August 31, 2011

A Reflection On Hooking Up

Let’s drop the crap and be blunt.

There is a term being thrown around within Generation Y and throughout our great nation. This phrase is too broad and unclear. As a recent college graduate of an esteemed Jesuit institution, I demand clarity on such an important topic. The culprit in question?

“We hooked up.”

Many of us have been on either side of this conversation, which involves asking or answering, “So, what exactly happened last night…” The fateful response that follows, depending on if one has swagger or not, typically leaves the floor open to a wide range of questions and speculation. The possibilities are endless, such as an innocent kiss to the completely kinky, which may leave one pondering the cost of “Plan B” split between two people, or if the night was more interesting, the amount divided between three.

Let's grow up and be honest.  If you are a slut, embrace it, baby, cause the words goona get out sooner or later - especially if you come from a small college like I did.

A gay male slut at a small Catholic school? It sounds like a start of a porn, but for some, it was a reality. Of, course, I'm not speaking about myself. Just, um, my friends. Yeah, my friends.

Let's cause a revolution. As modern young adults in society, we need to take responsibility for our actions and be up front with what we do in life, which includes late night trysts and early morning romps. Imagine if you were filling out a sexual resume, for a lack of a better term.

Putting down “hooking up” would be too broad for a future employer to understand, and in my personal opinion, would be downright unprofessional and to some extent, disrespectful. One should be direct and to that point, such as, “We went back to her place and (fill in the blank)."Let’s band together and vanish this term from our Generation and embrace who we are, no matter how ordinary or dirty our private lives happen to be.

Bachmann Almost Kidnapped By Lesbian and Ex - Nun?

Michele Bachmann had claimed in 2005 that she was almost abducted by two women in a bathroom, according to The Daily Beast.
The pair consisted of a lesbian and an ex-nun.

At the time of the alleged attempted kidnapping, Bachmann was a state senator from Minnesota and had already started to campaign against LGBT rights. She had previously been caught hiding in the bushes of a gay rights event.
WHAT?  Was she looking for Marcus?

When she refused to speak about gay rights at a constituent forum, the two women encountered Bachmann in the bathroom and questioned her on the subject.

Pamela Arnold, a 5-foot-tall lesbian now in her 50s, began a conversation with the then-senator, when Bachmann screamed out, “Help! I’m being held against my will!”

Arnold stepped aside and opened the door.

Bachmann rushed to an SUV waiting outside and shortly after, filed a police report stating that she was “absolutely terrified and has never been terrorized before as she had no idea what the two women were going to do to her.”

No charges were filed in the case, as the Washington County attorney deemed the incident to be a simple conversation between a politician and her constituents.

Bachmann, a vocal adversary of gay rights, has a lesbian stepsister, Helen LaFave. It is reported that the two had a close relationship growing up. Recently, LaFave and her same–sex partner of 20 years attended one of Bachmann’s anti-gay rallies in Minnesota.  It was reported that the pair was not there to support her.

In addition to her crusade against LGBT equality, she and her husband, Marcus Bachmann, own a Christian counseling practice in Minnesota.

Generation Y Favors Gay Rights

A new study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute found that Millennials, (also known as Generation Y) individuals between the ages of 18 and 29, are significantly more progressive than previous generations when it comes to gay and lesbian rights.

Among the information derived from polling was that the generation gap in support for same-sex marriage is striking and persists, even among religious and conservative groups. The study found that nearly half (49%) of Republican millennials favor marriage rights for same-sex couples.

This is a stark contrast when compared to the political party as a whole. Only 19% of Republican seniors and less than one third of all Republicans support same-sex marriage.

In regard to acceptance of gay men and women serving in public roles — such as doctors, judges, and law enforcement — the millennial generation joins women, Democrats, and college-educated Americans in being “more comfortable” with such situations. Seniors, men, Republicans, and those with less than a college education reported being “very or somewhat comfortable” with this reality.

The study, “Generations at Odds: The Millennial Generation and the Future of Gay and Lesbian Rights,” includes an analysis by Robert P. Jones, Daniel Cox, and Elizabeth Cook.

View the entire report by clicking here.

August 30, 2011

The Face of NYC Classical Music

My interview and profile with Graham Parker

New York City's only all-classical music radio station, WQXR, has reached millions of listeners over the past 75 years. The station is under the new leadership of Graham Parker, a gay man who joined the company last year as its first vice president.

By utilizing Internet streaming and FM, Parker is taking the company in a new direction that extends outside of New York City. The London native played the piano and flute prior to his admission at Oxford Brookes University, where he began conducting. After holding many prestigious conducting positions after graduation, he served eight years as the executive director of Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, which performs at New York's famed Carnegie Hall.

His professional success motivated him to make some changes on a personal level — which involved coming out in March 1999. 

"I was married to a woman for three and a half years before I came out," he says. "Given that the classical music world is very social, I expected that any significant man in my life would enter this very social world, and I wanted to come out so that I could best manage people’s surprise, answer their questions."

Parker says he hopes hopes his ordination as an interfaith minister will come in handy in the future — he plans to lend his services to same-sex weddings, now legally recognized in New York State
However, Parker and his partner of 11 years, whom he married in Canada in 2007, have no immediate plans to wed in New York. "We now are the parents of two amazing kids, so we might well want to wait until the kids are a couple years older so that they can fully appreciate their two dads’ wedding and vows to each other," he says.

In addition to many changes in his personal life, Parker is also making many important directional changes for WQXR. Starting this October, one of the main highlights of his vision will include the start of the Carnegie Live series. The station will present live broadcasts and webcasts of 12 of the season's most exciting concerts from Carnegie Hall.

Midge Woolsey, a WQXR midday host, is fond and supportive of the leadership exemplified by Parker. She predicts that with his guidance, the station will reach new heights. “As a longtime member of WQXR’s hosting staff, it is particularly exciting to see Graham pursuing all of the digital opportunities that were not available when I first started in radio," she says.

In addition to his many contributions to the music industry, he has some advice for LGBT individuals who are debating whether to reveal their sexuality within the corporate world. "I have friends in the banking and legal world who carefully decide who they can be fully out to and for others for whom disclosure is a more limited option. I think it needs to be a personal decision at all times," he says. “WQXR and our parent company, New York Public Radio, is a completely welcoming environment for all, so I would hope that colleagues of mine who may decide that they want to disclose their sexuality, they would find other sympathetic and supportive colleagues."

Triumphs and Setbacks of Gay Straight Alliances

Since the late '80s, there have been many ups and downs for gay-straight alliances, both at public and private schools.  Generation : (WH)Y ? takes a closer look at some of the landmark cases that have rocked the United States and paved the way for LGBT equality in American schools.

In 2009, The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network released a survey concluding that 90 percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students experienced harassment in the school setting. Two years later on June 14, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced in a letter that gay-straight alliance groups should have the same rights and protections as other clubs at secondary public schools.

This stance represents the long struggle for LGBT youth, allies, and advocates in the fight for acceptance and equality in the school environment.

There are now more than 4,000 gay-straight alliances in schools throughout the United States. Since the late '80s, there have been many ups and downs for gay-straight alliances, both at public and private schools. Generation : (WH)Y ? takes a closer look at a sample of occurrences that have changed the face of gay-straight alliances in America.

1988:  The first gay-straight alliance was formed at Concord Academy, a college prep high school in Concord, Massachusetts, by then-teacher Kevin Jennings. He went on to establish GLSEN, and most recently, Jennings served as the Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of State and Drug-Free Schools at the United States Department of Education under President Obama.

Kevin Jennings
1998: The ACLU, Lambda Legal, and NCLR, on behalf of the East High Gay Straight Alliance, file a lawsuit against the Board of Education of Salt Lake City for not allowing the gay rights group from meeting on school property.

Update: In 2000, it was deemed that the First Amendment rights of the students were violated and they were given permission to meet. As a result, the Salt Lake City School Board reversed its decision and all clubs — including GSAs — were permitted to meet on campus. Years later, Disney's hit High School Musical was filmed at East High.

2002: The Boyd County Board of Education in Boyd, Ky. suspended all clubs in the district — kindergarten through 12th grade — in order to prevent a gay-straight alliance from forming. The club was petitioned after many homophobic incidents, including one where students rallied together and stated that they needed to “take all the fucking faggots out in the back woods and kill them.”

Update: In 2004, officials eventually gave the students in the gay rights club permission to meet at Boyd County High School after a lengthy legal battle.

2006: The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed a motion to allow students at Okeechobee High School to meet for their GSA club, which was formed the year before. The school had an “abstinence-only” policy for sex education curriculum, which school officials claimed would be violated if they allowed the club to meet.

Update: In July 2008, a Florida federal court ruled that the state must allow GSAs to meet. The judge, K. Michael Moore, stated that GSAs do not interfere with abstinence-only education and that schools must provide for the well-being of LGBT students, which made Florida the first state in the nation to take this progressive stance.

2011: Rhode Island State representative Dan Gordon stated that youth at Tiverton High School were being “sexed-up” because of their GSA, in addition to saying the school should lose state funding. Gordon, a Republican, furthered his stance on a Providence radio station that drew much criticism from both the media and the general public.

Update: A few months later, Arne Duncan published his letter regarding equal rights and protections for gay-straight alliances; hopefully paving the way for further acceptance and tolerance.

August 29, 2011

A Funny Look : If Gay Was Normal

The movie Another Earth, which portrays a girls quest for an alternative reality, really got me thinking about the topic.  What if there was another world where things were ... different?  What if there was another world where you were looked down upon for being straight and rewarded for being gay? I wrote this for my college newspaper, The Griffin, my senior year in Buffalo.

Over the past few years, I was at a constant struggle with myself over my heterosexual identity.  It was during my freshman year at Canisius that I had the strength and courage to come out to myself, my accepting campus, and my two loving mothers.  In an increasingly progressive society that is beginning to accept opposite-sex couples, I knew I could no longer stay silent.  During the winter break of 2007, I sat down my parents and just came out with it.  I said, “Mom and Mom, I have something to tell you.  I’m straight.”  From that moment on, my life was never the same.

Even though my parents are pretty liberal, I was still quite nervous about their reaction.  How were they going to feel that their first born son is part of the heterosexual community?  After an initial and drawn out silence, Mom Number One spoke.  “Oh my God, Jeffrey.  Was it something that we did as parents?  Was it the vacation to San Francisco where we brought you to Hooters?  Or is it because we allowed you to play organized sports when you were younger?”


At that time, I thought about it, and honestly, there was really no particular moment in my life where I knew that I was straight.  Sure, I dated guys in high school to fit in, but never once did I have an attraction or connection to them.  Some nights, I would stay up late and pray to be gay.  I could not understand why I could not be normal and gay like all of my friends.


It was only once that I arrived to Canisius College in the fall of 2007 where I realized what an accepting and unique campus it truly was.  I was not known as “straight Jeff,” but just Jeff – one of the guys.  Over the semesters, I became involved in one of the most popular clubs on campus, Unity, which is the straight-gay alliance at the school.  I have so much respect for the gay club members and how they have been active advocates in a world that appears to be so gay oriented.


After Mom Number One was finished, Mom Number Two told me how she felt about my heterosexuality.  “As a mother, I always knew this was coming.  I could tell since you were young … The Sabres sports jersey you always wore, the backwards hat.  And that one time I walked into your room in middle school and you were looking at the
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.”  At this remark, Mom Number Two jumped in and things started to get heated.  “No, I don’t think that’s right.  People are not just BORN STRAIGHT.  I don’t believe that, do you?  It’s that liberal school he goes to.  Jeffrey, what is that name of that straight bar you go to?  He is being brainwashed by those straight athletes who convinced him to be straight, that’s the only explanation I have.”  Wow, that sounded pretty crazy.  Do people believe that someone can be persuaded to change their sexuality?

I decided to leave the room and give my parents some time; it took me close to eighteen years to accept my sexuality, and I could not throw this in their face and expect them to accept it in minutes.  I went to my room and thought about what my parents had said.  Was there a time in my life where I truly understood that I was heterosexual?  Did I play in the dirt too much?  Did I dress in sweats and a Buffalo Bills shirt on purpose?  Many thoughts popped into my head and before long, my mothers came into my room.

Mom Number One apologized and told me, “Just remember, Jeffrey, although you are straight and happy with yourself, there are people are there who will never accept you for who you are.  You want the same rights as homosexuals; you want to be able to adopt children, and of course, you will want to marry the woman of your dreams someday, but sadly, some of this stuff may not be possible for you.  But whatever happens, we support you completely.  We are just concerned for you as our son.”  I hugged both my moms, and as they left my room, I once again began to ponder what would become of my life.

I agreed with my parents.  It is a crazy world that we live in, but one day, I hope that those in the heterosexual community will have the same rights as our homosexual counterparts.  It may take some time, but I hope there is a day in the future where I can walk down the street with the woman I love, holding her hand, and that we will not be harassed just because we are the opposite sex of one another.  I dream of a future where heterosexuals are not depicted as stereotypes and a negative aspect of society.  A future where heterosexuals are equals.

Check out my real Coming Out Letter.


For those of you who are straight : this is crazy, right?  It's what gay people go through on a daily basis.  Don't be an asshole - accept all - it sounds cliche, but the world is honestly so much better that way. Oh - and most importantly - if you're a hot dude, give me a call.

Rally to Restore Sanity : The Best Protest of my Life

 A look back at a satire protest, which for me, ended up being one of the most influential of all.

Comedy, music, politics, satire and hundreds of thousands of Americans exercising their First Amendment right to the United States Constitution.  Do we really need anything else?  I could not think of anything else, except maybe a little more space at the "Rally to Restore Sanity" in Washington, D.C. The event, which was led by John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, took place at the National Mall over Halloween weekend, a place marked for significance in relation to social movements in American culture. I was lucky enough to attend the rally but, for those who were unable to travel to the capital, over twenty satellite rallies took place in cities all across the nation, including Los Angeles and Chicago.

It was a comedic and star studded event featuring Sheryl Crow, Ozzy Osborne and John Legend, among countless others, but even more, this rally served to symbolize the outspoken and progressive nature of the population.  As a student who has participated in numerous protests and rallies for change over the years, this event held special importance to me for a variety of reasons.

I believe that comedy is a rare and precious gift that we as Americans sometimes take for granted.  Although we may not think twice about of signs that say, "President Obama Sucks … But Not As Bad As Bush," or "I have a girl crush on Nancy Pelosi," people in other countries could never dare to dream about expressing their views in a joking manner, as any insult or social disrespect could end in jail time or in some cases, death.  We as Americans should never withhold our views, because if the majority of citizens do so for a long enough period of time, we may be faced with the nightmare of not being allowed to voice our concerns, beliefs and opinions.

Not only did the rally restore sanity, but it also restored my faith in our generation.  I traveled with around twenty of my classmates and members of the Canisius College Democrats.  At the rally we met students from all across the country who came in order to unite with other and raise awareness for individual and collective causes and beliefs.  My sign, which was made at the Human Rights  Campaign Headquarters before the rally, read, "I Kissed Carl Paladino," with a drawing of a Buffalo in the middle.  The sign was meant to represent the tongue-in-cheek manner of the rally and further, voiced my objection to Paladino in regard to his negative views and remarks about those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The rally was a great experience and a perfect opportunity to meet unique and funny individuals.  Although initially meant as a "mock rally," this event was able to culminate into a respected and well attended forum which, I hope, will motivate young people across the country to take action in politics on various levels.

 Vote.  Protest.  Rally. 

You have the option to do so today, but if you keep quiet, that privilege may slowly slip away without your noticing.

August 28, 2011

Let's End Gender Bias In Sports

With my internship at The Advocate ending in the next week, I have reflecting a lot on the LGBT movement and further, all the other movements going on right now.  They are endless, and if one really sits down and considers all the issues that we face in what is dubbed "the free world," I think one would be very taken aback on how behind America is in relation to the rest of the world. 


As the largest school in Erie County, one would assume that Lancaster Central High School would serve as a positive example to families. With more than 2,100 students, there are countless clubs, organizations and athletic teams to keep students occupied outside of their academic endeavors. Lancaster is notable as having the area’s largest athletics program and budget, which consists of 28 sports teams on various levels.


On Aug. 30 of 2010, the end of an era was marked: Len Jankiewicz, the athletic director since 1993, retired from a long career of coaching and mentoring thousands of students. Many candidates were considered, but Brian Wild was chosen to attempt to fill the shoes of Jankiewicz. During the transition, a new era was ushered in –an era of discrimination.


As a 2007 graduate of Lancaster, I was heavily involved in honors classes, student government and community service. I was a three-sport athlete, participating in football, wrestling and lacrosse, dedicating hours each day to sports I loved, at a school that placed emphasis and heavy importance on both intellectual and athletic pursuits. I strived to be an example to my younger siblings.


When my sister, Cristta, was in middle school, she exchanged her cheerleading pompoms for a wrestling singlet. It made sense, since she was raised with four boys who were heavily involved in contact sports. On most weekdays and every weekend, she was hauled from one sporting event to another, and after a while, she fell in love with the sport, just as I had.


But not many girls are interested in forming teams for their gender. As a result, many girls across the nation — like those in Lancaster — are unable to participate in wrestling.


According to the New York State High School Athletic Association, all students, regardless of gender, are entitled to “equal opportunity to participate in inter-school competition, either on separate teams or in mixed competition on the same team. . . . In schools that do not provide separate competition for male and female students in a specific sport, no student shall be excluded from such competition solely by reason of sex.”


Further, the role of females in male-dominated sports is rising. More than 5,000 girls wrestled last year in high school, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. As participation increases, so may the interest from other girls, which ultimately may allow for all-female teams to be formed.


Over the past few years, Cristta has excelled in wrestling, constantly competing against both boys and girls. For more than a year, she has been a part of the Cobra Wrestling Academy. She has placed at every competition, consistently ranking within the top three participants. Although accomplished, healthy and academically eligible, Cristta will be barred from participating in a sport she loves simply because she is a girl.

In a society that is evolving to become more accepting and inclusive, it is sickening to ban someone due to her gender, which violates equal rights treatment in the United States.


As I reminisce about my time spent in high school, I reflect upon a book that first opened my eyes to the injustices of the world. “The Bell Jar,” by Sylvia Plath, details the oppression of women in society and the imaginary glass ceiling that plagues them. That invisible road block is still evident in America and it needs to dissolve. I urge residents to voice their objection over this injustice.

Free Verse : A Reflection On Breaking Up and Moving On

As I lay in a pile of old blankets in the corner of our room, I sense the rain pouring down outside in between the buildings. This is the room that we used to share together, a place where we both escaped the harsh glare and noise of the city after a long day. My light brown hues are hidden beneath my lids, since I don’t dare open my swelled eyes. I guess it’s the same story, time and time again, and I know it’s way too soon for you to be back already. It sucks, but the truth of the matter is that it hurts even more when I have no more tears left to cry. I slowly open my eyes and allow the rain to cry for me. It’s been five days and countless hours, endless minutes. It sounds cliché, but the seconds tick by at the speed of a snail. Not once have I heard your voice, or even caught a glimpse of your unique face. I have a million and one things that I want to say to you. How can I long for you, love you, but at the same time hate you and consider you a disgrace? The key quickly turns and the lock descends back into the door frame. The rain has cleared, allowing light to flood into the cluttered apartment. My heart does not skip a beat, but several, and settles in the back of my chest. I had countless things that I wanted to say to you, but now that you’re here, I can’t even muster out a “hi”. You grab your mail, some clean clothes, and zip out the door within a minute. I hear an intentional slam and this should be my cue. My cue that it’s over, my cue that we have nothing left to fix because it’s all broken beyond repair. It should be my cue, but it’s not. Now I long for you even more. I long for the days that we used to spend together. The first day we met, that turbulent day leading up to the perfect night that we confessed our love for each other, the first time we made love. You’re gone for good now and it hurts. I delete your number out of my phone, but I still know it by heart. I text you just to text you, and call you just hoping to hear your voice. You don’t return my texts, and by the tenth time I’ve called, you turn off your phone. The days and weeks go by, and just like everyone has told me, it does get better. A little better. Countless memories float through my head day to day, and finally one day out of the blue, it finally hits me. It makes sense. I have not been longing for you, but the person that you used to be. It takes a great deal of time and strength, but I slowly flush all of the memories that we had together out of my mind. I’m still not sure which memories hurt the most. The good ones or the bad ones. I throw out the old blankets, raise the blinds, clean the apartment, and then jump in the shower. After I dry off, I step in front of the mirror and take a good hard look at myself. I notice my almost perfect smile, which when one looks closely, a chipped tooth and cap are noticeable. I glance at the scar above my left eye, which more often than not, is only noticeable to me. Then I look into my eyes, which are no longer dry or worn from tears. I can feel the tears held back between my eyes and I will no longer feel pain, at least not for now. I reach into the cabinet to grab my mouthwash, when I notice some lotions and odds and ends you left behind. I toss the bottles into the trash, and as the newfound garbage hits the bottom of the bag, it starts to pour outside. A few memories pop into my mind, lingering for awhile, but are gone as fast as they came. I know in my mind, and my soul, that someone like you does not deserve someone like me, let alone a single one of my tears. I grab the garbage bag, although it’s not even close to full, and head out into the downpour. I toss the garbage into the dumpster and stand in the rain, completely drenched. This is the last trace of you. However, I know this is not the end. I’m sure I will see you around the city. I know I will find a piece of your clothing mixed in with mine. I know that no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to forget you completely. Since it’s already raining outside, I sit in the parking lot and stare up at the sky, and allow the rain to cry for me this one last time.

August 27, 2011

Lesbians Betrayed by Rash of Reporter Imposters

Tom McMaster
My story on how two Lesbian bloggers are caught in the crosshairs when they are unmasked as straight men.

Major media outlets like The New York Times and the U.K.’s Guardian followed the musings of Amina Arraf, the Syrian-American writer behind the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus. So when her abduction in Syria was reported June 6 by someone claiming to be Arraf’s cousin, the news took the world by storm, even prompting an investigation by the U.S. State Department.

Backlash soon followed when it was revealed that Arraf was actually a man, American peace activist Tom MacMaster, and that the abduction was nothing more than an Internet hoax. During its investigation of the incident, The Washington Post revealed another bombshell when it reported that Paula Brooks, the editor of American lesbian website Lez Get Real — who was briefly suspected to be the writer behind Damascus — was also a man, activist Bill Graber.

The revelations outraged LGBT activists in the U.S., who feared that the deceptions would discredit lesbians and arouse suspicions about legitimate bloggers.

The impersonators, who even carried on a flirtatious relationship with each other online, have both apologized, saying they were attempting to raise awareness about global LGBT issues.

But while MacMaster claimed his intentions were good, his deception put at least one person in danger, as the photos he used to depict his persona were taken from the Facebook account of Jelena Lecic, a British woman who did not learn of her involvement until the story broke.
Graber’s fraud also affected real female journalists like Melanie Nathan, who resigned as Lez Get Real’s political editor days before the site founder’s identity was revealed. The human rights activist says Graber had deceived her for almost three years, and that when she expressed concern that Arraf’s identity may be fraudulent, her relationship with “Paula” began to sour.

“Once I started asking questions, Paula Brooks, whom I previously had a close and friendly relationship with, turned viciously against me — almost like a change of personality, being rude and unprofessional,” Nathan says. “I was called an anti-Arab bigot when I raised my concerns. I knew something was not right.”

Not surprisingly, the revelations have had a ripple effect. Two other Lez Get Real contributors — the very real transgender lesbian Bridgette LaVictoire (who told reporters she had fallen in love with Brooks) and her mother, Linda Carbonell — who have now taken over the blog’s operations have seen suspicions raised about their own identities.

Michael Triplett, vice president for print and new media at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, says that as more people rely on blogs for news, the incidents may ultimately cause readers to be leery about trusting unverified sources.

“While I don't think there is an ethical problem with anonymous blogging, I do think it's unethical to blog from a persona or point of view that you don't represent or share,” Triplett says. “Men, especially straight men, blogging as lesbians clearly falls into that category. Even as we try to navigate the ethical codes of social media, I do think there is fairly broad consensus that this isn't right."

Visit Buffalo, New York : The Bars Are Amazing

Over the past few years, I have come to encounter a plethora of unique and exciting bars and restaurants scattered throughout the city during my explorations around Buffalo.  As I am going home for a week during Christmas time to visit, I am looking forward to visiting some of my old hangouts.  Each place is captivating in its own right; some spots are funky locales that one discovers by chance or word of mouth.  If you are looking for a night out on Chippewa, which is filled with Barbie-doll sized dresses, men who appear to be sewn into their polo's, and "Like a G6" blaring from from all the clubs—then I recommend you look elsewhere for advice.  However, if you are looking for hip, alternative venues, I encourage you to keep reading.

Here you will find a list of my favorite bars and restaurants in Allentown, a creative hub on the outskirts of downtown, which is a conveniently short subway ride away from almost anything.  Also, no need to worry about my recommendations:  in a city where last call is oftentimes after 4AM, each establishment has been researched to the highest degree.

Best Music:
Hardware Café

Located in the heart of Allentown, this hip bar is similar to any low-key venue one would find in any major city.  Relatively new, it is named after the old neighborhood hardware store it replaced.  Great food during the day, awesome live music Monday through Friday night, themed nights on the weekends, diverse clientele and art work from local Buffalo artists covering the walls (available for purchase), this is definitely the place to be on any given night of the week.  My favorite night is Saturday; the bar is packed for hip hop night, to which a DJ plays throwback jams from the 90s that rock the dance floor in the front, while others looking for a quieter experience can head to the bar in the back.

Best Upscale:
Mothers

This small restaurant and bar is hidden away on Virginia Place.  By far, this is my favorite restaurant in the city.  Although considered "upscale," the menu is not too pricey, with entrees typically around twenty dollars.  The atmosphere is amazing and the food is incredible.  I would suggest this place for a birthday dinner or anniversary, and for the bar, possibly to stop in before a show at Sheas or a similar event.

Best Happy Hour:
La Tee Da

My friend and I stumbled upon this place a few weeks ago while looking for a coffee shop.  When inside, we figured we would swap coffee for wine and took refuge at the bar, which seats up to eight people.  After a couple of glasses of wine and a delicious appetizer, we received our bill:  under twenty bucks for everything!  With half off drink and food specials, I would come here if you are looking for a small and trendy restaurant that seems to be hidden away with a great happy hour.

Best Gay Bar:
Cathode

For a medium sized city, Buffalo has a surprisingly large number of gay bars, all of which vary greatly from the next.  For college students, I would recommend Cathode, mainly for the mixed crowd, music videos on the countless screens and "Big Ass Drink Night," which is held every Monday and Thursday.  On these nights, for six bucks, you can receive a mason jar of your favorite drink.  Note:  You only need one, take my word for it.  Also, if you are a relatively attractive male, you may get a drink bought for you, which is always a plus during a recession.

Best Sports Bar:  Brick Bar

Although a busy place, this bar is great due to various sports games on TV, a pool table, darts and an old school jukebox which plays a variety of requested music, but is typically playing my favorite: 90s alternative and grunge.  Another perk of Brick Bar is that it is one of the largest in Allentown and there is enough room to move freely.

Best Dive Bar:  
The Pink

You heard the rumors … and they are all true.  The Pink is probably the epitome of a "dive bar."  Located in a funky purple building on Allen, this place has holes in the walls and ceiling, graffiti, trash on the floor and the bar stools are typically overturned by the end of the night.  I am not saying to go here for your 21st birthday, but this is definitely the place where you have to see it to believe it.

In addition to these bars and restaurants, there are a variety of others that are exciting places to hang at with your friends or meet new ones in Buffalo. Also, if you see me out-- buy me a drink.

Short Story : The Day Before

I think I was doing a crossword puzzle as the plane slammed into the first tower. I was taking a shower a little while later, as my building was hit - sixteen floors or so below where I should have been - and I was taking a nap as they both fell.  They crumbled to the ground when I was in a deep somber, my arms wrapped around a pillow or on Chandlers waist or draped across my chest.  I should of been rushing to the elevators to find they weren’t working.  Or descending the stairway, probably knowing in my mind that there was no way down.  I should have been awake; in that building, in my office, at my job.

But, I wasn’t.

-----
I hold my thumb over the power button, and the my phone shuts down with a mixture of sounds and lights, I feel a bit annoyed.  Sure, a day without technology seems pretty easy, but as I consider all the stress I’ll have on Wednesday morning when I turn it back on, I get a bit bothered that I even agreed to his little plan.  Another one of his plans, as they seem to be endless over the past few months.

I toss my tie into my suitcase, which transforms into my overnight bag on the nights that I seek refuge at his apartment. I plop onto the couch, legs extending out and arms curling behind my head at the same time; just like my father used to do right when he got home from work.  I relax for a few minutes and then reach for the remote.

“Hey babe, where did you put the clicker?”  I yell, hoping Chandler can hear me through the door.

"The what?  Do you mean the remote? Probably under a magazine or something, but don’t bother getting into anything good, once I finish up, our date night starts,” he says. “I mean, date day.  No phone, no cable, nothing.”

Should be fun, I think.

His place isn’t messy, but a cluttered mix of art and books and sculptures everywhere; the walls, the floor, the coffee table.  I used to have the same type of setup, probably about twenty years ago when I was the same age as him, in what I honestly believe was the smallest fucking apartment in the East Village.  I'd bet money on it.  It was the mid-90’s. I had just Jane and my father was always stopping over on his lunch break.  I tell myself that he wanted to see me with no other intentions, but he always seemed to be snooping around, as if looking for something.  To this day, I'm not really sure why he did that;  I assume he wanted to keep an eye on me, to make sure I was completely on track,  especially after he had just paid for my five years at Cornell.  Yeah, five.

Once I got to thinking about it, this whole no technology slash cut off from civilization for 24 hours is probably is a pretty good idea.  Well, a good idea for us, as long as we don’t get sick of each other.  I'm sure we won't.  Chandler always has these fun little things for us to do, but with all that has been going on, we rarely get to do them; let alone see one another more than three or four times a month.  I suppose this will be one of the first times we actual spent one-on-one time together in a year or so without our laptops or phones or pagers going off every few minutes.

As I contemplate turning my phone on to squeeze in a quick call, Chandler slides out of the bathroom with a towel on his shoulders and both hands covering his front and back.  He’s a strange one - I have to give him that.  We’ve been together for close to three years, but he still gets shy and awkward when hes naked; out of the shower, right after sex, or even getting ready in the morning.  It’s cute, but still weird. I make a mental note to stop judging him.

“OK, I'll be right out,” he yells, although I can hear him perfectly fine from the living room.  “I picked us up a movie from up the street.  Actually, I picked up a few, I don’t feel like getting into an argument again.”

“I thought you said no TV?” I ask.

“What?  I said no cable,” he says while walking into the room, carrying a handful of DVDs.

“Here. You pick.  I’m goona go grab some snacks.”

He disappears again, this time into the kitchen.  I pick one at random, with my eyes closed, as I know they are all his favorite movies that we have already watched countless times. It really won’t make a difference to me one way or another.  We never end up watching the whole movie.

“So, no phones.  I don’t care if your pager goes off or if someone from the office sends you a message in a bottle that ends up at my doorstep somehow.  Anyways, you have off until Thursday, so it shouldn't be an issue," he says, as if exhausted.

It shouldn’t be an issue, but I know it will be.



“We’ll lay in bed all day and I have fresh fruit for the morning and we can just enjoy … being together. Just us,” he says. “After two and a half years, I don’t need your boss or coworkers blowing up your phone.  Or even worse, your wife.”

Wife is emphasized, as if he caught me cheating on him with her.

I shouldn’t have a wife and a boyfriend, but I do. I make a mental note to start judging myself.

“On September 12th at nine, our little experiment is over.  If you can last that long,” he says. “Oh, an --”

“Alright Chandler, enough,” I cut him off. “I understand. I've been here less than an hour and you're already getting to me."

“Fine, that’s all.  Pop in the movie, will you?” he asks.   “I need to be extra specific cause you have selective hearing.”

Sometimes he never shuts up; I don't think he knows how to enjoy our time together without filling it with dialogue, most of it senseless chatter. What’s worse is that he repeats the same things over and over.  He claims I don’t listen.  Sometimes he’s right.

“Fine.  I actually didn't listen completely, to be honest,” I say coyly and kiss him on his forehead.  I  roll over to my side of the sofa and click on the movie. "Tell me one more time?"

“I, Chandler Dobson, and you, Brad Kelfer, will remain in my shitty apartment, which I may add, is decorated beautifully, until the morning September 12th at nine  in the morning” he says with a big smile on his face.

“You’re not so specific, are you?”  I ask.

“Huh?” he responds.

You forgot one last detail. September 12, 2001 at nine in the morning,” I correct. “Two thousand and one.

August 26, 2011

Do You Ever Wonder?

Sometimes it's nice to have a glass of wine (or three) and just ... write.

The sun creeps up, and I wonder where they are. Who they are, I am not sure, but I know they are out there. My future lovers, best friends, enemies, and the random people that will weave in and out of my life. The beautiful ones, the guys I will forget, the girls I will try to remember, and the ones that will slip in between the cracks. My mind will subconsciously leave enough space for the memories I hope to have, and hopefully, I will be able to fill the space that is available.

How lucky am I? Pretty lucky, I suppose, in relation to the world as a whole. I am free to love who I want, do what I want, get an education, go out with friends, and so on. But, when that overwhelming feeling comes, and I feel blue, or depressed, I am only thinking about myself, and the relationship of myself and my objective world. When one is down, they do not think of those who can barely afford to feed themselves, or the ones who have no bed or home, or those who are dying of aids covered in flies who barley have enough skin to cover their bones. That’s the funny thing about the world, and humans, because at the heart of it, we are all minorities, and sad, and confused, and we are just trying to make it, if not though the day, then through life. But what is life, in its purest form? Does it matter, and if so, to what extent?

If I cure cancer, will that matter in 1,000 years. If I murder people, will it matter in 1,000 years? How does one scope these occurrences? By the happiness and sadness that one brings to others, or the emotions that one is able to feel within their own life. It’s funny, sad, and even tragic, because at the heart of it all, people really don’t know why they do what they are doing. Is it for another person or is it for themselves? I find it easier to be selfish because when one lives for another, is that person really living for them? It’s a bizarre world, a place where anything can happen, but at the same time, it brings out the beauty. You can meet your future husband at the coffee shop, or have it blown up by a terrorist bomber, or forget your purse, or find ten dollars on the ground. Does one live for the possibilities or would they rather chose a safer life, one that is predicted, but nonetheless, void of danger and suspense? Was Eve the one to look down upon, or is she the one to look up to? They passed the buck, God to Adam, Adam to Eve, Eve to the snake. Is this even true? Are we just a product of millions of years of evolution? It’s not a coincidence that we all have eyes, and legs, and hair, and noses, and ears, and teeth. If they have a similar genetic makeup, and overwhelming similar characteristics, how can we go heaven and hell, and they just die. And go nowhere. If that is possible for animals, it must be the same for humans, because we are animals, no better than a rat or giraffe or tiger in the grand scheme of life.

And love. What is there to say?

There may be that one person you are meant for, but the human race is collectively so far away from such a discovery. You end up with someone from your home town, or city, usually of the same race, religion, and socioeconomic status. Is this coincidence or predestined nature? If I stay in Buffalo, I will probably end up with someone from this city. Seattle? San Francisco? Boston? Are people drawn to the places where they are “meant” to be, or are people in places where they meet people, thus citing a newfound place where they think they are meant to be? It’s always the attractive ones, usually the mysterious ones, and oftentimes the ones who you meet and you’re never quite sure where to place. They grab your attention and leave you wondering, not always about them, but about yourself, which is intriguing within itself. You see yourself in others, so when you are truly captivated, know what that connection is, because it links you. The random flashbacks come, and one wonders if they happened, will happen, or if they are just a figment of ones imagination, an extension of one’s life that will never happen, a grasp to hold on to a life that will never occur, but sadly, one that one strives for.

We will float on, most lost along the way, but for the lucky ones, a smile is planted firmly on their faces, a great indication of the peace one has with themselves. Finish this reading, close the internet, lounge on your bed, and list the top three things you could never live without: and devote your life to it.

Because, without these, it’s pointless, your life aimless, and the mediocrity will become disgusting, something you will be unable to live with, without, and it’s easy to recognize from the outside.

LGBT Domestic Violence

Through my internship at The Advocate, I was able to interview Mark Morris, a survivor of domestic violence. He spoke with me about growing up in a conservative environment, his youth spent as a gay prostitute, and how his life will be forever changed by the assistance of a kindhearted dentist.

Things are finally starting to turn around for Mark Morris. He never had a perfect life, but after decades of domestic violence, prostitution, homelessness, and becoming HIV-positive, Morris is now, at 46,  at a point where he can approach the obstacles that come into his life with courage, strength, support, and finally, a smile.

As a result of an abusive 20-year relationship, Morris needed cosmetic and dental surgery; scars covered his face, his nose was crooked and jagged after having his face kicked in, and his teeth seemed to be beyond repair. After searching the Internet for resources for domestic violence survivors in Southern California, he did not find many leads or inspiration until he came across the nonprofit group Give Back a Smile, which helps connect those in need with philanthropically minded dentists.

Michael Fulbright, DDS, a Redondo Beach, Calif.–based dentist, has many pro bono cases under his belt. He learned about Morris through this organization and decided to donate his time and resources to help reconstruct his smile. He will be working with his team to give Morris back his lost teeth and replace broken-down fillings in hopes of raising his confidence and self-esteem.

“It was my hope that I could take my skills at being a cosmetic dentist and apply those to people in need while giving back to the community,” said Fulbright, “and by volunteering for this program, I am healing the effects of domestic violence by providing free consultation and dental treatment to restore the smiles of survivors of domestic violence.”

For Morris, however, there was a long and painful journey before he crossed paths with the dentist who would change his life. Morris fled his conservative home in Minnesota at age 15 and settled in Key West, Fla. Shortly thereafter, he contracted HIV. With no income or place to stay, he resorted to prostitution. During this time, he formed a relationship with a man named Pierre, a drag queen and fellow prostitute whom he dated for almost a year. While the relationship was not abusive, Morris began to experience abuse on the streets as a sex worker.

"There was definitely a lot of abuse on the street,” Morris said. “One time, I was forced to perform oral sex. I was beat up and had my clothes ripped from me. I was not in a good place, but through it all I knew that things would get better. Someday, it would all be over."

After a year in Florida, Morris went home and returned to his high school, where he was tormented for being gay. His family did not accept him at the time, and like many LGBT youth of today, he did not feel safe or secure at school.

By age 17, Morris met a man named Mark in Minneapolis; they would stay together for 20 years, until Mark's death in April 2001. For most of their time together, they lived in San Francisco. The relationship was very traumatic; Morris recalled, "I just kept thinking that the abuse would stop, that I loved him, and that things were going to change. What I did learn is that abusive partners do not change; they sometimes get worse."

Things seemed to change for Morris after the start of the new millennium. Morris met his future husband, Larry, while attending church in San Diego. After being together for some time, the two got married in 2008, on the last day possible for same-sex couples to do so before Proposition 8 took effect in California, banning same-sex marriage.

Although things appeared to be getting better, Morris has faced a few bumps along the way and is still not safe from discrimination or harassment.  On his most recent birthday, September 16, in Lake Forest, Calif., Morris was performing on the street when two men drove by and tossed windshield wiper solution in his face.  The case is currently in court and is being pursued as a hate crime, due to the dialogue exchanged, including the words "fag" and "faggot."

Morris has recently finished an autobiographical book, Looking For Love Under Landmines, which is over 300 pages and documents the trials and tribulations of growing up gay in a conservative environment, childhood prostitution, and finally gaining some closure on domestic abuse that lasted over two decades.

In addition, Morris spends at least five days a week performing music on Hollywood Boulevard — channeling gay icons such as Lady Gaga and Madonna.  Of his love for music, he stated, “I love to perform; I love to embrace who I am and many artists, Lady Gaga specifically, has improved things for those in the LGBT community.  She is making it a priority to make acceptance inclusive to all people.  With my new smile, I can finally sing with complete confidence.”

As domestic violence is often portrayed as a male aggressor/female victim type of crime, both Morris and Fulbright want make people aware that everyone — male and female, gay and straight — can be vulnerable to abuse.

“Once I received Mark’s case, I was initially confused; I saw that the name was male, but realized it was correct once we called the patient for his initial exam. I have to admit that stereotypically, I think of victims of domestic violence being female,” said Fulbright. “Once I met Mark and he told me his story, I realized what a great opportunity I had to treat such a nice man and help him restore his life, while hopefully bringing gay domestic violence to the mainstream so that these people can get the care that they so deserve.”

Mark Morris and his husband, Larry, currently live in Los Angeles.  His book, Looking for Love Under Landmines, is available by contacting voyeur88@live.com.

A Real Perspective On Being Young and Gay in America


My best friend Siobhan and I in Chicago. Gentlemen,
she is single, smart, cute, and Irish.
As a gay male in modern America, it often appears that the struggles and roadblocks of my love life are a bit harder than those who identify as heterosexual.  Throughout my four years spent at a liberal and progressive college, I have been exposed to numerous individuals with various and diverse perspectives on love and relationships.  Trust, attachment issues, technology drama, commitment concerns, and other similar traits are evident in all relationships.
These issues have no barring to race, religion, gender, income, or sexuality; they are concerns that exist at all levels of society.  By understanding the interconnected aspect of human relationships and interaction, I have come to realize that each particular subgroup in our country has varying degrees of hurdles to jump in order to enter into a healthy and successful relationship.

As I evolved and matured throughout my time spent at a Jesuit institution, I constantly strived for answers to questions that I was unable to answer myself.  It was neither my friends, my siblings, nor even my roommates that helped me put my modern love ordeals into perspective; it was my grandmother.

My grandmother and I at my graduation from
Canisius College in Buffalo, New York.  I packed up my
car a few days later and moved to Los Angeles, California.
As I wandered through the quad of my snowy Buffalo campus this past February, I saw a unique sight among the countless youth that were going to and fro; a beautiful elderly woman carrying what appeared to be a dozen roses.  She reminded me of my own grandmother, and as she disappeared from sight and into a building, I pulled out my cell phone and gave my grandmother a call.

Catching up, we discussed family, my upcoming spring break, and what was new in our lives.  As the conversation came to an end, she said, "Jeffrey, so what's going on with the love department?  Graduation is coming up soon ... isn't there a nice guy you could see yourself settling down with?"  We laughed; both of us were aware that I've never been "lucky" in the love department.

It was interesting, even quite beautiful, that my sweet grandmother was interested in staying up to date with her gay grandson regarding his love life.  She was using her maternal instinct to show that she cared about my happiness and wanted me to be in a relationship with a man that I cared about, and a man that cared about me.

After our conversation ended, I walked home to my apartment and I pondered her questions:  Yes, I was sure there was a nice guy out there for me, but where?  As I have lived as an open homosexual male for the past few years, it has been extremely hard to find a good-natured, potential partner in a society that is still not completely accepting and understanding of this particular lifestyle. 

Further, to be blunt, I am very picky about the type of person that I am comfortable with starting a relationship; however, with around ten percent of the male population identifying as gay, is it smart to be specific about the type of male I would consider dating?  Is there hope for LGBT individuals with high standards?


The day I "came out." Just Kidding
 At 22-years-old, some may consider me naïve while others may call me inexperienced.  As a young adult, I know I have a long road ahead of me and like most people in this world, I feel as if I will have to learn some of my lessons the hard way.

Over the past few years, I have struggled with the aspect of dating, fostering healthy relationships, and trust issues. These were the dilemmas that I lost sleep over and endlessly replayed in my head.  These were the concerns that caused self-esteem issues and at one point in my life, caused me to be depressed.  On bad days, particularly bad days that were caused by relationship woes, I would often sit with friends and exclaim, "I can't take this anymore!  This would not be happening if I were straight!"

Looking back, in retrospect, it appeared as if I was using my sexuality as an excuse for the failures in my love life; the flings that never lead to anything meaningful, the time that I was cheated on, the one perfect relationship that ended over something meaningless, and other occurrences that caused me pain and strife. 

As I thought about these issues from a historical perspective, I felt like a selfish brat.  I considered the role of LGBT individuals in United States history and how they would feel blessed just to be able to have an open and accepted relationship.

Over 40 years have passed since the iconic Stonewall riots occurred in New York City. This was an event that not only marked the unofficial start to the modern gay rights movement, but proved to be the final straw regarding police brutality and unfair treatment to those in the LGBT community.  As time progressed, many improvements for gay and lesbian individuals occurred; which slowly, allowed for a shift in the social acceptance for homosexuals.  As a result, this had a direct impact on the evolution of gay love and relationships and to what extent two same-sex partners could express their love for one another. 

I have the utmost respect for those individuals who have come before me and had the strength to fight for the equality of all people.  They are the reason I feel comfortable and strong, even confident, is writing about the love between those who are not part of the "accepted" sexuality in America.

The gay rights movement has allowed for families of LGBT individuals to become closer; my family being the perfect example of how close and nurturing people can become - no matter the differences that are evident.  Years ago, it was rare for one to even utter the words "I'm gay" to close friends, let alone to a member of their own family.  Now, our country is on track to providing equality and rights for all people; as a member of the current youth culture that is fighting for positive change, I am more than proud to be associated with such an intelligent and forward thinking generation.  Generation Y, you go girl.

Although personally blessed with acceptance, I still have complications with my sexuality and relationships. My biggest roadblock in modern gay love is coming across a potential mate. As a recent college graduate, the overwhelming majority of my relationships have arisen from the gay bar scene; something that I am not particularly proud of, but an aspect of the LGBT culture that makes sense from a sociological perspective, especially for those who live in small to mid-sized cities.  Depending on where one lives, there may be other outlets to meet gay and lesbian individuals, but for the most part, gay bars and clubs are typically the central locations for LGBT people to meet and interact with one another.
As my mother would so lovingly tell me over the phone after each failed relationship, "Well, Jeffrey, there are two type of people you meet at the bar.  Those who like to drink and those who like to drink a lot."  Thanks Mom.

I know the social constraints of my sexuality and I am working on ways to get past the complexity of such instances.  If I were straight, I would feel comfortable walking up to woman at a coffee shop, or a baseball game, or at the library, or anywhere else where there happens to be a female.  "Hello, how are you today?"

Sure, that sounds simple, but for many successful and long lasting relationships around the world, how many have started with a casual talk or a simple hello?  Being gay, it is often a struggle for me to strike up with a conversation with another guy who I am interested in.  Many thoughts and emotions run through my mind:  Is he gay, too?  What am I going to say?  Will he know that I am gay?

When I wear a backwards cap and a sports sweater,
I sometimes like to pretend I'm straight.  It lasts about
a minute.
It's a dilemma, but in the grand scheme of life; a minor issue that will wither away as society becomes more inclusive to all people, no matter their sexual affiliation or gender identification.

Given the "modern issues" that I face as a young gay American, I have learned a lot about myself and relationships in general.  I have learned the cliché things in life through experience; your true friends will always be there, a relationship usually comes when you least expect it, and by loving yourself - truly loving yourself - it will allow you to love another.
I am finally confident at understanding that being gay is not a downfall or setback - but rather an opportunity for me to understand the complexity and uniqueness of all individuals.  Gay people are often portrayed as negative members of society and blamed for the downfall of traditional values, such as marriage, family, and love.  These values are also important to me as a gay man; they are aspects of life that I cherish and respect.

Above all, I have learned that love is universal and no longer reserved for just those who are the opposite sex of one another.

A partner and healthy relationship are aspects that I strive for; not as a white person, or a gay male, or a grandson, or as a writer ... but as a member of the human race, who like everyone, deserves an opportunity to achieve the greatest emotion felt by mankind: love.

Gen Y Insight : Transgender Individuals

The most eye opening experience for me on this topic was when I met entertainer Ian Harvie - a man who was born a woman. During our time spent together, I was able to have a lot of questions answered and was exposed to an individual that not many people have the opportunity to meet. Honestly, even as a gay man, I was a bit uncomfortable. Just as many people are unable to understand why I am attracted to the same sex, I was unable to understand why Harvie wanted to live as a man. 

What I learned, which is something that I will always keep with me, is that is does not matter if I cannot understand it, and it does not matter if others will not accept it. As member of the human race, one must learn to help foster a world where others are able to live as they please.  And for me, of course, my thoughts began after a controversy.

Outrageous. Controversial. Scandalous.

These are the words that are being used to describe an innocent J. Crew ad that portrays an employee of the company, Jenna Lyons, and her son when it ran a few months ago. The issue with the advertisement is that the young boy, who is five years old, is wearing pink nail polish on his toes. Below the picture, a quote from Lyons states, "Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon."

As a country that appears to be more inclusive to gay rights and freedom of expression, I must ask: what does it say about a nation, particularly its adults, who are quick to judge and ridicule others who do not follow the strict stereotypical gender roles that are still evident in the United States? Further, how can the issue of bullying and verbal abuse, an overwhelming problem that seems to have been intensified and publicized over the past year, be abolished when the older generation continues to condone this type of negative behavior?

Many conservatives have been quick to state their opinion on the manner. Erin Brown, who is associated with the Media Research Center, stated that the ad is "blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children." If a child does happen to be transgendered, should they not be celebrated? Does one only "celebrate" a son who plays sports and is the stereotypical mold of what society considers masculine? Brown goes on to say, "J. Crew, known for its tasteful and modest clothing, apparently does not mind exploiting Beckett behind the facade of liberal, transgendered identity politics."

Please, Erin Brown, are you jealous that neon pink does not look good on you?

Or does portraying a loving mother who allows her son the freedom to act like a child in an ad campaign make you uncomfortable? I believe the main issue behind this controversy is not how Americans view homosexuality, but how individuals view the transgender community, which for those of you who do not know, are people who chose to live their life in the opposite sex of which they were born.

And when I say chose, I use the term loosely, as I believe that this is not a choice, and along with homosexuality, is an aspect of life that one is born with. Does this ad portray a transgender youth? No. Will the boy grow up to be gay? Probably not. Although this issue was raised for no reason, I am glad itwas brought up. When was the last time there was a public and national dialogue on the issue of transgender individuals.

Those of us in Generation Y age who are 18 to 30-year-olds and college educated individuals, are unique in how we view gay rights and the modern LGBT movement. An astonishing 80 percent of us believe in full rights for gay people, but surprisingly, we believe that only 30 percent of our peers do. While many people are apprehensive about "coming out" as gay, many of us feel the same way about coming out as a heterosexual advocate for the gay community.

Be loud, be proud. Expose yourself to diversity, because if you shelter yourself and do not accept the aspect of being ones true self, I promise, you will soon be the one on the outside looking in.

Make sure to check out my interview with Ian Harvie!

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