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APRIL 4-6 Pink Martini returns to the Schermerhorn, bringing their trademark mix of cabaret, jazz, classic Hollywood musicals and songs from every corner of the globe. BUY TICKETS: 615.687.6400




THE PINNACLE AT SYMPHONY PLACE | 615.259.0444 150 Third Ave South (Main Lobby) | Nashville, TN 37201 MUSIC CITY CENTER | 615.254.6744 217 A. Sixth Ave. North | Nashville, TN 37219 Direct to Perri: 615.972.5425



Joey Amato Managing Editor Ben Rock Copy Editor Lucas Mariano Arts & Entertainment Editor Estella Pan Book Reviewer Sebastian Fortino Business Editor A.J. Busé Business Correspondent Michael Burcham Business Writer Dan J. Groover Fitness Editor Mark Allyn Nimmo Food & Wine Editor John Winnett Life & Style Editor Lawson Stover Music Editor Ron Slomowicz Poetry Writer Jonathan George Publisher

photo by Adam Canada

Letter from the Publisher A few months ago, I posted a comment on Facebook that read, “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’. Well, that comment has proven to be extremely accurate as the premier issue of UNITE Magazine hits the streets. I can’t thank my team enough for their hard work and dedication to this publication, which has already become Tennessee’s hottest and most talked about LGBT magazine. Along with the wonderful staff of writers, photographers, editors, and designers, I also want to thank the advertisers who believed in me and my dream. It is hard to sell a product that didn’t exist, but you shared my vision and invested in me. Without you, none of this would have been possible. The idea for UNITE came to me while on a long road trip back in November. I have been in the publishing and public relations worlds for most of my career, and I knew it was time to venture out on my own and begin a publication that our community could be proud of. I began making phone calls to a few people around town, and they all believed it was time for a change as well. When the Tennessean printed an article about the magazine, I knew Nashville was ready! Within a few weeks, I assembled a small advisory board to guide me along the way. Being fairly new to Nashville, I didn’t want to take anything for granted nor did I want it to appear that I knew everything about our beautiful city and the key players in our community. My board was able to steer me in the direction required to achieve success and to provide clarity when needed.

Account Executives

James Plunkett Lucas Wayne Joshua Beadle Creative Assistant Tristan Tanner Webmaster Tyler Clark Logo Designer Mitch Brandt Girkant Creative Director


Adam Canada, Barry Noland, Price Stone Advisory Board

Mark Farrar, Sam Felker, Scott Glasgow, Joseph McLean Gregory, Lisa Howe, Rana Mukherji, Gordon Publow, Jeff Rymer, Jim Schmidt Contact

UNITE Magazine (615) 852-6660

In the initial press release sent to media announcing UNITE, I mentioned that this is the community’s magazine, so I highly encourage reader comments, editorial ideas and freelance submissions. Together, we will make Nashville proud. We will stand tall…we will UNITE!





One Week ONLY! March 19-24 at TPAC tpac.Org/Flashdance | 615-782-4040

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LOCAL STARS Keith Little  18 Paul Vasterling  26 Damon Xanthopoulos  30 NOW Nashville United for Equality  7 BUSINESS Realizing the American Dream   8 Jesse Walker  10 GIVING BACK Pam Sheffer  12 HEALTH When you’ve Said ‘I Do’  14 DINING Pour House  16 MUSIC Sultan and Shepard  24 ART Bernie Taupin  28 FITNESS Strong Is the New Skinny  32 ON OUR SIDE Kathy Halbrooks  34 COMING OUT J.C.  36 LOOK BOOK H&M  38 DESTINATION SEATTLE  44 BOOK REVIEW IN THE MIRROR, A MONSTER  46



United for Equality by Ben Rock

Nashville’s LGBT community gathers Saturday, March 9, to celebrate this year’s Human Rights Campaign Equality Dinner. Themed “Black Tie Invited,” the event is co-chaired by Ginny Markham-Jones, Ian May, and JR Simon and takes place at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Nashville. The dinner, presented by Bridgestone, begins with cocktails and a silent auction at 5:30 p.m. In addition, the Equality Dinner After Party follows at the hotel. “Being a member of our Nashville Steering Committee for the last three years has made me feel honored to be part of such a big event,” says JR Simon, co-chair and member of the local Board of Governors. “This dinner brings a lot of excitement to Nashville in the fight for equality. I always leave inspired. Being newly engaged to my partner, Rick, makes this dinner and our fight for equality much more personal for me.” Ginny Markham-Jones looks forward to what promises to be a memorable event. “The cause is one that I strongly support,” she explains. “I married my husband, David, a British man after a long and stressful bureaucratic process, and the difficulty we faced made me aware of how important the right to marry the one you love is. “When I realized that people

I care about don’t even have that right just because the one they love happens to be the same gender, I realized how unfair the system is, and I have never been one to stand for unfairness. I’m proud to be part of the team that is going to make it happen and bring us that much closer to equality.” Last month, the Human Rights Campaign announced the honorees for the 14th annual Equality Dinner will be Margaret Ellis and Hal Cato. “The award came as a total surprise,” says Cato, who is the founder and CEO of Zeumo, a student engagement and communication hub designed to help young people build closer connections in their schools and communities. Ellis is overjoyed by the award. “I am thrilled to be loved by my tribe,” she says. “I can’t imagine an award that would mean more to me than this one, coming from the people I love the most.” “After serving the community for nearly 15 years, I am honored to receive this award,” Cato says. “You can’t be afraid to make waves and shake up the status quo. People need to find something they are passionate about and go for it!” Guests to this year’s dinner can expect an exciting evening of guest speakers, great company,

Ian May, Ginny Markham-Jones & JR Simon.

photo courtesy of HRC Nashville

“I’M PROUD TO BE PART OF THE TEAM THAT IS GOING TO MAKE MARRIAGE EQUALITY HAPPEN.“ and a spectacular silent auction in a new and expanded location all to benefit the Human Rights Campaign. “The hard work and continued progress LGBT people are making throughout the country, from local accomplishments to marriage equality on a state and national level, will be highlighted in many ways the evening of the dinner,” May says. “These accomplishments are why we will all be at the Renaissance Hotel rallying in celebration. There is so much potential for growth of HRC in Middle Tennessee, yet there is still so much work to be done.

I am happy to do anything and everything in my power to support our cause,” May adds. Simon is most excited about bringing a new flavor to the dinner. “In the past, our dinner has been very successful and definitely the event of the year,” he says, “but this is an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. Our previous chairs have set an amazing foundation for us to take it to the next level.” Tickets to the dinner are $175 and can be purchased at



Realizing the American Dream

How to Transform Your Idea into an Investable Business by Michael Burcham, PhD

What’s your business idea? If you knew you wouldn’t fail, what business would you launch? I spend most days with individuals who are thinking about an idea. A common point I hear is “My idea isn’t big enough” or “It’s a pretty ordinary idea.” My answer is always “Good!” Most successful businesses are solving ordinary problems for ordinary people. If your idea or concept solves a problem you have, it likely solves someone else’s problem. The idea alone won’t become a business. Good ideas fail every day. The difference between a good idea and a successful business is about execution: doing the work to transform the idea into something meaningful that solves problems. As an entrepreneur begins to work on their idea and turn it into a business, it will change, morph, and develop from what the entrepreneur “believes” into what their customers want and will buy. In any entrepreneurial endeavor, there is no right way; there is only the way that works. As an entrepreneur and an investor,


I’ve developed a “5M” method to help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into an investable business. M1: Management – Who is responsible for executing? Entrepreneurship is a TEAM sport. With few exceptions, great companies are built by teams, not individuals. To lead a business, you need to attract a team that is passionate about your concept. If no one is following, you’re not a leader. Management teams build the business, create value for investors, and are responsible for executing. Who is on your team? A startup business is going to have several key positions that need to be held within the company to be successful. For example, one of the easiest breakdowns in responsibilities is inside versus outside (marketing and operations). Who is running the business? Who is selling the product? M2: The Model – How does it make money? “Business Model” is an overcomplicated word used to describe this simple notion: how does your shiny

object make money? Is the business based on a transaction where customers pay once and take the product with them? Is it a subscription model where customers pay a recurring charge? Is it “razors and blades”, where the business gives away a product to create a market for complimentary products? These are some examples of business models. The differences between them can have an impact on the expense structure of a business and it’s approach to marketing and growth.

hear at the Entrepreneur Center is “customer pain.” What problems, or “pain”, do your customers have that they are willing to pay you to solve? A product that solves a pain creates a market. By targeting customers very specifically, an entrepreneur is more likely to get real traction in his or her market and create a core customer following that becomes the foundation for future growth.

M3: Market – Who buys what you’re selling?

M4: Money – When does it run out?

Market sums up five questions: • What is your product? • Who are your customers? • Why do customers want it? • How do you know? • How do they get it?

Money is NOT “how much” the business will make; it’s “how long” until the business is profitable or runs out of money. Before revenue and profit, a startup will incur expenses. The number one reason startups fail is that they run out of money before the business reaches profitability. Entrepreneurs that know how much money

A phrase entrepreneurs often

they need, how much they have, and what goals need to be accomplished within their timeframes are more likely to build a sustainable business. Money is the lifeblood of business. When it runs out, the entrepreneur can’t pay employees. It can’t buy product. It can’t fulfill customer needs. When that happens, the idea dies. M5: Momentum – What’s the proof? How are you creating energy? Where’s the traction? Where’s the proof? Milestones are proof that a management team is executing successfully. How many products are pre-sold? How many strategic partners and core customers? What milestones have been achieved and what are the next steps? Momentum creates investor confidence in an entrepreneur’s

ability to execute. I find that working in quarterly increments of planning, executing, and building momentum provide the startup entrepreneur the opportunity to adjust to their market reality and quickly build investor confidence. The ability to show momentum and to turn ideas into action creates strong investor confidence in a startup business. The Final Word Entrepreneurship is the great equalizer. When you are able to achieve your own business success, you get the opportunity to transcend most of the issues of equality in the workplace, because it’s your workplace! Entrepreneurship is also about taking control of your life and pursuing your own American dream. If you have a dream – an idea you want to pursue – take the first step. Follow these 5Ms to frame your concept into something that could become a business.


JESSE WALKER Taking Over Music City by Dan J. Groover Jesse Walker is one of the most driven, hardworking, and enthusiastic young entrepreneurs in the Nashville area. The 20-yearold Hendersonville resident is the founder of Country Music Candles, a unique concept inspired by Walker’s love for the city. “Because I was born here, I have always had a special connection to the city and all that it has to offer,” Walker said. “I knew that I wanted to create a product that could reflect Nashville, and candles have a unique way to remind people of favorite pastimes and memories. Making the candles in glass boot mugs provided that additional creative element that has never been done.” Country Music Candles recently celebrated its first anniversary, and to commemorate the occasion, Walker created a limited-edition candle named “Pumpkin Spice.” “I am deeply honored that both the Nashville and country music communities have embraced my business in the manner which they have,” Walker said. “Country Music Candles has seen an exponential increase in sales from our launch date in early 2012 and expects to achieve even greater success in 2013.”


photo by Price Stone

“I am deeply honored that both the Nashville and country music communities have embraced my business...”

This year, Walker plans to increase both production and distribution of his company’s most popular scents, including Southern Sweet Tea, Leather Cowboy Boots, Ma’s Banana Bread, Grandma’s Cedar Chest, and Grandpa’s Cream Soda. All the candles contain 100 percent soy wax and 100 percent cotton wicks. They are designed in a glass bootshaped drinking mug, which can be kept as a keepsake after the candle has been used. “Melting the wax is the longest part of the process,” Walker said. “While it’s melting, I typically prepare the boot glasses by attaching the wicks to the bottom. Once the soy wax is liquefied, I simply add the dyes and fragrances and pour at the specified temperature.”

Walker hopes to introduce his line into various retail shops throughout the city and plans to begin producing candles for private events and custom projects, such as weddings and birthdays needing unique decorations and themed products. In addition, Walker is the founder of, a web-based media platform that highlights the country music industry. Since its launch in 2009, he has interviewed some of country music’s biggest stars including Reba, Taylor Swift, the Band Perry, Thompson Square, George Jones, Deborah Allen, and Laura Bell Bundy. For more information, visit


photos by Barry Noland

GLBT Chamber of Commerce Third Thursday Mixer



PAM SHEFFER “Just Us” for LGBT Youth by Dan J. Groover


omeone needed to do something about improving the lives of LGBT youth in Nashville,” said Pam Sheffer when she walked away from corporate America and into the nonprofit world after volunteering at Nashville’s Oasis Center. Realizing that Nashville lacked

formal resources for LGBT youth, Sheffer spent a year focusing on and determining the needs of those individuals before launching Just Us in July 2011. Just Us then became the community resource, specifically targeted at the needs of LGBT youth in Nashville. This task was accomplished through individual

conversations, group meetings, and an LGBT youth summit. Thus the program was created based on actual needs of the youth involved rather than perceived need. Higher risks of physical and mental health problems due to family rejection drive the mission of Just Us: to provide a safe place where LGBT youth can be heard, healed, and empowered. There are approximately 3,000 LGBT teens in Davidson County that are difficult to reach. Direct advertisement in the school system is not allowed; however, every school counselor, social worker, and psychologist has been made aware of the program. The Oasis Center website is another means of promoting Just Us. During the school year, Just Us meets every Tuesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and offers a wide range of activities. “We try to keep things fresh and relevant to pop culture which impacts their lives now and in the very near future,” Sheffer said. “All participants have access to Oasis Center resources, including the crisis shelter, counseling, and college connection.” LGBT youth, ages 14–18, are encouraged and invited to join the organization. Currently, there are 20 young people representing various areas of Nashville involved in the program; spreading the word is important to increase the involvement of the many LGBT youth in Davidson County. Just Us is funded largely by donations therefore anyone interested in supporting the program is encouraged to give through the Oasis Center. “We are hoping to develop a large pool of monthly donors who can make small incremental donations each month to help sustain the program. For


example, if we had 200 people who could commit $20 a month for 12 months, we could cover almost 65% of our yearly budget,” Sheffer said. The needs of the youth involved in Just Us are what drive the initiative, and the program will be consistently adapting to satisfy them. The need for cultural competency training has been a direct result of the creation of Just Us, and over 25 training sessions have been delivered to educate people on the needs of LGBT youth. “I was incredibly fortunate to learn a tremendous amount about working with young people and the power of youth voice in building programming from one of the most preeminent youth serving organizations in the country,” Sheffer said. “Oasis Center was very instrumental in helping me bring my dream to reality.” To learn more about Just Us or to donate to the program, visit the Oasis Center’s website:

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When You’ve Said “I Do,” And Now You Need to Say “I Don’t” by Dr. Brian Hooper


f you are a gay man who married a woman, you most likely did so because you loved her, believed you were doing the “right thing,” and thought that your attraction to men would just go away or somehow not matter, if you even consciously acknowledged it in the first place. But, in the paraphrased wisdom of Carl Jung, father of analytical psychotherapy, “What we resist persists.” Eventually the walls of compartmentalization grow thin and deteriorate, and the two selves must meet and figure out how to work together. Segregating the two, sends the energetic struggle underground and results in disintegration—a pulling apart the sense of who we are at our core. This may cause anxiety, depression, and behaviors such as intentional deception, alcohol and substance abuse, indiscriminate and dangerous sexual behavior, and self-sabotage. Estrangement from one’s wife may also be prompted by a combination of withdrawal and blaming her for the husband’s dilemma.


IN THIS SITUATION? Start by looking in the mirror and coming out to yourself by saying aloud, “I am gay.” Sounds easy, right? If it’s so easy, why do so many gay men lead double lives? The most important person to accept you is you. Get ready. Some wives will be relieved. They knew something was wrong but could not figure it out, or they thought this might be the case but took a cue from their husbands and denied it. Others, however, will be irate and seek to retaliate, draining finances, attacking character, and seeking to withhold access to the couple’s children. Know your rights and have a plan to take care of yourself. Tell her the truth. No matter how you package this, it will be the hardest day of your life. And it will feel like death because it is. Self-deception and deception of others must die if you are to be raised into the fullness of who you know you are at the core. She deserves the truth, and so do you.

Be prepared to answer questions.You may not want to go into exact details for all questions but know that she is asking in part to grasp this new reality. You know you are the same person, but she may have the sense that she does not know you at all. Be patient.Your direct and clear answers help her to understand. Remember, it has taken you some time to put this all together yourself. Children often know what is going on, even before their parents have “the talk.” Tell children the truth in terms that they are capable of understanding for their age and development. No matter their ages, they need to know that the parting of their parents is not their fault. How you navigate this with their mother will either help hold their world together or further shatter it. Get into a healthy support group or work with a gay affirming psychotherapist. There will be so much more to work on within yourself once you are “out.” In fact, our lives as gay men is a constant unfolding and coming out to others and ourselves, but they are also a daily invitation to be truly alive!

I stand in awe of the transformation that can happen when gay men come out to themselves and, subsequently, to others. To be witness to this is, for me, something that is truly reflective of the work of the Holy One, because once men experience wholeness in themselves, their relationships can become whole, real, and alive. For the first time, they can say “I do” in the most genuine way possible. Brian Hooper, MDiv, PsyD, is a licensed pastoral psychotherapist with a private practice in Belle Meade. He invites you to visit his website:


Pour House

Burgers, Bourbon, and Brews

by John Winnett

are covered with slates that were taken from 21 disassembled bourbon barrels. The overall decor reflects warm tones that make you relax, feel cozy and want to sip on good bourbon. On a recent cold night, just sitting at the bar with some good friends and sipping Woodford Reserve, three ice cubes only, was the perfect opportunity to catch up, talk business, and shoot the breeze. We dove into the Blue Chips, house make Yukon gold chips with a blue cheese sauce, crispy bacon, red onion, and tomato. This one is a winner. Just make sure you are a blue cheese lover for that flavor is over the top. If not, simply ask for the sauce on the side. This appetizer makes for a great start to either your dinner or just an after work snack during happy hour. The addition of pepperoncinis and jalapeños to their Pickles and Peppers appetizer offers the palate a good break between from the vinegar flavor with punches of two different subtle heat levels. What is better than fried cheese to start off your meal? Anything else on the menu. This appetizer was the most disappointing item of the evening. We all anticipated tender fried green tomatoes and fresh mozzarella dusted in light cornmeal and fried to perfection. Instead the flavor resembled frozen mozzarella triangles with heavy breading and green tomatoes that were undercooked in an overly salty cornmeal batter. With few exceptions, the burgers at Pour House were moist and packed a punch of flavor in each bite. They offer twelve different burgers and eight slider options. The Blue Cheese Burger—with bourbon onion rings, blue cheese crumbles, arugula, and horseradish sauce—presented an explosion of blue cheese in your mouth with a careful balance of peppery arugula and horseradish spice in every juicy bite.

What is better than sipping bourbon inside on a cold, frigid day with great conversation or while sitting on a rooftop deck with downtown views during the summer? NOTHING. After a long anticipation, Pour House: Burgers, Bourbon, and Brews opened at 730 Eighth Avenue South. As you walk through the front door, the first thing in site appears to be a wine cellar but is actually a vault showcasing over 140 bourbons. However, your bourbon experience doesn’t stop with the vault. Simply glance at the walls, and you will feel as if you are sitting inside a bourbon aging barrel itself. They


The Big South Burger topped with a fried egg, bacon, fried green tomato, colossal onion ring, and pimento cheese is the closest thing to true Southern flavors and a heart attack in your mouth. After taking the first bite, you notice that some flavors just aren’t what you expected. The pimento cheese was bland and in too large of a quantity. The green tomato is too thick and undercooked, causing the burger to be difficult to eat. The flavors of spicy cucumbers, feta, and tzatziki sauce on the Lamburger are spot on. For a moment, I thought I was consuming a lamb gyro but then realized it was actually a burger. While I would not normally recommend anything other than beef at a place boasting burgers in its name, this is one of my top recommendations. The juicy lamb combined with the assortment of Greek flavors will be one you will want to order over and over. The sides are a crap shoot. One day the sweet potato fries will be perfectly crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, the next they will be soggy all the way around. The onion rings are quite a disappointment. If a raw onion with a super salty and soggy

breading is what you are looking for then order away. If not, stay safe with their homemade chips or fries. If you want a healthier option, order the grilled vegetables skewer. While the asparagus sounds like a good choice, it was undercooked and just didn’t pair well with a burger. Pour House’s real secret, however, is the rooftop patio. It is one of the few restaurants that can boast this title. During the summer, this will truly be the place to be. Just imagine sipping drinks on a nice patio with 65 of your closest friends with views of the downtown skyline. That is just what we can all look forward to in the late spring/early summer when the rooftop deck is officially open. Sitting outside after work with fresh air and sipping good bourbon…I can’t wait.

Pour House: Burgers, Bourbon, and Brews might not get everything perfect, but it surely knows how to turn out an assortment of burgers with great flavor and offer a selection of bourbons beyond imagination. With the promised addition of live music on the inside stage, Ted Shelton, owner and general manager, and his team have given us a place that will become one of the go-to spots for a relaxing evening of drinks, good food, and casual conversation.

730 8th Ave S. | Nashville 37204 | (615) 736-5727

Parking: Free valet parking. While it is required now due to parking constraints, there is no charge to patrons, just a friendly tip to your valet driver.

Lunch & Dinner Mon -Sat 11AM - 1AM

Live Life to its fullest! Worship, Fellowship, Learn, and Make a

Difference with Holy Trinity.

MARCH CALENDAR MARCH 17 - Special Services, 9 & 11AM "Early One Morning" - a one-act, one-woman musical depicting Mary Magdalene's journey from shame & fear to acceptance & love as she experiences and processes Christ's life, crucifixion and resurrection. Join us for this powerfully moving and unforgettable experience.

MARCH 28 - Good Friday Service, 6:30PM MARCH 31 - Easter - regular service times and

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children & youth: 10:15 AM

Holy Trinity is an open, inclusive, and affirming Christian Congregation. 6727 charlotte pike | nashville, tn 37209 | 615.352.3838 |


Keith Little Bringing Home the Gold by Joey Amato

Keith Little grew up in a conservative Christian family in Marietta, Georgia, before relocating to Nashville, where he and his partner of 15 years, Sam Felker, currently live. The third of four children, his family life revolved around two things: church and sports. “Playing sports was always important to me growing up, partially because I enjoyed the competition and teamwork,” Little said. “I realized I had some natural ability to excel in sports.” Little first began playing organized sports when he was 8 years old. “I remember being the batboy for my older brother’s baseball team,” he said. “I could be around baseball and actually get to take batting practice and field some ground balls with the team.” He continued to play baseball, basketball, and football throughout high school; however, he also added another sport to his repertoire. Little joined the track and field team as a jumper and sprinter. “I was actually the county champ in the long jump and triple jump for a couple of years,” he said. “This was in addition to making the allcounty teams in baseball, basketball, and football and


being named ‘Most Athletic’ in my senior class.” Upon graduation, Little attended the University of Alabama on a baseball scholarship, and later transferred to Kennesaw State University. Playing university baseball would only be a small feather in Little’s cap. In 1998, he competed in his first Gay Games in Amsterdam. “I competed as a sprinter and advanced through the rounds until I tore my hamstring, thus ending my first experience in the games and my competitive running,” Little said. Due to his injury, Little was forced to become a spectator and watch the games from the stands. “I noticed the javelin competition was taking place,” he said. “After seeing this event, it dawned on me that, since I was a pitcher in baseball and quarterback in football, I could learn to throw the javelin and not risk having another running injury.” To get ready for the 2002 Sydney Games, Little asked Vanderbilt’s track and field coach to help him prepare for his first javelin throwing competition. Coach Fran would continue to assist Little throughout his career.

photo by Adam Canada

“It’s amazing to experience the sense of community that occurs at the Gay Games and World Outgames.”

“I enjoyed competing against other gay athletes,” he said. “It’s amazing to experience the sense of community that occurs at the Gay Games and World Outgames.” The encouragement and support he received from other athletes was new to Little, having competed for so many years in the traditional sports environment. “I’ve formed lifelong friendships with several athletes I met,” he said. Since Amsterdam in 1998, Little has competed in three Gay Games and two World Outgames. He won the Gay Games gold medal in Sydney (2002), Chicago (2006), and Cologne (2010), in addition to taking home the World Outgames gold in Montreal (2006) and Copenhagen (2009). Little admits his greatest moment was nabbing the gold in the 2002 Sydney games completing his comeback from Sam Felker & Keith Little

the 1998 injury. “It was very gratifying to compete and actually win a gold medal in my first big international javelin competition,” he said. “Having the opportunity to compete at an Olympic venue used for the Sydney 2000 Olympics only added to my excitement. Having my spouse, Sam, there to experience this event with me only made it better.”

that Sam has been recognized for all of his contributions to the gay community in addition to receiving the HRC Community Leadership award,” Little said.

Little and Felker have been together for more than 15 years and were married in Provincetown, Massachusetts, on August 10, 2007. “Sam and I met training for a triathlon, and as the saying goes, the rest is history,” Little said. “We have raised three wonderful children and are now empty nesters.”

They have also supported Nashville CARES and local arts organizations, including the Nashville Ballet, the Nashville Symphony, and Tennessee Performing Arts Center. “One of my fondest memories is when we planned a “Phelps-a-thon” to rally against the appearance of Fred Phelps’s crew who were here protesting Metro’s proposal to add protections for the LGBT community,” Little said. “Over a weekend and with the help of a lot of friends, we raised more than $10,000 for Nashville CARES.”

The couple supports the Human Rights Campaign, Tennessee Equality Project, and the Brooks Fund, and both were founding members of the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce. “I am very proud

Last year, the couple trained for eight months to participate in the AIDS LifeCycle in California, a 545-mile, weeklong bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The proceeds from the

ride benefitted local AIDS organizations in San Francisco and LA. “We had a great time participating in this event and relished having our two daughters meet us at the finish line in Los Angeles,” he said. Little plans to compete in the World Outgames this year in Antwerp, Belgium, and next year’s Gay Games in Cleveland. Little and Felker have done a large part to support Nashville’s growing LGBT population and urge youth looking to make a difference in the community to find their passion. “There are so many ways to make a difference and one way is to volunteer at a local organization,” Little said. “The relationships and friendships you can make by being engaged are priceless. I want to say how proud I am of the youth of today for being true to themselves and helping change the way others view and judge sexual orientation.”

photo by Adam Canada



PINK by Joey Amato


is the voice of a

Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, CoverGirl spokesmodel, and pop culture icon, will be visiting Nashville this month for her highly anticipated Truth About Love Tour. Throughout her career, the singer has supported the LGBT community by donating both her time and money to GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, and YouthAIDS as well as many other charitable organizations. Since her debut in 2000, P!nk, a.k.a. Alecia Moore, has released seven albums, which have sold more than 40 million copies and 65 million singles worldwide, including 12 in the top ten. In addition, P!nk is the recipient of three Grammy Awards, two Billboard Music Awards, five MTV Video Music Awards, two MTV Europe Awards, and two People’s Choice Awards. P!nk’s last studio album, Funhouse, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 chart and No. 1 in the U.K., Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Switzerland. The album produced the smash single “So What,” which marked P!nk’s second No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, after “Lady Marmalade.” The first single from P!nk’s The Truth About Love, “Blow Me (One Last Kiss),” skyrocketed to the top of music charts all over the world and Entertainment Weekly recently claimed, “P!nk may be the best lyricist in pop music.” To understand the world that is P!nk, one must venture back in time to when she was just getting her feet wet in the music industry as a teen. “I’ve basically been growing up ever

since I signed my record deal at 16,” P!nk said. “I just happened to be putting out albums that marked each chapter of that growth.” P!nk uses each of her albums to captivate a feeling, emotion, or event in her life. “I sum up each chapter of my life with a record, and I’m never out to do any certain thing,” she said. “I’m growing up with my audience, and I’m driven by what’s going on inside and around me.” Unlike many pop artists, P!nk also began co-writing many of her songs, most notably “Raise Your Glass” and “F---in’ Perfect.” Both anthems were produced by pop dynamos Max Martin and Shellback (Johan Schuster), the same team that came together in 2008 for her biggest selling single to date, “So What.” “Working with Max and Johan is like stepping into an ongoing party that I’ve always loved being at. We all feel really comfortable with each other, which is one of the most important things about collaboration. It’s really a very laid back atmosphere in the studio, and we aren’t ever searching or trying too hard. If it’s there, it’s there, and fortunately with us, it always is. And so is the wine—really, really good wine,” she joked. Even though she calls most of the shots now, P!nk reminisces about how things were quite different on her first album Can’t Take Me Home. “For the first album, I was genuinely so excited to not be clocking in at McDonald’s living on the streets of Philly,” she recalled. “While I was very green, and being carted around to all of the ‘hot producers,’ that album was still very much me exploring music.” Nobody could have predicted the success P!nk achieved on her sophomore album, M!ssundaztood. The eccentric artist reached out to ex-4 Non Blondes singer Linda Perry. The resulting album ultimately went five times Platinum in the U.S. and produced four

photo by Andrew Macpherson



People Magazine rated the album four stars and raved, “The Truth About Love may be her best—and realest—effort yet.” my family’s divorce or drugs or running away. I wanted to have some fun and go back to my punk-rock roots.” P!nk did exactly that with her follow-up album I’m Not Dead, an album that saw her back in the studio with Max Martin. The end product became a quintessential anthem titled “U + Ur Hand.” It all came very easy to P!nk, who felt revitalized and full of life for the first time in years. “I had woken up from my daze. I turned 25, was politically minded, read the New York Times every day, and was about to solidify some important relationships,” she said, referring to Billy Mann, Butch Walker, and Max Martin.

photo by Andrew MacPherson

smash hits including, “Get the Party Started,” “Don’t Let Me Get Me,” “Just Like a Pill,” and “Family Portrait.”

daring, and bold and was ready to tell the entire universe that this was me. If they didn’t like it, they could kiss my ass.”

“That was my coming-out party,” she said. “I knew I was capable of more. The world had no idea who I was or what I was made of. But I had a lot to say. I was 21 years old,

The success of M!ssundaztood took a toll on P!nk. “I had spent two years touring and doing interviews. Every interview felt like a therapy session,” she said. “I was tired of talking about


Even though the album achieved critical and commercial acclaim, the biggest solo single of her career came off 2008’s Funhouse. “So What” became an international sensation and raised the bar once again. To her, the triumph of Funhouse was born out of adversity. “After being on the road constantly and watching my personal life unravel, there was only one thing to do,” she said. “This was one of the darkest times of my life, so I called up my friends Butch, Billy, Max, and Johan, and we cried through some songs and laughed through a few others.” Her latest album, The Truth About Love debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and has

already spawned two hit singles. People Magazine rated the album four stars and raved, “The Truth About Love may be her best—and realest—effort yet.” “I’ve never been this well received before,” P!nk said. “It’s my first number-one album anywhere, and then there is this whole CoverGirl thing. It just feels really good.” Considering her success, P!nk no longer feels like the underdog with a point to prove. “My husband is, like, ‘Hey, it only took you nine years to get people to like you.’ I’m like, “It took me nine years to like you, too,” she said of her long and sometimes bumpy relationship with her husband, motocross champion Carey Grant. She and Grant are now proud parents of their daughter, Willow, and although P!nk is on the road, Willow is still her top priority. “Having a child has changed me in every way,” she mentioned. “There’s not a single way I’m the same, and I love every minute of it!”


Sultan And Ned Shepard Five Questions in Five Minutes by DJ Ron Slomowicz What do club kings Tiesto, Benny Benassi, and Morgan Page have in common with pop superstars Madonna, Kerli, and Lady Gaga? They have all had songs remixed by Sultan and Ned Shepard. Remix is not really the appropriate term, since the Canadian duo stand out in the sea of sound-alike songs and paint-by-number artists. Sultan and Shepard capture the energy of their live DJ sets by creating emotional productions that sound just as massive on a dance floor as they do on your headphones. “Send Me Your Love,” their single with Taryn Manning, recently topped the Billboard Club Chart; their tracks “Ordinary People” and “Somebody to Love” are international club anthems. The next time you are looking for a hot club track, check out their record label, Harem Records, on iTunes and Beatport.

DJ Ron Slomowicz: How did you collaborate with Taryn Manning for “Send Me Your Love?” Sultan and Ned Shepard: Taryn had the song written and wanted us to do a remix as she had heard some of the remixes that we had done for other Interscope artists like Robyn and Lady Gaga. When we did the mix, she loved it and wanted to use it as the original, so we went back and forth with her working it out to make it more of a song and less of a remix. We love her voice, and we wanted to do something really emotional to fit the emotional lyrics of the song. We were all super happy with the turnout. When you created the track for “Ordinary People,” were you aiming for a gospel house vibe? We knew we wanted something soulful, which is why we sent it to Max C, but his vocals really blew us away. He was channeling some old school vibes that reminded us of some of our favorite artists like Seal. We ended up almost completely changing the original idea to really bring out what we saw as the most emotive parts of the song.


What are you working on in the studio right now? Any thoughts of an artist album? Right now, we're working on a remix for our label Harem Records by Matt Caseli called "Chemical Love." It's a great record, and we're super excited for people to hear it. We're also working with a great vocalist named Vassy, writing some pop records for big artists (can't say who right now), which is really fun. Being based in LA has its advantages, namely that we get to work with lots of great writers and singers! We thought about doing an album, but at this point, we want to focus on singles and possibly an EP. We love the concept of an album, but it seems like many artists put out an album, and then people only listen to the three singles anyway! How do you balance production with touring? It’s probably the hardest part of being a DJ. Obviously we love being in the studio since we’re musicians and have been playing music our whole lives, but there is definitely something to be learned from going out and DJing. If you spend too many weeks in the studio, you can kind of get lost. The great thing about DJing is that you get instant feedback from the crowd, so you can tell what works right away. With “Walls,” for example, we played the record out and then went back and tweaked it a few different times before we got the version that we were happy with. Most of that was based on people’s reactions. That’s the edge that DJs have over other producers I think. How do you approach remixing a pop vocal, like Tegan and Sara, while maintaining your style and sound? We love pop music, so for us, we don’t really differentiate between a pop vocal and a dance vocal. For us, it’s about if it’s a good song. “Closer” is a great song, and so were really happy to remix it. When we start a remix, we really spend most of our time trying to find the chords that bring out the song the most. In the case of Tegan and Sara, their original chords were the best, so we just adapted them with more dance-friendly sounds. We wanted to keep the indie vibe but give it an electronic spin, like what Jacques Lu Cont (Stuart Price) did with The Killers.



PAUL VASTERLING Dancing to the Top by A.J. Busé We have all heard stories about how our grandfathers strived to work for the same company their whole career. It was a really big deal for them to get their 30-year engraved watch etched with the company logo. We do not really hear those stories much anymore. One of the few exceptions is Paul Vasterling. He joined the Nashville Ballet in 1989 as a dancer and has been there ever since. He is now the CEO and artistic director. That is a big “leap” from dancer to director, but anyone who knows Vasterling understands the role is a perfect fit. On his way to the top, he held every possible job at Nashville Ballet: instructor, ballet master, resident choreographer, artistic director, and eventually CEO. He also initiated the company’s outreach program in the early 1990s, taking dance performance to schools and the community to expose more people to the performing arts. The stereotype for Nashville, of course, is “country and western music,” which is a huge part of what makes this a great city. However, the city’s musical heritage includes rock, folk, blues, Americana, pop, and classical. The artists and staff of the Nashville Ballet are among the hardest working groups around, and they do a stellar job representing Nashville from the tips of their pointe shoes to the


tops of their costumed heads, mostly because of Vasterling’s passion and leadership. Vasterling grew up in Slidell, Louisiana, just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. He always enjoyed music and was playing piano for a community theater production when the director suggested he try dance. Since he was tall, slender, and musical, she felt he would be a natural. She was right. He was age 17 at the time and was instantly hooked, eventually getting a degree in theater/dance from Loyola University. He then auditioned and performed in New York City, Mississippi, Ohio, and Austin, Texas, before accepting a job offer with the rather new Nashville Ballet in 1989. The rigors of dance caused some back problems, and at age 29, Vasterling had to stop dancing. That is when he refocused his efforts on choreography. He says his “God moments” are when he is creating steps. Like a sculptor who works with different materials, Vasterling says he must choreograph with the dancers’ varying abilities in mind. He relishes the challenge and is often asked to choreograph works for other ballet companies. One of his most recent triumphs is the reinvention of Tchaikovsky’s classic holiday ballet into Nashville’s Nutcracker. It is set at Tennessee’s

Centennial Exposition in 1898 and features new sets, costumes, Vasterling’s original choreography, and even some live magic tricks. It is a solid example of his vision for the Nashville Ballet and one of the things that places the company in the national spotlight. Next up: the ballet’s performances of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in May. Vasterling says that doing a classic, spoken play as a dance performance brings more dimensions to the story. He first had to find the perfect music, distill it down, and then tie it all together. That he has. Just as he has tied the artistic and administrative sides of running a ballet company together. It is actually a unique arrangement. Most city ballets have an artistic director overseeing outreach, the ballet school, and the cultural aspects of the company with the assistance of another executive director who focuses on day-today administration, finances, and general infrastructure. In Nashville, however, it is all Vasterling. Being in charge of everything helps streamline decision-making and makes for a more effective operation. “But don’t be confused,” Vasterling said, “this is not my company; this is the community’s company.” He sees his role as that of putting a solid foundation in place, developing

a strong staff of professionals, and helping the artistry of the program to bloom. Although Vasterling is one of the hardest working men in Nashville, he still enjoys his personal time. A few years ago, while vacationing in New York, Vasterling met a handsome businessman from Argentina named Jason Facio. They have been partners ever since and love calling Nashville home. In their free time, the couple enjoys cooking, reading, and caring for their four rescue dogs. They are charter members of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and enjoy attending theater and music shows together. Supporting one of Nashville's finest treasures by attending a performance of the Nashville Ballet is worth it. The vision that Vasterling has had for growing and expanding the Nashville Ballet for nearly 25 years has been worth it, too, and the city is blessed to have both. “I believe in the Nashville Ballet,” Vasterling says with conviction. Nashville and the Ballet believe in him, too. And just think...Vasterling is well on his way to getting that 30-year engraved watch!

“I believe in the Nashville Ballet.”


Famed Lyricist Celebrates His Artwork in Nashville by Estella Pan

In the songwriting world, Bernie Taupin reigns supreme. For more than four decades, he has handcrafted some of the most recognizable songs in the world for Elton John and a host of other musicians, including Heart and Starship. However, during his upcoming visit to Nashville, he will celebrate another form of his works— his art. Taupin’s work will be on display and available for acquisition at the Rymer Gallery from March 30 through April 7. For years, Taupin has extended his art beyond his lyrics and onto the canvas. Through painting, he has expanded his artistic horizons into frontiers where words have given way to his broad palette of color; where timing and cadence once thrived, now texture and the gesture of his brush bring his vision into a new dimension. “In essence, I’ve always been

a storyteller,” Taupin said. “In my songs, I’m asking people to draw their own conclusions and use their imagination to interpret the work; the same goes for my paintings.” Although songwriting has been Taupin’s claim to fame, the visual arts play an equally important role in his life. “They are separate mediums that create two entirely different end products, one for the eyes and one for the ears. For me, it’s the best of two worlds. Both products come from my heart and soul.” Like children, Taupin said it is difficult to say which he enjoys more, “They contain my deepest feelings both visually and sonically.” The processes of songwriting and painting are quite different, but Taupin is quick to draw similarities. “They


are both solitary endeavors. One originates from a pen, one from a brush,” he said. “Two different studio settings, but the ideas originate in the same mind, so I’d say they’re basically interconnected. “Canvas to me is simply the visual extension of what I have spent my life creating through words. The imagination, in my estimation, is the most powerful tool the artist possesses, enabling us to conjure up beautiful distraction for the ears and eyes,” he said, describing his art. “I have no formula except that which comes from what I dream, feel, and see,” Taupin continued. “To me, colors are like words; they express emotions, and likewise, texture and mediums display an abundance of moods.” Interestingly enough, Taupin’s exhibit coincides with Elton

John’s appearance at the Bridgestone Arena. According to Elton John, “Without Bernie, basically, there wouldn’t have been an Elton John. I mean, without that stroke of good fortune and kismet as it were, Elton John probably wouldn’t have happened. I’m just a purveyor of Bernie’s feelings, Bernie’s thoughts.” Taupin will be making two very special appearances at the Rymer Gallery on Saturday, April 6, from 1 to 3 p.m. and Sunday, April 7, from 1 to 3 p.m. RSVPs for these events are requested at (615) 752-6030, or visit for more information.

DAMON XANTHOPOULOS Drawing Ducks. GAY Ducks. by Ben Rock


ou would not think ducks and gay people had anything in common with each other, but in the world of Drewford they go hand in hand. The creation of Nashville cartoonist Damon Xanthopoulos, the webcomic Drewford is a universe where birds and humans live in a peaceful, albeit humorous, coexistence. The birds can talk, their intelligence and wit equal to that of their human counterparts, yet no one can fly. “People think that I got into birds or that I’m an avid bird watcher or that I studied birds in school or that I like ornithology or whatever, but no, it’s nothing like that,” Xanthopoulos says about his hybrid universe. “I don’t know why I only do birds. People have asked if there are other animals in this universe, and I’m like no. It’s human beings, and there are birds, and that’s it.” Especially ducks. Gay ducks. That take on the roles of the series’s leads, brothers Drewford and Ormlu. “When I was a kid, I would create all my own characters, and then around the sixth grade, I came up with the character that would eventually become Drewford,” Xanthopoulos says. “From there, he was my number one


character, and as I grew up, he just became more and more like me. That’s why I’ve got gay ducks now, I guess. It’s just me turned up to eleven, in duck form amplified to extremes. Neurotic gay ducks.”

union,” Xanthopoulos explains, “and when the guys found out he wasn’t going to start a relationship with any of them, they rioted. I think some of the school may have burnt down; I can’t remember what the last strip of that story was, but there was smoke rising.”

However, Drewford is not the only character who has taken cues from a real-life individual. In creating the title character’s sibling, Xanthopoulos modeled him after his own brother. “My brother is also gay, so that dichotomy of how Ormlu is versus how Drewford is is pretty true to life with my brother and me,” he says. “Unlike Drewford and Ormlu, my brother is older than I am, and he was always sort of into the club scene and into the dance scene and into all these sort of ‘stereotypical’ things. Part of our sibling rivalry was that I drew away from those things, because I wanted to be an ‘individual.’ So that dichotomy between Ormlu being superstereotypically gay and Drewford being a little more reserved is pretty true to life. “My brother is pretty out there; he’s a very dominant personality. I’m a little more quiet and reserved; I’m a little more neurotic. When he says ‘Let’s try something!’, I’m like ‘No! We should weigh all the pros and cons before we do anything!’” Xanthopoulos turned his brotherly relationship into his wonderful system for Ormlu and Drewford to

Yet amid all the crazy, outlandish, and brazenly unbelievable and stereotypical scenarios he now finds himself in, Drewford was not always gay.

photos by Adam Canada

differentiate their personalities. Despite both being gay, they’re both at completely different odds, pulling each other in weird directions. “I’m always somewhat surprised by where stories go or conversations go,” he says, “because they’re at such odds with each other. But I also think they really love each other. I think Ormlu would always be there to get Drewford out of trouble—the trouble that he would usually get him into in the first place.”

“Drewford started out straight,” Xanthopoulos says, “but even when I was drawing him as straight, everyone said that he read as gay. When I was a kid, I wasn’t aware of my sexuality, so he was just this straight duck, and as I got older, even though I became aware of my sexuality, for some reason, I kept that going.

One great example of this trouble is the time Drewford had to return to his college to give a lecture. Ormlu insisted on going with him and wound up having to save Drewford from a riot Ormlu himself caused.

“When I started the comic, he was still straight, and I liked the idea of having a straight brother who was completely comfortable with his gay brother. Since I draw so much from my personal life though, I started running out of story lines to talk about, and the story lines I wanted to write about just didn’t really make sense in straight context. The problems I was going through dating in my mid-twenties were not the same problems a straight person was going through dating in their mid-twenties.

“He had an orgy with an entire gay Christian student

However, Xanthopoulos did not want Drewford to

have a dramatic realization that he was gay, nor did he want to do a coming out story, feeling both situations might negate everything he had previously written. “I just sort of created a hiccup in the cannon, to steal a nerd term,” he says. “All of a sudden, he’s gay, and he’s always been gay.” He also adds that he does not want Drewford to not be a gay strip either, because now he can play up some stories he could not fully execute when Drewford was straight. “For the last part of last year and the first part of this year, I’m playing with Drewford being very lonely,” Xanthopoulos says. “I’m trying to get him dating, which is the whole point of turning him gay in the first place. He’s going to be starting dating soon. “At his job, he’s going to be advertising a product called a ‘mini-fag-on-a-leash,’ which is going to be this tiny, little gay man that gives fashion advice to people that want to buy him. It’s going to be horribly stereotypical, and Drewford’s going to have a moral objection to it but will have to sell it.” Even though his Drewford is full of self-mockery and witty social commentary on the gay community, Xanthopoulos is happy to be a part of that community. “It’s like love,” he says. “This is all a part of the community I’m in. I don’t hate it, but there are certain parts that can be poked fun at.” As long as laughs keep coming, poke away. Read Drewford online at and at



AB THROW DOWN works abs, arms, and thighs Lie face up on the floor with feet flat and hip-width apart, knees bent, holding the bag with arms stretched above you. Sit up, bring the bag over your head. Slam the bag between your legs and then quickly press it back overhead. Slowly lower yourself back to starting position.

full body workout using the ultimate sandbag by Mark Allyn Nimmo Since 2005, the Ultimate Sandbag Training system has become the leader in function fitness training used by elite military units, police and fire departments, professional and college sports teams, and top fitness facilities. The ability to use one fitness tool in multiple planes of motion enables you to train your heart (cardiovascular training) and your muscles (full-body strength training) simultaneously. The effectiveness of sandbag training was based on 3 concepts: •The ability to create exercises that simultaneously improves strength and flexibility •Turning on muscles that have been forgotten by most standard weight room exercises •Retrain the “right” muscles to take stress off of the rest of the body What you will need: As the name implies, you will need a sandbag weighing between 15 and 25 pounds. We are using a DVRT sandbag; however, a DIY project can be found online. The workout: Do each move in sequential order for one minute each taking a 15-second break between each one. Rest for one minute, and then go at it again three more times. Show this sandbag who’s boss two or three nonconsecutive days a week, and you’ll be looking like the boss in no time!


POP IT UP works arms, chest, abs, butt, thighs, and hamstrings Crouch behind bag with your feet together and hands pressed into the center. Without moving your hands, jump your feet as high as you can off the floor, landing on the opposite side. Immediately jump your feet to other side to finish one rep. Continue alternating sides.

OVERHEAD SWING works arms, abs, butt, and quadriceps Holding the sandbag by the handles, perform a swing from behind the legs and continue to bring the bag overhead. By letting the elbows bend, allow the bag to drop to the upper back. Reverse the motion by forcefully pulling the bag back overhead and into downswing.

HALF MOON works arms, shoulders, abs, butt, quadriceps, and hamstrings Start with knees and hips bent and grip the sandbag on the floor to one side of your feet. Powerfully extend legs and hips to lift sandbag overhead. Bring it sideways over your head and down to the floor at the opposite side of your feet.



Kathy Halbrooks


dictionary definition of coming out is to “become known, become revealed.” In our modern day jargon, LGBT people come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and, indeed, can identify in numerous other ways across the spectrums of sexual orientation and gender identity. It has only been recently that I have realized I have “come out” as an ally. I was always in favor of equality; that feeling was in my heart when I was born. I never remember not having it, but for many years, I did little about letting others know how I felt. Working for the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, I became interested a few years ago when the council was considering adding sexual orientation to protections for Metro employees. I spoke quietly in favor of the legislation in my workplace to a few people I was close to. However, when some nasty protestors came to town, I knew I had to speak out more loudly. In late middle age, I found myself on the steps of the courthouse rallying for the bill to pass.

“I was always in favor of equality; that feeling was in my heart when I was born...“

The bill failed by one vote. The city didn’t change then, but I did. At the risk of sounding a bit nuts, I found that opportunities kept coming to me to do more work. I met the man who was then president of PFLAG Nashville (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in a graduate school class. He asked me to attend meetings as a heterosexual supporter.

A couple of years ago, I was elected president of PFLAG Nashville myself and am now also Tennessee Coordinator for the organization. In a short time, I went from having no close LGBT friends to being blessed with a group of friends that I consider a second family. I found myself meeting people in social settings, casually mentioning PFLAG, and having them discreetly ask for information. I was no longer surprised when students came up to me after a class I taught to ask for advice. The universe literally bombarded me with chances to reach out to people until I knew this was what I was meant to do. I had never found my group, my people, my tribe, until I started working for equality. On my journey, I’ve been fortunate to find those, both LGBT and heterosexual, who are openminded, compassionate, caring, and loving in so many ways— not just in ways that deal with issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. My eyes were opened on those courthouse steps to the need for allies to speak out. Over time, I saw that nondiscrimination bill finally pass in Nashville to include both sexual orientation and gender identity. I have seen similar bills pass in our state in places that I never thought they would be adopted. I see a president of our nation who speaks out against discrimination. I see more and more change coming, and I want to continue to be a catalyst for that change. I am an ally. I am out. I am proud.



photos by Rocky Moreno

steve raimo


Diversify Nashville

c: 615.596.4025 o: 615.383.6964 f: 615.383.6966 2206 21st avenue s, suite 200 nashville, tennessee 37212


COMING OUT the way I carried myself and my confidence level. Although I never admitted I was gay, classmates began to tease me. I always denied their cruel accusations, but it never made a difference. This was a place I assumed I could not tell the teachers out of fear that they were all homophobic. Similarly, I could never ask my family for advice. I felt I had nowhere to go and no one to care. I remember crying as I ate lunch alone, the only one in the entire cafeteria who did. I began to read my Bible seeking comfort, but it just did not come to me. Finally, I gathered up any shred of courage I had and carried it all to my mother. I asked her why God would hate someone he made. If God is love, how can there ever be hate? I can never erase the image of my mother’s glare from my mind. She had always been so kind and loving, but I saw her in eyes a blazing fury and look of utter disgust as she replied, “That is sick; it’s not God’s will for people to be gay. Those people are in sin and will go to hell.”

photo by Sean Setters Photography

J.C. - Clarksville, TN


o this is probably much like your typical coming out story. I was a young boy, who always knew he was different but never really knew why. I always felt out of place, like most of us in this situation. I always wondered, Why me? Why am I like this? Does God hate me? Am I sinning? Thoughts we all experienced except for one little twist, I was a Mennonite. We are different from Amish in that we accept modern ways to an extent but choose to preserve the ways of the past. I still went to public high school, drove a car, and ate fast food just like my outsider friends (a term we use for those outside the community). All my life, I was raised as a strict Southern Baptist. I attended the same church my entire life, and I loved it there. Those people were my true friends, my family in Christ. Like most conservatives growing up in the hills of Appalachia in rural East Tennessee, I was raised to believe that it was God’s intent for a man and woman to be together. I always knew I had an attraction for other boys, but I simply thought I could just appreciate when someone looked nice. As I grew older, the feelings grew stronger. I felt as if it was affecting


After that, any confidence I ever had in my mother was gone. I decided to bring the question up to my pastor, who was also my uncle. I felt good, because he said he would pray about an answer and let me know Saturday night when we gathered for evening service. I was not expecting what happened next. (Keep in mind we were Southern Baptist, so the preaching is fiery and fear striking.) He began his sermon by stating, “I want to speak tonight on an evil that is destroying the very fabric of America around us: the gays.” I felt my heart sink. I was forced to sit still and listen to an hour and a half of condemnation by hell’s flames. I couldn’t help but cry the entire time. That night at home, I prayed for what seemed like hours that God would lift this burden from my shoulders, that these feelings would go away, or at least be suppressed. I prayed that the teasing would stop, but it never did.

In college, my feelings became stronger. I knew in my heart I had a choice to make. Did I want to risk being outed, cast out, and hated by God, or keep living this lie and never be happy? But then I thought, was lying not a sin too? The inward battle between my head and my heart raged for months, like a bloody civil war that neither side could win. One day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was watching TV with my mom, a tradition we always did before bedtime, one that soon would be no more. A lesbian couple was being featured on the Food Network when she turned off the television and remarked, “Can’t even watch TV without the gays taking over and ruining everything.” I immediately broke down crying and just blurted it out, “Mom, I’m gay; please don’t hate me.” I was hysterical and in tears, literally on the floor clinging to my mother’s skirt. She pulled herself away from me and took a step back. She looked down upon me like I was something foul: a hideous creature that needed to be removed or a threat that had to be stopped. Then I received a hard blow to the face as she remarked, “You’re sick.” That night, I drove away to the parking lot of my church where I slept in my car, afraid to go home. The next morning, I went to the church service as usual. I was unaware that my mother had phoned my uncle, who had then informed the entire congregation of my “illness.” When I walked in the door, I was greeted with a somber stare and silence so intense I could feel the hair rising on my neck. Two deacons seized me, one on each arm, and escorted me to the front altar. I was forced to sit there through a proclamation of how Satan had crept in among us and that I was entertaining the devil with my foul lies. If I could have died at that moment, it would have been such sweet relief.

Then, the entire congregation came to pray in a circle around me. The pastor told me that all gays need to be taken to an island and blown up or shot between the eyes. Those words still weigh heavy on my heart today. How could these wonderful people— my friends and family, who always had given me words of encouragement and smiles of joy and heartfelt laughter— now hate me? I looked for my mother in the crowd; I wanted her to hug me, but she refused. She looked upon me with tears in her eyes and said, “I can’t love a gay thing. You are not my son.” They then informed me that my days in the community had come and gone, and I was to leave and never come back. They lined the isle before I was permitted to leave through the double doors of the place that once had brought me such joy, like a walk of shame. At the end, I turned and gave one last look to all of them. In place of love, I saw nothing but hate. Except for my mother’s eyes, in which I saw a deep sorrow. I whispered under my breath as I left the church forever, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone. I love you all, and I love you, mommy.” Since that day, many things have changed. I moved away to a university, where I met a group of friends who accepted me for who I am. I graduated and began a career in which I will always be there for other young people who need someone to talk to and someone to care. Although I will always miss the people, I would not change the fact that I have left that community. There are so many wonderful things in the world I would have never gotten to experience had I stayed. The world is not just a place of sin, lies, and evil things; the world is a beautiful place full of chances to make wonderful memories with friends. It is a world I will be seeing now that I’m free.











SEATTLE by Joey Amato


icrosoft, Nordstrom,, and Starbucks are just a few of the companies headquartered in Seattle, the Emerald City. The city boasts a vibrant arts scene, iconic music venues, and some of the freshest and most delicious food on the West Coast. My first stop was a visit to the Seattle Art Museum, a magnificent building located in the heart of downtown. During my visit, the museum was gearing up to host some of its most prestigious exhibitions ever, most notably, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: Treasures of Kenwood House, London. Another exciting exhibit coming to SAM is Future Beauty: Thirty Years of Japanese Fashion, a collection of eighty gowns, ranging from the classic to the outrageous, by celebrated designers such as Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, Kenzo Takada, Junya Watanabe, and Jun Takahashi. The exhibit will also feature runway show videos, artist photographs, and magazines images. Just a short walk from the Seattle Art Museum is Six Seven Restaurant, a glorious oceanfront restaurant offering the freshest seafood in the city. Begin your meal with a pint of Alaskan Summer Ale, which is very affordable and the perfect complement to your meal. Upon recommendation, I opted to try the Smoked Salmon as my starter. The melt-in-your-mouth salmon was the most delicious I’ve ever tasted and was actually caught earlier that morning.


Other delectable starters include the Jumbo Dungeness Crab & Shrimp Cake with crab lemongrass sauce and tomato jam and the Braised Beef & Truffle Ravioli made with butternut squash, chanterelles, toasted pine nuts, and grilled radicchio in a truffle honey reduction. Entrees are hearty and plentiful, most notably the Arugula Pesto Brushed Halibut with artichokes, roasted fennel, and cherry tomato salad in a lemon vinaigrette. My favorite among the entrees, however, is the restaurant’s famous Northwest Bouillabaisse, consisting of scallops, halibut, salmon, mussels, saffron potato, crisp calamari, and a lemon aioli crouton. You will be asking for extra bread to sop up the tasty broth left at the bottom of the bowl.

After a bountiful dinner, check in to the luxurious Hotel Monaco, a boutique hotel featuring modern furnishings and décor, plush linens, evening turndown service, and complimentary wireless Internet. The Kimpton property offers a hosted wine reception daily in its lobby as well as 24-hour fitness and business centers. Begin your next day with a visit to Pike Place Market, a public market overlooking the Seattle waterfront. Opened in 1907, the market is one of the oldest public farmers’ markets in the United States. It is a place of business for many fisherman, farmers, and merchants. Named after the central street, Pike Place, it is one of city’s most popular tourist destinations. While there, be sure to sample some homemade chowder from one of many bustling cafés. Music enthusiasts should be sure to visit Experience Music Project (EMP). The Frank Gehry-designed masterpiece is

truly remarkable and hosts a variety of music-related exhibits. This June, visit the Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power exhibit, which shines a spotlight on the astounding women who propelled rock ‘n’ roll into uncharted territories. The exhibit features more than 70 artists and celebrates women as engines of creation and change in popular music, with iconic artifacts and nonconformist costumes such as Lady Gaga’s meat dress worn at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards show. Right next door to EMP is Seattle’s most iconic landmark, the Space Needle. Head to the observation deck for unobstructed views of the city and the majestic Mt. Rainer. Next to the Space Needle is Chihuly Garden and Glass, a celebration of Seattle glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly. The Exhibition Hall contains eight galleries and three Drawing Walls, offering visitors a comprehensive look at Chihuly’s significant works. The Glasshouse presents a suspended 1,400-piece, 100-foot-long

sculpture, and the Garden is a backdrop for four other monumental pieces. This venue is a must-see for art lovers. For dinner, head to Capitol Hill, Seattle’s gay neighborhood, and visit any one of dozens of gay-owned establishments along Broadway. I recommend The Grill on Broadway, known for the best Sunday brunch in town. Mimosas with Mama

takes place every Sunday and features some of the best drag performers in the city. Visitors looking for a bit of old-world tradition should stay at the Mayflower Hotel. Built in 1927, the property has been restored with crystal chandeliers, gleaming brass, and period antiques that offer a uniquely European elegance. Conveniently located to all major Seattle attractions, guest rooms at the Mayflower are beautifully appointed in classic color schemes with custom comforters, drapes, and artwork designed and tailored for each hotel room. The hotel also boasts one of the city’s best restaurants, Andaluca. Sample the Roasted Mussels with baby tomatoes, sizzling lemon butter, rosemary, and white wine or the delicious Tuscan Tomato Bread Soup with basil crème fraîche. For our entrée, my guest and I shared Andaluca Paella, an oversized portion of prawns, clams, chicken, chorizo, arborio rice, and harissa butter

served in a saffron broth. Visitors looking for a trendier experience should head to the Hotel Max, a boutique property that provides the platform for both emerging and established Seattle-based artists and photographers. More than 350 original paintings and photographs are found throughout the hotel in the lobby, guest rooms, and corridors. Red Fin restaurant offers eclectic Asian fusion fare and is a favorite among tourists and locals alike. Spend your last night in Seattle by visiting any one of the city’s famous LGBT nightspots. Favorites among neighborhood gays include R Place, Neighbors, and Q, an ultramodern dance music venue featuring sleek designs, specialty cocktails, a bourbon lounge, and four disco balls to keep the party going all night long.

For more information, go to



He poignantly recalls episodes of his life and changes in culture, often speaking to the memory of a deceased friend.


In the Mirror, A Monster The Mystery of Human Nature by Sebastian Fortino Marten Weber’s latest book takes place at an Edinburgh bed and breakfast in a Georgian townhouse. The house is integral to the plot but not in the tradition of Howards End, Wuthering Heights, or Rebecca, where houses serve as metaphors for the often-tormenting experiences of the characters.

Tim, the narrator who co-owns the B&B with his husband, is bound in a wheelchair. The house becomes a stage upon which he observes life vicariously through lodgers. This is a change from Weber’s six other books, which often incorporate travel. This is especially true of Rainbow Award-winner Benedetto Casanova: the Memoirs, a fanciful chronicle of Giacomo Casanova’s gay brother. “Benedetto does nothing but travel from one city and one


man to the next, so I had the urge to write something stationary, a story which happens in one place,” Weber said. “It’s just a set of rooms into which people come and go and leave part of their stories with Tim.” Incidentally, Weber worked in 20 countries in 10 years before publishing his fiction. Weber spent a great deal of time researching Benedetto to create a book firmly rooted in the 18th century. In Mirror, the story comes to the narrator as he counsels and makes tea for guests. Two new lodgers, Claudio and Lukas, arrive one summer from Slovakia. They exude all the aspects of a loving couple and soon become an obsession. Not only has Tim become preoccupied with them, but two longtime residents— Jamie, a lustful American, and Javier, a hunky Spaniard—have as well. Therein lies the mystery. What kind of couple are they: lovers, brothers, best friends, or are they bound by something else? Everyone in the house has a theory. Mirror thus asks whether gay people spend too much time worrying about who is gay and who is not. Aleysha, a resident at the B&B from Uganda, shatteringly tells Tim they waste far too much time on the topic. Of course, Tim does not only obsess over his Slovakian guests.

While this work was not as research intensive as Benedetto, the ideas came from Weber’s personal experiences. He focused on a conversation with a hotel owner in Palm Springs, a pair of guests he and his husband hosted in Taiwan and time spent in a friend’s boarding house in Scotland. “I really loved watching the comings and goings of guests. I heard lots of stories,” he said. “You learn a lot about people in that kind of home.” For further authenticity, Weber honed Tim’s words to recall the character’s rich, native Yorkshire accent. While there are no detectives, the questions raised about human nature—life, love, relationships, sex, and friendship—make Mirror a true mystery. One line particularly embodies the potential scenarios involving Claudio and Lukas in Weber’s satisfying, multifaceted novel: “Time doesn’t heal anything; it just turns everything into a farce.” Visit to learn more about Weber, where to buy his books, or purchase electronic copies. Expect a sequel to Benedetto Casanova by early 2014.

THROUGH MAY 19 DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE | 615-244-3340 | FRISTCENTER.ORG Members/Youth 18 and younger FREE. This exhibition was organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts.

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Gerard Ter Borch (Dutch, 1617–1681). Lady at Her Toilette (detail), ca. 1660. Oil on canvas, 30 x 23 1/2 in. Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Eleanor Clay Ford Fund, General Membership Fund, Endowment Income Fund and Special Activities Fund, 65.10

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Ben Rock for UNITE Magazine, March/April 2013  

Managing editor. Contributing writer for "Nashville: United for Equality" and "Damon Xanthopoulos: Drawing Ducks. GAY Ducks." Creative direc...

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