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LGBT History Month: 10 LGBT Authors Who Were Total Game Changers



Well we’re halfway through LGBT History month folks and we’re really getting into it. During this month it’s important to look back and reflect on those whose writing and openness about their sexuality changed the game for the LGBT community and created representation in media when there was none. Here are ten LGBT writers who changed things up in the literary world.

Sappho (630 B.C—570 BC)

There’s an old saying that all literature starts with Ancient Greece, but it should be rephrased that all it starts with Sappho, poet, and influencer. Known by Plato as the “10th Muse”, Sappho composed what historians believe around 10,000 lines of poetry on the island of Lesbos. Her poetry is about women on women love and the beauty of femininity. While we don’t know much about Sappho’s life, and the bulk of her poetry has been lost to time, we do see a lot of her influence today. The term “lesbian” comes from her home of Lesbos and she became a “patron saint of lesbians” when 20th-century lesbian writers discovered her work. She made headlines in 2014 when some of her poems were discovered, creating more fans.

Oscar Wilde(1854-1900)

Playwright, novelist, and literary rebel Oscar Wilde revolutionized the literary world with his wit and his refusal to conform. As I mentioned in my last article, Wilde’s first and only novel, The Picture of Dorian Grey,” was so “racy” with gay and bisexual characters that Victorian readers were shocked.  His novel, as well as being as openly gay as you can be in Victorian England with his boyfriend Lord Alfred Douglas, led him to be sentenced to two years of hard labor in 1895. In the years after his early death, Wilde became a symbol of rebellion, individualism, and the poster child for “being yourself”. He has become a gay icon for writers and theatre kids. Wilde makes headlines today, with a recent secular temple opening up the basement of a New York Church devoted to Oscar Wilde, something that he would probably love.

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

Behind every great man, there is an even greater woman, and no one was greater than Gertrude Stein. Novelist, art collector and actual badass, she hosted a Paris salon where Ernest Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald, and Pablo Picasso would meet her and ask for her advice. Yes, she edited Hemingway’s writing, because she’s the original baller. She wrote the popular The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas using the tone and voice of her life partner, Alice B. Toklas. A legend in her own right, the modernist literary movement that Ezra Pound, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald are known for would not exist without her.

Langston Hughes (1920-1967)

American poet, social activist, and novelist Langston Hughes was not “out” during his lifetime. Like many authors of his time, he stayed closeted because of the fear of being an outcast. This is deeply felt in Hughes’ case, as a black man in the time of segregation he was already trying to jump one hurdle, to jump another would be almost impossible at that time. While Hughes was never out, he made a huge contribution to the literary world. He was a leader of the Harlem Renaissance literature movement and one of the earliest creators of jazz poetry. His writing deals with themes of racism, survival, memory and American identity, many of which are still relevant today.

Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)

Leading figure of the Beat Movement during the 1950’s and 60’s, the poet Allen Ginsberg is probably best well known for his epic poem “Howl” which deals with sexual repression, capitalism, and conformity. Similar to Wilde, Ginsberg’s “Howl” became the subject of an obscenity trial because it described gay sex when sodomy laws made homosexual acts a crime in every U.S State (yes, this really happened here). Fortunately, Ginsburg was found not guilty and “Howl” was found not obscene with the judge adding, “Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?” Ginsberg was very open about his sexuality, striking a note for gay marriage by listing his life partner Peter Orlovsky as his spouse in his author bio entry.This became a bit of a turning point for freedom of speech and gay rights in America and led to more authors being open about their sexuality.

Audre Lorde (1934-1992)

Writer, womanist, and civil rights activist Audre Lorde was a major game changer, trying to get her voice heard as a black gay woman, which was no easy feat. She coined the term “womanist” with fellow author Alice Walker, who was looking for a term for feminist equality but also fit with diversity and unique struggles that women of color face. Audre was very open about her sexuality and beautifully expressed her emotions in her poetry and essays (The Black Unicorn being a personal favorite of mine). The Audre Lorde Project is a Brooklyn based center for LGBT people of color for community organizing and is still helping people today.

James Baldwin (1924-1987)

American writer and social critic, James Baldwin may be best known for his collection of essays, Notes of a Native Son, which deals with racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western cultures in the 20th century. His second novel Giovanni’s Room, written in 1956, well before the gay liberation movement, has bisexual and gay characters and deals with social alienation. Social Alienation was something that Baldwin deeply felt as a black man in America, and as a gay man in Europe. His writing kickstarted the conversation on sexuality to the reading public.

Jeanette Winterson (1959)

Okay, if you’re not reading Sexing the Cherry I don’t even know what you’re doing with your life. Actually, just read all of Jeanette Winterson’s books right now, and thank me later. Jeanette Winterson is a more modern writer on the list, with her work exploring gender polarities and sexual identity. Her own complicated “coming out” story found in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Why be Normal When you can be Happy? gives a relatable and modern voice to a new generation who are looking for a connection.

Truman Capote (1924-1984)

Novelist Truman Capote took “Gay Icon” to a whole other level by becoming not only a huge celebrity but a celebrity who was openly gay in the 1960’s.  A bit of a character, known as the “Tiny Terror” with his high voice, offbeat dress and tall tales about famous people he’s never met, created a bit of a gay stereotype that remains today. Still, his openness about his homosexuality and his encouragement for other writers to do the same made him an important player in the realm of gay rights.

Alison Bechdel (1960)

Cartoonist, author, and creative genius Alison Bechdel is currently changing the game with her graphic novel Fun Home, an autobiography about her own life and learning about her sexuality, which was made into a Tony Award Winning Musical in 2015. She is also the creator of the famed Bechdel Test that calls out sexist movies. She also created the comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For” that ran from 1983 to 2008 that was one of the earliest long-running representations of lesbians in pop culture.

This is just a small list of the hundreds of LGBT writers and creators that exist and there are probably hundreds more that have been suppressed by small-minded media and gatekeeping publishers that still keep LGBT writers out today. While these trailblazers have made the path easier to walk on, there is still much work to be done. Will you be the next LGBT game changer?  

Originally posted 2017-10-21 17:01:54.

Ellen Ricks is a word-for-hire, fashion blogger, and bibliophile living in upstate New York. She has a BFA in Creative Writing from SUNY Potsdam and has been published in a number of literary magazines, both in print and online. She runs the fashion blog Sarcasm in Heels.  When not writing, Ellen enjoys frolicking in fancy dresses, consuming pumpkin spice everything, and dismantling the patriarchy.

48 Hours In...

48 Hours in Honolulu



Why Go?

How about sparkling azure ocean, white sand beaches, surfers, hula dancers and swaying palm trees for starters? Throw in the opportunity to enjoy some world-class shopping/dining experiences and a laid-back aloha vibe. There’s no doubt where in the world you are when you hit the hedonistic streets of Waikiki. Before heading out to the other islands, make sure you take a couple of days to soak up the delights of this dynamic Hawaiian city.

Getting There

All flights arrive at Honolulu International Airport, from where you can take a taxi to Waikiki Beach about nine miles away. The other alternative is a shuttle bus. If you haven’t got too much luggage, you could take the airport bus, which is the cheapest option by far.

Most tourists stay in Waikiki. This is where the beach and most of the attractions are located. They are all within easy walking distance of one another. Honolulu’s downtown area is three miles from Waikiki.

Checking In

Although it is possible to seek out a bargain, hotels in Waikiki are on the expensive side. One of the most iconic places to stay is the romantic and luxurious Royal Hawaiian Hotel, located on the beachfront. Easily recognisable by its pink exterior, it has been used in many TV shows and movies. At the other end of the scale, check out the quirky Royal Grove Hotel, a great budget option and only a block away from the beach!

Day One

Before you head to the beach, enjoy a relaxed breakfast at Lulu’s While you tuck into local specialties Loco Moco or Longboard Benedict, check out the stunning views of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach.

Waikiki is probably the most famous beach in the world, and deservedly so. Where better to learn to ride the waves than the birthplace of surfing? If you don’t bring your own board, you can rent one – the waves are perfect for beginners. As well as being incredibly warm, the ocean is the most sublime turquoise you will ever lay eyes on. If you prefer a more sedate experience, rent a sun lounger and simply chill in paradise.

Hit the waves! Many establishments hire out boards or give surf lessons

If you can tear yourself away from the beach, check out Waikiki Aquarium, which has a vibrant display of native fish, turtles and two Hawaiian monk seals.

For the ultimate Hawaiian shopping experience, make tracks to Ala Moana Center, a sprawling mall chock-a-block with stores and restaurants. There are regular Hawaiian music and dance events on the stage and lots of opportunities to buy souvenirs or sample local delicacies.

Make your way back to Waikiki Beach, with a pause at Moose’s (310 Lewers St. Honolulu) for Happy Hour and a bite to eat. The cocktails here are great value. You will soon be feeling the aloha spirit and  be ready to hit the beach again, this time to watch the sun sink over the ocean. The torch-lighting and hula show takes place on the beach most evenings, and crowds gather to watch the entertainment in the fading light. It’s a magical time of the day in Waikiki and the atmosphere is mellow as everyone enjoys the vibe and beautiful setting.

If you are in the mood to party, you can’t go wrong at Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand, Honolulu’s longest established LGBTQ venue. It’s a friendly spot, where both locals and tourists congregate. There are views over the ocean and live entertainment most nights of the week. The cocktails are potent and the staff welcoming

Day Two

Start the day energetically with a hike to the summit of Diamond Head, the dramatic volcanic crater which overlooks the city. Take some snacks and plenty of water. if you head out early, you will avoid the intense midday heat. The trail is steep and a little uneven, but the hour’s climb is worth it for the sweeping views of the ocean and city skyline.

After building up an appetite on the trail, enjoy a lunch buffet at the famous Duke’s Duke’s Barefoot Bar is right on the beach and serves up a buffet featuring locally grown produce and an abundance of tempting accompaniments. Alternatively, try the fresh fish dishes or burgers. There is often live music, and a visit to Duke’s is a quintessential Hawaiian experience not to be missed.

The Barefoot Bar at Duke’s

After some more beach time, stroll along to the historical Royal Hawaiian Hotel and take in the traditional ambiance. Treat yourself to a delicious cocktail at the Mai Tai Bar, a mere few steps away from the sand.

The Royal Hawaiian

Next up, take the elevator to the Top of Waikiki The revolving restaurant offers spectacular views, especially at sunset. Appetizers and cocktails are available during Happy Hour, which goes from 5.00pm-9.30pm. The perfect ending to two blissful days in Honolulu!

View from Top of Waikiki



Originally posted 2017-08-24 18:54:31.

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Getting Lost the Right Way (and Avoiding the Wrong)



Road trips are magical. The open road, the endless possibilities. But you know what isn’t so magical? Getting lost in the middle of nowhere (read: out in the boondocks where not even the coyotes know where the closest gas station is). That being said, there is a right way and a very, very wrong way to get lost on a trip.

If you want to get lost and enjoy yourself, it’s best to have a plan in place. Seems counterintuitive, yes. But getting lost on purpose is more organized than it sounds. To start, know the highways nearby and keep in mind that the point of getting lost on purpose is to see new things. When lost the right way, it’s certainly not about the destination, which is good to keep in mind. For one, make sure your tank is completely full. Nothing is scarier than getting lost in the countryside with only a quarter tank and no sign of civilization in sight.

Don’t trust that GPS will always be there for you. Like that one friend, it probably won’t be (Totally not something that happened to me recently in rural south Georgia, not at all). Depending on your carrier, data connection and location services can be spotty at best and nonexistent at worst. Don’t be like me, who learned this the hard way.

Use GPS even if you think you remember the way back. The last drive I went on, I followed directions very carefully getting there and believed that I would be able to remember the turns in reverse going home.This resulted in what I like to call: a disaster. What I didn’t consider was the fact that rural Georgia looks completely different at night, when every tree looks the same and you have the added hazard of deer all over the roads. I knew I was lost after twenty minutes, but I kept driving, foolishly positive I’d eventually find the right road again.

Maps are your friends. Remember how your parents always told you to keep a map or atlas in your glove box? They weren’t just being old-fashioned. When GPS has failed and you longer recognize any landmarks, a map is your only hope (barring meeting a friendly stranger or an extra cell tower magically constructing itself in the next open field).

Print out directions beforehand. I know, I know. Printing out directions Google Maps is almost as dated as paper maps. But believe me, it can’t hurt. Even if you don’t print them, the screenshot feature on smart phones exists for a reason. Before you hit the road, coffee and snacks stocked and ready to go, pull up GPS while you have bars or Wi-Fi, and find the turn-by-turn directions. Screenshot them. And then, when you inevitably lose service at some point in your voyage, you still have access to your route. I didn’t do this, and by the time I had service again, I was two and a half hours away from home, when the drive should’ve taken an hour. (Do as I say, not as I do, my friends).

If you realize you’re lost and know where you took the wrong turn, GO BACK ASAP.

There comes a moment when you’re lost when you can usually pinpoint where you went wrong. When that happens, turn around as soon as you realize, despite the hope that maybe you’ll find a familiar street. Realizing you took a wrong turn is a sign from the universe that you need to go back, rather than trusting your foolish instincts. It’s a losing battle, and you will get more lost. It’s practically the law of the universe.

Just ask for directions, no matter how much you hate doing it.

This applies to everyone, and I’m ignoring the stereotype because it really isn’t just men. If you see a gas station or a small business, just stop. It’s almost guaranteed that someone will know how to get back to where you were headed, and you might stumble upon a cool store or attraction or monument that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

The moral of the story, friends, is that getting lost can be an adventure. You learn things about the area, about yourself as a navigator (this could be good or bad) and best of all, you have a story to tell at the end of it. Just remember that if you’re gonna get lost, try to do it on purpose.


Originally posted 2017-08-24 17:57:03.

Also published on Medium.

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Metalhead Transgender Woman is Making Political History



As a long-time fan of metal music and an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, I am ecstatic that Danica Roem, band member of her band Cab Ride Home and transgender woman won a four-way Democratic primary on June 13th. In addition to being a musician in a metal band, she was also an experienced journalist in Prince William County, which is the county she wishes to represent if she wins the position a seat in the House of Delegates in Virginia.

However, while Roem has won the battle, she’s still fighting a war. In order to gain a seat in the House of Delegates, she will have to defeat Republican Bob Marshall who is currently serving his eleventh term. Bob Marshall supports one-man, one-woman marriage, believes that same-sex marriage has a negative effect on heterosexual marriage, introduced the Physical Privacy Act which would have prevented transgender individuals from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity (luckily this bill failed), supports the idea that employers can fire someone based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has a weak idea of what equality means and twists around words to fit his agenda,

“There never were ‘heterosexual’ only water fountains in Virginia or other Southern states.  Separate elementary or secondary schools were not built for GLBTQ children.  Homosexuals and lesbians could sit anywhere they wanted on buses, trains and other public transportation.  Homosexuals were never enslaved as a class or brought to America in chains.  Homosexuals never were forbidden from ‘marrying’ heterosexuals.  Homosexuals did not have to engage in nationwide ‘sit ins’ at restaurant lunch counters to be served a meal.  Lesbians did not have to take “Literacy” tests as a condition for voting.” 

and many more discriminatory ideas. In comparison, Roem supports adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the Prince William School system’s nondiscrimination policy, protecting transgender students, and values people individually, not by what religion they belong to or what sexual orientation they may have.

With the current presidency comes a resurgence of ultra-conservative ideas and, because of that, it is a possibility that Bob Marshall will serve a twelfth term. However, Roem is off to a good start. By winning the Democratic primary, she is showing the US that even the most conservatives of states can switch courses and realize that members of the LGBT community deserve the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Since 1991, when Marshall was elected, Prince William County has become more left-leaning as the population grows. It was one of the Republican-controlled counties that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump which shows that the district leans more toward to progressive side, which is definitely good news for Danica Roem. Because of this, Roem has a real chance of winning a seat in the House of Delegates. Even if she does not earn the position, by running and winning the Democratic primary, Roem set the stage for future transgender individuals to run for a position in the government.

Originally posted 2017-08-24 11:48:44.

Also published on Medium.

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