Celebrate the Fourth of July with Red, White, and Boy, Erm–Blue; Catch Steve Grand’s New Single and Video

I enjoy gay shorts–gay short films, that is.  They have been a staple of gay film festivals for years, and many classics as well as recent productions are available with just a brief search of youtube or dailymotion.

“All-American Boy” by out, country singer Steve Grand could stand as a short film on its own, but add the lyrics and music and this video becomes something special.  Not to mention Steve is one pretty fine firecracker.  

Download the song and read more at http://stevegrand.bandcamp.com

Get more of Steve on Twitter @stevegrandmusic and http://www.facebook.com/SteveGrandArtist

“Pride Unleashed” at LGBT Parade 2013; Hundreds of Thousands* Celebrate in the Houston Heat

One of the colorful entries of Pride Parade 2013--the theme this year was "Pride Unleashed."

One of the colorful entries of Pride Parade 2013–the theme this year was “Pride Unleashed.”

Record heat hit Houston on Saturday, but that didn’t deter the largest crowds I’ve seen in almost 30 years of attending this city’s gay pride parade.

Last year, I passed on heading back into the city for a sixth commute of the week, only to fight the heat and the parking.  I just needed to get back this year to be part of the throngs of kindred spirits.

Putting on cool clothes and filling a small backpack with my camera and bottles of water, I set off out into the 107 degree heat.  After picking up a friend on the way, I headed down to the old Montrose neighborhood, where I had spent many of years in Houston, and site of the pride festivities.

I knew that the crowd would be large when I couldn’t find a parking place anywhere near my preferred area.  We finally found a space, got our gear together, and walked further than sensible people should walk in over-100-degree heat.

My perception was that the crowds were about the most diverse that anyone might find any place in Houston.  And while the attendees at the parade 2 years ago seemed about half gay-half straight, the ratio this year appeared much greater in the gay direction.  That might be because of positive decisions that just came out of the Supreme Court only a few days ago.

The parade got going even before the stated 8:15 start time and even finished before 10 but seemed to have as many entries and as much excitement as previous years.

The photos that follow give only a taste of the evening; the Houston Chronicle has a good page up that highlights a lot of days festivities.

*The Houston Chronicle reports that more than 400,000 attended this year’s event.  This is sure to be a Houston Pride Parade record.

The diversity among us--parage attendees applauded entries,, screamed for beads, and celebrated throughout the evening.        They have to be, though, some of the best behaved hundreds of thousands of people around.

The diversity among us–parage attendees applauded entries,, screamed for beads, and celebrated throughout the evening. They have to be, though, some of the best behaved hundreds of thousands of people around.

As the crowds of spectators await, HPD heads down Westheimer, leading of Pride Parade 2013.

As the crowds of spectators await, HPD heads down Westheimer, leading off Pride Parade 2013.

The pride of Houston's LGBT community--Mayor Annise Parker (left) and her partner, Kathy Hubbard.

The pride of Houston’s LGBT community–Mayor Annise Parker (left) and her partner, Kathy Hubbard.

PFLAG--one of the wonderful ally groups that have been supporting for years.

PFLAG–one of the wonderful ally groups that have been supporting for years.

Pride2013 Diana

Rolling down Westheimer.

Rolling down Westheimer.

Houston Fire Department "represents".

Houston Fire Department “represents”.

There was no lack of the rainbow colors.

There was no lack of the rainbow colors.

Just one of the many attractions to be found on parade evening.

Just one of the many attractions to be found on parade evening.

Totally representing the parade's theme of "Pride Unleashed."

Totally representing the parade’s theme of “Pride Unleashed.”

There was no shortage of commercial groups taking part in the parade.

There was no shortage of commercial groups taking part in the parade.

Happy LGBT Pride 2012, Houston!

Although various gay pride events have been going on most of the month, today, Saturday, June 23rd is the big day.

The Pride Festival takes place from 1-7 PM on Lovett and Waugh.  If those streets are unfamiliar, if you go to Westheimer and Montrose, you can’t miss finding all the booths and other entertainment.

The one-of-a-kind night parade begins at 8:15 PM starting near Woodhead and heads down Westheimer into the heart of Montrose.  The parade is always amazing, but parking can be a nightmare, so go early and beware of no-parking zones, where cars are certain to be towed.

Catch more about Houston Pride 2012 here.

Manhattan, Kansas: First City in State To Add Gender Identity to Anti-Discrimination Laws, Also Adds Sexual Orientation

Not in any of the national, well-read LGBT blogs and other sites have I seen this mentioned today, but I think it’s pretty amazing because it’s happening in my old home state, and in the very town where I spent a couple of college years and also came out.  This is Kansas, mind you, old, forever Republican Kansas, which now has Sam Brownback, once part of DC’s C Street gang, as its new governor; Kansas, home to notorious religious clan, whose name I won’t mention because I don’t want them trying to mess with my blog; Kansas, with its conservative State Board of Education, which tried to get “creative” with science . . . . .

But today from the Manhattan (KS) Mercury, we find this good news: 

After months of research, discussion and debate, city commissioners passed the second and final reading of a proposed amendment to the city’s discrimination ordinance at Tuesday’s legislative meeting. The change adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes.

Tuesday’s vote makes Manhattan the first city in Kansas to recognize gender identity as a protected class. It also makes Manhattan the second city in the state, the other being Lawrence, to recognize sexual orientation as a protected class.

Even in a state as conservative as Kansas, changes are being made to prevent discrimination against LGBT people.

How Language Bullies, But When It Might Be OK To Say “That’s So Gay”

“Say Something” seems to be Australia’s equivalent of the “It Gets Better” Project, a youtube campaign that was started Dan Savage, a Seattle columnist, after the rash of gay teen suicides last year.  “Say Something” has been set up as part of the 2011 Sydney Mardi Gras, one of the largest gay events anywhere in the world.

Matthew Mitcham, an out, gold medal diving champion in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has created his video, short though it is, for the Say Something project.  In it he advocates for eliminating the use of the phrase “It’s so gay” in a negative way.

Fortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever heard this phrase used, except maybe on TV.  I’m not much around the age group, teens or younger, that probably uses this phrase.  However, I know I wouldn’t like it if I were a gay kid in middle or high school and had to hear it all the time.  Frankly, there are far worse words as derogatory syn0nyms for gay people, when they are trying to demean either gay people or even others that are not gay.

For the most part, kids use these stronger perjoratives because they got them from hearing adults say them.  When I was a kid, the “n”-word was the harshest, but  most often used, word that we called each other on the playground.  Strange though it sounds, we could use that word without admonishment, but knew better than to use “real” swear words, which today are commonplace in movies and the music on the radio.  There’s nothing surprising thses days about hearing them in so many rap and hip-hop songs, where they sort of get bleeped out.  But when I hear them come in songs like Enrique Iglesias’ latest hit, I get uncomfortable.

We used the “n”-word, not because we had ever met even one Black person, but because we heard the word at home.  “That’s so gay” seems to be somewhat like that.  The kids that use the phrase aren’t directly trying to be offensive to gay people because they are just saying something like “That’s so lame,” which was used not so long ago, and I expect, still is used by some kids.

And speaking of “lame”, what if the phrase being used were “That’s so disabled” or “That’s so physically challenged”?  Most people probably would find that more offensive than “That’s so gay.”  However, when”That’s retarded” was so popular, there weren’t too many negative ripples.

When it comes to being politically correct (though really I think it has more to do with civility than politics), it’s hard to keep up.  I seem to remember Lyndon Johnson using nigras (which doesn’t sound that different from the “n” word), and he was the President who signed the major civil rights laws in the mid-1960s.  Colored People was once OK; there’s still the NAACP.  Then there’s still the question of African-American (or Afro-American) or Black.

There’s a similar problem with people and newspapers using the term homosexual.  In fact, it has a very specific, somewhat clinical or academic meaning, but most of the time when used outside of certain fields of study, homosexual come with a negative connotation for labeling people, in a way that “colored” was once used by whites, when they knew that there was a more appropriate word.

Just like many use homosexual as a way of emphasizing the “sexual” aspect, as if that the only quality that characterizes us, they also employ the word to hit other people’s buttons that its the “same” sex.  And, “you know, doing with the same sex, well, that’s something so bad, because, you know, the preacher said it in church, and it’s in the Bible, you know.”

So it’s not are far stretch to the same negativity inherent in “That’s so gay.”  The negative connotation from homosexual is carried over to the word “gay.”

It’s really not much different than expressions that have applied to other groups.  I grew up with people using the expression of “jewing someone down,” not having any idea that it came from the negative stereotype of Jewish people.  I’m sure there are kids out there who, when comparing the sizes of dips on their ice cream cones, are screaming, “I got gypped (or jipped),” having no idea that the word came from negative stereotype of gypsies cheating or robbing people.

There are two sides to these pejoratives.  On the one hand, they make the language colorful and precise.  With the internet and other forms of technology, the English language is already being “dummied down” with all its LOLs and other shortcuts.   (Oops, can I say “dummied down”?)  On the other hand, words can hurt, and we know it.  People, especially adults, who use these words to belittle others know what they are doing. 

Newspapers, politicians, and preachers who use the word homosexual know that gay people don’t like to be called that, but they do it anyway.  In reality, it’s just a subtle way to bully.  Isn’t there a verse in the Bible that says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?  Doesn’t that mean civility and respect?

It all comes back to civility, doesn’t it?

If people want to use the line “That’s so gay,” they should really use it with the meaning “That’s so creative” because that’s a positive stereotype of gay people.  Think of all creativity put out by hair stylists (let’s go with those straight-thinking stereotypes), artists, playwrights, and composers.  Let’s don’t forget to mention Michalangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander the Great or some current creative gay people like Elton John, Ricky Martin, or Ellen Degeneres.

So maybe when (or if) you read something on here that makes you think a bit, you’ll say, “That’s so gay.”  But, hey, you gotta put the right tone in your voice or it won’t work.

U.S. Senate Votes To Eliminate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Announcing the vote count of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the U.S. Senate.

Today, December 18th, 2010, at 2:30 PM (CST), the U.S. Senate approved the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the 17-year-old law which denied openly gay military members from serving.  The final vote in the senate was 65-31 on the bill which the U.S. House of Representatives had approved by a 250-175 margin earlier in the week.

The bill now is to be signed by the President.  However, both the President and the Pentagon must agree about how and when the measure will actually go into effect.

“For Colored Girls” and H.A.R.C.–You Can Take the Boy Out of the Country But . . .

Program cover for the production of "For Colored Girls" given at the Purple Masque Theatre at Kansas State University in early spring of 1979.

A recent revelation about how much money the Knights of Columbus had given NOM (the anti-gay group that spends millions to fight against same-sex marriage, but goes to court trying to avoid telling where it gets its money) helped bring back some memories of my coming out days at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.  (Yes, you New Yorkers, there is another Manhattan, and Dorothy actually lived there, a number of them, in fact!)

After I got out of the Air Force (read about Greece and the 6916th here and here), I spent three years working in northwest Kansas and lived in a town of about 200 people, and back in those days, when Bachman-Turner Overdrive was cranking on the radio, it wasn’t exactly the environment for a guy still trying to figure himself out.

Even though I loved the people out there in the sticks in Sheridan and Thomas counties, you know what they say about the lure of the bright lights.  Those lights were a couple hundred long miles down I-70 in Manhattan, Kansas, where I started graduate work in theatre.  I had this idea that I was going back to school to become an actor, but looking back on it, unwittingly, I was looking for a place comfortable enough to find “me”.

And it didn’t take long to find that place.  I was barely starting classes when I got cast as Dr. Rank in the KSU production of  Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” and about the same time, a guy in one of my classes invited me to a party, and “that,” as we say, “was that.”

I appeared in and worked on a lot of theatre and other productions during my time at K-State.  I also found a group of gay “brothers and sisters” and a camraderie and connection within both groups (and, yes, there was a lot of overlap there) that was something very special.  I know a lot of it was that most of us came from small rural towns, and for the first time, were finding others like ourselves.  Too, it was our time.  Stonewall had taken place in New York City in 1969, and by the late 70s, even out in the middle of the Great Plains, there was a sense that it was OK to be gay.  (Somehow, you’d think it’d be a lot better these 30-odd years later.)  Kansas City had a great disco station, which we could sometimes pick up.  I remember listening to it all the way in, to be part of KC’s first, I think, gay pride parade.  (Sorry, for all the “I thinking”.  Some stuff needs to be written down before it fades.)

One of many “new” experiences for me at K-State was doing the make-up for the ballet and opera performances.  As part of my other theatre coursework, I took a couple of stage make-up courses, and found I was pretty good at it.  The drama department was going to do a production of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” in the Purple Masque Theatre, which along with most of the speech and drama department was housed under the east side of the old stadium on campus.  I was selected to do the make-up for the show, and the apprehension on those seven African-American young women, who were portraying the Lady in Red, Lady in Blue, and ladies in several other colors, was quite apparent when this white guy showed up in the dressing room for one of the final rehearsals, when costumes and makeup were worn for the first time.  We all got over the initial awkwardness, and for me, being part of that show was another big part of the changes that were happening in my life at the time.

(I’m anxious to see Tyler Perry’s movie adaption from what was a relatively short stage production.   I just looked up the trailer, and it jogged my memory.)

Back on the social front, through my friend from class, I started meeting a lot of other people.  One of the reasons I’ve wanted to write this post for awhile is to write about the gay organization that we had.  Some of these things need to be recorded just for history’s sake.  In those days in Kansas, about the only formally organized gay groups were  connected to the universities.  KU, always being a liberal haven, in a conservative state, had a group, but I don’t remember the name.  They sometimes held dances in their student union, and people would drive to Lawrence from all over the state.

The group we had in Manhattan was not just a campus organization; though, we did have some meetings on campus.  It was called H.A.R.C.–Homosexual Alliance of Riley County, and we had members from the university, including a couple of the faculty, townspeople, and some from out of town, even here and there, a soldier from nearby Ft. Riley.  Yes, that was way before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  We often had our meetings in the back dining room of Sambo’s Restaurant (yes, that one), where several of our members were part of the staff.

One of our hangouts was a deli in Aggieville called “Say Cheese”, which was owned by a lesbian couple, who mothered some of us guys, often feeding us for helping out a bit around the store.

Like other groups, we had volunteer projects.  We helped refurbish some of the exhibits at the Manhattan Zoo.  One time we worked on the cage that held the wildcat, the K-State mascot, and there was a mini-brouhaha.

At our on-campus meetings, we were sometimes confronted by the reality of how some gay people had been “treated” just a few years before.  Oftentimes in attendance was a guy, whose name I don’t remember, maybe in his 30s, wearing an odd mix of clothes–women’s sweaters are what I remember most, the collarless ones, that have a head opening from shoulder to shoulder.  But he really wasn’t transgender or a crossdresser.  He talked out of turn and off-topic.  He wasn’t a student, and he must have walked to the meetings because I doubt if he could drive.  After we found out that his mother had sent him to Topeka–several mental hospitals there–because he was gay, and that he’d been given a lobotomy to try to cure him, it was a lot easier to deal with his odd behavior.  To this day, we still have people damaging perfectly good human beings because they think being gay is an illness.

Miss Tammy Whynot at HARC's "Evening in Paris" at the Manhattan Knights of Columbus Hall (circa 1979)

That brings me back to NOM and the Knights of Columbus.  In Manhattan, the Knights of Columbus Hall was across the river from the main part of town and could be rented for events.  At that time, the manager was friendly with our group–some said he was bi–and we started having dances there.  If I remember right, we had three dances while I was in Manhattan.  For us, they were the proms that we would have had in high school if we hadn’t all had to act like straight boys.  We hired DJs, put up decorations, and had some crazy times.  I know I did.

I doubt that the Knights of Columbus members knew who paid to rent the building on those evenings.  Maybe the manager even pocketed it.  Who knows.

I hope if anyone who reads this has any more details about H.A.R.C., they will comment.  It’s part of our history, and if it doesn’t get written down, it will be lost.  I’ve done some searching but have found no mention anywhere.