Category Archives: Human Interests

Stories about people and celebrities in the Out & Proud Community.

LGBT Singer Molly Adele Brown Delivers Love, Kindness & Cookies to Homeless

Molly Adele Brown (back left) and Friends Prepare Batches of Homemade Cookies

Nashville, Tenn. (December 8, 2018) – Nashville-based singer/songwriter Molly Adele Brown always tries to find the best in a person. In a world filled with so much hate, Brown wanted to do something special to give back to her local community. For the past year, she decided to bake ‘Molly’s Kindness Cookies’ and deliver them to the Nashville Rescue Mission to help feed the increasing number of homeless people living in Music City. Brown will be preparing her next batch of cookies on December 19 and will deliver them to the Mission on December 20, just in time for the Christmas holiday!

“Kindness cookies evolved from years of baking cookies and handing them out to the homeless in New York City,” states Brown. “Growing up, my mom would take my youth group on midnight runs where we would go through the city at night and hand out food and clothes to the homeless. We would interact and get to know these people and learn about their stories. Every time was so inspiring, and I knew I wanted to continue to give back. Once I moved to Nashville, I started helping out with Nashville Rescue Mission and fell in love with their organization and what they provide. Since then I have been getting a group of friends together to bake cookies each month. Being able to share something I love to do (bake) to a community that needs some extra kindness really makes my heart sing.”

In 2019, Brown hopes to grow what they are doing here in Nashville and expand to other communities as well. She lives by the quote: In a world where you can be anything, be kind“This may be one small act of kindness but if we work together, I believe it can grow into so much more.”

To date, Brown has prepared over 80 batches of cookies which helped feed approximately 1,000 homeless people around Nashville.

For more information, visit www.MollysKindness.com 

Country Artist Curtis Braly Celebrates 13 Year Anniversary with Husband/Manager

Nashville, TN (November 19, 2018) – Last Friday, country music star Curtis Braly celebrated his 13-year anniversary with husband/manager Jeff Riley. The “Song You Can Drink a Beer To” singer met Riley in 2002 at a mutual friend’s dinner party and the two have been inseparable ever since. Braly and Riley took their private plane to a special anniversary dinner in Texas.

About Curtis Braly:
Country music powerhouse and Humble,Texas native Curtis Braly is a jack of all trades. With experience in theatre, choir, radio, criminal justice, emergency medical services and aviation, he found his true calling as an entertainer & true showman. His single “Song You Can Drink A Beer To (REMIX)” released worldwide July 6th along with a thirst- quenching summertime music video . Performing and touring with fellow country artists such as Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker, Daryl Singletary and Johnny Rodriguez, Curtis draws from these performers’ abilities to capture an audience—to bring music to life as a must-hear storyteller. With his explosive stage presence, Braly “delivers” an intimate connection with believable emotion and a charging energy allowing his story to unfold right before your ears. While Curtis is devoted to his music career, it is also his mission to give back. Braly takes pride in volunteering his piloting skills and personal aircraft to organizations like Pilots N Paws and Angel Flight. Curtis also volunteers, each year, to Christmas 4 Kids and recently announced the exciting launch of his non-profit “The Ruby Foundation,” an organization committed to inspiring, empowering & improving the lives of young adults by providing an annual uplifting & motivational youth camp to combat stress, depression & lack of self-esteem caused by bullying. Curtis’ music and sincere philanthropy caters to the seasoned music lover as well as the new generation of fans and listeners who have a hankering for pop, jazz, and rock influences.

Keep up with Curtis at www.CurtisBraly.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

CALUM SCOTT: A COMING OUT STORY

In honor of National Coming Out Day, breakout U.K. artist, singer, and songwriter, Calum Scott premieres “A Coming Out Story” today on Vevo. The poignant profile is an incredibly personal look at how Calum found the courage to be honest about himself through music and discusses his emotional journey from childhood into adulthood to find his authentic self.

“I know that there are people young and old struggling with the same questions, and living with that relentless fear and heartbreak,” says Calum. “I make the music I do because I want to inspire the right kind of conversations. If one less kid can grow up without hiding who they are along the way or having to believe that who they love is something that will make them lonely, then everything I went through will be worth it.”

Calum showcases his soaring falsetto on his debut album Only Human out now on Capitol Records. Only Human hit #1 on iTunes in over 20 countries, sold over 1 million in adjusted album sales, and has amassed over 1 billion combined streams. Billboard said, “Scott’s stunningly pure voice is affecting enough in itself, but his lyrics on every one of the (album’s) tracks are vulnerable and raw.” His hit single, “You Are The Reason” featuring three- time Grammy nominee and vocal powerhouse Leona Lewis, is already certified Gold and has over 750 million streams worldwide. Calum’s new track, “What I Miss Most” out now, unfolds as a triumphant homage to his hometown of Kingston upon Hull, located in Northern England. He will release his new single, “No Matter What” on October 19th.

Calum was nominated for a Brit Award for Best Single, for his version of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own,” which became a global sensation with over 1 billion streams worldwide, and is now Platinum in five countries.

Calum Scott website – http://www.calumscott.com/

South Dakota Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Couples

South Dakota Federal Court Rules in Favor of Freedom to Marry for Same-Sex Couples

A federal court ruled in favor of six same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in South Dakota. The court stayed its order pending appeal by South Dakota officials.

In a 28-page decision, U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier ruled that “Plaintiffs have a fundamental right to marry. South Dakota law deprives them of that right solely because they are same-sex couples and without sufficient justification.”

The six plaintiff families are from across the state and include veterans, nurses, a stay-at-home mom, a truck driver, a couple who have been together 30 years, and couples with children and grandchildren. They are represented by Joshua Newville of the Minneapolis firm Madia Law LLC, Debra Voigt of Burd and Voigt Law Offices in Sioux Falls, SD, and Shannon Minter and Christopher F. Stoll of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

Statement by NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Christopher F. Stoll:

“We are thrilled for our clients and for all same-sex couples in South Dakota, who have watched and waited as progress has been made in so many other states, and who can now see light at the end of the tunnel in their own state. We are also grateful to Judge Shreier for writing such a detailed and powerful analysis and for affirming in such strong terms that same-sex couples have the same fundamental freedom to marry as others. We hope this decision will hasten the day when the Supreme Court decides this issue for the country and ensures that all families are treated fairly and equally under the law.”

Read the order and learn more about the case.

NCLR Logo2

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. www.NCLRights.org

AFTER MANY YEARS TOGETHER, STARTING A FAMILY

Decades-spanning couples reflect on how building a family made their own relationship stronger
By Scott Kearnan for GayswithKids.com

The Rosenberg-van Gameren family by  Photo credit - Robert Figueroa- FotoFig.comIt takes hard work to maintain any loving long-term relationship. Every couple has ups and downs, but few will establish that rare rapport that can survive 10 years, 20 years, or a lifetime. If you’ve managed to stay a steady course as a childless couple, you have to wonder: Will rocking a cradle wind up rocking the boat? The answer is yes.

Adding a child to your dynamic will assuredly make waves in any relationship. But as we spoke to men that started families after a particularly long time – following at least 10 years as a childless duo, for our purposes – a general consensus emerged. Having children has fortified, not weakened, these already strong bonds. They have enhanced, not diminished, longstanding relationships. And even if sex lives sometimes take a drubbing (come on, you were thinking it), most couples say that parenthood has actually added an entirely new level of intimacy. Every couple is different, of course. But for long-term partners who are just now beginning to consider parenthood, there’s good news: Your best years may still be ahead of you.

Why We Wait
Gay men are having children. A lot. For instance, data from the 1990 US Census estimated that 5% of partnered gay men in America had children in their households. But a Census study from 2011 estimates that number has nearly tripled, to about 13.9%. (And that study relied on data from 2008. Expect numbers to continue to grow.)

There’s a good reason why many gay couples wait a while to become dads: It’s expensive. For most opposite-sex couples, conception will cost only as much as a bottle of good wine and a few tapered candles. But for same-sex couples, expenses typically mount well before the baby is born, whether they go through a form of adoption or surrogacy. So building a nest egg precedes building a family.

In fact, in a survey conducted by Gays With Kids among long-term couples, a whopping 67% of respondents indicated that “establishing finances” was one of the “most significant reasons” that they waited to have kids. Indeed, most of the couples did express interest in fathering fairly early on in their relationship – it just took many more years before wheels were in motion. On average, respondents first discussed parenthood with their partner at about 4.4 years into the relationship; they wouldn’t actually become dads, on average, until 12 years in.

“I had always pictured myself with a simple life: a ranch house with white picket fence, the old-fashioned portrait of a family,” says Jimmy, 48, from Calgary. And parenting seemed to come pretty naturally to him and his husband Greg. For a long time, he says with a chuckle, their home was a “destination for wayward boys in our family.”

“We had a reputation for ruling with an iron fist,” laughs Jimmy. “Ironically, we were looked at as being the most traditional couple. When our siblings’ teenage boys would have issues, they’d come to our house.”

Jimmy and Greg first discussed adoption about four years into their relationship, but wouldn’t wind up having a child until after more than 20 years together. Last year they assumed guardianship of their now 2-year-old son, who was born to Greg’s teenage stepsister with a history of drug issues and brushes with the law. They’ve more recently filed for adoption.

The situation made sense, and they were at a point when “we now have the income to do it,” says Jimmy. Greg is now able to be a stay-at-home dad, which was important to them.

Establishing a sustainable income was also part of the reason why David and Josh waited to become dads. But the Florida couple, together since 1997, can speak to another, less easily quantified reason why many gay men wait: It takes time to process the reality that yes, fatherhood can be in the cards.

“Josh is a dreamer. He’s always wanted to be a parent. But I’ve always been much more pragmatic,” explains David. “When I came to the realization that I was gay, with the state of affairs being what they were, I worked under the assumption that being a parent was unlikely. And I’m the kind of person who teaches myself not to wish for something I don’t reasonably expect to happen.”

Thanks to Josh’s ongoing, gentle nudging, dreams did come true. In 2007, they welcomed twin boys through a domestic surrogacy; last year, they welcomed twins (again!) through an international surrogacy. And that second go-round, incidentally, was David’s idea.

“I always wanted to be a father. But back in the early 90s, the realities were a lot different than they are today,” says Sean, a gay dad from Atlanta. “As a good Southern Baptist boy coming out, I didn’t see that as an opportunity. Part of my coming to terms experience was telling myself, ‘Not only am I gay – but I’m not going to have a family.’ But times, they have changed!”

Indeed they have. Last year, after nearly 20 years together, Sean and his husband Dan welcomed a newborn daughter into their lives through open adoption. That decision – or rather, the conversations that led to it – contributed to their late-in-relationship evolution into parents. “Sean was ready to think about adoption way earlier than I was,” admits Dan. “I was focused on biology, and felt like surrogacy was what I needed to spread my genes.” Once Dan witnessed his brother adopt a daughter, he understood what an “exceptionally wonderful experience” adoption can be, he says. But that kind of vacillation is not unusual. 43% of respondents to our survey said that one of the main reasons they waited so long to have children was “difficulty navigating the many different paths to fatherhood.”

Finance. Culture. Logistics. These are just a few of the reasons that long-term couples wait to have children. But sometimes, when you’re walking a long road, reaching your destination is that much more exciting.

Dan’s family was supportive of his coming-out, but at the time they were “only sad that I wasn’t going to make them grandparents,” he says. Years later, when he told them they were planning to adopt, he’ll never forget their reaction.

“They were gleeful. They said, ‘We had given up hope that you were going to have a family!’”

For Better or for Worse

It’s once a child arrives, of course, that the real excitement begins. The good. The bad. The covered in doo doo.

Mostly, though, it’s the good. As part of the GayswithKids.com survey, we asked long-term couples to answer two telling, open-response questions.

The first: “Compared to our lives before children, my relationship with my husband/partner is now more …”

The second: “Compared to our lives before children, my relationship with my husband/partner is now less …”

There were as many responses as there are adjectives. But across the board, dads focused on the positive. Among the typical responses: More “complete,” less “routine”; more “focused and full,” less “shallow and selfish”; more “secure and solid,” less “carefree and boring”; more “honest,” less “materialistic.”

But there was one particular area where respondents indicated an especially positive impact from parenthood: communication. Becoming fathers forces couples to become better at discussing – well, pretty much everything, from big picture values to the management of daily life. “We talk a lot more openly about our needs than we ever have before,” offered one anonymous survey respondent. “I’ve become more fearless in my effort to be up front and honest about all things with my partner,” said another.

“Adapting to an infant or toddler is all about adapting to change, and that forces you to communicate better,” elaborated Dan from Atlanta. “With 19 years behind us, we’ve been through a lot, but we have to be even more clear about everything.”

“I never thought we’d be at the level of communication we are about finances, because that’s such an uncomfortable thing,” adds his husband Sean.

“Before, we had a lot of financial independence,” says Dan. “Now we work collaboratively: keep guardrails around each other to stay on the right road. And it’s not just communication around our daughter. We have to negotiate schedules and full-time careers. We’ve had to discuss whether to forego a relocation and promotion. Sean has to tell me, and I have to allow him to tell me, that I can’t do everything I’d like. Maybe I have to disappoint a client.”

With regard to negative connotations, there were only two words that frequently recurred when respondents were asked if their relationship was “less” something: “spontaneous” and “sexual.” Our survey tended to confirm one of the most oft-cited challenges of adding a child: that parents (and yes, even gay men!) become too tired or busy for wild nights of long, torrid passion. Heck, even a quickie before bed can become a challenge.

“Without a doubt, this [sexual intimacy] is the area that is sacrificed most,” summarized one respondent. Another elaborated on the way a constantly busy life leads to less sex: “With work and home, there is never enough individual alone time. And we have to have that first before we can have ‘together’ alone time. We both need to decompress for work and sometimes family before we can engage each other.”

So here’s the good news, slightly sex-starved dads: You’re not alone. And let’s also be realistic. By the time they’ve been together for decades, most couples aren’t making like jackrabbits every night, anyway. When they do, though: fireworks.“There’s more quality than quantity,” offered one respondent. “It is less than before, but more satisfying,” claimed another. And a third: “I think we actually feel closer to each other than ever before, making our sex life more meaningful.”

And that also touches on what so many couples claim is the greatest value to having children after so many years: Being able to experience the comfort of familiarity alongside the joy of the new. When you’ve been partnered or married for years, you’re able to establish a certain foundation of trust, and a certain rhythm of relationship that – compared to more fledgling couples – can create a stronger foundation upon which to build a family. But the addition of a child also allows you to see your husband or partner inhabit a new role: dad. And that process reveals an entirely new set of characteristics to learn and love. The tough guy becomes softened. The carefree boyfriend learns to pick up the slack. And the Type A workaholic learns that – well, you can’t plan everything.

“We communicate about things we never thought we’d discuss before, and it has breathed new life into our relationship,” says Jimmy from Calgary. “Let’s face it, after being together for 20 years, you pretty much know everything about the other person. You’ve grown up together.”

“It’s not you become complacent or bored, but to be shaken up? That’s a good thing.”

And even if you need to remember to lock the doors or schedule a night ahead – the sex stuff will, eventually, sort itself out. Maybe just in unexpected ways.
“We’ve been together for nearly twenty years, yet we suddenly have a new appreciation for each other,” says David from Florida. “You might think that your partner is going to be a really good parent one day. But then you actually see him, with his shirtsleeves rolled up, knee-deep in diapers. And you’re doing it together.”
“That is attractive,” says David. “That’s sexy.”

For more information and other gay dad features, visit GayswithKids.com.

Gayswithkids.com – Helps Gay Men Navigate Fatherhood

GaysWithKids.com Helps Gay Men Navigate Fatherhood

Gays With Kids, a first-of-its-kind website to help gay dads navigate fatherhood − from creating their families to raising them – is now available online.

Photo credit - Graeme Coleman

Co-founded by Brian Rosenberg and Ferd van Gameren, husbands and proud fathers of three children, the online community aims to normalize the experience of gay parenting by sharing stories, news, advice, and in-depth reporting on topics of interest to gay dads, many of which are typically not covered in mainstream media. Gays with Kids also hopes to inspire a whole new generation of gay men who are interested in raising children.

“When we adopted our first child five years ago, one of the first things we did to help us prepare was search the Internet to try and connect with other gay dads so we could learn from their experiences,” explains Rosenberg. “We were surprised to find there were no sites or resources available.”

“We felt isolated because we had no community of gay dads to turn to and with whom we could identify, and we also felt alienated by all the mom-centric focus,” adds van Gameren.  Everywhere they turned they saw phrases like “mommy tested-mommy approved” or “for moms by moms” and they even shopped in stores called “From Bump to Baby” and “Moms to be and More.”

They knew they could make a change, but put their idea on hold to concentrate on their toddlers. Four years later, they are ready to launch Gays With Kids to help other gay dads succeed as fathers.

Rosenberg and van Gameren adopted their son Levi and welcomed twin girls Sadie and Ella through surrogacy, so they have first-hand knowledge that gay men travel many different paths to becoming dads. A key part of Gays With Kids will explore these paths so that every gay father feels represented.

Other regular features of Gays With Kids includes:

  • Family Spotlight series to share the wonderful breadth and diversity of gay dad families, one family at a time
  • Gay Family Showcase Carousel will collect photos of gay dads with their kids from all over the world, as Rosenberg and van Gameren believe there’s great strength in numbers
  • The largest community of gay dad bloggers anywhere, sharing their every day experiences
  • Professional gay dads providing insight and tips on various issues related to being a gay dad that is based on a combination of industry and personal experience
  • Other writers and journalists covering anything and everything having to do with being a gay dad – Gays With Kids will not shy away from topics!

While gay dads are becoming more conventional, there is still a lot of work to be done to end both “Dadscrimination,” and “Gay Dadscrimination,” especially in areas where gay families are viewed as less than equal because gay marriage or gay adoption are not legal.

“As dads, we share all the universal truths and challenges of parenting that are experienced by dads and parents everywhere, regardless of gender or orientation,” Rosenberg said. “But, as gay dads, we face many other truths and challenges that are uniquely our own, and it’s incredibly empowering to be able to do so as part of a robust and vibrant community.”

GAY BABY BOOM!

It was the baby photo seen round the world.

gay bay boom

On June 27, Toronto dads BJ Barone and Frank Nelson welcomed their baby son Milo into the world. It was a magical moment they shared with an intimate few: surrogate mom Kathy, of course, and birth photographer Lindsay Foster.

But it was a few days later, when Foster received permission from the dads to upload some of the photos to her Facebook account, when the real sharing began. Foster’s post spread like wildfire across the social media website: nearly 10K shares of her original update alone, plus countless reposts branching off from that. It was picked up by BuzzFeed, which offered the headline “These Photos of Two Dads Meeting Their New Baby Will Make You Cry Happy Tears.” (About 1.9 million views so far.) Twitter was flooded with the images of Frank and BJ, their faces overcome with emotion as they embraced each other and Milo. Local news stations came calling to interview the dads. Their story had gone viral, giving millions of viewers a glimpse of raw, honest emotion that is not often shown by mass media: two dads in love, and in love with their son.

“It’s incredible that just sharing who we are as a family has resonated with so many people,” said BJ to GayswithKids.com, a website for gay fathers.  Milo’s birth coincided with World Pride 2014 in Toronto. Pride’s theme, poignantly enough, was “Rise Up”: a call for LGBT visibility.

“That it coincided with World Pride is a special factor,” says BJ. “We’re standing up for ourselves and saying, ‘This is normal.’” He recalls a special note that he and Frank shared with viewers on Foster’s Facebook: “This picture represents everything Pride is about. Love has no color nor gender nor sexual preference. Love is unconditional.”

And they’ve certainly been feeling the love from strangers in cyber-space who have taken it upon themselves to comment on the photos or reach out directly. For the most part, the response has been hugely positive, says the couple – especially from younger generations, where same-sex headed families are increasingly seen as simply part of the cultural fabric. “I’ve received private messages from some of my students, and those have been the most special to me,” says Frank. It is heartening, he says, to feel that tides of love and acceptance have turned so dramatically. “It makes me so hopeful that one day our son and others his age will look at this photo and wonder what all the hoopla was.”

“I got one message from this guy in the States, saying, ‘I’m a redneck opposed to same-sex marriage, but this really opened and changed my heart.’ That one made me cry,” adds BJ.

It’s not only strangers who have reached out with more open arms. The photos have also opened doors to dialogue with some members of BJ’s family in Italy, with whom his sexuality has been an issue. (Their story made the Italian newspapers too.) “My Italian family comes from a small town, and I’ve received messages from them before that what I do is wrong, that I should be ashamed of myself. Asking me how I could do this to my parents. But I just got a message from my cousin the other day; he wrote saying, ‘Congratulations, the baby’s beautiful. Hopefully you can come together to Italy.’”

“Sometimes people are just afraid of the unknown. They’re afraid of how people will react,” continues BJ. “Having this opportunity has allowed my family to see that we’re in stable relationship and receiving love and support from around the world. It’s opened their eyes: if so many strangers can accept this, why wouldn’t they?”

The couple admits that there has been some backlash. There are still the few who choose to leave hurtful and ignorant comments on even the most joy-filled photos. But those have been in the minority, they say, and much of the negative reaction has focused on a specific element: that the dads are shirtless in the photos. “When the midwife told us we were going to be shirtless, I was like, ‘What?’” laughs Frank. They were encouraged to doff their shirts to establish skin-to-skin contact with Milo; many baby experts recommend it to release oxytocin, often referred to as the “attachment chemical.” Of course, if a mother had brought the child to her breast, it’s hard to imagine there would be much outcry. That so many were fixated on the shirtless element shows that there’s a long way to go to educating people about the experiences of dads, gay and straight, in the delivery room. “Once you explain it,” says Frank, “it seems completely natural.”

And now the dads are adjusting to the other natural new aspects of life: from feeding times to sleeping schedules. The media hubbub will soon die down, though they’re considering starting a baby blog to update Milo’s new worldwide fans. And maybe one day, they’ll grow their family again; they have embryos frozen for five more years, and haven’t ruled out returning to the delivery room.

But right now they’re enjoying the bliss of life with baby. One they didn’t always know they would have.

“When I came out to my dad, he said what upset him the most was that I would never get to enjoy being a father,” recalls Frank. “Now, my parents have been so touched seeing the journey that we went through to get here.”

“I knew I was gay ever since I was a little kid, and I never thought I would find love, be married, or have kids. I thought I’d be alone or unhappy for the rest of my life,” remembers BJ. His voice breaks. “And now here I am. I have Frank. I’m a father.”

And the whole world is watching, loving them, hitting the share button.

Read more Gay Family Spotlight stories at GayswithKids.com.

 

Fathers Day is Coming – Modern Friction

By Skip Sheffield

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAHans M. Hirschi’s stories are a mirror on today’s LGBT community, the first generation able to legally marry and have children.  Each tale in his new novel, “Living The Rainbow: A Gay Family Triptych”, offers a glimpse at how modern gay families live their lives, the unique worries they have, and how they deal with them. Love is at the core of all the stories, along with the message that gay families are as tightly bound and complicated as any other family unit.

What can readers learn from the adventures in your stories?
I don’t write to teach lessons.  I often use stories to question beliefs. In the “The Opera House”, I explore how death can test faith.  “Jonathan’s Hope” examines trust issues and “Family Ties” tackles monogamy. What I hope my novels do is ask questions and present possible solutions.

Hans MAre the stories autobiographical?
They are, somewhat.  They deal with issues that are constantly on my mind as a gay father. I wrote “Family Ties” while my husband and I were pregnant.  The prospect of fatherhood was constantly on my mind. Would I be a good father?  What would people say seeing two dads with a child? “Jonathan’s Hope” probes, among other things, the age difference between the two main characters. I am twelve years older than my husband.

Is that a problem?

Not now but when I retire at 70, my husband will only be 58.  When he’s 70, I’ll be 82. I’m sure we’ll work things out, but it scares me that I may not be there for him at some point. Or that he may have to care for me. The ending of “Jonathan’s Hope” is a glimpse at how that might look like, and it is bittersweet.

What binds all three stories together?
Love, hope and a message that gay families are just like any other family.

Do shows like Modern Family accurately reflect today’s gay families?

While they have done wonders for people’s conceptions of LGBT families, they tend to portray us as camp, butch or neurotic.  They rely on stereotypes for laughs.

What is the biggest difference between nuclear and LGBT families?
LGBT parents tend to be a bit older and wiser.  We plan long and hard for our children.

What unique challenges do LGBT parents face?Hans baby boy
Homophobia is always showing its ugly face when you least expect it.  It started for us right from the beginning. Homophobia from social services kept us from fostering and adopting. We ended up building our family through surrogacy and that has led to other forms of homophobia.  More than once, we’ve been accused of buying our child.

What does the world need to know about modern LGBT families?
We’re as exciting and dull as the rest of them. My son’s diapers smell as badly as any other baby’s.  We worry the same and we’re as willing to sacrifice ourselves for our kids as any other parent.

Your worry is reflected in the last novel in the trilogy, “The Opera House”.

The story explores the loss of a child, something I believe most parents contemplate in one way or another.  I wrote it after my son’s birth. The fear of losing him was really difficult at times. Those first months, I’d listen to every breath he’d take.  Any silence would alarm me.  I was so afraid of SIDS.

What’s next for you?
I’ve just started a new novel. It is going to be about a man’s journey and travels. I have no idea where it’s going to take me; what the man is going to experience or what trials and tribulations may be ahead. My writing is very fluid and extremely unconscious. I let my fingers do the typing and marvel at the words that come to life on the computer screen. Every now and then, I gasp at the unexpected plot turns, wondering how on earth I’m going to fix the problem I just created.


Living The Rainbow Front Cover“Living The Rainbow: A Gay Family Triptych” is available now, digitally and as a softcover boxed set, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble  (Nook), and at selected local bookstores.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New study of male escorts finds that what they want to know is not what you think

Escort_Study_InfoGraphicInternet-based male escorts want to learn about ways to improve their business, found a new study from researchers at the Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training (CHEST.) They want services beyond safer sex and express high interest in being helped in ways that will improve their careers as escorts. “A lot of current research on male escorts has focused on HIV risk and looked at ways to help men stop being escorts. The assumption has always been that, because male escorts exchange sex for money, they are in dire need of safer sex training,” says Dr. Christian Grov, one of the study’s authors. “Instead, we found that over 70% reported using a condom with their last client and that services such as ‘Attracting the right client and keeping them,’ or learning how to navigate the legality of escorting, outranked being trained in how to negotiate safer sex with clients,” said Grov.

The data were taken from a 2013 survey of 418 male escorts on Rentboy.com, one of the largest websites on which male escorts advertise themselves to other men. The research team partnered with HOOK (hook-online.com), one of the oldest grassroots organizations to provide services and advocacy for men in the sex industry. One of Hook’s most popular programs is “Rent University,” a series of workshops offered to men in the sex industry. “Rent University was started in 2004 and has offered a variety of workshops ranging from self-defense to substance use harm reduction,” says Hawk Kinkaid, HOOK’s President and founder. “We partnered with the research team at CHEST to gain greater insight about what courses and programs to plan for the next Rent U. sessions and articles on HOOK’s site. We wanted to know what interests men in the sex industry about healthy living through working smarter,” said Kinkaid.

The CHEST survey asked men about 14 different workshops and those topping the list predominantly had to do with ways in which men could build their careers as escorts (managing money, marketing oneself). In fact, ending one’s career as an escort ranked 8th and negotiating safer sex ranked 12th. “This suggests that both researchers and providers really need to rethink how we are going to approach the topic of escorting,” says Grov. “Instead of trying to ‘save’ these men from being escorts and assuming HIV prevention is their chief interest, perhaps we really should be trying understand motivations for escorting and the intrinsic benefits men receive from being escorts,” continued Kinkaid.

But this is not to suggest all male escorts are happy-go-lucky. “It is important to remember that exchanging sexual services for money is highly stigmatized and there isn’t an organized physical community of male escorts. Many of these men remain hidden among us,” said Grov. In fact, the study found more than 2/3rd of participants (69.7%) had not disclosed their escorting to a single family member and a quarter had not told a single friend. “And this is exactly why online grassroots organizations like Hook have proven so valuable for these men. Where there isn’t a physical place for escorts to gather, online communities like Hook have created a virtual space.” And while 70% of participants reported using a condom with their last male client, 30% did not. Although in the minority, the study identified areas for improvement.

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MICHAEL LUCAS TAKES AIM AT RUSSIA

In New Documentary, Campaign of Hate:

Russia and Gay Propaganda

By Mike Bahr

As most of the world moves forward toward gay equality, Russia is seemingly heading backward. Antigay sentiment and legislation are

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spreading rapidly throughout the country. The Kremlin has chosen the LGBT community as its scapegoat in a populist campaign against supposedly decadent “Western” values, and there are ominous signs of much worse to come. Violent attacks against Russian gays are more and more common. Videos of young LGBT people being taunted and tortured have been widely distributed on the Internet. Nearly any public discussion of gay equality is a crime.

In his new documentary, Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda, Michael Lucas shines a light on Russia’s homophobic state of affairs and law against “gay propaganda.” Sobering accounts from LGBT Russians and their families and not-so-fun-facts about the Kremlin’s long-term, intensifying atmosphere of hate make this a compelling watch and call to arms.

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Why was it important for you to make THE CAMPAIGN OF HATE?

Ever since my years as a confused gay child in the former Soviet Union, it has been my dream to show the world what it is like to belong to the LGBT community in my former homeland. The recent explosion of antigay legislation and violence there has made this a more urgent project than ever. There was a lot of attention to this issue prior to the Olympics, and that attention must continue. The world has seen bits and pieces, but we don’t have the full picture of what the LGBT community in Russia is going through. That’s what I hope to show in my film.

Growing up in Russia, what was it like to realize that you were gay? 

It was very confusing at first, because there was no sexual education in school—not even for heterosexuals. I had no idea why I was attracted to guys, but I always knew that I was different from most of the other boys. At the age of 15 or 16, I looked up “homosexual” in a Russian encyclopedia, and saw that the term was associated with evil. Gays were classified as perverts, and gay sex was a criminal act that could land you in jail for up to three years. It was a traumatizing to read. But some time later, I read in a Soviet newspaper that homosexuals were supposedly being glorified in the West. The article was written in a negative way, of course, but it wound up giving me hope. I realized then that there were many places in the world where being gay was not such a terrible thing. From then on, I dreamed of leaving Russia.

Were you able to come out to your family or friends?

After reading that article about homosexuality in the West, I did come out to my family and some friends. I was the only openly gay teenager at my university. I was proud and confrontational.

Was it dangerous to be open about your homosexuality?

If you talk about your LGBT identity openly, or display same-sex affection in public, you are at risk of being targeted by gangs, beaten up and sometimes thrown in jail for a while. The police are not sympathetic to gay victims. There can also be a fine involved, because public affection with a person of the same sex can, according to the new laws in place, be considered “gay propaganda” and a menace to children.

How did you choose the people profiled in THE CAMPAIGN OF HATE?

We found them through various channels: Facebook profiles, word of mouth, and connections through friends in Russia.

Which story in the film speaks most to you?

I had a different reaction for every story. I was disgusted by the ignorance and hatred expressed by many of the random Russian people that we interviewed in the streets. But I continue to be amazed and inspired by the intelligence and bravery of journalist and activist Masha Gessen.

Gessen's familyWhat challenges do to the children being raised by gays and lesbians in Russia face?

It’s very difficult for kids.  They are often harassed and bullied at school. More importantly, they also live under the constant danger that they could be taken away from their parents. Under the new law, gay parents are theoretically exposing their children to “gay propaganda” every day. That’s why Masha Gessen and her partner recently moved to New York City. They were afraid they would lose their children if they stayed in Russia, and they were right to be.

 

Where can Russian gays and lesbians go?  Is there a safe haven?couples

As Masha says: “To the airport.” Those who do not have the means to leave are increasingly at risk.

Where does the hate stem from?

The Russian government is looking for a new enemy to distract its people from real problems like corruption and unemployment. The scapegoats used to be the Jews, but most of them left after the collapse of the Soviet Union. And so the Russians have moved on to the LGBT community, which coincides well with Putin’s cynical campaign of Russian nationalism. Homosexuality, according to this line of attack, is a sign of “Western decadence” and an enemy of “traditional Russian values.”

Do you still have family in Russia?

No. Like most Jews from the former Soviet Union, all of my relatives are in the United States or Israel.

What can Americans do to stop the campaign of hate in Russia?

We must do everything we can to keep these issues in the public eye and to pressure our government to do as little business with Russia as possible. We need to pinch their pockets.

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Do you have any hope that public opinion towards homosexuality will one day change in Russia? 

In the long run, I hope that Russia will join the rest of the developed world in changing its attitudes toward LGBT rights. But I am a practical person, and I don’t see that happening in the near future. For now, it’s only getting worse.

Do you expect another cold war between the USA and Russia?

Judging by the latest developments in the Ukraine, absolutely. The civilized, tolerant values of the West are at odds with the increasingly backward and barbaric attitudes of modern Russia, which is really a throwback to the worst parts of the Soviet era. The campaign against LGBT people there is a symptom of a larger disease that is certain to keep spreading.

Michael Lucas’ “Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda” is available on DVD at Amazon.com ($17.99). 

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