed(?) Kim Burrell is now under fire for the video of her homophobic rant that has now gone viral.  In the video Burrell states "any body in this room who is filled with the perverted homosexual spirit, beg God to free you.  You play with it in 2017 and you'll die from it."  That's right, we are a "perversion" and our perversion is going to kill us in the upcoming year.  She then rants for a couple of more minutes about this homosexual spirit and the damage it is doing to people and to the church.

If you have not seen the video yet, you can see it here . . . 
video

Following the viral release of this video, and the tremendous amount of backlash and criticism she has received as a result, she how now released another video claiming people have misinterpreted what she said and people are making things up.  It's not an apology video, it just another rant where she is angry about the attention she's garnered as a result of this video and she doesn't seem to understand why people are mad with her.

Well, if you took the time to watch the video above then you know very well the intent of her words. There is now way to misinterpret what she said.

Honey, you showed us who you were.  And now that you're in trouble for it, you're trying to paint a different picture from the one we witnessed.  But thanks to video and the power of social media, it's now more difficult to deny these types of things.  You stated "That perverted homosexual spirit is a spirit of confusion and delusion and it has deceived many men and women."  Let's be very clear, I am not confused not deluded about my attraction to another man.  It's innate and a part of my very being and truly see it as a gift from God.  And who are you to label my love a sin and try to deny the gay community the ability to love the Lord.  There is so much hatred in her sermon that is hard to believe the serves a man that was all about LOVE.  But let's be real, she is not the first to label us this way and she will not be the last.  We must continue to fight her demon of hate, continue to lift up our brothers and sisters who have been victims of this type of spiritual abuse, and press forth with a message of love.

She does a response video not because she regrets her words.  What she does is attempt to change her message and say that people did not understand correctly.  She was simply misinterpreted. Many messages she received contained this message, "I will never buy another CD of yours."  So now she must try to make amends because this rant of hers will probably affect her purse.

Well, sweetie, we heard you loud and clear.  And we see you now for who you are.




Saturday, December 17, 2016

Why Is Biphobia Still an Issue in the LGBT Community?

Yesterday I was reading an article on Qweerty all about celebrities that have not come out as gay yet. There were the usual (and expected) list of characters like Kevin Spacey and Tyler Perry.  Now my initial issue with this post was my objection to outing people.  I sincerely feel that people will come out of the closet if and when they are ready to come out.  No one else has the right to out someone before the individual themselves wants to do so.  I am a huge advocate for people coming out and living their lives authentically, but they must do so when they are comfortable enough to do so. 

My biggest issue with this article had nothing to do with its content.  I made the mistake of reading some of the comments below the post.  That is never a good idea if you want to remain sane and happy.  Someone mentioned that maybe these celebrites are not gay.  Perhaps they have not come out as gay because they are bisexual.  And that's when the claws came out.

One person claimed, "There is no such thing as bisexuality.  They're just people afraid of admitting they're gay."  I was not surprised at all by the number of people that jumped on the comment section and started belittling and berating bisexual people.  Bisexuals (who are supposed to be an included segment of the LGBT community) were accused by gays as being confused, greedy, and in denial. There is a blatant refusal to acknowledge the fact that people can be genuinely attracted to both sexes. Because they are exclusively attracted to one gender, it is simply impossible for them to accept the fact others may be attracted to both male and female.

I don't understand why people feel they have the right to define others.  If someone tells me they are attracted to both sexes, then they are attracted to both sexes.  Just because I only like men, I cannot then exclaim that because this is my reality it must be the reality for everyone else.  So here we are as an LGBT community attacking members of our community because of who they are.  Isn't that what we want people to stop doing to us?  Unity should be out goal.  And if we continue to dismiss bisexuals as if they do not exist, then we are no better than homophobes that want to strip us of our rights and deny us equality.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Kehinde Wiley Exhibit Opening at Phoenix Art Museum

OMG!  I love me some KEHINDE WILEY.  Several years ago I was reading an article in The Advocate all about this phenomenal man and his art.  The article contained several images of his work and I remember falling more and more in love with each word I read.  As an African-American man, I was thrilled seeing his strong yet sensual images of young, black men.  Some embracing each other.  Some standing majestic and alone.  All were vibrant and mesmerizing.  As a black gay male I was excited to see a person of color featured in the magazine. 

Several months later I was walking through Phoenix Art Museum on a first Friday.  Imagine my surprise when I came across this fantastic painting that I distinctly remember seeing in the Advocate.  Wiley's work is unique and easily identifiable.  The patterns and brilliant colors that showcase beautiful black people make his pieces stand out in any gallery.  The piece in Phoenix Art Museum was/is my favorite picture by Wiley.  

I was a huge fan.  And then my admiration grew even more.  I started watching Lee Daniel's "Empire."  Fans of the show couldn't help but notice the exceptional artwork featured in the show.  I immediately recognized the artwork.  This was Wiley through and through.  The writing on the show was great.  The music on the show - off the chain.  The art - OMG!!!

And now I am extremely excited to announce that this fantastically talented man is coming to Phoenix Art Museum for an exhibit that will span several months.  Wiley will be in town on October 6 to deliver a lecture at Phoenix College about his work.  His exhibit at Phoenix Art Museum opens the following day and will remain through January 8, 2017.  If you're a lover of art - please do yourself a favor and check out the exhibit.  If you're a fan of Empire, please come out and listen to Wiley's lecture and learn more about the man. If you are LGBT (especially if you're an LGBT person of color), I encourage you come out and support this out and proud black same-gender loving individual and his work.  Hope to see you at the lecture or at the opening of the exhibit. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Guns, Violence and Peace: A Community Conversation

Tonight I attended "Guns, Violence & Peace: A Community Conversation."  The event was hosted at First Congregational UCC Phoenix and was a joint effort of the host church, ASU's Project Humanities, the Arizona Faith Network, and the several community leaders that participated.  The evening started with a presentation on the history of guns and the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Robert J. McWhirter is a certified specialist in Criminal Law and his opening presentation was an in-depth look into the evolution of guns in the U.S. and our relationship with them and with their regulation.  It was during this presentation that I learned I was a "hoplophobe."

Following his presentation there were break out sessions that looked at gun violence through various lenses.  Those presentations included:
*  Justice and Law Enforcement
*  Impact of Violence on School
*  Black Lives Matters
*  Mental Health Issues and Violence
*  Impact on the Hispanic/Latino Community

Each person in attendance spent twenty minutes in one session and then twenty minutes at the second session of their choosing. 

For my first session I chose "Mental Health Issues and Violence" facilitated by Terrina Picarello.  This was totally not what I was expecting it to be.  I have a friend with a history of mental illness that lost her life to a police officer.  I thought this session would explore our relationships with individuals with mental health issues and address how police officers should act when confronting obviously affected individuals. 

Instead we learned about how trauma affects the brain.  We learned how kids that grew up in homes with trauma are affected mentally.  Also we learned how soldiers and officers who see chaos, violence and even death on a daily basis are affected by this trauma.  This brain trauma affects how they behave and this should probably be addressed by police departments and by the military.

The second session I attended was Black Lives Matters (BLM) led by Reverend Reginald Walton who heads the local Phoenix chapter of the BLM movement.  Rev. Walton discussed biases and "othering."  He opened his session by stating "What happens here does NOT stay here."  We conversed about how attendees felt about BLM, how their peers felt about BLM, and what actions should be taken regarding BLM.  It was a very powerful conversation.

But then we closed the evening by having all presenters and all attendees gather for a final group discussion and integration.  It was then that I realized the powerful conversations being held in all of the break out sessions and I realized I wanted to be apart of all of these discussions.  Everyone in attendance spoke enthusiastically about what they learned in the opening lecture and in their break outs.  My only regret is that I felt I missed out by being limited to only two groups.

Community conversations like this need to happen more frequently and they should be attended by larger crowds.  But unfortunately, most people do not want to address those controversial issues like race, police brutality, and violence in our schools.  But lack of conversations allow us to continue to have a lack of action.  So for this reason I want to say kudos to the organizations and the host church for making tonight happen.  I think everyone there walked away with a bit of inspiration and a bit of hope. 


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

2016 NCC (National Capital Cities) Pageant


Sunday evening, July 24, 2016, I attended the Ms. NCC (National Capital Cities) pageant held at The Rock.  Pageant founder, organizer, and promotor, Bruce Williams (aka Jalissa Andrea Michaels - The Patti Labelle of Arizona) was on site adding another successful pageant to her resume.  The evening was filled with some fierce contestants and a host of fabulous entertainers.

Stepping down from her reign as Ms Black NCC was Regina Gazelle (personal friend of The J Spot) and all around awesome individual.  The four contestants vying for a crown included BeyoncĂ© Black, Ki Ki Andrews, Shania Sky, and Demi LeRay. 

The contestants had to make their way through the standard items associated with pageants.  Sports wear, evening gown, talent competition and on-stage question.  These girls brought their A game.  They all wanted a title and they wanted it bad.  Hems were tucked, shoes were polished, and wigs were snatched to the Gods.

Many moons ago I was a title holder in the system.  I was Mr. Southern Regional 1998.  It is great to see that the system is still tack and is not slowing down.  Kudos to the new title holders, and thank you to the previous title holders who spectacularly represented during their reign.

Some pics of the event are available below.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Congratulations Karen and Treasure

I would like to extend the sincerest and most heartfelt congratulations to my friends Treasure and Karen.  Following some extensive work on self, preparation for career, and goal setting - Karen has now officially finished the Phoenix Women's Resource Center KickStart program.  And following months of coursework and research - Karen received a certificate for her accomplishments.

The evening was a celebration of women.  The president of the organization, Susan Burman, talked about the purpose of the organization and how it serves women by equipping them with the tools to be successful.   Women received their completion certificates for their completed works and several women received full ride scholarships for college. 

The keynote speaker was an individual by the name of Susan White.  She was the recipient of the ThriveOn! program certificate.  Susan came to the Women's Resource Center a victim of domestic abuse.  She was broken and she was uncertain about her future.  However, as she spoke tonight you could hear confidence in her voice and see resilience in her smile.

I was honored to be invited to the event.  The women were encouraged to bring their support circles to witness tonight's festivities.  It was a pleasure as I watched Treasure and Karen cross the room, shake hands with the program coordinator, and receive their respective certificates.  Looking at these two ladies I'm reminded that with the love of your partner, the support of family, and the encouragement of friends, you can accomplish anything.  Congrats and kudos.


Monday, May 16, 2016

And The Winner of RuPaul's Drag Race Is . . .


Congratulations to the latest winner from RuPaul’s Drag Race – Bob The Drag Queen.  I have been #TeamBob from the very beginning but as I was watching tonight’s finale, I honestly had no idea which queen RuPaul would choose to continue her legacy.  I am a fan of all the girls in the top three so I was a bit perplexed about which direction she would go when deciding who would get the crown.
Kim Chi has been fabulous this season.  Beautiful.  Humble.  Creative.  RuPaul always has a diverse cast so it was not a surprise to see an Asian queen on the show.  It was great to see this Korean cast member who embraced her ethnicity and frequently included culturally relevant fashion and make-up in her performances.  Although I have adored her through the season, I did have one reservation regarding her winning this competition.  Kim Chi shared that she has never revealed to her mother that she is a drag queen.  I do wonder how this message would be received by the masses.  I think the winner of this competition should be someone that is comfortable enough in their skin to share their fabulousness and their realness with everyone important in their lives. 
Naomi Smalls is beautiful.  I’ll admit, I was not a fan of hers in the beginning.  I initially perceived her as arrogant and obnoxious.  But then she humbled herself.  I believe people have the ability to change and  I believe in second chances.   I saw her evolve into someone nice, reserved and helpful and I was pleased to see this transformation.  While I admit I was leaning toward Bob The Drag Queen as the winner, I did feel her energy was very similar to Bianca Del Rio’s.  Naomi is young, fierce, and very fashion forward.  For these reasons I thought she could very well win the crown.
I must admit, it was such a pleasure to see Chi Chi DeVayne on the stage again.  She made it to the top four and was finally forced to “sashay away.”  But I was pulling for her to actually be in the finale.  She is a Southern girl – like myself.  She was definitely an underdog in this competition, so I was so thrilled to see her make it that far.  There were self-doubt and self-esteem issues with her in the beginning, but you see her gaining confidence with each week.  Her positive energy becomes absolutely contagious toward the end.  It sounds like her career, post RuPaul’s Drag Race, is really taking off.
Bob The Drag Queen – you’re fantastically funny.  You’ve been an advocate for the LGBT community by getting arrested while protesting for marriage equality.  You’ve got rhythm and can hold it down on the dance floor.   For me, you snatched the title in Snatch Game with your Carol Channing and your Uzo Aduba.  I do feel you are the best candidate from this season and you are deserving of tonight’s victory.  Congratulations to you on winning the title, the $100,000 and the favor of all of America. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

My Night With Michael Sam

I have been looking forward to the Phoenix 2016 HRC Gala for quite some time now.  When it was announced that the keynote speaker would be the one and only Mr. Michael Sam, I got so excited I just wanted to just spit.  As much as I admire him for his courage and his tenacity for coming out prior to the NFL draft, my heart goes out to him.  Since his coming out announcement and his draft to the Missouri Rams, he has lived his life under a microscope.  His accomplishments, as well as all of his downfalls, disappointments, and failures would be available for all the public to witness, chastise, and vilify.

The entire LGBT community longed for him to be successful with the Rams.  He was literally going to “change the game” as it relates to same-gender loving folks.  We needed him to play not just well, but exceptionally well.  We were ready to hold him up as an example for what all LGBT athletes could do – live your life authentically and honestly and still be able to make it as a professional in whatever sport you chose.

And then he was cut from the Rams.  You could almost hear the collective gasp from the gay community.  And then came the announcement that he would be playing with the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League.  Though it’s not the NFL, we were still excited just to hear that he would still be playing the sport he loved.  And then we heard that he would be leaving the league and the reason cited was “concerns with his mental health.”

It was at that moment that I realized the tremendous pressure being placed on his shoulders.  Michael Sam was carrying the hopes and dreams of the entire LGBT community.  And let’s be real, this kind of pressure can be exhausting.  When you carry the weight of an entire community, it can become too much of a burden to bear.

Although he may not be playing professionally anymore, I was still excited to meet the man that wanted to live his life authentically.  I know many that attended the event were there for the same reason as me.  They wanted to meet the man that told his truth.

I assumed Sam would be kept out of sight until it was time for him to take the stage.  However, early in the evening, during the silent auction, he made his entrance.  He marched into the room with a smile and charm that made him easily approachable.  Everyone’s cell phones came out and there were selfies abound.  You could tell Sam did not mind the attention.  He took time to greet everyone with firm hand shakes, hugs, kisses on the cheek, and for several ladies - the distinguished kiss to the back of the hand. 

When he eventually took the stage, he shared a very powerful story about his youth.  He grew up as part of a very big family.  He talked about how most of his siblings did NOT like him.  He was either picked on or totally ignored by most of his family.  He grew up not feeling at home in his own home.  Most of brothers had a reputation for being rowdy and for  constantly being in trouble.  When many in his hometown saw him and his siblings, it was commonplace for them to hear, “there goes those damn Sams!”  For others in his family that wore this like a badge of honor, but for Michael, it was a source of embarrassment.

Michael talked candidly about his upbringing, about that night of the draft and that infamous kiss, and about living his life as an out gay man playing professional football.  He has quite the story to tell, even though his time on the field was short lived.

I’m a black gay man and I sit in awe at other black men that pursue their passions while living their lives out and proud.  So my night with Michael Sam was exceptional.  I thanked him for his honesty.  We hugged.  I noticed how nice he smelled.  And then I enjoyed an evening of great food, fun music, and amazing people.  For me, this was my first HRC Gala.  Thanks to Michael Sam, it was a night I won’t soon forget.


Monday, December 7, 2015

The Arizona Black Theater Troupe presents Black Nativity!

Do yourself a favor, please go and check out the current running Black Nativity, being presented by Arizona Black Theater Troupe.  The entire show was terrific but there were definitely some stand out performances for me.

No doubt, the best song of the evening was the closing number.  Tyra Young's "His Blood Still Works" will make you forget you're in the theater and make you think you're back in the church. I swear it was so good I wanted to throw my shoe at her.  

The show took some liberties in the second set.  Following intermission, Roosevelt Watts II incorporated some of his spoken word into the production.  Let me tell you, I've seen Black Nativity numerous times.  But when he spoke I turned to my neighbor and said, "He wrote those words."  I could tell from his delivery that he gave birth to  that narrative.  Poignant and powerful, the words he shared turned Black Nativity into a story you will feel like you're watching for the very first time.

Ebony Green, you're version of "Oh Holy Night" had me in tears.  I loved every syllable.  I've got four words for you.  INTONATION.  PHONATION.  ACCURACY.  And PITCH (sorry I had a flashback to watching Lean on Me over the weekend).  Everything about that song was perfect.  I've seen Ebony perform several times and this was the first time I got to hear her falsetto.  And it was faboulous.  The control in her voice is amazing.

If I have any criticism of this show, it may be that I didn't get enough of George Johnson.  GEORGE, where did you come from?!?  Following the show, several of my friends kept comparing him to Luther Vandross.  Don't get it twisted, he is prominently featured in this production.  But his vocal strength just leaves you wanting more.  

And finally, to Miss Nancy Taylor.  I simply love your voice.  You have an elegance about you when you stand center stage.  Every thing you did was awesome.  But - your "Go Tell It On the Mountain" was simply divine.  

Trust me, if you're not in the holiday spirit yet, BTT's Black Nativity will get you there.  Do yourself a favor, and go out and support this production.  It only runs until December 20.  If you would like to learn more about Arizona Black Theater Troupe, or if you are already ready to purchase your tickets, please visit there website.  Trust me, you won't be disappointed.  You can find them online at http://new-wp.blacktheatretroupe.org