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Top 10 Highlights in Southeast Asia

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Southeast Asia has been a magnet for travelers since it was discovered by hippies in the sixties. It’s easy to understand why. With its sublime beaches, ancient temples, colorful markets and dynamic cities, there is something for everyone. Additionally, it is one of the cheapest regions in the world to travel in. I first visited South East Asia back in 1992, and since then have returned many times, often for several months at a time. Here is a pick of ten of my favorite destinations.
1) Angkor Wat, Cambodia 
Although it is always crowded, nothing can detract from the beauty of this sprawling temple complex. The Khmer Kingdom ruled the whole of South East Asia from the city until 1431, when it was invaded by Thailand. It wasn’t until the 1860’s that the city was rediscovered by the French.
Reclaimed by the jungle, nature has taken its course and tree roots twist their way round the ancient temples. The site became even more popular after Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider was filmed at Ta Prohm. It is, without a doubt, one of the most awe-inspiring destinations on the planet.
2) Halong Bay, Vietnam
The iconic images of the towering limestone islands of Halong Bay that I had gazed longingly at in magazines were even more stunning in reality. The best way to see them is take a cruise, preferably for at least a night or two. That way it is possible to escape the more crowded areas of the bay that the day-trippers linger in.
There are spectacular illuminated caves, beaches and fishing villages to explore from the traditional Vietnamese junk boats. Watching the sun sink over the bay was spectacular and probably one of the best sunsets I had ever witnessed.
3) Luang Prabang, Laos
Located on the Mekong River, this lovely UNESCO town has an abundance of Buddhist temples, crumbling French architecture and excellent cafes. The fact that it is surrounded by the beauty of magnificent mountains and waterfalls only adds to its appeal.
The daily alms ceremony takes place at dawn when barefoot monks pad silently through the streets and collect alms of rice from kneeling locals and tourists. Luang Prabang has managed to retain its charm despite having become a popular tourist destination and remains the jewel in Laos’ crown.
4) Sukhothai, Thailand
Sukhothai Heritage Park in Thailand is about three hundred miles north of Bangkok. The park is full of 13th-14th-century temples, wats, and statues. The best and most enjoyable way to explore is by bicycle, which I did over two days. The grounds are well-maintained the central zone has a scenic lake, complete with lotus flowers.
Smaller than South East Asia’s major sites, it’s less crowded and has a more peaceful vibe. Adjacent to the park is a market which is a great place to sample some tasty Thai street food.
5) Komodo Island, Indonesia
It’s remote, but worth the journey to see the ferocious Komodo dragons! They can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh 150 pounds. Komodo Island was established as a national park in order to protect the dragons.
Not only can you see the pre-historic looking monsters, but snorkeling is excellent in the clear waters off the island. It’s is a great opportunity to see turtles, clown fish and manta rays and is rated as one of the most unspoilt snorkelling spots in the world.
6) Bagan, Myanmar
Bagan is another awesome temple site, a twenty-six-mile area of over 4,000 temples. Visitors get around by bicycle, e-bikes or horse and carriage. The temples date back to the 13th and 14th centuries and are fascinating to explore. Many of the temples have a Buddha within their walls and the variety of styles is incredible.
There is nothing quite as magical as cycling along the dusty tracks of Bagan with a soundtrack of monk’s chants in the background. Watching the sun go down from Shwesandaw Pagoda is one of the most spectacular sights on the face of the earth.
7) Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok is one of the most invigorating cities in the world. Zooming around in a tuk-tuk, eating delicious street food and temple-hopping are all part of the Bangkok experience. At weekends, the vast Chatuchak market is the place to be.
Thailand’s progressive attitude makes Bangkok a utopia for LGBTQ visitors. Anything goes in this city. Most of the action takes place around Silom Soi 2 and 4, the hotspots for bars and clubs, including the famous DJ Station.
8) Beaches of the Philippines
Everyone knows the beaches in Thailand are fabulous, but these days it’s tough to find one that’s not over-run with tourists. For a less crowded experience, The Philippines offers postcard-perfect white sand beaches, secluded coves, and pristine coral reefs.
With 7,107 islands, it’s not too much of a challenge to find a secluded beach. From backpacker’s cabanas to luxury hotels, you are bound to find your personal slice of paradise.
9) Sarawak, Malaysia
Sharing the island of Borneo with Sabah, Sarawak is Malaysia’s largest state and a fantastic destination for wildlife watchers. With ten national parks, it’s possible to see proboscis (big-nosed) monkeys at Bako and orangutans at Semenggoh.
A river trip to visit the longhouses of the Iban tribe is unmissable and there are also great trekking opportunities. Kuching, the state capital is situated on the Sarawak River, a cute and chilled out city.
10) Hoi An, Vietnam
This enchanting town, located on Thu Bon river is quintessentially Vietnamese. With Chinese temples, traditional merchant houses and canals, it is unbelievably picturesque. The winding streets are a joy to explore and every turn provides an iconic Vietnamese scene straight out of a National Geographic magazine.
Many of the streets are pedestrianized and there are an abundance of excellent restaurants and lovely craft shops to peruse. At night time, colored lanterns glow throughout the town, creating a magical atmosphere.

Originally posted 2017-07-12 17:46:41.

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The Life and Legacy of Edith Windsor

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As many of you may know, Edith Windsor, the pioneer for marriage equality in the United States tragically passed away on Tuesday, September 12th. Because many are upset about her passing (I know I am), it is important to look back and remember all that she had accomplished in her 88 years of life.

Edith Windsor, born Edith Schlain on June 20th, 1929 in Philadelphia to James and Celia Schlain, was a Russian Jewish immigrant and, because of the time in which she was born, her family suffered from the Great Depression. However, Windsor persevered and earned a master’s in mathematics from NYU and eventually joined IBM, where she worked for sixteen years. While in college, Edith met Saul Windsor. Their relationship ended once when Saul discovered that Edith had fallen in love with a female classmate. Edith, however, said that she did not wish to be a lesbian and proceeded to marry Saul. This marriage did not last very long as after a year of her tying the knot, Edith told him that she longed to be with women and they divorced. She then moved from Philadelphia to New York City.  

While in New York, Edith met Thea Spyer. Both in relationships of their own, they had to keep their relationship a secret. While Windsor was working for IBM, she received multiple phone calls from Thea Spyer. In order to conceal her sexual orientation, she told her colleagues that she was speaking to Thea’s brother, a fictitious person named Willy who, comically, was the name of Windsor’s childhood doll.  

“Like countless other same-sex couples, we engaged in a constant struggle to balance our love for one another and our desire to live openly and with dignity, on the one hand, with our fear of disapproval and discrimination from others on the other.”

In 1967, Spyer asked Windsor to marry her. Windsor was again afraid that her sexuality would be discovered, so Spyer proposed to her with a diamond brooch. Unfortunately, Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1977. Fearing that she would not be alive to see same-sex marriage legalized, they got legally married in Canada in 2007.

Tragically, Thea Spyer passed away in 2009, which left Edith with a large tax bill that heterosexual couples would not have after the death of a spouse because the legal definition of marriage in the US did not include same-sex couples. Sensing the inequality, Edith decided to sue the federal government. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to the same benefits as heterosexual couples. This milestone of equality was one of the catalysts that led to the Obergefell vs. Hodges case in 2015 that deemed the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

In addition to her pivotal role in achieving marriage equality, Windsor also volunteered with the Gay and Lesbian and Defenders (GLAD), the East End Gay Organization, the LGBT Community Center, and more. Edith Windsor is considered a pioneer for marriage equality and she certainly deserves the title. Thanks to Windsor, same-sex couples across the US can now marry the person they love with the full benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy today. It is my hope that Windsor can inspire others to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community and help fight bigotry around the world. Edith Windsor is unfortunately gone but she will never be forgotten. She will continue to inspire the LGBTQ community to be proud and to fight for the rights they justly deserve.

Originally posted 2017-09-18 18:03:58.


Also published on Medium.

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LGBTQ Fashion Revolutionaries: Steal Their Looks, Steal Their IDGAF Attitudes

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Hearing that a member of the fashion world is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community comes as no surprise – after all, the point of fashion is to bend the rules, be anything but normal, and to accept the extraordinary. It is fashion’s job to shake things up, so it’s no wonder that queer people are the movers and shakers at the helm of this industry.

We’re showcasing the best of the best in queer fashion – those who have broken the mold, stepped outside their comfort zones, and dominated the mainstream.

Alexander McQueen

Known as the “beloved bad boy of fashion,” Alexander McQueen was openly gay, extremely extra, and didn’t care to follow the rules – in fact, one might say he lived to break them. Coming from London ’s East End Givenchy house and moving on to his own label, McQueen was essentially the Mick Jagger of fashion. Known for shaking up the conservative label, McQueen sparked outrage when he moved to the French couture house, following John Galliano as Chief Designer. Once he had his own label, McQueen continued to push boundaries – even liberal ones. His shows were often controversial, and he was famous for creating “bumster” trousers, which essentially displayed a model’s butt cleavage, for lack of a better term. The bumsters were supposed to be a parody of construction workers, an interesting attitude toward class structure. McQueen often drew inspiration from tragedies, obscene events, and people who you would not see at any of his fashion shows.

One of the most memorable traits of McQueen was his I-don’t-give-a-f*ck attitude. Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel said of the late McQueen, “he was always interesting, never banal” – high compliments from another gay fashion rebel whose cat has its own Wikipedia page.

Andrej Pejić

An Australian trans model who has referred to herself as “living between genders,” Andreja Pejić is known as the “first completely androgynous trans model.” Starting her career as a male model photographed for Paris Vogue in womenswear, an idea brought forth by yet another fashion phenom, Carine Roitfeld, Pejić is not only taking the modeling world by storm, she’s also venturing into film and walking in the Prabal Gurung show at New York Fashion Week this year.

Pejić has noted that gender dysphoria is not easy to live with, and is an outspoken role model for trans youth around the world.

Tim Gunn

Honestly, do we even need to elaborate on Tim Gunn? Okay, we will, because he’s worth it – the Project Runway mentor is really everyone’s mentor, isn’t he? He’s like the impeccably dressed, kind-hearted, gay dad you never had but always knew you wanted.

Gunn had his beginnings, as many of us now know, as a high school teacher. He taught a design course at Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C. and from there, went on to eventually teaching at Parsons and becoming an associate dean. Even before Gunn became a teacher, he had to overcome a debilitating stutter and admits that there were quite a few points in his life where he didn’t feel like he could “make it work” – but he did regardless. Gunn is a true inspiration.

Cara Delevingne

Cara Delevingne is one of the hottest models – and now-actresses – in Hollywood now. A stint as Enchantress in Suicide Squad and as Margo in Paper Towns has turned her into a bona fide movie star. Her career is on fire, but don’t ask her about her sexuality, unless you want to get a clap back. The blunt star has said, in regards to her bisexuality: “My sexuality is not a phase…I am who I am. I think that being in love with my girlfriend is a big part of why I’m feeling so happy with who I am these days.” We’re happy for her, and can’t wait to see what she does next.

Alexander Wang

Alexander Wang is an openly gay designer with a following- the likes of Rihanna, Chloe Sevigny, Azealia Banks, Gisele Bundchen, Nicki Minaj, and Lady Gaga, to name but a few. While recently making headlines as being oblivious to fans and viewers at his New York Fashion Week 2017 show, Wang is nonetheless an incredible fashion force to be reckoned with. The former Creative Director of Balenciaga, Wang has since gone on to start his own line and collaborate with H&M.

While some of the aforementioned icons are just beginning their careers, some are right in the middle, and some have tragically had their lives cut short, none seem to be without controversy (except for maybe our angel baby Tim Gunn). Whether good or bad, these revolutionaries have changed the fashion industry; time will tell what their ultimate thumbprint on the runway will be.

Originally posted 2017-09-18 16:54:51.

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These Are the Gays of Our Lives: Life Advice from a Big Ol’ Mo: Coming Out, Fitting In, Quote of the Week

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Welcome to ‘These Are the Gays of Our Lives: Life Advice from a Big Ol’ Mo!’ where we’ll talk about life issues, answer some of your questions, and work through some of the challenges facing the gay community. So, feel free to ask anything you’d like using the form below. Let’s jump right in with the first two questions!

Dear Gays of Our Lives,

I’m unhappy. I’m unhappy with my relationship, I’m unhappy with my job, I’m unhappy with my family. I know it all stems from not being comfortable enough with myself and my sexuality to come out of the closet, but there are a lot of issues surrounding me coming out. My family would have problems with it, my colleagues would, and I don’t think I’m really ready to make that kind of leap for my boyfriend. He’s not pressuring me to come out or anything, but it certainly puts a strain on our relationship. What should I do?

Sincerely, 

It’s Dark in this Closet…

My Dear Dark In This Closet,

I understand your pains. I, too, felt that I could not come out to my friends and family. My dad was always so manly, my mom was always worried about what others would think, and I worked in a religious environment. But I found peace with deciding to tell my friends and family, but that’s something that can only be done on your own time. There’s no gay timeline that says you have to come out by a certain age, or for anyone. Coming out is a big decision, and you can’t be forced into it. Take your time. If your boyfriend loves you and isn’t pressuring you, then don’t worry about it. Sure, it’ll make things easier if you come out, but that’s on you to decide when the timing is right. Until then, hug your man extra tight and thank him for not pressuring you and for loving you just the way you are. 

Wishing you the very best, 

The Big Ol’ Mo

Dear Big Ol’ Mo,

I’m having trouble finding a place where I “fit in” and a group of friends with whom I feel comfortable. What should I do?

Best, 

New Here

Dear New Here,

I wish I could tell you that feeling goes away with age, but we all feel a little out of place, or like we don’t fit in from time to time, especially in the gay community. With all the different labels we put on ourselves, like Twink, Otter, Bear, Chaser, Chub, Kink, Boy, Sir, etc it can be difficult to figure out where you belong. My advice, try to find people of like-minded interests. Meetup.com is especially great for this. There are Meet-Ups for every gay sub-culture and every activity under the sun. Twink who likes to play volleyball? There’s one of those. Bear who likes to play video games? Yep. That, too. There’s something for everyone! 

Also, don’t be afraid to get out there and try new bars and clubs. Most of them have different themes and crowds, so experiment a little bit. Try talking to people, making friends, etc. Even if it’s just for the night, it’s better than sitting at home alone! 

I wish you the best of luck at finding your place. You’ve got this!

Sincerely, 

The Big Ol’ Mo

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

“I never felt I had anything to hide. I never felt being gay was anything to be ashamed of, so I never felt apologetic. I didn’t have issues with it, didn’t grow up with any religion, so I didn’t have any religious, you know, issues to deal with as far as homosexuality is concerned. So, I accepted it very easily. For me, it wasn’t that big a deal.” -Martina Navratilova

Do you have a question for the Big Ol’ Mo? Fill out the form below!

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Originally posted 2017-09-16 12:21:48.

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