JA NUA RY 17, 2018 O U T FR O N T M AGA ZINE .CO M FREE
Queer generations A Comparison of Closets Growing Up Queer in 2018 Ayla Sullivan March to Movement
City of Aurora
a punk rock musical
Text by John Cameron Mitchell Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask Jan. 19 – Feb. 10
Tickets $18 - $37 Produced Off Broadway by Samjack, Ltd., Susan Brinkley and James B. Freyberg at the Jane Street Theatre where it opened February 14, 1998, under the direction of Peter Askin. Originally produced in New York City by David Binder in association with the Westbeth Theatre Center, Arnold Engelman, Producing Director.
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CONTENTS JANUARY 17, 2018 VOL41 NO27
6 COMING OUT: A COMPARISON OF CLOSETS 8 GROWING UP QUEER IN 2018 12 MARCH TO MOVEMENT 16 A SONG LIKE NO OTHER: A LOOK AT CAROL WHITE’S LEGACY 20 JEWELLE GOMEZ ON QUEER ACTIVISM, FEMINISM, AND FOUNDING GLAAD
24 NOT WITH A BANG, BUT WITH A SLAM: A SPOTLIGHT ON ONE OF COLORADO’S YOUNGEST ACTIVISTS
28 MISSHEARD MEDIA LIFTS THE VOICES OF OUR YOUNG WOMEN 30 YOUTH ON RECORD: ART FOR A CHANGE 38 LOVE IS STRANGE: HEARTFELT FILM ABOUT A GAY SENIOR COUPLE 42 DUELING WITH DEPRESSION: TIME FOR RECESS
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By Rick Kitzman
A Comparison of Closets
o LGBTQs coming out today, I say, “YOU ARE AWESOME!” Your creativity, compassion, courage, and community service make me proud and hopeful.
In 1972, at age 18, I came out as a gay man in college. To give you an idea of the turmoil buried in that statement, before I auditioned for Mart Crowley’s 1968 play The Boys in the Band in ultra-conservative Greeley, I almost threw up. The repercussions of public exposure and guilt by association terrified me. The world you’ve inherited is different from the world I inherited. But easier to come out of the closet? You have the internet. We had books. Sources affirming you’re not alone are available in seconds. Scrounging to find info about my tribe, I discovered a bleak world with no positive role models. Then in 1976, Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. by Jonathan Ned Katz was published, chronicling and rejuvenating our hidden past since the 1500s. 6 \\ J A N U A R Y 1 7 , 2 0 1 8
But sitting on my bookshelf with its red cover and wide spine, the title seemed to scream GAY in a 50 point font. Whenever straights were visiting, I’d put the book in the closet, myself as well. You have gay/straight high school alliances (and Glee). We had Drama Club. You also have The Trevor Project and It Gets Better to combat skyrocketing suicide rates among LGBTQ teens. The web and social media are sources of both bullying and support. You have Andrew Christian selling underwear as soft porn. We had Calvin Klein. Klein rescued gay men from the Sears catalog and Jim Palmer in Jockeys, and still does. You have porn 24/7. We had dirty bookstores. You have This Is Us and Modern Family. We had Dynasty and Soap. You have Queer as Folk and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
We had jeers of ‘queer’—and a dictionary of others. The shows’ unapologetic embrace of the word queer neutered much of its derogative force. Yet ‘queer’ still kicks up a storm of protest within today’s community as a catchall label. You have Ellen and Will and Grace. We had them first. You have the Biebs. We had Bowie. Just sayin’... You have Kevin Spacey. We had Rock Hudson. Whether forced to come out because of sexual abuse or AIDS, neither is a healthy example. You have 37 different genres of dance music. We had disco and soul. Long live Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, The O’Jays, Three Degrees, Boy George, Sylvester, Jimmie Sommerville, Holly Johnson, Marc Almond. One of the first musicians to come out, Melissa Etheridge was a hero to me. So was Patrick Cowley, an early AIDS casualty. Like his Menergy, every dance tune owes their synthesized thumpa thumpa to this eighties pioneer. You have David Sedaris and RuPaul’s Drag Race. We had Quentin Crisp and Divine. Lucky all of us! You have Orlando and Pulse. We had New York and The Ramrod and Sneakers. The massacre in Florida made world headlines. In 1980 a man opened fire with an Uzi on two gay bars near Christopher Street, the center of my gay New York universe. The murders barely registered in the straight media. My roommate had been in the Ramrod, and I’ll never forget him bursting into our apartment, trembling and hysterical. You have accepted military service. We had dishonorable discharge, then Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Beginning January 1, transgender people can enlist. You have same-sex marriage. We had laws prohibiting our right to exist. Sodomy wasn’t legal until 2003. You have Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. We had Amendment 2 and Romer v. Evans. Like a sour déjà vu, the Supreme Court rules soon on another Colorado gay rights case. You have Roy Moore, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachman, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Mike Pence, et al. We had Ronald Reagan, Jesse Helms, Anita Bryant, Pat Robertson, Phyllis Schlafly, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, et al. Christian bigots and obsequious politicians never seem to die. Shortly after his inauguration, Trump removed content about LGBTQ rights from the White House website. To the fans of lying hypocrites I say: “Beware false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). I’ve no doubt Trump and Moore wear wool suits. The dangerous irony is their fans don’t see themselves as Satan’s agents. You have Trump. Oh god, so do we, but we had Nixon and dumped him. Someday we’ll dump Trump. You have Midnight and Call Me By Your Name. We had Longtime Companion and Philadelphia. AIDS dramas— groundbreaking for their time—are not the only stories explored now. Our cinematic history was brilliantly brought to light in The Celluloid Closet (1981) by Vito Russo.
You have PrEP. We had AIDS. The “gay plague” defined my generation of gay men. Today, it’s just not a big deal. However, rising infection rates belie all the progress. You have VGL, Grindr, GROWLr, Scruff, Tinder, DaddyHunt, Manhunt, Adam4Adam. We had bars, baths (the Ballpark!), dunes, truck stops, rented lofts, tearooms, parks, abandoned warehouses, Boulder’s Dream Canyon. My generation had to invent places to meet. Then came print ads. When I discovered websites, I was like a kid in a candy store. Poz since 1982, I had to battle the stigma and prejudices of DDF and clean, UB2. Identical to both our worlds: your value as f*ckable depends on how young, pretty, buff, rich, and hung you are. You swipe left. We snubbed. I wish I’d been kinder. You have sex drives. We had sex drives (and still do). At some point everyone gets horny. SEX! Sex, sex, sex. SEEEXXX! Avoid my mistake: I confused sex with love. Blessed and cursed with overabundant sexual energy, the inevitable heartbreaks didn’t end until I turned 60, when I found a great partner who treats me like gold. Coming out of our closets of hiding is about revealing the connection to our innermost being, to others, our community and world. It’s about love. You define what that means. You decide if coming out is easier today. For me, it was messy, shameful, confusing, painful, stressful, depressing, sexually frustrating. It was also the joy of endless possibilities: the music I danced to, the books I read, the sexual liberation, the laughter with the people I met, the raw passions of youthful self-discovery. Other people’s stories helped me live my own with authenticity and integrity, not just as a gay man, but as a human. Period. Coming out is not a single, completed act like checking off a to-do list item. We come out until we die—if and when we choose. Issues, opportunities, questions arise every day. Each hurdle. Each hurdle we leap over is not only a personal success story, but a community success story. Even our stumbles pave the way for future successes. We must remember and honor our history to preserve and ensure a better world for future generations. Reminiscing about the good ol’ days from a gay geezer may have caused your eyes to glaze over, but I hope someday you have the same luxury. LGBTQs are the bravest people I know. In 2016, the child of a friend of mine announced a gender change and new name to a first-grade class. (As a parent, imagine getting that phone call from a principal.) This little whippersnapper proves the world is better than when I was her age and knew I was different. Another proof? This coming spring, The Boys in the Band will celebrate its golden anniversary with a Broadway premiere, starring Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, and Zachary Quinto. Andrew Rannels will play Larry, the role I played in college over 40 years ago. I doubt any of these A-list, out, gay stars threw up before their audition. OUTFRONTMAGAZINE.COM
Growing up Queer By Arianna Balderamma
“Fag!” The word flew out the driver’s side window of a beat up, dark car. I lifted my head from looking at my shoes and saw that the word had come screeching out of a painfully average man, who had a child in the backseat. It festered in the air for a moment, followed by the sound of low tires traveling away. I wasn’t sure if it was directed to me or the friend beside me.
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examined my friend, a male with black hair pointing east, wearing activewear. Clearly, he was male-presenting, whereas I wore a button-up closed to the top. The shirt
that once gained me compliments and boosted my confidence now felt stained, dirty, and vacant. My hair was shaved on the left only, and on the right side it was tucked behind my ear. The confusion lifted. Obviously, it was to me. I cut my hair short for the first time after not attending school because of too much stress. Watching the curls fall out of my head, then burning the remaining strands straight, felt liberating. This was what I desired for years on end, and I was finally comfortable enough to do it without thinking about the opinions of others. Compliments for the unfamiliar were scribbled upon me in school. Burning my hair to a crisp every morning sure gave me an overwhelming confidence boost. Running my hands to the shaven side was a new habit I had picked up. I felt better. Middle school is a bright time for insecurities to shine. The new change of my outward appearance felt mundane at the time, but now, the backlash of the encounter from a vehicle was ghastly. In that moment, I was thinking perhaps I should have never cut it off, or worn a more feminine top? Maybe I could have gotten ready, instead of throwing on some clothes and rushing to school. I like to think I live my life pretty okay, about a C- on the grade scale. It’s not good, but I’m passing. Being 15 and identifying as queer has not left me with many difficulties, as it would have in previous years. I’m constantly complimented for my short hair and sense of style. I’m aware that I am able to express who I am to so many people, freely. Personally, I have come to realize many teens my age are not bothered much about sexuality or identity. They are accepting and open minded. That’s not to say acceptance is 100 percent, but it’s getting there. The difference between the past and today is discussion. Living in a time where digital technology is glued to people my age, information is spread rapidly. The internet has given me news updates and profiles of queer youth around the world. To an extent, I am granted a sense of ease. That ease also comes from how young people view the world and have the determination to change it. It fuels
As a queer female, empowerment from others, both personally and through social media, is much needed. Degrading terms are avoided and love is advocated. We are growing up, after all. I do not pursue communicating with others through social media. Rather, I enjoy exploring the profile set ups of individuals and reading their publicized thoughts. It’s both personal and public. The beauty is that you can say anything, and at least one person will connect with you. I’m fearful of what others think of me, but I know judgement is inevitable. I personally do not enjoy sharing fragments of my life too often through social media; however, I appreciate that others do. Twitter threads of personal experiences and Instagram pictures of trips are all openly shared between like-minded people. Social media platforms have assisted us in being able to voice our thoughts and find counter-arguments and agreements from people across the board. My school labels itself as a safe space, and so far, the term is fitting. The luxury lies within the group of girls promoting self love, or perhaps in the teachers motivating students to become a better version of themselves. My personal surroundings are a positive realm to thrive in, and the difficulty is minimal. As a queer female, empowerment from others, both personally and through social media, is much needed. Degrading terms are avoided and love is advocated.
me with motivation to create positive change for my future.
We are growing up, after all.
Social media fills younger folks like myself with comfort that
And to the jerk in the beat up car, I have short hair and rock button ups as a mating call for girls, not to fit in your heteronormative world, jerk.
solitude is not possible. Knowing I am not alone with my ideas is enough to propel me to become a better person. 1 0 \\ J A N U A R Y 1 7 , 2 0 1 8
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By Yvonne Wright
Moveme How the Women’s March is Changing the Landscape of Politics
ll it takes is one. One person. One idea. One monumentally determined bundle of energy.
Outraged by the election of President Donald Trump, a Hawaiian grandmother posted on Facebook, “I think we should march.” That one voice grew into more than five million, as the Women’s March became the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. This month, women across the country and right here in Colorado mark the one-year anniversary of this event with a new chapter as the march becomes a movement. If you don’t think protests make a difference, consider this. Since the march, the number of women signing up to run for political offices is at historically high levels. A democrat won a senate seat in the ultra-conservative state of Alabama. Women, including Danica Roem, the first openly transgender woman ever elected to a state legislature, unseated 11 republican men in Virginia’s House of Delegates. The entire landscape of how women are treated is changing dramatically as one woman after another comes out to tell her story of sexual
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harassment, rape, and intimidation. Men, powerful men, are being named. Many have lost their jobs and face lawsuits and possible prosecution. “Women’s March has created a powerful movement that has ignited thousands of activists and new leaders. In 2018, we must turn our work into action ahead of the midterms,” said Tamika D. Mallory, co-president of Women’s March. Touted as a national voter registration tour to target swing states, the Women’s March tour is punctuating the point by moving this month from D.C. to the swing state of Nevada. Hundreds of thousands of women are expected at the national
“Power to the Polls” event in Las Vegas on January 21. In Denver, a local march will be held at the Civic Center on January 20. Last year, more than 100,000 people protested through the streets. “I’ll never forget marching, our voices echoing between the tall buildings, with a packed, frustrated, but determined and friendly crowd around me. The energy, camaraderie, humor, and solidarity I felt was incredibly uplifting, empowering, and sustaining,” said Marisa Dirks, the media coordinator for the Longmont Area Democrats. This year, in addition to marching, organizers will be
registering voters and recruiting members. They hope to motivate women by recapturing some of the inspiration born from last year’s events. “A year ago, I could have never imagined the all-out assault on America that I have seen,” said Ramona Giroux, who marched in the nation’s capital last year and plans to march in Colorado this month. “I hope that we will see genuine change emerge. Women are not property, and no one has the right to control our lives or reproductive choices. I will not tolerate bigotry, racism, sexism, or discrimination against the LBGTQ community. I will not stand by while the policies of separation of church and state
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are ignored. I will fight the destruction of our environment. We’ve got a lot of work to do in the coming year.” Much of that work is already well underway. In October, thousands of activists, mostly women, gathered in Detroit for the inaugural Women’s Convention 2017. In Colorado, a sister convention was held at the same time in Lakewood. Both events grew from the Women’s March and taught participants how to organize community activists, reach out to new voters, launch political campaigns themselves, and better understand immigration, healthcare, and issues impacting women of color. When Vice President Mike Pence made an appearance in Denver that same month, he was greeted by The Handmaid’s Tale protest. About 100 women dressed in red capes and white hats, with heads bowed, mirrored the women on the popular Hulu series, based on the book by Margaret Atwood, who live in a fictional political climate where women’s rights have been abolished in America. It’s a frightening show, based on a frightening book. It’s a scenario many women fear we are headed toward in real life. That is why the movement is now centered on the midterm elections, with the goal of removing republican dominance in Congress. They are looking for pro-choice candidates, politicians who will work for equal pay, healthcare access, immigration reform, the environment, and LGBTQ protections. It is a lot of issues. There is a lot of ground to cover. All of these issues are being attacked by current lawmakers.
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“We need to show our power and voice our aspirations for equality, justice, and dignity for all women. Those of us in stronger positions need to do what we can to speak for those who can’t fight for themselves,” said Cynthia Katsarelis, who conducts the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra and served as a delegate for the Episcopal Church at the United Nations Commission on the status of Women in 2016. The GOP-led Congress and President Trump have overturned dozens of measures, impacting everything from women’s pay to food stamps for children. They’ve overturned guidelines to help transgender students in public schools, and, on a local level, 16 states have considered legislation to restrict transgender use of public bathrooms. In addition, the Trump administration has led the U.S. to become the only country in the world to not participate in the Paris Climate Agreement, which outlines a commitment to environmental protections. It is also one of only a handful of countries to refuse to sign a United Nations resolution condemning the death penalty for same-sex relations. Despite all this, the future looks promising. The women’s group known as Emily’s List reports more than 25,000 women have signed up to learn how to run for political office. The call-in campaign is largely credited with preventing slashes to healthcare. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected at marches across the country on January 20. “We marched for justice in D.C.; we created our plan in Detroit; and now we’re bringing the power of the polls to Nevada,” Mallory said.
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A Song Like No Other A Look at Carol Whiteâ€™s Legacy 1 6 \\ J A N U A R Y 1 7 , 2 0 1 8
By Hannah Gartner
ven over the phone, Carol White has a commanding presence. Her voice communicates the years she has spent conducting choruses and fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ community—two of her favorite things.
SAY “I DO”
In the tail end of 2016, not long after Trump was elected into office, Carol White attended her first Indivisible Denver meeting. Indivisible Denver’s mission is to empower citizens to advocate for progressive values through nonviolent political activism and community-building. It had been a while since she stood in a room of activists all passionate about one singular goal—bettering their community. Оverfilled with passion, White took to the stage and started belting out “America the Beautiful”. Soon, the room of nearly 350 people had joined to help her finish. No stranger to the spotlight, White clearly knows her own power to affect change, and her story shows how she has taken the initiative to use this power time and time again.
“I started going to a psychologist because I knew that I was homosexual and I did not want to be. I wanted him to cure me and I wanted to get over being gay, but instead he helped me to accept myself for who I was,” White said. This time of self-acceptance came after White had graduated from SMU with dual Master’s degrees in Conducting and Sacred Music, and had taken a job as the minister of music at a Methodist church in Houston. After working for four years at the church, the minister found out about White’s sexual orientation and fired her. Without a job, money, or a support system, a massive overhaul of her life was required. She let go of music, a difficult choice, since it had been her love and her passion for many years, became a court reporter, and eventually settled in Denver in 1973. In 1980, White began feeling the draw to give back to the LGBTQ community in a more substantial way. At that time, PFLAG was just getting started in Denver. White joined and involved herself as deeply as possible. She served on the board from 1980 through 1984, regularly attended meetings, and made many, many lifelong friends.
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From 7th grade onward, she knew that she was attracted to girls and not boys, but still was not able to come to terms with her homosexuality until she was in graduate school at Southern Methodist University. As a religious young woman, White’s first reaction was to think she needed to be fixed.
Growing up in Louisiana during the 1940s and 1950s, White was unable to express her identity through song, as she hid her gayness from everyone, including herself.
Illustration by Kyle Malone
“Gay and lesbian people have always had a song,” she said. “The tragedy of it is that for so many years, we were never able to sing it, and the beauty of it is that now we can. So we sing because we have a song; we sing because we can sing it now, and because we can be out enough.”
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Through the support of PFLAG, White was also able to find the courage to come out to her parents. She wrote them a letter and sent it, along with five others written by friends of hers at PFLAG who were parents of LGBTQ people. Most importantly of all, though, PFLAG brought White back into music after 16 years. In the early 1980s, the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus was just getting started. Watching the success that they were having, White decided she wanted to give LGBTQ women the chance to sing as well.
shows, as well as concerts by other LGBTQ choruses. She has also been asked to conduct a song on significant anniversaries of her Denver-based projects.
been enjoying retirement with her longterm partner Judith. She goes to many concerts and is enjoying the experience of being in the audience, which she finds as moving as being on stage.
White came of age during a time and in a place where even the idea of homosexuality was barely acknowledged. Still, she was not only able to accept herself but also delete hundreds of others find their voices through song.
Her legacy lives on through the choruses she started, but for this powerful woman, that is not enough. She continues to push for what is right, and, of course, to sing.
White stopped working as a court reporter in the early 2000s and has since
She organized a new chorus to perform a massive show at the 1984 PFLAG National Convention that brought 70 women in to sing with the 70 men who made up the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus. After the concert, these women became the Denver Women’s Chorus. White conducted this chorus until 1986. Before resigning, she took them to the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses Festival, where they were the only women’s chorus. White didn’t leave the Denver Women’s Chorus because she wanted to leave music, but because she saw other projects that needed her attention. The first was the World Choir that sang at the Celebration ‘90: Gay Games and Cultural Festival. White spent four years organizing this group of hundreds of men and women from all over the the world. During the festival, which was held in Vancouver, British Columbia, the World Choir got to perform at the opening and closing ceremonies, and during a special concert. When White returned to Denver, she immediately got to work on another group. This time, she saw the need for a mixed choir in the city, and in 1991 founded Harmony. Harmony, which is still going strong today, is open to all members of the LGBTQ community as well as their allies. The Denver Women’s Chorus also still preforms, and although White retired from conducting in 1996 when she left Harmony, she goes to many of their
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Carol and her partner Judith.
“Keep fighting, keep working, keep loving, keep empowering yourself and others. Stay in the fight and work for everybody’s rights, your own included,” she said before hanging up the phone.
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By Ezra Kronfeld
on Queer Activism, Feminism, and Founding GLAAD
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ew York City–1983. A multiracial, semi-closeted, 35-yearold lesbian was working at the New York State Council on the Arts, alongside her gay male supervisor. He asked her to come to a meeting of a few local queer folk in their office warehouse; due in part to the sexism she saw in certain gay-empowerment groups at the time, she was hesitant. This all changed, however, after a chance encounter with the man in charge of said meeting: historian and activist Vito Russo. “Gregory told me that you work with him. You need to come to our meeting,” he told her. She thought to herself: If Vito Russo invites me, I’m going... Little did young writer Jewelle Gomez know that she would go on to help found GLAAD, now one of the world’s largest queer organizations. Gomez was raised in Boston during the 1950s, and her artistry, outlook, and activism were heavily influenced by her upbringing. Having been raised by her great-grandmother, who lived right around the corner, she was surrounded by female role models. “I believe that because I had such close relationships with these women, it really made me appreciate women’s role in the culture before I would have ever used the word ‘feminist,’’ she said. “It also gave me a sense of history. My great-grandmother remembered things about being Native as a child—she had clear feelings about the dominant white culture and how oppression had affected her family.” Her grandma’s love for performing also introduced young Jewelle to the the theater world and to the first queer people she ever met. Despite living in a black neighborhood, Gomez faced significant racial prejudice in Boston. In high school, a majority of her teachers were white. She distinctly remembers the teachers going around the room and asking each kid where they were from. “I would say ‘I’m from Boston’, and the teachers, inevitably, would say, ‘I mean originally,’” she explained. “To them, a person of color has got to be telling you they’re from Mississippi, Alabama, or Georgia. The racism was always there.” After getting her bachelor’s degree at Northeastern University, Gomez worked for Say Brother, a weekly black public-access show in Boston. It was around this time that she recognized the homophobia of certain black empowerment figures, and, although she was in a lesbian relationship, Jewelle often dated men to cover her queerness. “Being gay was not appreciated and was thought to be counterrevolutionary, really.” She would later move to New York in 1971 and continue to work in television; before she first got involved with what was originally referred to as the “Gay and Lesbian Anti-Defamation League,” she had conducted research and interviews for the acclaimed PBS program Before Stonewall. This sort of work could very well be considered a lead-up to Gomez’s queer rights activism. GLAAD’s first major demonstrations were against the
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sensationalism of The New York Post’s AIDS coverage in 1985, and after the creation of the Los Angeles chapter, Hollywood representation became a major focus. Over the years, Gomez has continued the fight for justice, working with groups and movements in New York and California. In 2008, she wed her partner Diane Sabin at the San Francisco Public Library, four years after participating in the first lawsuit against the state of California for marriage equality. “We feel everyone should have the right to marriage if they wish. We did get married, just so we could have a party.” They still live together in San Francisco, where Sabin acts as executive director of the Lesbian Health & Research Center at UCSF. Aside from direct political activism, Gomez has also implemented societally-conscious narratives in her various works in theatre and literature. Her play Waiting For Giovanni, written in collaboration with actor-singer Harry Waters, Jr., premiered at the New Conservatory Theatre Center in 2011. Hailed as “riveting” by The Examiner and “a bold season opener” by San Francisco Chronicle that year, the play shines a light on the personal and professional struggles of acclaimed writer James Baldwin as he ponders the publication of his second novel; the story thoroughly and dramatically explores the challenges of intersectionality during the Civil Rights era (similar to the aforementioned adversity Gomez faced with 1970s black empowerment groups). Additionally, her debut novel The Gilda Stories features the de-stereotyping of vampires, having the title character interact with sympathetic and non-predatory vampires throughout the novel; this also reflects Gomez’s upbringing, given that she witnessed firsthand the culture’s mainstreaming of the AfricanAmerican community. When someone is as iconic, seasoned, and steadfast as Gomez, younger generations often look to them for wisdom, especially when they’re facing new obstacles. In regard to our turbulent political times, Gomez had this to say: “I have found that one of the most important things for me to say to young people, many of whom don’t think of themselves as activists, is we all have to give back in some way, or our karma is really for shit. Don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t have to feel like you’re going to be a trailblazer; you’ve just gotta put one foot in front of the other until there is a path.” Photos provided by Jewelle Gomez
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Not With a Bang But With a Slam A Spotlight on One of Coloradoâ€™s Youngest Activists By Caitlyn Galiz-Rowe
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istening to Ayla Sullivan’s poetry is a raw and incredibly emotional experience. The first time I heard one of their poems, dealing with intersectional identity and how it can be so painful and so uplifting all at once, I cried.
While not all of Sullivan’s poetry evokes such pain or melancholy, it is always powerful and has something to say. For this, and much more, they were selected as the 2017 Denver Youth Poet Laureate. Hailing from the “elite slums of suburban Aurora,” Sullivan discovered the power of art early on. They always wrote as a child, originally finding themselves drawn to short stories and fiction. This interest shifted entirely once they reached middle school. In seventh grade, their language arts teacher showed them slam poetry videos on YouTube, and it changed everything. “I fell in love with Watsky and Sarah Kay, so I started emulating them,” Sullivan remembered. A year later, they first read a piece to a live audience at a theater cabaret. What really pushed Sullivan into pursuing performance more actively was encouragement from their best friend, Alia Bradshaw. After transferring to a regular public school from an arts high school, Sullivan met Bradshaw and their friendship blossomed. It was Bradshaw who first told the young poet that their poetry was good, and that they should be showing it off more publicly. Spurred on by Bradshaw’s faith in them, Sullivan competed in a slam at the Mercury Café in Denver—and won. The momentum behind their poetry only increased from there. In 2015, they won the Grand City Slam, which got them into Denver’s youth slam poetry group, Minor Disturbance. Since then, they have competed in Atlanta and Washington D.C. The other people in this group allowed Sullivan to find a community and build the relationships that would help them to become a better artist and ultimately, the Denver Youth Poet Laureate. “I didn’t think I’d make it to eighteen,” Sullivan said. “But I did, and I know others like me who are still here.” For these youths, poetry became a way to keep going despite the traumas they had in their pasts. “Slam is always trying to find ways to help you heal.” Live poetry performance requires the poet to put their experiences into the world through spoken word. Saying it makes it real. While this can often put people in a potentially triggering position, it also gives them the language and opportunity to work through issues artistically. Slam poetry spaces became areas of support and discovery. There, Sullivan was able to explore their identities and gain language that they had never had access to before to describe their experiences. It was through poetry and their involvement in the slam scene that Sullivan found language for what they were and weren’t in regards to gender and sexuality. They went from feeling that there was something wrong with them and that every “straight girl” felt this way, to realizing that they were not straight or a girl. Slam helped them discover that people
all over the world have these exact same feelings, and that poetry can express them in a way that other mediums cannot. Sullivan’s art is intricately connected to their activism. “Poetry says ‘no’ to hiding. You have to speak your truth and find empowerment within it,” they said. “I can’t see activism without artistic intent. When you’re interacting with art, you have to suspend your disbelief because you become an active listener. When you’re waiting for a story to finish, you’re more willing to be a part of something. Art asks us to participate in and protect story.” The empathy required to engage with art goes hand in hand with the empathy needed to understand the struggle of a group outside your own. Narrative is how Sullivan believes we can further our activism. In their current office as the Denver Youth Poet Laureate, Sullivan works to promote literacy and find ways to best lift the youth voice. For them, that means promoting voices that normally go unheard. They love teaching because they get to listen and speak, so they get to actively participate in the learning. “Teaching lets you talk about your narrative and how it intersects with narratives of other people in the city. The intersections make it easy to see how you can support all of these stories.” When asked about the future they’d like to see, Sullivan said they would like to see one where truly everyone has a narrative that is valued and people are more empathetic to each other and can be moved by story. As they see it, this can only be accomplished by doing the work to rid our society of the oppressive structures of white supremacy and gender. The government, art spaces, and educational system need to be radically re-worked with these goals in mind. “I want a future where youth feel empowered as soon as they enter the world. They need to be given language. Thirteen to fifteen-year-old kids in the poetry scene already know that they’re trans, or have bodies that are targets, because poetry gave them access to the language to understand those realities.” Despite knowing that they may not be be taken seriously because of their age, these kids are able to keep moving forward because they have the grades and language they need to overcome those kinds of barriers. By investing in our youth, Sullivan hopes that we will eventually become a generation that has elders to turn to in the future. Thanks to the momentum that the queer community has lost since the ‘80s, we lost our resources, primarily those who fought to get us where we are now. “We have to work for ancestors, because currently we don’t have any.” The way Sullivan sees it, youth are the answer. “I know I have some ideas about how to move forward, and I know other young people do too. If enough youth have a few ideas on how to move forward, then we have a menu of options.” OUTFRONTMAGAZINE.COM
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“Our generation will be pivotal for change because we can see the disease, name it, and eventually say ‘here’s the solution.’ We’re seen as vapid in a world that’s trying to kill us, and too sensitive because we have language for things that didn’t exist before.” We can create this menu by fostering the voices of young people and giving them access to the language needed to develop their ideas into something tangible.
We’re seen as vapid in a world that’s trying to kill us, and too sensitive because we have language for things that didn’t exist before.”
“We have to keep putting in the work, because no one else will do it,” Sullivan siad. “I’m more than happy to keep educating because, while it’s exhausting to keep having to highlight issues that queer and trans people of color only see, it’s the only way we can get people with privilege to self-educate and self-motivate.”
This isn’t a lack of depth or heightened sensitivity; this is progress. By expanding our understanding and pushing for that understanding to reach as many people as possible, we can create real change.
By raising awareness around these issues, Sullivan hopes that one day people like them won’t have to. This is another arena where they see the most hope coming from our youth. “Our generation will be pivotal for change because we can see the disease, name it, and eventually say ‘here’s the solution.’ 2 6 \\ J A N U A R Y 1 7 , 2 0 1 8
Ayla’s first year as the Youth Poet Laureate is coming to a close, but you can be sure their activist and artistic work will continue well into the future. They are currently finishing working towards a double major in theater and english education at CU Boulder while performing and doing educational work in their free time. You can read their work on TheirSaltWaterFlesh. tumblr.com.
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MissHeard Media Lifts the Voices of Our Young Women By Addison Herron-Wheeler
little more than a year ago, it seemed certain that a woman was going to be ruling the roost and sitting in the White House. Now, that’s far from a reality, and preserving the voices of our young women is more important than ever.
Tell us about MissHeard Media. What is it, and what is your mission? What do you do to empower young women?
Young girls, especially marginalized girls who are queer or people of color, often get overlooked when it comes to input and sharing their voices. MissHeard Media, a media group that only prints work from young women, understands this, and also understands setbacks on a personal level. Much like the unexpected obstacle women faced two Novembers ago, MissHeard Media recently lost their website and all previously published work. But they will bounce back, just like women everywhere.
MissHeard Media creates positive, empowering, honest content and experiences for teen girls. We do this through our blog, which is written by girls from around the world, and through our workshops. Our mission is to connect girls to the world, one shared story at a time.
We talked to Lindsey Turnbullet, the company’s owner, about setbacks, following your dreams, and creating a voice for queer women in 2018.
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MissHeard Media’s blog gives girls a space to share their own stories, in their own words. We’ve had girls submit on every sort of topic, from fashion and TV, to surviving an abusive family member, to dealing with mental health struggles. Our workshops focus on building skills like leadership, advocacy, and community.
Ultimately, I hope MissHeard Media will foster compassion, empathy, and critical thinking skills in teen girls.
I know your site went down, but you are rebuilding the whole thing in 2018. What are your plans for the new site, and for the company in the new year? People keep saying, “You can make the new site even better!” I know it’s well-meaning, but truthfully, I loved the MissHeard site as it was. My most important goal is to get it back up and running, of course. I’ll probably make a few changes, but it’ll be back-end stuff no one sees. As far as the mag, we discontinued that in 2016, but all of the back issues will be available again, as soon as we’re live!
How does MissHeard empower queer women? Have you shared a lot of stories of girls coming out, or heard from anyone struggling with this? MissHeard empowers queer girls by giving them a platform to honestly tell their story. I think it’s really freeing to tell your own story, and so powerful to hear that someone out in the world connected with it. The process of telling your story, and hearing from others, can help to inspire, comfort, or educate someone else, and that is what’s so powerful. We have had stories from queer girls and we’ve had queer girls on our Teen Advisory Board. One girl shared a story of how her conservative church didn’t accept her bisexuality. Another shared a beautiful photo essay from NYC Pride. I am almost positive we have shared stories from other queer girls who did not make their sexuality known in their pieces.
What about trans girls—how do you support trans girls, and have you had any reach out to you or send you writing? The same: we offer the platform, the power of connection, and community. We have not, that I know of, had any trans girls share their stories, although we follow and highlight several on Twitter, Jazz Jennings being the most well known. MissHeard is, of course, open to sharing stories from trans girls, although we haven’t shared any yet.
What do you think we can do in 2018 to help empower queer girls, especially in light of the current political climate and the issues we are facing? As someone who is not queer, my biggest role is as an ally. I try to pass the mic and highlight other’s voices, and advocate when I can (by calling my representatives or attending a rally, for example). It’s important to know when to use your voice and when to let someone else speak. I think as an adult, it’s crucial we let young people know that
we care about them, and we’ll continue to work with and for them for what’s right. They’re not alone, and while they may be scared or nervous, there are millions of adults that do support them.
What are some of the most amazing stories that you’ve shared in the magazine so far, and how did they impact you? Wow, what a great question! Is it unfair to say they’ve all impacted me? Each story I read reaffirms that girls are tuned in, paying attention, compassionate, aware, complicated, beautiful individuals. I love that. It’s something I wish I had when I was younger, as an only child in a somewhat rural area who didn’t quite fit in. Two girls stand out to me. They were in the first round of Teen Advisory Board members, when I didn’t quite know what I was doing or what to expect. One, Julia, was a red carpet correspondent, beauty pageant competitor, published writer… she was, and continues to be, more accomplished than I am. Currently, she rebuilds houses in natural disaster areas. She’s in Texas right now, and just published her fifth book, I believe. The other, Sareana, is also insanely brilliant. She and her mother were homeless for a period, while she took AP and college courses in high school. She raised money for her own school fees and to help her mom. She’s currently taking a gap year volunteering around the world. I think she reads in, like, five languages now. I try to keep up with all of the girls, because they inspire me, these two especially, to continue to do world-changing things. I am so proud! I’m like a little momma hen right now, all smiles and glowing just thinking about the girls
Is there anything else you’d like to add? Where you want to end up is not necessarily where you will, and that’s OK. I did not set out to be an entrepreneur, but the more I work, the more I know I couldn’t be as happy working for someone else. No matter who you are or what you’re going through, you are never alone. Setbacks happen, mistakes happen, failure happens. It’s how you respond to them that determines if you will be a success.
Follow MissHeard on social media: MISSHEARDMEDIA.TUMBLR.COM TWITTER.COM/MISSHEARDMEDIA INSTAGRAM.COM/MISSHEARDMEDIA FACEBOOK.COM/MISSHEARDMEDIA
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Youth on Record:
Art for a Change By Louisa Silverman
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imply walking into Youth on Record’s common area inspires creativity. With murals peering down from the walls and plants scattered around the room, the space is comfortable yet down to business. The equipment and instruments filling the recording studio and sound booth are so inviting that I had to stop myself from asking multiple times, “So... all of this is free for your students?” It is. Youth on Record is an organization that offers high school students space to process and create. It pairs underserved youth with professional artists—mostly musicians and writers—to help them achieve their “academic, artistic, and personal best.” YOR offers Denver Public School students the tools to get to know their artistic selves, a side that would otherwise go unnoticed for the majority of their school day. “The demand is there,” explained Devin Urioste, also known as Mace Windu, YOR’s programs coordinator and a partner artist. “There aren’t enough arts programs in Denver Public Schools for the number of students who would avail of them.” YOR aims to fill that void. Instead of being stuck with the limited options offered at their schools, students from the many local high schools that contract with YOR can take classes for English and elective credits with YOR, ranging from Civics and Social Solutions to Spoken Word and Music Production. YOR also offers its students access to the space and equipment on Fridays and Saturdays so they can run free with their projects, unencumbered by the structure of class assignments. “I don’t even think some of the students realize how creative they are,” Windu said. “But my goal is not for you to leave here being the next tight musician or something. My goal is to show you that you have tools to create a foundation in your life for something you really want to do.” Not only do YOR students get the equipment and knowledge to pursue their art, they also form mentor-mentee relationships with professional artists, gaining role models to help them forge their own path through the thickets of the arts industry, with all its untold rules and norms, deceptions and disappointments. “We always have something to fall back on. You
could fail a million times, but as long as you have a strong community to fall back on and people who are willing to bring you back up, that helps a lot,” Windu said, adding that that the community is really what makes YOR what it is. No matter what happens (or how much funding they lose, as in this year’s case), they’ll always have each other’s support. The network of YOR’s staff and partner artists has deep, sturdy roots in the community. Windu now teaches at the same high school where he took YOR classes, and many of YOR’s partner artists were already friends from years of working in the Denver scene, long before they got involved with YOR. YOR’s staff and artists care about their community, and one of their goals is teaching the students how to improve it by being social activists. Often, that means simply showing the students that their voices are an important part of Denver’s social landscape, and teaching them how to speak out. “We encourage students to speak their mind, but in the right way. Maybe speaking your mind isn’t speaking at all; maybe it’s playing an instrument or making a painting,” Windu said. For many at YOR, the work is about combating stereotypes of minorities espoused by the media and helping their students see the value in themselves, no matter who they are, what they look like, or who they love. One of their mottos is “empowerment through creative education.” As one of YOR’s winners of the Real Rock Star Award in 2017, Katerina Castillo said, “after you’ve been told you’re great enough times, you start to believe it.” Castillo uses her art to fight for social equality. “Instead of worrying about what everyone else was worrying about, relationships, drama, I decided to put my energy into change.” She told us that she’s learned that inequality is caused by hatred and that even one conversation between two people can get us just a little closer to equality. No matter what these students are fighting for, YOR wants to help them succeed. Their students have ideas and opinions and insights, and YOR can serve as a reminder of one of the most important roles we all have as members of society: listening.
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FEB RUA RY 2
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Your Northwest Adventure Begins Here.
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POLAR PLUNGE The 2018 Polar Plunge was held on January 1 at Boulder Reservoir. Hundreds of people started their new year by taking a dip to help raise money for the American Cancer Society. Photos by Charles Broshous
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Love Is Strange: Heartfelt Film About a Gay Senior Couple by David-Elijah Nahmod
ay seniors are often excluded in the media. There are now hundreds of LGBTQ-themed films available on DVD/Blu Ray. Most of them are youth-oriented. And when is the last time an older queer character was seen on network television, other than Will and Grace’s cartoonish Beverly Leslie?
tears, missing Ben and feeling out-of-place in the apartment he now shares with his party-loving roommates.
Not so with Ira Sachs’ 2014 film Love is Strange, a moving drama about the issues facing a senior gay couple.
Love Is Strange ultimately stands as a reminder to those who are still young that their senior years will arrive sooner than they think. The film beautifully, if sadly, illustrates that our so-called “golden years” are often no picnic but can be rife with hardships that seniors, trapped as they are in aging, increasingly fragile bodies, might be ill equipped to deal with.
As the story opens, Ben and George (John Lithgow, Alfred Molina) are deliriously happy—it’s their wedding day. After being together for 39 years, they are finally able to legally wed. Soon after the marriage, George loses his job with the New York Archdiocese—his marriage to Ben is said to go against church teachings. Without the necessary income from George’s job, the couple cannot afford to keep their New York apartment.
Lithgow and Molina are superb as a couple whose love for each other has not diminished. Both actors beautifully convey that love, as well as the deep and profound sense of loss they feel at being forced to live apart. Simple scenes, such as when they meet for a concert and a drink, become even more moving when the harsh reality sets in—at the end of the evening they are forced to say goodbye at a subway station.
Ben moves in with his nephew, while George moves in with their former neighbors, a younger gay couple. Both men are like fish out of water without each other.
Teen actor Charlie Tahan is equally good as Ben’s great-nephew Joey, a kid who resents the intrusion of having to share his room with his uncle. Joey is not a villain; he’s just a kid who wants his privacy. Marisa Tomei also offers fine work as Joey’s mom, a woman who genuinely loves Ben, even as she finds herself torn between doing the right thing and her own need for privacy.
For much of Love Is Strange, the men struggle with their emotions after being torn apart. They search in vain for a cheaper place to live. They must also now grapple with the reality of experiencing homelessness, bunking in homes which aren’t their own. There are many moving moments in Love is Strange. In one sequence, Ben finds himself in the way when his nephew’s wife, a successful novelist, struggles to get her work done amid Ben’s chatter. In another scene, George shows up in 3 8 \\ J A N U A R Y 1 7 , 2 0 1 8
Love is Strange is ultimately a sweet story, at once sad and uplifting. It’s not only about growing older; it’s about the healing power of love. The film is available at Amazon on DVD, Blu Ray, and streaming video.
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Photo and Column by Mike Yost
Dueling with Depression:
Time for RECESS
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hat is wrong with you?” I hear in my head, that vinegary voice needling into my brain, like words slithering out between the yellow teeth of an aging school teacher from elementary. She leans down with a face wrinkled up like a prune. “You can’t even get out of bed and go to work,” she says with foul breath, crooked finger shaking in my face. “You don’t deserve to be happy.” This self-deprecation is not an uncommon experience for those struggling with mental illness, as we tend to be really hard on ourselves for not getting better. Maybe it all started with a sour school teacher who made you stay inside during recess to work on your botched math homework. There you are, sitting alone in a classroom illuminated only by a few bright beams of sunlight filtering in through the windows. The distant laughter of your friends playing on the swing-set lingers in the background, and you feel like you’re the only kid on the entire planet who doesn’t get math. The teacher doesn’t know you stayed up the night before trying to work through those math problems, but the vexing numbers just didn’t make sense to you. Now you’re hunched over your desk, pencil scraping frantically against the paper as the acidic words of the teacher bore holes into your brain. “You don’t deserve recess,” continues that mindless mantra years later, except this time I’m trying to work through vexing depression problems while adulting. Similar to all that math homework, it just doesn’t make much sense to me. I heard about compassion fatigue when I started working in the mental health industry. Practitioners are aware that if you don’t take time to take care of yourself while you’re working
to take care of someone else, you’ll quickly burn out. Therapists and psychiatrists don’t wait until their patients are completely better before taking care of themselves. But if we know that taking care of someone else can lead to compassion fatigue, why is it so difficult to take this perfectly sensible precaution when trying to take care of ourselves? All those visits to the therapist’s office, sitting in those eerily quiet rooms while sharing traumatic experiences, trying to dig to the root of all this depression and anxiety before it chokes out the sunlight completely. All those medications I’ve tossed into my mouth, pills tumbling down my esophagus as I hope for a miracle to dissolve in my stomach and give me some sort of tactical advantage over the battle in my head while dealing with the side-effects. Recovery can be hard work, and you need time to heal. If you were to show up to work with a broken rib sticking out of your chest, limping around the office and bleeding all over the TPS reports, your boss and coworkers would (hopefully) tell you to go to the hospital, then get some rest and take care of yourself while you heal. But of course, no one can see the broken bones and bleeding going on in your head. No one reacts to the macabre scene that makes you feel dead inside. It’s invisible to everyone but yourself. Part of my own recovery has been giving myself permission to take a recess break (and tell that bitter teacher to bite me). I work not to punish myself for all my failures in attempting to work through my depression and anxiety, but to just put the pencil down and leave that lonely classroom. I work to carve out time for recess, even as an adult. Especially as an adult.
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THE TRIANGLE BAR Denverâ€™s newest LGBTQ drinking establishment, The Triangle Bar, is now open for business. A large crowd stopped by the chic drinkery at 2036 Broadway on December 30 for cocktails and conversation. The new venture from Sean Oâ€™Grady, Roger Kerns, Scott Coors, and Dave Hurt opened on December 15. Photos by Charles Broshous
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OUTREACH | QUEER-FRIENDLY MENTAL HEALTHCARE Why Therapy? I enjoy offering insights that invite the curious into a deeper exploration of their own journey. Here are some concrete tools that a therapist offers.
Directed Attention Everyone experiences trapping patterns in life. While the rational mind desires change, the heart seems unreliable in offering assistance. Therapy directs and focuses attention on the systems we defensively implement to avoid pain. As unconscious defenses surface we gain insight into our responsibility in these patterns. Understanding our assumptions, expectations and desires allows us to enact lasting changes.
Together we will create a space separate from your life where you can safely expore your emotions, doubts, relationships and identity. JohnVargasCounseling.com email@example.com 720-507-8982 Free 30-Minute Session
Purusha Psychotherapy Jonalyn Blaha, Psy.D.
• Self-Esteem/Identity • LGBTQIA and alternative relationship styles • Relationships/Marriage Issues • Anxiety, Depression, & Existential Issues • Trauma
www.purushapsychotherapy.com 720-501-6923 1290 N Williams Suite 302, Denver 80218
Secure Space When life gets threatening people look for safety. Attempts to create safe space by isolating, partying, or seeking the confidence of a select few won’t keep us safe from ourselves. In order to create a foundation of security, the therapist cultivates a view of self that is non-judgemental, curious and open. While honoring the work that has already been done, therapy reveals ways to encounter hidden pain. This process reduces suffering so that safety can be resourced internally.
Mindful Alliance We all have damaged attachment to people we depended on. These damaging relationships create maladaptive beliefs that inform our worldview. Mindful alliance is the primary transformative tool in the therapeutic arsenal. In therapy you learn how to create positive and intentional attachment to the therapist. When we use our attention in a secure space to hold ourselves accountable we generate true freedom.
For those that find their curiosity sparked, I’d like to invite you to begin exploring therapy. The journey is wild and beautiful and you are ready!
-John Vargas JohnVargasCounseling.com firstname.lastname@example.org 720-507-8982
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500 Santa Fe Drive Denver, Colorado (303) 893-6112
3090 Downing St, Denver (303) 837-1075 denverwrangler.com MON: Poker Tournament 7 pm WED: Big Gay Jeopardy 8 pm FRI: Free Taco Bar 4-8 pm Phat Friday 9 pm SAT: $3 Svedka SUN: Charity Beer Bust 4-8 pm Show Tunes 9 pm
GLADYS: THE NOSY NEIGHBOR
$8 Bottomless Beers 3:30 – 7:30 pm SUN: Funday $1 Bud/Bud Light 7 - 11 pm
4501 E Virginia Ave, Glendale (303) 388-8889 Facebook - Elpotrero.180
SANTA FE DR. KALAMATH ST.
475 Santa Fe Dr, Denver (720) 627-5905 THU: Skivvy Stripdown SAT: Beer Bust
1120 E 6th Ave, Denver (303) 993-6365 daddysdenver.com TUE: Pizza & Pitcher $12 WED: Daddy’s Girl Drink Specials SAT & SUN: Brunch Buffet $15, add bottomless Mimosas or Blood Mary’s$10 DAILY Lunch Specials
THE TRIANGLE BAR
BLUSH & BLU
1526 E. Colfax Ave, Denver (303) 484-8548 blushbludenver.com
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OUTBACK CLASSIFIEDS | ENVISIONED BY BOBERTO Always FREE to listen and reply to ads!
Playmates or soul mates, youâ€™ll find them on MegaMates Washington:
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A look at queer lives between generations