The star of Younger and TV Lands is enjoying life as a new father and working on his new web series, Vicious Mannies. He shared with us his new projects, married life, and family life during quarantine.
Was acting always in your vision or something you fell into?
There was a time when I wanted to be a clown with Ringling Brothers. Seriously. I applied to their official Clown College and was rejected. Granted, I was 7, but it still was a bitter sting. No, but really, I always wanted to be an actor or veterinarian. I never set out seeking fame, or even to necessarily do TV or film. I think I could have been happy to scrape by working with a cool theatre company in the Midwest. I fell in love with the art first, and also the amazing community that comes along with working in it. I feel very lucky to get to act in great projects now with passionate collaborators and to travel the world. And I satisfy my animal-loving side by keeping a small menagerie at home of two cats and an adopted parrot!
Tell us about your new web series, “Vicious Mannies.”
“Vicious Mannies” comes from the witty gritty minds of Grant Sloss and Aaron Hartzler. Grant produced and wrote several of my “Younger” episodes, and he just constantly makes me laugh in real life. I also had already read a gay YA novel Aaron wrote, so I was chuffed to be invited into the “Mannies” sandbox with them both. The show is about 3 unlikely “Mannies” in Los Angeles that are a bit down on their luck - their adventures. It also stars Rex Lee from Entourage. It’s just a damn smart and funny nibble of a series. Each episode is under 10 minutes and on YouTube.
How are you finding the balance between fatherhood and your career?
Theodore was just born in December, and he came a few weeks early—actually on the day I was supposed to fly out of town to start work on a film! It was a crash course in fatherhood and choices. I boarded a different plane going in the opposite direction, had to pull out of the film. It was pretty rough. But I was at the hospital waiting for Teddy’s arrival within a few hours. I wouldn’t have given that up for anything. I intended to take a few months off to be with him. Now those few months have turned into another few months or so, given our health crisis. I’m thankful to have this time with him, without the constant pressure of running around New York or traveling to a set somewhere in who knows where. Happy to have this time to bond, to be present. But I also can’t wait to get back to work and have Teddy on set!
How are you handling being so close-knit during this time of the pandemic?
We are in week seven of isolation, sheltering in a little cabin we have up in the Catskill Mountains. We haven’t seen another human in over a month. My husband, Eric, is still working full time from home, so Teddy and I have commenced his music education with some old records. We do hikes and basically just live that homemaker fantasy life I didn’t know I needed. Teddy is pure love and joy and beauty. But I also crash hard at the end of every day. I used to be a night owl, but now I’m up with Teddy by 5:45 am each day!
What are some of your other upcoming projects?
During this pandemic, my friend, Jordan Dean, reached out to me and my friend, Kersti Bryan, with an idea for a project: to get loving and joyful messages of gratitude and song to front line medical workers in NYC, to add a little light to their very challenging days. Jordan nearly died last year, and the crew at Mount Sinai saved his life, so this was his idea to give back. Mount Sinai got on board with our project, which we named Songs for Mount Sinai, and we just launched. The videos are used widely in the hospital’s internal monitors and network of 42,000 employees, but anyone can also watch online. Messages of thanks, poems, songs, dances, etc. Broadway legends like Victor Garber and Audra McDonald to TV folk like Melissa Joan Hart, and some amazing performance artists mixed in too. 15 eclectic new videos every week, and you can find more out at @cleardayproject or our website www.cleardayproject.org. of, it will allow others to see and have a perspective of what is possible and what love is. I think sharing our stories, allows others to look at themselves and see what inspires them to take the plunge in creating a family or go on a date, and know that there are married couples out there. P&E - Teresa Robinson
Follow Dan on Instagram at @danamboyer.
PRIDE & Equality celebrates another year of Models of Hope. The Vincent R. Johnson Models of Hope Award honors individuals and organizations making a difference, being seen as role models in the community. This award has created a roster of quality honorees over the past 13 years and we are honored to have this year’s nominees join the lineup.
How did you become involved with the LGBTQ community?
I came out in El Paso, Texas. I started going to bars and forming a group of friends to hang out with. While I was attending NMSU, there was a small group of us, but we all connected through the University Student Group. I later moved here to Albuquerque with a group of queer people. There were five of us in the house and involved with New Mexico AIDS Services and a few other queer groups. I found my home in the clubs. I ended up working in a clothing store that participated in HIV fundraising, Creme De La Do. I also worked at Pulse Nightclub - first dancing in drag, then working as a door girl. I then involved myself in everything the owners had in the works. I was trained by Scott Gardner and Pat Armijo to help in the runnings of their restaurants. This pulled me closer to "their world." I suffered from addiction, as many of my sisters and brothers did in the community. I got sober and continued to work on myself and school. Scott pushed me to do well, along with my friend, Vince. I finished school and started a business while still working for Pulse. I saw lots of my friends going down the same path I had. So I've tried to always give back however I could. First, slowly through starting small fundraising, then working with The United Court of the Sandias, Bunnie Cruse, and others. I then worked with Adrian, Zane, and the board at TGRCNM. I am still on the board and continue my work with the Trans community because not only are these my sisters and brothers, but I was once on the verge of homelessness and addiction. I am also non-binary. I'll do anything for my community as it has supported me through these years.
What was life like when you were a youth?
Growing up in Las Cruces was not easy. In the third grade, my family and I moved to Colorado and lived in a one-bedroom inside my grandparent's house. I always knew I wasn't like other kids. I wasn't a boy. I wasn't a girl. As I got older, attending school was difficult. I got bullied a lot - physically from jocks and boys calling me horrible names, pushed into lockers. I even had kids throw rocks at me while trying to walk home. A group of kids chased me with a knife at a party chanting, Kill the Faggot. Counselors told me that since I dressed weird, this is why this keeps happening. I decided to leave New Mexico and move in with family and friends in Denver to finish school. There I realized I wasn't alone. My school had a GSA even in 1993!
What piece of advice would you give today LGBTQ youth?
I want all LGBTQ+ kids to know that even when life is hard, you can make it. Not only can you make it, but you are also worth it. Even if it feels like nobody loves you, remember, I love you!
How did you become involved with the LGBTQ community?
I think my first involvement was in 1996. I attended my first Albuquerque Pride Parade. I had been invited by some friends to help decorate the U21 float. I had no idea what we were doing, but I met some amazing people, some of them I still know. After that, I wanted to stay involved and became an officer with the LGBT Student group at UNM, a volunteer and board member with Albuquerque Pride, and TGRCNM, and continue to be involved in giving back to the LGBTQ+ community, whenever I can!
What was life like when you were a youth?
This is a challenging question. I am very fortunate to have had and continue to have a loving and supportive family. Although there were times I struggled to find myself, I had family and friends who have been consistent. I saw many friends struggle who had less support than I did, and I think that also pushed me to be involved and give back to others who could use the help.
What piece of advice would you give today LGBTQ youth?
I would say always be true to who you are, don’t let anyone try to change you. Seek supports when you need it, and when you can, be a support to other people!
How did you become involved with the LGBTQ community?
I first became involved with the LGBTQ community through music. Growing up in Chicago, I looked up to my friend, Marc, who played in several bands and ran his own record label. I found out he was gay and it changed everything for me. I never knew LGBTQ people could have their own homes, businesses, and large groups of friends. I started going to "Queercore" punk shows and playing in my own bands. I didn't really get to know the more mainstream LGBTQ community until moving to Albuquerque and getting involved with MPower and TGRCNM.
What was life like when you were a youth?
When I was a youth, I had a very difficult experience. I lacked role models, both in media and in my own life, to show me who I could be. I grew up in a family that did not accept me and the world seemed to agree with them. We didn't even really have the words to describe gender and sexuality that we do now, and there was no easy way to find them or others like myself. No internet meant each LGBTQ kid was almost totally by themselves, ate least that's how it felt. There was starting to be some positive representation for gays and lesbians in media like "will and grace" and Ellen Degeneres coming out, but trans people were still widely disrespected. The only way I got to see someone like me on TV was usually as a substance-abusing or murdered sex worker on a law and order type show or a villain that is dressing up as a woman to trick people in movies or trashy daytime talk shows. It made it very hard to believe I would ever be someone special or important to anybody.
What piece of advice would you give today LGBTQ youth?
My biggest piece of advice is to never give up. I know things can be hard, but there is always a chance that things will get better. People are looking out for you. I'm one of them! No matter how hard things get, or what mistakes you make along the way, remember that you have generations of LGBTQ people who have come before you who think you are just brilliant, wonderful, resilient, and brave. We are rooting for you! We know you are going to do incredible things. You already are! Just never give up.
Pride 2020 - Featured Stories: History Repeating Itself - Bathhouses look to resurface in San Francisco
Decades after San Francisco closed its gay bathhouses, a new law paves the way for their return. District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman introduced legislation Tuesday at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors requiring the San Francisco Department of Public Health to remove current regulations requiring the monitoring of patrons’ sexual activities and prohibiting private rooms in bathhouses and commercial adult sex venues.
“Our current regulations for adult sex venues were put in place as an emergency measure at the height of the AIDS crisis when San Francisco was desperate to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS,” said Mandelman. “Decades later, with the emergence of PrEP and in light of San Francisco’s reduction in HIV diagnoses to under 200 for the first time since the 1980s, these regulations – including a ban on private rooms and required monitoring of patrons’ sexual activities – have no public health rationale and need to be changed.”
In 1984, at the height of the AIDS crisis, the City and County of San Francisco filed a lawsuit against the operators of bathhouses, citing them as a public health nuisance. The court issued an order allowing the businesses to remain open on the condition that they employ monitors to prevent unsafe sex from occurring and remove most of the doors to individual video cubicles, booths, or rooms. Although the bathhouses technically could have remained open under the rules established by the court, all of them closed. In 1997, the Department of Public Health adopted minimum standards requiring that patrons’ sexual activities be monitored on a regular basis by staff, and prohibiting venues from having locking booths, cubicles, or rooms. The minimum standards that are in effect today include these same restrictions.
Recent advances in HIV prevention strategies have reduced HIV transmission and minimized the adverse community and individual health impacts of HIV. These include the broad availability of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent HIV infection, rapid access to antiretroviral therapy for people newly diagnosed with HIV, and increased viral suppression among people living with HIV in San Francisco through increased retention in care. According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, in 2018 the number of new HIV diagnoses in San Francisco dropped to 197, marking a 58% decrease as compared to the number of new HIV diagnoses in 2011.
“It’s time for regulations that were put in place at a time of fear and a lack of knowledge to catch up with the progress we’ve made in the fight to end AIDS,” said Joe Hollendoner, CEO of San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “With PrEP, U=U, and other advancements in sexual health, bathhouse restrictions are antiquated and stigmatizing. It’s time that these baseless regulations be struck from the code, and we are grateful to Supervisor Mandelman for leading this charge to decriminalize sexuality.”
LGBTQ advocates have long argued that the current regulations unfairly target gay men and maintain that without access to private rooms people are more likely to have unsafe sex in other venues without access to safer sex education and supplies. The news of Mandelman’s legislation was met with acclaim by these advocates.
"The queer community has been advocating for decades to have these regulations changed, and each time we've run into a dead-end," said Blade Bannon a San Francisco based erotic photographer and author who has spent the last several years working to enact changes to the regulations. "Cities around the country and world have successful adult sex venues operating without these restrictions and it's time that San Francisco join them. I'm glad that Supervisor Mandelman agrees that it's time to make a change."
Mandelman’s ordinance will amend the Health Code to require the Department of Public Health to adopt new minimum health and safety standards for commercial adult sex venues and will prohibit the department from adopting standards that require monitoring of patrons’ sexual activities, or ban booths, cubicles or private rooms with locking doors. It provides for these minimum standards to include requirements that venues make safer sex supplies and educational materials available to patrons. The ordinance requires that these new minimum standards be adopted by no later than July 1, 2020, and that there be a public notice and public comment process.
“When properly operated, by providing access to safer sex educational materials and supplies and HIV and STD testing, these venues assist rather than impede our efforts to control the transmission of HIV,” said Mandelman who is gay and represents the Castro District. “I hope that this ordinance will support our efforts to get to zero new HIV infections and will put a bookend on a painful chapter in the history of the queer community in San Francisco.”
Was a life of entertainment always in the cards for you?
Oh goodness! To be honest, I am not sure! My mom used to sing as a kid. She dreamed of having a career as a vocalist. But, she left home before she graduated and had me at 21. So, she never had the opportunity to work towards that goal. So, starting at a very young age, she would praise me and get so joyful when I goofed around with her, singing and dancing. She wasn’t a stage mom at all, but I knew that growing up to be a performer of some sort was her dream for me. Maybe it was her wanting to live vicariously through me. Or maybe she just thought I was special. But, either way, it made an impression on me. As I got older, it felt more like I was destined to be a performer. I just couldn’t visualize anything else.
Who were your inspirations as you were growing up in the business?
I honestly can’t say that I had any. I never followed celebrities or got hooked on certain public personalities or artists. I just never found anyone that I felt represented me. I think that is why I felt so compelled to be a performer. On some level, I wanted to be the person that I desperately needed to know existed out in the world.
As a biracial, queer child did you find struggles in your youth?
I did. I didn’t recognize my sexual identity until I was older, but as a mixed-race child growing up in the American south, I hated standing out, I just wanted to be like everyone else. But since I went to school and lived in a mostly white district, that was just impossible.
You have quite a few projects under your belt. Which one would you say was the most memorable?
My work on "Underground" is the most important production I have ever been a part of because the story was painful, true, and beautiful. It felt like we were taking history out of the hands of the straight white men, who have been telling it for so many centuries, and centering it in a place of compassion, where the oppressed got to be the narrators.
Your character on The Good Doctor was a wonderful addition and helps show "Shaun's" ability to grow and love. What has your time on the show been like?
It was a dream from the start! Carly first showed up in Season 1 as a recurring character. Most everyone in the production was super welcoming, warm, and kind! But, I have particularly enjoyed getting to spend an entire season with Freddie for a scene partner…he was a real dream, and they’re just aren’t a lot of leading actors in Hollywood quite like him.
What are some of your upcoming projects?
Making sure I and everyone I love survives the pandemic.
What was the inspiration behind Alice Isn't Dead?
It’s a podcast written by Joseph Fink that I narrated for three seasons. It was later turned into a novel, and I also narrated the audiobook. I think some of Joseph’s inspiration came from touring his Welcome To Night Vale live shows around the U.S. for a few years, but you would have to ask him.
You and your wife, Claire, are celebrating seven years of marriage this year. How's married life been for you?
Same as life before we were married. We have been together for almost 14 years, so the marriage was more of practicality for us because we own property together. We kept having to get civil unions and domestic partnerships wherever we moved because states didn’t recognize another state’s legal acknowledgments of partnerships. The week we were supposed to go to the courthouse and get it, marriage was legalized in California, so it just made more sense to get married instead of just another civil union.
Your celebrity has allowed you to use your platform for a greater good. Why is advocating for those who don't have a voice so important to you?
Because the only way to end oppression and fight for the rights of marginalized communities is to help lift them up. I don’t need to speak for anyone. I just have to amplify their voices. I am born in oppressed communities, but I also have many privileges. It’s important to help support ALL the marginalized people out in the world, not just the ones you relate to.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I just want to be remembered as the girl who was good at making things. P&E
- Teresa Robinson
For the first time in 46 years, Albuquerque Pride is canceled. Not because of protesters or a hostile government, but an invisible enemy in the air that can strike anyone, leaving devastating effects. If you lived through the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s, you might be having flashbacks to that horrible time. Everyone was afraid. There were calls for quarantine for gay men. Flash forward to 2020, and we’re ALL in quarantine. Albuquerque Pride wasn’t canceled during the AIDS epidemic, but as we learned more about HIV, we learned how it is - and is NOT - transmitted. COVID-19 is a new (to humans anyway) disease that is mostly airborne. And therein lies its danger. No one knows who has it and who doesn’t unless they become sick. They could be contagious long before they exhibit symptoms. And if you have underlying medical conditions, such as HIV or cancer, as well as being over 60, your chance of death is much higher. Even healthy people have died from this disease. It strikes everyone differently. And that’s part of the problem. So the leaders of ABQ Pride made a wise choice to cancel this year’s Pride events. Hopefully, thanks to actions by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and local officials, we have hit the peak and cases, and deaths, will start to taper off. But that is unknown at this point. Hence the cancellation.
The cancellation has caused great disappointment in the LGBTQ+ community, but most understand why. For those that are upset about the cancellation, and for those that are disappointed, but get the reasoning, let’s examine what we call “Gay Pride.” Pride events can be traced back to 1970, the year following the Stonewall Riots in New York City. Stonewall was the turning point for the homosexual community. We collectively said, “We won’t take second class status anymore!” The following year, celebrations were held in various cities to show our pride. We began using our language rather than the clinical word homosexual. We chose “gay” because we each believe our lives are something to be celebrated, not something shameful. Something happy and cheerful. But our lives before Stonewall were not that way, and remain that way, in many places. Yet, we still celebrate Pride every year. We won’t be marching down Central Avenue or having a festival at the Santa Fe Plaza, but we can continue to carry our PRIDE in ourselves, what our community has accomplished, and how much work we still have to do. We can get married in all 50 states. But in over half the States, you can still be fired for being LGBTQ or denied housing or employment. Our pride carries us through these difficult situations. We know when we work together, we can make things better. We’re working on getting a federal, non-discrimination law passed so States won’t deny protections, and LGBTQ citizens will be protected under federal law. We’re working on acceptance of gender identity for our transgender brothers and sisters. We work to protect our kids in schools from bullying. We should be proud of our victories. We should celebrate them while forging ahead to become full citizens in this country.
A big parade, festival, and related events aren’t all there is to Pride. Pride means being YOU every day. It means becoming who you are supposed to be. It’s about taking pride in the steps getting there, as well as having a newfound respect for yourself living your own life. Pride is being held virtually by many organizations worldwide. You can join in with friends and families. You can celebrate along with the community. Hopefully, by the end of June, we’ll be hosting parties, dinners, or other events to celebrate. You can be proud of yourself, your community, and the ability to live as you choose. Pride is about loving and respecting yourself and your community. It’s about helping others come out of the closet and getting legislation passed to protect our community. It’s about meeting with your elected officials and pushing them! There are so many ways to celebrate Pride outside of just a few days a year. Let’s make PRIDE every day of the year! P&E - Mauro Walden-Montoya
HIV/AIDS may not be in the news on a daily basis, which makes it seem like the epidemic that killed over an estimated 700,000 people of HIV-related illnesses in the United States since 1981 is no longer an issue. As new generations admere, the fight continues to educate and treat those who need it. The introduction of a new blue pill has changed the game for many who are at high risk of contracting HIV. Truvada has been approved by the FDA for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP. When taken daily, PrEP is 99% effective at preventing HIV infection. Organizations like MPower and HIV Testing Program Manager, Christopher Garcia are educating the community of the importance of the drug. “PrEP is important to our community because it prevents someone from getting HIV,” shared Garcia. “PrEP has been out since 2012 and there have only been 6 cases out of millions of people getting HIV. PrEP is another Barrier and prevention that a person can use along with any other prevention they currently are using.” PrEP contains two medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine) that are used in combination with other medicines to treat HIV. When someone is exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, these medicines can work to keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection. The development of this drug was a game changer for those at risk, but there are partnerships who are making PrEP more effective.
Companies like UrSure and Healthvana are working to assist with PrEP to create a streamlined system to make it easier for a patient to take part in the process. UrSure was founded in 2013 by doctors, Helen Koenig and Giffin Daughtridge, who started an HIV prevention clinic at Philadelphia FIGHT. They provided Truvada to young, gay men of color, who were at high risk of HIV infection. As shared on their website, the clinic grew to serve over 200 individuals, but within the first two years, several patients became HIV positive, despite picking up their PrEP routinely. Due to the drug’s effectiveness, Helen and Giffin knew that the issue must have been adherence, which was a widely reported problem with medications taken daily like PrEP. The duo identified two problems. First, as providers, they were unable to diagnose non-adherence. Self-reported adherence was very high, but actual adherence was much lower. Second, their patients were not motivated to take the drug. Many said they didn’t feel different when taking the drug. As a result, they questioned whether it was protecting them. Without that peace of mind, they would stop taking it over time.
To solve these two issues, Helen and Giffin developed a lab-based urine test that could measure levels of one of the drugs in Truvada in their patient’s urine. This test allowed them to measure adherence to PrEP, and they found that both providers and patients liked receiving the data. UrSure’s original mission endures as they focus on making noninvasive, rapid tests that measure and improve adherence to medications for patients and providers worldwide.
Healthvana’s goal is to make communication between the patient and the clinic smoother during treatment. Healthvana’s digital tools make it easier for clinics to identify, educate, and keep patients on PrEP. Healthvana has thousands of at-risk and HIV patients as subscribers already and clinics that are seeing positive results because of Healthvana’s work. CEO Ramin Bastani shared on the Healthvana website, “I care about empowering patients to make better decisions with timely and actionable information. I’m committed to amplifying the important work that healthcare professionals do.”
The ability to start on PrEP and utilize the services of Healthvana and UrSure is as easy as working with organizations like MPower or discussing it with your Primary Care Physician. P&E - Teresa Robinson
For those of us who are old enough and were somewhat “woke” back then, the COVID-19 pandemic invokes hidden emotions that remind one of the painful early years of the AIDS crisis. There are differences, certainly, because this pandemic is directly affecting a broader demographic, but the similarities in the feelings the COVID-19 pandemic revisits are striking and haunting.
In both, American presidents who couldn’t think beyond their own egos reacted with sociopathic indifference to the disease and deaths of real human beings. Ronald Reagan will always be remembered as the president who refused to speak about, much less act to solve, HIV. Today, Donald Trump seems willing to let the rest of us go if he can just keep his approval rating up among his base, his profits flowing in, and the stock market paying its richest investors windfalls.
In both, the leaders placed the blame on someone they wanted us to think of as a dangerous Other to deny the pandemic’s wider existence and, more importantly, their own personal responsibility for failing to act effectively and with a national sense of a community in crisis. Then it was put down as the “Gay Plague” and now it’s the “China Virus.”
In both, leaders who could have thought in terms of how we’re all in this together mouthed the otherwise instructive words: “personal responsibility.” But they were usurping those words as a cliché to provide an excuse for government failure, a reason to do nothing in the belief that the plague would only affect other people and families, to raise guilt and shame in any victims as if to punish them further by doing so, and to downplay the systematic homophobia, racism, sexism, classism, and able-bodiedism that are major factors affecting the most devastated.
Then as now, right-wing religious leaders spoke self-righteously of these pandemics as some Divine punishment upon all those that didn’t tow the sectarian line by which they made a name for themselves and money to live better than those who idolize them. Their hell-fire seemed to always have something to do with their fear of equality for LGBTQ people and their phony self-righteous claim of victimization in culture wars.
In both, the science was way behind, and that was often because other things were more important in the profits-over-people game played by conservative and libertarian-type politicians. They spoke of socialism threatening the nation while predatory capitalism was destroying needed safety nets.
It was Ronald Reagan who changed the rules so that hospitals could be for profit. Preparing for and treating pandemics were considered economic losers.
Then, as today, there was the fear. It was a nagging, aching, dread dwelling always in the back of the mind.
In most early cases, being diagnosed as HIV positive was a death sentence. Big pharma was concerned first about its bottom line and had to be forced to seek remedies - the earliest of which (such as AZT) were just as likely to kill the patients.
When I told a graduate student that I had just learned about the death of a young colleague at another university who’s books already challenged entrenched religious historian’s biases, that student unhesitatingly expressed the feeling of that day: “Will there be anyone left?”
Today, most who contract COVD-19, we’re told, will be fine in the long run. Yet there are few markers assuring us who won’t be okay, who’ll be left without the help they need because of short supplies, and who, as a result of maintaining a stiff upper lip should have been more cautious. We’re even watching its spread to our healthcare providers.
For quite a while no one was sure what to do to prevent the spread of the virus. Those who tried were still afraid that they hadn’t done enough.
Today that’s: Have I washed my hands enough or the right way? Did I touch my face too much even without being aware? Will the package from the grocery store, the clerk who rung it up, or the stocker who shelved it spread it to me? How certain can I be of the safety of packages delivered to our door? How long is the virus alive on what surfaces?
One result then, as now, was a widespread, lingering situational depression. Few pointed out then that that’s what it was, but it took an emotional toll.
Today, too, most of our nation is experiencing situational depression. As Yale psychology professor, Jutta Joorman put it: “It will take some time for us to see the long-term mental health effects of this situation, but it has a lot of the ingredients that can affect people’s mental health negatively in a significant way.”
And then, as now, social distancing was recommended. Back then, when no one first knew whether one’s touch, breath, saliva, sweat, sneeze, or other body fluids could transmit infection, people needed to separate, use all the latex between each other they could, and fear any bodily contact.
Today social distancing includes the end of all bodily contact, even a six-foot distance from others, and staying home for weeks except for running essential errands. When what we need is a connection, physical contact, being with others, and sharing face-to-face our fears and depression, this plague denies us all that.
No wonder there were people who opted for connection, intimacy and touch then and now by breaking the rules and defying the depression, the odds, and the criticism of those of us who obeyed. It wasn’t safe; it wasn’t helpful, but it was somewhere human.
As I remember those days, my mind returns to the couple dozen or so students who sought me out for some connection when being diagnosed as HIV positive was pretty much a death sentence. Our encounters went something like this as they appeared at my campus office.
“Professor Minor? May I talk with you for a minute?” the student at the open office door would ask, often with a light knock on the door or its frame.
I always kept my door open and my desk facing the door to welcome those who came.
“Yes, come and sit,” I responded as I pointed him to the chair at the side of my desk, not one on the other side where my desk provided some official demarcation. Erasing the barrier was important to me.
“I think it’s safe to talk to you,” was the first clue. “You’re the first person I’m telling about this.”
The student was always taking, at least, his second class from me. So, he felt he knew me. I got up myself to provide a bit of privacy by pulling the door open, but not closed.
“I just found out that I’m positive,” then revealed the purpose of this visit.
The words, too often familiar, hang even today in my memory.
They would talk about how unfair it seemed. They had thought they were taking enough precautions and had believed that their partner was.
I listened and agreed: “It’s not fair. There’s nothing ‘fair’ about it.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to tell my roommate (and/or my parents). I’m from a small town. I know this won’t go over well. And I’m scared.”
I listened to everything else they wanted to share while my eyes teared up. I’m surprised I could hold it together.
And then my student felt he needed to go. But before he left my office I said something I had never said to any students except these. I said: “Will you give me a hug?”
Some of those students were well-known student leaders who never shared their secret with others on campus. But many months later it was seldom an exception to learn that “they had quit school and gone home to ‘be with their family.’”
I knew that meant “in their last days.” So that office visit was also their last.
I still believe those hugs were important then just as hugs are now. They were intentional. I didn’t want anyone ever to think that the first person they confided in about their place in the AIDS pandemic felt in any way that they were now too unclean for human touch.
By making this connection to a professor they felt “was safe,” they had actually bestowed on me the honor of being the first person they told. So the very least I could give was the kind of hug, let’s admit, we all really need, but can’t have, today in these weeks and months of this new pandemic. P&E
Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies 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 Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org.
The Parisian fashion brand Eden Park, renowned for its famous Pink Bow Tie logo, is about to tackle the United States with the opening of a dedicated e-boutique. Founded by two former French international rugby players, Franck Mesnel and Eric Blanc, Eden Park is the world’s leading high-end fashion brand inspired by the game of Rugby. For 33 years, the brand has remained faithful to this authentic DNA. Every season, nevertheless, brings a new touch of audacity and off-beat chic - epitomizing the unique French Flair, which has made Eden Park an ever more sought-after brand around the world. “We want to offer the American public a hint of French inspiration,” said Eden Park founding CEO Franck Mesnel. “We would be so proud to touch the hearts of this great nation with a high-end product that also captures the spirit of the times. It is up to us to meet that challenge with collections that are both original and very French.”
The brand kicked off in the U.S. in April 2020 through a dedicated online shop. The website allowed the public nationwide to purchase a curated selection of the brand’s finest menswear products. These include the iconic Rugby jerseys, à la Eden Park, color-block polo shirts from the Spring-/Summer collection, and embroidered tee-shirts, with every item carrying the signature Pink Bow Tie logo, featured in tone-on-tone or monochrome. This, however, will only be the start of Eden Park’s American Dream. Hard on the heels of the online store, the Paris brand will highlight its US presence with the opening of a brick and mortar boutique in New York, accompanied by continued expansion through multi-brand retail stores. So, get ready to discover the unique Parisian style of Eden Park, with its off-beat and irreverent chic, at last in the United States!
When Gavin Lodge, and his partner, were expecting their first son, one of his highest hope, along with a healthy baby, was for the perfect diaper bag. While carrying diapers, creams, bottles, and blankets around New York City, he hoped to rock a bag that declared, “Check me out! I love being a dad.” But every “dad” bag was either too flowery or too schlumpy. From this fashion annoyance, E.C. Knox was born.
E.C. Knox offers an array of stylish diaper bags for the fashion-conscious dad on the go. They offer highly-functional bags that are easy to clean and comfortable to carry with styles that work for both mom and dad. A perfect gift for Father’s Day!
Pictured: “Ellison” Diaper Bag / Coastal
Since the 2019 debut of his album, A Man Born Black, Mykal Kilgore has swooned into the hearts of thousands of fans across the world. The award-winning Broadway performer, who is proud to be both Black and gay, is using his voice to share his truths to any listening ear and an open heart. Nominated “Outstanding New Artist” for the 51st NAACP Image Awards, Kilgore is compared to such artists as Billie Holiday, Donnie Hathaway, Aretha Franklin, and others. His single, “Let Me Go,” delivers a soulful, relatable ballad, creating an anthem for many in the world. The single landed on five Billboard charts and #2 on iTunes. “This album was my opportunity to be transparent, unapologetic, and intentional about the life that I live,” shared Kilgore. “I am very thankful to those who have welcomed me and my music.”
Kilgore announced his 2020 Born Black tour - a seven-city tour that will stop in New York, Atlanta, Annapolis, Nashville, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. During this time, fans will witness this powerhouse performer who has worked under the tutelage of GRAMMY®, Emmy, and Tony award winner, Billy Porter. Kilgore is becoming a shining star in the theater world as well, taking part in such productions as Motown the Musical, Book of Mormon, Hair, NBC’s The Wiz Live, and Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. Kilgore is known for his viral video, inspired by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, “Reclaiming My Time.” For more information on Mykal Kilgore, his music, and tour, visit www.mykalkilgore.com.
Circus of Books
The three-decades-long bookstore, Circus of Books, an LGBTQ space where people could go to socialize and celebrate, is about to close. The real story behind this 35+-year-old business is the people who run it. Karen and Barry Mason, a straight married couple with three children, made Circus of Books a staple in Los Angeles and America’s biggest distributors of gay porn. Artist and daughter, Rachel Mason, in her debut documentary, discovered more about the parents she thought she knew and about the business her family refused to disclose the nature of for years. Circus of Books is a moving, thought-provoking film that not only talks about the rise and fall of a family business but what it did for a community and how it caused a family to experience different situations in the LGBTQ community.
Jess Harris, a 29 year old web designer for a nonprofit in Brooklyn, is ecstatic to be the surrogate and egg-donor for her best friend, Josh, and his husband Aaron. Twelve weeks into the pregnancy, a prenatal test comes back with unexpected results that pose a moral dilemma. As they all consider the best course of action, the relationship between the three friends is put to the test.
The Second Life of Jamie P
Sometimes we discover who we are later in life. For Jamie Peebles, it came at age 63, when she realized she was living life in the wrong body. Refusing to live in fear, Jamie decided to share her truth and be the person she was meant to be. The Second Life of Jamie P follows her emotional, revelatory, and sometimes funny year-long transition with her friend, Director Roger Sherman.
P&E - After Print
Here are some of the latest articles and topics in the GLBT community.