Celebrate Your Pride By Taking a Look and Listen to Music from a Couple of New Artists from Down South, Like Way Down South (America)

It’s June.  That’s Pride Month.  Not to mention the U.S. Supreme Court is merely days away from making a momentous decision on same-sex marriage.  Here in Houston LGBT Pride activities are in full swing, culminating with the daytime festival and evening (into night) parade this Saturday, June 27th.  For the first time, these two events will be held in downtown Houston instead of the Montrose area, where the first Houston Gay Pride Parade took place in 1979.  (Find all the details about Houston Pride here.)

To celebrate LGBT pride here on the blog, I decided to introduce a couple of talented artists who have no fear of showing their true selves in their videos.  I found out about these two young Latin American performers thanks to remezcla.com and since my first listen to one video each, their tunes have been stuck in my head.  They are from neighboring South American countries.  Namuel, from Chile, has just put out this catchy single “Babycakes,” and the accompanying video can only be described as “cute and sweet.”  The video here from Jaloo, out of Brazil, also with an LGBT theme, goes with his “Bai Bai.”  This is a cover from a very popular song of a couple of years ago.  I’ll keep you guessing and not spoil it so you’ll listen.  I don’t understand much Portuguese, so I can’t say if the lyrics are the same, but the music in what I’d say is brega-style (I’m just learning about this genre of music, but I might compare it in a way to reggaeton. No matter the style, this tune keeps playing in my head much more than the original, which I really like.

Check out more great work from Namuel and Jaloo on YouTube and SoundCloud, where you’ll find a lot more by these terrific artists.

Happy Pride, y’all!

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“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.

Washington Governor Gregoire Signs Marriage Equality into Law

With Gov. Christine Gregoire's signature, marriage equality becomes law in the state of Washington.

On the eve of Valentine’s Day, February 13, 2012, Governor Christine Gregoire signed marriage equality into law in Washington state.  Both houses of the state legislature had voted in favor of same-sex marriage last week.

Washington becomes the seventh U.S. state to legalize gay marriage.  The others are New York, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.  Same-sex couples can also marry in the District of Columbia.  Legislatures in Maryland and New Jersey are also considering measures that would equalize the marriage playing field for same-sex couples.

Happy Gay (LGBT . . . and Q, if you must) Pride 2011! Houston, Today Is the Big Day

I just got finished doing the lawn.  After the almost 2 inches of rain this past week, the grass finally grew enough that I could mow it, only about the third time this year, because of all the dry weather.

Now I’m about to jump into the shower (pretty scummy and drenched after being out there puttering) and then head into town to check out the Pride Festival.  If you looking to go, it takes place near the corner of Westheimer and Montrose, starting at 1 PM and going ’til 7.

Everyone should be in a good mood, and I expect even more people will be out this year because of the big marriage equality victory in New York state last night.

The parade begins this evening at 8:15 PM, near the corner of Dunlavy and Westheimer and heads down Westheimer.  Parking is along the side streets, but expect to walk further, the later you arrive.

More information about all the events can be found here.

Another State Added to the List: New York Votes for Marriage Equality

Tonight is another good night.  After a long week of expectations and delays, the New York Senate voted to approve same-sex marriage by a vote of 33-29.  In the Republican-controlled senate, four of those voting in favor of passage were of the majority party. 

After frequent internet checks all week, I started out the night checking tweets from various bloggers, but then went downstairs to try to find something on TV.  CNN was doing Piers Morgan re-runs, but when 8 o’clock hit, I switched of to see what Rachel Maddow was doing on MSNBC.  Of course, everyone is totally focused on the murder case in Florida, but after a bit, Rachel got off of that and started live coverage from Albany, New York.  At that point a couple of Republican senators who had previously not been committed either way gave speeches saying that they were going to vote in favor of the bill.  Then after a few delays in the procedures, the final votes were read and it was a done deal!

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who really pushed for marriage equality, will now need to sign the bill into law, after that, a 30-day wait, and the state of New York will begin executing same-sex marriage certificates.  Another good thing is that anyone can get married in New York, not just residents!

With New York now joining the states of Vermont, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, not to mention the District of Colombia, we are starting to see the old prejudices and discrimination starting to chip away.

Update:  Gov. Cuomo signed the bill into law before I had even finished my original post.  Congratulations to all those who worked so very hard to get this passed!

Incremental Equality, But More Than Just Being Legal; And–Rachel Maddow Interviews “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Victims

Some events are so staggering that they leave an indelible image in our minds of where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news. I remember Kennedy’s death, the Challenger disaster, and 9/11 that way. It seems that it’s the disastrous events that stay embedded in our brains more than those more glorious.

I don’t remember how or where I was when I heard that the Supreme Court had ruled in the Lawrence v. Texas case in 2003.  I do remember, though, the elation I felt after the highest court in the land’s ruling–for once feeling that I, as a person, wasn’t somehow “against the law” for just being who I was.  I do remember the thud-to-my-gut sensation watching the election returns in 2005 when Texas–like so many Bush-Rove politicked states–voted to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage.  Legal? Yes.  Equal? No.

Therefore, it was with guarded optimism that I watched C-Span this past Saturday, knowing that it was perhaps one of those pivotal moments, with the U.S. Senate voting on the repeal of DADT.  When a cloture vote of 63-33 stopped McCain and his makeup-wearing, Republican cronies from any chance of filibustering, I became more hopeful. 

(Yes, makeup.  I’d be interested in knowing how many of these old southern geezers go to the beauty shop to get their makeup and hair done together so that they can dish with the stylists dolling them up for the cameras.  Are these the same people worrying about the military becoming feminized?)

Before I take too far of a turn here and screech my wheels, Rachel Maddow had a wonderful show with a full live audience yesterday reviewing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” in which she had a panel of former and current gay military members:  Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, Maj. Michael Almy, Cadet Katie Miller, and Capt. Jonathan Hopkins, who have played a big part in getting the effects of DADT made known, which ultimately helped to get this discriminatory policy overturned.

It’s compelling, so you might want to keep a Kleenex handy just in case.

“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.