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Archive for September, 2011

Ohio Queers: Columbus couple featured in groundbreaking photo book ‘Gay in America’ – RELEASED TUESDAY!

Columbus natives Jonathan and Paul are featured in the the portrait book “Gay in America” by Scott Pasfield that’s being released nationally tomorrow.

Here’s an except from the book about Jon and Paul:

“I’ve lived in Ohio since I was fourteen, and have been out and proud since I was eighteen. I’m forty-four and a sober alcoholic. My partner Jonathan and I have been together twenty-one years. We have three boys with a lesbian couple from Columbus—six-year-old twins and a ten- year-old. My partner Jonathan is the biological father of the twins.” – Jonathan and Paul, Columbus, OH

You can purchase the book on Amazon.com.


And here’s an interview with Pasfield from GLADD. (Posted with permission from “Gay in America’s” publicist, Popular Publicity.)

GLAAD Interviews Scott Pasfield Creator of  GAY IN AMERICA
by Aaron McQuade, Deputy Director Of News And Field Media for GLAAD

Aaron McQuade: Where did the idea for this book come from?

ScottPasfield-CourtesyOfPlaton-72Scott Pasfield: People always tell you to shoot what you love. You have to start with yourself. The epiphany came one night at home. I was surfing the web and realized what a powerful tool it had become for connecting gay men across the country, from all over, and it just dawned on me. I decided that I would meet men from every state, and photograph them in the hopes that I could do a book that would change opinions and educate. And that started with shooting who I was and what my passions were.

AM: Why gay men?

SP: That goes back to shooting what I am, and what I know. I originally thought that I would like to try and shoot men and women from every state, but I really think that a woman, or a lesbian, has to go out and do that project, to make it as strong, to be one of them, as this project is for me and gay men. I tried at first, but it became obvious terribly fast that I would’ve had to masquerade as a lesbian to do the same project.

AM Would a book like this have made a difference to your own coming out story?SP: Absolutely. I wish there was a book like this when I was growing up and that is why I did it, really. I wanted to know that I could live wherever I chose, in any place, in any state, in any situation, in any city, in any town, and do whatever I wanted. I think there’s a tendency today for people to stereotype gay men and while some of those creative and flamboyant qualities might ring true, we are more than that. There is as much diversity within the gay community as there is the heterosexual one. If I knew earlier all the options one has as a gay man, it would have made a difference to me in accepting myself earlier and in knowing that I’m not alone.AM: What is your favorite photograph in the book?SP: I think, having made a point of never leaving a shoot until I had a photograph or portrait worthy of being in a book, really makes them all favorites. I love them all.

AM: Tell me what you want people to get out of this book. You mentioned your story, and obviously gay people who aren’t out themselves are going to get one thing out of it, but what about somebody who’s never met a gay person?

SP: I want the book to be an introduction to gay people for those that need it. I want it is a voice for the gay community. I want people to know that gay men are everywhere, and in many instances, live quietly under the radar, contributing to society. I want young people to have it as a resource as they move forward in their lives. I want people to understand us better and I want us to understand ourselves better.  This is hopefully what this book will do

AM: Tell us about your cover choice?

SP: Up until this last year, having a uniformed gay soldier on the cover would not have been possible. Today it is, thanks to people like Dan. His stand against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the injustice that it is/was is admirable. He helped right such an incredible wrong that was the basis for so much hatred. When I shot him in his uniform out on that snow-covered street in Cambridge, I saw a man that was proud of all he was and all that he had accomplished and just happened to be gay. Like every man that is in the book. What the image does though is makes you take a second look. It made you question your preconceived beliefs on what a gay American is.

AM: This book is a collection of essays in addition to a collection of portraits; each portrait coincides with an essay. Which should people look at first?

SP: Each spread has one essay and one photograph. You can’t help but look at the photography first. And then you read the story. They are so beautifully written. I chose everyone for their stories, and once I started the ball rolling, I tried never to repeat something. Even now, after having familiarity with these stories for years, as I read them, they’re so honest, beautiful and powerful; they’re so emotional for me. Hopefully that will resonate with people, too, because it is the stories that I think are going to have the most effect.

AM: Why the focus on every state?

SP: It was a goal I set for myself. I said: fifty states, I have to go to them all. It became an obsession. I had done a lot of traveling before, but there were many states that I had never been to and I saw it as a great opportunity to see what gay life is really like, especially outside of the big cities. I think as a collection, it really proved to be fascinating.

AM: Were there certain places that surprised you? Did you find somebody in Boston who you would have expected to see in Montana?

SP: Oh, absolutely. You’d always get big cowboy types coming from real urban areas, or the Midwest, but there would also be the guys more typical of the area. In the West I got a lot of farmers and ranchers, and cowboys writing to me. I was always surprised to see who wrote.

AM: Did any of the stories make you laugh out loud?

SP: I think they made me cry more than anything. So many gay men have such a tough time growing up in our country. It’s not easy. Things are changing, there’s hope, but more often than not, it was giving men a great opportunity to tell their story. And a lot of them had hard stories to tell, or tough things to say.

AM: Did the instructions specifically lead people to go down that road, or is that what naturally came about? Did you say, “Tell me your story?”

SP: Usually I did use the word “story.” And I did say that I was traveling the country. The ad went something like, “looking for great, out men who live their lives without second guessing, and are proud of who they are, and happy with where they live. I’m looking for men to share their stories about that, to some degree. I’m also looking for your path – where you’ve come from, stories of coming out, or growing up, or your family, or careers, things that define you, in addition to being gay.”

AM: What is it about this project that speaks to you as an artist?

SP: It was a way to really push myself and my art; you show up and have the person that you’re going to be photographing with you the whole time, you have to engage them, keep them involved in the process without boring them, and move fast so that it can happen quickly. Usually two to three hours is what it takes me to do one of these shoots, so somebody has to dedicate a little bit of time to it. But I think the challenge is just never knowing what you’re walking into and really pushing yourself to try and get something to happen in front of the camera that is an insight into that person.

AM: Was the choice to shoot these on the home turf of your subjects a storytelling choice or was it an artistic challenge choice on your part?

SP: Both. To truly give viewers an honest glimpse into these men’s worlds, I felt that photographing in or near their homes was needed.

AM: Any last thoughts?

SP: I think it’s needed in our time and culture. With what’s going on in our country with gay rights, the voting bloc, with issues being decided for us and how we live our lives, every one of us needs to do what we can to make life better. I think if more people did that and chose to take their love, and do something good with it, we’d make the world a better place. There needed to be a book that America could understand. I’ve become an unintentional activist with this project, and I think it’s a great thing. I think more people should do it if they can.

AM: Do you think of your subjects as activists?

SP: Many of them are, absolutely. Just by coming forward, they become activists, even if many of them never stepped foot in a gay and lesbian center, or marched in a parade, or wanted to change anybody’s opinion. They’re just living their lives out and proud and by doing so, they are in a position to change people’s minds.

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Queer Film Spotlight: ‘The Lavender Scare’

I know it’s extremely early to be talking about next summer, but as the weather gets colder here in Ohio, I’m already starting to long for Summer 2012. And for more reasons than one, as it’s also the slated release date for the new documentary “The Lavender Scare,” a real life suspense thriller about the men and woman effected by  Executive Order 10450, which prohibited gays and lesbians from working for the federal government in the ’50s and ’60s.

Here’s a synopsis from the film’s Web site:

“The Lavender Scare” is the first feature-length documentary film to tell the story of the U.S. government’s ruthless campaign in the 1950s and ’60s to hunt down and fire every Federal employee it suspected was gay.

While the McCarthy Era is remembered as the time of the Red Scare, the headline-grabbing hunt for Communists in the United States, it was the Lavender Scare, a vicious and vehement purge of homosexuals, which lasted longer and ruined many more lives.

Before it was over, more than 10,000 Federal employees lost their jobs. Based on the award-winning book by historian David K. Johnson, “The Lavender Scare” shines a light on a chapter of American history that has never received the attention it deserves.

It examines the tactics used by the government to identify homosexuals, and takes audiences inside interrogation rooms where gay men and women were subjected to grueling questioning. These stories are told through the first-hand accounts of the people who experienced them.

“The Lavender Scare” shows how the government’s actions ignited an anti-gay frenzy that spread throughout the country, in an era in which The New York Times used the words “homosexual” and “pervert” interchangeably, and public service films warned that homosexuality was a dangerous, contagious disease.

While the story is at times infuriating and heartbreaking, its underlying message is uplifting and inspiring. Instead of destroying American homosexuals, the actions of the government had the opposite effect: they stirred a sense of outrage and activism that helped ignite the gay rights movement.

I know it makes me a huge nerd, but I’m too excited about this film. I’ve heard Johnson’s book (which you can purchase here) is pretty amazing, but I think it’s going to be pretty powerful to hear about this massive injustice from the mouths of those who actually lived it. The film also includes annonymous interviews with some of the bigoted officials who actually did the ousting, which I think is an extremely interesting side of the story to highlight. And also featured is famed gay rights activist Dr. Franklin Kameny who was honored by President Obama just a few years ago for his work fighting to have Executive Order 10450 repealed (which it was in 1995).

The film’s creators, led by writer/director Josh Howard, released a full length trailer for the documentary back in July. You can check it out below:

For updates on “The Lavender Scare” follow the documentary on Facebook and Twitter.

Local Theater Spotlight: Shadowbox’s ‘Killer Blues’

Kara Wilkinson in Shadowbox's "Killer Blues" (photo by Studio 66)

They say you can’t have rock ‘n’ roll without the blues, a fact on full display in Shadowbox Live’s new Wednesday night showcase, “Killer Blues,” showing at the troupe’s new Brewery District location (503 S. Front Street, Columbus) through Nov. 9.

When the rock ‘n’ roll and sketch comedy aficionados moved their operation downtown earlier this summer, they did so with the promise that a bigger space would mean more programming. To fulfill this promise the troupe brings back their blues and drama program that was so popular at previous side venture 2Co’s, located in the Short North more than five years ago. An excited and eager 2Co’s fan base met the troupe for the opening of “Killer Blues” on Sept. 21.

Though completely out of synch from their normal rock and laugh heavy Thursday through Saturday showcase, it’s great to see the troupe’s key players show a softer, sexier side we don’t often get to see.

Case in point: longtime Shadowbox vets Julie Klein and Tom Cardinal, whose stunning performances, as a homeless subway dweller and the lawyer she “enlightens” on a typical late night inNew York City, during Roy Berkowitz’s “Killer Blues,” had much of the audience in tears.

The night is filled with goose-bump inducing performances. Such as Kara Wilkinson’s piercing rendition of “Oh Darlin’” by The Beatles, Nikki Fagin’s sultry “Love Me Like a Man” by Bonnie Raitt and Jennifer Hahn’s show-stopping take on Led Zeppelin’s “You Shook Me” (sung in apropos style alongside co-band leader and husband Matthew Hahn).

Noelle Grandison is also a welcome surprise as an angry woman scorned by society, during her delivery of the poem “The World is aBeautiful Place” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Director Stev Guyer didn’t completely leave the troupe’s funny bone at the door. Fagin also puts in a hilarious portrayal of a bumbling, slacker college student who thinks her poor performance on a paper is the fault of everyone but herself, during the Martha King DeSilva’s satire “For Who theBell, Like, Tolls.” And Mary Randle brings out that signature Shadowbox timing during the comedic “It’s Not Just a Cubicle” (also by DaSilva), as a woman who threatens everything up to and including suicide if she is not moved away from sitting next to an annoying co-worker.

I wasn’t fortunate enough to ever catch a 2Co’s show during the side project’s heyday in the early 2000’s, but if this is what those shows were like, it’s no wonder everyone’s rejoicing over its return.

“Killer Blues” runs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday nights through Nov. 9 at Shadowbox Live (503 S. Front Street, Columbus). Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students/seniors. For more information call 614-416-7625 or visit www.shadowboxlive.org.

Local Theater Spotlight: Broadway in Columbus 2011-12

When I heard about the new CAPA/Broadway Across America season in Columbus this year, I have to admit I squealed with delight. Some of my favorites and a couple shows I’ve been dying to see are coming our way this year and next!

The first show that immediately caught my eye was “Billy Elliot the Musical.” I’ve been wanting to see this show since I heard they were finally turning it into a musical in 2008 and especially when the show swept the Tony Awards in 2009. It’s based off the AMAZING 2000 movie that was directed by Stephen Daldry and written by Lee Hall, who also wrote the musical with Elton John.  I’m bummed they had to move the show from earlier in the fall to March, due to scheduling conflicts with the tour, but happy it’s coming nonetheless.

I was also excited to see “Memphis” on the list. I don’t know too much about this show, but it did pull an upset at the 2010 Tony’s, winning for Best Musical and few other big awards. According to Wikipedia, it’s about famed radio DJ Dewey Phillips, who was one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950s. It’s supposed to be amazing, so I can’t wait to learn more about it.

Some old favorites are also joining us this season. “Mamma Mia” and “West Side Story” (which recently saw a Tony-winning revival on Broadway). “Mamma Mia” is always a crowd pleaser and you can’t doubt the classic brilliance of “West Side Story.” I’m not too thrilled about “Shrek” or “Blue Man Group,” though I’ve heard the latter is pretty good, but we’ll see how those go.

Check out the full schedule below. All shows at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State Street, Columbus) or Palace Theatre (34 W. Broad Street, Columbus). For tickets head to Ticketmaster.com or call 614-469-0939.

“Mamma Mia,” Dec. 13-18, 2011, Palace Theatre

“Shrek The Musical,” Jan. 10-15, 2012, Ohio Theatre

“Blue Man Group,” Feb. 7-12, 2012, Palace Theatre

“Billy Elliot,” March 20-25, 2012, Palace Theatre

“West Side Story,” April 17-22, 2012, Ohio Theatre

“Memphis,” May 29-June 3, 2012, Ohio Theatre

What do you think? Are you excited? Hate this season’s list? Sound off in the comments!

Closeted YouTube soldier reveals face, comes out to father on camera

The closeted solider who has been popularly documenting his coming out process on YouTube for nearly six months has finally shown his face to the world.

I’ve featured him on Queer Corner a few other times. He’s 21, from Alabama, a servicemember who was serving in Afghanistan, but is stationed in Germany, and was deeply in the closet. Before his first video April 18, he’d never told anyone, not even his parents, and obviously not his girlfriend.

At about 3 a.m. this morning the now famous, yet still nameless, recruit filmed himself back in in his quarters on base in Germany coming out to father over the phone, to celebrate Obama and the military officially lifting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. This time, however, he showed his entire face. It was probably one of the most powerful YouTube videos I’ve seen. His father, who sports a thick Southern accent, was great, reiterating the fact that he would always love his son, no matter what, throughout the call.

I’ve been watching this soldier’s YouTube videos for some time now and am happy to see he’s finally coming into his own and embracing his true self. He’s obviously gone viral and his chiseled features have also made him pretty popular in the gay blogosphere. I still maintain this is the most revolutionary piece of activism I’ve ever seen. This dude is definitely changing the game and changing lives in the process.

You can check out the moving video below:

Check out all of his videos at his YouTube page, AreYouSuprised, and you can also follow him on Twitter.

Air Force Airman Randy Phillips

UPDATE (9/21, 2:08 a.m.): The “headless soldier” has gone mainstream. He was featured on CNN last night, where his name was revealed (Randy Phillips) and he talked about his experience coming out to his mother. Click HERE to check out the CNN report

Glee-cap: ‘The Purple Piano Project’

Glee’s back! Yay!

Well, sort of. The season three premiere of “Glee” was mostly a shop keeping episode. The writers have been telling the press all summer that this season is all about getting “back to the basics,” which they stayed true to. This episode was all about the characters. But it just felt like variations on the same theme to me.

Quick-cap: The New Directions are down three and need to recruit (again). Sam’s family moved because his dad got a job out of state. Zizes wants to be cool again. And Quinn is in the midst of an existential crisis (again). So Mr. Shu puts pianos around school so the kids can burst into random song and advertise the club to the school (again). Speaking of Mr. Shu, he and Emma are back together (again), and living together this time. Sue is running for Congress and is out to destroy the Glee Club (again) and she decides her platform will be to cut arts education at all schools in Ohio. In response, Mr. Shu glitter bombs Sue (something this dude should be getting royalties for). Shu also gets up the nerve to reject an audition, a tone-deaf student named Sugar, with a sharp (Brittany like) wit and self-diagnosed Aspergers. Santana’s doing Sue’s bidding (again), but this time it gets her kicked out of Glee Club. Kurt and Rachel are now friends (that’s new) and trying to get into the same arts college in New York. They visit a group of super talents who are also applying (led by “The Glee Project” finalist Lindsay Pearce). They cry over it, then persevere. Blaine is back and decides to switch schools for Kurt. And after Sue, a food fight and a fire destroy the donated pianos, the New Directions sing their troubles away with a big closing number (again) using “Hairspray’s” “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”

And that’s what you missed on…GLEE.

Fave moment: Blaine transferring to McKinley. That scene in the hallway when Blaine tells Kurt was too cute.

Annoying moment: Santana going back to “work” for Sue. I don’t understand why that was necessary. I love the bitchy part of her character, but if this means we’re not going to hear as much of Naya Rivera’s voice I’m not going to be happy.

Fave quote: “I’ve put plastic on your chair, so feel free to wet yourself with excitement.” ~Sue Sylvester

Fave song: It’s cliche, but I loved the “Hairspray” number. I liked how they changed the arrangement and started off slow before kicking it up in chorus, and Mercedes is awesome, per usual. I also loved Blaine’s swoon-worthy “It’s Not Unusual,” but I may have been slightly blinded by lust.

You can watch full episodes of Glee here.

DADT REPEAL OFFICIALLY GOES INTO AFFECT TODAY!!!

For the first time in America’s history gays can now openly serve in the military.

Sept. 20th marks the official repeal date set by President Obama, the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs. And the press has been having a field day with the coverage leading up the momentous occasion. Here are few stories that have popped up already:

I’m sure there will be lots more coverage throughout the day to get soldiers’ coming out stories, interviews with new gay recruits and reactions on bases across the world.

We’ve still got a long ways to go where gay rights is concerned, but if only for today, I’m going to revel in the historical beauty.