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I Know Where I’ve Been: All Over The Place, As It Seems

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Travelogues are nothing new in the realm of literature. Ever since the dawn of the written word, there have been innumerable people who want to tell the stories of faraway places they may or may not have visited. Marco Polo was just only the most visible one; there was many who came before him, and many who sought to imitate him afterwards. In fact, one of the first modern satires, Gulliver’s Travels, was written under the thin veneer of being a parody of “traveller’s tales”. So in the age of social media, the concept of the travelogue might seem as dated as the rotary phone.

Which leads to Robert Coles’ I Know Where I’ve Been: A Year-Long Journey of Self-Discovery, a new type of spectrum-friendly travelogue. Though he notes of occasional trips to Mexico and Colombia, most of the travels documents are in the United States and Canada. More specifically, it detailed his travels throughout 2015 and the connections that he had made in the process of reaching his goal of visiting 30 cities by the end of the year. In between the stories about random adventures and quirky friends/lovers are a series of sober reflections on not only his life but also the lives of those around him.

It is in these reflections that one can find the emotional core of I Know Where I’ve Been, and certainly makes it stand out from the standard travelogue. These include stories of his family (specifically of his dad, who died of a heart attack at 53) as well as past lovers (such as “Josh”, with whom he had a fun but ill-fated relationship). It also informs the reader of Coles’ mentality about travel, as his family was not able to travel very much, save for the occasional trip to Disney World or a place like Yellowstone. In a household like that with a person like Coles turned out to be, it is no wonder that he turned out to be such a major traveler. And of course, his sexuality does play an important role at certain moments, including an experience with those with a homophobic bent. Specifically, it first comes to a head when a seemingly nice Christian family turns on him with a vengeance when one of its members catches him looking up certain explicit files downloaded from Limewire.  

Of course, the travel stories in I Know Where I’ve Been themselves do stand out in their own right, which is an important part of a work in this genre. And unlike many popular travelogues, there is a tinge of emotional honesty to most of them, which makes it akin to a mix of An Idiot Abroad and Michael Palin’s Around The World In 80 Days in literary form. Coles does not shy away from the horror stories, such as the Airbnb fiasco in Chicago or a miserable night on the bad side of Detroit. Nor does he leave out some of the stranger things, such as the night in Detroit being followed by a slightly unnerving passport check at the Canadian border. Nor does he gloss over several of the tales of him and his company going on full-blown benders, with the results akin to a remake of The Hangover on a college film fest budget.

However, the experiences throughout his 2015 in I Know Where I’ve Been come out as a net positive, especially with all of the people he met. Standouts include the “Denver Death Tour”, the visits to the Second City improv venue, and visiting Toronto ’s famous CN Tower. Perhaps the most accurate statement by Coles is the following: “While I certainly regret some of the behaviors and wish I could erase some of the memories, I wouldn’t change who I am today because of them.” It is likely the reader will share the same sentiment by the end.

Originally posted 2017-07-30 10:04:24.

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Sex Talks For Teens Part 2 of 3

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Trans Youth Need Guidance and Love, Not Ridicule Part 2 of 3

This one is for trans youth and the people who love them. Staying safe while navigating the maze of choices during teen and young adult years requires the basics of self-love and a support system. Both are important. For trans kids who may have far fewer supports, it’s imperative they connect with conscious adults who can lend positive direction.  

Navigating Sexuality Is A Real Process For Trans Kids

I have advocated for trans women for a long time, decades. Because I worked with queer youth many of which identified as trans (m to f) or were just getting used to being gay and out, I saw their hearts. I saw tears and gave hugs to kids who were trying to find their way in a heterosexist world where they didn’t have many safe spaces.Teen rap sessions where “tea” was spilled and real issues dealt with, were part of the weekly schedule. It was and is needed. For many, safety wasn’t found at school. Not in a district where the superintendent told me to my face, that Gay Straight Alliances (GSA’s), would not happen on his watch.

Trans Kids Need Safe Spaces

For many, safety wasn’t found at home either. Kids were put out on the suspicion that they were gay, or when they were caught in sharing a kiss with a boy. Church, you already know. While LGBT churches are welcoming they may not necessarily be on the radar of teens. Many kids attended traditional churches with family in order to keep peace at home and a roof over their heads, while being beaten down emotionally and spiritually from the pulpit.

Can Trans Kids Live?

When they came to the queer youth center they didn’t get judged. Weave in all colors and lengths, nail polish, and femme geared ruled as teens swapped stories, clothes, and Lawd, the shoes! They weren’t told that they were crazy, or deranged. Nor were they told that they were boys who needed to stop acting like girls.

Let’s Deal With Disclosure

As a working queer, I was tasked with guiding youth. I think disclosure matters. The question is, when should a trans girl or woman open up with the fact that she was born a boy? Dating today is confusing in part because people don’t communicate effectively.

Text messages lose context and people live on social media and not all profiles are honest. Hell, not all pictures are honest. The point is if people are having choppy text based convos and exchanges through GIFs, it’s kind of shallow. Netflix and chill isn’t an invite to get to know another person on an intellectual level, it’s an invitation to sex. So if we agree to “hook-up,” another term for sex, the needed conversation of gender and STD’s may not happen.

Positive Role Models Needed

Let’s not get crazy and think that queer kids don’t need advice on dating and choosing suitable partners. Adults don’t even have it right all the time, or even, most of the time. Good role models are definitely needed. People with good character, who understand that mentoring means hands off. Period. Remember, Urban Bush Sista!, keeps it real. There are posers in the community who will take advantage of youth. We’re not having that!

Words of Advice: Be Your Best Self – The Universe Will Handle The Rest

What I want teens to overstand is that good sexual health requires responsibility, and moral responsibility requires honesty. What you do with that information is up to you. I’m not here to tell you when to disclose, just that I think it needs to be done before spit is swapped, or sex is on the agenda.If you need additional resources check out the list from the Gay & And Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLADD). Remember, it’s also about self-love and valuing who you are.

Image Credit:  Picserve

http://www.picserver.org/images/highway/phrases/dating.jpg

Originally posted 2017-08-08 22:34:25.

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Brighton Pride 2017 – ‘Summer of Love’

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Welcome to Brighton Pride 2017

Saturday 5th August 2017. The blustery winds and rainfall that had blighted the south coast the previous week ceased. The clouds parted and sunshine came to Brighton just in time for Pride. Apart from a couple of short sharp showers, the sun shone down on the biggest and brightest Brighton Pride ever.

Brighton’s two-day Pride Festival is now the largest in the UK. Thousands of revellers filled the rainbow-adorned streets of the city to enjoy the parade, which included over one hundred floats. The parade kicked off on the seafront with a sky dive display from the Tigers Freefall Parachute Team, who delivered the rainbow flag to the head of the parade in spectacular style. The parade then proceeded to wind its way through the streets of the city center.

Amongst the festive fun and frolics, there was a reminder of why celebrating Pride is still so important in these days of so-called enlightenment. The event this year was marking fifty years of partial decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales, a monumental year in LGBT history.

Human Rights Campaigner, Peter Tatchell and friends showing support for LGBTQ people in Chechnya

LGBTQ refugees and immigrants were well-represented in the parade and received great support from the spectators. Peter Tatchell, the human rights campaigner, marched in solidarity with LGBTQ people of Chechnya, whose suffering has been very much in the news of late.

On a lighter note, it was great to see that the ‘Oldest Gay in the Village’ is still going strong. George Montague, aged 94, is a regular participant and drives the parade route in his motorized wheelchair, always receiving a big cheer from onlookers.

George Montague – ‘The Oldest Gay in the Village’ is always a hit with the crowds

Tie-dye, love beads and flares were very much in evidence in line with the Summer of Love theme. Speakers blasted out ‘San Francisco (Be sure to wear flowers in your hair)’. You could almost smell incense in the air. Drag queens camped it up in their spectacular costumes and even a few rainbow-festooned dogs were enjoying the jubilant atmosphere. The vibe was upbeat, happy and life-affirming, and provided a huge dose of positivity in these uncertain times.

A glamorous parade participant

Just as the parade reached Preston Park, a huge deluge of rain came down, but it didn’t dampen the spirits of the crowds and luckily was short-lived. Inside the park, various marquees offered dance music and entertainment for all tastes, from the women’s acoustic tent to the Wild Fruit dance tent. In addition to a funfair, there were bars, food trucks and lots of stalls to peruse.

Hippies Rule!

The headliners this year were the Pet Shop Boys, who wowed the 40,000 strong audience with a full set from their ‘Super Tour’, complete with stunning effects. The supporting artists included Years and Years, Louisa Johnson and Becky Hill.

Elsewhere in the city, restaurants, and bars were buzzing, customers spilling out onto the sidewalks. Many offer special Pride food and drinks. At the local Gap, a woman with a funky afro danced in the store window. On the beach, groups of people were enjoying their own parties. At the Pride Pleasure Gardens at the Old Steine and Victoria Gardens, there was cabaret, live music, DJs and clubbing galore.

Glitter and Glitz

As the sun went down, Kemp Town, the scene of the Pride Village Party, was heaving with throngs of people enjoying themselves in the fading light. With an abundance of LGBTQ bars, clubs and pubs, it is a popular spot throughout the year, but during Pride the atmosphere is dynamic. The seafront and St. James Street were closed to traffic, an area which has been extended over the last few years to accommodate the growing crowds who attend.

The partying continued on Sunday, and the remainder of Pride was blessed with beautiful sunny weather. Culminating in a spectacular firework display over the English Channel, one thing has been made clear over this weekend – Brighton sure knows how to throw a party.

http://www.brighton-pride.org

Originally posted 2017-08-07 19:55:46.

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Love It, Leave It: The NYC (Bagel) Edition

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(Photo Credit: Unsplash)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love It, Leave It: The NYC (Bagel) Edition

Any time a random stranger shouts in my face for “bumping into them” on the subway or my landlord ignores my pleas that our hot water has mysteriously gone on hiatus, I slip into deep contemplation about why — Lord, why — do I live in New York City? But then, I wake up on a crisp fall-like summer day, grab an iced latte and a freshly-baked NYC bagel and have a mini-picnic in Washington Square Park. Then I can’t seem to picture my feet anywhere but on this tightly packed grassy knoll, with these amazing (but still random) strangers. Not trying to get all sentimental here — let’s focus on the bagels, OK? Just like the pizza, most locals (including myself) swear that the water is what sets these beautifully boiled and baked rings apart. A bit of a shiny, crisp exterior, with a tender, chewy inside…now that’s what’s up.

Love It: Sadelle’s. Black Seed.

Photo Credit: Erin Oliveri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadelle’s: This may be a sit-down, Jewish appetizing establishment at its core (from the crew behind Parm, another favorite of mine), but the low key take out counter is where you want to slink up and order a bagel to go from. Feel free to sit down with a group and have rosé paired with a variety of caviar and smoked fish, if you don’t mind a wait or a typical SoHo scene. Maybe you’ll even get a celebrity sighting while you’re there. As I waited for my small but mighty everything bagel with dill cream cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions, Kendall Jenner ducked in as the paparazzi shouted her name. For just over $3, I kept up with NYC breakfast trends and the Kardashians.

Black Seed: Living a few blocks away from the original Nolita outpost is a blessing in a curse. Do I need to eat bagels multiple times a week? Of course not. But do I do it anyway? You bet I do. These bagels are part New York, part Montreal. Boiled in honey water (delicious) and then tossed in a wood-fired oven (just to one-up themselves), these bagels come in classic flavors like everything and sesame, only to be dressed up with additions like beet-cured lox and horseradish cream cheese. If you’re hungry go for two, if you’re hangry, come with a snack in hand as this locale draws a crowd.

Leave It: Ess-a-Bagel

An NYC icon, Ess-a-Bagel has been around since the 70s. The well-known Gramercy location shuttered after nearly four decades in operation, but re-opened just a few blocks away near Stuy Town, with pretty solid, New York-style bagels. My gripe is that these bagels (a bit larger than my aforementioned favorites) typically come smothered in cream cheese, the staff can be bristly, and the lines are always lengthy. Since Ess-a-Bagel is definitely on plenty of peoples’ go-to lists, I suggest grabbing a container of scallion cream cheese, a few bagels, assembling at home and consuming on your couch.

 

Originally posted 2017-08-04 13:19:35.

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