Lavender Magazine 743

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CONTENTS ISSUE 743 November 16-29, 2023

Holiday Gift & Entertainment Guide

14 G et The Perfect Gift At MidModMen+friends, And Spread The Holiday Cheer 16 Downtown Dogs - Gift Ideas 18 “ Sweet Yule and Sour Tide“ - This Year, Twin Cities Residents Can Spread Holiday Cheer By Getting Baked


Photo by Dan Norman Photography

20 Introducing the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus’ 43rd Season 22 H oliday Entertainment Guide 28 J ersey Boys: Too Good To Be True




12: Photo courtesy of Sound Unseen, 18: Photo by Kurt Ebner and Daren Latham, 36: Photo by George Torline


8 From the Editor 9 A Word in Edgewise 10 A Day In The Life: Kevin Sitter


12 S ound Unseen: Music, Movies, and So Much More


30 Q+ Equality Foundation Expands Q+ Workplace Designation 34 Books



Photo by Randy Stern




36 Our Rides


38 Community Connection 39 The Network


40 Ask Elise

Celebrating 20 Years in Business! Roya Moltaji, CFP , ChFC , CASL , CAP , BFA ®





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Managing Editor Randy Stern 612-461-8723 Editorial Assistant Linda Raines 612-436-4660 Editor Emeritus Ethan Boatner Editorial Associate George Holdgrafer Contributors Linden M. Bayliss, Lakey Bridge, Buer Carlie, Emi Gacaj, Terrance Griep, Elise Maren, Jen PeeblesHampton, Linda Raines, Gabrielle Reeder, Alexander Reed, Madison Roth, Aurora Smith, Jamez L. Smith, Susan Swavely, Carla Waldemar, Todd P. Walker


Locally sourced advocacy and advice from lawyers you know. Custody & Parenting Time • Child Support Dissolution • Spousal Maintenance Complex Valuation • Domestic Partnership Adoption • Third Party Custody • Appeals



Vice President of Sales & Advertising Barry Leavitt 612-436-4690 Account Executives Nathan Johnson 612-436-4695 Richard Kranz 612-436-4675 Advertising Associate George Holdgrafer Sales & Event Administration Linda Raines 612-436-4660 National Sales Representatives Rivendell Media 212-242-6863

CREATIVE Creative/Digital Director Mike Hnida 612-436-4679 Photographer Sophia Hantzes

ADMINISTRATION Publisher Lavender Media, Inc. President & CEO Stephen Rocheford 612-436-4665 Chief Financial Officer Doug Starkebaum 612-436-4664 Administrative Assistant Michael Winikoff 612-436-4660 Distribution Metro Periodical Partners 612-281-3249 Founders George Holdgrafer, Stephen Rocheford Inspiration Steven W. Anderson (1954-1994), Timothy J. Lee (1968-2002), Russell Berg (1957-2005), Kathryn Rocheford (1914-2006), Jonathan Halverson (1974-2010), Adam Houghtaling (1984-2012), Walker Pearce (1946-2013), Tim Campbell (1939-2015), John Townsend (1959-2019) Letters are subject to editing for grammar, punctuation, space, and libel. They should be no more than 300 words. Letters must include name, address, and phone number. Unsigned letters will not be published. Priority will be given to letters that refer to material previously published in Lavender Magazine. Submit letters to Lavender Magazine, Letters to the Editor, 5100 Eden Ave, Suite 107, Edina, MN 55436 or e-mail For our Privacy Policy, go to privacy-policy


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Lavender 2016 Magazine of the Year

Entire contents copyright 2023. All rights reserved. Publication of the name or photograph of any person, organization, or business in this magazine does not reflect upon one’s sexual orientation whatsoever. Lavender® Magazine reserves the right to refuse any advertising. This issue of Lavender® Magazine is available free of charge during the time period published on the cover. Pickup at one of our distribution sites is limited to one copy per person.

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T’is The Season BY RANDY STERN



Our book choices have expanded, as well. Perfect for a growing community of parents and youth! Then, there’s our entertainment guide. We have been fielding a lot of ideas from across Minnesota to put it altogether. Whether it is a traditional choral performance or to see a

Broadway Drag superstar alongside her Pacific Northwest friend – that would be Jinx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme, for those of who guessed correctly – on a Hennepin Theatre Trust stage, we have you covered. We also introduce you to the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus’ 43rd season. And, take you on stage at one of our favorite stages for a new twist on an old Holiday classic. Like I said, we’ve got you covered! The Holiday season is more than just gifts and entertainment. It is about connecting – and reconnecting – with the ones you love. Whether it is your family, significant other, friends, and so forth, the Holidays mean spreading cheer to end the year. Perhaps the best gift to give is you. Your presence is priceless, no matter how much it would cost to be there. Besides, it may also be entertaining, too! Some of us will need your presence. Be present for those who need it the most. That will be my gift to you. 

Photo by Randy Stern

Here we are…November of 2023. Before we know it, it will be Thanksgiving. Then, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Where has this year gone? It has been quite a year, so far. I won’t comment further, only to say that we have moved in an uneven and odd pace. Now, we’ve arrived at the footsteps of the Holiday Season. That means your plans will be in motion for gatherings and family, friends, and strangers. Gifts to shop for and give. And, to find ways to manage the stress of the end of the year. Over the years, Lavender produced an extensive gift guide at this point of the year that offers many ideas to give to the ones you love. This year, we’ve decided to combine and concentrate a gift guide with entertainment options through the holidays. Don’t worry, we’ve got gift ideas. Read onward to see the ideas we have for you this year! That includes baked goods. Not just to give to someone for the holidays, but to add to the table for one of those gatherings.


For The Audience – Delight! BY E.B. BOATNER

Comedy can be a trickster. So many ways humor can go awry: Cruel instead of comic, flat when you’d aimed for effervescent. Adding comedy concerning other cultures into the mix sets the bar dauntingly high. Fortunately, Ty Defoe and Larissa Fasthorse, working closely with their creative team, have been equal to the task. The germ of the project was in gathering stories and experiences of members of the local Native community, particularly involving the area around Minneapolis’s Franklin Avenue, together with Little Earth community members. In September, the group coalesced a cast of eight, seven Native individuals and one non, into this production, and titled, For the People. The action takes place in a community space on Franklin Avenue, opening on a meeting of Native elders called by April Dakota, seeking approval and funding for a Native wellness center here on the Avenue. April is young, enthusiastic, proud of her initial efforts. She’s decorated the space in bright cheerful colors, furnished with modular cubes and spheres–an initial eyebrow-raiser for some attendees. Eager to show her mindfulness in choosing appropriate gym workout material, April flourishes

up one of the river rocks she’s substituted for steel weights, dismayed when an elder asks, “Did you ask their permission? Did they agree they might be brought here?” One is plunged back into every meeting one has attended since grade school. The six Native elders interact no differently than any other group and are reminiscent of some of the same players– the wise-cracking acter-out, the endless-questioner, the one…yes, that one, too. Just being on the same team, April learns, doesn’t mean you’ll get immediate praise or sanction for your grand idea. Another meeting is set up. In the meanwhile, April shared with her good friend and confidante Esme, the sole non-Native character, whose dad is a local developer, and whom Esme wishes to bring into the project, promising great monetary rewards ahead. Money, expansion, turning Franklin Avenue into a high-class commercial project? Things get as far as a wrecking ball literally bashing a hole in the wellness center wall, creating shambles followed by a torrential downpour that soaks the smashed decorative jars of April’s Native seeds which germinate into a profusion of sacred life throughout the rubble. “Stop!” But

Money dictates the “improvement” must continue. Indigenous Ingenuity however, devises the cleverest legal maneuver I’ve witnessed since My Cousin Vinny’s brilliant dénouement. For the People is a delight. Comedy triumphs. Jokes and snipes can be sharp, but not cruel or demeaning; a crack about Dances With Wolves about macho character Herb O’Geezhik, is actually an injoke directed at the actor, Wes Studi, who featured in that film and many others. The jokers, the swaggerers, the wide-eyed optimists, the over-exuberant and those of serene patience–whatever their ethnicity–will always be at the meeting, whether twelve or sixty-two. The actors’ bios list their Native descents or citizenships, making it clear that like any other diverse group, their members can’t be homogenized into a single rubric. Fragmentation gives dimension; units are not static, but have movement and liveliness that can’t be pinned like an insect to a card. People and particles danced to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle; if you determine one’s location, you can’t know its velocity, nor vice-versa. 

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10 LAVENDER NOVEMBER 16-29, 2023

Photo courtesy of Kevin Sitter

Where did you grow up? My elementary years were in Pittsfield, Massachusetts; for junior and senior high, I “did time” in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and my adult life has been in Minnesota with a 17-year stint going back and forth to California. Where do you live? In a wonderfully diverse neighborhood in Brooklyn Center. Who do you live with? My partner of 39 years. What is your occupation? Semi-Retired HIV advocate. My most recent job was as the Ending the Epidemics Project Manger at the California Department of Public Health, Office of AIDS. We designed a plan to focus on the syndemic of HIV, STIs, and HCV, recognizing the need to address social determinants of health that drive these epidemics. When did you come out? A little after midnight on June 6, 1979 at age 19. I stole the books on homosexuality from the college library (I returned them, but didn’t want my name on the circulation cards) and read by flashlight. It was Don Clark’s book, “Loving Someone Gay” that brought it all together for me. How’d that go? On a whole, good. I found a supportive group of mostly gay men through Dignity in the Twin Cities, and left the Catholic College I was at after my second year as being gay there was not a good fit. I laugh when I think about my mom’s response: “Don’t tell your father.” A week later she called and stated she told my dad. He got on the phone and told me he wanted to say three things. 1. I love you. 2. I will pay for therapy if you want…not to change but if you find it difficult. 3. Don’t make any big changes until you know yourself better. I was lucky. When do you wake up? 8-ish now that I am retired. I have never thought sunrise was spiritual or awesome, prefer sunsets. Phone alarm or old school alarm? No alarm unless I must be sure to wake at a specific time, then it’s the phone, with trepidation. Still skittish with the latest and greatest technologies. What’s the first thing you do in the morning? Pee….and then coffee! LOL Breakfast? A bowl of fresh fruit, and sometimes yogurt, sometimes toast. Coffee? Decaf…I am naturally caffeinated! Cream or no? Black, the stronger the better.

How do you spend your commute? Commute? Oh wait, yeah that thing done precovid and pre-retirement. NPR is my go-to in the car. What do you nerd out for (gaming, music, histor y, etc.)? House floor plans. I sketch them, I buy house plan magazines, I scan and modify them into mega-mansions on steroids. What music have you been digging lately? I am never contemporary in the music scene. In my car I am listening to the British Got talent group, Collaboro. Something about their blended voices and the song arrangements they record is soothing. Is your work space tidy or a hot mess? Hot mess, but as long as no one moves anything, I know where everything is. What’s been your favorite job? My whole career has been rewarding, but I think being able to be present with people when they test HIV positive. I have never given bad news, for in knowing one’s status, one gets to pursue health and ensure the virus does not significantly change their lives. I was there in the “old days,” and love that today, because of effective medications, Undetectable Equals Untransmittable. Undetectable sustains our health. And if you test HIV negative, you have the option of PrEP.

Favorite weeknight meal: Go out, take out, or cook in? I am lucky that my partner chooses to do all the cooking since his food tastes are more limited than mine. My cooking usually has a meat or fish as main course, his are non-meat meals. On a usual weeknight, you are doing what? Some reading, some time on-line, some TV. Sometimes all at once. Bedtime? 10 to 10:30 unless I fall into the YouTube rabbit hole. Favorite weekend activity? I love all the bike trails. I can ride on dedicated bikeways to the Mississippi River,and parks, the Chain of Lakes, Downtown. Also, I enjoy my spiritual community on Sunday mornings. It’s a small community but has provided a needed element in my life. What are you most proud of, and why? My advocacy for sexual health, wanting sex to be joyful, playful, political, intimate and working to prevent heterosexist politics and politicians from disrupting that. Words of wisdom to share: It’s a journey: gently face the demons, heal the traumas, and proudly know we each make a difference. 

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Feature Films:

LET THE CANARY SING Wed. Nov. 8 @ 7:30pm • The Parkway • OPENING NIGHT FILM! Chronicling Cyndi Lauper’s meteoric ascent to stardom and her profound impact on generations through her music, ever-evolving punk style, unwavering feminism, and tireless advocacy. The film takes the audience on an engaging exploration of the world of a renowned and pioneering artist who has left an unparalleled impact on the music industry. The film features interviews with some of Cyndi’s closest friends and family members, including Boy George, Billy Porter, and Patti LaBelle.

Let The Canary Sing. Photos courtesy of Sound Unseen

CORA BORA Sun. Nov 12 @ 4:15pm • The Main Cinema – Starring Megan Stalter from Hacks! Megan Stalter shines in her leading debut as Cora, an anti-heroine in an explosive comedy of errors. Cora, a mess of an aspiring musician in LA, suspects that her long-distance girlfriend may have moved on. This prompts a journey back home with a quirky supporting cast, including Manny Jacinto and Chelsea Peretti, and Margaret Cho.

Sound Unseen

Music, Movies, and So Much More BY BUER CARLIE

The moment you have been yearning for is here. Sound Unseen is set to unfold this weekend, so if you are a cinephile or an audiophile with a thirst for exceptional cinema and amazing musical performances, this weekend was made for you.



Anniversary Screenings:

THE PUNK SINGER Fri. Nov. 10 @ 7pm • Trylon Cinema – Director Sini Anderson in attendance! Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill and dancepunk trio Le Tigre, rose to national attention as the reluctant but never shy voice of the riot grrrl movement. Her critics wished she would just shut-up, and her fans hoped she never would. So in 2005, when Hanna stopped shouting, many wondered why. THE PUNK SINGER takes viewers on a fascinating tour of contemporary music and offers a never-before-seen view into the life of this fearless leader. VELVET GOLDMINE Thur. Nov. 9 @ 8pm • The Parkway – Featuring a pre-show performance by Little Man! Glam rock star Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Myers) plays a character on stage named Maxwell Demon who predicts and then fakes his own death

Cora Bora

Sound Unseen, the trailblazing ‘films-on-music’ festival, first emerged in Minneapolis in 1999. Now, as it enters its 24th year, it has become a cornerstone of the regional art scene. While Sound Unseen offers many year-round experiences from captivating pop-up events to screenings and premieres, at its core the festival is a chance for people who love movies and music to come together and experience the best of both worlds. Some might say that Sound Unseen is genre-defying, distinguishing itself from huge concerts and other film festivals with its insistence on embracing both. The event lineup includes documentaries, short films, music videos, rare concert footage, thought-provoking interactive panels, and – of course – the thrill of live musical performances. We have curated a list of LGBTQ+ films that will be screening at the festival this weekend, but don’t stop there. Check out their website below for even more exciting films!

THE PEOPLE’S JOKER Fri. Nov. 10 @7:15pm • The Main Cinema After years numbing herself with irony and an inhalant called Smylex, an unfunny aspiring clown grapples with gender identity, first love, and old foes all while founding an illegal comedy theater in Gotham City. This queer, coming of age Joker parody stars and is directed by Vera Drew (“Beef House,” “Who Is America”) and featuring the work of 200 independent artists on three separate continents.

pay tribute to Fugazi’s prowess as a live act. This unique archival assemblage celebrates the fans and their cameras, as much as the band itself — a collision/collusion of the ephemeral moment on stage, and the moments captured on camera.

The People's Joker

Sound Unseen’s mission extends beyond the confines of a typical festival: it is a cultural organization devoted to the intersection of film and music. Each film curated for Sound Unseen serves as a conduit for profound ideas and diverse perspectives. Sound Unseen strives to foster a deep appreciation of cinema, build bridges between cultures, nurture community, and foster cultural exchange. Consider attending a screening or two and while you loiter in the lobby afterwards go ahead and build a metaphorical bridge. These films offer all of us a great opportunity not only to dig into our own communities, but also offer insight into others as well. Join the community of cinephiles and music enthusiasts at this year’s Sounds Unseen festival! 

on stage. A decade later in 1984, a reporter and former fan, Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale), tracks down the former rocker to do an article on his life and downfall. Arthur interviews the man who discovered Slade and a peer (Ewan McGregor) to understand Slade’s motivations.

Short Films:

BIG CLOWN: MISSISSIPPI CREATES Sat. Nov 11 @ 7:15pm • The Main Cinema – Screens w/ BORN INNOCENT: THE REDD KROSS STORY Born Innocent makes the case for Redd Kross as the seminal West Coast band of the last half century. Formed in 1978 by brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald, and still actively playing and



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recording today, Redd Kross are the ultimate rock and roll lifers. Redd Kross have maintained the highest level of musical integrity, originality and quality for over forty years. They are the underappreciated link between countless threads of Los Angeles rock. Born Innocent will introduce a wider audience to two of the coolest people alive. ONE MORE SONG: A LOVE LETTER TO DIY Sat. Nov 11 @ 4pm • Parkway – Screens w/ WE ARE FUGAZI FROM WASHINGTON D.C Created to commemorate the 20 years that have passed since DC-based post-hardcore band Fugazi’s last live appearance, Sound Unseen presents a screening of crowd-sourced, fan-recorded live shows and rare archival footage to

Sound Unseen Festival November 8-12



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Photo by Randy Stern

Get The Perfect Gift At MidModMen+friends, And Spread The Holiday Cheer BY SUSAN SWAVELY

T’is the season to start your search for the perfect gift for all your loved ones this holiday season! If you’re struggling to think of the perfect special something to grab for your friends, family or significant other, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. This year, why not surprise them with a perfectly unique and artsy gift to accent their home and spread the cheer all year long? MidModMen+friends is just the place you’re looking for. This authentic mid-century, modern, and made-in-Minnesota furniture and décor store is absolutely teeming with great gifts for all the special people in your life. (And who knows, you might like what you get so much you want to keep it for your own home!) Founders and owners of MidModMen+friends, Neal Kielar (he/ him) and Jon Mehus (he/him), are very proud of their locally grown business. Kielar says, “We launched the store in late 2012 as a threemonth pop-up experiment and are now entering our 12th year. A successful experiment, it would seems.” Successful indeed. MidModMen+friends has become a local favorite for furniture needs, and their community-based attitude definitely makes the customers feel right at home. According to Kielar, “Our focus



has always been on high-quality vintage furniture and decor with a distinctive modern point of view. We handle every item with care and clean, rejuvenate or restore them according to need. To enhance our offering, we partner with independent artisans and artists who create furniture, lighting and artwork, many available exclusively through our store.” Shopping at MidModMen+friends is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Customers comment on the beautiful, well-curated store, which is full

Photo by Randy Stern

Photo by Neal Kielar Photo by Neal Kielar

with plenty to choose from, and yet not overwhelming at all. Kielar says, “We create vignettes throughout the store that put the furniture, lighting, art and decor in a context that helps customers better understand how it might fit in their lives.” Treating furniture with the respect that it deserves, as handcrafted art, definitely pays off. And Kielar adds that everything in the store is, “ready to use, with top-quality finishes and an attention to detail.” MidModMen+friends not only curates their own furniture and décor, however. Kielar explains, “We have great partners with amazing talent who offer their goods exclusively through us. For example, locally based Modern Otter Design will bring mid-century inspired holiday stockings into the store this season… and under the banner of Future Heirlooms, we invite select artists and makers to present their creations in limited run exhibitions.” This collaboration with local artists only adds to the community-driven aspect of MidModMen+friends. Shoppers can feel good about buying products there; they know everything they buy at MidModMen+friends is top of the line quality, and they also know that they are buying from somewhere that reinvests in the very community they live in. It’s a win-win situation. This holiday season, MidModMen+friends is turning on the heat with some amazing products and collaborations. Along with their usual incredibly unique products, they’ll be offering tons of other local artisans’ works in their store. As we already mentioned, they are partnering with Modern Otter Design for holiday stockings in a mid-century theme. They’ll also be featuring original drawings from Joel Itman, which will, according to Kielar consist of a “menagerie of colorful animal characters,” Vintage glassware that, “evokes the panache of mid-century entertaining, including some very hard-to-find sets,” an infusion of “decorative vintage art glass made by Viking Glass, Blenko, Murano and others,” and “an eclectic selection of studio pottery, tabletop accessories, art books and curiosities perfect for entertaining, gift-giving or maybe even keeping!” With so many options to choose from, you really can’t go wrong searching for the perfect gift at MidModMen+friends! Kielar and Mehus also both celebrate the fact that MidModMen+friends is “gay-owned and decidedly welcoming.” Kielar says, “Our partners either are part of the community or unequivocal allies. Personally, we’re longtime supporters of organizations with direct service to the LGBTQ+ community – from health resources to food security and housing.” MidModMen+friends strives to create an environment that is welcome for all LGBTQ+ people and allies, and they do a phenomenal job of it. Kielar acknowledges also how the LGBTQ+ community has supported MidModMen+friends right back, by saying, “The LGBTQ+ community’s embrace of us as part of its fabric is something we feel and see. We’ve cultivated a space and experience that’s welcoming and we’ve been rewarded with loyalty.” For MidModMen+friends, it’s all about providing amazing products and supporting the community along the way. Kielar says, “This region is a hotbed of talent, artistic and entrepreneurial

alike. We believe that as a small business dependent on the quality of life in the community we need to operate in kind. So we support local artists and artisans who in turn use local resources to create so that collectively we can elevate the creative capital of the region.” He also jokes, “People always assume that we keep the best stuff for ourselves. Or that we’re always changing it up at home.” But he assures us, “In reality, we offer the best stuff to our customers. We’re a business, after all! And we rarely pull something from inventory into our home. With the store in constant flux, we prefer calm in our own surroundings.” For a spot that’s as focused on community and care as it is quality products, you’ve got to check out MidModMen+friends for all your holiday needs. Stop in, you’ll feel right at home! 

MidModMen+friends 2401 University Ave. W., Saint Paul STORE HOURS Friday-Saturday from 11AM-5PM Sunday from 11AM-4PM




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Photo by Kurt Ebner and Daren Latham


“Sweet Yule and Sour Tide” This Year, Twin Cities Residents Can Spread Holiday Cheer by Getting Baked

As for fermentation, that is that multi-tiered, sugar-shagging process that can transform cabbage into sauerkraut, grape juice into wine, and, in Swirl Top Baking’s case, a certain kind of boodle into a certain kind of bread. Latham elaborates: “The fermentation step takes between sixteen and twenty hours and is a really important part of the sourdough process that enhances the bread’s flavor as well as the availability and digestibility of nutrients in the bread and the shelf life of the bread.” If that exposition sounds especially technical, welp…it’s especially technical with good reason. “We both have engineering backgrounds,” Latham notes, that “both” referring to Latham himself, along with Swirl Top Baking’s other co-founder, Kurt Ebner. “[My background] is in software engineering, and Kurt’s is in manufacturing.” The business at first was merely a pleasure, a worry-reducing diversion. “We’ve always found that spending time in the kitchen was a good way to relax and get away from the stress of our regular day jobs,” Latham reveals. “This shift in our careers and focus is kind of a happy, little accident that has been really rewarding.” That selfsame shift not only allows a furtherance of the co-founders’ relationship but their relationship to the client base, as well. “It allows us to spend more time together and have more free time and flexibility in our lives,” Ebner discloses. “Also, we enjoy seeing the same customers week after week and focusing on creating breads that they love.”

Photo courtesy of Jessica Mayer/ Bake You Happy


The act of giving, whether it’s the giving of a gift for the Holidays or the giving of a gift for any other reason, is as simple as it is profound. Giving is the singular expression of a singular emotion that is itself just-as-simple as it is just-as-profound. When done right, such gift-giving usually produces a figurative kind of oven-warmed sweetness. More literal oven-warmed sweetness is no mystery to one Twin Cities entrepreneur. “Chocolate is my favorite ingredient to work with,” Jessica Mayer testifies. It’s fortunate, then, that Mayer skates through life as owner of Bake You Happy, a home-based business where cocoa beans are often both the medium and the message. In addition to being a professional chef, Mayer is a registered cottage food producer. “My chocolate cake won Fourth Place at the State Fair this year,” she continues. “It was my first time entering and was a lot of fun to create…with the added bonus of a ribbon!” Food production runs the full gamut of taste, of course: while Mayer handles a complete range of sweet—from chocolate to peanut butter to red velvet and back again–another local baker business has a less variegated take on sweet’s opposite. “Sourdough is actually more about the process of making the bread, and a few key ingredients,” observes Daren Latham, co-founder of Swirl Top Baking. “It is a slower process using wild yeast and beneficial bacteria to leaven the bread, ferment the ingredients, and add unique flavors.” Swirl Top Baking is a dry-cooking duo which describes itself as producing “handcrafted artisan sourdough bread and occasionally other baked treats in the heart of the Minneapolis Victory neighborhood. We love to produce unique and healthful items with easy-to-understand ingredient lists.”



This grainy affection sometimes varies according to the caprices of the calendar. “The seasons play a minor role in our bread menu,” Ebner reports. “For example, we have a Chocolate & Cherry loaf that we offer more when the weather is cooler because chocolate in the summer heat at a farmers market stand tends to melt and smear the inside of the bag.” The planet’s temporal adjustments have a more pronounced effect on Bake You Happy, although chocolate is mercifully exempt from all of them. “The seasons play a huge role in what is made,” Mayer discloses. “Utilizing in-season produce improves the quality and salability of the products I create. Keeping up with seasonal

Photo courtesy of Jessica Mayer/Bake You Happy

flavors–pumpkin, mint, et cetera–also draws people in to grab their ‘limited time’ favorites.” The notion of season can be a social construct as often as it is a tilting of the Earth’s axis. “I offer a variety of Christmas cookies sold by the dozen each year,” Mayer says. “They will be available the first couple weeks of December.” And sometimes, at least according to Bake You Happy, a season can be determined by a single individual. “I am always accepting special orders, whether for a cake, event, or just to satisfy a craving for homemade cookies,” Mayer catalogs. “I have experience in catering, as well as wedding cakes.” Despite the sweet/sour polarity, both dream-chasing companies share more similarities than differences…including a humble beginning. “I started Bake You Happy in December of 2020 offering Christmas cookies on Facebook,” Jessica Mayer confesses. “I then offered various menus based on the seasons, and took custom orders, as well. Last summer was my first time doing a farmers’ market. I did that one again this year, as well as craft shows and other markets mixed in.” Swirl Top Baking’s humble beginning might be even humbler than that…as, early on, the two-man band lacked even a name. “We were just known casually as ‘the sourdough guys’ or ‘D & K Sourdough’ at the farmers market in 2022,” Latham recalls. “We just hadn’t found any inspiration for a name.” In those salad days, the casually-anonymous company carried only two varieties of sourdough–Original Artisan loaf and Rosemary Olive Oil loaf—but the addition of a company name seems to have opened a floodgate of flavor. “Since those first days with just two offerings, we’ve added another seven or so flavors of bread – all sourdough,” Ebner says. “We try to have some sweeter options as well as savory.” The sweet motivation of gift giving is, at least in the case of two local baking businesses, the same as sharing one’s dream by the loaf or the slice or the swirl. It’s the singular expression of a human emotion that’s as simple as it is profound…and that emotion is love. 

Bake You Happy Facebook: Swirl Top Baking Instagram: Facebook:




Photo courtesy of Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus

Introducing the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus’ 43rd Season BY AURORA SMITH

The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus will start their 43rd season just in time for the holidays. I spoke to Ramon Feliciano, a singer with the chorus, to learn more about the season and what it’s like to be part of this unique community. What is the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus?

The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus (TCGMC) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) volunteer community chorus whose mission is “Gay Men Building Community Through Music.” They not only want to provide rewarding musical experiences to members and audiences alike, but also hope to enact social change. TCGMC celebrates diversity and uses their music to educate and heal, working toward the elimination of homophobia and intolerance via community outreach. “The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus is not only a singing organization, but a community enjoined by values of courage, authenticity, joy, respect, and accountability,” said Feliciano. “It embraces cultural diversity and attempts to cater to the needs of each member.”

How did Feliciano get started singing with TCGMC? “I’m a nurse from the Philippines,” he said. “Like any other Filipino, I have the American Dream.” The immigration process took ten years for Ramon, but he finally arrived in Minnesota in March 2019. Adjusting to life in a new country and assimilating into a new culture wasn’t easy for Feliciano. He felt homesick, and to help overcome it, he surrounded himself with people outside of his close and familiar Filipino community. “I met my partner, Chris, who knew about my theater background and must have heard me singing in the bathroom,” says Feliciano. “He encouraged me to join TCGMC.” Feliciano was hesitant at first, because — despite his theater background — he wasn’t very confident in his singing abilities. But he auditioned anyway. “Receiving the news that I got in was exhilarating yet terrifying,” he says. “I was a bit intimidated the first time I walked into the halls of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church not only because I’m in a room with a hundred plus gay men, but also how spectacular they are when they start singing.”

20 LAVENDER NOVEMBER 16-29, 2023

Feliciano was anxious during the first few weeks, but as time passed, the feelings of intimidation were easily replaced with comfort. “I was able to make connections and found everyone accommodating and supportive,” he says. “I was surrounded by humans who shared their experiences and allowed me to share my own. I was in the midst of people that are accepting and all embracing. Then and there, I thought, ‘I am home.’”

Why is it meaningful to sing with TCGMC? Feliciano is the eldest among his siblings and grew up in a Filipino and devoutly Catholic household. While he had the most loving parents who did their best for him to help him be successful, Feliciano says he hadn’t fully embraced his true identity. “I never spoke about my sexuality, as I was afraid of disappointing people and being rejected for not meeting societal norms,” says Feliciano. “Joining TCGMC is my way to come to terms as to ‘who I am.’” Feliciano describes TCGMC as “a home that celebrates, uplifts, and accepts.” It’s about so much more than singing — it provided Feliciano with a venue to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community, and especially to be more comfortable and confident in expressing himself. “This self-expression became more exciting and meaningful because it is through art, through music and songs,” says Feliciano.

What do you love most about singing with TCGMC?

“In my first year as a singing member, I did see that there is purpose and direction in everything we do,” says Feliciano. Learning and mastering songs has been thrilling for him, many of which he’s heard for the first time in TCGMC and some that are even composed by members of the chorus. Feliciano also appreciates the many stories of members whose lives were changed for the better thanks to joining the chorus. Singing with TCGMC provides a venue to have fun, socialize, and contribute to society through concert proceeds.

What is Feliciano and his fellow TCGMC singers looking forward to most about the upcoming season? “TCGMC has mastered the craft of utilizing the power of music to convey messages that would touch the heart and uplift the spirit,” says Feliciano. “I’m very much looking forward to another season of that.” Being in healthcare, Feliciano connects to other people through his hands, through physical touch that hopefully provides calm and support. Being in TCGMC means he can touch other peoples’ lives through music, which he hopes will “soothe the pain and anxieties of the soul.” This year, the chorus will have three performances:

They’ll Hear You from the Stars: Dec. 8 & 9, 2023; Fri. & Sat. @ 7:30pm; Sat. matinee @ 2pm Westwood Lutheran Church • St. Louis Park (General Admission) Built on the concept of the power of voices, and the words we use to wield change and action. God Save the Queens: March 22 & 23, 2024; Fri. & Sat. @ 7:30pm Ted Mann Concert Hall • Minneapolis (Reserved Seating for Season Subscribers, GA for single ticket-buyers)

Taking you across the Pond with a British pop playlist you’ll love – with a twist. All of the featured music is from queer artists!

This Is Me: June 21-22, 2024; Fri. & Sat. @ 7:30pm St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church • Mahtomedi (General Admission) Combining choral music and dance to destigmatize topics surrounding body image in a powerhouse collaboration with award-winning James Sewell Ballet and See Change Treble Choir. Presenting our latest commission, “Every BODY.” Feliciano is particularly excited about the season finale, This Is Me. “Society has inculcated into each and every one of us the perception of a ‘perfect body or look.’ This can lead to deep-seated insecurities and discontent for some people,” Feliciano says. “I’m looking forward to being part of another concert that sends out a message to embrace our imperfections and flaws. I’m enthusiastic to be part of a production that resonates with the ideas of self-acceptance and self-love.” 



OUR SCENE | ENTERTAINMENT 2023 European Christmas Market – Celebrating Our 10th Anniversar y November 24 – December 17, every weekend • Fridays 4 – 9 PM, Saturdays 10 AM – 8 PM, Sundays 11 AM – 6 PM • Union Depot, 240 E. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN

Photo courtesy of BigStock/CarlosBarquero

Hennepin Theatre Trust presents Cirque du Soleil: “T’was the Night Before…” November 24 – December 3 • Northrop Auditorium, Carlson Family Stage, Minneapolis, MN “A Three Tenors Christmas” November 24 – 27 • Fireside Theatre, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen, MN 55317

Holiday Entertainment Guide BY LINDA RAINES

The holidays are a time rich in opportunities for gatherings with friends, entertaining, and taking in all of the shows, music and concerts of the season. We’ve compiled a list to help you pencil in all sorts of activities on your schedule! Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis – Nordic Village November 1 – March 31 • Wednesdays – Sundays • Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis, 245 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN “Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” Through January 7 • Children’s Theatre Company, 2400 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN “Jersey Boys” Through February 24, 2024 • Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen, MN 55317 “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens November 11 – December 30 • Guthrie Theatre, Wurtele Thrust Stage, 818 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis, MN

GLOW Holiday Festival Nov 16 – Dec 31, 2023 • Open 5:00 – 9:00 PM • CHS Field, 360 Broadway St., St. Paul, MN 55101 Lyric Arts presents “The Wickhams: Christmas At Pemberley” November 17 – December 22 • Lyric Arts Company of Anoka, 420 E. Main St., Anoka, MN 55303 “Christmas At The Local” November 21 – December 31 • Theater Latte Da, 345 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis, MN Stevie Ray’s Comedy Improv with Mistletoe Mischief November 23 – December 30 • Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen, MN 10th Annual Turkey Trot – St. Paul November 23 • 10K starts 7:30 AM, 6K starts 8:00 AM • St. Paul, MN Hip Hop Nutcracker presented by Tobin Entertainment November 24 • 7:00 PM • State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN

2023 Excelsior Christkindlsmarkt November 24 – 26 • Friday 10 AM – 7 PM, Saturday 10 AM – 7 PM, Sunday 10 AM – 5 PM • Excelsior East Public Parking (behind Excelsior Brewing), Excelsior, MN Pentatonix presents “The Most Wonderful Tour of the Year” November 25 • 7:00 PM, Doors 6:00 PM • Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN Gingerbread Wonderland 2023 November 25 – January 7 • Norway House, 913 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis, MN Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity” presented by Penumbra Theatre November 28 – December 24 • Penumbra Theatre, 270 N. Kent St., St. Paul, MN Taste of Saint Paul November 28 • 5:00 – 7:30 PM • InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront, 11 E. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN Chanhassen Dinner Theatres presents “Rock & Roll Xmas Spectacular” November 29 – December 3 • Fireside Theatre, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen, MN Continued on page 24

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OUR SCENE | ENTERTAINMENT Open Eye Theatre presents “Scrooge In Rouge” November 30 – December 30 • Tickets $15 – $30 • Ages 14+ • Open Eye Theatre, 506 E. 24th St., Minneapolis, MN 55404 Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Ballet presented by Talmi Entertainment November 30 – December 2 • Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN nutcracker-magical-christmas-ballet-orpheumtheatre-minneapolis-mn-2023/ 45th Annual Old-Fashioned Holiday Bazaar November 30 – December 2 • Thursday 10 AM – 7 PM, Friday 10 AM – 7 PM, Saturday 10 AM – 5 PM • $5 / Under 12 Free • Landmark Center, 75 5th St. W., St. Paul, MN Corelli’s Christmas Concerto November 30 – December 2 • The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Julmarknad Handcraft Market & Festival December 1 – Preview Night • Festival, December 2 – 3 • American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Ave., Minneapolis, MN Red Undie Run December 2 • 12:00 PM • Mill Ruins Park across Stone Arch Bridge and Back, Minneapolis, MN Duluth Winter Village December 2 -3 • 350 Harbor Dr., Duluth, MN 55802 Travis Anderson Trio’s “Charlie Brown Christmas” December 4 • Doors 5:30 PM, Show 7:00 PM • Tickets $15 – 20 • Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403 Jake Shimabukuro – Holidays in Hawai’i December 5 • Doors 5:30 PM, Show 7:00 PM • Tickets $55 – 65 • Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403 Nicholas David’s 10th Annual St. Nick’s Day Show December 6 • Doors 5:30 PM, Show 7:00 PM • Tickets $35 – 40 • Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403

Holiday Concerts: Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos December 7 – 9 • The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

The JAZZMN Orchestra’s Annual Holiday Concert – “Swinging In The Season” December 11 • Dinner 5:30 pm, Show 7:00 PM • Main Stage, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen, MN

Miss Richfield 1981 – “Bad Advice” December 7 – 17 • Illusion Theater, 3754 Pleasant Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55409

BenDeLaCreme & Jinkx Monsoon – “The Jinks & DeLa Holiday Show” 2023 December 11 • 8:00 PM • Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis, MN

Karla Bonoff & Livingston Taylor: Home for the Holidays December 7 – 8 • Doors 5:30 PM, Show 7:00 PM • Tickets $60 – 75 • Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403 Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus presents “They’ll Hear You From The Stars” December 8 – 9 • Westwood Lutheran Church, 9001 Cedar Lake Rd., Minneapolis, MN 55426 An Evening With Lisa Stokke December 8 • 6:00 PM • Norway House, 913 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis, MN “Christmas At The Rainbow Diner” – Mrs. Moxie and Lexie D. December 8 – 9 • 7:30 PM • Northfield Art Guilds Theater, 411 W. 3rd St., Northfield, MN 55057 castastrophe4/ Circus Juventas’s Annual Holiday Show – “A Hygge Holiday” December 8 – 17 • Under the Big Top in St. Paul “A Christmas Carol Krampus or It’s A Pretty OK Life” December 8 – 9 and 15 – 16 • Presented by Classics Lost N’ Found Theater Company • Performance at Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church, 1620 E. 46th St., Minneapolis, MN The Blenders Holiday Soul Tour December 8 – 10 • Pantages Theatre, 701 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN VocalEssence: Welcome Christmas December 9 – 10 • 4 PM • Carlson Family Stage, Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis, MN

Holiday Swingin’! A Kat Edmonson Christmas December 11 • Doors 5:30 PM, Show 7:00 PM • Tickets $35-40 • Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403 Merr y Christmas from Jose James feat. Christian Sands December 12 – 13 •Doors 5:30 PM, Show 7:00 PM • Tickets $35-40 • Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403 Christmas With A Whole Lotta Soul December 13 – 14 • Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen, MN Southside Acres: Christmas in New Orleans December 14 • Doors 5:30 PM, Concert 7:00 PM • Tickets $15 – 20 • Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403 Holiday Concerts: Handel’s Messiah December 14 – 17 • The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra The Ordway presents Sons of Serendip – Christmas: Beyond the Lights December 14 • 7:30 PM • Ordway Concert Hall, 345 Washington St., St. Paul, MN Bach’s Christmas Oratorio 2023 presented by the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers and the Bach Society of Minnesota December 15 • 7:30 PM • St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, 900 Summit Ave., St. Paul, MN Mannheim Steamroller Christmas December 15 • 7:30 PM • Orpheum Theatre, 901 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN mannheim-steamroller-christmas-orpheumtheatre-2023-minneapolis-mn/ Continued on page 26

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OUR SCENE | ENTERTAINMENT Ballet Minnesota presents the 35th Annual “The Classic Nutcracker” December 15 – 17 • Tickets $5 – $45 • The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine’s University North Countr y Christmas Featuring Kat Perkins December 15 – 17 • Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen, MN Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy presented by Minnesota Dance Theatre December 16 – 23 • State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN Bach’s Christmas Oratorio 2023 presented by the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers and the Bach Society of Minnesota December 16 • 4:00 PM • Westwood Lutheran Church, 9001 Cedar Lake Rd., St. Louis Park, MN Michael W. Smith Christmas presented by Martin Media December 16 • 7:00 PM • Orpheum Theatre, 901 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN Celtic Holiday Hooley December 18 – 20 • Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen, MN The Peterson Family – T’was the Jam Before Christmas December 18 – 19 • Doors 5:30 PM, Show 7:00 PM • Tickets $35-40 • Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403 Christmas On The Prairie December 21 – 23 • Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen, MN Peabo Br yson & Haley Reinhart: Home for the Holidays December 21 – 22 • Check web site for times • Tickets $35-40 • Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403 A Swingin’ Christmas with The Andrew Walesch Big Band December 23 • Doors 5:30 PM, Concert 7:00 PM • Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403 An Andy & Bing Christmas December 26 – 30 • Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen, MN Trans-Siberian Orchestra – “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” December 30 • 3:00 pm and 7:30 PM • Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN Vintage Vegas New Years December 30 – 31 • Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen, MN Shows or events may be subject to change or cancellation. Please check websites.

26 LAVENDER NOVEMBER 16-29, 2023



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Photos by Dan Norman Photography

Jersey Boys

Just Too Good To Be True BY BUER CARLIE

We are halfway through intermission at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre and I have just returned to my seat. The waitress dropped off my coffee and pre-ordered dessert already, so I pick up my fork and prepare to dig in, when suddenly my attention is pulled in the direction of the table just behind mine. “You know, I’ve never actually seen Jersey Boys,” one of the men confesses in a dramatic stage whisper. “Me neither!” echoes his date. I look over my shoulder in time to see the two men sharing a shocked glance before they burst out laughing. “It’s actually great!” they say, almost simultaneously. I return my focus to my cake feeling oddly comforted. Confession: I had also never seen Jersey Boys. My vaguely guilty feeling has been replaced with a sense of solidarity in this shared musical theater blind spot. Sure, Jersey Boys has been a crowd-pleaser for years – it’s just taken a few of us a little longer to catch up to the magic than others. Written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice in the early 2000s, Jersey Boys is a music-heavy, documentary-style play that uses the clever device of the four seasons (spring, summer, fall, and winter) to delineate the story

28 LAVENDER NOVEMBER 16-29, 2023

of the meteoric rise and eventual fall of the 1960s musical sensation: The Four Seasons. Band founder, manager, and guitarist Tommy DeVito (Dylan Rugh) narrates the spring, which chronicles the band’s origin. Songwriter and keyboardist Bob Gaudio (Sam Stoll) takes on summer, in which the band finds its groove. Bassist and arranger Nick Massi (Shad Hanley) narrates fall, at which point everything – you guessed it – begins to fall apart. Finally, winter is recounted by lead vocalist Frankie Valli himself (Will Dusek) as the band struggles to stay together in spite of their many problems. While Jersey Boys is primarily a feel-good musical, it doesn’t shy away from the darker elements of the band’s history. These elements range from the band’s questionable origins to interpersonal conflicts and personal demons. This blend of highs and lows, humor and drama, all set to a soundtrack of comfort music, makes the show as emotionally resonant as it is fun. This version of Jersey Boys has been cleaned up quite a bit from the original – particularly in terms of language. But it remains a story about the early days of rock and roll, so expect the classic music industry trifecta of sex, drugs, and violence. These days the dulcet tones of The Four Seasons are less likely to evoke the former and more likely to bring about a vague feeling of being in a waiting room or watching that unforgettable Heath Ledger scene from 10 Things I Hate About You. But do not let those melodic, nostalgic tunes fool you: The Four Seasons got into more than their fair share of trouble.

AT C E LE B R E TH E HOLI DAYS AT ESTRA HALL! H C R O Rich Hamson, the costume designer for this production, did exceptional work in bringing this era to life through the wardrobe of the cast. The costumes not only referenced several of the suits that The Four Seasons wore for specific performances or on album covers, they also captured the essence of the band and the period they performed in. The set design by Nayna Ramey was a standout feature of this production. Ramey utilized a minimalist set, allowing the audience to fill in the blanks left behind the primary set pieces. The romantic restaurant is implied by a neatly set table covered in a red and white checkered tablecloth. A small apartment is hinted at behind a white, wrought iron bed and its pale, yellow bedspread. The minimalism of the set and the overall intimacy of the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre served this production perfectly, bringing the audience in close for each chapter of The Four Seasons story. The actors portraying Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito, and Nick Massi embodied their real-life counterparts with striking accuracy. While the entire quartet delivered stellar performances, Will Dusek’s Frankie Valli emerges as a standout, effortlessly hitting Valli’s iconic falsetto notes and embodying the essence of this musical legend. The supporting cast is full of strong singers, dancers, and performers, although a couple of background casting choices struck me as odd. Of course, one of the undeniable highlights of Jersey Boys is the music. The show presents a jukebox of timeless hits, and every song was performed with passion and precision. Music director Andy Kust beautifully rose to the challenge of bringing so many timeless hits to the stage. It will take all of your willpower not to sing along to Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like a Man, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and many, many more. Turns out, we all know way more songs by The Four Seasons than we ever could have imagined. The Chanhassen Dinner Theatre’s production of Jersey Boys excels on all fronts. This delightful musical combines fantastic acting, lovely set and costume design, and more standout musical moments than you will know what to do with. Whether you are a loyal fan of The Four Seasons or just love a wellexecuted musical, Jersey Boys is sure to satisfy. It is truly a testament to the enduring power of great music and the remarkable journey of the men behind the hits. Shows continue through the end of February 2024, so get your tickets now!  Jersey Boys 501 West 78th Street Chanhassen, MN 55317

MINNESOTAORCHESTRA.ORG/HOLIDAY 612-371-5656 | #MINNORCH All artists, dates and programs are subject to change. Photo credits available online. Home Alone: © 1990 Twentieth Century Fox. Frozen © Disney.

The Movies & Music series is presented by




Photo courtesy of Joey Amato

Q+ Equality Foundation Expands Q+ Workplace Designation BY JOEY AMATO

Launched in Q4 2022 as a 501(c)(3), the mission of Q+ Equality Foundation is to empower Q+ talent and cultivate workplaces where inclusivity thrives, and every identity is celebrated. Q+ Equality Foundation strives to serve as a nexus between students, colleges, businesses, and Q+ professionals. Currently, over 1.2 million Q+ individuals join the workforce each year with around 30% facing deliberate or unintentional discrimination. Additionally, in the existing workforce, less than half feel comfortable being out. The Q+ Equality Foundation has worked with SMBs, Fortune 500 companies, and LGBTQ+ individuals to establish the Q+ Workplace designation, aiming to set a higher standard of inclusivity and provide better opportunities

for Q+ talent, particularly in sectors lacking Q+ representation. The Foundation’s efforts are focused on elevating Q+ voices in the workplace and promoting equality. Their network includes nearly 100 Equality Ambassadors: mid-to-senior level Q+ professionals volunteering their expertise to foster inclusivity in other organizations and mentor emerging Q+ talent. Notable partnerships include companies like American Express, Applovin, and Q+ Equality Foundation has witnessed rapid growth! “From partnering with about 40 workplaces and 70 schools at the end of Q1, we have expanded our reach to over 100 workplaces and 850 schools by the end of Q3,” mentioned Q+ Equality Foundation Executive Di-

rector, Thomas Ryan-Lawrence (he/him). “We never anticipated establishing relationships with so many schools so quickly! In order to keep up with the increased demand of new Q+ talent using our resources, we need more organizations that wish to earn the Q+ Workplace designation.” Ryan-Lawrence continues to say, “We pride ourselves on being a resource to all organizations that hold the Q+ Workplace designation. Sharing our best practices, removing the guesswork, and helping each organization create welcoming workplaces all while raising the standard of inclusion and allyship is what we do.” The decision to establish the Foundation stemmed from the realization that SMBs historically struggled to implement effective Q+ Continued on page 32

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inclusion strategies due to limited resources and a lack of expertise. Before the Q+ Workplacedesignation launched, Q+ talent was failing to reach their full potential while businesses were facing higher than average turnover and missing out on attracting top Q+ talent. “Our original objective was to provide direct support to Q+ talent, primarily students and recent graduates,” says Ryan-Lawrence. “However, as we progressed, we recognized our true potential for impact lies in our ability to assist small and medium-sized businesses in enhancing their inclusivity efforts. The more organizations we partner with and designate as a Q+

Workplace, the more opportunities Q+ talent have to find somewhere to call home where they can be their true selves.” Achieving the Q+ Workplace designation signifies a strong commitment to progressive values and social responsibility. This recognition enhances an organization’s reputation and solidifies its position as a preferred choice for people who prioritize inclusivity. This is especially valuable for prospective and current Q+ employees, as the designation mitigates apprehension, fosters openness, and fosters a sense of representation.

Looking ahead, the Foundation aims to continue its trajectory of growth, with an emphasis on increasing the number of Q+ Workplace designations. “We’ve seen more and more SMBs beginning to understand the benefits of having an inclusive culture, not just for Q+ talent, but for all people,” says Ryan-Lawrence. “While one of the biggest challenges is ensuring everyone feels included in a multigenerational workforce, we absolutely love helping organizations solve that problem. After all, inclusion is a twoway street; it’s not just about the marginalized group…every person matters,” he concludes. Cristina Gutierrez, VP of People Operations for American Express, remarked, “I’m proud to work at an organization where I feel comfortable bringing my whole self to work and where I am able to create a safe and authentic environment for others”. American Express was a proud sponsor of Q+ Equality Foundation’s “I Am Q+” campaign, launched on National Coming Out Day, to raise awareness and create a meaningful impact by empowering others to be out in the workplace, any day of the year. To nominate a business for the Q+ Workplace designation, join the “I Am Q+” movement, make a donation, or simply learn more, visit 



32 LAVENDER NOVEMBER 16-29, 2023

Lavender Media is seeking to add a Twin Citiesbased full time Account Executive to our sales team. We are looking for an outgoing, organized, self-driven & motivated professional with excellent phone, writing and presentation skills. Candidates should enjoy working directly with clients who are interested in growing their business through Lavender advertising and event sponsorships. Candidates must be local. Includes base pay + commission and an employee benefits package that includes group health, dental, life insurance and LTD. Applicants should have experience with Mac software environment, Excel, Word, social media platforms & database software such as Filemaker Pro. They should exhibit an elevated level of organization, attention to detail, the ability to work as part of a team, effective communication, self direction, enjoys working with new people and has a natural drive to grow.

Please send your cover letter and resume to Stephen Rocheford, President & CEO.





Songs of Irie

Asha Ashati Bromfield Wednesday Books $20

Jamaica; 1976; warring political factions are coming to violence preelection around the lives of Irie, whose Daddy runs a record shop in an impoverished area of Kingston, and Jilly, privileged daughter of a wealthy politician living in a mansion on the heights of the capital city. They’ve just graduated a posh girl’s school, where Irie was a scholarship student, and neither one knows the depths–or heights of the other’s life. Irie’s school days are over, while Jilly has been summarily told she’s been betrothed. Jilly has not told her parents of her university rejection. Though underage, Irie, musically talented, plans to sneak into a prestigious reggae competition, and Jilly insists on accompanying. Brimfield builds tension adroitly, though clearly, not all hopes can prevail.

A Dirty Guide to A Clean Home: Housekeeping Hacks You Can’t Live Without Melissa Dilkes Pateras with Carla Sosenko The Dial Press $26

The Laundry Lesbian of TikTok is the first to say, “It’s not every day that a heavily tattooed, middle-aged lesbian mother of three is presented as a lifestyle guru. But here I am…” Juvenile, risqué jokes and all, but she’s got the goods: Whatever plagues be on your house, she’s got the remedy. I, for example, moved into nice digs with water hard enough to support Biblical walking upon. Her cure? Vinegar–and how to apply it effectively. A broken zipper? Stains? Installing a new shower head, sewing on a button, reanimating a shrunken sweater, rethreading a hoodie or sweatpants drawstring? LL explains it clearly, lists tools you’ll need, illustrations to guide. With a wrap-up on cleaning and maintaining all your expensive household machinery. Painlessly.

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds Merlin Sheldrake Random House $40

Fungi; so beautiful and so ubiquitous, down into our very bodies. Sheldrake has abridged his original edition to offer this art presentation of over 100 color plates of these little-known beings without brains, limbs, or appurtenances we generally label “human,” or “intelligent,” nevertheless thread mazes, communicate over distance, and make “deals” with other forms of life, including human. Sheldrake once flew to Italy, joined two hu-

34 LAVENDER NOVEMBER 16-29, 2023

mans and dogs to ferret out white truffles whose fungi had excreted scent to lure them to come pick their fruiting bodies and spread their spores afar. Entranced by what you find, you can buy the original, equally entrancing volume with 51 pages of Notes, 43 of Bibliography and 25 of Index. Like the Truffle, Sheldrake has compelling lures.

Wild Spaces

S. L. Coney Tor Publishing Group $16.99 Idyll to nightmare – a beautifully written horror tale that ensnares the reader without as grippingly as it does those trapped within. Somewhere on the South Carolina coast, a mother, father, their eleven-year-old son and his dog, Teach – the only named character, and a newcomer, arrived only about a month ago. Theirs is a simple life – mother writes about pirates, father’s a biologist, probing swamplands. One day, mother’s father rolls up in a battered Woodie; life in their saltwater Eden is over. The reader’s first outraged; this old reprobate obviously enjoys sowing dissention, disturbing his daughter, and wonders how he’ll be overthrown, until feeling the tightening net themselves. The hairs on their neck rise, they finally understand this is not the story they were expecting…that there is no way out.

The Puppets of Spelhorst: A Norendy Tale Kate D. Camillo and Julie Morstad Candlewick Press $17.99

The first in Newberry Medalist Kate DiCamillo’s Norendy fairy tales embraces death and danger, love and loss, regret and redemption, penned without a hint of condescension or adult preachment. In fact, this tale of an elderly, remorseful, dying sea captain, five puppets with dreams of glory, two little girls with a script for said puppets, and a housemaid yearning to ride a camel, is crafted to stir the spirit of reader or listener of any age. The wooden king, young maiden, archer youth, toothy wolf and plumed owl pass on through the old seaman’s hands to achieve their heart’s desires in a little girl’s story, then travel beyond, joining maid Jane’s flight to far lands on camel-back, all rendered poignantly in Julie Morstad’s black-and-white illustrations.


Daniel Clowes Fantagraphics $30 A fantastic read to shake you up right down to the endpapers, then have you flipping back for clarity. Not that Monica herself offers any tear-

ful Gish-sister optimism, toiling stoically through (most of) these nine chapters before turning one last metaphoric door-knob, an opening into the … well, go there and discover yourself; maybe ask the friend for whom this was wrapped and gifted. Monica, beyond the primordial soup-to-Jed-Clampett-runup to Chapter One, was, we learn, to have been the offspring of Pretty Penny mom and fiancé Johnny, but for his presence in Vietnam-hell, while she frolicked in bed with another. The whole brings Monica from zygote to grey-hair while ceaselessly searching. For? A multitude of things; Penny, Johnny, love… Spoiler: She does find a multitude.

You Need to Chill!

Juno Dawson, Ill. By Laura Hughes Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (ages 4 and up) $18.99 Breezy, light and sets a firm boundary for a possibly thorny question: “What happened to your older brother Bill?” Classmates query; “Is he lost in the park?” “Is he scared of the dark?” “Is he doing his homework still?” She stands straight admonishing, “Hey, you need to chill.” Their queries are not unkind, but inevitably escalate: “Was he eaten by a WHALE or SHARK? Was he munched up just like krill?” “That simply isn’t true I say. And hey, you need to chill.” Finally, still direct and smiling, our narrator explains, “There are no hungry whales…NO little green men… Your hysteria is silly. The Truth is that my brother Bill…is now my sister Lily.” Just out a few months ago, we’d best heed her “Chill!”

The Monster Mac and Cheese Party

The Twin Cities’ Finest Contractor

ASK US ABOUT INSTALLING HEATED GUTTER GUARDS! Installs onto existing gutter to keep out debris during the summer and melt ice and snow

Todd Parr Megan Tingley Books (ages 4-8) Little, Brown and Company

during the winter.

$17.99 All color, all flair! What would you bring and what would you wear? NYTimes bestselling author Todd Parr undoubtedly had as much fun ringing the rhymes and splashing color– any brighter, they’d singe gift wrap–as your young’un will have deciding what to bring to this Mac and Cheese fest! Not just drab out of the box? Monsters are very creative, and Mac and Cheese are among their very favorite things–perhaps with a sprinkling of stinky socks or Mme. Spider monster’s flies. Humans can boring, but they’re welcome nonetheless. (Among Parr’s sixty-some books is The Joyful Book, The Kindness Book.) So all are are welcome, for sharing makes the world go round! In case you run out of ideas, two (human-style) recipes are included. 

Self-Regulating Heat Cable

Providing home construction and exterior renovation needs, including: roofing, siding, windows, gutters, solar panel installations, and interior & exterior home remodels.

(612) 402-1173 | |




A Plugged-In Mazda BY RANDY STERN

36 LAVENDER NOVEMBER 16-29, 2023

Photos by George Torline

Mazda has been through many evolutions since they established their dealer network in the U.S.A. over 50 years ago. First, they touted the rotary engine. That lasted decades and wound up on one of their most iconic models. Then they grew and straddled between premium offerings, sporter models, and mainstream models. They finally settled on being the brand that gave us “Zoom-Zoom” performance. Mazda figured out that enthusiasts will lead everyone else to their entire lineup. In recent years, that focus has changed. While they still offer vehicles that quicken the heart – such as the MX-5 Miata – Mazda’s ambitions looked elsewhere…and upward. This is how they arrived at the creation of their newest model – the three-row 2024 Mazda CX-90 SUV. This is their most premium model ever created. An SUV that exudes luxury while retaining all of the signs that make it a Mazda. The CX-90 was originally considered to augment the sporty-looking CX-9. However, Mazda announced that the older model will be replaced by the new one. Makes sense, as Mazda really needs one three-row SUV for Rainbow Families to accommodate our lives in one neat package. And, spoiler alert, it is one neat package. From the exterior, you will notice Mazda’s own design language in play with the shield-shaped front grille found across the lineup. The front end is now flatter, exuding a luxurious texture in the grille and headlamp units. The profile is more formal with a longer roofline and gentler slope of the rear glass area. There is more glass overall, especially on the C-pillar. The rear end has larger taillamp units that stretch further horizontally towards the center of the tailgate. Each of these elements were designed for the CX-90’s upmarket ambitions. Our tester is the Premium Plus trim package, which adds more chrome in the appropriate areas and set of 21-inch alloy wheels. The front fender badge also points to what lies underneath the hood. In our case, it is the PHEV driveline – the first plug-in hybrid offered by Mazda. All of which is tastefully done. The theme continues inside with one of the most luxurious cabins Mazda has ever presented. You are treated to soft touchpoints, handsome black-and-tan leather, and an elevated feel overall. The driver now has a new 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster that is customizable. In our tester, we also get the Active Driving Display shown on the windshield. The transmission now uses a shift-by-wire method through its shirt gear lever on the center console. All of the switches and controls were also elevated to improve the overall user experience.

The 12.3-inch infotainment screen now includes wireless smartphone mirroring, which works very well. Bose offers 12 speakers of beautiful sound from front to back. The front seats are supportive, but on the firm side. Most bodies will get comfortable up front. Our Premium Plus tester came with captain’s chairs for the second row. They fold and slide to make room for third row access. In this tester you can seat up to seven passengers, yet there are trim levels available with a full second-row beach seat with a maximum passenger capacity of eight. Cargo space is generous behind the third row of seats, starting with 15.9 cubic feet. Fold down the 60/40 split third row seats, and that space expands to 40.1 cubic feet. With all of the seats folded down, there is up to 75.2 cubic feet to fill behind the front seats. There are three engine choices for the 2024 CX-90. The one we are working with is powered by the first plug-in hybrid driveline in Mazda’s history. This power source combines a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with an equally powerful electric motor. Combined, it puts out up to 323 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is connected both the electric and gasoline motors, sending power to all four wheels.

The plug-in system can be recharged between one-and-a-half to two hours using a Level 2 plug. We found that it would deliver 28 miles of battery-only driving. For fuel economy, we experienced an average of 36.5 MPG. Power delivery is smooth no matter the source. You will find solid acceleration without any hesitation or unnecessary friction from the driveline. In turn, we experienced a smooth ride and excellent road behavior. Handling is very controlled with solid maneuverability. The steering system is very good with a solid on-center feel and a good turning radius. Brake pedal feel is solid with good response.

The CX-90 turned in solid stops in normal and panic situations. Pricing for the 2024 Mazda CX-90 starts at $39,595 with a total of eleven trim levels – three for the plug-in hybrid. There are three choices of engines, including the plug-in hybrid we featured here and two inline six-cylinder engines. Plug-in hybrid models start from $47,445. Our PHEV Premium Plus tester came with a sticker price of $58,920. The world may have gravitated to the SUV, but it’s quite hard to find one that will satisfy your needs and wants. We think Mazda has the right combination of practicality, space, and luxury in its new 2024 CX-90. Yes, it’s more premium than one would want, but consider the price point before you compare it with more luxurious models. While most of its direct competitors are being priced above $60,000, this CX-90 is priced below that mark fully equipped. If you are looking for a nicer three-row SUV for you and your Rainbow Family, give the 2024 Mazda CX-90 a good look. 

Locally Owned & Operated Since 1950

Estimates 7am-4:30pm



COMMUNITY CONNECTION Community Connection brings visibility to local LGBTQ-friendly non-profit organizations. To reserve your listing in Community Connection, email advertising@lavendermagazine. com.

ADOPTION & FOSTER CARE Foster Adopt Minnesota

Finding families and providing information, education, and support to Minnesota Adoptive, Foster and Kinship communities. 2446 University Ave. W., Ste. 104 St. Paul, MN 55114 (612) 861-7115, (866) 303-6276


Second Chance Animal Rescue

Dedicated to rescuing, fostering, caring for, and adopting out dogs and cats into forever homes. P.O. Box 10533 White Bear Lake, MN 55110 (651) 771-5662



Minnesota's LGBTQ+ and Allied Chamber of Commerce working to build, connect, and strengthen for a diverse business community. 2446 University Ave. W., Ste 112 St. Paul, MN 55114 (612) 460-8153


Mystic Lake Casino Hotel


Aliveness Project

Community Center for individuals living with HIV/AIDS – on-site meals, food shelf, and supportive service. 3808 Nicollet Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN 55102 (612) 824-LIFE (5433)

Family Tree Clinic

We're a sliding fee sexual health clinic and education center, now in Minneapolis. 1919 Nicollet Ave. Minneapolis MN 55403 (612) 473-0800

NAMI Minnesota

(National Alliance on Mental Illness) Providing free classes and peer support groups for people affected by mental illnesses. 800 Transfer Rd. #31 St. Paul, MN 55114 (651) 645-2948

Rainbow Health Minnesota

Meeting the health needs of LGBTQ+ people and those living with HIV with holistic service. 2700 Territorial Rd. W. St. Paul, MN 55114 General: (612) 341-2060 MN AIDSLine: (612) 373-2437

Red Door Clinic

Sexual health care for all people. Get confidential tests & treatment in a safe, caring setting. 525 Portland Ave., 4th Fl. Minneapolis, MN 55415 (612) 543-5555


Nonstop gaming excitement with slots, blackjack, bingo and more plus distinctive bars and restaurants. 2400 Mystic Lake Blvd. Prior Lake, MN 55372 (800) 262-7799

Your LGBTQ+ library and community center. Free membership, events, and e-books/audiobooks. Check us out! 1220 E. Lake St. Minneapolis, MN 55407 (612) 729-2543



The Nature Conservancy

Quatrefoil Library

Radio K

TNC is an environmental nonprofit working to create a world where people and nature thrive. 1101 W. River Pkwy., Ste. 200 Minneapolis, MN 55415-1291 (612) 331-0700

Radio K is the award-winning studentrun radio station of the University of Minnesota. 330 21st. Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN 55455 (612) 625-3500


Create your own adventure at MNHS historic sites and museums around Minnesota.

Landmark Center

A classic venue, with a grand cortile and beautiful courtrooms, accommodates celebrations of all sizes. 75 W. 5th St. St. Paul, MN 55102 (651) 292-3228


PFund is the LGBTQ+ community foundation that provides grants to students and grants to non-profits. PO Box 3640 Minneapolis, MN 55403 612-870-1806

38 LAVENDER NOVEMBER 16-29, 2023


Minnesota Historical Society

Walker Art Center

Showcasing the fresh, innovative art of today and tomorrow through exhibitions, performances, and film screenings. 725 Vineland Pl. Minneapolis, MN 55403 (612) 375-7600


Chanhassen Dinner Theaters

The nation’s largest professional dinner theater and Minnesota’s own entertainment destination. 501 W. 78th St. Chanhassen, MN 55317 (952) 934-1525

Children’s Theatre Company

St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral

Children’s Theatre Company excites the imagination with world-class familyfriendly theatre for kids, teens, and adults. 2400 3rd Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN 55404 (612) 874-0400

An inclusive and affirming community transforming lives through God’s love. 519 Oak Grove St. Minneapolis, MN 55403 (612) 870-7800

Guthrie Theater

An open and affirming congregation, welcoming persons of all sexual orientations, gender expressions and identities. 1200 Marquette Ave. Minneapolis, MN 55403 (612) 332-3421

Open to the public year-round, the Guthrie produces classic and contemporary plays on three stages. 818 S. 2nd St. Minneapolis, MN 55415 (612) 377-2224

Lyric Arts Main Street Stage

Westminster Presbyterian Church


Theater with character. Comedies, musicals, & dramas in a professional, intimate setting where all are welcomed. 420 E. Main St. Anoka, MN 55303 (763) 422-1838

Fostering meaningful connections for older adults for 50+ years. Offering quick drop-in chat line, phone & visiting companionship services. 2550 University Ave. W., Ste. 260-S St. Paul, MN 55114 (612) 721-1400

Minnesota Opera

Senior Community Services

World-class opera draws you into a synthesis of beauty; breathtaking music, stunning costumes & extraordinary sets. Performances at the Ordway Music Theater - 345 Washington St., St. Paul, MN 55102 (612) 333-6669

Minnesota Orchestra

Led by Music Director Designate Thomas Søndergård, the Minnesota Orchestra, one of America’s leading symphony orchestras. 1111 Nicollet Mall Minneapolis, MN 55403 (612) 371-5656, (800) 292-4141

Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

Leading performing arts center with two stages presenting Broadway musicals, concerts and educational programs that enrich diverse audiences. 345 Washington St. St. Paul, MN 55102 (651) 224-4222

Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus

An award-winning chorus building community through music and offers entertainment worth coming out for! 1430 W. 28th St., Ste. B Minneapolis, MN 55408 (612) 339-SONG (7664)


Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church

Everyone is welcome at Hennepin Church! Vibrant Worship. Authentic Community. Bold Outreach. 511 Groveland Ave. Minneapolis, MN 55403 (612) 871-5303

Plymouth Congregational Church

Many Hearts, One Song; Many Hands, One Church. Find us on Facebook and Twitter. 1900 Nicollet Ave. Minneapolis, MN 55403 (612) 871-7400

Providing non-medical services that meet the changing needs of older adults & support their caregivers. 10201 Wayzata Blvd., Ste. 335 Minnetonka, MN 55305 (952) 541-1019


Lutheran Social Service of MN

Serving all Minnesotans with personcentered services that promote full and abundant lives. | 612-642-5990 | 800-582-5260 Adoption & Foster Care | Behavioral Health | 612-879-5320 Host Homes | Supported Decision-Making | 888-806-6844 Therapeutic Foster Care | 612-751-9395


Minnesota’s Sweet Spot! Visit us for exceptional dining, attractions, shopping, hotels and event space. 1660 Hwy 100 S., Ste. 501 St. Louis Park, MN 55416 (952) 426-4047

Discover Stillwater

Get away to Stillwater for delicious dining, fun shops, and unique nightlife in this charming rivertown!

Visit Greater St. Cloud

Give yourself a break. Visit Greater St. Cloud. 1411 W. St. Germain St., Ste. 104 St. Cloud, MN 56301 (320) 251-4170


The Bridge for Youth

Emergency shelter, crisis intervention, and resources for youth currently or at risk of experiencing homelessness. 1111 W. 22nd St. Minneapolis, MN 55405 (612) 377-8800 or text (612) 400-7233

THE NETWORK Account Executive. Lavender Media is seeking to add a Twin Cities based full time Account Executive to our sales team. We are looking for an outgoing, organized, self-driven & motivated professional with excellent phone, writing and presentation skills. Candidates should enjoy working directly with clients who are interested in growing their business through Lavender advertising and event sponsorships. Candidates must be local. Includes base pay + commission and an employee benefits package that includes group health, dental, life insurance and LTD. Applicants should have experience with Mac software environment, Excel, Word, social media platforms & database software such as Filemaker Pro. They should exhibit an elevated level of organization, attention to detail, the ability to work as part of a team, effective communication, self direction, enjoys working with new people and has a natural drive to grow. Please send your cover letter and resume to

Josh Kelly LGBTQIA+ Realtor®


Bill’s Gun Shop & range More Guns - More Lanes





Finding Personal Community BY ELISE MAREN

Photo courtesy of BigStock/CarlosBzrquero

Ask Elise is an advice column meant for suggestions regarding LGBTQ+ community member dilemmas of any kind. If I am not qualified to answer your question (regarding issues for transgender individuals, people of color, etcetera), I will ask someone who is qualified and cite them. Your question is equally important and may help another community member. If you have a question, please submit it to listing your pronouns and pseudonym if desired. If you need someone to talk to for more urgent or serious matters, please consider using the following hotlines: The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Hotline: (888) 843-4564 Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860: Trans Lifeline is a trans-led organization that connects trans people to the community, support, and resources they need to survive and thrive.

Dear Elise, How do you build a personal community? Queerness can sometimes feel isolating with the current media attacking trans people and continued COVID cautiousness. We find community to be a difficult to acquire, but crucial resource for us. Sincerely, Forrest and Zoe (he/they, she/her) Dear Forrest and Zoe, We hear you. Building community can be challenging for any adult, especially queer adults. Although, we can view this challenge as an exciting endeavor to explore ourselves, our hobbies, and find new interests. Start off by simply participating in new spaces and garner the courage to strike up a conversation with someone via a compliment, asking how long they have participated in the space, or asking how they got connected to the space. Some ideas for spaces that often have

40 LAVENDER NOVEMBER 16-29, 2023

events targeted for queer people include libraries, small bookstores, and climbing gyms. Join a book club! Those are easy to accommodate people virtually if you have health concerns about public spaces. Grrrl Scout is an excellent local organization that puts on events for queer women and gender non-conforming people to meet up, but it may not be the most COVIDconscious space as winter approaches. Other local musical spaces that may cater better to your concerns would be One Voice Mixed Chorus concerts or events that my friend, local composer Emily Boyajian (she/ her), is featured in. One Voice is one of the nation’s largest choruses for queer people and allies. Per their website, “One Voice has been building community and creating social change by raising our voices in song for 30 years.” Emily will be playing piano for a cabaret celebrating transgender performers at Mixed Blood Theater on December 9th, 10th, and 11th. Find her other performances on Instagram (@emily. boyajian). Lex is an excellent app for finding queer communities. It is like White Pages but for LGBTQ+ folks. Post about one of your interests and try to find a new friend to do that with you. Search Facebook or Instagram for local or virtual groups that pertain to your interests. You

might be surprised by the variety of affinity groups you can find online. If you can’t find the exact community you are looking for, start one! One way to curate a new community is to introduce existing friends to each other. Do not be afraid to mix friends together. They have at least one thing in common: they love you. This is a great way to foster a new friend group who can do things together. Go sledding! Go to an outdoor art exhibition! Go for a walk! Regarding COVID-cautiousness for immunocompromised folks and worries about transphobia, you must define your values and boundaries to best curate your community. Write down any dealbreakers you have about events or budding friendships. Do you want to attend only masked and/or outdoor events? Create a plan for what to say if someone does not respect your pronouns. Hopefully your hobbies and interests attract accommodating and considerate individuals. When you do participate in a new space, please be brave in reaching out to people you find interesting. More often than not, they will think you are interesting too. You are not alone in this endeavor. Sincerely, Elise

L E T ’S GO ALL IN. Shake up your next beach vacation in St. Pete/Clearwater. Start with colorful, gay-friendly towns and neighborhoods like Gulfport and St. Pete’s Grand Central District. Add all the world-class art and dining you could ask for. And then top it off with St. Pete Pride, Florida’s largest pride festival. Let’s shine—plan your perfectly gay getaway at

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