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It’s Time for a Queer Host on ‘The Daily Show’ 

5 LGBTQ+ comedians qualified to take Trevor Noah’s seat 

By Sarah Bricker Hunt 

Trevor Noah, longtime host of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,†says he will leave the show after seven years, opening up an opportunity for a fresh voice to fill that influential role.  

In a tumultuous political climate where LGBTQ+ issues are the hot potato that terrible politicians love to bat back and forth, who better to provide pithy commentary than a queer comedian? We nominate these five rising stars and veteran funny people. 

Patti Harrison 

Jon Stewart laid the groundwork, Noah carried the torch and Patti Harrison, the whip-smart, take-no-shit comedian (who got kicked off Twitter for hilariously impersonating Sia as Nilla Wafers — yes, the cookies) will bring it home for a new generation.   

At 31, Harrison is a vocal member of the young millennial and Gen Z generation and an out transwoman, which means she understands what’s at stake for her generation’s future and can speak powerfully against the recent alarming national political and social backslide into the 1950s. She is also the comedian most likely to take the audience on Andy Kaufman-esque rides to unexpected places, something we can get behind. 

Kate McKinnon 

Lesbian heroine McKinnon is a no-brainer to replace Noah. The veteran “SNL†actor left the show this year after a decade playing a laundry list of audience favorites, but her tenure there might be most linked to her earnest, deeply funny impersonation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We’d love to see her drop some Ginsburns on some well-deserving political figures.  

There’s more to McKinnon than her epic RBG portrayal, too. Remember when she channeled what every non-Trump voting American was feeling when Hillary Clinton lost in 2016? Her post-election cold open, as Clinton singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah†was as cathartic as it was powerful — a reminder to cherish what we had and a call to gather strength for the battles yet to come at an unprecedented moment in history (no matter what Rob Schneider thinks). Add McKinnon’s universal likability and she’s a candidate for the job who would be uniquely positioned to serve as a bridge between constantly warring political factions.  

Wanda Sykes 

Wanda Sykes’ trademark no-nonsense takes on current events (and takedowns of current idiots) would liven up the “Daily Show†desk. She’s been at this for a while, too. Take her “Daily Show with Jon Stewart†appearance way back in 2001, where she took down then president George W. Bush, remarking, “I pray for the man every day… and I advise everybody else to do the same. We in trouble, Jon! We are in trouble. It’s the foreign policy — the man has only left the country twice, and that was to Mexico. I have traveled more than the president. That’s a problem.† 

Twenty years later, Sykes has remained relevant (and side-splittingly funny) and has been an active political rabble rouser. There’s no doubt a Sykes-led “Daily Show†would be well-written, pithy, pointedly sassy and devoid of fluff. Sykes would just get the job done while casually annihilating people who casually support stances like eliminating queer rights.  

Bowen Yang 

Another “SNL†standout, Yang has been coming into his own over the past year, as evidenced by runaway Hulu hit “Fire Island.†But it’s his off-the-cuff takes in interviews that reveal why he’d make an excellent “Daily Show†host. When Q Syndicate editorial director Chris Azzopardi interviewed Yang this summer, he discussed the “SNL†sketch “Pride Month Song,†a fresh look at a queer culture staple. Ever down-to-earth, Yang said, “…Pride is kind of exhausting. And it’s kind of not what you expect it to be: You think it’s gonna be this amazing thing and it actually ends up being really stressful and logistically a nightmare and someone has a meltdown at some point.† 

It’s that kind of Midwestern-via-New-York authenticity that contributes to Yang’s cross-cultural appeal. It would be compelling to see Bowen breaking down complicated news events in a way we can all understand and identify with. Yang is a master at keeping it real. 

Randy Rainbow  

Maybe it’s time for “The Daily Show†to become a variety show. Randy Rainbow’s snarky political musical theater might just be magical in the way it lures listeners in with familiar Broadway intros and then whacks them over the head with laser-targeted observations about terrible people. Sometimes, a spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down. And at a time when we can all agree that real world news is almost too much to comprehend some days, we could use a little sugar, especially when it’s spice in disguise.  

It would be interesting to see Rainbow approach the “Daily Show†anchor desk with a Colbert-esque approach, where we’re never quite sure if he’s serious, but we’re definitely sure he’s killing fascists with every expertly crafted lyrical delight. 

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Spotlight

Fight the Queer Book Ban By Lovin’ Up on These 11 New LGBTQ+ Reads 

By Chris Azzopardi 

No matter what Republicans tell you, there’s never a bad time to get lost in a queer book. But now just happens to be a really good time to do so as parents pressure administrators to ban books with LGBTQ+ content from school classrooms and libraries. You can take action against these conservative groups relentlessly pushing their troubling censorship efforts. One way? To simply exercise your reading rights by supporting these LGBTQ+ stories and authors.  

‘I Was Better Last Night,’ Harvey Fierstein 

Harvey Fierstein is a bona fide gay legend across the board, from his illustrious stage and screen career (among his most memorable work: “Torch Song Trilogy,†“Hairspray†and “Mrs. Doubtfireâ€) on through “Kinky Boots,†the Tony Award-winning musical he wrote the book for. Of course, there’s everything in between and everything that came before, and in his first memoir, “I Was Better Last Night,†Fierstein reflects on all of the above. The book covers aspects of his life as a prominent figure in the LGBTQ+ community, including his community theater roots in Brooklyn, his nonconformist childhood and two seminal moments in queer history — the early gay rights movement in the 1970s and the AIDS crisis the following decade. In a 2015 interview with Pride Source, Fierstein said, “I don’t believe in life after death, so whoever’s gonna remember me is none of my business, certainly. I ain’t gonna know about it.†With this memoir, surely, though perhaps unintentionally so, he’s given us yet another reason to not let him slip away into oblivion.  

‘Just By Looking at Him,’ Ryan O’Connell 

Ryan O’Connell is currently playing a gay pop culture nerd on Peacock’s “Queer as Folk†reimagining, while also serving as a writer and executive producer. And before that, he created “Special,†the Emmy-nominated comedy-drama loosely based on O’Connell’s life as a gay man living with cerebral palsy that ran for two seasons on Netflix. Now you can add author to his ever-expanding resume with his first foray into fiction. “Just By Looking at Him†tells the story of Elliott, who masks his alcohol addiction with a smoke-and-mirrors career as a TV writer. He’s cheating on his boyfriend, though, and things aren’t great overall. All the while, he has cerebral palsy, which makes him feel like a “gay Shrek.†O’Connell’s story is about the fight to overcome addiction while also searching for acceptance in an ableist world.  

‘You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty,’ Akwaeke Emezi 

Nigerian fiction writer and video artist Akwaeke Emezi, who identifies as non-binary transgender, has been a celebrated queer voice — a “once-in-a-generation†one, according to Vulture — since “Freshwater,†their 2018 debut novel that is currently being adapted into a TV series for FX. Since then, Emezi has gone on to achieve major prestige, including being named a “5 Under 35†honoree by the National Book Foundation that same year. Their 2019 book, “Pet,†which explored identity and justice, was a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. And their latest book, “You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty,†the story of Feyi Adekola grappling with the aftermath of her lover’s death, was described by The New York Times Book Review as “an unabashed ode to living with, and despite, pain and mortality.â€â€¯ 

‘A Previous Life,’ Edmund White  

National Book Award-winning author Edmund White explores polyamory, bisexuality, aging and love in “A Previous Life,†a book about Sicilian aristocrat and musician Ruggero and his younger American wife Constance’s decision to break their promise to each other to refrain from sharing intimate details about past relationships. Their transparency leads to some revealing revelations about each other: Constance was married to multiple older men, and Ruggero has loved not just women, but men too. And White, whose book experiments with writing himself into the story as a secondary character, just happens to be one of them.  

‘Rainbow Rainbow,’ Lydia Conklin 

A visiting professor in fiction at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Lydia Conklin’s “Rainbow Rainbow†pulls from various aspects of queer, gender-nonconforming and trans life for this collection of stories: a young lesbian and her lover try to have a baby with an unprofessional sperm donor, a fifth grader dresses as an ox for a class “Oregon Trail†reenactment, and a nonbinary person experiences an open relationship alongside their top surgery during the height of the pandemic.    

‘Ma and Me,’ Putsata Reang 

Described as “a layered story of queerness, assimilation and displacement†to the press, author Putsata Reang’s memoir sheds light on the gay refugee experience in America as she — born in Cambodia, raised in rural Oregon — tells her own story of intergenerational trauma and her complicated relationship with her mother, which she describes as “painful.†In “Ma and Me,†which is based on her Modern Love essay in The New York Times, Reang recalls how, in her 20s, after doing everything she could to be the kind of Cambodian daughter who would make her mother proud, she came out to her. Her mother tells her it’s only a phase, but then, in her 40s, Reang marries a woman, forever changing her relationship with Ma. A journalist for The New York Times, Politico and The Guardian, this is Reang’s first memoir.  

‘Miss Memory Lane,’ Colton Haynes 

Colton Haynes lays bare his thoughts on stardom, addiction and living as an openly gay man in Hollywood in his debut memoir, which is described as the story of “a man stepping into the light as no one but himself.†The star of TV shows like “Arrow,†“Teen Wolf†and “American Horror Story,†Haynes writes about a death scare in his 20s that led to his sobriety. He chronicles that galvanizing episode in the book, when he woke up in a hospital after having two seizures, lost sight in one eye, ruptured a kidney and was put on involuntary psychiatric hold. His frank storytelling and emotional transparency moved Elton John and his husband David Furnish; they called the book a “brutally honest memoir that socks you in the gut with its candor,†adding that “Miss Memory Lane†is an example of “how conquering our demons in life is a never-ending journey.â€â€¯ 

‘Tripping Arcadia,’ Kit Mayquist  

If you’ve ever been desperate for a job, you might understand Lena’s situation — to make money, in this case to support her financially challenged parents, no matter how unusual the work. And working for one of Boston’s most elite families is… weird. Weirder, too, the more Lena, a med school dropout, learns about the family; there’s that mysterious live-in doctor and Jonathan, the sickly poetic and drunken heir to the family empire. The author is Kit Mayquist, who is trans, and “Tripping Arcadia,†her debut novel, is a Mexican Gothic soap opera where the champagne flows as freely as revenge and greed.  

‘Young Mungo,’ Douglas Stuart  

The second novel from author Douglas Stuart, winner of the Booker Prize for “Shuggie Bain,†is, at its tender core, a story of queer love and working-class families. Stuart, of course, is no stranger to steeping his literary work in queerness: In “Shuggie Bain,†his coming-of-age debut novel, he wrote about Hugh, a young gay boy growing up in the 1980s with an alcoholic mother. Now, in “Young Mungo,†we meet Mungo and James, who grow up together in a Glasgow housing estate. A world seeks to divide them, but their against-all-odds friendship — that, in time, blossoms into a romance — pushes against the violent, dangerous forces they must, like many queer people, face together.  

‘Time Is a Mother,’ Ocean Vuong 

“I was grieving, the world was grieving, and the only thing I really had was to go back to poems,†Vuong, who wrote “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,†told TIME magazine earlier this year. At the time, he was expressing how his mother’s death, paired with the pandemic, led to his latest work, “Time Is a Mother.†The openly gay Vietnamese-American essayist and novelist, whose mother died in 2019 from breast cancer, writes about how he survived that loss in the collection, his second poetry book after 2016’s “Night Sky with Exit Wounds.†

‘Girls Can Kiss Now,’ Jill Gutowitz  

Author and humorist Jill Gutowitz has been writing about her gay relationship with pop culture (thankfully lots about Taylor Swift) for 15 years, in magazines such as the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Vulture. Now, in her first book of essays, “Girls Can Kiss Now,†the journalist and essayist expands, with her signature wryness, on the pop-culture stuff that makes her tick. And then, of course, there is, as the back of the book promises, “the time the FBI showed up at her door because of something she tweeted about ‘Game of Thrones.’â€â€¯ 

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Spotlight

A Queer Slate, In Focus 

The studio that brought us ‘Brokeback Mountain’ turns 20 

By George Elkind 

‘Far From Heaven’ (2002)  

For 20 years now, Focus Features has been distributing and funding queer-focused movies, marketing them successfully to a wide audience even early on. As a specialty distribution and production company responsible for works as disparate as “Beginners,†“Pariah†and “Brokeback Mountain,†Focus has always occupied a unique place in the pre-streaming landscape. Able to bring both star-driven and smaller works to arthouse and multiplex audiences alike, it’s played a key role in pushing queer works (just a portion of its output) into the center of both film and popular culture.  

Led in its first decade by co-founder and influential LGBTQ+ ally James Schamus, who departed the company in 2011, Focus owes much of its success to groundwork he laid prior, and often with frequent collaborator and “Brokeback Mountain†director Ang Lee. Schamus, who’s producing and writing credits stretch back to 1990 (and included biting queer works like Todd Haynes’ “Safe and Poison,†along with Tom Kalin’s “Swoonâ€), managed to feature and elevate queer characters and creators early on. But Focus’ brand under his stewardship and after has long skewed less abrasive, closer to the mold of works like his and Lee’s 1993 film “The Wedding Banquetâ€: a bright comedy of manners about a gay Taiwanese immigrant (Winston Chao) struggling to conceal his identity and relationship from his visiting parents.  

By situating queer characters in polished movies like “The Wedding Banquet,†rooted in more familiar film forms, Focus’ output found new ways of making and marketing queer-centric and even queer-adjacent works inviting to a broader audience. Rarely positioning queer people as rebels, deviants or outsiders — as had so often been done before — Focus’ material instead spotlighted what they gave to culture, upending the narratives in which they’ve fought to play a part.  

Throughout its life, Focus has proved a welcoming environment for so many queer films, with a body of work reflecting shifts in attitudes and concerns. In light of this impact during their 20th anniversary, what follows is a consideration of a portion of their queer-related works. 

‘Brokeback Mountain’ (2005) 

Reuniting Todd Haynes and Julianne Moore after their stirring work in “Safe,†“Far†made explicit both the critical and nostalgic 1950s references that colored a wave of works then in both the arthouse and mainstream around its time. But instead of treating them gravely (as in “American Beautyâ€) or comically (see “Blast from the Pastâ€) — and in both cases from a kind of distance — Haynes raced directly to the waters of one of the period’s deepest wells in his treatments of societally forbidden queer and interracial romance. Embracing both the vibrant, suggestive colors and the accompanying seasonality of Douglas Sirk’s “All That Heaven Allows,†“Far†is a melodrama like Sirk’s — but one whose acting timbre skewed just slightly more contemporary, giving it a separate sort of bite. But the mode for Haynes offers more than just décor, allowing for both an enduring social portrait and a way of reflecting on the senseless intractability of social ills that’s lost none of its sting now. With Dennis Quaid starring opposite Moore as her repressed-but-caught-cruising husband, he offsets any air of victimhood on her part for the ways he’s convinced himself he’s sick — a Haynes standby if there ever was one. 

Few queer works seem to have made so broad an impression on audiences as “Brokeback,†which seems to have been the point. “We really wanted to make a big, gooey, epic love story, Schamus told the Harvard Crimson in 2005, going on to describe its “hot, man-on-man action†as “a slight twist,†even calling the film “conservative.†And in a way he’s right, considering the reassurances it offers viewers through the shape of its two leads. By centering Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger’s fraught gay romance around cowboys in figure if not fact (technically they tend sheep), the film offers playful reassurances of their manhood in a way that mirrored the positioning of Eric McCormack’s title character in “Will & Grace.†By assuring audiences that its cis gay characters could still present as masculine, and even marry women well, it lampoons the “real men†notion of performative manhood even as it invites viewers in with it — quietly underlining that no activity, affiliation, or mode of presentation prevents a person from being gay. Thanks to this odd seduction, the most skeptical and queer-resistant viewers might be likeliest of all to mourn the unfairness of its end.  

‘Milk’ (2008) 

“In front of a hostile audience or a mostly straight one, I might break the tension with a joke,†says Sean Penn’s Harvey Milk in an onscreen speech. The line’s a pun itself, playing on not only Milk’s candidacy — to be the first gay American man to hold public office — but on the film’s uneasy courtship of mainstream and awards season viewers. Van Sant presents Milk in his 40s as an underdog, rookie politician; Penn answers with quips and what we’re to take for sparkling wit, sprightly and eager to please. Executed years after “Good Will Hunting,†Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black color largely within the lines here — many drawn by Rob Epstein’s 1984 nonfiction work “The Times of Harvey Milk.†Despite this basis, the “Milk†script feels lacking and oddly shapeless, rarely so clever as its actors or its crew. Somewhere in it there’s a story focused on the rituals of underdog queer performance in a field of American competition — but maybe that’s how its makers saw the movie itself. As it stands, its best features live in its margins. Pete Buttigieg surely took some notes. 

‘The Kids Are All Right’ (2010) 

“Usually in these movies, they hire two straight women to pretend and the inauthenticity is just unbearable,†says Julianne Moore’s Jules when her daughter asks about the man-on-man porn she’s watching: perhaps a queasy form of comment on its two leads. Starring opposite Moore is Annette Bening as Nic, making for a picturesque if somewhat stereotypic lesbian pair for the time. Their nuclear family life’s stirred up early by the entrance of interloper Paul (Mark Ruffalo), the rakish bachelor sperm donor who (biologically) fathered their two children some 18 years back — and who, with growing determination, seeks to become a fixture in their lives. Comically treating the question of whether he has anything to offer them, the film feels uneasily responsive to skeptics of lesbian child-rearing (director and co-writer Lisa Cholodenko herself became pregnant via a donor during the film’s development) while offering a depiction of queer parenthood rarer at its release than now. The result remains an answer to something that shouldn’t be a question, and a work that feels today like an issue film meant for its own time. 

‘Beginners’ (2011)  

With this coming-out movie working outside the usual mode, Mike Mills offered a largely autobiographical take on queer life that still feels refreshing for its lack of prescriptions. Mills treats hisqueer characters from a close distance as an adult son, Oliver (played by Ewan McGregor), observes his widowed father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), coming out near the end of his life. What’s done here feels remarkably settled and peaceful considering the potential drama in play. Never treating Hal’s identity as a problem for Oliver to solve, the film acknowledges the tensions and small ironies in supporting Hal through periods of adjustment — both to terminal sickness and to queer life. Premised on calm acceptance and allowing for occasional bemusement, “Beginners†avoids cloying, performative or histrionic treatments by remaining low-key, honest and fair. 

‘Pariah’ (2011) 

Less about self-acceptance than self-discovery — and then negotiating one’s identity with those nearby — “Pariah†feels less frothy than many coming-out tales about young people. Finding Lee (played by Adepero Oduye), a 17-year-old Black teen, caught between the often practically minded, sometimes faltering companionship of a few close peers and the eerie mind games pressed by her suspecting, conservative-minded parents, it’s distinct from many such works in that she faces a credible threat of reprisal for acknowledging who she is. As such, “Pariah†finds her negotiating with her surroundings in small, bold steps, and even steps backward. With writer-director Dee Rees’ and cinematographer Bradford Young’s shared eye for detail and a buoyant range of supporting characters they reliably treat humanely, “Pariah†bubbles with an energy that suggests an autobiographically informed, stubborn core of optimism about Black queer life. 

‘The Danish Girl’ (2015) 

After limping through development for over 10 years (not uncommon), “The Danish Girl†arrived as an ill-formed work. With a flat depiction of its transgender leading character, director Tom Hooper (coming off Best Picture winner “The King’s Speechâ€) dramatizes Danish painter Lili Elbe’s pioneering medical transition as a grandly tragic Icarian act, implying that it’s necessarily self-destructive for her to affirm herself as the person she is. With this well-meaning valorization, Hooper combs through history to find and treat Lili (played by Eddie Redmayne) as a kind of doomed angel with her identity as basically her sole trait: a well-weathered, nervously supportive trope of queer representation. While its casting of a cis actor has done it no favors (even according to Redmayne), “The Danish Girl†could probably have never escaped Hooper’s coy staging’s or Lucinda Coxon’s poor script. Well-meaning as it surely is, this should have been left in better hands. 

‘Tully’ (2018) 

Queerness is mostly a background detail in “Tully†but provides an important framework. Diablo Cody (“Juno,†“Jennifer’s Bodyâ€) slips the fact in early that Marlo (Charlize Theron), a pregnant mother expecting her third child, is bisexual and has had relationships to women before her current marriage to a negligent man. This detail calls her current situation — and the postpartum depression from which she suffers — into deeper question, and one that deepens further with the arrival of Tully (Mackenzie Davis). With Davis playing a night nurse meant to relieve Marlo’s pressures in caring for her newborn, the bond between them proves more homosocial than homoerotic but is suggestive all the same. By providing an uncanny window into Malo’s past through a figure reminiscent of herself at a prior time, Tully’s presence serves as a reminder of the freedoms she had and might have kept. Framing queer ways of living as a freeing opportunity, the film’s peripheral introduction of queerness as a lens proves reliably enriching, and easily one of its best parts.  

‘Dark Waters’ (2019) 

Absent any explicit allusion to queerness in its characters, the perspective of “Waters†is present solely through its style and thematic concerns. With a legal thriller examining the long-running legal battles over a toxic family of chemicals, director Todd Haynes and cinematographer Ed Lachman present a fearful vision of isolated paranoia fueled by corporate profiteering and governmental neglect. Reflecting a fierce and justified skepticism of institutional actors that many queer works could now use more of, it’s a film that holds fast to the lessons of the AIDS crisis. With queerness and its history coloring a justly critical lens, the film’s heat comes from precisely that: a perspective accustomed to vulnerability, and a position familiar with being trapped or left outside. 

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Actions speak louder than words 

AIDS activist Peter Staley on his memoir ‘Never Silent’ and friend Dr. Fauci 

By Lawrence Ferber 

A key member of AIDS activist group ACT UP and a named plaintiff in the ongoing lawsuit against Gilead and other pharma companies for illegally extending the patent of PrEP and HIV medication tenofovir, Peter Staley will tell you that his life is an open book. Yet it took years of nudging from friends, including Anderson Cooper, to actually write that book himself. 

Released in October, Staley’s “Never Silent: ACT UP And My Life In Activism†(Chicago Review Press) is a jaw-droppingly frank 269-page read boasting a foreword by Anderson and back cover blurbs by Hillary Clinton and “Angels in America†playwright Tony Kushner. 

While Staley’s experiences with activism and HIV — he was diagnosed with what they called “AIDS-related complex†in 1985 — comprised part of David France’s acclaimed 2012 documentary and 2016 book “How To Survive A Plague,†“Never Silent†details firsthand his personal highs and lows, including sexual and romantic, and his transformation from a closeted Wall Street bond trader to out-and-proud full-time activist. It includes some of ACT UP’s most outrageous, effective actions, like infiltrating big pharma and government offices and covering hateful GOP Senator Jesse Helms’ house in a giant condom. 

The book also delves into the infighting that led to ACT UP splintering, Staley’s later crystal meth addiction and his subsequent (and outrageous) street poster campaign to combat its use, how he stopped the Oscar-winning movie “Dallas Buyers Club†from being subverted by an AIDS denialist screenwriter (Vanity Fair recently published a gripping excerpt:), and exploits with policy power players like Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

Recently, Staley, who also co-founded and serves as secretary of PrEP4All, discussed the book’s numerous revelations, things he left out, Matthew McConaughey, and X-rated bucket list accomplishments. 

How did you become friends with Anderson Cooper, and how did he encourage you to write a memoir? 

Well, he was blown away by [the 2012 documentary] “How To Survive A Plague†and reached out by email and said, “If you ever want to get together, I’d really love that.†I jumped on that right away of course, and we had dinner and he gave me a tour of his house, I met the boyfriend, and that’s how it started. And within a week of that dinner, he sent me a text: “You should write a memoir.†That’s when I disclosed to him how much I hated writing, and he said, “It’s not that bad; you write a little bit at night before bed and by the end of the year you’ve got half a book written.†My response was: “I’m not going to end my day doing something I hate. You don’t realize how much I hate it!†And I didn’t start writing until 2017 or 2018. 

What was one mistake you wanted to avoid while writing this? 

The biggest was being a blowhard. Overstating my importance. I think I’ve been pretty good at self-reflection most of my life, and I’m proud of what I’ve done, but I’m incredibly conscious of the fact that none of my first five years as an activist would have been noticed by anybody or made any difference if it wasn’t for the fact [that] I was just one member of a huge movement. 99.9 percent of my power derived from the collective for a good five years. 

I was surprised by your level of frankness, especially regarding your sex life. The reveal that you contracted herpes even before your HIV diagnosis seems important, given how stigmatized that virus remains even today. 

Before AIDS, herpes was on the cover of Time magazine and people would commit suicide when they got a herpes diagnosis. It was AIDS before AIDS. It was a really horrifying diagnosis so, yeah, it was rough. But to be honest, I didn’t consciously think of that, to fight herpes stigma. You couldn’t tell my HIV seroconversion story without mentioning that’s how I found a doctor who helped save my life, [the late] Dr. Dan William. 

Is there any progress on a herpes vaccine? It feels like doctors and pharma have just thrown their hands up. 

It’s true. But if I [take acyclovir] every day I never have an outbreak. Acyclovir came out after my HIV diagnosis, and I asked if I should stay on it every day and my doctor said yes, so I’ve been on it every day since and have not had an outbreak. 

You discuss your relationship with the late journalist and filmmaker Robert Hilferty, whose movie “Stop The Church†famously documented ACT UP’s “die-in†at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1989. However, you don’t mention his tragic suicide in 2009. Why is that? 

I also don’t mention that Jef Mittleman, the beautiful Oberlin boy, died of an overdose, possibly a suicide — we don’t know — in a hotel room in NYC in 1994. The book is episodic, and each chapter tells of one specific action or period of time in my life, and if you were central to that narrative as I’m telling it, you’re in the book. It’s 99 percent me and 1 percent the people next to me. I don’t tell the rest of their stories, because that would chop up the narrative. 

But I loved Robert. That grin and laugh, there was something a little wicked about the guy, like he always had some goods on you. He was really perceptive and could read a person so quickly, and my god he was sexy, and I don’t think he’ll mind a posthumous rating: he was incredible in bed! 

Is there any story you left out and would, if you ever do a follow-up, include first? 

Yeah, about a failed action, hopefully with a successful second attempt. I posted on Facebook in late August this cryptic message about how I was mourning the five-year passing of an action that failed, but might be reattempted. It involved dozens of people, a substantial budget, and was all very hush-hush. We managed to extract ourselves from the situation without getting arrested, and that allows us to attempt it again in the future. The issue [it addresses] has not gone away. But if I do a memoir in my ’80s, it’ll be in that one! 

I understand you were firm on not wanting ACT UP to be in the main title. What other possibilities did you consider before settling on “Never Silentâ€? 

I was scrambling for title ideas during the three years it took to write. A lot of memoirs use something personal that’s not obvious but you discover its meaning when reading the book. David France of all people suggested one that was like a lightbulb going off in my head: “Please Remain Calm.†You can hear me say it in “How to Survive a Plague,†and it became a funny line I would use whenever we invaded the offices of a pharmaceutical company. And it has a double meaning. I was known for not being one of ACT UP’s hotheads. I was not a screamer. My activism was always very politically driven and I rely on logic and model myself on Spock. But the publisher said no. The publisher wanted something obvious, and I’m always bad at reading the fine print in contracts, and in the publishing industry, unless you’re a Barack Obama, you have no say in the cover or title of your book! 

I’m surprised that the publisher didn’t title it “Dr. Fauci’s BFF†or “Matthew McConaughey and Meâ€! 

I met Jared Leto, but I never actually met McConaughey. “Dallas†and “Plague†came out at the same time, and we were at a couple of events together for the awards circuit there was one moment I saw him leaving early, by the door alone waiting for his Uber, and I thought I’d go up to him and say, “Hey, Matthew, I’m the guy who caused so much trouble before you started shooting!†But I left him on his phone. 

Speaking of Fauci, the final chapter is titled “Dinner With Tony,†which addresses his evolution from “tentative leader unwilling to rock the boat†during the 1980s to a good friend. Can you elaborate further on how he’s changed? 

He slowly shed the widely held stubbornness of his peers in the scientific community that going slow and being methodical was sacrosanct. Without abandoning the basic tenets of high-quality scientific research, there are all sorts of inventive ways to speed things up and expand access at the same time. He applied many of those lessons to COVID-19. 

Has he read the book yet? 

He just got my book twice — an inscribed hardcopy for his bookshelf, and a Kindle version that’s easier on his old eyes. 

What’s the biggest perk or upside of having your story told through movies and books over the past decade? Are there activist groupies? 

I love the activist groupies! I wish they were a larger percentage of the community, but that’s what tipped the scales for me diving into writing. Not writing this book would be a lost opportunity, and that opportunity is an inspiration because I’ve been contacted every week since 2012 by some millennial queer through social media [who] just saw “Plague†and it changed their life. A subset of them I stay in contact with and they’ve become activists, gone into medicine, or nonprofit work. That has blown my mind. They’re the ones who give me hope and I adore all of them. 

Are shirtless pics welcome too? 

Yes. Dick pics. And I will send one back! Another story I didn’t tell in the book was [filmmaker and artist] Gregg Bordowitz was working at GMHC [an NYC-based AIDS service organization formerly called Gay Men’s Health Crisis] and tasked with creating a series of X-rated safe sex videos that were funny and sexy and had lots of condoms and dental dams. This was 1989. He mentioned this to me and I said, “I’ll do it. I’m gonna die in a few years, I want to do porn. It was on my bucket list, what the fuck do I care? I gave up the dream of being president someday!†So I did a safe-sex short and that summer they premiered the video as part of the international AIDS conference in Montreal on a gigantic screen, and every AIDS activist in the country was there. I’m in the audience slumping down, my hands over my eyes. [Laughs.] If you dig far enough, you can find it! It was actually part of Gregg’s exhibition at MoMA PS1 this year! My erect penis was in a museum! Bucket list!

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Spotlight

‘Coming Out Colton’ Bares Not All But A Lot

| And what’s up with that ridiculous montage? 

By Lawrence Ferber 

When the former star of “The Bachelor†and pro football player Colton Underwood came out on a “Good Morning America†interview in April 2021, there was one question interviewer Robin Roberts didn’t ask: What’s your type?  

Fortunately, a fellow out athlete Gus Kenworthy presses Underwood for that tidbit — the answer is daddies, y’all! — in the first episode of Netflix’s six-episode docuseries “Coming Out Colton.†For those unfamiliar, Underwood’s claim to fame and infamy was his season as the “virgin†Bachelor, subsequent to which he became obsessed with, stalked, and terrorized contestant Cassie Randolph, who ultimately filed a restraining order against him.  

To its credit, the series doesn’t absolve Underwood of this behavior — he’ll be read to filth both virtually and to his face by the final episode — but it does go a long way to explaining how he became such a hot closeted mess.  

The first four episodes are entirely dedicated to preparation for the “GMA†interview by coming out to family members and friends, seeking advice from Kenworthy and other gay sports figures like NFL trailblazer David Kopay and Esera Tuaolo, and tackling the toxic religious and sports world homophobia that twisted him so profoundly (and led to a suicide attempt). 

The first couple of episodes are annoyingly repetitive in their structure (coming out, advice session, rinse, repeat). But what packs a punch is Underwood explaining to a high school coach how the flippant, virulently antigay things he heard from fellow teens and mentors alike caused pain both then and now, seeking ownership from the man for allowing and engaging in that behavior. And a scene in the religion-centric fourth episode (a tedious, fast-forward affair if you consider religion bunk or didn’t suffer that same upbringing), when Underwood seeks acceptance from his pastor via telephone call but instead receives an earful on the sinfulness of homosexuality and gay marriage because “the Bible makes it pretty clear,†legit sucks to watch. A crushed Underwood admits the call creates confusion and doubt even now, and he wonders if the devil’s working through him.  

Underwood’s so green about all things LGBTQ+ that Kenworthy is like his Gay 101 teacher, schooling him in terms like PrEP. And it’s cringy to witness the pair visit a gay sex and clothing shop for the first time — when trying on a leather harness, Underwood asks “what’s the point of this?†to which Kenworthy responds, “dancing and vibing†— and meet with a central casting group of white as fuck male cis gays in Nashville for a “coming out party.†

Things get more interesting during episode five, titled “Public,†which focuses on Colton before and after the “GMA†interview, and lifts the veil on what the hell Underwood was thinking during his ‘Bachelor†run. As Kenworthy notes in Ricky Ricardo-speak en route to “GMA,†“You kind of have some explaining to do.†And he does. 

Although all reality series are contrived and Underwood is an {ITAL major} reality whore (the Netflix series was announced the day after the “GMA†interview aired), it’s hard to deny the sincerity also at play when Underwood reveals his “Bachelorâ€-era motive to create a public persona as heterosexual on TV, and forge a relationship with Randolph, so he’d become straight off-camera. That’s so messed up, right? 

Randolph reportedly declined to take part in the Netflix series (despite offers of compensation), but other “Bachelor†and “Bachelorâ€-adjacent personalities join by the final episode, plus there’s a clip from the show. Frankly, “Bachelor†clips and news reports at the show’s front end would have been helpful for context and served as a reminder why he’s coming out carries weight in certain circles (and Twitter). And there’s a ridiculous, cheesy, out-of-nowhere montage of gay trailblazers at the end which essentially places Underwood in the same context — and his coming out of the same impact — with Christine Jorgensen, Matthew Shepard’s murder, and Harvey Milk, which overstates his importance to a ludicrous, tasteless degree. 

And who do I want to give my rose to? One of the series’ most memorable inclusions: Pastor Nicole Garcia, the first transgender woman of color to be ordained, part Judge Judy and part Dr. Phil minus the quackery and epic eye-rolling. She serves Underwood (who, spoiler alert, ditches his homophobic pastor and joins the LGBTQ-inclusive Metropolitan Community Church) a dose of seasoned, fierce wisdom and humility we could use more of. Can we get a “Pastor Garcia†season order, please?

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Spotlight

Southern Spirit

| A very queer vacay in historic Savannah

By Lawrence Ferber

The ghost of Kevin Spacey haunts this room.

Actually, it’s the ghost of a rich, gay antiques dealer and preservationist, Jim Williams, whom Spacey portrayed in the 1997 film “Midnight In the Garden of Good And Evil,†although the latter seems somehow more likely to impart chills and cringe these days. I’m touring the Mercer-Williams House, one of Savannah, Georgia’s most famous 19th-century homes, including the actual study where Williams shot and killed his hustler boy toy, Danny Hansford (played by Jude Law in the movie, and I’m sure many queens would welcome his spectra), reportedly in self-defense.

Adapted from gay author John Berendt’s bestselling 1994 nonfiction novel, director Clint Eastwood’s movie shined a Hollywood spotlight on Savannah and its quirky denizens, including iconic transgender entertainer The Lady Chablis, who famously played herself, regularly performed at LGBTQ bar Club One and, sadly, passed away in 2016, which helped attract even more millions of tourists annually. In 2019, 14.8 million visitors came for Savannah’s mix of historic architecture, gorgeous willow-draped parks, movie locations (including the spot where Forrest Gump sat on a bench babbling inane philosophies about chocolates), a buzzing riverside entertainment zone, and a live-and-let-live genteel Southern attitude. Bless their hearts!

Today the lush, compact, and walkable port city, the hometown of “RuPaul’s Drag Race†season 8 queen Dax Exclamation-point and Georgia Democrat Senator Raphael Warnock, boasts an even more progressive open queerness. There’s Halloween weekend’s vibrant Savannah Pride, the hipster Starland District, an influx of creative young energy thanks to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD for short — fashion icon André Leon Talley sits on its Board of Trustees) and, this being one of America’s most haunted cities, an expanding population of spirits (including the drinkable type at Ghost Coast Distillery).

Ultimately, Mercer House — once owned by the family of another iconic homegrown talent, prolific songwriter Johnny Mercer of Oscar-winning “Breakfast at Tiffany’s†ditty “Moon River†and Elvis’ “Fools Rush In†fame — proved an illuminating experience replete with photos of Williams and his parties, original antiques, paintings, and furniture, especially for fans of the film and book. But the upper floor, where Williams’ sister still lives, and its working pipe organ remain off-limits.

SAVANNAH STAYS

Many tourists stay around the tourist-heavy, shop-lined River Street, newly developed Plant Riverside district, and adjacent downtown, which all form Savannah’s equivalent of NOLA’s French Quarter and an active port where cargo ships routinely zip past along the city’s namesake river and hotels include an Andaz and new 416-room JW Marriott. However, my husband Matt and I opted for the neighboring, slightly inland Historic District. Its Perry Lane Hotel, which splits 167 rooms between two buildings and boasts a cheeky, upscale camp aesthetic in design, decor, and property-wide collection of contemporary art, proved perfect and more chill. Just two blocks from Chippewa Square (site of the Gump bench, a temporary prop), there’s also a rooftop bar and pool where local queers regularly congregate for the gorgeous views and a kiki… but not so much for the pedestrian cocktails, one noted. “Nobody goes there for the drinks!†However, if you prefer gay B&Bs that capture the city’s historic flavor, and are allegedly haunted to boot, there’s the Foley House Inn..

DIGGING YOUR SCENE: SAVANNAH’S TO DO’S

To get one’s bearings in Savannah, a tour is well-advised, and there are dozens listed on the official tourism website Visit Savannah, from trolley to bicycle to themed walking tours. The latter include Black heritage, food, local indie boutique shopping, ghost/haunted (I’ll get to that later!), and openly gay guide Jonathan Stalcup’s engaging Architectural Tours of Savannah, which we joined and enjoyed. Stalcup juxtaposes structures and stories with photos of Savannah’s evolving cityscape since its founding in the 1730s by General James Oglethorpe and, as it turns out, some sassy queer facts if you take him aside post-tour.

Many essential attractions are historic, educational, and kid-friendly in nature, including the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, Bonaventure Cemetery, and 100-plus-year-old Leopold’s Ice Cream, which draws snaking, hours-long lines of tourists daily for old-timey frozen treats. It honestly isn’t worth hours-long waits unless you’re the 8-year-old with extremely limited travel and life experience who loudly declared “This is the best ice cream I ever ate!†As I consumed a sundae and rolled my eyes so far back the time traveled to 2015 (pro tip: there are two satellite Leopold’s locations at the airport with little to no wait). Yet some of Savannah’s most intriguing musts are surprisingly modern and edgy.

Incorporating an antebellum railroad depot in its design, the contemporary SCAD Museum of Art hosts multidisciplinary, provocative exhibitions by international talents like queer French artist Mehryl Levisse, whose immersive “White Wig,†featuring five sculpted wigs by Parisian drag queens, will be on display through December 12, 2021. Artwork and home goods by SCAD’s own faculty, students, and alumni, plus books, accessories, and more, fill out sister retail space shop SCAD.

Only open Thursday through Sundays, Graveface Museum is destination-worthy for those obsessed with serial killers, cults, sideshows, and pinball machines, with a permanent collection of artifacts related to the above, including a pair of underwear worn by lesbian serial killer Aileen Wuornos and artwork by John Wayne Gacy (shockingly, John Waters hasn’t been by yet!), Plus a horror-movie-themed arcade and shop.

And Chocolat by Adam Turoni is one of Savannah’s retail musts. A queer chocolatier who channels Southern culture and flavors through his sophisticated, high-quality, artful creations, Turoni’s Historic District Bull Street boutique is designed like a home library, its shelves displaying trays of Red Velvet, Mint Julep, and Georgia Peach truffles plus gold-dusted honeycomb bars and much more. To the rear, a glass-enclosed kitchen provides views of chocolate-making in action, while Turoni himself often works the register and can be chatted up. Another Chocolat location, on Broughton Street, is dubbed the “Dining Room,†while a third can be found in nearby Charleston, South Carolina (there’s a lot of brand crossover between the two sibling-esque destinations, including Savannah Bee Company, Byrd’s Famous Cookies and the trailblazing Husk restaurant). Private chocolate-making classes with Turoni can also be arranged via the Perry Lane Hotel.

COFFEE AND CUISINE

Being a coffee snob and caffeine junkie, a priority was finding Savannah’s best cold brew. Conveniently, a branch of popular local cafe Franklin’s was a few blocks from my hotel offering a solid cold brew and yummy pastries. Downtown’s queer-owned Blends roasts its own beans, as does Perc, whose owner Philip Brown, a hipster-bear literal daddy, staffs his flagship warehouse-cafe with LGBTQs and is himself the proud father of a trans child. Perc also sells a killer dehydrated instant version, plus excellent bagged beans (Perc expanded to Atlanta in 2020 and opened its second location there in 2021, so this could well become the Southeast’s Stumptown!).

Hungry, we had our first breakfast at local and tourist fave B. Matthews, where reservations are highly recommended during peak hours. Passing numerous rainbow flags, I noticed its listing as both “LGBTQ friendly†and a “transgender safe space†on Google Maps, while the Lowcountry Southern-tinged food was excellent. I savored a cheesy, decadent shrimp and grits bowl I would happily return for, plus fried green tomatoes. Another brekkie-must with outdoor seating to boot, The Collins Quarter serves brunch daily and its “Swine Time Beni†— bacon and hollandaise-topped poached eggs over pulled pork and French toast — is bar none the most decadent, heart-clogging eggs Benedict iteration I’ve encountered. And if you’re hungry and hunty, once a month the Moon River Brewing Company and Club One collaborate for a family-friendly Sunday drag brunch.

Savannah has upped its culinary game substantially in recent years with enterprising young chefs bringing color, presentation, and locavore ethos to plates. As a foodie, I was psyched to try Husk, and while the interior design proved stunning, drinks lovely, and a bonus to be greeted by a seemingly nonbinary host, the food was hit-and-miss (my boneless heirloom pork entree was shockingly tough, but its side dishes sublime and brightly flavored).
Happily, 2021 arrival Common Thread and Savannah native Zach Shultz’s Cotton & Rye proved high points, with outstanding, fresh, memorable cuisine; request a table with a view of the kitchen at the former, and do not sit outdoors during summertime at the latter lest you risk being tormented by hangry flies while eating. As for supporting LGBTQ-owned restaurants, the traditional French Circa 1875 and Italian La Scala Ristorante are the work of gay couple Jeffrey Downey and Donald Lubowicki.

NIGHTLIFE IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL

If you’re a natural at networking, befriending queer locals is well-advised, since even before COVID hit private house parties became Savannah’s dominant form of local socializing and nightlife for LGBTQs (Grindr and Scruff, we’re giving you stink eye). Only one LGBTQ+ bar, the multi-level dancing and drag queen destination Club One, still stands — there are 18+ nights, a plus for SCAD students — since the delightfully divey Chuck’s Bar closed in 2019.

As with many cities, drag shows have become a magnet for godforsaken decidedly un-gay bachelorette parties and rowdy (albeit ally-ish) heterosexuals. This certainly proved true with Savannah’s Yes Queen! Pub Crawl. My hubby and I were the sole queers participating besides the delightful Venezuela-born queen and aspiring fashion designer leading the tour, Marie Con, and her low-key boyfriend. It basically entailed Marie creating a loud public spectacle while we searched for her fictitious sugar daddy, Richard, aka “Dickâ€; stopped at non-gay bars for drink specials; and, at her insistence, grabbed each other’s butts to form human centipedes while crossing the street. It was a bit #MeToo and I really wished #TimesUp, but I did cull valuable intel from Marie about the scene and local drag collective, House of Gunt, before fleeing early.

We didn’t flee early from another popular and quintessential Savannah after-dark activity: a ghost tour. Although hoping for the guide known as “Prince,†who styles himself like the iconic late musician, our adults-only Sixth Sense haunted tour was led by the black-clad “Lady Ravenwood,†whose ensemble included an LGBTQ+ rainbow and a shiny pair of steampunk glasses (not sure how steampunk figures in here, but OK).

Being a skeptical Scully to my hubby’s I-want-to-believe Mulder, I rolled my eyes as Ravenwood told us of murder victim ghosts and flashed images of blue orbs hovering on her phone, and I begged for a spirit or demon to attach itself to us to spice things up (“Burn sage!†my hubby’s fellow true beaaliever friend texted in a panic). Alas, no blue orbs or demons followed us home but darned if glowing happy memories of Savannah don’t frequently haunt and beckon us back.

NY-raised entertainment and travel journalist Lawrence Ferber has contributed to publications including Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, National Geographic Traveler, The Advocate, NewNowNext, The NY Post, and TripSavvy. He also co-wrote/co-created the 2010 gay romcom “BearCity†and authored its 2013 novelization.
Categories
Spotlight

The Ultimate Guide to Gay Gift Giving 2021

By Mikey Rox

Stumped on what gifts to give your family, friends, and neighbors this year?
Check this list then check it twice — because while you’ve been naughty, they’ve been nice.

YuJet Surfer Electric Jetboard
If ocean-based watersports scare the bejesus out of you — because sharks! — the YuJet Surfer Electronic Jetboard offers a compromise to satisfy your thrill-seeking, all limbs intact. With a top speed of 24 mph, a range of 16 miles, and a 40-minute ride time, users can sit or stand on the battery-powered, remote-operated board that quietly glides across lakes, rivers, canals, and other bodies of water devoid of man-eating monsters. $10,000, YuJetUSA.com

Mind-Pop Casserole Pans
Perfect for campground cooking or gourmet meals made at home, Darling Spring’s ultra-pretty Mind-Pop enamel casserole pans by Kapka add a Pollock-splashed joie de vivre to the meal-making experience, which seamlessly moves from stovetop to serving table without dirtying another dish. $45, DarlingSpring.com

Oclean Water Flosser
Traditional floss isn’t exactly a budget buster, but the Oclean W10 Water Flosser is a sleek, no-waste and, yes, cheaper-in-the-long-run alternative with five distinctive modes and four high-performance nozzles to keeps the crevices between those pearly whites crud- and cavity-free. $60, Oclean.com

Flat Brim Wines
Bring a trio of varietals to the Thanksgiving table with Flat Brim Wines’ Not Series, including the 2020 “Not Tragic†Pinot Noir, 2020 “Not Basic†Picpoul/Roussanne, and 2020 “Not Extra,†which, if it were Opposite Day, two out of three would describe you to a T.

Playcraft Shuffleboard Table
Playcraft edges out its at-home gaming competition with the Georgetown Espresso Shuffleboard featuring solid wood construction, richly stained accent features, and furniture-grade finishes that are a far cry from the warped, frat boy-abused tables dying slow deaths in dive bars everywhere. $1,595, SawyerTwain.com

ChefWave Milkmade
Round up your favorite rice, soybeans, nuts, and oats for homemade vegan milk alternatives that cost pennies on the dollar compared to pre-packaged versions of the same at your local supermarket. Just add water and a handful of your desired ingredient to churn out 20 ounces of liquid health in about 15 minutes. $200, MyChefWave.com

Cambridge Audio Evo 75
You may not regard London, England, as synonymous with audio innovation, but you’ll change that tune after listening to your favorite artists streaming through Cambridge Audio’s Evo 75, the sleek, cutting-edge, all-in-one system pumping out crystal-clear sound quality fit for a queen — like you. $2,250, CambridgeAudio.com

Wild Roots Spirits
Wild Roots Spirits’ five-times filtered, five-times distilled corn-based vodkas – in seasonal flavors like pear, cranberry, and apple-cinnamon – will spice up your soft and hard holiday seltzers and sodas for a little added zip on your lips. $30, WildRootsSpirits.com

Takumi by Yokai Express
Not only can the Takumi machine cook ramen, dim sum, rice, dumplings, pasta, and more, but it also has the dubious distinction of being the choice ramen-making machine of Tesla’s offices — because of course, it is: Elon Musk wouldn’t be caught dead microwaving Oodles of Noodles like the rest of us broke-ass schlubs. $400, YokaiExpress.com

Oliver Charles Sweater
What do you get when Tibetan yak wool meets the world’s most advanced 3D-knitting machines? An antimicrobial, soft-as-cashmere, day-to-night sweater that instantly becomes one of the most versatile and comfortable pieces in your closet that rarely needs washing. $220, Oliver-Charles.com

Knitting Knowledge Starter Kits
If the summer Olympics taught us anything it’s that Tom Daley is a multitalented athlete poised to take knitting gold someday, and you can train for your spot on the team with Knitting Knowledge starter kits, including beginner socks, baby blankets, and beanies that include everything you’ll need — from yarn to needles to patterns — to complete the project with a perfect score. $18 to $80, KnittingKnowledge.com

Electronic Bidet
If you’ve been on the fence about installing a backside-cleansing bidet in your bathroom (attention all bottoms!), consider this: Toilet paper isn’t getting any cheaper, and it only takes a moderate COVID-induced run on the supermarkets before you’re forced to hunt it down on the black markets — again. $140 to $650, Brondell.com

Stark Custom Kitchen Knives
Upgrade your store-bought block knives to a set of Stark Creations chef’s, paring, and nakiri custom knives, forged from scratch to complement your personality or overall kitchen aesthetic. $265-$515, StarkCreationsUS.com

American Blossom Organic Blanket
Roast your nuts by an open fire during an in-the-buff cuddle sesh featuring your fave holiday flicks in American Blossom’s herringbone weave blanket made from West Texas Organic Cotton. Save a horse, y’all. $195, AmericanBlossomLinens.com

Erica’s Tea Room Scones
Gild the proverbial lilies of your holiday breakfast spread with a selection of Erika’s Tea Room “Florida Famous†scones in comfort-food flavors like orange-cranberry, white chocolate-apricot, rum raisin, caramel-walnut, and piña colada, among other classic mashups. $36 to $42 per dozen, ErikasTeaRoom.com

RadRover 6 Plus
From a custom geared-hub motor that climbs hills 25 percent faster with more torque and extended range to all-new hydraulic brakes that provide superior stopping power, the best-in-class RadRover 6 Plus is basically the Range Rover of e-bikes — with far less depreciation per dollar. $2,000, RadPowerBikes.com

Hoppy Hanukkah Experience + Santa Clausthaler
Celebrate a “Hoppy Hanukkah†with Brewvana’s nontraditional advent calendar that conceals eight beers, one for the first night of the Festival of Lights and a full week after. If you’re laying off the hooch this holiday season but still want to participate in the spirit of it all, throw back a few non-alcoholic Santa Clausthalers, infused with cinnamon and cranberry for a cider-like refresher. $75, Brewvana.com. $10, Schofferhofer.us

Wildwood Candle Co.
Sick of pumpkin spice stinkin’ up the joint? Fill your rooms with more nuanced fall scents — like maple, sandalwood, cypress, and birch — available in a bundled seasonal foursome from eco-friendly Wildwood Candle Co. and inspired by the enchanting, well-traveled trails of Portland, Oregon’s Forest Park. $88, WildwoodCandleCo.com

PrestigeHaus Decanter
Whiskey lovers who grab life by the horns (and sometimes the balls) will count this hand-blown, lead-free bull decanter among their prized possessions this Christmas while you enjoy the holly-jolly feeling of knowing that each purchase plants a tree. $80, PresitgeHaus.com

Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels
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Spotlight

The Queer Library Is Open: 17 LGBTQ+ Must-Reads to Get You in the Pride Spirit

By D’Anne Witkowski

Finding LGBTQ+ books used to be a challenge. You couldn’t just Google “lesbian romance novels†or “books with trans characters.†But now, luckily, that’s no longer the case. Especially with Pride season in full swing.

Whether a breezy-beach read is your thing, or you’re more of a heartfelt memoir kind of queer, or you’re looking for books that tackle social justice, there’s something for everyone.

Black Boy Out of Time, Hari Ziyad (Memoir)

The struggle to reconcile faith and queerness is at the heart of this intimate and sharply observed memoir of growing up queer and Black in Cleveland, Ohio. As Ziyad, who identifies as nonbinary, grapples with the pain they’ve experienced and the pain they’ve caused others, they search for their identity amidst a backdrop of racism, family rejection, heteronormativity, faith, and the deeply rooted need to be understood.

Broken Horses, Brandi Carlile (Memoir)

When Grammy winner Brandi Carlile opens her memoir, she’s a 4-year-old with meningitis living in a trailer and things don’t look good. But she survives, and if you’ve ever wondered where she gets her emotional material from, her vulnerability in “Broken Horses†will have you wondering no more.

How Y’all Doing? Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived, Leslie Jordan (Memoir)

You may remember him from “Will & Grace,†but today’s Instagays know Emmy winner Leslie Jordan from social media, where he laughs about his failed diets and shares his thoughts on Kim and Kanye. During the pandemic, his nearly 6 million IG followers have given his career new life. There are a lot of dumpster fires in the world today, but Leslie Jordan is a goddamn delight. So, as an act of self-care, “hunker down†with this one.

Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing, Lauren Hough (Memoir)

Lauren Hough grew up in a cult, but for years she didn’t want anyone to know. For her, coming out as a lesbian was easier to do, even though she was forced out of the military when she did. But now she’s bursting that closet wide open. Whether she’s recounting her time as a bouncer at a gay bar, meeting Dick Cheney and lonely housewives while working as a cable guy, or dealing with sexist assholes in the military, Hough is honest, funny, self-effacing, and unafraid to be vulnerable.

Black Girl, Call Home, Jasmine Mans (Poetry)

Behind every woman is the girl they used to be. And poet Jasmine Mans wants to make sure those girls are heard. Especially the Black girls who love girls and get their hearts broken by girls. Mans’s book explores growing up in an America that is racist, that is deadly, that is dangerous. And how love can be the way out of pain, while also being the way in. These poems pulse with heart, shimmer in beauty.

It Had to Be You, Georgia Clark (Fiction)

“She used to enjoy herself at weddings. She used to enjoy herself.†But that was before Liv’s husband and business partner died suddenly and willed their wedding-planning operation to the girlfriend she didn’t even know he had. And then said girlfriend shows up on Liv’s porch, expecting to run the business together. Something Liv would never do if she wasn’t desperate and hard up for cash. Reading Clark’s celebration of all kinds of love, you’ll feel like you crashed a wedding reception and a hot member of the wedding party just handed you a glass of champagne and a slice of cake.

One Last Stop, Casey McQuiston (Fiction)

After August moves to New York City, her experience there has been, well, mostly meh. That is until she sees the Girl on the Train. No, not the book or the movie. A real person. Or is she? August is determined to find out who this hottie in the leather jacket is, and maybe even find love. If you read McQuiston’s “Red, White & Royal Blue,†then you know exactly what you’re getting: a sweet, charming queer love story.

The Chosen and the Beautiful, Nghi Vo (Fiction)

I had to read “The Great Gatsby†in high school and I… did not love it. OK, yes, the writing was beautiful, but I just didn’t care what happened to the characters. If only I’d have been given “The Chosen and the Beautiful,†a retelling of “Gatsby,†to read instead: gorgeous prose that is faithful to the original, but with a queer Asian as the central character, thereby complicating the themes of wealth, excess, class and human connections that are at the heart of this story. The result? Magical.

The Kingdom’s Sandcastle, Luai Qubain (Fiction)

“The Kingdom had me in her steely clutches in that closeted purgatory,†thinks Louie, the narrator of this first novel in a series based on true events. That Kingdom is Jordan, a country where homosexuality can be a death sentence. But trying to stay hidden can also be a death sentence, and Louie grapples with this paradox as he faces blackmail and abuse, not to mention a deep well of grief after his mother’s death. Who can you trust when revealing your identity is a terrifying gamble? And yet finding someone to trust is his only way out of a crumbling castle.

The Legend of Auntie Po, Shing Yin Khor (Fiction, Graphic Novel)

Imagine Paul Bunyan as a Chinese woman and you’ve got Auntie Po who, along with her trusty ox, guides 13-year-old Mei through life in the lumber camp where Mei and her father work feeding the lumberjacks. Mei is trying to navigate her relationship with Bee, the foreman’s daughter, who may be more than just a friend. She’s also dealing with racial tensions in 1885, just three years after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned Chinese people from immigrating to the U.S. When a logging accident shakes the camp to its core, Mei needs Auntie Po more than ever. But will she come to the rescue? (Out June 15)

Can’t Take That Away, Steven Salvatore (YA Fiction)

Carey Parker worships divas like Mariah Carey and Freddie Mercury and dreams of strutting across a stage with the lights turned on them, belting out songs that make the audience roar. But Carey is a high school student, not Mariah herself. Still, music is a current running through their veins, and they use it as armor against homophobic bullying and as a way to communicate with and connect to the grandmother they are losing to dementia. Then they meet Cris. Buoyed by this new spark, Carey braves tryouts for the school’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.†But a real-life wicked witch is aiming to snuff out Carey’s newfound light.

Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun, Jonny Garza Villa (YA Fiction)

Julián Luna spends a good deal of time and energy “keeping himself in check,†which entails making sure that he’s being super masc at all times so that he’s not called a “joto†at school. (He gets enough grief for being a vegetarian.) But one night he drinks way too much and reveals even more on Twitter. Thankfully he’s got a support system of loving friends, but not everybody is so accepting of the news. As he navigates life outside of the closet, he gets closer and closer to Mat, a guy he meets online. But no matter how close they get, they’re still separated by 1,500 miles too many.

How to Become a Planet, Nicole Melleby (YA Fiction)

Lambda Literary Award-nominated author Nicole Melleby says her goal for this book was to “write a story that normalizes childhood depression and makes those readers feel less alone.” It’s the story of Pluto. Not the planet, but the person. And Pluto has just been diagnosed with anxiety and depression and is trying to figure out how to get her “old†self back. Her support system grows from just the person on the other end of the Hayden Planetarium Astronomy Question and Answer Hotline to include a therapist and a new non-binary friend with a strong gravitational pull. This one’s an astute and much-needed portrayal of mental illness in young people.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club, Malinda Lo (YA Fiction)

Lily Hu lives in San Francisco’s Chinatown. It’s 1954 and she’s falling in love. With another girl. A white girl. Such a revelation would shatter her respectable reputation in her community and her family. Meanwhile, McCarthyism is raging and Chinese people are living with the looming threat of being called a Communist sympathizer, which results in very real punishments including deportation. It’s an unlikely place for romance to bloom, so can it thrive? A satisfying coming-of-age story with a well-researched historical backdrop.

The Witch-King, H.E. Edgmon (YA Fiction)

Setting: Asalin, which is ruled by the fae. Witches like Wyatt, who is trans, are oppressed in Asalin. “Wyatt’s struggles as a witch mirror many of the struggles queer people, especially trans people, face in the real world,†the author writes in the book’s forward. Wyatt’s ex-fiancé, a fae prince, is basically the definition of a boyfriend from hell. Only this one has magical powers and is determined to get him back. The throne is at stake, after all. “The Witch King†is dark-fantasy fiction infused with humor and heart that touches on issues of systemic racism and oppression that are all too familiar here on earth.

Both Sides Now, Peyton Thomas (YA Fiction)

High school debate champ Finch Kelly is on his way to the Nationals. A win here would be a big help when it comes to getting into college in D.C. But he’s ready. Until he learns that the topic of debate will be transgender rights. See, in debate, winning isn’t dependent on arguing your truth with moral conviction. It’s more technical, meaning that sometimes you have to argue something you don’t actually believe. And Kelly is trans. This is an excellent, engaging read. And I just can’t help but feel a particular affection for a kid who dreams of egging Mitch McConnell’s house. (Out Aug. 24)

Last Call, Elon Green (Nonfiction)

Most true-crime tales focus on the criminals more than the victims. Not this time. “Last Call†is a harrowing picture of the danger of being closeted in the 1990s. When you can’t be honest about who you are, who you are spending time with, and what you’ve been doing, you’re relegated to the margins of society. Which makes you an attractive target for criminals — in this case, a serial killer who targeted gay men. Homophobia and fears of AIDS colored the investigation if you’re wondering why this story isn’t more widely known.

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Spotlight

Chase the Rainbow: Pride Gifts and Goodies That Give Back

Sparkle, shimmer and shine with these charitable-component Pride products that support near-and-dear LGBTQ+ causes 

By Mikey Rox 

Pride-inspired products are popping up everywhere these days, with businesses big and small competing for our mighty pink dollars. But how can you tell which are genuinely interested in equality for all or just trying to make a quick buck? We’ve taken the guesswork out of that equation with these curated queer-positive goodies that provide a portion of their proceeds to worthy and accepting LGBTQ+ orgs.[Text Wrapping Break] 

Everyone Is Awesome LEGOs 

LEGO’s first LGBTQ+ set, â€œEveryone Is Awesome†– inspired by the all-inclusive Pride flag and featuring 11 interchangeable minifigures  – lets you build a community as diverse as the one you call home. The brick brand partners with Workplace Pride, Stonewall and Open for Business to help shape strategies and programs to support LGBTQ+ employees and their allies across the company. LEGO.com, $35 

Rainbow ENEBY Cover 

IKEA’s ENEBY Bluetooth speaker gets a ROYGBI (sorry, V) facelift with its backyard-BBQ-ready removable cover, 30 percent of proceeds from which will benefit GLSEN. (That sentence has more random letters than an episode of â€œWheel of Fortune.â€) IKEA.com, $8-$90 

Bombas Socks 

Rep your identity in style with Bombas’ all-encompassing spectrum socks collection that this year features a Progress Pride flag design in partnership with artist Daniel Quasar. For every Pride item purchased, one will be donated to someone in need within the LGBTQ+ community through three Bombas giving partners: Casa Ruby (Washington, D.C.), Mozaic (Columbus, Ohio) and the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico. Bombas.com, $12-$57 

Trevor Project Shadow Palette 

Paint your face a prism of color with the Give Back Trevor Project 12 Color Shadow Palette that sends $10 from each case back to the eponymous org. BHcosmetics.com, $19 

Marsha P. Johnson Goddess Necklace 

Queer revolutionary and transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson â€“ widely credited with throwing the first brick at the 1969 Stonewall Riots â€“ is immortalized on a 14-karat yellow gold vermeil medallion on an enamel chain. Full proceeds from this addition to Awe Inspired’s Goddess collection support the Marsha P. Johnson Institute in its mission to protect and defend the human rights of Black transgender folx. Aweinspired.com, $200 

Disney Lovepop Card 

Disney allies in your life will get all goofy when they open Lovepop’s Rainbow Magic card, the â€œShark Tankâ€-backed brand’s first foray into Mickey and friends Pride designs. Lovepopcards.com, $15 

Positive Camp Flags 

State your open-armed intentions with Oxford Pennant-designed camp flags inscribed with â€œMore Love†(which supports the Pride Center of New York when purchased) and â€œWe are all in this together,†because, well, we are. They’re ideal for erecting at home, in your office, or atop that mighty hill of inequality. Homage.com, $48 

ALL Black Lives Matter Hoodie 

Nearly twice as many (mostly minority) transgender Americans have died so far in 2021 than by this time in 2020 â€“ and we’re not even at the halfway point yet. Devious Designz reminds us that _ALL_ Black Lives Matter on its unisex hoodie that refuses to let their memories die. Deviousdesignz.com, $28 

Rainbow Fruit Bowl 

This mountains-and-rainbows ceramic fruit bowl, hand-made in small batches by Philadelphia-based artist Jarmel Reitz, brings happiness to the table no matter what you’re serving. _Lewks_, we presume. A portion of its proceeds supports the Stonewall National Monument in Greenwich Village, NYC. Equally adorable matching planters also are available. Parksproject.us, $80 

Sanuk Slip-ons 

Your tootsies’ll feel like they’re walking on air in the â€œWe Got You Back†Sidewalk Surfer slip-ons, an exclusive collab between Sanuk and Pacific Pride Foundation that guarantees a $40,000 donation to support the latter’s educational programs, counseling services, advocacy efforts and more. Sanuk.com, $55 

Love Is Love Fragrance 

Lavender cotton candy, honeyed patchouli and strawberry glacé marry to make the sweet scent of Love Is Love, a limited-edition fragrance that promises 50 percent of its sales to New Alternatives NYC. Blackbaccaraoils.com, $23 

Unicorn Oven Mitts 

Insta-worthy food photos take a back burner to Neon Lace Company’s best-selling unicorn oven mitts â€“ hand-dyed in a neon rainbow palette and finished with a layer of diamond dust â€“ that look just as good on the â€™gram as they do your hands. Two dollars from each mitt supports The Okra Project, a collective that provides home-cooked meals and resources to the Black trans community. Neonlacecompany.com, $25 

Wunderkeks Cookies 

You’ll feel a little less guilty for scarfing down a box of Wunderkeks cookies in the middle of hot boi summer knowing that $1 dollar per dozen supports LOVELOUD, a foundation created by Imagine Dragons’ lead singer Dan Reynolds to support LGBTQ+ teens. Wunderkeks.com, $25-$30 

SeaVees Sneakers 

SeaVees’ Legend Pride bleach sneaker is casual Friday up top, Sunday Funday underneath. (Just like you.) Each pair sold benefits the Southern California LGBTQ+ community. Bespokepost.com, $88 

Progressive Pride Clothing Collection 

Rhone’s pastel-splotched unisex Pride capsule collection â€“ featuring joggers, hoodies, shorts and shirts â€“ are tie-dye for when accompanied by a $10,000 donation to assist Mental Health America’s LGBTQ+ initiatives. Rhone.com, $18-$118 

LubeLife 

LubeLife will donate $5 to Campus Pride every time someone posts about anal sex positivity on the #LubeLife website and 15 percent of June anal-lube sales will support sexual health and stigma reduction programs for queer young adults who like to slide into Pride and someone’s boo-tay. Lubelife.com, $10 

Color-block Raincoat 

Rain, rain goes away and comes back another day when you’re sporting Stutterheim’s Vladimir color-blocked raincoat (with a matching counterpart for your pooch), 10 percent of sales from which support The Rainbow Fund and the Moscow Community Center for LGBTQ+ Initiatives. Stutterheim, $340 

Vera Bradley Cross-body Bag 

All your Pride-festival essentials stow comfortably in Vera Bradley’s function-focused Love Stripe cross-body bag, consciously crafted with recycled cotton, and supporting Free Mom Hugs. (We could all use one of those tbh.) Verabradley.com, $65 

Pride Wine Box 

You’ll have to play catch-up when you get Graham + Fisk’s 2021 Pride Box â€“ which features 30 cans of wine for the 30 days of Pride (and benefits the LGBT Community Center of Great Cleveland) â€“ but who the hell’s counting? Grahamandfisk.com, $100 

Crafted with Pride Collection 

Equali-tees, shorts, socks, totes, jackets and bucket hats (yes, they’re back) comprise boohooMAN’s Crafted with Pride gender-neutral collection that gives 10 percent back to It Gets Better. Boohooman.com, $12-$65 

Crystal Head Rainbow Bottle 

Pour yourself a shot of liquid courage from Crystal Head Vodka’s limited-edition rainbow Pride bottle that supports the Dan Aykroyd-founded brand’s _year-round_ diversity partners, including Stonewall Sports Program, the Test Positive Awareness Network, Kaleidoscope Trust and Lurie Children’s Hospital Transgender Youth Program, to name a few. Reservebar.com, $54 

Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels
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Spotlight

Bayou City Women’s Chorus of Houston Presents “Jet Set & Away We Go”

HOUSTON’S ONLY WOMEN’S CHORUS TAKES A MUSICAL TRIP AROUND THE WORLD

Fly away to parts known (and, in some cases, unknown!) with the Bayou City Women’s Chorus presentation of “Jet Set and Away We Go†at 7pm on Saturday, April 27th, 2019, at Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, 2025 W 11th St, Houston, TX 77008.

The concert is a a compilation of cultural choral music, popular songs, and hit broadway tunes that explore varying ports of call through music. From the heart of Baltimore and New York, to the plains of Oklahoma and on to the exotic South Pacific and even “untraveled worlds,†you’ll enjoy a stress-free travel experience, soaring first class, on a musical expedition like no other.

Tyler Ruberg, the BCWC Choir Director, says, “I chose this theme because I felt like the chorus needed a direction to move in. A forward direction. Perhaps, I just needed a direction to move in or a place to go…a place to escape to. I thought there’s a lot of fun songs from various sources and there’s also good, treble choral music out there that would fit this show that people probably haven’t heard before. “ Ruberg adds, “There are also a couple of pieces in the concert that are more about a philosophical journey through life, rather than an actual physical destination to go to.â€

Audiences will find themselves reflecting on places they have been, perhaps wish to see, or have traveled

only in their imagination. Music is a global form of communication – imbued with the ability to help identify a culture, educate, and ultimately spark a journey. Evoking feelings and memories, creating new ones, and constantly evolving, music is one of the most important manifestations of human culture – and the ladies of the Bayou City Women’s Chorus aim to facilitate it with a magical excursion of song.

The Bayou City Women’s Chorus is the sister-chorus to the Gay Men’s Chorus of Houston and one of the only women-only choirs in Houston. They pride themselves on advancing the cause of women, the arts, and community. “I enjoy working with the women of the Bayou City Women’s Chorus because they are eager to sing and perform and learn. We are not a professional chorus. We are a community chorus. We have various levels of ability in our chorus and I enjoy teaching all levels of singers to arrive at the common goal. Their personalities are always fun and entertaining and they are dedicated and want to always perform the best that they can.†Says Ruberg, “Women from all walks of life coming together to sing, enjoy music and each other. I enjoy leading them through this journey which challenges them but also is so rewarding for not only them, but me.â€

Houstonians will have a chance to watch them voyage from one destination to another, creating a tapestry bound to satisfy the wanderlust of even the most intrepid traveler.

Tickets are $20 and can be purchased on the BCPA website at BCPAHouston.org.

Please email admin@bcpahouston.org for more information or 512-497-7452 or 832-835-1643.