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GNI MAG your local homocultural magazine ISSUE 55 MAR / APR 23 £4.95/€ 4.95 Johannes

Choose to protect yourself always use a condom

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise in Northern Ireland and the Public Health Agency (PHA) is reminding everyone of the importance of using condoms and how to get tested for an STI.

Dr Rachel Coyle, Consultant in Public Health at the PHA, explains: “Having sex without a condom is a bit like sleeping with everyone your partner has ever slept with and puts you at risk of getting an STI.

“The Choose to Protect Yourself campaign promotes good sexual health by encouraging the use of condoms and regular testing for STIs. We hope this will contribute to reducing STIs over time in Northern Ireland.”

Safer sex and testing

Safer sex and testing

Condoms reduce the risk of getting an STI and are the only method of contraception that help protect against them. If you think you may be at risk of having contracted an STI the only way to know is to get tested.

Anyone who has sex can get and pass on an STI – you don’t need to have lots of sexual partners. Some STIs have no symptoms so it is important to get tested even if you feel healthy.

Free and discreet home STI testing is available online or at your nearest GUM clinic. Information on how to arrange a test is available at

Home testing

What does home testing involve?

Home testing is available for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV and syphilis. After ordering online, your testing kit will be sent to you with instructions on how to complete the tests. This usually involves a swab test for chlamydia or gonorrhoea and a finger prick blood test for HIV and syphilis.

Test kits can be ordered from They are delivered in discreet packaging and you will get a text update when your order

Getting your results

Your test kit will include a Freepost return pack, pop your samples in and send them back. You’ll be updated by text message when the return samples reach the lab. Most people get their results by text message within 7 days.

What if my results show I have an STI?

If you have an infection you will get advice on how to access treatment. You will also be given information on how to inform any sexual partners who may also need to have an STI test.

If your test is positive for chlamydia you will often be able to access postal treatment via the testing service, i.e. you can choose to have the treatment posted

to your door. Most people opt for this and find the service very convenient.

What else can I do to protect myself?

We know people are more likely to have sex without a condom if they have been drinking alcohol or are under the influence of drugs. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions, meaning we may take more risks, including having sex when we may not have done or not thinking about using a condom. The more you drink, the higher the risk of having unsafe sex.

Gay and bisexual men having unprotected sex with casual or new partners should be screened for HIV and other STIs at least annually, and every three months if

changing partners regularly. They should also consider the use of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) which can reduce an individual’s risk of getting HIV from sex. When taken as prescribed, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV, however it does not protect against other STIs so using condoms remains really important.

For more information on looking after your sexual health visit

An introduction from our editor...

Scary to think when we last spoke we were all getting set for Crimbo and I was getting ready to head off on my holipops, both now distant memories. I was in South Africa for a month which was fantastic though I am now back longer than I was away. That has to be the most frustrating thing about vacations, you plan and are excited for so long then it whizzes past and becomes just a memory. Only thing for it is to get my next trip booked. Maybe the Mediterranean in May? Watch this space.

Getting back in the swing of things has been such a challenge, back to the daily grind and juggling act though I am now caught up and back into what I can only describe as a manic routine. Maybe one day I’ll let to step back and not take on so much LOL Anyway enough about me, let’s chat about what is in the pages of Issue 55, OMG just saying issue 55 is so scary, I started in GNI as Issue 18 was released, MENTAL!

Ok so what’s contained within the pages of Issue 55, well first off you will have seen the amazing cover with Strictly’s Johannes Rdebe, what a fun and striking image, I spoke to this fabulous human about everything from the Strictly dance-floor to him Latin dancing on a deserted island in his briefs LOL.

We feature a great mix of talent including Mimi Webb, Caity Baser, Skyler and Richard O’Brien ahead of The Rocky Horror Picture Show coming to the GOH.

This issue covers so many topics, what Dating App people are ditching, Belfast’s favourite sex position, cost effective ways to take your other 1⁄2 out, what celebrities we most want to see naked and more. Its not all fun and games though so many serious subjects are discussed including Fostering, Suicide Advice, Sexual Health, Adultery and the first Transgender British Army Officer Abi Austen tells us her ‘Real Life’ story and how to get her book “Sugar and Spice”. In our Try section we have a bucketload of recommendations, Music & Celebrities by Gary, Danny Malone on Hair, The Gourmet Boys Fantasy Menu, Smoothie by Reese Witherspoon, my movie guide gives info on what to watch and Gavyn takes us on a trip to Mexico.

Thanks as always to our Columnists who share what’s been going on with them, our advertisers for their continued support and most importantly you, our readers. xx

In closing I must mention the return of the GNI Awards on 15th April, we are all so excited, read all about it on Page 27.

Enjoy Reading xx




































Daniel May Operations Director

Pauline Fitzpatrick Sales Executive

Tony Day Design

Thanks to...

Johannes Redebe / Mimi Webb / Richard O’Brien / Caity Baser / Skyler / Connor Mills / Carl Connielingus / Tailor Maid / Martin Murray / Gourmet Boys / Gavyn Andrews / Gary Campion / Xand / Danny Malone / Dominic Ortez / Abi Austen / Jeff Dorta / Action For Children / Lifeline /Rainbow Project / Grand Opera House / Arthur’s Guest House / / / / Impact Communications / / Leila PR / Buchanan PR / Project Publicity / Chuff Media / We Are Genesis and LK Communications

GNI MAG is published by: Romeo & Julian Publications Ltd.

13 Union Street Belfast, BT1 2JF instagram @gnimag

All submissions to GNI MAG are made on the basis of permission to publish the submission in GNI MAG and it’s licensed editions worldwide. In the case of picture selection, the editors decision is final. Any materials sent is at the owners risk and although every care is taken neither Romeo & Julian Publications Ltd or it’s agents shall be liable for loss or damage. We take great care to make sure all elements of GNI MAG are accurate. However we accept no liability for misprints that appear in this magazine. You should seek professional advice prior to following any advice offered in this publication. Any opinions expressed are those of the writers and not those of GNI MAG or Romeo & Julian Publications Ltd.

Romeo & Julian Publications Ltd 2023



One of our fav Strictly Pro’s is on route to Belfast’s Grand Opera House on 25th May, with his new show ‘Freedom Unleashed’ this is going to be a party like no other as Johannes will be joined by a diverse, world-class cast of talented dancers and singers. We caught up with this infectious man to find out all about it!


You have been a professional for 4 years now on Strictly, how time has flown. Which has been your favourite dance to date and why?

Rhumba With John to Shape of My heart by Sting - because it transcended dancing.

You have danced as part of a same-sex couple and as part of a mixed-sex couple, did you find the same sex more challenging and if you could only do one for the rest of your Strictly career which would it be and why?

Not to take away from any of my partnerships - but it was quite different with John because he matched me in strength and for the first time someone could ever lift me so it was a whole different way of dancing.

There is always a lot of media speculation about the “Strictly Curse” but what we would like to know is given the speeches we always see when a couple is voted off, you know the “I have made a friend for

life,” and all that sort of stuff. Have you become a friend for life to all your contestants? Do you still meet up, chat or anything?

We do become friends - best friends. The experience allows you all to create great bonds and friends for life.

Obviously, Anton was one of the longest serving professionals and has now made it onto the judging panel, is this something you would consider doing? How do you find being marked by a past professional, do you think he is fair or do you think he is more critical than the other judges?

We didn’t know we needed Anton until he sat on that chair! We love Anton and because he has been a Pro on the show he does understand the experience from both side. All the Judges are just as accomplished but Anton knows what it takes on a Monday!

If you could choose anyone in the entire world dead

or alive to be your dance partner on the next series of Strictly who would it be and why?

Princess Diana, I would love to have met her or Harry Styles because I love him.

South Africa like Northern Ireland isn’t without its history and troubles, what was it like for you to grow up there and was it more complicated once you realised your sexuality as a gay person of colour?

I think all gay people around the world have a shared experience of bullying of some sort but the most important thing for me was finding my tribe and people that will nurture and support me and I’ve found this in the UK.

At what age did you realise you wanted to be a dancer and what did you do to get yourself to where you are today?

7 - and I realised it was my career when I had to be a breadwinner and because I had my first dancing gig at the time the support from my mother was


enough to make it my career. I settled with dancing because I figured why not get paid for doing something that I love and I’ve never looked back.

You are about to embark on your Freedom Unleashed Tour, what is the concept for the show? Tell us about the process of how it starts as an idea to become a whole touring show.

Freedom Unleashed is a riveting dance extravaganza - the show tells the story of my upbringing from South Africa to the world all performed to dance classics, scorching African Rhythms and huge party anthems, accompanied by a beautiful diverse cast of talent. I can’t wait for everyone to join in the party! You are known for having quite an outlandish style when you have been on chat shows and at events, how do these looks come about and do you have any favourite designers to work with? My style is personal and I absolutely adore fashion - I come from rich background of people who believe that cleanliness and style is next to Godliness lol (don’t know who came up with that!) I’m a “sourcer” so I like clothes - it doesn’t matter where that piece or item was around the world I will get it.

You’ve racked up over 375k followers on Instagram, which is a pretty huge following for a strictly

professional. What has been the strangest request \ thing you have received from a fan?

A full size cut out of me! A fan bought them for his partner and placed them all around their house as he couldn’t get me to attend his birthday party!

As a professional dancer, you have racked up numerous titles, awards and competition wins, what was the first one that really made you feel WOW I have made it and tell us about how you got it. South African national Championships - after many years of trying it finally happened - hard work pays off!

You have been on Celebrity MasterChef, how did you find that competitive experience with it not being dance related? So Imagine this, you have invited us round for dinner and you really want to impress us so you can get the cover, what is on the menu? Honey - they both have fantastic formats and they both challenging in their own way - but I’d rather do a Cha Cha then cook a meal from scratch in an hour!

You are an incredibly busy man, what do you like to do to unwind or in your free Time?

I spend time with my family, read, Netflix but I

rarely have free time as I am so busy. At the moment I’m writing Freedom Unleashed which is full time!

Do you have any advice you would like to give to any young, shy boys or girls out there who dream of a life as a dancer?

Don’t deny yourself the joy that dancing can bring you based on other people’s opinion. Do YOU, the world will adjust.


Party Island or Deserted Island? Deserted Island

Hands or feet? Hands

Cook in or Eat Out? Cook in Summer or Winter? Summer

Latin or Ballroom? Latin Chocolate or Crisps? Crisps

Boxers or Briefs? Briefs

Weights or Cardio? Cardio

Read a book or watch a movie? Depends on how I feel - my mood!


You have to choose between your most recent 3 celeb partners - Ellie (Taylor), John (Whaite) and Caroline (Quentin). Marry John, Snog him and forget about him - the others are already married.

Tickets are on sale now to see Johannes in action. Leave your inhibitions at the door and get ready to dance to your own tune in this super-charged “must-see show”. You can also book a meet and greet ticket, all the info is on



Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living, but unlike the undeniable saint that is Dolly unfortunately now days that doesn’t seem to cut it, the idea of a constant grind culture is everywhere, through muscle bound pocket sized fitness guru’s telling you how to fit Pilates in between zoom calls after waking up to a 5:00am Ice bath as every ounce of joy is ripped from your morning routine, too the idea if you’re not the literal backbone of your work environment then what are you doing? Add into the mix, side hustles, social gatherings, commutes, sports teams, book clubs, all are a competition to be painstakingly climbed to be at peak normalcy. Don’t forget to meditate as well just to even it out.

In the LGBTQIA+ community this can be felt so clearly whether it be the boss asking can you stay on an extra hour as they’ve kids to get home too, or the guilt we place on ourselves to go above and beyond in order to bargain against our own existence. The Mental Health Foundation states that half of LGBTQIA people had experienced depression with Three in Five experiencing anxiety, with burnout being a prevalent contributor to both, yet through my own personal experience whenever feelings of ill mental health appear my go too is to bury myself in work or to seek thrills, both of which can be more detrimental as opposed to being the salve you wish they were. The pressure can be felt from all angles, from this preconceived notion that as a community were able to turn our hands at restoring and upholstering a chair before we’d ever consider sitting comfortably in it, that the idea of constantly doing has become such a norm that a suggestion to the opposite is filled with guilt and questioning.

After the new year I heard about the term “Silent Quitting” and while I assumed this was a term for walking out of work in quiet protest what it actually meant was when you’ve worked your agreed upon work hours, you don’t undertake any additional roles, that you don’t undertake any form of communication be it email, WhatsApp, whatever it may be after this now of course for everyone this will have varying degrees of success and then when you bring in the idea of being on call it can get a little messy, especially if you run your own business, but this idea where there might now be a lean towards not spending every second of everyday making sure every atom is meeting someone else’s standards, its a breath of fresh air.

From my own personal experience my typical day would be work until the evening, walk home, general life things such as cleaning and eating and then to work on my own business until depending on the commissions or releases I had that week either crawl into bed at an unreasonable hour or a very unreasonable hour, rinse and repeat at least five days a week. Not considering burnout would affect me and that I wasn’t that busy compared I didn’t see this as a problem, cut to Christmas week recently where I had taken on some additional commission

work, and the retail side of my business had really ramped up, my day job is also in retail with managerial duties so as you can imagine Christmas is something to be said in hushed cursed whispers as opposed to jolly fireside singalongs, I say now in embarrassment what I said before with pride but when I added it up afterwards Monday to Friday that week alone I worked a total of 84 hours (not including work related communication) and that was pretty similar for every week in December, so come Christmas eve when I finally stepped into a social setting, I was fine one second, and an actual mess the next and after a little “menty b” I saw the damage that it could cause.

So the joyous terms of “Silent Quitting” appealed greatly to me and while not always achievable I do find it’s like everything, if it’s something you would like to achieve then try your best, so what if Susan in HR doesn’t get an instant reply until the morning, so what you don’t do an extra 30 mins cardio in the gym in order to have “crushing it” bragging rights, so what you didn’t stay up much later than intended to get a few chapters ahead than the rest of the book club, the main thing you should be staying on top of and going above and beyond in is looking after yourself. The only real way to avoid crying in your partners sisters girlfriend’s car by 8:00pm Christmas eve if you ask me.

Tranquil Tip:

This issues tranquil tip is Cooper, and while not a tip as such, try not to be filled with absolute joy at this charming, nosey, little gentleman, Coop came into my life recently after my partners sister mentioned she might want to take him on having heard he might need a new home, we instantly stepped up after seeing his fuzzy bap doing bunny hops of excitement while at D&G Luxurious V.I.Pet Hotel a fantastic doggy day-care and hotel service in Tyrone. They were amazing in helping us with the rehoming process and I couldn’t recommend them fast enough. (especially the “pup-dates” while your furry family isn’t by your side)

Please note, this column is the opinion of the columinst and not that of GNI or Romeo & Julian Publiccations Ltd.


The loudest ones light up the room the brightest. Mimi Webb projects a voice as magnetic, massive, and magical as her personality. As “the girl next door” with a hell of vocal range, she’s quick to laugh, will let you know precisely what’s on her mind, and isn’t afraid to be heard.

Originally hailing from the UK town of Canterbury, the pop singer and songwriter turns up the volume on every emotion with skyscraping runs and open-heart honesty. After amassing over 250 million streams and hundreds of millions of views and receiving widespread acclaim from Wonderland, teenVOGUE, Refinery 29, Euphoria, Consequence of Sound to name a few, she shines on her 2021 debut Seven Shades of Heartbreak EP for Epic Records and much more music to come.

For all of this runaway success, she still describes herself in the humblest of UK slang…

“I’m very ‘gobby’,” she laughs. “It means I want to be loud. I’m not a whisperer, and that comes out in my music. I try to write very emotional and real songs. I hope you feel like I’m singing my story to you.”

That story begins in Canterbury in the English countryside. Throughout her childhood, Mimi performed at school talent shows since the age of six and even appeared on the long-running BBC show EastEnders at one point. As soon as she heard Adele’s 19, she constantly chased down the sensation it gave her. “Music would give me goosebumps,” she admits. “I always wanted to produce the same feeling in what I’m doing.” Inspired by the likes of Amy Winehouse, Emelie Sandé, and Sam Smith, she started writing songs of her own at 13-years-old in diaries before eventually learning guitar. Around the same time, she enrolled in The BRIT School—known for alumni such as Adele, Amy Winehouse, Jessie J, and more. Three years later, she left home, moved in with a host family, and attended the prestigious BIMM [British Institute of Modern Music].

“Since BIMM was two hours away from Canterbury, my family wasn’t able to move with me,” she says. “I broke up with my boyfriend because of the distance, so I was going through huge heartbreak and all of these changes. It was daunting, but my love for music kept me going. I always said to myself, ‘I’m not turning back. I won’t miss. I need to get out of my little town, because otherwise it’s not going to happen’.”

In 2019, she uploaded a handful of early compositions and collaborations online. These wound up in the hands of her now-management as she picked up and left again: this time for the U.S.

At the top of 2020, she unveiled her debut single “Before I Go,” which gathered 17 million Spotify streams and dominated TikTok with 85.7million views, 13.7M likes, 304.2K comments, and 132K shares. She maintained this momentum with “I’ll Break My Heart Again.” Of the latter, Won -

derland claimed, “Already it seems Webb has carved out her own niche of balladic pop, packed with vocal dynamite and stirring instrumentals, and on “I’ll Break My Heart Again” things are no different.”

Along the way, she crafted Seven Shades of Heartbreak. Prior to its arrival, she made waves with international hits “Good Without” and “Dumb Love.” The singles concurrently captured places in the Top 15 on the UK Singles Chart, which cemented Mimi as “the first UK female artist, since Dua Lipa in 2017, to land two singles in the UK Top 15 before the release of her debut album.” Combined with the follow-up “24/5,” she had also amassed nearly 300 million streams by the release of Seven Shades of Heartbreak.

Now, the seven-track project illuminates every facet of her as a vocalist and songwriter. She leans into a smoky jazz beat on “Heavenly” with soul and style, while her voice careens above acoustic guitar and sweeping harmonies on “Halfway.” The energetic “Little Bit Louder” heads straight to the dancefloor with its bright piano and bolder chorus. Ultimately, “Lonely In Love” illustrates Mimi at her most vulnerable as she chronicles a fleeting romance in heartbreaking detail before pleading, “Can you just stay one night?”

In unprecedented fashion, she sold out every date on her first-ever UK tour, while BBC Radio 1 added her to the “Brit List.” Reeling in further acclaim, Teen VOGUE raved, “Her voice, textured and versatile, shines as she sings about young love, ‘the kind that cuts you up inside’,” and OnesToWatch attested, “With Webb showing no signs of stopping anytime soon, this feels like just the beginning for one of the UK’s youngest and brightest stars.”

In the end, Mimi’s just loud enough to give you goosebumps too.

“When you listen to me, I hope you feel what I’m singing about,” she leaves off. “Since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to get my story across and share what I feel and who I am. In my music, you’re going to get me.”

For tour tickets visit



Well hello Beauts and welcome to the beginnings of a fun year so far. I don’t know that for sure, but Rihanna did say her weapon was to “Fake it, ‘til you make it.” I believe her and I’m gonna live by that now ha-ha her Superbowl performance has been living rent free in my head from it aired. She’s onto something and I’m here for it.

I’m going for a fresher take on this year’s column, and I hope you enjoy it. Welcome 2023 and here’s to an amazing year all round. And on that note, I would like to thank GNI and everyone who nominated me this year for Best Local LGBTQIA+ Entertainer. It is an absolute honour and very much appreciated. Voting will be happening soon, so a future thanks to those who vote for me. Not saying I’m gonna win, but it would be lovely and is still awesome to be just nominated.

Trans-Itchsions – Life Transitions and Trans Live (Matter)

These past few years have been nothing but changes and transitions, like a bad itch you can’t get rid of. From a seemingly normal life to a Pandemic that shut the world down, it still doesn’t even seem real, but unfortunately, we are noticing it in our society because all the work that was done before for LGBTQIA+ and POC Minorities has been forgotten in too many places, and now the fight is back on.

For myself personally, it has been a struggle to get out in the world full time again like I used too. I am not the same person I was anymore in many ways and even using my voice for matters that are important were stumped. However, recently the Universe has been sending me signs and certain opportunities that I cannot ignore, and the fact that things are starting to “go my way,” finally. With that I will talk more about discrimination and hate towards me and my people. The stories and incidents that I could share with you from myself alone, but in an AFAB, Queer, Drag King perspective, and just even from a human level would terrify you. The rise in Homophobia, Transphobia, Racism, Misogyny, Sexism and much more has rapidly increased from the Lockdowns were lifted. As a society, as humans, we didn’t even receive professional care to help us deal with what just happened, so everyone has lost what we fought for and the progress we all were making before this hit us all.

The one thing we all have in complete common now, apart from we all bleed red, is that we all went through this together. The whole World experienced the fear, isolation, and uncertainty. So why are we hurting and killing again?? What happened to the togetherness we all had looking out for each other during the hardest times of our lives?? I just don’t get it.

So, each column I do, I will dedicate it to a person or an event, to say their

names. This Issue is dedicated to Brianna Ghey. Brianna was a 16-year-old who was murdered by 2 other teenagers, both 15 years old. This was because Brianna was Transgender, a Beautiful Trans Girl from Warrington just living her life and trying to figure out her own transition and being a teenager. No child should be thinking of this way to harm someone at 15, and not one person in the world deserves this type of death at 16. With so much anti-trans rhetoric in the media every day, attacks like this – senseless deaths of innocent people –will continue to happen, and the instances likely to increase. We must protect each other and those who need protecting. We must educate kids and adults that it is ok to be different, we are all just trying to survive this crazy thing called Life. None of us know the big outcome, we all die yes, but it should be naturally and not your life taken so viciously and prematurely. Say her name – Brianna Ghey – Fly with your Guardian Angels Beautiful <3 <3

“What’s Carl’s Caric??”

You can find Carl here over the next few months:

• Lost Lane, Dublin for “Candlelight Cabaret –Back to the 80’s” @ 7.30pm Sat 25/2/23

• Mansfield, UK for “Perfect Illusion – Lady Gaga Tribute” on Sat 18/3/23

• Gallaher’s Bar, Cityside for “Dragaoke” @ 9.30-12.30pm, on Fri 24/3/23

• Cabaret Supper Club, Belfast for “Perfect Illusion – Lady Gaga Tribute” on 12/4/23

• Gallagher’s Bar, Cityside for “Dragaoke” @ 9.30-12.30pm on Fri 21/4/23

• Eclectic Love, Belfast Telegraph Building @ 7pm-2am on Sat 6/5/23

• Gallaher’s Bar, Cityside for “Dragaoke” @ 9.30-12.30pm on Fri 12/5/23

• Drag Fest Ireland, The National in Dublin @6pm on Sat 27/5/23

• Gallaher’s Bar, Cityside for “Dragaoke” @9.30-12.30pm on Fri 23/6/23




Instagram: @carlconnie_lingus

TikTok: @cclingus1

Please note, this column is the opinion of the columinst and not that of GNI or Romeo & Julian Publiccations Ltd.

richard o’brien


What was your original inspiration behind the Rocky Horror Show?

Someone asked me to entertain the Christmas staff party at the EMI Film Studios and so I wrote a song (Science Fiction Double Feature) and with the help of some jokes, performed to much laughter and applause.

In the New Year I wondered whether it might serve as as prologue to the germ of an idea that I had for a musical. I shared that thought with Jim Sharman who had directed Jesus Christ Superstar. Jim liked the concept and away we went.

Why do you think it is still successful today, half a century later?

It is simply a Musical Comedy and as long as it rocks, and the audience are laughing what more could you wish for?

It’s very inclusive, it’s very easy to watch. It’s not rocket science as far as narrative is concerned - Brad and Janet are a couple that we kind of recognise as Adam and Eve or Romeo and Juliet, like a stereotypical couple - we can all relate to them.

It is also a fairy tale which allows us to feel comfortable with its rites of passage storyline. A retelling of Hansel and Gretel if you like, with Frankfurter standing in for the wicked witch.

The Rocky Horror Show creates an atmosphere that is different from other theatre shows. What about the show do you believe makes audiences feel comfortable joining in?

The innocent rather naughty fun of it draws not only a ‘theatre’ crowd but also people who want a fun evening and a guaranteed return on the investment of their ticket price.

What was happening in your life at the time you wrote The Rocky Horror Show?

I was a recent father of my first child and out of work when I wrote the show. 1972-73 was a moment of change. Glamrock and overt sexuality was around, gay people were coming out and

there was a ‘buzz’ in the air. There are certain parts of the world where we are a little bit more free to be ourselves. London is certainly one of them. Back in the Seventies you had gay bars, but now you don’t need to because if you walk into most bars in London there will be a gay man behind the bar. That is rather nice.

How do you believe the show supports those who are questioning their identity or sexuality?

The support for the LBGT community was unintended but it is a very welcome addition to the laughter and toe tapping.

Has the show supported your own journey surrounding your identity?

It must have been, to some extent, cathartic but I have always gone my own way and played the cards that I was dealt at birth the best way that I can.

Do you have a favourite character?

I would have loved to have played Rocky, that would have been cool, wouldn’t it? But one thing is essential, you have to be rather handsome, and you know, muscular, and that ain’t going to work. I could have played Janet. They’re all so stupidly wonderful these characters, they’re iconographic.

How do you think the live shows compare to the film?

The live show has an energy that the movie doesn’t have - it wasn’t intentional, but the film was very slow. Once some fans came up to me and said, “did you leave the gaps between the lines so that we the audience could say our lines?”. I said, “Well, ok yes”. But no we didn’t. The movie is a very surreal, almost dreamlike journey, the live show is far more rock and roll.

What’s your favourite part of the show?

The noise at the end of Rocky is wonderful – it is empowering and exhilarating at the same time it is quite joyous. Rocky never fails to deliver. Each performance lifts the heart and the nightly laughter and roars of approval leave the whole cast with a sense of wellbeing and

accomplishment that you rarely get from any other shows.

The Rocky Horror Show remains a huge hit around the world. Do you think the show would be as successful if written today?

Timing is very important as is luck. Zeitgeist sums it up. There are lots of variables in this equation, for instance, would it have been as successful if someone other than Tim Curry had played the lead?

How has the show developed over time? Have there been any adaptations in the past 50 years? It has remained much the same through the years. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

How different do you think your life might have been without Rocky?

I have no idea but, I would have had a good life because I am made that way. My journey has been a different one than others. I guess some people have a game plan. I would imagine they’re rather humourless. Most of us get an opportunity and we wing it. Luck plays an awfully big part in our lives. You should never underestimate that. I am the luckiest person on the planet. I shall be happy as long as I can keep singing.

The Rocky Horror Show returns to the Grand Opera House, Belfast later this year. For tickets and information visit



Male nudity in films and on TV is becoming more common and less taboo. Some view this rise of male nudity as an empowering way to challenge societal norms, as it breaks down traditional gender stereotypes and the idea that only women can be objectified in films. Others argue it is being used for sensational

publicity. Case in point: White Lotus. That scene between Leo Woodall and the man who plays his uncle in the series, Tom Hollander, rattled the country for weeks. But was it any different from Sharon Stone’s infamous interrogation scene in Basic Instinct where she crossed and uncrossed her legs to reveal that she wasn’t wearing any underwear?

“It’s about time Hollywood begin objec tifying men,” says Jack Davis of Mr. Man, the world’s leading online library of every male nude scene in the history of film and television. He argues that only good can come from Hollywood embracing male nudity. “We are all for celebrating the diversity of male bodies and promoting body positivity. By showing a range of body types and sizes, filmmakers are helping to normalize male nudity and reduce the shame often associated

with it.”

Mr. Man polled its readers on the ten male celebrities they would most like to see in a nude scene in 2023.

At #10 is Joe Keery from Stranger Things. Mr. Keery previously appeared in the inde


pendent coming of age movie, Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party, but has built a large following, playing the endearing high school jock turned ice cream-slinger on the Netflix show.

Luke Macfarlane, the openly gay actor who

played Billy Eichner’s love interest in the gay romantic comedy Bros, comes in at #9. Macfarlane first rose to fame on the ABC television drama Brothers & Sisters. He has also played the romantic lead in a number of Hallmark Channel movies.

Winston Duke, M’Baku in Black Panther, is the eighth most requested celebrity fans would like to see naked. In his films, Duke often shows off his incredible physique. Movie fans want to see more.

Another Black Panther star, Tenoch Huerta, appears on the list at #6. He edges out Elvis’ Austin Butler who comes in at #7.


Joel Kim Booster lands among the top 5. Mr. Booster was one of the hardest working actors in 2022, starring in seven projects, including the gay comedy film Fire Island and the television show, Loot.

Pete Davidson is a surprise on the list, but fans are eager to learn what may have attracted some of the biggest names in Hollywood - Ariana Grande, Kate Beckinsale, Emily Ratajkowski, Kim Kardashian, and Kaia Gerber – to him. He comes in at #4.

Rounding out the top 3 are Jon Hamm, most recently seen in Top Gun: Maverick and in the Progressive Insurance commercials and singer Shawn Mendes. Mendez has not been shy in showing off his body to fans on Instagram, as well as in a

surprisingly revealing Calvin Klein ad campaign. He is #2.

The #1 male celebrity fans would like to see naked in 2023 is Lil Nas X. The openly gay singer has released several explicit music videos, including Industry Baby, where he dances naked in a prison shower with a bunch of other men. But he has yet to reveal all… and fans are eager for it!

Mr. Man’s Top 10 Celebs We Want To Go Nude list is available now at https://www.mrman. com/top10-celebs-we-want-to-go-nude.




Caity Baser has announced her new EP today. The ‘Thanks For Nothing, See You Never’ EP will feature six tracks including ‘X&Y’ and ‘Kiss You’ - and will be released 17th February via EMI Records/Chosen Music.

To celebrate the announcement, Caity has released a brand new track - taken from the forthcoming EP. ‘2020s’ is available to stream and download now.

Tracklisting for Caity Baser’s ‘Thanks For Nothing, See You Never’ EP is as follows:

1. Pretty Boys

2. X&Y

3. Kiss You

4. Feel More Okay

5. That’s What Friends Are For 6. 2020s

Of the EP, Caity says: “I am SO FRICKN HAPPY I can finally tell you all about my new EP. It’s full of absolute bangers...some you know some you don’t. But I love them all and I hope you do too xx” Tickets for Caity’s anticipated ‘Thanks For Nothing, See You Never’ UK tour are also available today. It was announced earlier this week that tickets for all the shows have been capped at affordable prices, a decision made by Caity herself

to ensure tickets to her shows are affordable and accessible to all.

The ‘Thanks For Nothing, See You Never’ tour will take place throughout April and May, 10 stops are currently planned across the U.K Including Dublin’s Green Room on Sunday 16th April.

About Caity Baser

Hailed as a one to watch by many including Rolling Stone UK, The Independent, NME and more, 20-year-old pop singer Caity Baser has seen her enormous fanbase explode in a matter of months. Her viral hit singles ‘Friendly Sex’ and ‘X&Y’ both helped the Southampton-born singer become the name on everyone’s lips last summer, but it was her live performances at Reading & Leeds festivals - just before two sold-out shows at London’s XOYO - which captured the attention of the UK and beyond. Her shows were met with packed-out crowds screaming every lyric of her songs back at her, with fans clearly closely identifying with Caity and her no-holds-barred, no filter approach to her music and her personality.

Now signed to EMI Records, she recently released her new single ‘Kiss You’ amidst a flurry of national press and radio coverage by the likes of The

Guardian, Rolling Stone UK, CLASH, The Independent, BBC Radio 1, BBC Introducing, Capital FM and more. NME recently selected her as one of their NME 100 - a handpicked selection of acts who will change the face of music in 2023. Caity was also the digital cover star of The Line Of Best Fit, who proclaimed: “Caity Baser is having her main character moment”, stating that she is “here to start a new pop revolution built on sincerity and zero bullshit”. Record Of The Day said “Friendly Sex is the fun and outspoken pop track you need to hear. One to watch”, while Notion Magazine praised that Caity “brings a fresh sound that is wholly her own...furious, fuck-you energy”.

Caity Baser’s EP ‘Thanks For Nothing, See You Never’ will be released 17th February via EMI Records/Chosen Music. Her tour of the same name will take place throughout April 2023. Her new track ‘2020s’ is out now.







On Saturday 15th April we make our much-anticipated return to the Crowne Plaza for our awards, those unfamiliar the evening is all about celebrating, recognising and rewarding people and businesses who continually go out of their way to improve the lives of LGBTQIA+ people here in N.I and beyond.

23 Awards will be presented across various categories which you can read online*, all bar one (Editors Choice) decided by public vote. The shortlist will be announced in the coming weeks and the voting will open – keep an eye out on our social media.

The evening will kick off around 7pm**, and consist of drink’s reception, various entertainment, the awards ceremony, 4 course meal and conclude with Band and disco bringing us into the wee hours.

100 tickets are now available for our readers, supporters and advertisers to purchase.

Costs are as follows:

Table of 10 is £750

Individual seats are £80pp

10% from each ticket sale goes directly to our charity partner The Rainbow Project as will all proceeds of the raffle in the evening. To date our awards have raised in excess of £10,000 for our charity partner.

If you are interested in attending you can email, message us on our website or send a DM/ PM on any of our social platforms and we will get back to you.

There are also opportunities for businesses to get involved as a Table/Award Sponsor and we are seeking prizes for the charity raffle. If you want to get involved, or in a position to donate a prize please email or call the office on 02890 455690.

*To see the categories, visit

** Times will be formally announced/confirmed approx. 2 weeks prior to the event


. . . get involved . . .
Trudy Scrumptious

South THE

THE SOUTH (featuring members of The Beautiful South) play BELFAST – Limelight 2 on Thursday 8th June and DUBLIN – Whelans on Friday 9th June 2023!

The South are back on the road and do what they do best - perform the songs of that great British pop institution, The Beautiful South, to the thousands of fans of these timeless classics.

The South are an impressive 9 piece band who feature former members of The Beautiful South including singer Alison Wheeler and lifelong sax player Gaz Birtles. Since Dave Hemingway, the original singer, left the group at the end of 2016, Gaz has moved across to front the band with Alison and taken on vocal duties.

Since the demise of The Beautiful South in 2007, this exciting live band have spent 11 years touring the the-

atres and festivals of the UK up and down the country, bringing back the full sound and arrangements of these treasured songs - A Little Time (the number one single), Perfect 10, Rotterdam, Song For Whoever, Old Red Eyes Is Back, Good as Gold, Don’t Marry Her plus many more singles and album tracks as well as a few choice South originals. These songs span an impressive 18 year career starting way back in 1989!

The South are:

Alison Wheeler (Vocals), Gaz Birtles (Vocals), Phil Barton (Guitars), Steve Nutter (Bass), Dave Anderson (Drums), Karl Brown (Percussion), Gareth John (Trumpet), Su Robinson (Sax) and Andy Price (Keyboards).

All tickets available from




I feel like Winter has lasted at least 6 months at this point. I am really over the cold and wet weather; I find myself dreaming of hotter climates and somewhere tropical around this time of year and I’ve got no trips away planned which is torture. That’s going on the to do list as soon as I can fit it in.

So… what have I been up to the past few months and what’s on the upcoming cards, read on and find out.

I’ve found myself on a journey in trying to better myself these past few years, especially since the pandemic. Maybe it’s because I’m getting (dare I say it) older? GULP! I really don’t like that word older, it gives frail “past it” vibes to me and that’s not what I’m about at all. So I’m going to use the word mature, even though that makes me think of cheese, but at least I like cheese. Anyway…Yes, I’ve definitely matured a lot.


I find juggling everything in my life very tough sometimes, I know I set really high goals for myself. I want to do so much, and feel that I am capable of a lot, but I get crippled sometimes with anxiety and stress and end up not achieving my full potential, and then I tend to be hard on myself until I can refocus and set new goals.

As a child I was very driven to achieve everything, I had laser focus, and nothing would stand in my way. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve lost a lot of that focus, I’ve been too caught up with the noise and rat race of modern life.


As mentioned, I’ve been looking inwards and really dissecting my behaviours to try to and gain some maturity and focus and I’m finally ready to address something that used to be fun for me but has not been fun in a long time and that’s my relationship with alcohol.

I’m not going to go in depth here, but if I’m honest with myself I would drink as a way to manage stress, pain and past trauma in my life. I wasn’t always drinking to be social, but I found it was a way for me to cope.

I’m ready to hold myself accountable and do the work to be a better version of

myself. This is scary for me to write, but I know a lot of people out there might be feeling the same way as I do but haven’t reached a point where they need/want to do something about it.

I have a lot going for me and so much coming up this year and I don’t want anything getting in my way. I need to have a clear head to achieve what I want and stop using crutches to stumble through life. I’m worth more than that.

So for now, whilst I try and work through issues and how I deal with stress in my life, I’m giving alcohol a HARD PASS.

As of writing this article I’m 60 days drink free and feel fabulous. All aspects of my life are getting better, physically and mentally I feel great. This winter has been tough but I have a feeling that good times are coming, I have some cool gigs coming up for Tailor.


I’m off to a Cosmetics convention in Italy in March for 5 days and I’m hosting BPerfect’s stand in Drag. I’m back working with Klub Kids on a few Drag Fest Shows this year, the first being Drag Fest Ireland in May, I will be in Manchester again, and back in Dublin before the Summer, so she’s a busy a gal! I do also have some other projects I’m working away on but just not ready to share at the minute.


WE FINALLY we have a launch date for our wee BBC THREE show that myself and the BPerfect crew worked on for most of 2022. Made Up In Belfast will be launching in April (around Easter) on BBC THREE/ BBC IPLAYER and BBC ONE NI. It’s 10 episodes, and about the lives of the crazy characters that work for Ireland’s Biggest Indie makeup brand and I will be featured as both James and Tailor. I can’t wait to share it with you all.

Thanks for reading.



Entering the new year with a bold sonic statement, newcomer Skylar affirms that it’s’ truly ‘out with the old and in with the new’, with the release of her uplifting pop soliloquy “To The Girl That Gets Him Next”. Arriving on the cusp of the release of Skylar’s debut EP via Polydor, “I’d Step On Lego For You”, the new single outlines Skylar’s desire to continue on creating a musical lane for herself in which she can explore the limits of fun-loving yet introspective pop records fashioned for an internet generation.

“It’s basically an excuse for me to chat sh*t with a touch of melody” cracks pop newcomer Skylar with regards to the messaging behind her debut EP, “I’d Step On Lego For You”. Continuing on her rise to stardom with a collection of feel-good coming-of-age anthems, Skylar is starting the new year strong with a five-track-wide offering which highlights past hits such as “Hair Tie” and “Double Denim”, whilst signalling her clear elevation of sound with new music.

On “To The Girl That Gets Him Next”, to the tune of a grandiose string arrangement cleverly bolstered by an infectious drumline, Skylar ponders

on the future suitor to her ex-lover, as she deconstructs the remnants of a relationship she feels that she “should have left sooner”. “It’s almost a big sister diary which takes you on a journey through all the times of a relationship gone wrong” says Skylar of her motivations behind writing the track. “It’s genuinely a fun, ‘warning’ song addressed to the unlucky girl who gets my ex next!” she exclaims. Always candid in her approach to songwriting, “I’d Step On Lego For You” encompasses Skylar’s sonic idiosyncrasies, and showcases the singers’ intrepid proficiencies for illuminating all the emotions associated with growing pains through her bold use of metaphor and satire. In attempting to encompassingly answer her own questions on “how to tell someone you love them” without the inherent awkwardness of actually having to say those “[cringey] three words” across the EP, Skylar has fashioned a body of work that sums up the solution perfectly within the title and tracks included on “I’d Step On Lego For You”. “Works like a charm” Skylar confirms, “you can find all that in my EP that’s for sure!” she says.


Describing her sound as “quintessentially British,” 19-yearold London singer-songwriter, and internet sensation Skylar – born Skylar Sanyal, is paving her own way in the world of music. As part of the social media generation, Skylar’s effortless aesthetic has made her a viral sensation on TikTok, where she’s found the perfect outlet for her own brand of creativity.

Cementing her own success on the app with her nostalgic Brit-pop musical expression has led to the singer amassing a monumental 5.5M likes and 396.9K followers in no time at all. Having extended her reach on TikTok out to her extended community of ‘internet friends’, Sanyal has also gained over 34.8k Instagram followers and 10K YouTube subscribers; who have all contributed to her whirlwind achievement of over 8 million combined streams across all releases to date. Follow


Wedding Showcase

Sunday 9th April from 2pm - 5pm



Fostering, and caring for children and young people, can wrongly be perceived as a woman’s role. Not only can men be foster carers, but their role in a fostering household can be an extremely important one.


One myth that we hear time and again is that to create a family, foster carers need to be a heterosexual married couple. And that the man’s role is one on the periphery, offering support, only when needed.

This is false.

Every family is different. Families come in all different shapes and sizes. It can consist of one person, or a houseful of people. To foster, and to create a family for a vulnerable young person, men can play varying roles. Men may foster as a single carer, or jointly in a same-sex couple, part of a civil partnership, married or living with a partner.


Male foster carers are often a young person in care’s first positive male role model. The impact of this can

not be underestimated. A male foster carer, who is a loving and stable presence, can give a child the chance to build trusting relationships with men. This early experience can be vital in shaping that young person’s future interactions - with men, or as men - as they grow older and ultimately make their own way into the world.

Mark, a single male foster carer, said: “Many of the boys in my care have missed out on having a male figure present throughout their lives. But they value that commitment so much.

“I would say to any guy, give it a try. Set aside all the perceptions and preconceived ideas that you have and just give it a go. You’ve got nothing to lose by trying, but you’ve everything to gain.”


At Action for Children, we support all types of foster carers, such as single male foster carers, as well as men who are the primary carer in their fostering household. Time and again we have had the opportunity to wit-

ness that men and women can embody the core skills of a foster carer, such as an ability to love, to show empathy and compassion, resilience and stickability.

There is no one-size-fits-all foster carer. Each of our children are unique and have a different set of needs. And so, we need carers from all walks of life, men as well as women, of all ages and from different backgrounds.

When you apply to foster with Action for Children, we assess the individual. We look at you as a person and explore the skills and experience that you have to support a child or young person.

Every family is different. But the one thing they should have in common is love. If you have space in your life –and your heart – to offer a child or young person a safe and loving home, we would love to hear from you. Call 028 9046 0500, email fostercareni@actionforchildren. or visit

Action for Children. Registered charity nos. 1097940/SC038092. Company no. 04764232. © Action for Children 2022. 1863. 028 9046 0500 Contact our friendly fostering team today: @Actn4ChildrenNI @actionforchildrenni Fostering is about building meaningful relationships. Change a child’s life. Time to connect




“I felt a strong connection and energy towards you and thought you wanted a reading. What’s your zodiac sign?”

“Not another one!”, I think to myself as I delete the message. I’ve received hundreds of these messages from fake psychics and mediums over the past 10 months. Of course, I get it. I can hardly blame them for trying when a professional tarot reader can charge anything from £100 per hour upwards. There is a lot of money to be made in telling people’s fortunes these days. But what they don’t know is that I also possess, not one deck of tarot cards, but eight along with Runes, Lenormand cards, and multiple books on this particular subject.

I am by no means an expert, but it has become a passion of mine over the past 10 months. Whether by accident or not, I’m still unsure, my first deck of Tarot cards was the classic Hermetic Tarot. Most people opt for the more straightforward Rider Waite Smith deck with its clear and colourful images but I found myself, all those months ago, in possession of a strange and unusual set of 78 cards upon which there were not just zodiacal and astrological symbols but also Hebrew letters that are hidden amongst the rather macabre black and white images. These strange and unusual symbols captivated me and I began to study the Kabbalah and all things esoteric and occult (a very misunderstood word which simply means ‘hidden’).

Like most beginners, I went straight to YouTube to hunt for

tutorials so that I could learn how to use them. It took me about three months to finally begin to understand the upright meanings of the cards, and the more I learnt about Tarot, the more I was hooked. Of course, it’s all very well knowing the theory, but you get to the stage where you realise that the only way to improve is by practising and so I went to TikTok and began to do many hours of live streaming during which I would offer to read for people.

To make it more fun for myself and the people watching me, I would often get shitfaced and take out my guitar to sing funny songs. The live streams became rather popular, and people seemed to enjoy the combination of cartomancy (fortune-telling or divination using a deck of cards), dick jokes, and a slightly shit-faced middle-aged homosexual.

The more readings I did the better I got. I soon began to trust my intuition and not only was I able to accurately describe the person’s present situation, but I would also get the names of their partners popping into my head. I knew if they had been ill, had visited the hospital, important dates and details of their lives. Sometimes, it was as if I could hear the very arguments they had had in the pub the night before.

I kept thinking to myself it must just all be a coincidence, but then on one occasion, I got both the first name and the surname of the person’s boyfriend. I was shocked and I realised that this was more than just

fun and games online. It was at that point that I began to think of reading tarot cards, as being more of a science, and I had to prove to myself that I was, in fact developing my psychic abilities. And so I pushed myself night after night, sitting in front of my ring light and my iPhone to get more and more accurate information. I drank a lot of vodka to loosen myself up and try to lose my inhibitions, and sure enough, I found I was able to describe the person’s home, the colour of their sofa, the objects in the room, the street they lived on, and even tell them where they had been on holiday.

One TikTok live stream received almost 100,000 likes. It was phenomenal. Sadly, social media these days is full of haters and so, of course, I quickly became a target for homophobes, sceptics, and deeply superstitious Christians who told me this was the work of the devil. At first, I tried to ignore the negativity, but then, as the insults became more and more personal, I decided to withdraw and focus on studying instead.

Several months later, and thanks to many amazing authors, such as Barbara Moore, Vincent Pitisci, Aleister Crowley, and Mary K. Greer I am now in the process of deepening my understanding of the upright meaning of the cards and am also learning the various interpretations of reverse cards and even Shamanic interpretations. In addition to this, I am also learning Lenormand and the ancient Elder Futhark Runes. It’s a bit like learning three languages at once but in my opinion, they

complement one another and help in decoding the meanings and interpretations of each. And yes I am your typical gay geek who loves to study!

I’m sure whomever it was who sent me that message this morning will find a gullible victim online to pay them to tell them some general information about their love life before moving on to the next person to extract another £100 but I hope that I can do my bit to educate others about such scams as it is incredibly frustrating for those of us who have a passion for cartomancy and who spend thousands of hours studying to deepen our understanding of this ancient and fascinating science.

To contact Xand:

Please note, this column is the opinion of the columinst and not that of GNI or Romeo & Julian Publiccations Ltd.


A new study by dating app, has revealed that Tinder is the dating app people want to delete the most.

The study analysed numerous dating apps, measuring the global search volume for terms relating to deleting the app to arrive at the app most people want to delete ahead of Valentines. Tinder is the least popular dating app, with an average of 45,000 searches being made each month around the world for how to delete the app. When broken down, searches for “how to delete Tinder account” brought in the highest volume of 19,000 searches globally, and “delete Tinder account” saw 13,000 searches worldwide each month. The app has accumulated 80 million users – more than most apps, and therefore contributes to its high ranking in this study - over six years and 64,000 ratings on the Apple App Store. The app’s rating currently sits at 3.8 out of five.

In second place is Badoo, with 22,000 worldwide searches each month for how to delete the app. Set up in 2006; the UK-based but internationally operating app has gathered 60 million users between 2015 and 2021.

With 18,100 deletion related searches on Google each month, the dating site Plenty of Fish ranks third. When broken down, the term “how to delete Plenty of Fish account” is searched 6,900 times a month, and “delete Plenty of Fish account” has 5,400 average monthly searches.

Searches to delete Bumble’s average at 8,400 every month, making it the fourth app users want to get rid of the most. Users have searched for “how to delete Bumble account” 3,900 times on a global monthly average, followed by “delete Bumble account” being searched 2,400 times around the world.

Happn takes the fifth spot with a worldwide deletion related search volume of 6,700 per month. With 15 million downloads, the app has received searches for “delete happn account” 2,000 times per month on average and “how to delete happn account” 1,800 times per month.

Commenting on the study, Valon Asani from said, “Daters are becoming more aware of what they want from not only relationships, but also the apps that enable said relationships. This study offers a fascinating insight into which apps are the least favourable among users and it will be interesting to see if this ranking changes as 2023 continues.”

This study was conducted by a nationality-based and meaningful dating app.


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Breaking Barriers

Throughout the Rainbow Project’s nearly 30-year history, we have conducted significant pieces of research into the health and well-being inequalities experienced by LGBTQIA+ people in Northern Ireland. We consult with the wider LGBTQIA+ Community and help to establish dedicated services to support their needs. Our research has identified a key theme around sexual health - our research that only 30% of respondents had accessed a GenitoUrinary Medicine (GUM) clinic or sexual health service, including community services or SH24 in the last three years.

Many respondents told us that there were barriers which stopped them from seeking out support or attending appointments.  The top reasons included worried about experiencing discrimination when accessing services, previous negative experiences and often fear or reluctance to speak to the GP.

We know that stigma, discrimination, confidentiality and fear of repercussions, as well as lack of appropriate and affordable health services, can prevent people from testing and accessing essential services, including HIV treatment. But looking after your sexual health is just as important as looking after your own mental or physical health.

The Rainbow Project Sexual Health Officer Leo works to create more awareness around what is available to them and we are working with partners like the Public Health Authority to make sure that sexual health support is more accessible than ever.

Depending on your needs you can now get tested at The Rainbow Project, at home or your local GUM clinic. We have been working with healthcare professionals about making sure that their services are trans-inclusive - a trans flag on a leaflet or having a non-gendered waiting room is sometimes enough to make someone feel comfortable to attend services they need. The Rainbow Project alongside

our partners at Belfast Trans Resource centre has been creating services that are dedicated and safe for Trans and Non-binary people to access sexual health support.

Knowing your status has many advantages and is an important step in HIV prevention and in stopping the spread of sexually transmitted infections overall. It is an essential entry point to treatment, prevention, care and support services. Knowing your status keeps you and your partners healthy.

For example, the treatment of HIV has dramatically changed over the last 5 years and treatment is now available as a form of prevention. If f you’re HIV negative, you may be able to take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce your risk of contracting HIV. It can be used by people who are HIV-negative but at high risk of HIV to dramatically reduce their chance of contracting HIV. PrEP is highly effective and is free of charge via the NHS.

What is PrEP?

PrEP or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis is a pill which when taken as directed can practically eliminate your risk of contracting HIV.

Who should take PrEP?

If you are HIV negative and at high risk of HIV then PrEP can stop your risk of contracting HIV. You might be considered at risk of contracting HIV if you:

• Don’t always use condoms for anal or vaginal sex

• Are an injecting drug user who doesn’t always use clean needles

• Are a sex worker

• Have a partner who is HIV positive with a detectable viral load or doesn’t take their HIV medication regularly

• Have had a recent STI (especially a rectal infection or syphilis)

• Use recreational drugs for chemsex (crystal meth, mephedrone and GHB)

• Have recently needed PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis)

Where can I get tested and how does that work?   The Rainbow Project can provide rapid HIV & syphilis testing for gay & bisexual men, men who have sex with men, transgender and non-binary people and anyone who is at risk of contracting HIV or is in high distress around their status. Rapid HIV and Syphilis testing is a thirty to forty-minute consultation with a trained member of staff from The Rainbow Project where you will take a finger prick blood test which checks for the antibodies of HIV and traces of the Syphilis bacteria. You receive your results there and then.

There is also free at-home sexual health testing now available to everyone in Northern Ireland through the SH24 service. So regardless of where you live or accessibility – you can order a free confidential teat to your home. If you’re too concerned about your confidentiality to receive an SH:24 kit to your home, you can even order it to our Belfast office for pick-up instead – just be sure to let us know first! SH:24 makes it easier for you to test at home for the four most common sexually transmitted infections which are chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV. You complete the test at home, post it back to SH24 and samples received in the laboratory are processed and results are back within 48-72 hours.

If would like to talk to a member of The Rainbow Project  Sexual Health Team about getting tested, PEP, PrEP, free condoms & lube or anything related  to your sexual health & well-being; you can get in touch with us via the Advice Referral Form on our website or ring us directly on 02890 319030.

Everyone should be able to access sexual health and well-being services in ways that best suit them. The reality is that too many LGBTQIA people face barriers when it comes to finding evidence-based, inclusive and non-judgmental support.


‘Talking really helps’ is a new mass media campaign from the Public Health Agency (PHA) encouraging anyone with feelings of anxiety or distress, or who is in crisis, to start the conversation about their thoughts and feelings.

The ‘Talking really helps’ suicide prevention campaign encourages anyone feeling low and struggling to cope to talk to someone they trust about how they are feeling. The message is don’t hide your real feelings, opening up to someone really does help and with the right help and support, things will get better.

The campaign promotes Lifeline, the free 24/7 crisis helpline, and encourages anyone in distress or despair to call the helpline on 0808 808 8000 and speak to one of Lifeline’s qualified counsellors. Textphone users can call 18001 0808 808 8000 and British and Irish Sign Language users can also use the SignVideo app. If English is not your first or preferred language, Lifeline can access translators to speak to you in your preferred language.

Lifeline support

The Lifeline counsellor will listen to you and work with you to provide the help and support that you need. In addition to helpline support, Lifeline also offers follow-on calls, signposting, and short-term counselling.


is available for anyone living

in Northern Ireland regardless of their age, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation.

Spot the signs

We can all feel anxious, stressed or low at times, but it can be a problem if these feelings get worse, go on for a long time or affect our daily lives.

It can be difficult to predict when you or someone you know might need support, but a change in behaviour is often the first thing you may notice. Some signs to look out for are:

• A low mood that won’t go away

• Being more irritable than normal

• Finding everyday tasks hard to do or cope with

• Spending more time alone

• Feeling tired and disturbed sleep

• Skipping meals or eating more than normal

• Misusing alcohol or drugs

• Talking about or thinking about not wanting to live

We are all different and not everyone will display all of these early warning signs.

Anyone can experience a mental health problem or feel suicidal, but LGBTQ+ people are at greater risk of poor mental health and have higher rates of suicidal thoughts. The reasons for this are complex, but as a minority community LGBTQ+ people may experience stigma, prejudice and discrimination.

If you are struggling to cope, don’t suffer alone. Talk to someone about how you are feeling. Call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 or visit to learn more.

Textphone 18001 0808 808 8000 Call free, 24 hours a day I’m not alright Talking really helps Don’t hide your real feelings.

LGBTQ SPORTS Martin Murray

I was delighted to have the committee from Sporting Pride visit Belfast for the first time on the 25th February. We were delighted to be hosted at the LGBTQ Centre thanks to Adam Murray and Carafriend and met with guests from Sports NI, The Green Party, Alliance Party, The IFA, Ulster Frontrunners, The Lagan Mermaids, Belfast Blaze. This was followed by a delicious dinner in Union Street and some entertainment at The Maverick.

It was a real honor seeing those who have got us to this point gathered together and to truly understand that a large community with hundreds of members from across Northern Ireland now exists practicing a number of sports to change statistics and get us to a place where the LGBTQ community are just as active and live as healthy a lifestyle as heterosexuals.

Remember you are all welcome to get involved no matter your gender, age, sexuality, race, religion, schedule or even budget we have a place to support all LGBTQ people looking to improve their physical and mental health. You can get in touch with Sporting Pride by emailing martin.murray@ or via their Instagram @ SportingPride.

Ulster Frontrunners

The Ulster Front runners have had an incredible first five months exploring park runs across the city and raising funds for Positive Life NI, Northern Irelands HIV Charity. This April 30th Ulster Frontrunners will have their biggest moment yet competing in the Belfast City Marathon followed by a party in Union Street with Frontrunners from across Ireland and the UK in a collaboration with Glasgow Frontrunners. On top of those completing the Team Relay in support of Dementia NI, a few of our members will be competing in the race and in other races across the UK that day kicking of a summer of events including the LGBTQ Sports Day and Belfast Pride. As the group grows, we adapt to

our members with a variety of sessions available to new runners through couch to 5k and longer distance runs to build stamina and speed. You can get in touch with Ulster Frontrunners by emailing martin.murray@ or via their Instagram @UlsterFrontrunners.

The Lagan Mermaids

The Lagan Mermaids are proud to have found a home with Lagan Scullers. We will be apart of Lagan Scullers club but will continue to support and celebrate all LGBTQ Rowers via our Instagram, what’s app group and some socials throughout the year. Rowing has always been quite an elitist closed off sport to outsiders however that has changed in recent years, and we look forward to further supporting that change through our work with Rowing Ireland who have been a great cheerleader for our organization. You can get in touch with The Lagan Mermaids by emailing martin. or via their Instagram @TheLaganMermaids.

The Declan Flynn Cup

Sporting Pride were proud to contribute a small contribution towards Dublin Devils transport to Belfast for the first leg of the Declan Flynn Cup which was won 3-1 to Dublin Devils against Belfast Blaze. Sporting Pride will also contribute some funds towards Belfast Blaze when they travel to Dublin for the final leg of the Declan Flynn Club. Both clubs have done


themselves proud and the community keeping the memory of Declan Flynn alive, and it was great to see a small crowd of football supporters in the stands with me watching the match. You can reach out to Belfast Blaze via Instagram @ BelfastBlaze or Dublin Devils Instagram @ DublinDevils


The Rainbow Project NI supported by Citi will be organizing swimming sessions at the end of every month specifically for transgender members of our community. All ages welcome. Normally on the last Saturday of every month. Email ren@ for more info, to get added to the mailing list, or to book your spot! You can contact The Rainbow Project @TRPNI.

Belfast Azlan’s

At the start of the year, I had the privilege of joining Belfast Azlans for their first training of 2023. The team was very welcoming as we trained up at Jordanstown next to Ophir RFCs team. The coaches were patient and clear in their guidance and everyone from the team went out of their

way to make sure I knew exactly what I should be doing and had patience as I learnt. They were very welcoming for me to come back. I have also enjoyed seeing the team down at maverick for the six nations alongside a varied group of lesbians, transgender people and allies which is great to see as queer spaces are often filled with primarily gay men with not a lot of room for lesbians and the trans community. You can reach out to Belfast Azlans on Instagram @BelfastAzlans

Finally, I look forward to welcoming you all to several events we are currently planning to include a women’s sports day, a second LGBTQ Sports day during Ulster of University freshers and sport related Pride events across Ireland including Belfast, Omagh and Dublin. Let’s continue the journey to make this country the most inclusive in the world and one day host a Gay World Games or Eurogames hosting thousands of queer athletes from across the world in our beautiful country.

Please note, this column is the opinion of the columinst and not that of GNI or Romeo & Julian Publiccations Ltd. COLUMN MARTIN MURRAY GNI MAG [45]




1. At home Paint and Sip ‘Paint and Sips’ are an excellent way to see how you and your partner can get creative, however, they can be pricey. Paint and Sips are in-formal art classes where you paint the same image and drink cocktails, mocktails, or wine.

You can recreate a similar experience at home that is not limited to painting and can include fancy homemade cocktails/mocktails. You can purchase affordable arts and crafts sets from your local craft store or even create something using air-drying clay.

2. Game Night

Game nights are a fun and competitive way to put your partner’s skills to the test. Most video games do have a co-op mode where you can team up together. Story-based games are great as you through challenges together. Board games can also provide hours of entertainment on a low budget. You can find rare board games at charity shops. Most new board games are fairly inexpensive and can be a great option for date night.

3. Visit an Art Gallery or Museum

Most museums and galleries have free entry or discounted tickets available, which means you can get cultured on a low budget. This is a great way to see what art styles your partner likes and can even help you decide what to create for your ‘At home Paint and Sip’

4. The viral £5 meal challenge

This challenge has taken over social media and is a fun way to put your cooking, budgeting

and creative abilities to the test. Taking turns, you and your partner must come up with a threecourse meal that stays within a set budget – typically the budget is set low to make this more challenging - the lower it is, the more difficult. The challenge is in the budget, and the lower it is, the more challenging it can be.

book, but this can also provoke interesting and thoughtful conversations. This can be a great and intimate way to reignite the spark in your relationship.

6. Gardening

Some garden centre’s offer free volunteer gardening days, especially in the Spring. This can be




5. Book Club

If your partner is an introvert or book lover, they will love this idea. An ‘at home book club’ where you and your partner can read the same book, with a cosy drink and candles. Not only can this improve your communication skills with your partner as you discuss your thoughts on the

a fun activity with your partner, and you can give back to your community at the same time!

You can also garden at home, growing seasonal fruits or vegetables that you can harvest and cook with. Over time this can be very cost-effective, as you can re-grow your own produce.

7. Come Dine with Me

Cooking and baking is a fun activity to do with your partner. You can try recipes from various parts of the world and learn about different cultures. To make this more fun and competitive, you can host a couples Come Dine With Me and judge your partner’s dishes!

8. Hobby Swap

This is for the partner that finds themselves doing what their partner likes most of the time. Take turns explaining and participating in your partner’s hobbies. This can also help you get to know your partner even more. You can teach your partner a skill that you have, such as playing the piano.

9. Play Tourist

You can become a tourist in your own city with your partner because the chances are you’ve not been to any historical places that are on your doorstep. A spokesperson from says that “exploring your city can be refreshing and give you a new perspective on where you live”.

10. IKEA Challenge

IKEA is a great date spot, since there is a lot of walking and talking involved, plus there is no entry fee. You and your partner can walk through the showrooms or even grab something to eat at their food hall. You can even find something that is within your budget to build together.

Feature by



Armagh, the real home of St Patrick, announces eight-day programme of events running from Saturday 11 to Sunday 19 March

Armagh City, the home of St Patrick, is celebrating his life and legacy as part of an eight-day festival of events that gets underway on Saturday 11 March.

Held in the ecclesiastical capital, this year’s cultural offering combines an exciting programme of traditional live music, art, poetry, theatre, film and dance and takes in many of the city’s iconic Georgian streets and venues.

Established as one of the UK and Ireland’s most authentic events to mark St Patrick’s enduring impact on the island of Ireland and the world, Armagh was Patrick’s chosen place where he began his Christian mission and his legacy lives on in this ancient, unique and beautiful place.

Ireland’s oldest city, famed for its history, heritage and stunning Georgian façades, will this year host a range of enthralling activities for individuals, families and groups alike - including live music, dance, poetry workshops, film screenings and compelling walking tours as well as the annual St Patrick Lecture and St Patrick’s Eve Vigil.

Welcoming the launch of this year’s festival, Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough, Cllr Paul Greenfield, said:

“Famed for its Christian heritage, landscapes, its Georgian past, iconic cathedrals and a year- round programme of award-winning festivals, the Home of St Patrick Festival is an important addition to the city’s annual calendar of standout events and we look forward to welcoming thousands of visitors to join in on the celebrations this year.

“The eight-day programme takes in many key landmarks and venues throughout our Cathedral City and two special family fun days, guaranteed to keep everyone entertained.”

Armagh’s iconic The Market Place Theatre plays an important part in this year’s festival, hosting performances from big name acts in music, theatre and comedy.

As part of this year’s stellar line up of events, acclaimed tribute band, Celtic Soul will return to the Market Place Theatre with a special tribute to one of Ireland’s greatest musical talents, Sir Van Morrison. Also playing tribute to some of the greats with a traditional roundup of ‘Songs of Home’, Malachi Cush will take to the stage alongside musical sensation Niamh McGlinchey and Karl McGuckin to

transport guests on a journey through the tremendous Irish songbook.

There’s plenty for kids of all ages too, including the big family fun day and concert taking place on Thursday 16 th March in The Shambles Yard, Armagh. Taking place from 5.30 to 8.30, the thrilling showcase will feature a lively set from Celtic Trad Rock Band “More Power to Your

Elbow” and locally born and trained, singer / flautist Rioghnach Connolly, who now performs globally, accompanied by Irish dance performances from local dance schools - this will no doubt be a headline event of this year’s programme. On St Patrick’s Day itself, the community parade, a celebration of our patron saint will weave through the city centre from 2.30pm with a spectacular display of colour, music and entertainment for all to enjoy. On Saturday 18th March, Banbridge’s gorgeous Solitude Park will be the place to be to enjoy live music, face-painters, fair rides and more.

For more information on the range of in-person and online events, and to book tickets, jump into


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Citi has once again been recognised as a Top 100 LGBTQ+ inclusive employer for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer colleagues in the UK in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, ranking 10th out of more than 250 organisations. Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers 2023 list recognises exceptional employers who are committed to supporting their LGBTQ+ staff and customers.

Locally, Citi Belfast’s Pride Network, an over 500 member-strong network of LGBTQ+ staff and allies from across Belfast’s sites, has also been awarded a ‘Highly Commended Network Group,’ celebrating their work in raising awareness, organising events, providing expertise and working closely with local communities and organisations on equality and workplace inclusion, whilst Odhrán Devlin, Business Manager, Citi Global Sourcing - Staffing Office based in Belfast, has been recognised for his exceptional leadership and awarded a Stonewall Changemaker of the Year Award, highlighting his continued dedication to growing the network as well as broadening engagement within the local community through outreach events and initiatives.

Sharing the exciting news with the Citi Belfast Team Leigh Meyer, Site Head of Citi Belfast, said, “Citi is proud to have been recognised again this year with several awards from the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 2023, reflecting our continued commitment and efforts to be an LGBTQ+ inclusive employer. These awards come during LGBTQ+ History Month in the UK and add a special element to our celebrations and commemorations throughout the month. Over the past year Citi Belfast has continued to build on the success of being one of the lead signatories in the Businesses for Love Equality campaign in 2018, calling for the introduction of equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

“As part of the submission this year, the local network shared highlights from

a range of activities that took place for colleagues across our Belfast sites, including partnership with local LGBTQ+ sector organisations including The Rainbow Project, Cara-Friend, and HERe NI.

We are incredibly proud of the work taking place in Northern Ireland to advance the rights and inclusion of LGBTQ+ colleagues and wider community, and would like to thank Odhrán and the Belfast and London Pride Networks for all their important work, passion and dedication to making Citi a workplace where LGBTQ+ employees can bring their full selves to work.”

Commenting on his personal recognition Odhrán Devlin said, “I am honoured to have been awarded one of Stonewall’s Changemaker of the Year awards and am proud to contribute to the outstanding work Citi’s Pride network continues to do not only internally but across Northern Ireland. It has been great to be able to partner with local LGBTQ+ sector organisations who provide invaluable support to LGBTQ+ people across Northern Ireland.”

“We know from research that coming out in the workplace is still a major barrier facing individuals from the LGBTQ+ community, and at Citi we have taken steps to ensure that marginalised and underrepresented groups feel welcome and respected. Individuals at every level of the organisation have the opportunity to educate themselves and engage on LGBTQ+ issues and understand how they may impact people’s workplace experience.

“Working with the key sector organisations in Northern Ireland including The Rainbow Project, Cara-Friend, and HERe NI has informed the way we approach LGBTQ+ representation and advocacy within our workplace here in Belfast. We consider their work to be invaluable in protecting and improving



the lives of LGBTQ+ people in Northern Ireland.”

Reflecting on the strength of Citi Belfast’s efforts for LGBTQ+ inclusion, Peter Holden, Global Head of End User Services and business sponsor of the Citi Belfast Pride Network added, “Since entering the Stonewall Index, the Pride Network and the wider Belfast site have continued to drive change in the workplace to make Citi Belfast more inclusive. We are delighted that our outcomes continue to be celebrated, confirming that Citi is a great place to bring your whole self to work.”

Stonewall’s research shows that more than a third of LGBTQ+ staff (35 per cent) in the UK hide who they are at work, while one in five (18 per cent) have been the target of negative comments because they’re LGBTQ+. As a global financial institution, Citi continues to work to promote more welcoming workplaces, share best practice and collaborate with its networks for greater levels of LGBTQ+ inclusion across the world.

Nancy Kelley, CEO of Stonewall (she/her) said: ‘It’s been fantastic to see all of the work put in by Citi Belfast over the past year to create a workplace where LGBTQ+ staff feel free to thrive as themselves.

‘For many of us, the majority of our time is spent at work, so if we have to hide who we are it can take an enormous personal toll and hold us back from fulfilling our true potential. Creating environments where we can all feel comfortable makes our workplaces a safer, better and friendlier place for everyone and helps staff be proud of who they are.

‘We’re incredibly proud to see so many new entrants from a range of sectors on this year’s list, who are committed to making LGBTQ+ people’s lives better. That’s what inclusion is all about and we can’t wait to see.’

Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers List 2023 is the UK’s leading ranking of employers from public, private and third sectors on how inclusive their workplaces are. Creating inclusive environments makes the workplace safer and better for everyone – not just LGBTQ+ people. Further information on the Index can be found on the Stonewall website, as well as additional information about the importance of LGBTQ+ inclusion.

About Citi

Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.

Citi Belfast has built on the success of being one of the lead signatories in the Businesses for Love Equality campaign in 2018, calling for the introduction of equal marriage in Northern Ireland. As an organisation we are building a diverse, equitable and inclusive bank with an equitable and inclusive culture where we proudly reach our fullest potential.

Additional information may be found at | Twitter: @Citi | YouTube:| Blog: Facebook:| LinkedIn:

LGBTQ+ Initiatives at Citi

As part of the submission this year, the local network shared a number of highlights from a range of activities that took place for colleagues across our Belfast sites, including partnership with local LGBTQ+ sector organisations, such as The Rainbow Project, Cara-Friend, and HERe NI.

The Rainbow Project: Organisation that promotes the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people and their families in Northern Ireland. The Rainbow Project deliver monthly training sessions to colleagues on a range of topics including LGBTQ+ awareness, trans and non-binary workshops, and HIV awareness sessions. Citi sponsor The Rainbow Project’s Trans Swimming Sessions which create an accessible space for members of the trans and non-binary community.

Cara-Friend: Since 2020 Citi Belfast has been the lead sponsor of the LGBTQI+ Inclusive Schools’ Charter. As part of this, Cara-Friend have trained a group of Citi volunteers to participate in ‘All Out’ anti-bullying workshops in schools across Northern Ireland. In 2022, 4600 students and 819 staff received this training, with 10 schools actively working towards chartered accreditation under the program.

Citi recognised for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in the Workplace with special commendations for Citi Belfast’s Pride Network and ‘Changemaker of the Year’ Odhrán Devlin.






>>> Her new book has now been released on all major formats and bookstores.

“Sugar and Spice’ is the true story of her journey as the first and only female Parachute Regiment officer in the British Army. Dismissed from service for being transgender after a decade of decorated service, Abi has gone on to become a top international diplomat and representative for the trans community.

Abi's story, told in her own words, is unique, profound and a parable for our times:

‘At birth, I was designated male by a midwife who summarily examined between my legs and pronounced judgement. I was to become many things, but I have never been male.

I am woman. I always have been.

I was forced to live as somebody I am not for the first 44 years of my life. A rather grim prism through which to exist; I am sure you will agree. A life sentence awarded to the innocent.

My only offence was to be born female. I didn’t ask for the medical accident of attached flesh, or the false midwife diagnosis. That error reverberating through my life has caused so much pain.

I turned that mistake around to find a life I could have otherwise never enjoyed. I became an officer in The Parachute Regiment. I passed the rigorous Airborne selection 20 years before the army said another woman was the first.

That is simply not true.

I am the first.

I became a paratrooper by adopting a disguise forced upon me by a midwife’s designation. I didn’t choose that. Having been forced to live with it, I turned it around to beat the patriarchy at its own game. Women were not allowed to join the Regiment. To achieve my ambition, I hid my identity. It was the only way to win. No other woman has ever achieved what I achieved.

I went all the way with The Parachute Regiment, commanding paratroopers in combat in Iraq and Bosnia. I went to the Special Air Service. I

deployed multiple times with Special Forces in Afghanistan. I served in Cyprus, Kenya, Belize, Oman, Poland, Germany, Jordan, Kuwait, the United States and Northern Ireland. I packed in more in my decade with the Regiment than most do in a lifetime.

When I tired of hiding, I had my own ‘voila!’ that appalled them all. I revealed to the military who I really am. Now that truly was a moment… they said I’d betrayed them. I said you didn’t think that when two British Princes of the Blood decorated me for my service. I stayed with the army just long enough to be confirmed by the army as the first female Parachute Regiment officer, therefore, the first female to pass Airborne selection.

Then I was gone.

The army made it clear women weren’t welcome. Merely by becoming me, they rejected me.

I had worked my way round the regulations. All within the rules. They weren’t expecting that. They couldn’t then walk it back. I’d proved to one and all I was Airborne. They thanked me for my service, then told me I had to leave.

Women weren’t allowed to serve in The Parachute Regiment. The army had found a stop sign I couldn’t work around.

I have a letter from the Regimental Colonel that says exactly that. No matter. The army can’t deny I walked on their forbidden ground.

I have been female all my life. That is the rock that forms the foundation of my existence. There’s a whole gas-lighting epic about ‘biological sex’, but that’s merely the last gasp of baby boomer bigotry.

The attached gonads I happened to arrive with were a mere medical accident. No different from webbed feet or any other paradox of gestation. When I could, I fixed that, and changed every aspect of my life accordingly. I’m an awfully happy person now, but continually unhappy at how society continues to persecute my right to self-determination.

I firmly believe that in decades to come, folks will look back on the way my community has been pilloried by society and view it as the same sort of

aberration that once saw left-handed people condemned as evil. I think we’ve just about reached that tipping point over same-sex sexuality. I hope I may yet be alive when my people are viewed with the same relative tolerance.

It was logic and reason, not cultural discrimination, which gave me my answers. A sort of gender enlightenment, if you like. And it was science that provided me with my final, external solution. I was always me, always have been. I was female from the moment I was conceived and will be till the day I die. What society did was make me ashamed of my lived reality by teaching me I was evil. I was given no other option.

Until now:

I will no longer accept the things I cannot change. I will change the things I cannot accept. That, I think, deals with that…I’ll not apologise for any of it, nor second guess myself anymore, nor allow you to second guess me either. It’s taken me sixty years to achieve that self-belief. Society ranges every power it has against my community. Life remains a constant challenge.

None of this has been easy.

I’ve got a female passport, but I get a ping every time I go through customs control. Nobody says anything, but then I get the nudge and the look from the border police. If I phone a government department and give them my social security number, there’s a pause and a throat clear and the line goes on silent while I get put through to a ‘special’ helpline. I am now calling Orwell’s Room 101. Somewhere, in some dark and dank office down a dark and dank corridor, behind a door and a sign marked ‘special’, there’s somebody sitting with a list of ‘special’ people, ready to treat me in a ‘special’ way. No matter how apologetic, every engagement is beyond intrusive.

I’ve tried to find a partner, but there always comes the dreadful, hateful moment when I have the conversation. I rarely get beyond the look of shock and confusion. I live alone now. It just got too complicated.

The dichotomy is evident because that societal rejection has also been my greatest blessing. I had to learn to be somebody else. The foundation of


my professional success was predicated on being enough of an actor to work the other side of the gender divide.

Without that midwife’s error, I simply could not have enjoyed the career and the adventures I have had. As a woman, I would not have been allowed. Such is the patriarchy. Such is the paradox.

My life has been unique in its challenges and unique in its achievements.

I am my own superhero.

Being called a man allowed me to develop a confidence I would never have been permitted to enjoy had I always been openly female. The leadership skills I learned as an officer would never have happened for me, simply because women were barred from the Parachute Regiment.

Was I an imposter? Don’t think so - I passed the same tests as everybody else and served my time in the same way everybody else did. I led soldiers. Everybody brings baggage to the parade square. I may have been different, but I met so many oddballs in the army, I am far from being alone in my difference. I had an awful lot of mental trauma bags to haul about, but I also had a blinding, OCD level, ambition that drove me onward. It’s not my issue that the army didn’t see me for me.

The army recognised my talent and ambition and fully exploited it, so the institution was as complicit in my career as I was. I never lied about my identity, just that nobody in authority chose to ask me the question. When I did tell them, they fired me. I have no regrets about not mentioning it before.

I owe the Regiment and the army for the opportunities it gave me. In seeing me as a man, they opened Pandora’s Box for me to exploit. I did just that, picking up, examining, and loving every jewel on offer. Jewels that would have been forbidden to me, had they known me as the woman I am.

The army isn’t the only career I’ve had. However, it is the only one that was so extreme in its rejection of women that I had to forge another identity to be allowed to participate.

Of the rest, I wouldn’t change anything. I look back now with a strong and deserved sense of professional success. In spades.

That, believe me, is a real rarity for somebody with my background. Not many make it this far. Those that publicly do, tend to end up in entertainment, largely as a curiosity of parts, a sort of PT Barnum oddity. I am not sure whether folks are laughing with or at us. I’m not judging, survival is what it is. Whatever gets you through the night, right? I just wish there were more of us openly out there doing something different. We are just as diverse as any other group of humanity.

That was where war came into the equation.

My struggle to reconcile my outer appearance with a wholly different inner being became reflected in my desire to be part of conflict. War meant I could forget. When the fog starts to suffocate, you got to up-change the weather. So that was what I did, constantly charging onwards, taking ridiculous risks, a butterfly dodging the flame.

I went to eight major conflicts; I willingly went to every one of them, most I volunteered for.

I was drawn to war between peoples as a reflection of the war I fought within myself. Society rewarded my sacrifice in those terrible conflicts with awards and medals. The more I acted as a man, the angrier I got at the utter ridiculousness of my situation, the more decorations I was given. They gave me prizes for putting myself in a position where I could be killed. A form of release from my own torment. All I did as I got older was amplify the risk.

I nearly died on the battlefield many times, just as I nearly died in life fighting my own internal struggle for liberation. I fought my learned hatred of myself to the bitter end. To the stage where I could fight no more, and the only alternative was eternal darkness. I fought myself to a standstill before I capitulated. I stopped caring if I lived or died, and only just found my redemption in time.

I am resigned to death. I don’t seek it, but if the fight becomes too much, I will happily end this life if I must. I’ve been so close so many times, mortal end fails to have any fear.

Those wars remain seared into my mind and contribute to making me the person I have become. I have spent 17 years on the forgotten frontlines of some forgotten war in forgotten countries. When the rest of the world was forming relationships and families, I was trolling over some battle-scarred landscape. Most soldiers count themselves lucky to see one war – I’ve seen far too many.

No one could be the woman I am without the mould being cracked just a bit. I am wary of humanity because my life has always been adversely judged. Now, I am very, very careful about who I let in.

It’s a necessary carapace.

I found my own joy without others. It is simple; I live life as the woman I always have been. I revel in that joy every day as if it could be my last. A joy that took me more than half my life to find.

I don’t need your pity; I chose this.

What I do ask for – nay, demand – is your acceptance.

I want you to know that I am a very, very, very happy woman. It could have been an easier road, but it is what it is. I found my grail – and I drink deeply from that battered cup.’

Her deeply moving autobiography tells her hard scrabble journey of self-realisation from a broken childhood of abuse and neglect. To an end state of international success and material reward. As a journey of self-realisation alone, it is worth the price. As a journey through British societal change over the last 60 years, it is remarkable.

In her book, she reflects on the culture wars, the discrimination and hatred she has faced, and the lessons she has drawn from a life of struggle to achieve personal happiness and love.

‘Sugar and Spice’ by Abi Austen is available via all store fronts, apps and physical shops.




New research from leading law firm reveals 36% people are dating before divorce…and not confessing to it!

Whether you love it or loathe it, Valentine’s Day is swiftly approaching, the annual holiday dedicated to showing feelings of love and affection to those who mean most. With this, leading divorce and family law firm Maguire Family Law has released the results of a recent survey revealing that a shocking 36% of people in the UK would not disclose to a potential new partner that they are legally still married.

First dates are an opportunity for individuals to get to know one another and to find out whether they could be compatible in a relationship. Commonly asked questions include “How long has it been since your last relationship?”, and “What is your dating history?” How often do people ask “Are you married?”.

In the survey commissioned by Maguire Family Law, when asked, “To what extent, if at all, would you be willing to confess to a new date that you are not yet divorced or in the process of a divorce” 36% of participants answered, ‘not willing’, which suggests that over one in three individuals would happily be dishonest to new dating partners about their current marital status.

Moreover, when the participants were asked, “How, if at all, do you know when it is the best time to start dating someone new” only 11% of participants answered, “when I am officially divorced”, which suggests that a staggering 89% of people are already dating before the divorce is made official. This is often due to an inability to reach a financial agreement during the divorce process in addition to current court backlogs.

In April 2022, “no fault” divorce came into force, meaning that couples no longer need to state grounds for divorce including adultery or any unreasonable behaviour. The reasoning behind this change of law was to reduce the potential conflict and inflamed emotions involved in the divorce process, as it now only needs to take into consideration the marriage breakdown rather than having to particularise the facts.

James Maguire, Founder and Director at Maguire Family Law, commented on the survey results saying, “At Maguire Family Law, we work in the best interests of our clients. We advise on fair agreement and aim to deliver a divorce that is as pain-free, amicable, and cost effective as possible. Often despite best efforts to ensure a quick result, some divorces can be a timely process, and because of this, many individuals will choose to begin dating before the divorce is finalised. We strongly recommend honesty from the word go and to disclose that their divorce is in process or not yet finalised. It is not a great foundation to begin a new relationship where major aspects of your life are concealed. And especially where children are concerned.”

The survey carried out by Maguire Family Law consisted of a range of questions about relationships, how long the right time is to move on, who influences dating decisions and more, and was open to participants across the entirety of the UK, from ages 16 and above.




Revealed: The most popular sex positions in each UK city

In Belfast, the Speedbump is the most searched for sex position

Missionary comes in second Cowgirl is the third most popular

Research by sex experts analysed Google trends data on 17 sex positions to reveal which ones are the most popular in each UK city. The most searched-for sex positions in Belfast are as follows:

1. Speedbump - This position is a simple version of doggy-style where the person below lies on their stomach, typically with a pillow underneath them.

2. Missionary - The Christian church deemed mis-

sionary as the only appropriate way to procreate as it is one of the more conservative positions. In the modern day, its benefits are that it is seen as the most intimate position, extremely up close and personal, increasing connection through eye contact. It is also one of the least intimidating positions due to the lack of effort needed to put one another in this position and carry on the sexual act.

3. Cowgirl - New research has revealed that this position is to blame for half of all penile fractures that occur during sex - a position not for the faint hearted. It is an extension of missionary, however in this scenario the person ‘on top’ is in the ‘superior’ position where they typically control the movements.

A spokesperson for commented on the findings: “Discussions around sex and pleasure have moved forward in recent times and allow us

a comfortable space to educate ourselves and to explore our interests.

Missionary is seen as a more intimate position as it is face-to-face, however the interest for more acrobatic and ‘distant’ positions such as speed bump and cowgirl are very common across all UK cities. Many positions can be enhanced or adapted by the use of sex toys.

It is important for couples to discuss what works best for each other when it comes to sex and this analysis highlights that across the UK residents are searching for a range of positions to potentially try out.”

This research was carried out by, an information website on exploring pleasure, product reviews, how-to guides and a wide selection of carefully curated sex toys and accessories.



Newly engaged but don’t know where to start?

The ten things you need to know - from an expert Wedding Planner

With the uplifting feeling that a fresh New Year brings, alongside the romantic buildup to Valentine’s Day, February is a popular time to finally ‘pop the big question’. Consequently, many formerly single couples will be on cloud nine following an exciting recent engagement. Being newly engaged is thrilling, with lots of anticipation for the big day ahead, but it can also be a bit overwhelming, with so much to plan, think of and save for.

Your wedding may be a concept you may have thought about from a young age – but no matter how confident you are in how you want your big day to look, it can be difficult to know how to bring your vision to life. How do you get started with wedding planning and in what order should things be booked?

Whether the wedding you desire is big or small, in winter or summer, traditional or modern, Galgorm’s resident wedding planner Donna Cunningham has all the tricks of the trade to help you get started with planning your dream day. Here she shares her ultimate wedding planning checklist to help you through the process step-by-step. The Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist by Donna Cunningham, Wedding Planner, Galgorm Collection

First thing’s first, take it all in. The news that you are getting married to your partner is exhilarating so it is vital that you both take time to enjoy this brilliant chapter of your life and celebrate your engagement. Whether that’s on your own with your spouse-to-be, or together with your friends and family, taking time to take it all in and mark this momentous occasion is paramount. Enjoy the first few weeks as a newly engaged couple before people start asking questions about dates and venues and you start to feel that ‘pres-

sure’ to make decisions.

Consider your ideal wedding size. When you are ready to start planning, the first thing to think about is numbers. Know how many guests you would ideally like to share your big day with, as this, in turn, will help you choose your venue. Historically, weddings would have had an average of 120-180 guests, however times have changed, and this is now considered a ‘big’ wedding. Since the pandemic, couples have more confidence in identifying what’s important to them, and in turn, cutting back on their guest numbers, so we more frequently see smaller, more intimate weddings of around 40-80 people, often in a bid to cut costs. At Galgorm, the minimum is 40 guests, but we can accommodate up to 300, so really it’s down to personal preference.

Choosing the right venue.

When considering potential venues for your big day, it’s important that the location reflects the


bride and groom’s personalities. We find that some really love the relaxed and bohemian vibes of the Loft at The Rabbit, with its sharing menu, banqueting tables, and large statement marble dining tables decorate with foliage, candles and candleabras, or the sophisticated city style and contemporary French ambience of Parisien, set against the iconic and cosmopolitan backdrop of Belfast City Hall. Others prefer the opulent and formal atmosphere of Galgorm, located in ancient rolling woodlands and next to a spectacular waterfall which cascades next to a dramatic ballroom adorned with a crystal glass fringe ceiling that gives it that true feel of old-school Hollywood glamour. Or perhaps your vibe is the rustic, countryside feel of The Old Inn in Crawfordsburn, with a sense of romance that dates as far back as 1614 - even hosting world-famous author C.S. Lewis on his honeymoon in 1958. From experience, couples usually have an instant reaction to a venue that helps them decide what they like and dislike. As the saying goes, ‘when you know, you know.’

Keeping on top of wedding trends. Suppliers such as florists are good with keeping you up to date with what’s on trend. Social media is also great for wedding trends, especially Instagram. I see more and more couples coming to me with pictures they’ve found on Instagram as their inspiration rather than using traditional bridal magazines. If I had to give one piece of advice when considering wedding décor or trends – it’s that less is more. It works perfectly because it’s never going to date.

Spreadsheets, spreadsheets, spreadsheets!

A clear vision of budget is vital from the word ‘go’ as there will be small deposits straight away. You might be wondering, ‘where do I get my total budget figure from?’ My advice would be to ask your venue for a base price to build on top of. A lot of couples then get their parents involved, and they work out what they can afford together. Focus on the essentials first, and then see if you have enough for luxuries, but make sure you keep your spreadsheet up to date. That way it’s easier to see where exactly your money is going as you go along. There is so much you can do yourself too. With invitations for example, you can utilise online invitations and RSVPs rather than having to budget for print costs.

Bridal Party: Less is more? Or the more the merrier?

A smaller bridal party is definitely easier to manage, especially when considering timings on the big day. We usually allow for an hour and a half for photographs for a standard size bridal party of three bridesmaids. If you have a larger group though, we allocate an extra hour, so consider if you are happy to have this chunk of time taken out of your day. Making everything as enjoyable as possible and eliminating stress is crucial. That’s why people like Galgorm weddings - they have nothing to worry about as the wedding packages take care of everything from photography to catering and take a lot of the planning off your plate.

What to book first.

In priority order, it makes sense to book venue, photographer and band first because, after all, they can only do one wedding per day, and book up quickly. Other suppliers however, for example florists, can work on multiple weddings at once so can wait a little longer. Once you have booked your venue, you may wish to attend wedding shows to get some inspiration for your other vendors. We provide visitors to our wedding shows with a ‘tried and tested’ supplier list, even if they don’t book with us. Our Spring Wedding Showcase takes place at Galgorm on Sunday 12 March, and all our trusted suppliers will be on hand to offer expert advice to help make your wedding day vision become a reality.

Ready, set, plan.

Like all other wedding venues, Galgorm has bookings from as soon as 2023, to as far away as 2026. If you would like a short lead-in, or have a specific date in mind, you need to be quick with booking. Most couples book one to two years in advance, but some wait a little longer to give enough time to save or buy a house first. If you are choosing to get married at your venue, remember to organise a ceremony officiant at least a year in advance and gather all the required legal documents.

Remember the ultimate decision is yours. Everyone you speak to will have their own opinion but try not to let this influence you. Remember it is your day. Have as many people there as you want. Have a style that you want. And wear what you want.

Extend the celebrations.

My final piece of advice when planning your big day is to book to stay at your venue for a night or two after the wedding so you are not going back to reality straight away. You don’t have a huge amount of time together with your spouse on the day itself, so take another day to stay in that romantic bubble. For this reason, we have seen such an increase in Day 2 celebrations. Everyone enjoys it as it’s really relaxed and informal. Your wedding day goes by in a flash, but with a late bar, musician and a barbecue, the Day 2 is a cert to keep the party going as you head into married life!

Galgorm Collection is Northern Ireland’s premier group of wedding destination hotels, bars and restaurants. For further information phone +44 (0)28 2588 1001, email reservations@galgorm. com or visit:



Instagram: @galgormweddings

Twitter: @GalgormResort

The Rabbit


Instagram: @therabbit_hotel

Twitter: @therabbit_hotelThe Old Inn


Instagram: @theoldinn1614

Twitter: @OldInn1614



Instagram: @parisienbelfast

Twitter: @_cafeparisien





• Intimate and larger weddings catered

• Award-winning Executive Chef Jonathan Keane

• Indoor & outdoor civil ceremonies

• Picturesque lakeside setting

• Splendid gardens with breathtaking views

• Award-winning personal wedding planner

For further details contact Cora Duggan at the Lodge at Ashford on +353 (0) 94 954 5400 or email

The Lodge at Ashford Castle, Cong, Co. Mayo



I’ve been threatening to do this column for GNI for nearly as long as the magazine has existed. With my industry contacts, ear for industry whispers and knowledge, I hope to bring you all you need to know from the land of Music and Celebrity with an added personal slant on what I am listening to and the rediscovered classics that you need to revisit on Spotify….. let us dive right in at the deep end…..

My top 5 hits on repeat What I am listening to!

Jessie Ware - PearlsKitsch, camp disco at its best….give those pearls a shake until they fall off!

Louise - Just a step from HeavenReimagined - a 90’s kids’ wet dream come true!

Sophie LennonSolas - Her Junior Eurovision entry sung in Irish that saw her grab 4th place is one of the purest power vocals I have heard in a long time!

Jax Jones ft Calum

Confirmed New Album Releases I am beyond excited about!!

Miley Cyrus - Endless Summer Vacation

10 March

Lets be honest unless you’ve lived under a rock with earplugs in, you’ve hummed, sung and had the earwig lead single “Flowers” in your head for weeks. Add to that all the reply theories to the Bruno Mars song to get at her now ex-husband Liam Hemsworth by releasing “Flowers” on his birthday, and the anticipation for what will be Mileys’ 8th Studio album has never been higher. A press release from Mileys people claims that the album is a “love letter to L.A and is a reflection of the strength she’s found in focusing on both her physical and mental well-being.” Does this mean a closure on her “Malibu” period? When trying to find out more about the album the details are pretty scarce, all that is really currently known is that it was recorded in Los Angeles and that the album was announced with a short video trailer in which Miley is poolside and then cuts between blue skies and the water that surrounds her. I predict an album full of summer vibes for the longer, brighter days and hazy sunsets of summer we will hopefully have thanks to global warming.


Scott - WhistleProving there is more to him than ballads, this is his 3rd dip into Dance music!

Shania TwainGiddy Up! - All hail and bow down for the undisputed Queen of Country Pop…yeeee haw!!

Jessie Ware - That! Feels Good!

28th April

The modern-day disco pop queen is back with a new album! After giving us a taste of what’s to come with the massive empowering hot sweaty disco number “Free Yourself” earlier this year and new kitsch disco single “Pearls”, whispers are she will be continuing this sexy, dance and studio 54-influenced sound for what will be her 5th Studio album. I have been a massive fan of this dance and ambient starlet since her 2012 debut Devotion which saw the release of one of my all-time favourite and most listened to songs “Say you Love Me,” if you have never heard it before what are you waiting for….GET ON IT NOW!! Fresh off a US tour opening for none other than Harry Styles last year, I am

GNI MAG [68]

hoping there will be a UK and Ireland tour on the cards soon. Equally, Jessie and Lennies (Mama Ware) award-winning podcast “Table Manners,” is gearing up for its 15th Season. Each week they have guests from music, culture and politics drop by for a bite and a bit of natter about the goings on in the world, food, family and art. To date, they have had some huge guests including Kylie, Shania Twain, Ed Sheeran and many more, it is definitely worth a listen on your commute to or from work or when chilling with a glass of vino in the evening at home. Table Manners is available on Spotify and all usual music streaming platforms.

Industry Whispers - Just between us:

Kelly Clarkson, is there a divorceinspired album on the cards for 2023? While there is no timeline confirmation there are a lot of whispers that since her divorce from ex-husband Brandon Blackstock the American Idol winner turned daytime TV host is planning new music for release towards the end of the year. In a recent interview with Variety she claimed to find it hard to vocalise what she is feeling sometimes post-divorce and that music has been very helpful for her to make sense of things and heal….will there be another “Heartbreak Song,” in her remains to be seen, but I have my fingers and toes crossed for it.

Kylie Minogue, are we ready for a 16th studio album? You bet your golden hot pants we are!! This will be Kylies first since 2020’s “Disco” which made her the first female artist to have a No.1 album in the UK across five consecutive decades. Currently, there is no set date or timeline but whispers are expecting it to drop somewhere towards the middle and end of the year.

My Top 5 Rediscovered Tunes

Don’t even ask how I end up listening to these!

Sigma ft Rita Ora - Coming Home - From 2015 this feel- good dance tune is one of those songs you can’t help but bop along to.

Sinead Quinn - What you need is….- 2002 this was her 2nd single, a feisty pop rock

Liberty X - Song for Lovers - A 2005 choir-filled pop-rap number that always put a smile on my face!

Rebecca Ferguson - I hope - This blew up the airwaves back in 2013 when I worked on her tour. “I hope, I hope, I hope!” you will give it a listen.

Dj Spoony ft The Sugababes - Flowers - This was the 1st time the song was covered by another artist in 2019

Dua Lipa , will the 3rd time be a charm? Having single-handedly kept the glittered catsuit industry in business during her “Future Nostalgia” album and 2022 world tour, she has been slowly teasing out details of the 3rd album having told The Wall Street Journal she was in no rush to release anything. But and there is always a but in the music industry…..there have been photo dumps of bannisters that look extremely similar to the ones in Kevin Parker of Tame Impala’s home studio….is there an album in the making? We will have to wait and see, but I am predicting more psychedelic pop anthems before the end of the summer!

Until the next issue, happy listening! G x

Please note, this column is the opinion of the columinst and not that of GNI or Romeo & Julian Publiccations Ltd. COLUMN GARY CAMPION GNI MAG [69]


New all-electric car ORA Funky Cat is coming to Charles Hurst Belfast as first GWM ORA retailer in Northern Ireland.

The new GWM ORA showroom will open exclusively at Charles Hurst in March at its 40-acre Boucher Road complex.

Charles Hurst, Northern Ireland’s biggest car retailer, has today confirmed a new partnership with pioneering electric car brand GWM ORA.

As the first Dealer Group in Northern Ireland to team up with the GWM ORA brand, Charles Hurst will initially offer exclusive stock of the brand’s new all-electric car, ORA Funky Cat, to customers across Northern Ireland. Charles Hurst will open a state-of-the-art GWM ORA showroom at its Boucher Road site this spring. Charles Hurst is the third dealership within parent company Lookers’ network to take on the new brand, with Lookers sites in Wolverhampton and Braintree kickstarting sales last year.

Jeff McCartney, Group Operations Director at Charles Hurst, said:

“The ORA Funky Cat First Edition is a game-changer for the EV market, and we’re thrilled to become the first dealership in Northern Ireland with the chance to showcase it.

“Our state-of-the art dealership here in Belfast offers the very best in class for the EV market from electric vehicle charging and access to trained electric vehicle specialists who are on hand for free, expert advice as well as excellent aftersales services for all our customers.

“The ORA Funky Cat brings a fantastic new development to the world of electric driving, and we’re delighted to be among the first in the UK and Ireland to showcase its arrival.”

Customers will be able to book a test drive and place orders for their ORA Funky Cat at the Charles Hurst GWM ORA showroom from Monday March 6.

Jeff McCartney added:

“This is an exciting time for the EV market, and we’re looking forward to helping even more of our customers make the all-important step towards electric driving. The ORA Funky Cat is a great way to start that journey.”

The ORA Funky Cat First Edition is a high-spec launch vehicle, available with a 48kWh battery offering a WLTP range of 193 miles.

Among the car’s impressive features are wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree cameras, voice recognition, reversing camera, LED headlights and 18” alloy wheels.

The ORA Funky Cat also features comprehensive charging capability with Type 2 single-phase AC and three-phase AC charging as standard. It will also feature DC rapid charging and come equipped with a CCS socket as standard.

Home charging will take around five to six hours, based on 15% - 80% charge status, with time cut drastically to around three to four hours when moving up to threephase AC on-street charging. In addition, rapid charging will take users around 43 minutes.

The Funky Cat First Edition will be available in a choice of four colours, with the vehicle presented as standard with a Nebula green exterior paint finish and a black interior.

The car will be backed by a comprehensive five-year vehicle, unlimited mileage warranty with cover on the battery for eight years or 100,000 miles. Service intervals are scheduled every two years or 18,000 miles, whichever comes first.

A Top 100 NI company for several decades, Charles Hurst operates across eight sites in Northern Ireland and two in the Republic of Ireland, representing more than 20 of the world’s top global car manufacturers, including leading premium and luxury brands.

New all-electric car ORA Funky Cat is coming to Charles Hurst Belfast. As the first Dealer Group in Northern Ireland to team up with the GWM ORA brand, Charles Hurst will initially offer exclusive stock of the brand’s new all-electric car, ORA Funky Cat, to customers across Northern Ireland. Charles Hurst will open a state-of-the-art GWM ORA showroom at its Boucher Road site this spring.

Hi everyone my names Danny Malone, people may know me from my Instagram page ‘TheunderdogDM’ or as a stylist at ‘MACC Hair’ Royal Ave Belfast


As a hairstylist it allowed me to show my creativity when it comes to cutting and colouring hair.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love to be creative when it comes to hair colouring. The bolder the better .

Being a creative person has helped me to flourish and evolve into the award winning stylist i am today . The hairdressing industry is always changing rapidly, it never get boring . There will always be a new creative avenue for you to explore.

I have been lucky to have the opportunity to meet/work with some of the talented and amazing hair icon’s that are out there. Sometimes i do get star Struck.

Networking is a key aspect of working in the hair industry. The broader and more expansive your network, the more opportunities that could come your way.

I am lucky to be working in one of Belfast top salons MACC Hair with an amazing team of people, which I am very grateful to be part off.

If you fancy a change with your hair call in and see me or send me a message on Instagram




In previous editions, we had created a “Fantasy Menu” featuring our favourite Starter, Main and Dessert from our recent restaurant visits. In this issue, we have decided to turn it up a notch and, given the current trend for 6 course tasting menus in many local restaurants, we’d like to present our Fantasy Six Course Tasting Menu, championing some of the restaurants which we believe are really putting Northern Ireland on the culinary map.

Smoked Eel Tartlets at Roam

Roam, one of our favourite recent openings in Belfast City Centre, serves the finest local ingredients in its beautifully presented, utterly delicious dishes.

It began life as a pop-up concept aiming to provide a relaxed dining experience with its distinctive food, and this ethos is continued at Roam’s permanent home on Callendar Street.

We started our lunch with some great quality cocktails, and we were very impressed with the Smoked Eel Kimchi Tartlets-small, dainty, but bursting with flavour. The perfect amuse bouche snack.

Course 1

Cilbir at Duad

With its cool, contemporary vibe, Duad on Belmont Rd serves small plates, cheese and charcuterie, main courses and desserts, accompanied by excellent wines, cocktails and vinyl grooves.

We tried some of the dishes on the recently expanded menu, including Cilbir- Turkish Eggs with yogurt, dill, lemon, & chilli butter, with lots of sourdough for dipping. Strictly speaking, it’s really a breakfast dish, but we loved it so much, we had to include it in our Fantasy Menu!

Course 2

Miso Cod Gyoza at Broker

Broker Wine Bar is an exciting new venture from the team behind Oliver’s on the Upper Newtownards Road, and is now open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and in the evening. We love the stylish interior, relaxed vibe, and tempting choices.

At night, Broker has a fusion style menu, with a variety of Asian and Mediterranean dishes. There’s also a great cocktail and wine selection.

From the Small Plates “Land and Sea” section we chose the Miso cod gyoza with orange ponzu dip, fresh and tangy Asian dumplings with a delicious umami filling.

Course 3

Spiced Cauliflower at Noble

This buzzing Holywood restaurant, featuring a changing, seasonal menu, has had a recent addition in the shape of a downstairs winebar with an evolving, exciting wine list and selection of nibbles.

We had booked the popular Sunday Lunchtime sitting, and we were bowled over by the delicious plates on offer, especially the wonderfully earthy Spiced Cauliflower with crispy mac “n” cheese and golden raisins.

Course 4

Mackerel at Gnostic

A delicious, Mediterranean inspired 6 Course tasting menu, was just the ticket to banish the winter blues and transport us to sunnier climes. A feast of Greek inspired dishes accompanied by perfectly paired wines, all served up in Gnostic’s gorgeous cosy upstairs dining room in Corporation Square, this was a relaxed yet sophisticated celebration of great food and drink.

Although every course was faultless, our favourite was the crispy skinned Mackerel with Red Onion on a creamy bed of Orzo. Totally stunning, and an absolute must on our Fantasy Menu.

Course 5

Jerusalem Artichokes, Spelt & Pumpkin at Frae

Sometimes, you stumble across something quite extraordinary, culinarily speaking, and that was the case with Frae, an unassuming little wine bar & dining room in the heart of Holywood. But looks can be deceptive.

The menu, ambiance and overall vibe are all wonderfully unique and delightfully different to the “run of the mill”. Frae serves locally sourced plates alongside an ever-changing natural wine list.

And there were some fantastic vegetarian dishes on the menu; both the Jerusalem Artichokes with cauliflower & chestnuts, and the Spelt and Pumpkin with dates, kale & Young Buck were hearty, seasonal dishes. Difficult to choose between them, so we had to feature them both on our Fantasy Menu!


Course 6

Chocolate Delice at Monad

We had been watching the renovation of this building on the corner of the Belmont Road for a couple of months with considerable anticipation, and at last, at the end of December, we witnessed the legend “Monad” being painted above the door.

The decor is warm and contemporary, with exposed brickwork, gorgeous tiling, & metallic interlocking circular lighting. And the menu continues this modern vibe with some stunningly good cocktails, wines and plates.

Everything was so beautifully cooked and presented, it would have been remiss of us not to have dessert. And how glad we were that we did; a cocoa-rich Chocolate Delice, sumptuously rich & smooth, perfectly paired with a glass of Kröv Steffensberg Riesling. A triumphant way to finish our Fantasy Tasting Menu.


@thegourmetboys on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok & LinkedIn

If you have any requests for restaurant recommendations send us a message and we’ll get right back to you.

Smoked Eel Tartlets The Teal Monkey Chocolate Delice Mackerel
Spiced Cauliflower


Creed III

Cinemas: March 3rd

After dominating the boxing world, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has been thriving in both his career and family life. When a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy, Damian (Jonathan Majors), resurfaces after serving a long sentence in prison, he is eager to prove that he deserves his shot in the ring. The face off between former friends is more than just a fight. To settle the score, Adonis must put his future on the line to battle Damian -- a fighter who has nothing to lose.

Scream IV

Cinema: March 10th

Following the latest Ghostface killings, the four survivors leave Woodsboro behind and start a fresh chapter. Although Sydney Prescot the franchise’s heroine was victorious after the last movie due to issues surrounding salary, Neve Cambell is not returning. Courtney Cox will return as reporter Gail Weathers and we also see the return of Hayden Panettiere who was in prior movies .

Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Cinemas: March 17th

We continue the story of teenage Billy Batson who, upon reciting the magic word “SHAZAM!,” is transformed into his adult Superhero alter ego, Shazam.

All the characters/actors from the 1st movie return for the sequel and we also see the addition of Dame Helen Merum to the cast.


Dungeons & Dragons

Cinemas: April 3rd

A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers undertake an epic heist to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves brings the rich world and playful spirit of the legendary roleplaying game to the big screen in a hilarious and action-packed adventure. Starring Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page and Justice Jesse Smith.

Super Mario Bros

Cinemas: April 17th

Not much of the Story has been announced though we know the film stars Chris Pratt as Mario, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Charlie Day as Luigi, Jack Black as Bowser, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong, Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek and Sebastian Maniscalco as Spike.

Murder Mystery 2

Netflix: 31st March

Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler - Now full-time detectives struggling to get their private eye agency off the ground, Nick and Audrey Spitz find themselves at the center of an international abduction when their friend the Maharaja is kidnapped at his own lavish wedding.

Beverly Hills Cop Axel Foley

Netflix: Coming Soon

Beverly Hills Cop 4 is an upcoming Netflix Original comedy film and the fourth installment of the Beverly Hills Cop franchise. Netflix was first announced to receive the movie back in November 2019. After years of delays, rewrites, and moving to a different studio in 2019, it was confirmed that the long-awaited sequel would be distributed exclusively by Netflix.


Apple TV: 31st March

“Tetris” tells the unbelievable story of how one of the world’s most popular video games found its way to avid players around the globe. Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) discovers TETRIS in 1988, and then risks everything by traveling to the Soviet Union, where he joins forces with inventor Alexey Pazhitnov (Nikita Efremov) to bring the game to the masses. Based on a true story, “Tetris” is a Cold War-era thriller on steroids, with double-crossing villains, unlikely heroes and a nail-biting race to the finish.


Apple TV: Available now

Motivations are suspect, and expectations are turned upside down, as a con artist takes on Manhattan billionaires. Characters compete for riches and power in a high stakes game of ambition, greed, lust and jealousy that will keep audiences guessing until the final moment. Starring Julian Moore and Sebastian Stan


New Boutique Guesthouse


A new boutique guest house, Arthur’s officially opened its doors on Thursday January 26th. Situated in an elegant Georgian building on Main Street, Arthur’s is the latest tourism offering to Royal Hillsborough and is set to attract visitors far and wide.

The accommodation features 12 individually curated rooms, each of which blends history, antiques and charm. Each room has been specifically themed in homage to famous local resident, the Marquess of Downshire.

The official launch event was attended by Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council representatives and participants from across Northern Ireland’s tourism industry who are involved in the council’s ‘Royal Hillsborough and Historic Moira’ programme. Launched in summer 2021, the programme has, to date, seen over 40 local businesses collaborate to boost the local tourism and hospitality economy within these areas.

Lynne McCabe, owner of Arthur’s, said, “We are

delighted to welcome guests to our latest business venture, Arthur’s.

“This is very much a passion project for myself and my husband Jonathan, and each room has been

quess of Downshire, who is very much synonymous with the area.”

Along with her husband, Jonathan McCabe, Lynne also runs two other guest accommodations in the Royal Hillsborough and Historic Moira area, Ralph’s and Lisnacurran Country House.

Alderman Allan Ewart MBE, Chair of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Development Committee, says, “It has been a pleasure to welcome representatives from the tourism industry here in Northern Ireland to Royal Hillsborough’s newest tourism offering. Arthur’s is a great addition to the local area and I would like to congratulate Lynne and Jonathan McCabe on this new venture.

carefully curated to reflect our local history and the rich tapestry of life here in Royal Hillsborough.

“It is also intended to pay homage to the Mar-

“I would also like to thank the many other stakeholders who have collaborated to make our Royal Hillsborough and Historic Moira programme a success. These are beautiful locations, steeped in history, and they offer an unparalleled tourism experience, with endless options to stay,

- Boutique Guest Accommodation, Arthur’s, Opened on January 26th

eat, and explore.

“Whether seeking an historic getaway, a unique dining experience, or a fun filled catch up with friends, our visitors are always spoilt for choice.”

Councillor Scott Carson, Mayor of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, adds

“I was delighted to attend the opening of Royal Hillsborough’s latest tourism offering, Arthur’s and wish to congratulate its owners, Lynne and Jonathan McCabe.

“The Royal Hillsborough and Historic Moira programme has been a resounding success and continues to showcase the wealth of experiences that these beautiful areas have to offer tourists. Many thanks to all the stakeholders involved.”

The Royal Hillsborough and Historic Moira initiative is intended to integrate local businesses with tourism providers in Royal Hillsborough and Moira to create

combined visitor experiences and itineraries to drive tourism in the areas.

To find out more about the Royal Hillsborough and Historic Moira programme, visit: www.

The programme is funded by the Department for Communities, through its Small Settlements Regeneration Programme under Destination Tourism Packages, and Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council.


For more information and interview requests, please contact Rumour Mill Creative Communications:

Michelle Flanagan / michelle@ / 079 7366 9814




Last year on Instagram, Reese Witherspoon said she has been drinking the same breakfast smoothie for the last nine years, which is the secret to her glowing skin and healthy hair.

The Oscar-winning actress got the recipe from her friend and American actress Kerry Washington and has been drinking it every morning ever since.

If you’re not a fan of leafy vegetables, this is a great way to incorporate them into your diet. The team at health and fitness site Total Shape has revealed the recipe below. Even better, there is no refined sugar, as the smoothie already contains the natural sweetness of the fruits.

Reese Witherspoon’s Healthy Green Smoothie


• Two heads of romaine lettuce

• Half a cup of spinach

• Half a cup of coconut water

• 1 whole banana

• 1 whole apple

• 1 whole pear

• 1 whole lemon

• Method

• Pour the coconut water into a blender

• Chop up the romaine lettuce and the fruits into small chunks

• Add the fruit into the blender, along with the spinach

• Blend until smooth consistency






Firstly you all know I love to talk to you about something different and so this issue I decided to give you some information on the stunning destination in MEXICO called Puerto Vallarta. You may or may not have heard of this place but Americans have been going her for years and it is now seen to be one of the top LGBTQ+ destinations in the world.

I suppose for Americans it could be likened to Europe’s Gay Meccas like Sitges (Spain or even Mykonos in Greece), either way this Mexican resort defiantly packs a punch when it comes to all this Queerness and want we want from a destination which caters highly to all of our unique needs.

Zona Romantica (Its Gay Zone) is probably the largest of all the Gays resorts in Mexico and offers lots of Gay bars and clubs. It’s not all bars and clubs though as it offers some fantastic visitor activities and attractions. You could opt to go out on a yacht then take in the local waterfall and do some snorkelling, enjoy a Whale Watching Cruise sea adventure or why not head to the local market and try your hand at a Mexican cooking class. If your more into adrenaline then choose the ATV tours or high canopy zip lining in the jungle taking in some of the best views as you drop through the trees. Food and music are big parts of the local community so whatever you decide to do means you are guaranteed never to be far away some authentic Mexican food and the sound of music.

Accommodation wise you can find a real mix of properties from 3* hotels all the way up to 5* and Private Villa rentals. I also would recommend booking into maybe one of the Adults only or couples properties guaranteeing services aimed towards luxury and Adult wellness. Puerto Vallarta (PV) is probably one of the safest Mexican resorts with much lower crime rates that say the more famous Cancun.

Puerto Vallarta is made up of many different areas with individual and unique quirks which run along this coastal resort town. Downtown Puerto Vallarta you will find the area called Malecon that offers a stunning beachfront location with a very hippy arty feel about it, most of the major Cruise Lines dock here during the year including Virgin Voyages, MSC and Celebrity. The area is com-




as Muertos Pier just down from the bustling Romantica Zone

Each year Puerto Vallarta becomes more popular as a gay vacation spot. With Its amazing warm climate, picturesque ocean bay, beaches, mountains and lush tropical jungle as the setting, Puerto Vallarta has almost become a small city devoted to serving fun seeking tourists. Thankfully retaining much of its old style Mexican charm, Vallarta has over the years built up a strong infrastructure of a modern resort community. Internet cafes, ATM machines, fine restaurants, excellent airport, modern medical services, drinkable water supply, and a safe, tolerant environment are now all part of the Vallarta scene. Puerto Vallarta has all the quaintness, without compromising on any of the modern conveniences.

Vallarta now has over a dozen hotels, guesthouses, and bed and breakfasts that cater for the Queer community, several different gay bars and gay clubs, a world famous gay beach, great gay trips on boats, special tours including evenings out at natural hot springs, and fabulous restaurants. The gay scene in Vallarta runs the gamut, from gay beach bums, to the A-list couples who winter here and entertain themselves and their friends in high style.

Vallarta is popular with all sorts of gay men and women from many places around the globe. Younger and older, European and from the Americas or Australia, the cosmopolitan mix is part of what makes this an exciting place to see and be seen.

Vallarta is in the tropics, on the Pacific Ocean side of Mexico, tucked into a mountainous coastal area. We’re located on one of the largest, deepest, and most stunning natural bays in the world, Bahia de

Banderas, which supports almost any form of water recreation imaginable. This bay is where the humpback whales come every winter, where dolphins nest year round, and deep sea fishing is excellent. The winds are great here for sailing. Surfing is good on the north coast of the bay. And it isn’t overrun with development.

joy with well-priced drinks, Cocktail Happy Hours and is a hit with locals and fellow tourist.

Almost thirty miles of the bay’s coast is completely inaccessible by road and therefore pristine and devoid of development. The mountains surrounding the bay are lush with tropical jungle, the beaches in some areas are framed by these mountains that come right down to the water’s edge and, best of all, and none of it is ruined by pollution or any industrial ugliness. In Puerto Vallarta the air is clean, the sun shines without rain almost all winter long, and the sunsets - well, they’re as spectacular as you could possibly ask for.

If you love Gay Prides then Puerto Vallarta’s 2023 Pride will run from 22nd-29th May and will further enhance the Queer welcome which already has to be truly one of the best in the world. I will give a quick mention to some of the best known and loved bars and clubs. Mr Flamingo (I Know love it) is an open air tiki vibe bar known for its friendly welcomes in the heart of Zona Romantica. Los Amigos is a key stop for either the start of the evening’s activities or a spot to simply chill and en-

Moving the night on you will surely want to be part of the resorts dance club scene even if you’re not a clubber it’s defiantly something everyone should experience due to the mixture of both sites and sounds. Paco Ranch (Yes think COWBOYS) is the place to be and has been voted Best Gay Nightclub Bar in the past. Industry would have to be the newest on the local scene and offer you well pretty much what you would expect being the largest club in the area. You won’t be shocked to find GO GO muscle lads dancing in as little as possible to attract your attention and keep the place buzzing. Industry is also famed for its PRIDE, WHITE AND New Year’s Eve Parties so if you like it big and busy then Industry is 100% not to be missed during your holiday.

Gay sauna wise Spartacus is the spot for you, this place is spread out over 4 floors an even offers an outdoor pool and rooftop terrace. You will of course find all the usual comforts including Sauna, Steam Rooms and private cabins. I would say this place could be a venue where you could actually spend a good amount of time as it has bar and music and its rooftop is handy for sun lovers during the day. I would also highly recommend the Aqua Spa for Men only which offers some truly wonderful Male only Massage options from deep tissue to even Turkish steam baths. If your single when you arrive you may not be by the time you’re ready to go back home but I would find it hard to leave such a beautiful and friendly place.


TikTok sensations Matthew and Ryan release a guide to coming out titled ‘LOVE IS LOVE”

Claire Bord has acquired World English Language rights in Love is Love, a friendly and practical guide for young LGBTQ+ people by Matthew Mackinnon and Ryan Payne, from Marianne Gunn O’Connor at Marianne Gunn O’Connor Literary, Film and TV Agency. Bord commented:

‘With their rapidly growing audience of 6 million followers on TikTok, 750K on YouTube and over 100K on Instagram, Matthew and Ryan have built a thriving and inclusive online community. They are the fun-loving faces of social media but behind the scenes, they’ve also become online agony uncles for young people. In Love is Love, Matthew and Ryan share their own personal experiences and everything they’ve learnt on their journey from coming out to becoming a young single-sex couple. Written in their friendly, warm, and totally relatable style, Love is Love is packed with bite-size entries, tips, and advice. We’re delighted to be publishing this must-have guide at Thread.’

Mackinnon and Payne said:

‘We pride ourselves on laughter and spreading love, working every day to help normalise being a same sex couple and be a voice for those in the LGBTQIA+ community who need it. With both of our experiences being so different, we understand how everyone’s journey is never the same and sometimes we all need a little help in hand. We received countless questions over the years surrounding the topic of LGBTQIA+ and wanted to create something with depth, compassion and offered support as people navigate through their own journeys through the rainbow.’

The book will be published in paperback original, ebook, and audio on 25th May 2023.


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Articles inside


pages 79-83


page 78

New Boutique Guesthouse Arthur’s

pages 76-77


pages 74-75


pages 72-73


pages 70-72


pages 66, 68-69


pages 64-65


page 62


page 61


pages 57-59


page 55


page 54

TOP 10

pages 50, 52


page 48


pages 46-47

LGBTQ SPORTS Martin Murray

pages 44-45


page 42

Breaking Barriers

page 41


pages 38-39


pages 36-37


pages 34-35


pages 31-32


page 30

South THE

page 29


page 27

Introducing... Caity BASER

page 26


pages 23-25

richard o’brien

pages 21-22


page 18


page 17


pages 14-15


pages 9-10, 13

An introduction from our editor...

pages 4, 6

Choose to protect yourself always use a condom

pages 2-3
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