Aquaria, winner of VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10 stopped by SiriusXM studios Monday to chat withSiriusXM host, Larry Flick. The winning drag diva reveals reality season drama, his identity throughout the ‘Drag Race’ and relationship with gender.
NBC News THINK
He might be Chance the Rapper's younger brother, but hip hop artist Taylor Bennett has his own story to tell – and with his latest single, "Be Yourself," Bennett's out to prove he has his own music and style too.
Another year, another Pride; and the community has found themselves fighting in 2017. With an administration that has done their best to tell its LGBTQ citizens that they are less than. This is nothing new for the community. Pride was created in retaliation to the treatment the community was suffering. There will always be a need to fight. A need to remind the younger generation that they need to carry on. This year’s Pride issue reflects strength. Shangela of RuPaul's Drag Race shares a powerful message of working hard and fulfilling your dreams. Lila Star talks about her inspirations and being the first Transgender Latina Rap Artist. Taylor Barrett, a talented director, writer and actor talks about her new show, “Work in Process” and the message she wants to send to the community. Happy Pride to you all and may this year be a time of reflection, blessings and new beginnings.
Teresa Maria Robinson-Ewers, Editor-in-Chief
PRIDE & Equality Magazine
By Teresa Maria Robinson-Ewers
D.J. Pierce was always a performer. Entertaining his family as a child, Pierce, who shared that he learned and accepted at a young age was that he was “loud, loved to entertain, and fabulous,”, knew he was on the right track when he sang ‘In the Still of the Night’ in his 8th grade choir and saw the response from the audience. The young man who walks to the beat of his own drummer would become the diva we know as Shangela Laquifa Wadley, the no-nonsense, bold queen who made her first appearance on RuPaul Drag Race Season 3. Returning to the show two more times, Shangela has grown into a polished, established performer who many feels were robbed of the crown for the third season of All-Stars.
Pierce has never been one to shy away from who he is. The first male cheerleading in his school in 40 years, Pierce was determined to be part of the team. The idea of being a “yell-leader” is not an easy feat for some. For Pierce, since it was a goal that needed to be fulfilled,- he was going to handle it with grace to get what he wanted. “I lived in a very small town called Paris, Texas and was in a graduating class of 105. When you live in a small town you stand out more - but I wasn’t shy about it. I’m sure people had a lot to say, they didn’t agree with me being on an all-girls squad, but I really was shielded from it because some people would say I’m such a nice and funny person. So the funnier I was...the things that really made me learn to have a quick wit...it really didn’t bother me as much. People were more open to me because [they would think], ‘Oh, he’s just D.J. He’s funny, he’s entertaining, we love him.’ So it wasn’t as big of a scandal as say as maybe it would have been if I wasn’t as kind to people.”
Needless to say, his childhood prepared him for the life that would lead him to become the beloved Shangela. When it came to Shangela’s inspiration to do drag as a living, it came down to the first time she stepped on stage to perform. “What inspired me to focus on drag is, I realized when I performed drag for the first time I loved it. I had fun, you know, I get to be on stage, which I always love to do, but there’s a lot of elements of it that I really enjoy. I was one of those boys that when my mom was home I would put on her heels and disco around to dance remixes. So the fact now I get to do that as part of the career I was creating for myself, I was thankful, so thankful.”
Shangela’s talents have led her to the biggest drag competition in the world, Rupaul’s Drag Race. The creator of the show, RuPaul Charles, has said that drag is a movement that would remain underground - never seeing the craft in a mainstream landscape. Shangela is now part of an industry that has been embraced in the mainstream, receiving awards and continuous accolades. Shangela realizes what the show has given her and counts her lucky stars for the opportunity. “I’m blessed. I’m blessed, I’m thankful, I’m honored and I take it with a very strong level of responsibility. When people look up to you for their inspiration, that’s a big responsibility because I know what it’s like to look up to others. You know, some days I just feel down and you would go and see a Beyonce documentary, [who was] also going through challenges and pushing through. You watch Gaga’s documentary, “5’2”, you see she has a lot of health issues but she pushes through. That’s why you push through. So I’m just hoping if any people can know my story, identify with it and be inspired by it, I hope will happen, because that is a really big, huge part of my journey. I was turned away. I was the first one off of RuPaul's Drag Race Season 2. I came back, the girls didn’t like me, honey, they called me all kinds of things and I pushed through to the top five. I left that season - didn’t give up. I worked in television, I worked in film. I just stuck my nose to the grind. I came back on All-Stars 3 and I got to give everything I wanted to - all the way to the very end, and even though it didn’t end the way I wanted it to, I’m still not giving up, I’m still pushing forward.”
Shangela’s time on All-Stars 3 will go down as one of the most controversial moments on the show. Pegged as a frontrunner to win it all, the producers surprised the queens, and the home audience, by informing them that the top 2 would be decided by the eliminated All-Stars, eliminating Shangela from the show. Always a class act class act, Shangela handled her exit with class and dignity. But the decision still was a difficult one to hear. “Well, I will say - when we were on the show and they said the eliminated were going to choose, I said, ‘Okay, that’s a wrap.’ I was disappointed. I was mad really because I was like...that’s not fair. Everyone was in a unique position, but I thought I was in the worst position because the rules - we were given the rules in the beginning and I played the game with those rules all the way up to the end. I created alliances with people I thought were going to be the strongest and stick around. Every person in that top 4, not including myself, I saved with one of my saves. I saved Be, I saved Kennedy and I saved Trixie. So, I put my alliances in the right spot and I was so proud of everyone that made it to the Top Four and then to find out that was the twist, I was like, well...that just defeats everything...I definitely came here to do my best, and when you do your very best, you’re given this responsibility to send people home and it’s not right - it’s just not nice.”
It was important for Shangela to bring this win home. There were many in her hometown that supported her in this journey and the lost was a disappointment not only to herself but her fans. “I was disappointed...because walking into the bar, my home bar in L.A., I knew they had my back, but I wanted so badly to win...for all my fans around the world, that’s why I really want to do my best. These people have been down with me even since before I could put on makeup or blend it. I can bounce back and say, ‘Look, folks, this is what I’ve learned. I’m gonna do the best for you guys. We’re all in this journey together.’” I was surprised to learn that when it came down to the final voting, there was one person that had Shangela’s back, and it wasn’t who many people who have expected. “I was disappointed to not make it to the two and then to see the elimination order and the lipsticks that were pulled - the points the next day, that’s what really threw me for a loop because I hadn’t seen that before. The fact that I got one point out of all the points given...and the only person that gave me a point was Thorgy Thor.”
Shangela is now the only queen to appear on Drag Race three times. The experience can be a great opportunity for a drag queen coming up in the world. Shangela shared what she learned in the time she’s been on the show. “Well...do your best and make the most of every opportunity in life. Don’t be afraid to do the work to get to what you want. I’ve been thankful to be on RuPaul's Drag Race season 3. I’ve been thankful to work on pretty much every US prime time television network in scripted and unscripted roles. I’ve done film, I released music, I have done comedy tours, I have traveled the world and performed on 6 out of the 7 continents. I am a working girl through and through and I am so thankful that we have fans that support us in this way, it means the world to me. That’s why I ain’t giving up, honey!”
Shangela has dropped a new single titled “Pay Me”, a catchy, vibrant song sending the message that your time and talent has value and you deserve to be paid. The track was produced by Ryan Sky and this was a collaboration that was destined to happen. “Ryan Sky is an L.A. producer and I know him from his work in some of the local venues in L.A. and I always admired his ear for music. He said, ‘Come on, Shangela, let’s make a track’ and I said, ‘Come on, baby, let’s do it.’” With Shangela’s hectic schedule, Sky was able to find the time. “The song was written in one day, recorded the next day and then he went to Production World to work on it and it came out fabulous. I love it.” The song is being performed with other sets on a 70-city tour that Shangela is currently on that started in January. For some, a 70-city tour would be a difficult feat. For Shangela, it’s just another day at the office. “Shangela has been doing this touring gig since season 3 [of RuPaul's Drag Race], so I have this thing down to a science, boo. I’ve just learned that I can stay out and party with everybody as much as you like to - you gotta go to bed because you have that flight in the morning! It’s really a great opportunity, a great honor for me to do this and I love it.”
With all of the many projects she is currently working on, “ A Star is Born” is the one that has her, and us, most excited. The star-studded reboot includes Lady Gaga. She is happy to have her little piece of this exciting project. “We filmed ‘A Star is Born’ last May. It will come out in the Fall. To work alongside Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper - and when I mean “alongside”, they say action, there’s Gaga, there’s Bradley Cooper, there’s Shangela. It was wonderful. To get their praise and applause as well for what I was doing on set, that meant a lot to me. I mean, these are heavy-hitters. Bradley told me before we started shooting, ‘I want you to be you. Just give me all of you and I’ll let you know if I need you to pull back.’ Girl, he said, ‘Action,’ and I went 100%. Then he said ‘Cut’...he grabbed me by both sides of my cheeks and said, ‘Shangela, perfect! Do it again.’ I lived! I lived! I had a wonderful time.”
Along with her tour, her new single, and new movie, Shangela has other projects in the works. Three singles in the can waiting for release; the sequel to ‘Hurricane Bianca’ coming out this summer and a stand-up comedy tour coming out this summer that she’ll be kicking off in the UK. She will also be recording a single and video with the talented Todrick Hall. “Honey, we’re moving.”
When I asked what she would like her legacy to be, Shangela reflected on a recent experience. “Recently I got a video, the day after the finale. I’m not a big crier. The way I deal with things that are devastating or challenging in my life, I put my head down and keep working. It will get better. But it was this video of kids bawling on Instagram saying, ‘I wanted Shangela to win!’ And it made me cry because I knew how they felt - to see how devastated they were, that made me upset. I got a friend of mine to get their contact info, and I made them some little videos and sent them to them just letting them know it’s gonna be okay, keep your head up - ‘I want you guys to stay inspired. If things don’t go your way in life, don’t just stay down - feel the feelings, you know, cry, but you gotta get back up and keep moving,’ and their parents filmed some reaction videos and sent them back to me. So, when you ask me that question, ‘What do I want my legacy to be,’ is, I hope, [I can teach] that we can all push through diversity and find the joy in life. Never give up. It doesn’t matter where you start, it’s all about where you’re going, not even about where you end up - about where you’re going, where you intend to go, and how you’re working to get there and how you’re staying happy along the way. I hope I continue to inspire people as long as I’m around kicking and death-dropping on these stages. Hallaloo.”
The man, D.J. Pierce, has become one of the most inspirational people the world has come to know. With some makeup, a wig and attitude, Shangela continues to show fans that there isn’t a dream they are not capable of reaching and no goal that can’t be fulfilled. She is giving a generation of youth hope and a country a glimpse of what can happen if we allow ourselves to be more than what the status quo expects.
By Bradd Howard
Tell us about your new series.
BARRETT: I’m really excited about it. It’s called ‘Work in Progress’ and it is a 6 episode half-hour comedy. I wrote it, I directed it, I starred in it. I also edited it. I call it homemade television. I had my hands and my paws all over it. My mom did costumes, my dad helped produce. I got all my friends and family to be in it. My aunt and uncle who are dairy farmers are in an episode. It was really a community endeavor. It is a limited season, with just six episodes. I don’t know if there will be a season 2, I’ve already sketched out a season 2 but we’ll just see how the audience reacts. I am looking forward as this is the final stage of the creative process to share what we have been working on for a year.
I hear that HereTV snatched you right out of school for a development deal?
B: (Barrett laughs) kinda yeah.
How did it happen?
B: So, I graduated from Northwestern in 2012, and not too long after that I made a web series with a friend and we just made it for fun. We were kind of sick of… she was a writer and I was an actor and a writer and we were sick of doing other people’s projects and wanted to have a little more creative control. We wrote our own web series and made it for fun, basically with zero budget. It was all friends from college who worked on it, lighting and camera, etc. That web series was called Tiny Nuts. My dad was friends with Paul Colichman who owns HereTV and I got in touch with John Mongiardo who was in charge of production of HereTV at the time and he liked Tiny Nuts so much that he agreed to license it and we made a licensing agreement to HereTV and then they licensed it to Hulu and it has been on Hulu and HereTV for four years. Then last year Pride.com, another one of Paul Colichman’s assets, approached me and said “We love Tiny Nuts, can you do some man on the street interviews? Some comedy stuff” and I said yeah, let’s do it! Those went well too. John Mongiardo then took a look at those interviews and a look at Tiny Nuts and then offered me a T.V. show. Anything I wanted. He said whatever you want to do, let’s make it!
Being an out person in the entertainment industry, what messages do you want to share and what would you want to be heard?
B: Sure, first of all, for me, I think it’s a privilege to be out. I think for me visibility is a priority and I am lucky enough to be in a position where I can safely and confidently be out in my personal life and my professional life. So, I really want to be vocal for all of those people in the world who can’t be out. It is essential to me that my art and my activism are one in the same. I want to center LGBT stories, characters, I want to celebrate queer culture, queer community. I basically want to see media that I would have benefitted from seeing when I was little. Growing up queer in the 90’s. Every day it’s getting better but I was so nervous even though I grew up in Los Angeles. I was hyper scared about admitting to myself that I was gay and I know that had I had some more cultural touchstones to reference it would have been easier for me to see people who look like me, established friend groups, happy endings, I know it would have helped. I am trying to provide that for the younger generation.
I understand, growing up like you - queer in the 90’s - Ellen DeGeneres was all we really had. She’s great, and we love her, but we need more people like you sharing your stories, so thank you for that.
B: I love Ellen but I agree it is important to have a diversity of backgrounds and stories and perspectives, absolutely. The more the merrier in the queer space, I think.
What future projects do you have going on?
B: I am working on a couple of documentary series for HereTV. One is called Inside the Rainbow and it’s a pretty happy series. I was feeling pretty fatigued after the election and the general sense of chaos in the country and the negativity, so I wanted to tap my lens on people in the queer community who are doing amazing social work, social good. Whether that is through radical astrology like Chani Nicholas or the fun raps of queer rapper, Big Dipper. Each one is under 10 minutes. I am really excited about that series and it is really wonderful to meet with these people who are doing good work. Another short series I am doing is called Queer Family Tree. That’s fun. We are going to release that during Pride in June. I sit down with a queer person, [LGBTQIA] I’m trying to get as much diversity as possible. I sit them down and I ask them how did you know you were queer? What do you like about being queer? What do you dislike about being queer? What was your coming out process like? And what would you like to tell your younger self? I am hoping to develop a large archive of these interviews so that people can be inspired by hearing other people’s stories and journeys.
If you were going to leave a legacy, what would you want that to be?
B: I think that is the hardest question I have ever fielded. I want to generate compassion. I want to help people love themselves and love others and I hope that my art can help people in that way become more compassionate because I think that is the biggest obstacle for acceptance, compassion, and empathy. If I can help even a little bit to bolster that, I would be proud of that.
When I first heard of Lila Star, I was intrigued. “The First Trans Latina Rapper,” as she was billed, caught my eye and imagination. I could not wait to talk to her. Excited to speak with Star, who will be performing at The Pride & Equality Magazine 15th Anniversary Ball on September 14th, we settled down for our Q&A, drinks in hand, and began to chat like two old friends.
Star is making a name for herself, working with big names from Rupaul’s Drag Race and taking the title of the first Trans Latina Rapper, a title she is very proud to claim. Her journey started some time ago with a video that paved her career. “About four years ago, when I made the video for my song “The Truth.” The director didn’t even know I was trans until much later. I have since worked with the director, Nestor, many times.” The title of “first trans-Latina rapper” is an important one to Star and she is proud to claim it. “There is no one doing what I am doing. If there is, she isn’t speaking up. When you are younger you don’t realize that you have something special, a unique voice. I am a triple threat. I want to express myself any way I can.”
Lila is the first rap or hip-hop artist to appear in our publication and taking the mantle of LGBTQ’s first Latina female artist is a title she wears proudly. When it comes to how she is accepted by the hip-hop community, the experience has brought some harsh feelings into the limelight. “Well, I think it’s sad,” says Star. “The hip-hop and gay communities have always influenced each other with different slang and fashion and such. I have had to deal with a lot of prejudice in the hip-hop community with people who are not supportive because they are dealing with their own sexuality. I got to where I am all on my own. I plan to knock down any doors that come before me on my own. It makes me more driven to prove that I can do it.”
When it comes to Star’s influences when creating her music she shares that everyday living is always the best way to create. “The usual life experiences. When I grew up Lil’ Kim and Tupac were my saviors. They were my hip hop Gods. As I get older just the lessons life has taught you.” She continued to share her love for Lil’ Kim when it comes to how the sometimes controversy artist’s style appears in her videos. “I am the trans-Lil’ Kim! When I was a kid I was a regular church-goer but my alter ego is a bad girl. It helps me express my sexuality. I can be her unapologetically and it is easier to say things you really feel.”
Lila is truly making a name for herself, recently collaborating with Drag Race alumni, Shea Coulee, and season 10 contestant, Vixen, on the song Cocky. The video, a powerful, fierce form of expression, leaving those who watch it wanting to strut their stuff after viewing. A childhood connection led to the collaboration. “Shea and I met because we are both from Chicago and we got to talking and were both dealing with losing our dads. ‘Cocky’ just kind of came out of those talks.”
When it comes to Star’s aesthetic, it should be no surprise that she is a fan of fashion. “I love fashion! It’s been a childhood inspiration. “ I love clothes. Growing up, I would play with pieces. I was scared growing up in the hood - being half Puerto Rican. Everyone was uber masculine. So I got to play with boy sides. I love thrifting. I am obsessed with designers. They make me feel expensive and beautiful and diva-like.”
Star has a few upcoming projects on the way. “I just completed a short film called “Lake Shore Drive” and have a role in an upcoming movie that I can not talk about just yet.”
Lila Star is determined to be a powerful element in the music scene and if her attitude and style have anything to say about it, we’ll be seeing more of her in the future.
Albuquerque has a small, but thriving and growing, LGBTQ business community. There have always been gay-owned or operated businesses, and of course, LGBTQ people work in just about every type of business there is. Some examples are the restaurants Standard Diner and the Range Cafes, Self-Serve, Swank, Shears to You, One Community Auto, Urban Fresh Cosmetics and many others. The Albuquerque LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce has a mission of helping our LGBTQ-owned or friendly small businesses grow, to help our community start their own businesses and to help provide resources which can facilitate those start-ups or growth of existing businesses. One role is making the LGBTQ business community more visible in the City, and to ensure we have a “seat at the economic table” so we are included in plans to help businesses throughout Albuquerque. Mayor Tim Keller is introducing new measures to bring the City out of our economic doldrums. And he has promised to work with us on all aspects including LGBTQ tourism.
LGBTQ tourism is a huge market. Many LGBTQ travelers don’t know much about our City. They don’t realize the City and State have sexual orientation and transgender protections, or all we have to see and do. The Chamber is working to change this along with our partners at VisitABQ, the lodging industry and airlines. LGBTQ travelers spend more than straight travelers. It is in our interest to attract these travelers and show them all we have to offer. The same-sex couples who came to get married are spreading the word, but we must do more.
In 2014, Albuquerque Business First newspaper held an event called, “Reinventing Our City”, about getting our economy moving. They showed all the sectors that were suffering. Many had great ideas, but they take time. Not one sector was growing - except one. In December 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage legal in NM. We saw a huge influx of same-sex couples from Texas, Colorado and other states coming to get married. It was a large economic boost and made tourism the only segment that was growing. Some couples dropped huge amounts of money, in one case over $100,000 just for the reception. Even more modest weddings created jobs for hotels, airlines, wedding officiants and others. Most of these couples sought gay-owned or gay-friendly businesses using resources like the Chamber, the New Mexico Pride Guide, and EQNM. The general business community was stunned.
What did they think about the LGBTQ business community? Nothing - we were not even a factor in their minds. This was a wake-up call demonstrating both the buying power and the businesses in our community. Same-sex couples continued coming until 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage legal across the country. By word of mouth, many of these couples had such wonderful experiences they recommended to their friends to come here to get married, so it’s still providing benefits.
Albuquerque Business First has created a list of LGBTQ-owned businesses. The first year, this list was fairly small. The second year, the list grew, and we expect this list to grow even more. Why? Because for these small businesses, it is another “coming out” process. But the list is growing as more LGBTQ business owners see the benefit of being on the list and know it’s safe. The LGBTQ Chamber is part of the Western Business Alliance composed of the LGBTQ chambers from cities across the West. Annually, the WBA holds an Economic Summit. In 2018, it was in San Francisco. Our Chamber bid on hosting the Summit, and won for 2020. This will bring a very diverse group of LGBTQ business leaders to our City, and they, in turn, will go home and spread information about Albuquerque to their communities.
The Chamber is already working with VisitABQ, hotels and business owners to sponsor the Summit, and is also working to bring many more LGBTQ conferences to Albuquerque, such as the national LGBTQ realtors association and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. All of this will help our LGBTQ businesses to grow and prosper. The Chamber works with the Small Business Administration and local funders to help members of our community to start new businesses. Mayor Keller is focusing on growing “home-grown” businesses so this is a great time to start a small business. For more info, visit the LGBTQ Chamber at www.abqgaychamber.org or email email@example.com. NM Pride Guide at gogaynewmexico.com, or Equality New Mexico at www.eqnm.org.
Blake’s Hard Cider, the largest craft hard cider brand in the Midwest, is introducing an inspired beverage concept that is equal parts refreshing and meaningful – with a sizable portion of proceeds going to leading LGBTQ civil rights organization, The Human Rights Campaign® (HRC).
Blake’s Rainbow Seeker is a delicious specialty cider featuring a semi-sweet blend of Michigan-grown apples infused with real pineapple and a hint of sage. The all-natural, gluten-free cider features a 5.5% ABV and it arrives in stores in May across all 19 states of Blake’s distribution footprint. Customers can find the tropical cider in most Midwest Meijer locations and all Michigan Kroger's. Proceeds from Rainbow Seeker, the first of Blake’s Kinder Cider Series, will fund a $40,000 direct donation to advance civil rights and equality programs spearheaded by HRC. The cider will flow from taps across Blake’s footprint on Friday, April 27.
“Rainbow Seeker is the first installment in what I believe is a kinder cider platform for Blake’s,” said Andrew Blake, owner and founder of Blake’s Hard Cider. “Our brand has grown quickly, and with that evolution comes the opportunity to make a difference and to bring awareness to social and environmental issues that have great personal and communal meaning. As with everything we do at Blake’s, we’ll do what we believe is right.”
Rainbow Seeker will be sold in 12-ounce cans in six-pack form and on draft throughout Blake’s distribution network for the duration of the summer. Each six-pack has a suggested retail price of $10.99 - $11.99 per with a portion of program proceeds going directly to HRC. The brand is currently sold in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, New Jersey and Florida. It will be launching in Virginia and Washington D.C. this Spring.
The HRC is America’s largest civil rights organization. Its three million members and supporters work to advance a future where LGBTQ people are ensured of their basic equal rights and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work, and in the community.
“We are grateful to Andrew and Blake’s team for their generous support of LGBTQ equality,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “This is a fun concept that we can all embrace, yet it comes at a serious moment in time when we are working harder than ever to push back against anti-equality sentiment.”
Blake’s will partner with distributors, retailers, restaurant and bar partners to host events during June Gay Pride Month and in the fall for National Coming Out Day.
“We’ll produce 120,000 cans and we’ll distribute those cans to 19 states,” said Blake. “We see it as 120,000 great opportunities to encourage people to be kind, support equality and simply be good to one another.”
Rainbow Seeker is the first installment of the Blake’s Hard Cider Co. Kinder Cider Series – a series that will bring awareness to social and environmental issues that directly impact Blake’s small farm community. If you would like to get involved in this movement, visit blakeshardcider.com/donate.
I must confess, since joining the gym in West Hollywood, I’ve compared myself to other guys working out. It’s hard not to. I’ve even started conversations with other men about body image, literally about butts, botox, biceps & steroids. It got me thinking about how men view themselves in ways, which are mostly considered the realm of women. What I find most revealing is the stress, anxiety, and state of flux many men find themselves in today in relation to their body image. Mass media has much to do with this, depicting the ‘ideal’ person, and after so many repeated images on multiple platforms, it starts to seep in that we just aren’t ‘enough’. We begin to lose sight of what our bodies look like and begin to see what our bodies are not. It becomes something unworthy when compared to the countless ‘perfect’ figures that we know on some level aren’t real yet yearn to be.
Body dysmorphia (BDD) is an important issue for the gay community to address because it’s one that’s glossed over. It’s time we took a breath and questioned whether this quest for perfection is healthy and question why we think it will make us happy? For those unfamiliar with the term, body dysmorphia is a body image disorder where the person sees their body through a distorted lens. Flaws stand out, good isn’t good enough. Anxiety, depression, eating disorders, social anxiety and OCD can cause or be the result of BDD. In the United States, it BDD affects 2.5% of men (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
From my experience in the gay community, the ideal person you’re expected to be is health conscious, incredibly ripped, washboard abs, great skin, perfect teeth, and just drop dead hot. Not to mention being a scintillating conversationalist. The feeling you get is if you haven’t acquired those attributes, you’re less of a man and far from being an ideal partner. Sometimes I feel anything short of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ statue would be considered less than the gay ideal. No wonder we are all on Lexapro and require validation morning, noon and night.
Being in the best physical shape is a great ideal to have and work towards, though we need to frame it in a way that doesn’t demand perfection from us. Many of us are holding up an ideal beyond most humans. Some men can look like that and good for them – but we shouldn’t denigrate their bodies either. For the rest of us who aren’t Fabio, our bodies shouldn’t bring us shame. It’s something to accept, perceived ‘flaws’ and all.
I’m a healthy, active 44-year-old man, I’m not 18 and I’m neither Peter Pan nor Dorian Gray. I carry a few extra pounds and I love my body for what it is — mine. I’m not an athlete or model. I believe in doing the best you can with what you’ve got. It doesn’t make you any less sexy.
However, it’s clear from the research that men are guilty of not only comparing themselves to other men but also commenting on one another’s bodies (we can be so queeny.) Whether we realize it or not, it has long-lasting, damaging effects that creep up in unhealthy ways. We need to stop comparing ourselves to photo-manipulated fitness model and get our priorities in order. Support each other. Accept ourselves for who we really are. It’s not the outside that matters – it’s what is on the inside. Practice positive affirmations every day. Know you’re good enough for anyone to love. Stop with the negative, damaging comparisons and remember that no matter where you are right now, you are perfect as is. You are unique, hot, and sexy. Who you’re looking for is looking for you, right now!
Gordon Fraser is a Career/Marketing expert and philanthropist. He is the President of Gordon Fraser and Associates, LLC and U.S. Executive National Vice President and Independent Consultant with Arbonne International, overseeing a network of 50,000 global consultants and retail buyers in excess of $80m across Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Poland. You can learn more about Gordon by following him on Twitter @gordon_fraser
Teachers around the country, often in red states, are organizing to fight the ongoing destruction of public education. For generations, politicians have targeted public schools, with major funding from the school privatization movement, to help create a two-tiered class-based system by crippling public schools and demonizing teachers.
Past advocacy by educators as part of their professionalism has contributed to the conservative criticism of public education in the US and its scapegoating of teachers’ unions for any problems conservatives want to lay on the public school system.
Back in 1970, for example, the AFL-CIO-affiliated American Federation of Teachers became the first major union to stand against discrimination against lesbians and gay men. In 1974, its larger national rival, the National Education Association, added sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination policy.
Both unions have struggled with right-wing forces from within and without to maintain and expand the stands they took way over a quarter of a century ago. In 1999, both joined nine other educational and psychological organizations to condemn the aggressive right-wing promotion of the brainwashing mislabeled conversion “therapies,” as potentially harmful and ineffective, and to counter harassment of LGBTQ youth.
The final goal of economic conservatives is to privatize education so that children become lucrative moneymakers 24/7 for multinational corporations. For the religious and social conservatives, it’s to guarantee that our kids conform to their right-wing, sectarian Christian agenda, including marginalizing LGBTQ people.
The major enemies of this sectarian and corporate agenda, who are motivated by the stake they have in education as well as the fact that most become educators out of their love of teaching, are those teachers’ unions – the organizations that represent the actual trained professionals who are really in the classroom with America’s kids.
In contrast, how long has it taken their bosses – the motley crew on elected school boards, the managers who mimic CEOs, and the scared school systems – to stand against bullying and “safe schools?”
It’s not as if the teachers are in it for the money. With their educational backgrounds they could make more working in front of computer screens, in investment firms, or in real estate.
Instead, teachers take responsibility for a nation’s important resource, our children. But their value to us is reflected in how they’re treated compared to our bankers, armament dealers, informational techs, and corporate executives.
We talk a good line about education in this country, but the evidence belies what we really believe. When we talk about more funding for our schools you can hear people say: “You don’t think that throwing more money at schools works, do you?” When it’s about the Pentagon, who can’t account for one-quarter of its expenditures, we call it allocation.
And that child in the inner city school knows what education really means to us. As those students listen to our lines about how important education is, he knows what his teachers make, where they live, and how they’re treated in the media. But students also know how much those sports stars make, in what kinds of homes they live, and how people idolize them.
Those young students are too smart. They can see through all the American blather about the value of education to the truth good ole Jesus underlined: “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”
Going beyond appearances, we do everything to put our teachers down. We hold them suspect. We pile them with responsibilities way beyond their expertise and passion.
We place these professionals in a system run by people who have never run a classroom. Imagine the standards of the medical or legal profession set by boards of people with no qualifications other than the fact that they received the most votes in an electoral system where many qualify as “low information voters.”
We hire superintendents and downtown office bureaucrats who couldn’t run a classroom and think schools are businesses. Even our Secretaries of Education are managers, not educators.
In keeping with this business-model obsession, Obama’s Arne Duncan never taught in a classroom. He was a CEO appointed by a mayor to be chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools. No wonder his programs perpetuated the philosophy of the Bush administration that’s dictated by corporate America.
And now we’re stuck with Betsy DeVos who bought her position, could care less about public schools, and wants to see all students brought to her sectarian Jesus.
I’m surprised that more teachers suffering through these people who think they know better how to manage education like a factory, aren’t bitter and disheartened. What must it be like to be blamed so that the fault is always: you’re not a good teacher; and the solution is some sort of “merit pay” based on criteria set up by non-professional corporatists and their hand-picked “consultants?”
Union busting remains on the agenda of numerous superintendents around the country. But if it weren’t for our teachers’ unions, teachers, those professional educators, would have no voice at all in the way we teach and nurture the students they, not the policy makers, interact with every school day.
Teachers know what works. Teachers know why education isn’t always working in the US.
We know that smaller classrooms work. We know that the happier teachers are, the better they teach.
We know that education is not an assembly line where products can be measured by endless standardized testing. We know that students come from different places (income levels, family backgrounds, emotional needs, talents, motivations, and abilities), and that the measure of a good educator is a student’s progress from that individual place along a path, not their conformity to arbitrary standards such as those behind initiatives like that No Child Left Behind law.
We know that, yes, throwing money at education will actually go a long way to solving our problems. How about just 1/10th of what we can’t account for of military spending?
But we’ll also have to start thinking about teachers as a national resource. We’ll have to think of our schools and colleges as more than training institutions for some corporate agenda.
In Taiwan where education is highly successful, September 28th is not only Confucius’ Birthday. It’s a national holiday to honor teachers.
People there actually stop working to honor teachers.
In the US we just tripped over Teacher Appreciation Week, but I bet most didn’t even know when.
That illustrates our real problem.
Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction;Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human; and writes a regular column on relationships for 50PlusPrime.com Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org.
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