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LIVE | TRAVEL | CONNECT ISSUE #17 | SPRING 2015

ARO LOV UND E T HE W 1 HONEYMOON ORL 2 PROPOSALS D 3 EXCUSES 4 COUNTRIES 5 COUPLES

BRAZIL’S MOST DARING HOTEL

ALL LOVE IS EQUAL: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH

BRADEN SUMMERS


Connextions Magazine

Spring 2015

contents 8 Brazil’s Most Daring Hotel 10 LGBT Family Travel

Denver: The Mile High City

16 5 Couples: Love Around the World 18 Road Trippin’ 20 Mexican Honeymoon 26 New York City Scavenger Hunt Proposal 29 3 Excuses to See You 31 It Happened One Night in Italy 33 Human Rights Campaign Gala 34 In Review 4

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12 ALL LOVE IS EQUAL Exclusive interview with Photographer

Braden Summers

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Connexting CONTRIBUTORS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Manny Velasquez-Paredes

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CREATIVE DIRECTOR Xioger Sandoval

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CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Aaron Drake David Duran Dimmi JJ Vega MVP Sarah Stanley-Evan

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Connextions Magazine Issue 16: Celebrating 5 Years, published on November 2014, marked the beginning of our anniversary celebration. In this past is`sue, we featured 16 states, and we reported on the management changes we made. Issue #16 is a testament to the quality work we have created and serves as a projection to future journeys, adventures and travel suggestions you expect from us!

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Read Connextions Magazine online: www.connextionsmagazine.com Write to us: Do you have a question or comment regarding this issue or future issues of Connextions Magazine? We would love to hear from you! E-mail responses and press releases are always welcomed. mvp@connextionsmagazine.com All submissions become the property of Connextions Magazine. The views and opinions stated throughout this magazine are not necessarily the opinions of staff at Connextions Magazine. Connextions Magazine, LLC publishing office is located at: PO Box 242 Calverton, NY 11933 Connextions Magazine will not knowingly publish or advertise text which is fraudulent or misleading. The publisher reserves the right to edit, limit, revise, or reject any text without cause. Connextions Magazine assumes no financial responsibility for typographical errors. If any errors are found, please notify Connextions Magazine immediately. Materials in this publication may not be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher. ISSN 2160-4347 (print) ISSN 2160-4355 (online)

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Cover Photo by: XSPhotographer Models: Luchito Turnbull-Dugarte (left) and Stuart Turnbull-Dugarte (right). Location: New York City This real couple lives in Madrid, Spain. Their dream was to get married in New York City and they made their dream a reality. Luchito and Stuart love to travel the world and they do it often because they believe life is too short and they want to live it intensively next to each other. Contents and Couples Share pages Photos by: Braden Summers Read our exclusive interview with Braden Summers and see more photos of his ALL LOVE IS EQUAL project on Connextions Magazine is a proud sponsor pp.: 12 of the Human Rights Campaign family as The Travel Media Sponsor of HRC Greater New York.


Letter From the Editor So many changes in such little time! We are living in a historic era, as of publication date of this issue, we now have 37 states in the US, plus the District of Columbia, that are on the right side of history and Tare CENno NOlonger C | LEVprohibiting ART | EVIL same-sex couples to marry. It seems inevitable that by the end of the summer, marriage equality will be the law of the land in the United States. Love is winning and will continue to do so. It is love that inspired this February issue, which is fitting since Valentine’s Day falls in this month. I knew I wanted to tell a story of LGBT couples expressing their love for one another, and since we are a travel magazine, I knew I wanted to tie this in with the concept of love across our globe and how the locations played an important role in their romantic stories. One day, I came across pictures of multicultural same-sex couples from a brilliant Photographer, Braden Summers. His project titled Love Is Equal, which some of those images are presented throughout this issue, helped to inspire the concept behind Issue #17: Love Around the World. We reached out to you, our readers, and asked you to share your love stories with us and you did! You opened your lives to us and allowed us to document your stories. We picked 5 couples and we discovered how 4 different countries helped them to express their love. In this issue, we also bring you the newest gay men hotel in Brazil and our LGBT Family travels to Denver for a fun weekend, which is sure to inspire your next family vacation. It is my sincere wish that you enjoy our Love Around the World issue and please e-mail me: mvp@connextionsmagazine.com to let us know how we are doing and how we can make our next issue even better! MVP

Editor In Chief

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Brazil’s Most Daring Hotel T​ HE 269 CHILLI PEPPER: THE NEW HOT SPOT IN BRAZIL Rio de Janeiro is usually ​the first ​city that comes to mind when you think of Brazil, ​but gay locals know and tourists are finding out that​​ São Paulo, about 6 hours east of Rio, ​has the biggest LGBT community in the country. São Paulo offers hundreds of ​attractions​for LGBT tourists and locals,​ including famous clubs​,​where the ​world’s ​best DJs play ​year round,​ in addition to the trendiest restaurants and gay bars i​n Brazil. ​ usinessman, Douglas Drumond, foreseeing the future of ​the LGBT B Community’s allure of São Paulo​, invested and created the 269 Chilli Pepper Single​Hotel and Sauna. In a short time, this hotel has ​earned the title of the biggest and the best hotel for single men in Latin America, even the top luxury French brand Louis Vuitton included the Chilli Pepper in the​ir latest e ​ dition of its tour guides. T​ o maintain its clientele satisfied, the hotel plans different theme nights, such as: Happy Hour for Businessmen on Mondays, Bear’s ParDouglas Drumond ty on Tuesdays, Red Hair Wednesday​s and more.​ ​​Offering ​3 floors of​ accommodations, including 5 suites, 124 single rooms, lockers, showers and jacuzzis, a winter and a summer swimming pools, and let’s not forget the waterfall. No sauna would be complete without a steam room, a filtered-water-cooled indoor pool and a dry sauna designed with ergonomic benches. Photos courtesy of 269 Chilli Pepper

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Photo courtesy of 269 Chilli Pepper

The 269 Chilli Pepper

If feeling a bit thirsty or hungry from all the fun you are experiencing, the 269 Chilli Pepper’s L-shaped lounge bar, furnished by acclaimed French designer Philippe Starck, is your nest stop. The second floor is considered to be the hotel’s sexiest floor, housing a Mini Cine-Cabaret presenting a special selection of gay-themed movies, and includes a section called “Glory Alleys,” a “Love Corner” lounge and a “Surprise Surprise” space, where we can only leave the description up to your imagination. T​ he ​hotel’s ​first floor​is where you will find the boutique​,​which offers products by sex shop Alizée, books, E.S Collection speedos and shorts, in addition to exclusive clothes from ​the ​269 brand, designed by stylist Rafael Vicente. Besides that, ​the 269 ​Chilli Pepper’s first floor ​serves as the hotel’s party atmosphere with ​a ​set​​list ​de​signed by top DJ ​​ Anderson Noise. At 269 Chilli Pepper, ​gay men ​are sure to find what they ​are ​look​ing​for, at any time ​in a safe and classy hotel. ​Douglas Drummond, owner of the 269 Chilli Pepper is already developing a new hotel in Belo Horizonte, which is scheduled to open in August of 2016. T​ he ​new hotel will ​follow the same pattern​of the original 269 Chilli Pepper. The architectural design is signed by Eduardo Beliatti and Rodrigo Canhestro, two of the most important architects of Brazil and covers an area of over 17,000 square feet.​According t​o Drummond, the B​elo ​Horizonte ​“​tourism is heated, but lacking options for the homosexual public. I love working ​with the gay community.​“​The new hotel ​will launch a soft-opening just in time for ​Carnival​ 2015​, but the official opening is scheduled for August next year, ​to ​coincide with the ​city’s Gay ​Pride Parade. 269 Chilli Pepper Single Hotel | Largo do Arouche, 610 Santa Cecília | São Paulo​, Brazil www.hotelchillipepper.com.br | Phone: (11) 3331-3336

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LGBT Family Travel Photos courtesy of Manny Velasquez-Paredes

​DENVER: THE MILE HIGH CITY Denver is nicknamed The Mile High City, due to its elevation, which is exactly one mile above sea level, making it one of the highest major cities in the United States. According to Denverites, due to its altitude, the alcoholic beverages are more potent. All the Denverites we met, also advised us to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration. Denverites seem to be well versed on their state’s facts, which make for a wonderful experience. The people we met during our trip seemed extra-friendly and very knowledgeable and proud of their city. For example, did you know that Denver experiences 300 days of sunshine and has breathtaking panoramic mountain views with over 200 named peaks that can easily soar up to 13,000 feet? Neither did we, but the Denverites we met taught us all about it. During our visit we noticed a young, vibrant cultural environment with award-winning dining that can easily compete with Broadway or Lincoln Center in New York City and restaurants in Paris. Denver is a cleaner, less crowded version of New York City, and the breathtaking mountains are the backdrop of this great canvas.

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Photos courtesy of Hilton Worldwide, Inc.

Denver: The Mile High City During our family Denver vacation, the Hampton Inn & Suites Denver Downtown Convention Center was our host in our home away from home, located in what can easily be the heart of this vibrant town. It is just a half block from the Colorado Convention Center and within walking distance of some of the best local attractions and many of the city’s landmarks and tourists spots, including many of the Top 20 Things To Do in Denver on Tripadvisor, such as the famous 16th Street Mall, Coors Field, Pepsi Center, the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Center for Performing Arts. Each room at the Hampton Inn & Suites is equipped with the essentials, free high-speed internet access and complimentary Hampton’s free hot breakfast, which is anything but the typical “continental breakfast.” The Hampton’s breakfast includes omelets, waffles, cereals, yogurts, pastries, fruits and different kinds of juices, coffees and teas. If you find yourself running late or eager to get your day started, then simply grab one of the free “Hampton On the Run Breakfast Bags™.” The 24-hour business center keeps you on top of work, while the fitness center, indoor pool and hot tub keep you in top shape. This newly-built hotel puts you in the middle of the Mile High City action and is ideal for singles, couples, or families. Denver is an LGBT and LGBT-family friendly city. In 1990, Denver became one of the first municipalities in the US to adopt anti-discriminatory policies, including gays and lesbians. Denver PrideFest is recognized as one of the top 10 Pride events in the US. The Annual Colorado Gay Rodeo has brought in cowboys from around the world since 1982 and in November of last year, they hosted the 30th Annual Convention of the International Gay Rodeo Association. In October of 2014, Colorado became the 21st state to allow marriage equality and has laws protecting LGBT rights, as well as allowing adoptions by same-sex couples. 550 15th St, Denver, CO 80202 | www.hamptoninndenver.com | (303) 623-5900 www.connextionsmagazine.com

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All Love Is Equal

“ALL LOVE IS EQUAL, this is a message worth spreading.” Braden Summers 12


Interview: Braden Summers ​ALL LOVE IS EQUAL Braden Summers knows the art of photography is a mixture of brilliant illustration, capturing moments and the Photographer’s own inspiration. This multiple award winning Photographer, has photographed celebrities, created a project of modern couples for MoMA and worked on marketing campaigns for different companies, including Marriott International on the “Love Travels” campaign, where he often features LGBT couples and individuals. Connextions Magazine, sits to talk with Photographer, Braden Summers to discuss his project “All Love Is Equal.” Connextions Magazine (CM): Hello Braden, did we catch you at a good time? Braden Summers (Braden): Yes, I just left my yoga studio, I try to practice Ashtanga daily. CM: Great to hear it, can you tell us a little about you? What was it like growing up? Braden: Braden Summers is my birth name and my ancestors are from Ireland. I grew up in a small town in Connecticut. I was troubled with my sexuality, while I dealt with it silently for most of high school. When I came out in my senior year, all things considered, most of my friends and family dealt with the news pretty well. It was tough with my parents at first, but once they had time to digest the news, our relationship remained as strong as it was beforehand. I have been to 6 of the 7 continents (excluding Antarctica). I love my hometown of San Francisco, but I have felt most intimately connected to Paris, Barcelona, and Rajasthan in India.

Photos courtesy of Braden Summers

CM: Is there anywhere in the world you would like to visit? Braden: I would love to visit Tokyo, hike the hills of Nepal, explore rural parts of Kenya, and set foot in Ireland - I technically have Irish citizenship but I have never been! I am an explorer by nature and the travels feed my work, I would go most anywhere for a new experience. CM: Speaking of new experiences, can you tell us about the ALL LOVE IS EQUAL project? Braden: I came up with the idea for ALL LOVE IS EQUAL when I was living in Paris. I was shooting lots of romantic imagery when my boyfriend suggested that I shoot a gay version. The resulting image of two men on a London bridge sparked the idea to shoot a whole series of these “iconic” photographs in different cultures worldwide. I spent 6 months thinking about the idea, deciding if it was worth pursuing without a sponsor, and ultimately planning to move forward on my own. I traveled with my producer friend Greg Jaroszewski for five weeks to create most of the images in the series. There were certainly mixed emotions before embarking on the journey. Would I be able to secure the right talent and models to create the work that I had envisioned? Would the imagery be strong enough to justify the risks and finances put forth for this endeavor? How will the work be seen by the world to help spread this message of love and equality? It was nerve wracking to say the least, but all worth it in the end. www.connextionsmagazine.com

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All Love Is Equal

Photos courtesy of Braden Summers

CM: How did you choose which places to visit? And how was the talent chosen? Braden: In terms of choosing the locations, quite simply, my producer and I were trying to represent as wide of a range of cultures as we possibly could with the allotted time and budget that was set aside for this project. It seemed like the countries we visited would be a good starting point and if we were able to get more funding later we would expand and travel further. We contacted modeling agencies and local gay rights groups in each city to secure the subjects for each photo shoot. Some are real couples, some are models. The point of the project was not to document reality, those images exist, Photographers have covered and will continue to document the current state of gay rights worldwide. CM: What was the intent behind this project? Is there a follow up to this project? ALL LOVE IS EQUAL part deux? Braden: ALL LOVE IS EQUAL is a photographic series that challenges the social construct of “iconic romance.� It is about looking at the iconic images of romance in advertising and movie stills (which are largely fantasy driven stories using models and actors) and realizing that very few depict same-gender loving couples. This project is an attempt to begin to fill that void and spark conversations about what iconic romance could look like for our community on a global scale. It is meant to call attention to the lack of commercial imagery that focuses on the idealization of same-sex couples. A large driving force behind creating this series was actually less about affecting the gay community directly, and more about giving the general population a way to relate to gay imagery which is devoid of sex, victimization, or banality - themes that might usually prevent some folks from connecting. I would love to continue the series, but I am not dying to raise the money on another crowd funding site, that was an exhausting amount of work. If someone or some organization was willing to fund a second phase of the project I would be delighted! For now, I am focusing on building new relationships with organizations that can help spread this message of equality.

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Photos courtesy of Braden Summers

Interview: Braden Summers CM: What about the #LoveTravels project? Braden: #LoveTravels was a collaborative project between myself and Marriott International (MI). I was beyond thrilled that a massive organization like MI saw the benefit of spreading the message of equality within commercial media. For this particular project we worked solely with real LGBT couples, families, activists and transgendered models. We found our subjects through personal connections, casting agencies, and internally with the Marriott brand. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to influence my audience on a larger, more commercial scale. This campaign truly showed the masses how relatable romance and self confidence can be within the LGBT community. CM: Are there any celebrities you would like to photograph? Braden: Marion Cotillard, Tilda Swinton and Carmen Dell’Orefice. CM: Hopefully they’ll read this article and contact you! Tell us about your success. Braden: Success is an arbitrary concept; I am so appreciative of the progress that my career has seen, though I still feel that I have a long journey ahead of me before I feel a truer sense of being a successful photographer. To get to the point I am at now, I have overcome immense amounts of doubt, I took many risks, and my patience outweighed my impatience for which I am eternally grateful. To become successful, above all you need to possess passion, persistence, and self confidence. I remember one of my first mentors telling me “It is going to take years longer than what you expect to get your career off the ground.” Trusting that his words were true sometimes was the only thing that kept me going and fighting and creating photographs. CM: Thank you for sharing your time and artwith the rest of the world. Braden: Thank you for this opportunity! I am honored to have garnered as many fans as I have and it is because of the exposure that publications like yours have given me. ALL LOVE IS EQUAL, this is a message worth spreading. www.connextionsmagazine.com

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5 couples in 4 different countries share their love stories, 3 excuses to escape the everyday and see each other, 2 extraordinary proposals and 1 Mexican honeymoon. Photo courtesy of Braden Summers - ALL LOVE IS EQUAL Dancers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Love Around the World ROAD TRIPPIN’ By Aaron Drake

Aaron Drake is a travel writer based in Los Angeles, who also contributes to Out Traveler, ManAboutWorld, and Amtrak Ride With Pride, among others. He loves sharing about exciting destinations for LGBT travelers, meeting interesting locals wherever he goes, and of course, spending time with his hubby and their two dogs when he’s not plotting his next adventure.

“You up for a road trip?” The question I asked my then-boyfriend, now-husband spurred a last-minute trek across two states for a memorable afternoon on the edge of Lake Michigan. It was 2004, the summer after we graduated from high school. We spent quite a bit of time traveling together during those summer months, which was a big deal for both of us since it marked the first time either of us had really traveled with a significant other; both celebrating submerging ourselves into adulthood, resting on the brink of our futures, possibly even one together. Of course, neither of us knew of the things to come over the next decade. Though time continues to move forward and the memories start to get a little hazy, I’m surprised by the little details of our travels together that stick in my mind. A direct trip

It was about mid-summer when we decided to road trip from Dayton, Ohio, where from Dayton, OH to we both grew up about 45 minutes apart, to Chicago. There was no real plan Chicago, IL can take in place, other than a quick glance at the road map to figure out the general about 4 1/2 hours: Follow direction in which we were headed and we knew we would crash at my sister I-70 West to I-65 North then I-90 West and suddenly and brother-in-law’s place in Indiana, about you are in Chicago. an hour from downtown Chicago. This time he drove and we made the five-hour trip west on mostly country back roads. We left in the afternoon, stopping once for an appropriate dinner of Chicago-style pizza in some little town that I couldn’t tell you how to get back to and ended up arriving at my sister’s late that night. When we drove into the city the next day, I was only slightly panicked about where to park since this was the first time either of us had driven into a big city (which definitely foreshadowed me

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Road Trippin’ being the worrier in the relationship). But we found a spot close to Navy Pier. I’d been to Chicago with my family when I was a kid, but I had never been to the pier overlooking the lake. We walked the few blocks to the pier, passing a violinist playing in the grassy park leading to the entrance to the pier. The beautiful music evoked a new sense of freedom for me, worlds away from our families and where we had grown up.

Navy Pier® built in 1916 on a 3,300 foot long pier, is located on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan and it is considered to be the top leisure destination in the Midwest, welcoming nearly 9 million visitors anually.

Photos courtesy of Aaron Drake

After we spent the afternoon walking the Pier, picking out mementos for our families and ourselves to help us commemorate the afternoon, we went to dinner at some restaurant on the pier. Now, three cities and two wedding ceremonies later, I wouldn’t even count the trip as one of the more unordinary days that we’ve spent together, but there’s a moment from that day I like to play back in my mind.

Driving into the city that morning, stuck in traffic with the city skyline coming into view, one of my favorite songs at the time, “Someday We’ll Know” by the New Radicals, came on the radio. It’s not really a popular song and certainly wasn’t played much on the radio when it came out years earlier, but this time it was relevant to the moment—even if it was just because Chicago is aptly mentioned in the song. It caught me off guard, and as simple as it seems more than 10 years later, it captured my feelings in that moment and it’s still something that pops into my mind when I find myself questioning my life’s direction and looking for signposts along the way. There are moments in life when you just know you’re in the right place at the right time. Though my relationship with my husband hasn’t always been a series of being in the perfect spot at the perfect moment, we’ve experienced quite a bit over the 12 years we’ve been together. There are definitely moments I can pinpoint serendipity. They continue to remind me that some of the best moments in life—like last-minute road trips—can be relatively unplanned and unexpected. They can serve as subtle reminders, or glaring road signs if you’re not paying attention, that you’re headed to the right destination. www.connextionsmagazine.com

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Love Around the World

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Mexican Honeymoon MEXICAN HONEYMOON By Sarah Stanley-Evans Lauren is a self-proclaimed, atypical fiery redhead, a midwife by trade loves to spend time with her family, friends, but most of all with her wife, Sarah, who works in retail. The calmer, quieter, more organized of the two, Sarah also claims to be “awesome at putting flat pack furniture together, be quite sarcastic and have a dry sense of humor.” Sarah and Lauren are best friends and seeing the world together is something they both truly enjoy.

When you find someone who makes the world seem such a beautiful place, it makes you want to explore it even more. This is why we love traveling - last year was our ten year anniversary, and have explored ten countries together in those ten years! Our love affair with travel began with our first trip, which was to Edinburgh’s New Years Eve celebrations in 2004. Since then we have visited Amsterdam, Paris for my 21st birthday, Barcelona, Scotland, Wales - including ‘glamping’ in a yurt, saw the Northern Lights in Reykjavik, Marrakech, America, Mexico, and Malta. We have also explored lots of England together, mainly theatre trips to London, as well as living in Leeds whilst Lauren was at university, York, The Cotswolds, Brighton - where we got engaged, Devon, Cornwall, and our home city of Birmingham. We both love planning trips together, although Lauren is definitely the main planner! I enjoy finding places of interest, restaurants we will visit, and ‘finishing touches’ but Lauren is amazing at putting an itinerary together. We find planning ahead is the best way to make the most of your time in a new place, and ensures you get to see as much of the places you want as possible. You can never do too much research, although we also recommend www.connextionsmagazine.com

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Love Around the World to explore and to find hidden gems once you are there too! We find that shorter trips are quicker to save for, and make it easier with time off from work. We always make sure we are aware of how gay friendly the countries we visit are, and have visited ones with varying degrees of acceptance; Sitges in Barcelona is a huge gay destination and Reykjavik in Iceland is very gay friendly also and they are so much fun. We got married in 2013 and planned our honeymoon quite carefully. We wanted somewhere completely relaxing, luxurious, and beautiful. Whilst we did not want to go somewhere that was a specifically ‘gay’ destination, it was extremely important for our honeymoon that we did not worry about things like publicly holding hands or enjoying a romantic meal. We looked into several destinations including Sri Lanka, Bali, The Maldives, Hawaii and Mexico. Although we would still like to see them, we eventually settled on Mexico as the hotels were gorgeous, the weather was perfect for the time we were booking and we had heard from other gay couples that they were gay friendly.

Photos courtesy of Sarah Stanley-Evans

Although we wanted to start our honeymoon the morning after our wedding, we went on a mini-moon to Brighton first, where we got engaged. It was wonderful to spend our first days as Mrs. and Mrs. in a city that has such amazing memories for us. As soon as we landed in Mexico, we felt like we were in paradise! We spent two weeks having wonderful food, drinks, visiting the spas, relaxing on the beach, and enjoying being newlyweds. We were treated like any other couple. We also made sure we planned a couple of day trips to see places of interest such as Mayan ruins Chichen Itza, and the beautiful cenotes. The amazing memories we have from traveling are one of our most prized possessions, they say travel is the only thing you can

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Mexican Honeymoon

buy that makes you richer, and it is true. We hope we never stop exploring together. We have an enormous list of places we want to see! As we are now planning for a family, our future travel plans will have to incorporate this. We can’t wait to show this amazing world to our little ones, and we hope they inherit our desire to enjoy different places, cultures and experiences. For their first wedding anniversary, the couple went on a road trip around America to commemorate the occasion. Read about it on our website: www.ConnextionsMagazine.com Chichen-Itza, means “at the mouth of the well of Itza,” is a large pre-Columbian city built by the Maya people in Yucatán, Mexico. The northern Yucatán Peninsula although dry, contains two large, natural sink holes, called cenotes. It is believed the cenotes provided water year round. The most famous cenote is called the “Cenote Sagrado” or Sacred Cenote. ChichenItza is the second most visited archeological site of Mexico today and The Kukulkan Pyramid, located there, was chosen as one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World” on July 7, 2007. - Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia

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Love Around the World NYC SCAVENGER HUNT PROPOSAL Xio & Tony - New York City, NY

Xio is a photographer and world traveler. Tony is a corporate lawyer. They live together in New York City, NY.

Tony and Xio discussed marriage for several months and they agreed Tony would be the one to pop the question. Tony was not worried about the answer, but as he informs Connextions Magazine, “Xio is usually the romantic one and comes up with a lot of surprising and romantic moments,” so Tony knew he would have to work extra hard to create a magical and memorable proposal. No pressure! Tony explains, “months prior, I had covert meetings with friends and family about incorporating them in a scavenger hunt throughout New York City (NYC).” The idea is for Xio to visit locations that have a significant impact in their relationship, before meeting Tony at the final location for the actual proposal. “Everyone was so excited to be part of the day, including both of our parents, who would be joining in for a clue over Skype in the middle of the day.” Yes, Tony utilized the magic of technology and social media to make this an even more memorable event. For months prior to their engagement date, Tony created a website, YouTube videos, a videogame, and recruited friends from all over the world to assist him in the proposal. Finally, the day of the proposal arrives, and in order to ensure they would be ready for the day, Tony tricks Xio into thinking they are visiting a friend in Staten Island early that morning. A couple of whitelies later “I just had to leave and get the laundry at the same time his cousin had to return a borrowed shirt,” thus giving Tony the chance to leave the house and have a camera-person (his cousin) ready to start filming the event.

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NYC Scavenger Hunt Proposal As Tony rushes to the laundromat, Xio’s cell phone starts beeping with texts, Facebook messages, and tweets from over 50 of their friends and family with one simple message: “Turn on your TV.” He finally notices the phone, his cousin inconspicuously starts filming, and the TV is turned on to an image of a smiling Sackboy, from the video game LittleBigPlanet, with the instructions to play the game. A smiling and nervous Xio plays through a customized level setting up the rules and plot for the day. The videogame showcases key moments from the couples’ relationship, but due to a “glitch” in the game, all memories of their relationship are lost and scattered throughout NYC, and it is up to Xio to collect them and make everything right again. The first clue sends Xio to the roof of their building in New York City, where one of their friends waits with a link to a YouTube video of Tony describing the next location, which is the MuNYC roofseum of Moving Images in Astoria, Queens. tops are often a gathering spot for parties and celebrations, and the views are magnificent.

The couple is passionate about film and TV; therefore, the Museum of Moving Image is a particular place of interest to them. Once he arrives, Xio is greeted by two of their friends, a gay couple and their kids, who were given a book that contained further clues. Upon entering the museum, Xio spots his friends and nervously walks up to them. The kids, excited to see Uncle Xio, start to play with him and finally everyone relaxes and the kids begin their rehearsed performance and recite a riddle, which Xio needs to decipher. The answer gives him access to another video with yet another clue to the next location. The Z NYC Hotel, where the couple spent a romantic Valentines’ weekend a few years earlier, is the next location. There, Xio meets some friends for lunch and they guide him through a series of Skype calls with family and friends around the globe, representing all the places the couple has traveled together.

Minutes away from Midtown Manhattan, the Museum of Moving Image, located at 36-01 35th Avenue in Astoria, Queens, maintains a collection of over 130,000 artifacts relating to the art, history, and technology of the moving image. The Museum recently acquired more than 400 artifacts from the family of Jim Henson and will anchor a permanent exhibition devoted to Henson’s creative process and career.

Photos courtesy of Z NYC Hotel

After deciphering his next stop by cobbling the clues from his international calls, he is sent to Columbus Circle. Upon arriving, friends of the couple improvise a radio show showcasing some of their favorite songs with, you guessed it, another hidden clue embedded in “DJ Tony’s broadcast”. (Author’s note: DJ Tony is not a real DJ.)

Photos courtesy of Museum of Moving Image

Z NYC Hotel is a boutique hotel located along New York’s East River, just steps from the Queensboro Bridge. In a slender, yet stunning 14-story tower, the 100 stylish and comfortable guest rooms feature luxurious amenities, unique artistic details and floor-to-ceiling windows highlighting the hotel’s finest asset, the Manhattan skyline.

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Love Around the World Xio is off to Nowhere Bar in the Union Square area, where the couple had their first date and where a free drink awaits him; after all this running around and Nowhere Bar, calls nerves, a drink is much needed. A friend assures him that the hunt is coming itself a great queer dive. This bar is a friendly, to an end soon and provides him with the final coordinates to his last locacheck your attitude at the tion – Chelsea Piers, where Tony had asked Xio to be his boyfriend earlier door place frequented by in their relationship and at the time, the answer was not the one he was gays & lesbians, located on expecting, but they continued to develop their relationship. East 14th Street between 1st and 2nd avenues.

Meanwhile, Xio has been collecting clues throughout the day and the camera-person and friends he met along the way have been following him. Once at Chelsea Piers, close friends and clue givers in tow, Xio walks the length of the pier where he finally meets Tony after a long day of running around New York City and hands over all of the salvaged memories. After a brief inventory, Tony tells Xio that he has missed one memory and that they cannot continue the rest of their adventure without it. Luckily for the couple, a very talented friend was able to provide the final memory by singing Elton John’s Your Song, which was featured in the first film they watched as a couple, Moulin Rogue. With all the memories collected and 8 hours of anticipation later, Tony finally gets down on one knee and makes his proposal. Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex is a 28-acre waterfront sports village located between 18th and 23rd Streets along Manhattan’s Hudson River. Opened in 1995, Chelsea Piers features sports and entertainment venues, such as: The Golf Club at Chelsea Piers, The Spa at Chelsea Piers, Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers, The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers, among others.

Tony reminisces the day, “it was then, that I was suddenly hit with nerves. I couldn’t get out of my mind what had happened before, when I had asked him to be my boyfriend. He said NO! But I swallowed my fears, and stated my case. I said “my world is a better place now that you’re in it. And I want you to be in it with me for the rest of my life. Would you please do me the honor of marrying me? At this point I’m on one knee, surrounded by not only a group of our close friends, but a growing crowd of curious New Yorkers who were speculating on what was happening and decided to join us.”

“I finally breathed as I waited his response,” Xio says, “in this place, you asked me to be your boyfriend before and I said no, because I needed time to make sure I was ready. As of today, I have nothing to think about, because I AM sure that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Yes!”

Photos courtesy of Chelsea Piers

The couple is planning a fall wedding this year.

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3 Excuses to See You 3 EXCUSES TO SEE YOU

Cody & Thomas - Ferndale, CA

Cody owns a multigenerational farm on 120 acres. The dairy produced is a purebred Jersey dairy that is certified organic, free-range, and humane, verified GMO-Free. Thomas works as a 4H Program Representative with the University California Davis and helps on the farm as needed.

Cody and Thomas’ story begins in the spring of 2007 at a Starbucks in La Grande, OR, where Cody is attending his first year of university and Thomas is finishing his senior year of high school in the nearby town of Union. One day after polo practice, Cody and a teammate go to a nearby Starbucks, where Thomas, “the most handsome guy,” is and as fate would have it, Cody’s teammate, is friends with Thomas, and introduces them. Doing what every normal person does, Cody went home to “friend” Thomas on MySpace.

Photos courtesy of Foggy Bottoms Boys

After that initial meeting their paths go different directions, as Thomas moves to Denver to attend college. As the years progress, fate once again intervenes and Cody befriends friends of Thomas’ family. The two quickly begin to hear how “perfect they would be together” and “how they need to date.” The couple simply assumes that this is a fact of living in a rural community and “as the only two” gay people in town, then of course, they should date. Cody admits to secretly carry a crush for Thomas all along. Eventually their paths cross again in La Grande, Thomas moves back after ending a relationship and Cody, who was in the midst of a failing relationship, decides to make the 13 hour trip back to La Grande to visit friends and show dairy goats. During this visit, they are invited to have dinner at a mutual friend’s ranch. What starts out as dinner, turns into an all-night of talking, sipping wine and watching a high desert lightning storm roll across the sky. The next morning, Thomas is so certain that something will blossom, that he retrieves a wine cork and writes each of their names on it and the date (this cork is now a permanent resident of their kitchen counter). Over the following months, a friendship blooms between them, though they can now admit to have felt jealousy whenever they dated someone else. www.connextionsmagazine.com

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Love Around the World Cody has a farm, and summers are a very busy time. However, the following summer, after carrying a torch for 8 years, under the pretense of attending a show, Cody makes the 13 hour drive again and manages to come up with three different excuses to leave his farm and visit Thomas. As the saying goes, third time’s a charm, and they finally click and develop a relationship. Thomas has to make trips down to California to spend time visiting and helping Cody on the farm moving irrigation, hauling hay and milking cows, providing the couple with the rare opportunity to work side by side and see each other at their best and worst very early in the relationship. After a few months of long distance dating, Thomas’ dream job opens up and as fate would have it once again, this job is only a short commute from the dairy. Everything effortlessly falls into place and three months later the couple moves in together as Thomas begins his new job. The family’s dairy legacy, now known as Foggy Bottoms Jerseys, was startAcroYoga is a ed by Cody’s great-great-grandfather, Milton Nicholson. The couple decombination of yoga, cides to own this name and call themselves the “Foggy Bottoms Boys.” acrobatics, and the healing arts and can provide physical The farm plays a huge role on their daily lives, at times they feel their lives and mental health benefits. The are dictated by the cows’ schedule. For example, milking takes about partner balancing aspect of Ac3 hours and happens twice daily, at 3 am and 3 pm, then feeding, roYoga can improve concentration, cleaning the barn and other maintenance projects like building fencrhythm and help couples to be es, chopping weeds, cutting hay or moving irrigation. Some days, the in-tune with each other, as well Foggy Bottoms Boys (FBBs) get to work together on the farm, and those as exercise, strength building and stress relief. days are filled with flirting, while working in the barn and joking around with one another as they progress through the days chores. As a result, they have designated certain times of the day to be spent with each other, such as always having a “technology-free” dinner, and an hour to practice AcroYoga together.

Photos courtesy of Foggy Bottoms Boys

On the weekends, the FBBs attempt to sneak away from the farm and go out on dates. Usually, they go to the beach, which is about 10 minutes from their home, enjoy a picnic, some wine, and yoga. Of course, their personal time is split in between having to go back to the farm at milking time. During livestock show season, the couple spends many of their weekends traveling because Cody is a dairy judge and is often called to judge and/or show cattle and goats. The couple lives together, Cody says he’s waiting for Thomas to pop the question. Their plan is to have a farm wedding and they are also looking forward to welcome children into their lives. To read more about daily life at the farm for the Foggy Bottoms Boys, visit our website: www.connextionsmagazine.com

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It Happened One Night in Italy IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT IN ITALY Eric & Jason, Manlius, NY

Eric is an attorney and enjoys comic books and traveling with his family. Jason is a school teacher by trade currently a full-time dad, author & blogger.

Photos courtesy of Jason Galvez

In 2007, Eric is & Jason spent two magical weeks in Europe in a trip that would forever change their lives. Their trip starts in Great Britain, but it is Italy that plays a huge role in their fairytale. Italy, with its rich and fascinating history, breath-taking views and architecture, simply breathes romance. Jason remembers Venice is the last city the couple visited in that trip, “in the morning, your first breath of Venice air awakes the butterflies that flutter in the depths of your soul. Each step you take on the walkways that parallel the water usher in pure fascination and enchantment!” “On our last night, shortly after dinner and an amazing theater performance, we took one of our last strolls through the city. While walking, we watched the ripples in the water and the bright moon above, as we took in Venice’s entire, natural, wondrous environVenice is known for ment. There was a light rain falling so we were sharing an umbrella as being the city where havwe walked and talked hand-in-hand, literally sensing one another’s ing a boat is not luxury, instead heartbeat. Spontaneously, we took the opportunity to share our apit is a requirement for traveling. Venice, consists of 117 bodies of land preciation for one another as we’ve grown over the past five years, connected by more than 400 bridges recalling so many fond and happy memories.” over its 150 canals, and is one of most visited cities in Italy. This unique and After discovering a remote, dry corner where the rain does not inter- romantic destination features trafficfere, the couple sits briefly in silence, when suddenly, Eric proclaiming free streets along beautiful windhis immense joy, love, adoration and admiration for their relationship ing canals and magnificent churches and palaces. presents Jason with a ring and asks if he would make him this happy

forever.

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Love Around the World Photos courtesy of Jason Galvez

Jason recalls finding himself “overwhelmed with emotions and though I found no words, there were plenty of tears to make up for it.” Jason eventually did respond by mumbling something along the lines of, “Eric I’d have to be the world’s biggest fool to love, honor, support, raise children and grow old with anyone other than you and “yes” I would!” The couple got married in 2009, seven years after they met, and their wedding had ittle touches of Venetia, to celebrate their engagement trip. The couple decided on blue and yellow for their color scheme, which are their favorite colors. The number “seven” played a special theme surrounding the wedding. The primary reason for this is because they married seven years to the day after they met. There were seven members on each side of the wedding party, their ceremony started at seven minutes after three, and many other small details, which the couple thoughtfully planned.

To merge their cultures, Eric, who is from the Philippines, wore a tuxedo. In turn, Jason wore a traditional Barong Tagalog made of pineapple fiber, which is the traditional wedding attire in the Philippine culture. Since their wedding date, Jason & Eric welcomed their baby boy, Luke, into their lives and continue to travel the world and make new memories.

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Human Rights Campaign On January 31, 2015, Connextions Magazine joined The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to celebrate the 2015 Greater New York Gala at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, as The Travel Media Sponsor. The nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization works to achieve equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. We joined over a thousand leaders, politicians and celebrities for a wonderful night of fundraising, celebrating and joining forces to continue the good fight. The evening started with a traditional red carpet entrance and silent auction, while sipping cocktails in one of the most gorgeous hotels in New York City. Followed by opening remarks from HRC President, Chad Griffin, who energized the room with his speech. One of the most memorable moments in his presentation came when Griffin was talking about how HRC needs to continue the work towards full equality and the importance of electing allies in politics. Therefore, he continues that 2016 will be a crucial year and it is up to us to make sure the next President of the US has our back and that we have “hers,” hinting of course to a certain female candidate who may rerun for President in 2016, and this was received by applause and cheers from the crowd and a smiling Griffin finishes with “or his.” GE was this year’s recipient of the HRC Corporate Equality Award. “We are pleased to be recognized by the Greater New York HRC for our ongoing commitment to create a more inclusive workplace for our employees and for our efforts to promote fairness and equality for LGBT people,” said Deborah Elam, President of the GE Foundation and Chief Diversity Officer of GE. “We believe our strength lies in our employees—in their talents, their skills and their passions. We’re proud to help our colleagues reach their full potential and contribute to the progress of the industries and communities we support.” Already providing domestic partner benefits since 2004, GE was one of the first major corporations to extend full same-sex spousal benefits to all U.S. employees soon after the Supreme Court’s decision in the Windsor case in 2013, even before the IRS issued its guidance on tax considerations. GE is also a member of the Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness, a group of leading U.S. employers that support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And just last month, GE joined 30 other American businesses urging the Supreme Court to “consider a uniform principle that all couples share in the right to marry.” During annual enrollment in October of last year, GE announced that it would offer transgender inclusive healthcare coverage for all U.S. employees, which took effect January 1 of this year. The cast and filmmakers of the movie “The Imitation Game” were also on hand to receive an award. A wonderful, moving and funny performance by singer and songwriter Mary Lambert, who made everyone fall in love with her as she performed her hits “She Keeps Me Warm,” “Secrets” and her rendition of “Jesse’s Girl.” Comedian Dana Goldberg had the entire audience on the floor laughing, while managing to raise thousands of dollars with the live auction. The evening’s closing remarks came from Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who managed to get a huge chuckle from the audience by saying it’s tough to speak towards the end of the evening, everyone is tired and probably hitting the bottle, and moved on to hitting on the people at their tables and then he says, “just remember I’m single too!” “We, who believe in freedom, cannot rest!” - Cory Booker www.connextionsmagazine.com 33


In Review By: JJ Vega

Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time Author: Elisa Rolle A​​t first, the book seemed like a daunting, scary ​task to read because of its size, it has over 500 pages. However, once the reader begins to investigate further, the size of the book becomes a non-issue​and becomes a brilliant story book​. ​Elisa Rolle brilliantly and methodically​, ​documents the love among same sex couples throughout the centuries, as far back as written records were kept. ​Particularly ​intriguing is the story of a church t​hat ​record​ ed the marriage of ​two men ​in the year 1019​, which could possibly be the earliest recorded in written history​. This and all the other stories included in this book, can provide a lot of encouragement for the LGBT community, especially for people who may be afraid to come out, ​or to counterattack ​opponents of marriage equality​, which at times use​​words like “promiscuity” when referring to LGBT couples. To read the triumphs o ​ f these couples, some unknown to us as members of the LGBT community, are of particular interest and of huge pride. If the stories o ​ f these couples w ​ ere ​discussed in the media​,​t​hen the arguments against marriage equality would be null​. I especially enjoyed reading ​and learning about those ​relationships that lasted more than 50 years​,​and ​in some cases it was documented that after one of ​the partner​‘s​death, the surviving partner would often die shortly after. ​as if to say that not not even death ​could separate them.​ These men and women, members of our LGBT community,​were pioneers​​a ​ nd start​ ed opening doors f​ or civil rights. Leaving Montana Author: Thomas Whaley The first novel by author Thomas Whaley, aims to answer the all too familiar question: “At what point do you stop blaming your parents for becoming pompous, egotistical, and sarcastic?” The main character, Benjamin, is raised as an only child, never knowing of his half-brother in Montana. Whaley allows the novel to develop a strong, independent voice and creates an interesting angle that takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster. The novel is filled with drama, which makes the reader angry, sad, jealous and trying to guess the true matters of these relationships. The novel takes the reader around areas of Long Island, New York, and parts of Montana. Family drama is displayed over and over from each family member, the influences on each other, and the surfacing of their true colors. The novel is a good demonstration that comes to play in every reader’s personal story among their own family, whether the reader cares to admit it or not. This is a great book that is appropriate for readers who may want to notice their own ups and downs, especially if trying to make peace with someone they love.

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Profile for Connextions Magazine

Connextions Magazine Issue 17: Love Around the World  

Connextions Magazine, the LGBT Travel & Lifestyle Magazine celebrates "Love Around the World." Featuring: Interview with Braden Summers, Bra...

Connextions Magazine Issue 17: Love Around the World  

Connextions Magazine, the LGBT Travel & Lifestyle Magazine celebrates "Love Around the World." Featuring: Interview with Braden Summers, Bra...