PLUS: Phoenix Pride Preview
Taking Pride in Everyone Meet LGBTQ community members who are using their experiences to make a difference all year long LGBTQ NEWS, VIEWS AND ENTERTAINMENT | VOL. 29, #7 | ISSUE 703 | APRIL 2018 | COMPLIMENTARY
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inside this issue Issue 703 | Vol. 29, #7 | April 2018
features NEWS 8
Letter From The Editor
12 News Briefs 14 Datebook PREVIEWS AND REVIEWS 52 Without Reservations 56 Opening Nights 60 Between The Covers 62 The Small Screen COMMUNITY Photo by Fernando Hernández.
63 Guest Column: Surviving Gay Conversion Therapy
64 Guest Column: Our Compassion Can Make the Difference
Only Human Find out how Bree Pear and Crissy Saint-Massey’s life experiences are fueling their commitment to healing and community.
Taking Pride in Caregiving Meet George Burson and David Samora, a Phoenix couple that’s using their caregiving experiences to help others along the way.
66 All Over The Map Photo by nightfuse.com.
ON THE COVER Bree Pear and Crissy Saint-Massey celebrate the grand opening of the Only Human headquarters in Phoenix. Photo courtesy of Only Human. PLUS: Phoenix Pride Preview
Taking Pride in Everyone Meet LGBTQ community members who are using their experiences to make a difference all year long LGBTQ NEWS, VIEWS AND ENTERTAINMENT | VOL. 29, #7 | ISSUE 703 | APRIL 2018 | COMPLIMENTARY
Phoenix Pride Preview Happy Pride! Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s festivities.
David Hernandez and Kristine W offer a glimpse at their upcoming Pride performances.
inside this issue
echomag.com web exclusives PHOTO GALLERIES Did the Echo cameras catch you out and about at this month’s events? Find out at echomag.com/ gallery/2018-photos. COMMUNITY CALENDAR From pageants to advocacy, this is where the community goes to Photo courtesy of Mikah Meyer.
Cast Your Votes The ﬁnalists for the 2018 Echo Readers’ Choice Awards presented by Smirnoff have been announced, now it’s time to cast your votes. echomag.com/cast-your-votes
Mikah Meyer Meet the LGBTQ adventurer whose national road trip led him to the Valley just in time to speak at Foothills Christian Church’s Easter service. echomag.com/mikah-meyer
ﬁnd out what’s going on in the gayborhood. echomag.com/ community-calendar COMMUNITY DIRECTORY Looking for a local group to join? Have a
Photo courtesy of clexa-con.com.
group that’s seeking new members? Either way, this is the place to connect. echomag.com/ community-directory MARKETING SOLUTIONS Find out why Echo is the publication your future clients are already reading. echomag.com/ Photo by nightfuse.com.
ClexaCon This multi-fandom event, celebrating LGBTQ women and characters in media, is headed to Las Vegas. echomag.com/clexacon
Hit Me With Your Best Shot For all the Out & About photos in this issue – and more – visit Echo’s online photo gallery. echomag.com/gallery
LETTER FROM THE editor By KJ Philp
n behalf of the entire Echo family, happy Pride and welcome to our 2018 Phoenix Pride preview issue. We have so much to celebrate this month, so let’s get to it! We’re excited to kick this issue off by saying congratulations to all the finalists of the 2018 Echo Readers’ Choice Awards sponsored by Smirnoff (meet them all on pages 24-27) and thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate their favorites. Voting is open now, so remember to cast your votes at surveymonkey.com/r/vote-2018 before March 30 to make sure your favorite finalists come out on top. This year, Echo, Smirnoff and Bliss/ ReBAR invite you to the official Readers’ Choice Awards winners reveal reception from 6 to 8 p.m. April 19 at Bliss/ReBAR. We hope to see you there! Along with this soirée, you’ll find details on this year’s official March Toward Pride events in “Datebook” on page 14. As we turn the page into April, we’re excited to offer you a preview of the 2018 Phoenix Pride Festival, a celebration of history and unity, in “United We Stand, Equality for All” on page 42. Echo got up close and personal with festival headliners David Hernandez and Kristine W ahead of their visits to the Valley, and we have a glimpse of what these two artists have been up to (hint: they both have forthcoming albums) on pages 44 and 45, respectively. The 2018 Phoenix Pride Parade presented by Bank of America will hit Third Street April 8 and conclude at the entrance of the festival. Find out more about this year’s procession, and grand marshal NBA referee Billy Kennedy, in “March Toward Pride” on page 42. This year, we made an important decision about the pride issue: After the weekend of celebrating is over, “Taking Pride in Everyone” is our effort to continue to connect our LGBTQ community by starting conversations and offering resources on some of the lesser talked about issues. Our cover models, Crissy SaintMassey and Bree Pear, are leading this effort through their brand Only Human. Find out how these local entrepreneurs are using their new business to create dialogue, support and healing among those who have experienced physical violence, sexual abuse, bullying,
depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in “Only Human” on page 28. Then, we caught up with “Love and Hip Hop” star Jonathan Fernandez following the episode of the show where, after 20 years, he confronts his family about his experience in gay conversion therapy. Read more of his story on page 62. Because of the recent headlines being made around this barbaric practice, we accepted long-time contributor David-Elijah Nahmod’s offer to share his survivor story and we invite you to find out some of the dangers and long-term effects in “Gay Conversion Therapy,” his first-hand account, on page 63. And when Echo family member emeritus Buddy Early dropped by our office asking to tackle one of the most prevalent issues facing our community, we welcomed his words of wisdom. In “Our Compassion Can Make the Difference” on page 64, he addresses some of the misconceptions surrounding the topic of suicide and offers resources to anyone who finds themselves in a place to need them. The personal accounts of bravery and survival in this issue summarize everything that pride and community stand for, and it is Team Echo’s hope that you gain a better understanding of your LGBTQ siblings’ experiences in the pages ahead. To the fearless individuals who lent their voices to these important topics, thank you. You have undoubtedly made the burden a little lighter and the future a little brighter for someone reading this. For anyone navigating any of these topics (or any other sources of adversity), we want you to know that you are not alone and that there are resources available to you. You can find various support groups year-round in Echo’s online community directory at echomag.com/communitydirectory, and don’t ever be afraid to reach out to us directly – we will connect you with the information you are looking for. If you’d rather connect in person, look for the Echo booth at the Phoenix Pride Festival. We always welcome the opportunity to meet our readers and find out what we can do for you! Happy Pride!
KJ Philp is the managing editor of Echo Magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.
LGBTQ NEWS, VIEWS AND ENTERTAINMENT PUBLISHER: Bill Orovan ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER: Bill Gemmill EDITORIAL MANAGING EDITOR: KJ Philp CONTRIBUTORS: Anthony Costello Seth Reines Tamara Juarez Julio C. Reyna Laura Latzko Terri Schlichenmeyer Liz Massey Rachel Verbits Tia Norris Nikole Tower Hans Pedersen Megan Wadding ART DEPARTMENT PHOTOGRAPHY: L.J. Garcia, Fernando Hernández and nightfuse.com. ADVERTISING DIRECTOR OF SALES AND MARKETING: Ashlee James ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES: Gregg Edelman Rosanna Portugal-Miles NATIONAL ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVE: Rivendell Media, 212-242-6863
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Phoenix, AZ 85011-6630 PHONE: 602-266-0550 EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright © 2016 • ISSN #1045-2346
Echo Magazine is published by ACE Publishing, Inc. Echo is a registered trademark of ACE Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. Written permission must be obtained in advance for partial or complete reproduction of any advertising material contained therein. Opinions expressed therein are not necessarily those of the publisher or staff. ACE Publishing, Inc. does not assume responsibility for claims by its advertisers or advice columnists. Publication of a name, photograph of an individual or organization in articles, advertisements or listings is not to be construed as an indication of the sexual orientation, unless such orientation is specifically stated. Manuscripts or other materials submitted remain the property of ACE Publishing, Inc.
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HRC Announces AZ Leadership Team Ahead of 2018 Elections The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, announced Feb. 21 that Justin Unga will lead HRC Arizona’s efforts as Arizona State Manager and Stan Williams will serve as HRC’s Arizona Deputy State Manager. The new additions to the HRC team are part of a major grassroots expansion ahead of the 2018 elections called HRC Rising – the largest strategic investment in the organization’s 38-year history, including significant investments in Arizona. Unga, who grew up in the Maryvale area of Phoenix, brings more than 10 years of political and electoral experience to the organization. Williams most recently served as operations director for the Arizona Democratic Party, where he was also training director and coordinated campaign director. “So much is at stake for Arizona in 2018, and that’s why HRC has made this
crucial investment in on-the-ground team members well before November,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC senior vice president of policy and political affairs. “Justin and Stan are proud Arizonans who will work to mobilize, activate and harness the energy of our grassroots army of more than 800,000 Equality Voters across the state who will make the difference come November. As we prepare for the next battle in the fight for full LGBTQ equality, we’re excited to have Justin and Stan on the HRC team.” Unga is the former deputy executive director for the Arizona Democratic Party, where he worked from 2007 to 2012. Subsequently, he served as U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema’s Communications Director during her 2012 run and during her first term in Congress. “HRC’s strong investment in Arizona confirms what we’ve always known about our state: LGBTQ families, our allies and Arizonans of all stripes stand ready,
together, to root out discrimination and fight for full equality,” Unga said. “We’re prepared to fight – and win.” Williams also has extensive experience in grassroots organizing through the Arizona Advocacy Network, Enroll America and Organizing for America. “Under Arizona state law I can still be fired or denied an apartment just because I happen to be gay,” Williams said. “I’m excited to join HRC to help change that. Not just for me, but countless Arizonans who simply want to be treated with respect.” Source: Human Rights Campaign.
HRC Endorses Contreras for AZ Attorney General
Lesbian Super Pac (LPAC) Endorses Kyrsten Sinema
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, announced its endorsement of January Contreras for Arizona attorney general Feb. 23.
LPAC, the country’s only lesbian political action committee, announced a new round of endorsements, including Kyrsten Sinema for U.S. Senate in Arizona Feb. 13.
“The role of attorneys general in protecting the civil liberties of all Americans – especially the LGBTQ community – has never been more important, and we are proud to endorse such a strong champion of fairness, justice and equality,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC senior vice president for policy and public affairs. “January Contreras’ strong track record as a county prosecutor and assistant attorney general make her the clear choice to defend the people of Arizona. We look forward to working with her to move equality forward in the Grand Canyon State.” Contreras has spent her career fighting for every American’s right to live safely and freely. She is the founder and managing attorney of a legal aid organization dedicated to serving youth in the foster care system and young people affected by homelessness and abuse. “I’m proud to have the Human Rights Campaign’s endorsement in Arizona’s Attorney General election,” Contreras said. “I have fought for the protection of all people and their rights throughout my career as a prosecutor, advisor to Gov. Napolitano and attorney for abused and trafficked young people, including LGBTQ youth. As Attorney General, I will put a stop to the use of taxpayer money for partisan litigation and actions that oppose equality for all. I will be an unwavering champion for the constitutional rights of LGBTQ people and all Arizonans.” Source: Human Rights Campaign. 12
LPAC endorsed four candidates at state and local levels and will continue to roll out endorsements in this critical midterm election year. “We are thrilled to continue to endorse and support more highly qualified, viable progressive candidates like [Sinema],” said Laura Ricketts, LPAC’s board chair. “More women and progressive, candidates continue to step up to the plate and we will work to provide as much support as possible … It is time to take back the seats now held by governors, senators, members of congress and others at the national, state and local levels who continue to marginalize immigrants, women, LGBTQ people and communities of color – we must stop the assault on civil rights and civil liberties this nation is facing.” Sinema is running for the U.S. Senate for Arizona and was the first openly bisexual person to be elected to Congress. Congresswoman Sinema served in the Arizona State House from 2004 to 2010 and the Arizona State Senate from 2011 to 2012. She served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2013 to present. Source: Lesbian Super Pac. news
datebook March 24
Kirby Girls 3, a drag photo exhibition featuring live performances by 16 of the country’s premiere female illusionists, will take place from 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Unexpected Gallery, 734 W. Polk St., in Phoenix. scottykirby.com
Join Fierce Friends for Phoenix, an LGBTQ social group that aims to bring the community together as one, for a special pre-Pride mixer beginning at 7 p.m. at the Clarendon Hotel’s rooftop, 401 W. Clarendon Ave., in Phoenix. facebook.com/fiercefriendsofphoenix March 29
Phoenix Front Runners present the Pride Run Phoenix, half marathon, 10K and 5K races throughout downtown, midtown and uptown. For registration, start times, awards and expo information, visit:
Break out your best rainbow ensembles for Pride Skate 2018, the biggest skate of the year (all ages), will take place from 8 to 11 p.m. at Great Skate Glendale, 10054 N. 43rd Ave. facebook.com/gayskatearizona
The 2018 Phoenix Pride Festival, a weekend designed to bring diverse LGBTQ and allied communities together for camaraderie and celebration of our past, present and future, while raising funds for the Phoenix Pride Community Programs, will take place from noon to 9 p.m. at Steele Indian School Park, 300 E. Indian School Road, in Phoenix. (See story, page 42.) phoenixpride.org/events/pride-festival April 8
The 2018 Phoenix Pride Parade, featuring more than 2,000 individual participants with decorated vehicles, colorful floats and thousands of walkers, will step off at Thomas Road and Third Street and proceed north into Steele Indian School Park, in Phoenix. (See story, page 40.) phoenixpride.org/events/pride-parade
Through April 1
The 2018 Greater Yavapai County Coalition’s Spring Gala, which will include food, entertainment, networking, a keynote speaker and more, will take place 6 p.m. at Thumb Butte Distillery, 400 N. Washington Ave., in Prescott.
The annual Arizona Renaissance Festival and Artisan Marketplace, featuring vendors and entertainment, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at the Festival Village, 12601 E. Highway 60, Gold Canyon, Ariz.
facebook.com/lgbtqyavapai March 24
LGBT Devils’ Pride (ASU Alumni Association) invites you to Jubilee, the sixth annual scholarship benefit reception that will include a cocktail hour, hors d’oeuvres, entertainment, a silent auction and scholarship presentations, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Residence Inn, 510 S. Forest Drive, in Tempe. bit.ly/2Fw4kER March 27
The 2018 Phoenix Summit on LGBTQ youth, presented by The Arizona Community Foundation’s Center for LGBTQ Philanthropy, will take place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Southwest Center for HIV/ AIDS, 1101 N. Central Ave., #200, in Phoenix. bit.ly/2DmDHfw March 29
ONE Community’s East Valley LGBTQ Business Summit, focusing on LGBTQ workplace inclusion, from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Crescent Crown Distributing, 1640 W. Broadway Road, in Mesa. RSVP: bit.ly/2FxLkGc 14
The second annual RED is the Night, an Aunt Rita’s fundraising event featuring Carmela y Mas and her eight-piece Latin Jazz-Salsa band and GLAAD awardwinning comedian Marga Gomez, will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Parsons Center for Health and Wellness, 1101 N. Central Ave., in Phoenix. auntritas.org/programs-events
Take Back the Night PHX, an event for all who stand up against interpersonal violence in our communities, will feature live music, community resources, survivor stories, a rally and march from 5 to 9 p.m. at Phoenix Civic Space park, 424 N. Central Ave., in Phoenix. takebackthenightphx.com April 8
The NOH8 Campaign invites you to join the #NOH8Worldwide movement by participating in its open photoshoot from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at W Scottsdale, 7277 E. Camelback Road, in Scottsdale. noh8campaign.com/event/open-photoshoot-in-scottsdale-az-4
Echo Magazine, Smirnoff and Bliss/ReBAR to invite you to the official 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards Winners Reveal Reception, for a happy hour honoring all our finalists and recognizing this year’s winners with awards presentations from6 to 8 at Bliss/ReBAR, 901 N. Fourth Ave., in Phoenix. facebook.com/echomagazine mark our calendars
To have your event considered for Echo’s print and online calendars, submit your event details to echomag.com/ communitycalendar. All submissions are subject to Echo’s discretion. events
OUT & ABOUT 2018 HRC Arizona Gala Feb. 24 at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix. Photos by nightfuse.com.
For more Echo photos visit echomag.com/gallery.
OUT & ABOUT The Third Annual Project Nunway Feb. 10 at the Parsons Center for Health and Wellness, Phoenix. Photos by L.J. Garcia.
For more Echo photos visit echomag.com/gallery.
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OUT & ABOUT Arizona Gay Rodeo Feb. 17 at Corona Ranch, Laveen, Ariz. Photos by nightfuse.com.
For more Echo photos visit echomag.com/gallery.
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OUT & ABOUT Melrose Street Fair March 3 along Seventh Avenue, Phoenix. Photos by nightfuse.com.
For more Echo photos visit echomag.com/gallery.
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Crissy Saint-Massey (left) and Bree Pear celebrate the grand opening of the Only Human headquarters in Phoenix. Photos by Fernando Hernรกndez.
Only Human Life experiences fuel local duo’s commitment to healing and community By Tamara Juarez
o matter where you come from or how you identify, you each have a story to tell. Your story, no doubt, is filled with chosen family, celebrations as well as the inevitable obstacles you’ve faced or battles you continue to fight. The realization that the one thing everyone has in common is adversity is what prompted two local friends to launch a unique endeavor last year. Together, Bree Pear and Crissy SaintMassey discovered the importance of storytelling as a path for healing and self-exploration. Allowing people to talk about tough issues and connect with others with similar experiences, they realized, can result in a strong network of support that encourages growth and promotes kindness. That is how Only Human was born. As a community organization fueled by kindness and social entrepreneurship Only Human exists to help empower victim of violence. “We believe in the power of humans coming together to help move us all forward in the ways that truly matter,” according to the website. “Bring your broken parts, your struggles, and your raw selves. All are welcome – come as you are.
Creating A Safe Space Initially, the business partners worked to create an online presence, distinguished Crissy Saint-Massey.
by their profoundly branded merchandise, which evolved into both a global audience and also a platform for making a difference locally. In the most fundamental sense, Only Human is good people doing good things for good causes. By teaching people of diverse backgrounds how to connect through storytelling, the organization aims to create a ripple effect within communities across the world. “Kindness is a thread that we see in the community,” Pear said. “If we are kind to one another and kind to ourselves, we can evolve more good in the community by surrounding ourselves with people who have the same goals and values.” Today, Only Human is more than a business or a brand – it’s a network of individuals who come together to share stories, seek support, overcome struggles and transform their new-found sense of empowerment into a positive force within their individual communities. And, as of March 1, is also a physical space. The grand opening of Only Human’s physical headquarters and storefront in Phoenix marked a significant step forward in its mission to help people heal and spread kindness. “This kind of space needs to exist in order for [people] to realize they need it,” Pear said. “You may feel safe behind your devices and screens, but when you’re welcomed inside [the Only Human space] and realize that what you know digitally comes to life physically, that has the power to change lives in deeper ways, because your creating social communities digitally that come to life. We need that in our world. We can’t lose that human aspect.” Pear and Saint-Massey are not merely the owners and promoters of the positivity behind the brand they’ve created, they’re also humans who turned the adversity of their pasts into good.
Leading By Example As a little girl, Saint-Massey witnessed domestic violence at home on a daily basis and was molested by someone close to her family, starting at age 4. In her online biography, she shares the trauma she experienced in her childhood and how she dreaded going home after school. “I’d often leave school, my heart beat pounding out of my chest, and wonder, ‘Is Feature Story
this the day he kills her?’” Saint-Massey moved countless times as a teen and attended 13 schools in four states before finally graduating high school, which diminished her ability and desire to connect with others. As an adult, Saint-Massey struggled to cope with her past and experienced depression and severe anxiety disorder triggered by her demanding career, strained relationship with her wife and a miscarriage. Although it took several years, SaintMassey was, at last, able to find the strength to check into a behavioral health hospital, where she found a new appreciation for the support a community can offer those in need. Having attended six schools in seven years – half of which were provoked by extreme bullying – Pear also experienced a troubling childhood, which led to anxiety, fear and a sense of distrust toward people. It wasn’t until Pear and Saint-Massey realized their pasts were still weighing down their presents that they were able to – with each other’s support – introduce a series of changes into their lives, one of which was establishing Only Human.
The “OH ha” Moment In recent years, Pear found herself feeling miserable due to the combination of a high-stress career, a toxic relationship and meaningless daily routine – and she decided to risk it all for the chance of finding true happiness. “I was just really unhappy with my life and knew I wanted to do something I felt passionate about,” Pear said. “I was ready to take the plunge.” EchoMag.com
Connect with Only Human Facebook: @onlyhumanco Instagram: @onlyhuman Blog: onlyhumanco.com/blog Website: onlyhumanco.com In person: 4700 N Central Ave., Suite 116, Phoenix
Without giving doubt a chance to set in, Pear quit her job, broke up with her girlfriend and sold her belongings. With the help of Saint-Massey, who joined Pear after quitting her own job in search for a more meaningful career and healthier lifestyle, the two set out to change their narratives. “No one else’s opinion mattered at that point,” Pear recalled. “Something inside me said, ‘This is what you’re doing. This is it. This is what you’ve been looking for.’” In the weeks that followed, Pear realized the importance of healing through storytelling and the need for a community that allowed people to simply talk without the fear of judgment. “The world is at a tipping point right now, with women’s rights coming to the forefront and voices being raised that haven’t been before,” Pear said. “We’re seeing people stand up for themselves, own their truths and talk positively about … how we want our lives to look like, instead of living in the hate [and fear] that exists in this political climate.”
The Human Element Currently, Only Human has approximately 1,000 advocates (read: brand ambassadors) in more than 25 countries, and the number is expected to continue growing as the organization expands beyond the virtual realm. After completing the online application process, advocates are given access to a private Facebook group where members can share their stories and lift each other up. Saint-Massey and Pear guarantee the page remains a safe space by reviewing all applicants to ensure they align with
the organization’s values of love, respect and kindness. Through daily discussions and a weekly Facebook Live, advocates have the opportunity to grow closer through support and are encouraged to talk about their days – good or bad – with other advocates. Only Human advocate Rebecca (Beck) Gay came across the organization via Instagram and has joined the movement, integrating its message of kindness throughout various aspects of her life. “It’s completely changed the direction, outlook … how I carry myself as a person and how I [can] better serve the people around me,” she said. “It’s shifted my life, helped me meet my tribe and realize that kindness and loving big are not abnormal ... I love that Only Human takes me for the human I am. No judgement, no conditions. I am human, and it’s reinforced every day that I am part of something bigger than myself.” Only Human advocate Ana-Maria Garcia, said she feels blessed and fortunate to have found the organization through social media. “I’m not sure I can adequately express how much it means to me to have that support group,” she said. “Anytime someone is having an off day, someone else is always there to offer support and words of encouragement. Whenever something good happens, someone is always there to congratulate them on their success. I’ve honestly never seen anything like it. There’s no jealousy or people putting down others to make
themselves feel better. It’s a group of people building each other up in every way imaginable.”
Giving Back to CommUNITY Only Human serves as an invitation for anyone to begin the healing process in a judgement-free area that encourages all humans to release their burdens, insecurities or past trauma by creating a strong network of support and learning to understand that all humans share struggles. “The healing process begins when someone is able to look at the world and say, ‘this is who I am, this is what has happened to me, and these are some of my stories. But I’m human like you,’” Saint-Massey said. “Anyone can guide you, but unless you do something, nothing is going to change.” True to its mission of kindness, Only Human donates 10 percent of all proceeds from clothing and merchandise sales to local and international charities, which have included the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality, The Breast Cancer Research Fund, Polaris, the Gary Sinise Foundation, Take Back The Night PHX, Project HEAL and PAVE – just in the past six months. Every month, advocates get the opportunity to suggest a charity and shine a light on an important topic. During the month of March, Only Human partnered with La Frontera Empact, an Arizona-based nonprofit that offers free mental health counseling to humans in need of support. “We want to connect with local organizations, because they are doing great work, and more people should know about them,” Pear said. “Like us, they have a theme of bettering humanity and helping others overcome struggles.” In the coming weeks, Only Human will have a presence at Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend in Palm Springs, March 28-April 1; Take Back the Night PHX, April 6 (where both women will be prominently involved with the programming), Phoenix Pride, April 7-8; Long Beach Pride, May 18-19; and Pensacola Pride, May 24-28. Tamara Juarez is a student at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. During her spare time she loves to read, hike and make bad puns.
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David George Burson, his mother, Gina, and
Duet. Samora in 2016. Photos courtesy of
Taking Pride in Caregiving
nces to rie pe ex ng vi gi re ca es us le up co x Phoeni help others along the way By Michelle Talsma Everson
family caregiver is someone who provides unpaid care for a loved one. More than 65 million people in the United States are family caregivers, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. The task of caregiving for a loved one can take an emotional, physical and mental toll – but finding support and resources can often help family caregivers on the daunting but rewarding journey. George Burson and David Samora, owners of Salon Georvid in Central Phoenix, have been together for 28 years. The duo has been on their own caregiving journey since 1999. “In 1989, my dad had a stroke and moved from New York to Arizona;
in 1999, he began to show signs of dementia and he and my mom moved in with us,” Burson shared. Burson’s father passed away in 2003, a transition that was devastating to the family. “[My dad’s passing] was extremely difficult for my mom – she was providing a lot of care for him,” Burson said. “Today, my mom is now 89 and has a lot of health issues herself. She is on hospice care and is still living in our home.” While caring for Burson’s parents in home, Samora helped to provide care long-distance for his own mother. “My sister was the main caregiver for my mom, who passed away, but I always did what I could from a distance,” Samora says. “My mom had Alzheimer’s disease.”
In the fall of 2016, Burson and Samora connected with local nonprofit Duet: Partners In Health & Aging. Duet promotes health and well-being through a broad range of services to homebound adults, family caregivers, faith communities and grandparents raising grandchildren. At the time, the nonprofit was shooting videos for its “Finding Meaning and Hope” video discussion series and wanted to include a diverse array of caregivers. The video series, created in partnership with Pauline Boss, PhD, thanks to a grant from Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, is a free video and discussion series for family caregivers led by peer volunteers. The series is based on Boss’ book, Loving Someone Feature Story
Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope While Coping with Stress and Grief. “We found out about Duet actually through a client at the salon who knew we were caring for my mom,” Burson recalled. “We started shooting the video series in October 2016; we – and those shooting the video series – wanted to be sure that LGBTQ caregivers were seen and represented in the series.” Two weeks before filming began, Samora’s mom passed away. “Still grieving, we wanted to participate in the video series and see what good we could do,” Samora said. According to both Burson and Samora, the video shoot experience taught them a lot. “Like a lot of people who provide care for loved ones, we didn’t realize that we were caregivers,” Samora said. “It was a very moving, eye-opening experience for us. A lot of what we had been through now had a name.” The video shoot, Burson added, helped them both to understand their caregiving journey better. “Learning about the things that Dr. Boss teaches in her book, like how to deal with guilt and how important the work of a caregiver is, really helps us to deal with the challenges,” he added. When the video shoot wrapped up, Burson and Samora decided to continue volunteering with Duet. Currently, they both regularly attend the men’s only caregiver support group; are mentors for other caregivers through the caregiver-
to-caregiver mentor program; and have volunteered at a variety of the nonprofit’s events. “We are so fortunate to have George and David as part of our Duet family,” said Daniela Saylor, family caregiver services program manager for Duet. “They’ve infused every single project they have taken on as Duet volunteers with their professionalism, decades of experience, and enormous hearts. They wear many hats simultaneously, and somehow manage to make them all look good!” Additionally, Burson and Samora will be facilitators for a “Finding Meaning and Hope” video discussion series that takes place from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Mondays at the Franciscan Renewal Center beginning April 9. The video discussion series is free to caregivers. It will be the second time the couple has facilitated a group. “The ‘Finding Meaning and Hope’ video discussion series group is like a roadmap for caregivers; it allows caregivers to open up, helps them to evolve, and ease[s] the guilt sometimes associated with caregiving,” Burson said. “Attendees from our last group left the group much stronger than they came in.” In addition to the video discussion series – which is being offered on an ongoing basis at locations across the Valley – Duet offers a wide variety of caregiver support groups as well. An LGBTQ caregiver support group is currently in the works. “Duet’s services have always been
George Burson (left) and David Samo ra.
inclusive, yet we’ve recognized that for many members of the LGBTQ community, particularly older adults who experienced major ongoing discrimination, joining a traditional support group is not comfortable,” said Ann Wheat, director of caregiver services. “We are excited to better serve the LGBTQ community by launching an LGBTQ caregiver support group. The grief, stress and isolation of caring for someone we love does not discriminate. Everyone needs support to navigate this difficult journey.” Burson and Samora both describe their caregiving journey as a roller coaster – one that has been especially challenging the past two years as Burson’s mom’s health declined. For other caregivers, the couple wants to send the message that help is out there from Duet through support groups, the video discussion series, community referrals, resources, potential respite care and more. “The year before my mom died, I didn’t even self-identify as a caregiver,” Samora said. “It’s a true relief to know that help is out there. We enjoy volunteering with Duet and, as people are living longer, we’ve realized it’s about staying active and quality of life. I’m so glad we’re out there helping other people on their caregiving journeys.” For more information on Duet, including its caregiver support groups and the “Finding Meaning and Hope” video discussion series, visit duetaz.org or call 602- 274-5022.
s pose at the end of the Duet staff, volunteers and supporter discussion taping. “Finding Meaning and Hope” video
Michelle Talsma Everson is a freelance writer and the PR coordinator for Duet: Partners In Health & Aging. You can find out more about Duet at duetaz.org or Michelle at mteverson.com. EchoMag.com
WHO | Greater Phoenix Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce WHEN | Friday, April 13th 2018, 7:30am Shotgun Start WHERE | Lookout Mountain Golf Club | Phoenix, AZ HOW | Register online at PhoenixGayChamber.org MISSION: FOR A UNIQUE FUN WAY TO SAY “THANKS” TO YOUR SPECIAL CLIENTS AND STAFF, FORGET THE OFFICE... LET’S NETWORK ON THE GOLF COURSE!
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one•n•ten youth and volunteers in the 2017 Phoenix Pride Parade. Photo by nightfuse.com.
March Toward Pride Phoenix Pride Parade celebrates past, present and future By Megan Wadding
ach year, the pride parades throughout the country serves as a space to bring diverse LGBTQ and allied communities together in celebration of our past, present and future. The 2018 Phoenix Pride Parade presented by Bank of America is no exception. And, under the same theme “United We Stand, Equality for All,” LGBTQ and allied businesses, groups and organizations politicians and luminaries will hit the streets April 8. “The 2018 Phoenix Pride Parade will see great things this year,” saidVictor Avila, Phoenix Pride program manager. “I’m definitely encouraging the organizations that are registering [to participate] to be as prideful as possible to let their message be heard.” The vibrant and colorful processionwill step off at the intersection of Third Street and Thomas Road at 10 a.m. and run down third Street into Steele Indian School Park, with announcer stages at both Osborn Road andClarendon Avenue.
Rajon Rondo – a Sacramento Kings point guard at the time – went on a homophobic rant against him. “Bill Kennedy is a friend of mine who I watched endure some disheartening events in his career,” said Mike Fornelli, Phoenix Pride’s interim executive director. According to Fornelli, Kennedy was chosen to highlight Phoenix Pride’s commitment to spotlighting the new athletic scholarship that they will to give out this year through a partnership with the Phoenix Gay Flag Football League (PGFFL). For the first time, Phoenix Pride will be giving a $1,000 scholarship to a selfidentified LGBTQ high school senior in a varsity or junior varsity sport that has plans to attend a college in Arizona. In line with the new scholarship, Kennedy attended St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix and went on to graduate from Arizona State University. “He is very much a product of our Valley of the Sun, and it made sense to choose him as a grand marshal,” Fornelli said.
“Last year, we saw over 15,000 spectators come enjoy the parade with their families and friends,” Avila said. “We’re expecting our parade to grow as it has been every year, with more floats and walkers, and many first-time marchers in the parade.”
2018 Phoenix Pride Parade 10 a.m. April 8 The parade steps off at Third Street and Thomas Road and runs to Steele Indian School Park. phoenixpride.org/events/pride-parade
Bill Kennedy was selected as the 2018 Phoenix Pride Parade grand marshal. Kennedy, an NBA referee who famously came out back in 2015 after NBA player
Megan Wadding is a freelance writer and travel addict with a degree in journalism. Follow her on Twitter at @MeganWadding.
Meet Grand Marshal Billy Kennedy Billy Kennedy is an American professional basketball referee for the NBA. Billy Kennedy is an American professional basketball referee for the NBA. He began as an NBA referee during the 1995-96 NBA season. He has refereed five NBA Finals games, as well as the 2010 FIBA World Championships and the 2012 Summer Olympics. Kennedy ejected Boston Celtics’ coach Doc Rivers from a game on March 17, 2009. As a result, Rivers was fined $25,000 for remarks he made about Kennedy after the game, and Kennedy was fined an undisclosed amount for his handling of the situation. Rivers reportedly used a gay slur toward Kennedy during the 2009 NBA Playoffs. In 2015, Kennedy ejected Rajon Rondo from a game, and Rondo used a gay slur toward Kennedy, which resulted in a one-game suspension for Rondo. Kennedy later revealed that he is gay. – Courtesy of Phoenix Pride.
Phoenix Pride Preview
Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Gay Flag Football League.
Echo: Is it too late to apply for this scholarship? Is there a specific link to apply or find our more information? Husmann: It’s not too late to apply for the scholarship, deadline is April 27. There is a link on pgffl.com/scholarship or, thanks to our friends at Phoenix Pride, you can go to phoenixpride.org/ phoenixpridecommunityfoundation/ pride-scholarships. Echo: How can the rest of the community get involved and help support this effort?
A League of Our Own
or 2018, Phoenix Gay Flag Football (PGFFL) has partnered with the Phoenix Pride Scholarship Programto offer its inaugural athletic scholarship.
of the athletic and LGBTQ community. We have to show it’s not about the person you love; it’s about the love for the game.
This year, a $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to a self-identified LGBTQ high school senior in a varsity or junior varsity sport that has plans to attend a college in Arizona.
Echo: What are some for the biggest challenges facing LGBTQ athletes today? And how does that tie into PGFFL’s mission?
Echo caught up with Joseph Husmann, PGFFL commissioner, to find out more about the importance of the scholarship as well as LGBTQ-inclusive sports,and here’s what he had to say. Echo: How long has PGFFL been working toward the goal of being a part of an LGBTQ athletic scholarship? And how did it finally come about? Husmann: We have been in the works on this for some time, it was just [a matter of] finding the right venue … to have our community connect with us to make it happen. We finalized everything, thanks to the help of AGRA, in 2017. PGFFL is dedicated to giving back and, during our volunteer time [with AGRA] in 2017, they gave us enough to start the funding of the scholarship. With their help, and the great help of HP2 Promotions and Phoenix Pride, we had the foundation to start moving forward with our vision. Echo: As the commissioner of an LGBTQ sports league, why is visibility in sports so important still today? Husmann: We have to continue to breakdown the stereotypes and niches
Phoenix Pride Preview
Husmann: The change is in the air with our LGBTQ youth, but there are still challenges of harassment, ridicule and the comfortability of being an out open student. Our league is designed to provide a safe environment for LGBTQ and allied players; to help continue their athletic developments, no matter their experiences. We want to show our youth [that it’s OK to] be yourself and be proud! You have a community of players that have different backgrounds and athletic experiences that continue to play for their love of the game. Echo: What advice would you give to anyone reading who is in a position to make a sports environment more inclusive for LGBTQ athletes? Husmann: Some of the best advice I have been given is be open minded and ready to be surprised. Each season, we have newer players coming to the field, and it’s life changing. These players bring a different standard to the field, new life and new meaning to what we do. Remember we don’t know what this league means to each player, but we do know the league means we are a family to our players.
Husmann: We are selling currently three styles of PGFFL shirts on our website, and 100 percent of the proceeds go back to the scholarship. The PGFFL is currently in works with other Phoenix athletic groups to join us and our hopes is for us all to work together and give back to our future.
Paying It Forward The Phoenix Pride Parade raises funds for Phoenix Pride and the Pride Community Grants and Scholarships Programs. The Phoenix Pride Community Grants Program is a charitable program which provides financial grants to nonprofit organizations serving Maricopa County’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. Since its inception in 2010, the Phoenix Pride Community Grants Program has awarded $90,000 in project-based grants. The Phoenix Pride Scholarship Program is a charitable program to provide scholarships to selfidentified LGBTQ college students. The funds for this program are administered by the Arizona Community Foundation. Since its inception in 2008, the Phoenix Pride Scholarship Fund has awarded $207,500 in scholarships. In 2017 Phoenix Pride distributed $35,000 in scholarships to seven community recipients. For more information on the scholarships program, or to apply, visit phoenixpride.org/ phoenixpridecommunityfoundation/ pride-scholarships. – Courtesy of Phoenix Pride.
United We Stand, Equality for All Phoenix Pride’s annual festival pairs history and unity for an inclusive celebration By Megan Wadding
Phoenix Pride Festival attendees at the Main Stage. Photos by nightfuse.com.
nder the theme “United We Stand, Equality for All” the 2018 Phoenix Pride Festival is set to welcome 37,000 attendees to Steele Indian School Park April 7 and 8. According to festival organizers, the theme speaks to the importance of the community being united under the same ultimate goal. “It simply reminds us that we are all equal and we need to stand together, no matter who we are, to eliminate the hate and discrimination in the world,” said Mike Fornelli, Phoenix Pride’s interim executive director. “We are trying to tell a story and relay a message with our theme this year that will resonate throughout the entire event.” The festival logo, a rainbow fist pumping into the air, has an intentionally political feel to it. “Of course, the raised clenched fist has been used as a symbol of solidarity and support, but also defiance, strength and resistance,” Fornelli said. “The rainbow colors, of course, represent the LGBTQ community.”
manager. “Our plan is to take us back to our roots and remind the public where we came from, how it all started and that our fight is far from over.”
Growing From Grassroots As the 38th anniversary of Pride celebrations in the Valley of the sun, this year’s festival promises to be bigger and better than ever before, with upgrades, expansions and a few surprises.
According to Avila, the Phoenix Pride staff worked especially diligently this year to bring together their best ideas for the events.
“It will remind us that, while we’ve been on the right track toward achieving our goals, it can easily change. And so, we must remember how it all started and stand united in this new world we face,” Avila explained. “In order to achieve equality for all, we must remain united as a community, regardless of how you identify. In the end, we are all trying to achieve the same goal: to be treated equally ... If we start to divide within our own community, our fight will be much harder and the road much longer. We’re stronger together.”
“[We’re] ready to have the most amazing year that Pride has ever seen,” Avila said, adding that the Phoenix Pride staff is “pumped” for the events this year.
“We [wanted to] make sure we were maximizing our efforts so that our entire community is represented at our festival,” said Victor Avila, Phoenix Pride’s program
Four more bars have been added to the festival, including a lakeside wine bar and a double-decker wrap-around Budweiser Macrobar with rooftop DJs,
“This means people can pay cash or use their credit cards at the bars ... making it an easier process,” Fornelli said.
The Right Side of History
Together, the theme and the logo serve as a welcome mat for all community members, from all walks of life, and the allies who support them.
As a festival first, point-of-sale systems will be implemented, thus eliminating the need for drink tickets and the booths that previously sold them.
For starters, festival organizers estimate that this year’s celebration will include more than 150 entertainment performances and more than 300 exhibitors.
While attendees can expect the layout of this year’s festival to besimilar to previous years, Fornelli promised there will be some new additions, including expansions of some of the more popular areas to accommodate the growth of the event.
which will be located at the North bowl, west of Erotic World.
New to the Main Stage this year is the LGBTQ History Project’s historic slideshow, a multimedia display highlighting national and local LGBTQ history.
The festival will, once again, feature the LGBT History Project booth to serve as an educational tool about the community’s past. According to Avila, the VIP tent will also house a piece of history.
Phoenix Pride Preview
Including the Main Stage, attendees will find the same five stages they’re familiar with, each with a talent-packed itinerary (for details, see page 48).
wood designs on display and available for purchase. Additional booths, such as henna and body painting, will bring live and interactive elements to the Arts Expo.
The Main Stage
In recent years, the addition of the Chalk Walk in the arts expo has invited attendees to participate in the arts experience by leaving their mark on the community chalk painting project. There will also be a painting competition, sponsored by AZ Art Supply and judged by a panel of experienced local artists.
The Main Stage, presented by Bud Light, is home to a combination of local artists and bands, drag performances and headlining acts. On April 8, the Main Stage will be hosted by AfeelyaBunz and Barbra Seville and will feature performances by Phoenix Pride Royalty, Haus of K, Vizin, R&B vocalist Thelma Houston, Los 5, Barbra Seville’s Phoenix Phollies and pop diva Bebe Rexha. The following day, Olivia Gardens and Barbra Seville will welcome Phoenix Pride Royalty, Spotlight, Country Idol winners, Stash, local Selena cover band Los Chicos Del 512, “American Idol” season 7 finalist David Hernandez, internationally renowned singersongwriter Kristine W and ’80s electropop band Berlin featuring Terri Nunn.
The Tish Tanner Community Stage Each year, show directors from Phoenix and Tucson are invited to put together show segments featuring entertainers from bars, organizations or troupes for performances on the Tish Tanner Community Stage. “The purpose of the Tish Tanner Community stage is to highlight our local entertainers,” Avila said. “Every year, we highlight the incredible talents that entertain our community day after day.” This year the Community Stage, managed by Johnny Stevens, will also feature a sports panel discussion, with members of local sports organizations, from 1 to 1:30p.m. on April 8. “The panel will consist of former/ current athletes that have come out and prominent figures in a variety of sports leagues,” Avila said. “This is being spearheaded by our newest sponsor, the Arizona Diamondbacks.”
Dance Pavilion Day or night, the festival’s Dance Pavilion offers a high-energy atmosphere where local DJs showcase their sets dance, pop and top 40 sets all weekend long. This 10,000-square-foot space, managed by Atlas Harbaugh, includes tent-covered dancefloor and various fixtures that light up as the sun sets each evening. Each year, festival organizers enhance the Dance Pavilion in various ways. And, according to Avila, this year is no exception – but attendees will have to wait to see in person. “Exciting things are happening at the dance pavilion,” he teased.
KidSpace Stage As LGBTQ families continue to grow, so does the festival’s commitment to entertainment for all ages. Each year, the KidSpace Stage and surrounding area is created specificallywith families in mind. Here, children ages 4 to 12 years old, are invited to participate in such pride festivities as a bounce house, facepainting, arts and crafts, performances and other entertainment.
Erotic World Now in its eighth year, the festival’s Erotic World, managed by Jim Ward, is also getting
bigger and better. According to Fornelli, the area’s footprint has been expanded to allow more space for both guests and vendors. For attendees ages 18 and older, Erotic World is a free all-adult venue that brings together adult retail, entertainment, fetish demonstrations, Q&A panels, exotic dancers, various other performance and more.
The VIP Experience Attendees (ages 18 and older) who opt for the VIP Experience will also notice some enhancements made to the designated section this year. According to Fornelli, Volkswagon North Scottsdale was brought in as the title sponsor for the VIP Experience, and Vermillion Events was hired to create an ambiance that’s consistent with this year’s theme. In addition to the air-conditioned luxury lounge with its own full private bar, fronts rows facing the Main Stage, cell phone charging stations, executive restrooms, cocktail table service, upgrades include a VIP fast-pass line, a photo-booth, complimentary massages and pop-up entertainment exclusive to the VIP Experience. Two-day passes to the Phoenix Pride VIP Experience are available in advance for $77.56 at phoenixpride.org/events/ pride-festival/vip-experience.
Phoenix Pride Festival Noon-9 p.m. April 7-8 Steele Indian School Park 300 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix phoenixpride.org/events/pride-festival Megan Wadding is a freelance writer and travel addict with a degree in journalism. Follow her on Twitter at @MeganWadding.
Bistro Stage The Bistro Stage, managed by Dawn Bowman, offers a more artsy, laid-back atmosphere thatwill showcase jazz and acoustic musicians and bands throughout both days of the festival. Located under a tent, the Bistro Stage will also offer a shaded seating area, a coffee house and is home to the festival’s art exhibitors. Now in its eighth year, the festival’s Arts Expo will feature a collection of artist booths, from photography and custom-made jewelry to fine art and
Phoenix Pride Preview
Phoenix Pride Festival’s Dance Pavilion.
Photo by Bobby Quillard.
Hernandez: I’m a huge fan of Hamilton. My agent had heard me rapping a demo and thought it sounded good, so he referred me to Cleopatra Records and we decided on that song and two others. It was unexpected, but a lot of fun recording. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be in that musical! Echo: It might surprise our readers to learn that you used to perform with Valley Youth Theatre. Do you have any theatre aspirations these days? Hernandez: I did perform with them! That’s where I got my start in theater and I would love to be on Broadway one day! Echo: Do you have any other plans for while you’re back in the Valley? Hernandez: Well all of my immediate family lives in Arizona, so I plan on seeing them and I know they’ll be at the pride performance. I love Bliss/ReBAR downtown. The owners are good friends of mine and I always make sure to visit when I’m home.
David Hernandez Valley native dishes dishes on new music and homecoming ahead of pride performance By Staff
Following the release of his latest single., “Shield (Coat of Armor),” Echo caught up with Hernandez and here’s what he had to say. Echo: You’re widely known as an “American Idol” finalist, but what would you consider your biggest career achievement? Hernandez: Honestly, performing for our troops overseas has been a huge honor. I’ve been to Abu Dhabi, Qatar, and later this year, Kuwait. Shaking hands with the servicemen and women who fight for the things we often take for granted is humbling. I also had the pleasure of opening for John Legend in 2008 at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in D.C. Echo: Last year you made headlines for coming out publically – congrats, btw. If APRIL 2018
Hernandez: Being in my hometown always excites me ... this marks a return to the state that raised me. I learned to sing and perform in Phoenix! I’m grateful to be coming back and putting on a show for everyone that has seen me grow up. Echo: What can Pride attendees expect from your performance?
or David Hernandez, headlining the 2018 Phoenix Pride Festival is more than just a homecoming. It also marks the 10-year anniversary of the Valley native’s appearance on season 7 of “American Idol” – an experience that launched his career into the mainstream.
Echo: This will be quite the homecoming for you. What excites you most about performing for the audience at the Phoenix Pride festival?
you could choose, what would you want your big headline of 2018 to be? Hernandez: Thank you! I wouldn’t mind a headline like “Platinum selling singersongwriter David Hernandez.” Lol. But I’ll settle for anything positive and uplifting. Echo: For now, the headlines are all about “Shield (Coat of Armor),” what makes this song special to you? Hernandez: The vulnerability of it. I think we all need our solid rock, friend, or shield to help us in this life. It’s important to stand up for others when they are too weak to stand for themselves and vice versa. Having someone to count on is important. We all need someone. Echo: Any details on a highly anticipated forthcoming album that you can share with us at this time? Hernandez: The only thing I can say is, IT’S COMING! But it takes a lot of work. I don’t want to just throw something out there, which is why it’s taken so long … Echo: Last year you release your version of “Alexander Hamilton,” how did that come about? Are you a big Hamilton fan?
Hernandez: Definitely a band and lots of high energy, but also some ballads that move the soul. I will be debuting my original music from the upcoming album as well. Echo: Having observed the LGBTQIA+ community in so many different parts of the world, what observations have you made? Hernandez: I feel like we are all growing and that strides are being made for us to be accepted and appreciated. We continue to fight for our rights and progress is definitely being seen. I’m proud of how far everyone has come and it’s important to stand tall and continue this journey. David Hernandez will perform on the Phoenix Pride Festival’s Bud Light Main Stage April 8 at 6:30 p.m.
READ THE REST For Echo’s full interview with David Hernandez, visit echomag. com/david-hernandez.
Phoenix Pride Preview
Echo: Congrats on the success of your most recent single, “Stars.” What was your inspiration behind this song?
The queen of dance music returns to Arizona to complete her pride trilogy By Staff
hile she’s known internationally as the queen of dance music, in Arizona Kristine W is now known as the queen of the pride stages. Phoenix Pride’s announcement of the Las Vegas- based recording artist as a 2018 festival headliner launched her into an elite group of artists who have performed at all three of Arizona’s pride festivals (Flagstaff, Tucson and Phoenix). On the heels of her latest release, “Stars.” Echo caught up with Kristine W and here’s what she had to say. Echo: Congrats on headlining all three Arizona pride festivals – the trilogy. What are some of the elements that set pride and LGBTQ audiences apart? Kristine W: LGBTQ audiences are so fun and really celebrate their prides. You can feel the energy and the community as they celebrate their accomplishments together. It really is wonderful to be a part of the celebration.
Echo: What role would you estimate music plays in that evolution? Kristine W: Music is a great way to communicate ideas and it definitely brings people together. Music is magic! Echo: You’re in a unique position with your music – it’s a place people can celebrate despite what’s going on in the world around them – how do you use this platform to promote equality? Kristine W: I try to express what I see others are feeling and, oddly enough, it usually ends up aligning with something that happens to me in the course of writing a song. We are connected in this journey, so I guess it only makes sense. Bringing positive messages through music is a tough, job so I focus first on lifting people up with my work.
Kristine W: “Stars” is a really special song and it took a long time to write, produce and to get it released. It was a very personal song because so many things – good and bad – happened to me and others in the three years that I kept revising the song. It continued to evolve with all the remixes happening during that time, too. Echo: Everyone’s waiting for details on your next album, any hints for us? Kristine W: I have a new album coming and it’s been quite a journey, so I’m excited to share it. It’s living proof that we can dance through anything life throws at us as long as we keep looking up … see you at Pride. Love you all! Kristine W will perform on the Phoenix Pride Festival’s Bud Light Main Stage April 8 at 6:30 p.m.
READ THE REST For Echo’s full interview with Kristine W, visit echomag.com/ kristine-w.
Photo courtesy of Kristine W.
Echo: You’ve been a staple on LGBTQ dance floors for more than two decades now, since you released “Feel What You Want.” Do you think the message of that anthem is still relevant today? Kristine W: “Feel What You Want” is a dance anthem that has a message that is universal and timeless. I’m so thankful it was my first hit because it paved the way for more dance songs, from myself and others, that have great positive messages. It will always be relevant! Echo: From your perspective, how have you seen the global LGBTQ community evolve throughout your career? Kristine W: I think the LBGTQ community has become more organized and tolerant of each other [and] definitely works more effectively as a team. [It’s members] have realized that they are stronger together. I remember when the bears didn’t like the twinks, who didn’t like lesbians, who didn’t get along with the drag queens, etc. [The] bottom line [is that] people didn’t play well together. That has changed dramatically over the past two decades. There is so much good being done by a very diverse LGBTQ community and it makes my heart happy seeing all the togetherness. Phoenix Pride Preview
Phoenix Pride Festival Headliners Thelma Houston Pop/Disco/Motown/R&B legend Thelma Houston brings decades of experience captivating audiences around the world with her signature blend of high-energy dance classics and soulful ballads.
Bebe Rexha Singer/songwriter Bebe Rexha burst onto the scene in 2013 when she penned “Monster,” a song that became a worldwide hit for Eminem and Rihanna, going RIAA quadrupleplatinum stateside. She wrote and was featured on Cash Cash’s “Take Me Home” and Pitbull’s “This Is Not A Drill”, in addition to writing Tinashe’s “All Hands On Deck” and Selena Gomez’s “Champion.” Her 2015 debut EP, I Don’t Wanna Grow Up boasts the singles “I Can’t Stop Drinking About You” and “I’m Gonna Show You Crazy.” That same year, she co-wrote and carried
instantly recognizable hooks for the double-platinum “Hey Mama” by David Guetta, Nicki Minaj and Afrojack which was nominated for a Billboard Music Award for Top Dance/ Electronic Song, and the Billboard Hot 100 smash “Me, Myself, & I” with G-Eazy. Rexha released her debut album, All Your Fault: Part 1 and All Your Fault: Part 2 in 2017 and her most recent single, “Meant to Be” with Florida Georgia Line, is currently topping the charts at No. 1 on Billboard Hot Country. Bebe Rexha will take the Phoenix Pride Festival’s Main Stage April 7 at 8 p.m.
With Motown Records, Houston claimed the top of the Pop, R&B and Dance charts with her high-powered rendition of “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” That Gold Record classic gave Thelma the distinction of being the first solo female artist at Motown to win the Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1977. With 23 albums, Houston continues to dazzle audiences worldwide, including an appeared before the Pope as part of The Sisters of Glory and a performance at President Barack Obama’s inaugural events. Houston is known for her dedication to humanitarian causes, including her tireless efforts in the battle against AIDS and her deep commitments to the Human Rights Campaign. Thelma Houston will take the Phoenix Pride Festival’s Main Stage April 7 at 5 p.m.
Los 5 is an independent band that was formed in Los Angeles, by way of Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. This group of multicultural musicians – Juan Pablo, Matt Rey, Ismael Cano, Hector Rodriguez and Tomas Slemenson – is inspired to project positivity in the world through music its fusion of pop, R&B, dance music and hip-hop, in both English, and Spanish. Los 5 released its debut EP, Meet Los Five, in 2016 and has since released several successful singles, including “LADRÓN” featuring Maffio, “Cosa Bonita,” “Same Mistakes” and “Satisfaction.”
Los 5 46
Los 5 will take the Phoenix Pride Festival’s Main Stage April 7 at 6 p.m.
Phoenix Pride Preview
VIZIN Vizin (pronounced, vision) is the Los Angeles-based, Native American drag queen who’s latest single “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” debuted over Taylor Swift on the Billboard Dance Club Songs Chart, reaching No. 24, late last year. The video for her cover/remix of Sylvester’s 1978 disco hit features cameos from “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” alumnae Manila Luzon and Mariah Balenciaga, as well as Eric Leonardos of Logo’s “Finding Prince Charming,” and was directed by Jose Omar and Leo Madrid.
Berlin featuring Terri Nunn This Los Angeles-based synth pop group, founded by bassist John Crawford, singer Terri Nunn and keyboard player David Diamond, made its first national impression with the provocative single “Sex (I’m A...)” from the gold-selling debut EP Pleasure Victim in 1982. The group was filled out by guitarist Rick Olsen, keyboard player Matt Reid, and drummer Rob Brill. Berlin’s first full-length LP was Love Life in 1984. The following year, the group was pared down to a trio of Crawford, Nunn and Brill. In 1986, Berlin topped the charts with the unforgettable, intimate and strikingly love song, “Take My Breath Away.” The
VIZIN will take the Phoenix Pride Festival’s Main Stage April 7 at 4 p.m.
ballad’s defining role in Top Gun has also helped solidify the band’s everlasting place in American pop-culture. The Los Angeles-based band just released its seventh album, Animal. The new 12-track project explores contemporary electronic dance music while remaining true to the groundbreaking sound and signature vocals that continue to define Berlin. The first single, “It’s the Way” is a confessional ballad about “a fear of connection.” Berlin featuring Terri Nunn will the Phoenix Pride Festival’s Main Stage April 8 at 8 p.m. Read Echo’s previous interview with Terri Nunn at echomag.com/terri-nunn.
Los Chicos Del 512 Los Chicos del 512, a mind-blowing experience Selena tribute band, is fronted by Evelyn Molina, a San Luis, Ariz., native who starred on “La Voz” season 4. As the band’s lead vocalist, Molina will take the stage with Martin Peralta on the acoustic and electric guitars, Jesus Cordova on the bass, Alex Yanez on the timbales, Jimmy Arce on the congas, Ricardo Madrid on the keyboards and Mario Hernandez on the drums. Together, the band performs all Selena’s greatest hits, both English and Spanish songs. According to Molina, “It’s a complete Selena experience. We do more than just singing songs. You have to see the show to understand!” Los Chicos Del 512 will take the Phoenix Pride Festival’s Main Stage April 8 at 4:30 p.m. Read Echo’s previous interview with Los Chicos Del 512 at echomag.com/los-chicos-del-512.
Phoenix Pride Preview
Phoenix Pride Festival Schedule of Events Bistro Stage
Main Stage April 7
April 7 1-1:55 p.m.
Phoenix Pride Royalty
Kristofer & Krew
H.O.K. (Haus of Kunt)
The Random Gingers
Rachel Sage & The Sequins
The Christie Huff Band
Barbra Seville’s Phoenix Phollies
Karen O’Brien Band
April 8 1-1:55 p.m.
Phoenix Pride Royalty
Country Idol Winners
Los Chicos Del 512
Ghost Cat Attack
David Hernandez & Kristine W
Carol Pacey & Andy Borunda
Berlin featuring Terri Nunn
Art Contest Winners
April 7 12:30-1 p.m.
Phoenix Pride Royalty Welcome
Afeelya Bunz & Friends
Arizona Entertainer of the Year
Diva’s Tucson Hour
DJ Nathan Quinn
Phoenix Pride Contestants
DJ Johnny Noir
The Next Big Star
Ruby Reynolds Latin Hour
Taylor Rene & Friends
Phoenix Pride Preview
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Tempe Public Market Café Story and photos by Rachel Verbits
appy Gaypril! And what does Gaypril have to do with dining, you ask? Simply put, Gaypril is (loosely) the time period between the Arizona Gay Rodeo and LGBTQ Pride Month that – for Arizonans – also ushers in Spring Training, street fairs and music festivals, all of which combine our two favorite things: dining and the outdoors. Of course, there are far too many events to taste our way through, so we went ahead and hit one of the Southeast Valley’s newest permanent fixtures that brings our two favorites together seven days a week: Tempe Public Market Café. The team behind St. Francis and the Phoenix Public Market Café have cooked up another hit, which opened Jan. 12, and they’re serving up nourishing, wholesome meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Located at the northeast corner of Rural and Warner roads, Chef Alex Chamberlin’s newest creation is as tantalizing aesthetically as it was to our palate.
Billed as a casual neighborhood hangout, the café embodies a relaxed vibe with booths, couches and tables for gathering around coffee, cocktails or scratch-made dishes. The restaurant opens up to a dog-friendly outdoor seating area, complete with a bar that faces the kitchen, a fireplace and somewhat shaded area (those seats go fast).
food that Tempe Public Market Café prides itself on. Behind the registers, you can glimpse the staff putting the finishing touches on meals before they’re whisked out of the semi-open kitchen. The parade of fresh, hot dishes offered us a preview of what was to come, and actually helped us decide which selections to make.
Right away, we noticed that “building community through food” is more than just the building’s tagline. While waiting in line, guests are tempted by an array of items – from locally sourced honey and smallbatch tonic water to Arizona wine glasses and mugs – available for purchase. Tempe Public Market Café proudly supports local businesses and highlights their products in a way that elevates their very own food. And reading about each business and seeing what they had to offer was an educational way to pass the time as we waited in the weekend lunch rush to approach the counter to place our order.
But first things first. Since we were there on a particularly warm day (which we know is just the start of many), I opted for one of the café’s signature cocktails. Shaping up to be one of the most popular options, Live And Let Bee is hand crafted with gin, honey, lavender and lemon juice and it just tastes like springtime, and was BORN to be enjoyed outside under the sun. Local beer aficionados will appreciate the San Tan Hefeweizen, the Pedal Haus IPA, the OHSO Morning Brew or the Tempe Market Light Lager (which, fair warning, is from Rochester, N.Y.) on tap. And fear not, there’s a full espresso bar, too.
It was at this point that we got our first glimpse at the made-from-scratch
Left to right: Baker’s Quiche, Market Special Pizza and Pork Chile Verde Pot Pie.
Tempe Public Market Café 8749 S. Rural Road, Tempe Hours: 7 a.m.- 10 p.m. Mon-Sun 480-629-5120 tempepublicmarket.com Rachel Verbits is a published writer and a selfproclaimed foodie who spends her time exploring all the amazing eats Arizona has to offer. Left to right: Live And Let Bee and Side Salad.
The best part of our Saturday brunch visit was that we were able to sample both breakfast (served 7 a.m.-3 p.m.) and lunch (11 a.m.-close). With the best of both worlds at our fingertips, we didn’t hesitate in mixing and matching from the simple, health-focused menu that showcases breakfast favorites, freshbaked pastries, hearty sandwiches, crisp salads and handmade pizzas (baked in a wood-fired oven). We dove into breakfast with a slice of the Baker’s Quiche, which packed eggs, goat cheese, chives and green onions into a buttery, flaky crust. Served atop a roasted red pepper sauce and accompanied by a petite side of mixed greens, it was the perfectly light bite to get our day going. Lunch and dinner is really where Chef Aaron Chamberlin flexes his culinary muscles. The menu is designed to satisfy anyone, regardless of their appetite or what time of day they arrive, and offers selections ranging from hearty sandwiches and burgers to lighter house-made soups and rice bowls. Here, the wood-fired pizza selection offers a unique twist on familiar pies. My dining partner and I took a leap of faith and ordered the Market Special, which comes with a variety of rotating local and seasonal combinations from the farmers
market. At the time of our visit, the toppings included braised leeks, shaved Brussels sprouts, Parmesan, Meyer lemon and a mozzarella blend. The mild cheese danced with the citrus in a perfect balance – which served as a reminder that pizza is a versatile, but reliable vessel that’s capable of tying together diverse flavor combinations (read: we didn’t miss the pepperoni one bit). Always a sucker for a house specialty, the Pork Chile Verde Pot Pie caught my attention (check out the specials on the menu board after 5 p.m.), and I subsequently noticed these dotting nearly every table in the establishment – for good reason. Baked in a housemade pie crust, the tender pork was complemented by a savory sauce and array of veggies. This pie is the perfect size for one, or sharing if you’re ordering tapas, but there’s limited availability, so visit early in the day or be prepared to share this popular selection.
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Adding Tempe Public Market Café to your list of patio musts this season would be reason enough to celebrate, but the fact that there’s enough of a variety to please even the most particular palate – three meals a day, seven days a week, throughout all four seasons – is what will most-certainly keep you coming back for more. Left to right: Rice Bowl and Fried Chicken Sandwich.
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Spring Themes Gammage shows bring LGBTQ characters to Valley stage By Seth Reines
his spring, ASU Gammage presents two 2016 Tony Award-winning productions with a rainbow of vibrant on-stage characters. The Color Purple will take the stage from April 17-22 and The Humans playing May 29-June 3
The Color Purple, April 17-22 Celie Johnson, the central character in The Color Purple, endures a life of abuse before finally finding a path to joy and happiness. She is made pregnant twice by her father, who gives the children away. She is later forced to marry a man who beats her and brings home his fancy woman, Shug Avery, to flaunt in front of her. Shug is a sultry blues singer who takes a liking to Celie and teaches her that tenderness is permitted, that sex can feel good, that she has a beautiful smile and that she should stand up for herself. Shug: [Speaking to Celie] More than anything, God love admiration.
intentional, and I reduced it to a simple kiss. I got a lot of criticism for that.” In 2005, The Color Purple made it to the Broadway stage as a musical produced by Quincy Jones and Oprah Winfrey with LaChanze (Rhonda Sapp) as Celie and Elisabeth Withers-Mendes as Shug. Unfortunately, the tender intimacy of Celie and Shug’s relationship was lost in the vastness of the production. Finally, in 2015, Celie and Shug’s voices were clearly heard in The Color Purple’s Tony-winning revival, brilliantly directed by John Doyle. The New York Times raved, “We see the tenderness – and the need to be cared for – that Celie sees in Shug. And we understand why these mismatched women would fall for each other. Their climactic duet at the end of the first act [‘What About Love?’] for all its gentleness, is still the most sensual love song on Broadway this season.”
Celie: You saying God is vain?
The Humans, May 29-June 3
Shug: No, not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it.
Aimee Blake is not in a great place personally or professionally, but her problems aren’t exclusively those of an LGBTQ character. Playwright Stephen Karam introduces Aimee’s sexuality without fanfare: she’s recently learned that she’s no longer on track to make partner at her law firm, she’s heartbroken after being dumped by her longtime girlfriend and she’s suffering from ulcerative colitis.
The Color Purple, began as the 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by American author Alice Walker, the first AfricanAmerican woman to receive the award. Walker, an out bisexual, asserts that Celie and Shug were in every sense a couple. When The Color Purple became a popular film in 1985, director Steven Spielberg softened the relationship between Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) and Shug (Margaret Avery) likely due to the stigma of being LGBTQ in America at the height of the AIDS crisis. Spielberg now admits, “I basically took something that was extremely erotic and very 56
Although all of Karam’s plays feature LGBTQ characters, the 30-something out playwright has explained that his characters can exist onstage without the formerly requisite coming-out scenes, thanks to the work of such earlier gay playwrights as Larry Kramer and Tony Kushner.
Stephen Karam’s The Humans, which won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Play, is a oneact (95-minute) character-driven dramedy with the action unfolding in real time. Erik and Dierdre Blake, a lower-middle class Irish Catholic couple, are traveling from their home in Scranton, Penn., with Momo, Erik’s mother who is wheelchair-bound and has dementia. The trio is heads to Manhattan for Thanksgiving dinner with their younger daughter, Brigid, an aspiring composer who works as a bartender; her boyfriend, Richard; and their older daughter, Aimee. Variety wrote of The Humans, “Each and every character is enormously appealing, and Karam takes care to reveal their guarded secrets with great tenderness, just as Mantello’s directorial hand gently advances the play from comedy to tragedy. The revelations of weakness in this closeknit family are not entirely unexpected — lost loves, failed jobs, depression, money troubles, health problems, unpardonable misjudgments and the overwhelming pain of grief and regret.” The big question, of course, is whether the Blakes can survive after this emotional holiday together. Karam doesn’t make it easy for them – or us – and the ambiguous ending seems to tilt toward darkness, but don’t bet on it. Karam has also taken great care to show us that the members of this family truly love one another, and is there a more powerful force than that? For more information on The Color Purple or The Humans, visit asugammage.com M. Seth Reines is an award-winning theater buff who has directed more than 500 productions nationally for stage and television, and formerly served as head of Roosevelt University’s musical theatre program.
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between the covers
Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation By Terri Schlichenmeyer
ou had no idea. How could you know? No one ever told you, nobody sat you down to explain what was what. You were blissfully unaware, kept in the dark for far too long, but read Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation by Jim Downs, and you may see the light on a few things. Years ago, when he was a college student, Downs spent evenings with his best friend in a back room in the William Way Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in Philadelphia, poring through archives. Then, he had no idea of the value of the old newspapers and articles he’d found but after seeing a documentary on the 1970s and AIDS, he suddenly understood. Bothered by conclusions drawn in the movie – specifically, what he felt was a focus on promiscuous sex – he returned to the archives. It was there that he saw how much of LGBTQ history is unknown or misunderstood. His research led to this book. One of the more shocking things he discovered was “the largest massacre of gay people in American history.” It happened on June 23, 1973, in New Orleans: a group of 120 gay, lesbian and straight worshippers were holding a church service on a Sunday night on the second floor of a building in the French Quarter. They were members of the Metropolitan Community Church, which had been established so that LGBTQ individuals had a safe, inclusive place to worship. On that night, they were raising
their voices in song when a still-unknown person threw flammable liquid on the stairs, trapping the congregation. Thirty-two people died that night. Downs writes of a New Yorker with a “vision” of a bookstoreslash-gathering-place for “homophiles” to mingle and share ideas, rather than their bodies. He explains how a soon-to-befamous writer was relentless in his search for gay history in Nazi Germany. He examines how activism and gay politics spurred the creation of gay newspapers, and how LGBTQ publications affected “people of color” and domestic workers. Coming fullcircle, he shows how gay churches and newspapers supported gay men in prison.
Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation by Jim Downs. Basic Books, 2016 | $27.99.
In any history, there’ll always be surprises, facts and tales that are forgotten or ignored until someone finds and reveals them anew. And that’s exactly what Downs has done here in Stand by Me. Starting with upset over what he perceived to be a simplistic premise for a
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Older LGBTQ readers may not see anything new or shocking here, but younger community members will truly find some eye-openers. If you don’t know what you don’t know, Stand by Me will give you some ideas.
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documentary, Downs moves on to a story that was largely ignored by nationwide news outlets, then to activists and beginnings of an LGBTQ press. His narrative encompasses the years roughly prior to Stonewall through about the late 1970s, and it includes a number of coincidental connections that are nicely revealed. This book is informative, sometimes horrifying, interesting and, unlike your old high-school history books, it’s never dry.
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Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Bookworm, lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 13,000 books. She’s been reading since age 3 and, to this day, she never goes anywhere without a book. books
THE SMALL SCREEN
Reality star shares how he survived gay conversion therapy By David-Elijah Nahmod
onathan Fernandez, a breakout star on season 8 of VH1’s “Love and Hip Hop,” credits Vice President Mike Pence for inspiring him to go public with his story.
mom that he wanted to discuss what had happened to him for the first time on “Love and Hip Hop,” a choice he not only made for himself, but also for others.
Pence has long been a supporter of gay conversion therapy, the now debunked “treatment” which has been said to “cure unwanted same-sex attractions.”
“I think if we have this conversation on camera we can possibly change the lives of others and make a difference,” Fernandez recalled telling his mother.
Thousands of LGBTQ-identified youth are routinely subjected to these practices. Fernandez was sent by his mother to gay conversion therapy in the Dominican Republic when he was 10 years old. Like many gay kids, Fernandez’ childhood was not a happy one. “I was bullied every single day,” he recalled. “I would come home defeated and sad. I don’t recall one day when my mom and grandma weren’t hurting because of me.” Unlike other kids in his school and around his neighborhood, Fernandez was displaying many feminine characteristics. “No child at 10 is thinking about sexuality,” Fernandez recalled. “I didn’t realize what it was … I knew that I was different and that it would help if I was more like other boys.” It was his mom who made the decision to send him to a doctor in in the Dominican Republic where he was subjected to hormone therapy treatments against his will, left in a room alone and repeatedly attached to a lie detector, during which time he was interrogated. If he gave the “wrong answer,” Fernandez was zapped with electricity. “I’d rather be beaten up at school then go through this with that man again,” he said of the doctor who treated him. “If you’ve ever seen documentation of people who’ve been interrogated and admitting to things they did not do – that’s what it was like. I totally get that he was trying to alleviate my hell, but he created a worse hell.” For two decades, Fernandez was haunted by the horrific memories of this experience that he was forced to live with. But a few months ago, he decided that it was time to heal his wounds. He told his 62
As the cameras rolled, Fernandez tells his mother and sister how much they mean to him. “Getting bullied was by far some of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through,” he explained to them. “I would come home sometimes in tears and I could see the pain in your eyes. I could see that you’d want to cry when you would see me hurt.” “That is why, when you were just 10 years old I had to send you to DR,” says Fernandez’ mom. “It was so much pain for us.” “I know why you did it,” he tells her. “But that was a nightmare for me.” As part of the episode, Fernandez tells his mom how painful the hormone therapies were. He recalls being attached to the machines which zapped him with electricity.
Photo by Johan Salvador.
“I didn’t know,” his mother replied through tears.
Echo. “Because the pain that I endured will never go away.”
In a one-on-one clip with the camera, Fernandez explains that he will no longer let this obstacle stand between his relationships with his mother and sister.
Additionally, Fernandez shared that he has tried to find the doctor who treated him but has been unsuccessful.
“I don’t resent my mother anymore,” he says. “I’ve heard her side of it. It must be difficult to be the mother of a child who’s picked on every day. Talking about all of it helped my relationship with my mom.”
“I would love to have a conversation with this doctor,” he said. “I want to face the person who did this to me.” Fernandez intends to continue speaking out and sharing his story.
Today, Fernandez has a wonderful rapport with his family.
“[Conversion therapy] destroyed my childhood,” he said. “I’m not going to let it destroy my manhood too.”
“I hope that any parent who is considering subjecting their child to this will reconsider,” Fernandez expressed to
To learn more about the dangers of conversion therapy and how you can stop it, visit action.vh1.com. TELEVISION
Guest Columnist “If there’s one thing I want people to understand, it’s that conversion therapy does actual harm.” – David-Elijah Nahmod
Surviving Conversion Therapy By David-Elijah Nahmod
n 1964, when I was 8 years old, my parents had me committed to a mental hospital in New York City. Years later, when I asked my mom why they had done this, her reply shocked me: “Because the rabbi advised us to.” Today, more than 50 years later, the experience still haunts me. I was given drugs that are now banned from use in children, like Thorazine. I had at least one electro-shock treatment that I can remember. My psychiatrist, Dr. Herbert J. Levowitz, wore a yarmulke at all times and quoted the Torah to me, in Hebrew no less, during “therapy.” It was a nightmare. It took me many years to realize that what I had been subjected to was conversion therapy. My parents had figured out pretty early on that they had gotten stuck with a gay kid, and they wanted me to be “normal.” For years after that horrific hospital stay I was forced to see a series of doctors and take all kinds of medications, some of which came with brutal side effects. One medication affected my eyesight, which fortunately returned to normal after I stopped taking it.
Man Right Outta My Hair,” one of the film’s show stopping numbers. I think I was marked from that moment on, and, as I look back, this was not an isolated incident: I was an effeminate kid, often doing “girly” things that boys were not “supposed” to do. My parents, who were religious conservatives, were at a loss about how to respond to this, so they did as they were told by the rabbi. As a teenager I began exhibiting manic behaviors. I was hyperactive, could not concentrate on school work or anything else, and was barely able to make eye contact with people. I was a handful to be around during those years. As an adult I was diagnosed with severe PostTraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and clinical depression. My current medical providers have told me that this was all a direct result of how I was treated during childhood.
I’ve often wondered how my parents had figured out that I’m gay while I was still a young child, but I think I know what first gave it away.
If there’s one thing I want people to understand, it’s that conversion therapy does actual harm. I would not be living with mental illness if my parents and the rabbi had let me be who I am. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. As long as I take my meds I’m able to function normally and pursue my writing career, which I love so dearly. But there are others who didn’t turn out so well, some of whom have committed suicide.
In 1961, when I was 5, mom took me to see the musical film South Pacific. When we got home I wrapped myself in a towel and sang “I’m Gonna Wash That
It should also be noted that conversion therapy doesn’t work. After all the medications I was given as a child, and all the Torah quotes which were shoved
down my throat, guess what? I’m still gay. Nothing can ever change that. Another thing I want to emphasize is that mental illness is no joke. Occasionally I still have manic episodes and I can still be quite awkward around people I don’t know. I’ve been ridiculed for this on many occasions – sometimes from within the LGBTQ community. I would have expected better from a community which claims to stand for tolerance and diversity, but that isn’t always the case. To those individuals, I say: Don’t judge me unless you’ve walked in my shoes. In recent years, I’ve been happy to see that more and more cities are passing laws banning conversion therapy for minors, and that’s a good thing. This barbaric practice is harmful and ruins lives – it destroyed years of my life, causing me enormous anguish. I’d like to conclude by urging all of you to take a stand against conversion therapy and to have compassion for those of us who have lived through it (now you know at least one). If we don’t stand up for each other, then who will? David-Elijah Nahmod is an American-Israeli writer who’s lived in New York City, Tel Aviv and is currently based in San Francisco. He’s been published in LGBT publications, monster magazines and SF Weekly, and can be reached on Facebook as David-Elijah Nahmod, Author and on Twitter at @DavidElijahN. EchoMag.com
Our Compassion Can Make the Difference By Buddy Early
not to out myself, I’ve tried convincing skeptics that someone can get to a state where they are not in control of their own thoughts. If you haven’t gone through it then you probably can’t imagine it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be compassionate. I wish everyone could find the compassion for people who’ve attempted or succeeded at committing suicide. But it pains me even more when members of the LGBTQ community express such uncaring views as: “That’s a cowardly way out.” “How could he be so selfish?” “They deserve what they get.”
n optimistic person—someone I am trying to be—approaches each spring with a mindset of rebirth and/or renewal, or perhaps as a time to wash away the stains of the past. Those are definitely things I try to think about this time of year. You see, this spring will mark the five-year anniversary of the night I decided I was going to kill myself. Often when we hear someone has attempted suicide—or worse, was successful—we are unable to understand what was so bad for that person that ending it all seemed like the best option. Certainly, looking back five years later, I realize my problems were not insurmountable and the decision at which I had arrived that day was not a rational one. But there was no telling me that back then; as far as I was concerned it was the best and only solution to all my problems. Like every other day for months prior I went to work at my job as a legal proofreader. We had been in “peak season” for three months already and the mandatory overtime regularly put me there until after midnight. I thought I deserved to be in a job I enjoyed, at a company I loved. But I wasn’t and I didn’t. So that sucked. I viewed my health and appearance as being at an all-time low; I was in debt up to my eyeballs; I had let personal relationships wither and was into my second decade as a single, aging gay man; and my car had died a few weeks earlier, ultimately deemed unrepairable. And that’s the thing made everything seem totally hopeless—my stupid f*cking car. You have to understand, my brain was functioning fine that spring day. My job was difficult at times, requiring incredible attention to detail, clever problem-solving and dealing with pressures of multiple deadlines. But I dealt with the routine just fine. In fact, it was some time during that Thursday evening (while doing my absolute best to produce quality work
lest I disappoint some incredibly smart coworkers) that I matter-of-factly decided “When I get home tonight I’m going to kill myself.” It made perfect sense to me. It wasn’t even a fleeting thought. I watched the clock go past nine. Then 10, and 11. I left the building after 2 a.m., probably nodding or grunting goodbye to a few people, as I am wont to do. I began my walk home in the dark of night, my heart starting to beat much faster. A man approaching from the other direction stopped two feet in front of me, reached out his arms and said, “I can’t go on anymore!” I made a snarky comment about how he was preaching to the choir and I brushed past him. As I got closer to home my eyes filled up with tears. At one point I stopped to grab on to a lamppost, feeling nauseous. But none of these things, none of these feelings, convinced me that I was thinking irrationally. Suffice it to say I had enough behindthe-counter medications to mix a potent cocktail that would put me to sleep and stop my heart, hopefully in that order. My means were laid out in front of me, and what was probably two or three minutes of me staring at them seemed like an eternity. And then a cold wave came over me. Although I had just spent hours confident my decision was the right one, I snapped out of it in a matter of seconds. Instead of killing myself, I cried myself to sleep. The next morning, I was dumbfounded that I even allowed myself to think the way I did. How does anyone allow themselves to think that way? Except I didn’t allow myself to do anything. I was not in control of my thoughts—I was as certain of that then as I am five years later. In those years since I’ve had numerous conversations with people, in person and online, about how someone can think suicide is their only viable option. Careful
I had always believed (and still do believe) that our community is more in tune with things like depression and despair. The challenges we’ve faced as “other” throughout our lives should mean we don’t judge what another person is going through and instead offer compassion. I believe we may have insight into how and why a person might make the destructive choices they do. I believe we can make a difference in each other’s lives because of the commonalities we share. Tell me why I am wrong. I learned two things after that night five years ago. First, thanks to the epiphany I experienced I am still here—still here to say I understand how someone’s mind can betray them in this terrible way. But I don’t know what it’s like to pull the trigger or, in my case, swallow a bottle of pills. I can only tell myself that those individuals didn’t get those extra few seconds, the ones I got that pulled me out of my despair. I don’t have to know what it’s like to follow through in order to be compassionate. None of us need to know or understand. The other thing I learned is that there is always someone to turn to if you’re struggling. If the person you turn to isn’t responsive, turn elsewhere. But don’t give up. If you feel like you have no one, reach out to a phone counselor or chat line. Here are a few resources: • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-TALK) • I’m Alive (800-SUICIDE) • The Trevor Project (866-488-7386) • Trans Lifeline (877-565-8860) They’re here for you. Family and friends, they’re here for you. People you might not immediately think of are here for you. I’m here for you. Buddy Early grew up in Tempe and has been involved in various communities across the Valley. He is a former managing editor of both Echo and Compete magazines.
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Members of the GLSEN Phoenix parade contingent march in the 2017 Phoenix Pride Parade. Photo by nightfuse.com.
Marching Banned? By Liz Massey
his issue of Echo ushers in Pride season in Phoenix. In my more than two decades in the Valley of the Sun, I have seen our Pride organization grow from a sturdy volunteer group to a robust professional event management nonprofit. The first year I lived here, I remember the desire to bring back a Pride parade to the festivities, a component that had been missing for part of the ’90s. This year, Phoenix Pride expects more than 2,000 individual participants in the parade, and more than 15,000 spectators. Our city should be proud of the growth of Phoenix Pride – the organization puts on an amazing large-scale event and is able to benefit the community year-round through its scholarships and grants. But every year around parade time, there is at least a few discussions of how Pride events have evolved into celebrations from their roots as protest activities. These kitchen-table debates on whether that is a good thing or a bad thing take on a new significance in 2018, when LGBTQ supporters and others are taking part in marches and other protests associated with “the resistance.” A few years ago, a social media contact of mine (temporarily) de-friended me because I didn’t agree with his assertion that protest marches were out of date and politically useless. I do acknowledge that the Internet has made it far easier to organize large demonstrations, and that without a coherent framework to fit a protest “event” into, marches can end up mostly being displays of personal selfexpression, instead of powerful tools for promoting a desired social agenda. And not every mass protest march bears fruit: we can probably all name a “Million _____ March” from the past few years that failed to move the needle for its participants.
Despite this, I argue that the proliferation of marches and live protests we see popping up all over the country is a sign of health for our democracy, and a positive development for all marginalized communities, including our own LGBTQ clan. Marches continue to have a positive role to play in social change movements for many reasons. • Marches can rattle those in power, in a good way. The 1971 May Day protests in Washington, D.C., over the Vietnam War and the 1975 Women’s Strike in Iceland telegraphed the message that huge segments of the population of these two countries were ready to force major changes. And both governments shifted their tactics to cope with the protests in a way that ultimately was more in the direction of the protestors’ desires. • Marches can provide touchpoints for an ongoing reform movement. The early Pride marches reminded a world that we were here, we were queer and nothing – including AIDS, fag-bashing and attempts to enshrine anti-gay prejudice – would send us back into the closet. The worldwide anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s was sparked in part by the 1976 Soweto Uprising in South Africa. And the 1963 March on Washington was preceded and followed by many years of protests during the Civil Rights Era. • Marches offer a unique platform for meeting other activists. Large-scale protests expose participants to new ideas and new approaches. When I spoke with LGBTQ people who went to the 1993 and 2000 Marches on Washington, they mentioned how
empowering it felt to meet other queer people from around the country. Last year, the Women’s March activities in Washington, D.C., and in other large cities provided a much-needed place for people to focus their energy, and to discover how large the resistance really was. • Marches can provide vital and irreplaceable “framing moments.” Martin Luther King Jr. had given parts of his “I Have A Dream” speech before August 1963 … but standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, it allowed the Civil Rights Movement to seize the stage and express the values of equality-minded Americans in a new way. For all their power, marches are far from the only tool in our activism toolbox. LGBTQ community members have used direct action “zaps,” political theater, sit-ins, voter registration drives, and the cultivation of allies to achieve goals – like improved HIV+ care and ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – once considered impossible. But the symbolism of marches continues to resonate, both within and beyond our community. As Nathan Heller, a writer for The New Yorker magazine, observed last year, “Why did [the Women’s March] matter? Because we were there. Self-government remains a messy, fussy, slow, frustrating business. We do well to remind those working its gears and levers that the public — not just the appalled me but the conjoined us whom the elected serve — is watching and aware. More than two centuries after our country took its shaky first steps, the union is miles from perfection. But it is still on its feet, sometimes striding, frequently stumbling. The march goes on, and someday, not just in our dreams, we’ll make it home.” Liz Massey has been involved in LGBTQ community-building activities in Kansas City and the Valley of the Sun, and is a former managing editor of Echo Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. COMMUNITY
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Echo Magazine – Arizona's leading media outlet dedicated to serving the LGBTQ community in news, views and entertainment. April 2018 Issue....
Published on Mar 14, 2018
Echo Magazine – Arizona's leading media outlet dedicated to serving the LGBTQ community in news, views and entertainment. April 2018 Issue....